corporate bastards

Walmart Workers Go On Strike For First Time Ever (The Huffington Post)


The Huffington Post reports on a breakthrough of sorts: Walmart Workers Go On Strike For First Time Ever

While Walmart in the U.S. remains free of labor unions, the retailer's workers elsewhere in the world are largely unionized.

Foreign Walmart workers met with LA workers to discuss how to effectively organize and advocate for better working conditions... The unionized foreign workers were from Latin America, Africa, the U.K. and Canada.

Sad to realize that union busting has been so successful that U.S. workers need help from Latin American and African ones; but maybe this small strike against the Walmonster will be a turning point

rotten Apple v. Samsung verdict

People concerned about software freedom have been disappointed, to say the least, about the recent legal victory of the patent-abusing bastards at Apple. How, in the presence of large amounts of prior art, could the jury have found in Apple's favor?

It seems the answer is simple: they skipped those key arguments because they were "bogging us down".

three crazy things before breakfast: bad science and GOP politics

Three crazy things I read before breakfast today:

  • a purported "theory of everything" from an assistant professor of molecular biology and microbiology at Case Western Reserve University. A breathless press release titled "Radical theory explains the origin, evolution, and nature of life, challenges conventional wisdom" has been making the rounds, and kicking up some excitement among people who don't read it thoroughly or don't know enough science to spot it as the gibberish it is:

    By fitting the gyromodel to facts accumulated over scientific history, Dr. Andrulis confirms the proposed existence of eight laws of nature. One of these, the natural law of unity, decrees that the living cell and any part of the visible universe are irreducible. This law formally establishes that there is one physical reality.

    Another natural law dictates that the atomic and cosmic realms abide by identical organizational constraints. Simply put, atoms in the human body and solar systems in the universe move and behave in the exact same manner.

    For thorough debunking, see Ars Technica, Retration Watch, and PZ Myers. My first guess was that we might have a Sokal here, but instead it looks like a smart guy having a breakdown. May his nervous system recover its equilibrium.

    But the product of Dr. Andrulis's unbalanced brain is not nearly as nutso as two proposals I read today from Republicans:

Live blogging from the Occupy Wall Street site, Liberty Plaza, New York City

I came down for an hour or so yesterday, just to see what was what. Danced to the drumming for a bit, and the playful and gentle nature of some of what's happening here (drumming, dancing, art, communal sacred space, giant potluck meals) reminded me of some of Kery Thornley's "yin revolution" and "counter-games" ideas in his book Zenarchy. The Occupy movement is not just a protest, but an experiment and a demonstration of an alternative to the hierarchical socioeconomic systems that have dominated our thinking for centuries.

I also ended up running into someone I knew years ago in Baltimore and fell into good conversation with her and with a high school girl she had befrended. Just hearing people's stories is also a big piece of what this is about, for as John Steinbeck wrote, "two men [or women] are not as lonely and perplexed as one".

Came down again this afternoon after my plan to visit the Statue of Liberty was derailed by a security snafu. (Apparently the US Park Service fears that I will use the awesome power of my Gerber multi-tool to disassemble the Statue of Liberty. There is, of course, no irony at all in the paranoia of the security state preventing me from visiting the Statue of Liberty. I gave up my ticket rather than have them take the $60 tool.) Ran into a few more Baltimore people (between OWS, and running into a woman who used to date one of my best friends in the Village last night, seems I can't even escape into anonymity in New York), and got into more interesting conversations with strangers, but spent most of today's time here just sitting at the community altar, holding space. (Photos to come.)

It's interesting how people react to the barriers the police have put up around the site. They don't completely enclose the space, you can move in and out freely, yet many people come up and stand on the other side watching, as if watching a parade or something. Perhaps a deliberate bit of police strategy to keep people from feeling like they can join or identify with the occupation -- establishing a boundary that takes a deliberate act to step across.

So I invite you to cross it. Go down to your local Occupy group and join them, even for an hour. Cross the lines that the power structure sets up to keep us divided.

Occupy Baltimore

When i first heard of the "Occupy Wallstreet" idea a few months ago, honestly, I thought it was silly, that about 20 people would show up.

On this one, I am glad to be wrong.

Tonight, I'm in Baltimore's McKeldin Square (Pratt and Light Streets) for the first night of Occupy Baltimore. I couldn't make it down before 10pm, and I don't know what I'll be able to do over the next few weeks; but I thought it important to be here tonight and do what I can.

I went to the planning meeting at 2640 on Sunday -- there were about 200 people there. Certainly the largest meeting I've seen run by a democratic/semi-consensus model.

So why am I here? I'm tired of three decades of worsening economic injustice, of the L curve getting worse and worse. I'm tired of the suppression of democracy by monied interests. I'm tired of a socioeconomic system that pretends that poverty and homelessness and lack of access to medical care is some sort of natural force, and not the result of human political decisions about how we share and allocate natural and human resources.

I'm here because I want to see some economic justice, and the reinvigoration of democracy. While I'd eventually like to see the dawn of a Thoreau-ean Zenarchy, in the mean time I'd like the constitutional democratic republic they told me about in school instead of the corporate authoritarian militaristic plutocracy in which I find myself.

Join us. See Occupy Baltimore or the Facebook page , or Occupy Together around the world.

Whole Foods and "Organic, Inc." ready to cut a deal with Monsanto

It's been clear for a while that Whole Foods Markets' dedication to organic standards is shallow and motivated entirely by profit rather than by any vision of ecological responsibility. Now comes news that Whole Foods, along with big organic companies Stonyfield Farms and Organic Valley, have come together to cut a deal with that form of Pure Concentrated Evil known to man as Monsanto.

Revelations about Big Organic's betrayal come on the heels of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's announcement that the USDA has approved the unrestricted planting of Monsanto's genetically modified "Roundup Ready" alfalfa. GM crops are in general a bad idea, but "Roundup Ready" crops are the absolute worst -- the idea is essentially to make it possible for farmers to apply Monsanto's toxic herbicide glyphosate indiscriminately, killing weeds and leaving the desired crop behind. But, rather like indiscriminate use of antibiotics, widespread application of glyphosate has already led to the evolution of resistant "superweeds". Australia currently ranks first in the world for weed herbicide-resistant weeds, but if trends continue the U.S. is due to overtake them. That's in addition to Roundup's demonstrated direct harm to human health.

According to Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association:

In a cleverly worded, but profoundly misleading email sent to its customers last week, Whole Foods Market, while proclaiming their support for organics and "seed purity," gave the green light to USDA bureaucrats to approve the "conditional deregulation" of Monsanto's genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant alfalfa. Beyond the regulatory euphemism of "conditional deregulation," this means that WFM and their colleagues are willing to go along with the massive planting of a chemical and energy-intensive GE perennial crop, alfalfa; guaranteed to spread its mutant genes and seeds across the nation; guaranteed to contaminate the alfalfa fed to organic animals; guaranteed to lead to massive poisoning of farm workers and destruction of the essential soil food web by the toxic herbicide, Roundup; and guaranteed to produce Roundup-resistant superweeds that will require even more deadly herbicides such as 2,4 D to be sprayed on millions of acres of alfalfa across the U.S.

...

According to informed sources, the CEOs of WFM and Stonyfield are personal friends of former Iowa governor, now USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack, and in fact made financial contributions to Vilsack's previous electoral campaigns. Vilsack was hailed as "Governor of the Year" in 2001 by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and traveled in a Monsanto corporate jet on the campaign trail. Perhaps even more fundamental to Organic Inc.'s abject surrender is the fact that the organic elite has become more and more isolated from the concerns and passions of organic consumers and locavores. The Organic Inc. CEOs are tired of activist pressure, boycotts, and petitions. Several of them have told me this to my face. They apparently believe that the battle against GMOs has been lost, and that it's time to reach for the consolation prize. The consolation prize they seek is a so-called "coexistence" between the biotech Behemoth and the organic community that will lull the public to sleep and greenwash the unpleasant fact that Monsanto's unlabeled and unregulated genetically engineered crops are now spreading their toxic genes on 1/3 of U.S. (and 1/10 of global) crop land.

WFM and most of the largest organic companies have deliberately separated themselves from anti-GMO efforts and cut off all funding to campaigns working to label or ban GMOs. The so-called Non-GMO Project, funded by Whole Foods and giant wholesaler United Natural Foods (UNFI) is basically a greenwashing effort (although the 100% organic companies involved in this project seem to be operating in good faith) to show that certified organic foods are basically free from GMOs (we already know this since GMOs are banned in organic production), while failing to focus on so-called "natural" foods, which constitute most of WFM and UNFI's sales and are routinely contaminated with GMOs.

Amazon must be destroyed

Amazon -- the company, not the river -- has been on my shit list since they became patent-abusing bastards. But their recent actions have moved them up the list.

Most troubling is the sudden removal of WikiLeaks's content from Amazon Web Services. There was much speculation that the U.S. government put pressure on Amazon to make this happen -- but just a few weeks later, Amazon was bragging that the federal government is one of its biggest customers. This suggests that the pressure involved was good ol' money: piss of one of AWS's big customers, and Amazon will pull the plug on you.

But wait -- there's more. Rather like the rat bastards at Apple, Amazon's censorship of WikiLeaks goes along with a pattern of censorship of sexually explicit material.

It's not as if they don't know what they're doing. When people objected to a book with the (disgusting, to be sure) title Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure showing up the Kindle store, Amazon said, "Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions." That's a wonderful statement -- but Amazon then caved in and removed the book.

Amazon is now removing erotic incest fantasy fiction and works that portray homosexual rape -- and not just removing such stories from further sales, but deleting stories from purchaser's Kindles. Amazon was famously sued over such remote deletion last year, and supposedly set a policy which limited its use.

Amazon now says that the recent retroactive deletion was due to a "technical issue". Ha.

Apple pulls WikiLeaks app

If you needed more proof that Apple is a bunch of evil censoring bastards, here it is: Apple has pulled a "WikiLeaks" app from its App store. The $1.99 app, created by Igor Barinov to make the WikiLeaks data more browsable and accessible, was yanked without explanation. The app had no data in it that isn't already public.

This comes on top of Steve Jobs telling us he wants to give us "freedom from porn", and Apple banning apps with political cartoons by a Pulitzer-winning cartoonist, a gay travel guide to New York, and graphic novels based on James Joyce's Ulysses and on The Importance of Being Earnest. Public outcry has made them pull back on some of those decisions, but it does not make the fact that they were made in the first place less outrageous.

"Think Different"? No. More and more, Apple shows that it wants people who use its hardware to think the same.

And if you have a problem with that, Apple might just put you down the memory hole, as when they delete from their message boards discussion threads that are critical of their shiny but underfunctional geegaws.

Of course, censorship never does take very well. (Let's be clear: this is censorship. Apologists for corporatism like to say that only the government can engage in censorship, but that's not what the word means; when a business says "this is objectionable" rather than "people won't buy this", that's censorship.) The iPad has a built-in web browser, and though it doesn't support Flash -- the format of most video on the web today -- adult website "YouPorn" is already offering a selection of its videos in HTML5, which does work on the iPad.

So you can still view pr0n on the iPad -- just like you can still view WikiLeaks information. That does not change the fact that Apple's attempt to moralize is more appropriate for a church than for a technology company; and given that Apple is getting its fingers more and more around our information channels, it's much more disturbing.

If you support free expression, support free software. So long as you don't have the choice of what to install on your computer, your freedom is limited. We're headed more and more toward the world RMS envisioned in his short story The Right To Read.

renaming high fructose corn syrup "corn sugar"?

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