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Rotten Eggs and Our Broken Democracy

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Posted on Aug 25, 2010

By Amy Goodman

What do a half-billion eggs have to do with democracy? The massive recall of salmonella-infected eggs, the largest egg recall in U.S. history, opens a window on the power of large corporations over not only our health, but over our government.

While scores of brands have been recalled, they all can be traced back to just two egg farms. Our food supply is increasingly in the hands of larger and larger companies, which wield enormous power in our political process. As with the food industry, so, too, is it with oil and with banks: Giant corporations, some with budgets larger than most nations, are controlling our health, our environment, our economy and increasingly, our elections.

The salmonella outbreak is just the most recent episode of many that point to a food industry run amok. Patty Lovera is the assistant director of the food-safety group Food & Water Watch. She told me: “Historically, there’s always been industry resistance to any food-safety regulation, whether it’s in Congress or through the agencies. There are large trade associations for every sector of our food supply, starting from the large agribusiness-type producers all the way through to the grocery stores.”

The salmonella-tainted eggs came from just two factory farms, Hillandale Farms and Wright County Egg, both in Iowa. Behind this outbreak is the egg empire of Austin “Jack” DeCoster. DeCoster owns Wright County Egg and also owns Quality Egg, which provides chicks and feed to both of the Iowa farms. Lovera describes DeCoster as “a poster child for what happens when we see this type of consolidation and this scale of production.”

The Associated Press offered a summary of DeCoster’s multistate egg and hog operation’s health, safety and employment violations. In 1997, DeCoster Egg Farms agreed to pay a $2 million fine after then-Labor Secretary Robert Reich described his farm “as dangerous and oppressive as any sweatshop.” In 2002, DeCoster’s company paid $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Mexican women who reported they were subjected to sexual harassment, including rape, abuse and retaliation by supervisors. Earlier this summer, another company linked to DeCoster paid out $125,000 to the state of Maine over animal-cruelty allegations.

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Despite all this, DeCoster has thrived in the egg and hog business, which puts him in league with other large corporations, like BP and the major banks. The BP oil spill, the largest in the history of this country, was preceded by a criminally long list of serious violations going back years, most notably the massive Texas City refinery explosion in 2005 that killed 15 people. If BP were a person, he would have been imprisoned long ago.

The banking industry is another chronic offender. In the wake of the largest global financial disaster since the Great Depression, banks like Goldman Sachs, flush with cash after a massive public bailout, subverted the legislative process aimed at reining them in.

The result: a largely toothless new consumer-protection agency, and relentless opposition to the appointment of consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren to head it. She would give the banks as much oversight as the new agency would allow, which is why the bankers, including President Barack Obama’s appointees like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and economic adviser Larry Summers, are believed to be opposing her.

The fox, you could say, is watching the henhouse (and the rotten eggs within). Multinational corporations are allowed to operate with virtually no oversight or regulation. Corporate cash is allowed to influence elections, and thus, the behavior of our elected representatives. After the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which will allow unlimited corporate donations to campaigns, the problem is only going to get worse. To get elected, and to stay in power, politicians will have to cater more and more to their corporate donors.

There is hope. There is a growing movement to amend the U.S. Constitution, to strip corporations of the legal status of “personhood,” the concept that corporations have the same rights as regular people.

This would subject corporations to the same oversight that existed for the first 100 years of U.S. history. To restrict political participation just to people will take a genuine, grass-roots movement, though, since Congress and the Obama administration can’t seem to get even the most basic changes implemented. As the saying goes, if you want to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs.
 
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
 
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 800 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

 
© 2010 Amy Goodman

Distributed by King Features Syndicate


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By faye, September 9, 2010 at 9:19 am Link to this comment
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I live in a community so rural I buy fresh farm eggs at the bar.  The farmer makes more money, the bar get’s customers (like me) that they would not otherwise have, and I know where my food comes from.  Everybody wins…unlike the corporate food supply where farmer’s go broke, food-stuffs are highly questionable, and the consumer takes it up the pocketbook.  Think when you eat and support people, not corporations (you’ll save money too)

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By Night-Gaunt, August 31, 2010 at 10:15 am Link to this comment

When we do see the normal restraints lifted on corporations (Libertarianism) we see them plunder and despoil with impunity, then protected from the normal outcomes of such depredations by sympathetic gov’t officials like GWBush(R) BHObama(D) bail them out (economic fascism) is how it is working. All the benefits of Capitalism with the tax payer picking up the bill when they fail. The Right wing version of Libertarianism. I think we can agree that that second part needs to stop, but unlike you I see the need for restraint on Capitalism, not its end.

That is the full quote and you misrepresented me and my position by you selective quoting of it. I was agreeing with you on the 2nd part. I highlighted the salient parts you ignored in order to make your point against me for doing that which in fact you did it yourself to me in order to chastise me. That’s a bad habit and I wouldn’t recommend doing it again. It isn’t nice or correct or useful to our discussion.

Excerpt from the article;

The company has declined to comment, but according to Balzano, it began shopping around this summer for ways to reduce costs and to expand.

Despite an offer by the ILA and the Camden port to slash expenses by approximately 25 percent, Del Monte chose a privately owned terminal owned by the Holt family in Gloucester City.


“This is a devastating blow for us,” said Martin Mascuilli, secretary/treasurer of the Internatinal Longshoremen’s Association, Local 1291. “We met the terms of Del Monte’s proposal seriously undermining our manning levels and wages and it still was not enough.”

Holt is a private operator who also runs the Packer Terminal in South Philadelphia. The family strongly objects to competing for business with the publicly subsidized South Jersey Port Corp.

On the labor front, Holt is no friend of ILA after replacing the union with cheaper labor in Gloucester in 1993. Holt continues to use ILA at Tioga.

“This is a disgrace for the American people that an employer can pay so little and get away with it,” said Mascuilli. “The Holts hold themselves out as a union operation, but all they do is hire scabs.” Reach Eileen Stilwell at (856) 486-2464 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Yes, very interesting, but it isn’t so cut-and-dried blame the Labor Unions as you implied. All over the unions have either folded or cut back in many ways, cutting deep, and yet they still get attacked. The problem is that many business, those making loads of money do not want to pay their workers what they are worth, but they sure do pay themselves well beyond what they are worth. So they logically go to places where the workers are poor, live poor, and they pay them poorly so the cycle of downward spiraling wages continues. And who gets the added profits? The owners and upper management of course. However that worker can have that money they should have been paid for as a loan, with high interest that is good for the business but bad for the worker.

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By Anarcissie, August 31, 2010 at 7:35 am Link to this comment

Fat Freddy—It was my impression that you were objecting to the establishment of a closed shop on the grounds that it would affect the implied contracts of workers who didn’t want to join the union.  If those contracts are at-pleasure having one’s job terminated by the management doesn’t violate the contract.

The DelMonte case is interesting in that they appear to be moving their business from one establishment to another because the latter is cheaper; the latter is cheaper because the workers are organized in a company union instead of a real one (the ILA).  So why hasn’t the ILA organized the other workers, if they can offer to get them $24+ instead of $14 per hour?  It may be that the business is simply no longer viable at the ILA labor rate—we are going through a fairly serious recession.  Or there could be sweetheart deals or mafia involvement in the background.  We need another level of detail to understand the situation.

In regard to your vision of the oncoming corporate state, that does seem to be what a lot of people want, and I don’t understand it, especially on the part of progs.

The workers do not own and control the means of production unless they actually own and control the means of production.  I used to theoretically own some stock at a business where I worked but no one ever asked me to vote on anything of any consequence—the board of directors was simply reelected every year by the big stockholders.  This is not what I’m talking about, although it may be a modest step in the right direction.  Or not; maybe it was all phony.  Most of my co-workers sold their stock or options as soon as they could (because they had a low opinion of the management of the business, which turned out to be justified by later events).

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By Fat Freddy, August 31, 2010 at 5:58 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie

One more thought before I have to go to work. You say you want the workers to own the means of production. In actuality, they already do, sort of. Let’s say you work for BP. You have a 401(k). You turn over the basic control over to an asset management company, like BlackRock. BlackRock is the largest shareholder of BP. So, in actuality, you own part of BP, you just don’t have any of the benefits of being a shareholder, because of the introduction of a third-party rent-seeker: BlackRock.

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By Fat Freddy, August 31, 2010 at 5:01 am Link to this comment

Night-Gaunt

Corporations are groups of individuals. Just like unions are groups of individuals. Why should one group have rights, and the other not have any rights?

I think people already decide the fate of corporations, to a degree. Tell me, would my small business also be open to this “review”? My community decides if I stay in business by whether or not they choose to use my services. If I were the only construction company in my town, then you might have a valid point, but I am not. I must compete with other companies.


When we do see the normal restraints lifted on corporations (Libertarianism) we see them plunder and despoil with impunity, then protected from the normal outcomes of such depredations by sympathetic gov’t officials

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Please stop misrepresenting the Libertarian position. Libertarians do not support any government bailouts, subsidies, grants, or special privileges to any corporation! Let them fail! In fact, we believe that these large corporations can only exist with the direct involvement and interference of the government. Which is why we say, limit the power of government. The less the government has to sell, the less there is to buy. We believe in the entrepreneur. You seem to have little faith in the entrepreneur to control the size and scope of large corporations.

If you continue to intentionally misrepresent the position of your opponent, you are engaging in intellectual dishonesty.

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By Fat Freddy, August 31, 2010 at 4:24 am Link to this comment

either the employer or the employee can terminate the contract at any time.

The fact that one or both parties can terminate a contract at any time, for any reason, does not reduce the validity of that contract. Do you have a contract with your bank on your checking account? Can you terminate at any time? Does that make that contract any less valid then say, a CD, where you would receive a penalty for early termination? Contracts happen everyday, everywhere, for all sorts of things. They can apply to one specific action, or long term commitments. “I’ll give you a dollar, if you go to the liquor store and get me a six-pack.” That’s a contract. Simple, yet affective. “I’ll pay you $50 to rake my leaves. If you come back tomorrow, I’ll give you $50 to trim my bushes.” Both are contracts; voluntary and private. The complexity of a contract does not affect its validity, nor should it.


Obviously, the rights of one group of people can conflict with the rights of another group (or individuals). Do I have a right to play my electric guitar at 2AM, or does my neighbor have a right to peace and quiet? Taking one side or the other does not make a person any more, or less of a libertarian. I try to recognize both the rights of a group, and the rights of an individual. Groups are comprised of individuals. However, the rights of a group, should not automatically override the rights of an individual. An individual should be given as much consideration as a group.

I believe eventually, there will be one corporation and one union for every sector of the economy. Together, along with the government, they will negotiate and set price and wage controls. The government will enforce them. The government will be the “King”. The union and corporate bosses will be the “Lords”, and we will be the “Serfs”. When they become bored with simply controlling prices and wages, they will begin to tell us what we can read, what we can eat, what we can say, and what we can write. That’s the way collectivism works. But I digress. Sure, it’s a slippery slope argument, but not all slippery slopes are fallacies.

Here’s an interesting story that’s in my local newspaper this morning. Very interesting,a nd highly pertinent to our discussion.

http://www.courierpostonline.com/article/20100831/NEWS01/8310338/Move-by-Del-Monte-a-setback-for-union

I would be very interested for your take on this.

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By Night-Gaunt, August 30, 2010 at 11:35 am Link to this comment

No Fat Freddy only organizations. And for accountability, the idea of evaluating them is a good idea. As long as you can keep whoever is doing the evaluations either free from corruption or have a cross section of society ever changing to keep if from becoming sclerotic. Does that bother you Fat Freddy if people decide the fate of corporations? They aren’t people and should not have any rights as we do. If this mangled thing you wrote; “What’s the matter? Can’t you read backwards?” makes any sense you mean I was being retrograde in my thinking.

This is a good thing that should never have been dropped. We see what has happened now haven’t we? It can only get worse as long as corporations have so much power. Right now Unions, a response to the power of the corporations is withering on the vine. Soon they will as weak as they were during the last Depression. The workers will be powerless against their bosses and their owners. Not a good thing to happen I think.

In a depressed economy the first thing that goes is the autonomy of the worker. They are at the mercy of whomever is hiring. If they are fortunate enough to find one job they get treated in a terrible way usually because such conditions seem to bring the worst out of the supervisors. They know, especially in a right to fire state, the worker can do little but either take it or leave and possibly starve. For the squeaky worker gets replaced. There is a legion of the unemployed and under employed out there and they know it. (15 million & 7 million respectively.)

When we do see the normal restraints lifted on corporations (Libertarianism) we see them plunder and despoil with impunity, then protected from the normal outcomes of such depredations by sympathetic gov’t officials like GWBush(R) BHObama(D) bail them out (economic fascism) is how it is working. All the benefits of Capitalism with the tax payer picking up the bill when they fail. The Right wing version of Libertarianism. I think we can agree that that second part needs to stop, but unlike you I see the need for restraint on Capitalism, not its end.

We need a combination of checks & balances and regulation. Without it only problems will arise that can easily become catastrophic as we are experiencing now. Balance and regulation work in nature [such as cell division], electricity and fire. If they aren’t controlled you get cancer, electrocutions and burning everything down.

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By Anarcissie, August 30, 2010 at 8:57 am Link to this comment

thevenusproject.com:

‘... Simply stated, a resource-based economy utilizes existing resources rather than money and provides an equitable method of distributing these resources in the most efficient manner for the entire population. It is a system in which all goods and services are available without the use of money, credits, barter, or any other form of debt or servitude….’

I approve of communism (see http://www.1freeworld.org/anaprax1.htm) but then how come the DVD’s cost $295?

If you come to Von King park in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Saturdays Food Not Bombs will at least give you a free meal.

By the way, if you include the http:// business in front of your URLs the forum software will set up the link for you, as it does for mine above.

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By Nick Nakorn, August 30, 2010 at 8:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dear All,

As long as we, the citizens, continue to make our own wealth more important than our ethics, the people at the top will feel no sense of restraint in business or politics. We get the leaders we deserve in some cases because our culture is geared to atomistic individualism.

If you’re fed up with corruption at the top in politics or at work, you might like to read and sign:

The Sirisuk Declaration
A Charter for Citizenship and Political Activism

go to http://www.sirisuk.org

to read the charter and sign on-line

Best wishes

Nick

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By linda, August 30, 2010 at 7:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

WHAT TO DO?  Join thezeitgeistmovement.com and thevenusproject.com.  READ the FAQ and join a movement beyond war, politics & poverty. I’m 61+ years and feel this movement is an actual possibility for our future (especially you young people w/children).  We NEED a completely new redesign of our culture & we must allow science & technology (used for the betterment of mankind) to take it’s place in this new paradigm/new age of information, science & technology so that ALL the world’s people can live in peace, cooperation & balance with the earth & each other.
Love - Mamma D

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By Anarcissie, August 30, 2010 at 7:23 am Link to this comment

Fat Freddy—I guess the final thing I wanted to discuss was the fact that most union people seem unwilling to take on stock options or stock itself as a part of their compensation.  I don’t know the answer to your question.  I have read that Samuel Gompers thought that any attempt by unions to involve themselves in ownership or management of businesses would lead to violent conflict with the existing class of owners and managers regardless of how it was approached, and that unions would tend to lose the war.  Thus, unions should press only for wages, working conditions, and benefits, and not concern themselves with the conduct of the businesses where they worked.  I don’t know how much influence he has on modern union leadership, however.

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By Anarcissie, August 30, 2010 at 7:07 am Link to this comment

Fat Freddy, August 30 at 8:55 am:

Anarcissie,

You seem to think that the “bosses” control commerce. I disagree, it is the consumer that controls commerce. The buyer sets the price, not the seller. Unless, of course, there are monopolies. Your indifference towards the small business entrepreneur suggests that you favor large monopolies. In that case, then yes, you would need unions.

In the liberal ideal of free markets, no one controls commerce.  In actuality, of course, there are cases in which one party or another may hold a dominant position.  This is seldom the consumers, since they’re poorly organized.  Regardless, while I am in favor of the workers owning the means of production, I don’t have an opinion as to the best size of organizations.  Large monopolies seem to form naturally in some fields, for example Microsoft.  A curious phenomenon, not to the advantage of the consumer at all, yet they seem to have wished for it.


You’re right, we haven’t had Libertarian policies, at least not since the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And even then, there wasn’t a “proper” government in place to protect citizens from fraud, robbery, misrepresentation and trespass. But look where we are today. Free and fair competition always benefits the worker and the consumer. We do not have free and fair competition.

Free and fair competition is not to the advantage of the most powerful competitors.  So….


All jobs are private contracts, whether written, or verbal. If a group of workers wish to organize and pool their bargaining power to negotiate a contract, whether a majority, or a minority, they have every right to do so. What they do not have a right to, is force other workers to that same contract. All contracts must be voluntary, not coercive. If that’s class war, then I must be missing something. Voluntary, private contract is a fundamental concept of modern libertarianism. You do understand the difference between voluntary and coercive? If the union contracts are that much better than what an individual could negotiate, then there shouldn’t be a problem, right?

I think you’re being naive here.  First of all, most jobs are at pleasure: either the employer or the employee can terminate the contract at any time.  In an ideal libertarian world if some employees, not necessarily a majority, can band together and obtain a closed-shop contract from the employer, the employer has a right to terminate the others’ jobs.  (If the others have written or witnessed contracts with the employer they may have to be bought out, depending on the contract.)  One could have a situation in which two unions both representing groups of employees came into conflict over establishing closed shops for themselves; this is called a jurisdictional dispute and sometimes in the past resulted in strikes which had nothing to do with the employer.  All of this is a direct logical consequence of believing and behaving as if employees possess the rights of expression, association, assembly and contract just as other people do.  One person’s freedom pushes up against another’s.

In fact we do not live in an ideal libertarian world, so the actions unions can take are considerably restrained and the above scenario is replaced by rather detailed labor law and government interventions.  Jurisdictional strikes, for example, are forbidden, as are secondary boycotts (a very powerful tool).  To some extent the law turns employees into semi-protected serfs.  That’s all very unlibertarian; the ruling class has little use for such niceties.

(I seem to have run out of space, and I was only getting started!)

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By Fat Freddy, August 30, 2010 at 4:55 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie,

You seem to think that the “bosses” control commerce. I disagree, it is the consumer that controls commerce. The buyer sets the price, not the seller. Unless, of course, there are monopolies. Your indifference towards the small business entrepreneur suggests that you favor large monopolies. In that case, then yes, you would need unions.

You’re right, we haven’t had Libertarian policies, at least not since the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And even then, there wasn’t a “proper” government in place to protect citizens from fraud, robbery, misrepresentation and trespass. But look where we are today. Free and fair competition always benefits the worker and the consumer. We do not have free and fair competition.

All jobs are private contracts, whether written, or verbal. If a group of workers wish to organize and pool their bargaining power to negotiate a contract, whether a majority, or a minority, they have every right to do so. What they do not have a right to, is force other workers to that same contract. All contracts must be voluntary, not coercive. If that’s class war, then I must be missing something. Voluntary, private contract is a fundamental concept of modern libertarianism. You do understand the difference between voluntary and coercive? If the union contracts are that much better than what an individual could negotiate, then there shouldn’t be a problem, right?

You also seem to be under the impression that all business owner wish to exploit the workers. Do they also wish to exploit their customers? Businesses can only exploit, when there is no competition.

I have said before, I have no problem with workers accepting stock in lieu of wages, or a combination thereof. However, unions consistently reject stock options. Why is that?

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By Fat Freddy, August 30, 2010 at 4:13 am Link to this comment

Night-Gaunt

What’s the matter? Can’t you read backwards?

Now if we would just go back to chartering corporations every 5 years and at the end are evaluated as to what they have contributed to society

Perhaps we should do that with individuals, as well. Jeffrey Skilling at Enron would have a peer review of all his employees, and the bottom 15% would be fired every year. We all know where Jeff is, now.


Ultimately, society does determine which businesses stay, and which businesses go. We do not have complete monopolies, yet. Consumers decide what they want to buy, and how much they will pay for it.

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By Fat Freddy, August 30, 2010 at 3:18 am Link to this comment

Myronh

If you want to drive 80 MPH in a 65 MPH zone, go right ahead. Maybe you’ll get a ticket, maybe you won’t. It’s your decision. But you should be held responsible for your actions and accept the consequences. With freedom, comes responsibility. Something we seem to be very short on in this country. People seem to be willing to sacrifice freedom, to avoid responsibility.

Yes, free and fair competition is a horrible concept. As a worker, you have certain marketable skills. If there is a high demand for your skills, you can increase your salary by going to a competitor of your current employer who is short on workers, and needs to meet the demands of his customers/clients. If all you aspire to is cleaning toilets for the rest of your life, then maybe all you deserve is minimum wage. If you aspire to better yourself, and maybe go to college and get an engineering degree, then you should be compensated. Or perhaps, you aspire to start your own business and provide the members of your community with a quality product or service at a reasonable price. But then the union comes in, and forces you to pay higher wages, which in turn forces you to raise your prices. If you are a baker, you must increase the cost of a loaf of bread from one dollar to two. Your workers may benefit, but what about the rest of your community? Like I said earlier, it’s a balancing act. As an employer, I must balance the needs of my workers, with the needs of my customers. Unions, and the government, distort that balance, and it’s usually the consumer that pays.

Please, answer my earlier question. If you needed a contractor to work on your home, would you hire someone like me, a non-union contractor who charges $30/man*hr, or a union contractor that charges $75/hr? Either way the contractor still makes a profit. It is you, that pays.

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By Anarcissie, August 29, 2010 at 1:46 pm Link to this comment

I don’t think libertarian principles do unions any particular harm.  In fact, they might make them more desirable, since the government would not have absorbed many of their functions, like minimum wage, job safety, unemployment insurance, medical insurance, old age pensions, and so on.  A completely libertarian polity might have extremely powerful unions, since they would be the only resource the individual worker would have to balance the power of the bosses.  However, we don’t know, because we don’t observe any libertarian polities anywhere.  Nor are we likely to with so many libertarians ready to desert their principles in order to wage class war.

Unions, though, should be seen as a transitional stage to socialism—by which I mean not ‘government control’ as many have been deceived into believing but the ownership and control of the means of production by the workers.  It would be a lot more productive than trying to exploit the exploiters.  Worker ownership and control could be achieved simply by having the unions gradually buy out their employers.  Unfortunately we observe that most people have become extremely passive and instead of organizing themselves in their own interests, they sit around waiting for their Great Leaders to throw them a crust or two.  These are the same Great Leaders who have already severely damaged the economy with their silly financial games and mystical instruments.  No wonder things are going downhill.

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By Night-Gaunt, August 29, 2010 at 12:27 pm Link to this comment

A note Fat Freddy, when we post it moves up as it builds so the lowest contributions are the first and the topper most is the most recent—-so you have been posting backwards. Just follow from 1,2…to post in order. Thanx.

There are important reasons that all totalitarian states of all kinds move to destroy the unions as they take over. Sometimes they simply outlaw all others and create their own unions and use that as the internal mechanism to monitor and control the worker as the businesses continue on. Whether under the control of the business owners or the gov’t itself. Or in this case in the Libertarian model as you portray it, the control of the work force by the business itself with the worker being just a cog, not an individual or a collective or a being with inherent rights. For me the worker owned business is the most equitable and least likely to be abused by a few owners. But the human factor is always at work and it isn’t always good, smart or benevolent. [Perhaps a future human type will have evolved that way.]

But when it comes down to it no organization has rights, only the people do. Now if we would just go back to chartering corporations every 5 years and at the end are evaluated as to what they have contributed to society. If they pass they get 5 more years to prove their worth. To those that fail? Dissolution. We need to get back to that and pronto. I dare say many if not most corporations would fail and be dissolved. A fine mechanism to keep the greed factor and mistreatment of workers in check, wouldn’t you say Fat Freddy?

I do appreciate you time at this forum as I do others here.

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By Myronh, August 29, 2010 at 10:16 am Link to this comment

Fat Freddy, your idea of the individual is unworkable. I want to drive 80-miles per hour, not 70, as shown on the highway sign, why can’t I? I want to work the day-shift only, why can’t I? I only want to work Monday Wednesday and Friday, why can’t I? I want to work in a union shop where I am guaranteed $20 per hour; unfortunately you and your buddies come in and offer to work for $19. Now I am out of a job. Well guess what? Me and my fellow union workers decide to fix you; we come in and work for $18 per hour.
At this stage of the game the Boss has now won the game, because now the bidding war will continue until both you and me are now unable to feed and house our families. We are now no better than we were in the 1920’s and 30’s when workers were starving to death and the rich just got richer. The Unions were responsible for the creation of the middle class, which is now on their death-bed because of “individuals who think like Fat Freddy”.

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By Anarcissie, August 29, 2010 at 9:56 am Link to this comment

Fat Freddy—The paragraph from the Libertarian Party, where not over-generalized, seems perfectly consistent with closed-shop contracts.  The material by Morgan Reynolds seems philosophically incoherent to me.  There is no mystery about a union; it corresponds to a cabal among business enterprises.  One may dislike cabals but if one believes in the rights of association, assembly, and contract then one has no choice but to accept them (as long as they are not perpetuated by private or governmental violence, of course).  Part of a belief in freedom is putting up with things one doesn’t like.  Reynolds also seems to not understand the implications of rights of association and contract, which will often act as an inhibitor to subsequent free behavior, for example, people who agree to an ordinary marriage contract reduce their sexual opportunities (assuming they adhere to the contract).  He seems to be involved in an unresolved struggle between a nominal adherence to liberal principles and a strong desire to justify the subjugation of employees.  He hasn’t quite made it out of the feudal mode.

The libertarians I mentioned before, people like Eric Raymond and David Friedman (whom you may have read, or read of), seemed too dubious about imperial war to be considered neocons.  In any case I would not expect neocons to be particularly in favor of unions, although I confess I don’t study them much.

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By Fat Freddy, August 29, 2010 at 7:56 am Link to this comment

And, from the official Libertarian Party platform:

2.7   Labor Markets

We support repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment. We oppose government-fostered forced retirement. We support the right of free persons to associate or not associate in labor unions, and an employer should have the right to recognize or refuse to recognize a union. We oppose government interference in bargaining, such as compulsory arbitration or imposing an obligation to bargain.

http://www.lp.org/platform

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By Fat Freddy, August 29, 2010 at 7:45 am Link to this comment

(cont)

If we consider the two coherent patterns of social organization -capitalism and socialism-the striking fact is that unions fit into
neither pattern. This provides the essential clue to their nature: Unions
are restraints on trade in an interventionist economy-a portion of the
confused and growing regulations, legislation, rulings, and prohibitions.
Unions are throwbacks to a society of privilege, status, and accidents of birth; they are wayside stops in an erratic drift from a polity of
pressure groups to (it seems) a totalitarian state.

Whether called competitive enterprise, free enterprise system,
laissez-faire, free trade, economic freedom, or the unhampered market
economy, capitalism’s hallmarks are voluntary exchange, mutual consent
as the primary mode of organization, the value of individual
choice, and the preeminence of the private sector. Its essential features
are private property rights, the rule of law, liberty of contract, and a
government whose role is confined to that of an umpire and impartial
protector of personal freedom from aggression and assault. The rights
to pick up and move, to accept or reject offers, and to invest capital or
labor time with anyone are secured by government in a capitalist nation.
There is no balance of power to worry about, because each individual
in a sense is sovereign, secure in his or her rights, not the subject of
anyone else.

Is this democratic? Yes, in an important sense it is, in both economic
and political terms. Elections are held daily in the marketplace, and all
are free to enter, without man-made restraint, wherever individuals believe
they can improve their personal circumstances, including the acceptance
of wage offers. Consequences of individual decisions in such
a world are “capitalized” on decision-makers. Individuals are held responsible
for their actions. Those who please buyers best will prosper
in the free market, and those who fail will lose control over resources
and be left to· find other employment. Such a system is not capitalistcontrolled
or worker-controlled. It is consumer-controlled. The end
purpose of all economic activity is consumption, and capitalism puts
the customer first. Interventions in a capitalist order usually serve producer
interests, either in or out ofgovernment. Politically, capitalism is
democratic, too, because it is a necessary, although not sufficient, condition
for democracy.

- from POWER AND PRIVILEGE
Labor Unions in America

Morgan O.Reynolds


CH 11
Capitalism, Socialism,
and Unionism- (pg 245)

Posted as a free ebook on mises.org

http://mises.org/books/power_and_privilege.pdf

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By Fat Freddy, August 29, 2010 at 7:37 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie,

I don’t know which Libertarians you have been speaking to. They are probably the small (l) Libertarians that are really neo-cons.

...unions fit into neither capitalism nor socialism, as generally conceived, and analyzes why this is so. Property in jobs and industrial democracy are two specific modifications of either
capitalism or socialism that cannot withstand logical scrutiny.

Unionism is shown to be simply a subset of the man-made restrictions on human action. Neo-conservatives like Irving Kristol, Daniel Bell, and Robert Nisbet provide an erudite defense of unions, though they acknowledge the grievous problems of unionism. The essence of their rationalization is that unions are a vital
component in the web of institutions that stand between the state and the individual, just as the nuclear or extended family, churches, schools, the Red Cross, and social clubs do. What they describe as
“free trade unions” fit well in a liberal order because such unions are an essentially conservative force, according to this view. Labor unions
give “workers” (presumably the “little people”) a sense of place, a sense of belonging in an otherwise rootless, changing industrialtechnical society. As a source of traditional authority, unions are valuable for their reactionary, guildlike nature. Tribal organizations confer “dignity” and status on individuals and lift them out of a role as depersonalized cogs in an immense machine. On the negative side, however, neo-conservatives worry about the union impulse to power,  the union ability to bring an economy (or at least sectors of an economy) to a grinding halt, and to extort higher wages in an increasingly interdependent society. So neo-conservatives mark time, viewing unions as a balance of good and evil, a potent political force, perhaps to be won over as a·political ally for economic growth and a check on environmentalists. Unspecified ointments are supposed to clear up the
acne of unionism.

The collectivist rhetoric and bellicose talk of unionists warms the hearts of those on the left, who have traditionally believed that unions
are all too mild in their response to the exploitation of capitalists who expropriate too much of the social product. Unions at least raise the
workers’ consciousness, fight capitalists, and promote solidarity, by this view, but they never really gain worker control over decisions, and
they never usher in a socialist revolution. Leftist intellectuals always loved unions for their revolutionary potential rather than for the conservative behavior that pleases observers in the center or on the right. Except for high points like the Industrial Workers of the World before World War I and the CIO unions in the 1930s and 1940s, the potential was never realized, and real leftists tend to denounce unionists for having accommodated reactionary capitalism and for their narrow vision,
corruption, and loss of missionary zeal. “Bought off” sums up the left’s contempt for unionism, especially for “business unionism.”

Many people, including labor relations specialists, hold to the middle ground, comforted by the fact that unionists are criticized by both the right and left for completely different reasons. This middle view is a muddled notion that unions are a mixture of good and bad. Specific strikes, disruptions, and wage settlements can annoy, even anger these
people but they retain a sentiment that unions are a good concept, even if imperfectly realized. Unions supposedly contribute to the working of a pluralist, polyglot society, a countervailing force in a political economy composed of large, powerful groups.

(cont)

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By Anarcissie, August 29, 2010 at 6:37 am Link to this comment

Fat Freddy—So you think employees have a right to their jobs, enforceable by the government. regardless of the choices of the employer?  What if the minority are pro-union—do they get to make the government force the employer to recognize their union? 

Among other choices, don’t individuals have the right to make binding contracts with other individuals to form legally binding collectivities, such as partnerships and corporations?  If so, why do they lose this right when they are employees?

I do believe you’ve had this conversation with a libertarian.  Most of the libertarians I’ve discussed labor practices with are solidly pro-closed shop and opposed to ‘Right to Work’ laws.  The big exception is Cato, and they have or used to have a long screed apologizing for their inconsistent position.  They also get considerable money from people with a financial interest in the issue.  A sad case.

Anyway, you seem to be embarking on an interesting excursion into the realm of social democracy and the nanny state.  Next you’ll be advocating a National Labor Relations Board to adjudicate all the interventions.  It’s a rather odd departure considering some of the other opinions you’ve posted on this website.

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By Fat Freddy, August 29, 2010 at 5:39 am Link to this comment

REDHORSE,

  Is that “socialism”? We certainly have “socialism” for the rich!

I agree, we currently have “socialism” for the rich, and the large banks and corporations. However, two wrongs, do not make a right. Let’s try to eliminate the “socialism” for the rich, first.

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By Fat Freddy, August 29, 2010 at 5:10 am Link to this comment

Avery Ray Colter

You make some interesting points. I’ll try to address them.

There are several business models, or designations, available. Many more today, in fact, than, say, 30 years ago. There’s sole proprietorship, or DBA, partnership, limited partnership and corporation to name a few. There are also, now, S-corps and LLCs. The mega-corporations are C-corps or open corps. Personally, I do not believe a C-corp is sustainable, or desirable, at least, not on a grand scale. Small corps usually have the major shareholders, or original owners as upper management and Board members. This is usually satisfactory. The problems, in my opinion, happen when a corp grows so large that there is no real ownership, just a mass of shareholders who elect Board members, who elect upper management. In fact, in today’s corps, many of the major shareholders are other corporations. The top 25 shareholders of BP are asset management companies. This creates a huge disconnect between ownership and management, not to mention between ownership and labor. IMHO, these mega corporations would not exist in a truly free market. They are not a natural function of the free market. These corps exist only because of direct involvement and intervention of government, i.e. “corporate welfare”, not to mention all of the impediments government places on new businesses to enter the market. Without the help of government, these corps would come under direct attack by the smaller, more efficient, more responsive, and more innovative entrepreneurs. These smaller businesses, unimpeded by government, would chip away at the larger, bureaucratic and inefficient corps. Sort of like a group of piranhas devouring a giant vampire squid. The large corp would eventually be forced to divest, or fail, hence the term creative destruction. It’s not pretty, and not always fair, but it would keep the mega-corps in check. I understand that this opinion requires great faith in individuals, as opposed to the government. Well, we’ve seen what even a well intentioned government can do, and I have lost almost all faith in government. I believe in the individual, in case you haven’t figured that out.

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By Fat Freddy, August 29, 2010 at 4:20 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie

Exclusive contracts of all kinds exist in many different areas of life, and I see no reason why they should not.  In the case of closed shops, we have a group of workers voluntarily contracting with one another and with an employer for an exclusive labor contract.  As I said before, unless you believe employees should have fewer rights than other people, it’s simply an exercise of the normal liberal rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Believe it or not, I had this very same discussion with a fellow Libertarian Party member not very long ago. The problem is, all of the workers are not voluntarily contracting with one another, unless there is a 100% vote for forming a union. The workers that voted against the union are being forced to join or quit. That doesn’t sound free or fair, to me. It sounds like coercion.

Like I said, I have no problem with workers uniting to pursue common interests. I have a problem with a group of workers forcing other workers to pursue their interests. Workers should have an individual choice.

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By ofersince72, August 28, 2010 at 8:33 pm Link to this comment

Vive Ortega, Castro, y Chavez


Que pena, Rico

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By Anarcissie, August 28, 2010 at 3:11 pm Link to this comment

By Welfare (written with a capital W to distinguish it) I mean not generic welfare, but a particular state policy, one of a ruling class securing their interests by maintaining the lower orders in a certain style, offering at least some of them modest goodies in exchange for obedience and subservience.  It’s also called ‘social democracy’ although it’s not particularly democratic (in my view, anyway).

Of course the background, the matrix of this performance, is the extraction of value from the same people who are supposedly its beneficiaries.  Because value is produced by labor, that is, mostly by the working class, the ruling class can’t impart alms without first appropriating them from the people who create the wealth in the first place.  (This activity is closely coupled with the major functions of the state, war and imperialism; it secures the home front, so to speak.)

This suggests to me that the working class could do the same thing without a ruling class.  However, that would require a change of consciousness, which does not seem likely to come about through the essentially conservative rhetoric of patricians like Roosevelt.  I don’t regard such a change of consciousness as utopian, simply a matter of taking care of business.  We could start doing it tomorrow.

Coercing my neighbors, or demanding that they coerce me, will not do; it has dire side-effects.

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By REDHORSE, August 28, 2010 at 10:59 am Link to this comment

By the way, wasn’t President Rooseveldt the man, who placed the trade restrictions and limits on Wall Street thugs, that the line-my-pockets-quick Clintons and dig-my-goosestep Cheney Administrations removed?
 
  No wonder our Nation is so sick in the head. Our minds, spititual and emotional lives are filled with poison. Beck at the Lincoln Memorial? Look—“there’s the signpost up ahead—welcome to the Twilight Zone—-”.

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By jphinton, August 28, 2010 at 10:14 am Link to this comment

“And after the revolution, we’ll still have to answer that question—who is going to coerce who?  And to do what?”

Anarcissie: I guess for you, me and the rest of humanity doing anything for anyone else requires coercion.  We are entitled to our spoils. We create governments to coerce ourselves and our enemies du jour. Revolutions are just revolving doors that bring us right back where we started.

Nothing changes. The industrial revolution just brought us more stuff and the illusion that humanity has evolved. Our technology has only further disconnected us from ourselves and each other. We just change our rocks into bombs, tanks and derivatives, and our plowshares into swords, propaganda, and vacuous ideologies.

It is always about welfare. Welfare is not the object of some kind of pseudo-conservative, libertarian, tea-party rant against a Welfaristic, Bismarckian dystopia.  Welfare — “somebody’s state or condition with respect to whether he or she is healthy, safe, happy, or prospering”  — is a state of being where coercion is not required. So far, our malignant need to be coerced has always provided a vacuum to be filled by some influence willing to fill the void. A void created by our own narcissism. We create our own morass.

The most entitled, who are receiving the most entitlements — welfare, are the corporations, the corporatist government that coerces everyone else to be under their thumb.  In this country, money, wealth and power/position are worshipped without question. The “Golden Calf” has grown into a raging bull. Fealty has been sworn to an invisible malevolent dictator that ensures that humans never live in a state that is “healthy, safe, happy, or prospering”.  We are always looking for the emperor, the savior or messiah to lead us from our dystopia into the “rightful place in the world” or “our rightful palace in the sun”.

The conquests of Greece, Rome and Persia, the Pax Romana, the Crusades, the Inquisition, The American Revolution, robber barons, the invisible government, the military industrial complex, the New World Order, the “great right-winged conspiracy” are revolving incarnations of the same thing. The more things change, the more they stay the same, as the adage goes.

Do you assume that to do anything for someone else requires coercion from some outside force? Do you love your children because there is some force that is coercing you to do so under threat of punishment? Do you help or provide comfort to another human being because of government or some revolutionary POV or profit motive? Why not extrapolate from our own experiences of loving-kindness and compassion for our families and friends, and extend our hand to all those around us?

Coercion is the one of the lowest common denominators of human narcissism.  The answer to your question is when we all build houses for each other without thought of profit or goaded by greed —  without some sort of — internal or external —  coercive force, then and only then, will our all own needs be addressed. I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Revolutions, and other forms of coercion, have never brought peace, prosperity, or liberty and justice for all. We are caught in a vicious cycle. To think that not having a government will be any different than having a government is delusion. Our own psychopathy creates an addiction to violence, greed, and coercion. Human nature is the culprit.

So in the interim between dystopia and utopia, a few “positive” rights where we are compelled to do the right thing and create a platform where humans can at least partake in our own shared welfare (“condition with respect to whether he or she is healthy, safe, happy, or prospering”) will just have to do. “Love our neighbors as ourselves”? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? What a novel idea. Its not about me.

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By REDHORSE, August 28, 2010 at 9:43 am Link to this comment

ANARCISSIE: Are you saying because someone might have to make a decision that someone do something no one should do anything?

      The JPHINTON Rooseveldt “State of the Union” post makes perfrct sense to me. No matter what proponents of greed and fear may proclaim, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is a possible and deserved reality. The social and financial disintegration now destroying America represents a rejection of, and state of war on, the progressive American human rights and values Rooseveldt outlined in his speech. Everyone is deserving and Americans aren’t lazy slackers. There can be enough for everyone.

      Visionless, corrupt exploitation of American labor and natural resources without regard to consequence has created the poverty, social chaos and moral damage we now experience. We’ve tried twice to replace the Washington “for sale” political machine and were betrayed. Whatever anyone here might believe the solution or ultimate outcome of the current forces in play might be, Rooseveldts speech is the bellwether of what our aspiration should be.

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By Myronh, August 28, 2010 at 8:42 am Link to this comment

Margaret, you are 100 percent correct. Unfortunately, about 90 percent of the middle-class believe they are part of the elitist-club. They will soon learn the truth when they are in the streets begging for food and shelter right along with the present poor. The sad part of this senario is that it will be too late to do anything but fight for survival and watch the old and the young die while the strong try to hang on as long as possible.

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By MARGARET BASS, August 28, 2010 at 4:35 am Link to this comment

THE BOTTOM LINE

The bottom line is that the elitists want the whole world for themselves. They want to eliminate the rest of us who they refer to as “useless eaters.” They want to return to what they call a “Post-Industrial Society” the type of society that existed before the Industrial Revolution. According to them, the middle class must be eliminated to leave only two classes: the Rich - - - and the slaves. WITH EYES OPEN LOOK AROUND AND SAY THIS NOT TRUE, FOOL AGAIN;

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By Anarcissie, August 27, 2010 at 8:16 pm Link to this comment

jphinton—You may think I have written flapdoodle, but I notice you have not answered the question.

If you really believe there is an invisible government, we should be planning revolution, not the Welfaristic, Bismarckian reforms characteristic of the Democratic Party in the 20th century.  (You’ll notice Roosevelt, like Bismarck, connects Welfare with an imperial role—our ‘rightful place in the world’, or, as the Germans put it, ‘a place in the sun’.)

And after the revolution, we’ll still have to answer that question—who is going to coerce who?  And to do what?

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By jphinton, August 27, 2010 at 7:39 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie: Coercion? Really? What flapdoodle! We should just have negative rights, which are no rights at all. We barely have the rights that are chartered in the constitution. The people are losing here. We don’t have anything that remotely resembles a democracy. We live in a state of hostile corporatist government takeover.

As I quoted before: “Behind the ostensible Government sits enthroned an invisible Government, owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics, is the first task of the statesmanship of the day…. This country belongs to the people. “

The country does not belong to the people.  We are corporately owned and operated—coerced. The fear peddlers rule the minds of the people. We the people are always being jerked from war to war and recession to recession.

Our jobs are constantly at risk at the whim of some ominous board and the ubiquitous invisible shareholders who owe “no allegiance and [acknowledge] no responsibility to the people”, completely cut off from humanity. That is coercion. All the boards, banks —corporatists — should be coerced to stand trial for treason and punished for hate crimes and crimes against humanity.

In case any one has not noticed, humans rarely do the right thing for the right reason of their own volition. We have to make laws just to be civil to one another — to do the right thing. We always are primarily invested in our own malignant self interest.

“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” We live in a soulless, lifeless dying world that is in a constant state of warfare with itself. We need to coerce ourselves to rethink our lives and own our own destiny, or our legacy will continue to be death, suffering, and coercion from whoever we choose to abdicate our rights and power. Anarchy is just slavery to one’s self.

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By Anarcissie, August 27, 2010 at 5:13 pm Link to this comment

jphinton—The problem with positive rights, such as those Roosevelt listed, are that someone has to provide the things which which the rights-holder has a right to.  Since the positive rights are to be enforced by the government, they are going to be exerted under coercion.  The question then arises as to who is going to coerce who.  For example, if everyone has a right to a nice house, who will be compelled to build it?

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By gerard, August 27, 2010 at 3:19 pm Link to this comment

Fat Fredy:  You asked for a definition of “robber barons.”  See p.1141, top right corner, Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

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By Night-Gaunt, August 27, 2010 at 1:11 pm Link to this comment

Too bad we don’t have that Bill of Rights too.

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By ThePony, August 27, 2010 at 12:12 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Kerryrose, read *Eating Animals,* by Jonathan Safran Foer. He has done extensive research and says that 99+ percent of U.S. chickens are bred, produced, housed, fed, and slaughtered in horrible, inhumane, and filthy conditions. (I presume that means egg production is as dire.) “Factory farms” is the shorthand. And those “cage-free,” organic, etc labels are a joke. They do not mean what what we think, and the reality is literally stomach-turning.

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By jphinton, August 27, 2010 at 11:11 am Link to this comment

Franklin D. Roosevelt
“The Economic Bill of Rights”
Excerpt from 11 January 1944 message to Congress on the State of the Union

________________________________________
It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.

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By Avery Ray Colter, August 27, 2010 at 11:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Fat Freddy, I have a few words. For one thing, it
seems to me the problem is that the same government
which draws so much critique from conservatives for
its regulations, first of all is the same government
which provides the special protections to business
owners attendant to incorporation, and is also the
same government which, largely at the behest of
exploitative business owners, passed laws defining
what kinds of unions and what kinds of labor action
is legal or illegal. Add to this the whole
phenomenon of the red scare, and it is no wonder
that the larger unions end up incorporating
themselves and acting in the same stultifying ways.

Fat Freddy, you know who your employees are. You see
them every day. You have personal relations with
them. You probably do some of the handiwork yourself
along with them. Just as I am employed by engineers
to run energy efficiency simulations. That is a case
in which the boss is a “fellow worker”. You could
still be described as profiting from others’ labor,
but to me your situation is a different flavor than
transnational megabusinesses in which the workers
only know the top leadership as a group of names and
photos on the wall, who will never meet them in
person outside of highly staged dog and pony shows
to extoll what a “family” their sprawling mechanized
empire is, and how those wicked wicked union people
are just going to mess up all the wonderful harmony!
(Yes, I attended a captive audience session with the
union-bashing “they’re just a business themselves”
consultant once, pretty vile stuff).

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By Anarcissie, August 27, 2010 at 10:49 am Link to this comment

Fat Freddy, August 27 at 9:34 am:

Anarcissie

I have no problem with workers organizing to pursue common interests. What I have a problem with, is the coercion of workers to join a union. Individual workers should be free to decide for themselves if they want to be in the union, and which union they want to belong to. I do not oppose unions, I oppose monopolistic unions, just as much as I oppose monopolistic corporations. Both can only survive with government involvement and interference. ...

Exclusive contracts of all kinds exist in many different areas of life, and I see no reason why they should not.  In the case of closed shops, we have a group of workers voluntarily contracting with one another and with an employer for an exclusive labor contract.  As I said before, unless you believe employees should have fewer rights than other people, it’s simply an exercise of the normal liberal rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

No one is particularly forcing anyone to join a union in these situations.  A union is part of the scene at some jobs, and not at others, due to contractual and cultural conditions.  If you don’t want to join a union, you look for a different job than one in a closed shop.

The only government interference I see in this area is the existence of ‘Right To Work’ laws, that is, laws forbidding closed shops.  I am surprised they are held to be Constitutional.

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By REDHORSE, August 27, 2010 at 9:32 am Link to this comment

A national “living wage” based on economic reality, and governmental social support that begins with good educational opportunity, follows through with health and family care, and ends with social security and retirement benefits that can’t be stolen by Wall Street thugs, would be a start.

    Is that “socialism”? We certainly have “socialism” for the rich!

    On another thread one of my favorite posters listed the cost of our Iraq/Afghan wars, illustrating that every American could have received a million dollars with a TRILLION left over for the war. Remember the flatbeds loaded with money that just disappeared? Slice it any way you want, that’s tax payer dollars and responsibility. If money is power, we’re IT, and we’re being robbed, as are our unborn Grandchildren.

    Every labor stat available says the American workers productivity has continued to rise while “real wages” and buying power has consistently fallen. Despite this there is the continued Republithug B.S. about welfare mothers and lazy Americans who won’t work. The latest is the intentional flooding of the U.S. with, and corporate exploitation of, illegal labor. It’s a fact that many of the packing house and food industry jobs taken were Union and paid a “living wage”. And, illegal labor (hard working as it is) and its’ attendent adverse criminal, financial and socio/cultural impact bleeds the economy and depresses wages. Again, our social finances and quality of life are robbed for corporate profit.

    Like FAT FRED, I was a small business owner, struggled to make payroll and directly experienced the difficulty of recruiting, training and keeping a good employee. Belief in free enterrprise will turn your hair white but, it is a worthwhile growth experience. The greatest negative impact I encountered was any interaction with State or National Government and individuals damaged by the failure of our educational and social systems.

      Are Unions prone to corruption? You bet!! Are they needed? You bet!! Can they be fixed? I don’t know? Like FAT FRED I feel free enterprise and hard work is what America is about. Americans are hard workers. There is a fascist propagandist machine devoted to making them believe they’re not, and deserve nothing. Like all narcissists (emotional vampires) Americans can never give them enough blood, either on the job or the battlefield.—-As in most every other problem we discuss here the bottom line is:(1) A failed and corrupt visionless political leadership in (2) thrall to a quasi-fascist corporate oligarchy and a for profit war machine. What else is it?

      Look, this is about the emotional, political, spiritual, physical, mental and familial damage (cultural disintegration) that results when a nation and its’ people fall into the hands of tyrants who roll the financial dice with no regard to people, health, environment or future. That’s nothing new. The bottle neck is the coming explosion of population, GCC and failure of natural resources. That’s going to be the test of whether “—this Nation or any Nation can long endure—”.

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By Fat Freddy, August 27, 2010 at 6:07 am Link to this comment

gerard

When I worked at the institution, there were many cottages that were over 100 years old. Many of them had old asbestos pipe insulation. The stuff that is very friable and about 90% asbestos. It was management, not the union, (or the State) that hired a private firm to provide a 3-day safety course for all maintenance workers. The unions had no idea that there was asbestos, or what the dangers were. Neither did anyone on the maintenance staff.

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By Fat Freddy, August 27, 2010 at 5:55 am Link to this comment

gerard

Define “robber barons”. Am I, and my non-union business, a “robber baron”?

Sure, monopolistic corporations should not exist. They are not a normal function of a truly Capitalist society. Conversely, monopolistic unions should not exist either. Two wrongs do not make a right.

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By Fat Freddy, August 27, 2010 at 5:34 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie

I have no problem with workers organizing to pursue common interests. What I have a problem with, is the coercion of workers to join a union. Individual workers should be free to decide for themselves if they want to be in the union, and which union they want to belong to. I do not oppose unions, I oppose monopolistic unions, just as much as I oppose monopolistic corporations. Both can only survive with government involvement and interference.

Many years ago, I worked on the maintenance staff of a large institution for the developmentally disabled. I was forced to join the union and pay union dues, and contribute to my pension. Over half of the maintenance staff were granted “supervisory” positions, at their request, to exempt them from union participation. Having a marketable skill, I would prefer to deal directly with management.

As a construction worker, I had many opportunities to join a construction union. I chose not to. Why would I not want to be in a union? The problem with construction unions is, you have to sit around the union hall and wait for a job to come along. Then, when one does come along, the members with the most seniority get chosen to work, first, while the newer members get to go out and protest a non-union site, with a giant inflatable rat, for $5/ day plus a bologna sandwich. Thanks, but no thanks. I am perfectly capable of going out and finding my own work. I do not need someone to tell me what jobs I can work on, and which jobs I can not. Sure, I don’t make as high of an hourly wage, or benefits, but I stay busy, pretty much year round. Now, I own my own, non-union, construction company. I pay my workers between $12 and $20 per hour. Union workers earn as high as $35/hour plus benefits. Who would you hire to work on your house? Me, who charges roughly $30/man*hr, or a union contractor that charges $70/man*hr? Is $20/hr an “unfair” wage for a skilled worker? Is $12/hr unfair for an unskilled apprentice? I give an honest day’s pay, for an honest day’s work. Why should I give any more, or any less? I do not wish to exploit my workers. I need to balance the needs of my workers, with the needs of my clients, while competing with other contractors for the same jobs, and the same workers, in order to generate a profit to draw a salary, pay my bills, and expand my business (when possible). Does that make me a greedy bastard?

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By Night-Gaunt, August 26, 2010 at 6:01 pm Link to this comment

By ofersince72, August 25 at 7:24 pm Link to this comment
But I really want to say this to Amy Goodman,
I don’t watch the MSMs, you lose your ability to think
logically about an issue…so

I know Democracy Now will make out just fine without my little monthly contribution,  However, the very next time that I see that you did the rediculous sound bite for CNN again…....I am pulling my support for Dem Now. Stay away from there if you care to keep your credibility. “

So that’s how you rationalize it? If everyone thought as you to your exacting standards who would be on? Who could possibly measure up to you on this? Don’t you want to see her, her views in a wider venue, even at CNN? Or maybe not since you are such a purist. Get flexible. Think in wider ways. She isn’t part of the Corporate MSM now is she? How did you know she had a “rediculous sound bite for CNN again…”? It contradicts your previous statement doesn’t it? If you don’t contribute how can you “pull the plug” on this? Make up your mind and please as to what you do and do not do. Please do it in one contribution, not 12 as you do so constantly. Okay?

Seems to me you just want to complain and you do it poorly. An editor would have a headache with you that is for sure. I know I would from you first incoherent rant. How about something constructive to this topic?

Aren’t the Labor Unions at 17% and dropping, not so low since the last Great Depression? So they have relatively little power but organizations of any type have no “rights” under the Bill of Rights, it is a fallacy that should die and quickly.

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By gerard, August 26, 2010 at 4:49 pm Link to this comment

Fat Freddy, don’t talk to me about how labor unions “... helped to destroy the manufacturing base in NJ. Many factories closed up shop and moved to right-to-work states down South, etc.”

I hail from Pittsburgh, and I see it very differently. When coal and steel ruled there,  billions were made by a relatively few robber barons on the backs of tens of thousands of miners and mill workers who breathed foul air, if any, were killed in “accidents” due to no protection from obvious hazards, were paid dirt wages and forced to pay rent and buy their food at company stores.  That is, until unons came along.

In the cases you mentioned, the corporate barons moved south to “right to work” States precisely to escape from paying living wages etc., and installing safety provisions at the demand of unions until the laws unions promoted which finally were passedinto laws—some of them—after bloody struggles.(What do you think Massey Coal is all about? Making nice in the Appalachians?)

Without unions, corporate hogs can do anything—and will.  That’s why they fight unions.  They want to be able to do anything, workers be damned. 

Of course on some occasions you get corrupt union leadership.  But on most occasions you already have corrupt corporate leadership. One corruption plus another corruption means big trouble. But even a bad union can’t do as much human damage as a bad corporation.  So, please don’t blame unions; support them and help them be honest.  If you have a chance, try to help the corporations be honest too—but nine times out of ten you won’t even be allowed to get near them.

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By Calvin Schmidt, August 26, 2010 at 4:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Kill, kill, kill all the corporations. Hire more government lawyers and regulators to hunt them down, them, raise their taxes, arrest their officers and strip them of the liability shield.

And then wonder why the jobs numbers look bleaker every month.

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By Mark E. Smith, August 26, 2010 at 12:30 pm Link to this comment

Sure you can try to amend the Constitution.

But the Supreme Court can interpret that Amendment to
mean exactly the opposite of what it says.

And then Congress can pass legislation to clarify the
meaning of the Amendment.

And the Supreme Court can strike down that
legislation as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court
doesn’t need to have a precedent, to set a precedent,
or to accompany their decision with logical argument
or any argument at all. The Constitution says that
their Supreme power cannot be appealed, so they can
do whatever they want. That’s what supreme power is
all about.

In a democratic form of government (look up the
definition online or in a dictionary), supreme power
is vested in the hands of the people. Not in the
hands of unaccountable representatives, unelected
justices, or unitary tyrants with assassination
powers that no democratic leader has had since the
Magna Carta was adopted in the 12th Century.

Until people wake up and realize that our
Constitution didn’t give us a democratic form of
government—not even the republic that Ben Franklin
falsely claimed it was—efforts to oust the oligarchy
and give citizens a real voice in government will
instead be wasted on futile attempts at reform.

If you have a democratic structure to begin with, and
it becomes corrupted, it can be reformed. If you
don’t have a democratic structure to begin with, no
matter how much you reform it, you still won’t have a
democratic structure. As the Declaration of
Independence states, when a government does not serve
the people, it is the right of the people to abolish
that government and institute one that does.

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By jphinton, August 26, 2010 at 11:15 am Link to this comment

We are stuck on the proverbial hamster-wheel of the corporate ownership of US—USA Inc., Corporately owned and operated. Here is a prophetic utterance from Teddy Roosevelt from 1913. “Behind the ostensible Government sits enthroned an invisible Government, owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics, is the first task of the statesmanship of the day…. This country belongs to the people. Its resources, its business, its laws, its institutions, should be utilized, maintained, or altered in whatever manner will best promote the general interest.” This assertion is explicit. We say directly that “the people” are absolutely to control in any way they see fit, the “business” of the country.”

http://www.bartleby.com/55/15b.html

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By Brad Bergstrom, August 26, 2010 at 11:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Amy, you’re a person of similar vintage to mine, so I assume you were once taught to diagram sentences.  You’ve forgotten “parallel construction.”

You wrote (ungrammatically):
“...over not only our health, but over our government.”

Correct #1: “...over not only our health but our government.”

Correct #2: “...not only over our health, but over our government.”

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By Peetawonkus, August 26, 2010 at 8:40 am Link to this comment

Is there anyone who really believes that labor unions exert even remotely the same influence on politics and politicians as corporations? And for the record, NJ’s mass exodus of industry to right-to-work-for-nothing states had nothing to do with labor unions and everything to do with corporate greed. They could have stayed in New Jersey and accepted a little less bottom line but that would have dug into their New Aristocrat lifestyle.

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By a.warren, August 26, 2010 at 7:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’ve often wondered what would happen if a different tact was taken and we recognize corporate person hood and take it to the extreme.

If I break regulations I am subject to fines.  If I cause damage to another person’s property or person I am subject to paying for the damages and receiving jail time.  If I break the laws of the land I am also subject to jail time.

Wouldn’t make sense that a corporation have the same consequences?  I’m not suggesting that you jail the employees or the stock holders.  Limited liability clauses in government granted corporation status for a business prohibit this.  But what if a company that breaks the law loses its freedom to trade?  Wouldn’t that be a form of corporate jail? 

So if a corporation violates the laws of the land and that violation causes injury or death or property damage, the company is denied corporate status in the United States.  The severity of the crime would determine the length of time that the company was prohibited.  After all, the government grants a business it’s corporate status. Even local municipalities require businesses to register with them and have a permit to operate.  Why can’t this status or those permits be revoked when the business violates the laws of the land?

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By Anarcissie, August 26, 2010 at 5:27 am Link to this comment

Fat Freddy, August 26 at 7:06 am:

‘... I can’t talk about the rest of the country, but yes, labor unions did help to destroy the manufacturing base in NJ. Many factories closed up shop and moved to right-to-work states down South. ...’

So if employees have the normal liberal rights—speech, property, association, assembly, contract, equality before the law—capitalism can’t function property, or maybe at all?  That’s an interesting proposition.

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By Henry Pelifian, August 26, 2010 at 5:07 am Link to this comment

Great article because it gets to the heart of the matter on the lack of effective government oversight and supervision of major industries on behalf of the American people.  That is one of the main jobs of government, not initiating far-flung trillion dollar wars that will do more harm than good for our security.

Maybe we ought to start talking about a government of incompetence, for it is long overdue.  How many modern presidents have bungled their jobs in domestic and foreign policies? 

The only president in modern times (except Kennedy) who had sufficient knowledge and experience to do a good job was Jimmy Carter.  But he was demonized and the hostage crisis occurred damaging his presidency.

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By Mike789, August 26, 2010 at 4:33 am Link to this comment

[ “personhood,” the concept that corporations have the same rights as regular people.”]

The rights of person without the responsibility therein, but also: The concept of “the Earth as feasible material” vs. stuartship, social darwinism vs. the Protestant work ethic and the acquisition of soul-less cheap goods resulting thereof vs. a true value system is a putrifying pickle barrel.

ditto thanx to Anar.

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By Fat Freddy, August 26, 2010 at 3:06 am Link to this comment

ofersince72,

Here’s a little thing I picked up on Norcross. His partner in crime is State Senate President Steve Sweeney. Sweeney’s brother is president of the West Deptford Iron Workers Union. Norcross’s brother is the Southern New Jersey AFL-CIO Central Labor Council leader.

Skeptics also note Norcross’ involvement in a planned $65 million Camden County civic center and arena. Norcross originally owned part of a minor-league hockey franchise that is to play in the 6,400-seat arena but sold his $500,000 interest in the team last year following criticism of his involvement.

Blocked by the Republicans, the state Senate didn’t vote on funding the civic center in 2002. So arena backers turned to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which in November 2002 approved $24 million for the project. The balance is being funded through the Camden County Improvement Authority, whose members are appointed by the Camden freeholders—all of whom were elected with Norcross’ backing.

Unhappy residents resisted early efforts to put the civic center first in Lawnside, then in Gloucester Township. It now is to rise on the site of the Pennsauken Mart, where merchants facing forced relocation fought the venture without success.

The deal fell through, but the storeowners at the Pennsauken Mart were still forced to relocate. A judge ruled in their favor, sort of, and made the county pick up all of the relocation costs and legal fees. Yes, taxpayer money.

 

http://www.app.com/article/20041025/NEWS/70822023/All-powerful-never-elected


I can’t talk about the rest of the country, but yes, labor unions did help to destroy the manufacturing base in NJ. Many factories closed up shop and moved to right-to-work states down South. One example, Campbell’s Soup. Sure, their corporate offices are still in Camden, but they don’t manufacture any of their products anywhere in NJ, anymore. You can also include high taxes and tough regulations to that list. But, Campbell’s Soup is one of those big, greedy corporations, right? The same thing happened with RCA. The first ever audio recording was made at RCA’s Camden site. The old RCA building was recently converted to luxury apartments for rich Rutgers Camden Campus students and faculty.

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By Fat Freddy, August 26, 2010 at 2:19 am Link to this comment

ofersince72

I live in NJ. Come on by, and I’ll introduce you to Steve Sweeney and George Norcross III.

And I’ll show you the wonderful school systems we have in Camden and Newark, thanks to the NJEA.

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By ofersince72, August 25, 2010 at 7:26 pm Link to this comment

Fat Freddy,  if you believe that it is the Labor Unions

that have brought this country down,  you really need

to get away from those Conservative Libertarian Websites

pronto.  You write to proficiently for anyone to believe

that you really believe that bull.

You seem to have more thinking capacity than the
Limbaugh parrots and ditto heads.

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By Myronh, August 25, 2010 at 5:42 pm Link to this comment

It is a sad state-of-affairs when we, as citizens of the USA, cannot afford to hire enough inspectors to monitor our food supply, but we can spend $trillions and thousands of lives for war/terrorism.

How and when will we ever get it right?

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By Fat Freddy, August 25, 2010 at 5:28 pm Link to this comment

There is hope. There is a growing movement to amend the U.S. Constitution, to strip corporations of the legal status of “personhood,” the concept that corporations have the same rights as regular people.

Would this Amendment include labor unions?

http://bit.ly/csBf4N

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By Boomerpaw, August 25, 2010 at 4:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Amy, how do you propose to get 2/3’s of Congress and/or State Legislators to vote for such a Constitutional ammendment. They don’t work for you (or me) anymore.  Further, there isn’t enough grass in the world for such a grass-roots movement.  The Corporations own it all.  For advice on such change reread The Prince.

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By balkas, August 25, 2010 at 4:50 pm Link to this comment

First cities or walled towns were built by priests in order to imprison a multitude of people.
Prior to that [my guess is 10-15 k yrs ago] people were scattered all over the place or have lived in tiny settlements; thus, very difficult to use or abuse.
But once herded, ruling was always easy. Cities today are no different than lagash, eridu, or ur of mesopotamia.
Cities are total dependcencies; just like a person with a noose around his neck.
Cities appear dependent on corporations such as chicken farms, electricty suppliers, etc.
In short, entire US is vast open prison and totally dependent on plutocrats.
Ideally, and for less stress, angst, fears, insecurities, crime, we all should be much interdependent.
As a wise person noted: to be is to be related. To what degre is a person related to a politician, priest, ceo? Close to zero or zero?
And when related to a ceo, politico, it is an abusive relationship.
A ceo can abuse u, but u cannot ever abuse or use a ceo! Relationship thus being much, too much, assimetrical. tnx

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By ofersince72, August 25, 2010 at 3:24 pm Link to this comment

First , thanks for the links Anar

But I really want to say this to Amy Goodman,
I don’t watch the MSMs, you lose your ability to think
logically about an issue…so

I know Democracy Now will make out just fine without my
little monthly contribution,  However, the very next time
that I see that you did the rediculous sound bite for
CNN again…....I am pulling my support for Dem Now.
Stay away from there if you care to keep your credibility.

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By gigabiting, August 25, 2010 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment

Maybe with all the rampant salmonella it’s time to reconsider the 5-second rule for dropped food:
The Egg Recall: Rethinking the 5-Second Rule
http://gigabiting.com/?p=4623/

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By kerryrose, August 25, 2010 at 1:41 pm Link to this comment

I think what we should do is buy organic.

After watching ‘Food, Inc.’ and seeing cows legs break because they couldn’t sustain the gained weight from the hormones, and being forced to walk with broken legs, I began to buy organic milk.  Shortly afterward I started buying organic eggs (so I guess my family is safe from this scourge).

Until we protest the abusive farm conditions at the grocery store, and hit the corporations where it counts—things will never change.

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By gerard, August 25, 2010 at 1:25 pm Link to this comment

Yes, and why not tell us more about this “growing movement” in detail—who and where they are, hw to get in touch with them, what they need that we can contribute.  Tell us what to do, specifically—and with encouragement and hope.

So often the news, even when accurate, leaves out the most important part—what people can do—and this is totally disempowering.  The state of education generally being deficient, people do not know what to do—or even where to go to find out.
It’s sad, but they have to be led by the hand and moved toward taking an active part in their government.  To do less is to fail us all.

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