Canadians who prefer truth over propaganda — and would like to have an idea why we are in this current crisis — should view this short, compelling, very informative video. This is info that you won’t see anywhere in our mainstream media. It is incumbent upon each and every one of us to be fully informed and inform your friends, family, neighbours, community. Ignorance is not an excuse!
[Note to TomDispatch Readers: Since the following piece is excerpted from a new book produced by the invaluable website Alternet.org, I thought this might be a fine moment to urge all of you — if you don’t it the site already — to visit that ever vigorous, thoughtful, provocative site. Everyday it has a menu of superb pieces — some from websites like this one, others original — that add up to some of the best reading on the progressive blogosphere. You can sign up (as I have) for their emails, which put their top pieces in your email box daily, by clicking here.]
The headlines scream. The world goes mad. The Bush administration, which failed to fully impose its unitary executive presidency on the nation through war via a Commander-in-Chief presidency, now seems intent on doing the same in its waning days through a Treasury-Secretary-in-Chief version of the same. The following passage in the original proposed bill for the $700 billion bailout legislation now in Congress may take your breath away — “Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency…” — but it is recognizably pure Bush.
Though that particular phrasing is now gone, administration officials are using the politics of fear and panic over the very financial mess they had a hand in creating to institutionalize a presidential power grab of startling magnitude. And then, of course, following the pattern of this administration, they will privatize that power, undoubtedly subcontracting the work of governmental buying and selling to the very financial characters involved in creating this mayhem. As a result, in the Bush years the Treasury Department, like the Pentagon, will have both expanded its power exponentially and privatized it all at once. Yes, Congress will add caveats and “oversight,” but these may be little more than window dressing from a body of government which has already essentially given up the ghost (of power) along with its power of the purse. If you thought we had an imperial presidency before the present economic meltdown, what’s coming may put that to shame.
Anyone who believes that an administration incapable of getting itself out of its own disasters from Kabul to Baghdad to New Orleans finally has a formula for doing so at a moment of ultimate economic debacle is surely deluded. In the meantime, Congress may turn over the checks (as in checkbooks) from those classic American governmental checks and balances to the Treasury. And as for the balances, well, you already know that story. So, a skyscraper’s worth of private financial indebtedness will now be socialized on the backs of taxpayers; and yet, as Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman, award-winning filmmakers and experts in the privatization of water supplies and systems, indicate below, the most basic public services that once gave meaning to the government now stand in danger of going “private” not just in the developing world but in the United States.
Their post, by the way, is an adaptation of an essay they wrote for a wonderful new book on a subject that will reshape our lives for decades to come — the redistribution of water on this planet, including the present fierce droughts in the American southeast and west. The Alternet.org book, Water Consciousness: How We All Have to Change to Protect Our Most Critical Resource, is in itself a resource of the first order. (Check out the book’s website while you’re at it.) Tom
Drinking at the Public Fountain
The New Corporate Threat to Our Water Supplies
By Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman
In the last few years, the world’s largest financial institutions and pension funds, from Goldman Sachs to Australia’s Macquarie Bank, have figured out that old, trustworthy utilities and infrastructure could become reliable cash cows — supporting the financial system’s speculative junk derivatives with the real concrete of highways, water utilities, airports, harbors, and transit systems.
Watch this two-part Tom Dispatch VIDEO by Pakistani-born journalist and writer Tariq Ali and you will better understand the US-Pakistani relationship and its consequences in Afghanistan:
PRIVATIZATION IN MANY FORMS LOOMS AS POTENTIAL ELECTION ISSUE, by Ish Theilheimer. Another public service nightmare story could galvanize debate.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS BREAKDOWN, by Peter Nowak, CBC News. Consumer groups say government deregulation without adequate protection for customers was a serious mistake.
ELECTION PROMISE MADE TO RESTORE COURT CHALLENGES PROGRAM, by NUPGE. Liberals pledge to revive program cancelled by Harper Conservatives in 2006.
THIS FALL, VOTE FOR MEDICARE, by CUPE. Harper government not collecting needed data nor enforcing rules. Http://www.publicvalues.ca/ViewArticle.cfm?Ref=00147
NEW BRUNSWICK WATCHDOGS KEYING IN ON P3 NURSING HOMES DEAL, by Daniel McHardie, Telegraph-Journal. Ombudsman, Auditor General to launch review of contract struck between provincial government and Shannex Inc. http://www.publicvalues.ca/ViewArticle.cfm?Ref=00145
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A CITY LEASES PUBLIC ASSETS TO PRIVATE INVESTORS? By Susan Chandler, Chicago Tribune. Owners have more latitude to raise prices.
PRIVATIZATION OF TEXAS STATE SERVICES A “SLOW-MOTION DISASTER”, by The Houston Chronicle. Audit shows management problems continue five years later.
WHO IS THIS TROUBLESOME ‘FANNIE MAE’ PERSON, ANYWAY? By Robert Kuttner, Huffington Post. The Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA), now privatized, began life as a US government institution.
Partners backing PublicValues.ca include National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), Ontario Secondary School Teachers (OSSTF), the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 1, 2008
ST. PAUL, MN—Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman was unlawfully arrested in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota at approximately 5 p.m. local time. Police violently manhandled Goodman, yanking her arm, as they arrested her. Video of her arrest can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYjyvkR0bGQ
Goodman was arrested while attempting to free two Democracy Now! producers who were being unlawfully detained. They are Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Kouddous and Salazar were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. Goodman’s crime appears to have been defending her colleagues and the freedom of the press.
Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told Democracy Now! that Kouddous and Salazar were being arrested on suspicion of rioting. They are currently being held at the Ramsey County jail in St. Paul.
Democracy Now! is calling on all journalists and concerned citizens to call the office of Mayor Chris Coleman and the Ramsey County Jail and demand the immediate release of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar. These calls can be directed to: Chris Rider from Mayor Coleman’s office at 651-266-8535 and the Ramsey County Jail at 651-266-9350 (press extension 0).
Democracy Now! stands by Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar and condemns this action by Twin Cities law enforcement as a clear violation of the freedom of the press and the First Amendment rights of these journalists.
During the demonstration in which they were arrested law enforcement officers used pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and excessive force. Several dozen others were also arrested during this action.
Amy Goodman is one of the most well-known and well-respected journalists in the United States. She has received journalism’s top honors for her reporting and has a distinguished reputation of bravery and courage. The arrest of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar is a transparent attempt to intimidate journalists from the nation’s leading independent news outlet.
Democracy Now! is a nationally syndicated public TV and radio program that airs on over 700 radio and TV stations across the US and the globe.
Video of Amy Goodman’s Arrest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYjyvkR0bGQ
One of the key initiatives of neo-liberalism and the so-called “Washington consensus” is massive deregulation. It is often couched as “self-regulation” – the notion that we hand over more and more regulation to the companies that we used to regulate through government agencies. It is notoriously ineffective and in combination with huge cuts to the number of regulators still employed by government, it means that the public is at ever-greater risk from a wide variety of threats. The listeriosis outbreak has led to twelve deaths with more added every few hours. At the same time as our most vulnerable citizens are dying or getting extremely ill, a whistle blower has revealed that things are about to get worse: food safety will be put increasingly in the hands of firms like Maple Leaf which is already cutting corners. In addition, the union representing food safety inspectors has stated that the Harper government has also slashed the number of inspectors still working. This government plans to further deregulate food safety, right at the time when a dozen people – and counting – have died from tainted meat.
So what can we Canadians do?
As a start, write a letter demanding the government: 1) hold a public inquiry into the listeriosis outbreak and its causes, 2) abandon plans for so-called self-regulation of the food industry and 3) increase the budget for inspections to a level that guarantees the safety of Canadians.
I am in the process of doing this.
On the immediate personal level, I’ve gone through my fridge with a fine-tooth comb with the updated (long and growing) list in hand and threw out a couple of more items, just to be on the safe side. I seldom purchase processed meats, but a few occasionally do make it into the grocery basket. My elderly uncle who lives with me likes them. The updated list of tainted items is taped to my fridge door. It is several pages long and contains items most of us would not have associated with Maple Leaf foods. Deli meats and sausages from companies like Schneiders, Shopsy’s, Bittners, Burns and others. Who would have thought that these also came off the assembly lines at the Maple Leaf plant in Toronto?
A Star blogs Political Decoder was wondering the same thing in this post. Here is an excerpt:
Well, I guess JM Schneider has left the smokehouse. At Maple Leaf Foods, CEO MIchael McCain has apologized for the tainted meat related to the outbreak of listeriosis, saying his company will do better in future. Perhaps it’s time for advertisers to do better by giving consumers a break.
You’ve probably seen Schneiders’ folksy TV ads that feature a smokehouse employee who says his wife always complains about the smell in this clothes – but, hey, that’s the price of quality. The ad is shot like an old-time news reel showing employees working together and the old man himself saying nothing but the best gets past him. Okay, nobody thinks it’s a genuine 1920s newsreel, but we do at least expect Schneiders meats come from a Schneiders plant where, in a modern age, employees show the same dedication as in the past. That’s the point of the ad: times change, dedication remains the same.
But no. We find out with this tainted meat scandal at least some of Schneiders meat comes off assembly lines at the Maple Leaf plant in Toronto. It’s the plant linked to meats contaminated with the listeria bacteria, with Schneiders products on the recall list.
Read this Political Decoder (Star blogs) post: Tainted meat at Maple Leaf: Where’s old man Schneider when you need him?
Read Star HealthZone article and related articles here: Tainted meat toll grows
[Note for TomDispatch Readers This is the second post in a pre-Labor Day “best of TomDispatch” series. The first was Chalmers Johnson’s 2005 “Smash of Civilizations.” Now, we backpeddle another year to 2004 and reconsider the Pentagon’s ceaseless efforts to dream up and build ever more effective, ever more invasive and destructive weaponry not just for 2010, but for 2020, 2030, 2040, and beyond. The new model car or the next version of the iPhone has nothing on the Pentagon, which fully expects to roll out the next version of destruction until Hell freezes over. This makes TomDispatch Associate Editor Nick Turse’s 2004 piece — in those distant days he still signed his posts “Nicholas” — on ways the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was planning to weaponize the wild kingdom as shiny new as tomorrow’s HDTVs.
A version of this piece would later became part of Turse’s 2008 book, The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, which will someday be considered a classic on the militarization of American society and should be in your library — yes, I mean you! It’s a shame, really, that TomDispatch pieces, now collected in a new book, The World According to TomDispatch, America in the New Age of Empire (Verso, 2008), hold up so well. If only a better world had made them obsolete — but no such luck. As Chalmers Johnson did, so here Turse provides a new introduction to his old post, reconsidering a world in which, however new its weaponry, the Pentagon is starting to look its age. Tom]
The Pentagon: Some-Things-Never-Change Department
What a difference four and a half years makes. When I first penned “The Wild Weapons of DARPA,” in March 2004, I was a new TomDispatch writer; the war in Iraq was not yet a year old; the war in Afghanistan had been bubbling for less than two and a half years, and I suggested that “what’s left of the USSR is a collapsed group of half-failed states, while the U.S. stands alone as the globe’s sole hyperpower.” Today, I’m the long-time associate editor of TomDispatch.com; the United States, now far from a “hyperpower,” continues to be bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan with no end in sight in either occupation; and a resurgent Russia, now an energy superpower, has only recently invaded the hardly-failed state of Georgia.
Similarly, at that time, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon’s blue-skies research outfit, still looked young and vigorous. Today, DARPA is beginning to show the stresses of age. The agency turned 50 this year and, as Sharon Weinberger reported at Wired Magazine’s Danger Room last month, “its birthday present appears to be another $100 million in budget cuts, according to a Defense Department document…” — and this was on top of a $32 million loss the month before.
Still, much remains the same. Despite current budget cuts, the agency is still “both intellectually and financially, a fabulous and alluring gravy train,” and its funding for the life sciences still offers “a fertile area to further the science of death and destruction.” For example, back in 2004, I wrote that “DARPA has been creating insect databases while increasing efforts to ‘understand how to use endemic insects as collectors of environmental information,'” and I asked: “How long until they start thinking about weaponizing insects as well?” Earlier this year, I answered my own question. Not long was the reply. I reported that DARPA was now working to create cyborg insects for surveillance purposes, and — an even more frightening prospect — “that such creatures could be weaponized, and the possibility, according to one scientist intimately familiar with the project, that these cyborg insects might be armed with ‘bio weapons.'”
I wish I could claim some special prescience, but that prediction was a total no-brainer. After all, this is just the way the Pentagon operates, whatever changes or budget cuts come down the pike. Four years later, plenty of people have written about various DARPA projects, but most still fail to ask the most salient question: Why does the U.S. government foster unfettered, blue-skies creativity only in the context of lethal technologies (or those that, indirectly, enhance lethality by aiding the functioning of the armed forces)? Some things never change. Nick Turse, August, 2008