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Member since: Wed Dec 11, 2013, 03:23 PM
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The War on Young People

America’s latest war, according to renowned social critic Henry Giroux, is a war on youth.

(Giroux says, in the Moyers interview, that something fundamental has changed in US society, in that the ruling class appears to have basically "written off" young people -- subjecting them to increasing repression, debt, and declining job opportunities. I had never thought of it that way before, but it seems to be a good way of expressing what's going on. Youth -- the country's future -- is being "written off" except for a slice at the top. What does that say about the future of the country?)

While this may seem counterintuitive in our youth-obsessed culture, Giroux lays bare the grim reality of how our educational, social, and economic institutions continually fail young people. Their systemic failure is the result of what Giroux identifies as “four fundamentalisms”: market deregulation, patriotic and religious fervor, the instrumentalization of education, and the militarization of society. We see the consequences most plainly in the decaying education system: schools are increasingly designed to churn out drone-like future employees, imbued with authoritarian values, inured to violence, and destined to serve the market. And those are the lucky ones. Young people who don’t conform to cultural and economic discipline are left to navigate the neoliberal landscape on their own; if they are black or brown, they are likely to become ensnared by a harsh penal system.

Giroux sets his sights on the war on youth and takes it apart, examining how a lack of access to quality education, unemployment, the repression of dissent, a culture of violence, and the discipline of the market work together to shape the dismal experiences of so many young people. He urges critical educators to unite with students and workers in rebellion to form a new pedagogy, and to build a new, democratic society from the ground up. Here is a book you won’t soon forget, and a call that grows more urgent by the day.

From Mobil/Exxon to the two presidential candidates, everyone has a cure for the ills of education, but as usual Henry Giroux sees the truth behind the rhetoric. Stop stealing the future from our young people, especially in the working class. Unable to get decent educations, chained to dead-end jobs, our young people are the targets of state-sponsored violence. Giroux knows personally this situation; this book is his intellectual autobiography. Listen to him and act.

—John Carlos Rowe, University of Southern California


Candidate Barack Obama pledged to raise the minimum wage to $9.50/hour by 2011.

During the 2008 campaign, presidential candidate Barack Obama made a pledge to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour by 2011. Promises like this one inspired a generation of young voters, excited long-neglected progressive voters and gave hope to millions of his supporters across the country.

President Obama ran a campaign of soaring rhetoric and uplifting ideas. Amidst two unpopular wars, a rapidly deteriorating financial crisis and the wildly unpopular presidency of George W. Bush, Americans were desperate for a change. He was viewed as a “transformational” candidate, a president who would turn the page on the stagnant politics of Washington.

It is now four (six) years later, and there has been no increase to the minimum wage. There has been no congressional vote, much less a whisper from the White House on the minimum wage.

...Had the minimum wage kept pace with inflation since 1968, today it would be at $10.57 per hour, instead of the current federal minimum wage of $7.25.


I will be very glad if the minimum wage is raised to $10.10, because I'll get a raise. But I confess that I don't believe it will be raised to that, if at all.

Why didn't Obama bring it up when he had a Democratic Congress?

Chicken Soup for the Neoliberal Soul

Sam Polk was one of the wolves of Wall Street. In a self-lacerating memoir in Sunday’s New York Times, Polk looks back at his time as a brash young trader and is disgusted with the person that he used to be. “I was a giant fireball of greed.” “I wanted a billion dollars.” “I was lying to myself.” I, I, I.... Like his fellow “wealth addicts” on the trading floor, Polk was convinced that being rich would solve all of his problems. It didn’t, and he eventually left the wolves’ den (but not before making a killing by short-selling derivatives during the financial crisis)...

But though he’s left Wall Street behind, Polk has not been nearly as successful in escaping the affective and ideological spaces of neoliberalism. His confession is drenched in the therapeutic language of self-help culture: political phenomena like financialization, inequality, and class power are redefined as personal pathologies to be treated with psychotherapy and support groups for those poor souls suffering from wealth addiction.

In the coup de grace, Polk ends by — you guessed it — founding a non-profit organization to make up for all the bad things he’s done. Its purpose? Not to combat the power of finance capital, or even to attend to the spiritual needs of former Wall Street traders, but the eating habits of poor people.

In her excellent new book Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty, the sociologist Jennifer Silva analyzes the ways in which neoliberalism has radically transformed our sense of self. As Silva argues, the assault on working-class organizations and living standards has led many young adults to adopt a profoundly individualistic and therapeutic view of the world and their personal development.

The scores of young workers that she interviewed for her study had no faith in politics or collective action to address their problems or to give their lives meaning. Instead, they deal with the traumas of everyday life by crafting “deeply personal coming of age stories, grounding their adult identities in recovering from painful pasts — whether addictions, childhood abuse, family trauma, or abandonment — and forging an emancipated, transformed, adult self.”

In the language of C. Wright Mills, they lack a sociological imagination that allows them to connect personal troubles to public issues. The social damage wrought by deunionization, financialization, and deeply embedded patterns of gender and racial discrimination are consistently transmuted into evidence of personal shortcomings that, if left uncorrected, hold individuals back from attaining stability and security.

Though Polk is a child of the middle class who made a fortune before turning thirty, the narrative he crafts to explain his personal trajectory bears all of the same characteristics of Silva’s working-class interviewees. He traces all of his personal shortcomings — his youthful drug and alcohol abuse, low-level criminal activity, workplace fistfights, sexual infidelities, and lust for money — to childhood trauma at the hands of an abusive father. In his telling, it is individuals with propensities toward addictive behaviors, not political actors or socioeconomic structures, that are responsible for the vast gulf between the rich and the rest of us. It was not revulsion at the vast social wreckage of neoliberalism, but rather the development of a “core sense of self” honed through years of therapy, that finally spurred his decision to leave Wall Street.

Like his counterparts occupying the lower rungs of an increasingly precarious labor market, Polk has made sense of his life and the world by creating individualized solutions to confront and transcend a traumatic past disconnected from any wider social context. This affective orientation is a generalized condition of neoliberal subjectivity across classes.

At the height of her reign, Margaret Thatcher declared that in the neoliberal counter-revolution, economics was the method but the object was to change the soul. Judging from the bleak emotional landscapes that so many of us seem to inhabit, that project has succeeded beyond its protagonists’ wildest dreams.

The appeal of individualistic and therapeutic approaches to the problems of our time is not difficult to apprehend. But it is only through the creation of solidarities that rebuild confidence in our collective capacity to change the world that their grip can be broken. Until then, the only thing that the Sam Polks of the world can offer us is a solitary bowl of chicken soup for our neoliberal souls.


Pete Seeger, American Communist

When the legendary folk singer Pete Seeger passed away Monday at the age of 94, remembrances of him unsurprisingly focused less on his music and more on his social activism. All the better — Seeger, the epitome of tireless commitment to “the cause,” would have liked it that way.

Some comments were laudatory, praising every aspect of his advocacy. But most of them struck the balanced tone of the Washington Post’s Dylan Matthews who tweeted: “I love and will miss Pete Seeger but let’s not gloss over that fact that he was an actual Stalinist.”

Such attempts at balance miss the mark. It’s not that Pete Seeger did a lot of good despite his longtime ties to the Communist Party; he did a lot of good because he was a communist.

This point is not to apologize for the moral and social catastrophe that was state-socialism in the 20th century, but rather to draw a distinction between the role of Communists when in power and when in opposition. A young worker in the Bronx passing out copies of the Daily Worker in 1938 shouldn’t be conflated with the nomenklatura that oversaw labor camps an ocean away.

As counter-intuitive as it may sound, time after time American communists such as Seeger were on the right side of history — and through their leadership, they encouraged others to join them there.


Corporate Extortion: A 21st Century Business Imperative?

It should come as no surprise to anyone that corporations pit local governments against one another in an effort to secure lucrative financial incentives to bring their business to (or remain in) the competing localities. Executives lobby hard at the city, county, and state levels for tax credits, cash payments, and other inducements. In the past, they might have promised to bring jobs to the cities or states in return for generous incentive packages...

At the same time, you can bet that if elected officials sought new regulations to improve water quality or worker safety, those same companies would strenuously resist them, arguing that the free market should not be weighed down by new rules. There’s a caveat to the oft-repeated phrase, “government’s not the solution; it’s the problem.” Corporate America has virtually one voice here: governmental intervention is good when it benefits corporations and Wall Street, but not when it protects workers, consumers, or the environment...

In a recent 3-part series, The New York Times writer Louise Story describes the extent of the practice:

States, counties, and cities are giving up more than $80 billion each year to companies. The beneficiaries come from virtually every corner of the corporate world...

The Times looked at more than 150,000 awards nation-wide and compiled a searchable database of incentives by location.

The database allows researchers to search by state or by company name to uncover a massive corporate welfare system that costs some states as much as 30% of their annual budget. In many localities, the already diminished tax base is being redistributed to corporate coffers. It’s one more example of the race to the bottom that drives communities’ living standards down and drives corporate profits up.


Raising The Minimum Wage, Increases Employment And One City Proved It

Many states and large cities have already moved to increase the minimum wage above and beyond the federal minimum of $7.25. San Francisco was one of the early leaders in pushing up the minimum wage. In fact the city raised their minimum wage in 2004 and indexed it to inflation. Currently the minimum wage in San Francisco is $10.74, well above the federal minimum, and even more than the proposed $10.10 federal minimum wage increase.

The fact that San Francisco raised the minimum wage almost a decade ago has given us a real life test bed for how it will impact the local economy. The results were staggering. In San Francisco between 2004-2011, private employment grew by 5.6%. Neighboring towns also benefited from the increase. The entire Santa Clara Country saw a 3% increase in private employment.

More importantly employment in the food service industry grew by 17.7%, debunking the myth that raising the minimum wage will cost low-wage workers their jobs.

That is not to say that there were not drawbacks to raising the minimum wage. There was a minor (2.8%) increase in prices at local fast food restaurants compared to the surrounding areas. This increase would mean that your $2.00 hamburger now costs $2.06. This is hardly the massive inflation that some people claim.

The minimum wage increase in San Francisco also benefited low-wage employers. According to Ken Jacobs, chairman of the US Berkley Labor Center, turnover in low-wage jobs “decreased by 60%”, which saves employers from having to spend additional money to hire and train new workers.

Americans overwhelmingly support raising the minimum wage. The Quinnipiac University Poll showed that 71% support an increase. The Washington Post Poll found similar results, 66% support an increase.


APWU to Launch National Campaign Against Outsourcing USPS Services to Staples

Protests Begin in San Francisco and San Jose Tues., Jan. 28

SAN FRANCISCO — Members of the American Postal Workers Union, joined by community activists, will launch protests against a deal between the U.S. Postal Service and Staples to move mail services into Staples stores. The first protests in the nation will begin in San Francisco Tuesday morning and later move to San Jose in the afternoon.

In October, USPS announced a no-bid agreement to open postal counters with limited service in more than 80 Staples stores. The Staples-operated and staffed postal counters will open on a trial basis in four markets across the United States: Northern California, Atlanta, GA, Pittsburgh, PA and Central Massachusetts. After the trial period, the Postmaster General has said the plan is to expand to 1,500 stores.

WHO: Members of the American Postal Workers Union, community activists, individuals who regularly use postal services

WHAT: Protests outside Northern California Staples stores

WHEN/WHERE: 10 a.m., Jan. 28th, Staples, 1700 Van Ness, San Francisco

4 p.m., Jan. 28th, Staples, 121 Bernal Road, San Jose

“All Americans should have access to a full-service post office,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “Although first-class mail is declining, package delivery is growing, largely due to e-commerce. This is when we should be expanding the post office to offer longer hours and more options, such as public notary and basic banking. Instead, we are giving customers fewer postal services as a result of this no-bid sweetheart deal with Staples. If we’re going to have mini-Post Offices located in Staples stores, they should still be operated by USPS workers.”

Staples has been struggling recently, shutting 40 stores in the last quarter. The publicly-traded company runs a low-wage operation, with high employee turnover, designed to deliver bulk commodities to customers.

Although the USPS handles 160 billion pieces of mail each year – 40 percent of the world’s total – mail is not a bulk commodity. Each package is individually addressed, and requires individual handling.

During this time of rampant identity theft, privacy and security are of concern to millions of postal customers. Uniformed USPS employees are required to take an oath and pass a background check before they can handle mail and make credit card transactions. Retailers, such as Staples, cannot offer the same assurances.

“Without public debate and despite claims to the contrary, the USPS is moving to shutter the reliable neighborhood post office and move work to Staples and other for-profit businesses,” said Dimondstein “Our union wants to shed a light on this bad deal. We’re confident that when the public learns what’s going on they will say, ‘Staples, when it comes to mail without USPS workers – no sale.”


Staples started with backing from private equity firms including Bain Capital; Bain co-founder Mitt Romney served on the company's board of directors for the next 15 years, helping shape their business model.[7]


Almost three decades after helping to launch Staples (SPLS), Bain Capital and a number of other private-equity firms are reportedly exploring a buyout bid for the office supplies retailer.


National Labor College to close.

In 1969 AFL-CIO President George Meany founded a labor studies center under the direction of Fred K. Hoehler Jr. to promote education and training opportunities for union leadership and rank-and-file members...

On November 6, 1974, AFL-CIO President George Meany dedicated the George Meany Center for Labor Studies, located on the former campus of Xaverian College. The property was purchased from the Xaverian Brothers by the AFL-CIO for $2.5 million in 1971...

In 1997 under the leadership of AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney, the center received authorization to grant baccalaureate degrees by the State of Maryland Higher Education Commission and became an independent institution of higher learning and renamed the National Labor College. By 2004, National Labor College had become fully accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.[6]

In the fall of 2006 the new Lane Kirkland Center opened on the National Labor College campus, to provide upgraded facilities, and to greatly expand the college's hosting capabilities. At the time, the college hoped to promote the Kirkland Center as "America's union hall." However, the center is included in the planned sale of the campus in 2012.[4]

In 2009, the college entered into a partnership with Penn Foster Education, a career college subsidiary of the Princeton Review in order to develop a distance education program. The program was ended by the college in November, 2011, because of the slow growth of the program and the financial difficulties of the Princeton Review.[9] The college intended to use the facilities developed under this program to build its own program of distance education.[9] The losses from the joint program were in part responsible for the 2012 decision to close the college's campus and function in online education only.[4]

On November 12, the National Labor College Board of Trustees directed Peinovich and the college's officers to develop a plan to close the college due to the institution's ongoing financial difficulties.


Princeton Review is a private for-profit test prep company owned by Charlesbank Capital Partners, a private-equity firm.

Penn Foster is a private company specializing in distance education: high school, vocational, and college, purchased in 2009 by Princeton Review.

Ironically, there are labor issues surrounding the closing:

“Our union, comprised of professionals and faculty members, calls on the National Labor College and the AFL-CIO to ensure that the student body has a seamless path to finish out their degrees, and that the college meets its contractual obligations to its union-represented staff. How the closure proceeds will reflect greatly on the labor movement, its values and how it honors its obligations to union members, both as students and employees.

The National Labor College was founded and supported by the AFL-CIO to help working families and union members pursue higher education as the cost of college has become increasingly out-of-reach for many American families. A recent report by the College Board found that for 2013-2014, the median tuition and fees price tag was over $11,000 — not including room and board. Since the college’s founding, the AFL-CIO has always subsidized tuition for union members to make the cost of attendance affordable. The AFL-CIO and the National Labor College should continue to work together to ensure moral and contractual obligations to students and staff are met.”


Postman who spent 17 years in prison after wrongful conviction says he is a 'greater person' for it

A postman who spent 17 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of attempted rape says he is a 'greater person' for his miscarriage of justice.

Victor Nealon, 53, says he 'wants justice' and is considering suing the police after being given a life sentence in January 1997 for the attempted rape of a 22-year-old woman.

But despite spending almost a third of his life behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, Mr Nealon says he has no bitterness towards the prison system, and insists the experience was a positive one.

Mr Nealon, from Redditch in Worcestershire, was finally freed from HMP Wakefield on December 13 after DNA evidence from the woman's blouse was examined, which revealed another unknown man was the perpetrator.

He maintained his innocence throughout his spell in prison, even though it meant serving the full life sentence instead of pleading guilty and being released after serving half.

Mr Nealon believes his original defence team were 'incompetent' and says that while on trial he came close to confessing as it appeared the only way to get a lighter sentence.

He said: 'The police never had any evidence against me but my legal team in the trial were incompetent but I wasn't to know that at the time. I had never been at a trial before.'

Mr Nealon added: 'The evidence has always been freely visible. I have had 17 years of this so now it is time for justice… I want my life back.'

On how he found prison to be a positive experience, Mr Nealon said: 'Really I am a greater person for this experience, all experiences are valuable. Like Nelson Mandela said 'there is no easy walk to freedom''.

He added: 'I have called for the police to re-open the investigation and I think the victim should as well… Surely the bigger interest is justice for the victim - she has never received any apology.'


Suddenly everyone's coming out of the woodwork to talk about Christie's pay to play tactics.

What that tells me is that this is how politics really operates. They're only talking now because it's "safe" as Christie has been deemed expendable publicly.

Maybe in some places it's more "genteel" & covert, maybe in some places there's more of less of it, but it's not some unique corruption.
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