Whenever I am in a position to share my cooking knowledge with people one thing that often comes up is the use of salt. I get the regular comments from people saying “WOAH that’s a lot of salt. Other comments I receive poke fun at how restaurant cooks use too much salt. My girlfriend, who […]
Relationships are the key to all teachings. Traditional teachings had led me to a place where I now embrace my past. I am able to embrace the child abuse and the systemic neglect I experienced as homeless youth on the downtown eastside of Vancouver. Equally, I can now embrace the part of my past that […]
Two Row Times would like to take a moment to introduce one of our newest writers, Paula Hill. Paula is Cayuga nation, wolf clan and a band member of Six Nations. Her education has included Indigenous Addictions Services Worker, Law Clerk training, and Public Administration and Governance. She has 13 years of experience working in […]
In Canada, it would not be unreasonable to say that an Aboriginal woman’s life is not as valued as a non-aboriginal woman’s life. It would not be unreasonable to say that to Stephen Harper this is not an issue, since even though he remains under pressure from the United Nations, he will not take accountability […]
An ever-increasing number of our consumer electronics are Internet-connected. We’re living at the dawn of the age of the Internet of Things. Appliances ranging from light switches and door locks to cars and medical devices boast connectivity in addition to basic functionality.
The convenience can’t be beat. But what are the security and privacy implications? Is a patient implanted with a remotely-controllable pacemaker at risk for security compromise? Vice President Dick Cheney’s doctors worried enough about an assassination attempt via implant that they disabled his defibrillator’s wireless capability. Should we expect capital crimes via hacked Internet-enabled devices? Could hackers mount large-scale terrorist attacks? Our research suggests these scenarios are within reason.
Your Car, Out of Your Control
Modern cars are one of the most connected products consumers interact with today. Many of a vehicle’s fundamental building blocks – including the engine and brake control modules – are now electronically controlled. Newer cars also support long-range wireless connections via cellular network and Wi-Fi. But hi-tech definitely doesn’t mean highly secure.
Our group of security researchers at the University of Washington was able to remotely compromise and controla highly-computerized vehicle. They invaded the privacy of vehicle occupants by listening in on their conversations. Even more worrisome, they remotely disabled brake and lighting systems and brought the car to a complete stop on a simulated major highway. By exploiting vulnerabilities in critical modules, including the brake systems and engine control, along with in radio and telematics components, our group completely overrode the driver’s control of the vehicle. The safety implications are obvious.
This attack raises important questions about how much manufacturers and consumers are willing to sacrifice security and privacy for increased functionality and convenience. Car companies are starting to take these threats seriously, appointing cybersecurity executives. But for the most part, automakers appear to be playing catchup, dealing with security as an afterthought of the design process.
An increasing number of devices around the home are automated and connected to the Internet. Many rely on a proprietary wireless communications protocol called Z-Wave.
Two UK researchers exploited security loopholes in Z-Wave’s cryptographic libraries - that’s the software toolkit that authenticates any device being connected to the home network, among other functions, while providing communication security over the Internet. The researchers were able to compromise home automation controllers and remotely-controlled appliances including door locks and alarm systems. Z-Wave’s security relied solely on keeping the algorithm a secret from the public, but the researchers were able to reverse engineer the protocol to find weak spots.
Our group was able to compromise Z-Wave controllers via another vulnerability: their web interfaces. Via the web, we could control all home appliances connected to the Z-Wave controller, showing that a hacker could, for instance, turn off the heat in wintertime or watch inhabitants via webcam feeds. We also demonstrated an inherent danger in connecting compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) to a Z-Wave dimmer. These bulbs were not designed with remote manipulations over the Internet in mind. We found an attacker could send unique signals to CFLs that would burn them out, emitting sparks that could potentially result in house fires.
Our group also pondered the possibility of a large-scale terrorist attack. The threat model assumes that home automation becomes so ubiquitous that it’s a standard feature installed in homes by developers. An attacker could exploit a vulnerability in the automation controllers to turn on power-hungry devices - like HVAC systems - in an entire neighborhood at the same time. With the A/C roaring in every single house, shared power transformers would be overloaded and whole neighborhoods could be knocked off the power grid.
Harnessing Hackers' Knowledge
One of the best practices of designing elegant security solutions is to enlist the help of the security community to find and report weak spots otherwise undetected by the manufacturer. If the internal cryptographic libraries these devices use to obfuscate and recover data, amongst other tasks, are open-source, they can be vetted by the security community. Once issues are found, updates can be pushed to resolve them. Crypto libraries implemented from scratch may be riddled with bugs that the security community would likely find and fix – hopefully before the bad guys find and exploit. Unfortunately, this sound principle has not been strictly adhered to in the world of the Internet of Things.
Third party vendors designed the web interfaces and home appliances with Z-Wave support that our group exploited. We found that, even if a manufacturer has done a very good job and released a secure product, retailers who repackage it with added functionality - like third party software - could introduce vulnerabilities. The end-user can also compromise security by failing to operate the product properly. That’s why robust multi-layered security solutions are vital – so a breach can be limited to just a single component, rather than a successful hack into one component compromising the whole system.
Level of Risk
There is one Internet of Things security loophole that law enforcement has taken notice of: thieves' use of scanner boxes that mimic the signals sent out by remote key fobs to break into cars. The other attacks I’ve described are feasible, but haven’t made any headlines yet. Risks today remain low for a variety of reasons. Home automation system attacks at this point appear to be very targeted in nature. Perpetrating them on a neighborhood-wide scale could be a very expensive task for the hacker, thereby decreasing the likelihood of it occurring.
There needs to be a concerted effort to improve security of future devices. Researchers, manufacturers and end users need to be aware that privacy, health and safety can be compromised by increased connectivity. Benefits in convenience must be balanced with security and privacy costs as the Internet of Things continues to infiltrate our personal spaces.Related Stories
Georgia Man Shoots Latino 22-Year-Old Dead For Pulling Into Wrong Driveway, Gets $500 Fine and Probation
Unequal treatment before the law has become a hot topic in a country reeling from cases like those of Troy Davis and Michael Brown. In Georgia, yet another case has arisen of an innocent young minority man being shot to death with little punishment for his killer.
In January 2013, 22-year-old Georgia Tech student Rodrigo Diaz, alongside his girlfriend and two other friends, pulled into a driveway in Gwinett County, Georgia, hoping to pick up a friend for skating.
It turned out to be the wrong driveway. The homeowner, Phillip Sailors, emerged from the home and fired a warning shot with his .22 pistol. As Diaz began to drive away, Sailors fired again, striking Diaz in the head and killing him.
Despite these circumstances, police arrested Diaz's girlfriend and their two friends and held them overnight. This week, Sailors pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, and will have one year of probation and be charged a $500 fine – apparently the cost of killing an unarmed Latino young adult in Lilburn, Georgia.
For their part, Diaz's family has offered forgiveness to Sailors. “There is no point for him to be in lifetime in prison,” said his brother David (Sailors is seventy years old). “Like my dad said, we don't hold any grudge.” The Diaz family has also reportedly received a settlement from Sailors and his insurance company.
But forgiveness will not bring Diaz back to life, nor will it dissuade Georgians from shooting first, and asking questions later, when they encounter similar events in the future. Rather, it may simply encourage the toxic combination of “Shoot First” laws and distrust of racial minorities.Related Stories
Now that the Republicans have regained full control of Congress, President Obama is (finally) taking matters into his own hands on immigration reform. Or, as Stephen Colbert put it, he is planning to take the constitution, “roll it up, stuff it with rice and beans, and smother it in picante sauce.”
As would be expected, the GOP is up in arms about Obama’s avowal to use executive orders to protect undocumented migrants from deportation, provide them with work permits, and expand the number of visas for high-tech workers. Instead of offering any alternative solution, Republican leaders like House Speaker John Boehner have promised to “fight tooth and nail” to defeat Obama’s efforts.
“How dare he take executive action to address immigration by himself,” Colbert said. “He should be working with Congress to do nothing together!”
Watch the rest of the clip below, featuring a cameo from Colbert’s Mexican alter ego, Esteban Colberto.
Four people have been killed and a state of emergency declared in parts of New York state as a towering "wall of snow" dumped up to six feet of snow on Buffalo yesterday.
The arctic storm, which is expected to get worse tomorrow, has plunged nearly half of the US into temperatures well below freezing.
New York state has been one of the hardest hit areas, and was covered in up to six feet of snow leaving many people stranded amid the bitterly-cold weather chaos while a driving ban was enforced in some areas.
Firefighters were also spotted carrying a patient 10 blocks down the street to Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo as the blanket of snow was too thick and high to drive through.
The record-low temperatures are said to be characteristic of January rather than November and are the coldest for this time of year since 1976, according to Weather Bell Analytics, a meteorologist consulting firm.
Snow is reported to have fell at a rate of up to five inches (13 cm) an hour and some areas approached the US record for 24-hour snowfall totals of 76 inches (193 cm).
States bordering the Great Lakes such as North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania were also hit with chilling temperatures as low as -11 degrees Celsius during the night.
Governor Andrew Cuomo deployed the New York State National Guard to affected areas yesterday to help residents cope with the severe weather conditions with emergency operations centers activated on Monday night.
The state has employed the use of 526 plows, 74 large loaders and about two-dozen large snow blowers to shift the wall of snow blocking the doors and driveways of people's homes.
County officials confirmed yesterday that there had been four snow storm-related deaths.
One person was killed in a traffic accident and three others died after suffering heart problems, two of whom were believed to have been shoveling heavy snow at the time.
At least another two people are believed to have died in car accidents caused by icy conditions and decreased visibility on the roads in New Hampshire and Michigan over the past week.
Parts of Erie County, western New York, had 60 inches (1.5m) of snow, with more expected to fall over today and tomorrow, said Steven Welch of the National Weather Service near Buffalo.
Concerned residents whose week has been blighted by sub-zero temperatures and disruptions posted their thoughts and pictures on social media.
"This storm may persist until Friday morning with the potential for another two feet of snow," Cuomo said in a statement.
"New Yorkers in these areas should exercise extreme caution, and stay off the roads until conditions are clearer and safer."Related Stories
The Senate voted this evening to reject the Keystone XL pipeline that would have carried Alberta tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The measure failed by a vote of 41-59. Sixty votes are required to pass a bill out of the Senate. The project has been stalled for six years due to widespread public opposition.
The bill easily passed the House of Representatives last week, where it was on the floor for the ninth time since Republicans took control of that chamber. The Senate, controlled by Democrats, has not brought it to the Senate floor until now. The Senate bill was introduced by Democratic Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, hoping to score points with voters in her oil-dependent state going into a closely contested runoff with her Republican opponent, Congressman Bill Cassidy. Cassidy was the sponsor of the latest bill in the House.
After introducing the bill last week, Landrieu worked feverishly to round up the 60 votes required to pass any legislation in the Senate, as anti-pipeline activists expressed outrage and charges of political grandstanding on Landrieu’s part. Landrieu responded indignantly to Kansas Senator Pat Roberts’ suggestion that she called for the vote for political reasons, saying on the floor of the Senate, “I was very disappointed in the senator from Kansas. I think he said he was ‘bemused’ that we would be debating this, because he thinks it’s some kind of political issue. “For him to come to the floor and make those remarks … is beneath the dignity of the state he represents and the Marine Corps.” (Roberts is a former Marine).
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell did some showboating of his own, referring to the bill during debate as “Congressman Bill Cassidy’s Keystone jobs bill.” He continued that it was “common sense, a shovel-ready jobs project that will help thousands of Americans find work.” But this weekend, on ABC’s This Week, Russ Girling, CEO of TransCanada, the company building the pipeline, admitted that it would create at most 50 permanent jobs along with several thousand temporary ones, referring vaguely to 42,000 “direct and indirect ongoing and enduring jobs.” The Tampa Bay-Times PolitiFact feature rated that statement “false,” saying he based that figure on temporary multiplier jobs that would be created only during construction to service the workers, such as hotel workers, waitresses and entertainers.
Landrieu’s desperation led to even more hyperbole on the Senate floor during the debate:
Meanwhile, prior to the vote, protestors amassed outside Landrieu’s Washington, DC home where they installed a large inflatable pipeline. Four protesters were arrested outside Delaware Senator Tom Carper’s office. Carper has generally been pro-environment but indicated he would vote to approve Keystone XL. Another seven were arrested at Colorado Senator Michael Bennet’s office.
Two representatives of the campaign opposing Keystone XL in Nebraska where a lawsuit is currently blocking construction, Bold Nebraska director Jane Kleeb and rancher Randy Thompson, delivered a letter to Senator Mitch McConnell Monday night.
It said, “We are really sick and tired of being told how safe this project will be by people who live fifteen hundred miles away and are fully insulated from the inherent risks associated with it. Would you be so anxious to vote “yes” if this pipeline were going to run through your property where your family lives, works and plays? Our families will not watch our land and water get polluted so Canada can get their risky tar sands to the export market. You oil-soaked Senators should be ashamed of yourselves and if you have the nerve to talk about the constitution or property rights again, we will be there to set the record straight.”
Environmental groups prepared for the worst, as the vote locked close up until roll call, with approval seeming to hinge on perhaps a single vote. The Natural Resources Defense Council put out “8 discredited talking points pushed by Keystone XL proponents in Senate debate.”
And California Senator Barbara Boxer, a Keystone XL opponent said, “What does XL stand for? To me it stands for extra lethal. This is a serious environmental hazard.”
Senate majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada is opposed to the pipeline but he allowed it to come to a vote for the first time. Reid has joined with a multitude of environmental justice groups in calling on President Obama to veto it, which the President in the last week has strongly suggested he would if it passed. Soon-to-be Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said it would be the first item of business when he assumes leadership of the Senate in January.
“We applaud the Senators who stood up for the health of our families and our climate by fighting back against this big polluter-funded sideshow,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “There’s no good reason the Senate should have wasted all this time on yet another meaningless push for Keystone XL. Since day one, the decision on the pipeline has belonged to President Obama, and he has repeatedly said he will reject this pipeline if it contributes to the climate crisis. As there is no doubt that it does, we remain confident that is precisely what he’ll do.”
Kleeb agrees with Brune, “Today’s defeat of Keystone XL should send a strong signal to the incoming GOP-led Congress that farmers and ranchers will never back down to their oil soaked intentions. We call on President Obama to stand up and reject Keystone XL now.”Related Stories
Available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration
If you are in Minneapolis, after a hard day’s night, the place to go for a morning pick-me-up is Al’s Breakfast. Or so I was informed. Being in the Twin Cities in mid-July, I made my way to the legendary AM eatery, located in the heart of Dinkytown, the neighbourhood adjacent to the University of Minnesota where Al’s is located.
Mind you, no one had told me anything about the place. My heart sank as I rounded the 14th Avenue corner and took in the line that had formed outside of an establishment half way down the block. As I shuffled into place at the end of the queue and glanced inside my spirits nose-dived even further.
The place wasn’t so much a restaurant as a refurbished alleyway. Indeed, its origins, I later ascertained, were just that. The space was once a converted corridor separating two stores, first used to stockpile sheet metal and plumbing parts by a hardware outlet. It was ‘made-over’ into a restaurant in 1950. At ten feet wide, with a mere fourteen stools, its mid-century clientele consisted largely of railroad workers.
Over the years Al’s has become renowned for its waffles, blueberry pancakes, and ingenious egg concoctions, its quick-paced pack-‘em-in bravado, and the banter of its wait staff and cooks. No time is wasted on the pseudo-niceties of sycophantic service. Placards on the wall set the tone: “Not Responsible for Alienated Affections”; “Beware of Waitress With An Attitude.” But the place wins national awards, attracts the cognoscenti, and clearly has strong advocates.
Not much of this was evident as I waited outside behind fifteen or so hungry patrons. Another dozen stood inside Al’s, leaning against the wall and looming over the shoulders of the fortunately-seated customers. I wondered if I would eat before noon.
The four guys in front of me must have sensed my unease, appreciating that I was a first timer. “Don’t worry,” they assured me, “the line moves quickly.” “Where are you from?”
Introductions made, the conversation turned to why I was in Minneapolis. My new-found friends were astounded that I had flown from Toronto to be part of a series of events commemorating the 1934 Teamsters’ strikes.
These class struggles were momentous battles. Workers and their ‘special deputy’ opponents died in picket line confrontations. The conflict raged over collective bargaining rights for coal heavers, market produce haulers, and truck drivers. When I told the group lining up for breakfast that the top wage demanded by this motley crew was less than 50 cents an hour, it was all news to them.
As I explained that the three strikes waged between February and August in 1934 were part of a nation-wide class upheaval that brought workers out of the doldrums of the Great Depression and into new forms of unionism that organized the unorganized and defeated die-hard anti-labour employers, they were surprised. “In Minneapolis,” they seemed to shrug, “who knew?”
Elaborating on all of this, I recounted how the Teamsters had grown locally from a union with no more than 175 members in 1933 to a vibrant presence in Minneapolis, 7,000 strong. Once an employer-dominated ‘open shop town’, Minneapolis was transformed. It became a ‘union city’. I explained how this breakthrough then exploded into an eleven-state over-the-road teamster organizing drive that quadrupled the national membership of the International Brotherhood, pushing it past the 500,000 mark by 1940.
The Hoffa Hangover
Jimmy Hoffa, before he was gangstered-up, learned how to organize truckers in this late 1930s mobilization, spearheaded out of the Minnesota metropole. “Minneapolis Teamsters,” my morning conversationalists replied in wonder. “Really! They did this?” To them, teamsters were a stereotype, a muscle-shirt wearing contingent of independent-contract drivers, under the tutelage of a racketeering officialdom.
And this clearly has had its local story-line.
As late as 2012, Local 120 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), serving Minneapolis and adjacent centers and the direct descendant of the union that waged the strikes of 1934, was rocked with a corruption scandal. A report undertaken by a Teamster union review board revealed that a father-son Secretary-Treasurer/President duo had diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars of membership funds into a variety of construction, enterprise, sporting ticket, and other schemes that resulted in the local being put under trusteeship by IBT union boss, James Hoffa, Jr., not to be confused with his father Jimmy.
Hoffa Sr., after presiding over the IBT from the late 1950s, was convicted on jury tampering, attempted bribery, and fraud charges in the early 1960s. Sentenced to 13 years in prison, Hoffa delayed the inevitable with appeal after appeal. Eventually he went to jail. Incarcerated for less than one-third of his time, Hoffa was pardoned by Richard Nixon in 1971. He then disappeared in 1975, widely thought to have been murdered by the mob in Detroit.
Jimmy Hoffa, then, consolidated a view of the Teamsters as corrupt that was, in places like Minneapolis, confirmed by modern developments. One Local 120 critic voiced disgust at the 2012 revelations, claiming that the union had become little more than ‘a good-old-boys club.’ He reported that it was impossible to get rid of those embezzling union funds and engaging in all manner of fraudulent schemes, including a union-run, money-losing bar in Fargo, North Dakota. That venture managed to see $200,000 worth of liquor and beer go missing.
Fargo, I thought when I became aware of this sordid bit of recent Minneapolis Teamster history – Joel and Ethan Coen clearly miscast the players in their dark comedy about murder, used car dealerships, and development schemes. They should have set the stage with Local 120 characters and their tavern-tampering ways.
A Revolutionary Leadership and Its Day in (Bourgeois/Kangaroo) Court
The leaders of these 1934 Minneapolis strikes were an entirely different breed. They adhered to the views of Leon Trotsky, and were organized in a group known as the Communist League of America (CLA) that would later develop into the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Barely half-a-dozen of these revolutionary Trotskyists had been agitating in the coal yards and among truckers since the late 1920s, and their patient efforts led to the victory of the 1934 strikes.
So successful were these teamster leaders that the state, the employers, the IBT bureaucracy (with Jimmy Hoffa as its head thug), and even the Communist Party colluded in World War II to displace and defeat them. The low point of this vendetta: two show trials of the early 1940s that saw the Minneapolis revolutionary teamsters and other genuine workers’ leaders convicted on trumped-up treason charges. Twenty-nine individuals were hauled into court, 18 of them railroaded to jail.
The real crime of the Trotskyists and teamster leaders was that they created strikingly effective ways of confronting employers and built new and democratic forms of mass unionism that challenged the status quo on all kinds of levels. They battled the trucking bosses with panache.
Organizing Workers to Win
New strike tactics such as the flying pickets that roved Minneapolis streets in 1934, chasing down scab trucks, were devised and implemented. Teamster leaders developed an extensive ‘intelligence network’, and were well informed by secretaries working for various enterprises of what the trucking magnates were preparing to do next. To get its message out to thousands of members, scattered throughout Minneapolis, the union took to the skies and the streets, enlisting an airplane and a squad of teenaged motorcyclists.
Strikes were planned down to the last detail. A massive union headquarters was staffed with dispatchers, a commissary was outfitted, and a make-shift hospital to care for the wounded was put in place. Refusing to be hoodwinked by the tired leadership of the IBT, these workers’ leaders instead involved the rank-and-file in strike committees 100-strong, drew the unemployed to work with the union, and organized a women’s auxiliary that attracted wives and daughters, mothers and aunts, to the necessity of building unionism.
Winning truckers and others in the transportation industry to militant activism, these leaders championed open discussions in regularly-convened mass meetings, favoring public votes of all union members rather than secret ballots. When they actually secured paid union positions after their 1934 strike victories, the revolutionary Trotskyists guiding the teamsters’ insurgency instituted salary scales for themselves insuring that union officials were paid no more than those working in the industry.
These revolutionaries also gained the confidence and respect of labouring men and women by helping their working-class confreres in time of need. They also suffered firings, beatings, and jailings. Encouraging workers to think independently, in the midst of the strikes of 1934 they put out a daily newspaper, The Organizer. This strike bulletin used innovative means, among them satire and humor, to convince labourers that it was necessary to fight for their rights.
Class War Warriors and the Red Scare
In the late 1930s, fascists threatened to organize in Minneapolis, realizing that the victories achieved in the 1934 strikes needed to be turned back if their reactionary cause was to succeed. Known as the Silver Shirts, these reactionaries talked of infiltrating the unions, making them nurseries of recruitment to right-wing thought, cultivating opposition to class-based understandings of the social order. They propagated a pernicious racism and anti-Semitism.
Trotskyists immediately saw the danger this posed. They formed an armed contingent of workers known as the Union Defense Guard. Its ‘commander’ was Ray Rainbolt, a Sioux Nation trucker and SWP member. He drilled the rifle-bearing workers and railed against the Silver Shirts and their project. Preparedness was the watchword among these revolutionaries. But workers arming themselves didn’t curry favor with the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, both of which were involved in the later legal onslaught against the Minneapolis teamsters.
Nor did the affront of labour effectively standing up against its class adversaries win the Minneapolis teamsters acclaim locally, at least as far as conventional authority was concerned. The General Drivers Union, known as Local 574, and its Trotskyist leadership were vilified in the mainstream newspapers. Anti-communism blanketed Minneapolis in 1934 like a dense fog; you could cut it with a dull bourgeois blade. Demanding 42-and-a-half cents an hour for the drivers and insisting on the right of those handling crates of vegetables in the market to join the union were the thin edge of a wedge ostensibly opening the door to a Soviet Minneapolis. Or so the Citizen’s Alliance, the employers’ voice in the strikes, claimed.
The Organizer countered, “They accuse us in this local of being un-American but how’s this for some real Am. Members: Happy Holstein, Chippewa; Ray Rainbolt, Sioux; Doc Tollotson, Chippewa; Bill Bolt, Chippewa; Bill Rogers, Chippewa; Joe Belanger, Chippewa.” The Red Scare was no doubt driven by the employers and their political and socio-cultural allies, but conservative labourites also contributed. One Native American wrote as “A member of 574, not a Communist, but a Chippewa Indian and a real American.” He protested the ways in which the ossified trade union tops occupying the plush office seats at the headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters red-baited the Minneapolis strike leadership. These underhanded attacks did the bosses’ bidding, adding ‘fuel to the fire’ of the employer association’s anti-communism.
Unions as History
As it turns out, my breakfast partners to be were educators in the public school system. They did not much like their teachers’ federations. “Hadn’t unions become too big and powerful and reactionary?” asked my chatty mates. “Hadn’t labour organizations outlived their usefulness?” Trade unions, in the vernacular of these educational workers, ‘were history’.
This is not an unusual view. And it contains a small grain of truth. Many workers will indeed speak of their union as a distant and ossified structure. But I argued with these teachers that if unions did often function in bureaucratic ways, they were hardly unduly powerful in their dealings with the employers and the state. On the contrary, they were weakened bodies, and had long been on the skids. They needed to be rebuilt, and in this rejuvenation their democratic promise and potential was necessarily going to be integral to the labour movement’s revitalization.
Evidence of union decline is unambiguous. The percentage of the workforce organized in United States unions was roughly 33 per cent in 1945, had declined to 24 per cent by the end of the 1970s, and now stands at little more than ten per cent. Moreover, this union density is regionally skewed. Fully 4.4 million of the total 14.5 million union members in the United States live in two states, California and New York, a whopping 21 per cent. Try cracking a union in North Carolina or Arkansas. If we factor out public sector workers such as teachers and government employees, whose high union densities of 35 per cent are a product of 1960s organizational breakthroughs in these areas, the health of the trade union movement looks even worse. The precipitous decline of unions in the private sector – where the mass production labour gains of the 1930s and 1940s were registered – is astounding. Today, less than seven per cent of American workers who toil in these traditional blue collar occupations are union members. Trade unionism is not exactly trending in the right direction.
“What will the United States look like without unions?” I asked Al’s customers. I reminded them of what the labour movement had historically accomplished. Unions were vital forces in securing working people the basic entitlements that now mean so much to ordinary Americans: the eight-hour day; the weekend; a living wage; paid holiday time; some essential protection from arbitrary dismissal or humiliating denigration. As jaundiced as they had come to be about unions as they are in our times, the men I talked to outside of and then inside of Al’s Breakfast knew this. They agreed that a United States without unions would be a country in which working people were acutely disadvantaged. Our dialogue seemed to move them out of their present discontents and uncovered more in the way of positive appreciations of the value of labour organization. These men knew, intuitively, that without the protections of trade unionism they and countless others were going to suffer.
What they did not know is the history of the Teamster insurgency in Minneapolis in 1934, arguably a key struggle that made so much of trade unionism’s mid-century advance possible, not only in one city in one particularly difficult time, the years of the Great Depression, but in wider national circles. What happened in Minneapolis in 1934 helped galvanize workers to fight back.
It influenced national figures like United Mine Workers leader, John L. Lewis, to see that the moribund unionism of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), in which leaders like IBT strongman Daniel Tobin were ensconced, needed to be revitalized in what would come to be known as the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The CIO mass production unionism that repudiated the narrow, craft-organized, business unionism of the AFL, threatened, for a brief time, to become a social mass production unionism that connected up with other fights for civil rights, women’s rights, and various other social justice causes. Born of ‘red’ leaderships like those active in Minneapolis and elsewhere, and driven by rank-and-file militancy, this reinvigorated mass unionism put the movement back in labour’s mobilizations.
Too often this process is seen as somehow a product of Lewis himself, and his ostensibly far-seeing vision of a new unionism. In fact, Lewis looked to Minneapolis. As one of his early biographers, Saul Alinsky, wrote in 1947, when “Blood ran in [the streets of] Minneapolis,” it got the burly, idiosyncratic head of the miners’ union to sit up and take notice.
Commemorating Workers’ Struggle: Remember 1934
I was in Minneapolis in mid-July because I had recently authored a book on these local strikes and their Trotskyist leadership: Revolutionary Teamsters: The Minneapolis Truckers’ Strikes of 1934. Minneapolis has a dedicated crew of individuals who, on particular anniversaries, hold high the banner of these exemplary strikes. They call themselves the Remember 1934 committee. One of their current tasks is to raise funds for a plaque to be placed in the old Warehouse District where two workers, Teamster rank-and-file member Henry Ness and unemployed worker John Bellor, died in a viciously one-sided, strike-related battle with police on ‘Bloody Friday’, 20 July 1934. This being the 80th anniversary of the strikes, the 1934 committee and a number of Minneapolis unions organized an impressive series of events.
I was honored to participate in the proceedings, which included a public lecture on my book at the Central Library; a film night featuring video and newsreel clips from a number of 1934 strikes, including those of Minneapolis, sponsored by American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 3800; a Teamsters Local 120 picnic and rally, with speakers like Minnesota’s populist Senator, Al Franken; a march to where many of the pitched street battles of the 1934 conflict took place; the laying of a union wreath where an unarmed Henry Ness was viciously murdered by police; a six-hour street festival, involving hip-hop artists, street art exhibits, Aztec dancers, union and other speakers; a Sunday picnic paying tribute to the descendants of the strikers, many of whom remain committed unionists, activists, and socialists; and a book launch and talk at a local institution of the left, MayDay Books, focusing on Revolutionary Teamsters.
These events heralded suggestions of fresh beginnings amidst recollections of old commitments. In the past, for instance, few descendants seemed to come forward and participate in efforts to Remember 1934. At this year’s 80th anniversary celebrations, however, more relatives of the strikers came out of the woodwork. They recalled, often quite movingly, the ways their kinfolk’s lives were forever altered by the experience of fighting to build unionism in Minneapolis.
Within Local 120, which has in the past eschewed a direct involvement in the Remember 1934 events, this is the first time that the official Teamsters union, as opposed to a reform current within it, Teamsters for a Democratic Union, has participated in the commemorations with unambiguous enthusiasm. In effect, 2014 marked a change in the IBT’s willingness to ‘own’ its history. There was even mention of ‘Trotskyist communist’ leadership in one of the speeches at the Local 120 picnic.
Too much cannot be made of such developments. They may nonetheless suggest, as do a host of other happenings, from the Occupy movement to the protests in Wisconsin against state attacks on trade unionism to the victories around the $15 minimum wage in Seattle and elsewhere to the impressive recent fight of Chicago’s teachers, that the anti-union tide that has threatened to engulf American labour is now meeting resistance.
Dialectics of Possibility
The Teamsters’ strikes of 1934 matter today because they remind us that, however bad the situation and whatever the power of those opposing change, victories can indeed be won.
One of the tangible hurdles that must be overcome if unions are to once again be remade as fighting agencies of the popular will is precisely the inertia and defeatism that suggests that they cannot, in the current climate, realize the potential that has always animated the labour movement. After all, unionism originated in and has long been inspired by the slogan, “An injury to one, is an injury to all.” That brief admonition broadens understandings of what struggles can and should be about.
What is needed within unions and other social movements in our times is the kind of leadership that can, in the spirit of 1934, demand, as was often said in periods of upheaval like 1968, the seemingly impossible. But this must be done in ways that understand what can be accomplished in a particular context. A balance must be struck between what might realistically be squeezed out of the actualities of the moment, without capitulating to the sorry ideological denials of possibility characteristic of any particular time.
This capacity to maximize what could be secured through struggle in 1934, rather than succumbing to the defeatism all around them, was what distinguished the revolutionary Trotskyists in the Minneapolis trucking industry from the IBT bureaucratic union officialdom.
If we compare the circumstances that a handful of these radicals faced in the coal yards of Minneapolis in the early 1930s, with what we confront today, it is impossible not to conclude that things looked worse, not better, in those Great Depression years. The working-class of Minneapolis won in 1934 because it had a leadership to guide it and a militant willingness to fight. This can happen again, not only in Minneapolis, but throughout the capitalist economies of our time, which are overripe for popular insurgencies.
Unionism Today and the Denial of Possibility
Three claims are often currently made denying the possibility of union revival. It is instructive to look at these assertions and compare them to the situation Minneapolis militants faced in 1934:
- When the economy is in terrible shape, as it is now, the times prohibit overt class struggles and demand concessions and a holding back on demands.
- In the past, workers were able to build solidarity and collective ways of resisting because their circumstances were different than those prevailing today. Class may well have been a potent force for social change in earlier periods, but this is not the case now. People see their circumstances from the vantage point of individual rather than collective concerns. Mobilizations like that of Minneapolis in 1934 are now impossible.
- Unions are outmoded institutions. They are top-heavy with bureaucracy and are removed from their dues-paying memberships. Labour organizations thus have no relevance in progressive, contemporary social struggles.
A lot of this was on order at Al’s Breakfast. But Trotskyists in Minneapolis answered these denials of possibility.
Their economic prospects, in 1933-1934, looked no better and probably a lot worse, than anything recent generations of workers have faced.
To be sure, the claims that workers today are less likely to struggle in class and collective ways than their counterparts in the past may seem self-evident. No doubt the fragmentation of working-class community life has increased over time, and the lure of consumer capitalism is more powerful now than it was decades ago. There are state institutions, like the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), that exercise a decisive and detrimental sway over labouring men and women in ways that were only weakly established in the 1930s. There is no doubt that the legalistic snare in which unions now seemed trapped is an impediment to class struggle mobilization.
Yet as the Minneapolis teamster leaders showed in their opposition to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s original NLRB, the corps of mediators sent to defuse the volatile situation in Minneapolis, and the smooth talking Farmer-Labor Party state governor, Floyd Olson, it is possible to beat back the state’s hegemonic hold over the working-class. The claims of conventional wisdoms suffocating popular insurgency’s potent potential can be refused; the barriers erected against the active agency of workers by contemporary labour relations and their institutions of industrial legality can be transcended.
So, too, can the seemingly insuperable divisions of working-class life in the modern era. While racism and all manner of chauvinisms have existed throughout history and while they exercise their divisiveness within today’s working-class, it is nevertheless the case that civil rights struggles, feminism, LGBTQ mobilizations, and other social movements, including trade unionism, have set the stage for a wider sense of human solidarity than has ever before been imaginable. Finally, precisely because capitalism has been in a state of crisis management since the mid-1970s, its capacity to lure the oppressed and exploited into its ideological lair has weakened considerably in recent times. Many people aren’t ‘buying’ it anymore. For all of the problems inherent in the Occupy Movement, its slogan of ‘Down with the 1%, Up with the 99%’ articulated an undeniable and growing repudiation of capitalism’s fundamental inequalities, highlighting the salience of class solidarity.
Finally, to those arguing that unions are bureaucratic beasts whose time has passed, the Minneapolis teamsters strikes of 1934 show precisely how an ossified officialdom can be swept aside in a moment of class upheaval. In the process, trade unionism can be revived.
The Left Today and the Denial of Possibility
There is also a second set of denials that also inhibit active change. They relate to the revolutionary left.
The primary lesson of Minneapolis is that the leadership that achieved the victory of 1934 came from this revolutionary left. There would have been no victories in Minneapolis in the mid-1930s if there had not been a Communist League of America leadership, established in New York, with a trade union fraction working diligently on the ground in a distant Minnesota city.
What these revolutionaries brought to trade unionism from outside of its experiences was decisively important. So, too, was the fact that these revolutionaries were embedded within the trucking industry and were well-known, and respected, among the workers of Minneapolis. The particularities of place mattered, but so too did general principles learned in various schools of hard knocks, and consolidated over the course of years of revolutionary thought and practice. When the situation exploded in all-out class war, the local leadership could rely on the advice, guidance, and skills of their ‘party-like’ formation and its comrades, as well as the support, resolve, energy, and militancy of rank-and-file workers in Minneapolis, both in the trucking sector and outside of it.
If we are to witness events the like of Minneapolis 1934 again, we obviously need, not only new unions, but a new, and revived, revolutionary left.
Yet the ideological commonsense of our current times proclaims the revolutionary left dead and buried. It does so in ways that are, again, usefully compared to the 1934 Minneapolis struggles:
- With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, capitalist commentators proclaimed ‘the end of history’. This grandiose posture was premised on the view that with the implosion of actually existing socialism in its Stalinist variant, capitalism was triumphant, ending a contest pitting the free-world colossus (headed by the U.S. in the West) against the so-called totalitarian planned economies.
- Equating the entirety of the socialist project with Soviet Stalinism and its modern offshoots, from China to Cuba, this view of the 1945-1990 world concluded that a revolutionary challenge to capitalism had, finally, been vanquished. Capitalism’s contest with socialism was declared decisively over.
- With the revolutionary left forever dispensed with, the politics of our times are confined to a new, and lesser, opposition. The only political contest involves progressive reform within capitalism, of the social democratic or liberal kind, versus the maintenance of a civil society prostrate before the hegemony of the market, or neoliberalism.
The Minneapolis truckers’ insurgency and its leadership made it abundantly clear that Stalinism need not encompass the entirety of the revolutionary left. The Trotskyists who guided the 1934 teamster upheaval understood how the Communist Party of this era had abandoned its revolutionary origins and was on a slow, but inevitable, road to the implosion of 1989. They offered workers and their allies an alternative.
That alternative, moreover, kept the promise of revolutionary socialism alive precisely because it refused to collapse all struggle into the small, complacent, container of progressive, liberal, reform. A politics of the left that became nothing more than the attempt to insure that the lesser of many evils triumphed, necessitating the embrace of many pernicious illusions, was anathema to the revolutionary leadership of the Teamster rebellion. They would no more have regarded Minnesota’s Farmer-Labor Governor Olson as an ally than should today’s left look to someone far less radical, Barrack Obama, as anything approximating an answer to the untold grievances of the dispossessed.
If the Trotskyist teamsters were not fighting directly for Revolution in 1934, and they were not, their militant refusal to succumb to the many temptations on offer by those whose purpose it was to limit unionism to nothing more than an appendage to capitalism, built important bridges to revolutionary possibility. And that is exactly why that revolutionary leadership and those bridges had to be attacked by bourgeois power and its props within the working-class, under the guise of World War II-fomented treason charges.
What the Minneapolis Trotskyists tell us is that principle and a vision of what can be achieved by militant actions and resolve, whatever the circumstances, do matter. They did not barter away their critical senses in a cat-and-mouse game of setting their sights on one main enemy and toying with ways of making their struggle more palatable to others, with whom they had fundamental disagreements. They fought employers and IBT bureaucrats; Stalinist slander and social democratic carrots of enticement; labour boards, courts, and mediators; the pulpit, police and provocateurs. This audacity goes a long way toward explaining just how they won, when so many other working-class struggles came up short.
Victories can be achieved, then, even in the worst of times. Even in our times. They will not, however, be secured by drinking the hemlock of conciliation, compromising everything in order to achieve a small, and always vulnerable, corner of what is needed. Reality must be faced squarely; capitulation can never be countenanced. We need to remember 1934 because, 80 years later, it still lives for us as a pathway to possibility.
Dining Out as It Has Been and as It Might Be
Al’s Breakfast has a long row of yellow ticket books. They are thrown into rectangular alphabetically-ordered bins that run much of the length of the narrow service area in which cooks and servers scurry back and forth. Each booklet has a name boldly marked on its outside.
I asked the waitress what they were. “Prepaid breakfasts,” she replied, barely stopping to answer as she walked off briskly to pick-up and drop off another order. Apparently the practice began in the 1950s: railroad workers, paid once a month, would deposit a portion of their wages with Al so they would be assured of eating at the end of the month when their cash reserves would likely be low. Not quite “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.” But something.
In 1934, when they were on strike, teamsters dined at their massive union hall. This was a place that proclaimed the collective power of the working-class. More than a building, it was an edifice that represented a way of life. Workers’ meals were not prepaid, at least not in terms of the cash that oils the wheels of the marketplace. Rather, it was the collective being of class mobilization that literally put food on the workers’ communal tables in 1934, and that ordered concerns of health and well-being. Sustenance in the midst of struggle was provided by the General Drivers’ Union. Local 574’s commissary was staffed by women’s auxiliary members; its hospital was run by volunteer doctors and nurses.
Discussions took place about how to maximize nutrition in the meals served, which were prepared by strike supporters, many of the ingredients provided by local farmers who sided with the workers in their battles.
After a full day of picket duty, a striking worker might well have sat down to a plate of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and fresh vegetables. This was likely to be followed by conversation and discussion with fellow unionists, perhaps even an address by one of the strike leaders or a report from the Strike Committee of 100. To cap off the evening, this worker likely took time to do a reading of the day’s issue of The Organizer. Food for thought.
Bryan D. Palmer is the author of Revolutionary Teamsters: The Minneapolis Truckers’ Strikes of 1934 (Chicago: Haymarket, 2014) and a past editor of the journal, Labour/Le Travail. He is the Canada Research Chair, Canadian Studies Department, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario. This article first published on the Labor Online website.
CALEDONIA – The Caledonia Pro-Fit Corvairs secured their hold on first place in the GOJHL Golden Horseshoe Conference Saturday night with an impressive 6-1 win over the second place Welland Canadians. The win gave Caledonia a five-point advantage over Welland as of Saturday night. Welland and third place St. Catharines faced each other Sunday. The […]
HAGERSVILLE – It took a shootout to do it, but the Hagersville Hawks pulled out the extra point in a 4-3 shootout win against the visiting Simcoe Storm in Jr. C hockey action. despite outshooting their opponent two to one. Team points leader Matt Rimic played the hero by scoring the only goal of the […]
Photo by Edward Valachovic
On November 9, 2014, Germany and its Western Allies, celebrated the ‘Fall of the Berlin Wall’ and the subsequent ‘reunification’ of the ‘two Germanys’. Prime Minister Merkel described the ‘historic event’ as a “victory of freedom for all peoples in Europe and across the world.” The entire Western media and officialdom echoed Merkel’s rhetoric, as 300,000 Germans gathered at the Brandenburg Gate hailed their leader as she spoke of ‘one people, one nation and one state in freedom, peace and prosperity…’ But Merkel’s discourse is a self-serving chauvinist fabrication which distorts the real consequences of a united Germany. Moreover, the Western celebration of ‘fallen walls’ is very selective.
The notion that Germany was ‘unified’ democratically is of dubious historical accuracy. The consequences of a powerful unified Germany have not led to a peaceful prosperous Europe and Germany’s current role in world politics, particularly its policies toward the Middle East, North Africa and the Ukraine, has been anything but peaceful.
The Walls of Freedom and the Walls of Prison
While NATO regimes celebrate the ‘Fall of the Berlin Wall’ as the highest expression of freedom, these same political leaders support, finance and promote the construction of oppressive walls throughout world: Unified Germany and its NATO partners have supported Israel’s Separation Wall dividing and caging millions of Palestinians for the better part of two decades. Apparently there are progressive and reactionary ‘walls’ – ‘good walls’ and ‘bad walls’. Unlike the Palestinians, Berliners were never deprived of basic necessities and subject to random displacement or even murder – the Western airlift provided all for West Berliners. Israel’s Separation Wall results in division and seizure of Palestinian land, ancestral homes, farms, schools and cultural sites while centuries-old olive groves are razed – depriving their owners of productive income.
The US has built its own massive ‘Security Wall’ along its Mexican border, incarcerating and even shooting refugees fleeing Washington’s militarization of Central America and Mexico. The US ‘Security’ Wall condemns millions of Mexicans and Central Americans to live in terror and misery in murderous US client narco-states. In the past seven years, over 100,000 Mexican civilians have been killed under the reign of US-backed Presidents, who were elected through fraud, as they relentlessly pursue the US mandated “War on Drugs”. Similar levels of killings ravage Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala where narco-gangs, with the backing of corrupt political, police and military officials, terrorize the cities and countryside. The death toll from US military interventions in Central America far exceeds those by the former-Soviet Union in Eastern Europe. The US border wall ensures that the survivors of this terror will remain exposed to the brutal rule of US-backed regimes.
At the same time, the civilized ‘European Union’ has erected its land and sea ‘Walls against refugees’ from Iraq, Syria, Libya, Lebanon and Palestine, fleeing NATO directed invasions and proxy wars in their countries. According to the UN Commission on Refugees, 13 million civilians have been displaced by US wars in Iraq and Syria. Many fleeing the war zones crash up against the European ‘legal walls’ – immigration restrictions, concentration or “internment” camps and prolonged detentions welcome their “flight to freedom”.
Chancellor Merkel chose not to mention these ‘civilized’ walls against people fleeing NATO’s ‘humanitarian interventions’. Nor have the Prime Ministers and Presidents of Europe or the US and its ‘ally’ Israel acknowledged the deaths and suffering; because these are their Walls, their own ‘barriers to freedom’.
Democratic Re-Unification or Annexation by Force
Merkel glosses over the crucial fact that the East Germans were never consulted or allowed to hold a free election to decide what kind of relation they would like with the West German regime. They were never asked under what terms and in what time frame “reunification” would take place. The West German regime seized control and dictated economic and social policies that destroyed their eastern neighbours’ economy by fiat. Hundreds of thousands of East German factory-workers faced brutal arbitrary firings as the capitalist ‘West’ shut closed state factories. East German farmers looked on helplessly as their prosperous, stable co-operatives were dissolved on the orders of West German officials. Where was the democracy in this policy of brutal annexation and political viciousness that slashed the former ‘East’ Germans living standards, multiplied unemployment ten-fold, greatly prejudiced the welfare benefits and employment of female workers and devastated pensioners? Over 1.5 million Eastern German workers were uprooted and became economic refugees in the ‘West’ where wages were double the rate in ‘liberated’ East Germany. The wages were higher, but so was the job insecurity and the loss of social welfare provisions of the East. And if the death of 138 East Germans during 28 years, trying to escape over the Wall, was a tragedy, then what should we call the thousands who have drowned or died other horrible deaths trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe or to scale the Wall separating the US and Mexico, or Israel’s Wall strangling six million Palestinians?
There are many ‘death strips’ denying Latin Americans, Palestinians, Middle Easterners their freedom from want, blocking their escape from US-NATO wars and Israeli genocide. But those ‘atrocious walls’ were not mentioned by Chancellor Merkel at the Brandenburg Gate as she celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The scribes and scribblers from the New York Times, the Financial Times and the Washington Post did not mention these real, contemporary walls and their brutal toll. The selective denunciation of certain Walls contrasts with the politics of erecting ‘other’, more formidable Walls. Western walls of exclusion carry with them a denial of responsibility for the political and economic conditions that has driven millions of refugees to flee Central America, Palestine, the Middle East and North Africa.
US intervention and support of proxy death-squad regimes and the brutal military in Central America, from the 1960’s to the 1990’s, resulted in over 250,000 civilian deaths and the displacement of over 2 million refugees.
US-EU invasions and proxy wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria for over a decade have uprooted more than 13 million people and killed well over million civilians.
Israel’s wars and occupation against the Palestinian people have resulted in over 500,000 Jewish colonial settlers grabbing Palestinian land since 1967. The self-proclaimed Jewish state forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands and killed, maimed and jailed over 300,000. To admit that the West constructs and maintains its own system of atrocious walls inevitably points to the policy of decades of prolonged bloody imperialist wars leading to millions of refugees.
Imperial wars are characterized by the construction and maintenance of complex ‘Western Walls’, far deadlier and brutal than the Berlin Wall and less likely to fall. In fact, Western Walls are multiplying and being fortified by the latest surveillance technology. Larger budgets and more lethal arms for anti-immigrant police, has led to the brutal hunt, capture and incarceration of refugees – as Western regimes become more like police states.
The Malignant Consequences of the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Annexation of East Germany
The annexation of East Germany vastly increased the economic power of Germany, providing German capital with several million skilled workers and trained engineers at no cost. Germany’s enhanced power dictated the course of the European Union’s economic policy. With the onset of the economic crisis, Germany’s capitalist and political elite were well positioned to dictate the terms of ‘recovery’ – and impose the entire burden on the working and middle classes of Southern Europe and Ireland. Germany’s ruling class, in firm control of the EU directorate, forced “austerity programs” on Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland. These regressive policies, which ensured that creditors would recover their loans with interest, led to spiralling unemployment rates, in some cases of over 50% for young people, and long-term, large-scale decline in living standards. ‘Unified Germany’ flexed its newly found economic muscle and extended its hegemony over the EU and ensured debt payments from its European subjects.
Unified Germany’s economic power led to renewed political and military aspirations to engage and assert its presence in the US led imperial wars in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and the Ukraine. By the end of the first decade of the 21st century ‘united Germany’ was profitably supplying weapons, logistics and military missions in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. It provided Israel with weapons and economic aid while Palestinians were expelled from their homes and land. Merkel’s imperial ambitions were revealed in her wholehearted backing of the far-right coup in Ukraine. Subsequently Germany imposed sanctions against Russia and supported the Kiev regime’s savage military blitz against the Donbass. In the Ukraine, Germany once again, as in the 1930’s, found allies among neo-Nazi collaborators and thugs willing to slaughter ethnic Russian speaking federalists in the East. Merkel’s dream is to convert the Ukraine into a German-American client state, where German exports would replace Russian goods and German agro-mineral investors can exploit the country’s raw materials.
It is obvious that Merkel, Obama and other imperialist rulers have a double standard with regard to ‘Walls’ – they denounce ‘Communist Walls’ while supporting murderous ‘Capitalist Walls’ against refugees; they celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall while they build bloodier Walls against the victims of their imperial wars.
Apart from the cant and hypocrisy of Western officialdom, there is a political logic guiding these policies. The West’s criteria, for deciding which Walls are worthy of support and which Walls should fall, runs along the following lines: Walls that keep out victims of imperialist wars are progressive and necessary for ‘national security’; Walls that protect Communist, nationalist or leftist regimes are repressive, dehumanizing and must fall.
If we consider the larger political consequences of an event, like the fall of the Berlin War and the subsequent arbitrary annexation of the East, it is clear that ‘re-unified’ Germany’s exercise of power has had a profoundly negative impact on the economies of Southern Europe and has concentrated dictatorial political powers in the hands of German decision-makers operating through EU headquarters in Brussels. Unified Germany has renounced its passive role and re-asserted its role in world politics: slowly at first as a passive junior partner to US imperialist wars in the Middle East and now, more decisively, by linking up with Ukraine rightists and thugs and imposing economic sanctions on Russia.
Germany’s ‘great fall’ after World War II required a half century to “put all the pieces together again”. But once in place, Germany seeks to project world power, particularly through its proxies in the EU and NATO, in alliance with US imperialism. The Fourth Reich increasingly looks back to the Third Reich.
Drawing by W.S. Gilbert (d. 1911)
On November 13, 2008, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) unjustly arrested Diab. In connection with a 1980 Paris synagogue bombing. A crime he had nothing to do with. At the time, France’s Le Figaro newspaper cited unnamed 2007 sources. Saying Diab led “the small commando team responsible for the attack…” Despite no verifiable evidence proving it.
In mid-November 2008, L’Express said French police, magistrates and intelligence officers were in Canada.
“(T)ry(ing) to arrange Mr. Diab’s extradition to France. The French warrant *(unjustly) accuse(d) him of making and planting the bomb.”
His lawyer, Rene Duval, said he had no involvement at all. “Most definitely he’s innocent,” he stressed. “He didn’t even set foot in France in 1980. At the time, he was studying sociology at the University of Lebanon.”
He was unjustly accused of “driv(ing) the motorbike that eventually exploded.” Killing three French men and an Israeli woman.
Diab is a former University of Ottawa and Carleton University sociology professor. Terminated without just cause. Violating his presumed innocence right. Capitulating unjustly to political pressure.
Diab is a Lebanese national with dual citizenship. With no criminal record whatever. No involvement with the group accused of the Paris bombing.
Or other resistance organizations. Including alleged Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine membership.
No knowledge of what happened until a Le Figaro reporter told him at the University of Ottawa. On June 6, 2011, an Ottawa judge ordered Diab extradited to France. Several appeals for justice followed. To no avail.
On April 4, 2012, Canadian Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson ordered Diab’s extradition. To face terror charges.
In 2014, Diab’s appeals to the Ontario Court of Appeal and Canadian Supreme Court were rejected. His extradition order remained upheld.
On November 14, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported his extradition. After Canadian Supremes refused to hear his appeal. Without explanation. Based on deeply flawed handwriting analysis. So-called secret information. Unavailable to Diab or counsel representing him.
Raising fundamental constitutionality issues. Procedural fairness. Kangaroo court justice prevailed. Operating like America’s High Court. Representing wealth, power and privilege. Anti-populist. Denying justice.
Diab’s current lawyer, Donald Bayne, confirmed what happened. Saying he didn’t even have a chance to see family members before extradition.
“We were trying to arrange, in the early morning, a visit for Dr. Diab’s wife and child before he was taken away, and the jail replied that he had been in fact picked up at 5:30 AM,” Bayne said.
“So he has not, since the decision yesterday, had even a visit with his wife or child…You can imagine. She’s beside herself with grief.”
In December 2009, Amnesty International lawyer Paul Champ said: “If the Canadian government and the French government are able to rely on this kind of intelligence information to support an extradition, I think it’s yet another step in the erosion of civil liberties that we’ve been familiar with in Canada and in other countries for a very long time.”
In October 2007, Diab told Le Figaro: “I am a victim of mistaken identity not based on anything” but unjust conjecture. “I have never belonged to a Palestinian organization, nor have I been militant politically.”
“Because of such mistaken identities, my travel in Canada was often affected.” He explained how often he’s mistaken for others with the same name, adding: “Since (9/11), we know that files are created on nothing, particularly if you are a member of a minority, and that innocent people will admit to anything if they are put under pressure.”
False accusations changed everything. On November 8, 2010, he released the following statement, saying:
“I am innocent of the charges against me. I condemn all ethnically, racially, and religiously motivated violence.”
“Since Sept. 11, 2001, the presumption of innocence and other core values of our legal system have eroded, especially for people from particular minority backgrounds.”
“I hope this extradition hearing will end the witch-hunt atmosphere I have been living under for the past three years, and that no one else will have to endure the burden of false, unfounded accusations.”
“I also wish to thank the many people and groups across Canada who have signed a statement in my support.”
On November 14, he issued a statement, saying:
“I am deeply shocked that the Supreme Court refused to even hear the appeal in my case.”
“This is a very sad day for me, my family and supporters, and the state of extradition law in Canada. I had hoped for justice from the Canadian legal system.”
“I have been living a Kafkaesque nightmare for over six years, fighting false allegations against me, enduring detention, strict bail conditions, the loss of my employment, and enormous stress on my family.”
“It is beyond devastating that the Supreme Court would allow my extradition for a crime that I did not commit and based on a handwriting analysis report that was shown by world-renowned handwriting experts to be wholly unreliable, totally erroneous, and biased.”
“It is shocking that this would happen in Canada, despite the numerous commissions on wrongful convictions based on faulty forensic evidence and the Court’s vow to never let this happen again.”
“I, my family, friends, and supporters, will continue to fight the false allegations that have been imposed on me, a Canadian citizen who is law-abiding, peaceful, compassionate, and who abhors violence.”
“I am grateful and heartened by the outpouring of support from thousands of individuals and organizations that recognize the injustice that I have experienced and the unfairness of Canada’s extradition law.”
“I am also deeply thankful to my devoted lawyers who tirelessly worked on my behalf for years.”
“I vow to never give up, and I will always remain hopeful that I will eventually return to my home in Canada and be reunited with my wife and children.”
His web site explained the Kafkaesque case against him, saying: Imagine being told “by a foreign country you committed a crime 30 years ago…(One) you know nothing about.”
“(Y)ou face allegations based on misrepresentations, contradictions, and secret intelligence from unknown sources.”
“(D)eeply flawed handwriting analysis is used as (so-called) ‘proof’ of your guilt when it actually (proves) innocence.”
“(F)inger and palm print evidence…shows you are innocent…” Authorities suppress it to wrongfully claim guilt.
Since November 2008, Diab endured months of detention. Loss of academic employment. Humiliating/oppressive bail conditions.
Including house arrest and hugely expensive GPS monitoring. An electronic ankle bracelet costing Diab $2,000 a month.
Letting him leave home only if accompanied by one of five sureties posting over $250,000 in bail.
Like many others of Middle East origin, he’s another war on terror victim.
Hung out to dry unjustly. His lawyer, Donald Bayne, called the Supreme Court’s decision “profoundly disappointing.”
“Unfortunately, in this case, we now have, in my view, a classic recipe for the wrongful conviction of a Canadian,” he said.
“This could never meet Canadian constitutional standards for criminal trial, yet we’re sending a Canadian to such a Kafkaesque trial, where he can’t possibly meet the standards of knowing the case against him and making and having a real and meaningful opportunity to answer that case.”
So-called secret evidence was crucial in his case. Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented instances of French courts using torture-obtained evidence to convict.
What no legitimate court would allow. What America’s Supreme Court decades earlier ruled illegal.
In testimony at Diab’s extradition November 2010 hearing, University of Toronto Law Professor Kent Roach said so-called intelligence used doesn’t meet Canadian evidentiary standards.
Raising concerns about French “tunnel vision.” Cherry-picking or inventing intelligence to convict.
Ignoring hard truths exonerating Diab. Warning about relying on unsourced intelligence.
Unverified. Unchallenged. Ignoring judicial fairness. Pronouncing guilty by accusation.
Setting a dangerous legal precedent. Undermining fundamental Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
A constitutional bill of rights. Section 2(b) stating:Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.
Article 7 assures “(e)veryone has the right to life, liberty and security of person and the right not to be deprived thereof in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”
The Charter protects fundamental freedoms. Democratic rights. Fairness in legal proceedings. Especially in criminal cases.
Habeas rights. Challenging detention. Presumption of innocence. Unless or until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Based on verifiable evidence.
Constitutionally guaranteed. Prohibiting anyone being denied liberty and security. Except through proper legal procedures.
Protected against unreasonable searches and seizures. Excessive police force. Arbitrary arrest and detention.
Arbitrary/improper law enforcement actions. The right to be told precisely why arrest and detention were ordered.
Immediate counsel representation. Quick court determination whether arrest and detention are lawful. If charged with an offense, the right:
- for prompt full explanation;
- to be tried without unreasonable delay;
- to remain silent at trial; not testify;
- to presumed innocence unless proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; in fair, impartial, public tribunal proceedings;
- to reasonable bail;
- not to be subjected to cruel and unusual treatment;
- to jury trial; and
- to no double jeopardy; no retrial for the same offense.
Everyone is constitutionally equal before the law. With equal protections. Regardless of race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability.
Constitutionally guaranteed rights don’t matter. Canada more police state than democracy. Marching in lockstep with America. Rogue states operate this way.
Diab one of many politically persecuted victims. Guilt by accusation suffices. Deprived of judicial fairness. Justice remains denied.
Stephen Lendman wrote How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I’m feeling down and out, a good meal has the power to lift my spirits. Good food made with love is a precious gift that can be easily taken for granted. Made with a good mind, it is medicine for the mind, body and soul. This past weekend I was feeling pretty down due […]
The oldest black town in America, Eatonville in central Florida, where a quarter of the residents live below the poverty line, voted Tuesday night on a plan to transform the community into a luxury shopping destination for the ultra-rich.
Customers of the $200 million project called the World Transportation Exchange, where luxury cars, helicopters, yachts and corporate jets would be on display, could drop more money in a day than the town’s entire population earns in a year.
Developer Elliott Kahana, a luxury car dealer from Clearwater on Florida’s west coast, said he is undisturbed by the juxtaposition of ostentatious wealth alongside neighborhood poverty.
“Everything changes. Progress happens,” Kahana said.
The exchange would encompass nearly 20 percent of Eatonville, a town of one square mile, which was made famous by Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” about black society at turn of 20th century America.
If the project is approved, residents in the future will be able to feast their eyes on a massive, eight-story luxury car showroom complex displaying brands such as Rolls Royce, Ferrari and Lamborghini.
Plans also include a hotel, conference center, apartment buildings and offices.
Eatonville Mayor Bruce Mount, who did not return a call from seeking comment, will ask the town council to approve the $9.5 million sale of the 117-acre property, which is 5 miles from downtown Orlando, according to the city agenda.
In 1887, Eatonville become the first incorporated African-American municipality in the country. It remains 85 per cent black, according to U.S. census data, with 26 percent unemployment and average household income under $28,000 a year.
The plan so far has generated little public comment, following on the heels of several other development plans for the same property that fell through in recent years.
The development is expected to employ about 2,000 people, almost as many as there are residents in Eatonville.
“It’s going to allow the constituents of Eatonville and their children, whoever wants to leave stagnation and be part of that which has going on around them for 70 years, to do that,” said Kahana.
(Editing by David Adams and Eric Walsh)Related Stories
Jon Stewart has been on the interview circuit to promote his new film, “Rosewater,” but many of his comments have turned to partisan politics and the pundits who encourage them. Interviewers have not been able to resist the urge to talk about Stewart’s thoughts on the midterm elections, on immigration, and on the legacy of Obama. But what has been really interesting to watch is Stewart’s comments on Fox News and on commentators like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Stewart explained that most of Fox News is about fear. Fox News viewers, he explained, operate in a world where they have a high sense of being persecuted, and this is why, for instance, we will soon see pieces on the “War on Christmas” with commentators standing next to 60-foot-tall Christmas trees. But not all Fox News commentators are equal in Stewart’s eyes. He considers O’Reilly to be more like a “Kennedy Democrat” who comes by his views honestly. Not so with Hannity, whom Stewart describes as “probably the most loathsome dude over there.” He describes Hannity as espousing “pure cynicism”: “Everything is presented in as devious a manner as it could possibly be presented.”
It’s worth remembering that from the moment that Fox News was founded in 1996 the goal was to offer a partisan view of the news. David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt in “The Fox Effect” explain in detail how Roger Ailes turned the cable channel into a propaganda machine. And once the channel launched, all other cable news responded. Few recall that Ann Coulter used to work for MSNBC before Fox was founded. It’s hard to imagine it in the blue versus red world we live in now.
Three years after Fox News used the slogan “fair and balanced” to promote a channel that had no intention of being either, Jon Stewart took over “The Daily Show” and he has been using satire news as a foil for Fox News ever since.
Stewart has the crazy idea that we should treat the citizens of our nation with respect and that we should offer accurate and informed news to help educate an active and engaged democracy. Meanwhile on Fox News it is common to see pundits attack major segments of our society while misinforming their viewers.
Evidence of these tactics was in place in the Nov. 14 interview between Stewart and O’Reilly on “The O’Reilly Factor.” O’Reilly began the interview introducing Stewart as a “big-time liberal commentator” and focusing on the midterm elections. He asked Stewart to explain why the Democrats lost and Stewart responded with a very non-partisan answer: “Because they curled up in a little ball and tried to make sure that nobody hit them. I have no idea what they even ran on.” But Stewart’s answer wasn’t what O’Reilly wanted to hear. So he offered his own analysis: The Democrats lost “because the callow youth that watches your program didn’t show up,” he said to Stewart.
Callow youth? First of all, all the data suggests that the millennials, the main demographic for Stewart’s show, did show up. At 21.3 percent they voted at the same percentage as last midterm. And this despite the very real challenges they have to actually casting votes. These young people juggle jobs and classes that make finding the time to get to the voting booths a real challenge. Add to that the voter ID regulations and lack of early voting options designed to suppress their vote.
Second of all, it is hard to understand how O’Reilly can refer to Stewart’s young viewers as callow stoners when they also volunteer at a higher rate than boomers. And they score higher in knowledge of political issues than viewers of Fox News. So if they are all stoned, it isn’t affecting their ability to keep track of the facts and give back to their country.
This sort of misrepresentation is legion on Fox News and makes its viewers the most misinformed in our nation. A fact-checking site found that Fox News only tells the truth 18 percent of the time. In contrast, the satirical comedians like Stewart, Stephen Colbert and John Oliver have been proven to accurately inform their audiences even though they are not news shows.
And despite the hype, it is not Stewart, Colbert and Oliver who are stirring up the partisan spin. Sure they attack Fox News, sure they call out the outrageous positions of many Republicans, but they go after the Democrats too. Stewart’s post midterm election coverage included a bit called “Obama and the Pussycrats.” That’s far from subtle.
In contrast, Hannity paid $300,000 for a portrait of Obama burning the Constitution. And when he was asked to respond to Stewart’s comments about him from Rolling Stone for Politico Hannity was quick to attack: “Jon’s problem is he has his head so far up Obama’s ass he cannot see clearly, he is obviously better suited to reading his joke writers material, and making his clapping seal audience happy.” No wonder Stewart said he had no interest in having Hannity ever appear on his show.
These exchanges have shown that Fox News propaganda is hitting new highs. The parallel between these interviews and the subject of a free press covered in “Rosewater” should not escape us. Iran may have put Maziar Bahari in prison for his reporting, and Stewart may be free to critique Fox News, and yet we have much in common. If Stewart started his interviews explaining that his film was about fundamentalist ideologues pretending to be sources of news, but instead spouting propaganda and misinforming the public, you might think he made a movie based right here on our home turf.Related Stories