Thursday, July 27, 2017

Defend Academic And Union Freedoms---Defend Dr. Georgette Fleischer!

Last September, Georgette Fleischer, one of the leaders of a long fight to organize contingent faculty at Barnard College, wrote an article for the Labor And Working-Class History Association's LaborOnline detailing the struggle and explaining why the new union, UAW Local 2210, had voted to strike. After winning an NLRB election with 91% support, the union had spent a year trying to get the administration to bargain. The strike threat did the trick. In April, Barnard's contingent faculty union signed its first contract.

But the story didn't end there. In June, Dr. Fleischer learned that she had been fired. After 17 years of teaching in the College’s First-Year Foundation programs, she was out. This is an outrage and the union is asking for support while it fights what looks like a classic case of retaliation for union activism.

There are several ways we can support Dr. Fleischer, most importantly with letters to:

President Sian Beilock
Barnard College
New York, NY 10027

Also, please visit and leave a comment or like the UAW Local 2110 Facebook page, read a helpful article about Dr. Fleischer's case here, and check out this important Facebook entry from last year on the case.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Machado Ventura: Fidel no ha dejado de estar presente junto a este pueblo

El 26 de Julio, fecha trascendental en la historia de Cuba, provoca en nosotros una mezcla de emociones, sentimientos e ideas de compromiso con Fidel y todos aquellos que ofrendaron su sangre por la independencia de nuestro país; y orgullo de ser hijos de este pueblo.

Así expresó José Ramón Machado Ventura, segundo secretario del Comité Central del Partido y vicepresidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros, durante el acto por el Día de la Rebeldía Nacional, ocurrido esta mañana en Pinar del Río.

Fidel no ha dejado de estar presente junto a este pueblo, dispuesto a ser consecuente, en su andar cotidiano, con el concepto de Revolución que él nos legó, dijo.

Añadió que bastan unas pocas cifras para ilustrar cómo ha cambiado Pinar del Río después del triunfo revolucionario.

Antes de 1959 –señaló–, esta provincia contaba con apenas 248 médicos, 25 estomatólogos y 50 enfermeras. Actualmente, sin embargo, cuenta con 626 consultorios de familia, 19 policlínicos, ocho clínicas estomatológicas y cinco hospitales. Además, el personal de enfermería supera los 5 000, y existen 4 577 médicos, 18 veces más que antes de 1959.

Entre los resultados obtenidos por la provincia pinareña, Machado Ventura destacó la reducción de la mortalidad infantil de más de 60 fallecidos por cada 1 000 nacidos vivos antes de la Revolución, a 1,7 en el primer semestre del año en curso, lo cual calificó de extraordinario.

Destacó también la reducción de la tasa de analfabetismo (de 30 % a 0) y de desempleo (de 30 % a 1,3 %).

Aún queda mucho por hacer para el despegue definitivo de la economía cubana, pero en esa difícil batalla estamos convencidos de que Pinar del Río estará a la vanguardia, destacó.

En ese sentido, resaltó los logros de la provincia en el sector tabacalero, el turismo, la industria, entre otros.

Son incontables los pinareños que ayudaron a construir la Revolución –subrayó–. Y esos, son los mismos que hoy derraman su sudor en la construcción de un futuro mejor para la patria.

Durante su intervención, Machado Ventura denunció las acciones injerencistas contra el gobierno constitucional de Nicolás Maduro en Venezuela. Asimismo, enfatizó que Cuba rechaza las insinuaciones realizadas por un medio estadounidense sobre su supuesta participación en mediaciones de diálogo en Venezuela. En ese sentido, reclamó respeto a la autonomía de esa hermana nación y ratificó la invariable solidaridad cubana con ese pueblo y su gobierno.

Reiteró, igualmente, la denuncia del gobierno revolucionario a las nuevas medidas de recrudecimiento del bloqueo.

No traicionaremos jamás la gloria y orgullo infinito de haber servido a la patria y a la Revolución bajo la conducción de Fidel y Raúl, expresó Machado Ventura. Cualquier estrategia de presión fracasará, añadió el segundo secretario del Partido.

“The history of peoples is not measured by the periods of futile subjugation, but by their moments of rebellion”

Speech by Gladys Martínez Verdecia, member of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee and first secretary of the Party Provincial Committee in Pinar del Río, during the main act commemorating the 64th anniversary of the assaults on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Garrisons. Pinar del Río, July 26, 2017, Year 59 of the Revolution.

Compañero Army General, Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee and President of the Councils of State and Ministers;

Members of the Political Bureau and other officials with us here today;

Moncada combatants; members of Granma expedition, comrades of the clandestine struggle;

Guests from different regions;

Compatriots from throughout Cuba:

“The history of peoples is not measured by the periods of futile subjugation, but by their moments of rebellion,” stated (José Martí) the intellectual author of the Moncada assault, and that ray of light, who in the year of his centenary, on the morning of St. Anne’s Day, illuminated the terrible darkness in which our wounded but rebellious people fought; went down in history as one of the most important acts of rebellion by the Cuban people, given the exemplary patriotism and great altruism of its participants.

The critical situation in the country at that time was masterfully denounced by the intrepid leader of that group of youths, recorded in the historical document which became the program for the revolutionary struggle: “History will absolve me.”

Under these circumstances, characterized by ineffective demagogues and rotating thieves, Pinar del Río had the sad merit of symbolizing almost total abandonment.

Celebrating the national act commemorating the 64th anniversary of the assaults on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Garrisons in our province constitutes a great recognitionof the participation of our people in carrying out every effort undertaken by the Revolution to change this situation. We, the people of Pinar del Río, are extraordinarily happy and grateful for this opportunity.

The decision is also an irrefutable demonstration of confidence, which we will nobly assume, to continue the work of the Revolution in Vueltabajo, just as the Bronze Titan did in his campaign across western Cuba almost 120 years ago; and to pay well-deserved tribute to those who participated in the heroic feat, especially the youth who offered their lives in the actions and days following July 26, 1953, during which they were persecuted, tortured, and savagely massacred.

After learning of the Political Bureau’s decision, the significant efforts we had been in the province to commemorate the city’s 150th anniversary, were redoubled. We were able to make progress toward fulfilling economic objectives planned for the period and the repair or construction of over 200 works thanks to the joy and enthusiasm of worker collectives in every institution and every neighborhood.


We are celebrating National Rebellion Day for the first time without the physical presence of the Comandante en Jefe of the Cuban Revolution, but Fidel is present in the efforts of every collective, which has made possible progress in implementing the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and Revolution, up-dated and approved in the Seventh Party Congress, as demonstrated by the province’s positive economic and financial results.

To name just a few of the most significant:

Positive results were seen across indictors which measure efficiency in the education sector, while universities continue to see encouraging results as confirmed in recent institutional assessments.

The province’s infant mortality rate at the end of 2016 was 2.1 for every 1,000 live births, the lowest in the country for the second year in a row, and currently standing at 1.7 thus far this year. Blood is guaranteed for all individuals needing a surgical procedure, while the blood products industry has sufficient raw material thanks to the contribution of our people, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution and healthcare system.

Praiseworthy results have also been achieved in different sporting disciplines, above all boxing and basketball. We secured three medals in the most recent edition of the Olympic Games: one gold, one silver and one bronze, and ours was the province which won the most medals for the country.

Net sales of goods and services have increased over the last five years at an annual rate of 6.5%; meaning more offers for the population, although this is still insufficient, as it has not yet been possible to meet 100% of demand.

Production of rice, lumber, eggs, pork, and honey are gradually increasing. Just like this year, at the end of 2016 targets for milk production have been met.

However, the production and distribution of root vegetables at various levels is still insufficient.

Regarding tobacco production, the19,189 ton target set for this year is expected to be met, with the potential to produce more and better quality leaves.

99.56% of houses have electricity, with only 694 remote dwellings waiting to have power installed, while the province has 56 wifi hotspots and 57 cell phone towers.

Although exports have continued to perform well over recent years, there is potential to continue increasing sales of products such as tobacco, vegetable charcoal and derivatives from pine resin, among others.

The housing program has contributed toward restoring the provincial housing stock, however 12,000 homes affected by hurricanes are still waiting to be repaired.

Joint venture mining investments look set to exceed 270 million dollars, while zinc and lead production for export, is set to commence shortly.

Tourism has also continued to grow over the last five years.

Meanwhile, lumber, the manufacture of solar panels, and the capture and processing of tuna and lobster, are making important contributions to the national economy.

Much remains to be done, but there is optimism, reserves, and opportunities in the province to progress and achieve sustainability. We are well aware of the needs of the national economy; we must stick to objective goals and fulfill plans. We must continue to focus efforts on advancing in the food production program and repairs to homes, because the people will measure us not by our efforts, but by our results.

We must continue working to breathe new life into People's Councils, exploit the economy’s real potential, implement initiatives, mobilize the people’s outstanding strength and above all, pay attention to their proposals in order to strengthen the transparency of People’s Power systems, to which the upcoming elections will also contribute, during which delegates with abounding patriotic merits will be chosen.

We are grateful to Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz for thousands of reasons, and will never fail him.

Encouraged by his words when he stated, and I quote:...“You, the people of Pinar del Rio, are the fundamental factor; this province gave one of the best contingents to the initiation of the revolutionary armed struggle before July 26, after July 26, before January 1, and after January 1, yesterday, today, and tomorrow!” (end of quote) and under the guidance of his example, his revolutionary intransigence and unwavering confidence in victory, we will propose new challenge for the future, as compañero Raúl has called on us to do.

To Raúl and the Party we reaffirm that we are here, strong and combative, defending and developing the West. You told us, “Yes, we can!” And we did!

Onward to victory, always, Comandante!

Eternal glory to the heroes and martyrs of Moncada! (Shouts of Glory!)

¡Viva Raúl! (Shouts of Viva!)

Homeland or death!

We will triumph! (Applause)

Monday, July 24, 2017

When detention is used as a means of financial gain, justice cannot be served. Attention Oregon residents: A lawsuit has been filed against NORCOR by local taxpayers!

The following statement comes to us from our friends at the GorgeReSisters group. The Oregonian report on the lawsuit reminds us that a spokeswoman for Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said that it "didn't appear the jail was breaking state law because it wasn't using resources to detect or arrest people" when people held at the NORCOR facility were on hunger strike in May. That was a rather cold-hearted and bumbling thing to say at the time, and it went largely unmarked by people working on immigrant rights and by our opposition. Intended or not, the lawsuit detailed here goes to the issue of power relations in Oregon. Will the Governor and the Attorney General side with immigrant rights groups or with the detention and corrections industries?

Facebook: groups/GorgeReSisters
Twitter: @GorgeReSisters

THE DALLES, Ore.—A lawsuit filed today by several Oregon taxpayers is challenging the use of a publicly funded jail to detain non-citizens on behalf of the federal government. For the past 30 years, Oregon law has prohibited local law enforcement to engage in federal immigration enforcement. The Northern Oregon Regional Correction facility (NORCOR) is a public jail located in The Dalles and funded by Hood River, Wasco, Sherman and Gilliam counties. Since 2014, In addition to housing local inmates, NORCOR has been housing people the federal government wants detained for immigration purposes—even though Oregon law expressly prohibits using state or local public funds for federal immigration enforcement.

“NORCOR officials have been violating Oregon law by using taxpayer money to detain people for federal immigration purposes,” said Jessica Campbell, Co-Director of the Rural Organizing Project, a statewide network of over 60 groups organizing for human dignity across Oregon. “This is not only a violation of the law, it’s a violation of the trust Oregonians have in their locally elected officials and their public institutions.” Campbell and others, none of whom are directly involved in the lawsuit, have been advocating for NORCOR to end its program for immigration detention.

NORCOR, located in The Dalles, Oregon, is a public entity constructed in 1999 specifically to house inmates from the four counties that finance it. The construction of the NORCOR facility was financed by taxpayers under a General Obligation bond and more than half of the facility’s annual operating expenses are paid for by taxpayers, including roughly $2 million provided by Wasco County taxpayers.

In 2014, NORCOR officials contracted with the federal government to house people the federal government wants detained due to immigration issues, even though Oregon law has prohibited the use of state or local funds on federal immigration enforcement for three decades. Oregon Governor Kate Brown recently re-affirmed this principle when she declared Oregon a sanctuary state. By using Oregon resources for federal immigration in violation of Oregon law, the case contends that NORCOR is misusing taxpayer money.

“We applaud the courage of those who are challenging NORCOR’s use of local public funds and hope that NORCOR stops detaining people for federal immigration purposes,” said Andrea Williams, the Executive Director of Causa Oregon, a statewide immigrant rights organization. “We must uphold the integrity of Oregon’s 30 year-old law that limits our local resources from being used to enforce questionable federal immigration policies,” explained Williams, who is not involved in the lawsuit.

Lawyers for NORCOR will have an opportunity to respond to the lawsuit before the judge makes a decision.

Stephen W. Manning, a lawyer with Immigrant Law Group PC and a member of the Innovation Law Lab, represents several of the taxpayer plaintiffs.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

On Economic Implications of Restrictions on Cow Slaughter---From the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

There are moments when radical movements across the globe easily understand and support one another and moments when this is a more difficult task. Most people in the United States know very little about conditions in India, and it is difficult for us to understand how a political or economic change in one sector affects other sectors and social life there. Many radicals here will recoil at the idea that cow slaughter should not be restricted. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) takes a different view and has provided a Marxist analysis of the question which is applicable to conditions in India. That analysis is given below.

Here in the U.S. we can---and should---reject eating and using animal products, or try to, and place restrictions on anything which ultimately leads to the exploitation of animals. This is less a luxury which we can afford or a moral position and more a matter of economic and social development: industrial capitalist progress creates and then makes redundant or unnecessary the divisions of labor, the private ownership of resources, and the modes of production which make the exploitation of nature necessary in the big imperialist countries. We do not want to help the meat trusts and agribusiness which make up a particularly reactionary wing of the capitalist class and dominate government. Imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism, on the other hand, frustrates human progress in some sectors, distorts the agrarian and petit-bourgeois (petty bourgeois, or small capitalists) means of production and distribution which rests on production for simple exchange and on small-scale capitalists, and limits self-determination and national sovereignty so that imposed market forces, and not the people, make the major political decisions. The way to ending all forms of exploitation, including that of animals and the environment, is through changing the very means of production and distribution and abolishing imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism.

"Crore" refers to ten million.           

India’s livestock economy is among the biggest in the world. A ban on cow slaughter would either result in more and more unproductive animals being killed in most unscientific and cruel ways or would entail such a high cost for maintaining unproductive animals that cattle rearing would cease to be a profitable enterprise for farm households. Restrictions being imposed on cow slaughter and the actions of the cow vigilantes would deal a serious blow to the agrarian economy and in particular to the livelihoods of the poor and middle peasants in rural India.

Trends in population of livestock

As of the last livestock census, conducted in 2012, there were about 21.6 crore milch cattle and 8.4 crore male cattle. I am using the term cattle to include both cows and buffaloes.

Over the last two decades, between 1992 and 2012, number of male cattle heads declined by 3.5 crores while number of milch cattle increased by about 4.6 crores. The increase in number of milch animals was solely on account of increase of 2.6 crores in the population of buffaloes and increase of 2.3 crores in the population of crossbred cows. Number of cows of indigenous breeds declined by 32 lakhs over these two decades. In case of bullocks, the decline has been primarily in the number of bullocks of indigenous breeds (3.4 crores). It is noteworthy that the indigenous (cow) bullocks are the animals mainly used in farming. Buffalo bullocks and bullocks of cross-bred cows cannot provide the level of draught power that is needed for farm work, and are only used, if at all, for light transportation.

With the rising population of buffaloes and crossbred cows, India has seen a very substantial growth in milk production. With 15.5 crore tonnes of milk production, India is today the largest producer of milk in the world. Milk is a very important source of protein in Indian diets and thus crucial for nutrition.

While there has been a marginal overall increase in the number of cattle, it has not kept pace with the growth of rural population. On balance, the size of cattle holdings of rural households has been falling for last several decades. NSS data show that the bullock holding fell from 90 animals per 100 rural households in 1992 to only 45 animals per 100 rural households in 2012. The size of milch cattle holding has also declined from 107 per 100 households 2012 to 93 per 100 households in 2012.

Ownership of cattle is strongly related to the ownership of land. With a decline in access to areas for pasturing, only those rural households that have land can have cattle. Landless households that do not have land – either owned or leased – do not keep cattle. Table 1 based on the 70th round of the NSS Land and Livestock Holdings Survey clearly shows that the average size of livestock holdings increases as one goes from the smallest cultivators to households with large landholdings.

Where have all the bullocks gone?

In 2012, in comparison with about 21 crore milch cattle heads in India, there were only about 8.4 crore male cattle heads. That is, male cattle heads were only about 39 per cent of female cattle heads. Why and how is it that the total population of bullocks is much less than the population of milch animals? After all, cows and buffaloes produce male and female calves with equal probability.

The answer to this question is rather straight forward. Use of bullocks in farming has fallen drastically with increasing deployment of machines. This has happened across all classes of cultivators. Rental markets in agricultural machinery have become widespread almost everywhere in the country, and even the households that do not own tractors and other machinery, can obtain them on rent.

There are many reasons why machines are preferred by farmers over bullocks. First, access to fodder is limited and the cost of feeding animals is high. Secondly, machines perform a given task much faster than the bullocks. Getting agricultural tasks completed quickly is often crucial because of weather and, on irrigated lands, also because of multiple cropping. Thirdly, working with bullocks requires deploying greater amount of labour than working with machines. In many areas, the cost of hiring workers to work with bullocks far outweighs the cost of hiring a tractor. Finally, among poor peasants who migrate to cities in search of wage employment for part of the year, it is much easier to hire tractors for ploughing than maintain bullocks. With increasing rural-urban migration among the poor peasants, this has become an important consideration.

Since bullocks have become unwanted, when a male calf is born, it is sold for slaughtering in abattoirs, abandoned in urban settlements, or even more commonly, simply made to die. In our surveys in North Indian villages, we have found that the male calves often had mysterious deaths. Given the stigma around the sale of cows and bullocks to a butcher, many farm households find it easier to put the animal to sleep, or worse still, to starve a young calf or expose it to biting cold on a winter night so it just dies.

Milch animals

Let us now look at the milch animals that are reared for dairying. Most common indigenous breeds of cows have very low milk yields; peak daily milk yield of an indigenous cow is at best about 4-6 litres per day. Peak yield of a buffalo or a cross-bred cow could be easily three times or even more than that. This is the primary reason why the share of cows of indigenous breeds in total population of milch animals has steadily fallen: from 54 per cent in 1992 to 41 per cent in 2012.

But economics of cattle rearing is not just about milk. Animals are not like other assets. They are a means of production but they also reproduce, they grow and they age. These biological processes have an important bearing on the economics of cattle rearing. As milch animals produce calves, these have to be fed. Since any farm household has a limited supply of hay and a limited capacity to maintain animals, the progeny of the milch animals has to be periodically disposed of. Selling these calves is also an important source of income. And when milch animals age, they have to be replaced.

The cattle and the calves also provide some insurance against economic shocks as farm households can sell them when there is a drought. Cattle population shrinks during such years as the supply of hay declines and the prices rise sharply. Excess cattle are sold to traders for slaughter or for selling further to farm households in other areas that may not have been hit by the drought. Such distress sale of cattle is crucial for farm households to deal with income shortfall in years of crisis.

Rural farm households have to dispose of unwanted and aged animals. While abandoned animals are a common sight in towns and cities, in rural areas, abandoned animals can cause havoc to standing crops. Because of this, farm households cannot just abandon an animal. They sell their aged milch animals to traders, who sell them to abattoirs.

Implications of a Ban on Cattle Slaughter

Modern abattoirs are essential for the bovine economy. Given the present population of milch cows in India, it can be estimated that about 3.4 crore male cow calves are born every year in India. Assuming that India has to maintain the level of milk production, and by implication, the current size of milch animal stock of India, we have to deal with birth of 3.4 crore male cow calves every year.

If no male cow calves are allowed to be slaughtered, with an average age of even 10 years, one is talking of having a population as large as 34 crore male bullocks, five times the current living population of male bullocks. This is a conservative estimate as a cow or a bullock, if properly fed and taken care of, can easily live up to 15-20 years.

In addition, no cow slaughter would mean that there would be about 6 crore unproductive old female cows to maintain. Even if we net out the current stock of cow bullocks and male calves (6.7 crores) to deal with the existing demand for bullocks for farm work and the current stock of female calves and old cows (5.5 crores) to account for the existing capacity of maintaining unproductive animals, we are still talking of maintaining an additional stock of about 27 crore unproductive cows and bullocks.

Where would we keep them and what would we feed them? What would be the cost of maintaining these bullocks?

Building cattle shelters for 27 crore unproductive cows and bullocks would require 5 lakh acres of land and a capital expenditure of about Rs. 10,00,000 crores towards construction of cattle shelters. The annual cost of fodder and veterinary care for these additional cattle would be about Rs. 5,40,000 crores. This is about 1.5 times India’s total defence budget and about 35 times what centre and all State governments together spend on animal husbandry and dairy at present.

Maintaining these animals would require about 70 thousand crore tonnes of fodder. Where will we get so much fodder? India simply does not have enough land to produce so much additional fodder. Even if each animal drinks one bucket of water a day, you would need more water for drinking by these animals than all the water humans drink.

It is clear that anyone talking of building gau-shalas and cow-reserves does not have any sense of scale.

What would happen if cow slaughter is banned? Let me put it simply: if a farm household that has a cow has to feed it, and all its male calves, till they all die a natural death, no farm household would dream of acquiring a cow. Restrictions on cow slaughter, legally or because of fear of cow vigilantes, would make cattle rearing uneconomical.

In all likelihood, restrictions on cattle trade and cattle slaughter would result in unproductive animals being simply killed in the cattle sheds. Abandoned cattle in rural areas can become a huge menace to crops. So, cattle would have to be killed. It is not difficult to imagine what would happen if slaughter of cows in abattoirs was not allowed: unproductive cattle would be poisoned, starved or left to die in cold. This would be the perverse outcome of restrictions on cattle trade and operation of proper abattoirs. Is that what the gau-rakshaks want? There is no doubt that the least painful death of an unwanted cattle takes place in a modern abattoir.

Restrictions on cow slaughter would hit incomes of farm households, in particular, of the rural poor. Cost of rearing an animal is higher for landless and poor peasant households than for large landowning households. Households that do not own land maintain cattle by leasing in land, and using hay produced on leased-in land to rear cows. In coastal Andhra Pradesh, dalit households often take land on lease on highly unremunerative contracts, with rents as high as 75 per cent of the grain production, only with the hope that the hay produced on the land would allow them to rear cattle. Rearing cattle is a major source of employment for rural women everywhere in India. With increasing inequality in land and declining availability of fodder, women are finding it increasingly hard to gainfully engage even in cattle rearing. In Haryana, poor dalit women take female calves on lease, harvest sugarcane and wheat to get hay to feed these calves, so that they would get some income when these calves grow up and are sold.

Restrictions on cow slaughter would simply mean that cattle rearing would cease to be a source of livelihood for rural poor households and in particular for rural women. It would further marginalise the rural poor and force them further towards destitution. Restrictions on cow slaughter would result in a decline in the stock of milch animals and thus in milk production.

India currently has milk availability of 337 grams per capita per day. Milk is a crucial source of protein in Indian diets. Protein undernourishment are the more important reasons for high prevalence of stunting in India. India has 62 million stunted children, one third of stunted children in the world. These children need to be eating more of animal products: milk, eggs and meat. Any decline in availability of milk would have disastrous consequences for levels of nutrition.

Gau raksha is a political project of the hindutva brand. It is a project to mobilise upper caste hindus on religious lines against dalits and Muslims. Its aim is to instil fear among the Dalits, adivasis and Muslims, to economically disempower rural working people, and to further consolidate the political dominance of the BJP.

"Despite what the government of the United States does, or does not decide to do, we will continue advancing along the path sovereignly chosen by our people."---Cuba's Raúl Castro Ruz Speaks Frankly

You will not find the recent peech by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee and President of the Councils of State and Ministers, mentioned in most U.S. media. However, the speech is fundamental to understanding what is going on in Cuba now and for debating how socialism can be structured in the world under current conditions.

The entire speech can be found here. Some of the most interesting sections appear below.

Since the plan and budget for the current year were being prepared, we have warned of persistent financial tensions and challenges that could complicate the national economy's performance. We likewise foresaw periodic difficulties in the delivery of fuel from Venezuela, despite the unwavering commitment of President Nicolás Maduro and his administration.

Amidst these difficult circumstances, encouraging, modest results have been achieved. The Gross Domestic Product grew by 1.1% in the first half of the year, which indicates a change in the economy's direction as compared to last year. Contributing to this result were agriculture, tourism, and other exports of services, construction, sugar production, and the transportation and communications sectors.

Progress has been made on prioritized investments that are laying the foundation for the nation's development.

Free social services have been assured for all Cubans, including education and public health.

The internal monetary balance has improved, as reflected in a smaller increase in retail prices in a better supplied market. The budget deficit is currently below what was foreseen.

On another issue, pains were taken to maintain strict fulfillment of payment commitments to our principal creditors, which resulted from the restructuring of Cuba's foreign debt. However, despite many attempts, we have not been able to stay current on running accounts with providers, to whom I reiterate our gratitude for their confidence in Cuba and our intention to honor each and every one of these overdue obligations.

The situation described obliges us to continue adopting the measures required to fully protect income from exports, the production of food, and the provision of services for the population, while at the same time we avoid all unnecessary expenses, and guarantee the most rational and efficient use of the resources available to support established priorities.

Moving to another topic, in accordance with agreements reached at the 6th and 7th Party Congresses, the expansion of self-employment and the experiment with non-agricultural cooperatives was authorized, with the purpose of gradually freeing the state from responsibility for activities that are not strategic, creating jobs, supporting initiative, and contributing to the national economy's efficiency in the interest of developing our socialism.

More recently, this past June, these forms of property management were recognized as among those operating within the Cuban economy, in an extraordinary session of Parliament dedicated to analyzing and approving programmatic documents for our Economic and Social Model, after the conclusion of a consultation process with members of the Party and youth, representatives of mass organizations, and broad sectors of society.

We currently have more than half a million self-employed workers and more than 400 non-agricultural cooperatives, which confirms their validity as a source of employment, while contributing to an increase and greater variety of goods and services available, with an acceptable level of quality.

Nonetheless, as we discussed in the Council of Ministers meeting this past June 26, deviations from the policy established on this subject have been noted, and violations of the legal regulations in effect, such as the utilization of raw materials and equipment of illicit origin, under-declaration of income to evade tax obligations, and insufficient state control at all levels...

...I believe it is appropriate to emphasize that we have not renounced the expansion and development of self-employment, or the continuation of the experiment with non-agricultural cooperatives. We are not going to draw back or stop, nor will we allow the non-state sector to be stigmatized or face prejudice, but it is imperative that laws be respected, progress consolidated, positive aspects - which are more than a few - generalized, and illegalities and other deviations from established policy resolutely confronted...

...Let us not forget that the pace and scope of the changes we need to make to our model must be conditioned by the capacity we have to do things well and rectify any misstep in a timely manner. This will only be possible if adequate prior preparation is ensured - which we haven't done - training and comprehension of established regulations at every level, follow-up and guidance of the process - aspects marked by a fair dose of superficiality, and an excess of enthusiasm and desire to move more rapidly than we are truly capable of managing.

I believe this issue I have just mentioned is perfectly well understood. It is necessary that what we have decided be implemented. The country, and the Revolution as well, need it. The desire to do things quickly without adequate preparation, of those who must implement the measures in the first place, leads to all these errors, and later we criticize those we shouldn't criticize.

Criminal acts have been committed; information exists on cases when the same person has two, three, four, even five restaurants. Not in one province, but in several. A person who has traveled more than 30 times to different countries. Where did they get the money? How did they do this? All these problems exist, but we should not use them as a pretext to criticize a decision that is correct.

What is a state, especially a socialist state, doing administering a barbershop with one chair, or two or three, and with one administrator for a certain number of small barbershops - not many. I mention this example because it was one of the first steps we took.

We decided to establish cooperatives; we tried some, and immediately threw ourselves into creating dozens of construction cooperatives. Has no one analyzed the consequences this brought and the problems that this haste created? To mention just one case. And like this one, there are quite a few. This is what I want to say in simple, modest language. Whose errors are these? Mainly, ours, we leaders who developed this policy, although in consultation with the people, with the approval of Parliament, of the last Congress, of the last meeting we held here this past month, to approve all the documents I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks. This is the reality. Let's not try to block the sun with a finger. Mistakes are mistakes. And they are our mistakes, and if we are going to consider hierarchies among us, in the first place, they are mine, because I was part of this decision. This is the reality.

Regarding our foreign policy, I would like to say the following:

This past June 16, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, announced his administration's policy toward Cuba, nothing novel for sure, since he retook a discourse and elements from the confrontational past, which showed their absolute failure for over 55 years.

It is evident that the U.S. President has not been well informed on the history of Cuba and its relations with the United States, or on the patriotism and dignity of the Cuban people...

...Throughout the entire 19th century, invoking the doctrines and policies of Manifest Destiny, of Monroe, and the "ripe fruit," different U.S. administrations tried to take possession of Cuba, and despite the heroic struggle of the mambises, they did so in 1898, with a deceitful intervention at the end of the war which for 30 years Cubans had waged for their independence, and which the U.S. troops entered as allies and then became occupiers. Negotiating with Spain behind Cuba's back, they militarily occupied the country for four years, demobilizing the Liberation Army, dissolving the Revolutionary Cuban Party - organized, founded, and led by Martí - and imposed an appendix to the Constitution of the nascent republic, the Platt Amendment, which gave them the right to intervene in our internal affairs and establish, among others, the naval base in Guantánamo, which still today usurps part of the national territory, the return of which we will continue to demand.

Cuba's neocolonial condition, which allowed the United States to exercise total control over the economic and political life of the island, frustrated, but did not annihilate, the Cuban people's longing for freedom and independence. Exactly 60 years later, January 1, 1959, with the triumph of the Revolution led by Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro, we became definitively free and independent.

From that moment on, the strategic goal of U.S. policy toward Cuba has been to overthrow the Revolution. To do so, over more than five decades, they resorted to dissimilar methods: economic war, breaking diplomatic relations, armed invasion, attempts to assassinate our principal leaders, sabotage, a naval blockade, the creation and support of armed bands, state terrorism, internal subversion, the economic, commercial, financial blockade, and international isolation...

...No one could deny that the United States, in its attempts to isolate Cuba, in the end found itself profoundly isolated. The policy of hostility and blockade toward our country had become a serious obstacle to relations with Latin America and the Caribbean, and was rejected almost unanimously by the international community. Within U.S. society, growing majority opposition to this policy had developed, including among a good portion of the Cuban émigré community...

...Over the last two years, and working on the basis of respect and equality, diplomatic relations have been reestablished and progress made toward resolving pending bilateral matters, as well as cooperation on issues of mutual interest and benefit; limited modifications were made to the implementation of some aspects of the blockade. The two countries established the bases from which to work toward building a new type of relationship, demonstrating that civil coexistence is possible despite profound differences.

At the end of President Obama’s term in office, the blockade, the Naval Base in Guantánamo, and the regime change policy, remained in place.

The announcements made by the current U.S. President, last June 16, represent a step back in bilateral relations. This is the opinion of many people and organizations in the United States and around the world, who have overwhelmingly expressed their outright rejection of the announced changes. This sentiment was also expressed by our youth and student organizations, Cuban women, workers, campesinos, Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, intellectuals, and religious groups, on behalf of the vast majority of the nation’s citizens.

The U.S. government has decided to tighten the blockade by imposing new obstacles on its businesspeople to trade and invest in Cuba, and additional restrictions on its citizens to travel to the country - justifying these measures with out-dated rhetoric regarding the Cuban people’s exercise and enjoyment of human rights and democracy.

President Trump’s decision disregards the support of broad sectors of U.S. society, including the majority of Cuban émigrés, for lifting of the blockade and normalization of relations, and only satisfies the interests of an increasingly isolated, minority group of Cuban origin in South Florida, who insist on harming Cuba and its people for having chosen to defend, at any cost, their right to be free, independent, and sovereign.

Today, we reiterate the Revolutionary Government’s condemnation of measures to tighten the blockade, and reaffirm that any attempt to destroy the Revolution, whether through coercion and pressure, or the use of subtle methods, will fail...

...I wish to repeat, as I did so in the CELAC Summit held in the Dominican Republic in January of this year, that Cuba is willing to continue discussing pending bilateral issues with the United States, on the basis of equality and respect for the sovereignty and independence of our country, and to continue respectful dialogue and cooperation in issues of common interest with the U.S. government.

Cuba and the United States can cooperate and coexist, respecting our differences and promoting everything that benefits both countries and peoples, but it should not be expected that, in order to do so, Cuba will make concessions essential to its sovereignty and independence. And today, I add, nor will it negotiate its principles or accept conditions of any kind, just as we have never done throughout the history of the Revolution.

Despite what the government of the United States does, or does not decide to do, we will continue advancing along the path sovereignly chosen by our people.

We are living in an international situation characterized by growing threats to peace and international security, interventionist wars, dangers to the survival of the human species, and an unjust and exclusionary international economic order.

As is known, since 2010, the United States has been implementing the concept of “unconventional warfare” conceived as a set of activities aimed at exploiting the psychological, economic, military and political vulnerabilities of an adversary nation in order to develop a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, change, or overthrow its government...

...Our America, which proclaimed itself a Zone of Peace in 2014, is currently facing an adverse situation.

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is suffering an unconventional war – which didn’t begin now, but a long time ago – imposed by imperialism and oligarchic coup sectors which have incited violence in the streets and fascist acts, such as the frightful scenes of youths being burned alive.

Foreign intervention in the Bolivarian and Chavista Republic must stop. Terrorist and coup violence must be unequivocally condemned. We must all unite in the call for dialogue and abstention from acts which contradict, through manipulation and demagogy, their stated intentions.

The Organization of American States (OAS) and its Secretary General must end their aggression and selective manipulation of reality against Venezuela.

It must respect Venezuela’s legitimate right to resolve its internal problems peacefully and without any foreign intervention. The exercise of self-determination and finding solutions by themselves, is up to the sovereign people of Venezuela alone...

...The aggression and coup violence against Venezuela harms all of Our America and only benefits the interests of those set on dividing us in order to exercise their control over our people, unconcerned about causing conflicts of incalculable consequences in this region, like those we are seeing in different parts of the world.

Today we warn that those attempting to overthrow the Bolivarian Chavista Revolution through unconstitutional, violent coup methods, will shoulder a serious responsibility before history.

To comrade Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a victim of political persecution and coup plotters, we express our solidarity in the face of an attempt to block his electoral candidacy with a legal disqualification.

Lula, Dilma Rousseff, the Workers Party and people of Brazil, will always have Cuba on their side...

...We are certain, as the Cuban people have demonstrated on past occasions, that the elections will be an example of a genuinely democratic exercise, supported by broad popular participation, legality, and a transparent electoral process, which does not feature competing political parties or campaign fundraising, but in which nominating and choosing candidates is based on the individual’s merit, ability, and commitment to the people...

...In celebrating National Rebellion Day, for the first time without the physical presence of Comandante en Jefe of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, let us propose to face the new challenges under the guidance of his example, his revolutionary intransigence, and eternal confidence in victory.

Haila---Cuba's Woman of Steel

A brief history for our readers: in 1991 Haila was invited to become a member of the Septeto Tradición; in 1994, she joined the Bamboleo band; in 1998, founded Azúcar Negra; and in 2001 she decided to launch a solo career.

Since then, she has released seven albums. Among them are the first, Haila, followed by Haila live, Haila Diferente, (in which she began singing ballads, bachata, merengue, salsa, and offered something new by singing in a middle range), and Haila Mala (awarded the Cubadisco Prize in the dance music category).

In this intense period, she featured in 2001 on the album La rumba soy yo, winner of a Latin Grammy Award; shared the stage with figures such as Cheo Feliciano, Oscar de León, Olga Tañón, Rey Ruiz, José Alberto El Canario, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Chucho Valdés, Muñequitos de Matanzas, Mario Rivera, Adalberto Álvarez, David Calzado, Issac Delgado, and Lázaro Valdés; and joined the Cuban Grammys project, along with Eliades Ochoa, Juan Formell, Sampling, Chucho Valdés, Los Papines and Ernán López-Nussa.

The Enemies of the Left by Sergio Alejandro Gómez

Taken from Granma on July 13:

Running out of enemies is the worst thing that could happen to the left. In a world in which those at the top fear those below, and the supreme law of the land continues to be “every man for himself,” the ideas of the left can do nothing other than scorn executives and rain on the right’s centennial parade.

The boundaries, of course, are a different problem. In the French Constituent Assembly of 1789, the defenders of the king positioned themselves to the right of the president of the Assembly, while the most radical revolutionaries were on the other side. From then until today, the discussions about where each positions themself have not ceased.

The ability of the right to define itself as opposed to a left with recurring identity crises is striking. If the powerful know anything it is how to distinguish their people from those who seek a more just distribution of wealth, reject the naturalization of inequality and believe that “human rights” are extensive to all human beings.

When revolutionaries are marginalized, and their programs are only discussed in small circles, the right often tolerates them to present an image of plurality and openness. But these sectors soon show their true colors when social discontent explodes and they perceive the slightest possibility of losing their privileges.

The dictatorships across Latin America during the last century, the assassination of social leaders, and the destruction of trade union organizations were the elites’ response to the real possibility of the rise to power of the left, as had happened in Cuba in 1959.

Advised by the United States, they prepared to shut down any popular insurrection. Although they saw some results, Sandinista Nicaragua and the efforts of other Central American and South American peoples demonstrated that change could be achieved through armed struggle.

However, few believed a victory was possible in their own land. It seemed impossible to shift liberal democracy, designed to benefit the oppressors, to the left. Salvador Allende proved otherwise in Chile and paid a high price. More than two decades later, Venezuela experienced a similar situation with Comandante Hugo Chávez, who opened a cycle of progressive victories that soon spread throughout almost all Latin America.

The right, hit by the catastrophic results of neoliberalism and corruption scandals, did not give a minute’s respite to the new governments, as it retreated to reorganize the counteroffensive.

The left, unlike its predecessors, was respectful of the rules of the game and didn’t flip the table even after the coup attempts in Venezuela in 2002, in Ecuador in 2010, or the secessionist initiatives in Bolivia during the first stage of the Evo Morales government.

Although the political processes were, and are, different in each country, from the objectives outlined to the extent of the transformations in practice, the scenario in which they have developed is very similar.

In order to reach political power, it was necessary to make deals with various forces, in many cases reactionary and motivated solely for their own benefit, which ended up curbing the changes demanded by the masses.

A sector of the Latin American left, accustomed to dreaming of the Revolution in philosophical gatherings, ended up on the opposite side after losing disquisitions regarding the particular shade of red each represented. At times due to opportunism, and at others the inability to understand the historical moment, they fell into what Lenin called “ultra-leftism” and described as an “infantile disorder.”

Over the last decade, the power of the media to construct realities, to function as a political actor and to influence public opinion was also demonstrated.

Just how far the right is willing to go to achieve its goals was also seen. Those, who in Venezuela described Chávez as a populist dictator, immediately dissolved all democratic institutions as soon as they took control of the country for a few brief hours in 2002. Those, who today oppose the Constituent Assembly convened by Nicolás Maduro, demanded it just a year ago.

There have been no qualms about the use of non-conventional warfare; parliamentary coups, economic boycotts or any other destabilizing method.

Above all, it was learned that it is not enough to reach the presidency to achieve major changes, or to improve living conditions to achieve political awareness. Corruption and clientelism inherited from the Latin American “democratic model” are even more fiercely rejected by the people when they have the hallmark of the left, and neoliberal adjustments are no less unjust when they are made in the name of progressivism.

But perhaps it is healthy to have these enemies. No revolution is worth anything unless it can defend itself. In any case, they help make things clear. To those who speak of the end of the leftist cycle in Latin America, we should remember that apocryphal phrase that some put in the mouth of Don Quixote: “Let the dogs bark Sancho, it is a sign that we are moving forward.”

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Old Mole

Revolutionary ideas and revolutions have ways of disappearing from public spaces and reappearing among the oppressed. We talk about an "old mole" of revolution, an idea borrowed from Hegel, Marx and Lenin. Marx wrote, "“But the revolution is thoroughgoing. It is still traveling through purgatory. It does its work methodically. By December 2, 1851, it had completed half of its preparatory work; now it is completing the other half. It first completed the parliamentary power in order to be able to overthrow it. Now that it has achieved this, it completes the executive power, reduces it to its purest expression, isolates it, sets it up against itself as the sole target, in order to concentrate all its forces of destruction against it. And when it has accomplished this second half of its preliminary work, Europe will leap from its seat and exult: Well burrowed, old mole!” He was describing the course of  French revolutionary movements.

A statue of Friedrich Engels, Marx's collaborator and a theoretician in his own right, has been unveiled in Manchester, England as that city celebrates an international festival. Engels lived in Manchester for more than two decades in the mid-19th century and published "The Condition of the Working Class in England" based on his research in Manchester, where he documented the horrific conditions endured by the working children, women and men in the cradle of industrial capitalism. Moralism and anti-Irish sentiment aside, the book sets a high bar for social research. His "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific" and his "Origin of Family, Private Proprty, and the State" still rock. He co-authored the "Manifesto of the Communist Party" with Marx, and the volume "On Colonialism," a collection of articles and essay by Engels and Marx, remains key to understanding colonialism.
Today also marks a sad day. In 1936 the Spanish fascists seized control of a third of the Spanish mainland and martial law was declared in the Canary Islands. The Spanish Revolution, or Civil War, proceeded unevenly, with our divided democratic and revolutionary forces receiving help from the Soviet Union but otherwise blockaded and, eventually, defeated. That defeat did much to give courage to Hitler and Mussolini and bring on the world war. The defeat should have taught us how necessary united and popular fronts are and how to mobilize world popular opinion and discontent in support of anti-fascist objectives.
But the Old Mole is with us, digging. The International Brigade Memorial Trust has posted the following:

On 12 July, Pablo Hernández, representing the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH in Spanish) in Tarancón, Spain, paid his respects at memorials in Perth, Dundee and Kirkcaldy to those who lost their lives fighting fascism in the Spanish Civil War as part of the International Brigade.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Jarama in that bloody war, and the Scottish connection with Pablo’s home town is strong; just inside the entrance to the cemetery in Tarancón, nestling under an olive tree, can be found a memorial dedicated to Dundee-born Allan Craig and to the memory of the other 38 Scottish International Brigaders that fell with him at Jarama.

Flanking the memorial are two memorials bearing the names of 44 local victims of the repression that followed the war’s end in 1939, murdered under a fascist dictatorship that ruled Spain until after the death of General Franco in 1975.

‘The sacrifice of the International Brigaders is one that the democracy-loving people of Spain will never forget, one for which we are enormously grateful,’ said Pablo in Scotland. ‘But sadly there are still elements in Spanish society that would deny their valour, and cover up the atrocities that followed the end of the Spanish Civil War. When we seek to address the past, they call for silence, to not reopen wounds – but we say that a wound that has not yet healed cannot be reopened.’

He continued: ‘In February this year the memorial stones in Tarancón cemetery were defaced by silence-loving vandals.

‘To us, this is a sign that our fight must continue. I want to be here to demonstrate that no matter how much paint they throw, the modern fascists cannot obscure the truth of the Brigaders’ sacrifice, nor will they stop us from exposing the dark secrets of the dictatorship and what we know as the Spanish Holocaust.’

ARMH believes that Spain is second only to Cambodia in the world for the number of civilians buried in unexcavated mass graves, and Scottish members of the IBMT actively support the Spanish association in its work to uncover the truth of a period in Spanish history ignored for too long.

Links re-forged between Scotland and Tarancón in arranging for the International Brigade memorial to be installed led to Scottish support for the 2016 installation of the two local memorial stones, and each February a joint ceremony is held around the anniversary of the Battle of Jarama, remembering together the Scottish Brigaders and the local victims.

Attendance this year numbered well over 300, with over 150 international visitors joining locals in reading the roll of honour and observing a moment’s silence in memory of all those named.

Pablo Hernández spoke and laid flowers at the Perth, Dundee and Kirkcaldy International Brigade memorials as part of short commemorations at each site.

I also spoke, as did trip co-ordinator and IBMT member Hamish Drummond. Pablo’s trip also saw him in Inverness, paying his respects in person to Allan Craig jr, the son of Allan Craig, who was just two years old when his father died in a Tarancón hospital as a result of wounds sustained at Jarama.

We do not go away, and we carry on the subversive act of remembering.

Global Day of Action Against Nike On July 29--And A Solidarity Action In Portland, Oregon

Don’t buy #NikeLies! Nike will have you believe they promote #equality and empower women, but continue to exploit the labor of working women inside their factories. We are standing up to the world’s largest sportswear brand to demand justice for workers fighting for job security, a living wage and respect for freedom of association. Across Vietnam, Mexico, Guatemala and most recently Honduras - Nike is pulling production from union factories to non-union factories in order to avoid responsibility for exploitative practices.

Join United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) to call for worker justice at Nike stores in 25 cities in the U.S. and around the world. In solidarity with workers fighting back against Nike’s anti-worker practices, we call on everyone to join us at The Nike Factory Store in Portland on July 29th at 1:30.

Please join us on Saturday, July 29th, 1:30 PM - 3:30 PM, to hold Nike accountable!
The Nike Factory Store is located in NE Portland on MLK Jr. Boulevard between Knott St and Russel St.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Media workers protest mistreatment---NPR and The New York Times go on the defensive

Media workers at two important news outlets are engaged in labor struggles which you may not have heard about. The News Guild of New York, CWA Local 31003, has organized protests at The New York Times and journalists at National Public Radio represented by the SAG-AFTRA unions, are fighting for their union contract.

The Communications Workers of America has issued the following press release:

New York, NY - After a year and a half of uncertainty about their future, New York Times editors, and the staff at large, have expressed their feelings of betrayal to their newsroom bosses, Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Managing Editor Joseph Kahn. Management has said it will “restructure” the newsroom to streamline the editing process, without any clear explanation of what this downsizing entails.

Copy editors have one simple recommendation to management: increase the number of positions available to them, as well as photo editors, and continue to build upon the New York Times brand.

Below is the letter from the Times’ copy desk:

Dear Dean and Joe,

We have begun the humiliating process of justifying our continued presence at The New York Times. We take some solace in the fact that we have been assured repeatedly that copy editors are highly respected here.

If that is true, we have a simple request. Cutting us down to 50 to 55 editors from more than 100, and expecting the same level of quality in the report, is dumbfoundingly unrealistic. Work with us on a new number.

But after living more than a year and a half under a cloud of uncertainty about our jobs, a cruelly drawn-out period in which we suspended major financial arrangements and life decisions, and carried an ever-growing kernel of fear;

After we were compared to dogs urinating on fire hydrants when we edited stories, in an internal report that called for the elimination of "low-value editing" and made it all but clear which stages of editing this referred to — so much so that it became a running joke among the copy desks for months ("How's the low-value editing going in your section today?") — along with the report's implication that copy editing was merely finding "easily identifiable errors, such as spelling and grammar mistakes";

After some of us were recruited for "editing tests" to streamline the process, or, as it turned out, figure out how to make our own jobs obsolete;

After enduring a newsroom-wide copy-editing overhaul last year that consolidated the desks, transformed the scope of our duties and confused a whole lot of reporters and section editors (but ultimately made us think we would at least keep our jobs);

After learning that this new setup would be undone just months after it was put in place, with the whiplash announcement that our jobs would simply be eliminated;

After we were told that to remain employed, we would have to apply for new "strong editor" positions meant to be a hybrid of the two types of editors at The Times, backfielders and copy editors, and realized only copy editors had to be reevaluated categorically;

After we were told that this "restructuring" would also reduce our numbers by more than half;

After completing a first round of interviews, some held by interviewers who clearly had not even read our résumés and cover letters, and competing against the very colleagues we are leaning on in these times;

After we heard that The Times would soon go on a hiring spree, just as it gets ready to shed jobs, and thought to ourselves that it is particularly ruthless to talk about all the others you intend to court as you break up with someone;

After all of this and more — we are finding it difficult to feel respected.

In fact, we feel more respected by our readers than we do by you. We are living in a strange time when routine copy-editing duties such as fact checking, reviewing sources, correcting misleading or inaccurate information, clarifying language and, yes, fixing spelling and grammar mistakes in news covfefe are suddenly matters of public discourse. As those in power declare war against the news media, as deliberately false or lackadaisical reportage finds its way into social media feeds, readers are flocking to our defense. They are sending us pizza. And they are signing up for Times subscriptions in record numbers because they understand that we go to great lengths to ensure quality and, most important, truth.

This should be a triumphant moment for all Times employees. Everyone from the ground floor up should be thrilled and proud to come to work, and walk into the building feeling valuable and needed.

And that is why it feels like such a profound waste that morale is low throughout the newsroom, and that many of us, from editors to reporters to photo editors to support staff, are angry, embittered and scared of losing our jobs.

You may have heard that the elimination of the copy desk is widely seen as a disaster in the making (including by many managers directly involved in the process), that the editing experiments were an open failure, and that there is dissension even in the highest ranks and across job titles regarding the new editing structure.

But you have decided to press forward anyway, and this decision betrays a stunning lack of knowledge of what we do at The Times. Come see what we do. See the process, what comes in and what actually goes online or to print. See what we do before you decide you can live without it.

We copy editors understand that our roles will have to change, that we must find ways to edit more efficiently, and that The Times must evolve into a nimbler, more visual, more digitally focused news outlet. We will learn and we will adapt. In fact, through many workflow changes, through the adoption of new technologies and platforms, we have already proved we can. We only ask that you not treat us like a diseased population that must be rounded up en masse, inspected and expelled.

After all, we are, as one senior reporter put it, the immune system of this newspaper, the group that protects the institution from profoundly embarrassing errors, not to mention potentially actionable ones.

We are one of the crucial layers of review that you seem so determined to erase, as the sudden removal of the public editor role shows. We are stewards of The Times, committed to preserving its voice and authority.

You often speak about the importance of engaging readers, of valuing, investing in and giving a voice to readers.

Dean and Joe: We are your readers, and you have turned your backs on us.

We abhor your decision to wipe out the copy desk. But as we continue this difficult transition, we ask that you sharply increase the available positions for the 109 copy editors, as well as an unknown number of other staff members, who have effectively lost their jobs as a result of your actions.

We worry that if we do not speak out, you will feel emboldened to make similarly sweeping staff reductions elsewhere in the company without debate. We worry that the errors and serious breaches of Times standards that copy editors catch each day will go unnoticed — until we are embarrassed into making corrections. We worry, in short, that the newsroom has forgotten why these layers of editing were created in the first place. But we still believe in The Times.

We ask that you believe in us.

The Copy Desk


About the NewsGuild

The NewsGuild of New York is the union for print and digital news professionals in America’s media capital. We are the workplace advocate for people in the media business, including some of the best journalists in the country. The majority of our nearly 3,000 members work in newsrooms at media organizations from print to digital to broadcast. We represent workers at the following companies: The Hour, Law360, Amsterdam News, El Diario, The Foreign Policy Association, Hudson News, The Jewish Forward, Jewish Telegraphic Agency/70 Faces Media, Kaplan International Centers, The Nation, The Daily Beast, The New York Times, The Jersey Journal, Standard & Poor's, Scholastic, Inc., Consumer's Union, Thomson Reuters, WPIX-TV, and Writers Guild of America East.

The SAG-AFTRA unions have issued the following open letter to NPR management:


We write to you as NPR’s staff members who have been on teams that won the duPont and Peabody awards in recent years – awards that have demonstrated some of NPR’s finest work and helped place the network among the top media companies in the country. Obviously many of our colleagues have won hundreds of other respected awards, too; others in the newsroom may not be listed on a plaque but they’ve done just as much to build NPR. We’ve done this work with a fraction of the resources of other media corporations.

And we’ve done this work, and NPR’s stature and audience have grown, while most of us were serving under the SAG-AFTRA contract. Members of your management team seem to believe that NPR has become the revered media company it is – a company that they boast about serving – despite that contract. They misunderstand NPR’s history and culture: NPR has become great partly because of our labor-management contract. The contract has ensured proper working conditions, collaboration and collegiality, and an atmosphere of mutual respect. That culture is one of the main reasons we choose to work here. That culture attracts some of our youngest and newest talents, from diverse backgrounds.

Of course, any contract can be updated or improved. We assume that the managers negotiating this contract have good motives and have the company’s best interests at heart. But we’ve been shocked by their efforts to in effect rip it up.

We know that your goal is to leave this company on a sound footing for the future. We’ve been delighted by your focus on promoting NPR’s brand, on expanding the audience, on delivering great journalism, and improving relations with member stations. But if your managers succeed at gutting the SAG-AFTRA contract, as they appear to be trying to do, they will do long-lasting and perhaps permanent damage to the culture that has made NPR, well, NPR. Everybody will lose – most of all our journalism and the public. We are writing to you directly, Jarl, hoping that you will intervene. We need to save the soul of NPR.


What just happened in Oregon's legislative session?

We are in a complex situation in Oregon. The recently-concluded legislative session gave the people some victories, but we also took some losses. In the concluding weeks of the legislative session attention shifted from bills and legislative work to political campaigns---who will be running for what. We're still in that period. Brad Avakian, head of the Bureau of Labor and Industries, has announced that he's not going to run for that position again, and Val Hoyle and Diane Rosenbaum have both expressed interest in the position. The right-wing reaction has been to push for the Labor Commissioner to become an appointed position. Talk that Peter Courtney might step down, or that he's vulnerable, is pushing Kevin Mannix forward as a challenger. Kate Brown puts distance between herself and talk that she intends to stay as Governor even as she does fundraising. It seems unlikely that Republican stars will align and that a successful challenger to Brown will emerge, but it also seems unlikely that the Democrats will have a strong candidate running for Secretary of State.

Some people make careers out of speculating about who will run for which office, what their chances are, what deals are being made and what the outcomes will be. People on the left have a higher calling---we need to ask and to know what the working class and oppressed peoples think and what the state of the movement is. The political plays mentioned above all rely on our movements splitting or dividing. Hoyle and Rosenbaum represent, more or less, the same trends within the Democratic Party, but labor forces will divide over which of them to back. One union leader in particular has been Courtney's angel while the most progressive working-class and people of color forces have opposed him. Brown has positioned herself to isolate the people most concerned about environmental justice and housing and play to people more engaged in women's, LGBTQIA+, anti-racist and immigrant rights work. Working-class and genuinely progressive forces are leaving this legislative session divided, and these divisions reflect disagreements which predated the session and which will continue to divide us until we transform the Democratic Party and build a unifying political organization of our own.

The liberal and progressive forces are making a great mistake by talking about bipartisanship and buying into the dominant Democratic Party narrative that the initiative process needs to be sidelined. This is a moment when new political alternatives should be tried and tested, not a moment to step backwards. This is a moment to build a united front or coalition politics from the left and not surrender the principles of solidarity and struggle. We need a strong left program and real left candidates.

Labor has yet to issue a scorecard. The post below comes from UniteOregon and reflects their point of view. I am not crazy about the implied bipartisanship message, and the bill which requires prosecutors to provide either an audio recording or a transcript of Grand Jury testimony to a defense attorney if an indictment results is not mentioned, but this is as good a summary from liberal/progressive forces as I have yet seen. Not happy with the results? Look to the left and join us!    

Despite an atmosphere of fear and anger in the halls of the State Legislature, Unite Oregon worked with Democrat and Republican lawmakers and communities around the state to pass a slate of historic new laws.

Here is a roundup of Unite Oregon’s legislative work, and the work of our allies, in the 2017 Oregon Legislative Session:


End Profiling Law -- Building on our success in outlawing police profiling across the state in 2015, Unite Oregon and our partners in the Fair Shot Coalition have worked to strengthen the law and put more policy in place so it can succeed. Once it is signed by Gov. Kate Brown, this law changes drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor; requires all state law enforcement to start keeping records on the perceived race and gender of the people they stop whether a citation is issued or not; it requires state law enforcement trainers to use the data from those records to help local law enforcement bureaus change their practices; it prohibits state officials from deporting legal immigrants charged with drug possession; and more. The passage of HB 2355 ensures that thousands of Oregonians will have a brighter future; it is a true history-making achievement.

Reproductive Health Equity Act -- This is a first-of-its-kind new law that guarantees all women and female-identified people in the state the full range of women’s reproductive health services free of charge, including contraception, abortion, and postpartum medical care; it requires all health insurance companies to include contraception on their plans; it eliminates barriers to women’s health services for gender nonconforming and transgender healthcare clients, including gender-specific cancer screenings; and ends “grandfathered” insurance plans that forced women to pay out of pocket for contraception.

Cover All Kids -- This new law will extend the Oregon Health Plan to every child in the state, regardless of immigration status or federal poverty level status. An estimated 17,000 kids will now be able to access health care services at clinics instead of emergency rooms.

Privacy Protection for Immigrant Families -- Provides clarity on what personal information government agencies can share with other government agencies about individuals, and increases privacy for Oregonians from federal anti-immigration actions. The bill declares an emergency and takes effect immediately when the governor signs it rather than waiting for Jan. 1 of the following year as usually happens.

Native American School Curriculum -- This bill passed unanimously in both the Oregon House and Senate. It requires the state Department of Education to work with Oregon tribes to develop school curriculum on the Native American experience in Oregon. It also requires the state to provide professional development related to the new curriculum.

Ethnic Studies -- This bill requires ethnic-studies curriculum for K-12 students across Oregon. Directs the Oregon Department of Education to convene advisory groups to develop ethnic-studies standards into existing statewide social-studies standards. Ethnic studies standards would be adopted by 2020, with implementation in schools set for 2021.

Fair Scheduling Bill -- This policy helps workers whose employers post or change their work schedules without notice. It requires large employers in retail, hospitality and foodservice industries to provide new employees with an estimated work schedule, and to provide current employees with seven days' notice of schedule changes. This law is another first of its kind in the nation.

Anti-Union “Right To Work” Attack Stopped -- A recent court decision allowed local communities to pass laws limiting the growth of labor unions. But SB 1040 shuts that possibility down by guaranteeing unions and employees the right to require labor union membership as a condition of employment. Passed as an emergency, the bill goes into effect as soon as the governor signs it.

Falsified Timecards -- Believe it or not, until now there has been no penalty for employers who force their employees to falsify their timecards, which is a common form of wage theft. This bill fixes that, and it goes into effect as soon as the governor signs it.

More Apprentice Jobs on State Construction Projects -- The Oregon Building Trades Council bird-dogged this effort until the end, improving the language. The bill requires contractors working on state construction jobs to fill 10 percent of all work hours with apprentice labor, for contracts of over $5 million. Subcontractors contracted to complete at least 25 percent or $1 million of contracted work are also held to the 10 percent requirement.


Corporate income tax and Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) Reform -- State lawmakers spent months trying to hash out new revenue sources to pay for education and other needed services. Not only did they fail, but they also couldn’t agree on how to slow down the fast-growing state employee retirement costs, which

Paid Family and Medical Leave -- If passed, this would have created a paid family and medical leave insurance program to provide workers with up to 12 weeks of paid time off -- making about 90 percent of their usual wage -- to care for themselves or family members after a birth, a death, or a medical crisis. For families who give birth or adopt a child, the bill would have given six more weeks. The insurance would have been funded by small contributions by employers and employees, and self-employed workers could have opted in as well.

Just Cause Evictions -- Oregon legislators could not agree on giving renters across the state relief from quick evictions that have put thousands of people on the streets. This bill was supported by the state House but defeated in the Senate.

The bill only impacted landlords with five or more rental units. If passed it would have prevented landlords for 30-day notices evicting tenants for no reason, after the tenant had lived in the unit for six months. And for people with less than six months residence in their apartment, it would also have required landlords issuing a no-cause eviction to give tenants 90 days notice and refund one month’s rent.

The worker's struggle at the Post Office---A local union leader lays out what's happening

Every union leader should be following this brother's example. Jonathan Smith, President of the NY Metro Area Postal Union, APWU, hits it.