December 12, 2003

- - So Just How Bad ARE Things, Johnny? - -

Well, Ed . . . things are sooooooooooooo bad, that:

1. Unions are f**ked, both here in the U$X and in Iraq. Excerpt from the first piece by AlterNet's Mark Weisbrot:

Tens of thousands of workers are fired each year for joining or attempting to organize a union, in violation of U.S. law. But the penalties for employers are so slight that they have what Human Rights Watch calls "a culture of near impunity."

Employers can also refuse to negotiate for years with a union even after it is recognized, effectively negating their legal obligation to bargain. And while they can't legally fire workers for striking, they can hire "permanent replacements" - a distinction without much difference . . .

Abandoning this basic right to freedom of association has had enormous economic consequences. It is no coincidence that the United States, with one of the lowest rates of unionization in the developed world, is the only high-income country without a national health insurance system. Or that Europeans enjoy five weeks of vacation on average as compared to less than three for Americans.

The second piece is a recent report from Iraq Occupation Watch, "US Attacks Iraqi Unions' Headquarters." Excerpt:

The American occupation forces, using a force of about ten armored cars and tens of soldiers, attacked the temporary headquarters of IFTU (at the headquarters of Transport and Communications Union, in Karkh district, Alawi Al Hilla) in Baghdad) at 10.30 am, Saturday 12/6/2003, and arrested 8 of its leaders and cadres, who were handcuffed and taken away to an unknown destination. The attackers ransacked and destroyed IFTU's possessions, tearing down banners and posters condemning acts of terror, tarnishing the name of IFTU and that of the General Union of Transport Workers (on the building's main front) with black paint and smashing windows glass, without giving any reason or explanation.

(Don't tell me you're surprised . . . there's a solid history of that in our own country.)

2. Law of any and every kind has become irrelevant to The Cheney Gang. The recent admission by Richard Perle that the Iraq invasion was a violation of international law was greeted by a collective shrug. Then yesterday, confronted by Schroeder's suggestion that "the Wolfowitz Doctrine" ("no shootee, no workee") might also be a criminal act, Doubleduh said, "International law? I better call my lawyer."

(His lawyer, however, will probably be pretty busy protecting his brudda Neil's ass, since there are rumors of influence peddling going on, according to this piece from Financial Times.)

3. While claiming that "we're fighting an enemy that doesn't value human life," we're killing everything in the vicinity, while telling the Iraqi Health Ministry to stop publicizing the Iraqi casualty numbers. On the first issue, The Guardian's Julian Borger reports today,

In a study of civilian casualties from the Iraq war, Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that although the air force use of cluster bombs had become more careful since fierce criticism of civilian casualties in Yugoslavia in 1999, the US and British armies continued to use such munitions extensively, firing thousands of artillery shells and rockets, each filled with hundreds of explosive bomblets, or grenades.

The bomblets killed hundreds of civilians when first used, and unexploded duds continue to pose a threat in the postwar period, particularly to children, HRW alleged. The study confirms allegations by Washington and London that Iraqi forces customarily placed their guns near schools, hospitals and other civilian sites, but argues that the coalition should have used different weapons and tactics against them.

Additionally, of course everyone knows that we've killed a bunch of children this week. And in case you missed it yesterday, you need to see Our boys at play.
That's how bad it is.

Be at peace.