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Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
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Activists Plan Nationwide Walmart Protests For Black Friday

(The Nation) OUR Walmart, the group behind last year's Black Friday activism, has promised even more actions this year with 1,500 protests scheduled at stores all across the country. Walmart is clearly nervous ahead of this year's plans because the company has asked judges in Maryland and Florida to bar protesters from entering stores on Black Friday.

"This is yet another move from Walmart to try to bend the law to its liking. Walmart has made it a practice to pursue over-the-top legal maneuvers to try to avoid hearing the real concerns of workers and community members," said Derrick Plummer, spokesman for the organizer, Making Change at Walmart, in a statement.

OUR Walmart announced Black Friday protests are scheduled in Los Angeles, Miami, the Bay Area, Chicago, Seattle, Washington D.C., Minneapolis, and Sacramento, and the group calls it the "largest mobilization of working families in recent history."

"Workers are calling for an end to illegal retaliation, and for Walmart to publicly commit to improving labor standards, such as providing workers with more full time work and $25,000 a year. As the country’s largest retailer and employer, Walmart makes more than $17 billion in profits, with the wealth of the Walton family totaling over $144.7 billion – equal to that of 42% of Americans," the group said in a statement. .........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.thenation.com/blog/177392/activists-plan-nationwide-walmart-protests-black-friday

American Workers: From Bounty to Bleakness

from In These Times:

American Workers: From Bounty to Bleakness
This Thanksgiving, many American workers won’t share in the bounty they helped create.

BY Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers President

At the first Thanksgiving, there was no expression of the sentiment: “I built this feast by myself.” Native Americans sat side by side with pilgrims—religious leader by huntsman, chief by planter. They shared the bounty they’d all worked to create.

This Thanksgiving will be very different for too many American workers. They won’t share in the bounty they helped create. The perfect symbol of that is an Ohio Wal-Mart placing bins in an employee-only area asking low-paid workers to donate Thanksgiving food to their low-paid colleagues.

The six Waltons who own Wal-Mart are the richest family in the world. They’re worth $102.7 billion, more than America’s poorest 49 million families put together. The Waltons’ turkeys will be served with gold leaf on gold platters. By private chefs. On very, very private estates. There won’t be any Wal-Mart greeters or cashiers or stock boys sitting side by side with Waltons at their opulent celebration of bounty. Meantime, the Waltons pay such poverty wages that Wal-Mart workers can’t afford their own Thanksgiving meals. The Walton heirs’ gluttonous, aristocratic attitude betrays the promise of the New World.

It’s not unique to the Waltons, although they bear special responsibility as the nation’s largest private sector employer, one that made $15.7 billion last year. Other highly profitable corporations, particularly fast food restaurants, also pay poverty wages to workers while handing to CEOs and stockholders virtually all of the benefits derived from front-line labor. ......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/15932/american_workers_from_bounty_to_bleakness/

Bill Moyers: Henry Giroux on Zombie Politics

Henry Giroux on Zombie Politics
November 22, 2013

In his book, Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism, author and scholar Henry Giroux connects the dots to prove his theory that our current system is informed by a “machinery of social and civil death” that chills “any vestige of a robust democracy.”

This week on Moyers & Company, Giroux explains that such a machine turns “people who are basically so caught up with surviving that they become like the walking dead – they lose their sense of agency, they lose their homes, they lose their jobs.”

What’s more, Giroux points out, the system that creates this vacuum has little to do with expanding the meaning and the substance of democracy itself. Under “casino capitalism,” the goal is to get a quick return, taking advantage of a kind of logic in which the only thing that drives us is to put as much money as we can into a slot machine and hope we walk out with our wallets overflowing.

A cultural and social critic of tireless energy and vast interests, Giroux holds the Global TV Network Chair in the English and Cultural Studies Department at McMaster University and is a distinguished visiting professor at Reyerson University, both schools in Canada.


Americans Live in Terror of Losing Their Jobs

(AlterNet) Americans are scared of losing their jobs, and the worry is particularly pronounced among lower-income workers.

A Washington Post poll highlighted in an article shows that over 60 percent of workers polled are scared they will lose their job, a number that has increased since the 1970s.

Another record high is that 1 in 3 workers worry “a lot” about being fired or laid off. While low-income workers have always been scared of job insecurity, the worry is even more intense today. The poll found that 54 percent of workers making less than $35,000 worry a lot about losing their jobs. 85 percent of low-wage workers are fearful that their income cannot meet basic expenses. And the poll found that this worry transcends partisan lines, with workers in support of the president still reporting anxiety and worry.

The Washington Post profiled John Stewart as a case in point. He earns $5.25 an hour (plus tips) by working at the Philadelphia airport, wheeling elderly people from ticket counters through security to their gates. Stewart told the Post he “can’t save money to buy the things I need to live as a human being”--including treatment for psoriasis, which causes his skin to flake. ......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.alternet.org/americans-are-afraid-losing-their-jobs

Resurgence of Authoritarianism in Economically Beleaguered Greece: The Shaping of a Proto-Fascist...

The Resurgence of Authoritarianism in Economically Beleaguered Greece: The Shaping of a Proto-Fascist State

Tuesday, 26 November 2013 10:39
By CJ Polychroniou, Truthout | News

Forty years after the collapse of the military junta and the return to parliamentary democracy, authoritarianism is once again in full swing in economically beleaguered Greece. The country is under the direct command of the troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which in May 2010 provided the terms for the first "bailout" package of Greece for the sum of 110 billion euros as the country was shut out of the international credit markets because of its staggering level of government debt (close to 128 percent) and astronomically high deficit (more than 15 percent) and faced the prospect of a default. A sovereign default would have resulted in huge losses for German, French, Swiss and other European as well as American banks and carried contagion risk, which might have led to the dissolution of the eurozone itself. Indeed, "rescuing" Greece for the sake of the euro was so important for European policymakers that a second "bailout" was approved in March 2012 for the years 2012-14, this time for 130 billion euros. And a third "bailout" almost certainly will be introduced in 2014.

As the small Mediterranean nation and birthplace of democracy surrendered its financial sovereignty to its international creditors, the debt was being repaid exclusively by the blood and tears of the average working citizens, who have seen their incomes decline by as much as 30 percent in the past couple of years while simultaneously experiencing drastic social program cuts and sharp reductions in their pension benefits. The Greek government, especially the current one, which consists of a highly opportunistic alliance between conservatives and socialists, is increasingly resorting to authoritarian methods to enforce the commands of the troika, which has shown not the slightest concern for the economic impact and social consequences of its policies. These include the largest decline in the national output of any economy in recent history (nearly 25 percent), massive levels of unemployment (currently standing at 28 percent, and with youth unemployment more than 60 percent), widespread poverty (more than one of three Greeks now lives below the poverty level), homelessness, a surge in suicides, massive migration among the nation's most skilled and educated segment of the population and the rise of political extremes. 1

A government's resorting to authoritarianism is always to be expected when societies are faced with severe economic and political crises that lead to popular discontent and mobilization. It's the nature of the beast: The state is inherently coercive, oppressive and violent. And, if one subscribes to Noam Chomsky's view of human nature, in which the main element is the pursuit of freedom and voluntary association with others, it's easy to understand why the state in a capitalist system is always compelled to act as an enforcement mechanism for economic exploitation and social oppression at the behest of capital. Indeed, it took a few centuries of grass-roots political activity for the capitalist state to be "tamed" and for certain basic and fundamental rights to be allowed to flourish and protected under constitutional law. Thus, in times of political normalcy, there are institutions that will act as a countervailing force to the state's natural tendency to suppress liberty and freedom in the name of stability, law and order.

However, all bets are off when crises surface that threaten the capitalist order or when social and political forces emerge that pose a direct challenge to the status quo and to the economic interests and demands of the elite. On April 21, 1967, Greece was transformed overnight from a weak parliamentary democracy into a military dictatorship when the surge of the left and the progressive forces appeared strong enough to pull a landslide victory against the conservative and right-wing establishment in the new elections that were to be held less than a month later. Thousands of communists, leftists and democratically minded people were arrested and thrown into military prisons or sent to concentration camps to be "reformed" into "good, Greek patriots" via physical and psychological torture, fear and coercion. ........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/20167-the-resurgence-of-authoritarianism-in-economically-beleaguered-greece-and-the-shaping-of-a-neoliberal-proto-fascist-state

Chris Hedges: Shielding a Flickering Flame

from truthdig:

By Chris Hedges

With the folly of the human race—and perhaps its unconscious lust for self-annihilation—on display at the U.N. Climate Talks in Warsaw, it is easy to succumb to despair. The world’s elite, it is painfully clear, will do little to halt the accelerating destruction of the ecosystem and eventually the human species. We have, through our ingenuity and hubris, unleashed the next great mass extinction on the planet. And I suspect the reason we have never discovered signs of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is because extraterrestrial societies that achieved similar levels of technological development also destroyed themselves. There are probably more wreckages of advanced civilizations, cursed by poisoned ecosystems, floating through the universe than we imagine.

The death spiral we face means that resistance will increasingly break down along two lines—those who have children and those who do not. It is one thing to sacrifice one’s self. It is another to sacrifice one’s children. No matter how grim and apocalyptic the world becomes, a parent is compelled to protect his or her child. One cannot totally give up hope. When resistance becomes an act of almost certain futility and suicide, and this is what is fast approaching, violent confrontation will mean the extermination of your children. And that is too much to ask of a parent. Parents—and I am one—do not make great revolutionaries. We have to go home to put a child to bed. Those who do not have children more easily rise up. Most parents, for this reason, are able to embrace only nonviolent protest. And nonviolent mass protest offers, as long as we remain in a period of relative stability, our best hope. Resorting to violence would, right now, make things worse. But as societies unravel, as desperation becomes worldwide, both nonviolence and violence will do little to alter our impending self-destruction. In the coming struggle against the global corporate elite there will be two sets of priorities—those of parents and those of fighters. These differing priorities will have to be respected if we are to build a cohesive movement. There are some things a mother or a father cannot, and perhaps should not, do.

The dichotomy between the role of parents and the role of fighters in times of extremity was delineated in Hanna Krall’s remarkable book “Shielding the Flame,” a narrative that drew on the experience of Dr. Marek Edelman, who before he died in 2009 was the last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Edelman, 23 years old when he helped lead the April 1943 uprising, refused to hold up his actions as more moral than those who walked with their children to the gas chambers. After all, he said, by the time of the uprising he and the other resistance fighters knew that “it was only a choice as to the manner of dying.” ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/shielding_a_flickering_flame_20131124

Fiddling while the world burns (and drowns, and thirsts, and starves and .......)

(Truthout) "The smell of inaction" is how Dipti Bhatnagar, Friends of the Earth Mozambique's international program director for climate justice and energy, summed up the atmosphere inside the giant Narodowy Stadium after the first week of the latest round of international climate negotiations, Conference of the Parties, otherwise known as COP 19, taking place Nov 11-22, 2013, in Warsaw.

Given that this is the 19th consecutive year of annual negotiations and with a meaningful global treaty more distant now than it was almost two decades ago, Bhatnagar's olfactory deduction seems likely to be highly accurate.

As the pervasive smell of inaction seeped like a suffocating gas throughout the inside of the conference, outside, the choking effects of coal smoke waft from all corners of a country that obtains 90 percent of its electricity from coal and whose government has pledged to keep it that way until 2060.

As if to emphasize the point, just on the other side of the banks of the Vistula River, a stone's throw from the international climate negotiations, another conference is being held at the Polish Ministry of the Economy. Intent on sending a none-too-subtle message to government negotiators at COP 19, coal industry executives have gathered at the International Coal and Climate Conference, November 18-19, to discuss the future of coal in light of climate change. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/20152-warsaw-climate-talks-go-up-in-smoke

Militarism and Violence are So Yesterday: It's Time to Make Peace the Reality

Militarism and Violence are So Yesterday: It's Time to Make Peace the Reality

Wednesday, 20 November 2013 09:42
By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Truthout | Opinion

Last week, in our article titled "Armed Drones Becoming the Norm? At the Crossroads of Robotic Warfare," we wrote about concerns that robotic warfare combined with the global "war on terror" was making violence the quick and easy way to respond to conflicts. We wondered whether the bloody 20th (and beginning of the 21st) century could be put behind us and if the time had come to move to an era of peaceful solutions.

Many factors make this an opportune time to move toward greater use of nonviolent practices. The most obvious, of course, is that the United States and the planet can no longer support American Empire and its endless wars. We cannot continue to spend more than $1 trillion each year on the military and national security state while the basic needs of our population are not being met and our domestic infrastructure is crumbling. The empire economy quite literally is killing us.

And our bloated military is not just killing us and others around the world, mostly innocent civilians, but it is killing the Earth, too. This report published by Project Censored calls the US Department of Defense the worst polluter on the planet. It states: "This impact includes uninhibited use of fossil fuels, massive creation of greenhouse gases, and extensive release of radioactive and chemical contaminants into the air, water, and soil." And that does not include the private military contractors and weapons industries.

The era of American Empire is coming to an end. The signs are everywhere. Latin-American countries are no longer tolerating bullying tactics by the United States. Obama failed in his attempt to attack Syria. The world leaders at the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in October did not seem to mourn President Obama's absence at all. In fact, the failing Trans-Pacific Partnership shows that the United States is no longer in the driver's seat of the Pacific economy. And even former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski is lamenting "that American domination [is] no longer possible because of an accelerating social change. ... " ..............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/20146-militarism-and-violence-are-so-yesterday-its-time-to-make-peace-the-reality

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty Is the Complete Opposite of "Free Trade"

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty Is the Complete Opposite of "Free Trade"

Tuesday, 19 November 2013 13:48
By Mark Weisbrot, The Guardian | Op-Ed

The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement among 12 governments, touted as one of the largest "free trade" agreements in US history, is running into difficulties as the public learns more about it. Last week 151 Democrats and 23 Republicans (pdf) in the House of Representatives signed letters to the US chief negotiators expressing opposition to a "fast track" procedure for voting on the proposed agreement. This procedure would limit the congressional role and debate over an agreement already negotiated and signed by the executive branch, which the Congress would have to vote up or down without amendments.

Most Americans couldn't tell you what "fast track" means, but if they knew what it entails they would certainly be against it. As one of the country's leading trade law experts and probably the foremost authority on Fast Track, Lori Wallach of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, put it:

(Fast track) authorized executive-branch officials to set US policy on non-tariff, and indeed not-trade, issues in the context of 'trade' negotiations.

This means that fast track, which first began under Nixon in 1974, was not only a usurpation of the US Congress' constitutional authority "to regulate commerce with foreign nations".

It also gave the executive branch – which is generally much less accountable to public pressure than the Congress – a means of negating and pre-empting important legislation by our elected representatives. Laws to protect the environment, food safety, consumers (from monopoly pricing), and other public interest concerns can now be traded away in "trade" negotiations. And US law must be made to conform to the treaty. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/20143-the-trans-pacific-partnership-treaty-is-the-complete-opposite-of-free-trade

U.S. Pushing New Treaties at Expense of National Sovereignty

from truthdig:

U.S. Pushing New Treaties at Expense of National Sovereignty

Posted on Nov 19, 2013
By William Pfaff

The foreign reaction to the National Security Agency revelations that I have heard most has been not only how arrogant Washington has been in spying on its allies but, worse than that, how arrogant everyone in Washington and most of the American press and television has been about foreigners.

The all but unanimous American response to critics has been “Everybody does it,” or “If you could, you would be doing it, too,” or, best of all, “Look, buddy, this is the U.S. and if you don’t like it….”

The old attitude of “We’re No. 1, and make something of it,” is back. One might think the serial catastrophes of recent American foreign policy would shut a few American mouths, but this hasn’t happened, and there is more arrogance on the way if you read the news.

Take foreign trade. Being negotiated right now are American-sponsored corporate efforts to alter trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific international trade relations through new agreements that undermine or effectively nullify many countries’ existing national legislation on health, environment, pricing, food safety and other issues, accomplishing this by pressuring them to sign new international agreements that have treaty status, which in most countries supersedes domestic law. ............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/us_pushing_new_treaties_at_expense_of_national_sovereignty_20131119

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