US naval carrier taking part in manoeuvres off coast of Korea; Photo by JO JUNG-HO / Yonhap via AP)

by Nizar Visram 

IN its latest move early June 2017, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted a resolution drafted by the United States to expand the scope of sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) over its latest missile tests.

Prior to this the UNSC slapped North Korea with six rounds of sanctions, but Washington and its allies have been  pushing for more powerful and crippling sanctions in an attempt to halt the increasing wave of missile tests by Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, President Trump said “all options are on the table” (implying military solution), while his Vice President Pence declared the “end of strategic patience.” Pence added:

“The patience of the United States in this region has run out. . . The world has witnessed the strength and resolve of the US in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan.

Pence was alluding to the Read the rest of this entry »

This piece of writing is up on the Facebook ‘Save the Fire Service’ page and begins with ‘”Sent to us at STUKFS, powerful and emotional story from a firefighter who attended Grenfell Tower” (STUKFS is Save the UK Fire Service); we’ve corrected a few typos and put in a number of paragraph spaces.

I’m not sure if this is something that I should vocalise or whether or not it should be shared with the world but as I sit at home thinking about the other night the Grenfell Tower I feel like people might want to know how the incident went from the point of view of a firefighter who was sent inside, while the tower burned all around us and how after years of cuts to the service I work for, how I feel about what we do and how the past few years have been for us.

I’ve always been very proud of the job my colleagues and I do week in week out as part of the fire service. At times its hard, at others not so much but the uncertainty of what might happen is always there.

We are a funny bunch, we like to laugh to play jokes on each other, sometimes we are silent and won’t tell you what we are thinking about.  We laugh off the good-natured banter directed at us from outside the service and mostly manage to do the same with the insults we get as a public service, even when it’s not always easy to do so.

It is especially hard to think about those insults during times like this. When I think about all the occasions I’ve heard and seen on the news or social media where people are calling us lazy or greedy because we dared to show anger at the 1% pay rise we’ve had imposed year after year. While MPs sit in Westminster drinking and eating in a subsidised bars and restaurants while they make £100+ a hour all on the tax payers money, getting a 11% pay rise and increased pensions to go with it.

When people think we have some sort of golden-plated, over-generous pensions. Ignorant to the fact that we pay over 12% of our wages into it every month.  That’s £300/£400 a month, every month! That we are worse off now than we were 7 years ago.

And we weren’t Read the rest of this entry »

by René Gimpel

And so it came to pass – the prodigal obtained his majority. Emmanuel Macron, youngest French president and elected to public office for the first time, last year conjured up ex nihilo a political party, La République en Marche (LRM) and has seen it obtain a solid majority in the general election. Half his new national assembly members had never been in politics before, half are women, all owe their appointment to Macron personally and all have signed a pledge to carry out the president’s programme, which Macron claims is synonymous with a ‘programme for France’. In the 17th century, the absolutist king, Louis XIV, proclaimed: “The state is myself” – something of this claim adheres to Emmanuel Macron.

LRM has 308 of the 577 seats and its close ally, Mouvement Démocrate, a further 42. The two parties are in lockstep. Meanwhile, the conservatives, Les Républicains, drop from 199 seats to 113 – they may split into pro- and anti-Macron factions, as the president tries to woo more to come into his big tent. Most dramatic of all, the Socialists, who held 284 seats, are reduced to a rump of Read the rest of this entry »

by The Spark

The Trump administration might be mired in multiple investigations. A special prosecutor appointed by Trump’s own Department of Justice might be investigating Trump himself. The U.S. news media might obsess over Trump’s every rant on Twitter. Top business executives might decry Washington “gridlock,” that is, the inability of the Republican-controlled Congress to pass even one “reform” that would hand over trillions of more taxpayer dollars to the biggest companies, in the form of supposed “health care reform,” not to speak of massive tax breaks, infrastructure giveaways and other capitalist scams.

But in the real world, the wheels of the U.S. government and its massive state apparatus continue to grind. For example, in mid-June, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Congress that the Pentagon was developing a plan to Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Lopez

In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, who had for years passed as black, was exposed as having Caucasian parents. She was accused of blackface and epitomising white privilege. Unsurprisingly, she was ruined.

In a recent autobiography, she defined herself as “transracial”. The feminist journal Hypatia then ran an article by Rebecca Tuvel, which defended her. Also unsurprisingly, Tuvel was attacked viciously. More than 500 signatories demanded that her article be rescinded and condemned. Yet, something different happened. As a New York Times op-ed by Roger Brubaker noted, many voices spoke out in defence of Tuvel’s article; it was not retracted after all.

The point isn’t to defend Dolezal or the idea of transracialism. Rather, this debate is a sign of changing times. While the millennial left’s preoccupation with identity has not disappeared, the moralistic fire has grown dimmer.

Moralising culture

This moralising culture was built on what Brubaker called “epistemological insiderism”. That is the view that only the bearer of an identity is entitled to speak about that identity. To question this was considered tantamount to silencing oppressed voices and erasing history. So, too, micro-aggressions and misuse of language were identified with actual violence.

In a self-righteous race to the Read the rest of this entry »

In New Zealand, the trend of educational institutions has been to out-source cleaning, leading to a decline in the pay and conditions of cleaners, ‘invisible’ workers without whom tertiary education institutions could not function!  In London, however, an important victory has been won by cleaners at the London School of Economics.  This victory shows what can be achieved by ‘precarious’ workers when they decide to fight and have a union which is focused on serious struggle.  The union is called United Voices of the World and consists almost entirely of migrant workers, especially from Latin America.  UVW recruits its members mainly in the low-pay and outsourced London economy – cleaners, porters, construction, childcare workers, people working in customer service and security, etc.

The following statement was released by the union on June 10:

UVW is proud to announce that the LSE cleaners will be BROUGHT IN-HOUSE and become employees of the LSE from Spring 2018! This will ensure they get, among other things, 41 days annual leave, 6 months full pay sick pay and 6 months half pay sick pay, plus proper employer pension contributions of up to 13% of their salary.

This is the most significant victory for any group of workers in UK higher education today, and will hopefully set a precedent to follow for other degraded, outsourced workers across the country.

This announcement comes on the back of an awe-inspiring 10-month battle for Read the rest of this entry »

A six-part series by Laurence Peterson documenting an example of downward mobility in Post-Meltdown America

Part 4: Characters

Surveying the Costco Avon Habitus

George was a diminutive 70-year-old who was known as “Tweety Bird” for his resemblance to the Disney character and the way he moved, with an outsized bald head and rapid, back-and forth lateral swaying gait. He came in every day, just about, and often twice or more. He employed two greetings, and two greetings only, directed both at old timers and newcomers at CDS: on some days, he’d growl “I’m taking what I want and I don’t give a fuck!”; on others, he would remark that every day was a beautiful day that we should all be grateful for.

Once an advisor had been at CDS for a little while, George would generally stop for a while and regale the chained advisor with the story of his children, both of whom, he claimed, had died in a clinical sense and had been revived thanks to divine intervention. He would then offer the advisor the chance to read a religious tract he promised to bring next visit, an offer which was, in my experience, without exception declined. George would then employ a strictly businesslike demeanour toward the new advisor for a while, defaulting pretty much to observance of the disjunctive greeting solely.

After a while he would chat a bit, but only about the most banal topics, and only very briefly. One exceptionally slow afternoon, I saw George propelling toward me and was so desirous of meaningful human contact that I tried my best to get him to stay and talk to me for a while. But he would have none of it; and as he hustled away I was sorely tempted to shout after him “GEORGE, THERE’S MORE TO LIFE THAN JESUS BRINGING YOUR DAMN KIDS BACK FROM THE DEAD! But I held my fire and retreated into the usual, post-encounter stupor.

Sorrowful post-industrial

He of the Sorrowful Countenance came in regularly, but not nearly as often as George, maybe twice a month. He either walked with a cane and heavy limp, or, much more frequently, used a motor cart provided by Costco for elderly or infirm shoppers, of which there were proportionately very high numbers of in the Avon store. Avon is wedged between Brockton (and the Costco store is just over the Avon border), where I live with my mother (whose family have been here since colonial times), a truly benighted, impoverished and violent post-industrial city whose chief legal industry appears to be storefront churches, all too many of which sport an altogether delusional affiliation with the prosperity gospel (“Winners City Church;” “The Church of God, Inc.”), and Randolph, which is popular as a retirement community; and between the two towns, along with Avon and Stoughton, already mentioned, residents are either too poor to buy much of anything or, in the case of the elderly, too infirm to take much out of the big box store, other than meds: hence the popularity of the chemist’s shop, whose sales (funded largely by government-subsidised Medicare and Medicaid), along with those of the off-licence, pretty much keep the whole store somehow ticking-over. Read the rest of this entry »