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The Most Dishonest Words in American Politics: 'Right to Work'

June 7, 2013 in Blogs

By Steven Wishnia, AlterNet

Right-to-work measures appeal to freedom and choice, but they're all about busting unions.


“Right to work” is the most dishonest phrase in American political discourse. It sounds like it’s defending people’s right to earn a living. But as used by its supporters, it means making it impossible for workers to form an effective union, couched in the language of “freedom” and “choice.”

Specifically, it means laws banning “union shops,” in which everyone in a workplace has to join the union or pay a fee to cover the cost of union representation. Twenty-four states have such laws. All were in the South and West until last year, when Indiana and Michigan enacted them. Michigan’s law was rammed through the Republican-dominated legislature in a lame-duck session last December.

The Michigan law was “pretty devastating for the labor movement,” says Erin Johansson of American Rights at Work. It came in the state where the United Auto Workers’ six-week occupation of General Motors plants in Flint in 1937 won the victory that opened the doors for unions throughout American industry, the state whose union labor defined the working-class prosperity of World War II to the 1970s.

Both Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Dick DeVos, the heir to the multibillion-dollar Amway fortune who bankrolled the campaign for the law, stuck to the party line about “freedom.” Snyder said the law would give workers “the freedom to choose” and unions “an opportunity to be more responsible to their workers,” because instead of automatically collecting dues, they’d have to show workers “a value proposition.”

“Absolute horseshit,” responds Ed Ott, former head of the New York City Central Labor Council. “This is a total offensive against workers. They don’t want workers to have any say. After workers vote for a union, they don’t want them to maintain membership.”

This year, “right to work” measures were introduced in 17 states, according to Peggy Shorey, director of state government relations at the AFL-CIO. Ten were defeated, including those in Missouri, Kentucky, and New Hampshire, where Gov. John Lynch vetoed one in 2011. Republicans in the Ohio legislature introduced one in early May, but …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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We Are All Bradley Manning: New Video Explains Why

June 7, 2013 in Blogs

By April M. Short, AlterNet

Since it’s the public who benefited from this information, does that make us the enemy? What price will future whistleblowers pay?


Private First Class Bradley Manning is on trial now after releasing information to the public. He has already spent 1,108 days in confinement awaiting trial. The information he shared exposed the unjust detainment of innocent people in Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and served as a catalyst for pro-democracy movements in the Arab world. Instead of the cold, clean images of drone planes soaring and American flags waving that mainstream news outlets project, the information Manning helped release displayed the disturbing, human truth about the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among other crimes, the whistleblower is accused of “aiding the enemy”—a capital offense and his most serious charge. A conviction on this charge would mean life in prison, and a possible death sentence.

Since it’s the public who benefited from this information, does that make us the enemy? What price will future whistleblowers pay? These are the questions posed on the Manning support network website, I Am Bradley Manning. The site is set up in part to promote a new PSA film created by the eponymous group.

The site’s tagline reads, “I am Bradley Manning because I believe the public deserves the truth and whistleblowers deserve a fair trial.”

The video I Am Bradley Manning features big-names including actors Maggie Gyllenhaal, Russell Brand and Peter Sarsgaard; filmmaker Oliver Stone; musicians Tom Morello and Moby; journalists Chris Hedges, Phil Donahue and Matt Taibbi; and author Alice Walker among others, carrying signs to declare they, too, are Bradley Manning. Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg tells the camera, “I was Bradley Manning.” The video’s participants call the “aiding the enemy” charge absurd.

The dialogue opens with the question, “When you join the military are you asked to keep any war crimes you might see secret?”

The video proceeds to pose important points that pertain to Manning’s case, including facts like:

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Yippee! More Bank Runs in Our Future

June 7, 2013 in Economics

By Joseph Salerno

Robert Lenzner of Forbes advises that you and I will be blindsided by the next financial crisis. Lenzner bases his reasoning on Yale economist Gary Gorton’s recent book Misunderstanding Financial Crises, Why We Don’t See Them Coming . According to Gorton the old-fashioned bank run is back, only in a different form. The recent financial crisis was different from earlier ones in that it was not initiated by bank depositors scrambling to withdraw their funds. Rather it was precipitated by a “run” among short-term lenders who had purchased banks’ commercial paper or lent money to banks through “repos” (repurchase agreements). When these lenders suddenly tried to liquidate these assets by selling them or not renewing the loans, their actions deprived banks of the short-term funds that the banks had been using to finance their long-term lending and investments.

As Lenzner describes the evolution of the crisis:

What transpired in 2007-08 “resembled the bank runs of the pre-Federal Reserve era. These were primitive expressions of panic by people trying desperately to sell assets, driving the price of those assets down, and causing other people to panic as well and try to get out at the same time. The panic spread from short-term instruments like repos and commercial paper to bonds and stocks and commodities and real estate. The wave of fear sweeps from short-term investments to longer term obligations. [There is an open quotation mark in this passage before "resembling" but no closed quotation mark to indicate where the quotation from Gorton ends.]

Lenzner goes on to warn:

The playbook in the next crisis will be the same as it was in past crises from 2008 to 1987, 1929, 1907, 1893, 1857 and so on. The run on the banks becomes systemic as no one institution is spared. Credit markets freeze, the economy goes south, millions lose their jobs, and other millions have their savings decimated. It happened time and time again in the 19th century before there was a central bank, and panics didn’t stop after the Fed appeared in 1913. . . .

Expect it to happen again. Gorton warns clearly that “there is no mechanism for determining when there actually is a crisis.” In fact, there was no panic by depositors in Citibank, BankAmerica, Wells Fargo that would have alerted the nation. It required the Fed to realize how over-leveraged, …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Democracy Now! Glenn Greenwald on the NSA Program and the Massive Surveillance State

June 7, 2013 in Blogs

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!

“The objective of the NSA and the U.S. government is nothing less than destroying all remnants of privacy.”


The following is a transcript orginally published on Demoracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: We begin with news that the National Security Agency has obtained access to the central servers of nine major Internet companies, including Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo! and Facebook. The Guardian and The Washington Post revealed the top secret program on Thursday, codenamed PRISM, after they obtained several slides from a 41-page training presentation for senior intelligence analysts. It explains how PRISM allows them to access emails, documents, audio and video chats, photographs, documents and connection logs that allow them to track a person or trace their connections to others. One slide lists the companies by name and the date when each provider began participating over the past six years. But an Apple spokesperson said it had “never heard” of PRISM and added, quote, “We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers and any agency requesting customer data must get a court order,” they said. Other companies had similar responses.

Well, for more, we’re joined by Glenn Greenwald, columnist, attorney, and blogger for The Guardian, where he broke his storyin—that was headlined “NSA Taps in to Internet Giants’ Systems to Mine User Data, Secret Files Reveal.” This comes after he revealed Wednesday in another exclusive story that the “NSA has been collecting the phone records of millions of Verizon customers.” According to a new report inThe Wall Street Journal, the scope of the NSA phone monitoring includes customers of all three major phone networks—Verizon, AT&T and Sprint—as well as records from Internet service providers and purchase information from credit card providers. Glenn Greenwald is also author ofWith Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. He’s joining us now via Democracy—video stream.

Glenn, welcome back to Democracy Now! Lay out this latest exclusive that you have just reported inThe Guardian.

GLENN GREENWALD: There are top-secret NSA documents that very excitingly describe—excitedly describe, boast about even, how they have created this new program called the PRISMprogram that actually has been in existence since 2007, that enables them direct access into the servers of …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Half Lives: Why the Part-time Economy Is Bad for Everyone

June 7, 2013 in Blogs

By Lynn Stuart Parramore, AlterNet

In America today, a whole job is increasingly hard to find.


Why is a whole job getting harder to find every day in America?

Ever since the financial crash, a growing number of people have been forced to take part-time gigs when what they really want is something increasingly out of reach: solid, full-time employment. Between late 2007 and May 2013, the number of part-timers jumped from 24.7 million to 27.5 million. A 2013 Gallup poll shows that one in every five workers is now part-time. Some folks, like students, may work part-time because they want to. Nothing wrong with that. But involuntary part-time employment is not a choice, it’s a burden. Often it means substandard jobs with crazy schedules that don’t pay nearly enough. According to the Labor Department, as many as a third of all part-timers fall into the involuntary category.

There are signs that their ranks are likely to swell.  

Part-Time Nation

Employers have found a new excuse to drop full-time employees to part-time status: the Affordable Care Act. Diane Stafford of the Kansas City Star looks at a trend called the “Obamadodge,” in which bosses around the country, including Regal Entertainment Group, franchise owners of Five Guys, Applebee’s and Denny’s, and the owner of Papa John’s pizza chain, have announced plans to side-step new requirements that businesses with over 50 full-time-equivalent employees offer their full-time workers access to a qualified healthcare plan or pay a penalty.

The healthcare law defines a full-time employee as anyone working more than 30 hours a week, so the boss simply cuts workers' hours and hires additional part-time staff to make up the difference. Stafford notes that as many as 2.3 million workers across the country are at high risk of having their hours slashed to below the 30-hour mark.

Another rising trend is employers changing part-time workers’ schedules from week to week. According to a New York Timesreport, this manuever is becoming commonplace in the American retail and hospitality industries. Bosses use sophisticated software to track the flow of customers and purchasing patterns in stores, which allows managers to …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Did a "Troubled Teen" Rehab Create Murderers?

June 7, 2013 in Blogs

By Maia Szalavitz, The Fix

In a string of horrific crimes, one “tough-love” rehab is the common denominator.


This article originally appeard on The Fix.

The crimes are heinous: murdering a pizza deliveryman for his uniform, then wearing it to shoot down Colorado’s state prison chief; hiring a hit man to kill your parents; stabbing both of your grandfathers to death. Besides the horror, these recent homicides share a surprising common element: In each case, the alleged or convicted perpetrator had been sent to an unregulated tough-love camp known as Paradise Cove.

Evan Ebel, the 28-year-old ex-con who is now notorious for the Colorado killings and the high-speed Texas car chase and shootout that ultimately led to his own death in March, attended at least two such programs, including Paradise Cove. His parents apparently sent him there around age 12 because they were concerned about his destructive behavior and suspicious that he was using hard drugs and alcohol

But Paradise Cove was anything but paradise for the boys who attended. The Samoa-based camp was part of a “troubled teen” chain—variously known as the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASP), Teen Revitalization Inc., and Youth Foundation Inc.—that has had over a dozen of its programs (including Paradise Cove) closed down following reports of abuse. Former participants link at least 11 suicide or overdose deaths as well as three homicides to this particular camp—and many more to the network overall. Although apparently not using the WWASP name these days, the same high-level management is still involved in residential youth programs today, mainly in Utah.

The boys at Paradise Cove slept in straw-roofed huts on mats on a concrete floor. To prevent escapes, fluorescent lights burned all night, attracting mosquitos. Flip-flops were the only shoes permitted—another security measure—but these were rapidly destroyed by the sharp coral beaches where the boys exercised and worked. The cuts that resulted attracted flies and infections. “They’d just swarm on you,” Paul Richards, who attended Paradise Cove in 1997, told me for my book on troubled teen programs, Help at Any Cost.

Breaking any of the program’s strict rules—for example, sitting in the wrong position or …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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12 Shocking Examples of Police Brutality…Just This Month

June 7, 2013 in Blogs

By Tana Ganeva, AlterNet

Decades of the drug war have warped the priorities of many police departments. The results can be tragic.


American law enforcement has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past few decades. The war on drugs, the world's most effective way to fill prisons with minorities while doing nothing to curtail drug use, has warped the priorities and practices of police departments around the country. As Kristen Gwynne has reported on AlterNet, federal funding incentivizes police to go after low-level drug use while neglecting more serious crimes like rape. In city after city, the crackdown on drug crime has expanded police power and pointed it straight at minorities and the poor. It's the reason we're number one when it comes to rates of incarceration. With 5 percent of the population, America has a quarter of the world's prisoners, according to the New York Times. 

Meanwhile, the decade-long war on terror has stocked local police departments with weapons from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan—do local police really need drones and tanks? (Journalist Radley Balko has extensively documented the militarization of police by way of the wars on drugs and terror.) The shift toward more aggressive, violent policing has had tragic results on the ground. AlterNet has assembled an incomplete list of brutal and unnecessary police actions, from this month alone. 
 
 
Cell phone footage taken by his mother shows a teen boy being thrown to the ground and pinned by police. His crime? Giving officers a funny look while armed with a puppy. As Steven Hsieh wrote on AlterNet:

Fourteen-year-old Tremaine McMillan says he was feeding his puppy and playing on the beach with some friends when cops riding ATVs approached him and asked what he was doing. The “peacekeeping” officers say they saw McMillan roughhousing with another teenager, told him it was “unacceptable behavior,” and asked where his mother was. When McMillan walked away, they chased him on ATVs, jumped out, pinned him to the ground and arrested him. According to police reports, McMillan “attempted to …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Victory for Grassroots Activism and Public Safety: San Onofre Nuclear Plant Closure Announced

June 7, 2013 in Blogs

By Harvey Wasserman, AlterNet

This victory at San Onofre is a falling domino. Had the public not fought back, those reactors would have been “fixed” at public expense.


From his California beach house at San Clemente, Richard Nixon once watched three reactors rise at nearby San Onofre.  As of June 7, 2013, all three are permanently shut.  

It’s a monumental victory for grassroots activism and it marks an epic transition in how we get our energy.  

In the thick of the 1970s Arab oil embargo, Nixon said there’d be 1000 such reactors in the US by the year 2000. As of today, there are 100. Four have shut here this year.  Citizen activism has put the “nuclear renaissance” into full retreat.   

Just two of 54 reactors now operate in Japan, where Fukushima has joined Chernobyl and Three Mile Island in permanently scarring us all.  

Germany is shutting its entire fleet and switching to renewables. France, once the poster child for the global reactor industry, is following suit.  South Korea has just shut three due to fraudulent safety procedures.  Massive demonstrations rage against reactors being built in India.  Only the Koreans, Chinese and Russians remain at all serious about pushing ahead with this tragic technology.  

Cheap gas has undercut the short-term market for expensive electricity generated by obsolete coal and nuke burners.  But the vision of Solartopia—a totally green-powered Earth—is now our tangible long-term reality.  

With falling prices and soaring efficiency, every moving electron our species consumes will be generated by a solar panel, wind turbine, bio-fueled or geothermal generator, wave machine and their green siblings.  

As of early this year, Southern California Edison's path to a re-start at San Onofre seemed as clear as any to be expected by a traditional atomic tyrannosaur.But with help from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator-to-be Ed Markey (D-MA), a powerful citizen uprising stopped it dead. 

So did the terrifying incompetence and greed that has defined the nuclear industry from the days of Nixon and before.  

<span …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Filipino Seniors in U.S. Looking to Return Home—with Medicare

June 7, 2013 in Blogs

By Sluggo Rigor, New American Media

Immigrants are appealing to Congress for “Medicare portability” so they can receive benefits overseas and save the program money.


While the U.S. Congress deliberates over proposed changes in the nation’s immigration laws, one group of immigrants who became naturalized citizens and who retired and have grown old in this country are seeking a congressional change that is the reverse of what most immigrants want.

Baby boomers, war veterans, widows and retirees originally from the Philippines are hoping welfare assistance and entitlement benefits they have earned would follow them should they decide to return to the land of their birth. Many are World War II veterans who fought under U.S. command and were promised federal compensation only partly provided since then. Advocates believe the United States could save money were it to permit the seniors to return home with their benefits, especially for Medicare.

Understandably, the accessibility of health insurance at this time in their lives is a major consideration as they dream of making their “giant leap” back home. Medicare recipients must be at least 65 or be disabled.

WWII-Era Seniors Assess Their Future

In Seattle’s Filipino-American community, aging WWII veterans and widows meet twice weekly at a senior center where they frequently share meals subsidized through the Older Americans Act.  At these gatherings they assess their hopes and future plans.

Veteran Tomas Villanueva, 90, and his wife Esther, 87, have lived in a subsidized senior housing facility in downtown Seattle for the past 21 years. 

During World War II, Villanueva served in Guam as a Philippine Scout recruit of the U.S. Army. Following the war, he returned to his home province in Southern Luzon where he served as a constabulary officer. He and Esther decided to emigrate to the U.S. in 1991. 

After securing their American citizenship in 1994, the couple filed petitions for some of their six adult children to receive visas enabling them to join their parents in Seattle. The Villanuevas were especially hoping that as they grow old, two of their daughters would provide them a family safety net. 

Eventually, the U.S. government approved four visas for the Villanueva children—but they have …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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NSA's Verizon surveillance: how the White House tramples our constitution

June 7, 2013 in Politics & Elections

In December 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama joined then-Senator Chris Dodd in threatening to filibuster the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa). Senator Obama opposed provisions granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that shared private client information with the government. His office released a statement:

‘Granting such immunity undermines the constitutional protections Americans trust the Congress to protect. Senator Obama supports a filibuster of this bill …’

Senator Obama was right. Had I been in the Senate, I would’ve voted with him. I’ve even filibustered myself over civil liberties issues I believe are important.
Later, supporting an amendment that he believed repealed retroactive immunity from Fisa, Senator Obama said in February 2008:

‘We can give our intelligence and law enforcement community the powers they need to track down and take out terrorists without undermining our commitment to the rule of law, or our basic rights and liberties.’

Senator Obama in 2007 was rightly concerned that telecommunications companies might get away with sharing clients’ private information without legal scrutiny. This week, we learned that the president’s National Security Agency compelled Verizon to hand over all of its client data records.
Senator Obama in 2008 wanted to track potential terrorist activity ‘without undermining our commitment to the rule of law, or our basic rights and liberties’. Today, President Obama undermines the rule of law, basic rights and core liberties – all in the name of tracking terrorists.
There is always a balance between security and liberty and the American tradition has long been to err on the side of liberty. America’s founders feared a government powerful enough to commit unreasonable searches and seizures and crafted a constitution designed to protect citizens’ privacy.
Under this administration, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has targeted political dissidents, the Department of Justice has seized reporters’ phone records, and now we’ve learned the NSA seized an unlimited amount of Verizon’s client data. Just when you think it can’t get any worse under this president, it does. This is an all-out assault on the constitution. These actions are unacceptable under any president, Democrat or Republican.
I can remember well a Senator Obama who joined the Democratic chorus against the warrantless wiretapping of the Bush administration. Now, that chorus has gone mute. The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald has noted what he sees …read more

Source: RAND PAUL