Newsletter: Their Greed Is Our Ally

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The greed for money and power undermines those in the power structure, from politicians to big business and trade negotiators, and even police. While they may view greed as a strength – it drives corrupt politicians and big business to consistently push for more power and money – it can also be a weakness by leading them to overreach and expose their corruption. We cannot count on those in the power structure to always undermine themselves, but when they do, we need to be there to point it out and help their mistakes ensure their defeat.

Trade Stalls, Pushing TPP Into the Election Year

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiators  in Hawaii were met by protesters, including the largest conch shell blow in world history, with four hundred people blowing conch shells outside the hotel where the negotiations were going on.TPP Hawaii protest

The negotiators did not reach the conclusion they had promised as major areas of disagreement remain between the big economies of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, particularly because of the aggressive positions of the US negotiators. The US is insisting on provisions that will protect the profits of pharmaceutical and other medical corporations and that will destroy some of the best healthcare systems in the world (Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). The US is using its bully power to force the failed and abusive US market model of privatized healthcare on countries that have strong public health systems. Many other big issues remain, among them are trade-related dairy and autos, biologic’s patent exclusivity periods, the role of Internet service providers regarding copyright and details of investor-state dispute settlement provisions.

"Your career is toast" protest in Senator Wyden's office.

“Your career is toast” protest in Senator Wyden’s office.

As a result, negotiators left Hawaii without a schedule for a next meeting.  Elections are complicating progress, with Stephen Harper in a close re-election race, Shinzo Abe of Japan’s popularity dropping and trade becoming an issue in US elections as political payback for the TPP Fast Track vote is  beginning. At this point, it looks like the delay may mean that the TPP will not be reviewed in Congress until the 2016 election year starts.

The election year is an opportunity for the movement against trade rigged for big business to make the TPP a national issue and to push for a new direction for trade that puts protection of people and the planet before profits. Join us in organizing to stop the TPP and the other corporate treaties, the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). Click here to take the TPP action pledge.

On Medicare’s 50th Birthday, Healthcare in the US Changing for the Worse

While Medicare’s 50th Birthday was celebrated across the nation, with people advocating for Medicare to be improved and expanded to cover all Americans, there are signs of trouble in US healthcare.Health care is a human right  united workers

The new slogan of the single payer movement is “Medicare for All: American as Apple PIE” with PIE standing for Protect, Improve, Expand.  But, the reality is that we know Medicare is under attack, constantly facing cutbacks and privatization,  and this attack is bi-partisan in nature showing the truth of the saying that the difference between Republicans who overtly want to dismantle Medicare and Democrats who are privatizing Medicare is Republicans stab you in the front while Democrats stab you in the back.

People-before-profits1-e1388526460622

On the broader healthcare issues the United States, already the most costly in the world, is the concern that the private health insurance industry is becoming more concentrated. Anthem Inc  announced its intent to buy Cigna Corp in a deal valued at $54.2 billion, creating the largest U.S. health insurer by membership. Three weeks ago Aetna Inc agreed to buy Humana Inc for $37 billion. Further concentration of the insurance industry is very likely to lead to higher prices and worse service.

At the same time private hospitals and vulture fund investors are seeking to buy up physician practices.  A report indicates private equity purchases of medical practices soared nearly 60% year-over-year, to a new record of $15.6 billion. Specialty practices have become targets of publicly traded corporate entities, too expensive for private funds.These purchases allow investors and hospitals to get control of medical practices and their patient base, raising important questions:

“If a for-profit, publicly traded or privately held venture-capital fund owns these doctors, what’s their fiduciary duty to the patients?”

A protest in San Francisco against Sovaldi’s price. Credit AIDS Healthcare Foundation

A protest in San Francisco against Sovaldi’s price. Credit AIDS Healthcare Foundation

The end of private, independent medical practices is going to be one more step in the destruction of healthcare in the United States. Add to that one more trend – the incredible increase in the price of pharmaceuticals (which as we note above the US is trying to push on the world). The cost of cancer drugs has doubled over the last decade, some new drugs cost as much as $1,000 per pill making it impossible for patients to take the medicine they need. Doctors are complaining and urging the lowering of prices.

So, as we celebrate Medicare’s fiftieth birthday there are lots of problems and challenges. It is the job of the movement to organize people to ensure that when the wheels fall off the Obamacare bus, the people are organized to demand the only solution – improved and expanded Medicare for All. The time may come sooner than we expect.

Inspiring Protests Against Shell Arctic Drilling Raise Public Awareness

Shell protest OregonThis week there were inspiring protests in Oregon that delayed Shell Oil’s plan to drill the Arctic for oil. Protesters dangled from a bridge to block Shell from getting its ice breaker out to sea.  The action, which included 13 people hanging from the bridge while scores of kayactivists blocked the waters below, forced the boat to turn around and stay in port for 40 extra hours when every day matters as the Arctic drilling season window of opportunity is closing.  In the end the protesters were removed from the bridge and the Shell ice breaker left Portland after an inspiring delay. These were not the first protest of the sHELLNo campaign and will not be the last.

Shell is desperate to turn their finances around. “The protests coincide with Shell’s second quarter earnings report, which shows a $2.3 billion drop in profits. Thousands of layoffs are planned, among other adjustments, adding urgency to oil giant’s push to explore the Arctic.”Shell NO Blockade in Portland danglers and kayactivists

Shell and other oil companies are experiencing opposition to their continued extreme extraction practices because of immediate threats to the environment and because each additional project pushes the globe closer to the climate tipping point. The industry is under attack by concerned citizens and is trying to figure out how to respond, but at the same time prices for oil and gas are dropping and the reality of climate change and the demand for policies to address it are increasing.

While one participant expressed sadness – a day of tears – when the ice breaker went out to sea, and we share that disappointment, we also know this is part of an ongoing campaign and that people are working to stop carbon fuels in so many ways: fossil fuel divestment, fasting against FERC infrastructure, local protests at pipeline hearings, litigation, pipeline blockades, and artful protest.  Each action inspires another and the movement gets stronger as the greed of the industry becomes more evident and the impact of their actions impact more of us and cause unpredictable environmental impacts like widespread earthquakes.

Police Violence Against Communities of Color and Poor

Another area related to greed is the police violence and abuse that has become more evident against communities of color, not only Blacks but the Indigenous as well as against the poor.  This week the cries for justice for Sandra Bland grew louder. More people understand that it was Sandra’s standing up to institutional racism that led to her death; that she was a rebel standing up to abuse of power; and someone who realized it was her calling to stand up to a system of racism.Cleveland pepper spray

At her funeral Sandra’s mother told people that she had a calling to challenge racism and issued a call to action for others to join the struggle. And, others are joining. People gain strength when they see others stand up to abuse of power and then when people experience it, they join the struggle as well. This week nearly 2,000 people marched through Newark protesting police violence. Hundreds gathered in Cleveland at the #BlackLivesMatter convening and their views were strengthened when police used pepper spray against them. We are also strengthened when we see protests resulting in police indictments, something that never happened before and is happening more regularly.Black Lives Matter

As we look toward the upcoming anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, we should all look with great pride at the #BlackLivesMatter movement – its growth, impressive leadership and accomplishments.  As the movement pushes for the radical transformation that is needed, it brings to light who is opposed to ending the injustice of abusive policing. It is the superwealthy who gain power, privilege and wealth from inequality, from keeping people poor and keeping communities of color down. Once again we learn the connection between the corrupt economy and the corrupt government and racism. And, we also see that that the power structure fears the movement as we learn they have been monitoring the activities of the movement for the last year.

Consensus Growing for Radical Change Not Mere Reform

Christian Parenti  writes about the roots of the American police state explaining: “At its heart, the new American repression is very much about the restoration and maintenance of ruling class power.” The modern police state’s roots are in the 1960s when “white supremacy, corporate power, capitalism, and the legitimacy of the US government, at home and abroad, all faced profound crisis.” He describes the history of the economic divide that sends money to the top while impoverishing most Americans and how racism is used to divide people to keep them from focusing on the political and economic establishment.

Police force is the foundational tool of the power structure to keep people hopeless, confused and divided.  But, divisions are becoming evident as those in power see they are part of a corrupt system. More politicians are recognizing they too are ruled by money.  Former president Jimmy Carter said: “Now [the United States is] just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congressmembers. … So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors …”Revolution may the flame never burnout

The consciousness of the country is changing. People who used to be reformers, stuck inside the limits set by the two parties, are breaking out and realizing the deep corruption that is system-wide from the police on the street to senators, judges and presidents. No longer is it enough to be a “liberal” or a “progressive,” the times requires more.

The radical transformation that is needed is not on the agenda of anyone running for president in either the Democratic or Republican primary.  The reality is that nothing offered by mainstream politics will achieve the transformational change that is needed.  A normally mainstream Democrat, Robert Kuttner writes: “This is one of those moments when there is broad popular frustration, a moment when liberal goals require measures that seem radical by today’s standards. . . . Muddle-through and token gestures won’t fool anybody.”

Consciousness is rising and with that so will the demands and actions of an organized populace. Sometimes it will take the shape of protests, other times a rebellion, sometimes cities will be shut down and there will be riots. The system is not responding to the reasonable demands for social, economic, racial and environmental justice. The failure to respond will result in uprisings and at the root will be the greed for money and power by those in the power structure who ignored these realities.

  • Aquifer

    “Elections are complicating progress,…”

    They will only “complicate” it for TPTB if we actually use them to “throw the bums out” and put in those who “just say no” – otherwise, they are just another bump in the road for TPTB … to be navigated with rhetoric and empty promises, as the D/Rs have done so successfully here for so long ….

    Marches, actions, petitions are great, but if our “movements” don’t include a revolt at the polls, the only beneficiaries will be stockholders in sneaker companies as we lace up yet another pair to march ad infinitum ….

    ” …trade becoming an issue in US elections as political payback for the TPP Fast Track vote is beginning.”

    This is crucial – will these threats just be the paper tigers they have proven to be in the past, suitable for coloring books for the offspring of TPTB, or will they have real teeth …. This really is the crux, folks – if these guys retain office in the face of their support for this stuff, once again we will have proven to TPTB that they have little to fear from us. But, and here’s the kicker – it is not enough to throw THESE bums out – we gotta make sure we don’t replace them with new bums – but that means no D/Rs – any pol who chooses to put a D or R on their forehead has signed a dance ticket with the Devil …

  • Matthew Borenstein

    NO to the Dem/Rep cartel – YES to the GREEN PARTY

  • Kevin and Margaret, you write:

    “The system is not responding to the reasonable demands for social, economic, racial and environmental justice.”

    You advocate “…radical change, not mere reform.”

    Okay. I agree completely with your general statements

    I have a few questions to help take what you advocate to actionable specifics:

    Which system are you referring to? (The U.S. constitutional system? The U.S. economic system? Both? Something else?)

    What particular features of the system prevent it from responding to reasonable demands for justice?

    What democratic features would you replace those non-responsive, undemocratic features with to constitute “radical change” exactly?

    Which features of the system would you suggest we keep?

    What processes should people use to bring those radical changes about?

    What cases from other nations shed light on radical system change in America?

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  • DHFabian

    Greed trickles down. The US spent years creating a poverty crisis. The middle class demands, “No crumbs for the poor!” This year alone, our government virtually ended food stamps to the elderly poor and the disabled. The US shipped out a huge chunk of our jobs, and then ended basic poverty relief for the jobless. There are few calling for restoring the fundamental human rights (per the UDHR) of food and shelter to our desperately poor.

  • DHFabian

    American life centers on the economy — economic conditions, largely determined by the political/policy choices of the mainstream masses. The mainstream masses are under-informed and misinformed about the most vital issues because there has been no strong voice to dispute the (excuse the over-simplification) corporate spiel of recent decades. Changing anything would require a legitimate public discussion about actual economic conditions in the US — how we got here, and what we can do about it. That discussion simply doesn’t exist in our media.

    Bottom line: Americans looked at the policies and programs implemented from FDR to Reagan, which took the US to its height of wealth and productivity, and chose to reverse course, doing the opposite. The inevitable happened. Because it isn’t now politically correct/popular to actually address the consequences — our poverty crisis/overall deteriorating quality of life — we’re stuck.

  • DHFabian

    Why? I’m not disputing your point, but am wondering what you think the Green Party could change to improve conditions. Every candidate is dependent on appealing to middle class campaign donors, who overall are opposed to the changes necessary to rebuild the economy. They want increased income and security while demanding that nothing be done about poverty. Our own history shows why we can’t save (much less, rebuild!) the middle class without shoring up the poor — putting the rungs back on the ladder out of poverty. The middle class oppose this for “the principle of it.” The Green Party platform (the last I saw) embraced the currently popular “trickle-down economics” approach to our poverty crisis.

  • DHFabian

    A revolt for what? Since Clinton, the call from liberals/progressives amounts to: “Stand in Solidarity to protect the status quo of the bourgeoisie alone, the middle class!” It’s actually a call to protect the current agenda. Regardless of who is in office, nothing can change without a united People’s push-back. One issue liberals won’t touch: Remember Occupy? What began as an extraordinary people’s movement that could have changed the course we’re on, was quickly redefined — by Dem pols and lib media — as essentially a pep rally for the middle class, the better-off alone. The rest of us walked away.

    On voting, the option to the D/Rs is to scatter our votes among the array of third party candidates, ensuring that only a D/R wins. Besides, the US today has a genuine poverty crisis. For whom can the poor — and those who get why unrelieved poverty is sinking the country — vote?

  • DHFabian

    Question for Mr. Zeese: What is “economic justice” for the jobless poor and many of the unemployable? Agreeing to another 30+ years of merely calling for job creation is not an answer. It’s an evasion of addressing the poverty crisis.

  • Matthew Borenstein

    Here’s a start that you & loads of others can work on with the GP = Up to 1960, the tax on the 1% was 90% – now it’s 35% – let’s push it all the way back up again ! Not a trickle, a flood !

  • Aquifer

    Sorry 1, you do not speak for me or for many when you describe what is “called for” –

    Sorry 2 – I do not accept a Dem or lib media definition of about anything

    So where did the rest of you “walk to”? Why not stay and insist on your own definition (interesting – i am, even now engaging in a discussion on another site about what happens when we concede the power to define to another …)

    On voting – no the option is not to scatter our votes, but unite under one banner …

    The poor can vote for those whose proposals would make them less poor, would give them dignity and support – we have had this discussion elsewhere, you and i ….

  • “No longer is it enough to be a “liberal” or a “progressive,” the times requires more.” Thank you for that! It’s now Main Street and Planet Earth vrs. the wall street criminal establishment.

  • DHFabian, do you advocate any pathways, any solutions for becoming unstuck?

  • Leslie Arnett

    I, for one, would like to see every electronic voting machine produce a paper ballot that non-partisan proctors would verify. All elections should have a NOTA (None of the Above) option on every ballot, especially important when a candidate runs unopposed. It should be illegal for any governmental agency to arrest protesters for criminal trespass, which in reality, trespasses against our right to peaceably assemble and to petition for redress of grievances. Elections should be publicly, not privately funded, with tax monies directed to candidates equally. Political debates should be broadcast by PBS and utilize moderators representing all parties equally. Term limits need to be applied to every political office, if a candidate wishes to run again after one cycle in which they did not hold office, they should be free to run again. We need to use an apportioned representational system wherein if the green party candidates get 12% of a state or nationwide election they are seated in a state or national body proportionally. We need elected civilian over-site boards for police agencies. We need to create drug treatment centers rather than mainstreaming drug users into prison populations. We need to pass legislation that requires companies to pay a higher unemployment insurance rate when their history of laying off workers is higher than an average mean. Temp agencies should be required to offer the same benefit packages as the companies they supply workers to prevent this practice of evading federal labor laws. Defense spending cuts should be constitutionally required to fund expected levels of expenditures of social programs for children and the elderly and the unemployed. This is not a comprehensive list but I am quite certain that the authors of this story would agree, at least in theory, with the majority of what I have listed here.

  • Thanks for that list of changes Leslie. Excellent. I think they each have merit. Many of them could be written into amendments in some cases and laws in other cases. I’ve written over 20 amendments covering many of the policies and governmental features you propose. What we need are progressives who will take such progressive platform policies such as yours, and turn them into a set of amendments. (The conservatives have this with the book “The Liberty Amendments.”

    However … it is important to recognize that the one amendment which Americans cannot seem to think, let alone advocate, is the one which all of the others, such as yours, require for implementation.

    This is a Socratic (rather than autocratic) invitation to you …

  • Leslie Arnett

    Invitation?

  • Here’s the question, an invitation for you to think about how your policies can actually come about and be implemented:

    What is the one amendment which all of the others, such as yours, require for implementation?

  • Leslie Arnett

    I am not sure that any single amendment to our Constitution could cover the breadth of the changes we need to make to create a more just and progressive society that will benefit citizens equally unless you mean an economic amendment such as a minimum guaranteed income, however, that does not address other issues and revoking Citizens United, while a step in the right direction, cannot cover all the bases either even when paired with federally or state funded elections to give all candidates an equal opportunity. You can neither legislate the absence of morality nor human weakness, but only create obstacles toward these traits creating harm to society. What one amendment can make all those things that need changed change? Look at how the 14th amendment has been corrupted from it’s original intent to that current use which is protection and rights for fictional persons under the guise of “corporate person-hood.”

  • I’ve posted a reply Leslie yesterday, but it, apparently, is in moderation for some reason. If you’d like me to send it to you directly, give me a way via FB, or email, etc. kelgerling at g mail dot com