With Enormous Harvey Damage, Naomi Klein Warns Against 'Disaster Capitalism' Redux

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by Julia Conley, staff writer August 28, 2017


With Enormous Harvey Damage, Naomi Klein Warns Against 'Disaster Capitalism' Redux

Now is exactly the time to speak out against free-market exploitation, says author of 'The Shock Doctrine'


As millions of Houston residents faced life-threatening flooding on Monday with the saturated remnants of Hurricane Harvey expected to bring even more heavy rains in the days ahead, journalist Naomi Klein warned against the notion, already being pushed by some on the right, that the disaster shouldn't be "politicized."

"The window for providing meaningful context and drawing important conclusions is short. We can’t afford to blow it." 

—Naomi Klein"Now is exactly the time to talk about climate change, and all the other systemic injustices — from racial profiling to economic austerity — that turn disasters like Harvey into human catastrophes," Klein wrote at The Intercept on Monday.

In her piece, Klein warns that the absence of journalists, lawmakers, or experts on the cable news shows and in major papers connecting the dots between human-caused global warming and the severe destruction now underway in Texas is itself a "highly political decision." And the wrong one.

"The window for providing meaningful context and drawing important conclusions is short. We can’t afford to blow it," she writes. "Talking honestly about what is fueling this era of serial disasters — even while they're playing out in real time—isn’t disrespectful to the people on the front lines. In fact, it is the only way to truly honor their losses, and our last hope for preventing a future littered with countless more victims."

On Sunday, Trump ally Sheriff David Clarke accused progressives of politicizing the storm by discussing President Donald Trump's response to the massive floods and damage to the nation's fourth-largest city.

In a Washington Post column, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt chimed in: "Some advice for my colleagues in the media: Be very slow to politicize this storm. It looks to be quite awful in its impacts. The pull of domestic politics generally and the president specifically on every story is so strong these days that it takes great intentionality to not make this an occasion for another round of Trump trashing or boosterism."

In pair of tweets earlier on Monday, Klein cautioned against dismissing concerns about climate change and its impact on natural disasters like Harvey, as well as questions about economic inequality and how low-income neighborhoods and communities have been historically left behind by the federal government both in terms of how cities prepare for disasters and how they respond to them.

Several news reports have shown the impact of Harvey on Southeast Texas's low-income residents. In Rockport, a coastal city 225 miles southwest of Houston, the BBC reported many residents were unable to evacuate ahead of the storm. One woman stayed "because she had no means to leave and no place to go," telling the news outlet:

I had some problems getting out of town, a little broke and stuff, so I had to come home and, you know, tough it out. We're all the working class people. We're the ones who go to the restaurants and wait on you and pick up your trash and do all that work. We don't have a lot of money.

Also commenting on the unequal impacts of the storm was Andy Horowitz, professor of history at Tulane University.

Klein has also written extensively about the impact of "disaster capitalism" in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and other catastrophic events—the exploitation of crises for corporate gain, often under the guise of relief or reconstruction efforts. Last month, she wrote in the Guardian about a list of "Pro-Free-Market Ideas for Responding to Hurricane Katrina and High Gas Prices," compiled by the Republican Study Committee (RSC) in September 2005—weeks after Katrina and the failure of the city's levees had turned New Orleans into a disaster zone.

The group, then headed by Vice President Mike Pence, saw the severe flooding as an opportunity to "make the entire affected area a flat tax free-enterprise zone," "give school-choice vouchers for displaced children," and "make the entire region an economic competitiveness zone (comprehensive tax incentives and waiving of regulations)."

On Twitter, Klein made clear that Houston should be wary of similar responses by for-profit industries as the area recovers from Harvey.

Update: This post has been updated from its original version to include excerpts from Klein's new column.

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With New Tax, Portland Fires Opening Shot in Battle Against Extreme CEO Pay

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by Lauren McCauley, staff writer


With New Tax, Portland Fires Opening Shot in 

Predicting the move will "spread like wildfire" to other cities, IPS's Sarah Anderson says we may be looking at the "dawn of a new 'pay ratio politics'"


The city of Portland, Oregon on Wednesday took a bold step towards addressing the national scourge of extreme pay inequality with the passage of a landmark tax penalty to be imposed on companies whose CEO makes more than 100 times the average worker's salary.

"This is as close as I've ever [come] to a tax on inequality itself," said outgoing commissioner Steve Novick, who proposed the tax, which was approved by the City Council 3-1.

The tax will target publicly-traded companies using "compensation data the federal Securities and Exchange Commission will report," beginning January 2018, according to Oregon Live. Officials expect that as much as $3.5 million could be raised each year, which will go towards the city's homeless services.

According to the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), "the city has identified more than 500 corporations that do enough business in Portland to be affected by the surtax, including many that regularly dominate the highest-paid CEO lists, such as Oracle, Honeywell, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, and General Electric."

And Novick and other proponents are hopeful that it will inspire other cities to take local steps to tackle the nation's gross inequality epidemic. A report published by the national AFL-CIO union in May found that the average CEO of an S&P 500 company made 335 times more money than the average rank-and-file worker.

Under the plan, "a company with a CEO-to-worker ratio of at least 100-to-1 will pay a surcharge equal to 10 percent of the amount it pays for Portland's business tax," Oregon Live explains. "A company with a 250-to-1 ratio or greater would pay a 25 percent surcharge."

"This path-breaking policy tackles a key driver of our growing inequality," said IPS veteran executive compensation analyst Sarah Anderson. "I predict this will spark a wave of similar actions, much like the local living wage campaigns that have spread like wildfire across the country," she added, referring to the national Fight for $15 minimum wage movement.

"Indeed," Anderson wrote in Nation op-ed on Thursday, "we may look back at the Oregon vote as the dawn of a new 'pay ratio politics.'"

She continued:

    Cities and states across the country may soon be scrambling for every extra dime they can find. President-elect Donald Trump's current tax plan would lavish $6.2 trillion in tax breaks on the rich and the corporations they run over the next 10 years, a giveaway that would almost certainly lead to draconian cuts to social safety-net programs and services.

    If officials outside the D.C. Beltway want to help lessen that pain, they'll need to find innovative new revenue sources. A tax penalty on extreme pay ratios could top that list.

As Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said after the vote, "It falls to cities to do creative, progressive policymaking, and this is exactly what this is."

"Income inequality is real, it is a national problem and the federal government isn't doing anything about it," Hales told the New York Times in a phone interview. "We have a habit of trying things in Portland; maybe they're not perfect at the first iteration. But local action replicated around the country can start to make a difference."

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Women of Color Face a Staggering Amount of Harassment in Astronomy

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by Rae Paoletta


Women of Color Face a Staggering Amount of Harassment in Astronomy

The sciences are overwhelmingly hostile to women, and in astronomy, it’s doubly bad for women of color. New research published yesterday in The Journal of Geophysical Research affirms what these women have been saying for years: As a result of persistent harassment by their male colleagues, many women of color feel unsafe at work, attending conferences, and conducting field research.

Kate Clancy, an associate professor at the University of Illinois, has been researching discrimination within the sciences for years. In 2014, she and her team published a study in PLOS One that found of the 600 women field researchers they surveyed, 71 percent said they had experienced inappropriate sexual remarks while in the field and 26 percent said they had experienced sexual assault.

In her new study, Clancy and her team surveyed 474 astronomers and planetary scientists between 2011 and 2014. All subjects identified as women or non-binary, and came from various races and “career rank categories” such as graduate, post doc, and more. Subjects were asked about everything from verbal harassment to physical assault. Not only did the study find depressingly high rates of harassment among all women surveyed, it concluded that “women of color experienced the highest rates of negative workplace experiences,” including harassment and assault.

“40 percent of women of color reported feeling unsafe in the workplace as a result of their gender or sex, and 28% of women of color reported feeling unsafe as a result of their race,” the researchers wrote. “Finally, 18% of women of color, and 12% of white women, skipped professional events because they did not feel safe attending, identifying a significant loss of career opportunities due to a hostile climate.”

Sexual assault is among the most underreported crimes in America. While the reasons why women choose not to report their assaults or even harassment within the workplace are myriad and complex, the hurdles within academia can make the process even more excruciating. Since permanent staff positions are difficult to come by, many women don’t want to risk their career by being branded as the “one who complained.”

“There are a lot of barriers to reporting, and there are severe consequences for victims who dare to report because it’s re-traumatizing,” Clancy told Gizmodo. “It requires [victims] to do things in an official capacity, when maybe they just want to talk to somebody about it and sort out their feelings. But there are very few opportunities for those intermediate conversations, because in most academic settings, the second you talk to somebody about what happened, the university requires you to report it up the chain.”

For many scientists who have experienced harassment or assault, there’s also the fear that the perpetrator won’t be reprimanded. Even if the perpetrator is held accountable, it often happens too late.

In astronomy, the case of former Berkley professor Geoff Marcy is probably the most widely reported instance of this in recent years. The potential Nobel laureate resigned in 2015 after a six-month investigation by his university found he had violated sexual harassment policies by kissing, groping, and inappropriately touching his female students. It took Berkeley almost a decade to do anything in an official capacity.

Data is important and useful, but actually one of the most important things that this report could be doing is providing affirmation to the women who already knew it was true

About a year after Marcy’s case, Representative Jackie Speier—a Democrat from California—proposed legislation that would better address “problem” professors who resigned or were expelled due to gender-based harassment. Meanwhile, women in astronomy had begun using the hashtag #AstroSH, or “astronomy sexual harassment,” to share their experiences in the field.

#AstroSH has grown into a collection of voices speaking out against injustice. But it’s critical to note that women of color across the sciences have been speaking out about this for years.

“It’s hard,” Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a theoretical astrophysicist who has written extensively about racial and gender inequality in STEM, told Gizmodo. “I think in our macho-oriented culture, being ‘right’ and winning is usually an exciting thing. But this is a hard thing to be right about.”

While Clancy’s study focused on astronomy and related fields, it’s unclear whether astronomy is particularly misogynistic, or if cases like Marcy’s have brought more media attention to this area of study. Clancy says she and her team will be conducting qualitative analyses on 20 interviews they’ve already conducted to better answer this question.

“It seems to me—though this is anecdotal—that the physical sciences, partly because they’re historically more male-dominated, have a very different workplace environment in terms of what’s considered acceptable behavior,” Clancy said. “Bullying and intimidation are a workplace norm in some of these places...my guess is while it’s maybe not a great workplace for everybody, it might be especially bad for folks who are underrepresented minorities.”

While it’s important to interrogate workplace culture within astronomy, it’s also critical to investigate how other fields of sciences treat women, particularly women of color, who are woefully underrepresented across the sciences. A study from the National Science Foundation found that between 1973 and 2012, 22,172 white men received physics PhDs. Over the same period, 66 Black women received physics PhDs.

“Why is it that the number of women in physics in graduate programs seems to be lower in physics than in astronomy, but we’re hearing far fewer stories [about sexual harassment and assault] in physics,” Prescod-Weinstein said. “Do we really think that’s because it doesn’t happen in physics, or is it because the culture in physics is even more toxic in silencing?”

Clancy’s new study is not a revelation to the women of color living these experiences, but it is an affirmation that they are heard and believed.

“I think that the lesson that needs to be taken away from this study is that data is important and useful, but actually one of the most important things that this report could be doing is providing affirmation to the women who already knew it was true,” Prescod-Weinstein said.

[Journal of Geophysical Research]

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Women's Rights on Chopping Block in Trump Budget, Leaked Docs Show

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April 26, 2017

by Nadia Prupis, staff writer


Women's Rights on Chopping Block in Trump Budget, Leaked Docs Show

If approved, 2018 budget would slash funding for Global Women's Issues ambassador from $8.25 million to zero


President Donald Trump wants to cut all funding to a State Department bureau that promotes women's rights around the world, according to documents leaked to Foreign Policy this week.

The internal budget document shows that the president wants to merge the State Department with USAID, the federal agency that administers humanitarian assistance around the world, and funnel money from numerous aid programs to national security initiatives instead. A number of offices are on the chopping block, from the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, which faces a 94.5 percent funding cut, to the Bureau for Food Security, which would lose 68 percent.

Among the programs facing the largest cuts is the ambassador-at-large for Global Women's Issues, FP reported. If Trump's 2018 budget is approved by Congress, it would slash that office's budget of $8.25 million in 2016 to zero.

Musimbi Kanyoro, the president and chief executive of the Global Fund for Women, told the Independent on Wednesday, "This proposed budget cut sends an alarming signal about the primacy the U.S. government accords to women's human rights around the world."

"An action like this de-prioritizes women and girls and holds the threat that we will actually see global women's rights recede rather than advance under the watch of this administration," Kanyoro said.

The news comes just after the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, spoke at a roundtable discussion on women's rights where she defended her father's record on the issue–eliciting boos and hisses from the audience.

"[A]s Ivanka Trump calls for women's economic empowerment, her father's budget seeks to eliminate funding for the ambassador-at-large for Global Women's Issues, a development assistance funding account that historically provided over $250 million for gender equality and women's empowerment, as well as crucial funding for agencies like the UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund]," said Paul O'Brien, vice president for policy and campaigns at Oxfam America, in a statement Tuesday.

Trump slashed funding to the UNFPA, which offers reproductive and maternal health services around the world, earlier this month.

"Talk is cheap when you don't fund the efforts you tout. It's clear that women's empowerment and gender equality are on the chopping block in this budget," O'Brien said, noting that many of the programs slated for defunding run on less than a penny of every federal dollar.

This isn't the first time the Trump administration has turned its back on global women's issues. In January, the president signed an order that imposed a funding ban on U.S.-supported charities overseas that provide information on abortion—a move that prompted at least 10 countries to sign up for a funding initiative to fill some of the shortfall, expected to be around $600 million over the next four years.

Trump also sent an anti-LGBTQ hate group, the Center for Family and Human Rights, to represent the U.S. at a United Nations conference on women's issues in March.

"Congress must stand against this reckless move to walk away from one of America's proudest and smartest investments," O'Brien said Tuesday. "Instead of building on these investments and ongoing real reforms, this administration is proposing devastating cuts that will have dire consequences for millions of people, as well as our global standing, national security interests, and the values central to America's identity."

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WTF USA? Shock and Horror as Donald Trump Wins Presidency

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by Common Dreams staff


WTF USA? Shock and Horror as Donald Trump Wins Presidency

Far-right candidate plunges world into despair as billionaire television personality wins nation's highest elected office


President-elect Donald J. Trump.

Huge swaths of the American population, and countless people watching around the world, reacted with shock and outrage early Wednesday morning when it was reported that Hillary Clinton had called her Republican rival to concede the election and Donald Trump subsequently declared victory in the 2016 election.

Trump is now slated to become the 45th president of the United States of America.

The results confounded mainstream pundits and upended major polls and electoral analyses throughout the night. But while the final results remained outstanding in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire, Trump victories in the key battleground states of Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina tilted the electoral math in his favor. As of this writing, Trump was widely seen as having the much better chance of winning the electoral college vote and the concession by Clinton appeared to acknowledge that her campaign saw no path to victory.

Trump himself addressed a crowd of supporters in New York City just before 3am local time to deliver his acceptance speech.


The reaction to the election results among voters and progressives on social media was both immediate and severe. While some expressed disbelief and anger, others tackled the questions about how this happened or how people should now respond:

    How the fuck. Did. This. Happen. pic.twitter.com/ayOH0cyWBJ

    — Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) November 9, 2016

    This is unutterably horrifying

    — ruth conniff (@rconniff) November 9, 2016

    A rapist, a bigot, a man who has promised untold pain to so many people in this country is now our president. #ElectionDay

    — Kate Aronoff (@KateAronoff) November 9, 2016

    The chants of #USA have never sounded so sinister. I literally hate EVERYTHING about our country right now. #ElectionDay

    — DanielleMoodie-Mills (@DeeTwoCents) November 9, 2016

    I don't think anyone can yet come close to processing the implications of Donald Trump actually being President of the United States.

    — Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 9, 2016

    Trump is awful, which is why it was so irresponsible for media & elites to ignore what made him popular. I'm disgusted.

    — Katie Halper (@kthalps) November 9, 2016


    — Katrina vandenHeuvel (@KatrinaNation) November 9, 2016

    So glad Democrats institutionalized a vast and unaccountable national security apparatus that will soon be controlled by a madman.

    — Trevor Timm (@trevortimm) November 9, 2016

    Unfortunately, the next President will have command of a vast nuclear arsenal, biggest military in history, & a vast surveillance apparatus.

    — Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 9, 2016

    A Trump presidency is a frightening prospect. The fascists he empowers and seeks to legitimize present a terrifying immediate future.

    — jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) November 9, 2016

    this is what you get for referring to working people as deplorable.

    — Winnie Wong (@WaywardWinifred) November 9, 2016

    Rudy Giuliani is cackling on MSNBC right now: "this is like Andrew Jackson's victory," he says. You know, the racist genocidal maniac.

    — Trevor Timm (@trevortimm) November 9, 2016

    I am not going to despair. We are gonna wake up tomorrow and organize like we never organized before regardless. #ElectionNight

    — Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) November 9, 2016

    The biggest mistake you made was to dismiss & disparage the candidate who had the best chance to defeat Trump. It's a damn shame. https://t.co/Xdz372bUNe

    — Warren Gunnels (@GunnelsWarren) November 9, 2016

    The expansion of Guantanamo and a drift to 2 justice systems, for Muslims & non-Muslims. https://t.co/y2ucaB9rBL

    — Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) November 9, 2016

    Pundits literally don't have scripts to understand this. The left needs to step in with a cogent plan and analysis #ElectionNight

    — Kate Aronoff (@KateAronoff) November 9, 2016

    Q: How much of this result is about coastal complaisance with union decline?

    NV--Solid Dem win.

    Other key states--fuck you.

    — emptywheel (@emptywheel) November 9, 2016

    The 2016 Dem primary, and specifically how it was tilted to Clinton by the machine, now becomes one of the darkest moments in party history

    — David Sirota (@davidsirota) November 9, 2016

    The unthinkable happened before, to my family in WWII. We got thru it. We held each other close. We kept our dignity and held to our ideals.

    — George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) November 9, 2016

And finally:

    In an alternate universe, Bernie Sanders is giving his victory speech right now.

    — David Sirota (@davidsirota) November 9, 2016

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