What connects the protests/revolutions in Egypt and Wisconsin: a common enemy

Asking the right question over at Al-Jazeera English; the answer is: Yes!

A revolution against neoliberalism?

Two observations about Egypt’s history as a neoliberal state are in order. First, Mubarak’s Egypt was considered to be at the forefront of instituting neoliberal policies in the Middle East (not un-coincidentally, so was Ben Ali’s Tunisia). Secondly, the reality of Egypt’s political economy during the Mubarak era was very different than the rhetoric, as was the case in every other neoliberal state from Chile to Indonesia. Political scientist Timothy Mitchell published a revealing essay about Egypt’s brand of neoliberalism in his book Rule of Experts (the chapter titled “Dreamland” — named after a housing development built by Ahmad Bahgat, one of the Mubarak cronies now discredited by the fall of the regime). The gist of Mitchell’s portrait of Egyptian neoliberalism was that while Egypt was lauded by institutions such as the International Monetary Fund as a beacon of free-market success, the standard tools for measuring economies gave a grossly inadequate picture of the Egyptian economy. In reality the unfettering of markets and agenda of privatization were applied unevenly at best.

The only people for whom Egyptian neoliberalism worked “by the book” were the most vulnerable members of society, and their experience with neoliberalism was not a pretty picture. Organised labor was fiercely suppressed. The public education and the health care systems were gutted by a combination of neglect and privatization. Much of the population suffered stagnant or falling wages relative to inflation. Official unemployment was estimated at approximately 9.4% last year (and much higher for the youth who spearheaded the January 25th Revolution), and about 20% of the population is said to live below a poverty line defined as $2 per day per person.

Earlier in the article they define neoliberalism, too:

What is neoliberalism? In his Brief History of Neoliberalism, the eminent social geographer David Harvey outlined “a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterised by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade.” Neoliberal states guarantee, by force if necessary, the “proper functioning” of markets; where markets do not exist (for example, in the use of land, water, education, health care, social security, or environmental pollution), then the state should create them.

Guaranteeing the sanctity of markets is supposed to be the limit of legitimate state functions, and state interventions should always be subordinate to markets. All human behavior, and not just the production of goods and services, can be reduced to market transactions.

What connects the protests/revolutions in Egypt and Wisconsin: a common enemy

The war between the Banksters and the People really gets going

A couple of posts from the Financial Frontier:

First, from the it isn’t over yet department, the housing market collapses in the UK:

UK house prices fall by record 3.6pc in a month
The UK housing market has suffered a shock as figures from the Halifax revealed the average price of a property dropped more than £6,000 in September [2010].

And from the good government department:

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner on the Foreclosure Crisis and Her State’s Lawsuit Against Ally Financial

Calls are growing for a nationwide moratorium on home foreclosures following the recent revelations that major lenders may have committed fraud while forcing thousands of people out of their homes. On Thursday the White House announced President Obama will not sign a bill approved by Congress that could have made it easier for banks to foreclose. We discuss the latest in the foreclosure crisis with Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. This week, Ohio filed a lawsuit accusing the lender Ally Financial and its GMAC Mortgage division of fraud in approving scores of foreclosures.

Next, there will some interesting decisions the banksters have to make, all centering around the question of how dirty do they want to fight. These debates won’t want to take place in public, but thanks to wikileaks and others we can expect more revelations like Bernie Marcus’ memorable appeal “to shoot” any business leader who does not oppose the Employee Free Choice Act. Of course, anyone like the Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner who tries to stop the foreclosures that are destroying neighborhoods will be accused of starting a “class war.”  But asking for those who don’t oppose legislation to be shot isn’t inciting a class war, it is doing something truly noble.

The war between the Banksters and the People really gets going

Laws used againts the Mafia are also useful to bring other criminal organizations to justice

Finally, a conviction of a corporation under RICO.  Should give some other big corporations a little pause, but of course now that they can can use their money without limit to bribe public officials, the RICO statues will probably either be overturned, or (more likely) corporations will be declared exempt from RICO:

Pfizer Hit With $141 Million RICO Penalty Over Neurontin Promotion
Plaintiffs argued that Pfizer’s own research showed Neurontin was ineffective for certain unapproved uses, but it suppressed that evidence and misrepresented its findings
Tresa Baldas

The National Law Journal

March 29, 2010

Pfizer Inc. has been socked with an eye-popping $141 million penalty for unlawfully promoting its epilepsy drug Neurontin for unapproved uses for which, the plaintiffs said, it didn’t even work.

A federal jury in Boston on Thursday concluded that the pharmaceutical giant had violated federal racketeering laws in promoting the drug for so-called off-label uses that were ineffective. The jury’s verdict was actually $47 million, but the penalty was automatically tripled under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

The plaintiffs, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, argued that Pfizer duped them into believing that Neurontin could effectively treat conditions such as migraines and bipolar disorder. Neurontin was approved to treat epilepsy in 1993 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“What was at stake here was evidence-based medicine versus marketing-based medicine,” said Thomas Greene of Boston’s Greene LLP, one of several lawyers who represented the plaintiffs. During trial, Greene argued that Pfizer’s own research showed that Neurontin was not effective for certain unapproved uses, but it suppressed that evidence and misrepresented its findings.

At closing arguments, Linda Nussbaum of New York’s Kaplan Fox, Kaiser’s lead counsel, compared the case to the Bernie Madoff scandal.

“This was really about greed,” Nussbaum said in an interview. “To the defendants here, this was simply a product that they marketed to make as much money as they possibly could.”

Laws used againts the Mafia are also useful to bring other criminal organizations to justice

Letter to US Trade Representative from Ron Wyden (D) Oregon

Finally, another Senator, Ron Wyden joins his colleagues  Bernie Sanders of Ohio and Sherrrod Brown of Vermont in criticizing the ACTA process, as well as some of the content.  That seems to be as far as Senators can go, because the terms of ACTA are secret, and are being promulgated as a possible “Executive Rule” so they may never come to a vote, just get enacted into law by executive fiat.  If you are one of the few corporations or the RIAA or the MPAA you get access to the ACTA documents.   If you are just a citizen, too bad.

Here’s the Letter:  Wyden_Letter_to_USTR_on_ACTA_Jan_2010

Letter to US Trade Representative from Ron Wyden (D) Oregon

ACTA roundtable at Google DC offices January 11, 2010

Finally, the ACTA is getting some attention.  Here’s a roundtable discussion with Rob Pegoraro of the Washington Post moderating.  I am so happy to hear James  Love of Knowledge Ecology make the case for transparency, openness and inclusion of all stake holders.  Steven Metalitz represents clients like the MPAA and RIAA, and is clearly in a tight spot, as he should be.  Ryan Clough, a legislative aide for Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) whose district includes Silicon Valley, makes some interesting points, too.

I am so happy I have donated to Knowledge Ecology. You can do so here: Support Knowledge Ecology

And here’s a story by the moderator at the Washington Post:

Copyright Overreach Goes on World Tour

And here’s an article on ACTA at ARS:

Adding up the explanations for ACTA’s “shameful secret”

And lastly, a link to the page at Knowledge Ecology International regarding this debate: http://keionline.org/actadebate

ACTA roundtable at Google DC offices January 11, 2010

ACTA criticism goes mainstream (finally!)

Action on the ACTA front.

At Michael Geist’s excellent blog, a post with a round-up of the news coverage following the last round of ACTA negotiations in Seoul. Apparently the chapter on Internet enforcement goes far beyong even the draconian limits of the DMCA and the present TRIPS agreement.

Abolishing the safe-harbor provisions of the DMCA or similar laws would be obligatory.  The plan of those who favor the ACTA seems to be: negotiate a secret deal that gives those who favor an extreme IP regime, then explain the need to enact that regime as “harmonization.” Will it work? I don’t think so.  The ACTA is increasingly looking to be DOA.  But that doesn’t mean we can be complacent! Exactly the opposite, now is the time to criticize it and bring this process to a halt.

The Obama administration has continued the Bush policy of trying to keep the provisions of the ACTA secret on grounds of “national security”    The criticism of the ACTA has expanded beyond the blogosphere and is now being reported in the press:

The Leaked ACTA Document

As the ACTA story begins to capture mainstream media attention (front page of the Ottawa Citizen, coverage from the Washington PostNZ Heraldthe AtlanticWired), the press release from the now-concluded Seoul talks should be released shortly [update: release out, exactly as predicted].  If the past releases are any indication, it will thank the Korean government and blandly describe the talks on Internet and criminal provisions.  More informative is the actual document that served as the basis for my postings earlier this week.  It is embedded below (direct PDF download).

ACTA criticism goes mainstream (finally!)