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Goldman and Greece, etc.

John McHale, Machine-Made America II, collage, 1956
John McHale, Machine-Made America II, collage, 1956

(1) Goldman Sachs and Greece: A piece in Bloomberg about how Goldman made a “secret loan” to Greece in 2001 involving currency swaps and interest-rate swaps.  This ended up costing Greece billions of euros.  Interest-rate swaps have caused trouble for lots of municipalities (as the SEIU report I linked to the other day documents).  We’ll be running a piece on interest-rate swaps in our May/June issue.

(2) Why the Environmental Movement Is Not Winning: This is an interesting article on Truthout about a new report that argues that environmental foundations have erred in funding big nonprofits instead of small grassroots organizations, and that this explains why the movement hasn’t won any  “significant policy changes at the federal level in the United States since the 1980s.”  “Environmental funders mainly support large, professionalized environmental organizations instead of the scrappy community-based groups that are most heavily impacted by environmental harms.”  This fits with the claims of our current cover story, Way Beyond Greenwashing: Have Corporations Captured “Big Conservation”?, which has also been featured on Truthout recently.

(3) BP Settlement: More on the environment–our pal former D&S collective member Phineas Baxandall of MassPIRG has a great blog post at Huffington Post about how BP may end up getting their spill-related penalties subsidized by the taxpayers if it comes in the form of a settlement rather than a fee.  (This makes me wonder whether the same thing will happen with the banks’ sweet foreclosure settlement.)

(4) Nice Analysis of Rush vs. Fluke: A great post at ZunguZungu about Rush Limbaugh’s rantings about Sandra Fluke.  The post starts out with a quote from David Graeber (the anarchist anthropologist and Occupier whose book Debt: The First 5,000 Years we’ll be reviewing soon):

A popular exercise among High School creative writing teachers in America is to ask students to imagine they have been transformed, for a day, into someone of the opposite sex, and describe what that day might be like. The results, apparently, are uncannily uniform. The girls all write long and detailed essays that clearly show they have spent a great deal of time thinking about the subject. Half of the boys usually refuse to write the essay entirely. Those who do make it clear they have not the slightest conception what being a teenage girl might be like, and deeply resent having to think about it.

The blogger, Aaron Bady, makes the nice point that we can make some sense of Rush’s tirade by seeing that he has never thought about what it’s like to be a woman facing reproductive/sexual health issues, and is galled at the notion that he should have to think about it. This is the starting observation–the rest of the post is great too.  (More about Graeber later in this post.)

(5) The Bully Economy: A propos of the shootings at that high school in Chardon, Ohio last week, there is a nice interview at Salon with Jessie Klein, who has a book about bullying (the kid who went on the shooting rampage was apparently bullied). She relates bullying to the economy; here are the two questions and answers:

What’s most fascinating to me about your book is what you describe as the “bully economy” — the idea that economic conservatism is fostering this epidemic of bullying.

George Ritzer wrote a fascinating article about how the economy affects our social relationships. Now, when you go into a store there’s a scripted relationship. Somebody is going to say, “Is there anything that you want?” And you say, “No thank you.” “Do you have everything you need?” “Yes I do.” And that kind of conversation is organized so you won’t have a long personal conversation that will prevent you from buying things. Telemarketing is the same way. So that even when people come together and could have a human experience, they’re prevented from having that experience by these kinds of scripted conversations. Sales people actually get docked in pay or punished if they deviate from these scripts. And I think those kinds of new dynamics have had an effect on our social relationships. And what’s fascinating is that social isolation has increased. It’s tripled since the ’80s, and depression and anxiety statistics are extremely high. These are, I think, indicators of what’s going on in our society more generally.

In the book, you argue that much of this can be traced back to Reagan and the Reagan era. Why?

He came to power talking about deregulating capitalism. There are many people who do believe that the more you help people, the less they will work, the more lazy they will become. There became an entire culture against people on welfare. Even Clinton after Reagan developed this program called Welfare to Work, where even if you were disabled or had six children you were forced to find some way to work 20 hours per week. And I think since then society has gotten more and more harsh in that way and I think people feel strongly in our country that that’s the way to get ahead. We’re the only country in the industrial world that doesn’t have a paid leave for women who have children, whereas other countries in Europe go out of their way to make sure there’s a long paternity leave. There are countries that help families to stay home for 3 years and they’ll pay 80 percent of the salary. For the most part, people here believe that if you make money you’ll get support but if you don’t make money, you’re pretty much on your own. And I think that’s what kids in schools feel. A lot of the school shooters said, “The principal wasn’t doing anything, the guidance counselors weren’t doing anything, so I had to take things into my own hands.” And that’s pretty much the message that people get, whether you’re an adult or a kid.

Read the full interview.

Ok, I will leave it at that, since this post is a bit long.  I am reading Graeber’s book on debt, and I want to do some “live blogging” of sorts while I read it (but my pace is so slow, and the book is so long, that it could stretch over many posts and weeks).  It is GREAT so far, and I’m eager to share some choice bits.  But later.

–Chris Sturr


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