Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tell Congress to Get the Facts Right About Venezuela

From the Venezuela Information Office:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released a statement today that criticized a recent decision by the Venezuelan government not to renew the broadcasting license of RCTV.

We strongly encourage you to email and call Speaker Pelosi to set the record straight. Please contact the following people:

Pelosi's Chief of Staff/Policy Adviser:
Pelosi's Media Staff:

Call Speaker Pelosi at 202-226-7616

When you call or email, feel free to use the following TALKING POINTS:

1. There is no "Suppression of Media in Venezuela," nor was there a "closure" of RCTV. Instead its license to broadcast on the public airwaves was not renewed.

2. The non-renewal of the license prevents RCTV from broadcasting on open access channels, but the station will still be allowed to broadcast in Venezuela through the internet as well as cable and satellite TV. Neither does it affect the possibility of RCTV producing material for domestic or international TV programming. Moreover, RCTV may continue to broadcast using their two radio stations.

3. The non-renewal is due to RCTV's failure to abide by legal norms established by the Venezuelan Constitution and the Law of Social Responsibility for Radio and Television. The law forbids public airwaves licensees from inciting political violence and civil unrest. RCTV's violations involve conspiracy to bring down the elected government of Venezuela during the violent coup of April 2002 as well as the active promotion of an economic sabotage later that year, which cost the country more than US$10 billion in losses. RCTV also has a long list of sanctions imposed by previous governments for reasons ranging from pornography, violations of laws prohibiting publicity of smoking and alcohol drinking to transmissions of false information.

4. The non-renewal of RCTV's broadcasting license is not an example of censorship, nor is it a strike against the private media in Venezuela. RCTV was part of a majority; 79 out of 81 TV stations and all 118 newspapers in the country are privately owned. Most are vehemently opposed to the democratically elected government of President Chavez. RCTV is unique only in its editorial excesses and its history of violating legal norms.

5. RCTV's large share of the open-access airwaves was assigned, upon expiration, to a public broadcaster that is dedicated to presenting programming that features independent operators and producers.


Do your best to personalize your email, and make sure to send it to your Congressional Representatives, as well. To find out who your Representatives are, please go to:

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Bush, Aids and Africa: A Change of Heart?

President George Bush announced in a White House ceremony on Wednesday, an additional US commitment of $30 billion to fight AIDS over the next several years. The promise of desperately needed funds has been widely if cautiously seen as a positive step. AIDS activists, however, have been quick to point out that fully one-third of the current $15 billion program is strictly earmarked for ideologically driven sexual abstinence educational programs. Bush's announcement did not clarify if the same percentage would be tagged on to the new grants.

The HIV/AIDS announcement was the second time in as many days that the Bush administration has made taken a major initiative regarding the African continent. At the start of the week, the president promulgated new sanctions against Sudan. Has Bush had a change of heart regarding people of African descent? Readers might recall that Kayne West, after the Katrina Hurricane, furious with the incompetence and seeming indifference of Bush officials, said, "Bush doesn't care about Black people."

What's going on? Clearly not much in New Orleans. It may be that the timing of the announcement has more to do with upcoming G8 summit in Germany next week. In fact, one news story suggested that the Wednesday press event was crafted to take attention away from the US attempts to water down language on global warming, one of the big topics at the summit. Bush's pro-business intransigence on the subject global warming, in the face of a near-unanimous worldwide consensus, makes one ask, "Does Bush care about people?

That this is not too much of a stretch was born out by an item reported in the DailyKos on the meat industry. Apparently the Bush administration is encouraging the beef industry not to check all cows for mad cow disease. The DailyKos, quoted an AP story that appeared in the International Herald Tribune:

The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease. The Agriculture Department tests less than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows. Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well. The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry.

So, does the Bush administration care about people generally? And if not, then what gives on the new Africa policy? It may be too soon to tell what's behind the AIDS initiative for all lives it may save. One thing is however that lurks behind the kind words and promises may be a new scramble for Africa in general and in particular, competition with China who recently signed new trade agreements with several African countries reportedly worth over $100 billion. Bush plans his own Africa tour in June to several countries marked as recipients for the new decease fighting grants.

In his press statements Bush boast that currently the US has donated the largest monies in the worldwide anti-AIDS fight, prior to the new $30 billion figure. However, when considering the import of this number, one should keep in mind that according to National Priorities project over $275 million are spent each day in Iraq. That's about $1 billion every four days. Every 120 days, the US spends the same amount Bush has now committed to the AIDS pandemic.

--joe sims

Fascist Tricks at CNN? The Racism of Lou Dobbs

Thomas Riggins

CNN likes to call itself "the most trusted name in news." What you call yourself and what you are often turn out to be quite different. Lou Dobbs, a "populist" champion of the angst ridden American middle class is a case in point. But first some comments on fascist disinformation techniques.

An old fascist trick is to rally support for regressive and racist causes by railing against "big government" from a "populist" point of view, pointing out how the middle class is "hurting" and the the interests of ordinary Americans are being ignored, while at the same time scapegoating another class or subgroup in society as being one of the sources of the problems facing "regular" people.

European fascists scapegoated Jews, gypsies, gay people, and foreigners at various times. Today, in the US one of the many groups targeted is likely to be immigrants, legal and/or illegal, (especially those of Mexican descent).

Lou Dobbs of CNN has managed to drive up the ratings of his show ("Lou Dobbs Tonight") by 72% in the last four years by using this tactic. He has even written a book "War on the Middle Class." CBS has gone so far as to hire him as a commentator for its "The Early Show." This means fascist techniques are going main stream.

The New York Times has called Dobbs "arguably this country's foremost populist." "Arguably" is the right word. I would argue no one is a true populist who bases his or her message on lies, slander and racism. This information is available in a Times article by David Leonhardt ("Truth, Fiction And Lou Dodds" in the Business Day section of 5-30-07.)

Here we find out that in 2005 Dobbs supported claims that immigrants had brought diseases to the US. He echoed the charge that there were 7000 cases of leprosy (Hansen's Disease) in the US between 2003 and 2005. This was not true but Dobbs and CNN refuse to retract it. This is in line with his belief that the main enemy of the "middle class" is illegal immigration.

"The invasion of illegal aliens," he said , "is threatening the health of many Americans." The Times reporter checked out the official figures and found out the 7000 cases were the figures for the last 30 not 3 years. This was pointed out to Dobbs. He was, as the Times put it, "flat-out wrong."

The test of a serious commentator or journalist or reporter, as opposed to a racist fear monger using fascist techniques against minority scapegoats, is his or her willingness to admit a mistake and apologize for the misunderstanding.

How did Dobbs do on this test of his integrity? He had presented this false information on his show at least two times. Once in 2005, and again this year when it was challenged. Leonhardt says "he has never acknowledged on the air that his program presented false information twice."

Leonhardt also checked transcripts of his shows and found out that Dobbs "has a somewhat flexible relationship with reality." He claimed "one-third of the inmates in the federal prison system are illegal immigrants." The truth is that its only 6%.

Leonhardt also found out that Dobbs gave airtime "to white supremacy sympathizers." The Times article concludes that Dobbs, with his mixtures of truth and lies, "is the heir to the nativist tradition that has long used fiction and conspiracy theories as weapons against the Irish, the Italians, the Chinese, the Jews and, now, the Mexicans."

Don Imus lost his job for being stupid and insensitive. The racist filth spewed forth by someone like Dobbs is more deadly by far. That CNN and CBS both seek his services should let us know what type of society the corporations are preparing for our future.

Fred Thompson for President? No Sam Waterston for President, Fred Thompson for Best Friend

I thought immediately of that old joke from 1966 when I read that Fred Thompson was running for President. The joke in 1966 was directed against Ronald Reagan and went, "Ronald Reagan for governor? No. Jimmy Stewart for governor, Ronald Reagan for best friend." Even Reagan himself told his conservative backers initially that he didn't know that he would make a good governor because he had never played a governor. Eventually, as Reagan played governor and president, the "joke" turned out to be a pretty grisly one against the American people and the people of the world.

Ronald Reagan was a movie and television actor who became a politician railing against the "political establishment. Fred Thompson was a staff lawyer for the Republicans during the Watergate conspiracy hearings and after a stint as an actor a Senator from Tennessee which was probably a stepping stone to his president gig, where he plays a Southern DA of New York City on the long running "agit prop" (which is what the old anti-left cultural critics would call it because it is based on people making speeches at each other, although not often from a progressive perspective) TV series, Law and Order, which has also had in the contemporary corporate tradition, a number of spinoffs and is called by contemporary critics a "franchise."

Fred Thompson replaced the actress Dianne Wiest who in turn replaced the actor Steven Hill as the New York DA in the series. Steven Hill was in the 1960s replaced by Peter Graves on the Mission Impossible Series and Peter Graves was the brother of James Arness, the star of Gunsmoke, the longest running television series in U.S. history, which Law and Order is now challenging for longevity.

There are important questions that Fred Thompson must answer if one is to take his presidential candidacy seriously. First, why isn't Sam Waterston, the major male lead on Law and Order and a fine actor who has portrayed Abraham Lincoln on television running? Also, since Dennis Weaver, who played Chester on Gunsmoke and later played McCloud, a Western law man working with the NYPD in a 1970s TV series and was also a much better actor than Thompson, what about him. What about Robert Blake, also a much better actor with a much better resume than Thompson who was recently acquitted of murder charges. And finally, what about Steven Hill? Is he always to play second fiddle (I personally thought that he was at least as good an actor as Peter Graves and a much better one than Thompson.

Thompson doesn't look like a president. He looks a little like a scowling Dixiecrat Joe McCarthy and the Republicans are filled with Joe McCarthys in a year when the "liberal candidate" seems to to the bullying authoritarian former Mayor of NY (in a sad reality) Rudy You Know Who. Wouldn't it make more sense if Thompson rand for Mayor of New York, given his present position (which is what, in reality, if there is any reality in all of this).

Thompson is running as a rightwinger which among Republicans is like carrying coal to New Castle. Thompson is running against the immigration bill and has attacked left film-maker Michael Moore's coming documentary, Sicko, about the disaster that is the U.S. health care system, even though Thompson hasn't seen it, and of course, globally,most people know that the system is a disaster and the film is probably the least controversial that Moore has ever made.

So Fred Thompson is running for President and that is really pretty silly. Let me conclude this blog piece by saying something positive about Fred Thompson. He would probably be an improvement over the present President. But, one might also say that about Herbert Hoover, Chester A. Arthur, and even Franklin Pierce.

In any case, the line between fiction and reality in U.S. politics was blurred along time ago. Thompson's campaign is yet another example of Karl Marx famous dictum about history repeating itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

At least Thompson won't be playing Karl Marx in a made for television movie.

--Norman Markowitz

GOP Support for Bush's War Cracking?

The New York Times reports today (May 30) that the approaching elections combined with growing disapproval and anger over Bush's war in Iraq are chilling the warm relations (or, more accurately, the irresponsible congressional Republican's obedience to every Bush policy no matter how bankrupt) between the White House and some GOP members of Congress.

One in particular is Rep. Mark Kirk (IL). Kirk is so worried about the 2008 election and the prospect of losing his job that he went secretly with 10 other Republicans to complain about Bush's stay-the-course Iraq war plans in early May. When the events of the meeting were leaked to the press – by Kirk and others – Karl Rove reportedly sent a nasty message to Kirk and others about naughty members of Congress who refuse to toe the president's line – or at least refuse to be quiet about their discontent.

So far, Kirk's efforts seem to be nothing more than a ploy to appear to differ with Bush on the war, despite 4 long years of supporting and defending every single policy, plan, and SNAFU deployed by the Bush administration. Proof of this: 48 hours after Kirk reportedly gave Bush the what-for, Kirk voted to stay the course by voting no on the House supplemental spending bill that would have tied new funds to a timeline for withdrawal.

Then, when Kirk had the chance to help override the president's veto of that supplemental, he again refused to put his money where his mouth is.

Voters will see this. Even Republican voters are turning against Bush's war policies in droves, according to a recent NY Times/CBS poll. Writes the Times:

Interviews with voters, elected officials and others in Illinois, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania — home to 4 of the 11 Republican congressmen who met with Mr. Bush about the war — suggest that more Republican voters are opposing the war, and that independents who might have voted Republican are moving toward supporting a Democrat.

If Kirk and his friends want to keep their jobs, they'll have to do more than public relations. They'll actually have to vote to end this war.

--Joel Wendland

Iowa Passes Law Protecting LGBT Iowans from Discrimination

Iowa Governor Chet Culver signed a bill last week prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, public accommodations, housing, education and credit practices.

According to the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force (NGLTF),

Iowa is one of four states that passed nondiscrimination bills this year protecting members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Three states (Colorado, Iowa, Oregon) passed sexual orientation and gender identity/expression protections and Vermont passed a gender identity/expression nondiscrimination bill. The Colorado bill is awaiting signature from its governor, who has pledged to sign it.

While this is a big victory for democracy and equality for Iowans, far too few states have such protections. In more than 30 states, it is legal to fire someone simply because they are gay. In more than 40 states it is legal to fire them or refuse to hire them or refuse them promotion on the basis of gender identity.

Civil rights organization are promoting the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) as a federal law to prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

You can write to your member of Congress and Senators asking them to support ENDA using this e-action tool.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Thomas Riggins

The Congress should really gear up impeachment hearings. Reading today's AP reports shows that the president has really lost it. He is quoted as saying only a "handful" of people oppose his war policies and think we should get out of Iraq. He is convinced that the majority of Americans support him. This is dangerous. If he is that disconnected from the polls and mood of the people he can engage in truly irrational actions under the impression that the "American people" are behind him.

Here is the AP lead: "Confronted with strong opposition to his Iraq policies, President George W. Bush decides to interpret public opinion his own way. Actually, he says, people agree with him."

This is taking the maxim of "we make our own reality" too far. With the AP reporting that 55% of the American people want to see some or all of the troops pulled out of Iraq, Bush nevertheless maintains that the majority really wants to see them stay in theater and supports his military policy.

And what do the president's aides say when asked about negative poll numbers? They "say poll questions are asked so many ways that it is impossible to conclude that Americans really want to get out."

The way the Democratic leadership has caved in to Bush they must have arrived at the same conclusion.

The Book Corner; Eric Green, Reporter

The Book Corner


It is time honored tradition for writers; novelists, mystery writers and others, to intertwine significant political overtones into their popular style of writing. For the next period of time, I will be suggesting some books that I've found very entertaining for their stylistic quality and their political consciousness.


I will not be reviewing the books, individually.   I will be giving a context in which the writers projected their works.


Everyone is welcome to suggest their favorite books. 


Here goes:


Anti-War Novel


Kurt Vonnegut's, Slaughter House-Five, Dial Press, 1969.    Vonnegut's recent, untimely death brought this brilliant anti-war book back where it belongs:  at the topic of its genre'.    $14.00.  The fire bombing of Dresden, well over 100,000 died, has been largely forgotten.  This book brings that history event back to where it belongs….at the forefront of peace and anti-war readings. 


Mystery Books


Charles Todd has used the aftermath of the devastating consequences of World War I and the battle of the Somme as the overriding backdrop and story line as each mystery  develops.   Inspector Ian Rutledge is a survivor of the Somme.   I've read:

Watchers of Time;  Legacy of Death; the Murder Stone;  A Cold Treachery; and, the Long Shadow.  These Bantam books are all priced at a low $6.95. The size of the book is also a real old style pocketbook.  Each book is around 400 pages. 


The Marseilles Trilogy is the product of a brilliant mystery writer, Jean-Claude Izzo.   Izzo seems to have lead the raucous, demanding life of his main character.  He died a couple of years ago at the age of 55.  The titles of the books are:  Total Chaos1995;  Chourmo  1996;  Solea  1999.   Izzo gives the reader an in depth description of the great city of Marseilles, France.  Its French and immigrant history.  Its great working class and left wing history which now has been politically captured by the right wing.   Izzo's lead character, Fabio Montale's history of political activism takes the reader through a unique view of this great city.   Each book is 250 pages and priced at 14.95.  The publisher is Europa Editions.   The French books were translated by Howard Curtis.



Ramparts Street, David Fuller.   Ever wondered what New Orleans was like on and around 1900?   Patterns of immigration, etc?   Fuller gives you that picture through his lead character, Valentin St. Cyr.  This is Harvest Book/Harcourt, 339 pages at $14.00. 


Swedish mystery writers have become very popular.   Kjell Erickson's, The Princess of Burundi is an old fashion mystery in the tradition of Henny Mankell and Maj Sjowall/Per Wahloo.  This was translated from the original Swedish by Ebba Segerberg.

The reader gets a unique insight into Swedish life.  Thomas Dunne Books.  310 pages,  $12.95. 


Eric Green, Reporter

Bush Isolated on Sudan Sanctions

Today (May 29), President George Bush announced sanctions against over 30 Sudanese corporations and three individuals. The announcement came after Sudan's President Bashir over the weekend expressed reservations about a hybrid UN peace-keeping mission approved by the Security Council on Friday. Sudan has insisted on a force comprised only of troops from the African continent. News reports indicate that the US is working along with arch ally Great Britain in drafting sanction language. Forbes reports that the European Union is "open" to sanctions. However, according to Reuters, Russia and South Africa and other Security Council members have strong reservations. A Novosti news headline in an otherwise neutral article emphasized the unilateral character of the Bush move. According to Reuters, South Africa's UN representative

"… urged patience and asked what the strategy would be if sanctions were applied. 'Right now the surprising thing was that we were thinking the government of Sudan was now beginning to take the right actions and agree to what we were going to do,' he said. 'It's not clear which way we are going'."

Regional powers in the Middle East today also expressed differences with sanctions with the Arab League and Egypt indicating opposition. A story in a leader of the Arab League warned.

"Sanctions will only serve to increase tensions and will not lead to any solution for the complicated problems of Darfur," Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa said.

Bush's announcement came after a month-long postponement of actions at the request of the UN secretary-general Ki-moon to step up diplomatic and political initiatives, initiatives that seemed to have been working. Apparently the critical question now is the composition of the new "heavy" peace-keeping mission. Sudanese opposition to non-African forces joining the mission seems widely understood on the continent because of fears of opening the door to Western military intervention.

China remains strongly opposed to the sanctions. Its newly appointed representative for Darfur, just returned from the region argued against sanctions arguing that investment was key to solving the country's wars and others problems. The ambassador said he saw no hunger in Darfur and went on to say he was "thanked" by people of Darfur for its economic projects in the Sudan. Sudanese critics on the other hand counter that only people benefiting from such investment are Bashir's ruling clique and their bank accounts.

This opinion is held by Communists and others on the left in the Sudan who argue that Beijing only uses its own labor at its Sudanese projects. Sudanese unemployed are left out, they argue. Sudan has unemployment rate of 27 percent. In general the Communist Party of Sudan and others on the left favor divestment and other economic pressure against the Bashir regime.

--joe sims

Monday, May 28, 2007

A verse for Memorial Day

If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.
– Rudyard Kipling

The Price of Peas and Soldiers in Pakistan

A recent news blip about the "war against terrorism" in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area deserves some mention on our blog (it was front page in the NY Times and even the source of a segment on Wyatt Cooper's Primetime CNN news show, but was not connected to anything of importance and then dropped).

The U.S. government, on top of its other extensive aid to the Pakistani military dictatorship, is giving the Pakistani military an extra one billion annually as "compensation" for its campaigns against Taliban forces using Pakistani territory as a base to attack Afghanistan (in the 1980s, of course, this region was the center for multi-billion US-Pakistani actions directed largely by the CIA to train, arm, and protect, right-wing Afghans to attack the Soviet supported Communist government in Afghanistan). Out of those "successful" actions both the Taliban and Al Qaeda eventually came.

Today the actions however aren't so "successful." The Pakistani military seems to be looking the other way where Taliban activity is involved. Also, sections of Pakistani Intelligence particularly, who were backers of these right-wing elements a generation ago, along with the military, may still be on their side.

Some believe that the Musharaf dictatorship is running an old-fashioned scam on the U.S. government, launching some high profile attacks and arrests to keep the money flowing while it does nothing most of the time except hope that it can keep on spending its ill gotten gains.

Some, including prominent Democrats, have even suggested that the Bush administration hold the Pakistanis accountable--have some "pay for performance" standard that connects the payments to Pakistani military achievements, a sort of "merit pay" system based on body counts that the Bush administration has rejected,even though it, in the tradition of conservative "free market" economists, enthusiastically supports "incentive pay" systems for public and private sector workers and has fought to institute such programs against trade union opposition through the country.

Economists sometimes use the term "the price of peas in Pakistan" to get students to think about economic interrelatedness. Perhaps we can use the "price of counter-insurgents in Pakistan" to deal with the question of political-economic interrelatedness on Memorial Day, 2007.

A "war against terrorism" is essentially a permanent and endless war in which Memorial Day will be every day as it has been in Iraq unless the political economic questions that led to the conflicts are addressed.

The Pakistani government is an enemy of India, the orchestrator of a "terrorist" campaign in Indian Kashmir for over half a century, an Islamic clerical state that along with Saudi Arabia was one of the only states on earth which recognized the Taliban regime at the time of the September 11 attacks.

It was an "ally" of the U.S. ruling class for over forty years in the cold war against Soviet, Communist, left, and non-aligned states and forces in Southern and Western Asia. While it continues to receive large quantities of U.S. aid, it is no ally today of even the U.S. ruling class, but a state whose regional ambitions foster terrorism while it seeks to survive by placating both the U.S. government and the extensive and powerful right-wing clerical elements within its ranks.

It also continues to receive "aid" from Saudi Arabian sources to develop "religious education," i.e., fundamentalist primary schools that serve as recruitment centers for groups that carry out terrorist activities internationally. That the Bush administration dares to give substantial economic and military aid to such a regime is an example of its arrogance and its belief that it can do anything it wants and get away with it.

If the U.S. has an ally in this region in "the war against terrorism"it is India, which has been and is a major target of terrorist attacks. If the U.S. has a democratic ally in this region, it is India, which has free elections, an independent judiciary, and no history of military dictatorship beyond a very short "state of emergency" period in the 1970s under Indira Gandhi which she ended (none of the Pakistani military dictators who have been in power most of the time since the 1950s voluntarily gave up power and at present the leading jurist in Pakistan, seeking to limit the power of the present military dictator, is facing trial and imprisonment on what most Pakistanis and virtually all international observers know are crude trumped up charges) qualifies it to be considered the largest liberal democracy on earth.

The Bush administration's "special relationship" with both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia while it spends hundreds of billions of dollars in the "war against terrorism" is a stark example of its "Wag The Dog" foreign policy. It, this memorial day, is another reason why we should all commit ourselves to making 2008 Memorial Day, the last memorial day of right-wing Republican rule, so as, to paraphrase Woodrow Wilson's WWI slogan, to make our country and "the world safe for democracy."

--Norman Markowitz

Globalization and Democracy: Some Basics

The goal of the transnational corporation is to become truly transnational, poised above the sovereign power of any particular nation, while being served by the sovereign powers of all nations.

read more | digg story

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Was the Iraq War Supplemental a Bribe? Could it Leverage a Better Congressional Agenda?

The bill that provided about $100 billion in new war funding passed with bipartisan majorities last Thursday and included the following non war-related things:

1. A minimum wage increase from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over two years - a long overdue raise for millions of working families.
2. Provides long overdue assistance to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita victims.
3. Boosts veterans' and troops health care and benefits programs by nearly $5 billion.
4. Establishes some lobbying and campaign finance disclosure reform.
5. Provides $393 million for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP)

In the spirit of compromise, and to help get funding for the war, Republicans voted for things they, on the whole, have never supported.

So some questions: Are these important items just a ruling-class bribe for the people to accept the war that nearly 7 in 10 of us oppose and which is killing thousands every month? Or, are Democrats using a situation they cannot yet win to leverage domestic gains from an obstinate president and the shamefully docile Republicans who otherwise would refuse to accept?

Either way, should Congress use this leverage to continue to strong arm Republicans into voting for things like the Employee Free Choice Act, new health care programs and funding, better Medicare and Social Security benefits, lower student loan interest rates, Rx drug re-importation, stronger global warming protections and better CAFE standards, the Employment Non-discrimination Act, anti-hate crimes legislation, the Equal Rights Amendment, real funding for public education and reversal of anti-schools provisions in the so-called No Child Left Behind Act, and so on?

Just how far will Bush and the Republicans go to keep their war on?

Some people might say that I may be suggesting using an imperialist war to win gains (or bribe) the working class.

There is another way to look at it, however.

Can the Democrats use a progressive agenda to leverage an end to the war? The Republicans might not help end the war to save lives, but they might bring it to a screeching halt if they think a think their tax cuts are on the line. Let me know.

--Joel Wendland

Recent Info on the Terrorist Luis Posada Carriles

Here is a recent post at The Cuban Triangle that discusses and links to some of the international discussion on the freeing of terrorist Luis Posada Carriles by a US immigration court earlier this month.

It appears that international organizations continue to be hesitant to criticize the US directly for clear violations of international agreements -- harboring a known terrorist -- and for the obvious hypocrisy.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Milk, Oil and Corporate Profits

Yesterday, I bought a quart of milk at a neighborhood store: cost $1.33. Last week it was 99 cents – it's been 99 cents for a while. I said to the store manager, "Damn, the price of milk sure went up." "Yeah," he said emphatically.

Today's news report's a worldwide milk price increase. The increased costs being fueled in part, according to bourgeois economists by an end to farmer price subsidies, low supply, and growing demand from India and China. At least, that's one rationale. Another is ethanol. According to a Daily News story, hybrid fuels t are the culprit:

"Economists say the situation is fueled in part by the demand for clean-burning ethanol, which is made from corn, the primary feed for dairy cattle. When farmers feed their cows less corn, milk production falls."- We are putting food in our gas tanks instead of our kids."

However the Akron Beacon Journal, says it's not the cows, fault:

''We will see some rationing in the months ahead because you can't make the cow make more milk,'' said Ken Bailey, an associate professor at Pennsylvania State University who studies dairy markets."

Why blame the cows? What about corporate profits. Speaking of which, dairy farmers, were among those that gained from recently approved war spending bill according to an AP story:

"Dairy farmers have won an extension of a program that helps producers with a partial subsidy when milk prices drop below a certain level.The extension of the Milk Income Loss Contract program is included in the Iraq spending bill that was passed by the House and then also passed by the Senate."

The subsidies will be extended for one month. It's unclear whether this will help small farmers or the big agribusiness corporations. In any event it's doubtful it will impact the price paid by the everyday consumer, prices that are expected to rise at least through October, along with price of gas.

Indeed that's the other big economic story as summer approaches. With gas at $3.14 a gallon, the gas price have equaled their highest ever rise. Now wonder, the country is fed up with Bush's policies. Nearly two-thirds, according to today's Times are opposed to the war. And that along with only 25 percent of the people believing the US is going in the right direction according to last week's AP-Ipsos poll.

It looks likes it's gonna be a long hot expensive summer of discontent.
--joe sims

Venezuela's RCTV has Long Record of Law-breaking

A lot of organizations and politicians have criticized Venezuela for refusing to renew the broadcasting license of Radio Caracas Television, or RCTV.

In a press release today, the Washington-based Venezuela Information Office says the history of RCTV should be considered by Venezuela's critics:

RCTV's history of noncompliance with federal broadcasting guidelines that predate the Chavez administration. Since 1976, RCTV has been fined or temporarily closed six times, including for airing pornographic scenes, cigarette advertisements, sensationalist programming, and tendentious news coverage. Additionally, in 2002 RCTV aired programming calling on the public to take to the streets and overthrow the democratically elected president, a feat that would surely be punished by jail time and charges of treason if tried in the U.S. Yet, the station has been allowed to continue broadcasting to this day.

Venezuela's National Telecommunications Commission, which operates exactly like the US FCC, ruled that RCTV's long history of unlawful acts warranted the decision to refuse to renew the license. Venezuela's Supreme Court upheld the decision.

Olivia Goumbri, Executive Director of the Venezuela Information Office, stated that,

In the U.S. the FCC has shut down TV stations for far less. In this case though, the expiration of RCTV’s contract is an opportunity for the government to reconsider its 20 year old license, and whether or not a station which has violated broadcasting regulations and the law to such an extreme extent should have its license renewed.

RCTV will be able continue to transmit via cable and satellite. And despite the claims of those who hate the Venezuelan government, the vast majority of Venezuela's media remain in private hands, most of which oppose the policies of the government.

In a hypothetical comparison: imagine how the conservatives would howl if the New York Times called for the violent overthrow of the Bush regime and applauded his kidnapping and possible execution.

In a realistic comparison: Do you remember when right-wing pundits and politicians accused the New York Times of treason for doing little more than publishing stories with classified information purposely leaked to the press? What happens to people convicted of treason?

The point is that RCTV's record as a scofflaw and as an inciter of violence is clear. Let's not let political biases cover for phony claims of the abuse of a free press.

--Joel Wendland

Americans Turning Against War in Droves – Pay Attention Congress

The New York Times reported today that public opposition to the war is stronger than ever. Citing a New York Times/CBS news poll, the Times writes:

Sixty-one percent of Americans say the United States should have stayed out of Iraq and 76 percent say things are going badly there.

Domestically, the picture is grim for the Bushies and the powerful:

More Americans — 72 percent — now say that “generally things in the country are seriously off on the wrong track” than at any other time since the Times/CBS News poll began asking the question in 1983.

Bush's three-month surge isn't working either:

A majority, 76 percent, including 51 percent of Republicans, say additional troops sent to Iraq this year by Mr. Bush either have had no impact or are making things worse.

And with Bush's promise of even more bloodshed this summer, public opinion isn't likely to swing back into his favor or that of those who continue to support him in Congress.

And the big story – buried, of course:

Most Americans support a timetable for withdrawal. Sixty-three percent say the United States should set a date for withdrawing troops from Iraq sometime in 2008.

Have to told your member of Congress to set a date to bring the troops home? Use this e-action item to do so.

"Surge" Fails as Violence in Iraq Continues to Rise

Yesterday, President Bush promised a bloody summer. "It could be a bloody, it could be a very difficult August. We can expect more American and Iraqi casualties," he told reporters.

But already three months after the launch of his "surge," violence is on the rise. May has been the eighth deadliest month of the 50-month war, and we have a week to go.

The Washington Post reports that sectarian killings are on the rise. According to Iraqi Health Ministry information, hundreds of murdered bodies are discovered each month around the city of Baghdad. Meanwhile car bombings have also increased.

How many people are going to have to die before Bush's farcical logic of "stay the course" and "the surge will fail before it succeeds" is put to an end?

--Joel Wendland

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Two Cheers For the Minimum Wage Increase

The House has just voted overwhelmingly to raise the federal minimum wage standard (the lowest level acceptable) from $5.15 to $7.25. While it is good that the Republicans are now out of power and the prattling "free market economists" are not around muttering about "sub-minimum wages" for youth and others and in general denouncing the very concept of a minimum wage as counterproductive to "economic growth," this increase raises the minimum wage to about half of what a really living minimum wage would be in the U.S. (around $15.00 a hour, given the cost of utilities and food throughout the country, housing in major regions, and the crippling consumer debt that afflicts much of the wage and salary workers of the country).

We should remember that minimum wages for frozen for twelve years under Reagan and Bush I. They rose modestly in the first half of the Clinton administration and were then frozen again after 1997--meaning that minimum wages have been frozen for twenty-two of the last twenty-six years.

Low minimum wages have facilitated the export of industry from the industrial states to the relatively cheap labor anti-union shop states of the country and encouraged the flight of capital out of the U.S. to even cheaper labor.

Interestingly enough, real wages and real living standards showed modest but significant advances in the late 1990s when minimum wages were raised, not during the period under Reagan and Bush I, before of the period under Bush II after when they were frozen.

David Obey, a leading House Democrat, said after the vote today that minimum wages were "unconscionably frozen" for a decade. He might have added that they remain unconscionably low even with the increase. The increase should be seen as a modest beginning. American Labor still has a great deal of catching up to

--Norman Markowitz

Sen. Schumer Announces "No Confidence" Vote on AG Gonzales

The vote will take place in June and the text of the resolution reads thus:

"Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled: It is the sense of the Senate that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales no longer holds the confidence of the Senate and the American people."

Childhood Origins of Adult Resistance to Marxism

Why is it so difficult to build a Marxist mass movement in the US? There are Marxist movements of considerable size, in comparison to the US, both in many Third World nations and in countries more advanced than the US.

read more | digg story

US Tried to Assassinate Iraqi Cleric 2 Years Ago

Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad reported today for the British Independent that the US military tried to kill or capture Iraqi cleric and political leader Muqtada AL-Sadr when it attacked the city of Najaf two years ago.

Apparently, al-Sadr's Medhi militia was fighting US forces in August 2004 to a standstill, when a mediator (Dr Mowaffaq Rubai'e – now Iraq national security adviser and "closely associated with the American authorities in Baghdad") was sent in to end the fighting. Al-Sadr signed an agreement with Rubai'e to end the fighting in exchange for respecting Najaf's holy sites.

The representative returned to Baghdad to show the agreement to Iraqi authorities. But on his return to Najaf, Rubai'e found US forces poised to make a different deal with al-Sadr. Here's how Cockburn reports it based on his interview with Rubai'e:

It was agreed that the last meeting would take place in the house in Najaf of Muqtada's father Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr who had been murdered by Saddam's gunmen with two of his sons five years before. Dr Rubai'e and other mediators started for the house. As they did so they saw the US Marines open up an intense bombardment of the house and US Special Forces also heading for it. But the attack was a few minutes premature. Mr Sadr was not yet in the house and managed to escape.

Muqtada al-Sadr's movement went on to stand candidates in the 2005 national assembly elections in Iraq, winning 32 seats. Those candidates joined the current government after its ascension to power, but recently withdrew support for it.

McDonald's: Class Struggle and the Battle of Ideas

If anyone ever doubted there was an ideological struggle, a battle of ideas afoot in the world today, a story in this morning's news might give them reason for pause. McDonalds's corporation apparently has launched a new campaign directed at the folks who produce the Oxford dictionary to get them to change the definition of the word McJob.

"McJob" is defined as a low-paying menial job with no opportunities. In the minds of the corporate think modifiers, there is an unfair and patently wrong meaning attached to the dignified and opportunity filled enterprise brimming experience that flipping burgers at McDonalds actually is. That the burger and fry transnational is a union busting, minimum wage paying, and no benefits providing enterprise is apparently lost on company executives.

McDonald's concern apparently run's deep, as this is not the first time they have challenged the definition of McJob. In 2003 they attempted to get Merriam-Webster to do the same thing and even threatened to sue, because McJob is similar to MCJOBS, a training program for the disabled and mentally challenged.

Then according to a CNN story, McDonald's spokespersons said the definition was a "slap in the face" to the 12 million employees who work in the restaurant industry. It seems this face slapping has been occurring for about 15 years when dictionaries first began using the term. McJob is similarly defined by Webster's, American Heritage dictionary and Oxford according to the 2003 CNN report. At that time Merriam-Webster decided to stand firm. CNN reported:

"For more that 17 years 'McJob' has been used as we are defining it in a broad range of publications," the company said, citing everything from The New York Times and Rolling Stone to newspapers in South Africa and Australia.

The widespread common usage and definition of McJob is a class phenomenon and is good example of how working-class life and experience influences mass consciousness. Clearly this is no small matter as McDonald's campaign suggests. Why do they care? Why does McJob leave a bad taste in big business's mouth? Concern for employee morale? Hey, give them a raise. Let a union be formed. No, the problem is brand name and image: both mean money, and the struggle over it is a matter of corporate profits. The class struggle and the battle of ideas: you couldn't get a better example of it.

--joe sims

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Restore Freedom to Travel to Cuba

Republicans love to hate Michael Moore. But what do Republicans have in common with him?

They can't go to Cuba unless the government gives them permission. And if they decide to exercise this basic human right, they get investigated and harassed. Try it sometime.

Fortunately their is a congressional effort to end the ban on travel to Cuba.

109 members of the House and 21 members of the Senate have co-sponsored H.R. 654 a bipartisan bill to overturn the ban on travel to Cuba.

If you haven't sent your message to your Representative or Senators yet, you can do so here.

Teamster's Hoffa sees Change in China

As US China trade talks occurred in Washington, James Hoffa president of the Teamsters is paying a visit to China to meet with trade union counterparts. In a National Public Radio interview Hoffa who had just returned from a visit to the Forbidden City, had positive things to say about his visit. When asked by the interviewer if China "state-run" unions really represented the workers, the Teamsters president pointed to the unionization of Wal Mart and other companies as signs of progress. He indicated further that in bilateral talks they encouraged Chinese workers to organize state companies in addition. When prodded about whether Chinese workers were truly fighting for workers interests by winning back jobs, and engaging in collective bargaining, Hoffa stated that they were "surprised" by the progress achieved pointed to the great strides in the "standard of living. "So maybe they are finally having an effect" he said. Hoffa expressed hoped that an increase in the wage scale of Chinese workers would make for less competition with US workers for jobs by reducing the export of labor.

According to the Teamsters website, Hoffa is leading a Change to Win delegation. Hong Kong was

"the first stop by a Change to Win fact-finding delegation to China. Hoffa is leading the delegation, which includes International Vice President and Port Director Chuck Mack, International Vice President John Coli, Change to Win Secretary-Treasurer Edgar Romney and representatives from SEIU. Change to Win Chair Anna Burger and SEIU President Andy Stern will join the delegation in Beijing.

After Hong Kong the delegation continued to the mainland:

In Shanghai, the delegation toured facilities and met with officials from Meridian, a subsidiary of Yellow Roadway Systems, the Teamster's second largest employer. The delegation will also tour the Shanghai deepwater port and meet with representatives from local representatives of the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU). ACFTU is the only trade union in China and has had recent success in organizing Wal-Mart.

Opinions it seems are changing.
joe sims

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Of Jerry Falwell, Religious Conversion and the School of Life

As thousands of people gather for Rev. Jerry Falwell's funeral this morning, I spoke with my mom about the ongoing legacy of his Liberty University. Recalling Newt Gingrich's recent claim that Falwell has "planted 120,000 seeds of Christianity" in the form of Liberty graduates, I said, "That guy has built a factory to manufacture their hatred." Mom replied, "Oh I wouldn't worry too much. The school of life will teach those students another kind of lesson. Just wait until they get out into the world."

I was not relieved and plagued by the thought of 120,000 Falwell zealots, I said, "Ma you can put your head in sand if you want to but those right wingers have got plans." She replied, "Well, I've lived a lot longer than you have and I'm telling you it's not a big as a problem as it might seem."

A story today in C-Ville, Charlotte's on-line weekly, suggests Mom may have been right. In an article entitled, "Not Much Liberty at Falwell School, the author, Jayson Whitehead, a Liberty graduate describes the educational straight jacket of the school's rules and curriculum, a straight jacket that turned many students off. According to Whitehead, cursing, watching R-rated movies, and drinking beer were prohibited by university authorities, and risked expulsion. Apparently Liberty provided another kind of education. It seems even before going out into the world, at least a few of in the student body got rubbed the wrong way.

Life too had similar effect. One big complaint was the politicizing of religion. Writes Whitehead:

"After I left Liberty, I continued to loosely follow Falwell's actions over the years. Despite his obvious flaws, he was definitely a man who hewed to his own beliefs, even though it was quite unpopular at times. Were it not for the last few years, I would have retained respect for the Reverend but his repeated and pronounced avocation from the pulpit for the Republican Party and their policies was dismaying, as support for any political body, let alone the one we've had in recent years, seems to fly in the face of the teachings of a guy named Jesus."

Thinking over Mom's more seasoned (she'll be 86 in a few weeks, bless her heart), view, it's likely that most Liberty students are not right-wing ideologues, but working-class youth simply seeking a better life. I'm sure that many too who are of religious bent see through the Reverend's shallow politics. Perhaps, their experiences will make them fertile seeds for a different kind of conversion, a conversion inspired by the school of life. Thanks Mom!

joe sims

Is Bush Preparing to Assume Dictatorial Powers?

The Progressive editor Matthew Rothschild reports that in Bush's new National Security Directive, he has created a plan whereby he would assume control of the entire federal government in the event of a "catastrophic emergency."

Rothschild quotes the NSD as defining a catastrophic emergency as "any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government function."

The author goes on to suggest that this might mean that another 9/11 or Katrina or other natural disaster could lead to Bush assuming this power unilaterally.

The report essentially dismisses the role of the other branches of government – pretty much as the administration did in its first six years – and locates these emergency power solely in the president's hands.

It even hints that Bush would have power to designate his successors, dispensing with elections, to "provide for orderly succession" and "appropriate transition of leadership."

Read the entire article here.

--Joel Wendland

Monday, May 21, 2007

British Troops Get to Come Home; Why Not US troops?

Despite the British government's repeated protests against rumors of slipping support for Bush's war in Iraq, British military presence in Iraq is dwindling.

According to an Agence France-Presse report last week, the British government will further reduce its troop levels in Iraq once presumptive prime minister-to-be Gordon Brown takes over for the resigning Tony Blair.

The story quoted both Brown and Blair as emphasizing that British friendship with the US remains strong, but neither politician was quoted as denying that British troop levels would fall further than already planned.

The British government has already announced a more than 20% reduction in its force levels in 2007, down close to 80% from the 45,000 troops used during the invasion in 2003. (By comparison, US troop levels are at more than half the troop levels used during the invasion.)

While the Bush administration has pretended that the British withdrawal is based on British successes in its main area of operations in southern Iraq around Basra, Middle East expert Juan Cole says the truth is the opposite.

"In reality," wrote Cole back in February, "southern Iraq is a quagmire that has defeated all British efforts to impose order, and Blair was pressed by his military commanders to get out altogether -- and quickly."

(Interestingly, the White House hasn't accused the British of "cut and run" or "defeatism" or "setting a timetable for defeat" or allowing the "enemy" to simply wait for them to leave before turning the region into chaos. It appears to be already pretty chaotic.)

As further evidence of the reality in southern Iraq, AFP reports that the British are holding secret negotiations with non-Al-Qaeda insurgents before leaving. Apparently the plan is to give them incentive to oppose Al-Qaeda's influence in the region, probably with power sharing proposals and bribes.

In addition, growing opposition to the war and demands for troop withdrawal among the British people, which is in essence the main factor behind Blair's early retirement and growing Labor Party losses at the polls, is also playing a major role in forcing the early exit.

Gordon Brown is holding his cards close to his vest on the troop withdrawal issue, probably because he wants to avoid any intervention from Bush prior to his ascension to prime minister. To be sure, Brown will speed up British withdrawal from Iraq – if he wants to keep his job long.

Good news for Bush is that Japan's ruling right-wing parties are pushing hard to keep a contingent of Japan's self-defense forces in Iraq for at least another two years – over the objections of Japan's Democratic, Social Democratic, and Communist Parties about the legality of the move.

Unfortunately for Bush's stay-the-course plan, the Japanese SDF contingent is non-combat and number only in the hundreds. In fact, Japanese law is so stringent about deploying SDF troops abroad and their involvement in combat that SDF troops are protected by US troops in Iraq. Though Japan's air force contingent appears to be illegally supporting some combat operations.

While Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has the votes he needs to pass the measure, Japanese Constitutional law still forbids combat action. A large and influential peace movement in Japan will also likely hinder Abe from going much further. His political opponents have accused him of trying to revitalize Japan's military prowess through its support for Bush's Middle East agenda.

While it has become painfully clear to most rational observers that politics rather than combat is the only way to resolve the quagmire in Iraq, Abe is using Bush's stubborn refusal to accept reality as a vehicle for dissolving Article 9 of Japan's Constitution, which forbids involvement in foreign wars, and for taking steps to boost Japan's military might and influence.

Abe and his ruling coalition believe Japan has an interest in checking China's growing economic and political influence in East Asia. Strengthening its military support for the US may cut both ways, as a recent article in The Guardian (Australia) opines. In fact, Japan, the US, and Australia, which under Conservative Party Prime Minister John Howard is also one of the last staunch supporters of Bush's occupation of Iraq, are seeking military and economic alliances against China.

--Joel Wendland

Health Policy; Phil E. Benjamin, Health Editor

Broaden our Movement


Dare to Struggle;  Dare to Win




We don't have to repeat the myriads of personal disasters;  medical outrages [100,000 dead each year due to mistakes];  and economic reality that has the US spending more on per capita health than other nations:   $6,102 vs $2,571 for median of OECD countries [ A significant amount of this money is workers' tax dollars];  and just 43 cents per capita as compared to $192 per capita in the UK on health information technology.   The US remains ranked 37th in the world in health care based on the World Health Organization.   France, a system which is fully government regulated, universal and comprehensive, remains number one. 


We all agree that we need a left-center and center-left unity strategy to successfully gain Congressional support and passage of a national health care bill that truly is universal in every aspect;  and, then to enforce and protect the legislation.


The issue is how to get there.


I use the left/center and center/left options since they will differ depending on where and when the struggle is taking place.


Also, and most importantly:


Will that left/center and center/left unity struggle be to:


A.      A struggle for a mass movement for health with HR 676 as a significant, but not the only option;


or, will that   


B.      Struggle be around HR 676 as the only option.


Most leaders of the HR 676 movement see the latter strategy, but that strategy, while gaining significant labor support, support that has influenced the AFL-CIO,  has not gained Congressional support from House [75] or Senate [0] member support.    That one dimensional approach is not working and needs to be adjusted.   This important grass roots, labor effort has the grim future of becoming another isolated, well meaning effort.


This one dimension strategy also keep activists away from other major health struggles that will be needed to bring us a national health care program. 


There are risks associated with opening up the campaign.  To open up the struggle for more than just the most advanced option, including Congresswoman Barbara Lee's National Health Service proposal, does put a more advanced position at some risk. 


But, that risk must be taken.  Dare to struggle; Dare to win.


Key Elements


While struggling for greater labor and related support for HR 676,  many other proposals are and will be put forward by members of Congress and candidates for the 2008 elections.    Here are a few of the elements that will make this process more effective.


A.               Elected Union Local and International Union Leaders


We all agree that a progressive national health legislative proposal must have labor's full support.  A divided labor movement in the post WWII period [Wagner Murray Dingle Bill];  the 1970s Kennedy/Griffiths National Health Insurance effort; and in the early 1990's, in part, killed those opportunities.


Protecting labor and workers gains of the past and into the future is crucial in gaining full labor support for the future.  


For example, while there is much bemoaning of the employment-based system, most of it very legitimate forecasts that the employment-based health insurance system is dead, is not just wrong, it is anti-labor in its essence.   It can translate into telling elected union leaders and members that their struggle at the bargaining table is useless; and, even politically backward. 


There are examples of Congressional action which has retarded union-based health programs.   The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act  [HIPAA] is a good example.    What started as a good idea has grown into a financial albatross on union health funds. 


The Bush Medicare Modernization Legislation, providing a deficient drug benefit, is another backward example of what Congress is capable of.   This has made elected labor leaders more wary of Congressional action on health benefits.  True, that Congress was Republican, but when push comes to shove, Democrats will not always act in the most progressive manner in regard to workers' rights. 


A step toward gaining greater labor leaders support, leaders who negotiate for health benefits and then must stand for election,  would be to start with the promise that any proposal being considered in Congress must permit labor leaders and their unions to maintain their current negotiated health plans.   


That act of faith can begin to bridge the gap between well meaning health professionals, labor activists, and others with these wary union leaders.


The beauty of Jacob Hacker's paper ["Health Care for America:  A proposalfor guaranteed health care for all Americans building on Medicare and employment-based insurance"  www.EPI.Org], done for the Economic Policy Institute, labor's economic think tank arm, discusses this element.





B.      Medicare for All


Concomitantly, to the fight for a national health care system, is the fight to radically change the Bush Drug Plan; and, a general reform of Medicare, ridding it of its 40 years of privatization schemes,  to what its framers wanted forty years ago.


There is a continuing and growing outcry against the drug monopolies, in general, and the Bush drug program in particular.  While the drug monopolies are all powerful, the power of people is even greater. 


Rekindling Reform, a center/left group in New York, with a strong left, developed an excellent position on this reform effort ["Reclaim and Strengthen Medicare:  Undo the Damage to Health Care for All"]


Engaging in these struggles  will bring millions of Medicare recipients into the struggle.


C.       Peace and Veterans


Returning veterans deserve the best health care.    The system of Veterans Hospitals and health care, labeled by many as our example of socialized medicine [Krugman, NY Times], are an example of a successful government program.   Note:  The disastrous care at Walter Reed hospital came from that hospital being a Military Hospital, not a veterans hospital. 


This will bring millions of veterans and their families into the struggle.




D.      Save Our Hospitals and Community Health Facilities:                        Stop Privatization


Across the country, state and local governments are considering drastic reductions on these health facilities.   Part of the reason is to save money; the other is to further limit the access to hospital beds, monopolizing them into closely held groups, and driving up the price of a hospital bed, the "profits" in a non-profit system.   That is taking place in the so-called voluntary, non-profit hospitals sector.   


These hospitals do need an injection of federal financial support, with strong strings attached, to make hospitals less cash cows for the private, for profit health industry.    In the late 1940s, the Hill-Burton federal financing program did just that.  


Many of these private, non-profit hospitals spending is out of control.  Multi-million dollar salaries for these hospitals CEOs and other administration have got to end.


These structural changes in our health system, at this moment, are driven by neo-liberal privatization goals of corporate think tanks and not to improve health care. 


Of course, the struggle to maintain and expand public hospitals is crucial.   Privatization of these public hospitals must stop.    Any federal finance program must place them first.  That is the lesson of the Katrina hurricane and flood disaster.   


Conducting these struggles will bring millions into the fight for national health care.


E.       End Racism and Discrimination in Health


The continuing expose' of gross disparities of health services to racially and nationally oppressed patients and people must be part of the struggle.   The Civil Rights Movements must become part of the struggle.   The current systems are not sufficiently serving everyone in a fair and indiscriminate manner.    The mere fact that life expectancy for Black males is still at 60 years old;  Black women at about 67, the same as white men; and white women is about 75 says it all.


By truly engaging on these issues will bring millions of people into the struggle. 


F.        Native American Indian Health Services


The federal health program intended to serve the Native Americans is still has wide variations on its quality and quantity.  But, in some instances, such as in Alaska, the Native American community has fought long and hard for its programs; which, it heartily supports and wants to keep.   These kinds of programs must be maintained in any national health care program.


Carefully working with the Native American communities would bring tens of thousands of people into the fight for a national health care program. 


By linking all of these struggles with a national health care program, tens of millions will join the struggle. 




It would be nice to say we are on the brink of Congressional action for a national health care program.  But, we aren't; and, that is probably a good thing.  


Congressional action, now, would yield a deficient health insurance program similar to the Massachusetts and California plans.  That is where the Wyden program stems from.


Let's broaden our struggle.


Drop the tone of:  "My Way or the Highway."


Engage with all struggles for health care, on every level.


Take our set of principles for a national health care program to the broadest number of people and let them decide.    These were described in the CPUSA's Health Commission.   


Build health coalitions based on a broader perspective as outlined above.


Then, in the not too distant future, our massive health care movement will be a position to tell Congress what want and have the strength of numbers to win.


Dare to Struggle

Date to Win




PS   As was pointed out to me, a real health program for our people would include occupational health, housing, massive public health education, environmental issues, in short, a public health program.    That is more to the Congresswoman Lee's proposal. 






Key Elements

National Health Service System

Include,  But Not Limited T:o




the elimination of profit from all aspects of health care and public health measures;


payment for all health care including true public health measures from steeply progressive taxes;


the delivery of all health care and public health services from publicly owned hospitals and community health facilities federally financed via global budgeting;


the delivery of all health care and public health services by salaried public health care providers and workers, who earn a living wage, have job security and full benefits and who have the right to organize;


the elimination of all financial barriers to access to health care;


a tiered and publicly system of governance relying on local, regional, and national elected boards;


a national system of quality assurance and guaranteed services;


a regionally based system of publicly owned health care worker education and research facilities which have no financial barriers to access and no ties to corporations.



Phil E. Benjamin, Health Editor