I waited to write about Django Unchained because I couldn’t figure out how to account for its maddening effects. But they’ve gotten more and more maddening over time, to the point that I found myself in a restaurant the other night ranting about the sheer horror of hearing Jim Croce’s soporific ‘70s soft-rock ballad “I Got a Name” scored over should-be-exhilarating shots of Django as a newly freed man riding a fine horse through a grand Western snow-scape.
Sorry, other patrons of the restaurant in question! But consider the provocation! “I Got a Name,” for the love of Christ, right there in the middle of my pre-Civil War slave-revenge epic that I’ve been waiting a year to see! “I Got a Name”! I mean, why not the mellow stylings of James Taylor while we’re at it? Maybe Django could sing “You Got a Friend” to his horse or something! My God! Has the whole world gone crazy?
So what the hell, after that there’s no point holding back.
Posted: January 6th, 2013
Washington D.C.– I was at home minding my own business last Tuesday, when I got the tip-off via Twitter from friend and neighbor Mike Elk: Paula Broadwell was holed-up in her brother’s house just around the corner, hiding out from a mob of journalists that had the joint surrounded.
How could I resist scoping out the scene? (more…)
Posted: November 20th, 2012
This article is cross-posted from In These Times
In These Times has exclusively obtained a leaked internal Honeywell document outlining an anti-union strategy that includes leveraging Obama administration connections. The documents suggest that the megacorporation is deeply concerned about recent union activity at its factories and the bad press that has resulted (one example cited is a Working In These Times op-ed).
The PowerPoint presentation, downloadable here, was leaked to In These Times by unionized Honeywell workers who downloaded them from company’s internal database. Titled “DRAFT Honeywell Readiness Plan for Corporate Union Campaigns” and marked “Honeywell – Confidential,” the slideshow was authored by four Honeywell interns (see correction at bottom). Though the document is undated, it appears to be relatively recent, relying on 2011 data. Its stated objective is “to develop a framework that can be used by Honeywell with the resources required to prevent or react to a nationwide corporate union campaign and dissipate any problems as quickly as possible.”
“Honeywell is at significant risk of becoming the target of a national union corporate campaign and has no readiness plan in place to deal with this possibility,” warns the document. A graphic identifies a number of unions and workers’ organizations as potential sources of such a campaign, including SEIU, Warehouse Workers United, the AFL-CIO’s Change to Win, UNITE HERE! and the United Steelworkers. Honeywell notes in particular the dangers of negative publicity, citing as one example an August 4, 2011 Working In These Times op-ed by Metropolis Honeywell employee and USW Local 7-699 leader John Paul Smith titled “What the Honeywell Lockout Taught Me About International Labor Solidarity.”
Tip: Hit pause to read individual slides…
The PowerPoint then presents a five-part prevention plan broken down into “1.) Labor Employee Relations 2.) Communications 3.) Government Relations 4.) Legal and 5.) Global Security.”
The third section, on Government Relations (GR), reveals Honeywell’s hopes that its influence with the Obama administration can be leveraged to help combat union activity. Slide 18 of the confidential document states that Honeywell (HON) should “continue to grow positive relationships with elected officials, with federal agencies, focusing on local branches.” These relationships, the document explains, “can be directed at union activity, if needed.” The plan suggests that Honeywell’s Government Relations division can be used to “break up union cohesion across the country.” A picture of President Obama speaking at a Honeywell plant is included (see above), with a caption reading “HON has great relationships with Federal officials, focus is needed at the State and local levels.”
Indeed, President Obama and Honeywell CEO Dave E. Cote have a very close relationship. Cote visited with Obama at the White House this past Wednesday to push him to cut budget spending. Cote is considered one of Obama’s closest allies in the business community. In January of 2009, Cote introduced Obama’s stimulus package in a White House speech. Cote was subsequently appointed by Obama to serve on the Deficit Commission. President Obama even flew with Cote to India while a lockout at Honeywell’s Metropolis, Ill. uranium plant was ongoing. Cote returned the favor by giving heavily to the Democratic Party. In the 2010 election cycle when the Met, Honeywell was the top corporate PAC contributor to the Democratic Party.
Union activists believe that Honeywell’s federal ties have already enabled the company to call in government help when suppressing unions. In 2009, Honeywell threatened to use Marines to replace 500 United Steelworkers members in Blount Island, Fla. if the military contractors went out on strike. Honeywell had the military security clearances pulled on several of the union leaders, leading them to lose their jobs. In 2010, I exposed evidence that Honeywell cheated on qualification tests for scab replacement workers during the lockout at its Metropolis uranium facility; during the lag between my report and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission taking action, the scab replacement workers caused a number of accidents. In 2011, International Association of Machinists Lodge 778, employed as nuclear weapons workers at Honeywell’s Kansas City, accused the Department of Energy of abandoning its legal mandate by not stepping into to stop a concessionary contract Honeywell was pushing on the union. (Note: I have written over two dozen articles on this issue since 2009; for more details on the federal government enabling Honeywell anti-union strategy, see my November 2011 piece, “Is the Federal Government Helping to Bust Unions?”)
The recent leaked documents raises serious questions about whether Honeywell benefited from its relationships with the Obama administration as part of its anti-union maneuvers. The White House did not respond to request for comment.
It’s not uncommon for corporations to invest this level of planning into combating organized labor. As I reported for Working In These Times, corporate executives from a number of companies attended a conference in Arizona in May on how to lock out workers and bust unions–headlined, oddly, by Henry Winkler, a.k.a. the Fonz.
Another section of the confidential documents lays out a comprehensive plan to bust union organizing. First, the document suggests a company-wide “Corporate Campaign Risk Assessment System” that “would be a tool used to identify those sites that are at a greater risk of becoming involved in a corporate campaign and to then prioritize the sites for preventive and counter measuring planning. … The Corporate Campaign Risk Assessment Survey would give the LER (Labor Relations) team scores on the high risk areas to determine whether or not these sites could be the local campaigns that acts as a ‘toe hold’ for unions to launch a corporate campaign against Honeywell.”
Then, as soon as there are union rumblings at a non-union Honeywell plant, managers are instructed to inform Honeywell’s HR Department, which then informs Honeywell’s Labor Relations Department (LER), which “puts plan in place on the ground and immediately visits the site.” The LER is told to dispatch one or two representatives from the Burke Group, a notorious anti-union firm that was used by Honeywell during the 14-month long Metropolis lockout. Next, an official boardroom is “set up on site to implement daily operations,” including “employees paid to sit and listen to anti-union campaigns.” Honeywell supervisors are advised to obtain the proper legal assistance in struggle with unions, to secure Honeywell property and to train local security personnel in “warning signs of union activity.”
“These documents reinforce what we have believed all along that this is a company that isn’t interested in getting along with their labor groups. This also proves that they see us as a threat,” says USW Local 7-669 President Stephen Lech, whose photo is included in the document’s description of the Metropolis lockout. “As far as us being mentioned so much in these documents, I am kind of honored that our union had that kind of impact. I am flattered that the company is going to fashion a whole plan based on the labor struggle at Metropolis. They learned a lot during that process and we learned a lot to, but we can change our labor strategy a whole lot quicker than theirs.”
UPDATE: In an statement emailed to In These Times after a mutually agreed deadline, Honeywell spokesperson Victoria Ann Streitfeld wrote:
This document was prepared by summer interns, not full-time Honeywell employees, and as such should not be considered to reflect Honeywell’s positions or policies.
Honeywell’s preference is to work directly with its global work force, but also respects the rights that employees have to form unions or acquire union representation when they choose to do so.
Honeywell works closely with a wide range of constituents that are important to making our businesses successful, including employees, and where appropriate the unions that represent them, our communities, and their elected officials.
It’s unclear from the document (which In These Times has made available for download here), whether the interns were proposing new policy or summarizing existing policy. What’s clear is that they had access to an enormous amount of internal information. The 61-page PowerPoint presentation, marked “Honeywell – Confidential,” contains indications that Honeywell had been tracking union activity at a dozen plants across the United States, complex metrics for analyzing the threat posed by unions, and a note about Honeywell’s deployment of the Burke Group, an anti-union consulting organization.
In response to the Honeywell statement, USW 7-669 President Stephen Lech said:
It surprises me that they are denying that this is their company policy, because this is exactly what we saw in Metropolis. [The authors] are mentioning things in this PowerPoint that show they know exactly what Honeywell is doing. They knew about Metropolis, the Burke Group, they had pictures of our pickets lines, detailed information about company structure and union activity. This doesn’t sound like the kind of information mere interns would have. And what they say about working with government officials is exactly what they did during the Honeywell lockout.
This article is cross-posted from In These Times
Posted: November 16th, 2012
On election day, I woke up before dawn, took a dip in the ocean, made coffee and worked until about noon, when I decided to get the thing over and go vote. I walked five blocks to my polling station, located in the lobby of the Santa Monica Shores apartment towers sitting right on the beach.
It was a warm clear Southern California day. Outside the polling station, long-stemmed palm trees swayed softly in the light ocean breeze.
I could see through the glass doors that there was a long line stretching diagonally across the lobby. I swung the doors open and didn’t take more than two steps inside when I was hit by a gut-wrenching smell–a musky, nauseating mix of rancid beer, rotten fruit and anchovies. The lobby was filled to the brim with pensioners—and one of them had a yeast infection that had gone rogue. (more…)
Posted: November 9th, 2012
Be libertarian one time? Is that the same thing as "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas"?
Author’s note: I wrote this brief dispatch about my run-in with libertarian pro-marijuana activist/former judge James P. Gray back in March of 2011. But the piece disappeared into the black void of my computer hard-drive, and I forgot all about it—until now. I’m glad the text turned up, because Judge Gray’s sleazy efforts to bring lefties and progressives into the Libertarian Party fold under the innocuous banner of pot legalization is much more relevant today than it was 2011. After all, Judge Gray is now the running mate of Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson is using the weed wedge issue to siphon off votes from Obama. —YL
In this festive season of the year when cheery death-related imagery like skeletons and ghosts and zombies cluster all around us, it seems fitting that we celebrate someone who really liked death and tried his best to show us how terrific it is: horror film producer Val Lewton.
In his low-budget 1940s films such as Cat People, I Walked With a Zombie, The Leopard Man, The Seventh Victim, and Isle of the Dead, Lewton and his tight-knit creative team generally aligned death with the most beautiful characters, the richest imagery, and the most soothingly lovely camera and editing rhythms. Oh to cast off the harsh noisy nonsense of life and sink into that silent, velvet blackness!
Posted: October 28th, 2012
This article was first published on AlterNet
It’s Nobel Prize season again. News reports are coming out each day sharing the name of the illustrious winner of the various categories — Science, Literature, etc. But there’s one of the prizes that’s a little different. Well, that’s putting it lightly… you see, the Nobel Prize in Economics is not a real Nobel. It wasn’t created by Alfred Nobel. It’s not even called a “Nobel Prize,” no matter what the press reports say.
The five real Nobel Prizes—physics, chemistry, literature, peace, and medicine/physiology—were set up in the will left by the dynamite magnate when he died in 1895. The economics prize is a bit different. It was created by Sweden’s Central Bank in 1969, nearly 75 years later. The award’s real name is the “Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.” It was not established by Nobel, but supposedly in memory of Nobel. It’s a ruse and a PR trick, and I mean that literally. And it was done completely against the wishes of the Nobel family. (more…)
Steve Klein, right-wing extremist and consultant for Islamophobic cinema
Crossposted from MaxBlumenthal.com
The US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three US diplomats were killed in attacks and rioting provoked by an obscure, low-budget anti-Muslim film called “The Innocence of Muslims.” The producer of the film is a real estate developer supposedly named “Sam Bacile”who claims to be an Israeli Jew. Bacile told the AP the film was made with $5 million raised from “100 Jewish donors.” He said he was motivated to help his native country, Israel, by exposing the evils of Islam. (more…)
From today’s edition of NSFW Corp
FRESNO—Today’s the Big Anniversary, so what better day to size up Obama’s war record than the day that also launched my career as a professional War Nerd.
When you look back at Obama’s wars, you get a pretty clear idea what went wrong over the last four years. It wasn’t the way Obama’s team handled the wars. Truth is, they did damn well at that, better than I ever thought they would.
The real problem is that they don’t know what world they’re living in. These are people who’ve spent their lives getting straight A’s, collecting gold stars, avoiding mistakes. And they think war is just like all those other little hurdles you face in life.
That’s why they’ll never get credit for any of it. They have this delusion that sanity matters, and they’ve run their wars as sanely and boringly as an exterminator going after termites.
It’s sensible, it’s semi-effective, and it irritates the life out of the 99%. I don’t mean the Occupy 99%, all those “goodhearted ordinary Americans”; that’s a totally made-up imaginary species invented by people just as naive as Obama’s crew. I mean the real 99% of us living our rotten lives out there, mean and dumb and miserable, just waiting for some gore we can really get behind.
Obama just doesn’t understand his job as war chief of this big crazy tribe…(Continued)
To read the rest of this War Nerd article surveying the Obama wars, click here.
This article was published at Not Safe For Work Corp, where Gary Brecher has just signed on as a new regular columnist. To read The War Nerd columns and more NSFWCORP wretched wisdom (with jokes), subscribe for the monthly price of a bottle of Diet Coke: http://www.nsfwcorp.com/subscribe
Would you like to know more? Gary Brecher is the author of the War Nerd. Send your comments to gary dot brecher at gmail dot com. Read Gary Brecher’s first ever War Nerd column by clicking here.
Click the cover, buy the book!
This article was first published in the Daily Banter
Every week, it seems there’s another tragic story about a suicide or murder-suicides linked to foreclosure trauma. Some of the more spectacular murder-by-foreclosure stories the past few years have been collected by a blog called “Greenspan’s Body Count”—others, myself included, have been writing about these terrible stories of class warfare being waged by the only side fighting it, and winning it, as Warren Buffett rightly said. (more…)
The following article first appeared in Punch!, the pop culture iPad app, available free for download here. If you own an iPad, you should read this article at the Punch! app, which has all kinds of awesome media embedded, a quiz on Mormons vs. Scientology, video clips and great layout and so on. We don’t own iPads because you people haven’t donated yours to us, so we can only dream. For those of you who didn’t condemn themselves to journalism’s humiliating poverty—or for those of you “journalists” on the take from the Koch brothers or tobacco companies, or PHARMA, or you generally suck so badly that you’re paid well and can afford iPads—enjoy it on your iPad. While you still can.
“I intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world.”
–Joseph Smith, Jr.
CHAPTER ONE: ‘I Suck, Please Slay Me’
When Punch! first assigned me this story — a review of A Mormon President, a DVD docudrama about Mormon founder Joseph Smith and his disastrous run for president in 1844 — I assured my editor he’d have a comic gem with timely political relevance delivered to his inbox before he could say “TK.” (more…)
REPOSTED FROM THE S.H.A.M.E. PROJECT
Last week, I got an email from Malcolm Gladwell. He told me he read the S.H.A.M.E. report I wrote about him a few weeks ago, and asked if I had time to answer a few of his questions:
From: Malcolm Gladwell
Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2012 3:56 PM
I recently read your pieces about me. I have a number of questions I’d love to ask you. Do you have the time? Cheers, M.
This article was first published at The Daily Banter
Progressive intellectuals have been acting very bipolar towards labor lately, characterized by wild mood swings ranging from the “We’re sorry we abandoned labor, how could we!” sentiment during last year’s Wisconsin uprising against Koch waterboy Scott Walker, to the recent “labor is dead/it’s all labor’s fault” snarling after the recall vote against Gov. Walker failed. (more…)
This article was first published in The Daily Banter
Last month, shareholders finally rebelled against Citigroup, the worst of the Too Big To Fail bailout disasters, by filing a lawsuit against outgoing chairman Dick Parsons and handful of executives for stuffing their pockets while running the bank into the ground.
Anyone familiar with Dick Parsons’ past could have told you his term as Citigroup’s chairman would end like this: Shareholder lawsuits, executive pay scandals, and corporate failure on a colossal scale. It’s the Dick Parsons Management Style. In each of the three companies Parsons was appointed to lead, they all failed spectacularly, and somehow Parsons and a handful of top executives always walked away from the yellow-tape crime scenes unscathed. (more…)
Crossposted from MaxBlumenthal.com
Tel Aviv University was built on the ruins of the Palestinian village of Sheikh Muwannis
. The university’s faculty lounge is the village mukhtar’s former home. At the corner of Arlosoroff and Ibn Gvirol streets, where the Century Tower
skyscraper stands, a Palestinian village named Sommeil
used to exist. (more…)
If you’re one of the few dozen people in the world who hasn’t seen The Avengers yet, I’ll tell you the best way to take it in. Hit a matinee screening in a theater filled with kids—especially very small roundheaded ones, the ones still closer to being animals than people—that’s where you get the purity of the experience. Kids can hardly get over how much they love this movie—it’s beyond their frail strength to contain it. They let out these wild shouting laughs—HAAAAH-hahahahahahaha!!—to signify maximum glee.
I like to see the kids happy. It’s a weakness of mine.
A few months back I had a long conversation with Freke Vuijst, a journalist from the lefty Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland, about the history of the Koch clan—specifically, we talked about what I learned during my trip to Quanah, Texas, the shit-kicker corporate railroad town where granddaddy Harry Koch dropped anchor in 1891 and started a family that eventually spawned the two most powerful oligarchs of our time, Charles and David Koch. Freke was working on a story about the pre-USA origins of the Koch family back in the family’s native Netherlands, using Dutch archive material, and she and I compared notes… (more…)
This article was first published on ConsortiumNews.com
This past Thursday, a Modesto, California, man whose house was in foreclosure shot and killed the Sheriff’s deputy and the locksmith who came to evict him from his condominium unit. Modesto authorities responded by sending 100 police and SWAT snipers to counter-attack, and it ended Waco-style, with the fourplex structure burning to the ground with the shooter inside. (more…)
This is cross-posted from Al Akhbar English…
Mohammed Merah, the alleged murderer of several Muslim French soldiers and Jews, was just killed by a sniper with a shot to the head following a 32-hour standoff with police in Toulouse, France. One of the most salient facts about the killer, a professed Islamic radical seeking to avenge various indignities committed against Muslims by the West, is that he was a member of an outlawed French Salafist group called Forsanne Alizza, or the Knights of Pride. The group, which has expressed sympathy for Al Qaida’s cause, was banned in January after its leadership was accused of training members “for armed combat.”
Click here for a photo essay of graffiti in Exarchia
(Photos by the author)
I arrived in Athens only hours after the February 12 anti-austerity riots, the acrid odor of burnt-out banks still lingering downtown, and checked into a familiar haunt, the Hostel Zorbas on Victoria Square. The last time I stayed there, in the summer of 2001, the place still took drachmas and buzzed with backpackers just returned from Piraeus, where the ferries fan out to the pleasure islands of the Aegean. A decade later, those memories felt like the flashback scenes in The Road. This time the hostel had only two other guests. There was Anas, a young Syrian refugee planning his way north to Sweden — “They called me up for military service, and I’m not going to shoot my own people,” he was telling the desk clerk when I arrived — and there was Guy, an 18-year-old anarchist from Brooklyn. Guy was in town to forge relationships with his brothers in black and study Greek riot tactics.
Welcome to the Austerity Athens hostel scene. (more…)
If you’re a woman—and if you’re reading eXiled you’re probably not—but let’s say you are for the sake of argument—if you’re a woman, life’s already tough enough without the Rush Limbaugh Slutgate saturation media orgy, and right-wing political threats to ban contraception AND abortion in the apparent hopes that you’ll never have sex again, though presumably if you don’t have sex with the men who want to have it with you, you’re a frigid bitch, same as always.
Happy International Women’s Day!
This article was first published in Al-Akhbar, and is cross-posted with permission of the author.
Few congressional candidates have excited the progressive base of the Democratic party as much as consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren has. With her tenacious advocacy for a consumer protection agency to fight unfair lending practices and her consistent framing of economic issues in terms of structural inequality has earned her enthusiastic promotion from major progressive figures from Markos Moulitsas to Rachel Maddow to Michael Moore. (more…)
Last week, several news organizations carried a story about an alleged Occupy PAC that, if true, would have driven another stake of political cynicism in the heart of the fractured movement, built on idealism and opposition to the corruption of American politics.
Posted: February 22nd, 2012
Let me tell you the game I was playing with a kid I love. He’s almost nine and has been into tough guy myths lately. He works out, so he’s extraordinarily strong for his age and thinks he’s safe against getting attacked. So I asked him:
“A guy attacks you. What do you do?”
“You died. Try again. A guy attacks you. What do you do?” (more…)
Posted: February 13th, 2012
This article is cross-posted from Al-Akhbar with permission from the author Max Blumenthal.
In 2005, a group of graduate students at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced and International Studies (SAIS) participated in the school’s annual diplomatic simulation. The high-pressure scenario required the students to negotiate a resolution to a standoff with a nuclear-armed Republic of Pakistan. Mara Karlin, a student known for her hawkish politics on Israel and the Middle East, played President of the United States. (more…)