Political Action

Open Access Can't Wait. Pass FASTR Now.

Deep Links - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 15:57

When you pay for federally funded research, you should be allowed to read it. That’s the idea behind the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (S.1701, H.R.3427), which was recently reintroduced in both houses of Congress.

FASTR was first introduced in 2013, and while it has strong support in both parties, it has never gained enough momentum to pass. We need to change that. Let’s tell Congress that passing an open access law should be a top priority.

Take action

Tell Congress: It’s time to move FASTR

The proposal is pretty simple: Under FASTR, every federal agency that spends more than $100 million on grants for research would be required to adopt an open access policy. The bill gives each agency flexibility to implement an open access policy suited to the work it funds, so long as research is available to the public after an “embargo period” of a year or less.

One of the major points of contention around FASTR is how long that embargo period should be. Last year, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved FASTR unanimously, but only after extending that embargo period from six months to 12, putting FASTR in line with the 2013 White House open access memo. That’s the version that was recently reintroduced in the Senate.  The House bill, by contrast, sets the embargo period at six months.

EFF supports a shorter period. Part of what’s important about open access is that it democratizes knowledge: when research is available to the public, you don’t need expensive journal subscriptions or paid access to academic databases in order to read it. A citizen scientist can use and build on the same body of knowledge as someone with institutional connections. But in the fast-moving world of scientific research, 12 months is an eternity.

A shorter embargo is far from a radical proposition, especially in 2017. The landscape for academic publishing is very different from what it was when FASTR was first introduced, thanks in larger part to nongovernmental funders who already enforce open access mandates. Major foundations like Ford, Gates, and Hewlett have adopted strong open access policies requiring that research be not only available to the public, but also licensed to allow republishing and reuse by anyone.

Just last year, the Gates Foundation made headlines when it dropped the embargo period from its policy entirely, requiring that research be published openly immediately. After a brief standoff, major publishers began to accommodate Gates’ requirements. As a result, we finally have public confirmation of what we’ve always known: open access mandates don’t put publishers out of business; they push them to modernize their business models. Imagine how a strong open access mandate for government-funded research—with a requirement that that research be licensed openly—could transform publishing.

FASTR may not be that law, but it’s a huge step in the right direction, and it’s the best option on the table today. Let’s urge Congress to pass a version of FASTR with an embargo period of six months or less, and then use it as a foundation for stronger open access in the future.

Take action

Tell Congress: It’s time to move FASTR

Categories: Political Action

Honoring Our Friend Bassel: Announcing the Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship

Creative Commons - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 10:00
Photo by Joi Ito, CC BY 2.0

On August 1, 2017, we received the heartbreaking news that our friend Bassel (Safadi) Khartabil, detained since 2012, was executed by the Syrian government shortly after his 2015 disappearance. Khartabil was a Palestinian Syrian open internet activist, a free culture hero, and an important member of our community. Our thoughts are with Bassel’s family, now and always.

Today we’re announcing the Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship to honor his legacy and lasting impact on the open web.

Bassel was a relentless advocate for free speech, free culture, and democracy. He was the cofounder of Syria’s first hackerspace, Aiki Lab, Creative Commons’ Syrian project lead, and a prolific open source contributor, from Firefox to Wikipedia. Bassel’s final project, relaunched as #NEWPALMYRA, entailed building free and open 3D models of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. In his work as a computer engineer, educator, artist, musician, cultural heritage researcher, and thought leader, Bassel modeled a more open world, impacting lives globally.

To honor that legacy, the Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship will support outstanding individuals developing the culture of their communities under adverse circumstances. The Fellowship — organized by Creative Commons, Mozilla, the Wikimedia Foundation, the Jimmy Wales Foundation, #NEWPALMYRA, and others — will launch with a three-year commitment to promote values like open culture, radical sharing, free knowledge, remix, collaboration, courage, optimism, and humanity.

As part of this new initiative, fellows can work in a range of mediums, including art, music, software, and community building. All projects will catalyze free culture, particularly in societies vulnerable to attacks on freedom of expression and free access to knowledge. Special consideration will be given to applicants operating within closed societies and in developing economies where other forms of support are scarce. Applications from the Levant and wider MENA region are greatly encouraged.

Throughout their fellowship term, chosen fellows will receive a stipend, mentorship from affiliate organizations, skill development, project promotion, and fundraising support from the partner network. Fellows will be chosen by a selection committee composed of representatives of the partner organizations.


Organizational Partners include Creative Commons, #FREEBASSEL, Wikimedia Foundation, GlobalVoices, Mozilla, #NEWPALMYRA, YallaStartup and SMEX.

Amazon Web Services is a supporting partner.

The Fellowships are based on one-year terms, which are eligible for renewal.

The benefits are designed to allow for flexibility and stability both for Fellows and their families. The standard fellowship offers a stipend of $50,000 USD, paid in 10 monthly installments. Fellows are responsible for remitting all applicable taxes as required.

To help offset cost of living, the fellowship also provides supplements for childcare and health insurance, and may provide support for project funding on a case-by-case basis. The fellowship also covers the cost of required travel for fellowship activities.

Fellows will receive:

  • A stipend of $50,000 USD, paid in 10 monthly installments
  • A one-time health insurance supplement for Fellows and their families, ranging from $3,500 for single Fellows to $7,000 for a couple with two or more children
  • A one-time childcare allotment of up to $6,000 for families with children
  • An allowance of up to $3,000 towards the purchase of laptop computer, digital cameras, recorders and computer software; fees for continuing studies or other courses, research fees or payments, to the extent such purchases and fees are related to the fellowship
  • Coverage in full for all approved fellowship trips, both domestic and international

The first fellowship will be awarded in April 2018. Applications will be accepted beginning February 2018.

Eligibility Requirements. The Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship is open to individuals and small teams worldwide, who:

  • Propose a viable new initiative to advance free culture values as outlined in the call for applicants
  • Demonstrate a history of activism in the Open Source, Open Access, Free Culture or Sharing communities
  • Are prepared to focus on the fellowship as their primary work

Special consideration will be given to applicants operating under oppressive conditions, within closed societies, in developing economies where other forms of support are scarce, and in the Levant and wider MENA regions.

Eligible Projects. Proposed projects should advance the free culture values of Bassel Khartabil through the use of art, technology, and culture. Successful projects will aim to:

  • Meaningfully increase free public access to human knowledge, art or culture
  • Further the cause of social justice/social change
  • Strive to develop both a local and global community to support its cause

Any code, content or other materials produced must be published and released as free, openly licensed and/or open-source.

Application Process. Project proposals are expected to include the following:

  • Vision statement
  • Bio and CV
  • Budget and resource requirements for the next year of project development

Applicants whose projects are chosen to advance to the next stage in the evaluation process may be asked to provide additional information, including personal references and documentation verifying income.


Bassel Khartabil, a Palestinian-Syrian computer engineer, educator, artist, musician, cultural heritage researcher and thought leader, was a central figure in the global free culture movement, connecting and promoting Syria’s emerging tech community as it existed before the country was ransacked by civil war. Bassel co-founded Syria’s first hackerspace, Aiki Lab, in Damascus in 2010. He was the Syrian lead for Creative Commons as well as a contributor to Mozilla’s Firefox browser and the Red Hat Fedora Linux operating system. His research into preserving Syrian archeology with computer 3D modeling was a seminal precursor to current practices in digital cultural heritage preservation — this work was relaunched as the #NEWPALMYRA project in 2015.

Bassel’s influence went beyond Syria. He was a key attendee at the Middle East’s bloggers conferences and played a vital role in the negotiations in Doha in 2010 that led to a common language for discussing fair use and copyright across the Arab-speaking world. Software platforms he developed, such as the open-source Aiki Framework for collaborative web development, still power high-traffic web sites today, including Open Clip Art and the Open Font Library. His passion and efforts inspired a new community of coders and artists to take up his cause and further his legacy, and resulted in the offer of a research position in MIT Media Lab’s Center for Civic Media; his listing in Foreign Policy’s 2012 list of Top Global Thinkers; and the award of Index on Censorship’s 2013 Digital Freedom Award.

Bassel was taken from the streets in March of 2012 in a military arrest and interrogated and tortured in secret in a facility controlled by Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate. After a worldwide campaign by international human rights groups, together with Bassel’s many colleagues in the open internet and free culture communities, he was moved to Adra’s civilian prison, where he was able to communicate with his family and friends. His detention was ruled unlawful by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and condemned by international organizations such as Creative Commons, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Jimmy Wales Foundation.

Despite the international outrage at his treatment and calls for his release, in October of 2015 he was moved to an undisclosed location and executed shortly thereafter — a fact that was kept secret by the Syrian regime for nearly two years.

The post Honoring Our Friend Bassel: Announcing the Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

California Court of Appeal Overturns Dangerous Right of Publicity Ruling

Deep Links - Thu, 08/10/2017 - 15:44

Almost all posts on social media include depictions of real people. And most social media websites include advertising. Does this combination mean that nearly everyone featured on social media can sue for infringement of their right of publicity? That would be disruptive. Fortunately, a new ruling [PDF] by the California Court of Appeal confirms that more is needed for a right of publicity claim. This is a big win for free expression online. 

The decision comes in a case called Cross v. Facebook. The case was brought by a country-rap artist who performs under the stage name Mikel Knight. He promotes his music using “street teams” that sell CDs out of vans. After these vans were involved in several accidents (causing two deaths), Knight was accused of pushing his sales teams too hard and creating an unsafe environment. Some Facebook users created a page called ‘Families Against Mikel Knight’ where ex-street team members and others could comment on Knight’s operation. 

Knight filed a lawsuit against Facebook asserting a collection of claims, including one for infringement of his right of publicity. Facebook responded with an anti-SLAPP motion seeking to dismiss the complaint. Since Knight was effectively trying to hold Facebook liable for content posted by users, the court correctly dismissed most of Knight’s claims as barred under CDA 230. But the superior court did allow Knight’s right of publicity claim to proceed. The right of publicity is supposed to prohibit unauthorized commercial use of a person’s identity. The court reasoned [PDF] that Facebook had “used” Knight’s likeness because his image appeared on pages that also included advertisements. 

If allowed to stand, the superior court’s ruling would have threatened a huge range of online expression. It would have effectively given people a veto right over speech about them that they didn’t like (as long as that speech appeared on a platform with advertising). This would undermine long-standing limits on defamation law and protections for online intermediaries.

EFF filed an amicus brief [PDF] arguing that the lower court’s decision should be overturned. We argued that Knight’s right of publicity claim was inconsistent with the First Amendment, barred under CDA 230, and did not even satisfy the basic elements of a right of publicity claim. We were joined on the amicus brief by Engine, Professor Eric Goldman, Github, Medium, the Organization for Transformative Works, Professor Rebecca Tushnet, Snap, the Wikimedia Foundation, and Yelp

The Court of Appeal agreed that Knight could not assert a right of publicity claim. It wrote:

Nowhere does Knight demonstrate that the advertisements appearing next to the pages used his name or likeness, or that any of the advertisements were created by, or advertised, Facebook. All he claims is that Facebook displayed advertisements next to pages created by third parties who were using Knight’s name and likeness to critique his business practices—and their allegedly fatal consequences. While Knight claims that “Facebook continues to place ads on all the unauthorized Facebook pages,” he necessarily concedes that his name and likeness appear not in the ads themselves, but in the content posted to Facebook by third parties. This is insufficient.

This is the right result. Courts had previously held, for example, that a magazine article does not give rise to a right of publicity claim just because it is placed next to an advertisement. There is no reason to have a different, less protective, rule for the Internet. 

Since it found that Knight had not pleaded a viable right of publicity claim, the appellate court did not decide whether his claim was also barred by CDA 230 or the First Amendment. But even though it did not reach these issues, the ruling places an important limit on the right of publicity and is a victory for online speech.

Categories: Political Action

EFF Urges Supreme Court to Take On Unconstitutional NSA Surveillance, Reverse Dangerous Ruling That Allows Massive Government Spying Program

Deep Links - Thu, 08/10/2017 - 14:13
Nation’s Highest Court Being Asked for the First Time to Weigh In On Legality of NSA’s PRISM Spying

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked the Supreme Court to review and overturn an unprecedented ruling allowing the government to intercept, collect, and store—without a warrant—millions of Americans’ electronic  communications, including emails, texts, phone calls, and online chats.

This warrantless surveillance is conducted by U.S. intelligence agencies under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The law is exceedingly broad—Section 702 allows the government to conduct surveillance of any foreigner abroad­—and the law fails to protect the constitutional rights of Americans whose texts or emails are “incidentally” collected when communicating with those people.

This warrantless surveillance of Americans is unconstitutional and should be struck down.

Yet the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, ruling in U.S. v. Mohamud, decided that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply to Americans whose communications were intercepted incidentally and searched without a warrant. The case centered on Mohammed Mohamud, an American citizen who in 2012 was charged with plotting to bomb a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Oregon. After he had already been convicted, Mohamud was told for the first time that information used in his prosecution was obtained using Section 702. Further disclosures clarified that the government used the surveillance program known as PRISM, which gives U.S. intelligence agencies access to communications in the possession of Internet service providers such as Google, Yahoo, or Facebook, to obtain the emails at issue in the case. Mohamud sought to suppress evidence gathered through the warrantless spying, arguing that Section 702 was unconstitutional.

In a dangerous and unprecedented ruling, the Ninth Circuit upheld the warrantless search and seizure of Mohamud’s emails. EFF, the Center for Democracy & Technology, and New America’s Open Technology Institute filed a petition today asking the Supreme Court to review that decision.

“The ruling provides an end-run around the Fourth Amendment, converting sweeping warrantless surveillance directed at foreigners into a tool for spying on Americans,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Mark Rumold. “Section 702 is unlike any surveillance law in our country’s history, it is unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court should take this case to put a stop to this surveillance.”

Section 702, which is set to expire in December unless Congress reauthorizes it, provides the government with broad authority to collect, retain, and search Americans’ international communications, even if they don’t contain any foreign intelligence or evidence of a crime.

“We urge the Supreme Court to review this case and Section 702, which subjects Americans to warrantless surveillance on an unknown scale,” said EFF Staff Attorney Andrew Crocker. “We have long advocated for reining in NSA mass surveillance, and the ‘incidental’ collection of Americans’ private communications under Section 702 should be held unconstitutional once and for all.”

 For the petition:

For more on Section 702:

For more on NSA spying:


Contact:  MarkRumoldSenior Staff Attorneymark@eff.org AndrewCrockerStaff Attorneyandrew@eff.org
Categories: Political Action

S.B. 727 Would Unfairly Restrict California Students’ Use of Course Materials

Deep Links - Thu, 08/10/2017 - 14:06

There’s a bill in the California Assembly that we think would make postsecondary education more expensive for students. Not only that: we think that it would undermine students’ right to make fair uses of educational materials. To make matters worse, several states around the country appear to be considering similar measures.

S.B. 727 may seem benign. The bill’s purpose appears to be to give public colleges and universities more leeway in what types of course materials they assign to students and what types of pricing agreements they enter with the publishers of those materials. There’s a troubling provision, though, which says that institutions can assign texts that are “Delivered through a technology that is, or the license of which is, required to only be used within a course.” In other words, public colleges would be encouraged to assign materials that are locked down under arcane licensing agreements unfairly restricting how students can use them.

Being able to buy and sell used textbooks gives students an important lever with which to rein in unfair pricing tactics by publishers.

Under current law, publishers are urged to provide “unbundled” versions of textbooks for students—that is, to make books available as-is without forcing students also to buy expensive online subscriptions—and faculty are discouraged from assigning books that aren’t available unbundled. The law also directs institutions to facilitate resale and sharing of books among students, in order to help keep students’ costs low. SB 727 could undermine all of that.

EFF has written a lot about how manufacturers and media owners attempt to use Terms of Service agreements to ban otherwise lawful use of their products or copyrighted works. These providers sometimes argue that by clicking “I agree,” you relinquish your fair use rights. The standard set by S.B. 727—saying that publishers can force students to use their materials “only within a course”—would clearly invite publishers to attempt to use those licensing agreements to restrict students’ fair use rights.

Unfortunately, this dangerous bill has flown under the radar since it was introduced in April. It passed out of committee with barely a debate, and we’re concerned that it could quietly become law any day.

Who’s really behind this effort? We’re not sure, but we do know that the Association of American Publishers has been heavily lobbying state legislatures (PDF) on the benefits of switching from traditional textbooks to “online learning systems.” Similar bills have been introduced this year in a number of other states. AAP’s lobbying campaign appears to be prompted by a new set of Department of Education regulations allowing certain financial aid grants to be used to pay for textbooks, but those rules say nothing about restricting students’ use of course materials.

It’s ironic to see a bill in California that would so stringently restrict students’ use of their textbooks, as California colleges and universities have been leading the way in adoption of OER (open educational resources, or materials that are available free of charge under licenses that permit broad reuse). In 2012, California made the then largest investment in OER by a state government. The next year, the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges adopted a policy that would require that any educational materials funded by the board be available to the public under a license allowing anyone to reuse them.

There may be educational benefits to a transition from traditional textbooks to online services, but it’s essential that institutions make that transition in a way that isn’t a step backward for students. States should partner only with publishers that understand and respect students’ fair use rights, and they certainly shouldn’t enact laws giving those publishers legal ground to unfairly restrict how students use their materials.

It’s also essential that schools recognize the power of secondary markets: being able to buy and sell used textbooks gives students an important lever with which to rein in unfair pricing tactics by publishers. Unfortunately, a transition to online systems may mean sacrificing some of students’ power to balance out unfair pricing through resale. Institutions should take that into account when choosing what course material offerings to use.

The best way to meet both of those needs—respecting students’ fair use rights and acknowledging that online resources can limit students’ ability to push back against price gouging—is to enact policies that highly prioritize OER.

Categories: Political Action

Capitalism doesn't give a flying f*#k

Socialist Worker - Thu, 08/10/2017 - 01:00

Leela Yellesetty explains why the abysmal conditions endured by airline passengers and workers alike have everything to do with the bosses' bottom line.

Airlines are cramming more and more passengers onto each flight

DURING HIS brief but memorable tenure as White House communications director, Anthony "The Mooch" Scaramucci attempted to explain Trump's vision for health care reform:

What the president is trying to do is make the health care system freer. So why not disrupt and decentralize the system, make it more price competitive, increase competition for the insurance companies and trust the process of the free market, like in telecom, like in airlines?

Really? Yes, the health care system is awful, but did the Mooch really think a good selling point for reform would be to make it more like Comcast, the most hated company in America? Or United Airlines, which wasn't able to beat out Comcast even by dragging a bloodied man off a plane, so they decided to kill a bunny rabbit for good measure?

"No one wants health care to be like the airlines!" talk-show host Seth Meyers quipped in response, "'How was the hospital?' 'Not great. My surgery was three hours late, my bed was double-booked so they dragged me out of the OR, and then they sent my appendix to Albuquerque!'"

What's to blame for the awful treatment of passengers and airline workers alike? The problem isn't bad business decisions, but the drive for sky-high profits.

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FOR THOSE of us who hate the elaborate torture that is U.S. air travel--that is, all of us who can't afford first class--we have some tentative good news. A recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals directed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to address "the Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat," as one judge put it.

The ruling came in response to a petition filed by the consumer advocacy group Flyers Rights, which pointed out that the distance between seats, known as the "pitch," has decreased from an average of 35 inches to 31, with some as low as 28, while seat widths have shrunk by an inch and half in the past decade--at the same time as the average passenger has grown larger.

The group argued that this posed a health and safety hazard by making it difficult to evacuate in an emergency and increasing the risk of passengers developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a potentially fatal condition caused by a blot clot as a result of prolonged sitting in cramped space.

The FAA rejected the petition, claiming--with "research" to back it up--that the issue of seat size was one of comfort and not safety. While the court agreed that the danger of DVT was not well established, on the safety claims, it blasted the FAA for a "vaporous record" of "off-point studies and undisclosed tests using unknown parameters."

Indeed, the FAA refused to disclose most of the tests used to make its decision, claiming they were proprietary.

While the ruling simply directs the FAA to revisit the petition and doesn't directly compel the agency to set minimum standards for seat size, it is certainly a positive development in the face of the ongoing airline assault on our safety and comfort, not to mention dignity.

Apparently not everyone is cheering this development, though.

In article sneeringly titled "Let Them Shrink: FAA Should Not Regulate Airline Seat Space," Forbes' Omri Ben-Shahar argued that the airlines are actually giving consumers exactly what they asked for. That is, if we want cheaper flights, we should be prepared to suffer for them.

If you want better seats, just pay more--indeed, one reason our seats are shrinking is to make room for "premium" options for the lucky few.

William McGhee, author of the airline industry expose Attention All Passengers, summed up the attitude of Forbes writers and airline executives this way:

Things are just fine in business class and first class. I don't think that's coincidental. It reflects the larger issues we face as a society right now, the 99 Percent vs. the 1 Percent. I've talked to execs about deteriorating conditions in the back, and their response is basically, 'You should pay for and sit up front,' which is a bit of a 'Let them eat cake' response.

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AS EASY as it can be to dismiss an argument inspired by Marie Antoinette, it's worth probing some of the claims that Ben-Shahar makes more closely.

For one thing, it's true that airline travel is more affordable and accessible to the average person that it was in the glory days of free food and adequate legroom.

Back then, air travel was largely a preserve of the wealthy. For free-market enthusiasts like Ben-Shahar and the Mooch, therefore, the deregulation of the airline industry in 1978 was a victory for consumers, increasing competition and thereby lowering fares and improving service.

This sounds good, but it doesn't remotely depict what has actually happened in the decades since deregulation. Instead, what's played out is a sordid tale of rampant inefficiencies, corruption, bankruptcies, mergers and deteriorating conditions for both passengers and workers.

Right after deregulation, there were more than 400 certified carriers and 10 major airlines. Today, just four airlines control 80 percent of all domestic flights. Rather than encourage competition, deregulation removed antitrust provisions, allowing airlines to collude in raising fares while reducing service.

The 2013 merger of American and US Airways to create the world's largest airline was accomplished by an army of corporate lobbyists, lawyers and economists, while executives and their Wall Street backers salivated at the profits to be made from the deal:

Indeed, government investigators had uncovered documents showing airline executives crowing about how mergers allow them to charge travelers more. "Three successful fare increases--[we were] able to pass along to customers because of consolidation," wrote Scott Kirby, who became the president of the new American Airlines, in a 2010 internal company presentation...

A 2014 Goldman Sachs analysis about "dreams of oligopoly" used the American-US Airways merger as an example. Industry consolidation leads to "lower competitive intensity" and greater "pricing power with customers due to reduced choice," the analysis said.

Another useful tool in the industry playbook is bankruptcy. All of the four remaining airlines filed for bankruptcy in the past decade--and they are now the four most profitable airlines in the world.

In fact, they were doing just fine before, but bankruptcy allowed them to slough off inconvenient costs of providing decent pay and benefits to their employees. As United Auto Workers activist Gregg Shotwell commented on American's 2011 bankruptcy:

Capitalism isn't above the law in the United States--it is the law. Peace and solidarity activists are hounded, harassed and arrested, but the forcible transfer of wealth from the working class to the investing class is protected concerted activity.

American Airlines' debt doesn't outweigh its cash and assets. In fact, American is financing its own bankruptcy. That's not distress, it's brass-knuckles union busting. The business press makes no bones about American Airlines' plan to profit off the broken backs of labor contracts. In fact, they crow about it.

American Airlines ordered 460 new planes from Boeing and Airbus less than five months ago, at a cost of $38 billion. Those contracts will be honored even as American plans to dump pensions underfunded by about $10 billion for approximately 130,000 workers and retirees.

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THIS UNION busting comes with real consequences for passenger safety as well. Abysmal pay and working conditions for pilots in budget regional carriers has resulted in an increase in crashes, to give just one example.

While cutting corners on workers' rights has helped boost airline profits and executive compensation, the impact on fares for passengers is less than meets the eye. As Carl Finamore explained in a 2010 article republished at SocialistWorker.org:

Champions of the free market boast about upwards of a 20 percent reduction in fares since 1978 when airlines were freed to set their own prices without the nuisance of government regulators. But this is very misleading. There are several factors contributing to the decline in prices. For example, booking online has almost entirely eliminated the large commissions of travel agents. Experts state these fees normally accounted for a full 10 percent of ticket prices.

And while it is true that fares to large cities has benefited from increased competition, where it exists, smaller communities have, conversely, seen substantial fare increases as their airports have experienced reduced or lost service. Millions of travelers are also forced to purchase tickets to major hub airports they otherwise would have bypassed during the period of regulation where direct flights to and from smaller markets were offered.

The last major factor making the price of flights misleading is the explosion of fees for everything from luggage to meals to wifi to the ability to board early--coming soon: the surcharge if you would like to not be beaten and dragged off the plane. This has been the single largest source of profits for airlines in the last decade, with Delta alone pulling in $5.7 billion from such fees in 2013 alone.

As Tim Wu pointed out in the New Yorker, this pricing model sets up a perverse incentive:

Here's the thing: in order for fees to work, there needs be something worth paying to avoid. That necessitates, at some level, a strategy that can be described as "calculated misery." Basic service, without fees, must be sufficiently degraded in order to make people want to pay to escape it. And that's where the suffering begins.

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IS THERE any way out of calculated misery?

The current trajectory we're on doesn't seem promising. While the past few years saw record profits for airlines in part due to lower fuel costs, as costs begin to rise, we should expect new rounds of crisis, bankruptcies and mergers, all of which will, of course, be apaid for by further attacks on worker and passenger dignity.

Ultimately, we would be wise to heed the words of former American Airlines CEO Bob Crandall that "market forces alone cannot and will not produce a satisfactory airline industry, which clearly needs some help to solve its pricing, cost and operating problems."

Nationalizing and making the airlines a public utility would be a rational response to the anarchic yet calculated misery of deregulation. In a sane system, we would also look for ways to reduce the amount of air travel, given its carbon footprint, but this would require reorganizing corporate practice and providing affordable, sustainable travel alternatives, such as high-speed rail, as well as providing workers more vacation days to make slower forms of travel feasible.

Of course, we should expect none of these solutions to be forthcoming from the airline executives--least of all under a certain president who, within weeks of taking office, gleefully told a group of them: "You're going to be so happy with Trump."

Instead our salvation from the unfriendly skies lies, as an anonymous Delta employee put it recently, in passengers and airline workers joining forces in support of each other:

Instead of indicting each other (employees and passengers), we should focus on fostering solidarity. Many of our interests are the same.

Most obviously, a passenger's flying conditions are also an airline employee's working conditions...The declining emphasis put on passenger comfort and airline employee working conditions can be traced back to a common cause: the deregulation of the U.S. airline industry and the relentless pursuit of profit.

Categories: Political Action

Dayton teachers are ready for a showdown

Socialist Worker - Thu, 08/10/2017 - 01:00

Nick Green, Sarah Gregg and Ben Ratliffe report from Ohio on a fight by teachers committed to improving their working conditions and students' learning conditions.

UPDATE: Negotiators for the Dayton Education Association and the school board reached a tentative agreement early Thursday. Teachers will discuss the tentative deal and vote on it today, ahead of the Friday deadline for a strike.

Teachers in Dayton, Ohio, stand up for a fair contract (Ohio Education Association | Facebook)

TENSIONS between the Dayton, Ohio, school board and the teachers' union are coming to a head--and could produce the first teachers' strike in 24 years starting this Friday.

With negotiations for a new contract entering their eighth month with little to show, the Dayton Education Association (DEA), which represents more than 1,000 teachers across 33 public schools, is preparing for a walkout if their demands aren't met in time for the new school year.

The DEA began talks with the school board in January, pushing for much-needed improvements to school facilities, working conditions for teachers and learning conditions for students. With no resolution in sight by August 1, teachers voted to authorize a strike by a 98.3 percent margin.

To raise awareness of the strike and build solidarity with community and labor allies, DEA held a rally and picnic at Triangle Park near downtown on August 5, complete with hot dogs, bounce houses and sign-making stations where teachers prepared their picket line messages, such as, "Teacher working conditions are student learning conditions."

Meanwhile, the school board was preparing for a walkout, too--with a threat to bring in 600 substitute teachers to try to undermine the union's position in a strike.

What you can do

Support the teachers' struggle by calling Dayton Public Schools at 937-542-3000 and declaring your support for the union's demands for better wages and working conditions.

If you're in the Dayton area, find out how you can support the picket lines at the DEA website. You can sign an online petition in support of a a fair settlement.

Your union can pass a resolution in support of the DEA--get a copy of this resolution by e-mailing contact@isocolumbus.org.

The union was at the bargaining table as this article was being written, fighting for the first raise for teachers in four years, improvements in benefits, more support staff and a better (not longer) school day, among other issues. If an agreement isn't reached by August 11, the DEA will put up picket lines, and Dayton teachers will be on strike.

Melanie Larson, an instructional integration specialist of 31 years and member of the DEA negotiation team, described contract negotiations like this: "The feeling among our teachers is that we're fed up. We're tired of the disrespect...We have over 120 hours face-to-face with the [administration], and we're just not making any progress."

Due to the deadlock, a federal mediator has been called in, but talks remain at a standstill. "So the strike vote," explained Melanie, "is adding a sense of urgency."

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THE SCHOOL board has not only refused to budge on the teachers' key demands, but has shown a clear lack of respect throughout the bargaining process. DEA President David Romick gave as an example "a proposal to have us clock in with time clocks...And then in February, in the middle of bargaining, the time clocks installed in every single building right in front of the members."

The board's intransigence at the bargaining table is only one example of the disrespect that Dayton's teachers and students deal with on a regular basis. While salaries for Dayton teachers start out comparable to surrounding districts, by the time teachers reach retirement, they are making as much as $20,000 less per year than their colleagues in similar nearby districts.

This disparity in pay has forced many skilled educators to look elsewhere for work, creating a crisis of teacher turnover--the annual turnover rate is 20 percent in Dayton Public Schools. Last year alone, around 300 teachers left Dayton schools for other districts.

For teachers who have stayed with the district, the overwhelming strike vote is both a show of commitment to their students and community and a demand that this commitment be respected with fair compensation. As Vicki Stewart, a kindergarten teacher at World of Wonder Elementary, explained:

If I didn't care more about students than money, I would have been gone long ago. If you foster a relationship between yourself and the students, these students are going to grow up and want to send their kids to the same district. So we're trying to build respect for the schools in the community as well.

Nicole Gunder, high school language arts instructor, wants the school board to recognize the work that Dayton teachers do to foster relationships with students and their families:

We do a lot more than teach. Our hours are a lot more than the 7.25 [a day] that we get paid for. You can come into any building in the city and find people there two hours before school starts and three to four hours after school ends. I don't think the people on the board realize what a lot of us are sacrificing to make our classrooms work and to help our students succeed.

Involuntary transfers are another issue Dayton teachers are fighting in this contract. Lynda Huggins, who has been with the district for 12 years, worked in four different schools in that last three years. She explained the toll this takes on students: "When [students] have built up a rapport with a teacher they know and love, they should be able to have them there. Even if they are not their teacher, they could still go back and get tutored or just talk to them."

Instead, students watch teachers come and go. Huggins believes students internalize this. "I had to let them know, [teachers] are not leaving because of you," she said. "Everybody loves you."

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IN ADDITION to fighting for fair pay and job stability, the DEA is demanding increased resources and programming to support the success of their students.

In recent years, Dayton has worked to rebrand itself as a home for immigrants and refugees, becoming officially recognized as an "Immigrant Friendly City." But Dayton Public Schools has so far failed to provide adequate resources for immigrant students. One teacher reported being responsible for teaching as many as 70 students across the nine different language groups represented in her school.

In order to provide immigrant students with the same educational opportunities as their U.S.-born peers, Dayton teachers are demanding that Dayton Public Schools fund additional English Language (EL) and English as a Second Language (ESL).

The DEA also wants additional libraries and more guidance counselors to ensure that more students have access to the resources they need.

Over the last few years, numerous Dayton schools shut down their libraries and turned them into computer labs, for the sole purpose of practicing for and administering the high-stakes standardized testing pushed by so-called "education reform." Stewart described the impact of library closures on her students:

Our libraries are closed; they closed them two years ago. That's the last thing that you take away from an urban child...The children don't understand why we pass the school library every day, but we never get to go in and get books. They took the librarians and reassigned them, and they thought the libraries could be better used for computers--you know, working on testing.

Another teacher described how the closure of libraries has increased the workload in other areas:

Having school libraries reduced special education referrals by 50 percent, so now intervention specialists like myself have much higher caseloads of kids who really don't need special education. It's really unfortunate that some kids are only in the resource room because they don't have access to a library or don't have a counselor that can work with them to overcome issues that are preventing them from learning. If I lived in a very troubled or traumatic environment, I wouldn't care about whether or not I can read.

This reflection on the lives of students beyond the classroom is particularly important given the state of the economy in Dayton. Despite a recent upturn in the job market, Dayton is still suffering from the impact of the Great Recession of 2008. By 2010, Dayton had lost 10,000 jobs, with as many as half leaving due to the closure of a General Motors plant.

While the media boast about economic recovery, the kids in Dayton schools have a different story. Stewart says they're "worried about food and shelter. They're worried about parents being in prison. My kindergarteners sometimes come to school with no socks. They have no winter coats sometimes, so what do the teachers do? The teachers reach into their pocket, as well as for supplies and whatever the children need."

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AS TEACHERS at DEA distributed buttons that read, "We don't want to strike, but we will!" negotiations continue. Earlier this week, DEA President Romick told the Dayton Daily News that he expects negotiations to "go down to the wire."

In the meantime, teachers are calling on everyone in the Dayton area and beyond to take a stand for the schools Dayton's children deserve.

The board intends to bring in over 600 substitute teachers in an attempt to break the DEA's resolve. Teachers and supporters should reach these substitutes and explain the importance of the strike in standing up for dignified jobs.

Supporters should also call the Dayton Public Schools Board of Education and tell them they support the teachers' demands for better wages and working conditions--and also sign an online petition demanding that the school board reach a fair settlement.

Union members in Dayton can adopt a picket line and encourage a strong turnout in support. A union resolution in support of the DEA has been circulated around the U.S. by members of the International Socialist Organization--you can get a copy of this resolution by getting in touch with the Columbus ISO via contact@isocolumbus.org.

In the era of austerity, it is crucial to support teachers organizing not only for their wages and benefits, but for the resources and opportunities their students need to be successful.

Like other teachers' unions, the DEA's slogan is: Teacher working conditions are student learning conditions. Dayton teachers are poised to prove the truth of these words once again.

Categories: Political Action

Chelsea Manning's uncompromising fight

Socialist Worker - Thu, 08/10/2017 - 01:00

Australian socialist Vashti Kenway tells the story of whistleblower Chelsea Manning's ongoing fight against U.S. war and empire, in an article written for Red Flag.

Chelsea Manning

WHISTLEBLOWER CHELSEA Manning is a person of conscience and bravery who has withstood the most humiliating of punishments. If anyone can claim to have spoken truth to power and suffered the consequences, it's her.

From 2007 to 2009, Manning, an intelligence analyst for the U.S. military, had access to tens of thousands of documents that detailed the nature of the U.S. wars of occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq. As she trawled through video, statistics and data, she had a revelation:

Once you come to realize that the coordinates in these records represent real places, that the dates are our recent history and that the numbers represent actual human lives--with all of the love, hope, dreams, hate, fear and nightmares with which we all live--then you cannot help but be reminded just how important it is for us to understand and, hopefully, prevent such tragedies in the future.

Manning began to see through the fog of impersonal statistics to the brutal reality of the occupations. She began to comprehend the levels of barbarism involved in "21st century asymmetric warfare." She saw that the torture and murder of civilians were fundamental elements of these wars.

Furthermore, she began to understand the impunity with which the U.S. military operated. War crimes were committed and systematically covered up with lies and deception. For Manning, it was too much. Her conscience would not allow compliance. She decided to act.

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IN NOVEMBER 2009, Manning reached out to several news sources, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and the whistleblower site WikiLeaks to see whether they would be prepared to publish files documenting U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only WikiLeaks expressed interest.

In early 2010, Manning downloaded 400,000 documents that became known as the Iraq war logs, and 91,000 documents from the Afghanistan database. She smuggled these out of her base on a CD she had titled "Lady Gaga." The files were transferred to an SD card. While on leave in Maryland, she went to a Barnes & Noble bookstore and uploaded the files to WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks then proceeded to release the information. The first high-profile release featured video of a U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad in July 2007. The attack killed 12 people, including two Reuters journalists. The footage was particularly shocking because it contained audio of the helicopter gunmen reveling in the attack. As one of them opens fire, he yells, "Hahaha. I hit 'em!" and "Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards." As other civilians rush in to help the wounded, one of the helicopters starts shelling again.

In July and November 2010, two further tranches of material were released. One focused on Afghanistan, the other on Iraq. Not only did these files reveal further massacres; they also demonstrated that U.S. authorities knew about them and did nothing.

Another set of documents revealed that the Iraqi army, with the knowledge of the U.S. authorities, had been engaging in systemic torture of prisoners, who had been "shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles, and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks."

The leaks, published by the Guardian, revealed other important information. For instance, the U.S. and its allies had long maintained that there were no hard statistics on the number of casualties in Iraq. Manning's leaks put paid to that lie. The field reports revealed that between 2004 and 2009 there was a total of 109,000 violent deaths in Iraq.

More than 66,081 of these were non-combatant deaths. These staggering figures underlined the depths of barbarism associated with the war. Manning's leaks played a vital role in exposing the lie that the Iraq war was a war of liberation. In fact, it was a violent war of occupation in the service of empire.

The November cache of secret diplomatic cables not only revealed deep levels of corruption among the U.S. ruling class; they also demonstrated the extent to which companies and governments across the Middle East were pilfering public money, engaging in underhand deals and making billions of dollars in the process. The information in these files added fuel to the fire of the Arab revolutions the following year. Here was hard evidence of the contempt the rich and powerful held for their own populations.

The Manning leaks caused a global furor and left the U.S. ruling class scrambling. Its mask of civility had slipped. The brutal reality of war, occupation and empire was on full display. This was something the U.S. state could not abide. Capitalism maintains itself through a pretense of law, order and morality. The ruling class claims that its system is rational and humane, but when evidence proves the contrary, someone has to pay a price. In this instance it was Chelsea Manning.

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AFTER THE release of the Iraq war logs, Manning was taken into military custody. She was flown from Operating Base Hammer outside Baghdad to a prison camp in Kuwait. In this scorching, sandblasted place, she was locked in a cage inside a tent. In July, she was charged with leaking information and transferred to a military prison at Quantico, Virginia. This was where the torture really began.

The New York Times reported that Manning was humiliated and degraded. They revealed that the guards had stripped her and left her naked in her cell "for seven hours," and that she was "required to stand naked" outside her cell during inspection.

She was put into solitary confinement and was under constant surveillance. Investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald declared that Manning was being imprisoned "under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture."

In 2011, Manning's first pre-trial hearing began. She spent two long years in military prison before her case was heard in 2013. For nine months of this time, she was kept in solitary confinement.

The UN special rapporteur who wrote on her imprisonment in 2012 said: "[I]mposing seriously punitive conditions of detention on someone who has not been found guilty of any crime is a violation of his right to physical and psychological integrity as well as of his presumption of innocence."

Accompanying this physical torture was a campaign of public vilification. News outlets pilloried Manning as a traitor. Right wing shock jocks called for her execution. President Barack Obama, the darling of liberals everywhere, declared that Manning had broken the law and had to face the consequences.

She was prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act, which allows whistleblowers to be given the harshest of punishments. Manning pleaded guilty to leaking military information, but not guilty to other charges, including "aiding the enemy." These crimes carried a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

On August 21, Manning was found guilty of violating the Espionage Act and was sentenced to 35 years in Fort Leavenworth prison in Kansas. Greenwald's description of visiting Manning in prison gave a glimpse of how isolated she was from the rest of the world:

In 2015, I visited her at Fort Leavenworth. To get there, one must fly to Kansas City, then drive more than an hour into the woods of Kansas, in the proverbial middle of nowhere. One arrives at a sprawling, completely militarized base, Fort Leavenworth, where it was quite difficult to gain access.

Upon entering, one drives another 15 to 20 minutes deep into the military base to arrive at the military brig, which itself is a labyrinth of cages and security measures that must be navigated in order to finally meet her somewhere in the bowels of that prison.

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THE DAY after her conviction, Manning announced to the world that she no longer identified as Bradley Manning and requested that she be supported to undergo treatment to transition from male to female. "Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible," she wrote. "I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun."

To begin such a transition is difficult in the best of circumstances, with the most supportive of colleagues, friends or family. To attempt it in an intensely regulated, abusive and isolated environment requires a special kind of strength.

Unsurprisingly, the military was not going to grant Manning hormone therapy without a fight. Manning organized a petition campaign from prison and went on hunger strike. The prison authorities became more and more hostile. To break her spirit, they put her under constant surveillance. She described the experience:

For 17 hours a day, I sat directly in front of at least two Marine Corps guards seated behind a one-way mirror. I was not allowed to lay down. I was not allowed to lean my back against the cell wall. I was not allowed to exercise. Sometimes, to keep from going crazy, I would stand up, walk around, or dance, as "dancing" was not considered exercise by the Marine Corps.

She became so disillusioned and desperate that she attempted suicide. As one article commented, the military authorities punished her for trying to live and also for trying to die. In the wake of her suicide attempt she was threatened with indefinite solitary confinement.

The campaign outside the prison stepped up the pressure and, in 2016, the army finally agreed to some of her demands. She was allowed the hormone therapy but they forcibly shaved her head to prevent her from growing her hair.

While in prison, Manning kept up her engagement with the outside world. She wrote a regular column for the Guardian, in which she commented on a variety of issues. She became an active and outspoken campaigner for LGBTQ rights. Her writing reveals a person of political commitment. She wasn't naive. She knew the consequences. She claimed that she wanted to release the documents to prompt "worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms." "I want people to see the truth, regardless of who they are, because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public", she wrote.

Just before the end of his term, Obama commuted her sentence. This was welcome, but in no way makes up for the years of overseeing her imprisonment and torture. Furthermore, Obama cannot be allowed off the hook for the crucial role he played in continuing the occupation of Afghanistan and in fomenting sectarian tension in Iraq.

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SINCE HER release, Manning has continued her political engagement. In a recent piece on the legacy of the Obama years, she comments on the necessity of an uncompromising politics:

We need someone who is unafraid to be criticized, since you will inevitably be criticized. We need someone willing to face all of the vitriol, hatred and dogged determination of those opposed to us. Our opponents will not support us nor will they stop thwarting the march toward a just system that gives people a fighting chance to live. Our lives are at risk--especially for immigrants, Muslim people and Black people.

We need to stop asking them to give us our rights. We need to stop hoping that our systems will right themselves. We need to actually take the reins of government and fix our institutions. We need to save lives by making change at every level.

Chelsea Manning's story of self-sacrifice and unyielding persistence should steel the rest of us in our fight for a better world. If someone buried in the dungeons of U.S. military prisons can fight their way to clear air, then we can too. If Manning could take the path of humanity and justice, despite the personal risk she faced, then so can the rest of us.

First published at Red Flag.

Categories: Political Action

Joining forces against NAFTA

Socialist Worker - Thu, 08/10/2017 - 01:00

On August 16, the U.S. will open negotiations with Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. The Clinton-era trade deal has been a boon to big business--but a disaster for working people, especially among rural Mexican communities, where economies have been devastated by a flood of cheap U.S. imports and a forced wave of economic migration from Mexico.

As the renegotiations open, the San Diego branch of the International Socialist Organization is joining with local unions and organizations for a press conference and rally against NAFTA and the neoliberalism it represents. Below is their call to action and solidarity.

AUGUST 16 will mark the first day of the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the consummation of yet another lie that Trump told during the election: in this case, that he would withdraw from the free-trade deal entirely.

His opposition to NAFTA had formed not only a central plank of his nationalist economic platform, but also a meaningful distinction from Hillary Clinton's past support for NAFTA and her role in similar neoliberal treaties like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Analysts repeatedly attribute Trump's support in important Rust Belt states to workers' broad dissatisfaction with the trade agreements pushed under Democratic and Republican administrations alike.

Like the proverbial stopped clock, amid the daily onslaught of racist slander and nationalist invective during the campaign, Trump acknowledged a single fact: American workers suffer when the owners of U.S.-based corporations can extract labor from the least expensive sources of labor on the continent.

Decades of struggle for fundamental labor rights and centuries of Indigenous resistance against Western colonialism can be undone with the simple relocation of a manufacturing plant, devastating communities on both sides of the border.

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SocialistWorker.org welcomes our readers' contributions to discussion and debate about articles we've published and questions facing the left. Opinions expressed in these contributions don't necessarily reflect those of SW.

We should not be surprised that our so-called president eventually changed his tune--after all, the abuse of non-citizen labor, both at home and abroad, is inextricably baked into the American economy--or that the lasting gains of workers' collective struggle were undermined and reversed, leading to colossal layoffs and an exodus of factories and even whole industries , encouraged by federal trade policy.

Nor should it surprise us that, given the option to shop around for the Mexican workers most profitably exploited or for local governments with the most lenient policy on environmental degradation or the least effective records at enforcing existing protections, corporations in all three NAFTA countries have not hesitated to plunder the Mexican economy to the fullest extent of their abilities.

All of this serves to demonstrate the drive for profit by any means available under capitalism, but more importantly, the absolute necessity of international solidarity against the neoliberal assault on workers across North America.

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DURING THE trade deal's first negotiation process, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari rewrote the Mexican constitution to allow the commoditization and privatization of Indigenous land and ejido [communal land farmed by individuals] commons, which forced hundreds of thousands of indigenous Mexicans from their land, exacerbated poverty and prompted mass migration to America.

That's not to mention the 1994 uprising of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) in the southern state of Chiapas, which declared war on the federal government over its abandonment of the pretense of Indigenous reparations.

This appalling trend will only accelerate under President Enrique Peńa Nieto, who recently engineered the privatization of the formerly state-run gas company Pemex, and has given no indication that he plans to safeguard Mexican health care or education against American corporate greed.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has made no attempt to hide his contempt for workers' basic legal rights either. He signaled recently that he plans to expand on the neoliberal framework already built into NAFTA by demanding a Mexican commitment to limit collective bargaining even further and strengthening the investor-state dispute settlement program, which allows private companies to sue sovereign governments for impeding their accumulation of profit.

Additionally, the emphasis placed on strengthening intellectual property protections bodes poorly for the continued freedom of the Internet, especially as Trump's Federal Communications Commission moves to dismantle net neutrality entirely.

Incidentally, for all the recent nationalist squalling about China dumping steel exports and underselling a quintessentially American industry, NAFTA has allowed American conglomerates to flood Mexico with enough corn to make its production unprofitable in the region where corn was first domesticated. The birthplace of North American agriculture is now a net importer of agricultural goods.

Most tragically, the communities hit hardest by this wholesale destruction of the Mexican farming economy have little choice but to seek employment and stability in service of the interests that usurped their historical role in feeding the Mexican people.

Across America, but especially in border regions like San Diego, enormous sections of the economy rely on the exploitation of undocumented immigrants, who face not only a total lack of legal workplace protections (won by generations of organized labor), but also a federal government hell-bent on hunting down, capturing, imprisoning and deporting these immigrants, regardless of criminal record or past behavior.

This artificially constructed state of daily terror serves the interest of U.S. capitalists in two ways: not only does it reduce the potential power of unions, but it also enriches the owners of the private detention centers, whose stocks have surged since Trump's election.

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IN THE 23 years since it went into effect, we have watched NAFTA achieve, on its own terms, a stunning success.

By outsourcing manufacturing, it has undermined the organizing power of American workers and pressed thousands of local Mexican communities into the service of U.S. capital, resulting in economic devastation and unemployment across the continent. By forcing Mexico to open its borders to the unfair trade of U.S. agribusiness, it has dismantled the Mexican agricultural industry. By opening up indigenous land (which had been protected by the Mexican constitution since 1917) to the American market, it dealt yet another crushing blow to native Mexicans in the latest round of a 500-year campaign of colonial subjugation.

For this reason, on August 16, the San Diego chapter of the ISO, in association with the local Conference for Labor & Community Solidarity and Service Employees International Union Local 221 (which represents over 13,000 employees in San Diego County), and in solidarity with the United Electrical Workers union, the Labor Council For Latin American Advancement and a variety of other leftist and workers' organizations around the country, will call for a press conference and rally to oppose the renegotiation of NAFTA.

As opponents of NAFTA, we wish to discuss San Diego's centrality as a border community to U.S.-Mexican relations, as well as the role of neoliberalism in mass migration, the growth of private prisons, the destruction of Native communities in Mexico and the further undermining of U.S. manufacturing sectors--and, most importantly, the importance of organized workers on both sides of the border fighting for the rights of the entire North American working class.

We encourage socialists and unions across the continent to turn out, make your voices heard and join us in opposing the neoliberal assault on workers, communities and oppressed nations with a single voice.

Categories: Political Action

Indignados y valientes en Texas

Socialist Worker - Thu, 08/10/2017 - 01:00

Charles Holm reporta sobre una sentada en Austin que los organizadores esperan inspirará una mayor resistencia contra la oleada antiinmigrante, a nivel local y nacional.

EN LO que sus organizadores llamaron "la primera sentada DACA en la era Trump", decenas de activistas por los derechos de los inmigrantes marcharon hacia el Capitolio de Texas, en Austin, el 26 de julio, gritando, "¡El poder está en nuestras manos!"

En la intersección de las calles 15ª y Congress, los manifestantes desplegaron su pancarta: "Protección Permanente, Dignidad y Respeto" y la bloquearon sentándose sobre el pavimento. Quince activistas fueron arrestados, incluyendo cuatro beneficiarios de Acción Diferida por Llegadas Infantiles (DACA, por sus siglas en inglés).

La acción fue organizada por Cosecha Texas, una rama de Movimiento Cosecha, que se auto describe como "un nuevo movimiento no-violento que lucha por la protección permanente, dignidad y respeto de los 11 millones de inmigrantes indocumentados en los Estados Unidos".

El estado de Texas se haya a la vanguardia del ataque gubernamental contra los inmigrantes. El Senado del estado acaba de aprobar un proyecto de ley N°4 (SB 4, por sus siglas en inglés), una mediad anti-ciudad santuario que esencialmente diputa a funcionarios estatales, del condado, municipales e incluso a policías universitarias como agentes de inmigración, y alienta, y en algunos casos obliga, a pedir a individuos detenidos y arrestados su estatus de inmigración, y a cooperar con el Servicio de Inmigración y Aduanas y con Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza (ICE y CBP, por sus siglas en inglés, respectivamente).

SB 4 también incluye disposiciones para destituir a funcionarios electos y designados que se nieguen a cumplir estas disposiciones. La Unión Americana de Libertades Civiles lo llamó "la ley más antiinmigrante y que más promueve el perfilamiento racial en el país".

Esta horrible ley está dispuesta para entrar en vigor el 1° de septiembre, pero una investigación realizada en junio por Austin Chronicle reveló que "SB4 ya existe de facto" en la frontera entre Texas y México, donde los oficiales del Departamento de Seguridad Pública [la entidad encargada de las licencias de conducir en el estado. N. del T] están entregando a conductores y pasajeros con violaciones de tráfico menores a funcionarios de inmigración, estableciendo efectivamente un "conducto pionero de la aplicación de la ley en la maquinaria de deportación de no criminales".

Cosecha dijo en un comunicado que la sentada fue organizada no sólo contra SB 4, sino también "en respuesta a las recientes amenazas que enfrenta el Programa de Acción Diferida para las Llegadas infantiles". El 29 de junio, el Fiscal General de Texas, Ken Paxton, lideró a los fiscales generales de otros nueve estados en enviar de una carta a la administración Trump solicitando la derogación de DACA.

La carta sostiene que si la administración no rescinde el programa DACA para el 5 de septiembre, estos estados archivarían una demanda contra "ambos DACA y los restantes permisos DACA Expandido" – enmendando su previa exitosa demanda contra la expansión de DACA y otro programa para padres los receptores de DACA, conocido como DAPA.

Trump canceló oficialmente DAPA el mes pasado, y la recientemente introducida Acta DREAM de 2017 casi por seguro fracasará en el actual Congreso.

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POR TODAS estas razones, Cosecha y otros grupos consideran a Texas como que el estado es "el campo de batalla en la lucha por los derechos de los inmigrantes en la era Trump", de la misma manera que Arizona, con la ley "muestra tus papeles", SB 1070, lo fue en 2010.

Algunos activistas laborales y pro-inmigrantes locales criticaron la acción como la obra de una organización "paracaidista" – un grupo "externo" dispuesto a "intimidar" a los receptores de la DACA y a las personas con Estatus Protegido Temporal, con una acción que pone en peligro la lucha contra SB 4 y expone a una población ya vulnerable a un mayor riesgo, debido a la excepcionalmente agresiva atmósfera antiinmigrante en Texas.

Tal retórica es una táctica común, usualmente esgrimida por la derecha contra las fuerzas progresistas. La exitosa lucha contra el SB 1070 en Arizona muestra por qué es importante que las acciones y estrategias militantes vuelvan a emerger dentro del movimiento pro justicia inmigrante.

Parte de lo que impidió que las peores disposiciones de SB 1070 tuvieran efecto fue la participación de activistas de todo el país en la organización de acciones directas y manifestaciones masivas contra la ley.

El modelo de Alto Arizona, que llamó a la gente a "trazar una línea y decir basta... a la criminalización de los trabajadores y sus familias", inspiró el llamado hecho de este año por los grupos pro inmigrantes en Texas por un verano de resistencia contra SB 4, que comenzó en el Día Memorial con cientos de personas, de fuera del estado, a mostrar apoyo a la comunidad inmigrante del estado.

La sentada DACA, per se, no fue una acción "masiva", pero encaja como una más en el "verano de resistencia" que a principios de junio fue proclamado por organizaciones pro-inmigrantes de Arizona y Texas, quienes instaron a "activistas y aliados de todo el país... a organizar y movilizar a los miembros de la comunidad local en desafío a la injusta discriminación racial y la criminalización de los inmigrantes, los latinos y la comunidad afroamericana ".

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LOS ORGANIZADORES y voluntarios de Cosecha llegaron a Texas porque comprendieron que el estado se ha convertido en el centro de la lucha contra las políticas antiinmigrantes y el racismo, reflejado en el claro entendimiento de los participantes por lo que están luchando.

Las declaraciones de activistas inmigrantes tejanos durante la acción no mostraron señas de "intimidación", sino de valentía y una clara visión de qué está en juego si los matones como Ken Paxton y Donald Trump no son confrontados, mostrándonos que tipo de movimiento debe ser construido para detener SB 4, proteger DACA y ganar igualdad y respeto.

Manuel Ramírez, quien vivió indocumentado por 20 años y que recientemente obtuvo un estatus legal permanente, explicó porque se expuso a ser arrestado: "Yo soy de Austin, Texas y estoy haciendo esto por mi familia y hermanas que son indocumentadas, y también por mi hijo de seis meses, para que podamos vivir en un mundo donde nuestra dignidad humana sea respetada y protegida".

Catalina Adorno, otra arrestada y una receptora de DACA en San Antonio, dijo a Gus Bova del Observador de Texas que sabía que había "algunos riesgos serios, pero... todas las pequeñas victorias que la comunidad inmigrante ha logrado fueron obtenidas por gente que asumió riesgos".

"La gente me preguntó si tenía miedo", dijo Adorno a Democracy Now! "Les dije que no. Ya no tengo miedo".

Los cuatro detenidos DACA salieron de la cárcel el miércoles por la noche, y los otros 11, quienes habían rechazado la fianza en un acto de solidaridad con los activistas de DACA, fueron liberados el jueves temprano.

Hay una defensa legal para los liberados, pero a pesar de la reputación de santuario de Austin, la amenaza de una represalia de ICE contra los cuatro activistas "DACAmentados" permanece.

A pesar de estos riesgos, el Movimiento Cosecha está "invitando a los jóvenes indocumentados de todo el país a modelar el riesgo tomado el 26 de julio" en Texas.

Como explicó su portavoz María Fernanda Cabello, Cosecha entiende que "algunos pondrán su esperanza en los políticos en Washington, DC", pero recordó que incluso DACA fue ganado "no por algún político, sino porque nuestra comunidad tomó acciones sin miedo".

"Marchamos, nos salimos de clases o del trabajo, detuvimos las deportaciones y cerramos los centros de detención, nos arriesgamos y pusimos nuestros cuerpos en la línea para decirle a este país que somos 'indocumentados, sin miedo, y sin disculpas'... Este momento nos llama a ser valientes otra vez, a crear una crisis moral que cambie la narrativa sobre la inmigración en este país".

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EN LOS días previos a que SB 4 entre en vigencia, el 1° de septiembre, Cosecha y otras organizaciones planean continuar la resistencia y construir un movimiento militante.

Esto incluye BastaTX, una campaña a nivel estatal de días de acción contra SB 4, incluyendo una huelga estatal y un Plantón Juvenil Contra el Odio para el 1° de septiembre y una Marcha, Plantón y Concierto por la Unidad el 2 de septiembre.

En si sitio web, la campaña de BastaTX dice que, "Creemos que todos los tejanos merecemos vivir libres de discriminación racial, libres del temor de ser deportados, libres de detención y libres de la violencia policial", y declara: "vamos a protestar, ir a la huelga y a resistir para a poner fin a SB4".

Hasta el momento, 33 organizaciones han apoyado la campaña, incluyendo el Movimiento Cosecha, la Nación Soberana Negra, Lucha por 15, Inmigrantes Unidos, Solidaridad Musulmana ATX, la Organización Latina de Trans, Santuario UT y la Organización Socialista Internacional.

La lucha por la justicia para los inmigrantes enfrenta muchos obstáculos para derribar SB 4, proteger DACA y, en última instancia, ganar protección, dignidad y respeto permanentes para todos. Pero no debemos subestimar el hecho que éste es un movimiento formado por valientes jóvenes combatientes, como Catalina Santiago, cuyas palabras en el día de la sentada pueden inspirar más resistencia:

DACA está bajo ataque mientras que mis padres, que son trabajadores agrícolas, ni siquiera recibieron la protección temporal que DACA provee. Estoy siendo arrestada hoy para decirle a mis padres, a mi comunidad, y al resto de los 11 millones que no importa lo que digan los políticos: Somos dignos y no nos conformaremos con las migajas que nos ofrecen a cambio de ser la fuerza económica y laboral que sostiene a este país, día tras día".

Eric Nava-Pérez contribuyó a este artículo. Traducido por Orlando Sepúlveda

Categories: Political Action

Don’t Let Congress Compromise on Net Neutrality

Deep Links - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 20:27

A few months ago, we received confirmation of what many of us had feared: incoming Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai announced his plans to eliminate the clear, enforceable protections for net neutrality that the Commission had implemented in 2015.

Since then, people have stood up en masse in support of the open Internet. Over 18 million comments have been filed with the FCC—the majority of them opposing the Commission’s plan to roll back protections for net neutrality. (And it’s not too late! You still have one more week to file a comment of your own.)

Team Internet sent a loud and clear message to the FCC: users have a right to expect protections from unfair practices like site blocking and throttling, and FCC enforcement under Title II of the Telecommunications Act is the only means to secure those protections.

Next month, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will host a hearing on net neutrality. It has invited all of the major Internet service providers, as well as large Internet businesses like Facebook, Google, and Netflix, to come and testify. While it may be encouraging to see Congress turning its focus to net neutrality, it’s troubling that lawmakers appear to be more interested in the thoughts of a handful of large corporations than those of the public that’s been overwhelmingly calling for the preservation of existing net neutrality protections.

We can demand that lawmakers hear from us, though. Please take a moment to write your members of Congress and urge them to stand behind the Open Internet Order. Don’t let Congress compromise on your right to a free and open Internet.

Take action

Tell Congress: Don’t sell the Internet out

Categories: Political Action

How Captive Portals Interfere With Wireless Security and Privacy

Deep Links - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 19:30

If you have ever wanted to use the wifi at a coffee shop or library, you have probably had to click through a screen to do it. This screen might have shown you the network’s Terms of Service and prompted you to click an “I agree” button. Depending on where you were, it might have asked you for information about yourself, like your email, social media accounts, room number (in a hotel), account number (in a library), or other identifying information. Sometimes you even have to watch a short video or ad before wifi access is granted.

These kinds of screens are called captive portals, and they interfere with wireless security without providing many user benefits.

One example of a captive portal. In addition to getting the user's agreement to Terms of Service, other captive portals might ask for login information, social media accounts, email addresses, or other information.

Security and Privacy Problems for Users

Captive portals are to blame for a number of security issues, especially when it comes to HTTPS websites. HTTPS is meant to prevent traffic interception, alteration, and impersonation by a third party. But captive portals work by doing exactly that: they intercept and alter the connection between the user and the site they are trying to visit. On an unencrypted HTTP connection, the user would not even notice this. But for sites secured with HTTPS, the web browser detects something or someone hijacking the connection (similar to a man-in-the-middle attack). This causes “untrusted connection” warnings about fake certificates for websites that users otherwise expect to be safe.

Those copious unexplained “untrusted connection” warnings on a network with captive portals—essentially false-positive warnings about websites that are actually safe—can train users to adopt the dangerous habit of ignoring security warnings.

A security warning caused by a captive portal interfering with an HTTPS connection might look like this. Source: Captive Portal, Why Do I Get Those Certificate Warnings?

And that’s not the only inaccurate lesson captive portals teach users about wireless security. The illusion of security that a log-in window may provide can lead users to inaccurately believe that wireless networks with captive portals are safer than those without.

On top of that, captive portals may not play nicely with devices and softwares that don’t have web browsers. This can all be confusing and cumbersome for people trying to use the network.

Despite all this, businesses and organizations have several incentives to use captive portals. Chief among these is user authentication—that is, giving administrators some idea of who is using the wireless network and when. Captive portals that require information about you tie your online activities to a specific login or identity. In addition to monitoring the network, this can help an organization harvest emails for marketing campaigns, or collect social media information to sell to third parties—all trading user privacy in exchange for network access.

Organizations might also use captive portals to display a Terms of Service page. However, that is not the only way to make sure users see and agree to an access policy. The Open Wireless Movement, for example, offers an alternative. Posting a Terms of Service in a physical space, like in a library, can also be an option.

For Network Admins: If A Captive Portal Is Necessary, Follow These Best Practices

If you administer a network and must use a captive portal, you can follow best practices to mitigate some of the security and privacy problems described above.

First, let’s look at the problem of copious security warnings. The captive portal should reject connections on port 443 for hostnames it does not recognize. This will generate a “CONNECTION_REFUSED” error rather than the "Connection not private" error that would result from serving an invalid certificate, and will avoid desensitizing users to the risky behavior of clicking through that type of warning.

Second, there’s the challenge of authenticating network users. In many cases, access to a restricted network may require a complex login flow that is not currently supported by wifi’s simple shared password model. In general, such networks are better off using the more sophisticated WPA2 Enterprise model. In cases where that’s not feasible, the network can minimize captive portal harm by: (1) using a valid certificate on a domain name rooted in the public DNS, (2) not interfering with captive portal detection, (3) ensuring the login works in a restricted captive portal login environment (e.g. don’t require a logged-in Facebook account), and (4) rejecting HTTPS connections to external domains during the login process, rather than serving an incorrect certificate.

Finally, take advantage of existing device and OS features. Device and OS vendors have come up with ways to minimize the harms of captive portals, by sending an innocuous request on first connection to a network. If that request is interfered with, the OS will open up a special, limited browser to interact with the likely captive portal screen. Unfortunately, some captive portal software interferes with these detection methods by treating the “innocuous request” differently. Instead, best practice is to simply let the captive portal detection software do its job.

Toward More Open, Privacy-Protective Wireless

For most networks, captive portals are an unnecessary barrier between users and a wireless connection. Instead of providing access benefits, they only make users less safe. As we collectively move away from captive portals in our businesses and public spaces, we can move toward more open, more privacy-protective wireless access.

Categories: Political Action

Braceros Organize After One Worker Dies

Picking blueberries on a Washington State farm. Risking deportation, Washington state farmworkers protest dangerous conditions in the fields
By David Bacon
The American Prospect, 8/8/17

A farmworker’s death in the broiling fields of Washington state has prompted his fellow braceros to put their livelihoods in jeopardy by going on strike, joining a union, being discharged – and risking deportation.

Honesto Silva Ibarra died in Harborview hospital in Seattle on Sunday night, August 6. Silva, a married father of three, was a guest worker – in Spanish, a “contratado” – brought to the United States under the H2-A visa program, to work in the fields.

Miguel Angel Ramirez Salazar, another contratado, says Silva went to his supervisor at Sarbanand Farms last week, complaining that he was sick and couldn’t work. “They said if he didn’t keep working he’d be fired for ‘abandoning work.’ But after a while he couldn’t work at all.”

Silva finally went to the Bellingham Clinic, about an hour south of the farm where he was working, in Sumas, close to the Canadian border. By then it was too late, however. He was sent to Harborview, where he collapsed and died.

Silva’s death was the final shove that pushed the contratados into an action unprecedented in modern farm labor history. They organized and protested, and when they were fired for it, they joined Washington State’s new union for farmworkers, Familias Unidas por la Justicia. As this article is being written, 120 H2A workers are sitting in tents on a patch of land near the ranch where they worked, protesting their treatment and demanding rights for guest workers.

Click Here to see the Full Story

Categories: Political Action