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Laura Flanders | The Nation

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Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Budget wars, activism, uprising, dissent and general rabble-rousing.

No Armistice In War on Poor

Armistice Day reminds us that when wars end, the winners and losers are supposed to make peace. For the first time, in 2009, leaders of World War II enemies, Germany and France, commemorated the date together as a sign of new mutual respect. But this week also marked the ten-year anniversary of a different kind of war -- a war on Americans' assets and the poor. Ten years later, while the winners and losers are obvious, there's no armistice in sight.

On November 12, 1999, after decades of banking deregulation, congress repealed the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which up until that point had kept Main Street banks and commercial financial speculation apart. Glass-Steagall's repeal unleashed a wave of derivative marketing that rewarded shameless loan sharks for selling the most vulnerable Americans into a bubble of debt.

The bubble having burst, now the stock market is up. Companies are reporting strong earnings and Wall Street's clearly at peace. The top three banks announced this week that they'll be giving out their biggest bonuses yet. But this week's news also brought US double-digit unemployment and regardless of those good earnings, the layoffs just don't stop; Sprint says it's cutting another 2,500 jobs; Pfizer, 2,000 jobs; even supposedly new and growing parts of the economy aren't growing -- software developer Adobe's cutting 6 percent of its workforce, game-maker Electronic Arts is cutting 1,500 jobs. And that's just this week.

Winners and losers? You betcha. And the winners have won some serious loot.

Having suppressed wages for decades, now employers are suppressing jobs. Workers are not only making do with less -- they're working harder than ever, and there are no new hires, because fewer people seem to get the job done just fine. In fact, productivity's up, and the personal costs are off the books.

Call me crazy, but the spoils are pretty nifty: fewer workers, lower wages, a more terrified workforce. From a winners' point of view, what's not to like?

The proof of no-peace is in the fact that the president and congress keep talking about recovery and jobs bouncing back...but there's no real structural change on the table, no new economic tools, no regulation -- certainly no reparations -- in sight. The losers are weak and the winners are stronger than ever.

The US economy has lost some 10 million jobs since the recession began. Do you really think those 10 million jobs are coming back? It seems to me, the war is far from over and the spoils are just beginning to mount.

Laura Flanders is the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.

Unequal Power, Unequal Access

"If women are denied a chance to develop their full human potential, including their potential to lead healthier and at least somewhat happier lives, is society as a whole really healthy? "

It's not my question -- it's the question raised by Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization which just finished up it first -- first? -- study of women's health.

Their verdict? Societies are still failing women. While women provide the bulk of health care, they rarely receive the care they need. Sound familiar?

Worldwide, WHO reports women do the caring -- at home, at hospital, at clinics -- yet those very same institutions fail them.

Take HIV/AIDS. Up to 80% of all health care and 90% of care for HIV/AIDS-related illness is provided in the home - almost always by women. Yet women remain uncared for, poorly protected and as a result, HIV is now the leading cause of death and disease among women between the ages of 15 and 44. Survive to older age, and the two leading killers of women are heart disease and strokes. Why? Because women show what one friend of mine was told were "atypical" symptoms. And as long as the male minority on the planet is considered the typical patient -- women will keep dying because of that fact.

Sound strident? No it's just common sense -- the WHO tries to win governments over by offering economic incentives to act: because women tend to live longer than men, better deal with their health problems now or pay more later.

But really. "We will not see significant progress as long as women are regarded as second-class citizens in so many parts of the world," Dr Chan said. Unequal power relations, she continued, "translate into unequal access to health care and unequal control over health resources." "What does this say about the state of social progress in the 21st century?" asks Dr. Chan. One can only wish she'd ask Rep. Stupak and the House Democrats.

Laura Flanders is the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.

What Do the Bishops Have That We Don't?

The House passed its version of health-care legislation Saturday night by a vote of 220 to 215 after the approval of an amendment which amounts to a not-very-back door abortion ban for everyone but the very rich. Presented by Democrat Bart Stupak of Michigan with the strong backing of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the amendment would prohibit abortion coverage in the government-run plan and any private plan on the new marketplace that accepts people who are using government subsidies to buy coverage.

[There'll be an interesting conversation about this with Frances Kissling and others today on GRITtv.org]

It's sexist, it's classist, it goes well beyond the heinous Hyde Amendment ban on public funding for abortion--and it passed with the support of 64 Democrats, roughly a quarter of the caucus.

House liberals say they voted for it to keep the process of reform moving forward towards a majority but women are the majority -- of Americans, of voters, of Democrats, and pro-choice women outnumber the other sort. The House move had less to do with majority than it had to do with theocracy.

Why is it that from Bangor to the Beltway, church pressure works on even liberal Democrats, even as no politician in America seems to be afraid of losing votes over being anti-choice?

Obama left the abortion issue unmentioned Sunday when he appeared in the White House Rose Garden to congratulate the House on its "courage."

Bunk. "Now it falls on the United States Senate to take the baton and bring this effort to the finish line on behalf of the American people," said Obama.

Now, it seems to me it falls on pro-choicers to demand an answer to the question raised by Jodi Jacobson on RH Reality Check. "What does Henry Waxman, Nancy Pelosi or any other member of Congress owe the Catholic Bishops that they do not owe the majority of women in this country? What does Obama owe the Bishops that he does not owe you and me?"

It's not too late for voters to lay siege to their Senators. And it's not too late for the liberal campaign contributors to close their wallets until they find out.

Laura Flanders is the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.

Palin's Pet Has Taliban Ties?

One week before Election Day, the special election to fill a vacant House seat in New York's North Country is heating up. It's a three-way split, pitting a Republican, a Democrat, and a Conservative against one another. It's close.

And the conservative on the ticket has the kind of support the Democrat running against him must love.

Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman has already received the backing of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the anti-public-spending Club for Growth. On Monday he was endorsed by another beauty: Dana Rohrabacher, the senior Orange County (CA) Republican who began his career as a speechwriter for President Reagan. Said Rohrabacher "We don't need Tweedle-Dum or Tweedle-Dee, we need Hoffman. He's not afraid to stand up and speak the truth."

Like Palin, Beck, Limbaugh et al, Rohrabacher's of the belief that if Hoffman wins, it will send a message to the GOP establishment that they should run hardliners in 2010 and pitch to the Tea Party crowd on health care, government and everything else.

It's a great endorsement -- as far as Hoffman's opponents are concerned. As special assistant to Ronald Reagan, Rohrabacher played a key role in the late 1980s getting money and arms to Muslim extremists in Afghanistan. Throughout the 90s, he lobbied shamelessly for the repressive Taliban. A November/December 1996 article in Washington Report on Middle East Affairs said, "The potential rise of power of the Taliban does not alarm Rohrabacher" because the congressman believes the "Taliban could provide stability in an area where chaos was creating a real threat to the U.S." Nice. In April 2001, Rohrabacher met privately in Qatar with the Taliban's foreign minister, then seeking increased aid for his country.

Rohrabacher's railed against the evil Taliban since, but still. The man who once thought the Taliban were good for US interests now thinks Doug Hoffman will be good for his party. If the Hoffman's opponents can't make anything of that, they're not trying.

Having a former Taliban funder joining the rogue's gallery backing the Hoffman has got to make it easier for his opponents. If the Democrat, lawyer Bill Owens, ekes out a victory amid the Republican infighting he'll be the first Democrat to win that district in 140 years.

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.

Bombings in Baghdad Threaten DC's Security.

 

"Deadliest bombs since '07 shatter Iraqi Complexes. Key Government Sites. Synchronized car blast kill more than 130 -- Security issue." So reads the headline in my newspaper.

 

According to the Associated Press, Iraq's deadliest bombing in more than two years killed at least 155 and wounded more than 500 Sunday. Two suicide car bombs blew up almost simultaneously outside the Justice Ministry in downtown Baghdad having passed through multiple check points. At least 25 staff members of the Baghdad Provincial Council, which runs the city, are among the dead.

Security issue? Not for those watching US TV.

The deadliest coordinated attack in Iraq in two years merited no mention on the Sunday TV shows. Except for CNN, they've moved on to Afghanistan, the so-called "Right War." There, 14 Americans and three civilians were reported dead, victims of two helicopter crashes. By Monday, that was dominating the news.

Fourteen Americans equal how many Iraqis? I'd be interested to see the math.
What we do know is that many American policy makers are embracing a surge theory of success for US troops. It "worked," in Iraq. It will work -- they believe -- in Afghanistan.

 

Too much attention to what's actually going on in Baghdad -- 155 dead and 500 wounded and all the rest--might unsettle a very convenient consensus.

It's a security issue indeed, but the priority in US media isn't the life and death of Iraqi people; it's the security of the war consensus in Washington.

 

Laura Flanders is the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.

Health Care Hoax Worse Than Balloon Boy

An attention grab that held millions of Americans transfixed. A story that seemed to be about life in the balance. It dominated the airwaves, the social networks, held Americans in its clutch. And then it turned out to have been nothing but a hoax. A play for attention that distracted the entire country.

Now that the Balloon Boy's story is blown, can we call out the health care hoax?

The anti-health care lobby is taking all our attention hostage and a nation's hopes (and votes) for quality health care are floating away.

If you're angry and feel played by the Heene family of Colorado, you'd better be furious at the private insurers.

If you want Richard Heene and his wife to be jailed and their kids taken into protective care -- you better be fighting for all Americans to be taken out of the custody of abusive wealth-insurance companies.

We know now that the Heenes were smart about how to manipulate the media in part because they'd starred in two episodes of Wife Swap. Cigna, Aetna, United Health own the news. They and their guns-for-hire lobbyists underwrite just about every pseudo-news show. Call it "News Swap." (Theirs for the real stuff.)

And right now, with their House Republican pals they're planning to stop a health care bill by spending the next three weeks arguing over a phony-facts study that claims that the Democrats' measure will be a bad deal for small businesses, senior citizens, and women and children,"

At least the empty balloon that the Heene's floated was harmless. The anti-health care lobby is taking us all for a ride. Where is the sheriff when you need him? And where are the felony charges?

 

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.

 

Geithner's All Ears for the Debt Cartel

Months ago, a former chief economist at the IMF called it mind control. Talking to Simon Johnson of the Atlantic Monthly, he explained that one of the most alarming truths laid bare by the economic crash was that the finance industry had effectively captured the thinking of government.

"That's going too far," said reasonable people. "This is no Banana Republic run by crony cartels."

That was before we read Tim Geithner's phone records.

Thursday's AP report shows executives at a handful of companies -- Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs -- had not just the ear, but both ears of the Treasury Secretary to the exclusion of other even bigger and more troubled banks and legislators.

As AP points out, Geithner had more contacts with Citigroup than he did with Barney Frank, D-Mass., the lawmaker leading the effort to approve Geithner's financial overhaul plan. And Geithner's contacts with Lloyd Blankfein, the chairman and CEO at Goldman, way outnumber his contacts with Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

After the week this May when GM almost went bankrupt and the government was considering a federal takeover, the treasury secretary called Blankfein, then Jamie Dimon, the boss at JPMorgan. Then Obama called and as soon as they hung up, Geithner was back on the phone with Dimon. Poor California Democrat Xavier Becerra -- who handles silly stuff like taxes and budgets. He had to leave a voice-mail message.

Geithner wasn't talking to all bankers -- mostly with people he served on nonprofit boards with, and hung out with socially.

So. . . where others have drug cartels, we have a debt cartel? It'd be clear by now if Geithner was just listening to his friends to hone his arguments against greater bank consolidation, debt securitization and finance over industry. So far Geithner has yet to show any sign of breaking with his Wall Street pushers.

In a Banana Republic we'd pay out protection money. Oh, but I forgot, we did that already.

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GritLaura on Twitter.com.

Punch in the Streets, Not in the Suites at G-20

 

The G20 summit wrapped up in Pittsburgh Friday with pledges but little punch. Except in the streets.

On climate change, world leaders vowed "strong action" and on the economy, "balanced economic growth." The summit endorsed granting more voting rights at the IMF and World Bank to ‘underrepresented' countries like CHINA. With a billion people and the world's second largest economy -- China may budge up from having 3.6% of all votes.

Underrepresented booming countries may get a bigger voice in global finance. Nice. But under-represented people? Well there's the rub.

Around 200 people were arrested during the two-day Pittsburgh summit.  Heavy policing seems to be the only plan world leaders have come up with for shutting reality out.

Reality, for those in the streets, not the suites, of the world, is a whole new economy -- way more than a downturn -- and the prospect of long-term, possibly permanent, unemployment.

Read the papers, and the stats are all there. In the US, job seekers now outnumber job openings six to one. Official unemployment stands at 9.7 percent, its highest level in 26 years. If you're a teenager, it's over 25 percent. No reason there to shun protest for fear of ruining your job prospects, they're grim and only getting grimmer. That's if radicals like Paul Craig Roberts, a former officer of the Reagan Administration, are to be believed.

If measured according to the methodology used when he was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Roberts says "the unemployment rate today in the US is above 20%. Moreover, there is no obvious way of reducing it."

Consumer spending -- the engine that drove 70 % of the US economy and by extension much of the world's -- isn't coming back. And that's just the way it's going to be, President Obama's chief economic adviser Larry Summers told the BBC (my sister, actually) in Pittsburgh.

"The US can't, shouldn't and won't continue to experience the consumption-led growth of the past few years." said Summers. And the world -- and we -- should just adjust...

The message is pledge-on! Endorse "strong action" on climate and "balanced growth." But all those poor people out of work? They'll just have to adjust.

While banks are doling out cash by the millions to kill any new regulation of Wall St. (which clearly has its heart set on making another buck off all that poverty...) There is one part of the economy that seems actually to be getting stimulated: Policing. If ever civil society finds a voice and decides actually to wield it, they'll be ready. How else to reign in reality, for lawd's sake?

 

 

Laura Flanders, is the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GritLaura on Twitter.com.

 

OOPS! The ACORN Ban Could Snag Lockheed & Catholic Charities

 

Continuing the GOP's attack on the poor people's organizing group ACORN, the House and Senate -- by wide margins -- have voted to bar ACORN from receiving federal funding on account of fraudulent activity.

Let's hope the legislators enjoy their gloat and then get right back to business.  Passed in a flurry of bloviating bluster, The Defund ACORN law is written so broadly that it just could come in very handy.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D of Florida) has already asked the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) to find out which other contractors might be caught in the ACORN ban-net.

When it comes to fraud felons receiving federal funds -- Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman top the list, with 20 fraud cases between them. Where military contractors go, the cash-for-killers at Blackwater (now XE) are rarely far behind. (Indeed, see Jeremy Scahill's story.) And then there's Halliburton and the magically disappeared federal cash for troop services and Iraq reconstruction. (Has anyone seen that $9 billion? )

Fraud by recipients of the $750 billion financial bailout program is bound to show up soon. Earlier this year, federal investigators said they had opened 20 criminal probes into possible securities fraud, tax violations, insider trading and other crimes by TARP recipients.

If Congress - including scores of Democrats --  can get this hot and bothered over the $50 million ACORN's supposed to have received over the past 15 years they're going to become hysterical about the BILLIONS received by banks in the blink of a brokers' eyelid.

Not to be left out, several supposedly faith-based groups, recipients of federal grants, currently stand accused of misspending taxpayer cash to cover for child-molesting clergy.

To name just one, in at least two cities Catholic Charities stands accused of using federal funds to settle or cover up sex abuse charges, but that didn't stop Catholic Charities from receiving a federal government contract this August for $100 million to work with victims of natural disasters.

Bankers, brokers, bomb-makers, and let us not forget the child molesters...  This could all get very interesting very fast. I can hardly wait to turn on the television. Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck. Who's going to be first with the outrage?

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GritLaura on Twitter.com.

 

Wangari Maathai: A US Resource War?

 

 

Wangari Maathai makes the relationship between needs and wars so clear that even the Nobel committee (which awarded her the peace prize in '04) got it. Violent disparities in access to resources, lead to violence. The wars right now destroying people and the planet are wars over the stuff of life: land and water and fuel.

If we can see the link between conflict and resource strain in Kenya and Congo and Brazil, why are we surprised that here at home, anger and tension-in-the-air is rising?

Extreme poverty, bankruptcies, defaults, debt--they're all on the rise for the majority of Americans, even as a tiny minority grow their share of all wealth, and grab more than their fair share of the scarce resource that is the government's care and attention.

The system is stressed and so are the people. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found the average family premium for health insurance rose to $13,375 last year, a jump of 5% even as inflation fell. That makes for an obscene rise of 131% over the past ten years. No wonder, that at the same time the number of Americans without any health coverage rose to 46.3 million.

Healthcare is a scarce resource, and people's fears for themselves and their kids are very real. 

The Census Bureau shows that the child poverty rate rose to 19.0% last year. That translates to 14.1 million children living in poverty in the richest nation in the world. By some estimates, that could be 26.6% by the end of 2009.

Income inequality is at an all time high. Resources are strapped. Are we really surprised that fear -- and gun-sales -- are rising?

Maathai's Green Belt movement believes in better environmental stewardship and better sharing will reduce war. She talks about it on GRITtv this week: "There is no way to have peace without equity."

Her Green Belt movement has planted 40 billion trees since its founding and aims to plant another nine billion trees this year.

What would be the US equivalent of all that tree-planting?

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GritLaura on Twitter.com.
 

 

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