Friday, February 29, 2008
HOWARD THE DUCK
Thursday, February 28, 2008
By Matthew Walter
Feb. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez criticized activists who occupied the archbishop's palace in Caracas and held protests in front of a private television network in the name of his Bolivarian revolution, saying the acts may lead to violence.
Chavez said social activist Lina Ron, who led a group of about 20 Chavez supporters in yesterday's occupation of the archbishop's palace, acted irresponsibly.
``Lina Ron, I adore her, but I have to criticize her, because this is a big display of a lack of discipline,'' Chavez said in comments broadcast by state television. ``What it leads you to believe is that these groups, which say they are revolutionary, have been infiltrated, so that through these actions they can erase the government's successes, and cause violent reactions.''
The ``anarchist'' groups that claim to be part of his political movement are overshadowing progress being made by the government in eliminating food shortages and improving healthcare, Chavez said.
Since voters rejected the president's proposal to rewrite the constitution in December, handing him his first electoral defeat in nine years, he has focused on fixing problems that affect his poor base of supporters.
The president said that last night's protest at Globovision was ``risky,'' saying it could cause the same kind of damage that the ``ultra-left'' in Chile did to President Salvador Allende in 1973, when he was overthrown in a bloody coup.
``Some of these so-called Bolivarian circles, nobody knows what their plan is,'' Chavez said. ``I've met with some of them, and I was very concerned. They seem more like anarchistic groups.''
To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Walter in Caracas at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Canada's military involvement has been marketed as a noble cause, with help from Hillier, Horton's and hockey.
OTTAWA, February 28, 2008:
Why do Canadians support this war enough for such a compromise while Dutch, French, Italians, and others opt to stay out? The answer lies in the way this war was sold to Canadians by the Harper government and its allies and by what it is called.
In part it may be the government has succeeded in framing the war against insurgents in Afghanistan as a "mission", which is how it is almost always now described. "George W. Bush proclaimed a War on Terror to confuse the legal authorities," and military historian and author Desmond Morton told HarperIndex.ca in an email interview from his McGill University office. "There was no identifiable enemy. There were no treaty-binding rules for such a conflict... The word mission is even more frightening to me since it speaks to a kind of colonial arrogance deeply imbedded in our Afghan presence. Are we on a mission to convert the Afghans to our values? What if the Afghan National Army took up residence in Canada to teach us the proper way to handle gay marriage or the rights of women. We would want them out - quite desperately but not necessarily unanimously. Canadians have been sold on the notion that it is our mission to reform Afghanistan - chase the National Police out of corruption, eliminate the drug trade, require higher ethical standards from Afghan officials."
Political scientist Nelson Wiseman, interviewed by phone from his University of Toronto office, agreed that calling the war a mission "...paints the picture that it's much more than a war. But I think that's a legitimate claim," he said, in view of Canada's development efforts there.
Wiseman says, however, "It is dangerous for Harper to ally himself too closely to Bush in Afghanistan. That's why he's not using the same kind of phrases as Bush. He's not using 'cut-and-run', for instance. He's trying to immunize himself on it by co-opting the Liberals." The main danger for Harper, Wiseman says, "is if an election occurs during 'a bad downward spiral' in the conflict 'with large numbers of Canadian troops injured in high-profile incidents'."
Morton believes Canada's top solider, Rick Hillier, is largely responsible for Canadians becoming "sold" on the Afghanistan conflict and says Hillier "is a product of my own advice to the Canadian military at my annual Staff College briefing. If you want to win resource battles in Ottawa, treat it as Battle Space Ottawa and learn the same rules as other winners. Publicity is power. Learn the rules of engagement and find the guts to fight."
"Hillier's predecessors were driven by ambition and acute nervousness," Morton says. "Canadians prefer his frankness and his no-nonsense wisdom to that of politicians. He appeals to the kind of political reporters who appeal to sports page readers. That includes a lot of NDP voters. The Left has to handle the guilt which rises in anyone accused of not 'Backing Our Boys'..."
War or mission, public opinion polls indicate Canadians are split in their support for what Canada is doing in Afghanistan, but Morton feels it would be a difficult issue to campaign against. He says the Liberals' compromised this week because they feel the same. "I suspect that Harper has a fairly popular issue in Afghanistan, particularly with people who reflect his conservative values and so long as Canadians feel indifferent to the costs - 78 lives and who knows how much specific aid money."
Wiseman says, "people become inured to the casualties" over time, explaining why soldiers' deaths get less media coverage as time passes.
As the debate shifts, in the wake of the Manley report, to troop contributions from other countries rather than the appropriateness of the war, support for the war hardens. "Canadians I talk to are aggressively hostile to NATO members who have opted for safer service in Afghanistan," says Morton. "Frankly, I think that Harper succeeds because he has a more coherent message on Afghanistan."
That message is driven home repeatedly through the "Support our Troops" campaign, the efforts of companies like Tim Horton's, which prominently promote it, and promotion related to hockey. From Don Cherry endorsements, to politicians at hockey games, to Canadian Forces recruiting ads running at saturation level on hockey broadcasts, the war is heavily promoted to a broad target group of middle Canadians - hockey fans.
Those who oppose the war might begin by framing it as a war, rather than a mission. Most Canadians probably support development assistance for Afghanistan, which the government increased in the budget this week. Opponents are safer to talk about the idea of building democracy and peace through diplomacy rather than the American-style notion of doing it through a war, which despite six years of effort, has shown decidedly mixed results. Canadians will feel less supportive of a "mission" to which local resistance may well be growing due to the warlord governments, corruption and ongoing severe human rights violations it appears to support. Referring to a "hockey goon" approach, however, will only invoke Harper's frame of hockey as a metaphor.
Harper Index (HarperIndex.ca) is a project of the Golden Lake Institute and the online publication StraightGoods.ca
COALITION OF IMMOKALEE WORKERS PETITION CAMPAIGN:
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is an organization of farm workers and supporters in the southeastern USA who are attempting to improve the slave labour conditions of workers in those fields. They have initiated a national petition campaign to demand that Burger King and other food industry giants work with them to improve farm labour conditions. Here is their appeal...
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has launched a National Petition Campaign to end modern-day slavery and sweatshops in the fields! The CIW is launching a national petition drive to demand that Burger King and other food industry leaders work with the CIW to improve the wages and working conditions of the workers who pick their tomatoes, and join with the CIW in an industry-wide effort to eliminate modern-day slavery and human rights abuses from Florida's fields. The petitions will serve as notice that those who sign are "prepared to stop patronizing Burger King now, and other food industry leaders in the future, should they fail to do so."
The campaign comes on the 200th anniversary of the US ban against the importation of slaves, and echoes key strategies of the early abolitionist movement that helped hasten the end of slavery in the 19th century.
Much more than an e-campaign, this petition is a living,tangible organizing movement that we encourage our allies to bring to life in their own communities. We are calling on Fair Food activists across the country to collect signatures in schools, on campuses, and at community gatherings. We will turnin the petitions in a creative mass procession at Burger King headquarters in Miami later this spring.
Take Action on this Issue:
- Visit http://www.unionvoice.org/ct/l7zJ6iS1TPlD/ to read the petition and sign electronically today; -
Visit http://www.unionvoice.org/ct/lpzJ6iS1TPlK/ to learn more about the campaign and how to bring it to your campus and community!
TEXT OF PETITION:
WHEREAS, there is an ongoing human rights crisis in Florida's fields, including:
* poverty wages, rooted in an antiquated piece-rate pay system that hasn't changed significantly in nearly 30 years;
* long hours without overtime pay when work is available,unemployment and transience when it is not;
* physical abuse and wage fraud by crew leaders, supervisors,and growers;
* damage to body and soul from back-breaking labor, with no employment benefits such as sick days, paid leave, health insurance, or pensions;
* retaliation against workers who protest or organize to alleviate these inhuman conditions;
* and, most shamefully, modern-day slavery, with six successful federal prosecutions of farm labor operations for servitude in Florida over the past decade, and a seventh just initiated, involving well over 1,000 workers and more than a dozen farm employers;
WHEREAS, by leveraging their high-volume purchasing power to extract the lowest prices possible, Burger King and other food industry leaders profit from and play an active role in creating the miserable conditions in Florida's fields;
WHEREAS, Burger King and other food industry leaders have not only refused to join Yum! Brands and McDonald's in working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to improve farm labor conditions, but have actually sought to reverse gains made by workers in agreements with those corporations;
WHEREAS, private equity firms including Goldman Sachs, Texas Pacific Group, Bain Capital and others, which are principal shareholders in Burger King and other food industry leaders,have made significant investments in the restaurant industry over the past decade, and have ignored calls by farm workers and consumers for farm labor reform, while continuing to draw billions of dollars in private profits from their investments;
THEREFORE, I add my name and voice to those of countless consumers calling upon Burger King and other food industry leaders to immediately join with the CIW in efforts to end exploitation in the fields and modern-day slavery in the 21st century. I am also prepared to stop patronizing Burger King now,and other food industry leaders in the future, should they fail to do so. Specifically, I call on Burger King and other food industry leaders to:
1. Pay a penny more per pound for tomatoes and ensure that the increase is passed on to tomato pickers in the form of increased wages; and
2. Work with the CIW to establish and enforce a human rights-based code of conduct, including zero tolerance for forced labor, to ensure fair and safe working conditions.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
APPEAL FROM LONG-TIME OCAP ACTIVIST AFTER RECENT FIRE:
Last January 23 long-time OCAP activist "Marcel" lost everything in a house fire. He, his wife and children, however, escaped. Now they need help to get back on their feet. His letter follows. You can find out how to donate by contacting OCAP through their website or at OCAP, 10 Britain St., Toronto, ON M5A 1R6, phone #416-925-6939, email email@example.com . The letter...
Please take a moment to read this appeal from long-time activist and OCAP member Marcel, who recently lost almost everything in a fire.
Dear comrades and friends,
On the morning of January 23, 2008 sometime just after 7:00 AM my wife and I awoke and immediately realized something was wrong. It was only a few seconds before we realized that not only was it a fire,but that it was bad. The smoke was so thick we couldn't see anything. We ran to the basement stairs and shouted for our children to wake up and get out of the house. Luckily, they heard and ran up the stairs. By this time the house was filled with thick smoke, and we were all coughing up soot outside. I did not even have time to put clothing on and had to run out in my undies, and got frost bite on my feet.
The Fire Dept. was able to save one of our cats, Tommy, but unfortunately our other two cats - Katyusha and Kalinka - perished in the fire and will be missed by us.
At this time we have no evidence that someone caused the fire. I don't think any fascists found out where I live and set the fire, and though the current owner benefits from the fire and had the motive (he now gets to renovate the whole building free of charge thanks to insurance payoff, plus he got rid of defiant tenants) we are pretty sure it was simply electrical.
The current owner bought the place as of November, and the first thing he did was come around and ask for the rent to be raised. He made all kinds of promises about fixing our unit, and it was clear there was major disrepair. We also informed him at that time that electrical problems was the number one priority, having lost electrical functions in about 50% of the unit on both levels.
Instead, he spent $30,000 or so on the empty unit upstairs so that he could rent it out for $1,700 or $1,800 per month.
We defied him every time he wanted to raise the rent, and lucky for us we have a good idea of what the current "Residential Tenancies Act"says, and were able to use that against him. In any case, we had plans to go much further and force this guy through the board to make the repairs. This guy is a professional landlord, real estate agent, and makes serious money on it. Since this guy makes a living on people's need for shelter, we were not prepared to let him off.
I guess I want to tell comrades that they should be hard on their landlords, use the tenant hotline, call the landlord tenant board for help, use the legal clinics, etc. and force your landlord to fix things, especially any serious repairs like furnaces and electrical work.
And also make sure your landlord installs smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as well as fire extinguishers. This is a mistake we will never make again. You should have one on each floor of your unit at the very least. If your landlord won't do it, do it yourself and make him pay later by applying to the board, save your receipts. We didn't have any of these installed and were lucky to have awoke and got out.
As well, you should be careful of illegal apartments with rooms that have no escape during a fire, such as an apartment that includes an attic space or basement. There was a total of 3 exits in our unit but for some bizarre reason our previous landlord decided to seal off 2 of them. Especially basement and second level apartments should have a second way out, as often windows are not an option for escape. I think it was estimated that something like 70% of all apartments in Toronto wouldn't pass inspection. I can't back up this number because I can't remember where I saw it, but from our experience as tenants and having half a dozen different landlords I don't doubt it.
We were able to recover some of our belongings, and luckily much of our collectibles and most books are OK. We still need clothes, as we lost a lot of that in the fire.
We also need:
Food vouchers/Gift Cards
Beds (1 bunk bed for kids, 1 double or queen size for us)
Bedding (pillow cases, sheets, etc)
PS/2 or USB Keyboards
We would like for comrades to donate us either ca$h or gift cards or whatever to go towards clothing/shoes. I know it sounds a bit snooty,but people have given us so much clothes over the past few weeks that we simply ended up dropping off 70% of it or so at the thrift because it doesn't fit. As well, stuff like socks and underwear you don't want used and kind of like to select yourself.
We got some temporary stuff from the Red Cross, and some vouchers, as well my wife's mother got a collection of furniture and vouchers from the hospital where she works. OCAP hooked us up with $260 in cash which was collected at a general meeting and very helpful,considering we had almost no cash after paying first and last months rent.
We want to also thank Shane for quickly getting in touch with OCAP and as well giving us the comradely support we need. We don't want comrades to break their own bank to help out, so if you're tight don't worry. But if you can spare something it would be greatly appreciated. If you have stuff, vouchers/gift cards, and/or ca$h to donate us, get in touch. As well we can receive email money transfers as we finally got internet.
Thanks everyone for their help, it's greatly appreciated.Your comrades, Marcel and family