Thursday, June 24, 2021

Volvo workers continue to strike, Disney continues its homophobia

Volvo workers continue to strike. Their union is meeting with Volvo representatives which might seem like good news until you remember how the union sold them out at the last meet. Jerry White (WSWS) reports:

Representatives from the United Auto Workers (UAW) and Volvo Trucks North America resumed formal negotiations at a hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina Wednesday. The strike by nearly 3,000 workers at the global truck manufacturer’s New River Valley plant in Dublin, Virginia is now in its third week.
The sessions are not “negotiations” involving two antagonistic parties. Instead, the UAW and Volvo executives are working out a joint strategy to beat back the resistance of striking workers who have decisively defeated two pro-company proposals backed by the UAW.
Last Thursday, Franky Marchand, vice president of Volvo Group and general manager of the New River Valley plant, released a statement declaring that the company would not return to the bargaining table until “the process for the new round of negotiations is clear to all”—in other words, until management received sufficient assurances from the UAW that it would ram through its agreement without failure. One can safely assume that UAW Secretary-Treasurer Ray Curry and other negotiators have given the company such assurances and are now implementing their “process” of wearing down the opposition of workers to another sellout deal.
On the eve of the talks, Volvo Group posted a series of supposed “negotiation updates” on its web site, which make it clear the Swedish multinational has no intention of backing away from its concession demands. The first contract proposals included a de facto cut in real wages given the rise in inflation and steep hikes in out-of-pocket medical expenses for current and retired workers. In also maintained the two-tier wage system, first accepted by the UAW in 2008, which discriminates against younger workers and provides further incentive to management to purge the factory of more senior, higher paid workers.
In a section on frequently asked questions, the PR people for Volvo Group seek to justify the demand to double out-of-pocket medical costs for workers, from the current $1,500 for a family to $3,000 by 2026. A chart on the page includes higher deductibles and co-pays under the category of “large transportation and aerospace companies.” There is also a chart of the pathetically low average hourly factory wages in Virginia ($17.78) and nationally ($18). This presumably justifies Volvo’s proposal for a $20 starting wage next year for workers assembling long-haul trucks selling for $170,000 or more.

 WSWS continues its reporting on the Volvo strike.  Meanwhile, Ava and C.I. continue calling out homophobia (as they've done in their columns for years now) with their latest "TV: Pride?:"

We notice that DISNEY is connected to a lot of actors that have problems with being seen as gay.

Take LOVE, VICTOR's Michael Cimino who felt the need to tell the world that it's really, really hard, being gay on TV is really hard.  Poor straight boy, some members of his family were upset he was playing a gay character.  Golly, imagine how hard he'd have it if he were actually gay.


That's why you don't cast a straight guy to play a gay man in a story about how it's okay to be gay -- he opens up his dumb, uninformed mouth to reporters and comes off like an idiot who doesn't begin to understand what the character he plays actually has to go through.

Or take Anthony Mackie who really needs to dig deep and figure out why he's becoming so homophobic.  He's bothered that fans might think Bucky and Sam are attracted to one another in THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER.  Even more so, he wants you to know that he's not able to go to a bar with a male friend because people will assume he's gay.

Why?  Is he diving under the table at the bar so he can go down on his male friend?


If Mackie's confused about  exactly who is wondering if he's gay, he might try looking in the mirror where he'll find the man most obsessed with that issue.

Representation isn't really where it should be, let alone where it needs to be.  And we're really not at the place where we need to hear how the acceptance of gay people in our society carries with it a hard, difficult stigma for straight people who want to hang out with their own gender.  

As June winds down, it's so very sad and telling that we realize, instead of celebrating PRIDE, too many are busy trying to pimp shame.  

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Friday:

 Friday, June 24, 2021.  Today we look at Post-Traumatic Stress, assault and rape in the military, imprisoned Australian Robert Pether and much more.

The signature wounds of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for US troops is TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and PTS (Post-Traumatic Stress).  The "D" in PTS has created a stigma as many in the military noted some time ago.  Retired General Peter W. Chiarelli is probably the highest ranking member of the military who has spoken about this at length and very wisely.  When we refer to it here we refer to it as "PTS" but we don't censor it when others use the "D" with it or if it's an organization with the "D" in the title.  This is from the VA's webpage:

PTSD Basics

Available en EspaƱol

PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. During this kind of event, you may not have any control over what's happening, and you may feel very afraid. Anyone who has gone through something like this can develop PTSD.

It's normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after a traumatic event (also called "trauma"). At first, it may be hard to do daily activities you are used to doing, like go to work, go to school, or spend time with people you care about. But most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months. For some people, PTSD symptoms may start later, or they may come and go over time.

If it's been longer than a few months and thoughts and feelings from the trauma are upsetting you or causing problems in your life, you may have PTSD.


How I Knew I Had PTSD

When you have PTSD, the world feels unsafe. You may have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping. You may also try to avoid things that remind you of your trauma—even things you used to enjoy.

Who Develops PTSD?

Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. Some factors can increase the chance that someone will have PTSD, many of which are not under that person's control. For example, having a very intense or long-lasting traumatic event or getting injured during the event can make it more likely that a person will develop PTSD. PTSD is also more common after certain types of trauma, like combat and sexual assault.

Personal factors—like previous traumatic exposure, age, and gender—can affect whether or not a person will develop PTSD. What happens after the traumatic event is also important. Stress can make PTSD more likely, while social support can make it less likely.

This is PTS awareness month.  The PTSD Foundation of America has released the following videos yesterday.

Staying with the US military, another issue is the assault and harassment.  Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has long worked on this issue.  Tuesday, her office issued the following:

Addressing the release of letters from military leadership opposing reforms to the military justice system, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand issued the following statement:

“The content of these letters is disappointing, but not surprising. From racially integrating the armed forces to enabling women to serve in combat to allowing LGBTQ service members to serve openly, the chain of command has always fought to protect the status quo, just as they are doing here. Their arguments are recycled talking points from the battles for progress in the past and are void of any coherent argument beyond the disingenuous ‘good order and discipline.’ It is time for Congress and the administration to exercise their constitutional oversight duties and professionalize and reform the military justice system to reduce bias, increase efficiency and restore the confidence of our service members.”

Senator Gillibrand’s landmark legislation, the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act, has the support of a bipartisan supermajority consisting of sixty-six senators, including 43 Democrats, 2 Independents, and 21 Republicans. The legislation is being blocked in the Senate by Senators Reed (D-RI) and Inhofe (R-OK), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, respectively. Tomorrow, Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) and a broad bipartisan coalition will introduce the House companion bill.

FORBES filed this report yesterday.

The senator notes that she's been calling for a floor vote for nearly 30 days on her bill.  She doesn't note that it's her latest bill.  She's been calling for this for some time.  There is no justice without it.  You would think an attorney would get that.  You would think.  But I was at the hearing where female veterans watched in shock as then-Senator Claire McCaskill tanked an earlier bill of Kirsten's -- everyone was shocked.  The notion that crimes should be dealt with in a court and not by a commanding officer was just too much for Claire's mind.

Rape and assault (and domestic violence) are swept under the rug in the military by refusing to address them openly and with a legal system.  

Jack Reed is the new Claire McCaskill.  He wants to grand stand on what some in the military leadership want -- no real change -- and stand on the fact that these men -- yes, they are all men -- have experience in combat and blah blah blah.

I'm sorry, Jack, find the one that was raped, find the one that was assaulted, find the one that was beat up by a partner.  Find that man, maybe I'll listen to your nonsense.  

Jack is a joke and always has been.

While pontificating on the floor, he failed to tell you that these jerks and asses are the same ones who supported a system that most Americans are unaware of.  It allowed the survivor to be 'unknown.'  Might sound good but in practice, it meant there was no justice and when asked for numbers by the Congress repeatedly, the ones over this program could not provide numbers, would not provide numbers.  No man was ever punished for rape under that system.  And I'm not talking about the distant past.  I'm talking about when Barack Obama was president.  

There has been no accountability at all.  That's why Kirsten Gillibrand has spent eight years trying to move the current bill forward.

The military leaders opposed to these changes are the same ones who ensure that there is no justice, that the rates of assault and rape continue to climb, that domestic violence isn't even tracked.

They see their role not as helping service members but as ensuring that the crimes are nothing more than statistics that can easily be swept aside.  

There has been no effort to address this on the part of Congress.  They have failed to provide oversight over and over.  They have let the people who are in charge and who have denied justice over and over set the terms.

Rape and assault and domestic abuse are crimes.  They need to be dealt with in a court and decided based upon what happened not by some commander who thinks his 'good old boy' didn't mean any harm when he held a woman down and raped her.  We have laws, they need to be enforced.

The military was granted a waiver from the law for years and that's just made clear that without turning these issues over to a judicial system, there is no justice.

Change needs to take place now.

Also filed yesterday, this report from CBS EVENING NEWS.

While some in military leadership still oppose the needed reform, on Tuesday, the changes found support from Iraq War veteran and the current Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin:

Yesterday, I received the final recommendations and complete report of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment.

I want to thank Lynn Rosenthal for her exceptional leadership of this commission, as well as the talented experts who worked so diligently to support her.  The work they produced was informed not only by their own significant experience, but by that of so many members of our military, including sexual assault survivors.  

The result is a comprehensive assessment across four lines of effort -- accountability, prevention, climate and culture, and victim care and support -- that recommends creative and evidence-based options.  It provides us real opportunities to finally end the scourge of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military.  

In coming days, I will present to President Biden my specific recommendations about the commission’s findings, but I know enough at this point to state the following:

First, we will work with Congress to amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice, removing the prosecution of sexual assaults and related crimes from the military chain of command.  

The IRC recommended the inclusion of other special victims’ crimes inside this independent prosecution system, to include domestic violence.  I support this as well, given the strong correlation between these sorts of crimes and the prevalence of sexual assault.

Second, solving this problem requires not just greater accountability, which we need, but also changes to our approach on prevention, command climate, and victim services.  I am reviewing the full scope of the commission’s recommendations in these areas, but generally they appear strong and well-grounded. I have directed my staff to do a detailed assessment and implementation plan for my review and approval.

Third, the Department will need new resources and authorities necessary to implement the IRC’s recommendations. Those we believe we can implement under existing authorities will be given priority.  We will need to work closely with Congress to secure additional authorities and relief where needed.  We will most assuredly require additional resources, both in personnel and in funding. But it may take us some time to determine how much and where they are most wisely applied.

Finally, as in all other things, these changes demand leadership.  I appreciate the support that the Department’s civilian and military leaders have provided to the commission, and the thoughtfulness with which they have advised me as we develop effective ways to implement the changes we need to eliminate sexual assault and sexual harassment from our ranks.

As I made clear on my first full day in office, this is a leadership issue.  And we will lead.  Our people depend upon it.  They deserve nothing less.

In response to Austin's statement, Gillibrand Tweeted:

By agreeing that we should remove the decision to prosecute sexual assault from the chain of command, Defense Secretary Austin rejected arguments that this would harm good order and discipline. So let's #PassMJIIPA and remove ALL serious crimes from the chain of command.

Senator Gillibrand spoke with Rachel Martin (NPR's MORNING EDITION) yesterday and explained:

So what we're arguing for is a bright line at all serious crimes. So we would like - and the bill for the last eight years has been advocating for - a bright line drawn at crimes that have a conviction penalty of at least a year or more - so the equivalent of felonies, so serious crimes. So we have been advocating that all serious crimes be taken out of the chain of command and given to trained military prosecutors who are professional and unbiased.

And the reason for this is because in the sexual assault cases, we're just not getting better. We're not convicting more predators. We're not taking enough cases. We're not taking the right cases. And in this issue of racial bias, we see that if you are a Black or brown service member, you are more likely to be punished. And in one of the services, it's up to 2.6 times more likely to be punished if you are a Black service member.

And so the answer to this very tough question is how do you improve the military justice system? And the way we recommend is you take all these serious crimes out of the chain of command and give it to trained prosecutors because commanders aren't lawyers. They're not prosecutors, and they may well have bias. And these are hard cases, and these are cases that deserve a professional person reviewing it properly without bias.

Moving over to Iraq, Australian citizen Robert Pether has apparently been abandoned by his own country which does nothing to object to his imprisonment in Iraq.  (The Australian Embassy staff didn't even meet with Pether until May 3rd, 26 days after he was imprisoned.)   It's now been over forty days that he's been held in a prison with no charge (they say they are holding him for "questioning").  His appeal for bail was denied on May 11th.  He was told by his own government that it was safe to go to Baghdad for a meeting.  He showed up at the meeting but there was no meeting.  Instead, he was hauled off to an Iraqi prison. He remains there.  No trial.  Nothing.  Imprisoned since April 7th.

This week, Ireland's INDEPENDENT.IE Tweeted:

Robert Pether is detained without charge in an Iraqi prison due to a contract dispute between his company and the Iraqi government

Christopher Knaus (GUARDIAN) reports:

Australian engineer Robert Pether is losing hope he will be released from the crowded Iraqi jail where he has spent almost 80 days without charge, his wife says.

Pether was arrested 77 days ago after he travelled to Baghdad to try to resolve a dispute between his firm and Iraqi authorities about the construction of the central bank’s new headquarters. Expecting to meet with officials from the Central Bank of Iraq, Pether and a colleague were instead arrested and initially held in isolation.

He is now being held in a 14-foot cell with 22 other inmates and is no closer to understanding what charges he faces, according to his wife, Desree. The case has been shifted to another court, where Pether could be sentenced to three years behind bars.

“For the last two weeks, he has stopped engaging in any conversation about when he’ll get out,” Desree Pether told Guardian Australia.

“Because our eight-year-old daughter has been drawing pictures for him of them at the beach, and them canoeing … I’ve got her focussing on what she wants to do with Daddy on the summer break in Europe. He won’t talk about getting out at all now, he just refuses to engage in it.”

One of Robert’s sons, Flynn, has just turned 18. The stress of the ordeal forced him to miss one of his final exams. He has also put off plans to go to university and study engineering.

Flynn has previously told Guardian Australia what was happening to his father was “downright inhumane” and “criminal”.

Pether is being allowed out of his cell for 20 minutes some days. Otherwise, the inmates push their bunk beds to the back of the room and sit on the floor.

The world needs to be watching and anyone whose job might send them to Iraq needs to be watching.  This should be a disgrace for the Iraqi government which supposedly wants more foreign companies operating in Iraq.  No trial.  No justice.  Nearly 80 days imprisoned.  All because some corrupt person wants to redo the agreed upon terms of a contract.

Maybe you have time to waste?  If so, stream this propaganda from the US Institute for Peace.

Listen to vapid discussion -- with Planning Minister Khalid Najim and Migration and Displacement Minister Evan Jabro -- and grasp how anything of importance has been sealed away from the conversation so that a fact-free infomercial could be made.  They left out the 1-800 number but that's about the only thing they left out.


The following sites updated: