Mark Blyth: An End to Austerity Economics


Mark Blyth discusses how austerity politics has become the norm for parties across the globe and whether or not the incoming Biden administration will adopt a new economic program. Blyth is a professor at Brown University and author of the books Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea and Angrynomics.

Joint MLK Sermon by Rabbi Elaine Zecher and Reverend Ray Hammond on MLK Sunday, 2021

January 22, 2021 | 9 Sh’vat 5781

Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat.

This past Sunday as part of the commemoration of Dr Martin Luther King’s birthday, our congregation joined with Bethel AME congregation and their pastors Gloria and Ray Hammond at their service. Pastor Ray Hammond and I prepared a sermon together. We wanted to emphasize King’s vision in his last book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? I have excerpted part of the sermon that focuses on his answer to the question he posed in the title of the book. You can read the entire sermon HERE or watch the video HERE. What follows are the shared words from Pastor Ray and me.

…As a catalyst for justice and righteousness, as a voice for those whose lives reflected the systematic injustice of bigotry and bias embedded into our constitution and the daily degradation they experienced, King and the civil rights movement shined light into dark places…

…The importance of MLK goes far beyond the gains won for people of African descent in America. King should be remembered for the fact that he called America and, indeed, all people to task for failing to live up to their ideals…

…Created in God’s image, every one of us, merely of flesh and blood, share our humanity wherever, whomever, whatever we are.

Dr. King found himself challenged by the words of the prophet Isaiah:(58:7) — “How could you hide yourself from your own flesh and blood?” Is it incumbent upon us to pose the same question still? Why would we ever hide ourselves from each other. Our strength and moral courage is to turn toward each other, to see the face of the divine in one another, and to recognize our sacred task together to move forward fueled by faith…

…We must all tell the truth in order to transform, to move forward, to cross the sea into equality, diversity and inclusion. Are we not strong enough to see, to listen, and to become aware of the ways our commonwealth, our country and our individual selves can traverse paths to realize the vision of a much more perfect union? Can we not see equal opportunity must also include equal preparation and equal support once the opportunity has been extended. Can we not see the wisdom of Dr. King’s word when he wrote: This is a multiracial nation where all groups are dependent on one another, whether they recognize it or not. In this vast interdependent nation no racial group can retreat to an island entire of itself. (p 63 book)” It takes every single one of us…

…Fear and resistance to change has to be confronted by the simple truth that as residents of Massachusetts, America, and inhabitants of the planet Earth, we are in this thing together. Somehow the word spoken by Ben Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence must be repeated, not only to leaders, but to this entire nation. He said: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall hang separately.” … To be in community is to recognize that though we may fall and falter together, we can rise together as well…

…As people from all walks of life, from every ethnic, cultural, religious, and socioeconomic background, we have unique opportunities not only to serve, but to observe and then inform and challenge others in our families, our neighborhoods, and at every level of our political and economic policy-making life. We can say authoritatively that King’s dream is not a reality yet; but it is also not dead. We can be the means by which tax dollars, charitable dollars, and plain old-fashioned love are translated into a message of caring for people. We can be the bearers of good news and hope to adults and children alike…

…Let Us begin to reach across the walls of race, class, and religion that so deeply affect and infect the chaos our nation currently faces. Let Us wrestle with the personal demons of fear or prejudice, stereotype or superiority that we must name and cast out. Let Us have the conversations–not shouting matches– within our families, our neighborhoods, and our “tribes”; the conversations that must be held in pursuit of communities based on hope not hatred and on faith not fear. Let Us build bridges when so many around us are building walls…

…We believe that King’s life and the vision he bequeathed to us all is the power of community, of a beloved endeavor that raises each other up and uses love in its purest and most power-filled form to transform the lives we live into a glorious vision of equality for every person.

Shabbat Shalom!

Pres. Biden Signs Executive Actions Addressingthe Economic Crisis | LIVE | NowThis

NowThis News

Streamed live 56 minutes ago

BIDEN SIGNS EXECUTIVE ACTIONS TO ADDRESS ECONOMIC CRISIS: Pres. Joe Biden delivers remarks on the state of the economy before signing a slew of executive actions that offer further relief to those hit hardest by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The slight uptick in the economy briefly seen over the summer has officially disappeared, with the country reporting a greater job loss in December than in April and roughly 900,000 more Americans filing unemployment last week. ‘The single most important thing economically right now is to take decisive action,’ says Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council. Some of the executive actions Biden is signing today includes calling for a $15 minimum wage for federal employees and contractors, expanding protections for employees who quit their jobs due to feeling unsafe in their work environments, and increasing federal assistance for the millions of Americans facing food insecurity. These orders will be in addition to the $1.9 trillion coronavirus bill that he hopes Congress, with both chambers controlled by Democrats, will pass in the near future.

Jane Goodall’s climate change reality check | CLIMATE NOW

euronews (in English)

Published on Jan 22, 2021

Jane Goodall explains how all life on Earth is threatened by climate change in this Climate Now panel discussion on COVID-19 and global warming. The world-famous conservationist also gives her reasons for hope in the next generation of young people. Copernicus Climate Change Service scientist Carlo Buontempo and WMO CO2 expert Oksana Tarasova give us the facts on our climate. Environmental activist and UN Youth Climate advisor Nathan Méténier offers his views on how society needs to change to be fairer and more sustainable. Hosted by Euronews science reporter Jeremy Wilks.

From Africa to the Persian Gulf: Inside the booming illegal market for wild pets

FRANCE 24 English – Jan 22, 2021

In the United Arab Emirates, the possession and trafficking of wild animals have been officially banned since 2017. Yet every day on social media, Emirati citizens, particularly royals, post videos where they pose with lions, tigers or cheetahs. In a disaster for biodiversity, these big cats have been turned into status symbols, even more effective in clocking up Instagram likes than luxury cars or selfies with celebrities. Our reporters traced the source of this lucrative illegal trafficking industry to Somaliland, in the Horn of Africa, where authorities and NGOs are trying to end it.

Joe Biden’s Cancellation of the Keystone Pipeline Is a Landmark in the Climate Fight | The New Yorker

Demonstrators gather in front of the White House to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, in the summer of 2011.Photograph by Melissa Golden / Redux

In his first hours in office, Joe Biden has settled—almost certainly, once and for all—one of the greatest environmental battles this country has seen. He has cancelled the permit allowing the Keystone XL pipeline to cross the border from Canada into the United States, and the story behind that victory illustrates a lot about where we stand in the push for a fair and working planet.

To review: Keystone XL, a project of the TransCanada Corporation (now TC Energy), was slated to carry oil from Alberta’s tar sands across the country to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. President George W. Bush approved the original Keystone pipeline, and it went into service, early in the Obama years, without any real fuss. A new XL version, announced in 2008, was larger and took a different course across the heartland. And, this time, there was opposition. It came first from indigenous people in Canada, who had watched tar-sand mines lay waste to a vast landscape. First Nations leaders, such as Melina Laboucan-Massimo and Clayton Thomas-Muller, along with Native-American leaders on this side of the border—including Tom and Dallas Goldtooth, of the Indigenous Environmental Network—put up strong resistance and joined forces with ranchers whose lands would be bisected by the pipeline. Organizers such as Jane Kleeb, in Nebraska, found small pockets of support within some of the “big green” environmental groups, much of it coördinated by the veteran campaigner Kenny Bruno. In the spring of 2011, the NASA climate scientist James Hansen helped orient the pipeline as a climate-related fight, pointing to the massive amounts of carbon contained in the Canadian tar-sand deposits and making the case that, if they were fully exploited, it would be “game over” for the climate. That brought the climate movement into the picture; a letter (full disclosure: I drafted it) went out in the summer of 2011, asking people to engage in civil disobedience outside the White House.

At first, it wasn’t clear how many would do so, in part because President Barack Obama was popular with environmentalists. But people—many of them wearing Obama buttons—began arriving in serious numbers. Before two weeks of protest, starting in late August, were over, 1,254 people had been arrested, in one of the largest nonviolent direct actions in recent years. A few months later, many times that number circled the White House perimeter, standing shoulder to shoulder, five deep. The big environmental groups quickly joined the fight. Even so, the experts said that there was no chance to stop the pipeline. (The National Journal polled its “energy insiders,” and ninety-one per cent said that TransCanada would soon have its permit.) But, in fact, the battle was over by mid-November, when Obama announced a delay, in order to consider the question more closely. As he consolidated support for his reëlection bid, he had apparently concluded that “Keystone” and “climate” were too closely linked, though it took him several years to officially reject the permits. Ever since that initial pause, it’s been a matter of holding on to that victory—in close votes in Congress, during the Obama years, in endless wrangling with financiers, and with brilliant maneuvering in the courts, after Donald Trump revived the pipeline during his first days in office. I’m very grateful for Biden’s action, but I had no doubt he would take it—even today, Keystone is far too closely identified with climate carelessness for a Democratic President to be able to waver.

…(read more).

In Memorium – Remembering Why Black Lives Matter: A Necessary First Step Toward Making America Great Again | EV & N 375 | CCTV

YouTube Version

Black lives matter because they have always been at the forefront of American democracy. This needs to be remembered and celebrated as a first step in understanding what American democracy represents.

* * *

This presentation consists of excerpts from “SPECIAL: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in His Own Words” 18 January 2021, Copyright (c), 2021, Democracy Now! and “A Testament of Hope” streamed live at 1:00pm on 18 January 2021 by The Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras:

See related historical material concerning the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and its impact on a young college generation who experienced it along with the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy as well as the trauma of the Vietnam war as they made their way through their college years:


Liberia’s Johnson Sirleaf discouraged by COVID vaccine roll-out plan | Reuters

Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speaks during a Reuters interview in Kigali, Rwanda April 28, 2018. REUTERS/Jean Bizimana NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.

GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization’s pandemic review panel co-chair Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Tuesday expressed disappointment in COVID-19 vaccine roll-out plans which she said means shots will not be widely available in Africa until 2022 or 2023.

“The panel is discouraged and frankly disappointed by the unequal plans for vaccine rollout,” the former Liberian president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate told an Executive Board meeting of the WHO.

Reporting by Emma Farge; editing by Stephanie Nebehay

GRAIN | Digital control: how Big Tech moves into food and farming (and what it means)

The world’s biggest technology companies and distribution platforms, such as Microsoft and Amazon, have started entering the food sector. What does this mean for small farmers and local food systems?

  • It leads to a strong and powerful integration between the companies that supply products to farmers (pesticides, tractors, drones, etc) and those that control the flow of data and have access to food consumers.
  • On the input side, agribusiness are joining the trend of getting farmers to use their mobile phone apps to supply them with data, on the basis that they can give ‘advice’ to the farmers.
  • On the output side, big e-platform corporations can be seen buying their way into the sector and taking control of food distribution.
  • Together, they favour the use of chemical inputs and costly machinery, as well as the production of commodities for corporate buyers not local markets. They encourage centralisation, concentration and uniformity, and are prone to abusing their power and monopolisation.

A few years ago, the Japanese tech company Fujitsu erected a pilot, vertical farm on a parcel of land outside of Hanoi. The high-tech farm, which looks more like a factory, produces lettuce on stacked shelves in a completely enclosed high-tech greenhouse managed by central computers in Japan. The computers are connected to a cloud that Fujitsu operates in partnership with one of Japan’s largest food retailers, Aeon. The farm is at once impressive and confounding– such an enormous amount of resources and energy going into the production of a few trays of low-value lettuce.

The unlikely economics of vertical farming has not diminished its appeal in Silicon Valley. Since 2014, vertical farm start-ups have raked in US$1.8 billion from tech investors like of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Japan’s SoftBank. This is an amount larger than all annual foreign direct investment flows into agriculture. Yet, despite the huge cash inflows, the high-tech farms these companies have built only occupy the equivalent of a measly 30 hectares of land worldwide.1 Hardly a game changer for global food production.

Just down the road from its vertical farm on the outskirts of Hanoi, Fujitsu is piloting another farm that offers a different and more realistic vision for how technology companies are moving into agriculture. This farm is located on an ordinary, outdoor field, indistinguishable from neighbouring farms. The only significant difference is that all workers on the Fujitsu farm carry smartphones supplied by the company and their movements are being monitored. The hours they work, their productivity, and the inputs they apply are carefully logged and registered in Japan on the company’s cloud. Fujitsu is deploying the latest in digital technology to the age-old corporate imperative of maximising labour exploitation.2

PDF Version of Report

…(read more).


Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman delivers a poem at Joe Biden’s inauguration

CNBC Television

Jan 20, 2021
Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, the Youth Poet Laureate of 2017, delivers a poem at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO:

Amanda Gorman, 22, became the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history after reciting her poem “The Hill We Climb.”

“But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated,” Gorman read. “In this truth, in this faith, we trust.”

Gorman is the current United States Poet Laureate. At age 16, Gorman became the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles and later became the first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017 as a sociology student at Harvard.

First Lady Jill Biden invited Gorman to participate in the inauguration in late December after hearing the poet at the Library of Congress.

Gorman immediately made waves following her reading at the inaugural ceremony, becoming the top trending Google search topic in the U.S.

Her words rang across the country: “A skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.”