Monday, April 30, 2007

Running With The Big Dogs

Presidential fundraising stats issued last week revealed some interesting and surprising trends with Senator Obama leading the pack in contributions coming from Wall Street. Giuliani was a close second, with Clinton a hair behind. Democrats also led in overall monies in their campaign coffers, at this point besting Republican totals.

Much is sure to be made of Obama's strength among investment capital. Already,  Hip Hop mogul Russell Simmons has commented that he is in the pocket of and beholden to his contributors, calling him a "mouse."  Simmons bemoaned the Illinois Senator's lack of an independent grass roots financial base, and seemingly belittled the 30 percent of his overall total coming from small contributors, mainly over the Internet.

Simmons in a New York Times Magazine interview, also dismissed Obama's call for reforming rap lyrics, saying that if he really wanted reform, he should focus on reforming the material conditions that create the lyrics. Simmons has joined Rev. Al Sharpton and others in calling on the corporate recording industry to ban the use of the "n" word, an important and serious campaign. The former CEO of Def Jam records seemed to find in John Edwards a more serious approach to addressing the crisis conditions in African American and poor communities.

Notwithstanding these concerns it is worth pondering Obama's strength on conservative Wall Street and the strength of the Democrats generally. Is this section of the ruling class more evenly placing their bets, feeling that the Republican revolution' s spent, and that the pendulum has begun to swing back? Or is it a more cynical Machiavellian move, aimed at supporting a candidate they feel cannot win a general election? One wonders what kind of support was given in these quarters to Ralph Nader in 2004, insuring a Republican victory.

Well here again, it's too soon to tell. Still Obama's ability to raise the big bucks should not be belittled, nor should he be written off because of it, as some are wont to do. No one should forget that this presidential election occurs on the plane of bourgeois politics and New York is a bourgeois town. That should be the measure.  And no one should begrudge him the right run with the best of them. And cynical though some of the support may be, the pulse of the nation has yet to be taken. One thing is clear, a different public consciousness has arisen since the November election. Who knows what might emerge come 2008? Only the struggles of the next months will decide. The backlash over the war, the crude racism and sexism of the Don Imuses, Bruce Richards, Paris Hiltons and Larry Summers of the world are going to play a huge role in 2008. But for now it's early and growing more interesting.


Joe Sims

May Day 2007

I will celebrate May Day tomorrow by going to a demonstration in
solidarity with unionized workers, members of SEIU 1199 at the Regency
Heritage Nursing Home at 380 Demott Lane, in Somerset, New Jersey.
Although the workers are organized, new owners have slashed wages from
$15 to $9 and abolished old jobs and created new ones without union
consultation. The rally will begin at 4:30 P.M. those who may be in
the area and are interested in
further information may contact the following union activists Zoe
Baldwin, email and Hector Pena, email or call Baldwin at 732-646-1666 or Pena at

But I thought that I present for blog readers this mini history of May
Day and its significance

In many lands for many centuries, May celebrations marked the coming
of Spring and the renewal of earth and crops and life for the masses of
people. In our time, May Day, the international holiday of the labor
and socialist movements, developed out of labor's struggle against
exploitation and socialism's dedication to the regeneration and
empowerment of the working class. And May Day began in the United
States, even though its capitalist class has sought to erase that point
from the the consciousness of the people of the United States.

May Day's roots are in the peaceful demonstrations of hundreds of
thousands of U.S. workers in Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh, and other
cities on May 1, 1886, for the eight hour day. Supported by the Knights
of Labor, the new American Federation of Labor, and by various labor
anarchists and socialists, the demonstrations were denounced by the
capitalist press as conspiracies to revive the Paris Commune in the U.S.
In Chicago in Haymarket Square three days after the May first
demonstrations, labor anarchists organized a protest demonstration
following police killing of strikers at the McCormick Harvester plant.
After a bomb was thrown at the large contingent of police there to
intimidate the demonstration, the ensuing police riot, national Red
Scare, and arrest and trial of eight of the demonstration's leaders(four
were executed), made Haymarket an international symbol of capitalism's
war against the working class.

With the Haymarket struggle as their precedent, an international
Congress of Socialists and other labor activists, meeting in Paris in
1889 in the centennial of the French revolution, designated May 1st as a
day of demonstrations for the eight hour day through the world.

As the socialist movement grew and a Second International of socialist
parties developed in the 1890s out of the Paris meeting and the
subsequent May Day demonstrations, May Day became an annual event,
reflecting both workers pride and militancy. Although the AFL initially
supported the demonstrations,Samuel Gompers, federation President and
advocate of what came to be known as conservative craft oriented
"business unionism," the distanced the organization from it and
focussed on Labor Day as am "American" national labor holiday.

But socialists, anarchists, immigrant workers pouring in to the U.S.
from European countries with developing labor and socialist movements,
celebrated May day as a day of mobilization and contemplation of Labor's
past, present and future. The Soviet Socialist Revolution of 1917 made
May Day both an official holiday and the symbol of a revolutionary
workers state through the world, with huge peoples marches through the
country. May Day demonstrations were brought to the colonies and
"protectorates" of the world primarily by Communist supporters of the
Third International in the Interwar period, although Socialist and Labor
parties throughout Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States,
whatever their divisions from Communist parties continued to celebrate
May along with Communists.
In the post W.W.II period, when the colonial empires collapsed and
socialist forces advanced, May Day in the 1950s through the 1970s became
the most widely celebrated day in history, reaching more people than any
religious or national holiday

In the U.S. though, where May Day demonstrations had been large in New
York's Union Square in the 1930s and 1940s, legal restrictions, police
abuse and organized street violence by right-wing elements shut down
May Day for much of the 1950s and 1960s.
In Germany, when the Nazis came to power, they had "replaced" May Day
with a "national day" and, among other things, outlawed the use of the
word "proletarian," along with their public burning of Marxist books and
the works of writers deemed "racial subhumans"(Jews most of all but also
others) In the U.S. May Day wasn't formally banned, although permits
for demonstrations were nearly impossible to come by and local
authorities cooperated often with McCarthyite elements to squelch any
possible demonstration for the greater part of a generation. Cold
Warriors even tried without much real success to sponsor "law day"
demonstrations to rival May Day in the 1950s.

This history of ugly repression and the resistance to it in the U.S.
deserves to be remembered when we celebrate May Day, remembering that
it is first and foremost the holiday that proclaims the inseparable bond
and interdependency of the labor and socialist movements. It is the
holiday of unity among all sections of the labor and socialist
movements, not just Communists or Socialists.

Although some have noted that May Day in the cold war era came to be
identified megatively with military parades in Red Square in Moscow
reviewed by Soviet leaders(which always of course got the most coverage)
May Day was about much more than that even in the Soviet Union, where it
was celebrated at all levels through the Society, and throughout the
world, where it was identified with peoples struggles against
exploitation and oppression.
Happy May in the struggle for working class unity, peace, and
socialism! Like the working class itself, it unites the people of the
whole world.

Norman Markowitz

The Week That Was in France

Greetings from France; Again.

To correct a previous transmission.   The national elections are on May 6th.

The Parliamentary elections are JUNE, 2007.

The municipal elections are in 2008.

This is important since Francois Bayrou, who got about 18 percent of the first vote wants to dominate the Parliamentary elections; then the municipal elections; and then; 4 years later; run for president again.

One theory for why the election between Nicholas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal has narrowed to an almost draw is that Bayrou would sooner see Royal win than Sarkozy.  Why

Royal would be easier to beat in 2012

This reasoning would mean that Bayrou s votes would largley go to Royal.

On the far right; fascist side.....the reasoning is that Le Pen s 11 percent may not vote for Sarkowy; that the far right voters who are willing to compromist, may already done so in the first round.

These fascists elements might cast a white ballot;  meaning they formally oppose both candidates.  

That might also happen with left voters who are angry that Royal would just be another Mitterand.

Debating these points is taking place all across France.

In Sete, a once left brimmiong large sea port town, the debate was great.  That town; like its neighbor, Marseille; is moving to the right as its working class is unemployed due to harbor closures.   Our discussions there were very revealing.


Tomorrow is MAY DAY.    France is one of the last countries in the world to celebrate MAY DAY with full national shut downs and a march.    The size of the May Day activities could go a long way in determining the elections results.

Clinton and Royal;  Sarkozy and Bush

There are similarities between Hillary qnd Segolene.    Both have strong successful husbands in politics; and both woman are also successful in politics.  Neither one has lost and election.   

And both Woman are from the right of center parts of their party.

It is hard to believe that Sarkozy is an open supporter of George Bush,  but, in recent days he has had to stop that angle.      

The debate Wed Nite

The issues should arrive on the scene at the debate.    Sarkozy is openly calling for cutbacks in national education jobs;  privatizing the health system that the World Health Org labelled No 1;  dumping the 35 hour work week; cutting back the right to strike, and the rest.   Royal is largley for the status quo.

Stay tuned

Mike Tolochko

Sete and now Paris


Bush to Veto Troop Withdrawal on 4th Anniversary of Declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq

April was the 6th deadliest month for U.S. troops in Iraq since the launch of the invasion more than four years ago.

Despite a massive surge of an estimated 30,000 troops designed to ease violence in Iraq's ongoing civil war, with 104 deaths in April, the death toll pushed to over 3,350 with more than 26,000 wounded, according to media estimates of Pentagon statistics.

The death toll for U.S. troops in 2007 is more than 50 percent higher than the first 4 months of 2006.

More than 1,550 Iraqis were killed in April. A car bomb killed 70 worshippers at a Shi'ite religious site in Karbala last week. Yesterday, a car bomb in Basra targeted a business section known to be frequented by supporters of Moqtada Al'Sadr.

Respected academic estimates put the total number of Iraqi deaths at over 650,000 since the beginning of the war.

News of the deadly sectarian violence in Iraq comes just as President Bush again announced his intention to veto a spending supplemental passed by Congress that also includes a timetable for withdrawal.

Bush will use only his second veto in his six-year presidency to veto the funding bill. The veto will be made on or close to the 4th anniversary of Bush's declaration of "mission accomplished" on May 1, 2003 on board the USS Abraham Lincoln.

Since that declaration of victory more than 1,400 days ago, more than 3,200 U.S. troops have been killed and more than 25,600 have been wounded.

The National Priorities Project estimates that so far the war has cost taxpayers $421 billion, more than enough to provide health insurance for every child in the country.


A new poll by CBS News and The New York Times shows that 66% of the American people favor tougher gun control laws. The breakdown by party shows that majorities in both major parties (78% of Democrats and 51% of Republicans) want stiffer laws. Despite this, neither party in considering reigning in our out of control gun culture. They are sitting on their hands waiting for the next Virginia Tech to come along. How can the Democratic Party call itself "democratic" while ignoring the wishes of such large majorities both in the country and their own party? Why are they afraid of the NRA when they have such mass support for stricter laws? If they come out of the 2008 elections with solid majorities, we must demand that they take action. Meanwhile, they should take some polls themselves. These majorities indicate that gun control may actually be viable as a campaign issue.
Thomas Riggins

India: May Day Manifesto of CITU, 2007

The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) extends revolutionary greetings to the working class fraternity all over the world, on the historic May Day –– the day of the international solidarity of the working people.

read more | digg story

France: Delphi Demands Longer Hours for Lower Wages

The American parts maker wants to eliminate RTT [the paid holidays resulting from the reduction in statutory weekly working hours from 39 to 35 in France (following the so-called Aubry laws)] of its workers in the Ardennes and to freeze their salaries for three years to “guarantee the continued existence of the site.”

read more | digg story

Friday, April 27, 2007

British Communist Party Campaign Ads for the Welsh Assembly

The Communist Party Political Broadcasts that the party produced for Television for the Welsh Assembly elections are now available to watch on You Tube and can be found by clicking on the link below.

English Language Version

Thursday, April 26, 2007


The Headline says it all: “OSHA Leaves Worker Safety Largely in Hands of Industry.”

Thomas Riggins

The 4-25-07 New York Times tells the story of a rare potentially deadly lung disease that is showing up in workers at popcorn plants using the food flavoring diacetyl. The Occupational
Safety and Health Administration, set up to protect worker’s health, has become (under Bush) anti-worker and pro business regardless of the evidence of wrong doing by business interests and factory owners. OSHA is not regulating the use of diacetyl-- staying loyal to Bush’s ideal of Profits before People. How do Republicans get any votes from working people?

“The people at OSHA have no interest in running a regulatory agency,” Dr. D. Michaels, an expert on worker safety, is quoted by the Times as saying. The scientific evidence indicates that diacetyl is responsible for potentially deadly diseases in working people. Why isn’t it regulated? The head of OSHA (Edwin G. Foulke Jr.,) gives the standard bushite response whenever the administration wants to dump on the American people and give a hand to the big vested interests that own the Republicans. “The science is murky,” he said.

Its murky just as it is for global warming, or the value of stem cell research or how the world got here with all the different life forms. Its not “murky” for the leading doctors and scientists who have studied the issue. The real reason is that Foulke doesn’t want, it appears to me, to inconvenience the rich corporations that bankroll the Republican party.

The other reason, after the great respect shown for science (if not for scientists), is that Bushies also advocate a “voluntary compliance policy.” They think that is more workable than government regulations against free enterprise. If “voluntary compliance” is so great, why don’t they adopt that policy in the “war on drugs” and “illegal immigration.” The government could save a lot money and maybe take better care of wounded veterans.

Legislation Needed to Reduce Gender Pay Gap

April 24th was Equal Pay Day, the day that marks how far into the calendar year the average woman must work to earn as much as a man earned last year.

Full-time women workers are paid an average of 77 cents for every dollar men are paid. Women of color are short-changed even more as African American women are paid only 68 cents and Latinas just 57 cents on men's dollar.

The WAGE Project estimates that this persistent wage gap costs the average full-time US woman worker between $700,000 and $2 million over the course of her work life.

A new study by the American Association of University Women finds that education doesn't help overcome the difference. Women are paid about 80 percent of what men are paid one year out of college. But within 10 years, the gap grows to 69 percent – even after accounting for such factors as the number of hours worked, occupations, or parenthood.

An AFL-CIO survey of working women found that 57 percent of the respondents believe their employers do not compensate them equal to their male counterparts.

The most successful tool for closing the gender pay gap has been the union. According to labor statistics, women who belong to unions earn 31 percent more than their non-union counterparts.

Legislative efforts to close the pay gap include two bills introduced in this session of Congress. The Paycheck Fairness Act and the Fair Pay Act would provide legal remedies for victims of the gender gap, outlaw gender-based wage discrimination, and establish the principle of comparable worth.

Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, said, "Day-to-day, women struggle to make ends meet and provide for their families. [The gender gap] hurts their ability to save for a home, for medical emergencies, or for retirement. We need this legislation now more than ever."

Men have a stake in supporting equal pay. Women adversely affected by the gender gap are their mothers, sisters, intimate partners, and children. Additionally, men who work in fields predominantly held by women are also victimized by the gender gap.

In the end the gender gap is a tool of super-exploitation and division. The billions stolen from women each year through the gender gap do not end up in the pockets of male co-workers. They end up on the corporate bottom line as profit.

Using right-wing propaganda to convince men that either they have an interest in maintaining the gender gap or that it doesn't exist divides working people by gender. It weakens the unity needed to create a democratic society where each has an equal voice and receives a just reward for their contributions.

--Joel Wendland

Class, Race and Women’s Equality – a Strategic View

The class struggle has its origins in actual exploitative practices, which in turn are traceable to an integrated, global system of exploitation. The ceaseless accumulation of capital and the exploitation of wage labor are two sides of a single coin.

read more | digg story

51 to 49 watch out; worries mount

The French elections are at a dead heat but the worries continue to mount.

The worry is simple,  behind closed door the Royal/Socialist Party are making deals to win; that might spell a big loss for all workers and their families.

So; when you read the headlines about the elections;  go into yuor google world and see what the new Royal program will be.

Check out Humanite newspaper.

By the way;   there will be  a special congress of the Frnech Commnist Party in December of 2007 to assess the 2007 elections;  and prepare for the 2008 Parliamentary elections.

Stay tuned:

Mike Tolochko

From  Narbonne

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Labor, Civil Rights Groups Praise Introduction of Anti-Discrimination Bill

A measure that would outlaw discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity was re-introduced in Congress yesterday (4-24-07).

read more | digg story

Restore Freedom of Travel to Cuba

From the Latin America Working Group

Dear Cuba Policy Advocates:

We hope you are planning on participating in national Cuba Call-In Days, May 1 and 2, 2007! Please see the information below and SEND IT TO YOUR NETWORKS, FRIENDS, FAMILIES. The call-in days won't have any impact without your help.

Following the links on the flyer, you'll see the current co-sponsors of HR 654 (99 toward of goal of at least 100) and S 721 (16 toward a goal of 30).

Your calls could make the difference in reaching our goals. We know that emails are easier; but, please, this time pick up the phone and make those calls. We want to flood the Capitol Switchboard and individual offices with calls demanding the right to travel to Cuba. See and to find the phone numbers for your members' offices--or call and ask us. Or call the Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121.


Mavis Anderson
Claire Rodriguez


Thomas Riggins

The magazine of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (“Science” 20 April 2007) reported on the March meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Philadelphia.

The latest scientific evidence, based on DNA analysis, indicates that the original population of Europe was a brown skinned people of African origin. These people were the descendants of Africans who migrated to Europe tens of thousands of years ago.

These people are still living in Europe, only now they are a pale skinned African people instead of brown skinned. Pale skin can use sunlight better than brown skin to manufacture vitamin D and this vitamin was harder to come by in Europe naturally than in Africa. Also the Africans in Europe had to cover themselves more due to the weather and had less exposed skin to make the needed vitamin.

As a result there was a gene mutation favoring pale skin. Calculations of mutation rates and DNA analysis indicate that this gene began to rapidly spread in Europe and that by about 10,000 BC the European Africans were pale skinned instead of Brown skinned.

The USA has been colonized by people from all over the world, Africa, Europe, Asia, and originally by Asians, also of African descent, now called Amerindians.

So lets stop calling ourselves Italian Americans, Anglo Americans, Irish Americans, Spanish Americans, Russian Americans, etc. Italy, England, Ireland, Spain, Russia, etc., were only pit stops on our way from the African homeland. We are all AfrIcan Americans.

The “Pacific solution” stretched to the US

In an extraordinary agreement with the US, the Howard Government has arranged a swap of up to two hundred “unwanted” refugees.

read more | digg story

Articles of Impeachment of Dick Cheney

Today [4-24-07] US Rep. Dennis Kucinich introduced Articles of Impeachment against Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney. Kucinich did not limit the Articles to the issue of Iran; they also include defrauding the public and Congress over the need to invade Iraq.

read more | digg story

A Political Lemon Law: Rejecting a culture of lies

This past weekend, I got together with one of my best friends in life and listened as words of pain, bitterness and confusion flowed freely from his lips. He had just learned that one of his family members had been killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. A young man, scarcely in his second decade of life, was gone.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Boris Yeltsin and Jenny Lopez

A few days ago, according to Pravda, (the former paper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union) now specializing in National Inquirer-like gossip) a newly rich 35-year old Russian billionaire banker, Adrei Melnichenko paid Jennifer Lopez $3 million to perform at a birthday party for his wife Aleksandra at their Berkshire England estate. Great for Jenny Lopez! But what a sad commentary on the extravagance of gangster capitalism amongst Russia's ruling class, a class brought to power by the late but not so great Boris Yeltsin. What a tragic coincidence of death and outlandish opulence, symbolic of Yeltsin's enduring legacy.
The week began with an announcement of Yeltsin's death occasioning much commentary on his role and legacy as he lies in state awaiting burial. Not surprisingly much of it has praised him as a great liberator and troubadour of justice, democracy and the American way. The praise is so excessive it almost echoes a strain of super-Yeltsin, reminding me of a conversation I once held with a functional of the Young Communist League of the Soviet Union, (Komsomol), who described Michael Gorbachev in a similar cult of personality way: "He's no ordinary man." Well neither was Mr Yeltsin.
The New York Times described him as leaving a "giant if flawed legacy". Tracing the development of what even they call "buccaneer capitalism" and the "usurping of political power by a new class of oligarchs" they go on to commend his actions that insured that there would be no return to socialist property "that reduced a talented and cultured people rich in natural resources to a beggar among nations."
Hunh? A beggar among nations? The former Soviet Union? The country that defeated the three-fourths of Hitler's Army and achieved strategic military parity with the US? The country whose industrial might came prior to the collapse of equaling many developed capitalist countries?
Clearly revealed in this single phrase, is the deep class hatred of US imperialism for the former USSR, a hatred that has blinded them from all sense of objectivity and balance when considering the legacy of Yeltsin and his descendants, a hatred that has led them to elevate a hopeless drunk and manic depressive to the level of super star. No wonder then that they look over his trampling over democracy and the will of the former Soviet people in the name of free markets. It should be remember that Yeltsin defied Soviet elections and law by:
1) ignoring the national plebiscite in which a majority voted for retaining the USSR;
2) outlawing the Communist Party;
3.) Blowing up Parliament with rocket and tank fire with defenseless legislators inside.
This is how the Times shamelessly portray him as "democrat who often ruled in the manner of a czar. He showed no reluctance to use the power of the presidency to face down his opponents as he did in 1993 when he ordered tanks to fire on a Parliament dominated by openly seditious Communists.."
Oh really? Now one can see it clearly: this is the kind of thinking that led to arming of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan; the alleged support given the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, the aid rendered the late Jonas Savimbi in Angola and host of other dictators and petty tyrants. All and anything in the name of fighting communism and for free markets.
And for this Yeltsin has been bestowed a mantle of greatness.
Yeltsin's legacy lies in greatness of the betrayal of the hopes and aspirations of the Soviet people. It is he who reduced the country to a beggar among nations, raising the infant mortality rate to Third World levels, lowered the life expectancy rate, and created extreme poverty and wide scale hunger for millions. How this could have happened in a country that boasted of "developed socialism" how it was that the working class and people sat aside and were at best neutral while these events took place remains a huge question. However that in no way excuses the legacy of Yeltsin or the opulent excesses of his followers, who romp in billions while their country men and women starve.
--Joe Sims

Boris Yeltsin and the "Not So Fine" Art of Propaganda

Boris Yeltsin's death was reported yesterday and the New York Times ran an
obituary. Ironically, I lectured yesterday in a class about the crisis
of socialism in the 1970s leading to the victory of Mikhail Gorbachev
and the eventual overthrow of the Soviet state and society.

In some of my classes I occasionally read reports from mass media,
particularly the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, as examples
of "capitalist realism," that is, the information that we are given and
the interpretations that we are expected to make "freely" in our "open
society." Today, Because a printer failed to work, an example perhaps of
contemporary capitalist technology, I mentioned key points from the obituary
and used it, to the delight of many of the students, as an example of
"capitalist realism."

"Capitalist realism" works the way anti-Communists liked to say
realism" used to work, that is, there is the truth and there is the
position(the "politically correct" position of the Communist party under
"socialist realism" and the biased assumptions and distorted information
of the
capitalist class under "capitalist realism," according to me, the Marxist
originator of that term, for what it is worth).

With capitalist realism, you
have got to read between the lines, and, as I have done with the New
York Times
for nearly half a century, I will try to read between the lines of Marilyn
Berger's obituary,where "the facts" of the Yeltsin
story are presented but never seriously contextualized or analyzed and
the assumptions that have guided generations of anti-Communist and
anti-Soviet propaganda are held onto like a security blanket.

So, Berger tells us, there were corrupt "oligarchs" who privatized and
the Soviet
economy. Yeltsin was still a "democrat." So he ruled at times like a
Czar, and violated the most elemental civil rights and liberties. He
still brought freedom and "democracy" to Russia, or rather helped to destroy
"the hell on
earth" that the Soviet Union was,(my reasonable reading of Berger's view of
Soviet history, given what she writes) and which of course is
responsible for
everything that was bad in the Soviet epoch and everything that is bad today

Let me begin by poking some fun at the expense of the
obituary and then make some serious points about Yeltsin, since humor is
a good tool to use against the pompous and bigoted

The obit portrays Yeltsin as an "erratic reformer," who sometimes
"ruled as a Czar" was "crude," heroically defeated a "right-wing
coup" against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991, and became convinced,
after a visit to a Houston supermarket in 1989, that the Soviet
Union's "bloated" inefficient horrible economy and system of centralized
planning was the root of all evil.
Using quotes from Leon Aron's simple to be generous

biography, Berger states that Yeltsin was "overwhelmed at what he saw
at a Houston supermarket, the Kaleidescopic variety of meats and
vegetables available to ordinary Americans." For Yeltsin this was the
turning point, like Paul on the road to Damascus, a conversion that Nikita
Khruschev failed to make in U.S. kitchen in Moscow in 1959, when he was
informed of the superiorities of American consumer capitalism by Richard
aka St. Richard The Expletive Deleted.

Thirty years after the kitchen debate in Moscow, and fifteen years after
his resignation to prevent impeachment, Richard Nixon finally achieved
historical vindication in 1989
Then, as you may remember, Nixon wagged his finger at Khruschev
whose blustering personality might remind some of Yeltsin, and extolled
the glories of "free enterprise"in a model U.S. Kitchen, which was
part of an American exhibit in Moscow, informing Khruschev that his
father was a
humble shopkeeper. Khruscheve replied that "all shopkeepers are thieves."

Nixon used the event as further
evidence that he would "stand up" to the Russians, as he unsuccessfully
tried to
stand up to John F. Kennedy in the Kennedy-Nixon debates(Kennedy and
Khrushev exchanged notes about Nixon's pointing his finger at them to
look good for the cameras at their first Summit meeting).

The obituary extolls Yeltsin for "standing up" to the Soviets and the
Communists(which in the rest of the world would be called betraying his
It hails him for leading the opposition to the 1991
"right-wing coup," a term that he used even though the forces supporting him
would be considered right-wing in the rest of the world.
The coup of course one of the strangest "coups" in history much more
Python than Augusto Pinochet. A group of
Soviet officials, believing apparently that they had Gorbachev's
support, declared martial law. They also sent word, students of the
events have contended,
to Yeltsin that they
would not threaten him(he had earlier issued directives outlawing the
Communist party in the Russian federation and was trying to assume
powers himself as president of the federation). When Gorbachev did not
support his cabinet members' action, they cut his telephone
was not in Moscow at the time) but did not
use force against him or Yeltsin, or the anti-Communist and anti-Soviet
that were proliferating in the final years of the Gorbachev leadership

Real coups are characterized by armed force, the arrest at least if not
execution of political rivals, and the direct use of both the military
and politice power(I am not advocating coups but that is what coups are).
In August of 1991, there were only a few
half-hearted attempts by the officials who declared a national emergency
to call upon troops to support them. There was no coup planning what so
ever because the officials didn't really think that they were launching
a coup. Four people lost their lives in the subsequent fiasco as the
world cheered
for the victory of "democracy."
Many writers today make the point that most Russians stayed at home
during these events in utter confusion and that the great majority of the
crowds who
cheered Yeltsin at his street rallies were members of the criminal
syndicates who were in the process of becoming a major part of the "new
Russian" capitalist class.

In the aftermath of the "coup" that wasn't, Gorbachev returned with
Yeltsin as the strong man. Gorbachev, General Secretary of the CPSU,
signed orders abolishing the CPSU. Although virtually all polls showed
at the
that an overwhelming majority of people in the Soviet republics wanted
the Soviet Union to continue in some form, the leaders of the Soviet
Republics at the end of the year abolished the Soviet Union and replaced
it with an oxymoron called the "Commonwealth of Independant States."
Ms. Berger goes on to say in a grotesque manner that Yetlsin "showed no
reluctance to use the power of the presidency to face down his opponents
as he did in a showdown in 1993 when he ordered tanks to fire upon the
parliament, dominated by openly seditious Communists..."
"Openly seditious Communists" who were fighting what by then was clearly
a corrupt oligarcy. Although Berger goes into these bloody events in greater
detail, "openly seditious Communists" not a variety of Duma members, is what
readers are supposed to come away with. From my reading of events at the
hundreds of people(not from my reading the dozens
she claims) lost their lives in the storming of the State Duma and
those captured, including the late Mike Davidoff, reporter for the PWW,
received brutal treatment as they were compelled to walk through
gauntlets. Davidoff who was in the Duma told me of his experiences and the
psychological and physical brutality used by the Yeltsin military in the
and the attack.

The Clinton administration supported Yeltsin to the hilt and claimed
that these acts were "necessary" to protect "Russian democracy"

Berger then goes on to quote a variety of "post-Soviet" anti-Communist
sources which merely show the depth of the hostility and hatred that the
Soviet Union faced from its capitalist enemies from the 1917 revolution
to the 1991 counter-revolution. That the CIA had advised George Bush I
to continue to support Gorbachev as against Yeltsin whom they regarded
as an unstable alcoholic is not highlighted, although former Secretary
of State
James Baker's generous characterization of him as a "flake" is mentioned.

The misery and suffering of the Soviet people from the 1990s on as the death
rate rose spectactularly and both economic and pyschological depression
became(and for large numbers still is) a way of life is mentioned but,
in the
"capitalist realist tradition," not connected to any analysis.
Berger then recounts Yeltsin's life, portraying him as a "populist,"
the fact that someone of his origin would have much less chance to
advance in
any capitalist country, even if such a person had the intelligence and
that Yeltsin rarely showed. Also, one might add that his free
education and
career were the result of
the Soviet system.

That Yeltsin was brought into the leadership of the Moscow party by
Mikhail Gorbachev as part of Gorbachev's disastrous "Perstroika"
program is mentioned not given the importance that it deserves.

Perestroika, which had many high minded intentions, permitted in reality
black marketeers and corrupt bureaucrats to set up "cooperatives" that
siphoned off resources from the Soviet public economy and created
something like an
economic depression in the Soviet Union.

The economic crisis, which was the result of many factors, including
the longterm negative effects of cold war spending on the capital poor
Soviet Union and the huge global price inflation of the 1970S and 1980s,
encouraged a wide variety of anti-socialist and anti-Soviet political
forces, from ethnic nationalists in the Republics and Russian
chauvinists to "reformers" advocating private ownership of property,
private investments, and stock markets, to flourish.

Along with the economic crisis, a crisis developed in the Soviet
Communist party and Yeltsin turned on his benefactor, Gorbachev, to
become the political shill for these anti-Communist, anti-Soviet forces,
particularly the alliance
of black marketeers and bureaucrats who were expanding their influence
over the crisis ridden Soviet economy and government, establishing
parallel capitalist enterprises, and forming what
were in effect large criminal gangs as they tried to both form a capitalist
exploiting class and lead a counter-revolution.

In 1988, Gorbachev, fighting against both the Yeltsin group and
traditional Marxist-Leninists in the CPSU whom he called
"conservatives," in effect used his power to permit Yeltsin to become
President of the Russian Federation. The choices were Yeltsin or a
traditional Soviet Communist, since the "perestroika" Communist whom
Yeltsin was backing had no chance to win. In effect, Gorbachev, by
failing to act, chose Yeltsin as he in a sense would in 1991.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Yeltsin replaced Gorbachev as
capitalism's man in the Kremlin. The gangsters and bureaucrats whose
was born through
"Perestroika" carried out what was probably the greatest theft in human
history, the privatizing and looting of a socialist Soviet economy which
had risen
from the crippling effects of war and revolution to both survive and
also become a source of both inspiration and practical support for
socialist and anti-imperialist forces through the world. What right did
anyone under any law have to take over the factories and other
enterprises created entirely by socialist labor?

Like Ronald Reagan and George Bush I in the 1980s in Afghanistan, Boris
Yeltsin also
created a Frankenstein monster in the 1990s in Chechnya, a part of the
federation, first by supporting anti-Communist nationalist elements to
overwhelm the local Communist led Soviet and then, when these elements
Russian authority over a strategically important region, launching an
invasion that levelled the regional capital Grozny, and sowed the seeds
for terrorist attacks that continue to this day.

As his government swam in a sea of corruption and chaos, Yeltsin himself
stumbled and fumbled and combined his blustery statements with private
feelings of self-pity, becoming a truly ridiculous character whom it was
difficult to believe had really played such an important and negative
role in history.

Jack F. Matlock, a former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union praised in the
both Gorbachev and Yeltsin, claiming that "they destroyed the most
monstrous political system in the history of the world, a regime with
extensive resources to keep itself in power." In that statement(which
of course includes everything from Caligula to Ghengis Khan to Hitler) he
captures perfectly the hatred and contempt that the capitalist world had
for the Soviet Union and their support for anyone and anything under any
circumstances that would work to destroy it. In that sense, the enemies of
peace and co-existence, the dogmatists and haters, were much more
prevalent on
the "free world" side of what Winston Churchill called the Iron curtain

If you wish to find monuments to Boris Yeltsin, look at the inequality,
poverty, corrupt and feeble government that the former Soviet people
live under.
Clifford Odets, the American playwright and then Communist had a
socialist character in his 1930s play Awake and Sing, say that "you should
fight so that the meaning of life is not written on dollar bills."
Today the lives of former Soviet citizens are expressed in money and what
money buys. This is the legacy of Boris Yeltsin and his friendly
enemy, Mikhail Gorbachev, along with the agressive global policies of
reaction and imperialism that the destruction of the Soviet Union unleashed.

Let me conclude by turning around an old anti-Soviet joke at Boris Yeltsin's
expense. In the
Soviet Union, the joke went, what is the stage between socialism and
Communism? The answer is
For Boris Yeltsin, one might say that alcoholism led directly to freedom,
democracy and "the rule of law"(which if you believe, that, you can
use a drink)

Norman Markowitz

From Working Families e-activist: Tell Congress: Equal Work Deserves Equal Pay

Today is Equal Pay Day. The date—Tuesday, April 24th—symbolizes the fact that on average, a woman must work for a year and four months to earn the same wages as a man receives in a year.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it illegal to pay women less than men for work that is "substantially equal," unless the pay difference is because of legitimate factors such as seniority or experience.

However, 44 years later, the gap still exists. According to recent data, a woman earns an average of 77 cents for every $1 a man earns at an equivalent job. This pay gap adds up: On average, a 25-year-old working woman will lose about $455,000 to unequal pay during her working life.

Tell your senators and representatives to help close the pay gap by supporting two important bills to step up efforts to end wage discrimination:

  • The Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 766 and H.R. 1338), which would provide more effective remedies for victims of wage discrimination on the basis of sex.
  • The Fair Pay Act (S. 1087), which would prohibit sex-based wage discrimination and would address the issue of comparable worth by calling for equal pay for equivalent work.

Over the weekend, Congress came to an agreement on the first federal minimum wage increase in 10 years. But raising the minimum wage isn't the only way to help working people struggling to get by--closing the pay gap would help the growing number of dual-earner families.

Equal pay is not only about basic fairness; it's also about basic family economics. The average U.S. family loses $4,000 a year because of the pay gap. More wives and mothers are working than ever before. (In 2003, both parents were employed in 61 percent of two-parent families with children under age 18.) The earnings of these working women are essential to supporting a family. Pay discrimination hurts husbands and families, too.

Tell your senators and representatives to support the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 766, H.R. 1338) and the Fair Pay Act (S. 1087).

In solidarity,

Working Families e-Activist Network, AFL-CIO

French elections bode bad times ahead

Greetings from France and the first round of the crucial French elections.

The first round ofthe French elections are over.   80% voting.....highest since 1965.....Since 2002, every person turning 18 years old is automatically registered to vote.   Amazing.

With very right wing Sarkozy heading into the 2nd and last round with about 30% and Royal a very right of center Socialist being his opponent, the progressive people of France are very worried about, for example, their world class health system.   Sarkozy has said he will privatize it; and Royal is mostly silent on the matter.

The left will be supporting Royal and Le Pen's 11% voters will be suporting Sarkozy.  But Bayrue, the 2nd right wing candidate, who got about 18%, and, whose voters are right wing socialist and Sarkozy types is holding out any endorsement.    What is feared is that his supporters will move Royal further to the right.

The left's vote is about 12% and added to Royal's vote is about, at the most 40% going in to the 2nd road on May 6th.

The French CP and all other left groups are meeting this week to plan actions and strategies to defeat Sarkozy. 

The French CP got 2% of the vote, their lowest.

As you have read in the newspaper, Sarkozy is an open admirer of Bush and is opposed to lefting the minimum wage.   He is against the 35 hour work week.

Royal supports the 35 hour work week, the current health system, lifting theminimum wage, but the pressure from the right will be great.

May Day is next Tuesday,   the turnout andmilitancy shouldbe very indicitive of the left's mood.

More to come.

Mike Tolochko,   From France, the Southern Part near Narbonne. 

US Rep. Kucinich's Shift Towards Impeachment

US Rep. Kucinich (D-OH) is about to unveil Articles of Impeachment against Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney at a press conference, Tuesday, April 24, 2007. Both Kucinich’s Campaign and Congressional Offices have thus far maintained a veil of secrecy about the rationale for the Articles.

read more | digg story

India Urged to Protect Indiginous People

Thomas Riggins

As the attached press release from Survival International indicates, the Indian bourgeoisie seems more interested in economic exploitation than in the human rights of its indiginous peoples. The Jarawa tribe has lived on the Andaman Islands since pre-Vedic times, i.e., before there was such a nation as "India." You would think that with such a large subcontinent to abuse and exploit, the Indian bourgeoisie could leave an indiginous people on a remote island with a small patch of land in peace. But, as we know, "The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere." If we call on the Indian government to do the right thing as decent human beings acting towards other human beings it is doubtful we will get anywhere. Maybe they can be shamed into action if enough people respond to the plight of the Jarawa.

24 April 2006


Roy Sesana, leader of the Bushman tribes who won a historic court victory against the Botswana government in December, has appealed to the Indian government to protect the Jarawa on the Andaman Islands since pre-Vedic times, since that is before India as such even existed. One would think which such a vast subcontnent to exploit and abuse the Indian bourgeoise could leave a small indigious people a little patch of a remote island on which to live in peace. But no.

Sesana calls on the Indian government to respect the Supreme Court ruling of 2002 which orders the closure of the Andaman
Trunk Road cutting through the Jarawa's land.

'Indigenous people all over the world have been affected by development that governments think is good. The Indian government should respect its honourable court, which has ordered the road to be closed. The Jarawa's spirit is on the land where they stay. Their development is connected with their spirit. Crucial to indigenous people is that others should care about their land, spirit and culture.

'Please, I appeal to the Indian government to listen to the indigenous people in India. In India there are a lot of people with different beliefs that they respect so they should also respect the indigenous people.'

The Botswana government evicted Sesana's people, the Gana and Gwi Bushmen, from their land in 2002, and forced them to live in bleak resettlement camps. The Bushmen took the government to court, and the case became the longest and most expensive in Botswana's history. The Botswana High Court ruled on 13 December that the evictions were 'unlawful and unconstitutional'.

For further information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email

To read this press release online visit

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Tale of Two Elections

Two important national elections were held last weekend in France and Nigeria with very different outcomes. In France the election ran smoothly among the several presidential contenders, resulting in a run off between the center-right and the center-left on May 6th. Voters in France and the world public had a clear idea of the different choices offered by the contending parties, one favoring a pro-business policy and championing the omnipotence of the  market, the other a humane public policy and social concern, (albeit within the framework of the monopoly system).
The outcome in Nigeria, however, was quite different. There press coverage centered on campaign violence and charges of electoral fraud dominated the headlines. , According to the press in Nigeria, corruption has become a festering sore at the center of this great country's body-politic. Whatever issues framed  the debate between the various candidates seemed lost to the overwhelming charge of corruption. Indeed, were there other issues, like jobs, health care, land reform, agricultural policy, trade? What were the political leanings of the different parties and their standard bearers? It's difficult to get a clue from the US and world press.
In France, the issues were clear: immigration, jobs, health care, education. The electoral divide was clearly articulated not only by the candidates but also by the press. However in Nigeria there seems a glaring absence of detail, as if pressing economic concerns of this African giant of 130 million souls, are just not all that important, at least not when compared to the deep going criminality of Nigeria's political and business elite. Here an underlying assumption seems at work. Black folk are criminal. I's obvious. Why talk about anything else?
And what seems true for Nigeria, is true for the rest of Africa and extends to all of African descent. In the minds of the ruling bourgeois elite: a patent criminalization of the African personality is at work. Take the case of South Africa's Jacob Zuma (and other African National Congress politicians.Here too, the main issue as portrayed by the press is corruption with no mention of the political, ideological, and economic divides shaping the coming presidential campaign in 2008, to say nothing of the play of international forces bent on destabilization. Rather, bribery, foreign accounts and other forms of graft are placed as the main issue before the voters.
Which is not to say the corruption is not a major issue, as articulated by the Africans themselves. And yet is one to believe that Nigeria is anymore corrupt than the US, or South Africa, more corrupt than France? Please! Here is where corruption was invented and marketed as world-class export! Just ask Paul Wolfowitz.
It's time to dig deeper. Notwithstanding the recent spate of vile remarks by prominent US broadcast figures, racism is more often conveyed in crafted stereotypes and omissions. The criminalization of the African personality as most recently exemplified by the press handling of the Nigerian election is a case in point.
Joe Sims

Labor law reform is essential to reviving America's beleaguered middle-clas

Pooling resources and banding together with those who share similar beliefs and goals is a basic right that all of use every day.

read more | digg story


Thomas Riggins

Over 5000 people have died in the deserts of the Mexican-US border. NAFTA has resulted in the ruin of 1000s of Mexican peasant farmers who cannot compete with US government subsidized American agriculture. Economic necessity is driving tens of thousands of Mexicans to cross over into territory that was taken from the Mexican people by the US in a war of aggression in the 19th century. The US government is trying to prevent humanitarian aid that will help save people's lives. No More Deaths is an organization that goes out into the desert to rescue stranded people. This group has been targeted by the Bush administration which seems to go out of its way to oppose any group that shows itself to be in favor of simple human decency.
For more information google

Follow Up Info on Peruvian Indians from Survival International


23 April 2006

The president of Perupetro, the government body responsible for granting oil exploration licences, has caused outrage after calling into doubt the existence of uncontacted Indian tribes in the Peruvian Amazon.

The comments come after the Peruvian government recently opened up 70% of its rainforest to oil exploration. Some of this territory is inhabited by uncontacted tribes. A vast amount of evidence for their existence has been collected by Survival, local indigenous organisations and other researchers going back decades, ranging from the testimonies of other Indians to sightings, encounters, photographs, and even reports of violent clashes with loggers and oil workers.

Yet Perupetro's president, Daniel Saba, said during an interview on Peruvian TV, 'It's absurd to say there are uncontacted peoples when no one has seen them. So, who are these uncontacted tribes people are talking about?'

The uncontacted Indians have no immunity to outsiders' diseases because of their isolation from the rest of society and any form of contact, no matter how brief, can be fatal. Following oil exploration on their land in the 1980s, more than 50% of the Nahua tribe died.

Survival's director, Stephen Corry, said today, 'Doubtless Mr Saba would much rather there were no uncontacted Indians in the areas where he wants to explore for oil. Declaring they don't exist at all, however, is a shameful self-fulfilling prophecy. If Perupetro allows companies to go in, it's likely to destroy the Indians completely and then they really won't exist.'


For further information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email
To read this press release online visit

Friday, April 20, 2007

Alberto on C-SPAN

I was fortunate yesterday evening to catch 45 minutes or so of Alberto Gonzalez’s Senate Judiciary Committee Testimony on C-SPAN. During the day, I had tried to tune into the hearings on CNN, but all I got were shots of the diabolical Orrin Hatch and our AG moving their mouths soundlessly, while the CNN reporter declared that Gonzalez was responding to the senators’ questions in a “dogged, lawyerly way.”

I was indeed lucky to come across the hearings again while surfing around before the ball-game, and this time I could actually hear them. The Braves were rained out, so after a good belt of the hearings, I had the further pleasure of seeing two nearly all-white teams, Houston and Cincinnati, going at it in the Republican confines of Marge Schott Field.

But back to the Gonzalez “re-confirmation hearing,” as Arlen Spector described it. Senator Hatch began by saying that he was delighted to still have Gonzalez around after a whole month, given that the predatory Democrats had been howling for his scalp within a week. But even Hatch looked slightly squeamish when he had to listen to the replies that issued forth from the Attorney General’s mouth. In the 45 minutes I listened, he must have said “I don’t recall” at least 10 times.

The eight US Attorneys were fired for blatantly political reasons. They were fired for investigating major corruption cases against top Republican politicians. There’s plenty of “transparency to that,” to use Gonzalez’s phrase.

All in all, it turned out to be a pretty good day. The coup de grace for me was the news that Republican Congressman Doolittle was forced to resign his post on the House Appropriations Committee after his home was raided by the FBI in connection with the Abramoff K-Street scandal. There is poetic justice in the fact that Doolittle represents the town of El Dorado in California.

This is what happens when the US government is run like a US corporation. Being a Republican means never having to say you’re sorry. Just hang on to your golden parachute and jump one-by-one, until November 2008.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Big Pharma Wins in Senate. Consumers Lose.

Republican Senate leaders today blocked a bill that would have allowed Medicare to negotiate with the drug giants for lower prices.

read more | digg story


Thomas Riggins

The Peruvian government is sitting by while illegal loggers are invading parts of the Amazon rain forest supposedly set aside as Indian reserves. In the 1990s two hitherto unknown tribes were “discovered” by loggers cutting down mahogany trees for the US market.

They are the Murunahua and Mashco-Piro people. These people have no immunity to diseases of European origin so, just as in the days of Columbus and Pizarro, 50% of the Murunahua died after the initial contact.

The government set up two reserves in 1997 (on paper) to “protect” the survivors. After the die off, many Indians fled deep into the forest to avoid contact.

The mahogany market is booming (90% of the illegal trade goes to the US). The loggers are invading the Indian reserves and again coming into contact with the surviving Indians (the total for both tribes is about 600 people.)

One expert predicted the Indians would be totally wiped out in ten years if the do nothing Peruvian government doesn’t prevent logging in the reserves.

Its simple. Money vs the lives of these people who have only recently come into contact with our civilization. Who do you think will win-- the Indians or the US lumber market?

Australia: Howard Government faces "climate change" in popularity

The Howard Government remains unwilling to take serious steps to avert global warming, even following the release of another alarming report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

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Americans Sound Off on Global Warming

This past weekend, thousands of people attended more than 1,400 events across the country as part of Step It Up 2007 and related campaigns to address global warming and promote public policies aimed at reversing it.

Protests, vigils, public forums, and congressional office visits highlighted the issue and called on Congress to pass the Safe Climate Act, which would require the reduction of carbon emissions by 80 percent over the next four decades.

The nationwide campaign came just before a special meeting of the UN Security Council, initiated by the British, linking the issues of climate change and collective security.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett told the council that the international community needs to build a shared understanding of the relationship between energy, security, and climate.

The discussion was started just two weeks after the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report detailing the likely devastating impact of global warming.

One of the most important consequences will be access to water. The panel's experts say that drought and water shortages could affect as many as 250 million people.

Massive flooding, meteorological extremes, disease, and consequent social problems were also predicted to worsen over the next few decades.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and shifting to sustainable non-carbon based energy are the first steps needed to combat global warming, say experts.

Bush administration representatives blocked more urgently worded recommendations issued by the UN panel.

Policy changes to reverse global warming have broad public support, according to a recent survey conducted for the Center for American Progress.

More than three-quarters of Americans believe the case is closed and that global warming is real. Six in 10 believe that human actions are at fault and that immediate action must be taken to stop it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Audio: Defense Secretary Gates Contradicts Bush on Iraq Timetable

Defense Secretary Gates Contradicts Bush on Timetables; Ecuador Votes for Socialist Reforms; Northern Ireland Takes Big Steps Toward Peace; Americans Sound Off on Global Warming; Sen. Barack Obama Criticizes Today's Supreme Court Abortion Ruling.

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A Note on "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

David Morgan has a brief review of Ali’s book in the TLS for April 6, 2007.
He thinks it deserves to be read just for her life story. Born in Somalia (1969) Ali was subjected to genital mutilation [Morgan calls it “female circumcision”], ended up living with her family in exile in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya where she was, for a short time, a militant Islamicist. Eventually she fled to Holland to escape an arranged marriage, became politically active and ended up in the Dutch parliament. She is now in the US.

She has abandoned religion and is actively hostile to Islam as she experienced it. Morgan, and others, point out, however, that in her books (earlier she wrote “The Caged Virgin”) she over generalizes her experiences and applies them to the entire Muslim world. It would be as if one were to judge all Christians by how such nominal Christians as Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell act.

She thinks 9/11 was caused “by Islam” and by Islam she means the Wahhabi sect in Saudi Arabia, which the vast majority of the Islamic world rejects as extremist, even if President Bush holds hands with it. Morgan concludes that Ali's book “is so simplistic” that it “will contribute less than it could have towards” educating people about Islam.

Morgan fails to mention that Ali is now a fellow at the discredited American Enterprise Institute which is less a “think tank” (very little real thinking goes on there) than a propaganda tool funded by the most reactionary corporations and political forces in the country.

As long as she is associated with this neocon outfit she will, in my view, lack any moral or political credibility.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Massacre at Virginia Tech And the Necessity for Real National Gun Control Laws

Mass media is telling all Americans and the world about the rampage killing of thirty two students at Virginia Tech by sociopathic student. The statements of university officials, the stories of students who escaped, the anguish and pain of all are being repeated over and over again. Prayers are being offered and the President has just spoken at a convocation.

The "debate over gun control" is being mentioned and there are references to the ease with which guns can be purchased in Virginia, but that is being marginalized as of now in the mass media. And that should be the main question that concerns citizens of the United States, not the failure of "lock down" campus security (a campus is not an airport), whether the young South Korean born student was a "legal immigrant" (he was, having come to and lived in the U.S. since he was eight) or the reasons why committed this act of mass murder, an individual crime against humanity (notes and papers that he left have begun to be analyzed in a speculative way and will be I am sure analyzed ad infinitum in the near future by mass media). The allegation that he took anti-depressant drugs will also no doubt keep the cable networks going for days.

But the ability of anyone in many American states to purchase what are weapons of war--automatic weapons that can fire dozens of rounds of ammunition rapidly, should be the main question. At the very least, if the old and imperfect "fairness doctrine" in media that the Reagan administration destroyed decades ago so that the people could be enlightened by Rush Limbaugh et al, were still in effect, it might get some play. But the Fairness Doctrine under the FCC is long long gone.

More responsible media is beginning to make some points in the gun control issue. Although this has yet to make the New York Times and the Washington Post, much less CNN (it probably will before this blog piece is published). Editor and Publisher is reporting that the shooter bought both of the guns and the ammunition that he used without any serious check in Virginia gun stores. If you don't have a felony record in Virginia and you have the money, buying a "weapon of mass destruction" like a Glock 19 pistol is quick and convenient. The shooter bought his Glock for less than six hundred dollars. And apparently it took him a very short amount of time, shorter than a normal trip to a Supermarket.

The gun storekeeper whose establishment sold it to him (and I am not criticizing him or any individual who sells guns, but the outrageous lack of regulation that the NRA and right-wing politicians preserve and which makes storekeepers pretty much have to sell to anybody to stay in business) mentioned that only a tiny percentage of the huge number of handguns he has sold but that it still "tears him up" when an incident like this happens.

While the media will continue to filter the story through the society, emphasizing the grief and the morning and asking over and over again "experts" on mass murderers, parental anger, grief counseling, private police action or security to interpret the events, I doubt there will be discussions of the U.S. gun laws as against the laws currently in existence in the rest of the developed world. There will be little comparison even of the differences between states like Virginia for example and New Jersey and New York, where there is more substantial regulation of fire arms, and discussions of comparative violent crime rates between the U.S. and other nations.

Such commentary would bring out the NRA and the legions of animal hunters and defenders of the American frontier for whom the Bill of Rights begins and ends with the right of citizens to bear arms. It would be a violation of their "freedom" and a threat to all of us,they like to say even anyone who believes that civilians with guns constitute a protection against a police state and military dictatorship has no real connection with reality.

The more weapons like Glock 19's, automatic assault rifles, and many other weapons of war are simply taken off the mass market, the more the students of Virginia Tech will get some redress for the horror that they faced. The more a system is put into place that limits weapons ownership to people with both a serious need to own weapons and also monitors those people carefully, the more the dead of Virginia tech will have some positive effect on the society.

Citizens have to renew drivers license, the registration of cars, pay fines for minor traffic and other violations, and in much of the United States they can purchase weapons with greater firepower than those used by soldiers in World War II and commit murder. The more Americans understand, as civilized people do throughout the world that there is now civil or human right to possess firearms with the capacity to kill dozens of people in public places, the more the spirit of the U.S. Bill of Rights and the social purposes of the U.S. Constitution (to establish an orderly republican society that would conform to the ideals the ideals of the revolution will be upheld.

Gun control won't end violent crime and sociopathic violence generally, but it will reduce both. It has throughout the world.

Gun control is not sufficient to address the underlying social problems, the poverty most of all, that produce crime generally and violent crime (sociopathetic violence is I think a different and really more complicated story) but it is necessary in a modern civilized society.

Rituals of mourning, while understandable and perhaps necessary, are no substitute for public policy. When they come from the Bush administration, which has made terms like "weapons of mass destruction" into household words a fetish of "security" and a business of supporting the NRA so that "gun shows" are as commercially popular in some circles as auto shows,they and the mass media make such rituals substitutes for both serious thought and action. As in many other areas of life, the United States has diverged in recent decades from other developed societies in regard to both regulation of the economy for what the Constitution referred to as the General Welfare and social protections for the people. The incredible denial by politicians and organizations of the right of the need to seriously regulate firearms, which goes hand in hand with their support for draconian penal codes and prison as the principal solution to all criminal acts, usually produces little horrors in the poor neighborhoods of the United States, whose innocent people are the most common victims of violent crime.

Here it has produced a very big horror to innocent students at an American University. Progressive people should join in this discussion not let the conservative politicians and the media use rituals of morning and words of comfort to get themselves off the hook

--Norman Markowitz


Check out the NY Times Science section 4-17-07 for an article by James Noble Wilford (“Almost Human, and Sometimes Smarter"). The primatologists have a new consensus about chimpanzees-- they have emotions and culture. Here are some highlights of the article:

1. Chimps make spears to hunt other primates (looks like our bad habits
go back away):

2. They use rocks to smash open nuts (the oldest chimp hammers yet found date to 2300 BC):

3. [Here is where they beat humans]-- the numbers 1 thru 9 can be randomly scattered over a computer screen (1, 2, 3, etc.), the Chimp get to look for a split second, the screen goes blank and the chimp can push the number buttons and recreate the random pattern by the numbers in order. This is something humans can’t do! Its is an immediate memory recall after a split second, something humans have lost in our evolutionary development. [I don’t know if Chimps are ready for computers but it must come in handy somehow.]

4. Chimps are caring. A chimp by the name of Knuckles was disabled by cerebral palsy. He had to get by as best he could in his group and, “No fellow chimp was seen to take advantage of his disability.” He was even “gently groomed” by the alpha male. [This also looks like an improvement on us.]

This research is important because the chimps are our nearest surviving relatives (our genome only differs by a little over 1%) so we can learn a lot about ourselves and our ancestors by knowing more about chimps.

The problem is they are on the way out! They are being killed for bush meat (this is quasi-canabalistic), and their habitat is being destroyed. In 1960 there a million chimps living in Africa. Today, there are about 150,000 and they are in decline.

I doubt we can save ourselves if we can’t save our closest relatives and evolutionary cousins

Ecuador Votes for Constitutional Revision

Ecuador has launched a popularly supported constitution revision process that will introduce a number of socialist reforms, reports Agence France-Presse.

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French Presidential Elections: The Left has to Stand Up!

There are are only seven days to the election. Everything is still possible. The network of militants that is spreading out throughout the country can still avoid all the traps and create the conditions of a new hope. So, we say: Stand Up on the Left!

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Gun Violence and Domestic Abuse

In the wake of the tragedy that took the lives of 33 people and brought terror to the Virginia Tech campus, President Bush rushed to politicize the event.

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Georgia: State Rep. Brooks Gets Hateful, Racist Email over Slavery Apology

Georgia State Rep. Tyrone Brooks has requested an investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) over a racist email he received a few weeks ago, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Who's Winning the Money Primary?


A big news story today was who is winning the "money primaries."  For the Democrats, Clinton and Obama are close to neck and neck with the Senator from New York holding a slight lead. On the Republican side, Romney and Giuliani are the two front runners. McCain who many thought would lead the pack seems a disappointment and downright "unpresidential:" at least as far as fundraising goes.

With several candidates in the race even at this early stage, perhaps close to $100 million has already been raised, a figure sure to make the 2008 race the most expensive in history. Also clear is that the frontrunners are the best money can buy.

And through all the sound and fury hailing the fundraising "prowess" of the presidential contenders, a simple question goes simply unanswered? Why does it matter?   What importance does it have on the fitness (another athletic term) or ability of one or another to lead the nation through the country's current crisis?

On the candidate's program: no headlines, (with the exception of John McCain's stupid defense of Bush's stupid Iraq war strategy). On their vision for healthcare no stories top the news wire. With summer on its way and gasoline at again at $3.00 a gallon, no news banners suggest a solution to the energy crisis and oil dependency. Rather what is important is who can raise the big bucks. And most of it – twice as much – from a small group of professional fundraisers as compared to individual contributors.

And the outcome is predictable: the Republicans will raise and spend more than the Democrats, probably by more than a third. And against such odds, the Democrats will raise, have to raise, from wherever and whoever they can. And while labor and "little America" will contribute mightily, the lionshare will come from corporate coffers. And in this historic fight against the extreme right and its mega-bucks one cannot belittle the importance of the Democrat's effort.

Still, the corrupting influence of money cannot be denied. And it is this that is driving the process. The time is long overdue to eliminate private money from electoral politics and for full public financing. Only then will prowess of ideas and program raise the debate into a more meaningful if not rarified air over the rotten stink of the money primary.
Joe Sims

Michael Moore takes emergency workers to Cuba

FILMMAKER Michael Moore has caused a furore by taking ailing Ground Zero emergency workers to Cuba to show the US health-care system is inferior to Fidel Castro's. The trip by his production company was reportedly filmed as part of the director's latest documentary, Sicko.

The film is an attack on US drug companies and private health insurance firms, which Moore hopes to show at Cannes Film Festival next month.

Two years in the making, the flick also takes aim at the shortfall in medical care being provided to people who worked on the toxic World Trade Centre debris pile.

Read the rest

Time Is Right for Universal Health Care

Perhaps some people think the problem is not enough careful tinkering with the system we have. But increasingly, the diagnosis that makes the most sense will focus on the structural failures of the private health insurance industry.

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The German Army After Hitler-- what has it learned?

Not much! I watched the news the other night (April 14) to find the German Army ( part of NATO) when it trains its troops says -- think like you are shooting Blacks in the Bronx. Don't think this is an isolated instance! The Times says we have to improve the picture of the Bronx! I’m sorry-- when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union he said- treat them as Red Indians. Its not the Bronx that has to improve its image. Its the residual Nazism that is still part of the German military, especially in its officer corps.

US Car Industry: One Down, Two To Go?

General Motors, once a global giant and for long the number one company in the world not to mention the undisputed leader of the US is today on a path of steady, some say terminal, decline along with the rest of the US automobile industry.

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IPCC Report: doing nothing is not an option

More canaries are keeling over in the mine shaft. In Germany and the United States, bee populations are declining rapidly.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Beginning of the End

So Bush's surge to make Baghdad peaceful has resulted in the Parliament in the heart of the Green Zone being bombed. Now they can't even protect themseves in their maximun security area. Let's see a year from now, if the Green Zone is overrun with
suicide bombers, where the U.S. generals and Iraqi quislings will be hanging out.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Send a Message to Congress to Stand Up to Bush

Petition from to congressional reps. on standing up to Bush on bringing the troops home:


As your constituent, I'm asking you to stand up to President Bush and not write another blank check for endless war in Iraq. When the president vetoes funding for the troops, he's the only one responsible for blocking the resources they need. Please stand firm—support the troops with a plan to end the war and the funding they need to do it.

Don Imus: Human Sacrifice?

Radio Racist Don Imus has been shot down in flames. Does the mass media get it. If the New York Times is any indication, the answer is no. The Business day section 4-13-07 has an analysis by David Carr "Flying Solo Past the Point of No Return" [the implication that Imus is "solo" when in fact radio racism is entrenched in this country is ludicrous.]
The gist of the article can be found in these two quotes:

""By seeking absolution from people with their own political agenda [Sharpton and Jackson] , Mr. Imus lost custody of his apology."
"Mr. Imus never caught a breath because he was in the middle of a 24-hour news cycle that kept him in the cross hairs. Its the kind of media ceremony that generally ends in a human sacrifice."

Carr doesn't get it. It wasn't Sharpton's political agenda nor the news frenzy that brought Imus down. It wasn't even his racism, which is shared by most radio jocks, it was the outrage of millions of people who wrote letters, sent emails, and made phone calls protesting the racially and sexually vicious remarks that came out of Imus's mouth.

Without this outpouring of the people's rage Imus would still be on the air. I can understand why the mass media wants to play this down. The ruling class fears nothing more that a mass awakening of the people in this country. The left must keep up the struggle and remind everyone that Imus's firing is the beginning not the end of this sordid affair.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Paradox or Dialectical Explanation?

Test your powers of analysis. The Democrats, the mass media reports, don't want to have a presidential hopefuls debate on Fox News because they think Fox is biased. But the Hightower Report, in its current issue, lists the contributions all the major corporations made to the two parties in the 2006 election. Fox gave 55% of its contributions to Democrats! The empirical evidence indicates that Fox is biased-- towards Democrats. Which choice below to you think is correct?

[a] The Hightower Report is a front for Fox News.
[b] Since there is no difference between Dems and Repubs, Fox gave 100% to the imperialists. Fox is happy.
[c] Dems don't want to deal with biased news organizations no matter who they are biased for.
[d] Fox wants to confuse liberals to increase the Green Party vote.
[e] This is a paradox, I can't figure it out!
[f] None of the above. There is a dialectical explanation which I (the reader) will give in the comments section.

Results of First Poll

These results are compiled after's first "virtual town hall," a nationwide online discussion with 7 Democratic candidates (apparently the Republicans who were invited declined to participate).

The topic of the forum was Iraq. The first batch of numbers are the total votes submitted by all MoveOn members. The second batch were submitted only by people who signed up to participate in the forum. Which means that activist liberal voters who heard Edwards and Richardson and Obama generally liked what they heard. And liberal, activist people who actually heard Clinton talk about her positions on Iraq and the issue of timetables, appear to be less supportive than those who did not. (Though at the large meeting I attended, only Clinton and Kucinich received any applause.)

Sen. Barack Obama: 28%
Sen. John Edwards: 25%
Rep. Dennis Kucinich: 17%
Gov. Bill Richardson: 12%
Sen. Hillary Clinton: 11%
Sen. Joe Biden: 6%
Sen. Chris Dodd: 1%

Sen. John Edwards: 25%
Gov. Bill Richardson: 21%
Sen. Barack Obama: 19%
Rep. Dennis Kucinich: 15%
Sen. Joe Biden: 10%
Sen. Hillary Clinton: 7%
Sen. Chris Dodd: 4%

Analysis: My theory is that Clinton's low numbers in this poll indicate her strength as a candidate. Unlike others, she does not feel that she has to do well among the MoveOn crowd, which is perceived as a largely liberal section of Democratic voters. In fact, in her view, a low score here allows her to show centrist voters that she appeals more broadly. And liberal voters will, in the end, poll the lever for her.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

NOW Welcomes Introduction of Comprehensive Hate Crimes Bill

The National Organization for Women welcomed the introduction of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a law that will penalize and help to prevent hate-based violent crimes.

Current federal hate crimes laws limit the definition of hate crimes to those motivated by bias based on race, color, religion or national origin. This law will finally classify as hate crimes certain violent, criminal acts that are motivated by the victim's gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.

NOW President Kim Gandy said, "We know that hate crimes are more than individual assaults -- they send waves of shock and fear throughout an entire community and through segments of our diverse population. Hate violence also sends two messages to the targeted group: 'not knowing your place is dangerous' and 'your kind is not welcome here.'"

Gandy especially applauded the bill for its inclusion of disability, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation among its classification categories.

"This law will help to prosecute, reduce, and hopefully eliminate, such hate-based crimes," she concluded.

--Joel Wendland

Kurt Vonnegut: 1922 ~ 2007 – Author's dark humor captivated generations

By Dinitia Smith
New York Times News Service
Published April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut, whose dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like "Slaughterhouse-Five," "Cat's Cradle" and "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater" caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation, died Wednesday night in New York City. He was 84.

His death was reported by Morgan Entrekin, a longtime family friend, who said Vonnegut suffered brain injuries as a result of a fall several weeks ago.

Vonnegut wrote plays, essays and short fiction. But it was his novels that became classics of the American counterculture, making him a literary idol, particularly to students in the 1960s and '70s.

Like Mark Twain, Vonnegut used humor to tackle the basic questions of human existence: Why are we in this world? Is there a presiding figure to make sense of all this, a god who in the end, despite making people suffer, wishes them well?

Read the full article here

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Audio: Congressional Democrats Up the Ante in Iraq Debate

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) introduced legislation April 11th which would bring US military involvement in Iraq to an end. The bill would require the President to begin redeploying US troops from Iraq 120 days after enactment.

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Democratic Candidates Rip Bush's Threat to Veto Troop Funding

After four years of a war that has cost the lives of more than 3,250 US service members, 40 in the first ten days of this month alone, Perino and the Bush administration can't understand why the American people are fed up and are demanding a new direction on Iraq policy.

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The I Man Cometh, Racism, and Rutgers

Don Imus has made a good living for a long time being a professional ass-hole. Imus's gimmick, similar to his "great competitor" Howard Stern, is to hang out on radio with "street corner punks" who then insult anyone they think they can get away with insulting, particularly women and anyone who appears to be different.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

UN Labor Panel Calls for End to North Carolina Ban on Public Unions

APRIL 3, 2007

In a strongly-worded decision made public today, the International Labour Organization (ILO), an agency of the United Nations, issued an unprecedented call for the United States to "promote the establishment of a collective bargaining framework in the public sector in North Carolina," and called specifically for the repeal of North Carolina General Statute § 95-98, the state law that prohibits public employee collective bargaining.

The ILO finding comes in response to a complaint filed in December 2005 by the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE) and UE Local 150, the North Carolina Public Service Union. In February 2006, UE was joined in its complaint by Public Services International (PSI), a worldwide federation of trade unions representing more than 20 million public sector workers in 160 countries.

The ILO ruling is a major victory for labor and civil rights organizations in North Carolina who have been demanding full collective bargaining rights for public employees. UE Local 150 leaders say they expect the ILO's call for changes in North Carolina labor law to have an immediate impact on the General Assembly, and intend to hand-deliver copies of the ILO decision to the office of each member of the Assembly.

Read the rest

A strong public hospital system and against racism in our country is crucial to the success of any national health legislative proposal

Two articles in the recent issue of American Journal of Public Health, the journal of the 50, 000 member American Public Health Association, highlight the crisis in health care for economically poor people and the national oppressed minorities, in this case Black women.

Public health doctor, Michael Cousineau and medical doctor, Robert E. Tranquada authored a crucial article that highlights the ongoing struggle for public hospitals to survive and grow in this period of privatization of public hospitals and facilities. City-based public hospitals play a crucial role on many fronts. It is widely known and understand that for trauma cases, all trauma cases, the best immediate care is in public hospital emergency rooms. And, it is widely understood that everyone in the United States uses hospitals are their primary doctors, far more than they should, but they are forced to given the office hours of physicians. Well, for people of color, those hospitals are often public hospitals. While non-profit hospital are required to NOT turn away any person in need of medical services, their practice is often not in keeping with these regulations.

LA County hospital, like their counterparts in every City in the United States, are the focus of ongoing struggles by public health care activists, especially those concerned with the civil and health rights of Black, Latin and other minority peoples.

This article documents the 150 years of service to Los Angeles residents. And, given the historic service this hospital has given to immigrants, especially in the current period, the continuation and expansion of this hospital will continue to be a source of attention.

For any national health legislative program to succeed, the public hospital systems, must be there centerpiece, with non-profit hospitals [so-called voluntary hospitals in some areas of the country], adopting the same transparency, pricing and cost structures that the publics have. Non-profit hospitals will need to cease being the cash-cows for the for-profit private interests in health care delivery.

As the authors say, "The success of the new hospital will depend on whether government leaders at all levels provide the reforms needed to help the county and its partners stabilize its funding base." "Crisis and Commitment: 150 Years of Service by Los Angeles Country Public Hospitals," AJPH, April, 2007. Vol. 97. No. 4.

The second article whose senior author is Dr. Yvette C. Cozier, from Boston University, highlights the on-going role that economics plays in determining the health status of people, in this case Black women.

The researchers found that, "The legacy of residential segregation and continued discrimination in housing and lending practices have resulted in significant difference between Black and white communities. For example, studies have shown that at the same level of personal education and income, Black persons have only one tenth the wealth of white persons and are more likely than white counterparts to live in neighborhoods marked by crime, undervalued real estate and poor schools. Our data showed that high proportions of Black women who had completed college or who had family incomes great than $50,000 lived in neighborhoods within the lowest quintile of median housing value. Unfavorable neighborhood factors, including the lack of resources such as full service supermarkets, banks, recreational spaces may serve as a source of stress and overwhelm the otherwise protective effects of individual income, education and health behaviors."

They continue, "Evidence indicates that higher education and income do not translate into the same level of financial and housing opportunity for Blacks as for white; that is, middle-class Black persons are more likely to live in poorer-quality neighborhoods than are their white counterparts and, as a result, remain exposed to the deleterious conditions associated with those neighborhoods. Furthermore, Black women report poorer health, including higher rates of hypertension, than do white women at all levels of income. Therefore, to better understand racial disparities in hypertension and other illnesses, it is important to study the effects of socioeconomic characteristics of the neighborhoods in which these women live."

In other words, the legacy of racism in our country must be attacked with the same vigor that is now taking place to enact a national health system for our country.

This article highlights the plight of Black women and hypertension given on going economic discrimination. "Relation between Neighborhood Median Housing Value and Hypertension Risk Among Black Women in the United States, " AJPH, April, 2007. Vol 97. No. 4.

The tens of thousands of people involved in struggles to save and expand public hospitals, community clinics and other facilities; and the equal numbers fighting against racism in general and in health care in particular need to be part of the struggle for national health care. This will exponentially improve the chances for a universal, system of comprehensive health care for our country.

Phil E. Benjamin