Teamster Pension Cuts in the Works

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The Detroit News reports on a public hearing held yesterday to allow comment on proposed benefit cuts to the Central States Pension Fund, one of the largest Teamster retirement funds.

One retiree spoke bluntly to reporters about prospects for himself, and for people being vested in the plan in the future.

“If they get this plan passed, who would want to join Teamsters when they just screwed 100,000 retirees?” said Fred Bora. “It’s going to have a bigger fallout. It’s really going to go down hill. We’re still going to get the short end of the stick.”

The fund is being reorganized under the Multi-employer Pension Reform Act of 2014, which was signed into law by President Obama. Obama’s appointee to oversee the cuts, Kenneth Feinberg, noted after the hearing that he had authority to impose the reorganization plan over any and all objections.

The trustees of many multi-employer funds used money from those funds to lobby for the Act, against the better interests of the rank and file union members and retirees they purport to serve.

Under the plan being considered, retirees could lose up to 70% of their monthly benefits, at a time when their employers (such as UPS) are reporting record profits. A typical pensioner would go from $3000 a month to $1200 a month in benefits.

Read more on the public hearing: Hundreds speak out on proposed Teamster benefit cuts

Read more at Teamsters for a Democratic Union: Treasury to Hold Town Hall Meetings

Jeremy Corbyn Interview

Red Pepper interviewed the Labour Party leader and asked if it was his sense that the same type of thing (insurgent political campaigns from the Left achieving victory against all odds) is happening elsewhere.

Yes. Because this wasn’t anything to do with me. This was to do with people wanting a different way of doing politics – particularly the young people who came in and were very enthusiastic. Our campaign was a combination of the young and the old, very little in between, the middle-aged weren’t there. They were either under 30 or over 60, most of the people that came in to work on the campaign, and the phone-banking they did was quite extraordinary. There was one of them where I witnessed this 18-year-old Asian girl with a burka explaining to a 90-year-old white woman how to operate the mobile phone to make calls, and they were both getting on just fine. And it was kind of lovely.

Read the interview: ‘What we’ve achieved so far’: an interview with Jeremy Corbyn | Red Pepper

Tithi Bhattacharya on Muslim Heterogeneity

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Tithi Bhattacharya dispels the myth of a Muslim monolith.

…while ISIS can quote the hadith as it executes other Muslims, and Trump can inveigh against the “Muslims,” we need to continue to look to the multiethnic neighborhoods of Istanbul, Paris and Beirut as lived histories of our times of mutual human coexistence. And it is such lived experiences of multifaith communities that need to be both defended and extended.

Source: Adventures in Islam: The Myths and Legends of Muslim Homogeneity | Tithi Bhattacharya

Roger Waters Interview

Rolling Stone’s Andy Greene interviews Roger Waters, who weighs on in his current projects and surveys the worldwide political scene.

I think people are just beginning, as they sleepwalk their way through imperial capitalism, to realize the law is being eroded and the military are taking over commerce and the corporations are taking over government and that we the people no longer have a voice. To some extent, The Wall is asking the question, “Do you want a voice? And if you do, you better bloody well go out and get it because it’s not going to be handed to you on a plate.”

Source: Roger Waters on ‘The Wall,’ Socialism, His Next Concept LP | Rolling Stone

Snowden Meets Roy, Cusack and Ellsberg

The Guardian has published Arundhati Roy’s account of her recent meeting with Edward Snowden in Moscow, along with Daniel Ellsberg and John Cusack. The entire article is a great read, but I was struck especially by this quote from Snowden about the surveillance state.

If we do nothing, we sort of sleepwalk into a total surveillance state where we have both a super-state that has unlimited capacity to apply force with an unlimited ability to know (about the people it is targeting) – and that’s a very dangerous combination. That’s the dark future. The fact that they know everything about us and we know nothing about them – because they are secret, they are privileged, and they are a separate class… the elite class, the political class, the resource class – we don’t know where they live, we don’t know what they do, we don’t know who their friends are. They have the ability to know all that about us. This is the direction of the future, but I think there are changing possibilities in this.

Read Roy’s Account: Edward Snowden meets Arundhati Roy and John Cusack | The Guardian

Enter the Brownshirts

With GOP presidential candidates amping up the xenophobia, it was only a matter of time until bigots with firearms began to organize. Saturday saw armed protestors assemble at a Mosque in Irving, Texas.

The Dallas Morning News spoke to organizer David Wright.

“They’re mostly for self-defense or protection,” Wright said, eyeing his 12-gauge. “But I’m not going to lie. We do want to show force. … It would be ridiculous to protest Islam without defending ourselves.”

A protester with a bandana over his face showed off his AR-15 to traffic. A 20-year-old who wants to join the Army and ban Islam in the United States carried a Remington hunting rifle…

Read the Report: Armed protesters gather outside Islamic Center of Irving | | Dallas Morning News

Charter Schools Black Hole for $3.7 Billion

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has released a special report on its year-long investigation into charter schools spending in the United States. You can access the full report “Charter School Black Hole” here.

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The report reveals that over the last twenty years, $3.7 billion has more or less evaporated, with no transparency or accountability.

Source: Charter School Black Hole: CMD Special Investigation Reveals Huge Info Gap on Charter Spending | PR Watch

NPA Statement After Paris Attacks

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The  New Anti-Capitalist Party, one of the leading organizations on the Left in France, issued a statement today, after the attacks in Paris of the evening of 13 November.

The only response to wars and terrorism is the unity of the workers and people, over and above their origins, their skin colour, their religions, across the borders, to fight together against those who want to silence them, to dominate them, to do away with this capitalist system which generates cruelty.

Read the Full Statement: The cruelty of imperialist wars results in the cruelty of terrorism | International Viewpoint

Today, we remember Paris. We also remember Beirut and Gaza and Kunduz, and all of the innocent victims of violence created by a system which has outlived its usefulness.

The Endless Spectacle of Militarism

I love America. Truly, I do. It is the land of great ideals, as well as the land of my birth.

I also respect and applaud self-sacrifice in service to others, and in service to those ideals.

So I was slow to understand the true nature of the constant prompts to “support our troops” and the endless parade of militaristic spectacle over the past couple decades. In the wake of the attacks of September 11th, the knee-jerk jingoism didn’t sit well with me, but I didn’t fully understand why.

Then comes the news this week of a joint oversight report released by Arizona Republican Senators John Flake and John McCain, documenting that over the past few years, the Pentagon spent $6.8 million to pay for patriotic displays during the games of professional sports teams. For me, this calls to mind the 1936 Summer Games.

Here are a couple of articles of interest on the subject.

No, thanks: Stop saying “support the troops” – A nation that continuously publicizes appeals to “support our troops” is explicitly asking its citizens not to think. It is the ideal slogan for suppressing the practice of democracy, presented to us in the guise of democratic preservation.

Military spectacle and American sport – Fifteen years after the beginning of the so-called “War on Terror,” no facet of life in the United States—political, legal or cultural—has escaped the dark shadow of the American military-intelligence apparatus. Everything is subordinated to the needs of the state. Personal communications are intercepted and stored, protests are monitored and school curricula are manipulated. Hollywood works with the CIA to produce films like “Zero Dark Thirty” to justify the government’s illegal torture program, and a worker can hardly take his or her family to the ballgame without being inundated with pro-war lies and propaganda.

The Drone Papers

The Intercept has obtained a cache of secret documents detailing the inner workings of the U.S. military’s assassination program in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The documents, provided by a whistleblower, offer an unprecedented glimpse into Obama’s drone wars.

Take a few moments and browse this treasure trove of information, the results of months of work by Jeremy Scahill and others (and a massive security leak that has sent the U.S. government into panic mode).

Source: The Drone Papers

The Labor Party of America – An Interview With Mark Dudzic

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In 1996, thousands of trade unionists and activists decided to build an independent party. Why did the effort fail? Derek Seidman interviewed Mark Dudzic, who became the national organizer of the Labor Party after the death of Tony Mazzocchi in 2002.

I love this quote.

The fact remains that only the labor movement has the resources and organizing capacity to launch and maintain an independent class-based political movement. The launching of a labor party remains the great unfinished business of the US working class.

Read the Interview: What Happened to the Labor Party? | Jacobin

You can also follow this link to documents of the Labor Party, including their platform. It gives a glimpse into what American politics could (and should) be like.