Wednesday, 01 July 2015 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Speakout

SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

A new collection of specters haunts the earth: 72 workers killed May 13 in a slipper factory fire in the Valenzuela district of Manila. There was no accident. That fire and those workers burning to death are part of the brutal architecture of industrial production. Every report covers up more than it reveals, and the workers, charred beyond recognition, wait for nothing now.

The fire "started" when sparks set off an explosion. The slaughter of the innocents began long before the spark. The windows were covered, sealed tight, by metal gratings. Even now, the local mayor isn't sure the building had any fire escapes.

The author examines a recently-released study from the US Government Accountability Office, titled: "Unmanned Aerial Systems: Actions Needed to Improve DOD Pilot Training." Below is a summary of his conclusions.

May 22

Dear Garry McCarthy

By Kelly Hayes, Transformative Spaces | Op-Ed

Chicago's top cop announced the commencement of his "listening tour" - a project inspired by events in Ferguson and Baltimore, that will involve McCarthy and his rank and file "asking what they are doing wrong, and what they can do better." The idea of Chicago's chronically abusive and largely inept police organizing an effort of this kind would be laughable if the issues involved weren't so pressing, painful, and potentially deadly.

For starters, there's no need. "Listening" is a skill that McCarthy and his people could have answered all of their questions with long before tensions boiled over in Baltimore. .

Santa Barbara, California - The company that owns the pipeline involved in Tuesday’s major oil spill in Santa Barbara has had 175 “spill incidents” nationwide since 2006, including 11 in California, according to a Center for Biological Diversity analysis of federal documents.

Plains Pipeline (a subsidiary of Plains All-American Pipeline) has also had federal enforcement actions initiated against it 20 times since 2006 for its operations across the country, according to data from the U.S. Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Many of those cases involve corrosion control and maintenance problems on its pipelines, including two cases in 2009 for which the company was fined $115,600.

May 22

Memorial Day: It Is for Us, the Living

By Gregory D. Foster, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Memorial Day is a day for remembrance and commemoration of those who have died in military service – not least in America’s perpetual wars. Even more, though, should it be a time for reflection and reevaluation of the warring impulse and the human price it exacts. I speak as one whose life journey has progressed from small-town boy possessed of patriotic impulses and martial dreams, to eager and ambitious military officer, to dutiful practitioner of failed war, to disillusioned military officer, to unregenerate opponent of all war, whatever its form or purpose.

My journey began when I left home for West Point. I was then captive of an unquestioningly patriotic mentality bestowed on me, unknowingly, by my high school principal. Picture this woman – in her Nurse Ratched shoes; her hair in a severe perm that prefigured Ruth Buzzi’s Gladys Ormphby and Dana Carvey’s Church Lady; her physique the envy of offensive linemen everywhere; her demeanor akin to Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi. Addressing us, her charges, in our cramped high school auditorium, she sought to fan the flames of fiery football fanaticism (thank you, gods of alliteration) by relating her experience at that year’s Sugar Bowl. Some around her had failed to stand for the playing of the National Anthem. At which point, she barked – she didn’t just speak, she barked (doggedly) – “If there are any red-blooded Americans among you, STAND UP!”

Today'low-wage workers are both older and much better-educated than the average low-wage worker in the past. In theory, this should mean that these workers also earn much more the in the past. A high school degree, an associate's degree from a two year college, a bachelor's degree from a four year college or an advanced degree adds to a worker's skills. Likewise, each year of work experience also adds to a worker's skills. Strikingly, though, a new issue brief from the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that low-wage workers have not seen a commensurate increase in pay.

"These workers have done all the things you would expect to make more money," said Cherrie Bucknor of CEPR and the author of the brief. "They have finished high school or gotten a degree and have work experience. Nevertheless, they still find themselves underpaid."

The Cornucopia Institute harshly criticized the USDA for its failure to conduct an investigation of 14 legal complaints filed by the Wisconsin-based organic industry watchdog group last December. The complaints allege a systemic pattern of livestock management violations occurring on some of the nation's biggest certified organic "factory farm" poultry and dairy operations.

In their brief letter to Cornucopia, the National Organic Program's (NOP) director of Compliance and Enforcement stated that the agency "has determined that an investigation is unwarranted." Last December, after an investment of seven months and tens of thousands of dollars, Cornucopia filed 14 complaints with the NOP utilizing evidence primarily gathered through high resolution aerial photographic examinations of industrial-scale certified organic dairies and poultry operations. The hundreds of images taken documented an overwhelming absence of dairy cows on pasture, and the exclusive confinement of hundreds of thousands of egg laying hens and meat birds inside buildings.

Tyler Cowen warns readers in his Upshot piece that we may be entering a new era in which growth is weak and the bulk of the workforce, including those with college degrees, see stagnant or declining wages. The warning is well taken, but what's missing is a serious discussion of the policies that are driving this outcome.

Cowen begins his story by pointing out that universities are replacing tenured faculty with low-paid adjuncts. He points out that major manufacturers are doing something similar by paying new hires much less than their incumbent workforce. He could also point to the large number of people who end up working in low paying sectors like retail and restaurants, including many with college degrees.

Today was an incredible step forward in the struggle to fully fund education in Washington state: our union, the Seattle Education Association (SEA), went on a one day strike, joining over 50 local educators' unions in a rolling strike wave to demand that the State Legislature spend billions of more dollars on the schools.

I have been part of a rank-and-file organization in Seattle called the Social Equality Educators (SEE) who have argued for years that if we want to achieve the schools our students deserve, we will have to take collective action to force those in power to back down.  We have helped organize collective action in the victorious MAP test boycott, the successful Garfield High School walkout against the proposed displacement of one of our teachers, and to support the mass boycotts of the SBAC testing this year.  However, we have said that if the union as a whole were to take up these struggles, the power of our thousands of  educators across the city would be strong enough to reverse the attack by the corporate education reformers.

Apple Blossom School has a nice ring to it, as does the Orchard View School at its side. The nearby Tree House Hollow pre-school, with children as young as two and three years old, continues this agrarian theme. These names evoke a pleasant scene of trees with students, teachers, and staff relaxing outside during recesses, as in old-fashioned one-room schools.

The winding rural Watertrough Road in the countryside around small town Sebastopol in Sonoma County, Northern California, leads to these rural schools, which have over 500 students. Sebastopol was known for decades as the home of the tasty Gravenstein apple. YUM! YUM!

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Speakout

SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

A new collection of specters haunts the earth: 72 workers killed May 13 in a slipper factory fire in the Valenzuela district of Manila. There was no accident. That fire and those workers burning to death are part of the brutal architecture of industrial production. Every report covers up more than it reveals, and the workers, charred beyond recognition, wait for nothing now.

The fire "started" when sparks set off an explosion. The slaughter of the innocents began long before the spark. The windows were covered, sealed tight, by metal gratings. Even now, the local mayor isn't sure the building had any fire escapes.

The author examines a recently-released study from the US Government Accountability Office, titled: "Unmanned Aerial Systems: Actions Needed to Improve DOD Pilot Training." Below is a summary of his conclusions.

May 22

Dear Garry McCarthy

By Kelly Hayes, Transformative Spaces | Op-Ed

Chicago's top cop announced the commencement of his "listening tour" - a project inspired by events in Ferguson and Baltimore, that will involve McCarthy and his rank and file "asking what they are doing wrong, and what they can do better." The idea of Chicago's chronically abusive and largely inept police organizing an effort of this kind would be laughable if the issues involved weren't so pressing, painful, and potentially deadly.

For starters, there's no need. "Listening" is a skill that McCarthy and his people could have answered all of their questions with long before tensions boiled over in Baltimore. .

Santa Barbara, California - The company that owns the pipeline involved in Tuesday’s major oil spill in Santa Barbara has had 175 “spill incidents” nationwide since 2006, including 11 in California, according to a Center for Biological Diversity analysis of federal documents.

Plains Pipeline (a subsidiary of Plains All-American Pipeline) has also had federal enforcement actions initiated against it 20 times since 2006 for its operations across the country, according to data from the U.S. Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Many of those cases involve corrosion control and maintenance problems on its pipelines, including two cases in 2009 for which the company was fined $115,600.

May 22

Memorial Day: It Is for Us, the Living

By Gregory D. Foster, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Memorial Day is a day for remembrance and commemoration of those who have died in military service – not least in America’s perpetual wars. Even more, though, should it be a time for reflection and reevaluation of the warring impulse and the human price it exacts. I speak as one whose life journey has progressed from small-town boy possessed of patriotic impulses and martial dreams, to eager and ambitious military officer, to dutiful practitioner of failed war, to disillusioned military officer, to unregenerate opponent of all war, whatever its form or purpose.

My journey began when I left home for West Point. I was then captive of an unquestioningly patriotic mentality bestowed on me, unknowingly, by my high school principal. Picture this woman – in her Nurse Ratched shoes; her hair in a severe perm that prefigured Ruth Buzzi’s Gladys Ormphby and Dana Carvey’s Church Lady; her physique the envy of offensive linemen everywhere; her demeanor akin to Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi. Addressing us, her charges, in our cramped high school auditorium, she sought to fan the flames of fiery football fanaticism (thank you, gods of alliteration) by relating her experience at that year’s Sugar Bowl. Some around her had failed to stand for the playing of the National Anthem. At which point, she barked – she didn’t just speak, she barked (doggedly) – “If there are any red-blooded Americans among you, STAND UP!”

Today'low-wage workers are both older and much better-educated than the average low-wage worker in the past. In theory, this should mean that these workers also earn much more the in the past. A high school degree, an associate's degree from a two year college, a bachelor's degree from a four year college or an advanced degree adds to a worker's skills. Likewise, each year of work experience also adds to a worker's skills. Strikingly, though, a new issue brief from the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that low-wage workers have not seen a commensurate increase in pay.

"These workers have done all the things you would expect to make more money," said Cherrie Bucknor of CEPR and the author of the brief. "They have finished high school or gotten a degree and have work experience. Nevertheless, they still find themselves underpaid."

The Cornucopia Institute harshly criticized the USDA for its failure to conduct an investigation of 14 legal complaints filed by the Wisconsin-based organic industry watchdog group last December. The complaints allege a systemic pattern of livestock management violations occurring on some of the nation's biggest certified organic "factory farm" poultry and dairy operations.

In their brief letter to Cornucopia, the National Organic Program's (NOP) director of Compliance and Enforcement stated that the agency "has determined that an investigation is unwarranted." Last December, after an investment of seven months and tens of thousands of dollars, Cornucopia filed 14 complaints with the NOP utilizing evidence primarily gathered through high resolution aerial photographic examinations of industrial-scale certified organic dairies and poultry operations. The hundreds of images taken documented an overwhelming absence of dairy cows on pasture, and the exclusive confinement of hundreds of thousands of egg laying hens and meat birds inside buildings.

Tyler Cowen warns readers in his Upshot piece that we may be entering a new era in which growth is weak and the bulk of the workforce, including those with college degrees, see stagnant or declining wages. The warning is well taken, but what's missing is a serious discussion of the policies that are driving this outcome.

Cowen begins his story by pointing out that universities are replacing tenured faculty with low-paid adjuncts. He points out that major manufacturers are doing something similar by paying new hires much less than their incumbent workforce. He could also point to the large number of people who end up working in low paying sectors like retail and restaurants, including many with college degrees.

Today was an incredible step forward in the struggle to fully fund education in Washington state: our union, the Seattle Education Association (SEA), went on a one day strike, joining over 50 local educators' unions in a rolling strike wave to demand that the State Legislature spend billions of more dollars on the schools.

I have been part of a rank-and-file organization in Seattle called the Social Equality Educators (SEE) who have argued for years that if we want to achieve the schools our students deserve, we will have to take collective action to force those in power to back down.  We have helped organize collective action in the victorious MAP test boycott, the successful Garfield High School walkout against the proposed displacement of one of our teachers, and to support the mass boycotts of the SBAC testing this year.  However, we have said that if the union as a whole were to take up these struggles, the power of our thousands of  educators across the city would be strong enough to reverse the attack by the corporate education reformers.

Apple Blossom School has a nice ring to it, as does the Orchard View School at its side. The nearby Tree House Hollow pre-school, with children as young as two and three years old, continues this agrarian theme. These names evoke a pleasant scene of trees with students, teachers, and staff relaxing outside during recesses, as in old-fashioned one-room schools.

The winding rural Watertrough Road in the countryside around small town Sebastopol in Sonoma County, Northern California, leads to these rural schools, which have over 500 students. Sebastopol was known for decades as the home of the tasty Gravenstein apple. YUM! YUM!