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Starbucks agrees to sixth labor settlement in three years

By Seattle Times

Starbucks signed a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board last week agreeing to let Minneapolis-area employees post union materials in their break areas and discuss union issues while on the job, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their performance.

The settlement does not include financial payment, and it will not be final until the NLRB decides whether to address objections to the settlement by union organizers at the Industrial Workers of the World, according to Marlin Osthus, acting director of the NLRB’s upper midwest region office.

The IWW initiated the complaints that led to the settlement and, according to a press release, considers it a victory at this point.

It’s Starbucks’ sixth labor settlement in three years and its second in Minneapolis. In December, the coffee chain also lost a battle in administrative-law court when a judge determined that Starbucks had unfairly imposed work rules on employees who supported the IWW.

The company is appealing the court’s decision and has not acknowledged wrongdoing in any of the settlements.

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Starbucks Twitter campaign hijacked by documentary about Starbucks’ union-busting

By at BoingBoing

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Washington Repeating Iraq Mistakes in Afghanistan

By Roll Call

Last week, as Congress moved to pass nearly $100 billion in war funding through a supplemental bill, 10 other veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq joined me in Washington, D.C., to visit Members of Congress and staff to encourage them to vote against the funding.

I do not know which was harder, seeing the impossibility of success in Afghanistan or seeing the impossibility within Congress to voice dissent from the administration. As a corporal in the U.S. Marines — who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq and who remains willing to give my life for this country — let me say from experience that our current strategy will not bring security to Afghanistan or to America.

What pained me in Afghanistan was witnessing too many civilian casualties, too many children without food and women without husbands, too many innocent Afghans who became anti-American because of our actions. But what pains me now: witnessing too many Members of Congress, too many administration officials and too many think-tank experts support this military approach.

As I pounded the Hill’s pavement, I heard numerous reasons why Congress needed to support the president’s agenda, and not one was convincing. I heard everything from “we want to give the administration a chance” to “this is leftover spending from the Bush administration” to “this will be the last supplemental like this,” and the one I was most appalled by, as thousands of lives remain in question, “Don’t want to oppose the administration during its honeymoon stage.”

I would respond with, “But how will we measure success?” After eight years of combat operations you’d think someone in Congress would be able to answer this question, but no one could. The only thing they seemed able to do, even the military veterans turned Congressional staffers — after fully recognizing the merit in everything I had to say and positively affirming my policy recommendations — was to close the meeting with a reluctant shrug in support of the administration’s agenda.


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The Afghan Question – NPR


Why are we in Afghanistan? To destroy the Al-Qaeda? To make sure the Taliban doesn’t get back in power? Both? What is the economic impact of the war on the US economy? And, just what would victory in Afghanistan look like anyway? In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge, the question of Afghanistan. The Obama Administration’s refocusing the US military. But after years of war in Iraq, after Abu Grabib, after WMDs…does the US still have the moral authority to conduct nation building?


Robert Greenwald supports the Obama administration but thinks they’re dead wrong about Afghanistan. He’s the Director of the on-going, on-line documentary called “Rethink Afghanistan.” Greenwald tells Jim Fleming the sorts of questions he would put to the administration, and we also hear clips from his film.



  • Robert Greenwald is the director of the on-going on-line documentary called “Rethink Afghanistan.” Brave New Foundation. To watch the entire documentary on-line:
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Now on YouTube,an Outcry Against BofA’s Lewis

By New York Times

You’ve heard the complaints from pension funds. You’ve seen the demands from unions. Now watch the video.

Ahead of Bank of America’s annual meeting on Wednesday, the activist filmmaker Robert Greenwald is helping lead the charge to fire Kenneth D. Lewis, the bank’s embattled chief executive.

Mr. Greenwald, who has made films critical of Wal-Mart, John McCain, Rupert Murdoch and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has produced a video demanding Mr. Lewis’s ouster and is distributing it on YouTube. The video, narrated by Robert B, Reich, the labor secretary under President Bill Clinton, portrays Mr. Lewis as the poster boy of corporate greed and incompetence.

The video is basically a collection of clips from news reports critical of Mr. Lewis and Bank of America for government bailouts, billions of dollars in bonuses, the Merrill Lynch purchase, high credit rates and anti-union advocacy. Interspersed between them, Mr. Greenwald repeatedly proclaims his message: “Fire Ken Lewis!”

That message has resonated with some big shareholders of Bank of America. Calpers, the huge California public pension fund, said Tuesday that it was voting against re-electing Mr. Lewis and the rest of the bank’s board. The fund joins Calstrs, the California teachers retirement fund, and several other state and union pension funds in opposing Mr. Lewis.

Two influential investor advisory groups, the RiskMetrics Group and Glass Lewis, have also recommended voting against Mr. Lewis.

Go to Video from Robert Greenwald via YouTube »

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Afghan veterans offer stories from 7-year US involvement

WASHINGTON – One held the hand of a dying fellow soldier and told himself that the sacrifice would not be in vain. Another watched an Afghan tribal leader risk his life to seek US protection for his village – only to be told that it was not possible. A third interviewed insurgents who said they expect American troops to get tired and go home. A fourth beat suspected terrorists, only to find out later that they were innocent.

The veterans of the Afghan war testified yesterday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about a seven-year conflict that has attracted little debate, even as President Obama sends reinforcements to take on the Taliban.

The hearing took place as instability in Afghanistan spreads through neighboring Pakistan, and a day after the 38th anniversary of committee Chairman John F. Kerry’s testimony – as a Vietnam veteran – against that war in 1971.

Yesterday, the young veterans offered a sobering picture of the failures of US policy, but none advocated a complete withdrawal.

However, one veteran – Rick Reyes, a former corporal in the US Marines – called Obama’s decision to send 17,000 additional combat troops to Afghanistan “a mistake.”

“At a minimum, this occupation needs to be rethought,” he said.

Reyes, who was among the first US forces sent to Afghanistan after the 2001 terrorist attacks, said he arrested Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorism suspects in their homes based on tips by paid informants.

“Almost 100 percent of the time, we would find that the suspected terrorists were just innocent civilians,” he said. “We began to feel we were chasing ghosts. How can you tell the difference between members of the Taliban from Afghan civilians? The answer is: You can’t.”

In his written testimony, Reyes said he and his fellow Marines sometimes broke “hands, arms, legs” and wrecked homes during their midnight raids. But he did not describe these incidents to the committee yesterday, saying later that he did not want to distract from his message of opposition to a troop increase.

However, three other Afghan veterans argued passionately for a stepped-up US commitment, saying the mission could be saved by more troops and smarter tactics.

Westley Moore, a former Army captain who led a program that persuaded moderate Taliban to pledge allegiance to the new Afghan government, called the 17,000 additional troops “a paltry number” compared with what is required to protect the population in the rural areas.

“We are underfunded and undermanned in Afghanistan,” he told the senators. “We asked two brigades to have coverage over a 1,600-mile area that is . . . the most dangerous terrain in the world.” Moore said it would send the wrong message to the world if the United States were to simply leave.


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Military solution won’t end Afghan war: Veterans


WASHINGTON (AFP) — As fresh US troop reinforcements prepare to deploy to Afghanistan, veterans of the war Thursday decried past mistakes and warned the conflict cannot be solved by military means alone.

“By the time I left Afghanistan, I felt that the US being there was a big mistake,” retired US Marines corporal Rick Reyes told the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.

“I feel strongly that military intervention is not the answer.”

His comments echoed congressional testimony given by committee chairman John Kerry as a Vietnam War veteran in 1971, when he had famously asked: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

Now as then, veterans voiced their reservations about the already costly and protracted conflict in Afghanistan, although they argued against a rapid withdrawal of troops.

“If we leave without providing the security, propping up the government, propping the local villages and the people that are there, giving them some sense of structure, some sense of stability and security, then we will be back,” said Genevieve Chase, a retired US Army Reserve sergeant.

“If we don’t do this now, we will be back.”

During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, the United States provided financial and military backing to Muhajedeen Islamist fighters, but withdrew its involvement after Soviet forces left the country. The vacuum helped bring the Taliban to power.

Reyes blasted US President Barack Obama’s decision to deploy 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan as “a big mistake.” Some 40,000 US troops are already in the country with about 32,000 other foreign allied forces deployed under NATO authority.

“At a minimum, this occupation needs to be rethought,” Reyes said.

But three other Afghanistan veterans argued for more US commitment to the conflict.

“We are underfunded and undermanned in Afghanistan,” retired US Army captain Westley Moore told the Senate panel.

But he also stressed the importance of more non-military aspects of the US strategy.

“If we increase security aspects … then we can actually start allocating more resources to make not only Afghanistan not a safe haven for Al-Qaeda, but also provide the security and safety and the future for the Afghan people,” he said.

Former army staff sergeant Christopher McGurk recalled the dying moments of 19-year-old Evan O’Neill, who apologized for not completing the mission after being shot near the Pakistani border.

“My own anger and sense of betrayal comes from the possibility that we may not come to a resolution in Afghanistan and that the blood that has been shed by the victims of 9/11, the Afghan people and men like O’Neill would be in vain,” McGurk said.

Republican lawmakers expressed skepticism about Obama’s strategy for Afghanistan, which focuses on rooting out Al-Qaeda, boosts civilian efforts to rebuild the impoverished country and places nuclear-armed Pakistan at the center of the fight.

“I have no idea what it is, other than sending additional troops,” said Republican Senator Bob Corker. “I hope we dig a lot deeper.”

Some Democrats also showed concern about the plan.

“The escalation may further destabilize the situation in Afghanistan to the detriment of US security,” said Senator Russ Feingold.

“We may be sending our troops in the eye of the storm without addressing the greatest threat to our security, which lies on the Pakistani side of the border.”

Kerry acknowledged that “there is much still to be done in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Kerry drew an analogy between the war in Afghanistan and the Vietnam War.

“Once again, we are fighting an insurgency in a rural country with a weak central government. Our enemy blends in with the local population and easily crosses a long border to find sanctuary in a neighboring country,” said Kerry.

“We ignore these similarities at our peril.”

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Senate Foreign Relations Committee Holding a Powerful Re-Evaluation Of Af-Pak

By Spencer Ackerman at Washington Independent

Sadly, I’m working on other things, but I’m listening to the livestream of an extremely powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing featuring Afghanistan veterans criticizing the continued war in Afghanistan. Marine Cpl. Rick Reyes denounced the “occupation” of Afghanistan, a policy that he said “forced [me] to become a tyrant,” since he was unable to determine who was a civilian and who was an insurgent. “At a minimum, this occupation needs to be rethought,” Reyes said, as does “sending more troops” to Afghanistan. Not all of his fellow veterans go so far — some, like U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher McGurk are critical of U.S. efforts so far, but contend that U.S. interests compel a deepened commitment to Afghanistan.

I don’t want to say too much about something I’m not fully covering and listening to as a background priority. When I have the statements of Reyes and his colleagues — not all went as far as he did — I’ll write more. But three points really stand out.

First, this is the most prominent forum yet given to forthright critiques of the Afghanistan war, let alone critiques that inch up to the boundary of saying the war is lost. Second, critiques like Reyes are directly reminiscent of the critique delivered to the committee in 1971 by Vietnam veteran and now-Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who held today’s hearing as the committee’s chairman. Andrew Bacevich, the Boston University international affairs professor, called the lacunae between resources and strategy in Afghanistan “comparable” to the Vietnam strategy denounced by “a young John Kerry.” (Al Qaeda is a  “religiously motivated mafia” that needs to be dealt with by a “sustained, multilateral police effort,” he said, not by a “Long War.”)

Third, while this remains to be seen, the country is facing a test — not just with taking these veterans’ critiques seriously, to inform what U.S. strategy in Afghanistan/Pakistan needs to be, but not to repeat what was done to Kerry in the 1970s. That is, smearing him as a traitor to his fellow veterans by speaking out against an ill-considered war. These veterans are pushing the country’s discourse on Afghanistan into a difficult and uncomfortable area. It would be unconscionable for anyone to attack them for doing such a brave thing.

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Echoes of Vietnam in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing Room

By Caitlin Webber at CQ

Exactly 38 years after he testified against the Vietnam War before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry , now chairman of that panel, convened Afghanistan war veterans to offer opinions on the future of their generation’s conflict.

But while Kerry’s 1971 statement was unequivocally against the Nixon administration’s continuation of the war, in 2009 he finds himself in a more delicate position. He was an early and staunch supporter of President Obama, but has recently expressed skepticism about the administration’s new strategy for Afghanistan.

His proposal to triple non-military aid to Pakistan, backed by ranking Republican Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, has been delayed over differences with the White House on conditions for that money.

On Thursday he tried to refine his position on Obama’s new strategy.

“Let me be clear: There is much still to be done in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but our new focus creates a sense of determined optimism for us and our coalition allies,” Kerry said. “Better defined objectives should lead to a better battle plan for our troops. But this remains an immensely complicated task.”

Kerry reiterated his belief that the United States should not provide “a blank check” to either Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Lugar echoed the call from Kerry and many other members for more specifics on the administration’s plan.

“As the Obama administration devotes more resources and troops to Afghanistan, however, many details need to be fleshed out,” Lugar said.

Veterans’ Perspectives

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