Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bainport: Shipping Jobs to China

There is no more vivid example of Romney hypocrisy (well, perhaps I shouldn’t say that; Romney’s campaign consists almost wholly of hypocrisy) than what’s been happening in Freeport, IL at the Bain Capital-owned Sensata plant. Sensata makes automobile parts like sensors—you know for the American car industry that Romney thought should be jettisoned. And its owner, Bain Capital (hence the name protesting workers have given to Freeport: Bainport) has recently decided that it’s moving the whole plant, lock, stock, and barrel, (without its workers, of course) to China. But, you may say, Romney has vowed countless times that he’ll be “tougher” on China than Obama, and that he’s going to be moving millions of jobs back to the U.S.A. In the realm of action, though, what the company he founded and used to head, and in which he still owns major stock, is doing is shipping the whole thing to China (where wages are an average 85% lower). You can read about this on a great website,, which has all kinds of goodies, including a just-released documentary on the whole ugly story.
            I heard about it this morning on Philip Muldaury’s show on KPFA, and it really is ugly. Not only are these capitalist swine moving the whole company to China, but before doing so, they brought Chinese workers to Freeport to be trained by the very Americans they are going to replace. The American workers had no choice but to train their Chinese successors because if they didn’t, they were threatened with firing right away, which would then lose them their unemployment compensation. What I also heard, and then read about on, was that many of the company’s workers have refused to take this lying down. They’ve established picket lines and started a whole series of actions (including a protest to the National Labor Relations Board) to try to stop the move. So far, it hasn’t worked, but it has certainly pointed to the massive hypocrisy in the entire Romney rationale for being President (watch what I say, not what I do). Said one protester—retired plumber Paul Holz, who was arrested, American flag in hand, for demonstrating outside Sensata:
            "I am totally against outsourcing work from America. Jobs need to stay here, so I decided to go down and join the protests." (The Guardian, October 27).
Other workers have set up an encampment outside the plant,  held protests, and tried to block vehicles shipping the plant parts to China. The result has been over 20 arrests, including the arrest of Jesse Jackson. The company, in turn, has threatened to close the plant even earlier than planned if the demonstrations continue. At least one worker, Joanne Penniston, 35, was unintimidated, noting that the plant is closing anyway. With a daughter to support, though, and her job ending December 16, Penniston is worried:
            "There are no jobs here in Freeport. It's like a ghost town. Probably I will have to move," she said. (The Guardian)

            That shouldn’t bother Mitt; it’s investor profit, after all. And maybe that’s his plan for America: create enough ghost towns, get enough workers unemployed, and moving, and desperate, and willing to work for Chinese wages, and then maybe his capitalist cronies will begin to find America a “profitable” place to invest in again. Maybe. Meantime, it appears that large numbers of Americans are believing his promises to create 12 million new jobs (I keep waiting for him to show his magic wand of job creation, but it appears that all a candidate has to do is say something like this often enough, and the rubes believe him!) to have upped his poll numbers to the point where some polls actually have him ahead of the President.
            Seriously. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Lawrence DiStasi

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Global Warming and Other Sorrows

I watched two documentaries on PBS last night (Tuesday, Oct. 23), and I was apoplectic after each one. The first, a doc about the Cuban Missile Crisis, was an eye opener concerning the extent of the danger the world faced. I knew the basics—Russian missiles placed on Cuba awaiting Russian ships steaming to arm them with nuclear weapons, and an American blockade committed to stopping the nuclear-loaded ships—but what I didn’t recall was that an American U-2 flight over Cuba trying to get more precise photos was actually shot down by a Russian missile. This could have been the ball game right there, because the American military (especially the rabid Gen. Curtis LeMay) was frothing at the mouth, even before the loss of an American pilot, to go in and wipe Cuba off the map. With this American death, a hotheaded President could have been steamrolled into ordering an immediate retaliatory strike. Fortunately, John F. Kennedy was doing everything he could to keep things from getting out of hand, so no strike was ordered. Nor were the American people told, much less rallied to “remember the Alamo.”
            Then JFK, with the help of Russian Premier Khrushchev—also definitely frightened of Armageddon after the U-2 shootdown—managed to forge a face-saving agreement. The details were new to me. That is, Khrushchev had already demanded a quid pro quo for removing his missiles: the United States would have to remove its missiles placed in Turkey on Russia’s border. ‘If the U.S. can’t stand having missiles 90 miles from its shores in Cuba, then Russia can’t tolerate U.S. missiles in Turkey either,’ was the point. Of course Kennedy couldn’t agree to what everyone was calling “blackmail.” ‘Just bomb the bastards’ was the prevailing opinion, both in the military and among most of Kennedy’s advisers. But Kennedy, like any rational person, saw the logic of Russia’s demand. Not only that, he knew that the missiles in Turkey were old and outdated, and essentially useless. Should the world be plunged into nuclear holocaust over useless missiles? That was the question he asked, and he eventually answered “No.” He sent a secret message to Khrushchev saying that the U.S. would promise to remove the missiles in Turkey in exchange for the Russian removal of the missiles in Cuba—only the deal had to be kept secret. Russia could not crow publicly about having outmaneuvered the United States. Khrushchev agreed, the ships turned back, and Russia began to dismantle its Cuban missiles, not mentioning Turkey. Crisis averted.
            But just imagine if another president had been in the Oval Office. Imagine if it had been Johnson, or George Bush, or Romney. Would one of them have been willing to deal with the Russkies? Or would Curtis LeMay have prevailed, with nukes flying both east and west? It’s a terrifying thought, but one we should all be thinking about right now. 
            The other documentary was even more disturbing because it referred to a crisis that’s current. This one was a Frontline documentary, Climate of Doubt, by wheelchair journalist John Hockenberry, about the anti-global warming machine that has, since 2008, turned the entire debate around. When Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth came out, it seemed to convince large majorities of the American people that Global Warming was indeed a threat that had to be dealt with. Right now, though, less than 50% of the American people are convinced of the threat, and the numbers are getting worse by the day. And it’s all due to a money-is-no-object campaign by conservative think tanks to cast doubt on the science. These people are not only relentless, not only callous in pursuit of more money, they are, in my view, murderers. Because the result of their campaign will eventually be weather-related catastrophes that will kill people in numbers beyond our imagining.
            Hockenberry interviewed them on all sides. There are the heads of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who say flat out that man-made global warming science is a myth and a hoax. It’s not man made and it’s not harmful. After all, carbon is a valuable element, necessary for trees and plants. So putting more in the atmosphere is a good thing! Myron Ebell, head of the Competitive Enterprise Institute is typical: he calls it a David and Goliath debate, with the conservative doubters being David and the government-sponsored scientists warning about global warming as Goliath. Thus, what the conservatives do (and they’ve done it in conflict after conflict) is turn the entire argument on its head, adopting the stance of 60s radicals, and portraying themselves as the little guys putting themselves on the line against the powers-that-be. Of course, the fact that these so-called “think tanks” are funded by some of the wealthiest corporations and individuals in America—like the infamous Koch Brothers—doesn’t seem to enter the equation. They insist that they have won the battle for the hearts and minds of Americans in the “heartland” (there’s a “think tank” named the Heartland Institute), and they are proud and cocky and filled with the flush of victory.
            To gauge whether they’ve won or not (I won’t even dignify the arguments of their so-called scientists who cast doubt on global warming science), all you have to do is look at what has happened in Congress and the presidential race. Have you heard anything about carbon trading or global warming at all in this year’s debate? No. All you hear, from both Obama and Romney is bragging about which one can move faster to give coal companies more rights to blow off the tops of mountains, or coal fired plants more license to burn dirtier coal, or states more rights to drill, baby, drill off the coast. To give Obama credit, he actually did try to get the carbon trading bill through Congress in 2009. He was roundly defeated then, and the notion has been quietly but firmly laid to rest ever since. Hockenberry tried, as he made his documentary, to interview most Republican members of Congress to ask them if they believed global warming was real, if it was mainly caused by humans, and if they believed anything should be done about it. To a man (or woman), they simply refused to talk to him or answer any of his questions. The debate over global warming, in short, has become a non-issue, with no one feeling compelled to even address it any more.
            To be sure, there are further reasons why the global warming debate and measures to remediate it, have disappeared since 2008—mainly the collapse of the economy. People who fear losing their jobs (if they still have them) are easy prey for think-tank pseudo-science; passing legislation that will make it harder to get energy or make companies more responsible for putting carbon into the atmosphere is easily translated into fewer jobs. But it’s even more disturbing than that: scientists (98% of whom support the conclusions of global warming science) are increasingly portrayed as government-supported elitists who are probably socialists interested in expanding government power over the regular guy. One interviewee said “Green is the new Red.” To be an advocate for the environment is to be a freeloading commie and probably queer to boot. And to hear the legislator from North Carolina who introduced a bill to outlaw global warming in North Carolina (a state with a highly vulnerable coastline that scientists have been urging should be shored up against a predicted sea rise and massive destruction from hurricanes), is to listen to a man who thinks science should make “sense” to him. If it doesn’t, if he can’t comprehend it via his senses (I suppose he doesn’t believe in relativity or quantum theory since he can’t see electrons with his naked eye), then it’s simply not real.
            So this is the situation we now have, folks, in huge swaths of this nation. Global warming is a hoax promoted by a bunch of chicken littles. We need to produce energy any way we can. And if the planet doesn’t like it, tough shit for the planet. God is, after all, on our side. And he wouldn’t allow anything bad to happen to our divinely-chosen exceptional nation, would he???? (Reminds me of this latest Republican Yahoo, Richard Mourdock, running for Senate in Indiana, who said that when a woman becomes pregnant as a result of rape “it is something that God intended”—so who are we humans to interfere?)

Lawrence DiStasi

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Governor Etch-a-Sketch

The guy is truly shameless. I’m talking about Mitt Romney and his willingness to use any ploy, tell any lie, exploit any person, event, situation to pander to whatever the reigning opinion seems to be. When he was trying to court the Tea Party dopes now hyping the Republican right, he vowed that he was a conservative, always had been, and would cut taxes, end abortions, and pay no attention to 47% of the voters who were freeloaders anyway. Now, though, that he’s in the general election and trying desperately to curry the favor of the “undecided” middlers (how anyone could still be undecided about this race is beyond me), he’s saying he never intended to cut taxes for the rich and won’t, how he loves all the poor—including that 47%--and that limiting abortion “would not be part of his agenda.”
            You pandering, ass-licking creep!
            This latest flip-flop came in an interview with the Des Moines Register that was just published hours ago. The article—“Did Mitt Romney flip his stance on abortion—Again?”—points out that Romney actually started out as a pro-abortion-rights Republican (you can hear him saying this in a Buzzflash video), and then switched to “a firmly anti-abortion position shortly before his first presidential run in 2008.” He has referred to this as his “evolution” on abortion. As recently as September, he promised to de-fund Planned Parenthood—that bastion, in Republican eyes, of dastardly baby killers. But now, in the Register interview, he says “there’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.” Another etch-a-sketch moment. And then, just as quickly, his campaign “clarified” this by asserting that Romney “would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life.”
            Fortunately, he’s not getting away with all of it. Some Americans are actually paying attention to the etch before the current sketch. Like the mother of the Navy Seal Romney invoked in a recent speech. He had met this brave Seal, Romney recalled almost tearfully, and because he sort of knew him, he was doubly troubled by his death in the attack on the American Embassy in Libya recently. And he implied that were he the President, he, Romney, would have made sure no American would be killed in that type of ‘preventable’ attack—suggesting, with little subtlety, that the whole thing was Obama’s fault for not beefing up the protection for those poor heroes. What a craven asshole. Which is what Barbara Doherty, the mother of the slain Glenn Doherty said: that Mitt the Twit shouldn’t be using her son’s death to advance his own political campaign. 
“I don't trust Romney,” she said. “He shouldn't make my son's death part of his political agenda. It's wrong to use these brave young men, who wanted freedom for all, to degrade Obama.” 
Amen. But Mitt has a tin ear when it comes to this stuff. Hell, he seems to think, why shouldn’t I use a hero’s death to advance my political career? Why not use abortion? Why not use everything available, including the suffering of half the people in the United States, if it will get me into the White House?
            What can one say to such a plastic man? In an age when it seemed impossible for any politician to lower the standing of the 'smiling, damned villains' supposedly representing us, Governor Etch-a-Sketch is actually succeeding in sinking to new lows every time he opens his dreck-filled mouth. What I can’t understand is how anyone could be taken in by Governor Etch-a-Sketch. Or which one they can be taken in by.  

Lawrence DiStasi

Monday, October 8, 2012

How Do We Stand It?

I have been mulling over this question for the last few days, especially in light of the recent presidential debate wherein Mitt the Twit lied for 90 minutes straight without breaking his phony smile.  How do we stand it? especially when pundits laud his winning attitude—which is to say, his ability to lie and convey his pretend concern for the poor, and make it sound sincere?
            The question comes up all the time, in every forum imaginable. How do African Americans stand it when they contemplate the history of their enslavement, their continuous disenfranchisement even up to and including today’s so-called Voter ID Laws? How do they keep from murdering the white power structure responsible for all this, a structure which is still, in huge swaths of this country, the dominant power? How do Native Americans stand it; how keep from murdering the heirs of those who stole their whole continent, slaughtered them like dogs especially when they fought back, and then put the remnants on so-called reservations deprived of language and culture to the extent that their only recourse is to drown in alcohol and despair?
            Closer to average white experience, how do abused children stand it when their innocence is ripped from them—by fathers or grandfathers or stepfathers or boyfriends or, increasingly, by Catholic priests? How do such children keep from murdering their abusers? And if we, personally, haven’t been physically abused, how do the rest of us keep from cutting the throats of those who are abusing our democracy (actually, we’ve never had a real democracy much less a direct one; we’ve got a representative republic, with the direct vote filtered by such institutions as the electoral college, and the power of the senate which ensures that a few yahoos from under-populated states can block any legislation that might give the masses a real voice in governance)? I’m referring to what has become plain for all to see in recent years—the now overwhelming power of the corporate rich to exploit the common heritage, expropriate and destroy the natural environment (blow off the top of a mountain to get at the coal no longer accessible to conventional mines?), and then with the obscene wealth derived from such depredations, determine what laws are written by bought-off legislators. How do we stand it? How do we accommodate ourselves to the gutting of laws meant to protect us, to the rewriting of tax laws and health laws and environmental laws and financial-control laws and labor laws in such obvious ways as to have, in the past 40 years alone, diverted more wealth to the top 0.1% than in all the years of this republic up to then? How do we stand it? even when we learn about how it has been done (see “The Measure of a Nation Challenges Illusions of American Superiority,”, 7 October) even when we see that we’re being screwed left and right and center? How is it that most of us simply shrug and conclude that there’s nothing to be done—it’s simply the way of the world; or, perhaps, tell ourselves that correcting it all would be too hard and might put the same or similar scoundrels in place anyway, so why struggle? The comfort we know, even as it’s steadily reduced, is better than the revolution we don’t know.
            Most of us prefer to play it safe, in other words. It’s what the thugs at the top always count on. Most people simply want to stay alive and reasonably healthy for as long as possible. Raise the kids and watch the tube. Have a few drinks and laugh and enjoy whatever is left of a reasonable life. Scream at the televised bullshit coming at us 24-7, or at a surrogate punching bag like a compliant spouse or small kids or a timorous dog, and muddle on. And rationalize that though we don’t have it quite as good as we once did, we’re still, in the USA, better off than three-quarters of the rest of the poor bastards on the planet, and so able to bear a bit more of the humiliation each day, a bit more of the invasion of our bodies and our minds by poisons geared to make billions for the lords at the top, a bit more of the waning of any hope for a truly satisfying solution to the problems of existence.
            And one more thing. Maybe, just maybe, there really is some inner sense on the part of at least some of us, that the world goes up and the world goes down no matter what little games our alleged “leaders” play. That there is a balance to things and that we in the United States, having been “blessed” with that enormous expanse of rich land our forebears stole outright, actually do have a debt to pay, and that kind of debt does not ever go away. Empires rise. Empires fall. Sooner or later, as Joseph Tainter points out in his Collapse of Complex Societies, the marginal returns on investments in farming, in technology, in education, in health care, in infrastructure become too little to justify the maintenance of such complexity. Too many bureaucrats are required, too many administrators are needed, and once the low-hanging fruit has been picked (as with drilling for oil or mining for coal or solving the problem of illness—the investment to find penicillin was about $20,000! Compare that to what it cost to even begin to control AIDS), the costs to produce or control or solve everything else rises so exponentially that at some point, abandoning complexity becomes a rational, even economic decision.
            And even beyond that, whether Obama gets elected and continues to peck away at a watered-down solution here and there, or whether Romney steals the whole thing and we are openly subjected once more to the government-destroying mandarins intent on enslaving the masses to increase their profits and keep themselves in multiple homes behind their platinum gates of hell—it really doesn’t matter. Because whether we thrive or whether we sink, in the end we are all saved no matter what, all equal no matter what, all equally fucked no matter what. We live and we die. And there’s no solution to that except to exult in the wonder that the sun, 93,000,000 miles away, somehow is placed at exactly the right distance for its thermonuclear furnace to warm our faces during the day, and relieve us with revivifying darkness at night. And that somehow, miraculously, we are in communion with that, and much more than that living and dead, no matter how many tax shelters assholes like Romney can hide their gold in, or how many lies they can put over on our gullible nation.
            Maybe that’s how we stand it.

Lawrence DiStasi