Veterans Demand Accountability for Revelations in Afghanistan Papers
This statement from Veterans For Peace and About Face was released December 12, 2019. To view the Afghanistan Papers click here . To view the Washington Post report which revealed the Afghanistan Papers click here .
Veterans Demand Accountability for Revelations in Afghanistan Papers
Veterans Demand Accountability for Revelations in Afghanistan Papers

The release of the Afghanistan Papers this week has laid out in clear detail the failed policy and the catastrophic level of malfeasance that reach the highest levels of the U.S. government. Every level of government bears responsibility for misleading the American public and for creating the conditions in which an unchecked military operates without accountability.

The Afghanistan Papers are filled with over 300 people detailing the systematic failure of the military to take any responsibility and blaming the “corruption” of the Afghanistan government, all the while revealing the massive corruption and lies that the U.S. is perpetuating. While military commanders bemoaned Afghan leaders enriching themselves off American tax dollars, those self same commanders were climbing government ranks, earning promotions for promoting endless war.

Soldiers, contractors, and Veterans were routinely marginalized or persecuted in order to maintain the status quo in Afghanistan, up to and including the prosecution of Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning for their efforts. The integrity of those heroes were questioned while the lies were glorified as truth by a complicit media and government agencies.

Last year the U.S. war on Afghanistan killed more civilians than any previous year. Every single lie detailed in the #AfghanistanPapers and every single year this went on meant overwhelming consequences for families and individuals in Afghanistan, many who are already living in devastating poverty. The U.S. military has destroyed countless villages and continues to create an atmosphere of fear and hatred with covert drone operations that kill thousands of innocent people.

Furthermore, three days after these documents were released, proving three different administrations lied to the public and spent years covering up mismanagement, abuse and massive waste, Congress voted to pass the largest National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in history, funneling $733 billion to an already bloated military budget.

As veterans who have served in these wars and past wars, we are exasperated by leaders that lie to us and lack the moral courage to do anything about it even when there is proof. We demand accountability in real and tangible ways. We are tired of seeing headlines that only result in a Congressional member’s outraged tweet, statements on the campaign trail and slick tv spots, while nothing changes.

We demand real accountability:

  • Immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops
  • The military IMMEDIATELY release all three hundred names of those quoted in the Afghanistan Papers
  • Congressional hearings that include perjury trials for all those officials who knowingly lied in official Congressional testimony, including closed door session of the Armed Forces Committee
  • A special Congressional committee to investigate fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement for the war in Afghanistan
  • A Congressional tribunal allowing Afghanistan veterans to testify about their experience.
  • Repeal of the AUMF — which includes any subsequent AUMF to have a sunset clause.
  • Recognition of Moral Injury as a legitimate diagnosis
  • Reparations to each Afghanistan family who have lost a family member
Sign on on to the statement
Are you a veteran of Afghanistan?
Veterans For Peace and About Face: Veterans Against the War gathered veterans who served in the U.S. War in Afghanistan to write the above statement.  If you are a veteran of the U.S. war in Afghanistan sign up here to join a call to strategize on next steps.

Contact Us

Veterans For Peace
1404 North Broadway Blvd.
St. Louis, Missouri 63102
(314) 725-6005
vfp@veteransforpeace.org

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New fund raising campaigns for the Che Cafe
Two online fund raising campaigns have been started to benefit the Che Café.
One is to upgrade the kitchen.
https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/che-cafe-kitchen
The other is to fund restoration and preservation work on some of the murals.
https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/che-cafe-murals

Union-made pizza? In Portland, Wobblies serve a fair slice

In September, all 13 workers at Scottie’s Pizza at 2128 SE Division Street in Portland signed a petition announcing their decision to unionize with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the storied union whose members are known as Wobblies. On Sept. 22, half of them delivered the petition to owner Scottie Rivera … and found him happy to recognize the union. It wasn’t a big surprise: When Rivera opened the parlor in 2015, he won acclaim for paying employees at least $15 an hour. The business also provides health benefits, free shift meals and beverages, and an annual stipend for safe work footwear. Walls in the restaurant’s tiny dining area are covered with political posters and framed photos of lefty luminaries. 

“The general attitude among workers in the restaurant industry is that it’s impossible to have a union,” says Scottie’s employee David Adams. “But we think workers need to be represented and have a voice in decisions that are made in the restaurants where they’re living their lives.”

Rivera and the workers expect to negotiate a first collective bargaining agreement in the coming months. Adams says workers hope it will serve as an example to other pizza enterprises.

“We want to show that you don’t have to exploit and manipulate,” Adams said. “You can have a relationship with your workers that will make your business stronger.

 

Co-ops & Collectives Reunion at UCSD

Reunion-Flyer (5)

For full details see CO-OPS & COLLECTIVES REUNION, 10/19/19

Global Climate Strike, September 20 – 27

Global Climate Strike, 20-27 Sept.

Global Strike Information here!

This September, millions of us will walk out of our workplaces and homes to join young climate strikers on the streets and demand an end to the age of fossil fuels.

Our house is on fire — let’s act like it. We demand climate justice for everyone.

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UCSD September 27 March Information

Global Climate Walkout September 20 — San Diego

SDSU Climate Strike — September 20

Court of Appeals overturns dismissal of Koala newspaper lawsuit against ASUCSD and Chancellor
By Doug Lederman
Inside Higher Ed
July 25, 2019
“The worst in collegiate journalism since 1982!” The Koala, a student publication at the University of California, San Diegoboasts on its home page.

But a student publication is a student publication, whether it traffics in satire or offensive material (as many at UCSD believe The Koala does) or, more traditionally, in nonfake news. And if a public university allows student publications to compete with other student groups for funds, barring the publication in retaliation for content it published violates its free press and free speech rights, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned a lower court’s 2017 ruling dismissing The Koala‘s lawsuit against UCSD. The appeals court found that the student publication had offered sufficient evidence to suggest the university (and its student government) had changed their policies for funding student groups to single out and retaliate against The Koala.

To read the full article click here.

Numbers crushing working people

The situation of the worker

by Bruce T. Boccardy

 

A ‘Booming’ Economy

A CNN poll released early in May this year showed that 56 percent of Americans approved of President Trump’s economic policies.

White House National Economic Council Director Lawrence Kudlow commented on the economy this April:

‘It tells me, among other things, that the prosperity cycle we have entered into is continuing, it is strong. It has legs and momentum and frankly it is going to go on for quite some time,’ he continued. ‘This is the new Trump economy. Some people don’t like that or they don’t agree with that. I respect the differences but I’ll tell you it’s working.’

Mr. Kudlow peddled similar nonsense recently in interviews on the June 30 Sunday talk shows commenting on recent criticisms of the economy:

I just don’t understand in general. I hear some of their policies. I hear some of their narratives. I don’t understand what planet they’re describing.

…on this business about the bad distribution, the blue collar workers have done the best. The unemployment rate is low, we just had the best June stock market, the Dow Jones, in 80 years…

He asserted: “The American economy is booming.”

The numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) appear to support these views or do they?

First, Mr. Kudlow ignores the fact that 10 percent of households in America own 84 percent of stock shares directly or indirectly through mutual funds, trusts, or various pension accounts.  This was reported in a paper by New York University economics professor Edward N. Wolff in Nov. 2017.

Reports by the Federal Reserve, Gallup, and Bankrate confirm that the spectacular rhythms of the stock market are irrelevant to the vast majority of Americans.

Back to the numbers on Main Street.

Cost of Living

Cost of living calculators report the amount of money required to maintain basic standards of living in various localities by expenses such as housing, groceries, taxes, and health care.

The Economic Policy Institute created a Family Budget Calculator that measures the income a family requires to attain an adequate standard of living. In Boston, for example, the income required for two adults and two children is $111,724. This is not an anecdotal padded estimate. The costs of an adequate standard of living are rising to ridiculous levels.

Aside from the monthly employment report, the BLS also compiles the Consumer Price Index (CPI), our primary inflation gauge.

From August 2017 to August 2018 average hourly earnings rose 2.8 percent. The CPI for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) rose 2.7%. That’s how much the cost of living went up.

Unless you had no housing or transportation expenses in the last year, your cost of living probably rose at least 2.7 percent.

That being the case, a 2.8 percent wage gain is a pittance.

We should know how the overwhelming majority of Americans are maintaining themselves and their families. The United States Census Bureau (USCB) provided an answer.

The USCB data showed that the bulk of gains in real income in 2016 was due to an increase in employment hours. That means that work hours increased, not real wages. Another consideration is that working more hours means higher expenditure on income related necessities, such as commuting, childcare costs, and costs for caring for dependents.

Wages/Salaries

Besides the unemployment rate and jobs created data, the BLS also presents reports of wages and salaries. This is essential information in determining the impact of the economy on working people.

Despite the Trump administration’s celebratory proclamations of recent wage growth, the numbers tell a different story.

Bankrate’s January 2019 Financial Security Index survey reported that six in 10 Americans don’t have enough savings for a $1,000 emergency.

A widely publicized study on the decline of the economy for working people was from the Federal Reserve Board‘s Economic Well-Being report in May 2018. It reported that four in 10 adults in the country could not afford a $400 emergency expense.

Career Builders released a report in Aug. 2017 that found 78 percent of U.S. employees are living paycheck to paycheck.

The BLS reported that real hourly earnings increased 1.2 percent over 12 months from April 2018 to April 2019. However, the inflation rate for the 12 months was 2.0 percent. That’s losing ground.

In June 2018, the BLS reported that from May 2017 through May 2018, average real inflation adjusted hourly wages for the largest demographic of workers fell by 0.1 percent. That demographic comprises production and non-supervisory workers; it constitutes about 80 percent of the privately employed workforce. More ground lost.

PayScale Index tracks quarterly changes in total cash compensation for full-time, private industry employees and education professionals in the United States.

They reported in January this year that real wages declined in 2018. When adjusted for inflation, the increase was 1 percent for the past year. In fact, when adjusted for cost of living and CPI, real wages actually declined 1.3 percent since the end of 2017.

According to the Payscale Index since 2006, pay has decreased -9.5 percent with inflation. Huge ground lost.

Job Types

The Financial Advisor reported in March 2018 that the rate of low wage jobs has remained relatively stagnant since 2012. In six states (Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and West Virginia), more than one in three jobs is in a low-wage occupation.

The Federal Reserve Bank’s Board of Governors met with the Community Advisory Council in November 2017. They reported that despite the apparent drop in unemployment, there was no increase in the number of quality jobs.

The Opportunity Index: Opportunities in Urban America reported in October 2018 that just 38 percent of jobs in the U.S. pay enough to afford a middle income lifestyle for a dual income with children. 32 percent of jobs pay a living wage and 30 percent pay a “hardship” wage.

The 2017 Scorecard reported that one in four jobs in the country is in a low-wage occupation.

The conclusion is that one in four jobs in the country doesn’t even pay enough to keep a family of four above the poverty line. When one considers the number of jobs just above the poverty line we are discussing a serious crippling of the economy for middle and low income people.

Bureau of Labor Statistics Reports

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases two reports measuring unemployment and jobs created.  The most popular is the Current Employment Statistics (CES) a.k.a. Payroll Survey/Establishment Survey. The other is the Current Population Survey (CPS) a.k.a. the Household Survey. The BLS measures unemployment through the CPS conducted each month by the United States Census Bureau (USCB).

The BLS utilizes a seasonal adjustment to remove influences of predictable seasonal patterns. This includes weather, harvests, major holidays, and school schedules. This adjustment is included in all the numbers referenced here.

The BLS also presents various reports on pay and benefits.

The employment and jobs created reports are a skewed view of the economy.

Job Creation

The CES reports are released to the public usually on the first or second Friday of the month. The jobs creation are revised twice after their initial release. The revisions include additional sample information and recalculated seasonal adjustment variables.

What often goes unreported by the corporate media are the revisions essential to present a more accurate number of unemployment and jobs created. This approach often affects how working people view the economy and their place in it.

Kevin Carmichael of “FiveThirtyEight” in December 2017 provided an example of the mercurial monthly report. The BLS revised its August 2017 report for July jobs. The press and mainstream economists responded to the 209,000 new jobs. Predictably, President Trump grasped on to the numbers and extolled them as a spectacular result of his economic policies.

However, when the BLS reported the revised job numbers in October it was 189,000; it was revised again to 138,000. That notable decrease was rarely mentioned in the media. Unsurprisingly there were no tweets from the president.

Another variable not discussed is how many jobs are required each month to keep pace with the population growth.  Business Insider estimated in August 2016 that on average, 205,300 jobs need to be created every month. Most economists place the number at around 150,000 jobs.

Unemployment

Upton Sinclair observed:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.

We expect those in positions of economic and political power in the United States to rely on fabrications, misrepresentations and oversimplifications to justify the economic constructs that benefits their tiny numbers.

It is a bit disappointing to review the standard measure of unemployment that the BLS disseminates to the media and public each month.

The BLS has six categories of unemployment measures. The standard measure is the U-3 unemployment rate. This category is promulgated by the BLS despite its limitations. The U-3 rate measures:

  • People without a job who have actively searched for a job in 4 weeks prior to the survey.

It does not include:

  1. Marginally Attached—discouraged job seekers who searched for work in the last 12 months and stopped looking in the past four weeks for various reasons:
  2. Part Time—those who want full time work or are underemployed for economic reasons
  3. Part Time—those who have part time jobs for non-economic reasons

The BLS does have a category that is more accurate which is the U-6 rate. It combines those in the first two components above with the standard U-3 measure.

Clearly, the U-6 rate is a more accurate representation of the actual unemployment rate. It is usually double or triple the standard U-3 rate.

For example, the BLS U-3 unemployment rate for this April was 3.6 percent. It was distributed over the mainstream media as evidence of a “booming” economy.

Economist Arthur MacEwan of the University of Massachusetts broke down the U-6 category. He identified the group of marginally attached people as 1.42 million for this April.

Economist Martin Wolfson of the University of Notre Dame further identified another group of people in the U-6 rate. They are people with part-time jobs for economic reasons numbering 4.65 million.

None of these people would be counted in the standard U-3 category.

The third component consisting of people who have part-time jobs for non-economic reasons is a bit complicated.  The numbers are quite high (21,322,000 for this April) and not included in the labor force number. It is speculative as how many of these folks would choose to work full time if their personal situations changed.

However, combining the marginally attached numbers with the part-time economic reason numbers in the U-6 rate resulted in the April unemployment jumping from the original 3.6 percent rate to 7.3 percent.

Moreover, the average U-3 rate for the entire year of 2018 was 3.9 percent, while the U-6 rate was 7.7 percent.

Finally, there is another unemployed demographic that reinforces doubt on BLS unemployment numbers. According to economist John Williams, in 1994 workers who moved from U-3 into U-6 unemployment and were “discouraged” for more one year were completely dropped from the U-6 measure. That means a significant number of the unemployed from the U-6 just disappeared from the unemployed numbers.  This actually tripled the U-6 rate.

The situation of the worker

The situation of the worker,” inspired
by Chapter 25 of Karl Marx’s, Capital.
This is just a small taste of a series
of drawings created to
illustrate Marx’s laws of motion of capital.
There is at least one illustration for
each chapter of Capital, vol. 1.

 

Ramifications

It’s largely the corporate media that willfully ignores these changes to the BLS reports. The effect is to create a false narrative that can impel working people to bewilderment and self-recrimination. If the economy is “booming” for so many as the monthly reports suggests with increased job numbers and falling unemployment rates, it should be improving their lives but it’s not.

Distorted employment and wage and salary numbers contribute to the perception of working peoples’ views; the powerful underlying theme of job insecurity and the struggles to maintain an adequate life style is always present. Jobs have consequences.

Much has been written about spiritual and secular corrosion in our culture exacerbated by economic burdens that continue for an overwhelming majority of Americans.

Economic distress has serious health consequences as well. The Journal of Community Health published a study in April 2017 based on data from The National Health Interview Survey. The study found that people with perceived job insecurity had higher incidences of obesity, sleeping less, mental illness, physical pain, ulcers, diabetes, hypertension, angina pectoris, and coronary heart diseases.

Moreover, a 2019 study at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine found that employees with dramatic income cuts had double the risk of cardiovascular disease.

An essential element of democracy is an informed electorate. It is vital that working people know the score. Only by accurate and complete economic representations can an informed electorate pursue political strategies and tactics that benefit all working people.

About Bruce T. Boccardy

Bruce T. Boccardy is economics/labor advisor for the Small Planet Institute in Cambridge. He is former president of Massachusetts Service Employees International Local 888, Public Sector Division; former labor representative of the Massachusetts Joint Labor-Management Committee; and former consultant for the National Association of Government Employees.
This article also appeared in Monthly Review online, July 4, 2019.

 

 

Military Minds Contemplate Human Extinction ?

A new risk assessments report, endorsed by the former Chief of the Australian Defense Force, warns that current scientific reports analyzing impacts of global warming, habitat loss, pollution and other drivers of the mass extinction are misleading and underplaying the threat, because of a conservative emphasis upon known probabilities. The report stresses that analyses of known possibilities is essential for national security risk assessments, on a global scale.

The report reinforces the messages of new movements such as Extinction Rebellion and the global youth climate strikes of Fridays for Future. (See https://rebellion.earth/ and https://www.fridaysforfuture.org/ )

Here is the report:

Existential climate-related security risk

Here is a round-up of news coverage of the new report.

    • Human civilisation could end by 2050

      Human civilisation could end by 2050

      Daily Mail· 5 days ago

      ‘A new approach to climaterelatedsecurityrisk-management is thus required,’ the authors said, emphasising the need …

     

      • Human civilisation could end by 2050

        Human civilisation could end by 2050

        Daily Mail· 5 days ago

        ‘A new approach to climaterelated security risk-management is thus required,’ the authors said, emphasising the need …

Freelance Journalists Union Forming

Freelance Journalists Union logo with letters FJU, image of a globe and three stars

By FJU
April 22, 2019

The IWW FJU is a union for all freelance journalists, bloggers, and other writers in the news media. Contact us today! You have nothing to lose but your unpaid invoices!

 

We’re a group of freelance journalists, bloggers, and other writers in news media from all around the world, organizing to improve our working conditions and assert our rights.

In the tumultuous, insecure world of contemporary news media, more and more of us are forced to work on a freelance basis. While it’s difficult to put a precise estimate on the numbers, self-employed writers make up the majority of the profession in the United States and there are legions of us around the world.

Publicizing this union comes after a months-long organizing effort in which we’ve had one-on-one conversations with hundreds of freelance journalists and group meetings with dozens, discussing the struggles that members of our profession face and how we can collectively overcome them.

Many of us deal with long overdue payments, low rates, vast pay disparities, exploitative contracts and frustrating invoicing systems at publications throughout the industry. While nearly every news outlet relies on freelance labor, few are committed to treating workers with dignity and providing fair compensation.

In order to change these conditions, and to gain power through solidarity, we created the Freelance Journalists Union. The FJU is part of the Industrial Workers of the World, an international, member-run union for all workers, which was established in 1905.

To learn more, contact us today!

Civil liberties groups condemn the Trump admin’s indictment of Julian Assange
Assange Arrest Free Speech Sign
Photo: The Real News Network (TRNN)
by Camille Fassett, Reporter for Freedom of the Press Foundation
Promoting press freedom in the 21st century
April 11, 2019

Today, WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange was arrested by British authorities after Ecuador terminated his asylum status. He has been charged for alleged conspiracy with whistleblower Chelsea Manning under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and faces potential extradition to the United States — a country with an extensive history of targeting whistleblowers with punitive sentences in prison. The details of the charge are fraught with press freedom implications and could potentially criminalize many common interactions journalists have with sources.

Here’s what numerous civil liberties and digital rights groups had to say about the implications of Assange’s charge and arrest.

Trevor Timm, Freedom of the Press Foundation:

For years, the Obama administration considered indicting WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, before rightly concluding it could not do so without encroaching on core press freedoms. Now almost nine years in, the Trump administration has used the same information to manufacture a flimsy and pretextual indictment involving a “conspiracy” to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act—based entirely on alleged conversations between a journalist and source. While the Trump administration has so far not attempted to explicitly declare the act of publishing illegal, a core part of its argument would criminalize many common journalist-source interactions that reporters rely on all the time. Requesting more documents from a source, using an encrypted chat messenger, or trying to keep a source’s identity anonymous are not crimes; they are vital to the journalistic process. Whether or not you like Assange, the charge against him is a serious press freedom threat and should be vigorously protested by all those who care about the First Amendment.

Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for Wikileaks’ publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional, and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations. Moreover, prosecuting a foreign publisher for violating U.S. secrecy laws would set an especially dangerous precedent for U.S. journalists, who routinely violate foreign secrecy laws to deliver information vital to the public’s interest.

The potential implications for press freedom of this allegation of conspiracy between publisher and source are deeply troubling. With this prosecution of Julian Assange, the U.S. government could set out broad legal arguments about journalists soliciting information or interacting with sources that could have chilling consequences for investigative reporting and the publication of information of public interest.

While we investigate the implications of the US Justice Department’s charges against Julian Assange, which are specific to his interactions with a source, we reiterate our concern that the prosecution of those who provide or publish information of public interest comes at the expense of the investigative journalism that allows a democracy to thrive.

While the indictment of Julian Assange centers on an alleged attempt to break a password—an attempt that was not apparently successful—it is still, at root, an attack on the publication of leaked material and the most recent act in an almost decade-long effort to punish a whistleblower and the publisher of her leaked material. Several parts of the indictment describe very common journalistic behavior, like using cloud storage or knowingly receiving classified information or redacting identifying information about a source. Other parts make common free software tools like Linux and Jabber seem suspect. And while we are relieved that the government has not chosen to include publication-based charges today, if Assange is indeed extradited, the government can issue superseding indictments. It should not do so. Leaks are a vital part of the free flow of information that is essential to our democracy. Reporting on leaked materials, including reporting on classified information, is an essential role of American journalism.

The indictment and the Justice Department’s press release treat everyday journalistic practices as part of a criminal conspiracy. Whether the government will be able to establish a violation of the hacking statute remains to be seen, but it’s very troubling that the indictment sweeps in activities that are not just lawful but essential to press freedom—activities like cultivating sources, protecting sources’ identities, and communicating with sources securely.

The arrest sets a dangerous precedent that could extend to other media organizations such as The New York Times, particularly under a vindictive and reckless administration that regularly attacks journalistic enterprises that, just like WikiLeaks, publish leaked materials that expose government corruption and wrongdoing. This is a worrying step on the slippery slope to punishing any journalist the Trump administration chooses to deride as ‘fake news.’

New Indicator also recommends readers see the report from The Real News Network (TRNN):

 

 

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