Posted by Stephanie Basile - November 27, 2010 | Analysis


“Neither A Consumer Nor A Commodity Be.”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NY Dada)

Black Friday and the importance of having a voice on the job:
The government won’t do it. CEOs won’t do it. Only working people can build a better future

Every Thanksgiving I remind my friends and family of the deadly war waged against Native Americans in this country. This Thanksgiving, there is another war I’d like to discuss: the war being waged against retail workers.

This year I call on progressives to not only speak up for native people, but to remind our friends and family how important it is that workers have the right to organize for better conditions at work. And there’s no better time than Black Friday to have these conversations.

A CULTURE OF NEGLIGENCE

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently sent letters to 14 major retailers urging them to adopt crowd control measures this Black Friday.

It would almost sound serious if one had no idea how impotent OSHA is and how powerful the big box retailers are. Yes, I’m sure receiving a
“strongly worded letter” from OSHA has CEOs shaking in their booties!

In fact, it would be downright comical if it wasn’t for the fact that lives have literally been lost because of retailers’ utter disregard for their employees’ and customers’ safety.

Two years ago 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour, a temporary Wal-Mart maintenance worker, was trampled to death and four were injured at a Long Island Wal-Mart on Black Friday.

The bloggers and commentators used the event to lament just how crazy our consumer culture has become. While it’s tempting to comment on our frenzied consumer culture, the crowd basically did what any large crowd would do. News reports described a crowd of at least 200 people waiting outside one set of doors for the store’s 5am opening. Predictably, when the store opened, people bum rushed the entrance. And when 200+ eager customers are waiting to enter one set of doors at five o’clock in the morning on Black Friday, it’s going to be difficult, to say the least.

What’s amazing about this situation isn’t how the customers acted, but that they bore the brunt of the blame for what is gross negligence on the part of Wal-Mart. In any other situation, the company surely would have been to blame. When crowds get out of control at football games or rock concerts, the venue is immediately held to account. Where was security? Why wasn’t there better crowd control? Why weren’t safety measures properly enforced? We should expect no less of retailers expecting large crowds on Black Friday.

In May 2009, OSHA cited Wal-Mart for inappropriate crowd control and fined them $7,000. While most would argue that a life is worth much more than $7,000, apparently Wal-Mart feels that this number is TOO much! Wal-Mart is actually appealing the decision in court.

Aside from the OSHA fine, Wal-Mart cut a deal with the Nassau County DA to set up a $400,000 fund for victims, give $1.5 million to county social service programs, and implement a new safety plan at 92 of its locations. In exchange for this, Wal-Mart will not face criminal charges, and Mr. Damour’s family would have to waive their right to bring a separate civil suit against Wal-Mart if they participate in the victim’s fund. So as usual, the corporate executives shirk criminal responsibility and instead pay pennies (and yes, $2 million is pennies for a company that posted $3.44 billion net income in this year’s third quarter).

Continue Reading…


(Photo: Ed Hedemann / NLN)

NEW YORK — November 22, 2010. On Monday more than a dozen demonstrators from the War Resisters League, Catholic Worker, Grannies for Peace greeted a long line to WNYC supporters waiting to board the USS Intrepid war museum for a food event titled “New York by Fork” starring Leonard Lopate and Times food writer Mark Bittman. For more than an hour, the protesters, handing out leaflets, carrying signs, and passing out plastic forks — with messages reading “WAR: It’s What’s for Dinner,” “Fork the War,” “NPR: National Pentagon Radio,” “War Is Unappetizing” — objected to WNYC, NPR, and the New York Times legitimizing the use of the Intrepid by holding public events on a warship whose sole purpose is to glorify war and recruit youth into the military. Though several in the extremely slow moving line were uncomfortably defensive, others voiced their support of the protest and vowed never again to return to an event on the Intrepid.


(Photo: Ed Hedemann / NLN)


Bob Carpenter of VFP asks, “How is the war economy working for you?”
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — November 11, 2010. On Thursday members of Veterans For Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against The War marched in New York City’s annual Veterans Day parade. NLN photographer, and veteran, Bud Korotzer was there to document the action. Fran Korotzer filed this report:


U.S. Labor Against The War marched with the Vets
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with half a million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.”

– President Dwight D. Eisenhower, “The Chance for Peace,” speech given to the American Society of Newspaper Editors April 16, 1953


VFP was joined by some NYC elected officials
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The mood of the NYC Veterans Day parade was martial with the line between honoring the veterans and honoring the war being blured. Marchers were in formation and bands played martial music. Crowds lined 5th Avenue from the twenties to the fifties.


And then came the hundred or so marchers from Veterans for Peace chapters 34 (NY) and 21 (NJ) presenting a distinctly different appearance and attitude. Carrying their peace flags, walking in no formation whatsoever, and chanting for peace, they were accompanied by allies from Iraq Veterans Against the War, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, the Granny Peace Brigade and CodePink as well as elected officials Assembly Member Dick Gottfried, NYC Council Members Rosie Mendez, Robert Jackson, Melissa Mark-Viveritto, Ydanis Rodriguez, and State Senator Bill Perkins. As they walked they handed out leaflets that asked, How is the war economy working for you? It pointed out that in 2010 the US spent between $9 and $10 trillion on the military, more than the next 45 highest spending countries in the world combined. Here in NYS taxpayers have paid $93.9 billion on Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. For the same amount the following could have been provided:

  • 17,493,186 low income people receiving healthcare for 1 year or
  • 1,316,990 police for 1 year or
  • 1,316,990 firefighters for 1 year or
  • 15,626,509 university scholarships or 16,916,231 Pell grants for students for 1 year or
  • 37,728,470 low income children receiving healthcare for 1 year or
  • 10,062,381 Head Start slots for children for 1 year or
  • 121,123,402 households provided with renewable energy for 1 year or
  • 1,155,304 elementary school teachers for 1 year.

  • The most youthful segment of the anti-war movement:
    The Granny Peace Brigade
    (Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

    Will fighting “terrorists” in the Middle East given the inevitable “collateral damage” (civilian deaths) succeed? General McChrystal called it “insurgent math, for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies.” (USCatholic.org, 6/23/10)


    The message was clear
    (Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

    The response of the viewing public to the Veterans for Peace contingent was overwhelmingly positive. People applauded, held up clenched fists while cheering and made the peace sign while smiling and shaking their heads in affirmation.


    Our old friend Bill Steyert, Vietnam vet and stalwart anti-warrior
    (Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

    As the parade wound down hundreds of young men and women from the JROTC program at Francis Lewis High School in Queens marched by. They were dressed in sharp dark green uniforms and included a color guard wearing shiny silver helmets and a marching band. All eyes were facing forward, faces were very serious, and they moved with military precision. It was a disturbing sight to this viewer who wondered if these very young people were being prepared for a long period of endless wars.

    View Photos From The Event…

    Posted by TAG - November 22, 2010 | News


    The WRL is planning to protest a WNYC fund raiser
    (Image: WRL)

    NEW YORK — November 22, 2010. We live in an an age of shoeless airline passengers — including young children and the elderly — being strip searched, felt-up and photographed nude by “security” personnel. A former president who started two ongoing wars, under false pretenses, is on a book tour as soldiers are returning home with devastating injuries — or in coffins. Law enforcement agencies are targeting anyone who fits a racial profile while they spy on U.S. citizens who dare to speak out. And now a local public radio station is holding a fund raiser on the U.S.S. Intrepid — a floating museum that some say promotes militarism, the cause of many of our current problems, including a crushing deficit that is prompting some irresponsible elected officials to introduce austerity measures in the middle of a recession and massive unemployment.

    The New York City local of the War Resisters League is responding the to the WNYC fund raiser with a protest.

    The WRL asked the radio station, “Why is WNYC radio holding a food tasting event on a warship?”

    WNYC Listener Services responded: “We chose the Intrepid Museum for a variety of reasons, first and foremost they have a fantastic, large event space with great acoustics, and they are a nonprofit open to working with us.”

    The WRL said that “WNYC is playing right into the militaristic propaganda of this so-called museum. A warship is no place for a party. ”

    To underscore their position the WRL announced plans to protest the event on Monday, November 22, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. The Intrepid Museum is located at Pier 86, 12th Avenue and 46th Street in Manhattan.

    Protesters plan to meet on the river-side sidewalk, on the west side of 12th Avenue.

    The WRL said that the goal of the protest is to “Remind ticket-holders and staff that while they ‘take New York by Fork,’ wars are taking the lives of thousands every day — from the bombs that fall to the money that could be buying bread not bombs.”


    “We March For Hope Not Hate”
    (Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

    STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — November 13, 2010. Over 100 activists from various religious and political organizations marched through the Port Richmond section of Staten Island on Saturday, November 13. The marchers were demanding jobs, education — and tolerance. Speaking before the march, Blanca Galindo — whose father Alejandro was the victim of a bias attack in June — called for unity, telling the marchers that “we are all one blood.” Galindo and her young daughter joined the procession as it wound its way down Castleton Avenue holding signs that said “We March For Hope Not Hate” and “Unite To Fight Racism.”


    Blanca Galindo
    (Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

    Click HERE to View Photos/Videos From The March…


    Racial unity was a prominent theme of the march
    (Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

    Posted by TAG - November 21, 2010 | Feature Article


    Stanley with two of his newest friends
    (Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

    NEW YORK — In 1964 Jeff Brown’s The Adventures Of Flat Stanley first appeared. Growing up during the New Left period of U.S. history, Stanley was a witness to the struggle to end a destructive and unjust war and to secure civil rights for the disenfranchised. As a two-dimensional being, the young protagonist who would become a classic children’s hero needed only a postage stamp to travel the globe, spreading his message of friendship and international solidarity. And that is precisely what he did – and continues to do.


    Marcuse and Stanley…

    ONE DIMENSIONAL THINKING

    It is unclear if Stanley read it, but a book that profoundly influenced the New Left was published in 1964 — the year in which Stan made his appearance on the world’s stage. Ironically, just as Stanley, accidentally flattened when a bulletin board fell on him as he slept, lamented his two-dimensional form, philosopher Herbert Marcuse was arguing that 2D Stan was twice the man of his contemporaries.

    Herbert Marcuse, a founding member of the famed Frankfurter Schule (Frankfurt School – unrelated to the fast food item sold at baseball games or Tim Curry’s best known film), argued that the working stiffs in the “advanced industrial society” of the United States and other western nations had been sold a bill of goods. Marcuse noted that, following World War Two, capitalism had reduced western democracy to a game of Three Card Monte — a rigged game, such as you might find on a New York street corner. Marcuse noted that the men running the game had used a number of sophisticated parlor tricks to bamboozle people into adopting a “one-dimensional” view of reality.

    Marcuse’s “one-dimensional” theory revolved around the idea that the inner dimension, the private mental space where critical thinking takes place in individuals, had been “invaded and whittled down” by a mass produced external reality. This was done mainly by “implanting” — a technique used by advertisers — what Marcuse called “False Needs” in the consciousness, the inner dimension, of the target audience. The outer dimension, thus internalized, obliterated the inner, collapsing consciousness into a single, externally defined, dimension — eradicating critical thinking. In the absence of a private, inner, dimension, the external aspect, the political dimension of organized resistance, is non-existent. The One-Dimensional Realm is complete.


    Stanley with a seeker of Truth
    (Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

    TRUE OR FALSE?

    “False Needs” are not essential things like jobs, health care, education or food and shelter. According to Marcuse, who coined the term, “False Needs” include consumer goods like SUVs, room-sized flat screen televisions, and the latest electronic gadgets: iPhones, laptops, etc. According to Wikipedia, “Consumerism is a social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods or services in ever greater amounts.” False Needs feed Consumerism, False Needs function like a Trojan Horse — transporting an ideology into the consciousness of the consumer.

    Marcuse (and many who later critiqued his work — see “Marcuse: From The New Left To The Next Left“) noted that society’s electronic gadgets have become the metaphorical equivalent of slave shackles. The goods and gadgets serve multiple purposes — as a source of corporate profit, as a narcotic for consumers, and as a mechanism for promoting Consumerism itself. Advertising for the gadget contains a double imperative: “Buy this” — and “Buy into Consumerism.” The gadget-hungry Media celebrates each new toy and trumpets the idea that conspicuous consumption is “good for the economy.” This and similar statements provide a justifying ideology for Consumerism, a patriotic rationale for going along even when the arrival of the credit card bill causes consternation.

    As social psychologist Stanley Milgram noted, “Ideological justification is vital in obtaining willing obedience for it permits the person to perceive his behavior as serving a desirable end.” (Obedience To Authority, p. 142).

    False Needs and Consumerism, according to Marcuse, are themselves features of a belief system, an overarching ideology, that holds that technology is a value-neutral entity with immutable laws and obvious benefits. It is certainly true that technology can improve the quality of life. But is what’s good for the gadget always good for the society?

    Continue Reading…


    (Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

    NEW YORK — Jews Against Islamophobia, a coalition of American Jews for a Just Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and Jews Say No has been gathering weekly in front of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance on East 42nd Street in NYC to protest the opposition of the center to the new Muslim Cultural Center in lower Manhattan as well as their violation of human rights and international law in destroying the Mamilla Cemetery in Jerusalem. The Mamilla Cemetery is an Islamic cemetery dating back to the 7th century. The graves of ancient Muslim families are there as well as the graves of some of Mohammad’s prophets. In yet another attempt to erase the Arab presence in Israel the Simon Wiesenthal Center destroyed the cemetery, scattering hundreds of bodies that had been dug up, in order to build a Museum of Tolerance on the site.


    (Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

    Throughout the fall there will be a weekly vigil outside the Simon Wiesenthal Center. A small group of people will be there every Wednesday carrying signs that are critical of the organization for their hypocrisy and for the hostility they are demonstrating towards Muslim-Americans. Leaflets are being distributed which explain, “As Jews, we understand well how hateful stereotypes easily become vehicles for exclusion, demonization, discrimination and violence. Jews have long resisted the idea of ‘collective guilt’ as applied to Jews and have fiercely fought the idea of ‘Jew – free areas. We reject the attempts to create a ‘Muslim – free’ area in Lower Manhattan.”


    (Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

    On October 21st the United Nations University office at the UN, in association with the Dag Hammerskjold Foundation held an event entitled “Can Citizen Action Save the World/” at the Wiesenthal NY Tolerance Center. The UN University described the center as “fostering tolerance and understanding through community involvement, educational outreach and social action.”


    (Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

    When Jews Against Islamophobia learned of the event they changed the day of the weekly vigil to coincide with it. The goal was to inform the people from the UN and Dag Hammerskjold Foundation that the Wiesenthal Center is neither tolerant nor an appropriate site for a UN program. They stood outside the center with their signs and leaflets explaining why they were there and engaging in conversation with people who came to the event. There was serious interest in what the demonstrators had to say. One person attending the event asked for a handful of leaflets so that he could distribute them inside.


    (Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

    Building security came out and called the police. When the NYPD arrived they simply warned people not to block the doors or the sidewalk. Neither was being blocked. Then an extremely apoplectic woman came out and tried to grab signs away from the demonstrators and rip them up. The police stopped her.


    (Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

    As attendees left several approached Jews Against Islamophobia, thanked them for being there, and said that they raised the issues from the floor at the event but there was no response from those at the podium. Clearly these attendees took the subject, “Can Citizen Action Change the World?” very seriously.

    View Photos/Videos From The Event…

    Posted by Fran Korotzer - | Film Review


    Julia Bacha, Director/Producer, Addressing Audience
    (Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

    NEW YORK — On October 18th at the Quad Cinema in NY’s Greenwich Village there was a screening of the award-winning documentary, “Budrus”, sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace, Resistance Cinema and several other groups. The film is about a small Palestinian agricultural village on the West Bank which happens to be one of 6 villages that is about to be surrounded by the wall that Israel is building. The wall will separate the village of Budrus from 300 acres of their land and will destroy their olive trees.

    As the film opens we are introduced to Ayed Morrar, a peaceful Palestinian activist who says, “We don’t have time for war. We want to raise our kids in peace and hope.” Morrar organizes the men in the village to peacefully protest the route the wall is to take. After the first few days his 15 year old daughter, Iletzam, tells her father that the women of the village should be included in the protest too. The men agree to this and the dynamic changes as the militant women, young and old, stand in the way of the bulldozers. Both Fatah and Hamas members work in unity, as the peaceful demonstrators are joined by justice-minded Israelis and International Solidarity Movement volunteers. The unity among all participants is extraordinary.

    Eventually the Israelis become very violent, beating the demonstrators, firing live ammunition, occupying the village, but except for an occasional rock thrown by some of the village boys, the people of Budrus and their allies remain non-violent.

    In the end, after 55 demonstrations in 10 months, and despite the words of an IDF spokesman who says that it will never happen, the route of the wall is changed.

    As the lights were turned on in the full theater, Julia Bacha, the director, addressed the crowd. She said that the film was opening in many countries, including Israel, and that there would even be a showing in Gaza. She is planning to take the film from town to town across the West Bank in hope that villages that have been fighting the wall without success and have become discouraged will become revitalized after seeing the success in Budrus. She also said that she has often been asked why there is no Palestinian Gandhi. She pointed to Ayed Morrar as just such an example.

    Joseph Dana wrote in Desertpeace.com (10/23/10) that over the past couple of days peaceful demonstrators tried to protest the occupation in Al Ma’asara and Nabi Saleh. The IDF responded with tear gas, sound bombs, shooting both with rubber coated bullets and live ammunition, and arrests. In Sheikh Jarrar former President Jimmy Carter joined an anti-occupation demonstration. With the IDF consistently responding violently to peaceful protests we have to wonder just how many other Palestinian Gandhis are behind the bars of Israeli prisons.

    Posted by Fran Korotzer - | News


    (Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

    NEW YORK — In the wake of FBI agents breaking into the homes of anti-war and solidarity activists in Chicago and Minneapolis on September 24th, the Bluestockings Bookstore in N.Y. hosted a meeting on October 11th to discuss what rights a citizen has when an agent knocks. The stated aim of the FBI break-ins was to investigate “material support” for Palestinian and Colombian groups that the US has designated as “terrorist” organizations.

    At Bluestockings the very broad concept of material support was explained and the 5 attorneys present, representing the National Lawyer’s Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights, movement lawyers, explained exactly what people’s rights are if and when they are visited by a federal agent.


    Gideon Oliver
    (Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

    The bookstore was packed – standing room only. The lawyers were Margaret Ratner-Kunstler, Robert Boyle, Martin Stolar, and Shayana Kadidal. Gideon Oliver acted as moderator.


    Margaret Ratner-Kunstler
    (Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

    First Margaret Ratner-Kunstler explained that what was going on today is reminiscent of the attacks on the solidarity groups in the 80’s but now the material support law that was passed under Clinton in 1996, part of the Anti-Terrorism and Death Penalty Law, greatly expanded under Bush and then again by Kagan, virtually negated the 1st amendment. The decision of the Supreme Court in Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project said that expressing solidarity is not speech, it is action.

    All September 24th recipients of the Grand Jury subpoenas have written to the Justice Department claiming their 5th amendment rights and saying that they will not testify.


    Shayana Kadidal
    (Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

    Shayana Kadidal explained that in ’96 a number of groups were put on a government blacklist and aid to any of these groups was to be considered material support. In order to be on this list the group had to threaten peace, threaten economic security, and be foreign in origin. Under these broad definitions Greenpeace found itself on this list. The Supreme Court has ruled that advocacy can be a criminal act if it is related to any group on the blacklist. No technical assistance or training is allowed. The New York Times running an Op-Ed piece by a member of Hamas would be considered illegal. However, money given in support of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla is not illegal because the money given is not going to a group that is a ‘front’ for Hamas. The government has a 50% conviction rate in these cases.


    Martin Stolar
    (Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

    The next speaker, Martin Stolar, said that today, under Obama, dissent = terrorism. However, citizens still have some fundamental rights. One of those rights is that you don’t have to talk to any law enforcement official. You have an absolute right to remain silent. DO NOT LIE. It is illegal to lie to an agent about anything. Say only, “Call my lawyer”. Resist all temptation to talk. You don’t even have to identify yourself (unless you are stopped in a car). If they have a search warrant let them search. Sit, watch, take notes, listen to what they say. If they have no warrant you don’t have to let them in. Take their business card and tell them that your lawyer will contact them. If they want to arrest you, you have no choice. Say nothing. If your vehicle is stopped provide ID if it is requested. Do not get out of your car or allow it to be searched without a warrant. Don’t ever try to convince an agent of your innocence or think that you are smarter than the agents. Simply say that you will only speak in the presence of your lawyer.


    Robert Boyle
    (Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

    The final speaker, Robert Boyle, said that the FBI agent might say, “Talk now or we’ll subpoena you”. That is an idle threat. Say nothing. If you do get a Grand Jury subpoena it can be for either testimony of for documents. You must have legal counsel. The 5th amendment can be used before a Grand Jury but they can then grant you immunity, freedom from prosecution, and then insist that you testify about whatever they want to know. The Grand Jury is an investigatory body. If you continue to refuse to testify after being granted immunity you can be held in civil or criminal contempt and the judge can send you to jail. Criminal contempt can bring serious jail time. Boyle pointed out that subpoenas can be fought both in the courts and in the streets.

    A Q and A period followed. Many questioners were very concerned. People that do not have attorneys were urged, if necessary, to call the N.Y.C National Lawyers Guild (212-679-6018) to get a lawyer experienced in handling these kinds of cases.

    The main message of the evening was that these are shaky times in our country as far as civil liberties and civil rights are concerned and if anyone is approached by federal agents, no matter how innocent you are, politely but firmly decline to speak — and get a lawyer.

    View Photos From The Event…