Plutocracy V: America’s Brutal Treatment of Its Working Class

Plutocracy V: Subterranean Fire

Directed by Scott Noble (2017)

Film Review

This documentary provides a comprehensive labor history of the United States, involving the most violent history of union repression in the world.

Largely owing to inhuman pay and working conditions, American workers first attempted to organization soon after the birth of large scale industrialization in the US. Prior to the passage of Roosevelt’s National Labor Relations Act, most worker strikes were suppressed violently by the National Guard, the US Army or private armies hired by factory owners.

The initial era of radical unionizing (1870-1914) abated with World War I and brutal government repression via the Red Scare and Palmer Raids. (1) Despite massive profits Wall Street businesses amassed during the so-called “Roaring” Twenties, more than 60% of US families were earning less than $2,000 a year (with $2,500 the minimum income necessary for a family four).

With the 1929 Wall Street crash came the Great Depression. Unemployment surged to 25% and skyrocketing poverty led to a resurgence in union organizing and strikes. Pay cuts and worsening working conditions would give rise to the “sit down” strike, in which striking workers occupied their factories. Loathe to damage their valuable machinery, employers refrained from launching violent attacks on sit down strikes. In this way workers at many companies (including GM, Chrysler and Ford) won the right to form unions.

In 1935, John L Lewis formed the Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO), which unlike the American Federation Labor (which only represented skilled workers), represented all industrial workers regardless of sex, race or national origin.

The same year Roosevelt, courting the union vote in the 1936 election, introduced the National Labor Relations Act. The Act gave all Americans (except for domestic and agricultural workers) the right to unionize.

A typical politician, following reelection, Roosevelt ordered the FBI to “monitor” radical unions and other groups, including the CIO, United Auto Workers, United Mine Workers and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP).

With the approach of World War II, federal forces of repression overtly suppressed union organizing, via the Smith Act (2), and the formation (in 1938) of the House on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). In 1939, the US Supreme Court would declare sit-down strikes illegal.

Following World War II, the 1947 Taft Hartley Act (4) would deal the single biggest blow to trade unionism in the US. This law. combined with fanatical anti-communist hysteria promoted by HUAC (3), the CIA, the US State Department and the mainstream media would lead to top down trade union organizing that discouraged strike action in favor of a bloated trade union bureaucracy and sweetheart (5) deals with management.

The end result would be one of the lowest levels of union representation in the developed world.


(1) The Red Scare was a campaign of anti-radical hysteria launched under Woodrow Wilson. Its goal was to promote the irrational fear that a Bolshevik revolution was imminent in the US. The Palmer Raids were a series of raids the Wilson administration conducted between November 1919 and January 1920 under to arrest suspected leftists, mostly Italian immigrants and Eastern European immigrants, and deport them (without trial).

(2) Passed in 1940, the Smith Act set down criminal penalties for advocating the overthrow of the US government. The Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional (for violating the First Amendment) in 1957.

(3) The Taft Hartley Act banned wildcat strikes, solidarity or political strikes, closed shops, union donations for political purposes and the election of communists and other radicals to union leadership. It also permitted states to pass Right To Work laws (under right to laws, there is a ban on union contracts forcing non-union members to contribute to the costs of union representation).

(4) Although Hollywood celebrities received the most publicity when they were subpoenaed for being suspected communists, most of the individuals summoned before HUAC were union organizers.

(5) A sweetheart contract is a contractual agreement inappropriately advantages some parties over others. The term was coined in the 1940s to describe corrupt labor contracts unduly favorable to the employer. They usually involved some kind of kickback or special treatment for the labor negotiator.

 

Privilege, Poverty and the US Justice System

It's Criminal - Women Discuss Privilege, Poverty, and Injustice in America

It’s Criminal: Women Discuss Privilege, Poverty and Injustice in America

Directed by Signe Taylor (2017)

Film Review

This documentary concerns an innovative program at Dartmouth University in which  Dartmouth English students collaborate with female prison inmates to put on a play. The main goal is to acquaint the Dartmouth students with their privileged standing.

All the inmates in the program were arrested for drug-related offenses. One woman pleaded guilty because she couldn’t afford bail and faced an indefinite period of detention before going to trial. Another, who couldn’t make bail, was still waiting for a court date.

All the the prisoners reported a history of severe trauma, both in their family of origin and from abusive partners.

The interactions between the two groups became quite strained when two male Dartmouth students are busted for dealing cocaine (like several of the inmates), have their charge reduced to a misdemeanor (owing to their privileged position as Dartmouth students) and receive community service (in lieu of prison) as a sentence.

The film can be viewed free on Kanopy with a public library card.

 

New Zealand and the Tragedy of Neoliberalism

New Zealand – In a Land of Plenty

Directed by Alister Barry (2002)

Film Review

This documentary provides a blow by blow account of the advent of “neoliberalism” [1] to New Zealand in the 1980s and 1990s. The feature films of British filmmaker Ken Loach document the tragic consequences of Margaret Thatcher’s brand of neoliberalism (Thacherism). I have yet to find similar films tracking the brutal effect of American neoliberalism (under Reagan, Bush senior and Clinton).

In 1984, the assent of Labour Prime Minister David Lange (and Finance Minister Roger Douglas [2]  to power resulted in a sudden shift from New Zealand’s 40-year commitment to full employment to a regime in which jobs and living wages were deliberated sacrificed to a brutal campaign to quash inflation.[3]

The film traces the stepwise process by which Douglas collaborated with the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to increase unemployment by massively increasing interest rates. With no access to credit, businesses quickly began shutting down and laying off workers \.

This move was followed by cutting public sector employment (in the government owned railroad, state energy companies and post office) and the elimination of farm support by way of price stabilization and crop subsidies. Squeezed between prohibitive loan rates and loss of government support, thousands of families lost their farms and livelihood. Unemployment skyrocketed as cheese factories and freezing works depending on the agricultural sector shut down.

At the end of 1984, the Lange government also ended protective trade barriers that protected New Zealand manufacturers, immediately flooding the domestic market with cheap imports from China. The move effectively killed New Zealand’s home grown manufacturing sector (mainly auto, shoe, garment and home appliance production).

During its two terms in government, Labour persisted with these draconian reforms despite massive public protest and open rebellion by rand and file Labour Party members. During the 1990 election, Labour voters stayed home, and the conservative National government took over the neoliberal agenda.

by the mid-90s, more than half of New Zealand’s unemployed (many of whom were over 55) had been out of work more than six months. The National government responded to the chronic unemployment crisis by slashing unemployment and welfare benefits. Despite a big increase in free food distribution at schools, foodbanks and other charities, resulting malnutrition levels resulted in an epidemic (which persists to the present day) of rheumatic fever, meningitis, asthma and other illnesses of poverty.


[1] Neoliberalism is a model of extreme free market capitalism that favors greatly reduced government spending, deregulation, globalization, free trade, and privatization.

[2] It’s unclear how Roger Douglas, a right wing conservative, became Finance Minister under a Labour Government. He later helped form the pro-corporate ACT Party and served as an ACT list MP between 2008 and 2001.

[3] Inflation hurts bankers far more than it hurts workers, especially those relying on credit cards to pay for basic survival needs. In reducing the value of money, it simultaneously reduces the value of debts owned to banks. See Who Does Inflation Hurt Most

 

 

 

Ken Loach: A Filmmaker Speaks Truth to Power

Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach

Directed by Louise Osmond (2016)

Film Review

My favorite for many years, Ken Loach is the only filmmaker anywhere to unflinchingly portray the exploitation, oppression, injustice and physical and emotional abuse endured by working class women. In doing so, he is one of a tiny handful of directors to speak up for society’s voiceless.

He first announced his retirement in 2014 at age 74, only to come out of retirement two months later to make his “final” film I, Daniel Blake, released in 2016. Then in 2019, he released Sorry We Missed You.

Loach was born in Warwickshire England to a working class Tory family. He became interested in theater while studying law (which he never practiced) at Oxford. When the government launched BBC 2 in the early sixties, Ken and his working class mates were hired to write, direct and produce working class dramas for the new network.

Loach first received worldwide attention for his TV drama Cathy Come Home, about a woman who loses her three children to social welfare when she becomes homeless. His 1969 feature film Kes (about a working class boy who raises and trains a kestrel hawk), won a British Film Institute. In 1971 he released Rank and File about the betrayal of grassroots union members by trade union bureaucrats and the Labour Party.

Unable to release any films with Thatcher in power, he mainly directed TV commercials during this time. Distributors initially refused to release his 1990 Hidden Agenda, produced in 1990 – until it won the Special Jury Award at the Cannes Film Festival. The film is a political thriller film about British state terrorism in Northern Ireland.

Other films highlighted in the film include:

  • Riff Raff (1992), about the misery of British working life following the massive deindustrialization that occurred under Thatcher.
  • Raining Stones (1993) about a man who turns to petty crime to his daughter a First Communion Dress.
  • Ladybird, Ladybird (1994) about a battered woman who loses her baby to social welfare.
  • Land and Freedom, 1995, about the people’s army that fought in the Spanish Civil War
  • My Name is Joe, (1998) about an unemployed former alcoholic
  • The Angel’s Share, 2012, about a working class Glaswegian who narrowly avoids prison when he helps smuggle Scotch whiskey out of a distillery (Angel’s Share refers to the portion of whiskey lost to evaporation during aging).

In his pursuit of genuine authenticity and intimacy, Loach frequently casts working class actors with no prior acting experience. To make their responses more spontaneous, He typically films them one scene at a time without letting them see the rest of the script.

For example, in Land and Freedom a brilliant and charismatic (female) evolutionary is shot and killed in the middle of the film. The rest of the cast have no idea this is coming, and the shock and distress they manifest is surreal.

 

 

Social Media: A Wake-Up Call for Parents

Childhood 2.0 The Living Experiment

Directed by Robert Muratore and Jamin Winans (2020)

Film Review

This documentary is intended to warn parents of grave dangers social media poses to children. It features researchers, child psychiatrists and psychologists, Internet activists and teenage focus groups.

Nearly all parents are less familiar with the newer social media sites than their kids. In fact, most view the physical world (in terms of rape, child molestation, kidnapping, etc) poses the most life threatening dangers to their children. In reality, however, the virtual world is far more dangerous.

Recent studies show that nearly all children haves smartphones by age 12 and spend an average of seven hours a day on their phone. Mark Zuckerberg and other social media barons admit to engaging brain dopamine reward networks to keep users on their sites longer. Young people under 20 are most susceptible to this effect, as frontal lobe functions responsible for self-regulation don’t develop until the early twenties.

Other studies show a direct correlation between the amount of time kids spend on phones and delayed development of social and other coping skills. Studies of teen suicide rates show a 56% surge since 2010, when smartphones and access to social media became widely available. Moreover psychologists and school counselors report a big increase in anxiety, depression and self-harm behavior linked to the steady increase in teen phone use.

Girls themselves report a significant increase in anxiety levels when their posts receive a lower number likes as their friends.

Even more alarming is the pressure girls feel to post sexualized images on sites such as Instagram and Snapchat. And the ubiquitous of presence of sexual predators who use social media to groom and hopefully meet girls as young as 12, the potentially lethal effect of cyberbullying. And the ease with which boys as young as eight are accessing hard core pornography on-line.

Disaster Capitalism: New Orleans Abandons Its Low Income Residents Post Katrina

Getting Back to Abnormal

Louis Alverez and Andy Kolker (2013)

Film Review

This documentary looks at the changing ethnic demographic in post-Katrina New Orleans through the fractious re-election campaign of city councillor Stacey Head. Head is the first white person to represent District B (which is 60% Black) in over thirty years. The 2010 election also led to the election of New Orleans’ first white mayor in 30 years.

The catastrophic flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina (2005) caused a mass exodus of New Orleans’ poorest (mostly Black) residents, as it was mainly their housing that was destroyed. As of 2010, 50,000 of them hadn’t returned, owing to a deliberate decision not to rebuild the low income buildings that housed them. In fact, the most contentious issue in Head’s 2010 campaign was a unanimous city council decision to demolish four low income housing facilities that survived Katrina.

They would be replaced by Columbia Park, a “mixed” income building, that left many low income New Orleans residents with nowhere to live.

The film mainly focuses on the vivacious African American woman who served as Head’s chief of staff and campaign manager. It also examines New Orleans’ longstanding refusal to address pernicious poverty. In doing so, it allows an essentially class issue to manifest through extreme racial tensions, and then papers over those tensions by hosting community-wide parades, festivals and athletic events.

Anyone with a public library card can view this documentary free on Kanopy. Type “Kanopy” and the name of your library into your search engine.

Call Me Intern: Modern Indentured Servitude

Call Me Intern

Directed by Lee David Hyde and Nathalle Berger (2019)

Film Review

This documentary is about a young Kiwi who takes an unpaid internship with the UN because he can’t find paid work. The main qualification he needs is adequate finance to pay all his housing and food costs (for a year). He decides to make a documentary about his dilemma and moves to Geneva, where he lives in a tent and puts on a suit everyday to put in 8+ hours of unpaid work.

According to Hyde, there has been an explosion in unpaid internships in the past 40 years. At present, 2 1/2 million interns receive no pay for 40-60 hour a week jobs, in the hope that interning will improve their chances of getting paid employment. Research shows it offers little advantage in getting paid work.

Studies show that only 5% of 18-30 year-olds can afford (ie cover their own living costs for a year) to do unpaid internships. It’s a reality that only exacerbates growing wealth inequality.

After he leaks his story to the press, Hyde and the tent he lives in make the front page of the Geneva Tribune. When the story goes global, the UN cites a General Assembly resolution that prevents them from paying interns. This despite a clause in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guaranteeing all workers “the right to just and favorable remuneration.”

The film also documents the equally deplorable experiences of two US interns. The first, a musician, works 12-hour days as an unpaid Warner Brothers intern until he loses his apartment. He fails to qualify for homeless accommodation because the internship makes him ineligible for public assistance. He eventually leads a class action lawsuit on behalf of all Warner Brothers interns.

The second works as an unpaid intern for the Obama campaign until she’s terminated for making a sexual harassment complaint.

The press coverage Hyde received in making his documentary would lead to the formation of the Global Intern Coalition and a Global Intern Strike they organized in February 2017.

Public library members can view the film free on Kanopy. Type Kanopy and the name of your library into your search engine.

https://pukeariki.kanopy.com/video/call-me-intern

Top Corporate Polluters Join Big Oil to Produce More Plastic, While Pretending to Address Plastics Crisis

Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé, ranked world’s worst plastic producers, continue to pump out single-use plastic packaging while investing in “false solutions,” new report says.

Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and Nestlé are ranked as the world’s top plastic polluters for the third consecutive year according to Break Free From Plastic‘s report “BRANDED Vol III: Demanding Corporate Accountability for Plastic Pollution” released Dec. 2, during a virtual press conference.

This year, Break Free From Plastic’s brand audit — an annual citizen action initiative that involves counting and documenting the brands on plastic waste found in communities across the globe — collected 346,494 pieces of plastic from 55 countries. In addition, this year’s brand audit takes a special look at the essential work of informal waste pickers, predominantly in the Global South, and the impact low value single-use plastic has on their livelihoods.

“It’s not surprising to see the same big brands on the podium as the world’s top plastic polluters for three years in a row. These companies claim to be addressing the plastic crisis yet they continue to invest in false solutions while teaming up with oil companies to produce even more plastic. To stop this mess and combat climate change, multinationals like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé must end their addiction to single-use plastic packaging and move away from fossil fuels,” said Abigail Aguilar, Plastics Campaign regional coordinator, Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

In the latest report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, it was made clear that these corporations have made zero progress in addressing the plastic pollution crisis. Single-use plastic has devastating effects not only on our earth but for frontline communities around the world. Waste pickers and community members in the Global South are witnessing the rapid escalation of low-grade single-use plastic packaging being aggressively placed in the market by major multinational corporations.

“Corporations rely on informal waste workers to collect their packaging, allowing them to meet sustainability commitments and justify their use of high quantities of single-use plastic packaging. Yet the current shift to lower value plastic packaging is threatening the livelihoods of the waste pickers, who cannot resell such low-grade items. The systems that waste pickers operate in must change,” said Lakshmi Narayan, co-founder of of SWaCH Waste Picker Cooperative in Pune, India.

Multinational corporations need to take full responsibility for the externalized cost of their single-use plastic products, such as the costs of waste collection, treatment and the environmental damage caused by them. If business as usual continues, plastic production could double by 2030 and even triple by 2050. Time is running out.

[…]

Via https://childrenshealthdefense.org/defender/coca-cola-pepsico-nestle-polluters-team-up-big-oil-plastics-crisis/

The Death Penalty Only in the US.

In the Executioner’s Shadow

Directed by Maggie Burnett Stogner (2018)

Film Review

This documentary concerns the death penalty in the US, the only remaining Western industrialized nation to retain execution as punishment for both legal and political crimes.*

In public opinion polls, 50% of Americans favor the death penalty and 50% oppose it. The annual number of executions peaked during the 1930s, when lynchings were popular entertainment in many communities. In 1936, following massive public backlash against the execution of Rainey Bethea, whom many believed innocent, most states moved to hide their executions inside in death houses. With the advent of DNA evidence, roughly one in ten death row inmates is ultimately proven innocent.

For many years, electrocution was the method of choice. This changed to lethal injection in most states several decades ago.

The film profiles the emotional struggles of  two families of murder victims and a former Pennsylvania chief executioner, as they confront the issue of public execution. The former executioner, who performed 62 executions over 17 years, presently campaigns against the death penalty. He asserts that neither judges nor juries  would sentence people to death if they had to carry them out themselves.

A couple whose daughter was robbed and murdered during a break-in outraged their local district attorney by fighting to save their daughter’s killer’s life. After watching other parents’ being overcome by the grief and anger of 15+ years of death row appeals, they decided compassion and forgiveness was the better avenue.

Another couple, whose daughter was killed in the Boston Marathon, supported the death penalty for the convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

His death sentence was overturned in July by a federal appeals court: https://www.nbcboston.com/news/local/tsarnaev-death-sentence-tossed-federal-appeals-court-orders-new-penalty-phase-trial/2169713/


*The film neglects to mention that Obama signed an executive order in July 2016 allowing the President to order extrajudicial assassination of political enemies without due process of law.

 

Plandemic II – Film Review

Plandemic

Plandemic II

Directed by Mikki Willis (2020)

Film Review

This is an exceptionally well-made follow-the-money documentary. It’s meticulously researched, and the filmmakers continually inform viewers of their source material. The film largely focuses on documented corruption in the World Health Organization (WHO) and various federal agencies.

One of the film’s principal narrators is a Wall Street analyst who specializes in patent research. In 2003, he discovered the US patent office had granted coronavirus patents to various federal employees performing federally funded coronavirus research. Dr Fauci (of The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease) was one, along with several CDC researchers.

In 1980, Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Act, which allows federal employees to patent and privately profit from federally funded research.

However what’s most curious about these patents is that it’s illegal to patent nature. This means these coronaviruses had to be genetically modified in some way to qualify for patent protection. When questions were raised about these patents in 2013, the National Institutes of Health ended coronavirus research funding and the Obama administration offshored US coronavirus research to Wuhan China.

When WHO first declared a coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, numerous scientists (including Luc Montainger, who won a 2008 Nobel Prize for isolating the AIDS virus) came forward with additional evidence that COVID19 was genetically manipulated for biological warfare purposes. Google, Facebook, and Wikipedia all acted quickly to prevent this information from gaining traction on the Internet – Google by rigging their search algorithms, Facebook by either banning relevant posts or overshadowing them with fact checking messaging, and Wikileaks by allowing political donors to edit compromising entries.

Later research questioning the value of face masks and social distancing, which was initially at the top of most Google searches, also totally disappeared in their search engine.

Other valuable information presented in the film relates to Bill Gates’ role (through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) as the single largest funder of both the WHO and the CDC. Both agencies receive half their funding from private sources, both charitable organizations (like the Gates, Clinton and Epstein Foundations) and the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture vaccines

The film also looks Event 201 in October 2019, a rehearsal for the COVID19 lockdown, and a prior pandemic rehearsal in 2018. Although both Gates and Fauci predicted the COVID19 pandemic more than a year in advance, neither used their immense wealth and prestige to ensure an adequate supply of masks, gloves, visors and ventilators, to ensure safe, timely and effective treatment for all who needed it.

My favorite part of the film features Bill Gates testifying in the antitrust suit the Justice Department filed against Microsoft in 1998. It was largely as a result of this case that Gates stepped down as Microsoft CEO in 2000, shifting his focus to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. His foundation significantly benefits Gates’ personal investment in vaccines production. Gates, who calls his investment in vaccines “the best investment I ever made,” credits them with a 20 to 1 return.


*Foundation founded by the late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

View the film free at

 

Plandemic – Indoctornation World Premiere

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