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Hometown: Saskatchewan
Home country: Canada
Member since: Sat Jul 9, 2005, 11:46 PM
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Flames of Resistance and Hope in Turkey

By Tariq Ali and Zeynep Bilgehan

Source: Counterpunch

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Zeynep Bilgehan: You released a solidarity message for the protestors from Ankara. First of all how long have you been in Ankara and what’s the purpose of your visit?

Tariq Ali: I was in Ankara for three days to give a public lecture at the invitation of the Cankaya municipality that had been agreed several months ago. Naturally I observed what was going on in the evenings. Unprovoked attacks on peaceful demonstrators, the constant use of tear gas and water visited the Park and talked to the young people there.

ZB: What do you think about the recent incidents as a whole? From your point of view what happened or is happening in Turkey?

Tariq Ali: The mixture of a sharp intelligence, fearlessness and the rebirth of hope that I witnessed was very inspiring. It reminded me to a certain extent of Europe (Paris and Prague) in 1968, much more than the Arab spring. What is happening in Turkey is very clear. An elected authoritarian government, committed to neo-liberalisam and war, imagined that it could do anything it wanted because of its democratic status. This was a foolish mistake.

When I was in Istanbul a few months ago, it was difficult not to detect a pall of depression that had enveloped activists and oppositionists. The closure of one of the city’s oldest cinema on Istiklal had led to mild protestsd. So mild that the government imagined it could accelerate its select and destroy mission. They miscalculated badly. The Prime Minister, in particular, a veritable Sultan of the building industry refused to retreat and embarked on repression. This was the breaking point. People unconcerned with the proposed destruction of Gezi now came out to protest and in huge numbers. The more the repression, the more the protests grew, spreading to virtually the entire country apart from four Kurdish-dominated towns. A campaign to save a park had become a national uprising against an obstinate and thuggish regime.

Full article: http://www.zcommunications.org/flames-of-resistance-and-hope-in-turkey-by-tariq-ali

Gagged by Big Ag

Horrific abuse. Rampant contamination. And the crime is…exposing it?
—By Ted Genoways | July/August 2013 Issue

SHAWN LYONS WAS DEAD TO RIGHTS—and he knew it. More than a month had passed since People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had released a video of savage mistreatment at the MowMar Farms hog confinement facility where he worked as an entry-level herdsman in the breeding room. The three enormous sow barns in rural Greene County, Iowa, were less than five years old and, until recently, had raised few concerns. They seemed well ventilated and well supplied with water from giant holding tanks. Their tightly tacked steel siding always gleamed white in the sun. But the PETA hidden-camera footage shot by two undercover activists over a period of months in the summer of 2008, following up on a tip from a former employee, showed a harsh reality concealed inside.

The recordings caught one senior worker beating a sow repeatedly on the back with a metal gate rod, a supervisor turning an electric prod on a sow too crippled to stand, another worker shoving a herding cane into a sow's vagina. In one close-up, a distressed sow who'd been attacking her piglets was shown with her face royal blue from the Prima Tech marking dye sprayed into her nostrils "to get the animal high." In perhaps the most disturbing sequence, a worker demonstrated the method for eutha­nizing underweight piglets: taking them by the hind legs and smashing their skulls against the concrete floor—a technique known as "thumping." Their bloodied bodies were then tossed into a giant bin, where video showed them twitching and paddling until they died, sometimes long after. Though his actions were not nearly as vicious as those of some coworkers who'd been fired immediately, Lyons knew, as the video quickly became national news, that the consequences for him could be severe.

As we sat recently in the tiny, tumbledown house he grew up in and now shares with his wife and two kids, Lyons acknowledged—as he did to the sheriff's deputy back then—that he had prodded sows with clothespins, hit them with broad, wooden herding boards, and pulled them by their ears, but only in an effort, he said, to get pregnant sows that had spent the last 114 days immobilized in gestation crates up and moving to the farrowing crates where they would give birth. Lyons said he never intended to hurt the hogs, that he was just "scared to death" of the angry sows "who had spent their lives in a little pen"—and this was how he had been trained to deal with them. Lyons had watery blue eyes that seemed always on the verge of tears and spoke in a skittish mutter that would sometimes disappear all the way into silence as he rubbed his thin beard. "You do feel sorry for them, because they don't have much room to move around," he said, but if they get spooked coming out of their crates, "you're in for a fight."

Lyons had been trained in these methods of hog-handling (many of them, including thumping, legal and widely practiced), but a spokeswoman for Hormel—one of the largest food processors in the country and the dominant buyer of MowMar's hogs—had already called the video "appalling" and "completely unacceptable," and MowMar's owners had responded by vowing that any additional workers found guilty of abuse as authorities pored over the tape would be terminated. Still, it came as a surprise when his boss informed him that he had been formally charged and immediately fired. "We don't want to do it," the supervisor told him, "but we got to—because Hor­mel will quit taking the sows." He told Lyons to turn himself in at the courthouse.

Full article: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/06/ag-gag-laws-mowmar-farms

It's Time For A Global Minimum Wage

By Jason Hickel

Source: Aljazeera

Friday, June 14, 2013

The real problem has to do with the way the global labour market works. Because of neoliberal economic policies imposed over the past few decades, companies now have the power to rove the globe in search of what CEOs refer to as the "best investment conditions". Poor countries like Bangladesh have to compete with other poor countries to attract much-needed foreign capital by offering the lowest minimum wages, the flimsiest safety standards, the cheapest taxes, and so on. Most economists justify this destructive "race to the bottom" under the banner of "comparative advantage".

As part of this deal, companies no longer have to bargain with local workers - they can opt out of the social contract whenever it suits them. If workers in Savar, say, got together to demand better wages or safety standards, the companies that use them would just start sourcing from somewhere else, leaving them unemployed. Such a move wouldn't take more than a mouse-click at the headquarters of Gap or Wal-Mart.

To put it bluntly, the global labour market is rigged in the interest of multinational companies; it is designed to allow them to pump value out of human bodies - mostly poor, brown, female bodies - as efficiently as possible. Those bodies generate the enormous wealth that flows into corporate coffers, but only a fraction of it goes back to them in wages - the vast majority gets pocketed as profits and CEO bonuses.

This process of appropriation - or theft, really - helps explain the shocking trends in global inequality that we have seen over the past few decades, to the point where the richest 200 people now have more wealth than the poorest 3.5 billion - more than half of the world's population.

Full article: http://www.zcommunications.org/its-time-for-a-global-minimum-wage-by-jason-hickel

The IMF’s “Mistakes” On Greece Are Nothing New

By Jérôme Roos

Source: Roarmag.org

Friday, June 14, 2013

Three years since its first bailout, the IMF has finally gathered the courage to admit that it made major mistakes in its handling of the Greek debt crisis. In an official report released last week, the Fund states that, while its basic policy prescriptions were correct, it underestimated the negative effect of austerity on growth and therefore ended up making economic prognoses that were much too optimistic about Greece’s debt sustainability. Where the IMF predicted a contraction of 5.5% of economic output between 2009 and 2012, the Greek economy actually lost 17%, and where the IMF predicted 15% unemployment by 2012, the actual rate was 25%. So much for the supposed neoliberal “success story” of draconian austerity that European leaders have been raving about in their delirious collective debt delusion.

And yet, while these seemingly shocking admissions hit media headlines as if they were some kind of profound revelation, the sad truth is that they actually tell us nothing new. In fact, the Greek Labour Institute and the think tank IOVE made forecasts that were frighteningly close to the actual outcome. The IMF now argues that Greece should have had debt cancellation as early as 2010 or 2011, but claims that this policy response was politically unpalatable to those countries — i.e., Germany, France and the Netherlands — whose banks had a large exposure to Greek debt. Again, this is nothing new: the IMF is merely repeating the exact argument that hundreds of thousands of outraged Greeks made in 2011, when they occupied Syntagma Square to contest a parliamentary vote on the EU/IMF-imposed austerity memorandum. Back then, the protesters were dismissed as fringe extremists. Now even the IMF proves them right.

But there is another — more sinister — way in which the IMF’s belated mea culpa is nothing new. The fact of the matter is that these type of self-critical reports by the Fund have been a permanent feature of its management of international financial crises ever since the 1980s. For some reason, every time a debt crisis strikes, the IMF moves in to impose the same short-sighted bailouts, austerity measures and market reforms — and then, several years later, comes to the conclusion that it made major mistakes in its handling of the crisis. Yet it never changes tack: when the next crisis hits, it simply reproduces the same old script: stabilization, privatization, liberalization. Nothing else will do to satisfy the markets, and so the debtors simply have to bend over backwards to satisfy the orthodox neoliberal prescriptions of structural adjustment.

During the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s, the Fund also made overly optimistic growth prognoses in a context of austerity. Back then, these predictions also served to legitimate a policy response that narrowly served the interests of the big banks by preventing early debt write-downs. Just as today, the IMF was also forced to admit — in hindsight — that it “failed to foresee” the depth and duration of the crisis. As official IMF historian James Boughton noted in his extensive study of thirty years of IMF crisis management, the Fund suffered from a “lack of foresight [resulting] from optimism in assessing the growth prospects of Latin American countries.” Indeed, its austerity programs “were predicated on forecasts of a rapid resumption of economic growth” that failed to materialize. This led Karen Lissakers, a future IMF executive director, to conclude that “the Fund is acting as enforcer of the banks’ loan contracts.”

Full Article: http://www.zcommunications.org/the-imf-s-mistakes-on-greece-are-nothing-new-by-j-r-me-roos

Koch Brothers' Activism Protects Their 50 Years in Canadian Heavy Oils

By David Sassoon at InsideClimate
Thu May 10, 2012 4:30am EDT

Long involvement in Canada's tar sands has been central to Koch Industries' evolution and positions the billionaire brothers for a new oil boom.

By David Sassoon, InsideClimate News

Over the last decade, Charles and David Koch have emerged into public view as billionaire philanthropists pushing a libertarian brand of political activism that presses a large footprint on energy and climate issues. They have created and supported non-profit organizations, think tanks and political groups that work to undermine climate science, environmental regulation and clean energy. They are also top donors to politicians, most of them Republicans, who support the oil industry and deny any human role in global warming.

What is less well documented are the many Koch businesses that benefit from the brothers' efforts to push the center of American political discourse rightward, closer to their own convictions. At the top of the list are the Koch family's long and deep investments in Canada's heavy oil industry, which have been central to the company's initial growth and subsequent diversification since 1959.

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