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Member since: Wed Mar 16, 2005, 10:12 AM
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Labor As Seen from Down Under: Fair Wages and Decent Benefits Profit Everyone


Labor As Seen from Down Under: Fair Wages and Decent Benefits Profit Everyone
Friday, 29 November 2013 01:16
By Niall McLaren, Truthout | Op-Ed

When we were visiting my son in Boston at Christmas, he had to keep reminding me to tip waiters. I couldn't see why it was necessary. Here, in the upside world of Down Under, we pay our waiters a wage but, in Boston as in the rest of the US of A, it seems they don't actually pay waiters. Remarkable. His university friends, he said, who were working in the restaurant we were patronizing, were granted the sum of $2.13 per hour by the owners to wait on their tables. If they wanted more, they had to wring it from the patrons. I appreciated the artful thinking behind this move, but if an employer tried to pull that stunt in this country, he'd be in serious trouble. And rightly so. Waitpersons, kitchenhands and other lowlife actually have to eat, and pay rent, and travel to work - and pay for medicines, or schools . . . In fact, waiters etc. don't get a free ride anywhere that I've seen. Perhaps the crafty restaurateur had also read Proverbs 12:24: The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.

I see where workers at Walmart are paid an average of $24,000 a year, and need government subsidies to live (that figure is artificially inflated by including managers, as ordinary workers struggle to earn $17,000). Meanwhile, Walmart's owners blissfully wallow in torrents of money they couldn't possibly spend in a hundred lifetimes ($115 billion as of March 2013). To my simplistic way of thinking, this means the US government is subsidizing the Walton family to the tune of about $1 billion a year. I hope they pay their taxes in gratitude. The enterprising Mr Bezos, of Amazon fame, pays his workers about the same, but makes them wait in line to be frisked after their twelve-hour shifts - on their own time. Well-paid workers don't normally steal because they don't want to lose their jobs, and they also tend to respect generous employers more than tightwads. Look no further than Ephesians 4:28: Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

For us, the envious foreigners who don't live in Godzone, it is a total mystery why anybody would want to crush his workers into the dirt by depriving them of a profit to their toil. I'm an employer. If I knew my workers couldn't afford to pay their children's school fees, I wouldn't be able to look them in the face. What drives US companies to pay their CEOs 354 times an average worker's wage when, 60 years ago, CEOs were satisfied with only 20 times as much? A few years ago, the CEO of Caterpillar Corporation was asked by his production line workers why they hadn't received a pay raise for 10 years whereas the firm's senior executives were getting more and more every year. The CEO replied that the company had to pay internationally competitive salaries for its top executives. At the time, the CEO of Kubota, the only competitor for Caterpillar, was earning one-tenth of the Caterpillar CEO's $22.7 million annual take.

Salaries here in the workers' paradise have long been controlled by the government for the purpose of making sure that workers received adequate profit for their toil. It goes back a long way, almost to the time of Federation, in 1901. One of the earliest moves of the new government of the infant Commonwealth of Australia was to establish a legal basis for ensuring industrial peace and stability through a Federal Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Unlike another federal court that's been in the news lately that prefers to remain hidden, this was a fully-functioning, adversarial court in which justice was done and was seen to be done. Anybody could bring a case against an employer and, in 1907, some unhappy workers did just that. They were not being paid a proper wage, as the law demanded, and the court found in their favor: Every employer, the judge ruled, was required to pay his workers a wage commensurate with ". . . the normal needs of an average employee, regarded as a human being in a civilized community." However, the killer point (from the owner's point of view) was this: it had to be paid regardless of the owner's capacity to pay. Crying poor didn't work (note that, Mr Bezos). The Harvester Judgement, as it was known, has shaped the industrial landscape of this country to the present; we do not accept that grinding workers into the dirt to save a few extra dollars is the action of a reasonable human being in a civilized country. We have a much higher minimum wage than the United States, and our unemployment rate is far lower. We do not have, and would not tolerate, a permanent underclass of disempowered workers on starvation wages.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Nov 30, 2013, 08:22 AM (2 replies)

Military Commissions Stuck on Torture


Military Commissions Stuck on Torture
Friday, 29 November 2013 00:00
By Adam Hudson, Truthout | Op-Ed


The topic of torture dominated the latest pretrial hearings. At issue were the US government's obligations under the Convention Against Torture, an international treaty banning torture, to which the United States is a party.


Supporters of the CIA's interrogation program, such as former Vice President Dick Cheney and conservative political commentator Joe Scarborough, argue that torture was necessary to obtain information that could prevent another terrorist attack on American soil. However, the convention states, "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture." Torture is recognized as a war crime and a crime against humanity by the International Criminal Court. Moreover, along with slavery, genocide, wars of aggression and crimes against humanity, torture is seen as violating customary international law - aspects of international law derived from custom for which no derogation is permitted.

Under the CIA's Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) program, all five defendants were held in secret prisons, known as "black sites," to be interrogated. The US government committed acts of torture - euphemistically known as "enhanced interrogation techniques" - as part of the interrogations. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the infamous key mastermind of 9/11, was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 and gave several false and misleading statements during that time. Walid bin Attash was subjected to stress positions and forced nudity. Ramzi bin al-Shibh also was subjected to stress positions and forced nudity, along with torture with electric shocks, sleep deprivation and forms of sexual violence.

J. Connell III, attorney for Ammar al-Baluchi, told Truthout that "medical records from Guantanamo Bay demonstrate that, shortly after he arrived at Guantanamo, Mr. al-Baluchi complained that he had received a head injury while he was in CIA custody.” This information was declassified and arose during the hearing.

unhappycamper comment: Are we paying $454 million dollars a year to detain 164 detainees to insure the 'T' word and Guantanamo are never mentioned in the United States?

Why not prosecute those who did it?
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Nov 30, 2013, 08:17 AM (2 replies)

Double Standards for US War Crimes


U.S. pundits cheer when some African warlord or East European brute is dragged before an international tribunal, but not at the thought of justice being meted out to George W. Bush or other architects of post-9/11 torture and aggressive war on Iraq

Double Standards for US War Crimes
by John LaForge
Published on Friday, November 29, 2013 by Consortium News

In response to regular reports of atrocities by U.S. soldiers, drone controllers, pilots and interrogators, the White House routinely tries to help. Every president promises to honor U.S. armed forces and says they are the finest military of all, etc.

At Veterans’ Day ceremonies, president fill-in-the-blank boast, “America is and always will be the greatest nation on Earth.” This past Nov. 11, President Barack Obama said that since 9/11 the U.S. is “defining one of the greatest generations of military service this country has ever produced,” and, of course,“(W)e have the best-led, best-trained, best-equipped military in the world.”

Really? On Veterans’ Day 2011, one headline blared: “American Soldier is Convicted of Killing Afghan Civilians for Sport.” U.S. aggression, occupation, torture of prisoners, massacres, drone attacks, offshore penal colonies and sexual assaults against our own service members, take the luster from the official self-image of “exceptionality.”


Atrocities against people of occupied or targeted countries aren’t the only ones accumulating. According to a July 2012 report by the Pentagon, over 25,000 sexual assaults occurred in fiscal year 2012, a 37 percent increase from FY 2011. About “500 men and women were assaulted each week last year,” USA Today reported July 25. See: “Reports of Military Sexual Assault Rise Sharply,” NY Times, Nov. 7; & “Sexual Assaults in Military Raise Alarm: 26,000 Cases Last Year,” May 7, 2013.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Nov 30, 2013, 07:42 AM (0 replies)

Block the US-Afghan Security Agreement!


Hamid Karzai is right: it compromises Afghan sovereignty and ensures ten more years of US occupation.

Block the US-Afghan Security Agreement!
by Bob Dreyfuss
Published on Friday, November 29, 2013 by The Nation

Despite strong objections from President Hamid Karzai, the United States insists that Afghanistan must sign, as written, a Bilateral Security Agreement that sets the framework for another decade of US occupation of that war-torn nation. According to the terms of the proposed accord, the United States will be able to maintain up to nine military bases, along with 8,000–12,000 troops (and a smaller contingent of European and other forces), through 2024. Over Afghan opposition, the agreement states that US troops will not be subject to Afghan law for criminal acts—even war crimes. Among the sensible points raised at the eleventh hour by Karzai: that US forces be prohibited from conducting night raids of Afghan homes and that Washington start peace talks between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Taliban.

A gathering of more than 2,500 Afghan tribal leaders, clerics and national and provincial officials endorsed the accord after a four-day loya jirga, or council, convened by Karzai. But the president himself balked, saying he would sign it only after further negotiation, and perhaps not until after next April’s presidential election—which, Washington says, would be far too late. That dispute, like many others involving Karzai over the past decade, will probably be resolved in America’s favor because Washington holds all the cards. “We can continue to disagree, but at the end of the day, we are the ones who have the troops,” said a US official. So a war that President Obama has repeatedly said is “winding down” may go on for another ten years.

There are crucial questions Obama has failed to address: If the more than 100,000 US troops that occupied Afghanistan after his escalations of 2009 failed to neutralize the Taliban and its allies, how will a far smaller US contingent accomplish that task? How will the Afghan security forces, which have already absorbed $54 billion in US aid since 2002, gain enough strength with another decade of American cash infusions of up to $6 billion a year? Perhaps most important: Where is the US diplomatic strategy to secure an accord between the Afghan government, non-Taliban opposition forces and the Taliban itself?

In fact, diplomacy—especially involving Pakistan, which supports the Taliban; India, which backs the non-Pashtun elements of the old anti-Taliban Northern Alliance; and Iran—is the only way to end the war. Recently the White House learned how effective diplomacy can be in seemingly intractable conflicts. First, Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry veered away from airstrikes against Syria, instead making a deal with Russia to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons and move toward a Geneva peace conference. Then, ignoring protests from hawks, neoconservatives and many members of Congress, Obama and Kerry reached a historic interim accord with Iran on its nuclear program. Despite off-again, on-again efforts to talk with the Taliban, to Karzai’s frustration, the White House hasn’t pursued a political solution in Afghanistan with the same vigor.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Nov 30, 2013, 07:36 AM (0 replies)

No Line in Front of Best Buy in Affluent DC Suburb


Line outside Best Buy in affluent DC neighborhood 6 hours before opening.

No Line in Front of Best Buy in Affluent DC Suburb
by Jane Hamsher
Published on Friday, November 29, 2013 by FireDogLake

I was watching CNN this morning and the inevitable wall-to-wall “shoppers go crazy on Black Friday” stories. Pope Francis’s invocation against the Western economic promotion of “unbridled consumerism” two days ago seemed remarkably well timed.

But as I watched video of people camped out on sidewalks in the freezing cold this year and mobs violently pushing through doors, consumerism seemed at best a partial explanation.

CNN scolds castigated them for being consumed by greed and treating Black Friday shopping as a “sport,” but these people didn’t look like they were having fun. They looked poor. And desperate.


Maybe instead of chalking Black Friday mania up to rampant greed we should be looking at the ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor—and the economic policies that are forcing people to participate in a Hunger Games-like spectacle in order to provide for themselves and their families.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Nov 30, 2013, 07:32 AM (3 replies)

Our Crap, Our Shame and Maybe, One Day, An American Spring


Our Crap, Our Shame and Maybe, One Day, An American Spring
by Abby Zimet
11.29.13 - 11:15 AM

Ugh. Grotesque reports - of fistfights, gunshots, chaos, dispiriting WTF insanity - from today's feeding frenzy, American capitalism's crass version of good times. With small signs of pushback by labor and consumers alike, possible hope for the future and horrific supercuts of retail violence to remind us how far out there we've gone. Buy nothing, stay home, rake the leaves, read a book.

Summit Flop: EU Needs New Russia Policy after Ukraine Debacle


Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in Vilnius

Summit Flop: EU Needs New Russia Policy after Ukraine Debacle
By Nikolaus Blome and Gregor Peter Schmitz in Vilnius
November 29, 2013 – 06:13 PM

The protocol highlight of Friday's Eastern Partnership Summit was supposed to be the formal signing of an agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. But Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych no longer wants to be Europe's new best friend, so he put the deal on ice.

As a result, the highlight is now a different and, above all, sensitive one: German Cancellor Angela Merkel met the unyielding Yanukovych on Friday morning. But in what context? A German protocol official had a loud phone conversation in the hotel lobby: "The Ukrainians want the interpreter to sit at the table, as well," he exclaimed. They had brought a flag, he continued, before asking if that would be a problem. And, ah yes, the Ukrainian delegation wanted to sit on right-hand side. "At first glance, I can't see any downside for us," the official said carefully into his mobile phone.

With delicate details of ice-age diplomacy like these, the summit has been thrown back from what should have been the prelude to a very good friendship. It is not just the failure of the agreement that is on display in Vilnius, but also the failure of the EU's strategy toward Eastern Europe as it devolves into mere helpless announcements.

Officials admit that the task is a complicated and time-consuming one, but they still believe that controversial leaders like Yanukovych must eventually take the plunge toward Europe. "The door is open," said Chancellor Merkel after her 40 minute-long meeting with the Ukrainian president, though she added that the opposition there cannot be forgotten, either. At the chancellor's bidding, her foreign policy adviser Christoph Heusgen met with opposition leader and heavyweight boxer Vitali Klitschko in Vilnius to learn more about reprisals against Ukrainian civil society.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Nov 30, 2013, 07:11 AM (1 replies)

A Giant Awakens: Inside Africa's Economic Boom


In roughly a decade, Africa has gone from being labeled "the hopeless continent" to enjoying an unprecedented boom. In a three-part series, SPIEGEL explores this transformation -- its drivers, winners and losers -- and asks if it can last.

A Giant Awakens: Inside Africa's Economic Boom
November 29, 2013 – 05:17 PM

The magazine cover bore a completely black background. In the middle, an outline the shape of Africa framed a fierce-looking fighter toting a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Above the picture was the title, "The hopeless continent."

This cover of British magazine the Economist, the world's most influential newsmagazine for business and financial topics, appeared in May 2000. The issue featured a deeply pessimistic report that tore Africa to pieces, presenting it as a lost continent, eternally plagued by tribal wars, famine and mass poverty.

But since the turn of the millennium, the world has a different take on Africa thanks to an economic boom that refuses to fit into the usual distorted picture. The same voices that once proclaimed the continent dead are now predicting a rebirth for Africa, the awakened giant with nearly incalculable natural resources (around 40 percent of the world's raw materials and 60 percent of its uncultivated arable land), fast-growing markets and a young, highly motivated population.


Here are the facts behind the fiction: No other continent has developed as rapidly in the last decade as Africa, where real economic growth was between 5 and 10 percent annually. In oil-rich countries, such as Angola, it was a possibly record-breaking 22.6 percent in 2007.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Nov 30, 2013, 07:07 AM (1 replies)

Billions from Beijing: Africans Divided over Chinese Presence (Part 1 of 3)


Chinese companies have pumped billions into Africa to secure access to natural resources, boosting countries' economies along the way. Ordinary citizens aren't reaping the benefits, though, and have become increasingly wary of the new investors.

Billions from Beijing: Africans Divided over Chinese Presence
By Bartholomäus Grill in Bagamayo, Tanzania
November 29, 2013 – 04:55 PM

Everything is as it has always been: decayed rows of houses, weathered doorframes with intricate carvings, potholed dirt roads, fishing boats rotting on the beach and, in the middle of it all, the Boma, a stone fortress built by the former German conquerors in Bagamayo, a sleepy coastal town in Tanzania.


This spring, Bagamayo was the focus of a story in international business news, when more than 400 newspapers worldwide reported that China was making a low-interest loan of $10 billion (€7.4 billion) available for the construction of a modern container terminal 15 kilometers (9 miles) south of the city, and also planned to fund the establishment of a special economic zone in the hinterlands behind the port.

"This is good for Tanzania, very good. It's a poor country that will be making a giant step forward," says Janson Huang, 36. It's also good for him and his company. Huang manages the local office of Chinese construction company Group Six International in Dar es Salaam. A short, wiry man with a sparse moustache, he is dressed casually in an open, gray-and-white striped shirt and dark slacks. Huang speaks English well, and he speaks openly and directly.

This is unusual, as Chinese investors tend to shy away from the media. All other inquiries SPIEGEL made with Chinese companies registered in Tanzania were either rejected or not answered at all.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Nov 30, 2013, 07:03 AM (1 replies)

What The Pentagon Means When It Says The U.S. Military Is 'Ready'


What The Pentagon Means When It Says The U.S. Military Is 'Ready'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Warnings from defense officials and some experts are mounting and becoming more dire: The nation's military is being hobbled by budget cuts.


Detailed information on that is classified secret so adversaries won't know exactly what they're up against. But because of ongoing budget fights, officials in recent weeks have given broad examples of readiness lapses in hopes of convincing Congress and the American people that cutbacks, particularly in training budgets, are creating a precarious situation.

For instance, an Air Force official says they've grounded 13 combat fighter/bomber squadrons or about a third of those active duty units. And the Army says only two of its 35 active-duty brigades are fully ready for major combat operations. The service typically wants to have about 12 ready at any given time so a third of the total can be deployed, a third is prepared for deployment and a third is working to get ready.

Analysts say a decade of massive spending increases have built a strong force superior to anything else out there. "We could certainly fight another war on the order of the first Gulf War (1991) without any problems; the Air Force could do air strikes in Syria," said Barry M. Blechman of the Stimson Center think tank. "We wouldn't want to get involved in another protracted war (like Iraq and Afghanistan), but in terms of the types of military operations we typically get involved in, we're prepared for that."

unhappycamper comment: Some of the things we are currently building:

$243,000,000 F-35s
$40,000,000,000 dollar aircraft carrier
(3) $5,000,000,000+ dollar destroyers
$7,000,000,000+ dollar submarines
$4,900,000,000 of new Air Force tankers

Why do many Americans go to bed hungry? Why do corporations not pay their fair share of taxes? Why do we keep doing this over and over and over again?


Pete Seeger- Sanga Music Inc -BMI

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone, long time passing?
Where have all the young girls gone, long time ago?
Where have all the young girls gone?
Gone for husbands everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the husbands gone, long time passing?
Where have all the husbands gone, long time ago?
Where have all the husbands gone?
Gone for soldiers everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the soldiers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?
Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?


We never learn.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Nov 30, 2013, 06:51 AM (0 replies)
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