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Thomas Piketty turns down France's top honor

Economist Thomas Piketty has joined Jean-Paul Sartre and Marie Curie in turning down France's most prestigious award, the Legion d'Honneur.

"I don't think it's up to a government to say who is honorable," Piketty told AFP after he learned that he made the list of honorees this week.

Piketty is famous for his research on income inequality, which he argues is worsening.

"They would do better to focus on reviving growth in France and Europe." Piketty, a professor at the Paris School of Economics, said when he declined the award. Europe is on the verge of a recession.

One of Piketty's key findings is that wealth is being passed down from generation to generation. He believes the United States and other countries need more progressive tax systems.

His work has been controversial. Bill Gates, among others, said it has "flaws."


9 White Celebs, World Leaders Whose Families Owned Slaves

"A rule of thumb is: where there is old money, you will find some connection to slavery"

Anderson Cooper: His bloodline is tied to the Vanderbilts, one of the richest families in American history. Cooper’s great-great-grandfather, Cornelius Vanderbilt – who was also Cooper’s cousin through inbreeding – was a tycoon who built his wealth from shipping and railroads. He also owned plantations: one in particular was in Georgetown, S.C., where Michelle Robinson Obama’s ancestor Jim Robinson, who was born a slave in 1850, worked.

David Cameron: According to Dr. Nick Draper of University College London, as many as one-fifth of wealthy Victorian Britons inherited part or all of their fortunes from the slave economy. As a result, there are now wealthy families all around the U.K. still indirectly enjoying the proceeds of slavery they have inherited. In addition to benefiting from slavery while it was legal in the British empire, Cameron’s ancestors were given £4,101, equal to more than £3 million today ($4.7 million dollars), for the 202 black people they enslaved on the Grange Sugar Estate in Jamaica.

Paula Deen...

Pastor Rick Warren...

George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush...

Richard Dawkins
is the direct descendent of Henry Dawkins who owned 1,013 slaves in Jamaica... Dawkins’ 400-acre family estate, Over Norton Park near Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, is believed to have been bought with money made through slave ownership hundreds of years ago.

Reba McEntire...

John McCain: descendants of McCain’s great-great-grandfather inherited and still own 1,500 acres of the original plantation land, the descendants of the Africans who were enslaved on the same plantation, “built a four -room school house with $1,750 they scraped together and $900 from philanthropy.” The black descendants also worked to save “enough to buy a small parcel of farmland.”

President Obama:one of Obama’s ancestors, George Washington Overall, owned two slaves who were recorded in the 1850 census in Nelson County, Ky. The same records indicate that another Obama’s ancestors, Mary Duvall, also owned two slaves...


More on the Bushes: they've got slave owning and trading ancestors all over the place.

As you will learn from the attached PDF files, and as is commonly known, the mother of former United States Senator Prescott Sheldon Bush (the father of US President George Herbert Walker Bush and great grandfather for US President George Walker Bush) was Flora Livingston Butler Sheldon. The attached file Margaret Ruth Sheldon.pdf references the family connection to the New York Manor Lords and one of the most prominent slave trading families of the mid 18th century. Philip Livingston, slave trader and slave owner, donated his slave money to endow Yale College's first professorship.

Amazingly, (or maybe not), when the New York Times ran their article on the new $5 million exhibition, "Slavery in New York in their Arts section on September 27, 2005, they didn't feel it was important enough to mention that Philip Livingston's sister Judith Livingston was the g-g-g-g-g-grandmother of United States Bush Presidents. But then again....why keep dredging up ancient American history...he is only the leader of Free World; which somehow sounds like an oxymoron....or a pun?


15 Major Corporations You Never Knew Profited from Slavery

- Lehman Brothers, whose business empire started in the slave trade, recently admitted their part in the business of slavery...

- Aetna, Inc., the United States’ largest health insurer, apologized for selling policies in the 1850s that reimbursed slave owners for financial losses when the enslaved Africans they owned died...

- JPMorgan Chase “Today, we are reporting that this research found that, between 1831 and 1865, two of our predecessor banks—Citizens Bank and Canal Bank in Louisiana—accepted approximately 13,000 enslaved individuals as collateral on loans and took ownership of approximately 1,250 of them when the plantation owners defaulted on the loans,” the company wrote in a statement.

- New York Life Insurance Company is the largest mutual life insurance company in the United States. They also took part in slavery by selling insurance policies on enslaved Africans..

- USA Today reported that Wachovia Corporation (now owned by Wells Fargo) has apologized for its ties to slavery after disclosing that two of its historical predecessors owned enslaved Africans and accepted them as payment...



American wealth was built on slavery, and that means mainly the wealth of big corporations and the .01%.

George W. Bush’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandfather Was a Slave Trader

BUNCE ISLAND, Sierra Leone—Twelve American presidents owned slaves, eight while serving in office, and at least 25 presidents count slave owners among their ancestors. But new historical evidence shows that a direct ancestor of George W. and George H.W. Bush was part of a much more appalling group: Thomas Walker was a notorious slave trader active in the late 18th century along the coast of West Africa.

Walker, George H.W. Bush's great-great-great grandfather, was the captain of, master of, or investor in at least 11 slaving voyages to West Africa between 1784 and 1792.

Scores of European merchants and American plantation owners grew rich on the trade that transported more than 10 million Africans to North America, the Caribbean, and Brazil between 1550 and 1850. Bush's family, like many others, has previously been identified as slave owners in the United States. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, at least five Walker family households, George W. Bush’s ancestors by his father’s mother, owned slaves in Maryland’s Cecil County.

But this is the first time an ancestor of Bush has been directly linked to the brutal trans-Atlantic trade in which millions perished. When I queried the New England Historic Genealogical Society, which publishes ancestries of American presidents, the only other president they flagged up with definite slave dealer ancestry was Thomas Jefferson, whose father-in-law, John Wayles (1715-1773), was a planter, slave trader and lawyer in the Virginia Colony. (The NEHGS did acknowledge that there could be other presidents with slavers as ancestors.)


Capitalism and Slavery: An Interview with Greg Grandin

In 1855, Herman Melville published “Benito Cereno,” a novella about a New England ship captain who suppresses a slave rebellion onboard another ship discovered off the coast of Lima, Peru. The story takes place in Melville’s favorite setting, a ship in open water, and deals with one of his main preoccupations: slavery. As it happens, it is also true.

Thanks to Greg Grandin’s masterful Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World, we now know that history.

The remarkable event at the core of the book is a nine-hour charade pulled off by insurgent slaves, led by two West Africans named Babo and Mori...Somewhere off the coast of what would become Chile, the slaves rise up, murdering most of their captors and taking their captain, Benito Cerreño, hostage. They hope to force Cerreño to take them home to Senegambia. However, lacking adequate sea knowledge, they are unaware that the captain has managed to keep them in South American waters.

Weeks after their revolt, still adrift in the Pacific near Lima, the rebels cross paths with a New England sealer, the Perseverance, whose captain, Amasa Delano, (ancestor of the Delano Roosevelts...) they allow to board.

Aware their future hangs in the balance, Babo and Mori engage in a temporarily successful deception, pretending to be enslaved and forcing Cerreño to play captain. For most of the day, Delano believes that Cerreño remains in control of the ship, but when Delano returns to his own ship, Cerreño throws himself overboard, and the ruse is revealed.

Outraged, Delano and his men unleash a bloodbath so gruesome that it surprises Delano himself. Lances and weapons that had been used to kill and skin seals are used to equally brutal effect on the insurgents. Having retaken the Tryal, Delano sails on to a Chilean port, where some of the leading rebels are executed, and the rest are forced back into slavery. Delano eventually receives a reward for retaking the ship, but his failed sealing voyage has left him so deeply in debt that he ends life bankrupt. He sells his ship, leaves the sea behind, and writes the memoirs that became the basis for Melville’s novella...

That this event took place in 1804–5, the highpoint of what Spanish merchants called “free trade in blacks” — the privatization and deregulation of mercantile slavery, which, decades before the expansion of chattel bondage in the US south, kicked off the Atlantic World’s capitalist market revolution — allowed me to take this event and make, as you say, a larger argument about slavery and capitalism.

Much of that argument is embedded in the narrative and development of the characters, but here’s what I imagined myself arguing: Scholars have long examined the ways in which slavery underwrites capitalism. I thought this story, though, allowed attention to slavery’s role in shaping not so much the social or financial dimensions of capitalism but its psychic and imaginative ones.

Capitalism is, among other things, a massive process of ego formation, the creation of modern selves, the illusion of individual autonomy, the cultivation of distinction and preference, the idea that individuals had their own moral conscience, based on individual reason and virtue. The wealth created by slavery generalized these ideals, allowing more and more people, mostly men, to imagine themselves as autonomous and integral beings, with inherent rights and self-interests not subject to the jurisdiction of others. Slavery was central to this process not just for the wealth the system created but because slaves were physical and emotional examples of what free men were not...

Melville, in his novel White-Jacket, has a great description of how this terror helps consolidate the idea of race: “Thank God! I am a white,” says a sailor as he watches a mulatto seaman about to be whipped. But this distancing thought evaporates when the sailor remembers that he “had seen whites also scourged; for, black or white, all my shipmates were liable to that.”

Melville then takes the sailor a step beyond simple solidarity to realize the role terror plays in keeping men isolated from each other and racially divided: “Still, there is something in us, somehow, that, in the most degraded condition, we snatch at a chance to deceive ourselves into a fancied superiority to others, whom we suppose lower in the scale than ourselves.”


Bill Moyers' Departure from TV Leaves a Huge Hole

This week PBS stations around the country will broadcast the final segment of Moyers & Company, Bill Moyers' provocative, groundbreaking interview show. Moyers, who came to PBS in 1971, is retiring the show, but not retiring from the world of public affairs. He will continue to write, speak out, and produce his remarkable website, filled each day with insightful articles by Bill and others about dangers to our democracy and battles for social justice. But the end of Moyers' regular presence on television will leave a huge hole in America's broadcast landscape. No other program has journalistic breadth and depth, as well as the progressive viewpoint, that Moyers' show has provided views for over four decades. Will PBS -- which has been under increasing pressure from Congress and funders to move to the right -- even try to fill that gap?

Moyers, who turned 80 in June, has been one of the most prolific and influential figures in American journalism. Not content just to diagnose and document corporate and political malpractice, Moyers has regularly taken his cameras and microphones to cities and towns where unions, community organizations, environmental groups, tenants rights activists, and others were waging grassroots campaigns for change. Moyers has given them a voice. He has used TV as a tool to expose political and corporate wrongdoing and to tell stories about ordinary people working together for justice.

He has introduced America to great thinkers, activists, and everyday heroes typically ignored by mainstream media. He has produced dozens of hard-hitting investigative documentaries uncovering corporate abuse of workers and consumers, the corrupting influence of money in politics, the dangers of the Religious Right, conservatives' attacks on scientists over global warming, and many other topics. A gifted storyteller, Moyers' TV shows, speeches, and magazine articles have roared with a combination of outrage and decency, exposing abuse and celebrating the country's history of activism.

Moyers' website offers full streaming video and podcasts of Moyers & Company, online-only essays, analytical blogs, interactive features, as well as an extensive video library of Moyers' past work. There you can browse and view hundreds of Moyers' programs covering a wide range of topics including the economy, faith and reason, money and politics, war, media, and the arts...


2014: The Greatest Year of Revolt Against High-Stakes Testing in US History

Top Ten Test-defiers 2014

1. Thousands of Students Protest Colorado Standardized Tests

In what was perhaps the largest student walkout against high-stakes testing in U.S. history, hundreds of high schools students in Colorado staged a mass walk out in November refusing to take their 12th grade social studies and science tests. Overall, more than 5,000 Colorado 12th graders refused to take the tests.

2. The Tulsa Test-defying Two

3. Lee County School Board Secedes from the Testocracy

4. Washington State Superintendents Flunk Duncan and NCLB

Most school districts across Washington state were forced by Secretary Arne Duncan’s selective enforcement of the No Child Left Behind Act to send letters to nearly all the parents in the state informing them that their child attended a failing school. On August 2014, 28 school superintendents from around the state authored a letter of their own, where they declared that their schools’ successes are not reflected in these ratings and criticized No Child Left Behind.

5. Toxic Testing

In July, the thousands of educator delegates to the National Education Association’s Representative Assembly voted to demand the resignation of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and launched “Toxic Testing” campaign that is raising awareness around the nation about the harmful effects of high-stakes testing.

6. The Undead Scare Legislators Into a 3-year Moratorium on High-stakes Testing

The Providence Student Union has been one of the most organized and creative student groups in the nation in opposition to high-stakes testing. These students’ unrelenting efforts to expose the high-stakes testing sham—from staging a zombie march to show what the test do to your brain, to making the adults take the test and announcing their scores at a press conference—put enough pressure on the state legislature get them to vote in June for 3-year moratorium on use of high-stakes.

7. 60,000 parents opt out in New York

8. Arise Ye Over-tested Teachers: International High School boycotts the test

9. Salt of the Earth School

In April, three teachers at New York City’s Earth School became the first teachers in the nation to publicly refuse to administer a Common Core standardized test. They penned a beautiful letter describing their decision and their vision for education.

10. ICE the ISAT

In February, teachers at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy voted unanimously to refuse to administer the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). The teachers were threatened with the revoking of their teaching certificates. However, because of the overwhelming solidarity of the parents, students, and community, they defeated the ISAT and were not reprimanded!


If Greece Turns Left, Will Europe Follow?

Greece is heading towards snap elections on January 25 after the conservative coalition government, currently in office, failed to reach a supermajority of 180 MPs in order to elect the new president of the republic as dictated by the Greek constitution...

By all odds, SYRIZA is leading the polls by 3 percent to 10 percent and is expected to form a government either based on a robust majority of the left in parliament, or, in coalition with minor parties who are willing to follow its agenda, renegotiate a bailout agreement that will not be catastrophic for Greek society and the Greek economy.

Austerity has failed

Despite the fact that both the German and the Greek conservative governments present the current bailout programme as a "success story", most analysts around the globe agree that it has actually failed. Six years of continuing recession have resulted in a loss of 25 percent of GDP and a rise of unemployment to 27 percent.

Greek debt is well over 170 percent of GDP now and according to Troika estimations it will be no less than 120 percent by 2020.

These facts translate to two things. Firstly, there can be no development under austerity policies for the majority of the population, even if the Eurozone fixes its competitiveness problem and exits deflation and the Greek economy starts developing at a growth rate of over 4 percent - which is highly unlikely...Secondly, there can be no functioning democracy so long as Greece is not given choices other than poverty, degrowth and exclusion...

In this environment, a SYRIZA victory would mean two very important things; the return of the power to decide to a democratically elected government and the restoration of inclusiveness and national sovereignty and the opening of a new chapter in European politics, where the parties and the organisations who challenge austerity will have the momentum...SYRIZA is asking for debt forgiveness and a New Deal for Europe, both rather moderate demands coming from a radical left party.

If SYRIZA actually wins the elections, the Greek people will be the first to send a clear message against austerity, one that can spark change, much needed on the continent right now. And if SYRIZA succeeds then Europe may start a new page in its economic and political history.


Call to beat back Wisconsin anti-labor bill (WI wingers never quit)

Right-wing legislators in Wisconsin announced in December that they will push for passage of a right-to-work (for less) law in the 2015 legislative session.

In response to this grave assault on all labor, community and youth organizations, the Wisconsin Bail Out the People Movement issued this appeal on Dec. 7.

The appeal leaflet and other related information are available at www.wibailoutpeople.org.

An appeal to the Wisconsin AFL-CIO and Our Communities:


The attack on unions and our communities by Wisconsin’s governor and legislature is a declaration of war on the rights of poor and working people. Rallies alone won’t do. Wisconsin showed that even temporary occupations of the Capitol aren’t enough. This latest assault must be met with decisive direct action by organized labor and our allies.

The United Auto Workers Constitution gives us a weapon that can be used to fight and win. Article 50, Sec. 8 says:

“In case of great emergency, when the existence of the International Union is involved, together with the economic and social standing of our membership, the International President and the International Executive Board shall have the authority to declare a general strike within the industry by a 2/3 vote of the International Executive Board, whenever in their good judgment it shall be deemed proper for the purpose of preserving and perpetuating the rights and living standards of the general membership … provided, under no circumstances shall it call such a strike until approved by a referendum vote of the membership.”

The union-busting “Right-to-Work” plan certainly fits this description. A general strike is where all us workers take a holiday.

No general strike can be rushed into. Workers must be educated and the ground carefully prepared. Holding a referendum vote in every local union gives the opportunity to discuss this unprecedented attack and how to respond with every worker at every work place. The South Central Federation of Labor in Madison passed a resolution with similar plans in February 2011.

Along with the UAW, the State AFL-CIO can urge every affiliate to initiate discussions and hold referendums to authorize a general strike. Mass strikes are part of our history. In the 1950s, the Kohler strike, with the support of Black and white workers, won and built UAW Local 833. In 1934, successful mass actions in Minneapolis, San Francisco and Toledo lifted the living standards of workers for generations.

The Wisconsin politicians are not acting alone. The RTW legislation was openly demanded by the Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce, the Bradley Foundation and other similar groups. The entire crowd of Wall Street bankers and corporate bosses, including GM, Ford, Chrysler and the billionaire Koch brothers and ALEC, are behind the push to break us in this stronghold and symbol of unionism.

After years of concessions, the bosses thought we were ready to collapse. By moving methodically, vote by vote, toward a general strike, the working class of Wisconsin will send a message that will sow panic in their ranks. Let the big business news media, politicians, judges and others scream that it is illegal. As the words of the union song “Solidarity Forever” says, “In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold, greater than the might of armies magnified a thousandfold.” That power is our ability to bring everything to a standstill.

Labor-community solidarity the key

Unions are not a “special interest” apart from our suffering communities and all workers — unorganized, retired, young, immigrant or unemployed. Along with uniting all the unions we must bring in the many community groups affected. Labor must make their problems our own. “Social unionism” can take a big leap forward. While proceeding to authorize the general strike, unions and community groups should convene a huge assembly of the people in Wisconsin. Starting now, all union halls and resources should be available to fight RTW and to support community struggles, especially ones led by Black, Brown and poor white youth, most of whom are unemployed or low-wage workers.

Community organizations, church leaders, people of color fighting back against police abuse, women, the LGBTQ community, the education community, foreclosure victims, the unemployed, low-wage workers, the Occupy Wall Street movement, immigrants and all others who are under attack by the international austerity assault must be brought together to prepare for the general strike. Demands must be shaped to make the largest majority of the people of the state understand that we are fighting for everyone.

In a state where local and state politicians only represent the 1%, an assembly of the 99% will have commanding authority. An injury to one is an injury to all!


Credit, wages and Occupy: what system are we fighting?

The working class is in fixed state of struggle against the capitalist class. We only exist as a class because of our relationship to the capitalist class and it is this relationship which is marked by struggle. At the simplest level, we produce everything in the economy and they take the product of our work because they own the means of production upon which the work was done. We then are given back some piece of the products we created in the form of wages and the rest the capitalist class keeps...

With the reconstruction after World War II, a new ingredient would be introduced on a wide-scale that would fundamentally change the relationship between the working and employing classes, especially among parts of the working class with more social privilege...Through using on credit and other financial mechanisms like stock investments and using its own money as credit to other workers and capitalists, like through savings interest, the working class saw for the first time a way outside of the wage relationship.

By using credit, the field had opened up to a whole range of opportunities for a better life beyond struggling with the boss over what portion of one’s labor should be returned in the form of wages. For elements of the working class in developed countries, it was a time like no other. Owning things like homes and automobiles, or paying for things like education, became widely available over the course of the second half of the century. Compared to working longer hours or fighting for higher pay, obtaining credit and over time paying it back was an obvious better choice for many workers. The ability of parts of the working class to entire into a relationship with the capitalist class and with other workers beyond the traditional relationship of struggle over the wage produced a powerful incentive to participate in new ways, but also strengthened traditional divides within the working class.

Access to credit was and is unevenly divided throughout the class. Over time reformers and forward-thinking capitalists have made it a priority to find ways to improve access to credit for marginal parts of the working class, but the implementation of these schemes have alternated between better conditions for marginalized workers and the continuation and solidification of white supremacy and patriarchy through policy. On one hand, struggles to end red-lining and similar segregation policies allowed racial minorities and women access to credit and the ability to be home-owners for the first time. This represented a real change for these parts of the class and the ability to participate along with whites and men in the game of credit. On the other hand, marginalized parts of the class were and are given access to inferior types of credit products and services, and mostly not until the 1970s, significantly after privileged elements of the class had begun using access to credit to bring up standards of living.

Access to credit did not end struggle over wages, though by opening up an attractive alternative to it, it divided the working class’s attention into both spheres. As internal ineptitude and conservative leadership and structure evolved within the labor movement and labor law found increasingly repressive ways to stifle workers’ actions, unions became less effective. While only representative of different parts of the class at different times, unions represent the main measurable way to observe the working class’s success in the struggle over the wage. As unions atrophied, credit became for many people a far more viable way to improve their lives. Union density collapsed over the course of the last century in the U.S., dropping from about 35% in the mid-1950s in to less than 12% in 2011. As our collective instrument to negotiate over wages has declined, it should not surprise that our wages as a whole have not increased. Indeed, adjusting for inflation and other factors, real wages in the U.S. have declined since 1974. Over the long term, the struggle over the wage has attracted less and less of the working class’s attention, especially for the portions with the access to the most effective financial mechanisms for improving their material condition.

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