Daily Archives: November 29, 2010

Greenpeace sues Dow Chemical and others over surveillance and computer hacking charges

Picked this up on BoingBoing today:
clipped from www.boingboing.net
Greenpeace today filed a lawsuit “against Dow Chemical, Sasol […] and PR firms Dezenhall Resources and Ketchum, for hiring private investigators to steal documents from Greenpeace, tap our phones and hack into our computers.” 

NYT: The alleged spying occurred between 1998 and 2000 when Greenpeace campaigned against the release of dioxin, a toxic byproduct of chemical manufacturing, in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and other communities.

A PDF of the complaint is here.

blog it

Five for every one… and why unemployment will go on longer than we want it.

The current Dept. of Labor statistic is that there are five unemployed job searchers for every one job that opens up at present. This means that only 20% of people seeking work right now are likely to get it, leaving the rest of us to ponder our futures in different ways.

Some, of course, will retire or take early retirement with reduced Social Security because they have little or no choice. Some, who have access to some investment money, will set up new small businesses… often with themselves as the only employees… and hope that something will come along at some point to get them off their own dime (I call this the freelance graphic designer option. I’ve been there, too.) Some will turn to crime… no joke…it is happening already.

The 20% who do get work are, for the most part, getting jobs which pay less than they were making before they ended up on the unemployment rolls, while their day-to-day cost of living expenses are significantly higher (just take a look at gasoline!)

So what is the government planning to cure this situation? Damn little, I’m afraid. Congress will be a left-right wrestling ring. The Obama Administration will hope Congress does something…but it won’t. The Supreme Court will continue its firming up of the Corporate Wealthy.

And we’ll watch a lot more television, cry in our sleep a lot more, and go progressively downhill as the Middle Class disappears.

A farewell to Leslie Nielsen…

Actor Leslie Nielsen died in Florida Sunday at the age of 84. The Canadian-born actor had a decades long career, starting in straight roles and ending up in absurd comic films and television productions.

I remember the first time I saw Nielsen was in the 1950s science fiction film, Forbidden Planet ( based, by the way, on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”), where he played a handsome space ship captain. As a young man he came from Canada to NYC to attend the Neighborhood Playhouse drama school and played many parts in early live television drama.

His early television appearances include parts in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Virginian, and The Wild Wild West. In 1961, he was the lead in a taut Los Angeles police drama called The New Breed. In 1968, he had a major role in the pilot film for the popular police series Hawaii Five-O, and also later appeared in one of the episodes in the seventh season. In 1969, he had the leading role as a police officer in The Bold Ones: The Protectors. He played The Swamp Fox (Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion) for Disney over 8 episodes.

Nielsen’s comedic breakthrough came with a supporting role in 1980’s Airplane!, a parody of Zero Hour!, Airport, and other movies that dealt with air travel. In Airplane! his deadpan delivery contrasted with the continual absurdity surrounding him. In the film when asked, “Surely you can’t be serious?”, he responds with a curt, “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.” He hit it playing Frank Drebin in the films and television productions of Police Squad and the Naked Gun series, which hit the peak of his comic performances.

On November 28, Doug Nielsen, Nielsen’s nephew, announced to the CJOB radio station that Nielsen had died in his sleep, of pneumonia, around 5:30 p.m. EST, surrounded by family and friends.

A piece from my friend and Friday radio partner John Case:

This is from John’s daily mailing. You can reach him at socialist-economics@googlegroups.com.

Thoughts on Left criticism of Obama:

The Left press and blogosphere is rife with analyses on the mistakes of the
Obama administration that allegedly ’caused’ the Republican resurgence in the mid-term elections. Chiefly Obama’s stimulus effort is scored as half-hearted, less than half the amount needed using the most precise Keynesian calculations. And from the perspective of Hyman Minsky’s Post-Keynesian followers, the absence of a strong employer of last resort strategy gravely threatens a country’s ability to recover stability or sustainable growth from the chaos of a ‘government-constrained great depression’ (the more accurate term for this crisis than ‘the great recession’).

On the social safety net front, increasing the economic rights of the American people, Obama’s (and Pelosi’s and Harry Reid’s, Chris Dodd’s and Barney Frank’s) accomplished reforms in health care and finance are seen as compromised by excessive concessions to corporate interests. It has shocked some to discover, or re-discover, some of the basics of class politics in this era of giant transnational corporations. To left and even most liberal thinking forces, the ideological arguments for universal health care and for more constrained and sustainable financial markets disciplined to more useful investment strategies seem unassailable, stronger than ever from an historical perspective. The uneven but nonetheless unmistakable worldwide advance of objective socialization processes in the global economy and national economies are strongly reflected in the ever increasing degree and sophistication of regulation in markets, and in the advancing sector of public and quasi public goods, including infrastructure, in advanced economies. More and more these processes have the tinge of inevitability, though we should have learned to be careful of such appearances. They are grounded in both technological and interconnected social evolution, especially the division and re-division of labor. Given the vast transformations in the class and occupational diversification since the 18th century dawn of capitalism, it’s likely a longstanding idealist tendency on the left that seeks to reduce them by referring to capitalism as single system throughout, even though certain features certainly persist.

The socialization tendency, for example, regardless how inevitable it may be, paradoxically makes corporations and the rich ever more “dependent upon the public sector for essential services and infrastructure”, and “thus” in proportion, ever “more — not less” — fierce in their efforts to manipulate and dominate public institutions This is obviously an inherently corrupting process however and thus compels — again, and not for the first time — a no less fierce defense of democracy and democratic institutions. The expansion of democratic rights — i.e. “entitlements” — inherently challenges unjustified wealth inequality. Yet some on the left draw a different conclusion, namely, that democratic struggle in all state and public institutions is a dead end, and the president’s departure from the ideal an illustration of this, rather than simply a testimony to its difficulties, and importance.

In foreign policy, Obama’s efforts to “draw down” wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been excoriated as false and dishonest and, indeed, simply a continuation of 20th Century imperial policies. In most cases critics decline to place the president’s ‘defects’ in context of what is politically possible given the balance of forces in and between Congress, state legislatures and governors, the Supreme Court, and not least — the armed forces and their institutions and vast economic clientele. “Out Now!”, “Jobs Now”, “nationalize the banks” are slogans that epitomize these tendencies. They prefer instead to measure his performance ideological standards. Even the most trenchant and credible critics of the president’s ‘compromises’ — such as Paul Krugman — frequently preface their objections with “….it’s unknown if a better bill was politically feasible, but…..”. The “but” usually includes the argument that its better to hold a more pure, but failed, position, than legislate a piece of sausage which most folks would prefer not to inspect too closely.

The problem with the hatred or disgust of sausage making is that all legislation, in fact all governing, is really like sausage making. The problem with primarily ideological objections to the president is that they are too often distractions from the harder mobilizing and organizing activity that’s at the heart of the challenges to move the democratic restructuring agenda forward, and send its enemies to the dustbin of history. To expect any elected president to fall on his or her sword is, well, foolish.

More sober analysis, it seems to this writer, points out that the weaknesses in the stimulus response, the reforms, and the setbacks in the mid-term elections are, more than ever, calls to arms at the grass roots. Overcoming the corrupting forces of monopoly corporations and their owners on the political process needs exponentially more horsepower from the bottom up. The failure and nullification of existing democratic institutions, “the spread of ungovernability,” are the greatest threat posed by both the current assaults from the Right, the arrogance of the military, and especially the failure of existing institutions to effectively counter the economic crisis. It’s an opportunity for the Left, broadly speaking, that has not presented itself since at least the Sixties, and perhaps even the Great Depression. But seizing the opportunity means a strategic re-focus on breaking out of its electoral and governing isolation, breaking out of the political sidelines.

Local power is the chief link the chain of tactics I think we need to grasp, to borrow Lenin’s famous metaphor. It’s not the only link, but the one most accessible to us given the organizational chaos on the Left. And the essence of the challenge in local electoral battles is how to galvanize, neighborhood by neighborhood, workplace by workplace, majority coalitions of workers, nationally and racially oppressed, women, youth, seniors, small business, democratically minded intellectuals and liberal corporate interests that expand the mandate of local government to take aggressive action on the immediate needs of the people, AND become much more foundations on which to force state-wide and, in turn, national institutions to turn back demagogic and corrupted attacks and address the key problems.

In some ways I am convinced that the organizational chaos is largely a product of our relative electoral isolation — and thus isolation from the real vicissitudes of exercising working people’s great power.