Friday, February 10, 2006

Tales of the Useless and Insane

Reflections on Feral Visions Against Civilization 2005
by The Wildroots Collective
Green Anarchy

The third annual green anarchist gathering took place july 27-august 3 in the southern appalachian mountains of east tennessee. Dubbed ‘Feral Visions against Civilization', the week-long event combined group discussions on everything from primitivist theory and physical resistance to Civilization, to primitive and earthbased skillsharing.

Along with the typical off and on rains of summer, the mountain air kept us cooler than the rest of the humid south. A meandering creek surrounded the site, offering plenty of dipping opportunities and convenient daily bathing. Bare feet were comfortable in the grassy meadows and muddy trails, and the flat terrain made for easy packing in and out of the locally popular National forest site. A communal kitchen was set up at the head of the camp, with volunteers cooking two daily meals for 100+ folks, FOR FREE! An ‘infoshop' area was set up where Green Anarchy magazine, Black and Green distro, and several other distros from around the country offered reading materials relating to primitive skills and anticiv theory and resistance.

Multiple workshop areas were designated for a wide variety of activities, both hands-on and theoretical. A specific area called "'Empathy Camp"' was maintained with a focus on emotional healing and support. A hide-tanning area offered materials and instruction through the entire week for the handful of folks who took on the multi-day task of tanning a deer hide. Others observed a bear hide tanning project, and yet others skinned and began tanning small mammal pelts that were brought in to the gathering as roadkill.

Workshops explored skills ranging from baskets made from tulip poplar bark that was harvested on site, friction fire-making, primitive weapons and traps, debris hut construction, rivercane flutes and blowguns, bamboo utensils and cordage making, to wool felting, permaculture, and fermented vegetable and mead making. Discussion topics included radical mental health, spirituality, gender dynamics in rewilding communities, ‘radical relationships', ‘primal parenting' and indigenous struggles against Civilization, as well as climate change and peak oil. A "'Beyond Activism"' discussion was by far the longest of all, with much examination of definitions of and motivations for activism, as well as pitfalls and benefits of participation in movements and campaigns. Another discussion that delved into anti-civ resistance looked at the question of physical confrontation against the megamachine. What seemed to some at the beginning to be a discussion on tactics and strategy for weakening infastructure, to others this approach itself was worthy of debate. Examining questions of effectiveness of and motivations for an approach of "'aided collapse"' alternated with (theoretical, of course) info-sharing on tactical and logistical priorities and challenges.


Germans on the march

German Public Workers Vote to Widen Strikes Next Week

Germany's largest labor union promised to extend a regional public workers' strike to more than half the country's states, following approval from rank-and-file members.

About 95 percent of workers polled in nine of Germany's 16 states voted in favor of strikes from Feb. 13, Ver.di union Chairman Frank Bsirske said today in Berlin. The workers range from university hospital staff to street cleaners.

``The result is clearly in favor of strikes,'' said Bsirske, whose organization represents 2.4 million workers.

The strikes started at the municipal level on Feb. 6 in Germany's southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, to protest against plans to lengthen working hours to 40 hours from 38.5 hours without any pay increase. Ver.di says it's prepared to strike for between four to six weeks to force local and regional authorities to roll back the plans.

Longer hours may result in 250,000 jobs being cut in the public sector and related administrative branches, Bsirske said. He also said longer hours would curb the number of apprenticeships for young people, lower their chances of being employed after training, bring about a deterioration in working conditions and result in lower wages for part-time workers.

Some 20,000 of the 22,000 workers polled across Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony, North Rhineland-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Saarland and Saxony will join the strike, the first public-sector walkout in 14 years, said Bsirske.

Strike Fund

Hagen Lesch, a wage expert at the Cologne-based IW economic institute, said by telephone that Ver.di will be able to strike ``for some time'' as the union has accumulated between 115 million euros ($138 million) and 150 million euros in funds over the last 14 years to finance possible strikes. The effect of the stoppages on Germany's economy ``may be limited,'' he added.

Local and regional authorities are pressing for longer working hours without higher pay to cut costs and help lower a budget deficit that has violated European Union limits since 2002.

German business groups said on Feb. 7 that the strike would hurt growth, and argued that the measures unions are protesting were the best way to lower wage costs and boost employment.


This is hilarious

5 airport union organizers attacked
By Jane M. Von Bergen
Philadelphia Inquirer

Police are investigating the beating of five union organizers, and whether the attack was carried out by two dozen members of a union that wants to represent the same US Airways workers.

Two men were treated at Methodist Hospital after the attack Wednesday morning at the Philadelphia Airport Marriott hotel. Bottles and chairs were thrown during the attack against organizers from the Transport Workers Union, said Capt. Michael Sinclair of the Southwest Detective Division.

"There has not been violence on this scale in air labor affairs for close to 50 years," James Little, acting TWU president, said in a statement. "Wednesday's attack is a throwback to an era that should have been closed long ago."

Police were looking at hotel videotapes and trying to determine whether the attackers were from the International Association of Machinists, which represents US Airways baggage handlers in Philadelphia.

The unions are competing over which will represent all 6,600 baggage handlers at US Airways, which merged last year with America West Airlines.

"The IAM is investigating the reported incident and is determined to uncover all the facts," said Joseph Tiberi, spokesman for the machinists' union.


We hate Gettelfinger's mustache

UAW Chief Courting Oblivion With Inflexible Stand: Doron Levin

Most labor leaders try to ensure the well-being of workers and the survival of their unions. Not Ron Gettelfinger, president of the United Auto Workers union.

He's about to ensure that his union will have little or no importance in the future of the U.S. auto industry as he pushes the world's No. 1 automaker and employer of tens of thousands of workers toward bankruptcy.

Gettelfinger ought to be explaining to UAW members at General Motors Corp. (and Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG) the hard truth -- openly and plainly -- that above-market wages and lavish benefits were great while they lasted, but have come to an end. Trying to hold on to them to the bitter end will only cause companies to fail and lead to massive job losses.

He could explain the unpleasant reality that reducing pay and benefits will save companies and many jobs. Resisting the inevitable is futile, since judges can and will void union contracts.

Instead, the UAW leader asserted this week that the union is done granting concessions to faltering GM, which is just coming off an $8.6 billion annual net loss and whose bonds are rated as junk.

Last year the UAW agreed to revisions to its health-care plan. And the union may let GM pay workers to quit. GM, on the other hand, can forget about phasing out its ``jobs bank,'' a company-sponsored welfare program that pays hundreds of millions of dollars annually to laid-off workers.


You can't make this stuff up...

Ex-union official's plea claims psychotic bouts
By Jim McElhatton

A former Washington Teachers Union official who was convicted of stealing union dues is seeking leniency because she thinks she's being stalked by a small person with a spear, federal court records show.

In "a new plea for leniency, [Gwendolyn M. Hemphill] now asserts that she suffers from a serious mental disease, including psychotic episodes in which she is confronted by 'a small, dark-skinned person with a thin Roman nose, small lips and a spear, who is dressed like a native African,' " prosecutors say in a pre-sentencing memo filed this week in U.S. District Court.

Prosecutors have argued that Hemphill, a former office manager for the teachers union, should receive up to 24 years in prison for her role in embezzling nearly $5 million in union dues from 1995 to 2002.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

But will there be bug juice?

Anarchist summer camp

What is an anarchist camp?

“Holiday” as a concept originates from the separation of work and leisure time. In this sense, an anarchist camp is not a holiday: the camp is an opportunity to meet, get to know each other and be active together, in a context which is free from pressure. It gives us room to try and combine anarchist theory and praxis and to live free from authority.

We are aware of the fact that this can only ever be a “relative” freedom, firstly because we carry the mechanisms of authority around with us in our heads and bodies, and then because the anarchist camp is an island which is limited in time and place, within a society which is shaped by authority. But who knows - we may still manage to create a free space, outside of social normality and its daily pains, where we can experience what it is that we are fighting for and where it is that we want to go.

In order to make this possible, it is crucial that no forms of discrimination or repression be tolerated at the camp. Furthermore, everyone must feel it their responsibility to ensure that this is the case. This means: be aware, get involved, and if any such behaviour is observed (in others or in oneself) then make sure you bring it up. Solidarity and freedom from authority, when fully experienced, give us energy and encouragement for our daily struggle.

What the organising group does

As organising group we arrange the location, spread information about the camp internationally and take care of the initial resource and infrastructure requirements. Once the camp starts, the group will cease to exist. From this point, it is everyone’s responsibility to decide together what will be done where, when and how; to organise, procure food, cook and tidy up.

Nevertheless, discussions which have taken place within the organising group, partly resulting from experiences which were gathered on previous camps, have led to a few decisions being taken in advance:

-- A tent will be reserved for women and transgender persons. This tent may function as a meeting point, a free space, or whatever else people may choose to make of it.

-- We encourage parents to come with their children. The site is vast and offers plenty of opportunity to play around; furthermore a children’s tent will be set up. What use will be made of this tent will once again depend on those who wish to use it. Bring toys, bring rope so we can hang a swing from a tree, or bring whatever else comes in mind! It is not just parents who should need to think about their own children: we should all try to take care of children and their needs.

-- Leave your dogs at home! A large number of dogs at a camp can seriously hinder the camp’s enjoyment for other participants, as well as hindering participation of those people who have children. Furthermore the site is not fenced and faces directly onto the woods, in which there are hunters and wild animals…


Revolutionary Unionism uses the NLRB and Unfair Labor Practices to Bolster Flagging Campaign

Frustrated by Low Wages, Starbucks Employees Sow Union Seeds
By John Davisson
Columbia Spectator

As if ordering a cup of coffee wasn’t complicated enough these days, things could get even muckier if federal labor law weighs in.

Since 2004, a group of baristas known as the Starbucks Workers Union has sought collective bargaining rights for the chain’s employees citywide, citing a need for improved pay and healthier working conditions.

While SWU has been unable to gain recognition from Starbucks or the National Labor Relations Board, the federal body that mediates labor disputes in the private sector, members are hoping that a recent wave of unfair labor allegations against the company might reverse its fortunes.

“Never before has such a [fundamentally] anti-union and anti-worker company been so successful at creating a socially responsible image,” said [Daniel] Gross, an SWU organizer and Starbucks barista. “They’ve embraced the Wal-Mart style of union-busting.”


RWDSU: Once Again Better than Their Parent Union

Retail workers at citywide chain win first union contract as result of campaign by Make the Road by Walking and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/UFCW

Nearly 100 workers at Footco/New York Sneakers, the 10-store sneaker and apparel chain, have won a three-year contract as a result of Despierta Bushwick! (Awake, Bushwick!), a campaign conducted by Make the Road by Walking, its Workers in Action Project, and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/UFCW (RWDSU). The community-labor partnership spearheading this campaign is an innovative model for organizing drives the RWDSU is conducting throughout the city.

Footco workers ratified the contract that provides significant wage hikes, health care coverage, a prescription plan, paid vacation and sick days, and more on January 22. With the three-year contract, the workers receive $7.25 per hour which will increases to $8.15 per hour over the life of the contract, vacation, and paid sick and personal time-off, and more. Workers with twenty or more hours per week also receive health care benefits and a prescription drug plan.

The contract also covers workers at Footco stores in the East New York section of Brooklyn, Jamaica and Jackson Heights in Queens, the South Bronx and mid-town Manhattan.

Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/UFCW said this was the first time a partnership between a labor union and a community-based organization had resulted in a contract for retail workers. "This is a unique organizing model that the RWDSU is also creating in other areas around the city. We are participating in partnerships that acknowledge the wisdom, voice and experience of workers and their communities as we seek to achieve social and economic justice."

Andrew Friedman, head of Make The Road by Walking said, "This contract is a major victory for Footco's workers, and a major victory for the movement for workers' rights in this city. It shows that when communities and organized labor work together, we can win dignity and justice for workers."


Day Care Workers, not Muppets, Take Manhatten

Day Care Workers March In Manhattan Demanding Better Pay, Respect
NY1 News

Day care providers marched on city and state offices Tuesday demanding more respect and more money. NY1's Rebecca Spitz was at their rally and says they're asking one of the city's most powerful unions to lend them some muscle. She filed the following report.

Chanting "overworked and underpaid," home day care providers marched in Downtown Manhattan Tuesday.

They started at the city's Human Resources Administration, the office that pays them, and marched to the State Office of Children and Family Services or OCFS, the office that sets their salary rate, along the way demanding back pay they say is owed them.

"Those people that work up in that building, they get paid and they get paid on time," said Bertha Lewis at the rally. "They get paid well, and they ain't taking care of our most precious possession: our children."

Salary increases for day care providers went into effect last October, but these providers say they never heard about them and certainly haven't been paid at the new rate.

"The hours of work, it's 10-12 hours a day, long hours," says day care provider Susan Brewer. "We - all of the providers - feel that we should get paid what we deserve."


Janitors, Justice, Things Called American

Advocates urge justice for janitors
Accuse CleanPower of interfering with union talks among its workers at American Family
By Pat Schneider
The Capital Times

Worker advocates are calling on American Family Insurance to prevent what they say are attempts by its cleaning company to stop janitors at American Family's Madison headquarters from organizing.

As part of the Justice for Janitors movement, the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin is calling on the insurance giant to stop CleanPower, a large Wisconsin janitorial service company, from interfering with efforts by the Service Employees International Union to organize the janitors.

A letter expressing surprise at anti-labor tactics at American Family's headquarters and urging its board of directors to support janitors in their right to organize was signed by 42 members Tuesday at the coalition's annual Clergy-Labor Luncheon at the Catholic Multicultural Center on Madison's south side.

The letter expresses surprise at the "irresponsible behavior" by a leading corporate citizen and says that CleanPower is attempting to indoctrinate workers against the union, as at a meeting held at American Family last fall.

The janitors, the letter says, do not make a living wage and have no sick leave, health insurance or pension benefits, and should be allowed to organize "without interference or intimidation."

American Family spokesman Ken Muth said Tuesday the company is not taking sides, but has directed CleanPower to stop talking about union matters at meetings with its workers held at American Family.

"We feel it is inappropriate to interfere or impose our will on employment matters of another company," he said. "And we expressed that to both supporters of the union effort and to CleanPower management."

Muth said company officials learned late last year that CleanPower had discussed the union and shown an anti-union videotape at one of its periodic meetings with employees at American Family last fall. "We told them strongly we didn't want union issues discussed in any manner on our property. We told them we did not want it to occur again," he said.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bet none of these folks go on a hunger strike for vegan food

Denmark warns its nationals in Indonesia as cartoon protests rage
The Jakarta Post

Denmark urged its citizens on Tuesday to leave Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, as Islamic outrage over a cartoon controversy continued to rage across Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia.

A day after Iran said it was severing trade ties with Denmark -- where political cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad first appeared -- Copenhagen's ambassador to Indonesia urged his countrymen to leave Indonesia to avoid possible threats.

"The Foreign Ministry is advising Danes not to travel to Indonesia and Danes already in Indonesia to leave the country," Ambassador Niels Erik Andersen told Reuters.

"The security situation is at a level where the Foreign Ministry advises against being here."

Andersen said Danish flags and pictures of the Danish prime minister had been burned in three Indonesian cities, adding:

"Some of the information I have provided to the Foreign Ministry is about threats we have received in the embassy, the threats that have been published against Danes and the activities going on in terms of demonstrations in front of our consulate."


New Frontiers

A new labor battle
Child-care workers are organizing, but some states resist.
By David Crary
Associated Press

PAWTUCKET, R.I. - The living room teems with toys and picture books; six small children are snacking around a tot-size table. Yet Norma Tetrault's home, as much as any union hall or picket line, represents a pivotal front for America's embattled labor movement.

Women such as Tetrault, working from home, have become foot soldiers in a difficult but potentially momentous nationwide campaign to unionize hundreds of thousands of low-paid child-care workers.

Unprecedented breakthroughs have come recently in Illinois and a few other states, while in Rhode Island - despite a strong union legacy - there were painful setbacks last year.

Nationally, child-care providers are among the lowest-paid of U.S. workers, often earning less than $10 an hour. A recent federal survey listed only 18 other types of jobs, out of 770, that paid less.

The low pay, lack of health insurance and other benefits, and a sense of being disrespected has produced a legion of workers open to unionization. And their interest is now reciprocated: Faced with declining overall membership, major unions see child-care providers as a vital source of potential growth and are competing to represent them.

"This is a very untraditional area in terms of organizing," said Anna Burger, secretary-treasurer of the 1.8 million-member Service Employees International Union, which is at the forefront of efforts to represent the providers.

"It's mostly women, working in their own homes," Burger said. "The fact that they're wanting to come together and have a collective voice is remarkable. It shows their determination and creativity."


Or throw bombs...

Employee Free Choice
The Nation

Out-of-control costs for healthcare, housing, gasoline and college tuition are putting an ever tighter squeeze on American families' budgets. Congress can, and should, take action to relieve the pressure. Let's start by strengthening employees' rights to freely form labor unions.

Research has shown unionized firms to be more productive than their nonunion rivals. And increasingly, unions are adopting flexible approaches that aim for common ground with employers to solve problems and develop new business opportunities. In Milwaukee union employees at Harley-Davidson crafted a plan with managers that both groups credit with increasing productivity and keeping the fabled motorcycle made in America. In California a collaboration at Kaiser Permanente has enabled managers and staff at the $28 billion healthcare firm to overcome what could have been a financial disaster without sacrificing patient care. Since launching its partnership with the Service Employees International Union, six other international unions and twenty-nine locals, Kaiser has boosted staff retention and patient satisfaction while reducing workplace injuries by 20 percent.

Given their potential to help iron out workplace problems and increase competitiveness, it is tragic that many managers insist on treating unions as threats. Employer intimidation tactics have proliferated dramatically. In the 1950s the National Labor Relations Board acted on hundreds of unionbusting complaints every year. In the 1990s the NLRB received more than 20,000 unionbusting complaints every year.


Damned Uppity Workers!

Dissident Labor Blamed for Toyota’s Waffling
by NewStandard

In an old twist from the anti-union playbook, prominent auto-industry analysts and some government officials are warning that a coveted new automotive plant planned for Michigan is in jeopardy because of recent union activity in the state. The main threat, they say, is a group of dissident United Auto Workers (UAW) members who are rallying against union leaders.

Hoping to bring new investment into the state’s declining car-manufacturing sector, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has been courting Toyota. According to recent news reports, the Japanese automaker is seriously eyeing the southeastern portion of the state as a potential site for a new engine plant. However, company officials are reportedly hesitating because of the volatility of the domestic auto industry’s relationship with organized labor.

In a recent interview with the Detroit Free Press, David Cole, director of the business-supported auto-industry analysis group Center for Auto Research (CAR), said concerns about the UAW -- and especially about a splinter group that has bucked both the union and corporate leaderships -- may hurt economic prospects by turning Toyota away from Michigan. Demonstrations and calls for grassroots action against UAW leaders by the dissident workers, which call themselves Soldiers of Solidarity (SoS), "absolutely scares the liver out of Toyota," Cole said.

First emerging at the beginning of the year, the SoS represents the sharpest internal criticism of the UAW leadership’s handling of conflicts with large domestic auto and auto-parts makers. The union and big auto companies have been at odds over legacy costs for years, a situation which grew in intensity last year as parts-supplier Delphi Corp. went into bankruptcy and Ford and General Motors announced that they were cutting tens of thousands from payrolls in coming years.

Legacy costs refer to health, pension and related benefits that were long the bread and butter of labor unions and now represent a liability for companies and, they contend, place US auto makers at a disadvantage in the global marketplace. According to the UAW, such costs add an average of $1,300 to the price of autos. Recent findings by Oxford Analytica, an Oxford University-based business trend analysis group, found that unionized US workers earn the equivalent of three times their non union foreign colleagues.

A growing rift has emerged from a controversial December vote granting healthcare concessions to Ford. UAW announced that Ford workers had approved a new healthcare deal by a 51–49 percent margin, but has yet to disclose the voter turnout or the full vote tally.

According to the Detroit Free Press, while the agreement is projected to save Ford around $850 million a year, it will cost individual workers hundreds annually.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Important News for the Post-Left Milieu

Game operators face social responsibilities in their online Utopias
by Rob Fahey

This week's controversy over Blizzard's decision to crack down on a guild in World of Warcraft advertising itself as "LGBT Friendly" is far from an isolated incident, but rather is a sign of growing problems with the huge artificial societies created by MMOG titles, argues Rob Fahey.

Anyone who has ever played an online game will probably be familiar with the extent to which language which might elsewhere be perceived as homophobic has become acceptable, if not de rigeur, among many players. You would be hard pressed to spend an evening playing an online RPG or first-person shooter without being informed by someone who's just been killed that his lamentable situation is "so gay" or telling a player who annoys him that he's a "fag" - and while most players can simply ignore such juvenile comments, there's no doubt that a minority of players are distressed by them, while a majority, perhaps, would prefer if they weren't there.

Which is why it's surprising that when a player in Blizzard's World of Warcraft decided to create and advertise a guild - an in-game group - which was "LGBT Friendly" and would be a haven from homophobic comments or abuse, the firm decided to crack down on her actions and forbade her from advertising the group in the game.

An isolated over-reaction? Not in the slightest. Online games may be an escape for their players, but they still have many problems which mirror those found in the real world, as well as a host of their own unique issues, which are becoming increasingly pressing for the operators of these virtual worlds. Just because people are playing fantasy characters doesn't mean that real-world problems of racism, sexism, homophobia or religious or political intolerance just go away - and World of Warcraft, with its massive worldwide subscriber base, is demonstrating the kind of social issues which will become major problems as this medium evolves.

The issue is a simple one. People may start out playing a game, but after weeks or months of time spent in a fantasy world, they have come to know other players in the game well, and can form firm friendships and rivalries - much as they would in real life. Players who met in videogames have become married in real life, have become firm friends - and have been involved in fist-fights (not necessarily all at the same time). Many players who have long since tired of an MMOG will continue to log in for years just to keep up with acquaintances they have made in the game. Under these circumstances, it's no wonder that topics more delicate than killing orcs and mining for gold will come up.



Freegans find free feasts
by John Ranard

Janet, a high school Spanish teacher, napped after Madeline’s gourmet meal, her body satiated with the comfort of a full stomach.

The lucky ones invited to Madeline’s two-bedroom West Village apartment were served carrot ginger soup, followed by ratatouille (onions, peppers, eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes sautéed in olive oil), organic salad with spinach, roasted baby potatoes and whole wheat bread. Homemade lemonade was the drink and the dessert, frozen banana whipped into sherbet.

The ingredients came from New York’s bountiful streets, actually from trash bags on the sidewalks in front of grocery stores where an hour earlier the food would have sold at full price. The fruits and vegetables, and whatever packaged foods that had reached their expiration date, had been discarded at the end of the stores’ working day. The food is free for the picking during the two-hour magical period, usually from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. — between closing time and trash pickup time.

This is when the Freegans show up and the street party begins. The Freegans are a loosely organized group of activists — some of whom are vegans — calling attention to the waste of our marketplaces.


Ya gotta love the CIW

Coaltion of Immokalee Workers: Help Us Abolish Sweatshops in Florida's Fields!

February 1, in the year 1865, President Abraham Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment into law, officially abolishing slavery in this country. Yet today, in Florida, federal prosecutors still rely on laws derived from the 13th Amendment to put farm labor employers behind bars for holding their workers in modern-day slavery.

There is today a human rights crisis in Florida's fields. But this human rights crisis does not begin and end with slavery. Rather, slavery is only the most extreme form of the sweatshop conditions that exist throughout Florida's agricultural industry where workers toil from dawn to dusk for sub-poverty wages at a piece rate that hasn't changed significantly in nearly 30 years, with no right to overtime pay, no health insurance, no sick leave, no paid vacation or pension, and no right to organize if they would hope to improve these conditions.

On this anniversary of the signing of the 13th Amendment, the CIW is announcing an important new action in our campaign to abolish slavery and sweatshops in Florida agriculture.

Over the next several weeks, we ask that you take this simple action to help end the human rights crisis in Florida's fields: Drop a letter at your local McDonald's calling on the fast-food giant to stop sidestepping the real issues and work with the CIW for real farm labor reform, and ask the manager to make your feelings known to corporate headquarters in Chicago.


Dear Leftists, punctuation goes inside the quotes

The Alternative Social Forum in Caracas: Voices from the Left
by ASF Media Team
Alternative Social Forum

The Foro Social Alternativo (Alternative Social Forum – ASF) confronted the progressive institutionalization of the World Social Forum that has spelled its degeneration over half a decade of development. This bureaucratization of the WSF is contrary to its genesis and original principles, which spoke of a convergence of diverse and contradictory movements, a "movement of movements". At its current stage, the WSF is serving to catapult and legitimize a series of leaders, governments, institutions, NGOs and leftist political parties with relatively large economic power and resources; this has the effect of furthering these interests and marginalizing more radical and “minority” movements. One of the priorities of the Alternative Social Forum was to generate an autonomous space to develop and interrelate various local movements, whose diverse subjectivities offer alternative visions to the imposed discourse and Manichaeism that has characterized Venezuela in recent years.

The ASF took place in three venues in the city of Caracas: the Universidad Central de Venezuela, the Colegio de Ingenieros and the Organizacion Nelson Garrido, and involved three types of activities: conferences, practical workshops and an independent film series. Activities were diverse and kaleidoscopic. The conferences involved a diversity of international speakers who shared their experiences and visions. Among these speakers was John Holloway who directed a talk on “Changing the World Without Taking Power” to an enthusiastic audience whose subsequent debate lasted over 4 hours. Other talks included: Daniel Barret (Uruguay) on “Horizons of Change in Latin America”, Ezequiel Adamovsky (Argentina) on “New Social Movements and Anti-Capitalism in the 21st Century”, Frank Fernandez (Cuba) on “Anarquism in Cuba”, Christian Guerrero (USA) on “Radical Ecology in the USA”, Javier Garate (Chile) and Andreas Speck (UK) on “The Relationship Between the Arms Race and Transnational Corporations”, Radical Critique (Brazil) on “Leftist Politics in Latin America”, Ricardo Garcia (Mexico) on “Autonomy and Magonismo in Mexico”, Rob Block (USA) on “The Anti-Prison Movement in the USA” and Kristina Dunaeva (Russia) on“The Chechnyan War and Anti-Militarism in Russia”.

The local contribution was no less impressive, opening events included a conference with Domingo Alberto Rangel on “Islamic Fundamentalism and Globalization”. Humberto Decarli conducted a discussion on “Militarism and Social Change in Venezuela”. Maria Pilar Garcia and the Amigransa collective hosted an eclectic day-long panel discussion on current ecological and indigenous struggles in Venezuela and the world. The Anarchist Black Cross of Venezuela organized a forum on prisons in the country. Others included: Francisco Prada on “External Invasion and the Integrationist Response”, Ricardo Benaim on “Xenophobia and Anti-semitism”, Lenin Ovalles on “Urban Culture” and Alfredo Vallota on “Foundations of Socialism in the 21st Century”. Participants lamented the absence of Douglas Bravo, whose dialogue on “Proposals for Today and the Future” had to be suspended due to family tragedy.


Americans would've gorged on cheeseburgers in protest

Toyota Workers in India Begin Fast
Associated Press

Workers at Toyota's Indian factory launched a protest fast to press demands to have 30 dismissed and suspended colleagues reinstated, after being forced to end a labor strike last month, a union official said Monday.

The recent labor unrest at the Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt. Ltd. plant -- a joint venture between Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. and India's Kirloskar Group -- began with a strike Jan. 6 at the company's plant near Bangalore in India's southern state of Karnataka.

Nearly 1,550 workers of the 2,350 workers at the plant walked off their jobs protest the dismissal of three active union members who were accused of lacking discipline.

Two weeks later the state government invoked special powers under a labor law to order the workers back to work.


Finally not just following orders

German Public Workers Stage First Strike for 14 Years

German public-sector workers went on strike for the first time in 14 years to protest plans to make them work longer hours for no extra pay.

Workers, ranging from hospital staff and garbage collectors to kindergarten teachers, walked off their jobs in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, which employs more than 200,000 people in the public sector, according to Ver.di, Germany's largest labor union. It's the first widespread strike since Chancellor Angela Merkel took office Nov. 22.

``Our strategy is to have more and more people striking on the street each day to increase the pressure on the employers,'' Ralf Berchtold, the spokesman for Ver.di's Baden-Wuerttemberg branch, said today in an interview. ``We will continue to strike during the first round of negotiations to enforce our aim, and will only stop once we have an acceptable offer.''

Local and regional authorities across Germany are pressing to extend the working week from 38 1/2 hours to 40 hours without any extra pay to cut costs and lower budget shortfalls. Germany's national budget deficit has broken European Union rules each year since 2002. Ver.di has rejected the plans, saying the move may lead to job cuts.

Ninety-five percent of 10,000 workers in Baden- Wuerttemberg, home to companies such as Porsche AG and DaimlerChrysler AG, voted for today's protests, Ver.di, which represents 2.4 million workers nationwide, said Jan. 2. The Berlin-based union says 5,000 jobs alone may be at risk in municipalities in the northern state of Lower Saxony, where 120,000 people are employed.

`More Jobs Will Be Cut'

``The 40-hour week means that even more jobs will be cut and every single person will need to work harder,'' said Giusseppa Giuliano, 47, who has cooked and cleaned for 14 years in youth-welfare facilities in Stuttgart. ``Absolutely nobody believes'' that the municipalities won't cut jobs once we extend our working week, said Giuliano, who joined today's strike.


Monday, February 06, 2006

Farewell Gramps

Al Lewis, grandpa on TV's "The Munsters," dies
By Jeanne King

Al Lewis, best known for his role as Grandpa in television's "The Munsters," has died after a long illness, a local radio station said on Saturday.

A movie Web site listed his age as 95, but there have been reports that he was 83.

Lewis, who died on Friday, was born in Brooklyn and was raised by his mother, an immigrant sweatshop worker in the Brownsville district of that borough.

"Brownsville was the largest Jewish ghetto in America," he once said. "We all were very poor. But we stood together when people were evicted. When the marshals and sheriffs would leave, we'd break the lock and move the furniture back inside. Back then, we didn't let people live in the street."

Lewis worked as salesman and waiter and once owned a successful restaurant in Greenwich Village. He also was a poolroom owner, store detective and political candidate.

He worked as a circus clown and performed stunts on the trapeze bar, taught school, wrote two children's books and by the time he was 31, received a doctorate in child psychology from Columbia University.

An avid college basketball fan, he also scouted for several basketball teams.


It wasn't until 1949 that he turned to acting and joined the Paul Mann Actor's Workshop where his classmates were Sidney Poitier and Vic Morrow. It was at the workshop that Lewis developed his comedic style.

His first big role was as Officer Leo Schnauser on the "Car 54, Where Are You?" series that ran from 1961 to 1963. In 1964, Lewis began playing Grandpa Munster, part of a wacky, endearing family of monsters whose fictional address was 1313 Mockingbird Lane in Mockingbird Heights.

"The Munsters" ran for two years on CBS, then continued on in syndication.

In 1988, he accepted the Green Party nomination for governor of New York saying, "We don't inherit the world from our ancestors, we borrow it from our kids."

Although he lost to incumbent Republican Gov. George Pataki, he still managed to collect more than 52,000 votes with his name on the ballot as "Grandpa Al Lewis."

Lewis' first political work was for the Sacco and Vanzetti defense committee. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian anarchists, were executed in Massachusetts in 1927 for a double murder and robbery amid doubts about their guilt.

Lewis worked in the 1930s to free the Scottsboro Boys -- nine black teenagers accused of raping two white women in another highly publicized case. All but one were sentenced to death, but eventually they were cleared.

"If anything I consider myself an anarchist," he once said on his weekly radio show on WBAI in New York City.

Lewis had three angioplasties, and in 2003 doctors were forced to amputate his right leg below the knee and all five toes of his left foot.

He is survived by his wife, Karen, three sons and four grandchildren.

Rampaging Greek Anarchists Rule!

The flowers of evil
By Nikos Konstandaras

The revelation last week that not even the prime minister can speak on his mobile phone without being listened to by unnamed agents as well as the brutal attack on the president of the General Confederation of Labor, Christos Polyzogopoulos, are two sides of the same coin.

The perpetrators may belong to two different worlds but the result of their actions leads to one inescapable conclusion: No citizen can feel secure — not when talking on the phone nor while driving through the center of the Greek capital.

But how did the seed of insecurity take root in a country with a low crime rate and where the security forces pride themselves on the high level of training and technology that helped achieve a perfectly secure Olympic Games in 2004?

At the heart of the problem is a complicated and often paradoxical relationship between the public and the police. The dictatorship and the brutal crushing of the student revolt in 1973 put a decisive end to public tolerance for the traditionally autocratic behavior of the security forces. But sometimes the police still act as if they yearn for the time when they could act with impunity.

On the other hand, there still seems to be a highly exaggerated sensitivity toward anything that might resemble police brutality, leading to a peculiar tolerance for antisocial and often violent outbursts by various “anti-authoritarian” groups. We have reached the farcical point where some security officials operate under the lack of accountability that existed in the past and others cannot do their jobs lest police work look like an assault on citizens’ rights.

To complicate things further, suspicions abound that the security forces tolerate (if not cultivate) violent groups so that they can justify the existence of expensive units.

This is the classic protection racket. Who would pay if there was no fear of damage? Citizens would not accept the existence of specialist riot squads and their equipment if they did not fear regular “anarchist” rampages.


Sam Walton Lives In Hell

No Union Please, We're Wal-Mart
How the retail giant fought back when labor got a toehold in a Quebec store
Business Week

If Wal-Mart (WMT ) founder Sam Walton had been prone to nightmares, they probably would have looked a lot like the big-box store in Jonquière, Que., on this Friday evening in April, 2005. Empty shelves outnumber full ones by about 5 to 1.

Whole sections are closed, and the remaining merchandise consolidated in the center of the store. The entire contents of the baby department now fits into a single shopping cart left in the middle of an aisle. Some 20 workers shuffle about forlornly in their blue smocks, tending to a dozen customers searching for a final bargain among the dregs of what had been great abundance just a few weeks ago.

Here in Jonquière, the ubiquitous Mr. Smiley Face, mascot of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., seems downright deranged. "This is not what a Wal-Mart is supposed to look like," admits Marc St. Pierre, the store manager.

St. Pierre sent the store's greeters home long ago. In their place are two uniformed security guards who ignore the departing customers (Wal-Mart might welcome shoplifting as a form of accelerated retail euthanasia) to focus their attention on new arrivals. No doubt they would confiscate a gun if they saw one, but what they are really looking for is cameras. A skeleton crew of downcast employees wandering around a shambles of a store is not an image that top management in Bentonville, Ark., wants to see splashed across newspapers or magazines. A third security guard patrols the parking lot in a silver SUV, keeping an eye out for shutterbugs. Photographing the outside of the store is allowed, but try to bring a camera inside and a longhaired young man will politely but firmly bar your way.

I didn't come here to take pictures or to shop, but the hockey fan in me cannot resist a set of Montreal Canadiens salt and pepper shakers for $1.89. As I'm checking out, the elderly man in front of me says to the young woman running the register: "It's so sad to see your favorite store like this." She just shrugs.

On the way to my car, I encounter a man who appears to be in his 60s ambling toward the store's entrance. Is he here to buy something? "No," he replies, with a derisive snort. "I'm just here to look at the corpse."


Good Thing Reagan Croaked

Accusations, Vitriol Fly in Very Public Negotiations Between FAA, Air Traffic Controllers
By Stephen Barr
Washington Post

The union president writes a blog, The Main Bang. He courts lawmakers on Capitol Hill in hopes of gaining leverage at the negotiating table.

The agency head calls in an outside auditor to validate her figures on pay and benefits and counter the union's claims. Top aides issue an investigative report charging that a New York union local allowed members to abuse overtime, sick leave and workers compensation benefits.

The contract negotiations between the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and the Federal Aviation Administration are adversarial and high-stakes. Both sides contend that the other makes false claims; both hold news briefings in hopes of advancing their bargaining position.

Last week, a federal mediator who has been sitting in on the talks called for an end to the public debate and, perhaps, the accompanying rancor.

The mediator proposed "a news blackout," which he said "would certainly be constructive and supportive to ongoing negotiations. We agreed to the news blackout, but on Thursday, NATCA refused," said Greg Martin , a spokesman for FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey.


Hotel Workers Rising Campaign Kick-Off Event

Hotel Workers Rising Campaign Kick-Off Event

The UNITE HERE Hotel Workers Rising campaign represents an effort to empower thousands of hotel workers employed in cities across North America as they work to improve their jobs and secure better lives for themselves and their families. In recent decades, the hotel industry has transformed from locally owned and operated businesses, into one that is dominated by multimillion dollar national and international corporations. Hotel companies such as Starwood, Hilton and Marriott are present in every major city, and employ hundreds of thousands of workers. These workers—largely minority and immigrant women— work hard to create a welcoming home away from home for business travelers and tourists. But still they find it difficult to realize the American Dream. The injuries and pain caused by inhumane workloads, coupled with low wages and reduced healthcare and other benefits, mean that these workers cannot break out of poverty.

But these workers are fighting back! This year, hotel workers across the United States and Canada will be asking for support from community leaders, union members, and allies to help them improve their lives. Beginning with a campaign kick-off tour of several cities in the United States in two weeks, the Hotel Workers Rising campaign will invite people from all walks of life to join this important movement.

Join us on these dates:
February 15, 2006 San Francisco, CA
February 16, 2006 Los Angeles, CA
February 17, 2006 Chicago, IL
February 18, 2006 Boston, MA

Click here for more information

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Greedy Pie-Cards Give The Rest of Us A Bad Name

Click Image Twice For Full Size Version.

Green Anarchy Fest!

Only a Tsunami Will Do
For a Post-Feminist Anarchy

by Rita Katrina-Andrews
Green Anarchy

"Are you ready to smash the reefs of the old world before they wreck your desires? Lovers should love their pleasure with more consequence and more poetry. Some of us have fallen in love with the pleasure of loving without reserve — passionately enough to offer our love to the magnificent bed of a revolution."
—Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle

Anarchists who cling to Leftist ideology as if it's a life raft are not worth the energy of a tirade. But, when another self-described post-left anarchist used an essentialist feminist scheme to explain away a much more complex situation, one of my peri-menopausal rants became inevitable. If it leaves you cold and uninspired – good; I'll have reflected the subject matter well. If you are already preparing your defense, gwan-get to a 'safe space' to vilify me as 'maleidentified', 'manarchist' or ... But look, I'm not dissing you, 'sister' or 'brother'; always do what pleases you most. It's just that the endless 60's reruns of "Men: Oppressors – Original Problem" and "Women: Nurturers – Only Solution" are tiresome. Depressing. Frustrating. And the latest newsflashes, "Man Deviates From Essential Nature, Becomes More Feminine; Crochets Scarf" or "Woman Takes Male Privilege; Abuses Iraqi Prisoners" are just spinning attempts to aerate a stagnant pool liberally polluted with the flotsam and jetsam of feminism's (p)receding two Waves.

When feminists proclaimed "the personal is the political" they conveniently ignored the fact that politics require de-personalization; de-uniquing and de-individualizing, massified roles with near verbatim scripts. I insist, the personal can only be the anti-political – ungoverned and ungovernable unique humans whose liberation can have no interceptors, interpreters, or redirectors. For those who need to identify the roles and scripts of my life to better position me on their revoltving stage – here's some personal for you.

I'm a woman/female/girl. Mostly 'caucasian'. Omni-sexual. Enslaved by mother starting age five (ironing boards don't fold that low for the young maids?). Army brat raped by military intelligence father for six-plus years starting at age ten until I swore the 'masculine' vow to kill him if he touched me again. Battered for years, never fully broken. And no matter how hard They squeezed, an intractable rebel girl. I was also (and still am when it suits me) a damned good actress (or is it actor), which saved my ass more than once. I left 'home' as soon as I found a way out – and oh, what a way! Mother, military wife – age 17. Prostitute in training, age 19. Single mother of two by 24. Sexy bartender, thieving comptroller by 29. Kick-ass electronics tech, ace network engineer – 33. With one final agonizing push from below, disgusted corporate executive – age 35. Throughout it all, scores of lovers, but damn few close and trusting relationships – male or female. Who do you trust in a world filled with used/users and ideologues who can rarely be 'real'? All this Progress and Success in the 'man's world' brought death too close by 40. I ignored the warnings for two more years while I searched for a gradual escape. Once I realized that route didn't exist, I simply bailed. For 7 years I embraced life as a stinking desert rat and outlaw. My only aspiration then, as now, is to be a 'wild thing'. By doing what I wanted, when I wanted – and mostly alone – I gained a level of health I'd not had at any age. Now I'm 50 and the long-forbidden tears of pain merge with those of rage when I hear anarchists spouting the same shit, thousands of different days later; "conform to appropriate behavior or else". My health is waning again and I have real playing to get caught up with/in, but I can't escape this reeling stage no matter how remotely I go! Everywhere life suffers and dies before its time, if my experience is any reflection and it's us human 'brothers' and 'sisters' doing the murder while indignantly pointing the finger (some preferring the middle digit) at each other. Sibling rivalry has gone global and our quarrels, deadly.


Speak on it son! Speak on it.

On the Origins of War
by John Zerzan
Green Anarchy

War is a staple of civilization. Its mass, rationalized, chronic presence has increased as civilization has spread and deepened. Among the specific reasons it doesn't go away is the desire to escape the horror of mass-industrial life. Mass society of course finds its reflection in mass soldiery and it has been this way from early civilization. In the age of hyper-developing technology, war is fed by new heights of dissociation and disembodiment. We are ever further from a grounding or leverage from which to oppose it (while too many accept paltry, symbolic "protest" gestures).

How did it come to be that war is "the proper work of man," in the words of Homer's Odysseus? We know that organized warfare advanced with early industry and complex social organization in general, but the question of origins predates even Homer's early Iron Age. The explicit archaeological/anthropological literature on the subject is surprisingly slight.

Civilization has always had a basic interest in holding its subjects captive by touting the necessity of official armed force. It is a prime ideological claim that without the state's monopoly on violence, we would be unprotected and insecure. After all, according to Hobbes, the human condition has been and will always be that of "a war of all against all." Modern voices, too, have argued that humans are innately aggressive and violent, and so need to be constrained by armed authority. Raymond Dart (e.g. Adventures with the Missing Link, 1959), Robert Ardrey (e.g. African Genesis, 1961), and Konrad Lorenz (e.g. On Aggression, 1966) are among the best known, but the evidence they put forth has been very largely discredited.

In the second half of the 20th century, this pessimistic view of human nature began to shift. Based on archaeological evidence, it is now a tenet of mainstream scholarship that pre-civilization humans lived in the absence of violence—more specifically, of organized violence.

Eibl-Eibesfeldt referred to the !Ko- Bushmen as not bellicose: "Their cultural ideal is peaceful coexistence, and they achieve this by avoiding conflict, that is by splitting up, and by emphasizing and encouraging the numerous patterns of bonding."1

An earlier judgment by W.J. Perry is generally accurate, if somewhat idealized: "Warfare, immorality, vice, polygyny, slavery, and the subjection of women seem to be absent among our gatherer-hunter ancestors."2

The current literature consistently reports that until the final stages of the Paleolithic Age—until just prior to the present 10,000-year era of domestication—there is no conclusive evidence that any tools or hunting weapons were used against humans at all.3 "Depictions of battle scenes, skirmishes and hand-to-hand combat are rare in hunter-gatherer art and when they do occur most often result from contact with agriculturalists or industrialized invaders," concludes Taçon and Chippindale's study of Australian rock art.4 When conflict began to emerge, encounters rarely lasted more than half an hour, and if a death occurred both parties would retire at once.5


Its so hard to decide who is funnier sometimes

25 Years of "Radical Charity"
Green Anarchy

Food Not Bombs is often adopted as aanarchist project despite its liberal beginnings and currents – a soup kitchen promoting "...positive personal, political, and economic alternatives". That is, a charitable organization serving "The Hungry" who – like the rest of us – struggle with our dependency on the System. But, FNB IS different from church and state institutions! They only serve vegetarian food, usually vegan – usually rice and beans. Their treatises on vegetarianism replace those on religionism. They also serve outside so even the welcome hour of shelter is lacking. Finally, FNB offers an excellent chance of sharing a meal with the local pigs! That's because FNBers "...make political and social statements at public places" in order to "... prove[s] to the government and business sector that nutrition is as necessary as health care and welfare cheques." The established order must be terrified by rousing rhetoric such as "for a person to ask for a bowl of beans and rice once a day is like to start a revolution." Or "Voting for the best candidate or giving money to your favorite charity are worthwhile activities but many people want to do more." FNBers "want to create life affirming structures from the ground up. We want to replace the death culture with a culture of "Plumbers Not Bombs", "Daycare Not Bombs", and "Healthcare Not Bombs"". Is it the threat of sedition locking up the occasional FNBer or is it another spectacle serving up both activist and pig?

There was a time when FNB's food stock came mainly from dumpsters, but as grocers locked the trash containers, FNBers switched to petitioning capitalists in grocery stores, co-ops, restaurants. Now most food comes from tax-deductible (as long as they don't name FNB as the receiver) charitable donations. The meal is prepared in private homes then taken to public areas where FNBers show "Solidarity with the poor." "We serve the poor to demonstrate that poor-bashing is out of whack with propriety and that charity is not in the governments purview to license." When I see an FNB group outside an affluent university, I wonder how they define their "underclassed" and "starving millions"? Some FNBers serve primarily to friends and each other, a laudable re-appropriation if this was the intent instead of the result of attitude, timing, reliability, taste, or food quality keeping away the "needy".

I've been asked "can't anarchists help others in need"? My reply is more questions: do you think it is helping when, at best, you temporarily perpetuate dependency? Would you call it mutual aid or codependency since one gets food while the other gets a feel good moment? Isn't this one of the subtle hierarchies that illustrate anarchist opposition to charity?