Monday, July 30, 2007

As UAW negotiates, Toyota workers eye unionization

By Andrea Hopkins GEORGETOWN, Kentucky (Reuters) - As U.S. auto workers negotiate with the faltering Big Three under intense pressure to surrender benefits, employees at Toyota's flagship U.S. plant want what their blue-collar counterparts in...

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Capitalism and Diabetes

Along with the good news of the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party's huge defeat in upper house parliamentary elections in Japan and the not so good news that Gordon Brown was disappointing many members of his own British Labor Party by saying kind words to GW Bush about the wars against terrorism generally and the disastrous Anglo-American intervention in Iraq, there was story about diabetes, a disease that killed my mother and may in the future threaten me along with millions of other Americans. Diabetes is related directly to the long-term effects of diet and in general the way one lives one's life, along with what most medical researchers believe is genetic predisposition, although there remains a great deal about genetic factors and their relationship to diseases neither known or effectively proven.

Diabetes is also a disease that interacts with the general circulatory and cardiovascular system particularly to bring about other health crises which can lead to amputations of limbs, blindness, kidney failure, and of course to life threatening heart attacks and debilitating strokes along with other illnesses.

The story concerns Dr. David Graham, a drug safety official of the FDA, who has called for the the withdrawal of a drug, Avandia, because it is not not necessarily more effective than existing drugs to control blood
sugar levels and also brings with it an increased risk of heart attacks. The drug is produced by GlaxoSmithKline, a major transnational pharmaceutical firm, which like its competitors produces prescription
drugs for profit and markets them through massive advertising campaigns.Both the advertising costs and also the fact that there is no system of national health care currently in place in the U.S. which would compel private pharmaceuticals to sell drugs through public agencies is the explanation used globally to explain why prescription drugs in the U.S. cost on the average twice as much as they do in other developed countries and why Americans consume nearly twice as much prescription drugs as people in other developed countries.

In recent years, as is noted abroad with some disbelief, pharmaceuticals have spent large sums of money advertising anti-depressants, sex aids, digestive aids, and other prescription drugs, calling upon television
viewers to contact their doctors about these drug for possible prescriptions (side effects are mentioned as rapidly as possible in these commercials)

The story mentions that the FDA has known about the possible dangers of Avandia for a year and has only called an advisory committee to discuss the question after an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, the leading professional journal of medicine raised questions about the drugs safety. The news reports have also expressed doubts about whether or not Dr. Graham's criticisms will actually lead to anything, since he, as a drug safety official at the FDA, has often challenged FDA approved drugs like Avandia with limited success. Sales of the drug have already dropped sharply because of the New England Journal article.

I am an historian, not a medical doctor or medical research of any kind. But as an historian, a Marxist historian, I know something about both the for profit health care industry and the FDA, which like regulatory agencies generally are as good or bad as the administration in power which appoints the high officials to direct the agency. This administration, like other right Republican administrations in the past, has seen the regulators as the enemy and the corporations as the "victims" to be protected from "big government."

I know as a Marxist that medical conditions have to be dealt with dialectically and holistically if human health is to be maintained and life extended. At the hearing, Dr. Robert Ratner, of the Medstar Research Institute testified about the "epidemic" of diabetes currently in the United States, the increasing heart attacks, strokes, kidney failures, amputations and blindness that it has caused. Ratner stated the obvious, that contemporary drug care isn't doing an effective job in preserving health and life and that "new therapies" are called for (in the press reports he didn't elaborate on why there has been an almost total reliance of drugs and also what new therapies he was specifically talking about, but criticized both patients for failing to take their drugs properly and doctors for failing to "aggressively" treat patients with diabetes.

Diabetes is directly related to longterm dietary factors, particularly to obesity. The U.S. food industry bombards Americans, particularly children and teenagers with advertisements for high "empty calorie" foods that have caused an "epidemic of obesity" in the U.S. which the media is chattering about endlessly but about which nothing seriously is being done, since that would require both regulation and serious social investments in educating people and creating public institutions for recreation and exercise among other things that would encourage them to led healthier lives

Adult diabetes is now becoming a factor among more and more young people, particularly among working class and minority youth. And you don't have to be a Marxist to understand why this is happening, although, as with virtually all other things, Marxism helps a lot.

The class system plays a major role in who is more or less likely to get diabetes and other illnesses for that matter. Low income people are far less likely to get or in many cases even know about the tests that
exist to find "pre-diabetic" conditions. Even when they have reasonable medical coverage (and we should remember that close to 50 million have no "health insurance in the U.S. and tens of millions more are seriously under-insured) they are likely to avoid getting medical care because of the copays and other out of pocket expenses and they are likely to be treated by medical personnel in the HMO's on an assembly line basis. Even though the insurance company controlled HMO's today are making propaganda about encouraging "preventive health care" (if only to reduce their own costs from providing services for patients) we should remember that they are still in effect doing business with doctors, with for profit medical testing corporations, and of course with the hugely powerful pharmaceutical firms, which reduce medical care to more and more drugs. This suits the drug firms in terms of profit maximization, the HM0's in terms of giving subscribers the list in benefits for the premiums that they pay, and perhaps even the doctors who get incentives from both the HM0's to restrict care and from the pharmaceuticals to push drugs. Doctors can also make the most profit for themselves in the present system from an private assembly-line approach to health care. It doesn't suit patients however, and with a disease like diabetes can lead to far-reaching negative health consequences, including death.

What should be done. For people, especially young people, without diabetes, a program of education about the uses of diet and exercise as part of a preventive health program should and could be initiated both
in schools and in mass media. Just as tobacco commercials have long been banned from television, serious attempts to regulate the commercials for pastries, soda pop, potato chips, fast food outlets, and other high fat high and "empty" calorie foods that are pushed through the society, and which have created a "snacking culture" in which people eat so foods along with regular meals through the day, increasing both the obesity numbers and also making them prone to illnesses connected to high fat, high salt and other processed foods.

Also, both doctors and the general public should be educated about the uses and abuses of prescription drugs, which drug company advertisers in recent years are treating the way Pepsi Cola and Lays Potato Chip advertisers have long treated their products.

Planning for public health, a serious regulatory policy that informs people about the health issues in food and in drugs, and of course, a commitment to both educate people to live healthy lives and restrict the businesses that bombard them with advertising to encourage them to live unhealthy lives are necessary parts of a national health policy, along with Universal Health Care that will and a Federal Drug Administration that regulates pharmaceutical firms in the interest of the people who use their drugs rather than serving as a shill for them.

--Norman Markowitz

President Chavez Announces Construction of 15 New Hospitals in Venezuela

Chavez assured yesterday that these results were evidence that Venezuela is "winning the battle against capitalism." He also cited results of a recent survey that showed he enjoys the support of 70 percent of the population.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Universal Health Care

Find out more about H.R. 676 at

When sickos go after Sicko

This will be a follow up to yesterday's blog piece on Bush's
Wonderland, or, given the state of his administration, Bunker. While
the administration is claiming executive privilege to keep major
advisers from responding to subpoenas to testify on important
questions of ethics and law and the Attorney General may face a perjury
indictment, there are reports that the administration is about to
subpoena progressive film-maker Michael Moore because he dared visit
socialist Cuba as part of his most recent documentary, Sicko, a powerful
and, given the really depressing subject matter, entertaining indictment
of the U.S. for profit Health Care Industry.

Michael Moore is perhaps the most influential documentary film-maker in
U.S. history. No one has reached wider audiences with documentary
films, beginning with Roger and Me, which captured the contrast between
the working poor and unemployed of Flint, Michigan, in the late 1980s
and the de-industrializing capital exporting President of General
Motors, Roger Smith and his retinue fans, including Pat Boone, Anita
Bryant, Ronald Reagan, and other well known entertainers. Bowling for
Columbine won an academy award as it took on the gun industry and
culture and the media saturation of the society with glorified violence
after the Columbine massacre.
Fahrenheit 9/11 started with the fixed election of 2000 and went
through the 9/11 attacks into the Iraq Invasion. It reached a larger
U.S. and global audience than any U.S. docementary film in history.
Sicko is Moore's most recent and in most ways least controversial
film, since it makes points about the U.S. health care industry that are
considered truisms through most of the developed world, even among
conservative parties and politicians, who are usually careful to
say,when they advocate increasing private options in systems of
socialized medicine or reducing some benefits, that they of course don't
intend to bring anything like the American system to their countries!

So why is the administration after Michael Moore? He hasn't tapped any
body's phone or arrested people without warrants. While Guantanamo is
part of Sicko(not quite in the way the way that the administration would
like to see it presented) Moore hasn't put anyone there to "enjoy" its
free health care. Maybe it is a bit like the line from a song making
fun of the New York Daily News that Pete Seeger used to sing when I was
an undergraduate at City College: "We've got to stop Castro, Stop him
flat. He's too damn successful and we can't stand that." Michael Moore
has been "too damn successful" because in every film that he has made he
has stood up to the exploiters and oppressors and both made fun them and
shown the misery that they create and "they can't stand that." And he
has reached large audiences hungry for media with progressive content,
not the different brands of Center-Right, Right, and Ultra-Right
portrayals of everything that fill network and cable television and the
bland centrism of PBS(not the progressive independent film makers it
highlights, but its regular news and public affairs programming)

It's not enough that establishment print and electronic media picks
away at Moore as best they can for his lack of "balance"(ha! ha!) and
gives him far less attention than his successes in the media market
would earn for virtually anyone else. Bush's henchman think they can
bring back the "wonderful world of HUAC" and either intimidate
Moore(which has never worked) into moving closer to the American Medical
Association or perhaps blacklist him from the world. One could say that
acts like this are standard operating procedure in authoritarian regimes
that want to become full fledged dictatorships, but that would be as
redundant as saying that Bush believes that the First Amendment concerns
Executive Privilege.

Also, the press reports that Bush administration "may"(hopefully will)
run to major congressional opposition on its plans to sell "Saudi"
Arabia over 20 billion worth of sophisticated weapons. Certainly the
feudal regime in Arabia can afford it(the bin Laden family itself could
probably afford it if they bought the weapons on the installment plan).
I guess one could remind GW of the billions in U.S. weapons that the
Shah bought before he was overthrown in Iran and also the scrap iron and
other materials of military importance, not to mention oil, that U.S.
corporations sold the Japanese empire while they were devastating China
in the late 1930s before the Pearl Harbor attack. But I don't think
that would much good, since Bush has always been loyal to his friends
and military contractors, transnational oil corporations, and the filthy
rich feudal rulers and of "Saudi" Arabia are among his best and oldest
friends. But He would probably answer in the words of an old rock n
roll song from my high school days: "Don't know much about history."
Norman Markowitz


Friday, July 27, 2007

Another Day Through Bush's Looking Glass

Karl Marx famous dictum(I am paraphrasing) that history repeats
itself, but not in the exact way, the first time as tragedy, the
second time as farce, met Alice in Wonderland today in through GW
Bush's Looking Glass.
The U.S. military leadership in Iraq, the New
York Times reports, is "frustrated" with our "Saudi" Arabian "allies,"
who are sending in Saudi fighters to support the Sunni minority fighting
against the Shia dominated Iraqi government that the U.S.largely
created and is nominally supporting.
A generation ago, Osama bin
Laden in conjunction with the CIA led thousands of "Saudi volunteers"
in fighting a "holy war" against the Soviet supported(but not created)
Communist Party
government and the Soviet military in Afghanistan, which led in 1988
to the formation of the Al Qaeda network. The counter-revolutionary war
in Afghanistan was a "great success" for the Reagan and Bush I
administrations, but it turned out to be a dress rehearsal for the Al
Qaeda group and its allies in their terrorist attacks against civilian
targets through the world, not only in the developed countries.It was
a "victory" against the Afghani, Soviet, and American peoples and,
more broadly all progressive forces in the world, however many
radicals at the time sided with the guerillas because they were
fighting against Soviet military intervention
Iraq, the Al Qaeda group today is fighting a sectarian war against Shia
Muslims along with its war against the central government and the U.S.
occupation, much as it did in Afghanistan(GW Bush a few days ago
formally proclaimed it to be the main enemy in Iraq). GW Bush's most
favored nation in the region, "Saudi" Arabia(I keep putting quotes
around Saudi because Arabia has existed for thousands of years and Ibn
Saud gave the country his family name when he seized the throne in
1925, a point that an exiled Arabian Marxist made to me over thirty
years ago in explaining why he never used the name Saudi)is now in
effect fighting on the same side as Al Qaeda in Iraq in intensifying
the religious sectarian killing which creates greater suffering for
the Iraqi people and no one, from the Communists and other democratic
secular forces of Iraq to even the U.S. military wants.

Meanwhile, GW Bush whose family friends in Arabia are recruiting
Jihadists against the U.S. military in Iraq was denouncing the
Democrats who are holding up the nearly 150 billion appropriation for
Iraq and Afghanistan in the much larger Pentagon budget because he has
threatened to veto bills that represent a 23 billion increase in
discretionary social spending programs. In Bush's Wonderland, this is
yet another example of "tax and spend" policies(his words not mine)
that along with the possible reversal of Bush tax cuts will cripple
the economy(in Bush's Wonderland, deficits only exist for social
programs and tax cuts increase revenues and lead to deficit reduction,
what his dad referred to as "voodoo economics" when Ronald Reagan put
that program forward in 1980).

So Bush will fight courageously against any increase in social funding
and demand that the military budget be rammed through so as to protect
the troops from, among others, the "Saudi" fighters sent by his
longtime friends, the Riyadh
government, which like the transnational oil companies(including the
Texas based ones) have profited enormously from his war policies in
the region.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the director of the FBI has contradicted
the Attorney General on an important question involving conversations
with the former Attorney General, John Ashcroft, concerning the
Justice Departments wholesale violation of the Bill of rights in
warrantless wiretapping and illegal searches and seizures and that
the Democrats have been reported to be seeking a perjury indictment
against Attorney General Gonzalez(for which they should be commended
and of which, if the FBI director's testimony is accurate, he is
clearly guilty). That pretty much completes our look through Bush's
looking glass.
Will Bush claim executive privilege on any Gonzalez perjury
indictment. Will the King of
"Saudi" Arabia claim Divine Right in sending it fighters to Iraq(he
does on most things). Will Fred
Thompson(the least telegenic of the GOP presidential hopefuls)
denounce policies of spend and tax and cut and run and say
that he will establish a "100 percent" American policy of tax and
cut(social service budgets and spend(for the military) and take the
money and run, for Gulf, Exxon, and their investors, the bin Ladens
of all nationalities and creeds.
Only the Mad Hatter knows, and he is too sane to have
anything to do with the Bush administration
Norman Markowitz

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

House Contempt Citations Against Miers and Bolton: Harbinger of a Constitutional Crisis

The House Judiciary Committee voted today to cite bush aides and
advisers Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolton for contempt, for their refusal
to appear before the committee, which had issued them subpoenas, to
answer questions concerning the administration's firing of nine
Republican appointed federal prosecutors, a case which many believe will
lead to an expose of administration corruption and interference for its
own ideological reasons in the enforcement of federal law.

John Conyers, who ironically, has been criticized by sections of the
left for not using his leading position on the Judiciary Committee to
open impeachment proceedings against Bush, mentioned that he did not
take such contempt citations lightly, but that Congress could not
tolerate a situation where "our subpoenas can be readily ignored, where
a witness under a duly authorized subpoena doesn't have to show up."

Conyers is acting very wisely and this case may very well be a major
building block on the road to an impeachment of Bush and other officials
of the executive branch. As many of our readers know, Hollywood writers
and directors, trade unionists, and others were cited for "contempt of
Congress" by HUAC and other agencies for standing on their first
amendment rights not to testify about their political associations. But
they, who were guilty of nothing except having political views and
assocations that HUAC was trying to search and destroy, showed up,
either to deny HUAC the right to question them(and then face contempt
charges and prision sentences ) or stand on their fifth amendment right,
which even HUAC "honored," even though such acts led to immediate

They were not government officials involved in any government policies.
At most, they were members of unions and other mass organizations whose
civil rights and civil liberties were under attack by all branches of
the government at the time. The committees which cited them for
contempt were very recent initially ad hoc committees established by the
conservative coalition in Congress to fight labor and the left, although
the cold war greatly increased their powers. Their "contempt" citations
were crude assaults on the constitutional rights of citizens. These
contempt citations are aimed at protecting the Constitutional Rights of
citizens and the constitution itself from a president and an
administration which denies that there is any limit on its powers.

The Judiciary Committee has been one of the major committees of the
House since the founding of the Republic and is engaged here in
investigating major malfeasance by the executive branch. "Guilt by
Association," the classic HUAC tactic, has nothing to do with what is
happening here. The Bush administration, by ordering Miers and Bolton
not to testify, in the name of "executive privilege," is denying to
Congress the right to investigate it use of its executive power in ways
that violate both the separation of powers and the enforcement of
federal law, which is what the Judiciary Committees of the House and
Senate are supposed to protect.

In the recent past, a number of federal officials, from Henry
Kissinger in the 1970s to Reagan's Secretary of the Interior James Watt
in the 1980s to Clinton's Attorney General Janet Reno in the 1990s over
issues concerning refusal to turn over documents and conflicts in the
case of Reno over the appointment of a special prosecutor.

There is however a new development here that may lead to a
constitutional crisis. The Bush administration is denying that Congress
has the right to have a U.S. attorney convene a grand jury to prosecute
such contempt citations when executive privilege is involved, a
position, if sustained, would give the president the "right to do what
he wanted without congressional oversight and restraint by merely using
"executive privilege" as a shield and having the Justice Department
refuse to prosecute any contempt citation against any member of his
administration(interestingly enough, when a minor Reagan administration
official, Rita Lavelle, was unanimously voted to be in contempt of
Congress for refusing to testify before a congressional committee, a
grand jury was convened and she was tried for contempt of Congress).

John Conyers and the Democratic majority on the Judiciary Committee have
taken an important step in protecting the U.S. government and the people
from a president for whom the Constitution of the Republic is a
document to be used by spin doctors and political policeman when and
if it suits them. They deserve our complete and active support.
Norman Markowitz


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Questions For a President Left Behind

In the late 1930s, Robert E. Sherwood, a prominent playwright and also speech writer for Franklin Roosevelt wrote an anti-war play titled "Idiot's Delight." Although the play was set in Europe, I thought of it, particularly the title, when I read GW Bush's speech at an Air Force base today trumpeting the dangers of Al Qaeda in Iraq, its relationship to the central Al Qaeda leadership, and the disaster that would occur if the U..S. withdrew from Iraq. Let us ask the, to put it charitably, "left behind" president a few long unanswered questions.

1. Why did his administration fail to hold bin Laden relatives after the September 11 attacks to interrogate them about the Al Qaeda leader?

2. Why hasn't his administration concentrated on Saudi Arabia, where the Al Qaeda recruits and money have always been centered if it is serious about fighting Al Qaeda?

3. Why has the administration continued to support the Musharraf dictatorship in Pakistan to the tune of billions, providing no aid whatsoever to democratic and progressive forces in that country where pro Al Qaeda elements are part of the machinery of government and bin Laden and his top lieutenants operate, as the whole world and even U.S. intelligence knows, from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region (in a country by the way which does have nuclear weapons aka weapons of mass destruction)?

4. Why have the administration and the Congress for that matter not seriously examined the relationship between bin Laden and the Al Qaeda group he created in Afghanistan in 1988 and the Central Intelligence
Agency, which worked with and supported him directly and indirectly through its subordinate, the Pakistani Intelligence Service (ISI) through at least the 1980s? What about possible ongoing relationships leading up to the September 11 attacks, between Al Qaeda and bribed or rogue agents of the CIA and its subordinates, and the relationship of the bin Laden family, perhaps the greatest capitalist family in the region (its wealth was estimated at four billion at the time of the attacks and has grown substantially since) and its Texas oil industry and other big business U.S. friends in both the development of Al Qaeda and its post September 11 protection?

Before knee jerk readers of establishment publications start calling me a conspiracy theorist, I am not saying that I know the answers to these questions. I am saying that it is a comment on the discussions concerning "terrorism" in the U.S. that they were and are not even asked and weren't asked seriously by the "blue ribbon" commission investigating the attacks, which shied away from the larger context of events.

We have simply been told over and over again that there are no relationships, that the CIA's involvement with bin Laden, evidence to the contrary, wasn't much and doesn't matter, that his relationship with the rest of his family and the feudal-clerical Saudi ruling class simply ceased to exist when he challenged the monarchy and sought to create in Saudi Arabia the kind of regime that the Taliban did create in Afghanistan in the 1990s. That one might seriously look at the nature of capitalist class power, the privileges enjoyed by very rich who stand above the law, their undermining in the U.S. with the help of conservative political forces of public investigations into the hiding places for their wealth , their institutional and personal connections with each other, even in the past with a rogue figure like bin Laden, in order to understand the development of the Al Qaeda group and the threat that it poses to the U.S. and other peoples in the world, is out of the question for this administration and, unfortunately, for many of its establishment critics.

The Al Qaeda networks may be interconnected and may indeed be planning new and potentially terrible attacks against against American institutions and the American people (we shouldn't dismiss that completely because many fear that the Bush administration and the Republican Right need that to happen if they are prevent their defeat in 2008) . But who believes based on its record that the Bush administration can do anything to prevent that. The administration's policies have, to be very charitable, helped Al Qaeda regroup, use Iraq as a base, continue to raise large amounts of funds, and recruit foot soldiers and cannon fodder from both the same sanctuaries that it used in the past and new ones that the Bush invasion and occupation of Iraq have provided it with.

Not only does the Bush administration have no social economic strategy to even pretend to address the underlying social economic problems of the Middle East (or anywhere else for that matter). It has no political-military strategy to accomplish anything in the region except strengthening Al Qaeda, the clerical regime in Iran, its avowed enemies and those whom it labels its enemies. Bush can fight stem cell
researchers, trade unionists defending their right to strike and American jobs, senior citizens seeking to protect social security, environmentalists, and many others, whom his administration has really fought an undeclared war against. But he can't fight the Al Qaeda group or his declared "war against terrorism" based on his record of the last six years.

Also, there is no evidence that his administration really has any interest in fighting them, as against his progressive opponents, since they provide an excuse for his worst policies. Bush's (or his handlers")
real assumption, in my opinion has been that the stronger and more dangerous Al Qaeda and its allies become, the more his administration's power and the power of the Republican Right remain secure.

--Norman Markowitz

The Right’s Last Dance: 2008 Elections

While Bush will soon be history, we will have to live with U.S. Supreme Court for much longer – a court that Bush has tilted to the extreme right with the additions of Alito and Roberts last year.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

The Japanese Military and the Dangers of Militarism

There was a disturbing article in the New York Times today concerning
the expansion of the Japanese military's role in East Asia and the
Pacific. While the article really gave readers no serious idea of the
historical context of what it was talking about, the facts it reported,
that is, the present rightist LDP led Japanese government policy of
undermining Japan's postwar anti-militarist constitution and developing
"modern" warfare capabilities and skills, should be very disturbing
both to the people of China and other Asia-Pacific countries and to the
people of Japan, who have benefit hugely from their anti-militarist
constitution, which Times reporter Norimitsu Onishi refers to as "pacifist."

What is missing from Onishi's article is that the anti-militarist
constitution was drafted by the U.S. occupation authorities, who
controlled Japan entirely until their withdrawal at the beginning of the
Korean war. Unlike Germany, which was occupied by the US, the USSR,
Britain and France, and then divided into a U.S. supported capitalist
"West" and a Soviet supported socialist "East," neither Britain, which
was also at war with Japan and saw its captured soldiers suffer
atrocities at the hands of the Japanese imperialists, nor the Soviet
Union, which entered the war against Japan in its last days and
liberated Manchuria and Korea from the Japanese army, participated in
the occupation and reconstruction of Japan.

Unlike the cold war in Europe, where U.S. strategy was to re-arm West
Germany and bring it into the NAT0 alliance that the U.S. largely
created to fight a potential WWIII against the Soviet Union and its
allies in Europe(and also to undermine the then very powerful French and
Italian Communist parties by putting their countries into an
anti-Communist military alliance) U.S. strategy in Asia was to
"demilitarize" Japan so that Japan could never again be a serious rival
to U.S. corporate-government longterm imperialist interests in
controlling the trade and investment future of the Asia-Pacific
region(the U.S. and Japan and been economic-political and potential
military rivals fighting for control of the region, particularly China,
since the end of the nineteenth century).

Also, and this is very important, the great majority of the Japanese
people had repudiated the militarist regime which had led them into a
disastrous war that had devastated their country and wanted nothing to
do with the grotesque synthesis of feudal warrior ideology, emporer
cult, and "modern" weapons technologies and geopolitical policy thinking
that had characterized prewar and wartime Japanese imperialism.

Furthermore, the Japanese capitalist syndicates like Mitsubishi who had
profited from the militarist regime soon found out that they could
profit even more from a Japanese state that provided them with enormous
subsidies that enabled them to develop automobile, consumer electronics,
and other industries that made huge advances in global markets rather
than produce military goods for the Japanese state paid for by Japanese
taxpayers. Ironically, a U.S. policy aimed originally at removing Japan
as a competitor for the trade and investment power that is that is the
economic foundation for all imperialist policies helped make Japanese
corporations into a much more effective competitor to U.S.
corporations,which lived off and continue to live off their enormous
military contracts while they eventually lost out to companies like
Toyota(which has surpassed General Motors as the leading Automobile
producer in the world).

But a potential revival of Japanese militarism concerns much more than
the U.S. government today--indeed both the present Abe government like
its immediate predecessor sees the development of military power
"commensurate" with Japanese economic power as leading Japan into a
strategic "partnership" with the U.S. military in the Asia-Pacific
region. Such a "partnership" or alliance would of course be aimed at
China, which suffered over ten million dead and millions more casualties
in the Second World War at the hands of Japanese imperialism, second
only to the Soviet Union(albeit a very distant second) in the loss of
human life in WWII or for that matter any war in human history.
Although China would of be the primary target of any U.S. Japanese
military alliance in Asia, Korea, both North and South, has much to fear
from such a development also. Korea suffered brutal oppression and
repression under Japanese militarist rule when it, with the acquiescence
of the U.S. ruling class became a Japanese colony following the
Japanese Empire's victory against the Czarist Russian empire in the
Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. The Bush administration has since it
came to power done everything in its power to demonize North Korea and
undermine improved relations between the two Koreas. Whereas U.S. cold
warriors liked to say during the Korean War that Korea was a dagger
pointed at Japan(a Japan they controlled at the time) and thus could not
be "permitted" to fall into Communist hands(or unified for that matter,
regardless of the wishes of its people) in reality Japan in modern
history has been a "dagger" pointed at Korea and a redefinition of and
expansion of Japanese military power would threaten Korea, potentially
the Philippines, and the entire Asia-Pacific region, whether it is in
alliance with or opposed to U.S. policy.

Japanese imperialists before WWII often dreamed of becoming the "England
of Asia," that is a great naval and military power at the center of a
great colonial empire. U.S. imperialist planners and their Japanese
counterparts may today "dream" of a Japan that will act in Asia the war
Tony Blair's Britain has acted in the world, that is, as a political
military handmaiden of U.S. policy, ready to go in force anywhere and
everywhere that the U.S. government wishes.

That is against the interests of the people of the Japanese people, the
American people, and the peoples of Asia. Imperialist military alliance
systems are, not corporate marketing agreements against competitors,
always unstable, as the powers, like the corporations, are quick to
double cross one another when they have opportunities to gain greater
profits or a more advantageous strategic position. One doesn't have to
read or reread Lenin's Imperialism(never a bad idea and more important
today than when the Soviet Union existed) to understand that the
imperialism that today goes by the name of "globalization" produces more
militarization and military alliances and conflicts that make war and
eventual world war more not less likely.

The undermining of Japan's anti-militarist by the Abe government and the
potential dangers that stem from a re militarized Japan in the
Asia-Pacific region are further reasons for the Japanese people to
repudiate the anti-working class Abe government in the upcoming
Japanese parliamentary elections. This after all is a government which
has sought to both deny or at the very least blur the crimes committed
by Japanese imperialism both before and during WWII while at the same
time turning a blind eye to the disasters and suffering that militarist
polices brought on the Japanese people--as if to hint(as an old U.S.
WWII song went)," we did before and we can do it again." The answer to
that kind of thinking, of course, is "never again," which in Japan today
means defeating the Abe government, and the Liberal Democratic Party of
Japan(which is also a "legacy" of the U.S. occupation, in that it is
neither liberal, democratic or even so much of a party but a group of
conservative factions and machines connected to Japanese corporations
and conservative agricultural interests) in the coming elections.


Iraqi Unions Denounce Proposed Oil Privatization

Respect for sovereignty and national wealth, including oil wealth, is to respect the laws of the country that serve the interests of its people politically, socially and economically, safeguard its future and the rights of individuals and groups, and preserve the assets of the state and the people.

read more | digg story

Does Congress Have the Authority to End the War?

In a democratic society, allowing war (or any serious policy question) to be determined solely by historical precedent, elite scholars, or the president makes as much sense as allowing hysteria and untruths to hold sway. And because President Bush refuses to accept the overwhelming call to end the war, it is the responsibility of Congress to act.

read more | digg story

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sarkozy Begins His Reign With Attack on Labor

Sarkozy Begins Attack on Labor

Details are not completely set as yet, but the French Senate has passed a new labor law that would severely curtail the legal rights of workers in France.  This the first step of right wing President Nicholas Sarkozy.   He has consolidated his power on the right be attracting many right wing socialists to his Party.

Under the new law, similar to the Thatcher Anti-Labor Laws, the right to strike will be serverely curtailed.

Under the new pending law, unions seeking to strike must have all their members case a vote, as if they were voting in an election, at a post office, if they favor the strike.  This is 6 or so days prior to the strike date.  

Then, if they strike, after the 6th day, another vote is taken at the place of employment.    Employers will be heavily involved in that vote.

All transport will be affacted as will health and education workers. 

The next step is the Assembly.

Major demonstrations are being planning in France during the first part of September.

Stay tuned.

Mike Tolochko


Japanese Anti-Nuclear Movement Criticizes US Policies

Faced with strong criticism over the continuation of the Iraq war, the Bush administration is further deepening its isolation in and out of the U.S. As the danger and deception of the U.S. nuclear strategy come to light, the international community is strengthening its determination to pave the way for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

read more | digg story

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Michael Vick Case

Michael Vick is a quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, one of the stars
of the National Football League. Michael Vick is a highly paid
athlete-entertainer whom the Atalanta Falcons and various corporations
that sell wildly overpriced sneakers and other sports paraphernalia to
an American and global youth market pay large royalties to advertise
their goods.
Michael Vick has been indicted in Virginia for using some of his money
to train and fight dogs, which is a criminal act in the U.S. along with
being a profoundly sociopathic enterprise that dehumanizes human beings
by having them cheer for and profit from animals trained to murder each
other. As a major part of the indictment, Vick is accused of directing
and participating in the sadistic murder of a number of dogs whose
fighting "skills" were considered inadequate, by hanging, electrocution
and other grotesque means.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society
have denounced the action and the Humane Society has called upon
concerned citizens to contact the National Football League to demand
Vick's suspension. I would urge our readers to do so.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centur1es the struggle for animal
welfare and animal rights had many prominent socialists in its
vanguard, from Henry Salt(British author of the pioneering Animal Rights
in 1892) Jack London, and Upton Sinclair more than a century ago, to the
longtime left activist Henry Spira who organized campaigns against
animal experimentation and brutal treatment of animals by corporations
ranging from Revlon and Proctor and Gamble to MacDonald's. Sociologists
have also long made connections between the sociopaths abuse of animals
and anti-social behavior against humans. The thinking of largely numbers
of people everywhere who are part of the broad left, those who detest
exploitation and oppression for any reason, through the world resonates
with the animal rights/animal welfare movements, which are peoples
movements opposed to the exploitation, oppression, and destruction of
animals for personal and corporate profit or sport.

Michael Vick should be suspended immediately by the NFL and suspended
for life if he is found guilty, or if it is clear that the preponderance
of evidence shows that he played a significant role in these criminal acts.

In 1920, Chicago White Sox ball players were suspended from baseball
for life for taking money to fix the 1919 World Series because of the
threat it represented to baseball's integrity as a game(the players
involved were, relative to what they were earning for their owner at
the time, very poorly paid and subject to petty harassments by
management that made them prey to gamblers). Pete Rose was banned from
baseball and has been barred from the membership in Baseball's Hall of
Fame(which on merit he richly earned) for gambling on games(including
those that his team was involved in) when he was a manager a generation
ago, charges that he has mostly denied and continues to deny, again for
the integrity of baseball. Recently a few NFL players who been
suspended from the league for periods of time for bar fights, illegal
weapons possession, and similar acts.

Michael Vick should be suspended immediately and if the evidence
support its permanently, for he is guilty of far worse crimes, not
against the NFL but society. He has participated in a degraded and
degrading activity which brutalizes all who participate in it. Whether
he has done this because of his own personal pathology or to show off in
this sordid world, the way wealthy aristocrats sponsored cock fighting
and other animal blood sports as gambling enterprises for their peers
and spectacles for those lower classes, is not of any great importance.
He certainly doesn't need the money. And society can't tolerate such

For Further information on the case and the general issue, see 2007 dogfighting nfl2 the Humane
Society website


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bush and the National Intelligence Estimate

There is a classic definition of a reactionary--someone who learns nothing and forgets nothing and thus keeps on doing the same thing over and over again, regardless of the circumstances. Good examples of this today by the Bush administration would be re-asserting laissez-faire capitalism in the 21st century when it was largely discredited at the end of the nineteenth century and using military force to solve what are social economic problems again and again, regardless of the outcome. This might compare with such past examples as proclaiming over and over again that the "economy is fundamentally sound" (Hoover in the Great Depression, when everyone knew it wasn't) and "There is light at the end of the tunnel" and victory will be at hand in the War in Vietnam(when events constantly showed that that was wishful thinking). Finally, that the "war on terrorism" is being fought and will be won if the U.S. doesn't "cut and run"(a term used widely during the Vietnam War period which had nothing to do with reality) by the Bush administration today.

The Intelligence Agencies have just issued a report on Al Qaeda and the "war on terrorism" which which should be news only to very extreme ractionaries. I and a great many people I know could have issued much of the report off s the top of our head in its larger interpretations - a bright Middle School Student with internet access to global sources of information could have put together its larger conclusions over the last three or four years.

Al Qaeda remains essentially the threat that it was in 2001 in spite of the hundreds of billions spent in the "war on terrorism," i.e, the earth revolves around the sun.

Al Qaeda is continuing to organize and coordinate its operations under the leadership of Osama bin Laden from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, i.e., the earth is round.

The war in Iraq has produced "Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia", which is the "the most visible and capable affiliate" of the Al Qaeda network, i.e, the earth still revolves around the sun, even though Al Qaeda didn't exist in Iraq, which no one except these fanatics have called Mesopotamia for many many centuries, until the Bush administration launched its war, so maybe the administration is not yet ready to accept that the earth still revolves around the sun.

The failure to break up the center of the Al Qaeda network and capture its leaders derives from the Pakistani military dictator and Bush "ally, General Musharaff, to take serious action against the Al Qaeda forces
who are headquartered on Pakistani territory, albeit, "tribal" regions, i.e, the earth is still round and areas of Pakistan are still feudal and pre-feudal, even though the Bush administration continues to regard Pakistan as a "free nation" and major ally of the U.S. in the region so it may not completely accept that the earth is still round.

First, we should all agree with the Democrats and all other critics of the Bush administration that the report, from the administration's own intelligence analysts, highlights the disaster that its policies have created. These intelligence agencies have nothing to do with any critic of this administration or any U.S. administration. They were created after WWII largely to fight the cold war, a war on behalf of world capitalism against the forces of revolutionary socialism and anti-imperialism through the world. They have long held built in biases that lead them to ignore legitimate social movements, exaggerate foreign intervention when that intervention was Soviet or from some pro socialist source, and give their political masters in Washington the "data" to support policies that favor backing up dictators of the right like Musharaff, ignoring diplomatic and social economic solutions to international problems, and pursuing military interventionism.

The initial White House response today is that bin Laden himself as well as the Bush administration regards "Iraq as the central front in the war on terror."

That means, if one is to take it seriously, that the administration is using bin Laden's propaganda about Iraq to gain funding and mobilize support for his clerical fascist "holy war" against the U.S. and many other nations and societies in order to gain funding and support to continue its disastrous war policy. It is "evidence" only that Bush and bin Laden continue to need each other to validate their policies and sustain their power.

But we on the left particularly must take stock of what has happened and is happening and begin to come forward with a foreign policy that will make sense to the U.S. working class, not simply denounce Bush with the arsenal of ammunition his disastrous policies give us.

The most important thing that a future progressive U.S. government could do in the Middle East (and we should begin to work for this now) would be to come forward with a policy that breaks decisively with the
transnational oil companies and establishes something like the old postwar United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency to develop the oil resources of the whole region in order to benefit benefit the people
of the region and as part of a global energy policy. Such an agency could also work with allied United Nations agencies to advance policies that would increase employment, wages, the standard of living and quality of life generally of the people of the region. This is the only long-term solution to the distortion and manipulation of desperate peoples religious traditions by the bin Ladens of the region and for that matter the bin ladens of all religions and creeds through the world.

.This, in my opinion, is more important than the establishment of a peace process that will end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, That is of enormous general political importance but in reality does not, except
for the Palestinian and Israeli people, really directly affect the lives of the masses of people in the region; rather provides them with a distraction from dealing with their own exploitation and oppression, and also provides a distraction for large sections of the left who focus on the national rights of Palestinians to the exclusion of all else as many people of Jewish background uncritically defend Israeli state policies as a defense of Israel against their better judgment about those policies.

Such a development policy would of course have to bring about the reorganization of Arabia and the Gulf States, the removal of the feudal regions which are the longtime accomplices of the transnational oil companies. Before everyone starts calling me an imperialist and a militarist, let me say that I am not advocating an invasion of these regions, as Bush invaded Iraq with different ends and disastrous consequences. The left and a future progressive U.S. government should and can withdraw its support to these regimes, which the U.S. and transnational oil companies have propped up for more than half a century. There are socialist oriented and secular democratic elements in these societies who deserve support. There are the workers in the oil industry, many foreign "guest workers" from Muslim countries with limited rights and no great sympathies with the feudal clerical ruling groups in the region.

Also, the left and a future progressive U.S. government should and can decisively break with the clerically based military regime in Pakistan, itself a "legacy" that the British Empire left its U.S. successors in the region. At present, regimes in Islamabad in effect blackmail U.S. governments into supporting them, pointing to the elements in their society which welcome Al Qaeda and similar groups and warning that any reduction in U.S. support will enable these groups to come to power. A progressive U.S. government should end its military support for Islamabad, strengthen its relationship with a secular multi-cultural India, and support those forces in Pakistan itself that seek reconciliation with India (one should always remember that contemporary and Pakistan were for many centuries part of the same Indian Civilization and that their separation into first two and (with the formation of Bangla Desh) three states, had its roots not in peoples histories and real needs but in the political machinations and crisis created by the collapse of the British empire after World War II.

The U.S. supported Pakistan as an anti-Communist cold war ally and stooge and also as a bulwark against an Indian government which was both neutralist in the cold war, friendly with the Soviet Union and its allies, and contained significant pro socialist elements in a country which had large Communist parties. All of this was done from the 1950s on in the name of defending "freedom and democracy" even though India was a democracy and a multi-religious, multi-ethnic society and Pakistan was through most of its history what it is today, a military dictatorship that defines its state and society as Muslim.

Pursuing such policies which will change radically both the Gulf states and Pakistan will also pay a "peace dividend" against groups like Al Qaeda, since it will eliminate both the sources of funding for such groups and also the various centers and schools (most dramatically the ones in Pakistan funded by Saudi money) which indoctrinate impoverished Muslim youth and prepare them to become foot soldiers for terrorist groups.

Pursuing such policies will also make the United States respected by the peoples of Muslim background and encourage greater understanding and respect of those people in the United States itself, where one of the
ugliest and most sinister consequences of the September 11 attacks has been the escalation of fear and hostility against the ethnically diverse Muslim minority in the U.S. and Muslims generally in the world

--Norman Markowitz

Antiwar Majority Grows in Congress, Bush and GOP Still Out of Touch with Reality

Senate Republicans, using the filibuster, blocked a vote today on an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill, to change course in Iraq.

The amendment would have started a redeployment of troops from Iraq beginning 4 months after passage and would complete withdrawal of nearly all US troops from Iraq by April 2008.

The filibuster of the bill is clearly an attempt by the Republicans to 1) avoid being on the record as rubber-stamping Bush's Iraq war policy, and 2) protecting the president from congressional criticism and oversight.

The filibuster happened on the heels of a Republican filibuster of an amendment last week which would have ended the "stop-loss" and extended tours imposed by the Bush administration on troops serving in Iraq. This amendment, offered by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) would have increased rest and "dwell" time for troops being forced to return to Iraq again and again for three and four tours of duty.

The vote on the troop withdrawal amendment garnered 4 Republican votes, however. An increase over the the last Senate vote on troop withdrawal. But the filibuster can only be stopped if 60 Senators vote to "end debate," and 67 votes are need to override a Bush veto.

A similar measure passed last week in the US House, where the antiwar vote grew by five.

There have been a lot of Republicans who are increasingly challenging the Iraq war and hinting they want to see a change in policy, but so far few of them have translated their rhetoric into votes.

It is possible that the rhetoric is merely a political game to appear to differ with Bush in order to soften sharp critiques in their home states and to avoid losing their jobs in the 2008 election without actually doing the right thing.

Seniors Protest Medicare "Advantage" Rip-off

The labor-affiliated Alliance for Retired Americans is calling July 23rd a day of protest to demand an end to federal subsidies for insurance companies offering privatized “Medicare Advantage” plans.

The subsidies, seen by many senior advocates as a back-door attempt to privatize Medicare, end up costing taxpayers and Medicare beneficiaries more than traditional Medicare.

State insurance commissioners have complained that insurers who carry Medicare Advantage use highly aggressive sales tactics to pressure seniors to accept privatized plans.

Medicare Advantage enrollees have reported significant interruptions in their health care and unexpected medical bills.

In addition, Medicare Advantage plans often do not provide adequate emergency care coverage.

Earlier this week, health care activists in Washington State and Wisconsin drew public attention to the issue.

An analysis by Washington’s Community Action Now reveals that it costs $1,503 more per year for every Washingtonian enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan than it would cost to provide care for that person in traditional Medicare.

A similar study in Wisconsin found that Medicare Advantage costs an extra $1,533 per year than traditional Medicare.

The studies also found that every Medicare recipient is forced to pay more out of pocket expenses to fund the privatized plans.

Will Parry, President of the Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans, linked the pressure on beneficiaries to accept Medicare Advantage plans to Bush's ongoing effort to privatize Social Security.

Parry said, "Medicare is headed down a similar path, and Congress needs to again take a stand to ensure that our public health care dollars go toward people’s health care, not into health industry CEOs’ wallets.”

--From Political Affairs Radio. Subscribe to this podcast in iTunes.

Australia's Terror Laws: Government Bypasses Courts

The Howard Government now has two election campaign actions under way: a terrorism scare campaign and a racist attack on Australia’s Indigenous people to steal their land, dressed up in the guise of helping their communities.

read more | digg story

Bush, Health and Education

The government of the United States sees and hears all, with or without legal authority. Furthermore, it possesses numerous intelligence and counterintelligence services that are provided with copious economic resources for espionage.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Smithfield Workers Appeal for Solidarity

Does your local supermarket carry Smithfield pork products from the Tar Heel, North Carolina?

Smithfield Foods is the largest pork producer and processor in the world, the fourth largest turkey processor and fifth largest beef processor in the U.S. It is headquartered in the town of Smithfield, Virginia, but its multinational operations stretch across the US, Mexico, and much of Europe.

Workers at Smithfield have been fighting to organize a union since the early 1990s. US administrative law judges who oversee violations of labor law have repeatedly ruled that Smithfield has violated workers rights using threats, harassment, and violence against workers.

Workers at the Tar Heel, North Carolina plant walked off the job in 2006 to protest against an unfair labor screening process and management intimidation and abuse.

Join thousands of Smithfield activists nationwide working to make a difference in their own communities.

The Justice at Smithfield Campaign is asking union supporters to find out if their local grocery stores carry Smithfield products, and to ask those stores to stop until Smithfield respects the workers who have made it one of the largest meat producers in the world.

Go to to find out how to check on your local store and to speak up for workers rights.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Democrats as "Populists"?

A news story in the New York Times today claimed that the Democratic
party was moving toward "populist" politics, away from the "centrism"
of the Clinton years(even though Hilary's Clinton's putdown of trickle
down economic policy was quoted as an example of the new "populism").

What the story is saying or trying to say is that the Democrats are
relatively moving to the left as they prepare for 2008, but its
language makes it difficult for readers to understand both what is
happening politically and as citizens to act politically to influence
policy makers and policies.

After WWII, when terms like Communism particularly, socialism, and
even progressivism became taboo in mainstream media, Americans were
taught to reduce all politics to this very simple analysis---pluralist
politicians and movements who engaged in the politics of deal making
and represented the center(the "Vital Center" as the prominent
historian and public intellectual Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., called it)
and populist politicians and movements of the right and the left who
incited masses of people with radical agendas. Pluralism was "good"
and "populism" was bad, which meant that mass movements of all kinds
were in principle bad(in practice, it meant that the movements of the
left were always bad.)

The Populists were a late 19th century agrarian radical party in the
United States who denounced the Trusts and the urban rich and
advocated both the democratization of politics(secret ballot, direct
election of Senators, etc) and government based economic programs to
aid farmers and workers(mostly farmers) in the form of expanding the
money supply(which would produce lower interest rates) through "free
silver"(ending the "Gold Standard" associated with high interest
rates), and public ownership of railroads, grain storage facilities,
postal savings banks, and other government policies aimed at limiting
railroads, banks, and large corporations from price gouging farmers
and small businessmen.

The Populists were destroyed in the South through terroristic violence
against them, the disenfranchisement of Blacks generally, and devices
like the poll tax which were used to disenfranchise poor whites. In
the West, their merging with the Democrats in 1896 to support William
Jennings Bryan's presidential campaign as a Democrat reduced their
independence as a party. In the early 20th century, some populists
became socialists, others, especially in the South, sought to lead
poor whites in the Democratic party(often by accepting or even
instigating anti-Black racism) and others dropped out of politics in

The Democratic party which became a majority party in the 1930s owed
more to the Socialist and Communist parties and traditions then it did
to the Populist party, which had been defunct for thirty years at
that time.
And the Democrats, if they are to win a national election, have much
more to learn from both the socialist and communist programs and
traditions, both as they were carried forward in the New Deal period
and subsequently, than from a "populism" that denounces the wealth of
the corporations and the rich and advocates ending government
favoritism for the corporations and the rich without addressing the
underlying structural conditions of contemporary monopoly
capitalism/imperialism or, as it is known in the 21st century,

First, the Democrats must implement serious policies for labor instead
of expecting labor to provide them with funds and volunteers merely to
hold off the Republicans. The party leaders that the NYT article
quotes seem to consider a pro labor position on trade(that is,
challenging the "free trade" ideology which has accompanied the loss
of millions of jobs in the U.S.) and perhaps a reversal of Bush tax
policies and a shift of some funds to social services as all that the
Democrats have to do.
But that is just a beginning. What is needed after a generation of
reaction is active federal aid to unionization drives which could
only follow the complete repeal of Taft-Hartley, the restoration of
the original National Labor Relations Act and the establishment of
the union shop through the country, ending all the "right to work"
laws and intervening actively through the NLRB on the side of labor,
Southern labor especially, in organizing drives in what are today the
"right to work" states.
A national "industrial policy" which would connect tax benefits and
other subsidies to corporations to those corporations policies in
producing high paying domestic jobs, improving the environment, and
advancing policies that raise living standards both domestically and
globally, would be another part of a progressive policy that the
Democrats could and should advance from the best of their own New Deal
tradition. This is at least as important as trade treaties.
Also, there is, or at least was in the world of the New Deal
Democrats, such a thing as a "mixed economy," meaning that certain
sections of the economy, energy and other natural resources for
example, should be publicly owned and developed to prevent the sort of
disasters that we have seen with companies like Enron and also as part
of an overall development policy that would connect affordable energy
with pro environment ecological policies.

Then of course, there are policies such as a serious updating of the
minimum wage, extension and enforcement of overtime rules and general
elimination of all of the loopholes in federal labor law) a serious
national health system establishing socialized medicine(if they want
the Democrats can call such a system "populist" medicine) along with
revival of public housing and new rent control laws to reduce the cost
of and the enormous inequalities that exist in housing.

All of this, along with aid to education and transportation, might be
grouped around the overall principle of "public sector restoration"
which is what the people who vote for the Democrats and tens of
millions who vote for no one and are completely outside of the
political process both want and desperately need, not platitudes about
trade policy and rhetorical forays against the corporations and the
rich. What I am writing about is a 21st century version of the
policies that the New Deal and Great Society Democrats took from
Communist, socialist, and left labor sources and enacted in an
incomplete fashion from the 1930s to the 1970s, the policies which
both improvied the quality of life and the economic and social
equality of the American people and(this is probably more important
for Democratic politicians) made the Democrats the majority party of
the country.

Who knows, some Democrat might even revive the call of Robert La
Follette, Sr., the great governor and Senator from Wisconsin, who
opposed U.S. entry into WWI as a war in the interests of the Trusts
and the war profiteers and advocated nationalizing military industries
as both an economic and peace policy(some socialists rejected that on
the ground that it would give the government a larger interest in
warfare, but even a partial public ownership of the industrial part of
the military industrial complex might save a minimum of tens of
billions and also begin to take the private profit out of a foreign
policy that creates and feeds off military interventionism.

I wouldn't call those policies "populism" but they are the policies
that offer hope to the working people of our country.
Norman Markowitz

Letter Carriers Reach Tentative Contract Agreement, Protest Outsourcing

The National Association of Letter Carriers reached tentative agreement with the U.S. Postal Service on a new five-year agreement covering the nation's 222,000 city delivery carriers.

The tentative contract will be submitted to the active membership for ratification.

The settlement calls for general wage increases and several cost-of-living adjustments.

NALC President William H. Young President Young said. “It’s a win-win deal for the Postal Service and the nation’s city letter carriers. It offers improved job security and fair wages for letter carriers and provides an intelligent and responsible way forward on the issues of flats automation and outsourcing.”

The agreement comes as NALC members continue to protest privatization of letter carrier routes by the US postal service.

In a letter to the US Senate in June, the NALC rejected the post office's claim that privatization is more efficient or that private contractors are "small businesses."

Privatization assures that some people will get mail from less well-trained contractors who earn far less in wages and benefits.

The NALC letter compared privatization of the post office to the kind of corrupt and profit-grubbing privatization practices that fueled the disaster at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

Listeners should urge their Senators to co-sponsor S. 1457, the Mail Delivery Protection Act, which would limit the privatization efforts of the Postal Service and ensure that your mail is delivered by well-trained, fairly treated union postal workers. Go to and speak up.

--Joel Wendland

Activists Fight Troy Davis Execution

If he were a rich, white heiress named Hilton who never lifted a finger in her life, instead of a male African American, his story would be all over the news. A stay would be assured.

read more | digg story

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Gender Savagery in Guatemala

On the outskirts of Guatemala City the body of an 18-year-old woman of indigenous ethnicity was recently discovered by her frantic parents who had been searching long and hard.

read more | digg story


A political crisis of explosive proportion is looming this week in El Salvador

By U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities

A political crisis of explosive proportion is looming this week in El Salvador. In an apparent effort to decapitate the leadership of one wing of the social movement, Salvadoran national police detained and imprisoned leaders of the Association of Rural Communities for the Development of El Salvador (CRIPDES), a social organization which has worked since the 1980’s with over three hundred organized communities to advocate for their rights. Along with 10 community members, the leaders were placed in “preventative detention” for up to three months pending trial by special tribunal on charges of terrorism.

Facing rising community resistance and massive public demonstrations to proposed projects including water and health care privatization, hydroelectric dams and precious metals strip-mining, the rightwing ARENA government in October of 2006 approved decree #108, the “Special Law Against Acts of Terrorism”. The law re-writes several articles of the Salvadoran Penal Code, and creates several new categories of felonies.

This week the government apparently decided to use its newly minted legal instrument as a message to the social movement. Several miles from the city of Suchitoto, the Salvadoran civilian national police cut off a pick-up truck carrying CRIPDES leadership. The group was en route to a demonstration called to coincide with the visit of President Elias Antonio Saca and his cabinet to Suchitototo to promote a “Plan for the Decentralization of Public Services,” viewed by the communities as a step towards privatization of the public water system.

Forcibly removed from their vehicle and transported to the jail in Suchitoto, the detainees became the focus of a demonstration at the jail which called for their release. The Unit for Maintenance of Order cleared the area, resulting in multiple injuries from tear gas, rubber bullets, police beatings.

Ten people were additionally arrested and initial charges of “Creating a Public Disorder” were changed to “Acts of Terrorism” for all fourteen, despite the fact that video footage documents CRIPDES leaders’ apprehension by police miles from the scene of any public disturbance. At a July 6 preliminary legal hearing presiding Judge Ana Lucila Fuentes de Paz freed one of the group and directed the 13 others to be jailed pending trial under terrorism statutes. Possible prison terms for the charges range up to 60 years.

The Ombudsman for the Defense of Human Rights, Beatrice de Carrillo, promised to “undertake a preliminary investigation which will be continued. We understand that we are in a state that represses all forms of popular discontent.”

Bernardo Belloso of CRIPDES noted that “The trial is a political trial not based in law and is clearly an attempt on the part of ARENA to quiet any expression of discontent directed at their own unpopular policies.”

In Suchitoto, local priest Salomón Pérez stated “acts of repression like this that we’ve seen today will generate more violence.”

For further information contact :

Emily Carpenter
U.S. – El Salvador Sister Cities Network
(514) 843-9880/(585) 360-1985 Sister Cities

CRIPDES in San Salvador: 011-503-2226-3717, or 011-503-2235-4005

1. Marcos Galvez
2. Jaqueline Carranza
3. Bernardo Belloso
By U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities SisterCities(at)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Communists to the Front

"Communists to the Front" is the main theme of SACP convention in Port Elizabeth South Africa. Leadership election of top Communist Party officers were held Friday with the convention unanimously re-electing the current seat holders with minor revisions. Blade Nzimande was re-elected general secretary. The day began with greetings from the YCL and the Congress of South African Trade Unions. The Congress also presented Cuban President Fidel Castro with the Party's highest honor the Chris Hani award. As with the first day of the Congress much of the discussion focused on the Party's thorny relationship with African National Congress. In a significant development the Congress decided to shelve the proposal for the CP to stand alone in the 2009 elections. The Congress split up into discussion commissions on several different topics include the state, the economy, international and others. Rank-and-file delegates expressed frustration at the slow pace of change and some spoke of being sidelined in different ways. A glaring and curious absence as on the first day was any discussion of the current strike of 230,000 metal workers. Even the COSATU leader Zwelinzima Vavi neglected to mention it focus rather on internal tripartite alliance politics. There was also no mention today of the upcoming 2009 World Cup. Nevertheless, the Congress' overwhelmingly working-class delegates maintained a high spirit. In one interesting development, the meeting adopted a one-year probationary period for new members where they would hold candidate status. In the debate, some feared this would discourage people to join. The SACP has doubled its membership since its last convention.

Video: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

About the US-backed coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the people's struggle to reinstate him.

Hard Road Home

Statistically, it is well known that if you wind up in prison and are lucky enough to get out, you will be going back some time soon. Julio Medina is someone who has beaten the odds hands down.

read more | digg story

JS in SA; Comment

Sims in SA

Great seeing your report.   Looking forward to more information on each of the topics you put forward.

BTW     Are there delegations from fraternal parties?  

Also, anything on the World Cup preparations?

Mike Tolochko

Thursday, July 12, 2007

SACP Congress Opens in Port Elizabeth

A sea of red surrounded the almost 2000 strong opening session of the South African Party's 12 Congress in Port Elizabeth on Thursday. The delegates received greetings from ANC Secretary-General Kgalema Motlanthe and the Communist Party of China, and received the main political report presented by SACP General Secretary Blade Nzimande. Molanthe in his address to the Congress stressed the goal of the SACP in seeking and struggling for a socialist path in South Africa.

Molanthe referred to ANC president Thabo Mbeki's stress a recent ANC conference that the ANC respected the SACP singular role in leading the fight for a socialist transformation of South Africa, adding that this was not the ANC's purpose. Nzmimande also used the ANC's president remarks as one of the points of departure for the political report of the outgoing CP central committee. Nzimande said that the press had distorted the president's meaning claiming that it was rebuke of the SACP.

The SACP leader went on to point out a a number of key struggles that the SACP had taken initiative on. Most important in his view was that the ANC had in the recent period adjusted its policies and now favored the concept of a developmental state and a new industrial policy. The goal of the party he argued is a working-class led national democratic revolution.

Nzimande's address was followed by remarks from delegates, many of whom expressed frustration at the slow pace of change. The relationship with the ruling ANC was a theme that ran through almost all the presentations. The ANC has a mandate from 70 percent of the South African population.

The convention will continue on Friday with an address by the leaders of the COSATU and the YCL. Curiously no mention was made at the opening session of the strike of 230,000 metal workers, now in its fourth day. The SACP has recruited over 30,000 members since its last Congress.

--joe sims

A Republican IQ Quiz

Having written Political Affairs Marxist IQ quiz for a number of years I
thought it might be interesting to do an IQ quiz concerning the major
Republican presidential candidates, addressing their qualifications or
lack of same, in the spirit that their handlers would understand, if not
Instead of Multiple choice questions, I thought I have done a number of
true and false questions for each candidate.

1.Rudy Giuliani's major qualifications for the presidency are these:
True or false
a.He showed great respect for the civil rights of minorities and the
civil liberties of all citizens as major of New York(T or F)
b.He extended rent controls on apartments and price controls on the
subways and busses to stabilize living costs in the interests of New
York's working people(T or F)
c.He distinguished himself after the 9/11 attacks by the aid his
administration provided to police, firefighters, and other city workers
who risked their lives and damaged their health to save lives(T or F)
d. He is not George W. Bush(T or F)

2. John McCain's major qualifications for the presidency are these
a.He has a secret plan to win the Iraq occupation(T or F)
b.He plans to invite Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger to
return to Vietnam and win the Vietnam War(T or F)
c.He will erect a tomb in the form of a pyramid to Ronald Reagan in
Washington(T or F)
d. He is not George W. Bush(T or F)

3. Milt Romney's major qualifications for the presidency are these
a A s governor of Massachusetts, he advanced a conservative
political agenda with great success (T or F)
b. He has repudiated his Father, George Romney's 1967 statement that
he was "brainwashed" about the Vietnam War and promises never be
brainwashed about Iraq(T or F)
c. He will bring back "conservative" politics to Washington after
decades of liberal rule (T or F)
d. He is not George W. Bush (T or F)

4. Tommy Thompson's major qualifications for the presidency are these
a. He was the best governor Wisconsin has had since Bob La Follette
(T or F)
b. His "welfare reform" policy not only reduced state expenditures but
radically improved the living standards of the poor (T or F)
c. He is widely known and respected in the country (T or F)
d. He is not George W. Bush (T or F)

5. Fred Thompson's major qualifications for the presidency are these
a. history has shown that he was not "deep throat" during the Watergate
b. history has shown that he was the best Senator that
Tennessee had since Andrew Johnson before the Civil War and Johnson
as president fought against radical Reconstruction and its "reverse
racist" policies of giving citizenship to former
Slaves (T or F)
c. He is the only working actor running for the Republican presidential
nomination (T or F)
d. He is not George W. Bush (T or F)
Well that is it. I won't tell our readers the answers but I will give
them hint. They will find the truth or true answers only under the
letter which was the grade that George W. Bush either got or deserved to
get in any school he ever went to

Video: Communist Party of Britain Discussion on China

See additional videos: Part 2; Part 3; and Part 4.

New York Fire Fighters Denounce Rudy Giuliani's 9/11 Campaign Claims


[Update]Effect of US Occupation and Civil War in Iraq on Civilian Population

In addition to the estimated 655,000 deaths and uncounted hundreds of thousands more Iraqis wounded due to the invasion and ongoing US occupation of Iraq, at least 1 million Iraqis have been internally displaced.

According to the Iraqi Red Crescent Society:

Some 142,260 families - about 1,037,615 individuals - have become internally displaced persons (IDPs) since 22 February 2006

Of these, 37.5 percent are children under 12; 32.8 percent are women and 29.7 percent are men

The number of displaced people is increasing at an average of 80,000-100,000 a month

Baghdad has the highest humber of IDPs with 41,969 families; Mosul Province is second with 15,063 families; and Salaheddin Province third with 12,781.


When I posted this item earlier, I hadn't read this item by Just Foreign Policy, which estimates the total number of deaths in Iraq due to the US invasion at more than 974,000. The number is based on the Lancet estimates as of July 2006 and estimates of rates of growth in casualty counts derived from Iraq Body Count. I'm sure the number will prove controversial.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Do Communists Need a Name Change?

Communists need a name change. We do. That name has been so maligned, so distorted that it's impossible to do anything about. I mean the negatives were so great, that despite the positives, and there were many, we are just beat over the head with it and it doesn't matter. There's such a knee jerk reaction. It's never going to work.

So ranted one of the international delegates at the SACP Congress over coffee the other day. It was a little surprising considering he came from one of the more "staunch" European parties.

But he has point. While "COMMUNIST" is a universally recognized brand name, it's negative connotations are also universal.

Or are they?

Events at the South African Communist Party Congress began Wednesday with a panel on socialist developments in Latin America. Representatives from Cuba, Venezuela and Brazil presented views on the sharp left turn taken by Latin American countries. There the Communist movements a experiencing an upsurge in growth with the Communists of Brazil participating in a 11-party coalition government led by the Lula's Workers party. In Venezuela the CP has also more than doubled its size in the last years. Venezuela is also in the process of creating a new socialist party under Chavez's initiative. And of course Cuba enjoys near mythic status on the left, because of the enormous personality and contribution of the aging Fidel Castro. But that's not all, or perhaps even most of it. Cuba has marshaled victory after victory on social issues, with great strides being made in medicine, education and the environment.

By the way, South Africa's Communist Party according to convention documents has also experienced a spurt in growth with over 55,000 members filling its ranks. The number of women delegates was really striking at this Congress in stark contrast to previous meets.

So obviously in some place "brand name" is not such a big problem.

I suggested as much to the troubled speaker, pointing not to Latin America or South Africa, but to the good old USA, where trade union anti-Communist clauses have been gotten rid of now almost a decade ago and where Communists gain growing recognition and respect in peace, labor and civil rights struggles. Which is not to suggest everything is honky dory, but rather that a change has been made in the public's attitude.

I asked my new friend whether it might not be more a generational issue: with the Cold War born baby boomers being most problematic but with younger people more open. At least that has been my experience.

The assembled comrades, all of who were English speaking, paused to think about it. I wonder what blog readers think?

Upcoming international panels will be on the experiences of parties in government; building left networks in Africa and the role of progressive forces in dealing with the Middle East crisis.

One very positive European experience is in Cyprus, where the Communist of the EDON party are the biggest party in the country. They recently won the mayor's office in Nicosia, the country's capital. The experience of EDON suggests, that the name question isn't really a principled issue as the Cypriot Communists have a long proud and principled ideological history.

To me, I think a bigger problem than the name problem is narrow, sectarian and dogmatic practices masquerading as "science" under the banner of Marxism-Leninism. Knee jerk reactions to name will lessen as communists gain confidence, come out of the closet and participate in membership and circulation drives. From this point of view, those who are the most "left" are precisely those who are least willing to be known in public for what they are. And they are all baby boomers and older. But again, I wonder what folks think.

--joe sims

When Even Republicans Reach a Breaking Point

Richard Carmona, who served as Surgeon General of the United States from 2002 to 2006 testified yesterday before a House Committee about his experiences as Surgeon General during those years. Hopefully, his story will be more than a blip in the news, as accounts of the Bush administration's abuses of power often have been.

Hopefully, people will not simply shrug their shoulders and treat huge and expanding quantity of such accounts as mind numbing. They should be as outraged as Carmona, whose record as a decorated Special Forces Vietnam Veteran, SWAT Team leader, Trauma Surgeon, a business leader would make him under most conditions a model Republican citizen, even a hero in an old John Wayne movie.

Carmona's testimony is shocking even by the standards of this administration. He was, he as testified under oath, ordered to mention President Bush at least three times on every page of his speeches, make speeches in support of Republican political candidates and attend political strategy sessions as if the duties of the Surgeon General of the United States were no different than those of Karl Rove or Scooter Libby. This sort of thing is what one usually finds in secular or clerical dictatorships.

But that is in some ways even less important than what Carmona, in his sworn testimony, claims that he was ordered not to do. First, he couldn't make statements or present scientific findings concerning stem cell research, which is a taboo for this administration. He couldn't deal with issues of sex education and contraception, because that also was not acceptable to the administration and its right-wing clerical supporters, for whom abstinence is the only real sex education (a point which Carmona, in his testimony contended was not a scientific position).

Carmona was also told by administration officials not deal with the public health implications of global warming because that was a "liberal cause." Furthermore his was ordered not to address the huge public health crisis in U.S. prisons (which house over two million people) because the administration had no desire to have any policy on this question.

Carmona also had to fight against administration censors who sought to block and then water down a study of the negative public health effects of second hand smoke, because it was an embarrassment to their tobacco industry supporters.

As a final, very petty indignity (again, one that might make sense in an open dictatorship) Carmona was ordered to have nothing to do with the Special Olympics (which supports the athletic activities and other issues
of handicapped people) because of the Kennedy family's longtime support for the Special Olympics.

Carmona was treated regularly as a stooge and he knows it. He was as he said brought in to talk about "science" to people who didn't know anything themselves about science and then ordered him to do or not to do things regardless of the scientific implications. While other former Surgeons General testified, including Reagan's Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, and mentioned political interference, there was nothing in previous administrations that even approached this level of abuse of power against what is supposed to be a professional office in both quantity and quality.

There has been since the early 1960s a Surgeon General's warning on every cigarette package about the health dangers of smoking, but that doesn't mean anything to the presidential clique attempting to block a report on second hand smoke. That there are huge public health issues involved in global warming means nothing to an administration which rejects on ideological grounds the very concept of global warming, so in Bush think it makes sense that studying the issue should be forbidden.

While the administration is perfectly happy to spend more and more money to build more and more prisons and and put more and more people in them, it will not even address prison public health issues (even though
they may involve communicable diseases that constitute a threat to the general population) because that may constitute a move toward more "socialized medicine"(my conjecture).

To this administration everyone is either a political hatchet man or a political enemy. The cliques around Bush and Cheney and their allies in the various cabinet departments make no distinction between the functioning of the departments in enforcing existing laws and addressing questions of public health and welfare in all areas of life and the administration's immediate ideological dictates or the direct economic interests of its backers.

As a postscript, the administration showed its complete contempt for both Congress and their former Surgeon General by having a representative of the Department of Health and Human Services issue the following statement "it has always been the position of this administration that public health policy be rooted in sound science." Oh, Yeah. In what country, on what planet, and in what solar system?

Also, a White House spokesman, speaking as if she were a character in Heller's Catch 22 Orwell's 1984, contended that the Surgeon General was "the leading voice for the health of all Americans. It is disappointment to us if he failed to use this position to the fullest extent in advocating for policies that he thought were in the best interests of the nation."

Policies like support for sex education and contraception, investments in a huge upgrading of health facilities in the prison system, studies examining the health hazards that come from global warming and second hand smoke? Maybe even a yet unforeseen health hazard that may emerge from having to mention GW Bush three times on the page of every speech?

Carmona's testimony should be given very wide circulation. It should be used to further display the extent to which this administration has violated its oath of office. It should lead both the left and the center and even some who consider themselves "conservatives" but don't believe in the exercise of arbitrary power by presidential cliques to work together expose this administration and defeat all of its initiative today, which will pave the way for its general defeat and repudiation in the 2008 elections.

--Norman Markowitz