Mar 302012




A 24-hour general strike against labor reforms and austerity measures of the conservative government of Mariano Rachoi, was held today throughout Spain.

The protests began in the early morning hours. Holding red flags and banners that read “General Strike”, “No to labor reform”, and “Today we are fighting for the rights of our children”, groups of trade unionists took to the streets, while others stood at entrances of businesses in the central market of Madrid, and at key public transport stations.

Around 800.000 protested in Barcelona (according to El Pais), 200.000 in Madrid and 250.000 in Valencia. Clashes occurred in Barcelona and Malaga, while the police made extensive use of chemicals and attacked the protesters with plastic bullets. Nonetheless, the trade unions emphasize “the huge success” of the strike, noting that participation reached 77%. The Ministry of Interior announced that during the incidents in several cities in Spain 58 people were arrested, and nine were slightly injured.

Approximately one hundred demonstrations were held throughout the country. In Barcelona, two more evening demonstrations began, while in Madrid one more major march is expected.

The reform makes dismissals easier, and wage increases more difficult in line with inflation. It also reduces redundancy pay. The government announced that there will be no change in reforms. “On Friday Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister, is set to announce what even he describes as a “very, very austere budget” to reduce the deficit. According to El País, the EU is demanding cuts larger than those of Greece, Ireland or Portugal: “There is no comparable adjustment in [our] economic history,” says the paper” (Guardian) The trade union confederations CCOO (Workers Commissions) and UGT (General Workers Union) argue that these are the deepest cuts of workers’ rights after the change of regime in Spain. […]




Source: youtube

Els mossos pacificant Plaça Catalunya 

Violència dels mossos a Plaça Vatalunya 

Graves disturbios en Barcelona






Source: BBC

[…] Unions said 800,000 people joined the protest in Barcelona. Police put the number at 80,000.

Most of the protests were peaceful, but some protesters hurled rocks at bank offices and shop fronts. A branch of the coffee chain Starbucks was set on fire.

“They burned a two-storey Starbucks cafe and another shop,” a spokesman for the regional interior ministry told the AFP news agency. “It is out now. In the shop there is broken glass and they took out whatever they could burn.”

Police fired tear gas and shot rubber bullets at the ground, TV pictures showed.

In Madrid, 900,000 people took part in protest marches, according to unions. The government did not provide any figures. […]




Government refuses to back down
Clashes in Barcelona tonight, but calm in Madrid and Valencia
Reports of arrests and injuries
Energy usage down 20% as workers down tools
OECD says eurozone struggling, and UK in recession
Today’s agenda

By Graeme Wearden, Guardian UK

[…] 8.10pm: In the reader comments below, Extranjero reports from the scene in Barcelona:

The official union demo in the Passeig de Gracia was big, peaceful and slow – Spanish demos don’t move fast. Went from La Pedrera to the Facade de Discord in 2hrs! Noisy but otherwise peaceful (and well policed). They stopped it early to avoid running into where the trouble was kicking off. It has finished without any trouble.

However, on the way home walking through Placa Universitat there were burning bins and a much more menacing atmosphere – amazing how an atmosphere can change in a few streets. And then suddenly lots of people running from the direction of Placa Catalunya and behind them sound of some kind of gun type thing being fired. Everybody was running for a few moments but it quickly settled down. However, it is going dark now and there are lot of people still on the streets.

That tallies with Giles Tremlett’s point, in the 7.44pm post, that much of the activity in Barcelona has still been peaceful.

More reports of the trouble in Barcelona are coming in.

Barcelona’s La Vanguardia newspaper says that one of its film crews has had a camera grabbed and broken by protesters who were smashing shop windows. There is video footage here.

Giles Tremlett reports from Spain that:

Fringe groups appear to be adding a dose of violence to the largely peaceful strike there, which has seen a massive demonstration in the city centre this evening. Shops and restaurants in Barcelona’s Rambla de Catalunya boulevarde were attacked earlier.

This video shows some damage to shops today.

And there are also reports that a Starbucks store in Barcelona was set alight. […]




By David Heinzmann, Chicago Tribune

Chicago has a received a $19 million grant to cover the local security costs of the NATO summit this May, the city’s summit planners said as they announced they have raised more than $36 million in private donations for other costs.

“The Host Committee is thrilled by the support we have received from the business community,” said Lori Healey, executive director of the Chicago NATO Host Committee. “Thanks to their generosity, and the support of the federal government, the city will be able to host a tremendous summit that will highlight the best of Chicago.”  […]

READ @,0,1010670.story?track=rss



By John Cassidy, The New Yorker

[…] The economics isn’t very complicated. The health-care industry, which makes up about a sixth of the economy, is rife with inefficiency, waste, and coverage gaps. In seeking to remedy some of these problems, the Obama Administration made a deal with the private-insurance industry—the same deal Mitt Romney made when he was governor of Massachusetts. On the one hand, the federal government barred the insurers from discriminating against the sick and the elderly, thereby raising the industry’s costs. On the other hand, the feds obliged uninsured individuals to purchase coverage, thereby expanding the insurers’ revenues. We can argue whether this was the best way to proceed. (At the time the bill was passed, I raised some doubts about how much it would cost.) But it was a straightforward instance of the central government seeking to redress the failures of the private market—something akin to imposing fuel standards on auto manufacturers, providing state pensions, and forcing banks to hold adequate capital reserves.

In a modern, interconnected economy, activist government policies to remedy market failures are essential. Rather than confronting this argument head-on, which would involve publicly defending the actions of the banks, the insurers, and the industrial polluters, the right has settled on a strategy of trying to undermine the government through the courts, where its pro-corporate agenda can be repackaged as a defense of ancient freedoms.

Thus the bogus constitutional challenge to Obamacare, and, in particular, the individual mandate. As my colleague Jeffrey Toobin pointed out in an excellent post this morning, the issue resolves around the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which gives the federal government the power to “regulate Commerce … among the several States.” Where does this power begin and end? In the famous 1942 case of Wickard v. Filburn, the Court said that the federal government’s authority extends to any activity that “exerts a substantial economic effect” on commerce crossing state lines. […]




By Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker

[…] Monday was only the first of three days of scheduled arguments. The subject for Tuesday is whether the individual mandate—the requirement that individuals buy health insurance, and the heart of the law—is constitutional. In the procedural discussion Monday, there were a few hints about the way that argument might pan out. The Obama Administration has offered several rationales supporting the constitutionality of the law. One of them posits that the A.C.A. is authorized by Congress’s power to tax under Article I of the Constitution. Three Justices—Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Samuel Alito—expressed some skepticism about that theory today. As Alito said to the Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli, “General Verrilli, today you are arguing that the penalty is not a tax. Tomorrow you are going to be back and you will be arguing that the penalty is a tax. Has the Court ever held that something that is a tax for purposes of the taxing power under the Constitution is not a tax under the Anti-Injunction Act?”

The Court’s skepticism about the taxing power argument is understandable. The real justification for the A.C.A. is the same one that Congress has used for virtually all economic regulation since the New Deal: the Commerce Clause of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, giving Congress the power

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.

Medicare, Medicaid, not to mention the minimum wage—all have been passed, without constitutional controversy, under the authority of the Commerce Clause. To me (and most others, I am willing to bet), the A.C.A. is fairly straightforward and uncontroversial application of this longstanding power. To rule the A.C.A. outside the power of Congress would be a dramatic change in the powers of the federal government. […]




Source: The Sparrow Project

The first rounds of statements from seven high-profile plaintiffs suing President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, House Speakers and DOD Representatives for injunctive relief barring the implementation of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)‘s “Homeland Battlefield” provisions of indefinite detention and suspension of Habeus Corpus will be heard in federal court today, March 29, 2012.

The hearings will begin at 9am at the US District Court Building at 500 Pearl Street in Manhattan (Room 15A) and will be immediately followed by a press conference outside the court at 2:30pm  beside the center statue at nearby Foley Square (Junction of Center Street & Federal Plaza map link).  Taking questions at the press conference will be Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and plaintiff Chris Hedges, film maker Michael Moore, author Naomi Wolf, lead counsel for the plaintiffs Carl Mayer, as well as other plaintiffs and their activist supporters.  At 3pm, following the press conference, activists with Occupy Wall Street are expected to stage at the square for an anti-NDAA protest action.

The plaintiffs in Hedges v. Obama include: New York Times war correspondent Chris Hedges,  Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, celebrated writer and linguist Noam Chomsky, Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir, Tangerine Bolen founder of the activist media group RevolutionTruth, Occupy London activist Kai Wargalla, and Alexa O’Brien founder  of the web campaign “US Day of Rage.”  Each of the plaintiffs share common narrative that their constitutionally protected work, either in activism or in journalism will be chilled by the over-broad provisions set forth under the NDAA.  Naomi Wolf and Dr. Cornel West are in the process of becoming plaintiffs in this lawsuit; Wolf will read her statement in court today. […]




By Rosalind S. Helderman, The Washington Post

[…] Ryan’s budget would cut $5.3 trillion from deficits over the next decade, bringing deficits down from more than 8 percent of gross domestic product to 1.2 percent by 2022.

It would not balance, however, until 2040. Conservatives with the Republican Study Committee who want to cut spending more quickly introduced their own spending plan that called for balancing the budget within five years. It was defeated earlier on a 136 to 285 vote.

A Democratic budget authored by Van Hollen, which would cut deficits more slowly than the Republican plan with less severe cuts in federal programs, failed Thursday on a 163 to 262 vote. […]




 By Josh Harkinson, MotherJones

IN HER MAKESHIFT classroom in lower Manhattan, Lisa Fithian turns to a group of several dozen students, squares her shoulders, and issues a challenge: “Does someone want to be a cop and come get me?” A tall redhead abruptly breaks out and lunges at her, but Fithian, a petite, den-motherish 50-year-old, head fakes and bolts away. Cheers erupt from her pupils, Occupy Wall Street protesters intent on shutting down the New York Stock Exchange the following morning. Another pretend cop moves in, and this time she drops to the ground, flopping like a rag doll as the officer struggles to drag her away. Fithian stands to deliver her lesson. “Of the two choices, running away or going limp, what does running away communicate?” she asks.

“Guilt,” several people say.

She smiles and nods. “Guilt.”

When it comes to civil disobedience, there’s often a right and wrong way to break the law, and one of Fithian’s jobs is to teach the right way to hundreds of newly minted Occupy activists. Call her Professor Occupy. With somewhere between 80 and 100 arrests under her belt (she’s lost count) over nearly four decades of rabble-rousing, Fithian may be the nation’s best-known protest consultant. Unions and activist groups pay her $300 a day to run demonstrations and teach their members tactics for taking over the streets. But for much of the past six months Fithian has been dispensing free wisdom to the young radicals who took over parks from New York City to Los Angeles last fall, everything from proper tear gas attire to long-term protest strategies. “When there is some conflict, or things aren’t going the way that we want them to go, or people don’t have a good long-term plan,” says 27-year-old Jason Ahmadi, an early arrival at Zuccotti Park, “I have heard others and myself say, ‘Dammit, where is Lisa Fithian?'” […]


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