Daily News Digest March 19, 2014

The Only Victor In War: War Profiteers!:

The Only Victor

Laura Gray’s cartoon from the front page of The Militant August 18, 1945,
under the banner headline: “There Is No Peace”:
End Wall Street’s Wars!

 Occupy Wall Street!Occupy Wall Street Identified The Enemy The 1%  That Own and Control The Wealth! Unlike The Trade Union MisleadersNor The Misleaders Of The OppressedWho Strive To Be In ‘Partnership’ With The 1%  .  As They Also Strive To Hold Up The ‘Fig Leaf’To Cover Up The Naked Rule Of The 1%

Income inequality is not a concern of Wall Street’s money addicts 1% Pigs of Wall Street:

PifofWallstreet

End Wall Street’s Wars! Occupy Wall Street! Occupy Wall Street Identified The Enemy — The 1%  That Own and Control The Wealth! Unlike The Trade Union MisleadersNor The Misleaders Of The OppressedWho Strive To Be In ‘Partnership’ With The 1%  As They Also Strive To Hold Up The ‘Fig Leaf’ To Cover Up The Naked Rule Of The 1%

Quote of the Day:

In Steve Coll‘s book “Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power,” he documents that Lee Raymond — former CEO of ExxonMobil from 1993-2005 — was asked if his company would build more U.S. refineries to fend off gasoline shortages. Raymond’s reply: “I’m not a U.S. company and I don’t make decisions based on what’s good for the U.S.” — ExxonMobil, Russia and UkraineChallenging the Narrative of U.S. Exports As Energy Weapons

Video of the Day

Give Ireland back to the Irish  Paul McCartney

Image of the Day:

Bendib

Bendib Minimum Wage vs. Wall St. Bonuses

U.S.:

Reports of the Death of a National License-Plate Tracking Database Have Been Greatly Exaggerated Dan Froomkin

NSAPLATES

Screengrab from Vigilant Solutions YouTube demo of its location-tracking service.

In a  February 19 front-page story, the Washington Post appeared to be breaking news of yet another massive federal surveillance program invading the privacy of innocent Americans.The Department of Homeland Security, the story said, had drawn up plans to develop a national license-plate tracking database, giving the feds the ability to monitor the movements of tens of millions of drivers — a particularly intrusive form of suspicionless bulk surveillance, considering how strongly we Americans feel it’s none of the government’s business where and when we come and go.  The next day, however, the Post called off the alarm. The plan, the newspaper reported, had been canceled. Threat averted. Move along.

But the Post had gotten it all wrong. DHS wasn’t planning to create a national license-plate tracking database — because several already exist, owned by different private companies, and extensively used by law enforcement agencies including DHS for years.

The only thing actually new at DHS — the solicitation for services the Post decided was front-page news — was a different form of paperwork to pay for access.

And far from going away, the databases are growing at a furious pace due to rapidly improving technology and ample federal grant money for more cameras and more computers. Tens if not hundreds of millions of observations per month are streaming into bulging electronic archives, often remaining there indefinitely, for a vast array of clients in both the public and private sector.

So rather than being the tale of an averted threat, the bulk license-plate tracking saga is actually a story about yet another previously unimaginable loss of privacy in the modern information age.

In this case, unlike the telecommunications sector, it’s not the federal government with the “collect it all” mentality; it’s the private sector, arguably doing an even better and more thorough job than the government ever could, potentially with even fewer scruples.

The private companies have figured out how to leverage enormous value out of what has historically been public — but uncollectable and unmanageable — information by gathering it into databases that put incredibly detailed and revealing personal information at a paying user’s fingertips.

In this case, the act of driving through an intersection, being anywhere near a police car, or parking on the street — not to mention passing through a toll booth — now leaves a digital residue that you don’t own, and that someone else can seize, use, and sell.

DHS is not new to the license-plate tracking business — it’s been one of the top federal consumers of such data for a while now. A search on USASpending.gov kicked up records showing that various entities within DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement section (ICE) alone have paid $175,000 over the past four years to Vigilant Video — the company now known as Vigilant Solutions – for access to the license-plate database most commonly used by law enforcement. Purchase orders say the database is necessary for locating and capturing fugitives and money-launderers.

One $20,000 contract between the ICE office in New Orleans and Vigilant was made in support of an operation with the less-than-reassuring name of “Operation Blind Squirrel” — presumably an allusion to the saying that even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. ICE officials declined repeated requests to discuss their use of the databases — or the naming of that particular operation.

The Air Force, Forest Service, U.S. Marshals Service, DEA and FBI also use Vigilant’s paid services.

And federal money is funding a boom at the local level: computers, software, cameras and license plate readers are among the most common types of equipment purchased with the nearly $300 million in annual DOJ assistance grants.

Indeed, the extensive and expanding use of license-plate databases is hardly a secret. Privacy advocates have been trying to raise the alarm over them for years — see, for instance, the ACLU’s hefty July 2013 report, You Are Being Tracked. But they’ve been frustrated at their inability to draw attention to the problem. Read More

ExxonMobil, Russia and Ukraine Challenging the Narrative of U.S. Exports As Energy Weapons Steve Horn

In a long-awaited moment in a hotly contested zone currently occupied by the Russian military, Ukraine’s citizens living in the peninsula of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to become part of Russia.

Responding to the referendum, President Barack Obama and numerous U.S. officials rejected the results out of hand and the Obama Administration has confirmed he will authorize economic sanctions against high-ranking Russian officials.

“As I told President Putin yesterday, the referendum in Crimea was a clear violation of Ukrainian constitutions and international law and it will not be recognized by the international community,” Obama said in a press briefing. “Today I am announcing a series of measures that will continue to increase the cost on Russia and those responsible for what is happening in Ukraine.”

But even before the vote and issuing of sanctions, numerous key U.S. officials hyped the need to expedite U.S. oil and gas exports to fend off Europe’s reliance on importing Russia’s gas bounty. In short, gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) is increasingly seen as a “geopolitical tool” for U.S. power-brokers, as The New York Times explained.

Perhaps responding to the repeated calls to use gas as a “diplomatic tool,” the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced it will sell 5 million barrels of oil from the seldom-tapped Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Both theWhite House and DOE deny the decision had anything to do with the situation in Ukraine.

Yet even as some say we are witnessing the beginning of a “new cold war,” few have discussed the ties binding major U.S. oil and gas companies with Russian state oil and gas companies.

The ties that bind, as well as other real logistical and economic issues complicate the narrative of exports as an “energy weapon.”

The situation in Ukraine is a simple one at face value, at least from an energy perspective.

“Control of resources and dependence on other countries is a central theme connecting the longstanding tension between Russia and Ukraine and potential actions taken by the rest of the world as the crisis escalates,” ThinkProgress explained in a recent article. “Ukraine is overwhelmingly dependent on Russia for natural gas, relying on its neighbor for 60 to 70 percent of its natural gas needs.”

At the same time, Europe also largely depends on Ukraine as a key thoroughfare for imports of Russian gas via pipelines.

“The country is crossed by a network of Soviet-era pipelines that carry Russian natural gas to many European Union member states and beyond; more than a quarter of the EU’s total gas needs were met by Russian gas, and some 80% of it came via Ukrainian pipelines,” explained The Guardian.

Given the circumstances, weaning EU countries off Russian gas seems a no-brainer at face value. Which is why it’s important to use the brain and look beneath the surface.

ExxonMobil and Rosneft

The U.S. and Russian oil and gas industries can best be described as “frenemies.” Case in point: the tight-knit relationship between U.S. multinational petrochemical giant ExxonMobil and Russian state-owned multinational petrochemical giant Rosneft.

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson sung praises about his company’s relationship with Rosneft during a June 2012 meeting with Vladimir Putin.

“I’m pleased that you were here to be part of the signing today, and very much appreciate the strong support and encouragement you have provided to our partnership,” said Tillerson. “[N]othing strengthens relationships between countries better than business enterprise.”

A year later, in June 2013, Putin awarded ExxonMobil an Order of Friendship. But what does the friendship entail?

In 2012, ExxonMobil and Rosneft signed an agreement ”to share technology and expertise” with one another. Some of the details:

-Forming of a joint venture to explore offshore oil and gas in the Kara Sea and the Black Sea

-Rosneft acquiring a 30 percent stake in 20 ExxonMobil-owned offshore oil and gas blocks in the Gulf of Mexico. Read More

Obama Refuses to Turn Over 9,400 CIA Torture and Interrogation Documents to Congress 

Noel Brinkerhoff

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CIA Director John Brennan and President Obama (photo: Pete Souza, White House

President Barack Obama has insisted he should not get involved in the current political fight between his Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Senate’s intelligence committee over documents related to the CIA’s former detention and interrogation program. But the fact is Obama has been directly involved all along, beginning long before the disagreements and accusations began to fly between the CIA and the committee.

It turns out that the White House has been withholding thousands of CIA documents that theSenate Select Committee on Intelligence has sought to examine as part its investigation into the CIA’s torture of terrorism suspects during the George W. Bush administration.

About 9,400 classified documents have been locked away by Obama since 2009—the year that the committee, led by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), began probing CIA records of the controversial program, according to McClatchy news.

Feinstein has known about the records and asked the White House repeatedly for them. But Obama has refused to agree to any compromise that would allow the committee to examine these papers.

“These documents certainly raise the specter that the White House has been involved in stonewalling the investigation,” Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program at the New York University Law School, told McClatchy.

Obama has not exercised a claim of executive privilege, under which presidents can cloister executive branch communications, to keep the documents hidden. Instead, the White House has just sat on them while rejecting all of Feinstein’s entreaties.

Publicly, Obama has claimed that his administration has worked with the committee so it is “well informed.” But he has refused to comment on the battle between the CIA and Feinstein.

Another example of the White House’s involvement in this controversy came just before the CIA decided to file a criminal complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), alleging that Feinstein’s aides had broken the law during their investigation.

That complaint, filed by the CIA’s top lawyer, was first discussed with Obama’s legal advisors who did not object to this maneuver—which Feinstein has characterized as an attempt to intimidate her staff.

“There was no comment, there was no weighing in, there was no judgment,” Obama press secretary Jay Carney told the media about the White House legal review of the CIA going to the Justice Department.

It is also noteworthy that the CIA acting general counsel who filed the complaint with the DOJ had served as a lawyer in the CIA’sCounterterrorism Center beginning in 2004. That suggests that he was directly involved in fashioning the legal justifications for the agency’s torture program under Bush.

“And now this individual is sending a crimes report to the Department of Justice on the actions of congressional staff,” Feinstein pointed out. “The same congressional staff who researched and drafted a report that details how CIA officers—including the acting general counsel himself—provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice about the [torture] program.”

Sawant talks a friendly path for small businesses as March for $15 finishes on Capitol Hill jseattle

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Hundreds of marchers traveled from Judkins Park to Pine and Broadway on Saturday afternoon to rally for raising the minimum wage in Seattle. What they heard from City Councilmember Kshama Sawantwhen they arrived on Capitol Hill was new.

In a speech that hit many of her familiar themes about squaring off against big corporations, Sawant also laid out a new, softer push to $15 for Seattle’s thousands of small, independent businesses. “We are proposing $11 an hour,” she said, adding that small businesses would be phased-in to $15 over a three-year period.

“[The] Mayor said he is concerned about very small businesses,” Sawant said. “Let’s take that off the table here today. Let’s support both small businesses and human services by phasing them in over three years starting with $11 an hour on January 1st, with an inflation increase, with regular steps to earn 15 each year.” Sawant. “This is our proposal.”

“We get to see if the concerns about small business and non-profits are genuine,” Sawant said.

At the March 5th public hearing on income inequality, CHS reported on the handful of small business owners who spoke about the $15 minimum wage amidst a sea of 15 Now supporters. Meanwhile, we reported details this week of a survey of 251 Seattle small business owners that showed the strongest support for a three-year phase-in and using a “total compensation” calculation that could include everything from tips to health care.

Mayor Ed Murray, meanwhile, released a statement on the day of the march to say his committee convened to produce recommendations for raising the minimum wage in the city is making progress toward its April deadline:

Our broad stakeholder process is on track and making good progress. There was always the potential for individuals to chart their own course as is their right, but I remain committed to a solution that is inclusive, thoughtful, lasting, and that minimizes unintended consequences to the greatest degree possible. I believe we are on target to deliver a proposal that raises the minimum wage while accomplishing these objectives.

At the rally on Saturday, Sawant acknowledged the growing pressure on 15 Now organizers to produce a friendlier plan for small-businesses and non-profits.

“In recent weeks, business has begun to push back. They say 15 will cost jobs. Teenagers won’t be able to find work. That small businesses will have to close their doors. Such arguments are to be expected,” Sawant said.

Despite the friendlier path for small business, larger companies are still being targeted for the $15 hourly wage from the outset — no compromises.

“Big business, all industries, with no exceptions will pay $15 an hour on January 1st, 2015 to all workers,” Sawant said. “No tip penalty, no wage theft, no so called total compensation, no training wages, no teenage wages. The $15 minimum wage will be tied to the cost of living and is the Washington State minimum wage and will be automatically increased to keep up with inflation.”

The City of Seattle is holding an income inequality symposium on March 27th on the Seattle Ucampus to help finalize the recommendation process. The committee has an end-of-April deadline for providing recommendations to Murray on raising the wage. Meanwhile, backers continue to prepare legislation that Sawant has promised to present to Council in “early 2014.” 15 Now and other groups are also preparing for possible ballot initiatives to turn the decision over to voters should City Hall’s progress stall.

Environment:

Energy Corporations’

Continuous/Ongoing Disaster:

John Deike Duke Energy Announces Coal Ash Spill Cleanup Will Take 2+ Years; Emails Show Collusion Between Regulators and NC Utility

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Environmental regulators in North Carolina consulted Duke Energy last year before seeking to exclude citizen activists from talks to settle charges that the utility’s coal ash ponds had polluted the state’s groundwater, newly released email exchanges among the regulators indicated on Thursday. Photo credit: Waterkeeper Alliance

Duke Energy, North Carolina’s largest electric and gas supplier, announced Friday it would take the company more than two years to clean up February’s massive coal ash spill that coated 70 miles of the Dan River with 60,000 tons of toxic sludge.

The cleanup is part of an effort that includes moving three leaky coal ash dumps away from waterways near Asheville, Charlotte and Danville, VA—a town located along the North Carolina border that uses the Dan River as a drinking water source, reports The Huffington Post.

Part of the plan calls for moving millions of tons of the toxic sludge to Charlotte Douglas International Airport, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Duke asked Charlotte officials on Thursday to examine plans for storing the ash in fully lined, covered areas versus the open, unlined pits that currently house the coal ash. Duke estimated the coal ash transfer would take about five years.

Duke President Lynn Good sent Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary John Skvarla a letter with details, but Skvarla and other state regulators said Duke’s plans fall short and don’t address cleaning up the company’s nearly three dozen coal ash dumps that are scattered across the state.

“There are far too many questions left unanswered, and Duke Energy should provide the information we originally requested, including the estimated costs of cleanup, plans for the future and a detailed timeline,” said Skvarla.

However, despite the state’s criticisms, both sides have now become embroiled in another scandal involving a lawsuit over the coal ash pits.

The New York Times reports:

Environmental regulators in North Carolina consulted Duke Energy last year before seeking to exclude citizen activists from talks to settle charges that the utility’s coal ash ponds had polluted the state’s groundwater, newly released email exchanges among the regulators indicated on Thursday.

Duke officials and the state later settled the charges by proposing a fine and a requirement that Duke study the potential for further pollution before offering solutions. That agreement collapsed in February after [the Dan River coal ash spill.]

Federal prosecutors have since opened a criminal investigation into the spill and the relationship between Duke and the state’s environmental bureaucracy. Critics charge that environmental regulation has been hobbled by political interference since Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, a former mayor of Charlotte and a Duke Energy employee for 29 years, took office last year.

The scandal stems from a North Carolina judge ruling last week that Duke Energy had to take immediate action to eliminate the source of groundwater pollution at all of the company’s coal ash dumps.

The ruling, made by Wake County Judge Paul Ridgeway, stems from legal action taken by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) in 2012, according to Waterkeeper Alliance.

The nonprofit advocacy organization asked the Environmental Management Commission to force Duke to take immediate corrective action when groundwater problems were discovered at the state’s 32 ash dumps.

Yet the commission ruled against the environmental group in December 2012, leading the law center to file an appeal.

While delivering his decision, Ridgeway called out state regulators, saying they had failed to properly apply the law.

The ruling clarifies North Carolina’s authority under the North Carolina groundwater protection law to require Duke to stop the ponds from further contaminating groundwater, before it tackles the long term challenge of cleaning up the groundwater it has already polluted.

Check out these three slideshows from the Duke Energy coal ash spill.

EnergyNews

07:50 PM EST on March 17th, 2014 TV: Experts to evaluate ‘integrity’ of shafts at WIPP; Concern over ability to get workers back up once they’re sent down — Paper: Seismic data analyzed by gov’t; ‘Popular theory’ that “entire roof of underground chambers collapsed” (VIDEO)

02:29 PM EST on March 17th, 2014 Fukushima Evacuee: Skin turned black and hair around neck came off, then my dog died — Cancer Specialist: There are simply too many cases, I see a connection

 10:18 AM EST on March 17th, 2014 Record cesium levels in Pacific Ocean north of Fukushima plant — Spikes to 6,900 Bq/m³ from ‘not detected’ in one day — Previous high went unmatched for last 9 months

Stuart Smith’s Blog

Black Liberation/Civil Rights:

Labor:

Economy:

Money in Hyping the Generational War Story Dean Baker, Truthout

SocialSecurity

Image: Social Security via Shutterstock

At the same time that we are seeing growing support for proposals to increase Social Security benefits

 it appears that we are witnessing another set of calls for generational warfare. The argument of the generational warriors is that the Social Security and Medicare benefits received by our parents and grandparents pose a threat to the living standards of our children and grandchildren.

The generational warfare argument may not make much sense, but many people with money stand behind it. Therefore we are likely to hear it frequently in the months ahead.

The basic facts are simple. The country will see an increase in the ratio of retirees to workers over the next two decades, but it is not qualitatively different than the increase in the ratio that we have been seeing for many decades.

The Social Security trustees project that in 2035 there will be just 2.1 workers for each beneficiary. This compares to 2.8 workers for each beneficiary today. By comparison, the ratio of workers to beneficiaries was over 5.0 to 1 back in 1960. In short, we already have seen a much larger drop in the ratio of workers to beneficiaries in the last five decades than the decline we face going forward.

Insofar as we would expect a lower ratio of workers to retirees to hurt living standards we would have already seen most of the effect. In fact, we are paying considerably more in Social Security taxes now than in 1960. The current tax rate is 6.2 percent on both workers and retirees; this compares to just 3.0 percent back in 1960. There is no remotely plausible story in which young people today will see anything like the tax increases faced by their parents’ generation.

The first generations of beneficiaries did get a very good return on their Social Security taxes, but these people have long since passed on. The baby boomers will largely get a return that reflects what they paid into the program. The people claiming the baby boomers are getting a bonanza from their Social Security are either not very good at arithmetic or dishonest.

However the more important point is that the focus on Social Security taxes is hugely misleading. The next generation’s standard of living depends far more on their before-tax wages than what gets taken out of their check for Social Security taxes. And here there is both good news and bad news.

The good news is that the Social Security trustees project that average compensation will rise by more than 60 percent over the next three decades. This means that for each hour of work in 2043, workers will get 60 percent more on average in wages and benefits than do workers today.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that this figure refers to the average, not necessarily what the typical worker will get. In the last three decades most workers have seen little benefit from economic growth as most of the gains have gone to those at the top: CEOs, Wall Street types, and highly paid professionals like doctors and lawyers. If this pattern continues, then workers may not enjoy higher standards of living in 2043 than they do today.

But it is important to realize that the threat to future living standards comes not from demographics, the impact of a falling ratio of workers to retirees will be very limited even in a worst case scenario. The real threat to the living standards of young people is the continuation of the upward redistribution that we have seen over the last three decades.

This should have lead people to wonder why we hear so much about the retirement of the baby boomers threatening the living standards of young people. For example, National Public Radio recently ran a piece which seemed to be complaining that young people didn’t resent their parents’ Social Security and Medicare. MSNBC gave us a segment in which Abby Huntsman, the daughter of the unsuccessful presidential candidate, made bizarre claims about Social Security being an impossible burden for young people. And the Washington Post routinely uses both its news and editorial sections to hype the need for cuts to Social Security and Medicare. In which Abby Huntsman, the daughter of the unsuccessful presidential candidate, made bizarre claims about Social Security being an impossible burden for young people. And the Washington Post routinely uses both its news and editorial sections to hype the need for cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

There is a simple explanation for the prominence of the Social Security scare stories. There is a lot of money behind it. The one percent types who have benefitted from the upward redistribution of the last three decades find it very useful that national debate focus on $1,300 a month Social Security checks rather than the policies that made them incredibly wealthy.

People like Peter Peterson, who made his fortune on Wall Street, would rather not have public discussion focus on the tax loopholes that made his private equity business so profitable. Similarly, Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, probably does not want much public debate on the fact that he made tens of billions by allowing people to evade state and local sales taxes.

The list goes on, but as long as the wealthy can focus public debate on retirement benefits for ordinary workers, they can keep the focus away from the policies that allow them to get rich at everyone else’s expense. And the rich are prepared to spend lots of money to keep the public distracted. We can expect to see many more pieces about Social Security bankrupting our children.

World:

The Secessionist Dream: Referenda, Recognition and Crimea Binoy Kampmark

Referenda tend to be the devices used to seal the kiss of secession. It is an instrument of the ballot box, an expression of popular will. Its first formal use, according to Eugène Solière’s Le Plébiscite dans l’annexion (1901) came in the referendum held by Lyonnais in the 13th century when citizens sought to escape Church rule, with its citizens claiming “themselves subjects of the King of France” and requesting that he “take them under his special care.”

One would think that such action immediately promises it a degree of high status from democratic powers: after all, the ballot box should be gospel, an indicator of “sovereign will” of the people. In practice, responses have been uneven, disingenuous and strategic. International law, for instance, takes an ordered, even glacial view of it. To be recognised, the seceding group must be denied “international self-determination” by the central government. It must also be subject to grave human rights abuses.

In assessing the Crimean situation, the views of former legal adviser to the US State Department, John B. Bellinger III, provide a useful aside. International law takes the conservative line: territorial integrity first, and “minority secession movements” a distant second. To give secessionist movements a run would “not reflect the views of the majority in a state and could lead to the breakdown of the international system” (Council on Foreign Relations, Mar 16). Pity, then, that instability in the international system would arise precisely because the first object was not respected. Either you respect such integrity, or you don’t, and raising it over Ukraine’s plight has become the running joke.

The Crimean referendum result on its independence from Ukraine was never going to sail smoothly through international law, however overwhelming the vote. But it has been forgotten how the very same Ukrainian territorial integrity being promoted is the same integrity that was violated by open interference from Washington to Warsaw. All had a stake in the confrontation, and it didn’t involve preserving the Yanukovych regime.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has called the referendum a form of “back door annexation”. In contrast, his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, has argued that the “will” of the Crimean people will be “respected”. Naturally, such will is not always coherent, the referendum having been boycotted by many Tartars, Russians and Ukrainians not necessarily sympathetic to moving into the Russian Federation. A majoritarian point has, however, been made, even if there were anomalies in the 97 per cent “yes” vote.

The referendum on secession in history follows a general pattern. The central power tends to repudiate the result, citing its illegality for violating territorial integrity. The separatist grouping will tend to be in the majority (that is, within the district), and find recognition elsewhere, often from some external power. Matters of self-interest can well accompany such moves. As the German author Herman Hesse posed in his Lektüre für Minuten, “Why it is that you are only in favour of national self-determination when you can profit from it?”

The way states deal with a referendum on secession provides fascinating, if not unsurprising instruction. States of such political systems as the now defunct Soviet Union and Yugoslavia did not grant much time to measures that effectively saw the dissolution of a political compact. Doing so was tantamount to recognising acts of amputation and acknowledging it. The reality of ethno-national referenda, as pointed out by Matt Qvortrup, is complex, involving the rhetoric of democratic legitimacy and idealism mixed with a good dose of political calculations. These can either involve the elimination of difference – those aimed at homogenisation, or those aimed at managing differences within the state (the devolutions in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland). Read More

Sweden: Mass Mobilisations against Fascism Avanti Editorial Board (Sweden)

Sweeden

Last weekend’s attempt by fascists to murder left-wing activists in Malmö has had a massive response. During this weekend, there have been a number of demonstrations, meetings and gatherings around the country.

Take the struggle forward – build self-defence committees

Bourgeois media has on every occasion during the last week tried to portray the Nazi attack as a ”fight between extremists”, where both are said to be the same. This is also commonly taught in schools in the form of the ridiculous and confusing idea that ”extreme” left and extreme right-wing find common ground in their use of violence against their opponents. But this idea is pure nonsense. Time and time again it is the fascists who attack, and we who are defending ourselves. They are organised in small sects who romanticise violence, but our method is that of the mass movement.

The reports below show the massive response to the Nazis and is a display of the real balance of forces in society. The working class can move mountains once it starts moving. The demonstrations in Kärrtorp in December and all over the country brought together over 40,000 people. The Nazis could barely gather 20.

The demonstrations and their militant mood are also a sign of anger against injustices and right-wing policies that is brewing in Swedish society. The right-wing prime minister has not even bothered to condemn the attack, saying that he is ”awaiting the police investigation”. The struggle against fascism has strengthened the molecular process of radicalisation that is taking place in Swedish society.

From this weekend of manifestations and demonstrations people have gone home with a renewed confidence and energy. But now more concrete measures must be taken. The fascists are testing the ground, and our weakness is  that our leaders are limiting themselves to lame appeals for help from a police force who is not only obviously uninterested, but also happy to see that the left-wing gets a beating. The fascists attacks take place with the good memory of the established right-wing and the state. They will not defend us.

All over the country there has to be organised self-defence committees connected to the labour movement, to defend our meetings and events. Only through showing strength can we force them back into the rat holes they came from. Their small sects of organised hooligans is nothing compared to the strength that we, the workers and radical youth, can amass together. The answer from the working class this time is an important statement and also shows the way forward. The struggle against the fascists is a struggle for socialism! Read More

 Health, Education, Science, and Welfare:

Teachers make stand for what is right

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Parents, teachers and students rally at Maria Saucedo Elementary Scholastic Academy. | Kevin Tanaka/For Sun-Times Media

This past month, over 300,000 students celebrated Black History Month. As I sat in my school’s high school auditorium and watched the impressive performances by nervous teenagers, a quote one young man gave caught my attention. The quote from Dr. Martin Luther King was, “The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy.”

I thought to what Dr. King would say about the ISAT boycott being waged by hundreds of parents, children, and teachers — especially at Saucedo and Drummond. Dr. King was amazing for many things, but he was not always popular. Dr. King chose the moral high ground even when accused by those within his own movement of not doing what was practical or expedient. The teachers at Saucedo and Drummond did not choose to boycott because they didn’t want to give a test; in fact, they are boycotting the exam because forcing young children to sit for hours for an exam that does not help them or teachers in any way is actually unethical. They are willing to give up everything: mortgages, teaching certificates, and their reputations because of the egregious misuse of high-stakes tests that are hardening young hearts and minds. I’ve heard non-teachers remark on this story, “Why can’t they give a simple test?”

I could concede that if I wasn’t aware that it wasn’t just one test, but 12, 13, sometimes 14 tests. Saucedo and Drummond teachers have met their moment of challenge and controversy. They have passed the real test. When asked between doing what is convenient but wrong, and what is controversial but right, they have emulated Dr. King in that long struggle for educational justice. Their compasses point due north; let’s all set our directions by their leads.Katie Hogan, Humboldt Park

Why speedcams aren’t working If the mayor is disappointed with the low fines generated by the speed cameras, I know why they are not making any money. It’s hard to speed if you’re dodging potholes that’ll take your axle off! Reginald Johnson, South Shore

Pothole epidemic

The current pothole epidemic in Chicago is absolutely unacceptable to any taxpaying citizen that drives a car in the city. The damage incurred to vehicles because of these craters is cause for uproar, especially since patch crews are so slow to respond and repair. Why talk about winter’s icy tantrum while ignoring the citizens’ tantrums because of the unforeseen damage to personal vehicles all over the city? Mike Koskiewicz, Portage Park

Improve airliner tracking

With advances in satellite communications, why not have real-time statistics of aircraft vitals sent to various ground databases? In addition, don’t allow the black box aircraft statistics or the transponder to be turned off. If circuit breaker protection is needed, use the self-resetting type for these small devices. Thomas Cechner, Lockport

Vote in the primary

All Americans who want to protect Social Security and Medicare, ensure union representation for more workers, strengthen public schools, raise the minimum wage and ensure that all Americans pay taxes according to their incomes must vote in the upcoming primary and general elections.

Historically, Democrats avoid the off -year elections, allowing the Republicans to make gains with fewer overall numbers. If it happens this year, those with the most money and a firm conviction that they know what is best will be able to exert their will on the rest of us.

At stake is our democracy and our very way of life

Parents, teachers and students rally at Maria Saucedo Elementary Scholastic Academy. | Kevin Tanaka/For Sun-Times Media

This past month, over 300,000 students celebrated Black History Month. As I sat in my school’s high school auditorium and watched the impressive performances by nervous teenagers, a quote one young man gave caught my attention. The quote from Dr. Martin Luther King was, “The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy.” Read More

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