A top ten list to grudgingly remember

Posted on December 28th, 2008 in Politics by Robert Miller

How about the top ten greedy people of 2008? There are a lot of candidates here–anyone dealing in credit swaps, hedge funds, investment banking, subprime mortgages, home building for the subprime fiasco–these activities could all generate qualified candidates for the top ten on the greed scale. While it’s hard to see why we should stop at  ten on the infamous list, especially after such the horrific year we have just gone through,  at least it’s a start: appearing in Alternet, Sam Pizzigati has published his top nominees and you know for sure that the name Bernie Madoff is among them. But, I’ll bet you can’t guess who is number one? Apart from Madoff, how many on the list do you know? These are people you would never hear much about, because they don’t do anything worthwhile. They are not helping to build a country. If anything they create wealth by tearing one apart and it doesn’t matter whether its their own or somebody elses! I for one do not believe that the economic collapse we are witnessing is a failure of monetary policy or lack of liquidity. I believe it is a structural failure in our economy and that the collapse is more akin to the bridge that disintegrated in Minnesota last year, rather than a glitch in the system that can be fixed with more regulatory control. We need to build stuff–but the right stuff, the stuff that relates to our responsibility to save the planet, prevent Polar Bears from drowning and diversify our economy, with a resounding demilitarization of our society.

Eartha Kitt: An artist and Vietnam War protestor dies at 81

Posted on December 26th, 2008 in Culture,Politics by Robert Miller

Singer Eartha Kitt died yesterday at age 81; she is worth remembering not just because of her “earthy” voice and her famous songs, which included “Santa Baby,” but because she was among the most direct protesters of the Vietnam War in the 1960s. During the Johnson buildup of the war, Eartha Kitt was invited to the White House and when asked by Lady Bird Johnson about the war, she replied “You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed;” they rebel in the street. They don’t want to go to school because they’re going to be snatched off from their mothers to be shot in Vietnam.”  Reportedly Lady Bird burst into tears. President Johnson was furious and as a result Eartha was investigated by the FBI and the CIA and ended up on the enemies list of Johnson and Nixon. She was apparently black-listed in America and spent most of the next decade working in Europe. She was exonerated by returning to stardom in the musical hit “Timbuktu,” and was invited back to the White House by Jimmie Carter who was trying to heal the Vietnam wounds. Years later, in an interview with Esquire, Kitt remarked “The thing that hurts, that became anger, was when I realized that if you tell the truth — in a country that says you’re entitled to tell the truth — you get your face slapped and you get put out of work.” Not only was the Vietnam war costly to those who paid the ultimate price with their lives, but anyone with significant visibility who protested the war could expect to live a more challenging life for many years and Eartha Kitt was one of them, who should be remembered for her courageous and direct protest to the war.

John Nichols of The Nation wrote a fitting tribute to Eartha Kitt, from whom these quotations were taken.

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Mood elevation for the holidays

Posted on December 24th, 2008 in Economy,General,Politics by Robert Miller

I am not talking about drugs here! You might think it is hard to find a good holiday story, something that could serve to elevate our low-flying morale as we view the current scene of our country and its economy. Well, it wasn’t easy, but, try these two on for size: first, you probably heard the story of the 240 union workers in Chicago who occupied their plant in protest for being terminated with significant violations of their labor contract. A fairly detailed account of this story can be found on Bill Moyers’ PBS Journal show. These workers had been employed by the Republic Windows and Doors plant who had shut down their operations claiming insolvency. Though the workers were supposed to receive an appropriate notice and severance benefits, they were denied everything, apparently because the company’s line of credit that would ordinarily have covered these costs, had disappeared over the banking crisis. Mind you, that line of credit was provided by Bank of America, a bank that had just received $ 25 billion in bailout money, with very few strings attached. So the workers took matters into their own hands and peacefully occupied the shop on December 5, while trying to negotiate with Republic and the Bank of America. After three days, the bank restored the line of credit and the 240 workers received a final benefits package of $ 1.75 million for severance, vacation time and temporary health benefits. The workers actions created a news story that was widely distributed and resonated through a growing public pool of donations in support of their efforts. The workers are now hoping that they can attract another company to move into the building and retain a manufacturing capability. Apparently, they have secured verbal support from the city to keep some type of manufacturing effort going if it can be arranged. This effort, by just 240 workers, is sending a powerful message to all businesses that want to close shop: you must obey the laws and meet the commitments of your labor contracts. The labor contract called for 60 days notice, but workers were all laid off with only three days notice; it is now customary for businesses to violate many regulations that cover labor-management contracts. The company by the way has building another plant out of state,  where they hoped to get labor without union contracts. Wouldn’t the story have an even greater outcome if the workers started manufacturing high quality solar panels!

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