Tag Archives: United States

UN climate talks stall on taking action

Dec.-2013-Climate-582x297

By CHRISTINE FRANK, Socialist Action U.S.A.

 Another two weeks of international climate talks were held last month, and it’s the same old story. The United Nations’ 19th Conference of the Parties (COP 19) failed to take concrete action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent catastrophic climate change. After nearly 20 years of pointless deliberations, the world is no closer to a solution to the global warming caused by fossil-fuel combustion.

The Polish government hosted the event at Warsaw’s national sports stadium, terming it a “Coal and Climate Summit” at which the coal industry played a prominent role, promoting the myth of “clean coal” and continued subsidies for the filthiest of fossil fuels.

Poland has significant coal deposits and is committed to not only mining and burning it well into the future but fracking extreme shale gas as well, making it clear that it’s going to be business as usual and to hell with the fate of the planet. This is the case even though 89% of the Polish people favor increasing renewable energy, according to a Greenpeace poll. The presence of the coal industry angered the NGOs, which staged a walkout of 800 delegates in protest as thousands demonstrated outside the stadium.

This ludicrous farce was played out in the wake of the strongest and deadliest storm on record in the Pacific, Super Typhoon Haiyan, which had struck the Philippines. Yeb Sano, that devastated country’s chief climate negotiator, launched a hunger strike, pledging not to eat until a meaningful outcome was reached in Warsaw. He did not have much luck. Despite the wake-up call Haiyan presented to the delegates, they were still asleep at the wheel even though carbon emissions continue to climb at a record pace.

Recently, big polluters such as Australia, Canada, Japan, and the United States have scrapped their pledges to reduce emissions. In addition, no one has put money in the kitty for the Green Climate Fund, for which $100 billion was to be raised by 2020 to aid poor countries in coping with the effects of extreme weather and adapting to climate change with clean technologies. This justifiably raises the crucial issue of climate justice for those parts of the world most heavily suffering from the effects of the accumulated emissions of countries that launched the Industrial Revolution.

On the other hand, the five large developing nations with raging economies—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (members of the BRICS grouping)—produce carbon emissions on a par with industrialized nations; yet, they demand to be left off the hook in reducing emissions. And several oil-rich and coal-rich nations in the Global South are of a like mind, maintaining that the historical responsibility lies with those lands first to industrialize.

The major issue, however, is that the world needs to leave all hydrocarbons in the ground across the board and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero from all sources as soon as possible through crash programs of renewable energy if there is to be any chance of averting an ecological cataclysm. These great undertakings can be funded by re-utilizing the war budgets of the rich nations.

Going into overtime, conference participants finally agreed to a faint-hearted system of pledging emissions cuts. The U.S. chief negotiator, Todd Stern, placed his greatest hope in “peer pressure.” In other words, the pledges are to be voluntary, with no binding commitments, as usual. With the Obama administration held firmly in the back pocket of the Energy Giants, this comes as no surprise.

There was also general support for a new treaty mechanism to deal with the human costs of extreme weather, but nothing definite was decided upon. There are other meetings scheduled in Lima, Peru, next year and in Paris in 2015, where representatives are expected to replace the now defunct Kyoto Protocol, but they will very likely only continue to stall on taking significant action.

One should not hold one’s breath in anticipation of real results. Instead, the world needs a powerful mass movement that demands “System Change, Not Climate Change” to bring down the fossil-fuel based capitalist economy and the rotten ruling class, which profits from environmental destruction.

Photo: Climate justice activists from around the world march through Warsaw on Nov. 16, at start of UN conference. By Alik Kepliez / AP.

Education for Activists Conference November 15 – 16

TROTSKY SCHOOL – Education for Activists Conference

with special guest speaker Glen Ford, U.S. radio host of the Black Agenda Report

Friday, November 15

7 p.m.     Security, Surveillance and the Strong State

Glen Ford, editor, Black Agenda Report, radio host and commentator. In 1977, Ford co-launched, produced and hosted America’s Black Forum, the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on commercial television. In 1987, Ford launched Rap It Up, the first nationally syndicated Hip Hop music show, broadcast on 65 radio stations. Ford co-founded and is current editor of the Black Agenda Report, which is widely broadcast, including on CIUT-FM in Toronto. Ford is the author of The Big Lie: An Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of the Grenada Invasion. He is on the board of directors of the United National Anti-war Coalition.

Lisa Luinenberg, immigrant workers’ rights activist, and a leader of Socialist Action-USA, based in Minneapolis.

Robbie Mahood, member Quebec Solidaire and a leader of SA/LAS Montreal.

Saturday, November 16

10 a.m.    How Revolutionary Youth Movements have changed the world  They ended the war in Vietnam, helped to desegregate the schools of Boston, and form the backbone of Idle No More, Occupy, and the Arab Awakening.

Lisa Luinenberg, Socialist Action-USA and YSA-USA.

Tyler Mackinnon, chairperson, Youth for Socialist Action-Canada.

12 noon Lunch break

1 p.m.    What is the Labour Bureaucracy – and what should be done about it?

Barry Weisleder, federal secretary, Socialist Action/Ligue pour l’Action socialiste; co-editor, Socialist Action newspaper; substitute teacher organizer, and member of OSSTF.

Lindsay Hinshelwood, ran for President of UNIFOR at its founding convention in August 2013, obtaining 17.5% of the votes cast. She is an assembly line worker at Ford Oakville and a member of UNIFOR Local 707, formerly of the Canadian Autoworkers.

4 p.m.    The Democratic Party – Death trap for U.S. Blacks – The case for independent Labour/Black political action

Glen Ford, editor, Black Agenda Report, radio host and commentator.

Julius Arscott, V.P. OPSEU Local 532, steering committee member of the NDP Socialist Caucus, and a leader of Socialist Action/Ligue pour l’Action socialiste, will talk about independent working class political action in the Canadian context.

6 p.m. Social gathering at a nearby pub

November 15 – 16, 2013

OISE, University of Toronto, 252 Bloor Street West (St. George Subway Station) Room 2-214.

$10 for the weekend, $5 per session or PWYC

For more information contact:

socialistactioncanada@gmail.com          phone: (647) 986-1917       http://www.socialistaction.ca

REBEL FILMS

Toronto Socialist Action Presents –

RebelFilmsHorizontal

 POSTRER MUMIAFriday, September 27 – 7 p.m. Mumia, Long Distance Revolutionary, 120 minutes, 2013.  

Before he was falsely convicted of murdering a policeman in 1981 and sentenced to die, Mumia Abu-Jamal was a gifted journalist and brilliant writer. Now after more than 30 years in prison and despite attempts to silence him, Mumia is not only still alive but continuing to report, educate, provoke and inspire. This documentary film is an inspiring portrait of America’s most famous political prisoner. Through prison interviews, archival footage, and dramatic readings, and aided by a potent chorus of voices including Cornel West, Alice Walker, Dick Gregory, Angela Davis, Amy Goodman and others, this riveting film explores Mumia’s life before, during and after Death Row. Guest speaker is Norman ‘Otis’ Richmond, producer/host of Saturday Morning Live Radio Regent, Producer/Host of Diasporic Music on Uhuru Radio, and columnist for Burning Spear newspaper. SA’s Elizabeth Byce will present an update on the Lynne Stewart case.

Friday, October 4 – 7 p.m. The Spirit of ’45, 94 minutes, 2013.         The_Spirit_of_45_Ken_Loach_Dogwoof_Documentary_Poster_450_300_85_s_c1                        

1945 was a pivotal year in British history. The unity that carried Britain through the war allied to the bitter memories of the inter-war years led to a vision of a better society. The spirit of the age was to be our brother’s and our sister’s keeper. Director Ken Loach has used film from Britain’s regional and national archives, alongside sound recordings and contemporary interviews, to create a rich political and social narrative. “The achievements of the ’45 Labour government have largely been written out of our history. From near economic collapse we took leading industries into public ownership and established the Welfare State. Leading off the discussion will be Toronto SA member Valerie Lamb, who grew up in England in the 1940s and 50s, and Barry Weisleder, Canada editor of SA newspaper.

ekümenopolis-ucu-olmayan-şehir1Friday, October 11 – 7 p.m. Ecumenopolis: City Without Limits 2011, 93 minutes.

English subtitles. “Ekümenopolis: Ucu olmayan sehir” (original title). This documentary tells the story of Istanbul and other Mega-Cities on a neo-liberal course to destruction. From demolished shantytowns to the tops of skyscrapers, from real estate investors to urban opposition, the film will take us on a long journey in this city without limits. It provides the background information to the ongoing massive protests in Turkey, which began to contest the urban development plan for Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park. The guest speakers are: Yasin Kaya, PhD. candidate at York U., member of CUPE Local 3903, and member of Socialist Action, who spent the summer in Turkey. Elif Genc is a York U Master’s degree graduate in Interdisicplinary Studies. Her thesis focused on Turkish politics and the Kurdish social movement. She is an activist in the “Supporters of Taksim Gezi Park Movement in Toronto” and the Gezi solidarity network.

Friday, October 18 – 7 p.m. The People of Kattawapiskak River, 50 minutes, people_of_kattawapiskak_river2012.

A documentary film exploring conditions inside the Attawapiskat First Nation, which in October 2011 declared a state of emergency due to health and safety concerns over a lack of housing and infrastructure, and remained in the public spotlight during the Idle No More protests.

taxfreetourFriday, October 25 – 7 p.m. The Tax Free Tour, 53 minutes, 2013.

Where do multinationals pay taxes and how much? Gaining insight from international tax experts, The Tax Free Tour takes a look at tax havens, the people who live there and the routes along which tax is avoided globally. This film is an economic thriller mapping the systemic risk for governments and the ruling class alike. Is this the price we have to pay for globalized capitalism? Leading off the discussion will be David Langille who teaches public policy at York University and the University of Toronto and is treasurer of Canadians for Tax Fairness.

Friday, November 1 – 7 p.m. The Invisible War, 93 minutes, 2012. invisiblewar

An investigative and powerfully emotional documentary about the epidemic of rape of soldiers within the US military, the institutions that perpetuate and cover up its existence, and its profound personal and social consequences.

houseiliveinFriday, November 8 – 7 p.m. The House I Live In, 108 minutes, 2012.

In the past 40 years, the War on Drugs has accounted for 45 million arrests, made America the world’s largest jailer, and destroyed impoverished communities at home and abroad. The war on drugs has never been about drugs. From the dealer to the narcotics officer, the inmate to the federal judge, a penetrating look inside America’s criminal justice system, revealing the profound human rights implications of U.S. drug policy.

 

Each of the films in this series will be preceded by a brief introduction, and will be followed by a commentary, and an open floor discussion period.

OISE, University of Toronto, 252 Bloor Street West, Room 2-214

at St. George Subway Station. Everyone Welcome. $4 donation requested.

The Ultra-Rich and gross Inequality, Rise in Tandem

monopoly-man    It’s an old story with a twist. Even amongst the wealthy, the extremely rich are doing best of all.

So says the World Wealth Report, the noted annual study of the world’s millionaires, issued in June by RBC Wealth Management and Capgemini Financial Services. The report found that the number of people in the world with more than $1 million to invest soared to a record 12 million in 2012, a 9.2 per cent increase over 2011. The aggregate wealth of this group hit a new high, too — $46.2 trillion – a 10 per cent increase over the previous year.

And within this rich group, the ultra-rich, defined as people with investable assets of at least $30 million, surged 11 per cent. This razor thin sliver of the global population of 7.1 billion, comprising only some 111,000 people, account for 35.2 per cent of the entire wealth of all the world’s millionaires together.

Coincidentally, the 2012/13 Global Wage Report issued by the International Labor Organization, a U.N. agency, found a global trend of a shrinking workers’ share in national income. That is true even in China, where wages have been rising, but lag behind growth in gross domestic product.

Most worrying for liberal economists who look to market forces for ‘corrections’, is that labour productivity has had a reduced impact on wages. In the United States, according to the I.L.O., labour productivity in the non-farm business sector has increased about 85 per cent since 1980, while real wages have grown just 35 per cent. Even in Germany, often touted as ‘a middle class success story’, labour productivity grew by nearly a quarter over the past 20 years, but real wages remained flat.

Then there is the fact of declining social mobility. Miles Corak, a Canadian economist, shows that rising income inequality coincides with declining equality of opportunity. The 1 per cent is very adept at passing along its privilege, while those at the bottom are finding it harder to climb up.

Anyone waiting for the system to correct itself waits in vain.

-BW

Manning sentenced to 35 years

Sept.-2013-Manning-1-e1377148076318-582x297

By ANN MONTAGUE – Socialist Action USA

U.S. Army whistleblower Pfc. Chelsea (Bradley) Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for giving hundreds of thousands of secret military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks. The military judge, Col. Denise Lind, offered no explanation for her sentence. As military guards conducted Manning from the courtroom on Aug. 21, his supporters shouted out, “We will keep fighting for you!”

The response to the sentence was swift. Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971, stated, “The only person prosecuted for the crimes and abuses uncovered in the WikiLeaks’ releases is the person who exposed them. That alone proves the injustice of even one more day in prison for Bradley Manning.”

Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said, “This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it’s also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate.”

“It seems clear,” Wizner noted, “that the government was seeking to intimidate anyone who might consider revealing valuable information in the future.”

Three and a half years will be credited to Manning’s sentence for time served. This will include time for the period that the judge ruled he was mistreated at the Marine Corps Brig at Quantico, Va., before being moved to the prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Throughout his time at Quantico, he was designated a “maximum custody” detainee and locked up alone for at least 23 hours a day. He was forced to sleep naked for several nights and required to stand at attention naked in the morning. He will have to serve one-third of the sentence before he is eligible for parole.

Manning faced a possible 90-year sentence. The government had denied him a whistleblower defense and the right to describe intent or to show that his actions harmed no one. U.S. prosecutors asked for a sentence of 60 years while acknowledging Manning’s youth. But it was clear that the true motivation for the prosecution’s request for the extremely long sentence was to deter future leaks. Prosecutor Capt. Joe Morrow stated, “There is value in deterrence.”

“Pfc. Manning was one of the brave Americans who was not willing to remain silent,” defense attorney David Coombs told the media. “Instead he decided to provide us with information that he believed would spark reform, would spark debate and he provided us with information that he believed might change the world.”

“Perhaps the biggest crime was that he cared about the loss of life that he was seeing and couldn’t ignore it, and was struggling with it.”

The forensic psychologist who testified in Manning’s defense, Capt. David Moulton, told the military court, “Manning was under the impression that his leaked information was going to really change how the world views the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and future wars. … It was his opinion that if through crowd sourcing that enough analysis was done on these documents, that it would lead to greater good.”

Three days before Manning was sentenced, British authorities made their own effort to intimidate whistleblowers when they detained David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, and confiscated his laptop. Greenwald has been writing articles based on leaked information from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Officials told Miranda that he was being held under Britain’s Terrorism Act, and threatened him with prison if he didn’t “cooperate.”

It was reported recently that the NSA has no idea what or how much information Edward Snowden has in his possession.  Clearly, the United States and Britain are terrified about what information might be revealed next concerning their war machines and surveillance networks.

Manning downloaded the leaked material to his computer when he was deployed as an intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010. What did he actually reveal? The most widely seen information was seen in the “Collateral Murder” video, which showed an Apache helicopter attack on a group of people walking in a Baghdad street in 2007. Two of the victims were employees of Reuters news agency. A member of the helicopter crew yelled “dead bastards!” at those they killed. They also blew up a van of civilians who had stopped to help the initial victims of the first round of gunfire.

The “Reykjavik-13 Cable” was the first leak to be published by WikiLeaks; it describes frank discussions of meetings between the U.S. embassy chief in Reykjavik and members of the Icelandic government. The scornful attitude of the U.S. representative towards their nation in the middle of its banking crisis so angered activists in Iceland that they edited the “Collateral Murder” video, which was soon released worldwide.

The “Iraq War Logs” were 75,000 Army documents that detailed U.S. nighttime raids with reports from U.S. troops on the ground. These reports have been used to track civilian casualties that officials previously had said were not available.

The “Afghanistan War Logs” were 75,000 pages of documents that The New York Times described as “a ground level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is more grim than the official portrayal.”

The “Guantanamo Files” included 700 detainee files and 250,000 State Department cables detailing CIA extraordinary renditions, in violation of international law, of people suspected of “terrorism.” Shane Kadidal, a lawyer for the Center For Constitutional Rights, believes the volume of the material is part of the importance of these leaks: “It is one thing to tell a few anecdotes based on a few items, but to be able to say across the board that most of the men that are there shouldn’t be there and are people that could be safely released, that is pretty staggering.”

The leaks also showed the hypocrisy of the U.S. collaboration with Arab dictators while proclaiming a commitment to democracy.

The Bradley Manning Support Network will continue to keep the spotlight on Manning. They have organized international support through education and activism about his case as well as raising $1.4 million for his defense. Even as the sentence was handed down, the network announced that they were teaming with Amnesty International to launch a petition asking President Obama for a pardon.

At the same time, Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, is preparing to bring the case to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals to address violations of due process rights. Manning was detained without trial for more than three years in violation of his Constitutional right to a speedy trial. He was only awarded four months off of his sentence for the psychological torture he suffered while in solitary confinement for more than nine months.

The U.S. Marine Corps was never held accountable for Manning’s treatment. Also, President Obama declared Manning guilty in April 2011, more than two years before the trial began. This constitutes unlawful command influence, in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The Center For Constitutional Rights has made clear that all of the supporters of Bradley Manning must continue to struggle for his freedom and raise the demand that President Obama issue a pardon for Manning.

[Update: Aug. 23] The campaign to free Manning immediately showed that the push for a presidential pardon will be more aggressive than simply a legal maneuver and e-mail petitions. On Aug. 22 Ursula Rozem and Amelia Ramsey-Lefevre interrupted President Obama’s speech at Henninger High School in Syracuse by raising a sign saying, “Free Bradley Manning,” and shouting, “President Obama, you must free Private Manning. With all due respect sir, Private Manning exposed war crimes. Private Manning exposed torture. Private Manning aided the public, not the enemy. Private Manning is a hero.” The two women were then escorted off the premises. They then issued a longer statement about why they had interrupted the president and detailed his record of prosecuting whistleblowers.]

[Update: Aug. 23] This article was written immediately after the sentencing, on Aug. 21. The next day, Manning provided a statement to the press, “As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible.”  In future articles, Socialist Action will respect Chelsea Manning’s wishes, and refer to her using female pronouns.