Tuesday, November 28, 2006
The following are comments by Socialist Alliance trade union activists on some of the key questions facing the union movement.
How can we limit the damage from Howard’s IR laws?
Tim Gooden, secretary, Geelong Trades Hall Council:
By resisting the bosses’ attacks every day up until the next
election - and beyond. Community picket lines against any firm that tries to enforce Work Choices will warn the bosses off and keep up our strength.
By actually organising, solidarity community-union groups in Victoria, WA, NSW and the ACT are defeating anti-union laws when the bosses try to use them.
Community picket lines have already won at Alcoa (Pinjarra, WA), Thompson’s Roller Shutters (Sydney) and Finlay Engineering, Toyota, Amcor, Hawker de Havilland and Tronics (Melbourne).
Seafarers on the MV Stolt also defied the law, occupied their ship and saved their jobs.
Community pickets and protests are also the best “election campaign” we can run against Howard. They keep IR in the spotlight and the government on the back foot - more than the ALP-ACTU’s marginal seats campaign can do by itself.
It wasn’t until the union movement started organising mass protests that Howard’s rating dropped in the polls. Our movement has the power to make Howard history!
We need more national protests combined with industrial action - to keep the sending the message that the movement to defend our rights at work isn’t going away.
Beazley promises to rip up Work Choices. What replaces it?
Mary Merkenich, branch councillor, Australian Education Union, Victoria:
Workers’ rights are human rights. So why not rip up all the anti-worker laws? We’re all sweating to throw Howard out, but if Labor wins will it do enough? There is a whole raft of anti-worker laws that the ALP hasn’t even talked about. So let’s hear Beazley and the state Labor
premiers commit to:
•Repeal the anti-union building industry laws and abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission;
•Abolish the right of the Office of Workplace Services to take legal action and of the ACCC to use its anti-monopoly power on unions;
•Abolish the 1996 Workplace Relations Act and sections 45 D and E of the Trade Practices Act that ban secondary boycotts, ban the use of essential services legislation against unions, and repeal the anti-terrorism laws that can be used against unions for speaking and acting “seditiously”;
•Repeal the welfare-to-work laws that force people on benefits to accept any job, at below-award pay and conditions.
How do we make Labor keep its promises?
Susan Price, University of NSW branch president, National Tertiary Education Union:
Who can forget that it was the Hawke-Keating government that introduced enterprise bargaining, starting the rot that led to Work Choices?
Of course, a Labor government is preferable to Howard. But even if the ALP wins we’ll need to pressure it all the way. That’s even more true because the ALP is currying favour with big business by as good as promising it a seat at Labor’s cabinet table.
Beazley didn’t promise to rip up Work Choices until the second national union protest. He didn’t promise to abolish AWAs until the third national union protest. Even then Labor promised Rio Tinto that it could keep common law individual agreements.
The best ways to get Labor to stick to its promises are to:
•Get active in the union-community solidarity movement by taking part in picket lines and protests;
•Take part in our unions and make sure they keep up the pressure on Labor as well as the Liberals to repeal all anti-worker laws;
•Vote Socialist Alliance at the next election. The bigger our vote, the clearer the message to the ALP that it ignores working people at its peril.
How can we stop bosses breaking down conditions by bringing workers from overseas?
Raul Bassi, NSW Transport Workers Union delegate:
The bosses have always tried to use un-unionised workers from “out of town” to break down wages, conditions and union organisation.
The importing of workers on 457 visas is just more of the same.
These workers are employed in bad conditions and on miserable wages. If they complain or join a union it’s the next flight out.
The answer is clear - bosses need to be forced to provide industry-standard pay, and full award conditions and full citizenship rights for these workers.
We must fight for their rights just as we do for everyone’s.
Whenever Howard and the bosses know their policies are unpopular they whip up the media to distract and divide us by demonising people over their religion, race, nationality or gender.
The bosses want workers to fight among themselves while they get away with blue murder. Discrimination and prejudice are their weapons.
Whatever our differences, workers need to stick together.
What do we do if Labor loses? What’s ‘plan B’?
Jamie Doughney, Victorian division president, National Tertiary Education Union:
There’s an argument doing the rounds of the union movement at the moment: “If the ALP loses the next election we’re all fucked.”
If this idea takes off, it could turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy by convincing workers to give up the struggle in the event of a Coalition victory.
The Australian union movement has defeated much worse attacks than this. Unionists have been jailed and unions reduced to nothing - only to rise again because of the courage of working people.
In France this year, a massive campaign of strikes and protests killed off the government’s anti-worker laws - in a country with a lower level of unionisation than here!
Whichever party wins the election, the union movement must keep campaigning for the repeal of all anti-union laws.
The movement should be going on the front foot and organising a nationwide mass protest and stoppage for straight after the election.
That way Howard and the bosses will get the message that we will never give up until Work Choices is scrapped. And we will put Labor on notice to keep its promises.
[This is an abridged version of the Socialist Alliance leaflet prepared for the November 30 national day of action against Work Choices. Socialist Alliance members with official union positions speak in a personal capacity. Visit .]
From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #692 29 November 2006.
November 30 is a truly national day of protest, with more than 300 rally points across metropolitan and rural Australia. Regional Victorian workers are being encouraged to come to Melbourne on November 29 to be ready for an early start the next day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, or the “G”.
Tim Gooden, secretary of Geelong Trades Hall, told Green Left Weekly that, “It’s important there’s a massive turnout from all unions, workers and community groups because that’s the way to get the message across that we don’t accept Howard’s anti-worker laws.”
The October 25 Australian Financial Review reported that ACTU president Sharan Burrow had told the 500 delegates at the ACTU congress the day before that, “November 30 would be a case of everybody out”. She didn’t mention “strike” or “stop work”, but it was clear what she intended. Burrow also told the congress that besides the skeleton crews needed for the elderly and sick, everyone else should attend the nationwide protest.
As employers begin testing out Howard’s anti-worker laws, disputes have flared at Amcor, Heineman Electric, Boeing, Toyota, CSR, Finlay Engineering, Tronics and Port Campbell Gasworks in Victoria, and Alcoa in Pinjarra, Western Australia.
It wasn’t until after the huge turn-outs at last year’s November 15 national rallies that Kim Beazley committed a Labor government to “ripping up” Work Choices.
Gooden said that’s the other reason workers and the community need to mobilise in great numbers on November 30 — to keep the pressure up on Labor to follow through on its promises. “As we’ve seen many times before, Labor will have to be pushed to stick by its word. We don’t just want Work Choices repealed, we want all the other anti-worker laws scrapped as well.”
Many have said, correctly, that these laws are an attack on human rights, that is the rights of workers to join together in unions and organise to defend our class interests. This is also why blue- and white-collar workers have to work together in this campaign. Susan Price, National Tertiary Education Union UNSW branch president, told GLW, “In the past, a lot of white-collar workers associated industrial struggle with blue-collar workers. But now the NTEU is being targeted along with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union because of the gains it made under enterprise bargaining.”
Amelia Taylor from the United Casual Workers Alliance on the Gold Coast told GLW that the November 30 protest “should be so large no one will be able to buy a cup of coffee afterwards, because all the cafes and shops, even the little ones, will have shut down for the rally”.
Taylor said that more than 70% of Gold Coast workers are casual, with no bargaining power. Irregular rostering has a negative effect on family life. Some casual workers are made to pay for their own uniform, docked from their first pay packet. Given that these workers are generally young and on youth wages, this often means that their entire first weeks’ pay is consumed.
The Coalition government has also passed pernicious laws dealing with the building industry. Workers who take “illegal” industrial action risk fines of up to $28,600. Workers who don’t answer questions, fail to turn up to an interrogation, or reveal the contents of an interrogation by the Australian Building and Construction Commission face an automatic six months’ jail term.
Other anti-worker laws that work hand-in-glove with Work Choices include: the “welfare to work” law, the “anti-terror” laws that compromise freedom of speech and assembly, and the laws that allow bosses to employ guest workers on section 457 visas on below-standard wages and working conditions.
Price said that some of the most exploited workers in Australia now are refugees on temporary protection visas and guest workers. “Recently, the CFMEU organised for some Indian and Korean guest workers to address a public meeting. These workers are experiencing the most gross exploitation from bosses in the construction industry. They ended their speeches with the call for workers of the world to unite. November 30 should also be about fighting for the rights of these workers.”
The scale of the attacks haven’t been seen in more than 100 years, Western Australian Maritime Union of Australia assistant secretary Ian Bray told GLW. “We’ve got to show that we’re not just worried about the laws for ourselves, we’re worried about their impact on our kids.”
According to Gooden, the other reason why a massive turn out on November 30 is important is because “it gives workers the confidence that they can defy Howard’s laws … There is nothing the government can do because it can’t fine or jail everybody”. Bray agreed, concluding: “We’re in for the fight of our working lives. A big mobilisation on November 30 will demonstrate that workers are angry, and will fight until these laws are abolished.”
[By Troy McGuinness, a former postal worker, was one of hundreds victimised by Australia Post for participating in previous national union protests against Work Choices.]
From: Green Left Weekly issue #689 November 8, 2006.
Ha'aretz correspondent Gideon Levy described the situation in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun in a searing article on Sunday. He proposed, half seriously, that the Israeli colonies removed last year as part of Israel's so-called "disengagement" from Gaza should be returned because they would serve "as the last human shield for a million and a half residents who now comprise one of the most helpless populations in the world. Incarcerated, without any assistance, they are liable to starve to death. Exposed, without any protection, they fall prey to the Israel Defense Force's operations of vengeance."
How can we Americans ignore this? How can we bear it? How can we bear to continue paying for Israel's atrocities? How can we possibly allow this inhumanity to be perpetrated in our name without crying out in horror, without bringing down our own government that sits by doling out the money and the weapons to keep this horror going, without severing altogether any ties with Israel's Nazi government?
"Burying its 350 dead since the summer," Levy goes on,
"Gaza threatens to become Chechnya. There are thousands of wounded, disabled and shell-shocked people in Gaza, unable to receive any treatment. Those on respirators are liable to die due to the frequent power outages since Israel bombed the power plant. Tens of thousands of children suffer from existential anxiety, while their parents are unable to provide help. They are witnesses to sights that even Gaza's old-timers have never seen before."
The horrors are unspeakable; I'm not making this up. Nor is Levy.
"Anyone who does not believe this can travel to Beit Hanoun, an hour from Tel Aviv. The trauma is only intensifying there, in a town that lost nearly 80 of its sons and daughters within a week [in early November]. The shadows of human beings roam the ruins. Last week, I met people there who are terrified, depressed, injured, humiliated, bereaved and bewildered. What can one say to them? That they should stop firing Qassams? But the vast majority of them are not involved in this at all. That they should return Gilad Shalit? What do they have to do with him? They only know the IDF will return and they know what this will mean for them: more imprisonment in their homes for weeks, more death and destruction in monstrous proportions, without them being guilty of a thing. In Israel's dark southern backyard, a large-scale humanitarian tragedy is unfolding. Israel and the world, including the Arab states, are covering their eyes and the last resort, as absurd as it sounds, might be to long for the settlements. The situation is that desperate."
How can we possibly allow this to go on, blithely ignoring it, blithely affirming Israel's "right to defend itself," ignoring the absence of any actual threat to Israel, blithely assuming that it is right and proper to murder, starve, imprison, deny medical treatment, deny water to an entire people simply because they are not Jews and are resisting Israel's domination?
"Brutal and dizzy ideas compete against each other," Levy continues, "the defense minister suggests liquidations and the agriculture minister proposes tougher action; one advocates 'an eye for an eye,' the second wants to 'erase Beit Hanoun' and the third 'to pulverize Beit Lahiya.' And no one pauses for a moment to think about what they are saying. What exactly does it mean to 'erase Beit Hanoun'? What does this chilling combination of words mean? A town of 30,000 people, most of them children, whose measure of grief and suffering has long reached breaking point, unemployed and hungry, without a present and without a future, with no protection against Israel's violent military responses, which have lost all human proportionality.
"Proportionality is also needed when examining the extent of suffering in the neighboring town, Sderot [the Israeli town frequently hit by Palestinian Qassam rockets]. It should be stated honestly: Sderot's suffering, as heart-rending and difficult as it is, amounts to nothing when compared to the suffering of its neighbor. Sderot is now mourning one fatality, while Beit Hanoun is mourning nearly 80 dead. . . . Did the futile killing of the people in Beit Hanoun contribute anything to the security of Sderot's residents? The events of the past days clearly demonstrate that the answer is no. . . .
"Soon Gaza will look like Darfur, but while the world is giving some sort of assistance to Darfur, it still dares to play tough with Gaza. Instead of boycotting the one who is abusing the residents of Gaza, the world is boycotting the victim, blocking assistance that it so desperately needs. Tens of thousands of workers who are not receiving their meager wages because of the boycott are the world's gift to Gaza, while Israel is not only killing them, but also stealing their money, locking them in from all sides and not allowing them any chance to extricate themselves."
How can we allow this to go on? C-SPAN is asking this week for one-minute video-taped statements, which it will begin airing on Thanksgiving, answering the question "what does being an American mean to you?" I have no video camera and no intention of submitting a tape, but the invitation got me thinking. Does being an American mean that I must sit back and quietly allow my government to starve the entire Palestinian people, in the name of some kind of dedication to a flag and a bill of rights that applies only to white people? Does it mean that I must approve, or even merely accept, the subhuman behavior of my government's closest ally, Israel?
Or does being an American mean that I must do something -- at least speak out, scream out -- to stop the bleeding inflicted on innocents by America and Israel? And does not being an American mean that I must challenge my fellow Americans to speak out as well? Here is the challenge: any Jew anywhere who allows Israel to commit these acts and pursue these policies in the name of all Jews -- for Israel does claim to act in the name of Jews everywhere -- without speaking out against Israel, without screaming protests, must be ashamed. Any American who allows the United States to support Israel -- to support it militarily with infusions of arms in the billions of dollars every year and to sustain it morally and psychologically -- without loud protest should be ashamed. The time has come to stand up and be counted as Americans truly interested in justice and human rights and humanity.
Can we not match Gideon Levy's courage in speaking the truth? Palestine is the conscience of us all.
Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.
Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson began life in the condemned projects of Brooklyn, and condemned he has remained. His American journey has included stops in homeless shelters, reform schools, bankruptcy courts, and prison. Along the way, he earned and lost more than $100 million.
Now a completely bogus news story is out that Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss has hired Tyson as the main attraction for her 60-acre Nevada brothel for women called "Heidi's Stud Farm. In a press release, the parasitic Fleiss said, "I told him, 'You're going to be my big stallion.' It's every man's fear that their girlfriend will go for Mike Tyson." She then quoted Tyson saying, "I don't care what any man says, it's every man's dream to please women . . . and get paid for it." Tyson had this to say about the subject: "I am not working with Heidi Fleiss nor have anything to do with her new business. There is no truth to these rumors." His lawyers have threatened to sue if she uses his name for further promotion.
No doubt this will all become more fodder for the "Tyson as freak show, Tyson as beast" jabber on sports radio. That line goes down easier than discussing his bi-polar disorder; his attempts at suicide; his clinical depression; and how the SportsWorld has spent the last decade poking him with a stick, waiting a-titter to see what "Crazy Mike" does next.
They won't discuss the sad truth that every inexcusable act of aggression towards women, every facial tattoo, every threat to "eat the children" of opponents, every bitten ear lobe, every public utterance, was a cry for help that never came.
But Heidi Fleiss wouldn't have been his first pimp. Managers like Bill Cayton, Don King, and a throng of others have all taken turns using his physical prowess and picking his carcass clean.
Yet Fleiss' "Stud Farm" with Mike as "stallion", even though false, also carries a devastating historical echo. The first prizefighters in this country were slaves, owned by competing members of the plantocracy. They were the heroes of the plantation, greeted by whites and Blacks with both resentment and awe. These boxers in bondage were literally handed women slaves for sexual gratification but would be lynched if caught looking twice at the master's wife, no matter how successful. In the 20th century, all African-American heavyweight champs have faced a similar vice between their race and sexuality.
Heavyweight champion Jack Johnson went to jail for "transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes" by sending his white girlfriend a railroad ticket to travel from Pittsburgh to Chicago. In an era when the KKK executed Southern Justice and the Klan-film "Birth of a Nation" was screened by a rapturous President Woodrow Wilson, Jack Johnson's insistence on flouting the rules of white supremacy made him deeply dangerous, as his FBI file attests.
The backlash against Johnson meant that it would be 20 years before the rise of another Black heavyweight champ "the Brown Bomber" Joe Louis. Louis was quiet where Johnson was defiant. He was handled very carefully by a management team that had a set of rules Louis had to follow, including, "never be photographed with a white woman."
All Black boxers were seen as either neutered or potential rapists until Muhammad Ali said, "I don't have to be what you want me to be" and infuriated the sports writers of his day. One contemporary of Ali told me, "One of the things that made reporters so mad about Ali was that he told people how 'pretty' he was. The champion is supposed to be a stud, not pretty."
Even progressive examinations of athletes can't escape this trap of eroticizing their subjects. In Ken Burns' otherwise stellar documentary of Jack Johnson, "Unforgivable Blackness", Burns spends so much time gazing at the fighter's crotch and tight pants, that Johnson's bulge should be submitted for Emmy consideration.
In David Kindred's wonderful recent book about Ali and Cosell, "The Sound and the Fury", he unfortunately takes time to let us know that the naked Ali earns his title as "the greatest."
Granted, it's tough to find the humanity in a sport like boxing, that so relentlessly dehumanizes its subjects. But Mike Tyson is the scarred reflection of this ugly corner in the SportsWorld. Instead of stopping to sneak a peek, and cop a thrill, we should force ourselves to stare and think. Instead of laughing at Mike Tyson, we should take time to weep.
The tragedy is that Tyson is no animal. Trained by the legendary Cus D'Amato, the young Tyson was a student of the game. He watched grainy films for hours on end. He possessed beautiful lateral movement, and thunderous blows to the body. Only an intelligent boxer understands the demoralizing nature of body shots, and Tyson went to the torso like no fighter this century. He was also a scholar of the psychology of the sport. In the mid '80s when fighters routinely came to the ring in flowing sequined robes like they were extras on George Clinton's Mothership, Tyson would walk to the ring clad only in black trunks. While other fighters walked down the aisle to cheesy party songs, Tyson's tune was "In The Air Tonight" by Phil Collins. I saw Tyson live when he was 20 years old, and trust me: Phil Collins was never so badass.
But the young Tyson, despite all the menace, also showed a real compassion for the people he knocked out. He exhibited smarts, charisma, and concern. Now he is just an exhibit.
Dave Zirin's new book "What's My Name Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States" is published by Haymarket Books. Check out his revamped website edgeofsports.com. You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact him at email@example.com.
Imagine a steer in the stockyards hollering to his fellows, "We need a phased withdrawal from the slaughterhouse, starting in four to six months. The timetable should not be overly rigid. But there should be no more equivocation." Back and forth among the steers the debate meanders on. Some say, "To withdraw now" would be to "display weakness". Others talk about a carrot and stick approach. Then the men come out with electric prods and shock them up the chute.
The way you end a slaughter is by no longer feeding it. Every general, either American or British, with the guts to speak honestly over the past couple of years has said the same thing: the foreign occupation of Iraq by American and British troops is feeding the violence.
Iraq is not on the "edge of civil war". It is in the midst of it. There is no Iraqi government. There are Sunni militias and Shia militias inflicting savagery on each other in the awful spiral of reprisal killings familiar from Northern Ireland and Lebanon in the 1970s. Iraq has become Chechnya, headed into that abyss from the day the US invaded in 2003. It's been a steep price to inflict on the Iraqi people for the pleasure of seeing Saddam Hussein die abruptly at the end of a rope.
If the US is scheduled for any role, beyond swift withdrawal, it certainly won't be as "honest broker", lecturing fractious sectarians on how to behave properly, like Teacher in some schoolhouse on the prairie. It was always been in the US interest to curb the possibility of the Shia controlling much of Iraq, including most of the oil. By one miscalculation after another, precisely that specter is fast becoming a reality. For months outgoing ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad tried to improve the Sunni position, and it is clear enough that in its covert operations the US has been in touch with the Sunni resistance.
If some Sunni substitute for Saddam stepped up to the plate the US would welcome him and propel him into power, but it is too late for such a course. As Henry Kissinger said earlier this week, the war is lost. This is the man who -- if we are to believe Bob Woodward's latest narrative -- has been advising Bush and Cheney that there could be no more Vietnams, that the war in Iraq could not be lost without humiliating consequences for America's status as the number # 1 bully on the block. When Kissinger says a war is lost, you can reckon that it is.
Democrats, put in charge of Congress next January by voters who turned against the war, are now split on what to do. The 80 or so members of the House who favor swift withdrawal got a swift rebuff when Steny Hoyer won the House Majority leader position at a canter from Jack Murtha, humiliating House majority whip Nancy Pelosi in the process. But there are still maneuvers to have Murtha capture a significant role in brokering the rapid exit strategy he stunned Washington by advocating a year ago.
Next came Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, who never opens his mouth without testing the wind with a supersensitive finger to test the tolerance levels of respectable opinion. In Chicago on Monday he said there are no good options left in Iraq, but that it "remains possible to salvage an acceptable outcome to this long and misguided war."
This time Obama plumped for the "four to six months" option for "phased redeployment", though the schedule should not be "overly rigid", to give--so the senator said -- commanders on the ground flexibility to protect the troops or adapt to changing political arrangements in the Iraqi government. Then there followed the familiar agenda for America as stern, disinterested broker: "economic pressure" should be applied to makie Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds sit down and forge a lasting peace. "No more coddling, no more equivocation."
It sounds great as a clip on the Evening News, provoking another freshet of talk about Obama as presidential candidate. Substantively it means absolutely nothing. What "economic pressure" is he talking about, what "coddling", in ruined, looted Iraq? It's all the language of fantasy.
The only time reality enters into Obama's and Democrats' foreign policy advisories is when the subject of Israel comes up. Then there's no lofty talk about "No more coddling", but the utterly predictable green light for Israel to do exactly what it wants--which is at present to reduce Gaza to sub-Chechnyian levels and murder families in Beit Hanoun: this is a Darfur America really could stop but instead is sponsoring and cheering on, to its eternal shame.
The Palestinians are effectively defenseless, even as the US Congress cheers Israel on. What political Washington cannot yet quite comprehend is that Iraq is not Palestine; cannot be lectured and given schedules. America is not controlling events in Iraq. If the Shia choose to cut supply lines from Kuwait up to the northern part of the country, the US forces would be in deep, deep trouble. When the Democrats take over Congress in January, they should vote to end funding for anything in Iraq except withdrawing US forces immediately. If they don't, there's nothing but downsides, including without doubt a Third Party peace candidacy that could well cost them the White House in 2008, or--who knows--the return of Al Gore as the peace candidate, now that Russ Feingold has quit the field. Perhaps that's what Obama was trying to head off.
Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair's new book, End Times: the Death of the Fourth Estate, will be published in February by CounterPunch Books / AK Press.
AMY GOODMAN: A new book by former weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, claims the Bush administration is determined to wage war against Iran. In Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change, Scott Ritter examines the administration’s regime change policy and the potential of Iran to threaten U.S. national security interests. He writes, “The path the United States has currently embarked on regarding Iran is a path that will inevitably lead to war. Such a course of action will make even the historical mistake we made in Iraq pale by comparison,” he writes. Scott Ritter joins us in the studio now. Welcome to Democracy Now!
SCOTT RITTER: Well, thanks.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is the key to understand about Iran right now, about the U.S., well, about your title targeting -- Target Iran?
SCOTT RITTER: Well, the most important thing is to understand the reality that Iran is squarely in the crosshairs as a target of the Bush administration, in particular, as a target of the Bush administration as it deals -- as it relates to the National Security Strategy of the United States. You see, this isn’t a hypothetical debate among political analysts, foreign policy specialists. Read the 2006 version of the National Security Strategy, where Iran is named sixteen times as the number one threat to the national security of the United States of America, because in the same document, it embraces the notion of pre-emptive wars of aggression as a legitimate means of dealing with such threats. It also recertifies the Bush administration doctrine of regional transformation globally, but in this case particularly in the Middle East. So, we’re not talking about hypotheticals here, regardless of all the discussion the Bush administration would like you to believe there is about diplomacy. There is no diplomacy, as was the case with Iraq. Diplomacy is but a smokescreen to disguise the ultimate objective of regime change.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the difference in approach the U.S. takes to North Korea, which has, according to their own reports, set off a nuclear bomb, and Iran?
SCOTT RITTER: Well, the only thing that the Bush administration’s approach towards North Korea and the Bush administration’s approach towards Iran have in common is that the endgame is regime change. Other than that, what you see -- I guess the other thing they have in common is the total incoherence of their approach. Look, North Korea and Iran, you can’t compare; it’s apples and oranges.
North Korea is a declared nuclear power. They even declared their intent to have nuclear weapons. They haven’t hidden this from anybody. They withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty in total conformity with the rule of law. They put the world on notice. They said, we will not participate. They gave them the appropriate timeline. They invited the inspectors out. And then, surprise, surprise, despite the fact that the Bush administration said, “Well, they’re just bluffing,” well, they’re not bluffing. They just popped one off. And guess what. If we continue to push North Korea irresponsibly -- because again, what are we talking about here?
What do we want to achieve in North Korea? Do we really care about the North Korean people, want human rights to -- no, regime change. This is all about regime change. This is about the United States being able to dictate the terms of coexistence with everybody else in the world. Do people understand that our policy towards China is regime change? Do they understand what the ramifications of that is? That’s what’s going on with North Korea. And we shouldn’t be surprised that they did exactly what they said they were going to do.
Now, we take Iran. Iran is a nation that says, “We don’t have a nuclear weapons program. We have no intention.” In fact, when North Korea exploded their device, the Iranians condemned it. They said nuclear weapons cannot be part of a global equation. And yet, we continue to try and lump them together as if North Korea and Iran are part and parcel of the same policy. Well, maybe they are part and parcel of the same incoherent approach that the Bush administration has taken to dealing with nuclear proliferation.
AMY GOODMAN: Scott Ritter, you just returned from Iran?
SCOTT RITTER: I came -- I was in Iran in early September, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And what did you do there?
SCOTT RITTER: I went there as a journalist for Nation magazine. I was there to research an article that hopefully will come out some time in November. You know, it was funny, the Iranian government, like many governments, says one thing, does another. I had a whole agenda that had been agreed upon in advance, that I was going to go and interview X, interview Y, visit sites, see etc. And I got there to find out that the Iranian government, regardless of what we had coordinated here in the United States, had no clue (a) that I was coming and (b) that I had an agenda. So, I show up in Iran, and I’m on my own.
What an eye-opening experience to be on your own in a nation that has been called an Islamic fascist state. I have been to dictatorships in the Middle East. I have been to nations that have a high security profile. Iran is not one of these nations. I’m a former intelligence officer who has stated some pretty strong positions on Iran, and yet I had full freedom of movement in Iran with no interference whatsoever. And as a result, although I didn’t have the approved agenda, I had my own agenda, which allowed me to interview senior government officials, senior military officials, senior intelligence officials, and to visit sites that were deemed sensitive. The conclusion is that the American media has gotten it wrong on Iran. It’s a very modern, westernized, pro-Western, and surprisingly pro-American country that does not constitute a threat to the United States whatsoever.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re a former weapons inspector in Iraq.
SCOTT RITTER: Correct.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about similarities or differences you see between the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq and what’s happening now with Iran?
SCOTT RITTER: The biggest similarity that we need to point out is that in both cases no evidence was put forward to sustain the allegations that are being made. Iraq was accused of having weapons of mass destruction programs, reconstituting chemical, biological, nuclear, long-range ballistic missile programs. There was an inspection process in place that had access, full access to the facilities in question, and no data was derived from these inspections that backed up the Bush administration's allegations. And yet, Iraq was told, it’s not up to the inspectors to find the weapons. It’s up to Iraq to prove they don't exist. Iraq had to prove a negative. And they couldn't. We now know that in 1991, Saddam Hussein had destroyed the totality of his weapons programs. There weren’t any left to find, discover. There was no threat.
We now have Iran. It’s alleged to have a nuclear weapons program. And yet the International Atomic Energy Agency, the inspectors who have had full access to the sites in Iran, have come out and said, “Well, we can’t say that there isn’t a secret program that we don’t know about. What we can say, as a direct result of our investigations, there is no data whatsoever to sustain the Bush administration's claims that there is a nuclear weapons program.” And yet, the Bush administration once again is putting the onus on Iran, saying, “It’s not up to the inspectors to find the nuclear weapons program. It’s up to the Iranians to prove that one doesn’t exist.” Why do we go down this path? Because you can’t prove a negative. There’s nothing Iran can do that will satisfy the Bush administration, because the policy at the end of the day is not about nonproliferation, it’s not about disarmament. It’s about regime change. And all the Bush administration wants to do is to create the conditions that support their ultimate objective of military intervention.
AMY GOODMAN: Scott Ritter, one of the things you talk about in your book is that no attention has been paid to the Supreme Leader's pronouncement in the form of a fatwa, that Iran rejects outright the acquisition of nuclear weapons.
SCOTT RITTER: Well, when we say “Supreme Leader,” first of all, most Americans are going to scratch their head and say, “Who?” because, you see, we have a poster boy for demonization out there. His name is Ahmadinejad. He’s the idiot that comes out and says really stupid vile things, such as, “It is the goal of Iran to wipe Israel off the face of the world,” and he makes ridiculous statements about the United States and etc. And, of course, man, he -- it’s a field day for the American media, for the Western media, because you get all the little sound bites out there, Ahmadinejad, Ahmadinejad, president of Iran. But what people don't understand is, while he can vocalize, his finger is not on any button of power. If you read the Iranian constitution, you’ll see that the president of Iran is almost a figurehead.
The true power in Iran rests with the Supreme Leader. The Supreme Leader is the Ayatollah Khamenei. He is supported by an organization called the Guardian Council. Then there’s another group called the Expediency Council. These are the people that control the military, the police, the nuclear program, all the instruments of power. And not only has the Supreme Leader issued a fatwa that says that nuclear weapons are not compatible with Islamic law, with the Shia belief system that he is responsible, in 2003 he actually reached out to the Bush administration via the Swiss embassy and said, “Look, we would like to normalize relations with the United States. We’d like to initiate a process that leads to a peace treaty between Israel and Iran.” Get this, Israel and Iran. He’s not saying, “We want to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.” He is saying, “We want peace with Israel.” And they were willing to put their nuclear program on the table.
Why didn’t the Bush administration embrace this? Because that leads to a process of normalization, where the United States recognizes the legitimacy of the theocracy and is willing to peacefully coexist with the theocracy. That’s not the Bush administration's position. They want the theocracy gone. They will do nothing that legitimizes that, nothing that sustains peace. They rejected peace. So, it’s not Ahmadinejad that represents the threat to international peace and security when it comes to American-Iranian relations. It’s the Bush administration, because the Bush administration refuses to put peace on the table. Bush talks about diplomacy. There will not be diplomacy, true diplomacy, until he puts Condoleezza Rice on an airplane, sends her to Tehran to talk to the Supreme Leader.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Scott Ritter. He has written a new book. It’s called: Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change. And the picture on the cover has an image of a U.S. gun, of a gun with an American flag. Talk about the image you have here and the backdrop of it.
SCOTT RITTER: You know, I wish I could take credit for that image. But unfortunately, that is the work of -- not unfortunately, fortunately that’s the work of a really good graphic designer with Nation Books who came up with, I think, a cover that is not only attractive but symbolic. But I think the point is here that Iran is the target. You know, we talk about America and the symbols of America. And yet, we have an American flag transformed into a symbol that the world recognizes when you say the United States: a weapon. And it’s very sad to think of the United States, the nation that’s supposed to espouse human rights, individual civil liberties, that when you talk about the United States around the world today, they think about us only in terms of violence, violence brought on by guns, because that’s what we’ve become, a nation of violence.
AMY GOODMAN: The scenario you envision around the U.S. and Iran?
SCOTT RITTER: War. The bottom line is that the Bush administration has two more years left to govern here in the United States. They have a policy of regional transformation in the Middle East: regime change. We see that policy in play today in Iraq with all of its horrible manifestations. You’d think that they would have learned something, but they haven’t. They continue to articulate that Iran needs to be transformed into a viable democracy, although, according to your news broadcast today and then other news coming out, it looks like we’re going to give up on democracy in Iraq.
Look, Bush has already said that he doesn’t want to leave Iran to the next president, that this is a problem he needs to solve now. And the other factor that we haven’t woven in here that we need to is the role played by Israel in pressuring the United States for a very aggressive stance against Iran. Israel has drawn a red line that says, not only will they not tolerate a nuclear weapons program in Iran, they will not tolerate anything dealing with nuclear energy, especially enrichment, that could be used in a nuclear program. So, even if Iran is telling the truth -- Iran says, “We have no nuclear weapons program. We just want peaceful nuclear energy” -- Israel says, “So long as Iran has any enrichment capability, this constitutes a threat to Israel,” and they are pressuring the United States to take forceful action.
AMY GOODMAN: In what way?
SCOTT RITTER: Oh, it’s diplomatic pressure. We see -- starting in 2002, you saw the Israeli prime minister and the defense minister come running to the United States in the lead-up to the war with Iraq, saying, “Hey, let's not worry too much about Iraq. That’s not really a big problem. I know we’ve got a lot of rhetoric going on about weapons of mass destruction, but the big problem’s Iran.” And the Bush administration said, “We don't want to talk about Iran right now. We’re dealing with Iraq.” In the immediate aftermath of the war, Israel came and said, “Alright, thank you for getting rid of Saddam. We now want you to focus on Iran.” And the United States continued to put Iran on the back burner. And it wasn’t until the Israeli government leaked some intelligence to an Iranian opposition group, the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, who came out and said, “Hey, look, there’s this site in Natanz. They’re doing enrichment there.” And suddenly the United States was forced to say, “Oh, we’ve got to put Iran back on the front burner.” And it’s been Israel that’s been dictating the pace of media operations, let’s say, on Iran.
AMY GOODMAN: Something the media says is that Iran doesn’t need nuclear power -- it has plenty of oil -- that nuclear power is just its way of getting nuclear weapons.
SCOTT RITTER: Well, there can be no doubt that Iran has plenty of oil, but that oil is the only thing Iran has going for it, in terms of a viable world-class economy. In 1976, the Shah of Iran came to the United States, sent his representatives to intercede and say, “Look, we’ve done an analysis, and we’ve got a finite amount of oil. And right now we need to export it. And if we don't export it, we don't make money, etc. We don't have enough oil to sustain this. We need to come up with an indigenous energy policy that frees up our oil for exportation. We want to use nuclear energy.” And the U.S. government went, “Good idea, Shah. We're all for it.” That was Gerald Ford.
The chief of staff of the White House at the time was Dick Cheney. The Secretary of Defense was Donald Rumsfeld. So, this argument that both Cheney and Rumsfeld put out today that Iran is a nation awash in a sea of oil, there is no need for a nuclear energy program, they both supported Iran's goals of achieving nuclear energy in 1976. Not only nuclear energy, but they also supported the Shah when he said, “We cannot allow a nuclear energy program’s fuel to be held hostage by the vagaries of sanctions and war. We need an indigenous fuel-manufacturing capability inclusive of the full uranium enrichment process.” And guess what the U.S. government said in 1976. “No problem, Shah. Good deal.” Of course, in 1979, the Islamists come in and suddenly we change our opinion. The bottom line is, Iran has every right legally to a nuclear energy program, and economically, we’ve already deemed it a responsible way to go.
AMY GOODMAN: Scott Ritter, both the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh and retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner have said covert actions have already begun in Iran, U.S. military. Do you think that is true?
SCOTT RITTER: I respect the reporting of Seymour Hersh. I respect the analysis of Sam Gardiner. And I respect the integrity of people who have talked to me who are in a position to know. Look, we’re already overflying Iran with unmanned aerial vehicles, pilotless drones. On the ground, the CIA is recruiting Mojahedin-e-Khalq, recruiting Kurds, recruiting Azeris, who are operating inside Iran on behalf of the United States of America. And there is reason to believe that we’ve actually put uniformed members of the United States Armed Forces and American citizens operating as CIA paramilitaries inside Iranian territory to gather intelligence.
Now, when you violate the borders and the airspace of a sovereign nation with paramilitary and military forces, that’s an act of war. That’s an act of war. So, when Americans say, “Ah, there’s not going to be a war in Iran,” there's already a war in Iran. We’re at war with Iran. We’re just not in the declared conventional stage of the war. The Bush administration has a policy of regime change. They’re going to use the military, and the military is being used.
AMY GOODMAN: We only have a minute, but the role of the media in all this. In the lead-up to the invasion, they slammed you, they smeared you, as you were a UN weapons inspector who was opposed to the invasion.
SCOTT RITTER: Well, you know, they can come at me again all they want. I could care less. It’s like water off a duck's back. The problem’s not me. The issue is not me. The issue is truth and facts. I think it’s clear today that we weren’t given the truth and the facts about the reality of Iraq in the lead-up to the war, and it's clear the media is not doing the same with Iran. We are being preprogrammed to accept, at face value, true anything negative about Iran. That’s one of the reasons why I wrote the book, to put it into a proper perspective.
AMY GOODMAN: Scott Ritter. His book is Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change. He is a former UN weapons inspector. And tonight, you will be at the Ethical Culture Society in New York City, along with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh.
Friday, November 24, 2006
December 3 2004 marked the 150th anniversary of the uprising of Gold Diggers at Ballarat. It as always been a controversial issue in Australian history. Our prime minister John 'The Evil Dwarf' Howard made perfectly clear that he had no desire to participate in its commemoration.
I take pride in one of my old unions’ The BLF making the Eureka flag known as part of their union colors, my other old union was the Ship Painters and Dockers, during the 3 month strike/occupation of Sydney's Cockatoo Island Docyard in 1989, we flew the Eureka flag. Both unions were put out of action by Bob Hawke and Paul Keating’s ALP governments. The BLF was deregistered, a nice word for being outlawed. The Painters and Dockers went of existence with the ALP’s murder of Australia’s Ship building and repair industry.
It’s a good thing to see a lot of unions using the Eureka flag as their colors today. But I’ll never forget that fellow teacher having an arrogant dig at me over my BLF past with this quote from Tony Wright’s book, Turn Right at Istanbul, A walk Along the Gallipoli Peninsula
“The battle of the Eureka Stockade, where perhaps 22 miners and five soldiers were killed in a hillside skirmish that lasted a quarter of an hour, deposited within the Australian heart a legend of ordinary folk standing against ruthless authority, and gave us the finest flag we’ll never have, the Southern Cross of Eureka. The flag was appropriated in the 1970s by a union, the Builders Labourers Federation which managed to disgrace itself through thuggery and corruption, effectively placing the flag off limits for any group that might want to revive it.”
As some one who had relations at Gallipoli as well as the Western Front, I found the dig at me, as well as Wright’s book offensive. Tony Wright was wrapping the Gallipoli ethos around the so called War on Terror. Anyone with half a sense of decency sees Gallipoli as bloody tragedy that was repeated in larger numbers on the Western Front.
When I saw the television coverage of the 150th anniversary from Ballarat, in the Katoomba RSL Club, after my bushfire brigade’s Christmas party, Chanel Nine zoomed in the Eureka flag that belongs to the BLF stalwarts. It has name of many of my old Victorian Comrades who passed away, and John Cummo/Cummins former state president of the Victorian Construction Division of the CFMEU, was added to it this year. Over 3,000 people marched behind Cummo’s coffin at his funeral in Melbourne, that was adorned in the Eureka Flag.
For me the Eureka flag represents the underdogs in Australian history, the battlers. The following quotes and articles below prove it. And I will add further quotes in the next few days. And please feel free to post a comment.
"We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other, and fight to defend our rights and liberties"
– Oath taken by 500 miners on the Eureka goldfield, November 30, 1854
"The source of pauperism will be settled in Victoria by any quill-driver, who has the pluck to write the history of public-houses in town, and sly-grog shops sellers on the gold-fields."
"‘Your licence, mate,’ was the peremptory question from a six foot fellow in blue shirt, thick boots, the face of a ruffian armed with a carbine and a fixed bayonet. The old ‘all right’ being exchanged, I lost sight of that specimen of brutedom and his similars, called as I learned, ‘traps’ and ‘troopers’.
Inveterate murderers, audacious burglars, bloodthirsty bushrangers, were the ruling triumvirate, the scour of old Europe, called vandemonians, in this bullock-drivers’ land."
Raffaello Carboni 1820-1875
The Eureka Stockade Melbourne 1963
"At Melbourne, in a long veranda giving on a grass plot, where laughing jack-asses laugh very horribly, sit wool kings, premiers and breeders of horses after their kin"d. The older men talk of the Eureka Stockade, and the younger men talk of the ‘shearing wars’ in North Queensland, while the traveller moves timidly among them wondering what under the world every third word means."
Rudyard Kipling 1865-1936,
On the Melbourne Club, Letters of Travel (1892-1913) Kipling stayed at Melbourne Club in November 1891.
"By and by there was a result; and I think it may be called the finest thing in Australian history. It was a revolution-small in size,but great politically; it was a strike for liberty, a struggle for a principle, a stand against injustice and oppression. It was the Barons and John over again; it was Hampeden and Ship-Money; it was Concord and Lexington; small beginnings, all of them, but all of them great results, all of them epoch making.
It was another instance of a victory by a lost battle. It adds an honourable page to history; the people know it and proud of it. They keep green the memory of the men who fell at Eureka Stockade, and Peter Lalor and his monument."
Mark Twain [Samuel Langhorne Clemens] 1835-1910 Following the Equator 1897
"Lalor used to say that however rash and foolhardy his had been, it was one of which any honourable man might be proud. The mass-vote of later generations has been in overwhelming agreement."
Alan Geoffrey Serle 1922- The Golden Age 1963
[In November 1938 Port Kembla wharfies/dockers declined loading up 23,000 tons of pig-iron for Japan. There action was in solidarity with the Chinese who had been invaded and occupied by Japan. but were forced to by legislation drafted by the commonwealth/federal attorney general Robert Gordon Menzies. Darwin was bombed by japan in 1942 and Menzies was nick named Pig Iron Bob.]
"I believe that the mount Kembla with the sturdy but peaceful and altogether disinterested attitude of the men concerned, will find a place in our history alongside the Eureka Stockade, with its more violent resistance of a less settled time, as a noble stand against executive Dictarship and against an attack on Australian Democracy."
Sir Isaac Issacs 1855-1948, first Australian to become governor-general, Australian Democracy and Our Colonial System 1939
Eureka the Brave
1 December 2004
I’ve been attending the Eureka celebrations in Ballarat for many years. Historians and academics — and even left-wing activists, some of them in the trade union movement — often argue about the aims and motives of the miners who built the stockade.
Too often, armchair critics seem to forget that in taking up arms against an army of redcoats these miners faced either death or hanging for treason. These were men with strong views about justice. So too were the women who sewed the Southern Cross flag at night under candlelight and discussed the licence issue and the vote with husbands and brothers committed to human rights and democracy.
The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) is very proud that two of its members, Fintan Lalor and Glenn Withers, are direct descendants of the Eureka rebels. Fintan is the great-great-grandson of Eureka leader Peter Lalor. He’s named after James Fintan Lalor, Peter Lalor’s brother. James was an Irish political activist who was jailed for his political beliefs. Glenn Withers is the great-great-great-grandson of Anastasia Withers, one of three women who sewed the Eureka flag.
Peter Lalor came from a political family deeply engaged in the Irish land wars of the 1840s. Raffaello Carboni, Frederick Vern, Timothy Hayes and their comrades were unflinching political activists. Conservative politicians and reactionary historians, the same mob who scoff at the idea of an Indigenous stolen generation or the proposition that blacks were massacred by white invaders, won’t have a bar of Eureka. It’s far too political for their purposes. That’s why Prime Minister John Howard has shunned the celebrations and refuses to talk about the rebellion. It’s time trade unionists and activists helped Eureka take its rightful place in our history.
Just because the miners were violently opposed to the gold licence fee doesn’t mean they were self-serving small capitalists. Whatever we think of capitalism in 2004, it was an unforgiving beast 150 years ago. The Great Starvation (famine) in Ireland had caused millions to either die or emigrate, and the world was a grim place.
Although Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848, it was hardly compulsory reading on the goldfields and there was no broad working-class or political movement in Melbourne or Ballarat. We need to put the miners’ politics in the context of the times. Even so, in 1855 Marx described the rebellion as “an economic crisis, with the ruling British monopolies trying to shift the burden on to the working people”. It’s no wonder Howard won’t talk about Eureka.
The miners didn’t just argue against the licence fee. They cried out for political reform. And even if the constitutional changes that would give people the vote were already in train, they wanted it sooner rather than later, and without restriction. The Ballarat Reform League, formed at Bakery Hill on November 11, 1854, espoused all the political principles of the Chartist movement. It might not have been revolution, but it was radical for the times.
The campaign against the licence hunts bears so many similarities to our opposition to the Howard government’s building industry taskforce. The ETU wouldn’t mind a Carboni, Vern or Lalor in the workplace when the stooges turn up!
In his book The Eureka Stockade, miner Raffaelo Carboni wrote: “The maiden appearance of our standard, in the midst of armed men, sturdy, self-overworking diggers of all languages and colours, was a fascinating object to behold. There is no flag in old Europe half so beautiful as the Southern Cross of Ballarat.”
There was nothing jingoistic about the flag. The miners might not have been “workers of the world” uniting to crush capitalism, but nationality was not a barrier to unity. Among the dead miners were men from Ireland, England, Scotland, Prussia, Goulbourn in NSW, Canada and Nova Scotia. Eureka was a melting pot for political unrest from all around the world.
At the ETU we subscribe to the catch cry, “Touch one, touch all”. Above our Queensberry Street office and on our shirts and letterheads we proudly display the flag of the Southern Cross, made famous at Eureka. For the ETU it’s a symbol of independence and our commitment to a fair go.
The miners at Eureka refused to cower when it came to a fair go. And like us they wanted more. They wanted political reform and control of their affairs. That’s why our union is inspired by the stand they took. On December 2, 150 years after the miners bedded down in the stockade, the ETU will be hosting a night of stories and music at Eureka. We’ll try to imagine what it must have been like knowing troopers, armed and mercenary, might storm the stockade when day broke. And in the morning we’ll remember the more than 30 diggers who lost their lives fighting against a corrupt and elitist goldfield administration.
[Dean Mighell is the ETU branch secretary.]
From Green Left Weekly, December 1, 2004. Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.
From: Archives, Green Left Weekly issue #608 1 December 2004.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Eight workers on strike at Thompson’s Roller Shutters in Turella returned to work on November 15 after winning a 12% wage rise over three years and other conditions in a collective agreement. The company had been the target of a number of community pickets over the preceding week.
The workers had been trying unsuccessfully to negotiate a collective agreement with their employer for several months. When the boss offered individual contracts (AWAs) with a 5% pay rise and said the most the workers would get on a collective agreement was 3%, they decided to strike. The AWAs were rumoured to worsen working conditions in exchange for the pay rise.
Seven of workers signed the AWAs, while the other eight took strike action with the support of their union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU). They also demanded that redundancy entitlements be increased from the minimum eight weeks to the industry standard.
At the same time, another union member was sacked after he had repeatedly complained about racial harassment. The company had refused to act on his complaints. This unlawful dismissal case remains unresolved and will be taken to court.
The company brought in labour-hire workers from notorious anti-union firm Frontline to replace the strikers. Unionists who attended the community pickets attempted to explain the issues behind the strike to these casual workers, with some expressing sympathy for the strike.
With labour-hire the only avenue for employment many workers are able to get as companies casualise their workforces, those brought in to scab were in a bind. If they told their employer they wouldn’t work at Thompson’s because of the indutrial dispute, they might not be offered more work. Under PM John Howard’s Welfare to Work laws, they would face a 12-week wait for any social security benefits if they refused work.
After a discussion at one of the early community pickets, those present agreed not to harass these labour-hire workers, but to seek to win their support and to join them to the union.
The community pickets were called by Worker Solidarity, a network of community activists opposing Howard’s IR laws. Before the pickets, Thompson’s management had been very cocky, openly defying the picketline. After three days of turn-outs by 30-40 community picketers, a change in attitude from the boss led to his representatives approaching the AMWU with an offer to sign an enterprise agreement to end the dispute.
A further community picket was held on the morning the negotiations were to take place to let Thompson’s know that if it wasn’t serious about resolving the dispute, the pickets would continue. At this last action, picketers decided they would not seek any confrontations with management or workers going inside the plant.
The striking workers won a wage rise, backdated to July 31, an increase in redundancy entitlements and recognition of the union as their representative. They also obtained a written agreement that there would be no recriminations from management over the dispute.
At the final picket, when it was known that management was willing to negotiate an end to the dispute, the delegate and union organiser thanked Worker Solidarity for its support, saying that a result could not have been achieved without it. Picketers pledged ongoing support for the union in its disputes with employers.
To get involved in Worker Solidarity,
From: Australian News, Green Left Weekly issue #691 22 November 2006.
In a majority decision of five to two, the High Court dismissed the legal challenge brought by state governments, Unions NSW and the Australian Workers Union (AWU) against Work Choices on November 14.
The challenge, a cornerstone of Labor state governments’ opposition to PM John Howard’s new IR laws, argued that the federal government had used a too-liberal definition of powers granted to it under the federal constitution which allows it to regulate corporations. The court rejected the states’ argument, upholding the entire Work Choices laws.
The ruling paves the way for the federal government to override state industrial relations systems. This means that workers covered by state awards may now be subject to Work Choices’ provisions.
Some union leaders have interpreted the High Court ruling as signifying that the only remaining way to defeat Work Choices is through the ballot box.
“The only option for working people is to come together and throw this government out so we can get rid of these laws”, John Robertson, secretary of Unions NSW told the Australian on November 14. Labor IR spokesperson Stephen Smith and AWU national secretary Bill Ludwig backed Robertson’s comments.
Tim Gooden, secretary of the Geelong and Regional Trades Hall Council, took a different view. “The High Court challenge to these laws was always a long shot”, he told Green Left Weekly. “The only time we’ve had wins from the courts is when we’ve already won the fight on the ground, like in 1998 with the battle against Patrick [Stevedores]. This decision just shows that the union movement has a lot of work to do to defeat these laws.”
“We should be looking to vote Howard out at the next election, but that’s no certainty”, Gooden continued. “The ACTU needs an industrial strategy as well as a political one. Everything we’ve ever won has been the end result of an industrial struggle where the bosses have been forced to make concessions.
“Even during the Menzies Liberal government, unions and progressive movements made some gains for workers’ rights, despite the difficulties, because they waged industrial and political struggles. They certainly campaigned against Menzies at the ballot box, but that isn’t all they did.
“Right now, we need an industrial campaign to put pressure on the bosses who are backing Howard. This is what the trade union movement does best.
“We also need to be prepared to keep up the pressure if a Labor government is elected. We’ve seen Labor in government; unless we keep up the pressure, Labor will chicken out of following through on the promise to scrap these laws, especially when companies like Rio Tinto put the screws on.”
Federal workplace relations minister Kevin Andrews announced a range of amendments to Work Choices on November 13. The changes largely come at the behest of Australia’s largest employer group, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which has lobbied the Howard government to fix the legislation since its introduction in March. Andrews presented the amendments to Work Choices as necessary changes to streamline the legislation. They give the bosses greater power to strip workers’ conditions, and reduce bosses’ accountability.
Among the amendments, workers will be given the “right” to cash-out their sickness/carer’s leave entitlements (provided they maintain a minimum of 15 days). As with the provision giving workers the “right” to cash-out two weeks of their annual leave, the only safeguard against abuse is that an employee must sign a written request — hardly a guarantee of fair play.
A second amendment is supposedly intended to preserve workers’ redundancy payments for up to 12 months after the end of a workplace agreement, or the sale of a company. The provision only applies however, if workers are not convinced to sign a new agreement in the 12 month period, meaning that workers may be faced with the threat of signing away their redundancy entitlements, or losing their job.
This is the Hobson’s choice facing workers in Melbourne’s west, who are being told by their new employer Godfrey Hirst, who bought the insolvent Feltex company, to either sign individual contracts (AWAs), which substantially reduce their redundancy entitlements, or lose their jobs. The government’s amendments to its industrial relations legislation offer them no recourse at all.
The third amendment gives bosses the right to stand down workers without pay, “where work is unavailable due to factors outside the employer’s control”. This provision extends to bosses the right to stand their workers down for practically any reason, be it a Christmas slow-down, a strike at another company, or even inclement weather. It places yet another cudgel in the hands of the bosses to drive down wage costs, while leaving workers vulnerable.
If workers are stood down but still “employed” they get no wages from the company but they are not entitled to claim unemployment benefits because they are “employed”. When the same bosses experience a boom in profits, are they going to share this success with their workers with a big wage increase? That’s not likely, and yet they want workers to share in the business risk but not the profits.
In an attempt to “close a loophole” the government will also legislate to prevent the accrual of annual or sick leave while working overtime. Leave will accrue for a maximum of 38 hours worked in any week, meaning that leave will accrue more slowly for many workers required to work regular overtime. In addition, sick/carer’s leave will only be paid at the base rate of pay, without penalty rates or regular overtime factored in, meaning that workers who are sick, or needed to care for a sick family member will lose money for taking leave in many cases.
The final amendment relieves business of the responsibility of maintaining detailed records of hours worked by staff. Records of overtime and other extra payments will still have to be kept. Justified it as reducing “red tape” for business, ACTU secretary Greg Combet said that “in the event there is a dispute, this will make it harder for workers to argue that they have been underpaid”.
The amendments will not be the last that the federal government is likely to make to Work Choices. “We’ll continue to finetune the legislation, there could be more changes”, Howard told the ABC on November 13. Finance minister Nick Minchin also admitted as much to the HR Nichols Society in March, when he told them: “We do need to seek a mandate from the Australian people at the next election for another wave of industrial relations reform”.
Susan Price, National Tertiary Education Union activist and Socialist Alliance candidate for the NSW legislative council told Green Left that unless Work Choices is met with “stiff resistance” from the union movement, Canberra is certain to continue “bulldozing our rights at work”.
“The High Court’s rejection of the states’ challenge to Work Choices doesn’t let them off the hook though either. These laws need to be resisted at all levels. [NSW Labor Premier] Iemma and the other Labor premiers have to mount a campaign of non-cooperation with these laws. He could start by giving public servants paid time off to attend the November 30 rallies.
“He could pledge that state government employees will not be forced to abide by any aspects of the Work Choices law. He could pledge that no state government contract will be given to a company that doesn’t have a union agreement or that insists on Australian Workplace Agreements. That would show that state Labor doesn’t support these anti-worker laws”, Price concluded.
From: Australian News, Green Left Weekly issue #691 22 November 2006.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
This November 12 marks the fifteenth anniversary of the 1991 massacre at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, East Timor (also called Timor-Leste).
On that day, Indonesian soldiers killed at least 271 East Timorese civilians nonviolently marching to demand a UN-supervised referendum after years of illegal Indonesian military occupation.
U.S. reporter Allan Nairn, who joined the marchers and had his skull fractured by a soldier wielding a U.S.-supplied M-16, wrote later: "The troops fired no warning shots and did not tell the crowd to disperse. They . . . raised their rifles to their shoulders all at once and opened fire."
By the time of the Santa Cruz massacre, more than 100,000 East Timorese had died as a result of the U.S.-backed occupation. But the testimony and documentation of Nairn, Amy Goodman and other foreign journalists who survived Santa Cruz exposed the brutality of Indonesian military occupation to the outside world, and helped spark a campaign in the U.S. to block military aid to Jakarta.
East Timor finally achieved independence after a hard-won referendum in 1999, a process steeped in yet more Indonesian military mass killings. Under intense U.S. grassroots pressure, the Clinton administration suspended all military assistance to Jakarta when the Indonesian military responded to the pro-independence vote by laying waste to East Timor in September 1999, and Congress subsequently legislated continuing limits on aid. But after seven years and countless processes, Indonesia, Timor-Leste and the United Nations have failed to achieve accountability for crimes against humanity committed between 1975 and 1999. This impunity has led some in Timor-Leste to believe that they will not be held accountable when they commit violent crimes.
Timor-Leste's people still live with their memories of Indonesia's quarter-century of illegal military occupation; the majority of them experienced this brutality first-hand or have victims in their immediate families. This unhealed mass trauma continues to strongly influence the reactions of Dili residents, both in their decisions to flee en masse during armed battles between police and military this past April and in the fact that many still refuse to return home. The secrecy and self-reliance essential to the independence struggle needs to be transformed into transparency, accountability, and open debate.
The majority of East Timorese, and their supporters internationally, continue to view an international tribunal to pursue Indonesian generals and political leaders who organized and ordered the worst atrocities during the occupation as the only resolution for the current situation of impunity and post-traumatic stress. A credible international tribunal can demonstrate that impunity will not prevail, as indicated by a May 2005 UN Commission of Experts report on 1999 human rights violations in East Timor. That report concluded, "The Commission wishes to emphasize the extreme cruelty with which these acts were committed, and that the aftermath of these events still burdens the Timorese society. The situation calls not only for sympathy and reparations, but also for justice. While recognizing the virtue of forgiveness and that it may be justified in individual cases, forgiveness without justice for the untold privation and suffering inflicted would be an act of weakness rather than of strength."
Timor-Leste's truth commission, the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (known by its Portuguese initials, CAVR) came to equally strong conclusions on the need for concrete justice. The product of three years of extensive research by dozens of East Timorese and international experts, the CAVR report (called "Chega!", Portuguese for "Enough!") recommended reparations to East Timorese victims from countries -- including the U.S. -- which backed the occupation, and from corporations which sold weapons to Indonesia during that period.
An East Timorese involved in disseminating the report throughout the country remarked, "It is clear that many in the community who took part in seminars on Chega! over the last two months saw a strong connection between the findings and recommendations of Chega! and the re-emergence of violence and instability. Many asked why East Timorese leaders have failed to learn the lessons of the past."
Unfortunately, the Bush Administration refuses to learn past lessons. It is willing to give the Indonesian military nearly anything, sacrificing justice in the name of fighting terrorism. On November 22, 2005, the State Department announced, "it is in the national security interests of the United States to waive conditionality pertaining to Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and defense exports to Indonesia." Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), author of Congressional restrictions this maneuver overrode, called the move "an abuse of discretion and an affront to the Congress. To waive on national security grounds a law that seeks justice for crimes against humanity -- without even obtaining the Indonesian government's assurance that it will address these concerns -- makes a mockery of the process and sends a terrible message."
Given the US electorate's strong rejection of Bush's politics of empire in the recent congressional elections, there now exists the potential to change that message and to once again move toward a process of justice for the many victim's of U.S.-backed Indonesian military crimes in East Timor, including those at Santa Cruz 15 years ago.
Ben Terrall is a San Francisco-based writer. John M. Miller is National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network in New York.
Inter Press Service
RAMADI, Nov 17 - U.S. military tank fire killed scores of civilians in Ramadi, capital of Al-Anbar province, late Monday night, according to witnesses and doctors. Anger and frustration were evident at the hospitals and during the funerals in the following days.
Iraqi doctors and witnesses at the scene of the attack said U.S. tanks killed 35 civilians when they shelled several homes in the Al-Dhubat area of the city.
Ramadi, located 110 km west of Baghdad, has been beset with sporadic but intense violence between occupation forces and insurgents for several months.
On Tuesday, hundreds of people carried the 35 coffins of the dead to a graveyard in a funeral procession which closely resembled an angry demonstration.
"We heard the bombing and we thought it was the usual fighting between resistance fihters and the Americans, but we soon realised it was bombing by large cannons," 60-year-old Haji Jassim explained to IPS at the burial. "We weren't allowed by the Americans to reach the destroyed houses to try to rescue those who were buried, so certainly many of them bled to death."
Jassim claimed that everyone killed was innocent, that they were not fighters. He said that when he and others attempted to reach the rubble of the destroyed homes, located near mosques whose minaret's loudspeakers had broadcast pleas for help, "There was a big American force that stopped us and told us the usual ugly phrases we hear from them every day."
Jassim, speaking with IPS while several other witnesses listened while nodding their heads, said that ambulances did not appear on the scene for hours because "we realised that the Americans did not allow them to move," and that as a result, "there were people buried under the rubble who were bleeding to death while there was still a chance to rescue them."
Jassim then burst into tears and walked away saying prayers to Allah to bless the souls of the dead.
A doctor at Ramadi's main hospital, Abdullah Salih, told reporters that 35 bodies had been brought in and he also believed that others had not been retrieved since access had been limited by ongoing U.S. military operations.
Another doctor, Kamal al-Ani, said that in addition to the dead, another 17 wounded had been brought into the hospital.
The scene at the hospital was tragic as doctors confirmed the reason of death for many as severe bleeding that had gone on for several hours. Most of the doctors were unwilling to discuss too many details for fear of U.S. military reprisals.
"You can notice the number of dead is at least twice as high as the number of wounded," one of the doctors, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. A local Iraqi policeman who identified himself as Khalif Obeidi told IPS that tanks had destroyed several houses in the area during the U.S. raid, killing more than 30 civilians.
"We know that those killed were innocent," said Obeidi, "although there have been attacks on the Americans from near that area in the past."
Residents of the city and relatives of the dead who were at the funeral were furious.
"There is no other way for the Sunnis than to fight," Ali Khudher, a 25-year-old carpenter who lost a relative in the attack told IPS. "It is a religious war and no one can deny that now."
Others who attended the mass funeral chanted anti-American, anti-Israeli, anti-Iranian and even slogans against the Islamic Party which is now part of the Iraqi government.
Tempers run high in Ramadi also because the city has often been the scene of large-scale U.S. military operations and their inherent forms of collective punishment.
Last June, thousands of residents were forced from their homes due to military operations, according to Maurizio Mascia, programme manager for the Italian Consortium of Solidarity (ICS), a non-governmental group based in Amman, Jordan that provides relief to refugees in Iraq.
At that time, Mascia told IPS, "The Americans, instead of attacking the city all at once like they've done in their previous operations in cities like Fallujah and Al-Qa'im, are using helicopters and ground troops to attack one district at a time in Ramadi."
Mirroring a complaint heard often from residents of Ramadi, Mascia said, "The main dangers for the population are the MNF (multi-national force) at the checkpoints and the snipers: both usually shoot at any movement that they consider dangerous -- causing many victims among civilians."
In a phone conversation with IPS, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Baghdad said he had no specific details of the incident and that "the U.S. military has been conducting ongoing patrols and security details in Al-Anbar for months now. Our efforts are always to attack the terrorists and protect the civilian population."
Posted by Dahr_Jamail at November 17, 2006 06:01 PM
A man like Santiago Alvarez, who can be heard on a telephone, calling on one of his underlings to throw C-4 explosives into Havana's Tropicana nightclub and "do away with all that"--all that being hundreds of people--a man like Santiago Alvarez who had machine guns, bazookas and grenades in a massive Miami arsenal, is sentenced to only a four-year prison sentence this week in a southern Florida federal court.
Yet, the Cuban Five, five men who were in Miami working to prevent a terrorist like Alvarez from killing innocent people, who never possessed a weapon, who never engaged nor intended to engage in the "espionage conspiracy" they were falsely convicted of, received 15 years to double life after their 2001 trial, and the added punishment of being denied family visits.
Alvarez and his accomplice Osvaldo Mitat were allowed to plead guilty to only one charge of weapons possession. Before their sentencing, federal judge James Cohn said, "This court recognizes the ultimate objective and goal of Mr. Alvarez and Mr. Mitat has always been a free and democratic Cuba. This court does not question the alruistic motive here. However we are a nation of laws."
The government's and courts' impunity towards the Miami terrorists is becoming more and more blatant.
Almost every day it seems, more news is coming to light in Miami of the vast and deep network of rightwing Cuban-American terrorists and their murderous plots: Antonio Llama, Roberto Ferro, Alvarez, Mitat, and of course, the most dangerous of them all, Luis Posada Carriles. Posada's cohort, Orlando Bosch, gets to appear regularly on Miami TV, itching to admit his atrocious crime of the 1976 bombing of Cubana Flight 455 that killed 73 people. Bosch and Posada worked hand-in-hand in the plane bombing.
Where is the justice?
Last Aug. 9, 2005, an historic and unprecedented ruling was made by a panel of three judges in the case of the Cuban Five. With a powerfully-worded 93-page decision granting the Five a new trial, the 11th Circuit Court judges ruled that the situation in Miami was a "perfect storm" effectively denying Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González the constitutional right to due process.
Part of that "perfect storm" described by the judges was the evidence of terrorist plots the Five had gathered while infiltrating the extremist Miami organizations. The trial judge Joan Lenard denied much of that evidence as irrelevant..
A new trial outside of Miami for the Cuban Five would have undoubtedly exonerated them. However, the hand of the Bush administration intervened last year, when U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appealed the Five's victory, to try to overturn the panel's ruling for a new trial.
Unfortunately, the en banc panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals set aside the Cuban Five's victory. It ruled ignominiously on Aug. 9, 2005, that the Five received a fair trial in Miami, and that Judge Lenard properly denied them a change of venue out of Miami.
While George W. Bush unleashes bombs and destruction causing the deaths of Iraqis, Afghanis and U.S. soldiers--all in the name of a supposed war on terror--he has remained completely silent about the rightwing Cuban-American terrorists who reside in the United States.
His actions are those of coddling the Cuban-American terrorists. U.S. Homeland Security waited two full months before arresting Luis Posada Carriles after he entered the United States illegally last year. When DHS was finally forced to detain Posada on May 17 because of a public press conference he held that morning, Homeland Security prosecutors avoided charging him with more serious crimes, like the Cubana plane bombing.
Instead, Posada's only formal charge to date is illegal immigration entry. To the extent that federal authorities may currently be investigating him for his role into several 1997 Cuban hotel bombings, it is probably to avoid prosecuting him for the plane bombing. That is because Bush Sr. was CIA director at the time of the Cubana bombing; Posada was a longtime CIA operative.
It is more than an oversight by Bush or previous presidents that Miami terrorists have existed, organized plots, and carried out attacks with total impunity.
The Miami terrorist phenomenon is financed, armed, and given a green light by the CIA, FBI and other arms of the government.
There is mounting evidence that proves without a doubt, terrorism against Cuba is part of U.S. government policy.
If the government won't listen to justice and reason in the case of the Cuban Five, if it instead chooses to vengefully prosecute them to keep them locked up for years for daring to defend their homeland of Cuba, then it is up to the people to fight ever more for their freedom. The Cuban Five's mission was not only saving Cuban lives, but protecting all potential victims of the Miami mafia, including U.S. people.
The American people would embrace the Five if they were only aware of their cause and mission. September 11 and Oklahoma are permanent reminders of the horror of terrorism. Terrorism against the Cuban people is no less criminal. More than 3,400 Cuban people have died from U.S.-originated terrorist attacks.
Justice demands that the Cuban Five anti-terrorist activists be freed immediately. In addition, Posada should be extradited to Venezuela or prosecuted fully in the United States for bombing of Cubana Flight 455.
Gloria La Riva is coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five in San Francisco. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Published on Friday, November 17, 2006 by the Associated Press
Signs of warming continue in the Arctic with a decline in sea ice, an increase in shrubs growing on the tundra and rising concerns about the Greenland ice sheet.
This satellite image released by NASA shows the concentration of Arctic sea ice in 2005. Signs of warming continue in the Arctic with a decline in sea ice, an increase in shrubs growing on the tundra and rising concerns about the Greenland ice sheet. (AP Photo/NASA, FILE)
"There have been regional warming periods before. Now we're seeing Arctic-wide changes," James Overland, an oceanographer at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, said Thursday.
For the past five years, it was at least 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit above average over the Arctic over the entire year, he said.
The new "State of the Arctic" analysis, released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also reports an increase in northward movement of warmer water through the Bering Strait in 2001-2004. This may have contributed to a continuing reduction of sea ice.
During that time, there were record lows in sea ice coverage in the region, Overland said. This year there was more normal coverage in the Bering area but a record low on the Atlantic side of the Arctic.
In the past when such a shift occurred, there would have been no net loss of ice overall, just a change in where there was a smaller amount. Now, however, there is both the shift and an overall net loss of ice, he said.
Indeed, the report said Arctic sea ice coverage this past March was the lowest in winter since measurements by satellite began in the early 1970s.
Jacqueline A. Richter-Menge of the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H., said the sea ice decline is now being observed in both winter and summer.
The study was designed to assess the overall impact of climate change in the Arctic and will be updated annually. It was compiled by researchers from the United States, Canada France, Germany, Poland, Norway, Sweden and Russia, she said.
In addition, 2007 has been designated the International Year of the Arctic, with intense scientific study of the region planned.
There have been many changes over the Arctic land areas, too, said Vladimir E. Romanovsky, a professor at the geophysical institute of the University of Alaska. These include changes in vegetation, river discharge into the Arctic Ocean, glaciers and permafrost.
The tundra is becoming greener with the growth of more shrubs, he said. This development is causing problems in some areas as herds of reindeer migrate.
At the same time, there is some decrease in the greening of the northern forest areas, probably due to drought. The glaciers are continuing to shrink and river discharge into the Arctic Ocean is rising, Romanovsky said.
There has been a significant warming of the permafrost over the past 30 years, he added.
Much of the damage to the permafrost soil can be blamed on human construction activities and fires, he said. In many areas, this frozen ground is close to the melting point and soon could begin to thaw.
Overland said the changes are affecting wildlife in the Arctic. Those in the middle levels of the ocean, such as pollock, seem to do well; those on the surface ice or the sea floor, such as walrus or crabs, are not coping as well.
"We're seeing a lot of indicators of climate change in the Arctic and that may be an indicator for change in other parts of the world," Overland said.
Most of the heating from the sun comes to the equator and subequatorial regions, and a lot of heat leaves by radiation from Arctic, he said.
"The temperature difference between the Arctic and equator drives all of our weather," Overland said. If the Arctic warms up and that difference is reduced, weather could change, though people remain unsure about the effect.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Victory this week for the workers at Thompson's Roller Shutters in Turella. The Thompson's workers had been out for 4 weeks and the turnaround in the dispute was a number of community pickets of 30-40 each.
5 Exell St, Banksmeadows (Southeastern suburbs)
Delegate sacked after disagreeing with management over OH&S issue.
Have been 4 community pickets at site and will be more to come. We are heavily involved in this campaign.
Trafalger Building Products
42 Lisbon St, Villawood
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU)
EBA campaign as part of Campaign 2006? Company seeking AWAs.
6am to 3pm
Australian Aluminium Finishing
23 Davis Rd, Wetherill Park
6 Wenban Pl, Wetherill Park
National Union of Workers
Company trying to impose AWAs on workers who want a collective agreement, won't negotiate with union.
Saint Gobain Abrasives
Nyang st, Lidcombe and
148 Netwon Rd, Wetherill Park
National Union of Workers
Company trying to terminate an existing collective agreement to impose AWAs, refusing to enter into discussions with the Union. Has sacked two long-time Delegates who refused to sign AWAs (reinstated earlier this week).