Truthout Stories Fri, 31 Oct 2014 11:03:36 -0400 en-gb Driving Government Out of Business

Republican operative Grover Norquist used to quip about shrinking government to the point where it would get small enough to drown in the bathtub. You probably thought he was kidding.

His joke could be on us all soon enough. Pollsters say the Republican Party is likely to nab at least a slim Senate majority in this year’s mid-term elections. And The Washington Post gives Republicans a 99 percent chance of retaining their firm control over the House of Representatives.

The GOP's Sharp Teeth, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

The GOP’s Sharp Teeth, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

If the experts are getting these forecasts right, the GOP will completely dominate Congress for the first time in eight years. What could go wrong?

Well, a lot. For starters, consider these four pillars of public service that the Republican Party will try to send down the drain.

First, there’s Social Security. Their game is to gradually chip away at the nation’s primary retirement benefit program and then privatize it when it runs into trouble. Scores of Social Security offices around the country have already closed even though record numbers of people are turning 65, setting the stage for failure.

Then, there’s what passes for affordable health care in the United States. Despite the Republicans’ sneering over “Obamacare,” their backers in the health insurance industry love its requirement that everyone must get one of their plans. Next up on the GOP agenda: replacing Medicare with a voucher system.

And don’t forget the public schools. Many Republicans are heeding a push by billionaires to jam as many pupils as possible into charter and online K-12 schools. That means taxpayers are increasingly paying private businesses to educate their kids at ostensibly public facilities. And do kids learn more at brick-and-mortar charters or virtual schools? In a word, nope.

Finally, Republicans are tampering with your mail. The U.S. Postal Service is losing money because Congress forced it to pay upfront for future retirement benefits — unlike any other agency — creating the illusion that it’s on a shaky footing. This started the last time the GOP controlled both chambers, when lawmakers produced the cynically named Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. If Republicans recover their majority in both chambers, this absurd law would be sure to stay on the books.

There’s nothing new about trying to replace government services with private ones or substituting contract workers for government employees. And the GOP doesn’t always act on its own. Plenty of Democrats are joining with their colleagues across the aisle to accomplish at least some of these maneuvers.

The difference today is money.

Thanks to a string of Supreme Court decisions, corporations and wealthy individuals may contribute nearly limitless amounts of money to political campaigns. Later, they demand favorable policies when their candidates win.

The result? Social Security, schools, affordable health care, the postal service, and other essential government operations all suffer as the private sector extracts ever larger profits from the public realm.

Grover Norquist has compelled most Republican politicians to swear off raising the tax revenue that might cover the cost of delivering essential public services. Is this what Norquist envisioned before he conjured up his his anti-tax pledge? Probably.

Opinion Fri, 31 Oct 2014 11:01:13 -0400
Chevron's "Company Town" Fights Back: An Interview With Gayle McLaughlin

Amidst all the noise of this year's midterms, in the middle of all the charges and countercharges, attack ads and spin control, barnstorming and whistlestopping, one of the most interesting and significant elections in the country is happening not at the state or federal level but in the small city of Richmond, California, population just over 100,000.

What makes Richmond such a big deal is the enormous influence of Chevron, the multinational energy company that keeps a problematic oil refinery in the city — problematic in the sense of its tendency not only to generate handsome revenues but leaks, fires and explosions, too. Complaints about its environmental impact have built for decades.

Chevron was accustomed to dominating the economy and politics of Richmond, treating it like an old-fashioned company town, but in 2007, Gayle McLaughlin, candidate of the Green Party, became mayor. She and her allies on the city council began calling Chevron out, especially after a 2012 refinery fire that sent 15,000 people off to area hospitals for treatment.

This year, Gayle McLaughlin is not running again for mayor but seeks a seat on the city council. Chevron has pulled out the stops, spending some $3 million – an unheard of amount for a small, local election – to campaign against McLaughlin and her slate, and to use its corporate clout in support of more business-friendly, opposition candidates.

Chevron and the Moving Forward political alliance it underwrites say they're just protecting the company's interests in Richmond, and are dedicated to preserving the city's "quality of life." Mayor McLaughlin and progressives around the country point to Chevron's well-heeled electioneering as a textbook example of big money co-opting politics and taking over government. We spoke with Mayor McLaughlin as she took a short break from the final days of campaigning.


Michael Winship: I'm talking with Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, Richmond, California. Now, you're term limited as mayor, so after eight years in office, you're running for city council instead. Why did you decide to continue seeking public office?

Gayle McLaughlin: Well, I'll tell you, in the last 10 years that I've been in elected office, Richmond has undergone a remarkable transformation. We're a low-income, urban, very diverse city with many, many needs. We have 27 percent African-American, 40 percent Latino, 13 percent Asian, 20 percent Caucasian. And one in four of our residents are immigrants. So we have a city with much diversity, which is our strength, but we also have many, many needs. And we've been ruled as a city for a hundred years by the Chevron Corporation, because Chevron did control the council. And as recently as the 1990s, a Chevron executive had a desk in the former city manager's office. So until recently, we were known as a company town and this company, Chevron, doesn't hire locally, it's the number one polluter, it doesn't pay its fair share of taxes and it's run their refinery with thousands of corroded pipes ready to explode like what happened in August of 2012 when there was a horrific fire that sent 15,000 people to local hospitals. So this company rule was allowed to happen because Chevron had the city council in its pockets. And so we put forward a progressive movement to run local progressive candidates with our pledge not to take a penny from corporations for our campaigns. And we won five local elections, including the mayor's seat. And when we won, we made sure the people's priorities became the priorities of our time in office. And so we've accomplished so much, including breathing better air, reducing the pollution and building a cleaner environment and cleaner jobs, and reducing our crime rate. Our homicide number is the lowest in 33 years and we became a leading city in the Bay Area for solar installed per capita. We're a sanctuary city. And we're defending our home owners to prevent foreclosures and evictions. And we also got Chevron to pay $114 million extra dollars in taxes. So this all came through community pressure. So we've recognized these great results. But we know there's so much more to do. We still have 18 percent poverty, we need to continue reducing our crime and we have to continue reducing unemployment, it's still higher than the national average, even though we cut it in half. And we just have a lot of future work in terms of building community schools and saving our local hospital. So that's why I chose to run for city council even though I'm termed out as mayor. I'm just deeply committed to continuing our transformational work and that means standing up for our residents against the attacks by Chevron and Wall Street and all those that would put profits before our gains. So that led me to where I am right now in the middle of this campaign.

Winship: Can you tell me some more about the 2012 fire? What exactly happened and how much damage was done?

McLaughlin: Right, yes, there was a horrific explosion that occurred in August of 2012 at the refinery, due to a corroded pipe, that send a toxic plume over our heads throughout Richmond and throughout the neighboring cities. Fifteen thousand people went to local hospitals for respiratory ailments. And it was frankly a very traumatic experience for all of us in Richmond. Chevron was eventually charged with criminal neglect and pleaded no contest to the charges. It's clear that their poor maintenance practices and safety practices were what led to this fire. In fact, workers had sought out solutions to these piping issues and talked about these pipes needing replacement but management had disregarded the warnings that the workers were putting out there. So this fire was really a clear-cut example of a corporate culture putting its profits first before all else. And we need to change that. This refinery, the Richmond Chevron refinery, produces 10 percent of Chevron's global revenue and yet it puts only one quarter of one percent into its maintenance.

Winship: Chevron paid $2 million in fines and restitution, but your city also sued.

McLaughlin: Yes. Chevron, of course, states the suit is without merit and that's what they'll always do, and manufacture lies in its own defense. But we have the opportunity to make this lawsuit gain substantial damages for the impact to our city, to community, for the impact to our health, to our economy, because we had lower property values and we had a slowdown in business attraction. But I also see this lawsuit as a counter-pressure to the corporate culture which is trying so hard to dominate 100 percent of our lives. So we really, really think this is pressure on them to put the health and safety of our residents before its corporate profits.

Winship: So your feeling is that part of Chevron's response to all of this has been this $3 million they're spending running against you and your slate.

McLaughlin:Absolutely, Chevron's been spending more and more money every election year polluting our democracy, trying to pull the wool over the eyes of our residents, but this year they've pulled out all the stops, $3 million plus. Some are saying by the end of the election it will be more like $4 million. But it's really obscene to be spending that amount of money on a city of 104,000 people. But they're mad at us in the progressive movement because we stand up to them. We work with a mobilized community to make gains on our own behalf. And we've gained a lot. We've gained that $114 million tax settlement based on the people's desire for fair taxation. But as I said, there's more to do. They are the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the State of California, this Richmond Chevron refinery. And so they want councilmembers that will allow them to continue to pollute, to continue to emit greenhouse emissions and who will not push for further taxation from them. And of course, they want the council of the future that they are trying to get on board with this election, they want that council to drop the lawsuit or settle for peanuts.

Winship: They say that the money that they're putting into the campaign "Supports city leaders who share our commitment to policies that foster an economic environment where businesses can thrive and create jobs" and that the amount of money they're spending has to be put in the context of the more than $500 million in local taxes, social investment and spending on local vendors, that they've done, that's their response.

McLaughlin: Right. Well, Chevron's investment in our city always comes at a price. They do some good investments and some of their volunteers are out doing good work at various community events but regardless of positive contributions, that is no argument for letting one company control our city council, and that's indeed what they're trying to do.

Winship: What have their specific campaign tactics been in this election?

McLaughlin: Well, they have done so, so very much in terms of just inundating our mailboxes and our airwaves and our billboards with their candidates, highlighting and putting out lies and misinformation about who their candidates are and attacking myself and other progressives running. I'm running as part of a team called Team Richmond and we're working very hard and we've done so much already and yet Chevron is putting out blatant lies about us. So people are getting pretty, pretty clear on what's happening, because the level of overkill is just outrageous. Driving through Richmond, seeing the billboards all over, makes you pretty aware of the fact that there's an attempt to buy our election. So it's a very strange phenomenon if you will, when you're living in a country that was founded on the principles of democracy.

Winship: Their ads, their TV ads are very, very highly produced and they've gone after you specifically on your out-of-town travel.

McLaughlin: Right. I took three trips overseas, out of eight years. It was a total of 22 days. That's out of nearly 3,000 days that make up eight years. These trips were, one was to Mondragón, Spain to learn about worker-owned co-ops. It was a five-day trip. I learned a lot and came back to Richmond and helped to promote and implement worker co-ops here in Richmond.

I also, and this particular trip is one that Chevron was very upset about, I took a five-day trip to Ecuador to learn about the contamination of the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest by Chevron Texaco, and I saw the massive contamination and the harm that the indigenous and farmer communities suffered, and that Chevron is not rising to its accountability in regards to. So they were not too happy about my doing that, but I think it's important to learn from other communities that have also suffered at the hands of this oil giant.

And then I did make an official trip to our sister city in Cuba, which is something we hadn't done in 14 years, and we were very excited to learn from that experience and share some of our gains and learn from Cuba some of the wonderful gains they have made.

Winship: You've fought back with a grassroots organizing campaign, is that correct?

McLaughlin: Yes. Well, we've fought back as we always do, with authentic relationship building in the community. We go door to door, we go to the community events and build that real authentic relationship, something Chevron can't do. They do paid canvassers. Many of them are from outside of Richmond, don't know the issues. They're simply given a script, and when questioned, they simply just don't know the issues and aren't there to build relationships. But we are, and all our work is to build that community sense of empowerment. And we have done so much good work in that regard already, and we want to make sure every resident is part of this empowerment movement that we have going forward.

Winship: Now, you've also, in addition to Chevron, you've also gone up against the banks and the real estate interests.

McLaughlin: Yes. And we really have to continue helping our struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure with innovative solutions, and that's what this program that we call the CARES Program — it's seeking to acquire underwater mortgages, either voluntarily or using our tool of eminent domain as a city—

Winship: You're the first city to have done that, the eminent domain plan?

McLaughlin: We're the first city to have really moved the program forward. We have yet to actually take or acquire a mortgage through eminent domain, but we have the city council's support in doing this. We're seeking other cities to join us. And of course, yes, Wall Street is all up in arms, as are all the big banks and lobbyists for them, and we just believe strongly that standing up against these big entities is important, because otherwise they, like Chevron, have monopoly control, in this case, of the financial industry. So we're working hard on that. We think it's an innovative solution, and we think the needs of our residents, who were harmed greatly by the foreclosure crisis, by the housing crisis, to a great extent by predatory lending practices. So we think it's really important to stand strong against the big banks and provide a way for homeowners to have a sustainable life and our neighborhoods to be sustained, and our local economy is sustained as well when you avoid foreclosure and those empty homes that attract crime.

Winship: You also passed a minimum wage ordinance, is that correct?

McLaughlin: Yes, we did. We passed a minimum wage, which is the highest in the State of California so far. It's a phased-in approach. It will go up to $13-an-hour in 2018. We did it because we know that the real value, the buying power of the minimum wage is really outrageous. It's lower than what the buying power of the minimum wage was in the 1970s. So we believe our families should have, and all workers should have a right to have their needs met for their hard work. So we think that there's opportunities for raising it even more and faster and still be competitive in the region, so that's what I'm looking forward to.

Winship: Tell me a little bit about you. How did you get involved in politics?

McLaughlin: Well, I come from a working class family in Chicago. My whole adult life, I've worked as an activist, as a community organizer. I've taught kids and tutored special needs kids at various times. I guess I'm just a regular person trying to live a decent life with my husband and my neighbors, and I believe in the values and the principles that our country was founded on and I'd like to see them implemented. So that's kind of what has motivated me to move into the realm of political office, and I just have a real fierce commitment to our democracy. So I know it's at risk right now with the destructive influence of corporate money, and that keeps me going, and I'm just really proud to be a part of this struggle. Because it is a struggle, and it is actually quite an exciting time to be alive, because we're making history. So I'm very proud to be a part of this effort.

Winship: Now, there's a new report just out yesterday from the Center for Responsive Politics, their, that overall spending for these midterms will be probably $3.7 billion or more, and that, although that's not all that much more than the 2010 midterms, it does represent a case where the mega donors are contributing a lot more of that money. How do you continue to fight back against that, win or lose on Tuesday?

McLaughlin: Well, I'm actually very optimistic about the future. Like I said, I think it's a great time to be alive, because we do have a growing movement and we've shown that it can be done in Richmond. We're in a fight to determine our own destiny, and in the case of Richmond, Chevron would like to manipulate people to fall in line and place the role of the corporation as the key entity in determining a city and community's future. So I'm very much looking forward to winning this David versus Goliath fight that we have going on here in Richmond. And we know that many eyes are upon us who look to Richmond as an example of what can happen when people stand united and tall against corporate power. So we don't want to let ourselves down, we don't want to let others down, and we think with that driving us, we just can't help but win.

Winship: Mayor McLaughlin, thank you so much for this.

McLaughlin: Thank you. It's been a pleasure.

News Fri, 31 Oct 2014 10:02:14 -0400
Before the Zombie Apocalypse - These Four Trade Deals Were Ravaging the World

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This time of year, the fabric that separates our world from prowling ghouls is at its thinnest. But what really keeps us at YES! Magazine up at night are the international trade agreements constantly being negotiated by the United States and its partners—each one more terrifying than the last.

How can something as pleasant-sounding as “free trade” be more threatening than a zombie apocalypse? The devil’s in the details, and the fine print on some of these agreements is enough to curdle a bucket of blood.

Whether it’s blocking a ban on chocolate-flavored cigarettes marketed to kids, or rolling back post-2008 regulations on Wall Street, these deals have a way of favoring corporations over people. They’re not popular, as you might imagine, and in some cases people’s movements have been able to stop them in their tracks. In response, proponents of the deals have attempted to slip under the radar by conducting negotiations in secret.

Here are four of the scariest deals—and why they're so abominable.

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The World Trade Organization, created in 1995 as a re-imagining of an earlier group called the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, is the mother of all trade bodies and sets the rules for the flow of goods and services between countries. The WTO claims its goal is to “improve the welfare of the peoples of the member countries.” But critics say what it really does is force poor nations to open their markets to wealthier ones, who themselves often bend the WTO’s rules.

The WTO also gives companies a place to complain about regulations enacted by democratically elected governments. It has found fault with laws protecting public health, the environment, workers' rights, and other things that would affect industries’ bottom line. Recent rulings have objected to producers labeling certain kinds of tuna as “dolphin safe;” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s ban on sweet-flavored cigarettes that entice kids; and labels that inform consumers what country meat products originated in. The WTO says such labels violate the rights of Mexican and Canadian farmers to a level playing field. The United States sometimes refuses to comply—but risks trade sanctions when it does so.

Perhaps most frightening of all, the WTO (along with NAFTA) has spawned a whole new brood of bilateral and regional deals that take the same approach to trade and development.

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The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, if approved, would promote trade between the United States and the European Union.

The deal has some bright spots—for example, it would universalize the plugs for electric cars. But American negotiators are also pushing hard to overturn Europe’s ban on imports of U.S.-grown genetically modified crops. Meanwhile, European negotiators and bankers are trying to set Wall Street free from regulations passed after the financial crisis of 2008. According to the nonprofit research group Public Citizen, they want to roll back the Volcker Rule, which restricts U.S. banks from the riskiest investments, and to block efforts to limit the size of banks.

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When President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada in 1993, he sold it to the people of the United States as a job creator. “NAFTA means jobs,” he said. “American jobs, and good-paying American jobs.”

More than 20 years later, the agreement’s dark side is showing. The U.S. government’s own Trade Adjustment Assistance program acknowledges that nearly 900,000 workers in the United States have officially lost their jobs due to the relocation of businesses to Canada or Mexico under NAFTA. Meanwhile, exports of cheap U.S. corn have damaged the livelihoods of Mexican farmers and driven huge waves of migration. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of Mexican-born people living in the United States more than doubled from 4.5 million to 9.8 million.

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The Trans Pacific Partnership, if approved, would unite 12 Pacific Rim countries into the world’s largest free trade area, comprising 40 percent of the global economy. When he spoke about the TPP in 2011, President Barack Obama, who has made the deal's passage a major objective of his administration, sounded a lot like Clinton in 1993. Obama said the deal “will boost our economies, lowering barriers to trade and investment, increasing exports, and creating more jobs for our people.”

But leaked sections of the agreement’s secret text show the TPP taking more controversial stances—and it has its tentacles on a breathtaking variety of issues. On health care, U.S. negotiators seem to be working at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry, trying to extend the rights of patent-holders to charge more money for medicines. On labor, the TPP makes it easier for companies to move manufacturing to low-wage Vietnam, but offers no enforceable provisions to prevent abuse. On the environment, it preserves the status quo, doing little to prevent the illegal logging and overfishing that are taxing the forests and oceans of the region.

Last but not least, advocates of a free Internet are up in arms over sections in the TPP’s intellectual property chapter they say would significantly diminish the free speech rights of web users.

Opinion Fri, 31 Oct 2014 10:46:38 -0400
Disposable Life: Jean Franco

Drawing upon her extensive understanding and personal experience of the Latin American region, Specialist Jean Franco maps out the history of state violence as perpetrated against disposable populations, notably indigenous, onto the privatization of atrocity in more contemporary times and what this means for normalizing a fatalistic politics that destroys hope and political transformation.

Jean Franco. (Screengrab: Disposable Life)Jean Franco. (Screengrab: Disposable Life)“If you think of Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia there were war crime tribunals set up because of atrocities in those places. Those atrocities were absolutely no worse than the atrocities perpetrated in Latin America, and the hand behind the perpetrators was the United States,” says Jean Franco.

Launched in January 2014, the histories of violence “Disposable Life” project interrogates the meaning of mass violence and human destruction in the 21st Century. Inviting critical reflections from renowned public intellectuals, artists and writers, this three year project will feature a series of monthly filmed reflections from our illustrious list of participants (see contributors below); a subsequent feature film for public broadcast; accompanying book of complementary essays and associated publications/media articles; along with a series of global events that will bring together the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences to offer innovative and publicly engaging forums to inform debate and rethink the ideals of global citizenship.

The tenth contribution to our reflections series is provided by the renowned Latin American specialist Jean Franco. Drawing upon her extensive understanding and personal experience of the region, Franco maps out the history of state violence as perpetrated against disposable populations, notably indigenous, onto the privatization of atrocity in more contemporary times and what this means for normalizing a fatalistic politics that destroys hope and political transformation. Franco focuses directly here on the symbolic nature of violence against disposable bodies, onto asking searching questions regarding complicity and who should still be held responsible for past atrocities.

Opinion Fri, 31 Oct 2014 10:21:43 -0400
Anelo, From Forgotten Town to Capital of Argentina's Shale Fuel Boom

Añelo, Argentina - This small town in southern Argentina is nearly a century old, but the unconventional fossil fuel boom is forcing it to basically start over, from scratch. The wave of outsiders drawn by the shale fuel fever has pushed the town to its limits, while the plan to turn it into a "sustainable city of the future" is still only on paper.

The motto of this small town in the province of Neuquén is upbeat and premonitory: "The future found its place."

But for now the town's roads, most of which are unpaved and throw up clouds of dust from the heavy traffic of trucks and luxury cars driven by oil company executives, contradict that slogan.

"Many eyes around the world are on Añelo, but unfortunately we don't have a good showcase, to put us on display," the director of the town's health centre, Rubén Bautista, told IPS.

"We are living on top of black gold, they take riches out of our soil, but they leave practically nothing to the local population," added the doctor who, along with three other colleagues, covers the health needs of a population that doubled, from 2,500 to 5,000, in just two years.

Añelo, a bleak town on the banks of the Neuquén river surrounded by fruit trees, goats and vineyards, is the town closest to the Loma Campana shale oil field, which is being worked by Argentina's state oil company YPF and the U.S.-based Chevron.

It is only eight km from the oil field, which is part of new riches that hold out the biggest promise for revenue to fuel the country's development: Vaca Muerta, a 30,000-sq km geological reserve that is rich in shale oil and gas and has made this country the second in the world after the United States in production of unconventional fossil fuels.

But the black gold is not shining yet in Añelo – which means forgotten place in the Mapuche indigenous language – located some 100 km north of Neuquén, the provincial capital.

The health centre, which refers serious cases to hospitals in the provincial capital, has just two ambulances, while 117 companies from across the planet are setting up shop in and around the town.

According to conservative projections, Añelo will have a population of 25,000 in 15 years, including people directly employed by the oil industry, indirect workers, and their families, who have begun to pour into the new mecca for Argentina's energy self-sufficiency plans.

"They are people who come to Añelo with the idea of finding a better future...thinking about what unconventional fossil fuels could mean in their lives," YPF Neuquén's communications manager, Federico Calífano, told IPS.

YPF alone has 720 employees in the area. The workers come from nearby towns as well as other provinces, and from abroad, brought in by international companies in the construction, chemistry, hotel, transportation and services industries.

The town's only hotel is full, and camps spring up on any flat area, with containers turned into comfortable temporary lodgings for the workers. Rent for a small apartment is five times what people pay in the most expensive neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires.

"We are building a city from scratch," Añelo Mayor Darío Díaz told IPS, although he pointed out that even before the shale boom the town was "a strategic waypoint."

YPF has been exploiting unconventional fossil fuels in the region since the 1980s, but "when their work was done they would leave," Díaz explained. "This is much more intensive; there will be a lot of work over the next 30 years."

"The town has infrastructure for around 2,500 inhabitants. It is too small now given the new demand for basic services like water, electricity, roads, and dust emission," the province's environment secretary, Ricardo Esquivel, told IPS.

The sound of hammering and pounding is constant. Two workers, who make the 120-km commute back and forth every day from Cipolletti, in the neighbouring province of Río Negro, are working on a new sidewalk. "It's spectacular.There's a lot of work here for everyone. More people are needed. The problem is housing," construction worker Esteban Aries told IPS.

The YPF Foundation carried out an "urban footprint" study which gave rise to the Añelo Local Development Plan. The plan has the support of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and its Emerging Sustainable Cities Initiative.

Carried out together with the local and provincial governments, the plan outlines different growth scenarios with the aim of assessing the risks and vulnerabilities of the area.

It addresses, among other aspects, "what surface area the city should have, how the urban planning process should start, what the diagram should look like, what services are needed – what Añelo is going to need today and in two, three, or five years," Calífano said.

YPF reported that the work had already begun, including an expansion of the sanitation system, construction of homes for doctors, and a vocational training centre, linked to the needs of the oil industry. Primary healthcare clinics were set up in two trailer trucks – although Dr. Bautista said that's not enough.

The economic growth has brought heavy traffic. The government is planning a two-lane highway to Vaca Muerta, on the so-called "oil route", to keep the trucks out of the town.

"The steadily growing number of accidents is overwhelming," Bautista said. The average has increased from 10 traffic and work-related accidents a month two years ago to 17 today.

"You have to keep in mind that most of the activity has been going on for a year," said Pablo Bizzotto, YPF's regional manager of unconventional fuels in Loma Campana, where some 20 wells are drilled every month, which has driven production up from 3,000 to 21,000 barrels per day of oil.

"There are things that we will obviously work out together with the authorities, as we go. This is all very new," he said.

Agricultural engineer Eduardo Tomada left everything behind in Buenos Aires and invested his savings to open up a restaurant in Añelo, which is now packed with workers.

His cook, local resident Norma Olate, said she was happy because she's earning more. But she nostalgically remembers when her town was "practically a sand dune."

Development has brought work, "but also bad things," the 60-year-old Olate told IPS. "There have been armed robberies, which we didn't see here before."

Olate, who has young, single daughters, said she is also worried about "the invasion of men."

"So many men!" she said, laughing. "I'm not interested anymore, but the girls...there are guys who come and deceive them, a lot of them end up pregnant....that's bad for the town too."

Provincial lawmaker Raúl Dobrusín of the opposition Popular Unity party denounced the rise in prostitution, drug trafficking and use, alcoholism and corruption.

"We say the only things modernised in Añelo were the casino and the brothel," he said ironically.

Dobrusín complained about the government's lack of "planning" and "control" over these and other problems, such as real estate speculation and prices that are now unaffordable for many people in the town.

Nevertheless, for Mayor Díaz the balance is positive. "We have to take advantage of this opportunity for Añelo to develop as a town and improve the living standards of our people. What worries me is whether we will make the necessary investments quickly enough," he said.

The province is preparing a "strategic development plan" for Añelo, along with nearby "oil micro-cities", which will include the construction of an industrial park, schools, hospitals, roads and housing, and increased security.

"We're not going to build an oil camp in Añelo without a city," the mayor summed up.

News Fri, 31 Oct 2014 09:17:10 -0400
Viral Panic and the Politics of Quarantine

Dominion over nature and uneven development produce illness, both communicable and noncommunicable, while our involvement in new wars prevents us from addressing the desperate demography and ecology of poor regions that see eco-illness go viral. These are choices, not iron laws. We could have avoided internal combustion, meat, the Manhattan Project. It is not too late to quarantine capitalism.

An ambulance drives past Bellevue Hospital, where Dr. Craig Spencer is receiving treatments for the Ebola virus, in New York, Oct. 23, 2014. (Photo: Joshua Bright / The New York Times)An ambulance drives past Bellevue Hospital, where Dr. Craig Spencer is receiving treatments for the Ebola virus, in New York, Oct. 23, 2014. (Photo: Joshua Bright / The New York Times)

My students are probably tired of me saying that "everything relates," even if I mutter about Hegel's concept of totality. But I have proof: Recently, we emerged from our classroom only to find that a storm was raging, near Dallas, and trees were uprooted. A few days later, after taking a chainsaw to felled trees on my property, I slipped while carrying logs and dinged my wrist. An eventual trip to a Dallas hospital for an x-ray began with questioning, from every health-care provider I saw, about whether I had traveled to Africa recently.

This was hours after Dallas had become the ground zero of viral panic about Ebola. Within weeks, Governor Christie responded to emerging viral panic by quarantining medical workers returning from West Africa, leaving us with internment-camp images of the nurse who, a decade earlier, had attended the university at which I work in Texas.

The possibly-lone-wolf shooter in Ottawa was bumped from the news cycle by the sad news about the doctor returning from Guinea to fight Ebola, who, upon his return to NYC, had been diagnosed with Ebola and is now being treated at Bellevue Hospital. He has become the centerpiece of viral panic inasmuch as he ventured out in public before he came down with Ebola symptoms, leading some to rant on message boards that he should have his medical license revoked and even face prosecution.

Seeking the sensational, the New York Post just reported that he supposedly concealed his movements to medical detectives until police outed him with a credit-card statement and evidence of mass-transit travel, demonstrating that he was really a gallivanting cosmopolite. Not even the 87th school shooting since Newtown could squeeze Ebola panic off the screen for long, although some speculated that there is a parallel between the epidemic nature of school shootings and viruses.

For me, the storm raised my viral consciousness by sending me for that X-ray. By now, given climate changes, October storms in the Southwest aren't surprising, suggesting what Max Horkheimer in 1947 called the "revolt of nature." Here, I want to understand medical geography, viral panic, and quarantine politics in terms of nature's revolt and also in terms of Marx's, Lenin's and Trotsky's notions of uneven development.

These are two sides of the same global-capitalist coin. Newsfeed journalism, such as CNN's endless "breaking news" announcements, under-theorizes the relationship between the local and global, dwelling on details and surfaces, such as the preference of the internment-camp nurse for Pizza Hut rather than the granola bar and water she was offered or the range of opinions about whether one could catch Ebola from the Brooklyn doctor's bowling ball.

Horkheimer and the other Frankfurt School theorists argued that the domination of nature is a framework that can explain all manner of attempts to master the external world, producing what postmodernists call "othering." This was a way for them to explain the stunning fact that the Holocaust occurred in Germany, which was also a site of the 17th century Enlightenment.

Faith in science redoubles mythology as the world is shorn of mystery by methodology. But method cannot do our thinking for us; everything is narrative. The Enlightenment "subject," armed with method and technology, views the external and environmental "object" as a happy hunting ground. The Frankfurters don't reject the project of modernity because they agree with Marx and Henry Ford that mass production can free people from hunger and the political skirmishes that hunger provokes. But in denying its own dogmatic tendencies, positivism becomes as dogmatic as the religions it displaces, leading to the mad admixture of Aryan blood worship and the scientific management of the extermination camps.

Theodor Adorno joined with several empirical social psychologists to produce the 1950 work Authoritarian Personality in which they explore the domineering-but-submissive character type who genuflects to those above and oppresses those below, all the while scapegoating "others" who don't fit the dominant narrative.

There is emerging consensus that Ebola, possibly like HIV/AIDS, can be traced to animal-human interactions in sub-Saharan Africa, especially where we see both deforestation and urban slums. Bats and other bush animals such as chimps are food for people living in penury, and the absence of adequate public health allows a few isolated cases to tip over into an epidemic. This appears on biomedical radar, as did HIV/AIDS, when illness jumps from Africa to western countries.

Illness goes viral when exploration, trade, as well as capital and population flows marry with the domination of nature. This is not a new story. The devastating rat-born plagues of the late-14th century infected squalid city life via seafaring. The pandemic influenza that killed tens of millions between 1918 and 1920 was hastened by travel and the world war, which concentrated germs in barracks and involved troop movements. Global capitalism promotes global illness.

Doctors without borders are required when borders dissolve. What Marx identified as flight of capital in 1849 is matched by flight of germs - a consequence of a global capitalism that cannot readily reverse nature's ravages. The bubonic European rat has been replaced by the African bat as the nonhuman agent of nature's revolt.

Dystopian narratives, such as the 1971 film treatment of TheAndromeda Strain and the 2011 film Contagion, combine with newsfeed journalism and dire message boards to produce viral panic when nature bites back. In this context, one might notice that Ebola panic and other apocalyptic events such as rampage shootings increasingly pivot on a distinction between heroes and villains. Soldiers are heroes, as are, now, Ebola doctors in West Africa. Villains are the possibly ISIS-inspired lone wolves who killed in Ottawa, Oklahoma and NYC.

This demonology produced the surreal imagery of the Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola, but was cured, hugging President Obama in the Oval Office set against the images of the returning nurse squatting in the quarantine tent, implying punishment. She has since been rehabilitated by "evidence-based" public-health professionals, suggesting a clean positivist resolution, even as Governor Christie pushes back in defending her initial quarantine. In his own words: "She had a tent inside. There's been all kinds of malarkey about this. She was inside the hospital in a climate-controlled area with access to her cell phone, access to the internet, and takeout food from the best restaurants in Newark."

Even at that, facing a 21-day self-quarantine in her home in Maine, she warned that "[I]f these restrictions are not removed for me by tomorrow morning . . . I will go to court." And the secular standard of empirical evidence is not always embraced by Ebola heroes; the second afflicted Dallas nurse, treated at Emory, explained her cure with reference to faith and prayer.

As of this writing, two paradigms of Ebola containment clash: Isolationists would cut off travel from Africa and quarantine health-care workers from West Africa, while globalizers would avoid quarantine in favor of monitored symptoms, such as fever, to treat the West African epidemic at its source.

Ebola is not particularly contagious, typically affecting one or two intimates. Ebola becomes epidemic where a public-health infrastructure is absent, requiring global intervention by progressive doctors and nurses willing to intervene. And it is increasingly clear that there is a differential demography of death, with Ebola mortality much higher in West Africa than (so far) in the United States, where early detection, hospitalization and antibody transfusions from Ebola survivors have allowed all but one US-based Ebola patient to survive.

Of greater moment is how dominion over nature and uneven development produce illness, both communicable and noncommunicable. Hunger, malnourishment and scant resources mean that some sub-Saharan Africans consume far too few categories, whereas others live in areas saturated with primarily Western fast food options that promote ill health in other ways. Blurred boundaries will probably raise the rates of heart disease and diabetes in heretofore poor countries, even as those countries host communicable diseases readily transmitted by travel.

Africa has been allowed to fall so far behind because the United States and former USSR spent the years between 1945 and 1989 spending massively on Cold War defense, preventing the superpowers from transferring capital to pre-industrial regions, which could have spurred literacy, industrialization, democracy, public health and sanitation.

Cold War capital - and not just CARE packages delivered as "foreign aid" - could also have caused a demographic transition in Africa, Asia and Latin America, as newly affluent people voluntarily limit family size to spend on other things. Since the end of the Cold War, world population has more than tripled, exacerbating problems of under- and uneven development.

The end of the Cold War has not ended the permanent war economy, which plays out now in the context of Middle Eastern religious and ethnic conflicts framed by the Western need for oil. Again, everything relates: Our involvement in these new wars prevents us from addressing the desperate demography and ecology of poor regions that see eco-illness go viral. These are choices, not iron laws. We could have avoided internal combustion, meat, the Manhattan Project. It is not too late to quarantine capitalism.

Opinion Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:36:46 -0400
Breaking 43 Years of Silence, the Last FBI Burglar Tells the Story of Her Years in the Underground

2014 1030 burgl st(Image: Alfred A. Knopf and Vintage Books)The following is excerpted and adapted from the epilogue to the paperback version of Betty Medsger’s The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI, out this month from Vintage Books.

It was clear to Judi Feingold what she should do after she and seven other people broke into an FBI office near Philadelphia in 1971, removed every file and then anonymously distributed them to two members of Congress and three journalists:

Get out of town.

She took drastic steps. Remaining in Philadelphia seemed dangerous, so she left town and headed west, moved into the underground and lived under an assumed name, moving from place to place west of the Rockies for years, owning only a sleeping bag and what she could carry in her knapsack. As she was about to detach herself from her past geography and her personal connections, she called her parents and told them she had committed a nonviolent direct action “and was possibly being pursued by the federal government. I told them I could not be in touch by phone, and I would do my best to let them know how I was, but not where I was.”

During the forty-three years since the burglary, none of the other burglars knew anything about Feingold’s whereabouts. Efforts to find her in recent years had failed. Some even thought she might have died.

Likewise, Feingold did not know that the other burglars had not left the area and, instead, had lived in the eye of the intensive search the bureau conducted for the people who revealed FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s massive, clandestine political spying and extreme, even violent, dirty tricks operations. Those revelations gave rise to the nation’s first public conversation about the role of intelligence agencies in a democratic society. None of the burglars was found. Only one of them made the list of final suspects. The investigation ended after five years, with the FBI never finding any physical evidence or witness with either direct or indirect knowledge of the burglary.

Immediately after the burglary, Feingold’s Philadelphia neighborhood, Powelton Village, was swarmed by dozens of FBI agents. From many parked cars, agents watched the comings and goings of residents round the clock. Everyone seemed to be regarded as a suspect. The files the burglars removed from the office—the first documentary evidence that under Hoover the FBI had subverted the bureau’s mission—had caused a sensation. For the first time, there were calls in Congress and in newspaper editorials for the bureau and its deeply admired director to be investigated. Hoover, FBI director for half a century by then, was apoplectic, one of his favorite reporters wrote shortly after the burglary. The stolen files emerged, a few at a time, the first ones in a story written by me and published two weeks after the burglary on March 24, 1971, in The Washington Post.

The last time the burglars were together, shortly after the burglary, they had made two promises to each other: that they would take the secret of the burglary to their graves and that they would not associate with each other. They feared that if they continued to associate, the arrest of one might lead to the arrest of others. The seven who continued living as they had before the burglary were silent about what they had done, but they made no attempt to hide or escape.

Throughout the decades since the Media burglary, Feingold kept the pledge the burglars made to each other never to reveal they were the Media burglars. She always assumed no one in the group would break that promise. She never uttered a word about the burglary to anyone.

That’s why she was shocked—angered, even sickened at first—in January when she discovered, by chance, that the other members of the group recently had publicly told the story of how and why they decided in 1971 to risk their freedom for many years to break into an FBI office in search of evidence of whether the FBI was engaged in efforts to suppress dissent.

Until discovering, in news articles about my book, that seven of the eight Media burglars went public, she thought perhaps other Media burglars might also have decided to go underground. Instead, they had lived in plain sight. William Davidon, the physics professor who was the leader of the group and who had thought of the idea of breaking into the office, had continued to teach at Haverford College and continued to be a leader in the antiwar community. John and Bonnie Raines and their three children, all under eight at the time of the burglary, lived for years in the old stone house in the Germantown section of Philadelphia where much of the planning for the burglary had taken place. John Raines is still teaching religion at Temple University. And Bonnie Raines ran a day care center, studied for a graduate degree and eventually became a leading advocate for children’s issues. Keith Forsyth, who trained himself to pick the lock on the FBI office door but in the end had to rely on a crowbar to break in, worked for years as a union reform organizer at the Budd Company, a metal fabricator in Philadelphia, before completing studies to become an electrical engineer. Bob Williamson continued to work for awhile as a social worker for the state of Pennsylvania. Two other members of the group, who have described their roles but have chosen not to be named, also lived as they had lived before.

* * *

During the years I researched and wrote The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI, I could not find the woman the other burglars and I often referred to as the eighth burglar. This struck me as strange in the age of the Internet, when it seems as though nearly everyone can be found. The other burglars had told me her name, but despite many attempts by some of the burglars and me to find her, the search for her was futile. Bob Williamson, the member of the group who was closest to her at the time of the break-in, repeatedly tried to find her. Along with Williamson, she was one of the four people who went inside the Media FBI office the night of March 8, 1971, and removed all the files in the dark.

I hoped that soon after The Burglary was published in January she might see a news story about the other burglars becoming public and reach out to them. Without her, the narrative of the Media burglars was not quite complete. But after a month, when many stories had been published and broadcast about the emergence of the Media burglars, I reluctantly concluded that we probably never would hear from her. Perhaps the worst fear of some, that she was not alive, was true.

Then, in late April, as I walked up out of the subway near my New York home and checked email on my phone, I found this message from Williamson:

“I want to give you some very exciting news…. Judi called me yesterday…. She sounded wonderful…. The stories we had heard about her riding the subways of New York at night were completely untrue. She is alive and well, and has had a happy life.”

I practically danced all the way home as I read his words. Judi Feingold, the missing member of the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI—what the burglars called themselves—was alive and well and in touch. Williamson also wrote that “she said she’d be happy to talk with you.”

When I phoned Judi a short time later, she was still somewhat stunned at what she had learned—that the other members of the Citizens Commission had broken their promise to take the secret of the burglary to their graves. By the time we talked in person a few weeks later, her original shock at finding the group’s secret had been exposed had diminished somewhat as a result of being in touch with some of the burglars, people she thought she would never see again.

Like the others, she is now open about that secret that shaped the rest of her life. The forty-three-year journey she reveals is strikingly different from the experiences of the other Media burglars during and since the years when Hoover assigned more than two hundred FBI agents to search for the people who risked decades in prison by breaking into an FBI office and exposing Hoover’s secret files.

Her decision to stay underground and live under an assumed name for nearly a decade, until 1980, meant that she spent the first decade of her adult life as a fugitive. Now 63, she was 19 then, the youngest member of the group. Early in her life, she exhibited the qualities that would enable her at nineteen to see participating in the burglary and living underground as actions she should take—despite the fact that they would be radically life-changing and potentially dangerous. As a kid from Inwood, a neighborhood on the far northwestern end of Manhattan, she adopted pacifism and became an activist in the civil rights and anti-nuclear movements by age twelve. She remembers riding the subway alone by then and going to meetings and demonstrations, including an anti-nuclear weapons rally led by Dr. Benjamin Spock. As a teenager, she had big ideas and made big commitments. Like the other burglars, she was confident that activism could lead to positive change. But she recalls being fairly quiet at home about the depth of her opinions, especially ones about the Vietnam War. Her father had made it clear he disagreed with her.

After a year at the University of Denver, she lived for a year in San Francisco. That’s where she first worked for the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization, as an intern. After that she worked as a military counselor at the AFSC headquarters in Philadelphia. For that job, she became thoroughly familiar with the Uniform Code of Military Justice and used it daily to advise people who wanted to get out of the military because they had come to oppose the war; people in the military who faced family hardships and wanted to know how to apply for an honorable or general discharge, and people who didn’t want to enter the military and wanted to know their options. While in this job, she felt sure she was regularly under surveillance near her home. That moved her to agree with William Davidon, the leader of the Media group, when he proposed burglarizing an FBI office in order to search for documentary evidence of whether the FBI was spying on political dissidents. She had met Davidon through Williamson, whom she deeply trusted.

Unlike the other Media burglars, Feingold had never participated in a draft board break-in. Media was her first and only act of resistance. She recalls thinking that the action proposed by Davidon was a powerful idea, one that needed to be executed. She also remembers that although she was only nineteen then her eyes were wide open: She fully realized that participating in the burglary could lead to very harsh consequences.

To avoid harsh consequences from the government, she imposed harsh consequences on herself—going underground, cutting herself off from everyone she knew. Looking back, she says she has no regrets. She sees the burglary as a success that was more than worth the risk, and she sees her life in hiding afterward as involving nothing she did not choose to do. In fact, she regards parts of her post-Media decade in the underground as quite wonderful despite the difficult aspects.

As she watched the FBI presence increase exponentially after the burglary on the streets of Powelton Village, staying there seemed like the worst option. “Everybody in the activist community was talking about Media,” she recalls. Remaining there seemed dangerous. She thought a Media burglar would be much more likely to be arrested if she or he stuck around Philadelphia. Feingold recalls that her decision “came from my gut: Get out of here.”

“Once we saw what the documents revealed at the farm house, we knew it was huge. So I wasn’t sticking around for the aftermath. I was going to do the best I could to live the life I wanted to live, a life without surveillance. I followed my heart…to a nonviolent, peaceful life west of the Rockies.” She got out of Dodge.

With three friends from the women’s collective where she had lived since shortly before the Media break-in, Feingold left Philadelphia and drove to New Mexico. She was charmed by the natural beauty of the area, as Williamson was when he also traveled there, at her urging, a step that also changed the geography of his life forever. She loved Williamson, and they had continued to be close friends after she became part of the women’s collective. But even he was unaware that she had decided to go underground and would do so shortly after he arrived in New Mexico.

Feingold’s first home in the underground was on a goat farm north of Taos. Like several other places she would stay, this farm was owned by a woman and was part of an informal network of rural properties in the West known as “women’s land”—places where lesbians built alternative communities that were intentionally free of patriarchy.

Feingold thought it was the ideal place for her at that time. As she points out, she could have hidden anywhere, but she welcomed the chance to live underground in the country instead of in a city. She loved the outdoors and the physical work required in such places. Growing up in New York City, she had yearned to live in those wide-open spaces she saw as a child on countless television Westerns. Now she had that life. She dug irrigation ditches and learned how to make goat cheese and gather eggs. She remembers living happily in those old cowboy landscapes that recently had been reclaimed by women. Until then, roaming Central Park was as close as Feingold had come to her dream of living in wide-open rural spaces.

When the woman who owned the farm near Taos decided to use it for other purposes, Feingold and others who lived there drove in a caravan of pickup trucks to other women’s land in California. They had heard about the new place at one of the large gatherings of women that took place twice a year in large rural settings in the west, summer and winter solstice celebrations. After a relatively short stay on that California land, she lived for several years on women’s land in Oregon.

She traveled light in those years, carrying only a knapsack and a sleeping bag. “That was all I had,” she remembers. She worked at menial jobs so she could be paid under the table, with no tax records. “I was a dishwasher, I was a dog-trainer…..I worked in plant nurseries…..I just brought in money any way I could.” For medical care, she relied on free clinics. Dental care was sometimes hard to find. She also wrote poetry and kept a journal. One day while browsing in a women’s bookstore in Seattle she leafed through an anthology of lesbian poetry and was delighted to find a poem she had written years earlier and left behind in a house where she had stayed.

The places she called home during those years varied greatly. In addition to long stays on women’s land, for a few months she lived with a young couple and their two children in a garden cottage in Seattle. Once she lived in a beautiful wooden house on a cliff high above the Pacific on the coast of Oregon. She lived awhile in a poor part of Albuquerque and off-season at a ski lodge. At one point she lived in a women’s shelter in Berkeley. There, she said, she learned “immeasurable lessons” about survival from a woman who at age twelve rescued her younger siblings from their abusive parents and raised them on her own in extremely difficult circumstances. Feingold has kept in touch with this woman, who years later became an electrician.

It was a time in the life of the nation, says Feingold, when it was perhaps easier than it ever has been, before or since, to be accepted for who you are, with few questions asked about what you do, where you’ve been. She felt many people had become more accepting, less judgmental. That gestalt was very helpful for a fugitive who needed to live as a person without a past.

A frightening episode took place when she lived with some other women in a house near a hilltop in Oregon, part of a horse farm. The owners and their three children lived in the main house at the foot of the hill. One day one of the children ran up the hill and, with a sense of urgency, told them, “Mom says you have to leave. The FBI is here.” Feingold never knew why the FBI was there. She assumes the reason was unrelated to her, but she took no chances. She and the other women grabbed their few possessions and left immediately, going down the other side of the hill and never returning to that location. Someone who lived nearby gave them a ride to Portland. No one at the farm knew exactly why Feingold was concerned about being caught by the FBI, just that she was. And that was enough to cause them to protect her.

In the underground, Feingold lived what she calls a horizontal life rather than a vertical life. In the latter, a person follows a plan, such as: go to high school, go to college, go to graduate school, enter a profession, marry, buy a home, have children, live for long periods in the same location and develop life-long friends and acquaintances. Her horizontal life, by contrast, had none of those elements. Instead of being a series of expected steps, each leading to the next, her life became a series of experiences, some of which were anticipated or connected, others not.

Feingold found many aspects of her underground life satisfying, especially living on several parts of the women’s land network, but she missed some of the rewards of a vertical life. She learned something valuable from most of her underground stays, but at times she longed for the stability and pleasure that are the rewards of routines, such as being able to return repeatedly to favorite people you’ve known for years for contentment or mutual personal support. She also missed the pleasure of returning often to long-cherished places.

She had always read the New York Times. She kept that habit while in the underground, reading it and other newspapers in local libraries wherever she was. After a long time between libraries, the next time she would go to a library she caught up with the news by reading spooled films of newspaper pages on microfiche machines. It was in quiet corners of small western libraries that she learned that her most important wish was being fulfilled—the Vietnam War was ending. Perhaps no one in those libraries ever noticed the small woman crying some days as she squinted at the microfiche machine screen. That news stimulated both deep sadness and happiness—sadness at how long the war had lasted and how much damage it had caused, happiness that it was, at last, over.

It also was in libraries that she read about the 1976 Church Committee hearings taking place in the U.S. Senate. She read about the testimony of FBI officials who revealed outrageous, even violent, past FBI actions and about the reforms that resulted from the congressional investigations. She realized that this was happening, in large part, as a result of what the band of eight she had been part of in Media, Pennsylvania, had done.

She talked with the women she lived with about some of this exciting news, but she did not mention her connection to the events. That was her sweet secret. Sometimes she found a way to express her happiness and pride. She would read about a major reform that had taken place in Washington after the intelligence hearings and dance alone on a mountainside and yelled a loud and joyful “Yay!” to the empty, beautiful countryside.

“I was really excited and happy,” she recalls. “You do something like this, you were willing to give up your freedom, and then you find out what happened. It was an affirmation that the sacrifice was worth it.”

* * *

In 1980 Feingold decided to leave the underground and take back her identity. She had managed to live on very little, but gradually she wanted to make more than she was making in menial jobs. “I was getting older,” she recalls. “I wanted to make a better living. And I wanted to do it at something I enjoyed…something I’d do outdoors.”

She felt the political climate had changed. She had noticed that some people from the Weather Underground had emerged and were not suffering heavy repercussions. With the end of the war, she felt a shift had taken place, one that meant she might be in less danger of being pursued for the Media burglary. She paid a lawyer $500 to answer this question: What’s the statute of limitations for someone who committed a federal offense and crossed state lines after they committed the offense? He told her that whatever danger originally existed for such a person continued to exist. Even with that answer, she decided to take a chance.

Her immediate goal was to take courses at a school in Washington state that would qualify her to be certified as a forest technician. To enroll, she needed to request transcripts from schools where she had taken courses before the burglary. To do so, of course, she had to use her real name. That was her first step out of the underground. All went well. When she used her name for the first time in nearly a decade, she did not set off an alarm. She took a civil service test and was hired as a park ranger in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee.

It was quite a transition: She had moved from being a federal fugitive in the underground to being a federal employee protecting federal land.

But, “It was not easy for me to be Smokey the Bear,” says Feingold. The job was a good beginning to a new life but not for the long haul. Wearing a government uniform and turning people in for running stills on federal property in Appalachia wasn’t the niche she wanted. She left the National Park Service and moved on to landscaping.

She soon found work she still regards as a perfect fit: horticultural therapy. For many years now, in various places she has lived, she has conducted this therapy with developmentally delayed adults, teaching them to propagate and sell plants and work on grounds crews. She enjoys the outdoor and service aspects of this job. “It’s very gratifying to developmentally challenged people,” she said, “to be able to grow and care for plants and do landscaping. Seeing the pretty results of their work builds confidence.”

Feingold lovingly and painstakingly rebuilt her family ties, which had been completely severed for years. After she took back her name, she found her parents and sister and talked with them by phone, but she realized that far more was needed. In order to try to heal emotional wounds and build a loving relationship with her parents, she moved from Oregon to Florida, where they had moved while she was in the underground. For two years she rented an apartment near their home, worked in the garden department at the local Sears store and had dinner with her parents regularly.

Face-to-face communication among them was awkward at first. It was a matter of starting over and building trust and love where those qualities had been weak even before she went underground. In the early months, they didn’t have much to say to each other at dinner. “I just kept doing it, and eventually we started talking…really talking….like, ‘Remember the time you did this?’ or ‘I can’t believe that.’ I started to have deep connections with my parents, and we grew to enjoy each other’s company…..We got to be a family.”

Many years later, when it became clear that her parents could no longer live on their own, they accepted Feingold’s suggestion that they leave Florida and live near her in Oregon. She took care of both of them until, just seven months apart, they died, first her mother in 2009, then her father in 2010. She looks back on those care-giving years as “a wonderful gift.” Her smile is strong and warm as she says that.

Ultimately, both of her parents received hospice treatment, an exposure that led to Feingold’s recent decision at sixty-three to study to be certified as a nurse’s assistant who will provide comfort care to hospice patients. As a volunteer now, she helps care for a ninety-six-year-old woman in hospice care near the small Arizona town where she lives.

* * *

Feingold had not returned to Philadelphia since the day she headed west in 1971. Early in 2014, Judith Bouzoun—her friend in love, the term they use for each other—asked her if she’d like to go with her on a trip to Philadelphia in May. Bouzoun was going to visit her daughter in Princeton and spend a few days in Philadelphia. Even though Feingold no longer feared arrest, the idea of visiting Philadelphia made her a little nervous. When she left in 1971, she intended never to go back. She wanted to think about it.

On January 22—the experience was so traumatic that she remembers the date—she was at her local computer club checking email when she decided to search online for Media, Pennsylvania. She did it out of curiosity prompted by Bouzoun’s invitation. She had done that online search a few times over the years. Each time she got the same two hits related to the burglary. One was about the Brandywine Peace Community’s annual celebration of the burglary, and the other was a story that expressed regret that the significance of the Media burglary had been overlooked.

This time was different.

On this January evening, when she typed “Media, PA” in the search box, as she had before, instead of only those two items, up popped about ten pages with ten or more articles each. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. The first headline she saw was “Burglars Go Public.”

“I was like a deer in the headlights. I mean, I just got sick. I was like, What?!” Because she was in public she could not shout what was roaring through her mind. In an effort to calm herself down, she said to herself “Okay, okay, okay, okay, okay.” She tried to stand up, but her legs were too weak. When she was able to stand, she tried to walk a short distance across the room, but she couldn’t. “The earth shifted. I couldn’t function.”

“They have a printer in the club. So I printed the first six articles. I didn’t read them. I was shaking. As I printed, I was glancing, seeing the headlines. And I was, like, What the hell? And then I took them home, the six articles…and I put them in a drawer. And then I went for a swim. It’s good to think when you’re swimming. So I take a swim and, I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God. I can’t believe it.’”

“And I just kept swimming and swimming and swimming. And then I felt better from swimming, and I went home and I took a shower. And I sat down and took the pages out and I started to read. I just couldn’t believe it. I absolutely couldn’t believe it. I was so upset.”

Needing a comforting voice, she called Bouzoun. A year earlier, she had asked Bouzoun if she wanted to know what her 1971 crime was, and Bouzoun, a retired military nurse and now a hospice nurse, said no. It was the first time Feingold had broached the possibility of telling someone the secret. She told herself then that revealing the secret might cross an ethical line with Bouzoun and might even end their relationship. She accepted that possibility and says she did not fear what Bouzoun’s reaction might be. For decades, she said, she had accepted who she was and what she had done and was determined not to be upset by being rejected because of that part of her life.

Now, when Feingold called Bouzoun, she told her she had just learned something very upsetting. She explained that it was about something that “happened long ago and far away. I told her I did an action I was proud of and that I went underground for it and it changed my life.” And now, Feingold told her, the “other people” involved in the action had now gone public, despite a promise everyone in the group had made to take the secret of the action to their graves. “And I can’t believe it,” she told Bouzoun. “And now there’s a book about it and a documentary.” (A documentary film, 1971 by director/producer Johanna Hamilton, also tells the story of the burglary.)

She thinks she talked to Bouzoun for a couple hours, somewhat incoherently. She kept repeating herself. Finally, she said goodbye. She did so without stating what she and the others had done. She did not do so despite the fact that she now knew that anyone in the world could learn the burglars’ secret on the Internet.

Feingold tried to sleep that night, but she couldn’t. Finally, at 4:30 in the morning she got up and walked around her neighborhood. She walked for three hours. At 7:30 she walked into Bouzoun’s house, just five doors down the street from hers. Feingold again talked continuously about how upset she was that the other members of the group had revealed the secret.

Finally, Bouzoun asked her, “What the hell did you guys do?”

It was still hard for Feingold to state what she had thought would be secret forever, but, confronted now with a direct question, she uttered the words for the first time. She told Bouzoun what she and seven other people did the night of March 8, 1971, in Media, Pennsylvania.

After she got the words out, they were both very quiet. Then Bouzoun said, in a simple, powerful way, “That was a really brave thing you did.” Later, Bouzoun made it clear that she not only admired what Feingold did all those years ago, but she thought Feingold should be willing to publicly claim what she did. Feingold was not ready for that.

But she did think she now had an obligation to reveal her hidden past to people deeply affected by it. After she called her sister, she called five women who had taken Feingold into their homes at various times. “These were people who sheltered me, loved me on and off for years…so I could have a safe harbor.” They had trusted her before without knowing what she had done. Now, her secret past revealed to them, each of the women expressed respect for her long hidden action.

After she reconnected with Bob Williamson and Keith Forsyth, the two members of the Media group she knew best and had missed most over the years, her profound confusion about why the others had gone public was replaced by the deep joy she felt by being reconnected with them. She also came to see positive value in the story being told.

Reflecting on the forty-three years that have passed—nine years spent in the underground, forty-three years totally silent about the burglary—Feingold says, “I chose a path of nonviolent direct action. I committed a federal crime with serious consequences. I knew my life would be fundamentally changed. I had made the right decision for me. My heart was breaking then over the deaths in Southeast Asia.”

Memories sealed away for years now play in Feingold’s mind as a black and white movie. She remembers feeling a sense of contentment as she and Williamson cased the area near the Media FBI office night after night. They had deep conversations and good laughs during the countless hours they watched and waited. Then, inside the office during the burglary, “I felt like I was not breathing. My body was on high alert. I remember thinking, ‘I am functioning, and I am not breathing.’” On the way to the farm house with the files, “I have a strong sense of taking a wrong turn on the road and feeling lost.” When lost on country roads even today, she says, she still flashes to the drive that night from Media to Fellowship Farm, the trunk filled with suitcases full of FBI files, and the fear of being lost, of being followed and, then, pulled over.

Thinking about the days the group spent at the farm reading and sorting the files, Feingold recalls an unsettling reaction that remains vivid. “My memory of the farm that will be with me forever is standing outside, looking over the rolling hills and the road entering the farm, half expecting FBI agents to be driving up that road toward us.”

Several months after Feingold’s discovery that the Media burglars had broken their silence, she was enthusiastic that her old partners in non-violent resistance had emerged and revealed they were part of the group that was responsible for the burglary that shook the foundations of the FBI and led to the first congressional oversight of all intelligence agencies. “Once I recovered,” she said, “I was grateful to be able to reconnect with people once so important to me, who I care for and respect. I am glad to know they are alive and healthy and explaining our purpose. It’s quite something.”

News Fri, 31 Oct 2014 09:18:51 -0400
What Would Republicans Do With a Senate Majority?

2014 1030 senate fwSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 9, 2014. Regardless of which party controls it, Republicans will almost certainly control the House, and Democrats will hold the White House. Given how far apart the parties are on almost every major issue, the odds that major legislation will become law in the next two years are scant. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times)

By now I'm sure that a lot of Americans, especially in the "Senate swing states," are wishing that the November election would be over with already. Many are no doubt empathizing with teary-eyed Abigael Evans, the little girl in Colorado who told her mother in the run-up to the 2012 Presidential election, "I'm tired of Branco Bama and Mitt Romney." (She seemed to be happy, though, when Obama won, which I guess could be taken as evidence that youthful impatience should not always have the last word.)

According to Nate Silver's poll aggregation and prediction site, Republicans currently have a two-thirds chance of capturing the Senate. But as Silver himself would be quick to point out, saying that this means that a Republican takeover is guaranteed would be akin to saying that the best hitter in baseball is guaranteed to fail to get on base the next time he goes to the plate, since the best hitters in baseball get on base about a third of the time, which is roughly Silver's estimate of the Democrats' chances of keeping a Senate majority.

Election fatigue can often foster election cynicism. An Irish poet once wrote: "Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart." Maybe some progressives are asking themselves: would it really be so terrible if Republicans take over the Senate? Maybe Democrats are exaggerating how bad Republican control of the Senate would be, in order to try to gin up Democratic turnout.

So perhaps it would be useful for progressives who are asking themselves how bothered they should really be about the prospect of Republican control of the Senate to eavesdrop a bit on what Republicans are saying to other Republicans about what they should do with a majority in the Senate.

The Hill reports [my emphasis]:

Conservatives salivating over the prospects of a huge victory on Nov. 4 are pressuring House and Senate GOP leaders to go big after Election Day.

The right argues leaders should forget about playing small ball and use momentum from the midterms to put big checks on President Obama's agenda.

"People want to see a bold vision. They want to see a real fight on ObamaCare repeal and tax reform that takes a blowtorch to the tax code. They want to see real entitlement reform, not empty talk," one conservative GOP aide said.

As every politically active person should know by now, "real entitlement reform" is an insider euphemism for such things as cutting Social Security benefits by lowering the cost-of-living adjustment and raising the retirement age.

Here's what The Hill says the Republican "moderates" want to do with a Senate majority instead of the Republican conservatives' more ambitious agenda [my emphasis]:

McConnell and Boehner appear more interested in approving an authorization of the Keystone XL oil pipeline; repealing the healthcare law's medical device tax, which is unpopular with members of both parties; and moving trade legislation.

All of these measures could pick enough support to make it to Obama's desk and win his signature.

But, The Hill says, "Conservatives decry this as small ball." What do conservatives want instead? [My emphasis.]

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) led the pressure campaign on GOP leaders to take a more forceful stance against ObamaCare and the administration's deferred action on deportations, and he expects to gain new allies if Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton (R), Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) and Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan (R) prevail on Tuesday.

"If all they do is keep their campaign promises, we're going to be in very good shape because they're all running as unabashed conservatives, and one of their top priorities is repealing ObamaCare," said another conservative Senate GOP aide.

If we judge by what these Republicans are saying to each other, we can't say for sure what Republicans are going to do if they take over the Senate, because what they are going to do is going to be the outcome of a fight between "Republican conservatives" and "Republican moderates."

But what we can say is that from a progressive point of view, the possibilities are going to range between "very bad" and "also very bad."

If the "Republican moderates" get their way, the Keystone XL oil pipeline is going to be approved, a huge setback to efforts to reform U.S. energy policies to reduce the threat of "climate chaos." If the "Republican moderates" get their way, the Trans-Pacific Partnership "trade agreement" is going to be approved, a huge setback to efforts to reform U.S. trade policy to protect labor rights, the environment, and access to essential medicines. That's if the "Republican moderates" prevail in the intra-Republican fight.

If the Republican conservatives get their way, Congress will (also) repeal the Affordable Care Act, cut Social Security benefits, and take away authority from the President to defer deporting people who, aside from being undocumented, have never committed any crime in the United States.

This isn't what Democrats are saying Republicans are going to do. This is what Republicans are saying Republicans are going to do.

Suppose that you don't live in a Senate swing state. Is there anything you can do about this, besides clicking on those emails asking you for money?

A lot of people have given serious thought to this question. Here is one example.

Opinion Thu, 30 Oct 2014 15:58:50 -0400
Economic Update: Hostages to Profits

This episode looks at how public higher education is being destroyed; workers not taking days off; labor actions and Vermont labeling GMO food. We also discuss municipal bonds and how profits drive capitalism. Finally, we respond to listeners' questions on PO banks and the history of economic systems.

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News Fri, 31 Oct 2014 09:27:04 -0400
Defense Spending and Net Exports Spur Higher Than Expected Third Quarter Growth

Health spending continues its slower path, with an inflation rate of just 1.4 percent over the last year.

GDP grew at a higher than expected 3.5 percent annual rate in the third quarter. The biggest factors in this growth were a 16.0 percent increase in defense spending, which added 0.66 percentage points to growth; an 11.0 percent increase in the export of goods, which added 0.99 percentage points to growth; and a 2.4 percent decrease in the import of goods, which added 0.34 percentage points to growth. These three categories accounted for almost two full percentage points of the growth in the quarter.

In other categories, consumption grew at a modest 1.8 percent annual rate, while non-residential investment grew at a 5.5 percent rate. Housing grew at a 1.8 percent annual rate, while government spending outside of defense grew at just over a 1.0 percent rate. Inventories were a drag on growth, subtracting 0.57 percentage points.

Consumption spending was held down by spending on services, which rose at just a 1.1 percent annual rate. This compares to a 1.7 percent average growth rate in the years 2011-2013. Services account for two-thirds of consumption, so weaker growth in services will limit overall consumption growth.

Within services, one of the factors depressing growth in the quarter was a 1.6 percent rate of decline in spending on housing and utilities. This reflects less electricity use due to a relatively mild summer. That will be reversed in coming quarters. The other major factor slowing spending is health services, which increased at just a 1.8 percent annual rate in the quarter. Both health care inflation and total spending have slowed sharply in recent years. Nominal spending in the third quarter is just 3.5 percent above the year-ago level. With real spending up by 2.1 percent, this implies a 1.4 percent inflation rate. It is difficult to determine the extent to which this slowdown can be attributed to the ACA, but clearly the predictions that costs would explode due to the extension of coverage have proven wrong.


The jump in defense spending is almost certainly an anomaly that will be reversed in future quarters. The last double-digit jump in defense spending was an 11.9 percent increase reported for the third quarter of 2012. The following quarter spending fell at a 20.1 percent annual rate.

The improvement in trade largely reflects a reduction in imports of oil. Lower oil prices and reduced oil imports free up money for other consumption. However, increased U.S. oil production may also be a factor contributing to the recent rise in the dollar. This will make U.S. goods less competitive and will be a drag on net exports in future quarters.

This report should further dampen any concerns about growing inflationary pressures. The overall GDP deflator grew at a 1.3 percent annual rate in the quarter and is up by 1.6 percent from its year-ago level. The core PCE deflator that the Fed targets grew at a 1.4 percent annual rate and is up 1.5 percent from its year-ago level.

Going forward, it is likely that GDP growth will be closer to 2.0 percent than 3.0 percent. The surge in defense spending will almost certainly be reversed in the next two quarters, creating a substantial drag on reported growth. Trade will also be more neutral, as we are not likely to see another comparable fall in imports. (There was an unusually large jump in the second quarter.) More normal utility use will provide somewhat of a boost to growth, but there is little reason to expect the pace of overall consumption growth to accelerate much. The saving rate is still relatively low at 5.5 percent (meaning consumption is high relative to income) and with wage growth modest, there is no reason to expect any large upticks in consumption spending. Housing construction may pick-up somewhat, but it is not likely to be a major contributor to demand growth nor is non-residential investment.

In short, we are likely to see the economy continuing to grow at a sluggish pace. With a potential growth rate in the range of 2.0-2.4 percent, the economy is making up little of the ground lost in the downturn.

News Thu, 30 Oct 2014 13:04:05 -0400