We Don't Know How Close to Victory We Are
cue the lightning bolts
the only question that matters: is it true?
Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? - Galatians 4:16
When labor rights are protected, wages go up. It's time to make union-membership a civil right.
By David Sirota, Creators Syndicate.
History books teem with six-word phrases, from the comforting ("Nothing to fear but fear itself") to the inspiring ("Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall") to the embarrassing ("Read my lips, no new taxes"). But the six words, "on the basis of union membership" could be more momentous than any of those. Though hardly Roosevelt's rhetoric, Reagan's bluster or Bush's clumsiness, the clause could solve America's wage crisis.
Of course, when Tom Geoghegan told me this in a Chicago park two weeks ago, I almost snarfed my coffee through my nose. Solving major social problems typically demands more than six words. But as the longtime labor lawyer and author explained his idea to me on a muggy afternoon, it started making sense.
Geoghegan reminded me that data show the more union members in an economy, the better workers' pay. The problem, he said, is that weakened labor laws are allowing companies to bully and fire union-sympathetic workers, thus driving down union membership and wages.
Enter Geoghegan's six words. If the Civil Rights Act was amended to prevent discrimination "on the basis of union membership," it would curtail corporations' anti-labor assault by making the right to join a union an official civil right.
"Hang on," I interrupted. "Joining a union isn't a civil right?"
Under current law, if you are fired for union activity, you can only take your grievance to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) -- a byzantine agency deliberately made more Kafkaesque by right-wing appointees and budget cuts. Today, the NLRB takes years to rule on labor law violations, often granting victims only their back pay -- a tiny cost of doing business.
Union leaders are now focused on reforming the NLRB -- an admirable goal -- but Geoghegan's plan implies that workers are harmed by being legally leashed to Washington in the first place. His proposal says rather than being forced to rely on an unreliable bureaucracy for protection, workers should be empowered to defend themselves.
The six words would do just that. Regardless of whether the NLRB is strengthened or further weakened, persecuted workers would be able to haul union-busting thugs into court. There -- unlike at the NLRB -- plaintiffs can subpoena company records and win costly punitive damages.
Bolstering his argument, Geoghegan told me to consider variations in corporate behavior.
For example, because the Civil Rights Act bars racial discrimination, businesses are motivated to try to prevent bigotry: They want to avoid being sued. This is why no company brags about being racist.
But when it comes to unions, there is no such deterrent. The lack of civil rights protection effectively encourages businesses to punish pro-union employees -- and publicize the abuse to intimidate their workforce. By making the six words law, the dynamic would shift. Companies would have a reason -- fear of litigation -- to respect workers' rights.
When Geoghegan and I finished chatting, I remembered why I believe he is America's most talented writer and thinker on labor issues. His relative anonymity is a tragicomic commentary on the media and the American Left. The Milton Friedmans are celebrated by pundits and cast in bronze by conservative think tanks, while the Geoghegans are dismissed by the chattering class and ignored by a progressive movement that regularly venerates Hollywood celebrities as its heroes.
Perhaps, though, this proposal will change things. In developing a way to shift incentives, Geoghegan has discovered a solution that both unionists and economists can love. It cribs the best from liberals' pro-union sympathies and conservatives' distrust of Big Government, and should make him famous (or at least a Cabinet secretary). After all, anyone who can bring such disparate ideologies and adversaries together is worthy of serious consideration -- as is his six-word stroke of genius.
COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
By Yifat Susskind
Last week, leaders of the world’s richest countries, the Group of Eight (G8), met to chart the course of the global economy at the luxurious Windsor Hotel Toya Resort and Spa in Toyako, Japan. While President Bush and his colleagues discussed world hunger over a six-course lunch, women in Haiti were preparing cakes of dirt for their children’s dinner.
Eating dirt, mixed with salt and vegetable shortening, is the latest coping strategy of Haitian mothers trying to quiet hungry children in a year when the cost of rice (Haiti’s staple food) has risen nearly 150 percent.
Ironically, many of these women were once rice farmers themselves. But in the 1980s, U.S.-grown rice began pouring into Haiti. Thanks to federal subsidies, the imported rice was sold for less than what it cost to grow it. Haitian farmers just couldn’t compete.
Neither could millions of other farmers around the world, who have been bankrupted by the influx of rice, corn, and wheat from the U.S., Europe and Japan. These farmers have gone from growing their own food and feeding their countries to having to buy food that’s priced on a global market. Now that these commodity markets have spiked, millions of more families cannot afford to eat.
Even here in the U.S., still the world’s richest country, more and more families are struggling to afford food these days. Thankfully, we are not forced to feed our children mud cakes. But ultimately, all working families and small farmers, whether in Haiti or Iowa, are hurt by farm policies that are designed for the benefit of giant food corporations.
Consider the U.S. grain subsidies that have pushed so many Haitian families to the brink of survival. They have also hurt family farmers here at home. That’s because the lion’s share of this $307 billion goes to the largest factory farms, leaving small-holder farmers to fend for themselves.
As we saw last month, when floods wiped out hundreds of acres of crops in the Midwest, farming is a risky business. It’s the family farmers who don’t have much of a financial cushion that we should be protecting with subsidies.
The same goes for small-holder farmers in Haiti and other developing countries. Most of these farmers are women, are mothers, who like most moms in the U.S., are responsible for putting dinner on the table every day. In developing countries, these mothers often grow their family’s food from scratch.
The small-holder, women farmers had no say in the decisions that the G8 leaders’ made about the global food crisis. Yet, it turns out that they have a lot to say when it comes to finding solutions to the crisis they are facing.
Just before the G8 meeting, a network of women’s groups from Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Colombia issued an open letter to the G8. Brought together by the international women’s human rights organization, MADRE, the women called on the G8 to support real solutions to the food crisis. They proposed concrete changes in the global economy, like international mechanisms to stabilize the cost of food and protect the livelihoods of farmers. They called for billion-dollar-a-day agricultural subsidies to be converted from support for big agribusiness to incentives for sustainable, small-scale and organic farms.
These are solid proposals backed up by research and years of first-hand experience in communities that are on the frontlines of today’s food crisis.
But instead of taking steps that could remedy the problem, the G8 plugged more of the same corporate-friendly trade and agriculture policies that brought on the food crisis in the first place.
G8 leaders called for more “open markets” in food trade. Openness sounds good, but in practice this means that poor countries can’t use tariffs to protect farmers from unfair competition.
The G8 also pushed for stricter patent laws. These rules take ownership of seeds — the very basis of all agriculture — away from small farmers and enable giant biotech companies like Monsanto to control our food supply.
The G8 did call for more aid to countries like Haiti that have been hard hit by the spike in food prices. That’s an important step when lives are at stake. But the money is to be administered through the International Monetary Fund, famous for making offers with strings attached. In this case, governments will be required to implement more of the kind of trade liberalization that hurts poor people and small farmers and has created record profits for big food corporations this year.
But as the women’s letter to the G8 clearly shows, it’s not corporate profits, but human rights –including the basic right to food — that will underpin real solutions to the food crisis.
Susskind is the communications director of MADRE: Rights, Resources and Results for Women Worldwide.
Copyright © 2008 by the American Forum.
by Dmitry Orlov
The ostensible goal of this Web site, and the small but enthusiastic community that surrounds it, is to change the culture. We all recognize that the contemporary mainstream culture of over-consumption and unbridled growth is toxic on every level -- physical, emotional, and cultural -- and is accelerating on a collision course with resource depletion, climate disruption, and environmental devastation. We all want to jump off in time, or, perhaps lacking the necessary courage, to find ourselves lucky enough to be thrown clear.
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Private First Class James Burmeister faces a Special Court Martial at Fort Knox on July 16. The charges are AWOL and desertion. He returned to Fort Knox voluntarily in March, after living 10 months in Canada with his spouse and infant child. He refused redeployment to Iraq while on leave in May 2007.
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by Kevin Parkinson
In the last 15 years or so, as a society we have had access to more information than ever before inmodern history because of the Internet. There are approximately 1 billion Internet users in the world B and any one of these users can theoretically communicate in real time with any other on the planet. The Internet has been the greatest technological achievement of the 20th century by far, and has been recognized as such by the global community.
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by James Petras
Inflation and all of its repercussions for wage and salaried workers, fixed income middle classes, as well as manufacturers and transport industries is splashed all over the financial pages of the major newspapers throughout the world.
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Debka File: Senior Israeli official: If nuclear talks fail, Bush will order Iran attack between Nov and Jan
Well, he might order it, but does that mean it will happen? - Ed.
The source predicted that President George W. Bush would order Iran attacked between the November 4 presidential election and his exit from the White House in January.
This assessment was reported by Israeli national radio Saturday overnight quoting a high-placed “security-political” official.
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Cryptogon: Why are tens of thousands of plastic "burial vaults" stacked in a field near Madison, GA?
I have no idea what to make of this one. All of the sites I was able to find that reference this stockpile assume that it has something to do with an upcoming American holocaust and martial law, etc. Again, I have no idea.
Let’s try to work trough this one a bit…Read full story
I am still reading Military Journal of the American Revolution by James Thacher MD , and came across the following passage on page 67 regarding military engagements between the colonists (our American forefathers) and the British during the Revolutionary War. These battles/skirmishes occurred around White Plains and the River Brunx- Thacher writes about some prisoners taken by the Americans:
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by Khalid Amayreh
This week, Israel sank in an avalanche of national lethargy, hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Seeking to cope with Hezbullah’s success in getting Israel to release all Lebanese prisoners, dead and living, in exchange for the remains of two Israeli soldiers, Israeli leaders, media and shapers of public opinion have been indulging in sanctimonious self-glorification while denouncing the other side as “hateful, uncivilized and representing an inferior culture.”
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by Glenn Greenwald
One of the most striking aspects of our political discourse, particularly during election time, is how efficiently certain views that deviate from the elite consensus are banished from sight -- simply prohibited -- even when those views are held by the vast majority of citizens.
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