Tag: economic justice

Day 6: Obama caves to Republican hissy fits

January 27, 2009

Well, that didn’t take long, did it?

I can’t believe that President Obama is ALREADY letting the Republicans run (i.e. ruin) his plan for an economic stimulus. Here’s an idea for putting his eloquence and now ownership of a big fat bully pulpit to use: explain to the American people exactly how family planning (more than just contraceptives) — or lack of it — impacts a family budget. In fact, most of us already know this rather obvious reality, but you can perhaps enlighten some Rethugs and the stupid media who obviously have never had to worry about money a day in their lives.

What makes me so furious is, we don’t need the Republicans to pass this package, anyway. Why, oh why are we knuckling under to the people who have already demonstrated their utter indifference to the poor – and their economic incompetence? We voted for Democrats because we didn’t want to see important legislative decisions based on right-wing memes:

Call Waxman’s office and give him an earful:
DC: 202-225-3976
CA offices:

And contact President Obama by email here, or call:


I hope Pelosi turns around and gets a much bigger bill for family planning passed. It’s certainly needed, and can help families immediately and for the next several years as the economy recovers. And shame on Obama for not backing the Speaker up on this.

Mike Moore discusses auto industry bailout on Larry King

November 20, 2008

(If the video doesn’t load, you can find it here.)

Good on Larry to bring the writer/director of Roger and Me to talk about this catastrophe.

Mike’s remedy:

We’ve got a huge problem. That’s why government — this is a crisis. There’s a catastrophe about to happen and the government has to step in and say, just like Roosevelt did, this is what you’re building. This is how it’s going to be built. We’re going to have a mass transit system in this country. We’re going to bring back light rail. We’re going to build more subways. We’re going to build more buses. And we’re going to employ not only the people that are currently employed, but a lot of the people who have lost their jobs.

We need a huge works program. We need the infrastructure of General Motors and Ford and Chrysler. That’s why they can’t just — and they can’t file for bankruptcy, either, because once a company says they’re filing for bankruptcy, who’s going to buy a car from that company?

There’s no — I mean you’re like, jeez, I may not be able to get this car fixed next year if the company hasn’t come back. So bankruptcy isn’t the answer.

What I think is ironic and, again, hypocritical on the part of Congress, is that they’re not — they’re holding back. He can’t get the votes to bail out the auto companies because that’s going to help a lot of blue collar people — people that don’t have a voice, who don’t have lobbyists fighting for them on Capitol Hill.

But, boy, as soon as the banks or the financial institutions or the people that just gambled the money away — as soon as they were wanting some dough, boy, the trough just was laid out for them. Line right up, take whatever you want, sure, no problem. You know, everybody was there to vote for that.

But when it came time, now, to help the people, the working class of this country, it’s like, ah, I don’t know about that.

So, on one hand, there needs to be a program with money behind it to make sure that these people don’t lose their jobs. But we need to restructure these auto companies so they become mass transit companies and companies that build cars that are hybrid or much more fuel- efficient and better for the environment. That’s what the country needs. That’s what the world needs.

Mike ended his interview saying, “We’re seeing the end of capitalism — the end of capitalism as we know it. And I say good riddance.” Then, the next guest, Rep. Charlie Rangell starts with, “Why do you have me follow Michael Moore? ‘The end of capitalism’!” And he and Larry crack up. Now, that’s good television! [Transcript.]

As was seeing on C-Span those idiot CEOs get grilled like a cheese sandwich in the House and Senate, blasted repeatedly for flying in their private jets to come to Washington to rattle their tin cups.

Unfortunately, as th reporter who got the private jet story later told Anderson Cooper, they were completely unfazed by the outrage. They think they deserve and have earned all the money and perks and privilege they have. That’s why Michael Moore is right — the first stipulation of any bailout by the taxpayers is the elimination of top management.

Studs Terkel interview with Mary Owsley and Peggy Terry about Oklahoma City during the depression

November 8, 2008

Just by chance today I caught This American Life program on NPR when they were noting the recent passing of Studs Terkel by playing a few of the pieces from his radio series, Hard Times, which was recordings of folks who lived through the depression. The TAL retrospective focused on 1971 recordings from a mother and daughter, Mary Owsley and Peggy Terry, who lived in Oklahoma City from around 1931 till 1936.

I was literally leaning over the car radio and barely able to do my errands while listening, frustrated when I had to leave the car. So I am overjoyed to have found the full (?) Hard Times interviews with Mary and Peggy, and many others, on studsterkel.org. Bless the Internet!

Terkel interviewed hundreds of people across the United States for his book on the Great Depression of the 1930s. In 1973, he selected several interviews that were included in his book to be broadcast in eleven parts on the Studs Terkel Program on WFMT radio (Chicago, IL). This gallery includes the interviews in those programs.

Terkel questions people about their recollections of employment problems, the crash of 1929, organized labor issues, “farm holidays” where crops were destroyed, and U.S. President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. He asks them how they managed financially and personally through the economic slump and what personal qualities surfaced as a result. In particular he seems interested in exploring the relationship between their personal plight and values and their awareness of national issues and society’s values.

Mary’s husband was a bonus marcher in 1931, and from what she says about him, he suffered from what we now call PTSD from being a machine gunner in WWI. She explained that there was a big oil boom in Oklahoma in the 20’s, bringing folks from all over to work. Then the crash came and depression went on and on as Hoover did nothing. The suffering was just horrendous, and these interviews really give the listener a sense of what it was like for the migrants, the homeless, the hungry children.

Mary and Peggy talk about not just poverty and hunger, but their personal feelings about despair, economic injustice, and racism. Their stories are so compelling and demonstrate why Studs Terkel, who understood their value and was so skilled at these kind of interviews, received the acclaim he did, in life as well as death.

But the stories are most inspiring because of the examples of kindness and community spirit that were so often found with, or maybe because of, the overwhelming want. Peggy says that there was a community garden in OKC where the residents of a Hooverville grew fresh food. And some of the better off people did share what they could. Mary tells how a black family gave them a ride, and, since they could not eat in restaurants because of Jim Crow laws, they brought food with them, stopping to prepare and eat it. When Mary describes that meal that was shared with her, you can still hear how fondly she remembers it, how good the chicken, sweet potatoes and biscuits tasted.

You know people talk with tangents that are sometimes more interesting that their main point, and in one such aside, Mary tells of being in Montgomery, Alabama, during the bus boycott, and seeing Martin Luther King Jr. being beaten on the sidewalk near the jail. This episode isn’t depression era, but helps to give you an even broader sense of her fascinating life.

Peggy (the daughter) at one point makes one of the most moving cases against racism I’ve ever heard, while recounting her own transformation in thinking about blacks.

And she talks about how much she identified with the epic story of noble migrants, The Grapes of Wrath.

… just like my life. I never was so proud of poor people before … Just reading that book has made me a better person. I think that’s the worst thing our system does to people is to take away their pride, and it prevents them from being a human being. And they’re wondering why Harlem and why Detroit and they’re talking about troops and ‘law and order.’ You’ll get law and order in this country when people are allowed to be decent human beings and be able to walk in dignity…

Well, I could go on and on, but your time would be better spent listening to the recordings yourself. The Hard Times page has many I’ll explore later, but here are the ones of Mary Owsley and Peggy Terry (they aren’t in order on the page like they are here):

Disaster apartheid

October 28, 2007

I’m breaking one of my cardinal rules and pasting in a post from another site in toto. It’s a powerful rant by Greg Palast, provoked by the recent fires in California, and the government’s response to them. I have a feeling he won’t mind. ‘Course, I’m not alone, soonerthought did the same thing, which is where I found it.

Anyway, there’s no excuse now not to read the whole thing!

The California Celebrity Fires

Published October 26th, 2007 in Articles

The ‘Boo ain’t no N.O.
Plus: George Bush, Flame Retard

By Greg Palast

What color is your disaster? It makes a difference. A life and death difference.


Population of San Diego fire evacuation zone: 500,000
Population of the New Orleans flood evacuation zone: 500,000

White folk as a % of evacuees, San Diego: 66%
Black folk as % of evacuees, New Orleans: 67%

Size counts, too. Size of your wallet, that is:

Evacuees in San Diego, in poverty: 9%
Evacuees in New Orleans, in poverty: 27%

The numbers would be even uglier, though more revealing, if I included evacuees of the celebrity fire in Malibu.

The President didn’t do a photo-strafing of the scene from 1700 feet this time. Instead, we have the photo op of George, feet on the ground, hanging with Arnold the Action Man. (However, I’m informed that the President was a bit disappointed that he didn’t get to wear one of those neat fireman hats like Rudi G got at Ground Zero.)

In 2005, while the bodies were still being fished out of flooded homes in New Orleans, Republican Congressman Richard Baker praised The Lord for his mercy. “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did,” he said about the removal of the poor from the project near the French Quarter much coveted by speculators.

But as this week’s flames spread, no Republican Congressman cried, “Burn baby burn!” to praise the Lord for cleaning up them ‘Boo, the sin-and-surf playground of Hollywood luvvies.

In New Orleans, God’s covenant with real estate developers has been very profitable. Over 70,000 families
remain, two years after the waters receded, in mobile home concentration centers far away from the N.O. re-building boom. Let’s see how long it takes to get Tom Hanks back on his beach towel.

Standing next to Governor Schwarzenegger, a smug little Bush said, “It makes a big difference when you have someone in the statehouse willing to take the lead” – a snide attack on the former Democratic Governor of Louisiana on whom the White House successfully dumped the blame for the horror show in New Orleans.

Mr. Bush never mentioned – and the media would never give away his secret – that 15 hours before the levees broke, the White House and FEMA knew the flood barriers were cracking, yet failed to inform the Governor and state police. Nor did Mr. Bush mention that his Department of Homeland Security’s FEMA trolls took away evacuation planning from the state and gave it to a crew of crony contractors who, for a million bucks, came up with a plan that came down to, “If a hurricane comes, get in your car and drive like hell.”

In California, plans were in place, money poured down with the flame retardant, and no one is suggesting that Mel Gibson move his swastika collection to a FEMA trailer.

Not comparable, the ‘Boo and the N.O.? You can say that again. But as a kid who grew up in the ass end of Los Angeles, I can tell you that disaster apartheid applies on the local scale as well. Look at the tarry filth of Compton and Long Beach shores versus the panicked reaction when a bit of garbage or oil sheen hits Malibu sands. (I remember, standing on the crude-covered shore of an Alaska Native village in March, 1991, the day Exxon announced it would end the clean-up from the Exxon Valdez spill. That day, the papers showed the careful scouring that week of every pebble on Malibu beaches hit by dinky spill incident.)

Please don’t get the idea I’m slap-happy about the California inferno. My parents live in San Diego – and one of my favorite Air America hosts had to evacuate from her Del Mar hot tub, poor dear. (I’ve heard, however, that billionaires well done taste just like chicken.)

What I’m saying is: Besides the flames, there’s a class war raging in America. Or, should I say, Class Massacre. Because only one side is taking all the bullets. Malibu, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica are “incorporated communities” – islands of privilege politically fenced off from the riff-raff sea of Los Angeles. These self-incorporated Bantustans of the wealthy have their own fire departments and schools. The money islands are relieved of having to pay for the schools and hospitals of the city where their gardeners live. (I can’t tell which is the worst disaster that can befall an Angelino – a fire, an earthquake or the LA public school system.)

Now, it’s easy to say it’s just George Bush who’s the class clown of the class war. But it’s an old story. When a flood took out the tony homes at Westhampton Dunes, the Clinton Administration picked up the full tab for rebuilding these summer hideaways of the investment bankers. While today, death-by-poison stalks the environment of Black townships of Louisiana (the FEMA ‘guests’ are parked in a zone called Cancer Ally), Al Gore can’t be found. But when speaking of rising sea levels that can take out the homes of his buddies in ‘Boo or the Hamptons, Gore goes ga-ga.

The one thing I’ll say in favor of that vile little Louisiana Republican cheering the drowning of public housing residents, at least he’s honest about how the system works. He’s not afraid to remind us of the gods’-honest truth: disaster response is class war by other means.

So let me not forget to report the war’s body count:

New Orleans flood deaths: 1,577.
California celebrity fire deaths: 11 (at time of posting)