There’s an important bill in the U.S. Senate. It would give federal blessings to state governments that punish groups that advocate a certain kind of boycott. Now boycotts have been a staple of trade unions for a hundred years. I grew up on the Sears boycott. My dad’s union magazine always had “Don’t Buy at Anti-Union Sears” on its back cover. There was the grape boycott and the lettuce boycott, Farah pants and a whole host of others. Bosses tried to fight it, but the right to say “Don’t buy” was a matter of free speech.
At one time it was routine for unions to even do secondary boycotts. You’d boycott a company that was doing business that was being boycotted because of a strike or other labor fight. Secondary boycotts were made illegal in the late ‘40’s. But I digress
Now the new Senate bill #170 is not directly tied to labor issues. It protects states that punish “entities” that call for boycotts or sanctions of Israel. If it passes labor will still be able to call for boycotts…or maybe not. Start going down a slippery slope and you often fall on your keyster.
So how does Trumka, the head of the national AFL-CIO, fit in? Our right as Americans to boycott has been challenged and he is silent. Now we know he’s a huge Rightist on Israel, supporting its wars and opposing the CT AFL-CIO went it asked in 2015 the national federation to support BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) against Israeli repression of Palestinians. But why isn’t he opposing any threat to the RIGHT TO BOYCOTT?
A boycott has never just been a only labor issue. U.S. Jews launched a successful boycott of Ford cars over the lunatic anti-Semitism of Henry Ford. They tried an even bigger one when Hitler came to power, of course, unsuccessful. For years there was a Nestle boycott that finally forced that company to stop dressing women like nurses to sell infant formula in countries with little clean water.
Senate bill #170 should be torpedoed. As they say call your Senator. And call Bernie who has been silent about this bill.
I always liked the 1992 Disney movie “Newsies”. It was a good way to explain strikes and unions to my children and I dug the idea that anti-union Walt Disney was turning summersaults in his grave knowing his studio was making a pro-strike film. “Newsies” was loosely based on the 1899 strike of “newsies,” the children and very young teenagers who would hawk the papers in New York City. Its “Seize the Day” strike song was stirring even though the politics were more Three Musketeers than Eugene Debs.
This month (“and this month only”) a video of Disney’s Broadway play “Newsies” came to select movie theaters The singing was spectacular and the dancing was terrific, young men leaping over themselves and doing impossible twirls, but the stage adaptation was even more “disney-fied” than the original movie, meaning it included more movie clichés and stories of class collaboration.
The actual strike of 1899 is pretty interesting. Why talk about a hundred year old strike now? There’s lessons for today. These workers didn’t go through endless legal hurdles to get a government sponsored election. They didn’t beg politicians to solve their problems. They took direct action and they won.
About 1:30 into Obama’s final press conference an unnamed reporter faints and has to be taken out of the room. It was just after President Obama answered at length a Bloomberg News reporter’s question over whether he felt “any personal moral responsibility for the carnage” in Syria.
I like to feel that the woman fainted after hearing his mealy-mouthed answer.
Obama starts by saying he does feel responsible, but quickly shows that he was just, as they say, “concerned and troubled” about Syria just like South Sudan and everyplace else in the world. “Was there something better that I could do?”, he piously exclaims.
He says, “The challenge was that short of putting large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground, uninvited without any international law mandate, without sufficient support from Congress at a time when we still had troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and had gone through a decade and just had spent trillions of dollars, and when the opposition on the ground was not cohesive enough to govern a country and when you had a superpower in Russia prepared to do whatever it took to keep its client state involved… unless we were ‘all in’ and willing to take over Syria, we were going to have problems.”
About then the woman faints, as we all should on hearing that answer.
Obama is saying unless the U.S. goes in to conquer Syria there’s nothing that can be done. Not one word about the million under sieges in Syria. He doesn’t mention his responsibility to go to the U.N. and demand the U.N. take action to enforce the U.N.’s own 2014 decision on Syria. Not one word about airdropping food to the areas under siege as the U.S. air force was prepared to do in January.
After tens of thousands of young people rushed to the streets to denounce Trump’s election, “Sanderista” Tulsi Gabbard’s made different kind of headlines. She answered Donald Trump’s call and went to a vetting meeting. Yes, after the election all the Democrat pols gave the usual clichés about cooperation with Trump on certain matters, as if Trump were just some other Republican. That’s bad enough, but this was something more. Gabbard was actually looking to join the Trump Administration. She denies it. She ludicrously claims this was just a meeting to talk about Syria and the need for peace. As if “peace” was uppermost on Trump’s mind now. As if he wasn’t spending all his time visiting Alt-Right sewers and billionaire clubs to staff his cabinet.
Gabbard was pretty unknown on the Left until February when she became one of the few members of Congress to support Bernie Sanders bid for the presidency. However, on international issues (as Louis Proyect clearly pointed out) she’s far, far from the Left. On Israel she’s about as far Right as you can get, appearing at a 2015 conference of the batshit crazy CUFI, Christians United For Israel. This is the group whose minister John Hagee welcomed world war with Iran as a step to Armageddon and who John McCain had break with in 2008 on account of Hagee’s remarks saying Hitler had helped fulfill God’s will. In July 2014 while Israel was pummeling Gaza she co-sponsored a total whitewash of Netanyahu’s warfare which among other things claimed Israel “goes to extraordinary lengths to target only terrorist actors.”
She’s very friendly to military budget increases and supports assassinations by drones. Her views on Islam should be better known. She broke with the Obama line of trying to oppose al-Qaeda without inciting people against Islam. No George W Bush or Obama nice words for her about Islam. She wants to talk about “extremism” 24/7. The right wing National Review just loved her. So did “all religion is bad, but Muslims are worse” Bill Maher who brought her on his show.
By Stanley Heller
Driving I listened to NPR news show. They were interviewing a contractor who was eager to build Trump’s Mexico wall. He estimated that it would take 250,000 truckloads of concrete to do the job. Knowing that concrete production is a big greenhouse gas producer I did a quick calculation.
3600 pounds in a cubic yard of concrete
10 cubic yards per concrete truck
So there’s 36,000 pounds of concrete per truck
250,000 trucks of concrete needed for Trump’s 1,000 mile wall according to contractor who is willing to build the wall (NPR)
That’s 9 billion pounds of concrete = 4.5 million tons
Producing a ton of cement requires 4.7 million BTU of energy, equivalent to about 400 pounds of coal, and generates nearly a ton of CO2.
That’s 4.5 million tons of CO2 to produce the concrete for the wall.
Of course driving all those cement mixers to the Texas/Mexico border would release lots more CO2, but that’s not in my calculation. That would be on top of the 4.5 million.
So though climate activist Bill McKibben warns us that we shouldn’t launch a single new pipeline or dig a new fossil fuel mine, Trump wants to build a wall on the Mexico border that would cause cement factories to belch forth 4,500,000 tons of CO2.
Not to mention that the wall is an asinine project in the first place…
It’s great that people are out in the streets expressing rage against Trump and vowing solidarity with all the people he intends to persecute, but some of the demands should be right at Obama. He has power for two months. He can do things by presidential order. FDR issued over 3,500 Executive Orders, Obama less than 250. Even Herbert Hoover and William Howard Taft issued more orders.
So President Obama:
*** Free federal political prisoners: Free Leonard Peltier for one. Call on the Democratic Party governors to do the same for their political prisoners and for all those arrested for marijuana charges (because it’s obvious MJ will be soon be legal everywhere)…and pardon Snowden!
*** Close Guantanomo – Take the prisoners out and shut the gates. Let Congress figure out what do next.
*** Destroy the Data Bases on Innocent People – Have the NSA erase all the data about people who have not done anything wrong, all the snoopy stuff that Trump will use to jail people
*** Deny Pipeline permits – Start with Standing Rock. Yes, Trump can countermand, but draw the line for all to see.
*** Send some $$$ to communities – You have enormous money available for emergencies. The Trump Apocalypse is an emergency.
*** And instead of taking a round the world trip on the taxpayers dime let your last foreign policy action be one of mercy. Airdrop food to cities in Syria under siege – Its approaching Warsaw Ghetto conditions in Aleppo. The United Nations airdrops to one city in Syria. Let them expand operations to all cities under siege there. And if the U.N. won’t do it let the U.S. airforce drop the food and medicine. (And if you’re part of the Left that still things the carnage in Syria is mostly a U.S. plot read my piece from March).
What else? What can Obama do protect to protect wages and Social Security from the ravages to come?
by Stanley Heller, a 40+ year American Federation of Teachers member and former Central Labor Council representative
For at least 3 decades now we’ve been putting all our eggs in the Democratic Party basket. Strikes and serious boycott…just honored things of the past. Look where it’s go us. The Democrats lost the House, then the Senate and now they’ve lost the presidency to a man who thinks he is a king or worse. He didn’t make a big deal about fighting unions, but we know that Republicans in Congress just lust to do nationally what Scott Walker did in Wisconsin.
How much did labor put in Hillary’s campaign? $100 million? More? What did we get for it? Did she ever say the words “Join a union”. I didn’t hear that in her acceptance speech. In the first debate she was asked about what could be done to end inequality. Did she mention unions? I didn’t hear it. You would think we could get a bit more for $100 million.
Does any of this explain why 40% of the people earning under 50K a year voted for arrogant billionaire boss Trump?
Well the shit has hit the fan and what are we going to do? Go back to the Democrats and do the same losing thing all over again? Frankly with Trump in there we don’t even know if there will be another presidential election (see Germany in the ‘30’s)
There is an alternative The young people are already out in the streets in the tens of thousands. Of course that’s not going to make Trump resign. He thinks it will all blow over. But one thing will restrain Trump, if there’s enough turmoil in the streets AND THE WORKPLACES so that the billionaires fear for their profits. (Of course, peaceful but of course disruptive too). Then Congress and the courts and the state bureaucrats will yank him but good. That’s labor’s old time religion and it needs a revival.
By Stanley Heller
They say that generals usually prepare for the last war. This has happened to the peace movement, too. The anti-war coalitions in the U.S. and UK are acting as if this was 2003 and everyone needed to focus on Western imperial adventures. Instead circumstances are quite different. The main carnage right now has little to do with “the Empire”. A dictator from a family dynasty is using his entire military, every weapon the country owns, to bring a nation to heel. He’s assisted (and in some ways commanded) by foreign powers, one semi-fascist, the other a theocracy. The larger anti-war organizations and coalitions have nothing to say or bleat, “Our main responsibility is to criticize our own government’s abuses” or airily call for all foreign forces to stop intervening while refusing to condemn the barrel bombs or the obliteration of hospitals. (There are also the unspeakable organizations licking the dictator’s boot in the name of “anti-imperialism”.)
Half a million people have died because the Assad gang is determined to hold on no matter what. The Russians are blowing up whole blocks in Aleppo, systematically destroying medical facilities and White Helmet rescue facilities. Assad has hundreds of thousands of people under siege. Palestinians refugees from camps like Yarmouk are exiled once again. The “world community” has fed refugees, but is paralyzed about action within Syria. The U.N. airdrops food to only one city, the Assad run Deir al-Zour surrounded by ISIS. Worse they’ve been sending aid money right into the pockets of members of the regime.
After five years of revolution, unrelenting savage attacks by Assad’s military, and massive foreign intervention by Russia and Iran (and to a far lesser extent by the U.S., the Saudis and other Gulf monarchies), the Green Party platform has finally included the word “Syria” in its platform.
Here is the section. It’s in D. Foreign Policy:
The Kurdish people are the largest ethnic group in the world that is without an independent state. As a result, Kurdish people have historically suffered persecution and injustice. The Kurdish people have been besieged to the point of a current humanitarian crisis in towns such as Kobani, Syria. The GPUS expresses solidarity for and affirms the right to self-determination, self-defense, communal autonomy, freedom from persecution, and release of political prisoners for the Kurdish population.
That’s it. There’s no call for the Russia stop bombing hospitals or that Iran withdraw its troops and its Lebanese, Iraqi and Afghan Shia buddies, no support for the U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding the Assad regime stop a whole host of crimes. No suggestion that Israel should take back the Palestinians that were exiled in Syria. There’s not even a suggestion that the U.S. and its allies should stop bombing the country and airdrop food.
by Stanley Heller
August 4. The uprising and fighting in Syria have gone on for over five years and your platform doesn’t say a word about it. Delegates to this weekend’s convention, how about adding these five sentences?
- We stand with the Arab revolutions and uprisings for democracy that started in Tunisia and Egypt
- Syrians have a right to reject the Assad dynasty
- We support the democratic forces in Syria against all reactionary killers from Assad to ISIS to al-Qaeda and others
- We demand that the great powers abide by the promises to airdrop food and supplies to Syrian areas under siege as of June 1, 2016 #DropFoodNotBombs
- We denounce any deal by the U.S. government with Russia that makes cooperation against ISIS dependent on giving Assad, Russia and Iran a free hand to crush the Syrian uprising
This should fit in perfectly with your principles, but I admit it may be a hard sell. It conflicts with the reigning Conspiracist worldview on the Left that everything is the fault of the U.S. including Syria. On the face of it Russia and Iran (and plenty of other countries outside the NATO orbit) are grasping capitalist powers on the make, but in the Conspracist worldview they’re all just poor victims of imperialism and if they appear to stomp on their own citizens or some other nation it’s really a U.S. plot.
July 29. As I predicted Hillary Clinton had nothing to say about Syria in her HISTORIC (by law we have to add that adjective) acceptance speech last night. Not a single phrase of sympathy for the people suffering under siege or bombardment. Not a word about refugees and certainly nothing about the United Nations demands on the Assad gang.
There are a number of people who look only at words she and Kaine once said about support for a “no-fly” zone and think she supports the Syrian people. This is a naïve view of American politics. Yes, she and Kaine are happy to support military measures everywhere particularly where the Israeli government thinks it will benefit, but she won’t stick her neck out an inch for suffering Syrian people.
Just look at the words in the Democratic Party platform that HER people put through on Syria (without objection from Sanders people BTW). These are the exact words: “Syria The Syrian crisis is heartbreaking and dangerous, and its impact is threatening the region, Europe, and beyond. Donald Trump would inflame the conflict by alienating our allies, inexplicably allowing ISIS to expand in Syria, and potentially starting a wider war. This is a reckless approach. Democrats will instead root out ISIS and other terrorist groups and bring together the moderate Syrian opposition, international community, and our regional allies to reach a negotiated political transition that ends Assad’s rule. Given the immense scale of human suffering in Syria, it is also imperative that we lead the international community in providing greater humanitarian assistance to the civilian victims of war in Syria and Iraq, especially displaced refugees.” p.42 It is nothing more or less than the current Obama policy. Nothing in there at all to think that Clinton isn’t trying to work out some deal with Putin. #DropFoodNotBombs #ExposeDirtyDeals Continue reading
By Stanley Heller
July 28. I won’t bother criticizing Bernie Sanders for endorsing Hillary. He said he’d do it all along, endorse the winner of the Democratic Party primaries. It was only the willfully blind who thought he was going to stage a walk out and start a new party or join with the Greens. I will criticize him for the way he did it, though, becoming a Hillary “yes-man” and throwing overboard the best of what he stood for.
His big moment was speech at the Democratic Convention, covered live by the major networks. It was his big chance to give HIS message. The prepared text is here
First let’s talk about what he didn’t mention. The biggest thing is Palestine. Bernie had a terrible record on Palestine coming into the campaign. In the decades he was in Congress he never engaged in any meaningful criticism of Israeli. In 2014 as Israel wiped out hundreds of children in Gaza Bernie was an Israeli government apologist. We forget because he did change. He was smart enough to see that among his base the rights of Palestinians are a big issue so he made some statements criticizing Israel. In April of this year he said Israel’s attacks on Gaza were “disproportionate”. He gave a Palestinian and hijab wearing Palestinian Linda Sarsour a visible part of his campaign. He appointed Jim Zogby and Cornel West as his reps on the Democratic Platform committee. They were given leeway to push for something on Palestine though Clinton’s people refused any compromise. The platform on Palestine/Israel is awful and explicitly condemns the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (see page 49). Continue reading
by Dan Fischer
Writing for the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), Miranda Spencer leveled strong charges against a June 16th Wall Street Journal article by reporter Amy Harder. Harder’s original article reported that some of America’s largest environmental groups were softening their traditional opposition to nuclear power and that this change was “lowering one of the biggest political hurdles facing the nuclear power industry.”
Miranda Spencer’s June 24th response for FAIR, “WSJ Fakes a Green Shift Toward Nuclear Power,” argues that the alleged shift amounts to little more than the WSJ editors’ wishful thinking: “In publishing this piece as edited, perhaps it is telling a story it wishes were true.”
However, Spencer and her publisher FAIR engage in more than their own share of wishful thinking. They fail to point their critical lens at the quick-to-compromise “Big Green” groups, who have long been constrained by funding from elite donors and foundations. In the words of environmental historian Mark Dowie, the Big Greens “carefully avoid challenging the power structures and relationships that have the most profound environmental impacts.” Continue reading
By Stanley Heller
In 1932 in Germany there were four national elections including two for the powerful position of president. The two leading candidates for president of Germany were Adolf Hitler and Paul von Hindenburg. Today when we hear the word Hindenburg we think of the zeppelin with that name that burned in New Jersey in 1937, but Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg was a very famous man for decades in Germany. During “the Great War”, which we now call World War I, he was Chief of the General Staff of the German army. In the last years of the war he was in effect military dictator of Germany. The German revolution ousted the Kaiser from power, but the leaders of the SPD (the very big German socialist party which supported the war) allied with counterrevolutionary forces and after massacres of the revolutionary Left made Germany into a capitalist republic. Hindenburg, who should have been in disgrace for his failed war leadership, came through the period with his reputation unscathed.
Longstory short. The SPD steadily weakens. Hindenburg is elected President of Germany in 1925. The Great Depression hits Germany like a hammer and the Nazis go from getting 3% of the vote in 1928 to 18% in 1930. Their goons are running the streets. The German communists (KPD) follow the orders of Soviet ruler Joe Stalin to totally go it alone. They claim that the SPD were just another kind of fascist, “social fascists” For its part the SPD refuses to work with the communists. In 1932 Hindenberg runs for reelection, the KPD runs its own candidate and the SPD supports Hindenburg as the “lesser of two evils”.
Most people will agree that Hitler was the ultimate evil, so Hindenburg was certainly “lesser”, but the SPD strategy did not work as planned. Hindenburg won the April 1932 run-off presidential with a solid 53% of the vote. “Mission accomplished” or so the SPD thought. Hindenburg stayed in office and he continued to choose the Chancellors and cabinet. However, the string of men he picked totally failed to rescue the German economy. Then Hindenburg made a fateful decision. In January 1933 he appointed Adolph Hitler as chancellor in a deal that gave the Nazis only 3 of the 11 cabinet positions. This was thought all that would be needed to keep Hitler under control. Brilliant plan. Hindenburg was putty in Hitler’s hands. Within two months Hitler had bullied Hindenburg to sign an “Enabling” Act” which gave the Nazi leader dictatorial powers.
So what has this got to do with today? Well, we have a candidate running for president who a lot of people have compared to Hitler. And we have as his opponent a woman who Continue reading
by Dan Fischer
As Noam Chomsky has noted, the social democratic positions of Bernie Sanders are “quite strongly supported by the general public, and have been for a long time.” Chomsky could have gone much further, had he focused on the views of the country’s largest voting-age generation, the millennials. Not only are pluralities or majorities of millennials as left-leaning as Sanders on core campaign issues—considering health care a right,distrusting Wall Street, defending Roe v. Wade—but on some critical issues such as climate change and nuclear weapons, they actually stand wellto the left of Sanders.
These facts are easy to find in recent and reputable polls, including an April survey by Harvard’s Institute of Politics of more than three thousand 18 to 29 year-olds, and a poll of a thousand 18 to 34 year-olds conducted in January by Ipsos Public Affairs, commissioned by USA Today and Rock the Vote.
The findings make clear: Compared with mainstream millennials, Sanders is an environmental fraud, a Dr. Strangelove-style warmonger, and the NSA’s right-hand man.
Sanders the Reactionary
On climate change, the Sanders plan sticks close to Hillary Clinton’s corporate-friendly formula. He’d have America powered by “80 percent clean energy sources by 2050.” That’s the same target as Clinton’s, and it corresponds to a dangerous 2-degree Celsius temperature rise, a death sentence for the world’s coastal cities, which would be threatened with submersion from rising seas this century according to leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen.
April 5. The most important service done by the releasing of the “Panama Papers” is not revealing the names of the big shots hiding money in banks where they pay no taxes. Better it makes very public the fact that trillions and trillions of dollars are hidden away from the tax man and employees by the super rich. The whining by the 1% that companies “can’t afford” raises or that taxes would “soak the rich” and kill the “golden goose” are shown to be spectacular lies.
It’s known for many years that trillions are kept “offshore”, but the writing of the tax experts never got that much attention. The term “offshore” applies to money supposedly invested in little island nations that charge little or no taxes for people to park their money there. I say supposedly because lots of the money is actually being “managed” right in the U.S. with the overseas account as a fig leaf of foreign ownership.
Back in 2012 James S. Henry, former director of economic research for McKinsey and Company gave this estimate of the amount of money being held “offshore”:
“A significant fraction of global private financial wealth — by our estimates, at least $21 to $32 trillion as of 2010 — has been invested virtually tax free through the world’s still expanding black hole of more than 80 “offshore” secrecy jurisdictions. We believe this range to be conservative…”
Gabriel Zucman worked at the numbers a different way in his 2015 book “The Hidden Wealth of Nations” and came up with a much lower, but still amazing $7.6 trillion in hidden money. The book was widely and positively reviewed. Henry and another hidden money researcher John Christensen say the number is “way too low”. They make a good case.
At any rate the amount of money hidden away by the really rich is really, really enormous. So when they say they can’t pay you can safely and precisely say, “Bull$**&”!
Here’s a mini-booklet on the subject from a couple of years ago here. It doesn’t even have to be updated.
Video of Hedges talk
CODEPINK last weekend had over 250 at a conference they called the “Saudi Summit” to examine the awful record of America’s oldest Middle East ally.
On March 6, Chris Hedges addressed the gathering. Chris Hedges is an author, activist, and former Middle East Bureau chief for the New York Times. He calls for BDS, boycott, divestment and sanctions against Saudi Arabia.
More video of the conference at “The Real News”
Feb. 14. Some observations about Jill Stein’s talk yesterday in CT. The crowd of about 30-40 was about 1/3 people in their twenties, almost no minorities, no “Middle Eastern” people that I noticed. She said the Democratic Party officials would deny the nomination to Sanders and hoped this would lead to a lot of interest in the Green Party.
She spent a lot of time on “student debt”, calling for the debt to be forgiven. Very good. Also a lot of time on the Saudis which was excellent, except she seemed to go overboard. She says “We know who funded 9/11, that was coming from the Saudis”. This sounds like she’s saying the Saudi government financed the attack. No proof of this astounding charge. Very discrediting. Though she talked generally about Saudi mischief making she didn’t talk about their attack on Yemen. She didn’t talk about Palestine/Israel until I brought it up in the questions.
She used the “Green New Deal” a couple of times. That might have been refreshing in 2012, but not today. Bernie talks about “socialism” and “revolution”. I know it’s mostly empty rhetoric on his part, but “Green New Deal” was tried and it’s time to move on. As she says we’re living through a global “emergency”. We don’t need just a different “deal”. Suggest “Ecosocialism” or “Eco-revolution”.
I raised a number of points in my questions. 1) that Senator Murphy had called for halting arms sales to Saudi Arabia because of Yemen and that the Green Party should help lead the anti-war fight there. 2) I mentioned the court case in CA that was expected to be found against public employee unions and called for the Green Party to lead the charge against it (the meeting was held before news of the death of Justice Scalia. That may change things.) 3) that the CT AFL-CIO passed a resolution calling for BDS against Israel and asking what she thought of that 4) that I was disturbed with her position on Russia calling for “collaborative dialogue” with Putin’s government.