Wednesday, January 05, 2011

About that Cabinet . . .

Alsumaria TV reports that "Baghdad Operations Command Chief of Staff Brigadier General Hassan Al Baidani affirmed that a series of assassination attempts targeted a number of Interior and Defense Ministries officials. So called Islamic State of Iraq and the League of the Righteous (Asaeb Ahl Al Haq) are behind recent attacks in Iraq, Al Baidani revealed." As officials in various ministries are reportedly targeted, UPI reports that Nouri al-Maliki's continued inability to compile a full Cabinet is "creating major security challenges for the new government" according to Kadhim al-Shimmary of the rival Iraqiya political slate. Iraqiya is calling on Nouri to appoint Ministers of Defense and Electricity. Meanwhile the Cleveland Plain Dealer's editorial board offers:

Now that a new unity government finally has been formed in Baghdad, al-Qaida affiliates that draw strength from Sunni disaffection will become more marginalized. But the country's long period of political instability reinvigorated Sunni radicals, whose internal attacks are intended not just to undermine majority Shiite rule, but also to secure their share of Iraq's rich trade in stolen goods -- in which they're competing with shady Iranian Shiite groups tied to elements of the Iraqi government.

Iraqi Christians have been targeted throughout the Iraq War. The latest wave of attacks on Iraqi Christians began October 31st with the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. Irfan Husain (Dawn) notes: "In Iraq, a church full of Christians was taken over on Oct 31, with nearly fifty killed. In the resulting atmosphere of fear and sorrow, hardly any Iraqi Christians celebrated Christmas publicly. As it is, around half the million-strong Christian population has fled persecution and violence at the hands of the majority." Elias Sakr (Daily Star) writes of the targeting of Christians across the MidEast:

Lebanese political leaders called Monday on Arab states to outline a united strategy to promote the role of Christians across the Arab world, with the head of the Kataeb (Phalange) Party describing extremist attacks against Middle Eastern Christians as “genocide.”
Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt said New Year’s suicide bombing of a Coptic church in Egypt that killed 21 people was part of a larger plot to divide the Arab world.
Jumblatt called on Egypt to boost the political participation of Christians in state institutions in a bid to counter attempts to spark strife and tamper with civil peace.
“This a criminal act that aims to shake stability with suspicious fingerprints seeking to foment strife and spread organized chaos,” Jumblatt said.

Lastly, David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. We'll close with this from Bacon and Bill Ong Hing's "The Rise and Fall of Employer Sanctions" (Fordham Urban Law Journal, 2010):

Ana Contreras would have been a competitor for the national tai kwon do championship team in 2009. She was fourteen years old. For six years she went to practice instead of birthday parties, giving up the friendships most teenagers live for. Then in October 2009, disaster struck. Her mother Dolores lost her job. The money for classes was gone, and not just that. "I only bought clothes for her once a year, when my tax refund check came," Dolores Contreras explains. She continues:
Now she needs shoes, and I had to tell her we didn't have any money. I stopped the cable and the internet she needs for school. When my cell phone contract is up next month, I'll stop that too. I've never had enough money for a car, and now we've gone three months without paying the light bill.
Dolores Contreras shared her misery with eighteen hundred other families. All lost their jobs when their employer, American Apparel, fired them for lacking immigration status. For months she carried around the letter from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), handed to her by the company lawyer. It says the documents she provided when she was hired were no good, and without work authorization, her work life was over.
Of course, it was not really over. Contreras still had to keep working if she and her daughter were to eat and pay rent. So instead of a job that barely paid her bills, she was forced to find another one that would not even do that.
Contreras is a skilled sewing machine operator. She came to the United States thirteen years earlier, after working many years in the garment factories of Tehuacan, Puebla, Mexico. There, companies like Levis make so many pairs of stonewashed jeans that rumor has it the town's water has turned blue. In Los Angeles, Contreras hoped to find the money to send home for her sister's weekly dialysis treatments, and to pay the living and school expenses for four other siblings. For five years she moved from shop to shop. Like most garment workers, she did not get paid for overtime, her paychecks were often short, and sometimes her employer disappeared overnight, owing weeks in back pay.
Finally Contreras got a job at American Apparel, famous for its sexy clothing, made in Los Angeles instead of overseas. She still had to work like a demon. Her team of ten experienced seamstresses turned out thirty dozen tee shirts an hour. After dividing the piece rate evenly among them, she would come home with $400 for a four-day week, after taxes. She paid Social Security too, although she will never see a dime in benefits because her contributions were credited to an invented number.
Now Contreras is working again in a sweatshop at half what she earned before. Meanwhile, American Apparel took steps to replace those who were fired. Contreras says they are mostly older women with documents, who cannot work as fast. "Maybe they sew 10 dozen a day apiece," she claims. "The only operators with papers are the older ones." Younger, faster workers either have no papers, or if they have them, they find better-paying jobs doing something easier. "President Obama is responsible for putting us in this situation," she charges angrily. "This is worse than an immigration raid. They want to keep us from working at all."
Contreras is right. The White House website says, "President Obama will remove incentives to enter the country illegally by preventing employers from hiring undocumented workers and enforcing the law." In June 2009, he told Congress members that the government will be "cracking down on employers who are using illegal workers in order to drive down wages-and oftentimes mistreat those workers."
The law Obama is enforcing is the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which requires employers to keep records of workers' immigration status, and prohibits them from "knowingly hiring" those who have no legal documents, or "work authorization." In effect, the law made it a crime for undocumented immigrants to work. This provision, employer sanctions, is the legal basis for all the workplace immigration raids and enforcement for a quarter century and now for Obama's auditing of employment records. The end result is the same: workers lose their jobs. Sanctions pretend to punish employers, but in reality, they punish workers.

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