June 17, 2014
San Franciscans to vote on $15 city minimum wage

SAN FRANCISCO - Following a June 10 agreement by unions, community groups, businesses and local political leaders, San Franciscans will vote this November on whether to gradually increase the city-wide minimum wage to $15 an hour.

If they approve it, the California city will join its own suburb of Richmond, Calif., plus Seattle and Sea-Tac, Wash., as current municipalities with the $15 minimum. San Francisco will reach that figure in 2018, more quickly than Seattle will, the agreement shows.

August 4, 2012
Big Music vs. the 99 percent

Before getting into the facts and numbers, one has to define “Big Music.” When I mention such a term, it’s not about the LiveNation-dominated live music market or the monopolistic power of Apple’s iTunes Store. No, I’m talking about the four record labels that dominate the music market: EMI, which is owned by Citigroup; Sony Music Entertainment (SME), which is owned by Japan’s Sony Corp.; Warner Music Group (WMG), owned by Access Industries; and Universal Music Group (UMG), owned by a French entertainment company, Vivendi.

In a letter to Federal Trade Commission, Public Knowledge and Media Access Project wrote: “By 2010 end-of-year figures, [these]…four record labels account for almost 90 percent of recorded music sales in the U.S. Universal is the largest company, with a share of 38.0 percent, followed by its nearest competitor, Sony (at 28.0 percent), then Warner Music Group…(20.0 percent) and EMI (10.2 percent)…[leaving] only a 11.0 percent market share for independent labels.”

This is an increase from the mid-2000s when almost 82% of the market was dominated by these four record labels. Collectively these corporate entities can be called “Big Music,” along with industry organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and other groups.

Why bring this up now? UMG is trying to merge with EMI. Such an action would result in Sony and UMG controlling nearly 70 percent of the market for recorded music. Public Knowledge, mentioned earlier, is against such consolidation because it would cause prices to rise, indie artists would be harmed, and innovation in this industry would be stunted. EMI created OpenEMI, which allows developers to create apps to distribute recorded sound, something that may be under threat with such consolidation. In addition, any new music service created would have to heavily weigh the thoughts of UMG and Sony.

The group also argues that the merger violates antitrust law, saying it is “an unfair method of competition” that constitutes “an unreasonable restraint of trade” because it will “substantially lessen competition.” They also point out that “the industry has chronically and grossly overestimated the role of copyright infringement in the development of digital distribution,” something that drives the industry-induced and government-executed “war on online piracy.”

Such a merger should not be approved due to UMG’s previous misconduct. In 2006, Eliot Spitzer, who was then attorney general of New York, found that the company had bribed radio stations to play songs by UMG artists, resulting in a $12 million settlement from UMG. The next year, the company angered many YouTubers by ferociously enforcing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. UMG was stopping what they termed “copyright infringement.” Such ridiculousness included taking down a 29-second video of a person dancing to a Prince song.

Most recently, after now-defunct Megaupload released “The Mega Song” with numerous RIAA artists supporting the music download service, it was flagged and downed by UMG after it was uploaded to the Internet. UMG claimed the video violated copyright. Megaupload took them to court and told them to apologize, probably causing the video to returned to online. However, UMG got its revenge when the Department of Justice, FBI and National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center jointly shut down and seized Megaupload.com, and started criminal cases against the site’s owners. Not long after, Megaupload executives were arrested by police in New Zealand as ordered by a U.S. prosecutor. In response, the loose hacking collective, Anonymous, downeduniversalmusic.com

As for EMI, none of their websites were downed but complications exist with this label as well. The British-based music company has been wholly owned by one evil corporation since February 2011: Citigroup. If you forget the evils of this large financial corporation that received $2.4 trillion from the Federal Reserve, Sen. Bernie Sanders laid it out clearly in his Dec. 10, 2010, speech. Sen. Sanders noted that Citigroup was “making incredible profits and paying their executives record-breaking compensation” after the U.S. taxpayer bailed them out and as Americans suffered economically, mentally and socially. Money paid for a song by an EMI artist is basically trickling up to pay executives like CEO Vikram Pandit and Chairman Michael E. O’Neill. Do you really want to support that?

The proposed merger, the reactionary nature of UMG, and EMI’s connections to Citigroup makes one think of a plan to “fight the powers that be.” Downing UMG and EMI’s websites isn’t a very effective tactic in the long or short-run, making another plan imperative: boycotting these two companies. Nowadays, most music is sold online in major stores such as iTunes, Amazon and eMusic. In order for UMG and EMI to get the message, people must stand up and say that they will not buy, support or listen to the music from artists connected to these companies unless the merger is stopped. Personally, I’m following this strategy by not listening to certain EMI and UMG artists.

Everyone should follow this plan for opposition of this merger simply by looking up the labels of artists you listen to. Such actions are just part of a broader plan to stop the consolidation. If this merger is not stopped, the corporate oligopoly in the recorded music market will tighten. Today there is one merger between two record labels; tomorrow it will be another two. The 99 percent of Americans must unite to tackle this consolidation and kill it before it reaches the FTC, Justice Department or any other government institution that allows the merger.

June 10, 2012
Outrage over Olympic corporate sponsors erupting around the world

Corporatization of the coming Olympic games in London is under attack from all corners of the world, it seems.

While the American AFL-CIO has joined a movement to stop the alliance between the International Olympic Committee and Rio Tinto - which is to make the Olympic gold medals - and Vietnam and India are up in arms over sponsorship by the notorious Dow Chemical Company.

Both India and Vietnam are united in their desire to remove Dow, which signed a 10-year sponsorship agreement with the International Olympic Committee, from the games, but their reasons are different. For India, the problem is that Dow purchased the company responsible for the infamous Bhopal disaster, while for Vietnam the issue is the corporation’s production of Agent Orange used to maim its people and defoliate its countryside during the war in the 1960’s and 70’s.

April 1, 2012
Iraqi Communist Party attacked

The central headquarters of the Iraqi Communist Party’s newspaper, Tareeq Al-Shaab (People’s Path), was raided Mar. 26 and searched by Iraq’s federal police force under what the Communists say was a “shoddy pretext.”

The government police entered the building in central Baghdad to conduct what they called a “search operation,” claiming that it was part of general security measures being taken in order to prepare for the Arab Summit.

Their actual target, however, was basically a piece of old scrap metal - the remains of an old weapon left behind during the regime of Saddam Hussein. The federal police described it as a “dangerous weapon” and proceeded to arrest 12 workers who were in charge of security at the newspaper’s headquarters.

Following the arrests, a second group of police rushed into the building and ransacked offices of party leaders. Police held detained workers blindfolded overnight and did not release them until the following day.

The attack on the Communist newspaper office occurred just before the eve of the Iraqi Communist Party’s 78th anniversary, which is on Mar. 31.

The party, which has a long history of fighting for a secular Iraq, in which the rights of all groups would be respected, has expressed its outrage and has openly condemned the raid.

The party asks that those responsible for the attack be brought to justice, and said, in ta statement, that “the police will not stop Tareeq Al-Shaab from defending the rights of the Iraqi people and workers, nor will it stop those people from fighting for a free, democratic Iraq.”

This is not the first time the Iraqi Communist Party has been targeted by the U.S.-backed government that replaced the old dictatorship. In 2007, Najim Abed Jassem, the party workers’ trade union leader and member of the executive committee of the Mechanics Union, was abducted and tortured by  militias in Baghdad, and subsequently murdered.

According to U.S. Labor Against the War, that attack also occurred just before an anniversary of the founding of the party.

Tareeq Al-Shaab called it, at the time, “an abhorrent crime” and noted Jassem’s “passion for his people, homeland, and working class, for which he struggled to achieve their just rights and a better life.”

A book titled Hadi Never Died: Hadi Saleh and the Iraqi Trade Unions, written by Abdullah Muhsin and Alan Johnson, focuses on the fact that Iraqi workers and their struggles are rarely discussed - and often ignored in Western circles. The book adds that few outside the Arab world know that the Iraqi working class is well organized and highly politically engaged.

The book focuses on the life of Iraqi trade union and Communist Party leader Hadi Saleh, who was tortured and sentenced to death during the time Saddam Hussein rose to power in the late 70s, whereupon the trade unions were abused as a means for the government to spy on workers.

Saleh was murdered in his Baghdad home in 2005, by someone his fellow communists believed to be Hussein supporters. His murder prompted a large outcry by trade union leaders around the world.

John Sweeney, then-president of the AFL-CIO, celebrated Saleh’s dedication to the movement, and remarked, “He will be sorely missed by all of us who have met him, and by the workers for whom he valiantly fought.”

February 8, 2012
Scott Walker's tangled web

Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker has hardly been in office a year and already his reckless brand of ultra-right politics and casual relationship to the truth have made him the most divisive politician Wisconsin has produced since Joe McCarthy.

Walker entered the national spotlight when he declared war on public workers, stripping them of their collective bargaining rights and reducing their paychecks through increasing pension and insurance contributions. In his home state, Walker is gaining a reputation for assembling the motliest crew in modern memory to place their greasy hands on the levers of power, as the Wisconsin media reports one scandal after another.

Long before the movement to recall Walker from office officially began in November, Walker had already stubbed his toe on questionable appointments. These included the appointment of Brian Deschane to one of the top administrative posts of the government agency charged with oversight of Wisconsin’s 300,000 licensed professionals. This appointment struck many as curious since Mr. Deschane had no management experience of any kind, and at 27 already had two DUI convictions under his belt. In addition some felt it odd that the son of the lobbyist for the Homebuliders Association would be assigned to an agency responsible for the licensing of Wisconsin’s Realtors, Land Surveyors, Engineers and others in similar fields.

Read More

December 20, 2011
Corporations pay zero state taxes

While state budgets, jobs and social programs are taking the worst hits since the Great Depression, the nation’s largest corporations are paying little or no state taxes.

Out of the top 265 consistently profitable Fortune 500 corporations, 68 companies paid no state corporate income tax in at least one of the last three years and 20 of them averaged a tax rate of zero or less during the 2008-2010 period.

This is the conclusion of the study, “Corporate Tax Dodging in Fifty States, 2008-2010,” done by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy  (ITEP) and released by the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) earlier this month.

"Thanks to the armies of accountants, paying taxes has become optional for some of the most profitable corporations in the world," said Pedro Morillas, CALPIRG legislative director. "That leaves small businesses and individual taxpayers to pick up the tab."

The corporations that paid no net income tax over all three-years include brand names Goodrich, DuPont, Intel and International Paper.

Citing California as an example, the study revealed that the tax bills of 33 corporations ranged from minus-1.5 percent (McKesson Corp.) to 8 percent (Apple).

Wells Fargo bank, California’s corporation with the biggest profit at $49.7 billion during the period, paid 0.7 percent in state taxes and second-place Intel Corp., with $23.3 billion in profits, paid zero state income taxes.

The report reveals that the 265 corporations piled up a combined $1.33 trillion in profits in the last three years.

"Far too many (companies) have managed to shelter half or more of their profits from state taxes," said Matthew Gardner, ITEP’s Executive Director and the report’s co-author. "They’re so busy avoiding taxes, it’s no wonder they’re not creating any new jobs."

In its own study last year, CALPIRG revealed that household tax filers in California pay an average $435 in additional federal taxes to make up for the revenue lost due to offshore tax havens. That report is titled “How Much Did Offshore Tax Havens Cost You in 2010.” 

November 4, 2011
Bank of America yields to consumer outrage over $5 fee

The people united will never be defeated!!!

October 21, 2011
Taxi workers win full AFL-CIO charter

socalcp:

The National Taxi Workers Alliance made history Oct. 20, when it officially became a full member of the nation’s largest labor federation, the AFL-CIO.

Bhairavi Desai, the taxi workers’ leader, accepted the organization’s charter as a member of the AFL-CIO at an event in Washington titled “The Future of Work.” The gathering, sponsored by the AFL-CIO, focused on the rights of workers who are either traditionally excluded from coverage by labor law, or for whom the changing economy has effectively eliminated any protection they may have had., under the law.


October 10, 2011
Canadian lawmaker urges government to bar Cheney

Canadian legislator Don Davies asked the federal government last week todeny entry to Dick Cheney, citing the country’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act which prohibits entry to senior officials in governments that have engaged in “terrorism, systemic or gross human rights violations, or genocide, a war crime or a crime against humanity.” Though Cheney left office in 2009, the Act also renders a person inadmissible if he or she has committed offenses listed in the Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, or other crimes that would result in a 10-year sentence if committed in Canada. Cheney is scheduled to enter Canada on or around September 26 in order to promote his new book in Vancouver.

The request comes just before Human Rights Watch urged Canada’s federal government to use the opportunity to arrest Cheney, citing his role in torture during the Bush administration and jurisdiction provided by Canadian law over individuals committing torture in cases with Canadian complainants, notably including Syrian-Canadian Maher Arar. In 2002, while at a stopover in John F. Kennedy International Airport, Arar was questioned, denied access to a lawyer, and detained by the United States for two weeks before deported to Syria where he was held for a year and tortured. 

September 5, 2011
Drug industry sells misleading ads - to doctors

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