Saturday, July 05, 2003

Best of luck 

Interesting,hopeful and nauseating article on an attempt at international solidarity work with a nascent independent Iraqi labor movement.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up  

The man who founded the Love Unlimited Orchestra and recorded the indispensible songs "Your Sweetness Is My Weakness', 'I'm Qualified To Satisfy You" and "Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe" and set the absolute gold standard for lovin' the ladies passed away this morning.

Barry White died at age 58 at his home in Los Angeles.

He is remembered here, here and here.

Union victory in healthcare 

"On May 2 the Service Employees union and the United Nurses Association/Union of Health Care Professionals (an AFSCME affiliate) announced a neutrality agreement with Tenet, the nation's second largest for-profit health care corporation. The agreement allows the unions uncontested access to workers in 40 California hospitals and two in Florida.
In a period when newly organized workers frequently find themselves unable to leverage a first contract, the pact guarantees that management will sign a four-year "model contract" immediately after recognition."

This article from Labor Notes gets into the conflict between the California Nurses Association and a joint organizing project of AFSCME and SEIU. CNA had started organizing in some Tenet hospitals and got steamrolled by the larger unions. I say: tough shit. CNA touts itself as more militant and tries to compare the 8% raises to a 22% raise they got for somewhere. My guess is that they organized a rural hospital where wages were totally out of sync with industry standards. Great. Nice work. But it's dishonest to pitch that to newly organized workers in say, Los Angeles working in a healthcare chain with serious financial problems and say,"you got hosed." And anyway, CNA's rhetoric has always been more militant than their actions.

They also criticise the partnership agreement that puts a premium on stability and labor peace. Partnership agreements walk a fine line in cozying up to the boss, but let's not forget: labor peace is the goal. The purpose of labor strife is to produce peace on favorable terms.

I worked as a representative in the hospital division of SEIU Local 250 briefly about five years ago. When I left they represented around 40,000 healthcare workers in Northern California. Today they represent around 80,000. New organizing is incredibly resource intensive. Growth like that doesn't come without picking your battles strategically.

And growth like that is the only way out of Labor's current predicament.

Geeks to descend on Portland for "hacktivism" summit.  

The world's first Geek Activism Summit hits Portland, Oregon July 8 as part of next week's Open Source Convention (OSCON) at the downtown Marriott Hotel.

From the Willamette Week:

"Like many ideas in the field of computer technology, geek activism is a fluid concept. But the basic premise is pretty simple. Along with hospitals, schools and roads, emerging nations need help building up their technological infrastructure--and that means geeks.
The summit is the brainchild of two mega-nerds: computer publisher Tim O'Reilly and hacktivism evangelist Ethan Zuckerman...
Three years ago, the Williams grad founded Geekcorps (, which dispatches volunteer nerds to countries such as Ghana, Armenia and Mongolia to help local entrepreneurs rev up their technical know-how. "I wanted to make sure people who said 'World Wide Web' were telling the truth," says Zuckerman.
In addition to getting systems up and running, hacktivists also try to nurture emerging nations' home-grown geeks. The University of Oregon's Network Startup Resource Center ( is trying to bring some nascent Afghani nerds to Eugene for a full-on initiation into the mysteries of geek lore. The Eugene group has also sent instructors to Uganda to train network administrators from across the African continent...
Zuckerman points out that geeks who participate in Open Source have activism in their blood. "For sure, they're political about one thing: freedom of speech, especially where it concerns intellectual property," he says. "They fight for the right to code whatever they want to code."

The challenge lies in getting Open Source believers focused on the Digital Divide. "Right now, I'd say there's more talent than there are cool projects to work on," Zuckerman says. "I think if we get the projects out there, lots of people will contribute."

Mobilizing geeks for global activism stands to have enormous impact. Open Source software is essential to grassroots Web development in poor countries. "Software piracy is rampant," says Joel Jaeggli, an engineer at NSRC. "People can get any commercial application they want, but they can't afford to get someone to answer their questions. For things like system maintenance and day-to-day operations, Open Source is the only option."

Hey Baby, it's the 4th of July 

From Newsday:

"Baghdad, Iraq - The most senior Shia Muslim cleric in Iraq has issued a religious edict denouncing U.S. plans to appoint an Iraqi council to advise the occupation authority and draft a new constitution.

The fatwa by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani demands that Iraqis be allowed to vote for the council and to quickly rule themselves. The statement could pose a serious obstacle for Washington's plan to pick a panel of 25 to 30 Iraqis who would appoint government ministers, propose a constitution and be consulted on other major decisions...

Al-Sistani, who is the highest spiritual leader of the world's 170 million Shia Muslims, said a council handpicked by American administrator Paul Bremer was "fundamentally unacceptable."...
In his edict, al-Sistani stopped short of calling for a U.S. withdrawal, but he called on his followers not to cooperate with any constitutional panel that is not directly elected by the Iraqi people...

Bremer said elections were not possible because Iraq does not have an electoral law, a reliable census, voter registration records and any rules governing political parties. "Under the circumstances, we have moved rather quickly to create this council and to hand over some powers to the Iraqis," he said."

Somehow the Colonies elected a legitimate Continental Congress.

Sistani is right. There is no reason that a makeshift process cannot be put in place for the Iraqis to elect a Constitutional Convention. If you can appoint a 25 to 30 Iraqis to run the country, you can set up elections.

From the initial appointment of a general to head the non-occupation to using Saddam's palace as US HQ to parading Pentagon stooge Ahmad Chalabi around in order to put his name in the paper so people start getting used to him as an "iraqi leader" to allowing the looting of every hospital in the country to doing nothing to defend the National Museum (I know it mostly turned out alright - that's no excuse.) to the Oil Ministry being the only ministry building that wasn't sacked to .... I can't finish this thought. This stuff makes me so mad I'm not making sense anymore.

Hey there's a big new Ben Franklin bio out.

Oh yeah. The Bush administration has shown no aptitude for rebuilding civil society in Iraq. Given their record in the US it comes as no surprise. That's what I was trying to say.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

The Proletariat Marches Resolutely Forward 

Lusty Lady becomes first worker-owned strip club

' "It's every man's fantasy," said dancer Donna Delinqua. "But it's true. I had to laugh the other day because there I was, on the phone, negotiating something, and I realized I was completely naked."
The women of the Lusty Lady, at 1033 Kearny St., are making history again. They were the first strip club in the country to unionize, joining the Service Employees International Union several years ago.
Now, they've bought the club and have become the first employee-owned strip joint in the nation...

...Miss Muffy, a 22-year-old from Oakland, said she dropped out of high school at age 15. But she logged onto the Internet and figured out how to write a legal contract. And then did it. "I think sometimes people just try to mystify their profession," she said, smiling, at a nearby coffee shop. "It didn't seem so difficult."

Ruby, a 22-year-old Betty Page look-alike, said there's talk of creating a Lusty Lady calendar, bringing in other merchandise. And marketing. "I'm thinking we ought to have underwear with a sign across the rear end that says " 'Look for the union label." '

This great. I've been following this story for years. There was a documentary in 2000 made by one of the dancers called "Live Nude Girls Unite". ( I went to one of their fundraisers back in maybe '97 in San Francisco when they were first organizing. It was in a bar and the women did a series of performances, playing guitar, poetry, interpretive dance, etc. Fun night. I'll tell you one thing. In negotiations, one thing the company wasn't raising as an issue was greater flexibility.

Thank you. Thank you very much. Now I have to catch a flight. I'm appearing in the Catskills tomorrow night.

Cost of War Clock 

I picked this up from Tom Tomorrow.
It's simply astonishing.

Bush's war on criticism 

WASHINGTON, DC-Citing the need to safeguard "America's most vital institutions and politicians" against potentially devastating attacks, President Bush asked Congress to sign off Monday on a $30 billion funding package to help fight the ongoing War On Criticism.

Dean outhawking the hawks? 

From the AP:
Iraq war opponent Dean seeks Liberia intervention

Putting your ear to the ground in Iraq 

The press continues to balance statements by Iraqi's that the continued fighting is spontaneous, organic and represents widespread sentiment with Administration assertions that it is organized, isolated and Baathist.

The closer to the ground the source is the scarier the news.
Check out this report from This American Life - fast forward to 42 mins
I know a posted this link earlier, but I didn't comment on it.

One part of the report covers a meeting of over 200 tribal sheikhs with veteran US diplomat Hume Horan. After Hume assures the sheikhs that everything is just okleydokely the meeting degenerates into one sheikhs after another venting from the floor.

A Sheikh who came to meeting loving America, loving George Bush was dissatisfied with the US response and moved by more disgruntled sheikhs calls for war. He characterizes his new position as the moderate one: Give the Americans one month and then declare war. That's the moderate position...amongst the powerful and influential tribal sheikhs. Nice.

Or here: Iraq's first female blogger:

Here's her entire first post.

"I know that one day there will be agreat revolution against the Americans and now we have the first seeds of that revolution . many Iraqi soldiers have demonstrated on june 18th in front of ORHA(the republican palace) claiming their rights of either having salaries or retired
Though this incident had been proceeded by many others , nevertheless, it is the first time like having a really organized activity , they where absolutely agitated or furious against the Americans . A convoy was trying to get inside ,one of the Americans got panic and started shooting at the masses ,two Iraqis got killed others wounded , terrible scarey scene . You have two sides each is inflicting the other great losses and its only the beginning . Did you know that at the beginning of the invasion everybody said it's a bless getting rid of Saddam Hussien but it turns to be an ever lasting curse,haw could they just go leaving the biggest oil reservoir in the region, they have planned to stay, accept it or not ,the staunting thing is what the people want naw (the return of Saddam the tyrant)!!! . When you think thoroughly about it you find it logical & reasonable ,during the past regime there were safety &work chances(money) BUT, THERE IS NO FREEDOM, naw there is freedom without safety or public services with very very mini work opportunities , so normally they prefer the past time of saddam. They just want to live their life that's all, they even start wishing if they were born in very poor country which doesn't draw anybody's attention. Naw we keep hearing news about incidents of Americans being missing or killed in different parts of Baghdad or other provinces ,also the Iraqi popular resistance movement have called other liberation movements abroad to come and work together for Iraq's liberation , sparks ,sparks, of big fire , why all that should happen ? All you have to do is forming a decent real government! Is that hard to be done ? or is it been postponed for some hidden reasons which we cant realized naw but maybe later on we can, only God knows."

What's especially disconcerting is that this is someone who: A) speaks, reads and writes English B) has access to the internet C) is motivated enough to blog. What's on the mind of the other 24.999 million other Iraqi's who don't fit this description?

Where's the left press on Iran? 

Michael Leeden at the National Review is the only person who seems to think that the demonstrations in Iran are worth covering. Cheers.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Sully on Dean 

I agree with Andrew Sullivan's assessment of Howard Dean's candidacy.

Although I doubt we agree on what an electable foreign policy would be for Dean.

All I knew was that Dean had opposed the war in Iraq. I thought Kerry's position that deposing SH militarily was a good thing, but that GW had blown the opportunity in alienating the rest of the world in process was more strategic (and closer to my own position).

So I went to Dean's site and read:Dean's current post on national security.

"I believed then and I believe now that removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq was a just cause. But not every just cause requires that we go to war, especially with inadequate planning and without maximum support.
The Bush administration led us into war without convincing evidence that an imminent threat existed, without a strategy for securing nuclear, chemical and biological materials, without a plan for financing reconstruction, and without a clue how to consolidate the peace or unite the Iraqi people in support of democracy.
Today we face three critical problems, all connected with the manner in which we prosecuted the war: the first is accounting for the weapons of mass destruction, vital because of the implications for our own security as well as for the integrity and credibility of the United States and its leaders in the eyes of the world.
There are three possibilities. As the search continues, substantial stocks of these weapons may be found. In that case, we will still need to know why our intelligence failed and did not lead us to them more rapidly.
The other possibilities are that they will never be found because they no longer exist; or that they will never be found because they have already been stolen or transferred to others.
In any case, we need to know the truth."

The document is internationalist and delibrative while being hawkish and muscular on Bush's weaknesses: The real pursuit of Al Queda and nation building in Afganistan and Iraq to make the US more secure. Initially, I thought Dean's stand on the war would be debilitating. I think as he moves into the limelight he'll be more careful to emphasize elements of his thinking that have broad appeal.(is that pandering?). He doesn't accuse the Admin of misleading on WMD's as Kerry has. At the same time I think as the Bush admin's vulnerability on the WMD intelligence and the degenerating situation in Iraq (This American Life - fast forward 42 mins in.) will erode the public's support for Bush's position.

Monday, June 30, 2003

Free expression in Iraq 

The Memory Hole. Always on the case.

Burundi Beef Council: Please send beef 

I've said it before. I'll say it again. Africa: that poor frickin' continent.

Brill on Ashcroft et al. 

Nat Hentoff covers Steve Brill's new book "After". Hentoff's writing is kind of all over the place, but material covered on the Ashcroft Justice Department handling of the round up of Muslims after 9/11 is disconcerting to say the least. Though not so surprising.

"In the hours and days immediately following [the September 11] attacks, Attorney General John Ashcroft . . . directed that FBI and INS agents question anyone they could find with a Muslim-sounding name . . . in some areas . . . they simply looked for names in the phone book..."
"...As for the detainees' right to contact lawyers, Chertoff and the others in the room, reports Brill, knew that under INS rules, the prisoners "were entitled to call a lawyer from jail, but the lists the INS provided of available lawyers invariably had phone numbers that were not in service."
Brill adds that "according to one person who says he was there, someone in the room remarked that the government should not try too hard to make sure these people could contact lawyers. 'Let's not make it so they can get Johnnie Cochran on the phone,' another lawyer added."

UPDATE: 7 JULY 2003 More on the issues surrounding the detainees.

ON THE MEDIA: Detainees Anonymous
Since September 11th, the White House has done its best to keep secret the names of some 1200 people detained in the so-called 'War on Terrorism.' This week a Federal Appeals Court agreed with the Administration's argument that the secrecy is essential to national security. Jane Kirtley, the Director of the Silha Center at the University of Minnesota, joins Brooke to discuss the ruling.

So this is post one 

So this is post one.

In the immortal if somewhat obscure words of Tim Cahill and Gary Sowerby: "Let's see what this baby will do."

Here's an excerpt of a conversation I had today with my interns about my Declaration of Principles that I was working for the blog:

Bernstein: You don't want to make any promises, Mr. Brazeau, that you don't want to keep.

Me: These will be kept. 'I'll provide the people of this planet with a daily blog that will
tell all the news honestly. I will also provide them...'

Jedediah: That's the second sentence you've started with 'I'.

Me: People are gonna know who's responsible. Now they're gonna get the truth in the
Blogonaut, quickly and simply and entertainingly and no special interests are gonna be
allowed to interfere with that truth. (continuing with the declaration) 'I will also provide
them with a fighting and tireless champion of their rights as citizens and as human beings.
Signed, Marc Louis Brazeau.'

Jedediah: I'd like to keep that particular piece of paper myself. I have a hunch it might
turn out to be something pretty important, a the Declaration of
Independence, and the Constitution, and my first report card at school.

Well Jedediah is a pain in my ass. Anyway, was just trying to say that I'll do my best to make this blog worth reading.

Let's take a look at the news today:

This from the Washington Post:
The Bush administration, intent on exempting U.S. citizens from prosecution by the
International Criminal Court, is drawing fresh accusations of diplomatic
heavy-handedness by threatening to cut off military aid to dozens of allies
that refuse to sign immunity deals with the United States...

It hardly seems fair, a Lithuanian government official said, to face an aid cutoff over the
international court issue despite "standing along with the United States in your fight
against terrorism and sending troops to Afghanistan and Iraq." Lithuania is one of seven
countries expected to join NATO next year and needs U.S. funding to upgrade its military.

Croatia has a more complex problem, a diplomat said yesterday. U.S. authorities for years
have been pressing the Zagreb government to surrender Croatians for war crimes prosecutions
at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. The issue is
politically divisive in a country where certain active political groups believe the matter
should be settled at home...

To press its point, the Bush administration threatened to shut down U.N. peacekeeping
missions worldwide until the United Nations provided immunity to Americans. The Security
Council granted the demand, then extended it for another year June 12. Secretary General
Kofi Annan criticized the resolution. France, Germany and Syria abstained, contending that
the exemption weakens the court."

How are we to accomplish nation building around the globe, organize a campaign against terrorism around the globe, negotiate peace around the globe, if we refuse citizenship amongst nations? The arrogance and myopia of the Bush administration astounds.

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