Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Support the fast food workers strike!

Fast Food Strikes, NYC, July 2013

David Seaton's News Links
Hundreds of fast food workers in seven cities across the U.S. walked out on their jobs Monday demanding a “living wage,” or double what many are making now. More strikes are expected this week in what’s become one of the biggest pushes to organize the industry’s historically disjointed workforce. Time Magazine
This is the message of the strikers:
We can't survive on $7.25!

In America, people who work hard should be able to afford basic necessities like groceries, rent,childcare and transportation.

While fast food corporations reap the benefits of record profits, workers are barely getting by— many are forced to be on public assistance despite having a job.

Raising pay for fast food workers will benefit workers and strengthen the overall economy.
This is a moment of truth for anyone who calls him/herself a "progressive", this is the real thing, this is about the basics, the sort of thing the left came into existence for, it is about hard working people mired and trapped in poverty, men and women who are trying to organize, form unions and fight for decent pay and working conditions... 

This is certainly a defining, "put up or shut up" moment for the what is left of the left. These workers should not be left to struggle alone, theirs is the fight of everyone, everywhere, who works for wages. It would be beautiful if the Occupy Movement came out and all other progressive organizations came out en masse in their support. The real thing, the old fashioned, shoulder to shoulder, slogan shouting left... all about the dignity of work and workers.


Today, fast food workers from across New York City are marking the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by standing up for what's right and going on strike to demand better wages and the right to form a union without intimidation. Like the sanitation workers who Dr. King marched with in Memphis before his death, we are standing up for dignity and respect for all workers. Standing up takes courage. Your support helps us know we are doing what's right and we cannot be ignored. Please join us today!

The image/message below is making the rounds of Facebook
Mental Health Awareness Week
For me, this message from the "Mental Health Awareness Week" relates directly to the Fast Food Strikes.
Imagine the "depression, anxiety and panic attacks" suffered while trying to raise a family on an American minimum wage. 

The final exhortation also applies: ""Share the support! Let those who struggle know they are not alone..." DS

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Whither Weiner's Weeny?

David Seaton's News Links
Weiner's New Yorker cover
Asked how he would explain the incidents to his son, Weiner said "First of all, the kid's going to grow up in Gracie Mansion. So I'm going to say, 'Kid, don't complain.'" Huffington Post
The saga of Anthony Weiner is beyond caricature. What redeeming feature does this poor creature possess that anybody should be obliged to read about him, much less be asked to vote for him to take possession of  one of the United State's most important elective offices? The Democratic party letting him run in their mayoral primary reminds me of when the Roman Emperor Caligula made his horse, Incitatus, a senator.
America has always had a wacky side and the world has always been packed with creeps exposing themselves, but what really worries me is that there are people in New York -- supposedly the world's most important city -- who were willing to vote for this guy and there were people donating money to fund his run.
What ever happened to "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind"?
Or is this just New York City's way of flipping the world the bird? DS

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The "North Korean Propaganda" film: a discussion

David Seaton's News Links
A YouTube video purported to be a leaked North Korean propaganda film has been making the Internet rounds. The film, which has been called scarily accurate, criticizes Western capitalism, consumerism and celebrity culture. Update: The clip is actually from a 2012 documentary about North Korean propaganda made by New Zealand filmmaker Slavko Martinov, which has its U.S. premiere on July 31. In These Times
I am putting this up to hear your comments... I'd like to start a discussion or an argument, whatever.
Personally I think that we should have made this film about ourselves, as perhaps we have. I imagine many of us would agree with much of it. DS
PS: The full movie is here:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Snowden... what if?

David Seaton's News Links
Disclaimer: I would start off by saying that whoever or whatever Edward Snowden is, I believe that he has performed an important and useful service to America and to the world by revealing the extent of the National Security Agency's spying programs.  This universal surveillance must be universally talked about, because for it to remain in the dark would be more hurtful to civilization than any damage that could result from it being brought to light. What follows in no way devalues the usefulness of Snowden's revelations.
Having said that... I have this possible hypothesis of what could be going on that I would like to trot out.
I have probably read too many spy novels and this may have twisted my mind all out of shape, but I keep asking myself, could Snowden be a Russian mole?
Because if he were a mole and he really took with him what he claims he took with him when he left the States, he would be an even more important mole than Kim Philby.
"Beyond technical systems, U.S. officials are deeply concerned that Snowden used his sensitive position to read about U.S. human assets, for example spies and informants overseas as well as safe houses and key spying centers. They worry this recent quote from Snowden was not an exaggeration: ” I had access to the full rosters of everyone working at the NSA, the entire intelligence community, and undercover assets all over the world. The locations of every station, we have what their missions are, and so forth.”  ABC News
The question would be, if he were really a mole, why not just run off to Russia with his stuff and retire to a nice Dasha outside Moscow and draw a fat pension for the rest of his life?
The answer would be, the Cold War is over and the USA and Russia have friendly relations and to have openly stolen the Crown Jewels, (really more the family jewels) of US intelligence, would validate Mitt Romney's campaign claim the Russia was America's "number one geopolitical foe", an affirmation much derided at the time. Obviously if Snowden had just disappeared with all his hard drives and turned up in Moscow to a hero's welcome, American-Russian relations would be "reset" to somewhere pre-Gorbachev.
Such an open rupture is something that Vladimir Putin would much like to avoid and if (big if) Edward Snowden is a mole, Putin would obviously like to have his cake and eat it too.
On a trip to Chita in Eastern Siberia on Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin reiterated that Mr Snowden would have to stop any anti-American activity if he wished to receive asylum in Russia. “We warned Mr Snowden that any action by him that could cause damage to Russian-American relations is unacceptable for us,” Mr Putin said on Wednesday. He added that the Kremlin considered good relations with Washington to be “a national objective”. “Bilateral relations, in my opinion, are far more important than squabbles about the activities of the secret services,” the president said.  Financial Times 
In order to do have and eat the cake simultaneously, Putin would have to "launder" Edward Snowden, just like laundering money. How is this done? Wikipedia explains:
Money laundering is commonly defined as occurring in three steps: first, cash is introduced into the financial system by some means ("placement"); the second involves carrying out complex financial transactions in order to camouflage the illegal source ("layering"); and, the final step entails acquiring wealth generated from the transactions of the illicit funds ("integration"). 
If Putin is laundering Snowden then "placement" would have been Hong Kong and (layering) his first revelations in the Washington Post and The Guardian, which have caused a worldwide anti-American reaction, especially among America's closest allies and a near total loss of America's moral authority to scold anyone about anything. This "layering" continued with his "where is Wally?" stay in Moscow's airport with offers of asylum from Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua. "Integration" would be his being granted asylum in Russia and the hard drives being returned to the USA (after everything on them has been read, of course). Triple play, checkmate, carom shot.

If my tentative hypothesis is correct, Vladimir Putin is perhaps the greatest spymaster of all time, and if Edward Snowden has just landed in his lap by chance, with all the damage he has done to America's human rights moral authority, then Putin is even luckier than Gloria C. MacKenzieDS

Monday, July 15, 2013

The death of Trayvon Martin

David Seaton's News Links
Taking the whole thing into account, taking as given America's history of racial tension, thus taking as given the practical inevitability of "racial profiling" I think the root cause of Trayvon Martin's death was that George Zimmerman was allowed to carry a pistol.
Racial profiling works both ways, I don't believe that Zimmerman would have ever dared get out of his car and accost a young, black male in a hoody even to comment the weather or to ask for a light, if he hadn't been armed.
The more racist he was, the more frightened he would have been and the less willing he would have been to approach Martin. Without a gun he would have waited, safely locked in his car, for the police to arrive.
So for me it is clear: letting people carry pistols in the street caused the death of Trayvon Martin as it is the cause of death of thousands of Americans, of every possible color, every year. DS

PS: If you wanted to make a really cynical reading of Trayvon Martin’s death, think what it would have been like if “Zimmerman”, who is Hispanic, had been named “S├ínchez”. None of it would probably have made the national press. Zimmerman sounds white and the whole story is of a white man killing a young black man. Latino kills black is not news.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Could a Nobel Peace Prize injure the sphincter muscle?

David Seaton's News Links
"None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available pursuant to this act shall be obligated or expended to finance directly any assistance to any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree." - Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2006
It is getting harder and harder to write about all of this stuff nowadays, every time I start, the old gag reflex kicks in.

This would all be simpler if we conceded that gradually after WWII and picking up speed dramatically after 9-11, the United States has evolved into a corporate-military-security state... in short a "regime".
And like our fellow old Cold Warriors, the Soviet Union, (which also was a corporate-military-security state-regime), we need to wrap our realpolitik in millenarian ideology... "We are building global democratic capitalism comrades".
The "end of history" and all that... while we force-feed political prisoners in our Guantanamo gulag, kill American citizens without trial, etc, etc.
The present news cycle: with the absurd "where's Wally?" of the Snowden affair... and the Egyptian coup d'etat that is not a coup d'etat, where an army that literally lives off American aid (in exchange for not troubling Israel) massacres the supporters of a legitimate, democratically elected government that they have overthrown manu militari, without the White House even giving them a sharp tug on their leash... impossible for anyone, anywhere to believe that the USA has not colluded in all of this... all of this brings us face to face with our hypocrisy... rubs our noses in it really.
Perhaps hypocrisy is to be preferred to cynicism, because as La Rochefoucauld famously said, "Hypocrisy is the homage which vice pays to virtue", which means that if good didn't exist, bad people wouldn't have to pretend to be good... Which is probably the best you can say about America's present performance on the world stage.
America’s post-September 11th national-security state has become so well financed, so divided into secret compartments, so technically capable, so self-perpetuating, and so captured by profit-seeking contractors bidding on the next big idea about big-data mining that intelligence leaders seem to have lost their facility to think independently. Who is deciding what spying projects matter most and why? The New Yorker
These days, President Obama reminds me a bit of Mikhail Gorbachev, more by the hopes that so many people around the world misplaced in both men and their Nobel Peace Prizes, rather than any personal resemblance between them. 

Gorbachev, when he was in power, was infinitely more experienced, not only politically, but though his life trajectory and with a much deeper understanding of the system he wanted to reform and also a much more sincere commitment to reforming that system and not just making beautiful speeches filled with "soaring rhetoric" about how nice "change" and "hope" were.

Gorbachev, unlike Obama, didn't just "talk the talk", he "walked the walk" and in so doing proved that intervening in huge, complex and corrupted systems, is likely to end in disaster. Obama has proved that talking is much more personally productive than walking. But like a great African American said, many years ago, "he can run, but he can't hide".
Another wise old fellow once said something to the effect that the present cannot judge itself anymore than we can judge a person by what he thinks of himself, that time alone will be the judge of our present affairs, but that old man also said that the present is always pregnant with the future and in time it will be clear that everything that is to come tomorrow was present in some form today, right now, under our noses waiting to come to fruition. Sobering thought that... nu? DS

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Alexis de Tocqueville defines Barack Obama

David Seaton's News Links
Alexis de Tocqueville

Quote of the day:
"Very few monarchs, from Augustus to our day, have failed to keep up the outward forms of freedom while they destroyed its substance, in the hope that they might combine the moral power of public approval with the peculiar conveniences of despotism. But the experiment has usually failed, and it has soon been found impossible to maintain a deceitful semblance of that which really has no existence."
Alexis de Tocqueville (1805- 1859) - "The Old Regime and the Revolution"


Monday, July 01, 2013

Wouldn't it be nice to actually see Edward Snowden?

David Seaton's News Links
"Beyond technical systems, U.S. officials are deeply concerned that Snowden used his sensitive position to read about U.S. human assets, for example spies and informants overseas as well as safe houses and key spying centers. They worry this recent quote from Snowden was not an exaggeration: ” I had access to the full rosters of everyone working at the NSA, the entire intelligence community, and undercover assets all over the world. The locations of every station, we have what their missions are, and so forth.”  ABC News
We have the word of Vladimir Putin that Edward Snowden is alive and well, but we don't even have a picture of him holding up today's edition of Pravda to prove it.
Putin is a former KGB colonel and it is rumored that Snowden entered Russia carrying with him all the crown jewels of American intelligence.
Americans have such short memories, Russians no... Reagan had a Soviet mole that absolutely eviscerated Russia's worldwide intelligence network when Gorbachev was in power, which had quite a bearing on the collapse of the USSR... I think ex-KGB colonel and spymaster, Putin, who must have lived all that intensely, is about is about to return the favor.
If  Snowden is in Moscow, his veins are probably filled right now with sodium pentothal, and he is revealing all the places he has information hidden in the cloud and the passwords that unlock his computer, after which he just might have a "heart attack" or fall out of a window, "trying to escape". DS