Rob Baran or Robber Baron? (part 1.)


 Part 1.   Part 2.

Update: Reader, Withold Birquest, points out that:

P.S. The Rochdale folks may have not mentioned labor explicitly because they thought true co-ops would be formed by working class people in the face of the company store, not by Deadhead yuppie opportunists, looking to pull-in 60K/yr. as managers. Was told Rochdalers were blacklisted striking workers.

In a move sure to please the board and management of the East End Food “Co-op”, the anti-abortion wing of the US senate filibustered the Employee Free Choice Act. The anti-gun wing was unable to garner the required 60 votes to end debate on the bill, where it would have been vetoed by “The Decider”. Say what you will about Bush and the Republicans, but they do push the theocratic agenda, shakin’ it for the glassy eyed, snake-handling dollar. Nor do they ever forget the exalted shareholders, even when it pisses off the small money. They’re like bleu cheese: I wouldn’t eat it, because it’s mold, but I respect that it never pretends to be anything but. The self-described “co-op” is more like sweetbreads; named like a dessert, but its just veal brains.

One thing I like about the Democrats, though, is their insistence on symbolic investigations of Bush and the GOP. If they’re investigating, they aren’t making new laws, and that can’t be bad. If there’s one thing we have and abundance of, it’s engineered violence, for the benefit of a few laws The Democrats just take the union dues and run (campaigns and commercials way less entertaining than the Republican ones) but they never forget the exalted shareholders. It’s like giving cash to a junkie, to go pay your light bill for you, because “they weren’t always that way”. The shareholders are fine with the business unions, since they manage revolt by clearly pointing out to the worker that they are only entitled to a little bit, and they should be happy with that.

These are interesting times, indeed. The big, bad local corporation allows workers to organize, but the local, greenwashed, would-be corporation, resorts to every dirty trick short of busting heads with ax handles (a fact which the grad students who organize blue collar workers for the SEIU are obsessed with). In the self-described “co-op’s” defense, the 19th century English weavers, who drafted the Rochdale Principles, which remain the seven commandments of co-ops with some semantic changes, to this day.and made no mention of labor, only cash and prizes.

Is it me, or are these kinds of self-described “co-ops” just tiny scale models of corporations that go public right away? Given the liberal love of law and order and their esteemed practice of purchasing 21st century indulgences to absolve them of their guilt, in the form of marketing gimmicks with names such as: fair-trade, organic, and then there’s literal plenary plastic indulgence cards in the form of carbon offsets, it’s a short walk to convince the shareholders members that the employees are probably already over rewarded for their efforts. These folks are fine with shitting on the people who sell them their coffee, the ones who they can see, so long as they get an extra penny a pound or whatever for the romantic, exotic coffee farmer, who they will never meet.

The self-described “co-op’s” chicanery continues, only this time, Rob Baran, would-be CEO, makes one of his stupidest, most intelligence insulting statements to the press that I am aware of:

But, says Baran, the money it will take to replace the windows means less funds for profit-sharing with employees, so if the damage was meant as solidarity with workers, it backfired.

Maybe I’m an idiot, exactly the kind that Baran seems to think everyone else is, but isn’t that why businesses carry insurance policies? Isn’t there some kind of law regarding double-dipping of insurance monies?

Apparently, Baran realizes the stupidity of his statement, as he spins the penny ante corporate looting of the employee profit sharing, but still can’t justify further ripping off the self-described “co-op’s” employees, to pay for damages that will be covered by insurance. Rob, did you check with your union busting consultants from Braun? Has Braun Consulting convinced you that bathroom breaks are “time wasting activity” or have you taken any of their advice on feeling better about firings?

If you’re a member of the self-described “co-op”, or just the type who believes that you have powers as a consumer, contact the self-described “co-op” (412-242-3598) and ask them about Baran’s latest scheme to rip off workers. If you know any of the board members ask them why this is acceptable, especially the radicals/anarchists among them.

Or just steal something, for crying out loud.


Happy Birthday, Emma Goldman


“Conceit, arrogance and egotism are the essentials of patriotism…. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all others.”

Emma, you’re still scaring the bosses.

Police Accountablity: Pittsburgh Trailing Saudi Arabia?


I have never seen a situation so dismal that a policeman couldn’t make it worse.
Brendan Behan

The recent revelations by the City of Pittsburgh of an apparent clause which requires male officers seeking promotion to have a documented history of battering their loved ones or run the risk of never wearing the white shirt would barely register as news, if not for a bit of strangeness from Saudi Arabia:

Three members of Saudi Arabia’s powerful religious police face trial Saturday for the death of a man who died in custody. The case is the first of its kind in this conservative nation. The trial involves the death of a Saudi man the police arrested for being alone with a woman who was not a relative – an act considered an offense in the kingdom. It will be held in the northern city of Tabuk, close to the Iraqi border.

It isn’t clear how long the trial will last or what punishment the men might face if found guilty.

Police trial? Punishment? Guilty? Having lived in Pittsburgh for the majority of my life, the notion of police accountability seems as strange as cardamom in your coffee, ritualized hospitality or archaic alcohol laws. OK, not so much the latter.

Of course in many ways, we’re light years ahead of the Saudis. After all, our local religious judge (Mullah? Mullette?) is an unveiled woman and the State subsidizes gambling, as well as an independent body charged with high school debate matches regarding police misconduct (with its own myspace profile).

A government is the gang with the monopoly on violence for a given area, and the police are entrusted with carrying out the violence, in exchange for betraying their social class, like any other low-level manager. This doesn’t change, except by degree. The NYPD is the Stasi, is the RUC, is the Saudi Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, is the mellow Dutch cop who patrols the red light district. Pittsburgh cops have a reputation for corruption and violence, even amongst US police forces, who are considered by some to be the worst in the world. You wonder about the ‘land of the free’ when Egyptians and Chileans and Turks, express horror at the conduct of US cops.

The thin blue line is very thick in Allegheny County, with countless municipal fiefdoms, and a DA, who will do damn near anything to avoid charging police with violent misconduct, even engaging in comical conflict of interest duels with the coroner. If DA Steven Zappala Jr. were merely being realistic, and correctly pointing out that a cop’s job is violent misconduct by definition, but his hardline against police accountability comes across as that of a groupie or political opportunist, who needs the police support to be attorney general or federal prosecutor or senator.

Is it any surprise that cops like George T. Trosky, Charles Rodriguez, and Gene Hlavac abuse their loved ones? No more surprising than in any of the professions where violence is rewarded, such as the military or professional sports. This is even less surprising to those of us who are related to cops or live with ill-behaved dogs or in a base town. What is surprising that someone risked their lives and freedom by dialing 9-1-1 despite the threat of retribution by one who can kill you, if they happen to have the right uniform on.

Personally, I can’t fault George Trosky for his videotaped beating of Grateful Dead fans in 1989. Who hasn’t considered wading through a Dead show parking lot, swinging sticks? Apparently, Trosky’s lack of self-control paid off, since he was hand selected to be Jerry Garcia’s personal bodyguard for the 1995 Pittsburgh dead show. Or was it Trosky’s access to heroin?

Bureaucracy make take on local characteristics, but it’s still the same animal, and the the trial for the Saudi religious police has been postponed, as court proceedings often are, but what is remarkable is that regardless of the outcome, charges were filed in Saudi Arabia, something that is still a dream in Allegeheny County. Just ask the families of Charles Dixon, Bernard Rogers, Michael Ellerbe, Damian Jordan, and thousands whose names we will never know.

UPDATE (now with Video): Gene Hlavac is the asshole who attacked a group bike ride in Pittsburgh last Spring

News from Toledo, OH Rebel/Political Prisoner, Lasandra Burwell

More News from Lassandra Burrwell!

gall03standoffap.jpgPlease Forward

We received 2 letters from locked down Toledo Rebel Lasandra Burwell in the past month. For those that don’t know Lasandra is doing 5 years in state prison for throwing bricks at police and smashing a police cars wind shield at a Nazi rally on 10/15/05.

She is thankful for the letters and support and goes on to say in part “Keep writing cuz letters are like fresh air, when I hear was goin on in the outside world… Its like a dark cloud hanging over this place. But I try not to let it get me down, if its nothing positive I stay away …. I’m missing my husband and kids dearly. I spend the days I’m not
working reading and trying to stay out of the way.”

She made a couple requests for support. Keep in mind all books sent to Ohio prisoners MUST come from a bookstore or the publisher. The Books 4 Prisoners Crew is an approved distributor of books to Ohio prisoners and is happy to forward on any books to Lasandra you may have. All books should be paperback and in new or like new condition. Contact us for more info.

1. Any books by Jerome Dicky
2. Dutch by Nikki Turner (I got the impression from her letter that this might be a series)
3. Any books by E. Lynn Harris

She also says her husband cannot afford to send her care packages. Care packages from friends and family were banned in Ohio a couple years ago under the guise of security and now must come directly from a third party for profit vendor at inflated prices. She says “This places food is no good.” and requests if anyone can afford it to send her coffee and creamer but mentions she would be grateful for anything. Check out

Lasandra can also get up to 3 embossed envelopes per letter (NO loose stamps!). With collect calls from prisoners running as high as $3.30 – $7 for 15 min (with phone company’s giving kickbacks to the state to prey on prisoners family’s with these outrageous charges). Letters are one of the only ways for her to keep in contact with her family. Please show Lasandra she is not forgotten and support her in one of the above mentioned ways. Even a letter will help keep her spirits up.

In The Struggle,
The Books 4 Prisoners Crew
P.O. Box 19065
Cincinnati, OH 45219

Lasandra Burwell #63658
Ohio Reformatory For Women
1479 Collins Ave.
Marysville, OH 43040

Shadyside Solidarity Appreciated by G8 Protestors in Europe

This is an excerpt from a series of report backs from infoshop news written by an anarchist from the US who participated in the resistance against the G8 summit in Rostock, Germany:

“Every solidarity action I read about was related to those around me. Every solidarity action brought nothing but pleasure, comfort and happiness. Thank you Pittsburg, Portland, Tacoma, San Francisco and everyone else in the US who helped us. Everyone here thanks you and encourages you. There are Shadysides and Starbucks all over the world and every one of them that is attacked or gets a brick through its window is more than just that; it signifies, to those on the other side of the oceans, that we are in fact all in this together, that we are united in thought and tactics and goals, that we do not need centralized authority to have our movement be a worldwide one. A torn up Shadyside (place in Pittsburg) might seem small if it is compared to something. How about we don’t compare anything we do to anything else, huh? How about we just DO? Does that sound good?”

Three Stooges Coming to Pittsburgh

stooges.jpgPittsburgh’s panhandling ordinance will be put to the test in the coming weeks, according to the P-G

Jesus Christ himself, I mean Barack Obama, man of the People, will be dining on $500 stuffed chicken breast with his friends at the choice hangout for salt of the earth types, The Rivers Club, located in humble, quaint Oxford Center, June 20th. My apologies to downtown workers whose lunch break will be spent waiting for motorcades to pass while crossing the street and being freaked out by the SS men on the roofs with binoculars.

Hillary (not Duff, sadly) is expected to be in ‘tahn before the end of the month, for a fundraiser, as well as a well-deserved day off from whatever it is senators do at work. Keep your cash in your shoe.

Last but not least, art theorist, devoted family man, and “America’s Mayor” (would you take credit for that?), Rudy Giulliani will stand tall on his platform made from the ashes of the people who died in the 9/11 attacks, at the Duquesne Club. Expect gentle, angry liberal protests, and a brutal drinking game if you drink every time he says ‘terror’.

“Operation Smack-y Freedom” ?


In a recent post at The Darn News, a local blog that makes rolling Shadyside drunks seem like community service, self-described “contributor”, Highland Ave, whose largely fictional posts range from elitist to cryptofascist , shocked me with his apparent concern for the residents of Garfield. He also praised the valiant efforts of the enlightened, publicly subsidized artists who make the journey up Penn Avenue from Lawrenceville, to their colonies, er, galleries, as they play urban manifest destiny, and then go home. Much the same way drug addicts treat Garfield. They both show up to get their fix, and go home, leaving the locals to deal with their messes. It’s very different than being a neighbor or resident. Restoring a home, and interacting with the existing community is not the same as transplanting your insular social clique into subsidized elitist art spaces.  Then it made sense when I looked at Highland Ave.’s blog profile, and it listed his location as Afghanistan and his profession as ‘government’. If he is one of the 13,000 some odd crusaders, who are entrusted to oversee 90% of the world’s opium, he would be concerned with areas that stock their product. Can they list Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as reference in civilian life?

The US has a long and storied tradition of ensuring that the drug trade can flourish in their sphere of influence, having taken over for the Brits. From Air America, (not the stupid liberal radio station) to Iran Contra, to unsubstantiated, but not unreasonable claims that the CIA encouraged and fostered drug addiction amongst Soviet troops in Afghanistan, to the 90’s upsurge in Colombian heroin, at the same time US military advisers, hardware and dollars were pouring in, to the Afghans taking the market back from the Colombians, after the Taliban market interference was removed, by what will always be “Operation Infinite Justice”, to me.

Yet somehow I was surprised by recent report that perhaps inspired by the US entrepreneurial spirit, rice farms southwest of Baghdad have been replanted with poppies. I’m sure that the appearance of US complicity in the drug trade is just a misunderstanding, but try telling that to those whose lives, families, and communities are decimated. I’m not sure how the stuff gets to the US, but I’m sure that low-level drug dealers have their own fleets of ships, planes, and helicopters.