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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 66,358

Journal Archives

"Longing for 1984" with Chris Hedges (pts I & II)

Published on Nov 21, 2014

Zain Raza interviews Chris Hedges on a newly produced show called "Longing for 1984 " to discuss the interests that really dictate U.S policy both domestically and abroad, government surveillance globally and the role of activism.

Amazon Requires Badly-Paid Warehouse Temps to Sign 18-Month Non-Competes

from Naked Capitalism:

Amazon Requires Badly-Paid Warehouse Temps to Sign 18-Month Non-Competes
Posted on March 30, 2015 by Yves Smith

The Verge has broken an important story on how far Amazon has gone in its relentless efforts to crush workers. Despite its glitzy Internet image, Amazon’s operations depend heavily on manual labor to assemble, pack, and ship orders. Its warehouses are sweatshops, with workers monitored constantly and pressed to meet physically daunting productivity goals. Indeed, many of its warehouses were literally sweatshops, reaching as much as 100 degrees in the summer until bad press embarrassed the giant retailer into installing air conditioners. In Germany, a documentary exposed that Amazon hired neo-Nazi security guards to intimidate foreign, often illegal, hires it had recruited and was housing in crowded company-organized housing. Amazon also fought and won a Supreme Court case to escape compensating its poorly-paid warehouse workers for time they spend in line at the end of shift, waiting for security checks.

Amazon’s latest “keep workers down” practice is to make temps sign non-competes. Yes, if you are so desperate and foolish as to take a short-term gig with Amazon, you will be barred from working for virtually anyone else for the next eighteen months. Look at how incredibly broad the language is in the non-compete agreement obtained by The Verge (hat tip MF):

During employment and for 18 months after the Separation Date, Employee will not, directly or indirectly, whether on Employee’s own behalf or on behalf of any other entity (for example, as an employee, agent, partner, or consultant), engage in or support the development, manufacture, marketing, or sale of any product or service that competes or is intended to compete with any product or service sold, offered, or otherwise provided by Amazon (or intended to be sold, offered, or otherwise provided by Amazon in the future) that Employee worked on or supported, or about which Employee obtained or received Confidential Information.

Pray tell, what possible employers are not included, given how sweeping these terms are? A cleaning service? Nah, Amazon sells Roombas and vacuum cleaners, so you’d be competing indirectly with them. A receptionist in a dentist’s office? Nope, Amazon sells tooth whitening products. A massage therapist? No, Amazon sells electronic massage devices. Working as a gym? No, Amazon sells home exercise equipment. And note that this includes “intended to be old, offered, or otherwise provided by Amazon in the future.” Amazon temps are precluded from competing with Amazon vaporware too. ..............(more)


Anti-Wall Street Public Stands Behind a Resolute Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren is reminding the Democrats to show some backbone and not give in to Wall Street's threats to withhold funding to the Democratic National Committee and some national candidates. Why are the big banks trying to intimidate the Democratic Party? Because the most outspoken senator - Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) - is proposing that the big banks should be broken up.

Her reasoning is simple: The few banks that control most of the nation's money are not, as Obama officials often assert, "too big to fail." Warren argues that actually, they are too big not to fail.

A March 27 article from the Guardian provides the context to the threat:

Big Wall Street banks are so upset with Elizabeth Warren’s call for them to be broken up that some have discussed withholding campaign donations to Senate Democrats in symbolic protest, sources familiar with the discussions said.

Representatives from Citigroup, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America have met to discuss ways to urge Democrats, including Warren and Ohio senator Sherrod Brown, to soften their party’s tone toward Wall Street, sources familiar with the discussions said this week.

Bank officials said the idea of withholding donations was not discussed at a meeting of the four banks in Washington but it has been raised in one-on-one conversations between representatives of some of them. However, there was no agreement on coordinating any action, and each bank is making its own decision, they said.

Will the withdrawal of Wall Street political contributions to the Democratic Party seriously impact elections? The answer is probably not. As The Guardian points out, "The amount of money at stake, a maximum of $15,000 per bank, means the gesture is symbolic rather than material."

Furthermore, the Wall Street bullying to make Democratic bigwigs tremble would not likely result in severe financial campaign contribution losses to the Dems. That is because a lot of Democrats in Congress are subservient to the interests of the big banks and financial institutions. Therefore, individual mega-rich bankers, millionaires and billionaires will give to individual Democrats who vote as Wall Street dictates in any case. ..............(more)


Co-ops Enable Low-Income Women to Work as Owners and Decision Makers

Co-ops Enable Low-Income Women to Work as Owners and Decision Makers

Monday, 30 March 2015 00:00
By Eleanor J. Bader, Truthout | Report

Co-ops not only give low-income and immigrant women a way to enter an often unwelcoming - and in some cases, hostile - economy, but also give them a way to exert some control over their work lives and simultaneously support themselves and their families. They have consequently been some of the early adopters in the not-yet-critical-mass movement of worker-owned cooperative businesses that has begun to catch fire in towns and cities throughout the United States.

Melissa Hoover, executive director of the Democracy at Work Institute, estimates that there are presently between 300 and 400 worker-owned businesses operating domestically. The fledgling cooperative movement is diverse. There are co-op bakeries, catering companies, tortilla-makers and cafes; bike repair shops; taxi companies; dog-walking and cat-sitting services; and upholsterers. There are also worker-owned farms, elder- and child-care agencies, tutoring programs, and factory and construction businesses.

What's more, they run the gamut in terms of size. Some have just three to five members while the largest, Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx, has 2,100. And while most involve both men and women, a growing number of all-women co-ops have been established as a way for low-income and immigrant females to earn a living.

According to Amy Johnson, co-executive director of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, the majority of established women's co-ops came together at the behest of an agency that then serves as mentor and facilitator. "Women frequently come to a social service organization needing jobs and child care and learn about co-ops from someone there," she said. "Sometimes they've seen another co-op in town, but that's unusual. People rarely know much about the co-op model." ................(more)


Juan Cole: Israel’s Netanyahu jumps Shark with “Iran-Lausanne-Yemen” axis barb

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, no longer allowed to sit at the adult table because of his past food fights, has been reduced, as Haaretz observed, to whining from the sidelines. Now he is complaining about an “Iran-Lausanne-Yemen” axis.

The negotiations between Iran and the P5 + 1 (the five permenent members of teh UN Security Council plus Germany) have come down to the wire. Diplomats want a final deal by close of business Tuesdays. Last minute complications have predictably arisen, but from all accounts a deal is plausible, though not yet a sure thing.

Any deal would limit Iran’s break-out capacity or ability to go for broke and produce a nuclear warhead (something its Supreme clerical leader, Ali Khamenei, says he doesn’t want, since weapons of mass destruction are illegal in Islamic law, which forbids killing non-combatants and innocents.) In return, Iran wants a removal of international economic sanctions.

Netanyahu opposes this deal because it would leave Iran with the right to enrich uranium and a distant break-out capacity. He wants Iran to be forced to mothball its uranium enrichment program entirely, a demand that is completely unrealistic short of a US invasion and occupation of that country (which is 2.5 times as populous as Iraq and much bigger geographically). ....................(more)


Central Banks Warn: Liquidity May Evaporate When Investors Finally Remove Blindfolds

Central Banks Warn: Liquidity May Evaporate When Investors Finally Remove Blindfolds
by Wolf Richter • March 27, 2015

Companies are selling bonds like madmen. This year through Tuesday, investment-grade and junk-rated companies have sold $438 billion in new bonds, up 14% from the prior record for this time of the year, set in 2013, according to Dealogic. This quarter is already in second place, nudging up against the all-time quarterly record of $455 billion of Q2 2014.

About $87 billion of these bonds funded takeovers, a record for this time of the year, the Wall Street Journal reported. The four biggest bond sales in that batch were for healthcare takeovers, including the Actavis deal whose $21 billion bond sale was the second largest in history, behind Verizon’s $49 billion bond sale in 2013.

Actavis had received orders for more than four times the bonds available, according to CFO Tessa Hilado. “You don’t really know what the demand is until people start placing their orders,” she said. “I would say we were pleasantly surprised.”

Brandon Swensen, co-head of U.S. fixed income at RBC Global Asset Management, couldn’t “see anything on the radar that’s going to slow things down materially,” he told the Wall Street Journal. His firm expects rates to “remain low.”

All of the investors chasing after these bonds expect rates to remain low. Or else they wouldn’t chase after these bonds. If rates rise, as the Fed is promising in its convoluted cacophonous manner, these bonds that asset managers are devouring at super-high prices and minuscule yields are going to be bad deals. And their bond funds are going to take a bath.

But companies are selling bonds as if there were no tomorrow. They’re thinking that rates will not remain low. They’re trying to get these things out the door cheaply while they still can. They’re on a feverish mission to take advantage of these ludicrously low rates while they’re still available. And they use this cheap money to buy each other and to repurchase their own shares to pump up share prices and max out executive compensation packages, rather than investing it in productive activities. ................(more)


Connection Between Rigged Trade and Rigged Government

Connection Between Rigged Trade and Rigged Government
A week with Wyden shows a secret fundraiser for a secretly negotiated corporate agreement

by Kevin Zeese / March 28th, 2015

Participating in US politics, as a citizen activist, puts you face-to-face with corruption and the ugliness of money-politics.

At least I find it ugly that a senator would be negotiating fast track legislation through Congress for secret corporate rigged trade deals while raising money from big business interests that would profit immensely from those deals. Taking money while negotiating legislation that benefits the donor should be illegal. It should be considered bribery or a pay-off, but the deep corruption of US politics has legalized that kind of bribery and made it the norm.

While this was occurring Wikileaks published the text of the Investment Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This chapter that allows corporations to sue governments when a law passed in the public interest would undermine their profits. Corporations can sue for the profits they were expecting in rigged trade tribunals where corporate lawyers play the role of judges and there is no court review. Even the US Supreme Court cannot overrule the corporate judges.

A Week With Wyden

That is what we saw this week as we focused our attention on Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). Wyden is the key Democrat on the Finance Committee. If he co-sponsors fast track with Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) then it will be harder to stop these crony capitalist rigged agreements. We’ll see if the bribes he received on Wednesday from DC’s big business lobbyists at his bribe-fest, err fundraiser, was enough for him to ignore what the people of Oregon have said they clearly oppose.

Polling shows that 73 percent of Oregonians oppose fast track and 63 percent oppose the TPP. Half of the voters in Oregon said they would be less likely to support Wyden if he works with Republicans to pass fast track. You would think in a representative democracy the elected official who represents that constituency would say ‘no’ to fast track rather than negotiate in secret with a Republican leader on how to get fast track through the Congress. ...................(more)


Nebraska Farmer Invites Pro-Fracking Commission Members to Drink Contaminated Water

Pro-fracking members of the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission were silent when a farmer and former pipeline worker invited them to drink water contaminated with chemicals used in the petroleum and natural gas extraction process.

During the public comment portion of the commission hearing, James Osborne referred to previous testimony by members, saying, “So you told me this morning … that you would drink it, this water, right? So, would you drink it? Yes or no?”

When a commission member told Osborne they would not comment, he replied, “Oh, you can’t answer any questions? So, my answer would be no. I would not drink this.

“There is no doubt there will be contamination,” he added during a brief lecture on how contaminated water flows through the state according to fluid dynamics. “There will be spills.”

When Osborne’s three minutes were up, he left the water glasses on the table, thanked the commission members and left to applause from the audience. ....................(more)


University of North Carolina students: Why Are We Still Honoring A KKK Leader In 2015?

Students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are renewing a push for the school to change the name of a building named after a 19th-century Ku Klux Klan leader.

Saunders Hall is named after William Saunders, a Confederate colonel who later became a chief organizer for the KKK in North Carolina. UNC named the building, which primarily houses the history department, in 1922 to honor Saunders' work compiling Colonial records.

Students have been pushing the school to rename the building for years. This year, student activists are asking the university to rename it for Zora Neale Hurston -- who, prior to integration, was the school's first black student -- and to require that each student take a campus tour explaining the racial history of the university. They're also asking for the school to put up a plaque providing historical context to the "Silent Sam" Confederate soldier monument on campus: At the statue's 1913 unveiling, a tobacco manufacturer bragged about whipping a "Negro wench" for insulting a Southern lady and credited the Confederacy with protecting the "Anglo-Saxon race." ......................(more)


Sustainable Living Means Making Big Changes; Why Can't We Face Up to It?

Sustainable Living Means Making Big Changes; Why Can't We Face Up to It?

Sunday, 29 March 2015 00:00
By Kirstie O'Neill, Adrian Friday and Adrian K. Clear, The Conversation | Op-Ed

Despite the significant risks for human and non-human life, greenhouse gas emissions (GhG) are still rising. Something has to give – and that something would appear more significant than those with the power to stimulate change are willing to admit.

The UK government’s Global Calculator is a good example. This recently released tool allows us to model the compatibility of our food, travel, housing and work environment with national targets to limit climate change. The climate secretary, Ed Davey, reckons the calculator shows “everyone in the world can prosper while limiting global temperature rises to two degrees, preventing the most serious impacts of climate change.”

Yet even the most ambitious changes the tool advocates deviate little from our current “normal” patterns of behaviour – supposedly “essential” appliances still include tumble driers, while under the “extremely ambitious” scenario, the urban car would still account for 29% of journeys (currently 41.5%) per year. Meat is included as a core component of daily meals, and very few indicators relate to diet. It remains to be seen which government would adopt the “extremely ambitious” changes.

This isn’t what a sustainable future looks like. It isn’t even close. Do we really need tumbledried clothes, or to eat meat every day?

Transitioning to sustainability will require profound changes in our everyday ways of living, particularly in westernised countries. It requires changes that are much more significant than simply doing the things that we currently do, but more efficiently. ....................(more)


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