Baltimore a sign of crisis in America

March 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Leonard Gray used to leave his house in Baltimore every day to come to the Inner Harbor. It was a job, a living and a piece of Baltimore’s million-dollar revival. Until one day, Gray and the other 160 employees of Disney’s ESPN Zone were laid off.

“I worked here at ESPN Zone for six years and without notice they gave us the ax, they threw us out like we was just some paper cups,” Gray said.

That’s how Leonard joined the ranks of Baltimore’s unemployed – it’s a crowded place with 11.4 percent of the city’s residents.

“Right now, I’m struggling to survive, struggling to pay my bills, sometimes I can’t go to the market to eat,” Gray said.

But business is booming in the Inner Harbor, a luxury retail and dining district that the city has sunk millions into and made its model of economic development.

“People think that the Inner Harbor is a happy-go-lucky place, but they don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. People are being disrespected, people are getting unfair wages,” said Gray.

Like much of America–where the richest 20 percent own 84 percent of the wealth–Baltimore’s harbor is split along class lines, said Luis Larrin, a labor organizer with the grassroots United Workers organization.

“The workers who work in these restaurants can’t even eat what they’re cooking because they’re charged the same price,” Larrin said. “$7.00 for a hamburger, an hour’s wage. They could never even think of bringing their families to spend the day here.”

It’s also split along racial lines, said sociologist and Professor Kris Marsh.

“You can say it’s a class thing, but ironically enough most of the people who are pushed out by this new development happen to be blacks, or happen to be Latinos,” said Marsh.

Just a few blocks East or West of the Harbor, the reality is much different–a city crumbling under the weight of foreclosures and crushing economic crisis.

It was against this backdrop that President Obama announced 1.1 trillion dollars in cuts to the budget last month. On the domestic spending chopping block were 13.9 billion dollars in cuts to food stamp programs, which about 530,000 Maryland depend on. Maryland has seen a 32 percent increase since in food stamp recipients since 2008.

Currently, 20 percent of Baltimore residents live below the poverty line–six percent more than when Obama stopped here days before his inauguration in 2009.

“This is what I believe, Baltimore, but you made this belief real. You proved once more the people who love this country can change it,” US President Barack Obama told a massive crowd gathered in 2009, days before his inauguration.

But residents in these blocks and blocks of abandoned row-houses told us that they haven’t been able to change the spreading poverty threatening to engulf more and more of Baltimore.

Ylan Mui, a staff writer for the Washington Post explained the system of capitalism creates a byproduct of inequality; it’s how the system is structured.

“The question becomes, what are the social implications of that?” she said. “What are the economic implications of that? Does such a large amount of wealth being concentrated among the top tiers of American households, does that simulate economic growth, does that trickle down to other economic classes? What we are really grappling with is not necessarily the fact of income inequality, but the magnitude of income inequality.”

Across the world and in the US food prices have been rising, further impacting lower income earners, a growing group in the US.

“Lower income households spend a large portion of their income on food, on these basic necessities. That leaves them less money to spend on discretionary items, which is one thing that actually helps drive the economy,” Mui said.

She explained it is important to think about the impact of food on consumers when measuring economic growth and costs. Necessity items are where most is spent for low income earners, and these items do not contribute to economic growth in the same was as other products.

“Income inequality needs to be rectified,” she added. “There is a growing recognition that it is a problem.”

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Protests In Wisconsin: Union Protests Spread Across The US

February 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Over 20,000 angry union supporters gathered at the Wisconsin state capital expressing opposition to an anti-union bill and an end to Walker’s governorship. Now, pro-union protests have spread to other states proposing cutbacks.

Republican lawmakers are trying to secure quorum in Wisconsin to hold a vote on a measure to kill the collective bargaining rights of state union workers, however the Democratic law makers have refused to show up at the legislature and have fled the state to avoid being brought into the capital by state police.

The Republican controlled Senate dispatched the state troopers to find the Democrats, but they were unsuccessful. A group of them have opted to stay in a hotel just on the other side of the state line in Illinois.

Without quorum a vote cannot be held, effectively stalling the passage of the legislation.

Meanwhile, the State legislature in Tennessee has also proposed a bill that will dissolve the collective bargaining rights of the state’s teachers and proposed police layoffs in Hartford, Connecticut were met with hundreds of police marching the it streets, expressing their opposition. In Ohio crowds of hundreds have descended on the state capitol to protest legislation that would strip all state employees of their collective bargaining rights.

Opposition to cuts to workers and labor rights continue to be met with opposition, opposition which appears to be speeding across the country.

The Wisconsin protest is being called the largest set of protests the state has encountered in years.

Widely seen as the boldest anti-union bill in the nation, the law has been engineered to combat the $3.6 billion state budget shortfall.

If passed, the law would bring about a major political shift in Wisconsin. The state has been widely seen as progressive in the past, being the first state to pass comprehensive pro-union legislation in 1959.

Over 40 percent of the 2,600 unionized teachers and staff called in sick in Madison, Wisconsin, forcing the State’s second largest school district to cancel school for the day.

The state’s prisons are staffed by unionized guards. These guards would lose their bargaining rights under the new law. So far, the guards have not opted to protest or walk out. That may change.

Under the proposed law, unions could not force employees to pay dues, but could choose to represent state workers. However, they could not seek pay increases above the listed maximum in the Consumer Price Index without approval from a public referendum.

In exchange for the loss of their labor rights, the state government would promise not to engage in furloughs or layoffs. If the bill fails, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has threatened to lay-off 6,000 state workers.

Walker plans to move forward, insisting he has the necessary votes in the state legislature to pass the bill.

Support for the measure comes from the state’s Republicans who control the legislature. The state’s Democrats and union members adamantly oppose the proposed law. The Republicans claim they have the votes, despite public outcry, to pass the new law.

Activists nevertheless are pushing for a ‘citizen’s filibuster’ to prevent the passage of the bill by forcing discussion into unsociable hours.

While a number of other US states are considering bills which target labor rights, Wisconsin’s is by far the most antagonistic anti-labor measure aimed at solving budgetary shortfalls.

David Vines, a protestor and a student at the University of Wisconsin argued the Republican controlled state government is trying to bust up unions and is creating a culture war to drive poor people away from the polls.

He explained the government was elected based on promises of jobs, but instead has opted to take on issues people see as less vital, such as voter ID rules and anti-union laws.

“They are not concerned about jobs at all right now,” he said. “They come in here and they try and bust up unions and use these culture wars as a way to drive younger people and poorer people away from polls.”

Radio Host Alex Jones said this is a huge development, and the main driver behind the protests is the economy as a whole which has been driven down by the inflated dollar.

Austerity and globalism are impacting the world, what began in Europe, and the Middle East is spreading to the US, he contended.

“We’re seeing massive protests, riots. We’re seeing people get very angry,” Jones said. “We’ve seen the governor of Wisconsin threaten preemptively to call out the National Guard.”

He added, “The question is will the people be victorious against this or will the offshore robber barons of the new world order be successful brining in their new world government?”

Jones argued the protests have been coordinated and organized by international powers in order to create reasons to bring in a new global power structure and eventually a world government.

U.S. With Corporate Media Tries To Lead Iran Protests

February 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Hillary Clinton had instantly recognized them by referring to them as the Iranian “opposition” a few months ago: “We continue talking with them and supporting the opposition.” The same government that, in the words of Juan Gelman, had so many ups and downs against the protests against the government of their ally Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, now they have thrown themselves into the effort to head up support to those who are allegedly fighting the government in Tehran, granting them a semblance of legitimacy.

by Iroel Sánchez

Rebellion

Hillary Clinton had instantly recognized them by referring to them as the Iranian “opposition” a few months ago: “We continue talking with them and supporting the opposition.” The same government that, in the words of Juan Gelman, had so many ups and downs against the protests against the government of their ally Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, now they have thrown themselves into the effort to head up support to those who are allegedly fighting the government in Tehran, granting them a semblance of legitimacy.

Towards this end, the U.S. State Department has opened a Twitter account USAdarFarsi to encourage those who do what America wants. Quickly, in an instant, the mainstream Western media, for example, the Spanish press started talking about repression in the Iranian capital, showing images of a burning trash can they call a “barricade” (El País–The Country), and a video in which a small group People burn a blanket on a busy road to the indifference of passing drivers (Público–Public) which was used to talk about victims of firearms.

Once again the technique of self-fulfilling prophecy begins to operate from the media against U.S. enemies, announcing in advance what the White House wants to happen. In this case, the goal is to divert the anti-imperialist and popular rebellion in the Middle East against the main enemy of the United States and Israel in the area and prevent the fire from reaching regimes such as Morocco and Saudi Arabia, faithful servants of the Empire.

And not only is the United States acting in this case, the consul of the Spanish government in Tehran who was weeks ago so reluctant to investigate and condemn the Moroccan regime’s crimes against the Saharawi people, spent four hours at a police station in Iran “after being stopped when I strolled through the center of Tehran while the ‘protests’ were taking place “…

Much ado about nothing, the U.S. is desperate to deflect attention. See the picture showing the “thousands” of demonstrators, and this is just Tehran. The rest of the country is, well, er. quietly living in peace. University of Tehran Professor Seyed Mohammad Marandi said no more than “a few hundred rioters” were in downtown Tehran.

However, just survey the western corporate media. Being dusted off are the stories that failed so miserably not long ago, trying to push Washington’s agenda.

The Empire is now determined to even the score in the Middle East, by generating displays of mass discontent to bring down a U.S. adversary in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Obama’s National Security Advisor, Tom Donilon, issued an official, White House letterhead statement, declaring as a matter of U.S. policy that Iran must allow protests of whatever sort the Obama Administration wishes to encourage.

In other words, they will try to “get something going” in Iran. The administration will fail, and the spectacle will be disheartening for them.

Did somebody say “demonstrators” for hire?

Here’s looking forward to seeing them fall on their faces once again. It’s over…

U.S. with corporate media tries to lead Iran protests

Russian military has only a few minutes to hit target missiles

February 17, 2011 Leave a comment

The target missiles Strizh (“Swift Bird”) and Kaban (“Wild Boar”) are a must for full-scale tests of air defense systems such as the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system, which will be tested on February 19 at Kapustin Yar, near Astrakhan.

Target missiles are a specific type of military equipment – a kind of simulator used to train the missile battery crews of the air defense forces. These targets are used to test new air defense systems before they are used in service.

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An Empire Of US Military Bases?

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

The United States boats hundreds of military bases around the world, perhaps even thousands. But, no one knows for sure because even the Pentagon does not bother to keep track.

Historian and journalist Nick Turse explained, “What I’m relatively sure of is that there are no less than 1,077 US bases or sites in foreign countries….and likely there are many more than that, we just can’t be sure.”

What is known is that the US Defense budget is now about the equal to military spending in all other countries combined, and since 9/11, military and security expenditures have soared 119 percent.

Some of these bases are on tiny islands, and some, like Guantanamo Bay, serve dual purposes.

A great deal of money goes towards maintaining those bases, but once again, taxpayers and the military do not know exactly how much is allocated towards construction and maintenance at each.

Experts argue the reason for sustaining all these military installations abroad is to “maintain a far flung global empire,” and they point out that in places like Saudi Arabia and Okinawa, US military presence has been denounced by locals.

“Cleary there’s no need from the point of view of self defense for the US to have military installations all over the world. It’s really part of maintaining a far flung global empire, and at the heart of the empire and corporate and banking interests and elites that the US military is defending. Each place that the United States has a military base, the US has political power, economic power, and it’s a matter of coercion,” said Brian Becker of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition.

A local Kyrgyz man told RT, “We are living here and raising our children. Why do we need this US Air base?”

In Okinawa, locals are forced to give up ten to twenty percent of the island to the US military for a base that they associate with noise, crime, and pollution. Some say the US plays under a double standard when it comes to this.

Becker argued, “The United States would never tolerate China having military bases in Canada, in Mexico, in Haiti, in the DR, in other words in countries that ring the United States. It’s not a question of law, it’s a question of might makes right. In other words, the United States is the 700 pound gorilla. It sits wherever it chooses to sit.”

While the US chooses to “sit wherever,” those most affected by these bases, both at home and abroad, don’t necessarily have a place at the table.

Jacob Hornberger, the president of The Future of Freedom Foundation said the secrecy of empire leads to the massive number of bases, a number which is not disclosed.

“They call it a Department of Defense, but we all know that’s just a charade,” he said. “This is really just a department of empire and war.”

He explained the extensive military empire combined with foreign aid to dictators generates anger and hate towards the US, which in turn which generates terrorism and the validation the government uses to take away freedoms from Americans in the United States.

“It’s really created nothing but problems for us,” Hornberger added.

David Vine, a professor of anthropology at American University explained the argument the Pentagon uses to justify its military presence across the globe is “self-defense”. Even when it comes to confirmed US allies like Japan, Italy and Germany, as well as various tiny islands through the Pacific and Indian oceans.

“Why does the United States have a military base in the middle of the Indian ocean? Why does the United States need one? Is it protecting the United States in anyway?” asked Vine. “Not to mention, why are we spending tens of millions of dollars on things like golf courses. The Pentagon has somewhere on the order of 230 golf courses around the world. Couldn’t we cut a few of those, close down a few of those, put the money back into Pell Grants or housing programs or homelessness diversion programs?”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai once admitted that with the US military bases established permanently in Afghanistan there’ll be economic prosperity and end to the violence in the country. At the same time, the US economy continues in dire straits yet little is being done to address it.

“We should take the money that we would spend to expend building US bases overseas and invest in real national security needs here at home. Not just the military, but going far beyond,” argued Vine.

An empire of US military bases

Unrest in Arab countries: Yemenis stage new protests, demand president leave office

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

At least 3,000 protestors gathered on Monday on the streets of Yemen’s capital Sanaa in a hopes of repeating the success of the recent revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia and to oust their long-standing President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Clashes between pro- and anti-government protestors ensued on the streets. The two sides threw rocks at each other and brandished knives and daggers, eyewitnesses said. Protesters chanted “Down, down with Ali, long live Yemen!” as police formed a human shield to keep crowds from spreading and dividing the two sides.

Mass upheavals, the first large-scale public challenge to Saleh during his rule, broke out in Yemen in late January when tens of thousands of Yemenis took to the streets in Sanaa demanding the end of his 32-year regime.

In early February, Saleh said he would not seek to run in 2013 when his presidency expires and his son would not succeed him as president.

Kazakh Armed Forces To Draft Celebrities In New Reality Show

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

The Kazakh Defense Ministry and national TV have launched a televised project in which politicians, athletes and celebrities will be drafted into the armed forces.

The participants of the project, titled “Special Mission,” will undergo special training for several days in one of the country’s military units and then will be tasked with an “important mission.”

“Those who did not fulfill their military service duty for whatever reasons will get combat experience in various services and branches of the armed forces,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

According to the program, participants will be unexpectedly “drafted” at work, home or even at a party and whisked off to serve in the military.

“There will be no favors. He [the participant]… will do workouts, eat soldier’s meals and live in barracks,” the ministry said.

The show will go on the air for the first time on Sunday.