Monthly Archives: November 2012

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Now Israel is Really in Trouble…

From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency…yes, the title of my post is meant to be sarcastic


Source: Stevie Wonder to cancel Friends of IDF gig

November 28, 2012

(JTA) — Stevie Wonder is set to pull out of a performance at a fundraiser for the Israel Defense Forces,  a source told JTA.

Wonder’s representatives will claim that he did not know the nature of the group, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, and that he believes such a performance would be incongruent with his status as a U.N. “Messenger of Peace,” according to a source who has read email exchanges between Wonder’s representatives and organizers of the event.

Wonder was scheduled to headline the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces annual gala in Los Angeles on Dec. 6. The event raises millions of dollars annually to support the Israeli military.

An official of Friends of the IDF, reached at its Los Angeles office, had no comment. Wonder’s agent at Creative Artists Agency did not return a request for comment.

The spokesman for the U.N. Secretary General also had no comment on the matter.

The United Nations does not impose restrictions on its goodwill representatives. Wonder most recently performed at a U.N. concert commemoratiing its 67th anniversary. Elie Wiesel, the Nobele Peace Laureate and Holocaust memoirist who is also a staunch defender of Israel is also a U.N. Messenger of Peace.

Wonder had come under intense social media pressure to pull out of the event. An online petition calling on him to cancel his performance had garnered more than 3,600 signatures.

The petition was launched more than a day ago on the website.

“You were arrested in 1985 protesting South African Apartheid, now we ask you: please remember that apartheid is apartheid, whether it comes from White Afrikaaner settlers of South Africa or from Jewish Israelis in Israel,” the petition reads. “Desmond Tutu has recognized that Israel’s Apartheid is worse than South Africa’s — will you stand with us against apartheid and cancel your performance at the IDF fundraiser.”

A second petition, launched by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, calls on Wonder to “(p)lease continue your legacy of speaking out for the oppressed. Please be a ‘full-time lover’ of justice by standing on the right side of history and canceling your performance for the Israeli army.”

Wonder performed at a 1998 gala honoring Israel’s 50th anniversary.


Support Wal-Mart Workers

An organization of Wal-Mart workers called “OUR Walmart” is staging a number of walkouts on Black Friday and are otherwise trying to get Wal-Mart to adopt fairer labor practices.  The group has an online petition, which is pasted below, that can be signed at their website.  The video at the bottom is Democracy Now’s report on this group.

I think it is important to keep in mind that these type of workers face losing their jobs and the only way that can be avoided, or that Wal-Mart will adopt fair labor practices, is if the workers receive public support.

We, the hourly Associates, are the life-blood of Walmart. Our company is stronger because of the values we embrace – a strong work ethic, compassion for one another and honesty. Yet we are not treated with the respect we deserve. The fundamental desire to be shown respect is what led us to join together as OUR Walmart – an organization of Walmart Associates, by Walmart Associates, for Walmart Associates. We are one Organization United for Respect at Walmart.

  • One of Sam Walton’s rules for building a successful business was, “Listen to everyone in your company and figure out ways to get them talking.” We are following that winning philosophy. However, too many of us do not have a true voice at our stores. Our concerns about providing the highest quality customer care and about making our jobs, quality jobs are ignored. Walmart should listen to OUR Walmart, celebrate our initiative, and follow our recommendations.
  • We are the foundation of the quality service and value Walmart provides its customers. Walmart should honor the hard work and humanity of Associates by living up to Mr. Sam’s promise of “respect for the individual.”
  • Associates who assert their freedom of association frequently face retribution from the company. Walmart should allow Associates to freely join OUR Walmart without fear of negative company action.
  • Associates who have tried to utilize Walmart’s Open Door have found that their issues are not resolved and confidentiality is not respected. Walmart should ensure confidentiality in the Open Door and provide in writing resolution to issues that are brought up and always allow associates to bring a co-worker as a witness.
  • Walmart publicly claims that pay for full-time Associates averages more than $13 per hour in some communities, when in truth most of us work for less than $10 per hour and are only scheduled for part-time hours, making it difficult to support our families. Walmart should follow through on its public statements and pay at least $13 per hour and expand the percentage of full-time workers.
  • Our schedules are often irregular and inflexible making it difficult to care for our families. Walmart should make scheduling more predictable and dependable.
  • Too many of us are unable to access Walmart’s health care because it is too expensive or we lack the hours to qualify. Walmart should expand health care coverage and continue to work to expand coverage when health reform goes into effect, rather than taking advantage of loopholes in the law to deny coverage.
  • Too often Associates are faced with retaliation when speaking out about issues at work. Walmart should honor our constitutional right to freedom of speech and adhere to company policies that support dialogue and resolution.
  • Walmart’s management often chooses to enforce written policies only when it is in their own interest, leaving Associates guessing proper protocol. Walmart should do more to ensure managers are properly trained on how to evenly and equitably enforce Walmart’s written policies at all times and to provide all Associates with a policy manual.
  • Too many of us have been denied equal treatment. Walmart should adopt affirmative policies that secure full access to opportunity and equal treatment to all Associates regardless of gender identity, race, disability, sexual orientation, or age.
  • We know our company has an impact around the globe in terms of its standards and practices. Walmart should require that suppliers and stores around the globe operate with the highest standards and ensure that workers’ freedom to associate is respected.
  • Far too many of us have to rely on government assistance for our basic needs. Walmart should provide wages and benefits that ensure that no Associate has to rely on government assistance.

We envision a future in which our company treats us, the Associates of Walmart, with respect. We envision a world where we succeed in our careers, our company succeeds in business, our customers receive great service and value, and Walmart and Associates share all of these goals. And finally, we close with one more rule from Mr. Sam: “Share your profits with all your Associates, and treat them as partners.”



Israelis Calling for War Crimes

A few Israelis are really off the deep end.  Not just sort of wacky, but really off the absolute deep end in their calling for the killing of civilians.  In the past few days:

Interior Minister Eli Yishai said,

The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Only then will Israel be calm for forty years.”

Ariel Sharon’s son, Gilad Sharon said in a Jerusalem Post op-ed,

There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire…We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.”

He added,

To prevent harm to innocent civilians in Gaza will ultimately lead to harming the truly innocent: the residents of southern Israel. The residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas. The Gazans aren’t hostages; they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.”

Obama’s Hypocrisy on Missiles

This weekend Obama said:

There’s no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians.”

So does this mean Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen all have the right to defend themselves from us?  Do they have to “tolerate” it?


Republican Economics the Same in 1920’s and Today

Since I teach high school history, I thought I’d share a couple graphs I found for one of my classes.  During the 1920’s, GNP per capita was increasing…

But gains were concentrated the top…

Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were the proponents of supply-side economics and “rugged individualism” from 1921-1932.   Republicans spout the same ideas today.  Look at 2007 in the graph above.  Do we have any reason to think the superrich aren’t at it again?

What If Iran Had a Drone 18.5 miles off the US coast?

It was just released this evening that the US is claiming Iran attempted, but failed to shoot down a US drone, eliciting warnings to Iran.  One very quick but important observation: If Iran had a drone about 18.5 miles off the coast of the US, would we just let it be, since after all it would be in international waters?

Owners of “The Corporation” Movie Seem to Put Profit First

I have to go on a bit of a rant against what should be a good leftist project that has run amok.  Many years ago I saw the excellent documentary “The Corporation,” which examines the corporation as an institution and it’s anti-social nature.  Yet when I went to the film’s website today, it is filled with marketing garbage that you would expect from a typical corporation.  Enticements to buy “The Corporation” sweatshirts and other products are prominently displayed.  The site is operated by, which describes itself as “an interactive agency that works exclusively on social cause projects and campaigns. We create, support and promote transmedia content and use grassroots and mainstream methods to get the good word out!”
This sound like basically a leftist marketing agency to promote good causes.  Some of the causes sound reasonable, but I question the basic idea of a profit-based business promoting an institutional critique of the modern corporation.  A corporation obviously is different than a business like, but the profit-based motive they share is part of the film’s critique, at least as I interpet it.  Marketing what you think is a worthy cause as hip and cool simply masks this.

I think what upsets me more as a high school teacher is that their lesson plans associated with showing the movie are only available if you buy the DVD Educational Resource for $195.  The only way this will be bought is if a whole social studies department decides they want to invest their scarce resources in buying it.  What about the teacher who wants to show the movie with the educational resources but can’t because his department doesn’t want to buy it?

I don’t necessarily mind needing to pay for educational materials, or even $195 for good ones, but it upsets me that a movie that could be such an excellent resource for those who want to challenge the power of corporations is behaving just like a business.  It shows that the message is not the main priority. On the “Can I show the film at school” section of their website it says “You can show your personal DVD to as many people as you like, and the filmmakers encourage you to do so. However, in an institutional setting such as a high school or university, a different set of rules applies. Showing the film in these settings requires additional rights.”

The movie was made a long time ago and I assume it’s makers have been compensated.  Yet years later the people who own the rights are more concerned about continuing to make money off of its showing than educating the public.  I would very much like to hear how the rights owners justify this.  I posted a comment on the site’s blog and hope to hear back.

Brief Thoughts on Obama’s Reelection and Health Care

For reasons discussed in my previous post, I think we can be thankful that Obama won the election, or to be more accurate, happy that Romney lost.  The biggest difference is that Obama’s healthcare reform can stay intact.  (A good Huffington Post piece on this was posted today.)  Obviously, it would be nice to not have insurance companies at all and some kind of a single-payer system instead.  But nonetheless, it is important that almost everyone will have health insurance, especially if you keep in mind the Medicaid expansion.  There is good reason to be concerned about keeping premiums down over the long-term, but the fact that the insurance industry will be regulated much more heavily and will not be able to charge more for people based on their health status could end up improving the overall health of the American people.  Leftists (including myself) should keep in mind that saving people’s lives is a good thing, even (or perhaps especially) in a capitalist system.

And now for reactions to Obama’s victory from his opponents…

Blatant Class Warfare Makes Republicans Far More Dangerous

With the presidential election just about upon us, I am in a state of real worry.  If Obama wins, there are certainly profound dangers such as militarism abroad which sooner or later will revisit us in future 9/11’s, climate change, and continued concentration of power in a small, wealthy elite.  But if Romney wins, the right is just going to punch the working and middle classes in the face.  The repeal of the Affordable Care Act would not only set back chances for bringing down health care costs for Americans, but would be a blow to future attempts to create social welfare policies.  In a 1954 letter to his brother, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower said the following:

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things…Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

He was saying they were stupid because trying to end such welfare state programs would be political suicide, but times have changed and Republicans can wage blatant class warfare with little difficulty.  Hence Romney/Ryan’s desire to make Medicare a voucher system and cut huge swaths of social spending.   Progressives and leftists still have serious work to do if Obama is reelected, but that work will be much harder and the obstacles greater if Romney does.