Friday, August 31, 2007

Bush and the Mortgage Crisis

George Bush issued a statement on the Mortgage crisis today which was in the best tradition of his administration -- that is surreal. Bush announced that down payments would be lowered, loan limits extended, and greater flexibility in pricing provided." Those are a major part of the policies which helped to bring about the crisis in the first place, as finance capitalists or lenders operated on the principle that money was itself a product to sell without real restrictions and sold it to bad risks (which, barring a depression, is a win win situation for them, in that they get to collect the interest on the loan if it is maintained
and foreclose on the property if it is not).

Bush went on to say that his administration would "jawbone" lenders into not foreclosing (at the beginning of the depression Herbert Hoover held high profile white house conferences where he got industrialists to
promise to maintain jobs to the best of their abilities). Bush then went on to say that the crisis is "modest" in relation to the size of the economy(Hoover's favorite catch phrase was that the economy was fundamentally sound). This may be unfair to Hoover, who was a self-made engineer businessman with great personal achievements before he became president, unlike Bush, although neither president, given their ideological blinders, could do anything with the economic crises they faced except make them worse.

Then came Bush's "compassionate conservatism" aimed at those who are threatened with losing their homes, and the practical policy that some 80,000 more home owners will be permitted to sign up for federal mortgage insurance even if their records aren't so good (mortgage insurance, by the way is, from what I know about it, fairly expensive and, again from what I have know, usually serves to protect families in the event that the major breadwinner dies).

There appear to be a few positives in this, in that Bush, according to the press, seems to be moving toward accepting some of the proposals that Democrats have been calling for, which would enable lower income
home owners with variable mortgages to refinance with government protection, but the Democrats have been pointing (rightly I think) to a crisis which may threaten in the next year a few million home owners, not the less than 100,000 to be directly aided by the program that Bush is advocating.

The administration is making some gestures that it might permit the key federal lending agencies to assist low income home owners, a position that liberal Democrats have been calling for and the administration has opposed (I frankly doubt it, unless the crisis escalates and the coming election intervenes to lead the congressional Republicans to put pressure on the Democrats, but we shall see).

Finally, one should take note of Bush's comment that "its not the government's job to bail out speculators or those who made a decision to buy a home they knew they could never afford....." and understand immediately that the opposite is true. It is under capitalism the government's job most of the time to bail out speculators and since the Reagan deregulation the bailouts have reached spectacular proportions, encouraging speculators to loan money to developers and individuals regardless of the dangers in the smug assumption that the deregulators who let them engage in reckless actions would always be around to bail them, if not their customers, out. Regulating the real estate market to reduce speculation by real estate companies and individuals and providing public housing, rent controls, and other social protections, along with reducing regressive property taxes which greatly increase monthly mortgage payments for low income people (along with high energy costs) is the basis of a serious national housing plan to help working people have housing that is both adequate and affordable.

Norman Markowitz

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Chile: Workers fight for their rights against Socialist President?

Discussion Question: What's the point of having a Socialist president if the government unleashes violence against the workers and tries to enforce a neoliberal economic policy supported by US Imperialism. Copper prices are up 12% so Chile can afford to meet the worker's demands. The CP and members of the SP along with the unions were out in the streets today-- where was the Socialist President-- she was on the wrong side of the barricades! The following report is from the BBC so it has some limitations from a working class point of view, but even this report points out the problems of low wages and economic inequality in Chile. Hey, No Justice, No Peace!

E-mail this to a friend [copy and paste]
Clashes erupt at Chilean protests
Chile clashes
More than 450 people have been arrested after police using tear gas and water cannon clashed with protesters in the Chilean capital, Santiago.
The worst violence broke out when police tried to prevent demonstrators marching on the presidential palace.

Dozens of people were injured, among them a socialist senator.

The main trade union federation called the protest, saying the government's free market economic policies have meant poorer conditions for workers.

Demonstrations took place in several cities around Chile, but outside the capital they were mostly peaceful.

Appeal for dialogue

There were clashes throughout the day in Santiago, where riot police tried to stop demonstrators moving on the government palace, La Moneda.

The marchers threw stones, while the police responded with teargas and water cannon.

Local television showed Socialist Senator Alejandro Navarro with blood streaming from a head wound after he was struck by a police officer. A police spokesman later apologised.

Trade union leaders promised to continue their protests.

"We're going to continue behaving badly as long as there is injustice in this country. We're happy people are here because it means Chile is defending itself." said Maria Rozas, vice-president of the trade union federation, CUT.

President Michelle Bachelet said there was space within Chilean democracy for people to express their demands but it should be done peacefully.

Democracy, she added, did not need disorder and violence.

Chile has one of the strongest economies in Latin America and has one of the lowest poverty levels in the region.

The BBC's Horacio Brum in Santiago says about three million workers, roughly half the workforce, earn the minimum (w)age of $260 (£130) a month.

"But a family of four, without thinking of pension plans and health insurance etc, needs about $1000 to $1,500 a month to live comfortably."

The popularity of President Bachelet's government has slumped in recent months, with Chileans taking to the streets to demonstrate, among other things, against unemployment, the education system and poor public transport.


Thomas Riggins

There was an interesting review in the Times yesterday [8-29-07], "Dress Like Your Child And the Terrorists Win" by William Grimes. Grimes was reviewing a rather immature book by Diana West named "The Death of the Grown Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization" and published (probably to their embarrassment) by the folks at St. Martin's Press.

There isn't really too much of substance to this book, as Grimes admits. The theory of the book "comes out half-baked" and Ms West doesn't "have the intellectual firepower to make the argument she wants to make." This seems to me to be code for "don't bother to read this book."

What is the argument? Simply put, according to Grimes, the West is "unable and unwilling to confront its enemies" because "Narcissistic baby boomers" have "reversed the maturation process" and act too much like their children. I.e., the spread of "youth culture" and "multiculturalism" is leading us down the path of doom.

The real focus of this jejune rant is Islam. Grimes tells us that Ms West's "grand thesis" is "the West's failure to confront Islam. Not Islamic fundamentalism, not Islamism, but Islam." It is the religion of Islam itself we must confront. Holy Crusaders! What could be more un-grown up and immature than to want to take on a billion people and their faith and blame baggy pants and rock and roll for the failure of "Western Civilization" to do so?

Grimes is right to dismiss the author's "intellectual fire power", but the Times article leaves out some important considerations. Where does the following view come from? I mean, West's view, according to Grimes, that "the threat to the West comes from tenets inherent in Islam, not from extremists or terrorists distorting the message."

In the first place, "the threat to Western Civilization" boils down to resistance in the Islamic world to the dictates of American foreign policy and to being economically exploited by Western capitalist corporations under the guise of "globalization" [AKA Imperialism]. West is right, it isn't just the extremists who oppose exploitation.

But just who is West and what is the background she represents when she speaks of the "West" and the enemies of "our" civilization? Grimes tells us she is a functionary of the Washington Times for which paper she writes columns.

The Washington Times was founded in 1982 by Sung Mymung Moon, who calls himself humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord, and True Parent. It is a moonie publication dedicated, as Moon himself said, to being "the instrument in spreading the truth about God [i.e., himself as Returning Lord] to the world."

The Washington Times hasn't made a dime in profit since its founding and has been subsidized [just as the profitless New York Post has been by Rupert Murdock] to the tune of billions of dollars by moonie organizations and the Unification Church. Sung Mymung Moon keeps this paper in print because he is an extremist ultra-right conservative and represents the interests of right wing extremists, racists and antigay bigots who are proliferating, or at least hoping to, in this country and who use the Washington Times as a venue for moonie sanctioned propaganda.

With billions of his dollars awash in the world of journalism (and politics) it is not surprising that Moon is rarely attacked, has hundreds of writers of the ilk of a Diana West at his disposal, and is even shown respect by the New York Times which, as do many other "main line publications," has former moonie trained staff in its employ.

Grimes knows all this and, had he wanted to (been permitted?), could have pointed out that the true threats to the values of "Western Civilization" and to the positive founding values of the United States itself, are coming, not from people of the Islamic faith, but from our government's own misguided policies aided and abetted by publications, such as the Washington Times, and the self proclaimed Messiahs who use them for their own personal political and religious agendas.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bush Returns to New Orleans

Two years after New Orleans, one of the great cities of the world, was
devastated by Hurricane Katrina, George Bush, whose administration
handled the disaster and most of what has followed from it
disastrously, returned and wished the people well. He did more than
that. He launched into a sermon of sorts, one that should offend both
non-believers and especially believers.

Bush called for the "Almighty's blessing on all those who suffered"(no
mention of the Almighty's regulation of insurance companies, planning
for reconstruction aid, and of course post Katrina flood protection).
If Bush was a liberal, even a cold war liberal, he might have talked
about a "Marshall Plan" for New Orleans(if he were a serious liberal
in the American sense he would have launched such a program two years
ago) but he isn't and he wouldn't dream of anything like that.

Ahead of the Bush administration came the propaganda of the vast
amounts of funds that have been sent to the city and region, the blame
on local officials for all of the failures, and the rest of the usual
stuff. Bush went to a Charter School named after Martin Luther
King(who I doubt would have supported the concept of elite charter
schools and in any case spent and gave his life fighting against the
political forces in the South who put and keep Bush in office) and
made some hollow statements about education as his staff people tried
to have him leech off the stories of really heroic people who did
survive and also to try to claim credit for the reconstruction that
has taken place.

But no one should let Bush off the hook for his administration's
handling of Katrina, a natural disaster made much worse by the way his
administration underfunded and marginalized FEMA before the storm, the
incompetence with which a FEMA administration led by an unqualified
director handled the crisis, and the administration's callous
treatment of the people of New Orleans who then had to suffer the
consequences of both the natural disaster and the administration's man
made additions to the disaster.

Along with the Iraq War, Katrina will probably go down in history as
the second tip of the iceberg that was the disaster of the Bush
administration. Effective government must have a purpose and a plan
beyond its own enrichment. The Bush administration had and has
neither and all the photo ops in the world can't obscure the fact that
New Orleans in 2005 showed that.
Norman Markowitz

Fwd: A call for help - from my own backyard(and Ours, now, more than ever,the Workers of the World)

I am forwarding this message to readers of PA Online. On May Day I was
involved in a similiar struggle on the part of unionized health care
workers at a lage senior citizens home here in New Jersey, which
remains one of the strongest labor states in the United States. This
should show everyone that the struggle we are engaged in to both
advance workers rights and protect existing workers rights is
genuinely international and requires international solidarity.
Norman Markowitz

----- Forwarded message from -----
Date: Wed, 29 Aug 2007 02:26:01 -0400
From: Eric Lee <>
Reply-To: Eric Lee <>
Subject: A call for help - from my own backyard

If you are having trouble viewing this message, please go to

This week's message is going to be very brief and to the point.

Workers employed in care homes in north London (UK) have been told by
their employer -- a private company called Fremantle -- that their wages
are being cut by 30%, their hours are being increased, their sick pay will
be a thing of the past, and their pensions are being reduced.

Their union, Unison, is calling for an
international campaign of support for those workers.

I actually live in north London, so this campaign is taking place in my
own neighborhood.

If you live in the UK, you should be concerned that privatized care homes
are treating their workers this way. If you live anywhere in the world and
work in the public sector, you should be concerned because this could
happen to you next.

It will take you only a few seconds to fill in your name and email address
and to send a strong message to the chief executive of Fremantle. If we
all take the time to do this, we can flood her inbox today with thousands
of messages from all over the world -- and we can turn this around.

I know that I can count on you.

Please visit our
campaign page now. And please do pass this message on. Thanks.

Eric Lee

This message was sent by: LabourStart, 51 Briarfield Avenue, London,
UK N3 2LG, United Kingdom

Powered by iContact:

Manage your subscription:

----- End forwarded message -----

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Day in the Life of the Bush Administration

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned today and the Bush administration immediately pulled out the handkerchiefs. Gonzales was "unfairly treated," GW said, "I mean this is a man who has testified, he
sent thousands of papers (documents?) up there (Congress?) and there was no proof of wrong (wrongdoing, wrongheadedness, firing attorneys for political reasons, doing all the dirty work he was called on to do by
the administration in regard to the assault on civil liberties.)

Gonzales talked about his impoverished youth and said that his worst day was better than his father's best day. I could say that myself about my second hand peddler father, his grade school education, and the hernia he lived with for twenty-seven years until he finally could get an operation. But that didn't make me and the poor people I grew up with into what Socialists and Communists through the world call "class traitors,: that is, those who identified with and proudly joined the exploiters and oppressors of their class.

Along with Gonzales resignation, a UN report noted that Opium production was up by 17% percent in Afghanistan, particularly in the Taliban controlled Southern regions, where the Taliban forces are "encouraging" expanded production of opium (which is made into heroin for European and U.S. "markets") to finance their activities. There was no mention of course that Opium production and money played a sinister role in the CIA-Pakistani ISI funded and strategically supported war against Afghanistan in the 1980s which led the establishment of Al Qaeda in 1988 and the eventual Taliban government which served as Al Qaeda's principle ally in the world(and which continued to be recognized by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia after the Clinton administration most of the rest of the world had broken relations with it because of its atrocities). In the 1990s, those policies saw Pakistan become the nation with the greatest per capita number of heroin addicts in the world.

The director the the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes Policy which released the report, called the situation "very bad, very big and getting bigger." The only solution suggested though was to have NATO troops involve themselves more effectively in training Afghan forces and in engaging in counter-intelligence actions against the Taliban drug traffickers.

But what is NATO(the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) doing in Afghanistan anyway, and how can a Euro-American centered military force play such a role The Bush administration, which has strange memories of the Vietnam War, has been sympathetic to spraying the Opium crops with herbicides, but many fear reasonably that such a policy would drive many peasants into the arms of the Taliban (few are speaking about the environmental and human health effects of such a policy).

Meanwhile the Bush administration continues to be pre-occupied with its Iraq disaster and the Iraqi Prime Minister, Maliki, whom everyone from Democratic party leaders (including Hillary Clinton) to officials of
the Bush administration to the French foreign minister have been criticizing and suggesting that he be removed, has not been taking the hint (we should remembered the day not too long ago when the election which produced his government was hailed as an unprecedented victory for "democracy").

Maliki even condemned Clinton and Senator Carl Levin for speaking as if Iraq "is one of their cities." Frankly, it sort of us, in that cities have been an underfunded stepchild in U.S. society, except for commercial and elite residential districts, through much of the cold war era and many of their politicians have been as ineffectual as Maliki, trying to serve local political machines without offending state and federal authorities, which to some extent at least sums up his relationship to both local political forces, the U.S. occupation, and the Iranian influence.Also, urban crime and violence has been either ignored or blamed on the victims.

Reading between the lines one gets the strong impression that the skids are being greased for Maliki, as U.S. media highlights a leading opponent, the former interim government leader, Allawi, himself a former Baathist who had broken with Hussein, who served the U.S. occupation in its early years and suffered a devastating defeat for his non religious political formation as a consequence. Maliki's comments that Iraq is a "sovereign nation" sound really pathetic, when one looks at news stories which routinely turn to American generals to get the scoop on what is happening in Iraqi political "nation building." Maliki's situation reminds me of the scene in the classic World War II film, Casablanca, where, as the Nazi officer, Major Strasser, lands and is greeted by Vichy and Italian fascist officers, the Italian fascist officer is ignored by the German, and argues with a Vichy officer. The cynical Vichy police chief then remarks "if he gets a word in it will be a major Italian victory"

Finally, the World Health Organization released a report (to my way of thinking the most important story of the day) that warned that new strains communicable diseases are developing at "an unprecedented rate
and the huge increase in both the numbers of people traveling through the world, the rapidity of that travel, and the creation of a global transportation system makes the spread of such diseases a much greater threat.

The WHO called for international cooperative actions to deal with this crisis. I doubt the story will be highlighted in mass media. I am not sure if it will be mentioned. I don't think the Bush administration would say much about it. Frankly, I don't think they would have anything to say except that we should "stay the course" look to "market solutions" to cope with the danger and be vigilant, lest our "freedom" by threatened by international actions to fight infectious diseases that will make us prey to the "greater disease" of socialized

Just another day in the life of an administration lost in its propaganda cocoon while the problems it either created or intensified grow worse.

Norman Markowitz

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Police Provocateurs at SPP Protest

Thousands of people rallied against George Bush, Stephen Harper and Felipe Calderon during the "Three Amigos" summit at Montebello, despite a concerted campaign by politicians and the mainstream media to downplay the "Security and Prosperity Partnership."

read more | digg story

Mr. Bush Wants to Talk about Vietnam, Let's Talk

By Joel Wendland

In a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars last Wednesday, President Bush offered a simplistic comparison of the war in Iraq with the war in Vietnam. Basically, his argument boiled down to the claim that the US rush to leave Vietnam led to tremendous human rights atrocities in in Southeast Asia.

Elsewhere writers have dealt with the fact that a comparison of a stable and peaceful Vietnam to Iraq seems ludicrous on its face. Indeed, Bush's specific points about how the US leaving Vietnam led to atrocities against South Vietnamese collaborators with the US war, the forced emigration of refugees known as "boat people," and the "killing fields" in Cambodia are contradicted by the historical record.

It should be noted for the record that the newly reunified country of Vietnam deserves enormous credit for stopping the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia (the creators of the "killing fields"). The US government, on the other hand, insisted in the UN that Vietnam's actions in doing so were illegal because the US regarded the Khmer Rouge as the legitimate authority in Cambodia. (Bush also appears to not have known or to have forgotten that a US backed coup against Cambodia's pre-Khmer government along with an illegal US invasion of Cambodia led to a political vacuum in which the previously insignificant Khmer Rouge gained power.)

Vietnam also deserves credit for it systematic efforts at reconciliation with former enemies: collaborators, US veterans, the US people, and our government. This fact cannot be denied.

Further still, one issue that President Bush notably failed to raise in his speech was that of prisoners and MIAs. On this issue, Vietnam has a much better record than any other country in which the US fought a major war in helping to locate and identify MIAs and prisoners. Journalist Stanley Karnow, in his massive work Vietnam, which became the basis of the widely-acclaimed PBS series, pointed out that even the remains of the soldier who served as Arlington National Cemetery's "unknown soldier" for the war in Vietnam were located and identified. (Of course, in no small part, developments on this issue also have a great deal to do with the political pressure by veterans on the US government, which, like Bush in his speech, mostly preferred to ignore the issue.) Karnow also pointed out that in comparison to other wars, the percentage of MIAs still to be located is microscopic.

But, in my view, these aren't the main problems at the heart of Bush's comparison. It is his claim that there was some sort of "rush to leave" Vietnam that deserves more careful scrutiny. For this, I rely on a book published in 2001 called No Peace, No Honor by noted historian of the war in Vietnam, Larry Berman. (Berman teaches at the University of California, Davis and has written at least four books on different aspects of the war.)

I should note at the outset, that Berman's appears to agree with those participants in the war and the political events surrounding it that South Vietnam was betrayed by the US and, after our departure, the southern region of the country was forced into dire circumstances. Without having asked him directly, my judgment is that in some ways he might agree with Bush's assessment that bad things happened in Vietnam after we left – as a result of us leaving.

Using declassified documents only made available to the public in 2001, Berman shows, however, that not only was there no rush to leave Vietnam on the part of the Nixon administration but that the delay Nixon and Kissinger sought only strengthened the position of the North Vietnamese both in battle and at the bargaining table. Peace negotiations were launched in 1968, an agreement was reached 5 years later, and the last US personnel didn't finally leave until 1975 (and the US puppet along with 16 tons of South Vietnamese gold for his personal use.)

Lyndon Johnson, who had escalated the war under false circumstances in 1965, by 1968 recognized the futility of continuing the massive US military occupation. The so-called Tet offensive was a major military blow to North Vietnamese forces, but it showed that despite losing battles militarily, the North Vietnamese could win in the long run. Johnson launched negotiations with the North in 1968 and refused to participate in the next set of US elections.

It should be noted that just prior to Tet, public opinion was pretty evenly split on the war. After Tet it took a turn toward disapproval. But the peace movement itself was fairly isolated and small. It was under Nixon's watch that public opinion nose-dived, and the peace movement gained momentum and influence. Someone out there may correct me on this, but it is my impression from reviewing some public opinion poll statistics from the Vietnam era that public support for the war in Vietnam never got as low as public support for the Iraq war has gotten.

Through back channels, the Nixon campaign helped scuttle the talks Johnson had planned, promising the South Vietnamese President Thieu that under a Nixon administration it would get a better deal. Thieu, in consultation with the Nixon campaign publicly refused to support Johnson's decision to halt bombings of North Vietnam as a precondition for opening the negotiations and conceivably handed an election victory to Nixon by a 0.7 percent margin.

Publicly, Nixon ran as an antiwar candidate. He told voters that he had a secret plan to end the war, promising to do so within six months after entering office. His plan, as it turns out, was to open secret negotiations with the North that excluded the South combined with massive military force. But, again, despite winning every battle with overwhelming US technical and tactical superiority, it had already been made clear that the war could not be won militarily. The situation demanded a political resolution. But with every passing month that Nixon tried to win the war militarily, US and world public opinion turned against him. US troop casualties grew. The bargaining position of the North was strengthened. South Vietnamese military forces proved as equally incapable of turning military prowess in political movement.

The North quickly saw that the situation in 1968, when it sought a political settlement with Johnson, had changed. It saw its best diplomatic advantage in dividing the extremely unpopular and brutal Thieu from Washington and stalling the talks. For his part, Nixon continued to believe in military victory and force, persisting in supporting the undemocratic Thieu regime in South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese strategy ultimately worked, but only because of Nixon's refusal to concede certain realities and bring the war to an end as quickly as possible.

Public pressure forced Nixon to change tactics. Congress ordered an end to troop deployments in Cambodia (which Nixon continued anyway), and increasingly threatened to reduce budget supplementals to pay for the war. "Vietnamization" became the code word for withdrawal. As massive amounts of military aid and cash were handed over to back Thieu's one million person army, US troops were brought out. By the time Watergate (and Nixon's subversion of the US democratic and electoral process) was exposed and impeachment loomed as a real possibility, Nixon had no political muscle to keep his war going even through Thieu's proxy army.

In secret negotiations over a two year-period as the war continued, Kissinger moved from offering basic troop withdrawal promises to offering economic aid to the North, a timetable for withdrawal, allowing the National Liberation Front and the Revolutionary Provision Government (pro-liberation political movements in South Vietnam) to participate in future elections, and eventually promised to dump Thieu altogether. From the perspective of the empire, this diplomatic effort over time gradually weakened. One might even suggest that Kissinger moved from a position of strength to practically begging the North Vietnamese to let us leave "with honor," some shred of dignity.

I have long opposed comparisons between the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. But one similarity is clear: the longer we stay, the worse our options get. It is time to leave. Above all, it is time for the president to take responsibility for his failures, to refrain from abusing history and insulting us with childish comparisons, and set aside his arrogance.

Perhaps Bush thinks the 7 years it took to get out of Vietnam after peace talks opened and the 19 years the US intervened in that country was a rush. What does this say about how long he wants US troops to be in Iraq?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

"Our Jihadists" vs. Theirs

There was an oped piece in the Los Angeles Times which deserves greater coverage in the "mainstream" media but hasn't been receiving it. The piece was written by Michael Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (which fights to expose ultra-right Protestant fundamentalists in the military who seek to both convert secular soldiers and soldiers of other faiths and gain power for their apocalyptic ideology) and Reza Aslan, the author of No God, But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam. Aslan's work, while non-Marxist in its analysis, is deeply progressive and humanistic, and the best general source that I know for general readers in the English speaking world interested in understanding Islam in its historical and contemporary contexts. He has also appeared on CNN and other news stations in the past, which gives him minor media talking head status and may help explain why the LA Times the piece.

Under pressure from the Religious Military Freedom Foundation, the Defense Department has ended the mailing and distribution of "Freedom Packages" to the troops in Iraq. The Freedom packages" were from a ultraright fundamentalist group, Operation Straight Up, led by a former kick boxer turned evangelist, Jonathan Spinks, and including the movie and television actor turned evangelist Stephen Baldwin, according to the oped piece. The packages included bibles in English and Arabic, a computer video game "Let Behind: Eternal Forces" in which "Soldiers for Christ" search and destroy enemies (the oped piece considers these enemies to be surrogates for UN peace keepers). The group, one of many operating in the military, had planned shows at military bases which it calls a "military crusade."

There is more. Another group, Christian Embassy, which seeks to "convert" high ranking officers and other elite figures, was permitted to use Pentagon facilities for a propaganda film highlighting some of their converts. These are but a few examples of groups that some would consider clerical fascist operating within the U.S. military, opposed clearly by many in the Pentagon, but both ignored and protected by others.

There are a number of issues which deserve mention here. The article notes some outrageous examples of these events undermining U.S. policy. In one case, an Air Force Major General, Peter Sutton, assigned to be a liaison to the Turkish military, was exposed in a Turkish newspaper as a prominent member of Christian Embassy, which may compromise to say the very least his effectiveness as an representative to what is a secular, however conservative, Turkish military command in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. Then there was the appointment of Lt. General William "Jerry" Boykin, deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence whom the Pentagon appointed to led the campaign to "capture" Osama bin Laden and who then went around making speeches about the Satanic threat to the U.S. and the need to fight a religious war with a Christian army to defeat the minions of Satan (events that were largely reported in the U.S. media and in the media of Muslim countries)

The Weinstein-Aslan article makes the obvious (to non right-wing fanatics) point that these groups confirm the contentions of Al Qaeda and the Muslim ultraright and organized clerical fascist forces that Muslims must fight Holy Wars of defense against "Christian Crusaders" among others, who are seeking to destroy their religion, because these groups do in reality represent such policies, not only against Muslims, but Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, all secular people, and all Christians for that matter who do not share their sociopathic vision of the end of the world, and the division of humanity between the spiritually pure on their way to heaven, and the rest.

But there are other issues involved. While these groups are extreme even by contemporary U.S. ultra-right standards, the fact that they have friends and supporters in the Pentagon and the Bush administration should be frightening to Americans, including many who consider themselves to be conservatives. In the 1920s, the Nazis were considered extreme even among sections of the traditional German Right, but they had their friends and protectors in the police and regional governments, particularly in Bavaria, the stronghold of religious and secular conservatives. In Pakistan, it is a very open secret globally that sections of the military openly sympathize with Al Qaeda and the Taliban (which which they under CIA auspices largely created a generation ago) and are a major obstruction to U.S. attempts to fight these groups both in Afghanistan and more generally.

Such groups are a threat to the U.S. as both a constitutional republic and a democracy, whatever limitations exist within U.S. politics. While I would not exaggerate their strength among the working soldiers or even their influence within the Pentagon elites (although it is obvious that they have some influence or they could not have been engaging in these activities) their ideology means as I see it that the Constitution, representative government, and the rule of law have meaning only in so far as they advance the Apocalypse, the "rapture," the end of the material world and the final rewards and punishments that all humans will receive(and of course, since that is the goal, the sooner the better in doing "God's will").

Such groups, like Al Qaeda and like minded organizations in the Muslim world, use an unreal world based on spirit Gods and prophecies to do monstrous things to living men and women and society in the material world, which is the real world. Conservatives and reactionaries, including those in the U.S. military and the Bush administration (and previous administrations for that matter) find them useful to keep political enemies at bay and don't take them that seriously (which is the way that the CIA and the Pentagon viewed Al Qaeda in the years before the September 11 attacks).

It should be a priority for the next administration if it is to be a progressive administration to sever all Pentagon and Defense Department connections with such groups and make sure that the officer corps especially has no formal or informal involvement with them This should be a demand not only from the left but from the center in U.S. political life.

--Norman Markowitz

Friday, August 24, 2007

Latest National Intelligence Estimate Report on Iraq, part 1

By Joel Wendland

Here are some clips:

"...the level of overall violence, including attacks on and casualties among civilians, remains high; Iraq's sectarian remain unreconciled; AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] retains the ability to conduct high profile attacks; and to date, Iraqi political leaders remain unable to lead effectively."

Some successes appear to come not from troop level increases but from new tactics related to "working with Iraqi forces, some tribal elements, and some Sunni insurgents...." The latter development has arisen in the last six to nine months and as the Washington Post reported earlier this month is driven by cash and weapons bribes to Sunni groups, not the "surge."

But... "Broadly accepted political compromises required for sustained security, long-term political progress, and economic development are unlikely to emerge unless there is a fundamental shift in the factors driving Iraqi political and security developments."

So the problem is basically political. One might even argue that US involvement, both military and political, is primarily "driving Iraqi political and security developments."

But the report shifts the blame for insecurity to Iraqis themselves directly. Though at one point there is an interesting admission:

"The Iraqi Government's Shia leaders fear these groups [newly armed Sunni groups] will ultimately side with armed opponents of the government..."

So to clarify. The Bush administration has reached out to former insurgents, groups who have battled US forces, and with cash and weapons bribes have ostensibly brought them into the fold. But the Iraqi government, which the US has until now more or less propped up and supported, sees these groups as a potential threat.

And these newly armed groups actually see acceptance of US bribes as a means of building up there power in order to compete with Shia sects who currently control the government.

Can you see how this arrangement might fail, even move the situation more rapidly toward a highly volatile and, with the new weapons that have been made available, deadly civil war?

Remember this is a bribe program, and has nothing to do with the "surge."

So why does the Bush administration take steps that seem contradictory and unlikely to resolve intense insecurity issues both sides feel?

1. To maintain US occupation and involvement by preserving an insecure situation
2. Newly armed Sunni groups are meant to counter Shia control and Iranian influence

This is where we get to the heart of the matter: the new tactics are not about Iraq's security, but Iran's influence. Essentially, we are seeing the first steps toward a proxy war with Iran that is going to be fought out in Iraq.

See excerpts at TPM...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Springtime for "Georgie" Bush

It was once said that history is a pack tricks (or lies) played on the dead. George Bush was out today talking about history to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who were cheering him on, as they cheered on politicians and presidents all through the Vietnam War who kept on talking about any settlement beyond "victory" as "appeasement" "surrender" a return to the "Munich Agreement" and eventual "Communist takeovers" from Saigon to San Francisco.

But Bush was really rolling here. He threw in the Korean War and mentioned that I.F. Stone had written a book blaming the South Koreans for the War. I would bet a fortune that George never read that book (which is still a very useful work) or even heard of I.F. Stone (Bush wouldn't be able to get him right on a multiple choice
identification test) but that some neo-con speech writer who in the twilight zone of the American right regards I.F. Stone as a Soviet spy put that in.

Bush kept on going, using what the old cold war liberal journalist, Richard Rovere, author of a classic albeit anti-Communist study of Joe McCarthy called the "multiple untruth," that is, McCarthy's variation on the "big lie," hitting them with one lie after another, much like commercial advertising, so that it become hard to follow him logically and answer him with evidence.

The U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam caused millions of deaths, Bush said. The U.S. escalation of the war in Vietnam in 1965 after it created a decade before South Vietnam saw more bombs dropped on Vietnam than in WWII and the Korean War combined and caused millions of deaths. The withdrawal from Vietnam brought the Khmer Rouge and its mass murder to power, Bush said The overthrow of Sihanouk's neutralist government in 1970 by Nixon and Kissinger as part of their Vietnam War strategy led to five years of bombing and devastation which brought the Khymer Rouge to power followed by three years of mass killing by the Khmer Rouge, which only ended when Vietnam intervened in 1978. Subsequently, Khmer Rouge forces received indirect U.S. aid when the Reagan administration supported anti-Vietnamese Cambodian forces. If Bush was interested in reading, he might look at the British writer William Shawcross classic account of these events, Sideshow (even though Shawcross supported Tony Blair and the Iraq War I doubt that Bush's speech writers would ever cite his work on these questions).

Then Bush spoke of the "boat people," the repression carried out against those who had collaborated with and profited from the U.S. created South Vietnamese state. Actually, the propaganda of the Johnson and Nixon administration was through the escalation that if the U.S. would withdraw there would be mass killing. Outside of Cambodia, the end of the war meant the end of the mass killing as the whole civilized world knows, but since the old propaganda was that there was mass killing, why not say it again to an audience which would believe it as they would believe anything from anyone telling them that the solution to all problems is military.

Bush continued his "excellent adventure" by "remembering" that many doubted that the U.S. could bring democracy to Japan in its occupation. No mention that the Japanese had an advanced labor force to begin with an no natural resources in which the occupiers were interested, and were then able to profit from the cold war policies that Bush was hailing by not spending the money for the military and building up their automobile consumer electronics, and other industries.

If Bush had said that if the U.S. had come in with private contractors like Halliburton, given large numbers of high paying jobs to Americans and Europeans while the Japanese military were unemployed, and turned reconstruction projects into unfinished failures at best, confidence scams at worst, making Japan today far less of a competitor with the U.S. industry, not to mention a major bond holder of the U.S. debt, he might have made a little sense, but that would be outside of his script and above his audience, who will "buy American" to the last Toyota.

What are the Veterans of Foreign Wars cheering about when the listen to such specious nonsense. More and more foreign wars as a way to prevent wars in the future. Do they really want the soldiers to today to be led by such adventurers and fools.

I have students who are in the military today. They tell me how the GI Bill which was the last piece of New Deal social legislation enacted at the end of WWII has been undermined in its education and health benefits. They tell of of all the hidden clauses which make them pay out of pocket for education and health care and other things and how they support legislation to reform the GI Bill and give them those things. But Bush wasn't talking about any of that and the Veterans, whose job should be to fight for programs like that, weren't raising those questions.

The U.S. has a military budget of 460 billion dollars and most of that goes to the industrial part of the military industrial complex, while the soldier, like the worker, is flattered a little by his or her bosses and the politicians but in practice, in terms of the benefits he gets and the body armor and other essentials necessary to protect his or her life is treated with contempt. These are the issues that soldiers and veterans that I know are raising, and these are the issues that Bush should be addressing when he appears before a veterans group. The people would should really be cheering Bush are the Contractors of Foreign Wars.

Of course, no one mentioned that Bush didn't serve in the Vietnam War, while he was spewing "multiple untruths" about to support the war and occupation which he launched against Iraq. But he obviously doesn't
feel any compunction to tell anything that is true about himself. At least he didn't say that he stood the course in Vietnam in the Texas Air National Guard (and in Alabama) while Senator John Kerry, even with his military decorations, "cut and ran" by becoming z leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. But he may in the future.

It was once said that it is relatively easy to die for your country, but really hard to live for it. It has also been noted by civilized people for Milena that it is easy to start and get into wars and hard to end and get out of wars. I.F. Stone, whom I had the pleasure and privilege of interviewing thirty eight years ago when I was working on my doctoral dissertation understood that. Bush his party and his supporters cannot understand that on their best day.

--Norman Markowitz

Democracy and Human Rights in Burma

Our organization, the Free Burma Campaign, South Africa, is made up of exile Burmese activists in South Africa, along with native South African civil rights and former anti-apartheid activists.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Dennis Kucinich on Immigration Policy

From Kucinich08 on YouTube

Activists Hold Reception on Cuban Five before Court Appearance

A three-judge panel at the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta heard oral arguments Monday relating to the case of the Cuban Five.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Iraq Dies a Little Every Day

It is rare that I agree with retired general, but yesterday as I was channel surfing the tube of boobery aka cable TV, and came across two talking heads discussing the Iraq War. One, a well-meaning young man from the "liberal" Brookings Institution (in fact, Richard Nixon, later Watergate related materials showed called for a break in to seize documents and, John Dean recalled, Charles Colson came up with the idea of bombing the place so that operatives could seize the documents while the fireman were running around,) talked earnestly about a possible division of the country into a number of regions, a reduced U.S. military presence over a long period of time, and various other actions to mediate religious violence and maintain indirect control. The general, an older man with a no nonsense attitude refused even to dignify these conjectures and said simply that a religious war is going on which the U.S. has no strategy to deal with and has in large part fomented by backing first one side and then another, Sunni and Shia, with no military or political strategy on the ground following the removal of Hussein, who kept order in the country (the General didn't appear to be a progressive--few General have ever been--but he wasa realist). What the U.S. should do, pretty much all it could do (this was my inference) was withdraw to save itself.

Meanwhile, a young woman journalist, reporting from Iraq joined the talking heads by saying that most Iraqis have no faith in the government they elected to do much of anything and that the present situation, with U.S. forces recruiting arming Sunni Muslims to fight against the Sunni Al Qaeda forces in the North (more, the journalist noted, a result of Al Qaeda's abuses than the U.S. military winning hearts and minds) presents a new developing horror with the U.S. supporting armed forces of the Sunni minority(the mainstay of Saddam's regime) against armed forces of the Shia majority, backed by Iran, and the Sunni Al Qaeda forces, as a "wild card" in a conflict that is destroying a country and people without much pretense today of saving it (the following are my interpretations, not necessarily the journalist's).

That was yesterday. Today a Shia governor was assassinated in a Southern province. Fighting between Sunnis and Shias and fighting among Shias and Sunnis is growing, along with conflicts between government police and militia forces and private groups. Much of the "middle class" has fled the country and is living in the region as best it can. American and British generals talk like old fashioned colonial imperialists as they announce that the "mission" in Iraq may take decades to complete and come forward with plans that make no sense in the contemporary world, where the only thing that is really certain is that change is rapid and that colonialism which means armies occupying regions for long periods of time and controlling governments in order to obtain natural resources, labor pools, and captive markets, is dead even as an imperialist strategy.

The New York Times reports a demonstration in Baghdad today against this horror at the office of Moktada al-Sadr, the warlord Shia cleric referred to in U.S. media as a radical. While I and I don't think anyone on the left should have any sympathy for al-Sadr (one might remember that the U.S. military paid him a sort of compliment and showed its contemptuous attitude toward the people by referring to a large Shia slum area in Baghdad that is a center of Sadr's organization as "Sadr City") one of the demonstrators said something that goes to the very heart of the matter and that anyone, especially progressives should seriously evaluate.

"The government which we elected," the demonstrator, who gave his name as Muhammad Hassan said, is the cause of all this suffering. They are watching us being bombed every day without doing anything Nobody is trying to save the city from the daily attacks. We know that the Americans don't need permission from anybody and Maliki (the Prime Minister has no authority to stop this. The Americans will do whatever they want."

What American citizen or citizen of any nation as against a colonial subject would tolerate this sort of government. What American citizen or citizen of any nation would not despise the soldiers of a foreign power that were pursuing such policies, whatever propaganda was used to justify their acts. What American citizen or citizen of any nation would not understand that they do not matter, are essentially invisible, as they are being killed and maimed every day and decisions and policies are being put forward in the interests only of the foreign power, its collaborators, and its internal and regional enemies and rivals. What American citizen could live with this for long without either withdrawing, escaping, or fighting back by demonizing the foreigners and everything about them, making them invisible as human beings just as they have made the people being colonized invisible.

That is the history of European imperialism in much of the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and that is where the Bush administration war and occupation of Iraq is leading.

Let me conclude by saying that I just finished a Summer Course at Rutgers University in the History of Imperialism, which was, given the quality of the students, one of the best courses that I have ever taught. One of the books the students read was Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth, which addresses some of these questions in terms of their longterm destructive effects on the colonized peoples. I would recommend that the Democratic presidential candidates read it to gain some insight into what they are creating in Iraq so they can learn from history instead of re-repeating it Iraq, which bore the wounds of colonialism in the past only to bear new wounds from a "neo-colonialism" that isn't even so neo today.

--Norman Markowitz

Security and Prosperity Partnership Constitutes "Grave Threat"

Workers, women, Aboriginal peoples, immigrants and people of color, and all those striving to defend democratic rights, oppose war and aggression, and preserve our environment – that is, the vast majority of the people in all our three countries – have a common interest in derailing this dangerous, pro-corporate plan.

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SPP: Summit for Powerful Profiteers

The media spotlight will shine on Montebello, Quebec, when George W. Bush, Stephen Harper, and Felipe Calderon meet Aug. 20-21 for the third annual summit of North American leaders.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Dangers of Appeasing Bush

"The Devil is in the Details," has long been a sad and sometimes sinister truism concerning business contracts and of course legislation.

Congressional Democrats, who angered many of their supporters by caving in to the Bush administration in the recent vote on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (with its unpleasant acronym, FISA) are now legitimately afraid that the language in the act may significantly broaden the administration's ability to going beyond even warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens into both cruder(physical searches) and more sophisticated (business records, etc) "aimed" at foreigners who may have contact with Americans who then may be subject to all sorts of warrentless surveillance, searches and seizures "authorized" by the Attorney General which can lead to anything imaginable for American citizens without any recourse to any court--the so-called "FISA" court is now limited to determining whether the administration's actions were "clearly erroneous" that is whether they simply made a mistake in ransacking an American citizens home and interrogating him under preventive detention because his name was identical to another individual who belonged to a group which had some communication with a foreign national whom the Justice Department believed represented some intelligence risk.

The Democrats are promising to revisit these details and the administration, happy that they tricked the Democrats into potentially giving them more than they wanted, are smugly saying that they will continue to do what they want, that is, assert the power of the president to do what he wants when he wants to regardless of Congress and the courts (I am old enough to remember a time in the United States when all history and government teachers, especially conservatives, pointed to both the separation of powers and the built in checks and balances as both the foundation and the genius of the United States Constitution, but Bush and Gonzales (that paragon of honesty in government) among many others, seem to see the Constitution as a license for rather than protection against "Executive aggression," that is, a document that enables them to seize any power that Congress and the Courts let them get away with taking either by commission or omission.

As a post-script, my interpretation is supported by a very unlikely source, Bruce Fein, a former Reagan administration Justice Department attorney whom I remember from the not so good old days defending Reagan anti-Civil Liberties policies, opposes this legislation (actually, things have gotten so bad that there are a fair number of former Reagan officials who have difficult stomaching this Bush), tried unsuccessfully in a meeting with Justice Department officials and members of concerned groups to have the administration state that it would follow congressional restrictions on the legislation.

He was given a flat no, according to the New York Times story. which intersperses his comments with Democratic party critics and administration apologists. His comments about what he was told are worth quoting. They are that the legislation, however it is worded "is just advisory. The president can still do whatever he wants to do. They have not changed their position that the president's Article II powers trump any ability by Congress to regulate the collection of foreign intelligence."

Or pretty much anything else, I would add. The Democrats by their fear of looking "soft on terrorism" appeased the Bush administration and the administration responded to that appeasement by taking more than the Democrats expected them to take, which should surprise no one.

Their attitude is that they can pick and choose from legislation to do what they want when they want to do and ignore legislation that prevents them from doing what they want when they want to do. (If I sound repetitive it isn't really me, but the administration which keeps on repeating this theme over and over again.) That is reminiscent of what one third world tyrant called "guided Democracy" a half a century ago, that is, the executive knows best regardless of parties and parliaments and courts.

For people for whom democracy and the rule of law are not as empty as the words on a Fox News Network program, that is the basis of dictatorship and there are millions of Americans today who see this administration, from the stolen election of 2000 to the abuses of the "Patriot Act" to the Iraq War as moving in the direction of a dictatorship and they elected the Democrats to stop Bush today and prepare to reverse his policies tomorrow.

If the Democratic majority doesn't do that they will be undermining their chances in the 2008 elections, which even most Republicans realize is theirs to lose.

They can and must correct themselves here and give Bush nothing on future legislation, regardless of his tyrant's threats to do what he wants anyway and to veto any legislation that he doesn't want. Their answer to such threats of course can and should be impeachment, from Bush on down.

Giving this administration anything it wants merely takes away from the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the American people, which the government and the Constitution of the Republic were instituted to defend.

--Norman Markowitz

What the Bridge Collapse Really Means

The recent collapse of the 35W Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota should awaken many Americans to a reality few of us are prepared to face: It's not just the transportation infrastructure of the United States that is crumbling; it's the infrastructure of America that is crumbling, and with it, the middle class.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Nightmare in the "New Russia"

The press reports that a video has popped up in Russia that shows the beheading of two young men in a forest by a Neo-Nazi group under a Nazi flag. While there is some question of whether or not the video is real and some comments by Russian "nationalist" members of the State Duma that it may be a provocation aimed at discrediting them, there are open fascist groups in the "new Russia" seeking to take advantage of the suffering created among the masses of people by the destruction of the Soviet Union. There are also a reactionaries using chauvinistic and pseudo-radical slogans to try to appeal to people, And of course, there are champions of "free market capitalism" (conservatives or reactionaries in the U.S) who are called "liberals," and are especially favored by the capitalist states, who are ready and willing to accept any regime that is not Communist and not committed to any restoration of the Soviet Union, whose destruction they regard as their major political victory in contemporary history, one that shapes directly their twenty-first century policies of turning NATO into a global military club for the imperialist policies they call "globalization."

I don't know if this video is true or not. I do know that twenty-seven million Soviet citizens perished in the war against Hitler fascism. I do know that anyone of ethnic Russian background who waves a swastika is waving a symbol the five million fascist troops who invaded the USSR on June 22, 1941, fighting both an ideological "holy war" against the "Judeo-Bolshevik" conspiracy of their twisted ideological imaginations and a "race war" of decimation and extermination directed against all of the peoples of the Soviet Union, both the Slavic and non Slavic peoples, whose culture and history was to be obliterated in the fascist new order. I do know that any support for Hitler fascism among any of the peoples of the former Soviet Union as an act of grotesque self-hatred, in its own way a tribute to the major capitalist states who spent trillions in the cold war era alone to defeat and destroy the Soviet Union

The Soviet people led by the Soviet Communists from 1941 to 1945 defeated the most powerful war machine in human history and literally save the world from the consequences of a fascist Axis victory. Specifically, they saved their own people from being treated the way Belgian colonialists treated Congolese at the beginning of the twentieth century or the South African Apartheid government sought to treat the African majority of South Africa, as less than human creatures to be driven out of their own lands and literally worked to death for the benefit of their colonial masters.

The Soviet Union was destroyed and dismembered in 1991. Perhaps those in the "new Russia" whose alienation from their society has not led them to withdraw completely into private affairs, and the race for the accumulation of personal wealth that highlights capitalist society anywhere should stop for a moment and remember not only the Soviet victory over those who threatened humanity with the Swastika but the Soviet ideals that were the foundation of that victory.

The Soviet idea and ideal was proletarian or working class internationalism, anti-racism, and anti-imperialism. The Soviet ideal was to turn the many peoples of the Soviet Union into a family of peoples, equal and cooperative with each other, to build a socialist economy that would end both the foreign capitalist penetration and exploitation that was characterizing late Czarist Russia and also what Lenin condemned over and over again, "Great Russian Chauvinism" which the Czarist autocracy used to oppress the non Russian peoples of the empire.

What the Soviet revolution, the formation of the USSR and its industrialization, its leadership of the world Communist movement in the interwar period, and its defeat of the overwhelming majority of fascist Axis forces on the ground in WWII, along with the inspiration and support it provided for Communist led anti-Axis resistance movements in China, Vietnam, France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece, and many other countries, both the victory over fascism and the postwar end of colonialism would have been, at very best, highly unlikely.

These are the achievement and the history that Russians and non-Russians in the former Soviet Union can look at with great pride. This is what real patriotism, Russian and Soviet was about--and it is the only patriotism that makes sense, because it is the only patriotism that made a better life for the peoples oft he Soviet Union and the peoples of the world. It is what the Communists and all those who keep alive the Soviet achievement should point to today and what the young people of all of the former Soviet Republics should seek to recover, because it is
a truly heroic past that holds the key to their and their diverse peoples future, not "liberals" who are not liberals or "nationalists" who are chauvinists, not to mention fascists, who are open enemies of humanity anywhere on earth but on the soil of the former Soviet Union assume a grotesque character that is truly mind-boggling.

For those Russians who have not put their heads down and accepted the present status quo, it should fill them with both anger and shame and a resolve to fight the capitalist system that is the problem, not the solution for Russia.

--Norman Markowit

Help Katrina survivors come back home


Public housing residents have been blocked from returning home for almost two years. HR 1227, which would help them come home by repairing and opening thousands of minimally damaged public housing units, has passed in the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, the senators from Louisiana are dragging their feet on this bill, and without their leadership it will die in the Senate.

Demand Senators Landrieu and Vitter protect affordable housing in the Gulf Coast by supporting HR 1227 now.

I Blame Mattel and Bush

This week's recall of millions of Mattel manufactured toys laced with lead paint has raised a lot of finger-pointing – almost exclusively at China.

Mattel executives blamed subcontractors in China for refusing to follow its "strict" guidelines on product safety. One executive, in a report on MSNBC last night, said the privately-owned subcontractor sought to cut corners and bought paint that was not on a Mattel approved list. Media accounts went on to blame the Chinese government for lack of oversight and enforcement of safety standards.

Well, I blame Mattel. And I blame safety rules weakened here by a right-wing administration that hates "big government" interference and has instituted a voluntary process of allowing big business to regulate itself.

We don't live in China. While we can talk with China, impose tough trade barriers, and the like, we can't really make China do anything. Sure the Chinese government has an obligation to do its best to ensure product safety, and that hasn't been successful of late. Recently beefed-up safety and health regulations and enforcement procedures there, however, is a good start. And the country's effort to strengthen workers rights to join and organize unions might also be a good step forward.

The point is that Mattel, one of the largest and most profitable multinational corporations in the world, has the main responsibility for the safety of the products it decides to sell. And that doesn't end by providing a list of guidelines to subcontractors.

The fact is Mattel put those products on shelves in toy stores in the US. Mattel failed to test its products (as far as we know) to ensure safety and put our children at risk. Mattel sought to cut corners and increase profits by turning production over to unscrupulous subcontractors who pay low wages to non-union, underpaid workers and who flout environmental and health rules. It went to far away places specifically to avoid whatever is left of public safety and health standards here in the US.

Mattel shouldn't pretend that, like US consumers, it too has been victimized by a small-potatoes subcontractor in China. That's nonsense. Mattel has to accept responsibility for its actions. So far it has refused to do so. Class-action lawsuit anyone?

Additionally, at least part of the blame rests on the shoulders of the Bush administration for creating a climate in which our government, which we rely on to tell us when products are unsafe or unhealthy, just doesn't do its job anymore. Recalls have been made voluntary. Health alerts are advisory. Industry insiders have been put in charge of oversight.

Meanwhile, our own food supply has been tainted by E. Coli and mad cow disease and other dangerous contaminants. Miracle drugs like Vioxx that were approved by our own agencies have proven dangerous. Pesticides made by Dow Chemical and used by multinational corporations like Dole Fresh Foods and Standard Fruit on their plantations in Latin America have quietly contaminated the US food supply with little clamor from the US media or pundits who in recent days have become concerned about product safety.

So before we go pointing fingers at China, let's take a look at what we can control: what happens in this country. We need an administration less worried about pointing fingers at China, and more focused on the job of testing imported products, regulating the use of poisonous materials, and forcing corporations to play by the rules.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Karl Rove aka "Bush's Brain" Leaves the Bunker

Karl Rove is leaving the White House for parts unknown. Argentina might be the place if this were 1945, but it currently has a progressive government is probably out of the question. Western Europe is also unlikely because there are frankly laws against the sort of political tactics that Rove has specialized in and people can go to jail for practicing. Maybe Rove will become Editor in Chief of the Wall Street Journal after Rupert Murdoch completes his takeover of that symbol of everything that Rove has dedicated his political life to.

The fixers and sharpies in the Republican party are praising Rove for his role in the 2000 and 2004 elections, and his various underlings are all over the Republican landscape but no one, it seems, wants to have him join their campaign. Was Rove a great political strategist, the architect of a "new Republican majority" as he liked to think of himself (comparing his activities with the Mark Hanna, the Cleveland Industrialist who used the
tactics associated with large corporations in the 1890s to build a Republican machine that lasted for decades), or merely a dirty politician continuing the tradition of such figures as Roy Cohn, Joe McCarthy's "Brain," Murray Chotiner and other henchmen of Richard Nixon from 1946 to 1974, Lee Atwater, who led the attacks on Michael Dukakis for Bush's Dad in 1988, of which "Willie Horton" commercial is the best known and
most despicable example?

I would say the latter. Firs,t Rove didn't understand history, even the history of his own party. Mark Hanna, his hero, was a conservative Republican and national party boss. But William McKinley, Hanna's protege whom his machine put in the White House in 1896, was an experienced Republican politician committed to high tariffs and the Gold Standard (which meant high interest for creditors) not some dope talking about "compassionate conservatism" and pandering to religious fundamentalists. Hanna did "innovate" in U.S. politics in that he used money to build a modern political propaganda machine as had never been done before, hiring thousands of paid campaign workers to both "sell McKinley" to the electorate, and portray his opponent, William Jennings Bryan, as the epitome of all that was bad to the various sections of the electorate. McKinley was assassinated in 1901 and Hanna himself died in 1903. Ironically, the politician whom Hanna hated most, Theodore Roosevelt, who combined domestic progressive politics with an aggressive imperialist foreign policy, did much more to solidify that Republican majority by appealing to workers and middle class progressives. If anything, there was a more active progressive wing to the Republican party until 1912 (when Republican progressives and their allies nominated Roosevelt as a third party candidate and then saw their party, built around him, collapse as he left it and rejoined the Republicans, now under conservative leadership with the coming of WWI, which turned out to be a political disaster for the Wilsonian Democrats).

Today there is no progressive wing of the Republican party, large or otherwise. The Republicans are associated with the export of capital abroad, not the protection of jobs at home, which was, however phony it
might have been, the argument that the Hanna-McKinley machine made to workers when they talked of the high wages and high employment that high tariffs and a pro business investment policy U.S. industry, would
create. The Republicans are associated with the disastrous Iraq War, not the easy Spanish-American War, which however it was opposed by anti-imperialists (and very rightly so, especially the brutal occupation of
the Philippines and suppression of the Filipino national uprising which cost by most estimates a few hundred thousand lives) was "a splendid little war" as McKinley's Secretary of State called it, at least for U.S. imperialists, in that it covered up the economic crisis of the period, weakened domestic populist and progressive forces, and associated economic expansion with militarism. If someone with a contemporary version of Theodore Roosevelt's "Square Deal" program, criticisms of the corporate elite and active environmental policy showed up at the 2008 Republican convention and tried to get the nomination, he would probably be arrested as am "enemy combat tent and shipped off to Guantanamo, which is, one should remember, a legacy of the Spanish-American War, which had as much to do with the "liberation" of Cuba from Spanish colonialism as the Iraq war had to do with liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein.

So Karl Rove in reality was an architect of political disaster for the American people in the short run and nothing else. The Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994 and held it for the next six years, thanks in large part to the accommodation's and conservative policies of Bill Clinton. Rove had absolutely nothing to do with that. Rove didn't "win" the presidency for Bush in 2000 because Bush didn't win the presidency. Al Gore won the election in reality and the election was then stolen by Republican operatives in Florida who blocked a fair recount of the votes and then had there position sustained by a 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court. Only the Hayes-Tilden election of 1876 rivals the Bush-Gore election of 2000 among major party candidates for its injustice and corruption.

Rove's strengthened appeal to the religious right and a much more focused campaign of disenfranchising through "voter challenges" likely anti-Bush voters, primarily African Americans, may very well have helped
Bush to win the 2004 election (although even here there is a serious case to be made that electoral fraud in Ohio, where the election was decided, gave Bush the presidency) but that is hardly strategy, but political pandering and dirty tricks of the kind which have been outlawed in many countries and should be in the U.S.

What was it Abraham Lincoln said (and he wouldn't be welcome at any Republican convention today if he stood for a contemporary version of the principles he represented in 1860) you can fool some of the people
all of the time, all of the people, some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time. Karl Rove used classic "Big Lie" propaganda and dirty tricks politics in the service of George W. Bush. In 2006, both the disastrous effects of the Bush policies and a growing revulsion at those tactics and the contempt that they show for the people defeated the Republicans. In 2008, if Lincoln was right, and political democracy has any meaning, the Republicans should suffer a very well deserved and sweeping defeat as Rove and Bush literally end up together again on the junk heap of history

Norman Markowitz

Friday, August 10, 2007

Turns Out Hillary Agrees with Obama on Nukes

According to an Associated Press item published today, Sen. Hillary Clinton, despite having chastised Sen. Barack Obama for "naively" taking nuclear weapons off the table, last year made similar comments.

According to the news report, in August 2006, Sen. Clinton said:

"I would certainly take nuclear weapons off the table...[The Bush] administration has been very willing to talk about using nuclear weapons in a way we haven't seen since the dawn of a nuclear age. I think that's a terrible mistake."

In the past week or so, Sen. Clinton said, however:

"I don't believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or non-use of nuclear weapons."

I am glad that Sens. Clinton and Obama can actually say they agree on the sound policy of nuclear restraint.

Iran: Support the united struggle for freedom of labor, student and women’s

Tudeh Party of Iran supports the interesting initiative of International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) for a worldwide day of action on August 9, 2007 to protest against the oppressive measures of Iran’s regime.

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Thursday, August 9, 2007

2008 Democrats in milestone gay issues forum

Six of eight Democratic hopefuls will gather in Hollywood, for a forum to be broadcast live and online by Logo, a gay and lesbian network spun off from MTV. Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Richardson, Gravel, and Kucinich are expected to attend. Republicans have no plans for a similar event.

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Bush's Herbert Hoover Blues

Sometimes it is hard to be an historian. You pick up the newspaper and the past stares you in the face. For example, there is a big crisis rapidly taking shape on Wall Street related to the bad debt incurred by the mortgage industry, which has led to a large rise in foreclosures. Since large numbers of people have their pensions tied involuntarily to the stock market through various public, union, and company pension plans which serve to "supplement" social security, (for higher income workers social security in reality is a supplement to these pensions) such developments are a real threat to the security of millions, not just stock market speculators and big investors. Also, since housing is a necessity, unless one considers homelessness an option, the dangers to many low and moderate income people with no savings paying off mortgages in a declining "housing market" with possible foreclosure staring them in the face represents a real social disaster.

So what is Bush's response? According to the New York Times today, he, speaking at the Treasury Department after discussions with department officials , referred to the escalating crisis as "not a cause for worry but a natural adjustment from the improvident lending of recent years."

Wow! At the beginning of the Great Depression, Andrew Mellon, Herbert Hoover's secretary of the Treasury, told Hoover to "liquidate" stocks, labor, farmers, everything, and let things "adjust." The depression, Mellon went on to say, was "not altogether a bad thing," since it would encourage the people to work harder and compete more now that the "easy money" was gone (the headline of the Times article by the way was "Bush faults Easy Money for Volatility). Of course, the "easy money" of the 1920s didn't exactly fall into the hands of the masses of working people and the wild stock market speculation of the late 1920s in the U.S. had a great deal to do with the policies of detaxation for corporations and the rich and the undermining of government regulation because that only weakened business confidence and investment that Mellon and advocated and to a considerable extent implemented in the Harding and Coolidge administrations before the depression hit under Hoover.

Bush's policies, reviving in an extreme way the Reagan spend and detax and deregulate policies of the 1980s, which were in themselves were a revivial of the right-wing Republican administrations in the 1920s and their doctrine of "trickle down" prosperity, have been the foundation for the debacle in the mortgage industry today, just as the Mellon policies of the 1920s helped to both bring upon the crash and then turn the crash into a general economic collapse (Reagan's policies, one should remember, led to the Savings and Loan disaster that American taxpayers will have been paying off for two decades and will continue to pay off for decades to come).

The U.S. was saved in the 1980s from a far-reaching depression, after the 1987 stock market crash, as Paul Volcker, the Federal Reserve Chair in the period, who was often at odds with Reagan, noted dryly, by the very regulatory structures and federal insurance protections that the Reagan administration was attacking.

But that was then, when Reagan and his successor George Bush I, were expanding the national debt from 1 trillion in 1981 to four trillion in 1992. The debt is over 10 trillion today, and countries like the Peoples Republic of China and Japan, whatever their substantial differences in terms of their economies and larger political social values, finance the U.S. debt, in effect lending the U.S. money so its citizens can buy their goods, the way the Republican administrations of the 1920s, with very different aims certainly than China today, lent European countries money at high interest rates so that they could buy U.S. goods while maintaining high tariffs in the U.S. against Americans buying any foreign goods. A global economy centered around a U.S. consumer economy swimming in consumer, state and corporate debt is untenable in the long run and may very well be untenable, given the Bush policies, even in the short-run.

And yet, just like Mellon and Hoover in the early 1930s , who responded to the depression by raising tariffs, refusing to even address the question of the necessity for relief (in both humanitarian terms and also in terms of reviving a collapsing mass purchasing power) and continued to entertain the fantasy that, as Hoover said over and over again, "the economy is fundamentally sound" and all would be well when international trade revived, Bush today literally said that the problem was that the U.S. a "weakening" of the "competitiveness" of U.S. as against international capital markets and said that he "discussed" the possibility of "further tax cuts and reduced regulation" as a solution.

Even the Times reporter, Steven R. Weisman, had difficulty reporting this with a straight face. In what I considered to be a tongue-in-cheek comment, Weisman noted that "Mr. Bush, who has a Master's Degree in Business Administration from Harvard, confidently used phrases like liquidity, risk assessment, and market adjustment to describe complex economic conditions. In the next paragraph, he referred to Bush's use of the term liquidity as "financial jargon" and mentioned subsequently that the Democrats were responding to the crisis "less philosophically" (it is hard to think of Bush as a philosopher) by calling upon the federally sponsored mortgage buyers to buy more loans and thus put money into the housing market (a sort of return to Keynesian fiscal policy that the Reagan and Bush administrations have seen, when the fiscal policy is not about military spending, as a liberal heresy to expunged from all economic policy.

Bush doesn't even have enough sense to realize that he is profoundly ignorant of the crisis that his administration has helped to engender. Unlike Hoover, who was left holding the bag for policies carried forward by his predecessors, Bush took an economy where there had been
significant deficit reduction in the late 1990s and modest but significant real wage growth and drove it into a mountain of debt, deepening economic inequality, and greater reliance on imports of everything which the debt sustained.

Bush's further comments that the Democrats demands to use the federal Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac agencies to prop up the housing industry was wrong because those agencies have had accounting scandals (under his administration, one has to add) and "have to be reformed first" was the kind of statement one might expect from a con man who contends the troubles he helped bring about in the past are an excuse for not doing anything about the troubles he is creating in the present. Bush's further statement that the crisis was not structural, but rather the result of borrowers failure to read the "fine print" of their mortgages and that "there needs to be financial education measures in place" was good for a laugh, but nothing more.

Bush also said that he would veto the Children's Health Insurance bill that the Democrats are pushing because it would raise taxes and "nationalize'(Weisman but that in quotes which did help me from falling over) the "health sector"(my quotes from Weisman) but what should
anybody by now expect.

One might mention to Bush that Herbert Hoover did say that federal relief and jobs programs, which the New Deal government eventually established, would "rot the moral fiber of the American people" but he would probably say that it did rot the moral fiber of the American
people, except those who voted for him.

In summary, there is a major economic crisis developing thanks to and with the assistance of the administration. Hopefully Bush and the Republicans will be out of power and a progressive administration in place before that crisis floods public agencies like the FDIC, the FSLIC, the federal lending agencies in place to protect the people from economic storms the way Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans while the administration watched and did very little.

Norman Markowitz

How RCTV President’s CIA Connection Links Venezuela and Nicaragua

The president of Venezuela's RCTV, Eladio Larez,[1] is no stranger to the CIA. In fact, Eladio's contact with the agency goes back nearly twenty years.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Just in: New York Congressman Threatens to "Pack Heat" in Response to Peace Protests

From Americans Against Escalation in Iraq:

Washington- Just three days into August recess, and 20 days to the Iraq Summer Campaign's Take a Stand Day, it appears that Rep. Randy Kuhl cannot face his constituents and answer their tough questions on why he continues to shield President Bush's endless war. With recent polls indicating that more than 7 in 10 Americans are against the Iraq War and are calling for a responsible redeployment of American troops home by April 2008, Rep. Kuhl continues to ignore constituents concerns and has even suggested he would carry a gun to "protect" himself from constituents who may come to his office to express their opinions.

Rep. John R. "Randy" Kuhl told Democrat & Chronicle Editorial Board member Jerri Kaiser "that the types of protests have caused him to rethink security at his offices and that means securing doors. He said they are 'more protective now' and that he 'thought about packing.'[Democrat & Chronicle, 8/7/07]

Peace activists responded:

"Instead of arming himself in response to his constituents' protests of his war stance, Rep. Kuhl should try listening. New Yorkers, like more than 70% of Americans, are simply calling on him to Take a Stand, and bring an end to President Bush's endless war in Iraq," said Bill Gaffney, a WWII Veteran and resident of NY-29. "It is time that Congressman Kuhl face his constituents and explain why he continues to shield President Bush's endless war. After four years, 3600 American lives and over $450 billion dollars, New Yorkers have had enough. Rep. Kuhl has a choice: he stands with his constituents and votes to bring the troops home or he stands with President Bush."

Did the Dems Get Out-maneuvered on Warrantless Wiretapping?

Civil liberties activists are justifiably angered over Congress' recent acquiescence to Bush administration demands to legalize warrantless wiretapping provisions as part of the misleadingly named Protect America Act.

Nancy Talanian of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee said, "By passing the 'Protect America Act', Congress has shirked its responsibility to serve as a check on the executive branch and has stripped the FISA court of oversight until 120 days after a wiretap involving a U.S. citizen begins."

Now Alberto Gonzales and the Director of National Intelligence get to decide if they are going to eavesdrop on your telephone calls, your e-mails, etc.

Insider accounts of the backdoor dealings between congressional Democrats and Director of National Intelligence J. Michael McConnell indicate, however, the Democrats feel that McConnell acted politically on behalf of the Bush administration by pronouncing negative judgments on a series of proposals made by the Democrats in the week leading up to the vote.

Democrats say that McConnell had previously agreed to a compromise proposal that protected judicial oversight over the wiretapping program, but then apparently allowed himself to be used by the White House to pressure Congress into accepting the White House's demands.

McConnell was used as a smokescreen to distance the president, whose own credibility on national security matters is non-existent, from the wiretapping proposal and lend credibility to claims of a looming terrorist threat and the urgent need for drastic measures. Sen. Trent Lott all but promised a terrorist attack if this bill wasn't passed.

If the Democrats had stuck to their guns on protecting civil liberties and Constitutional rights, they would not have been out-maneuvered by Bush (re: Rove) on this matter. But it is also clear that the discourse on terrorism needs to change. National politicians need to be held accountable for fear-mongering and lying to the public about threats.

Watch out, because this same White House tactic (with Rove's fingerprints all over it) is being prepared for next month's report by General Petraeus. Because Petraeus has a smidgeon more credibility than Bush on the war, he will be delivering a report on "progress" in Iraq.

Democrats might not succeed in the PR battle by attacking Petraeus' credibility, but by holding the White House responsible for a failed policy with the only viable option for progress being bringing the troops home, Democrats may be able to avoid letting themselves be out-maneuvered again.

AFL-CIO Presidential Debate

In my view, the longest, most resounding applause at last night's presidential debate sponsored by the AFL-CIO came not when Sen. Obama delivered a clever remark about Washington insiders running amok or when Sen. Clinton accused the Bush administration of misleading the country into war or even when Rep. Dennis Kucinich promised to establish a "workers' White House."

It came when retired steelworker Steve Skvara of Indiana talked about his situation. "After 34 years with LTV Steel," he said, "I was forced to retire because of a disability. Two years later, LTV filed bankruptcy. I lost a third of my pension, and my family lost their health care. Everyday of my life, I sit at the kitchen table across from the woman who devoted 36 years of her life to my family, and I can't afford to pay for her health care. What's wrong with America, and what will you do to change it?"

In that question, in the tremble in Mr. Skvara's voice, one senses the frustrations of working men and women built up over the last few decades as we have seen our wages and benefits eroded, our rights to union protections, good jobs with decent pay, safety and health protections, our access to health care eroded, and our voices unheard. One felt Mr. Skvara's anger and anxiety erupt in the sustained applause of the thousands of workers who attended the event.

Mr. Skvara's is a question that puts to shame the carefully crafted and spun responses of the candidates, the squabbling over he said-she said, and the endless platitudes. It is a question whose answer is based in serious, fundamental policy changes. Do our candidates really care about working families?

I think this debate, the questions and demands of workers presented there, are a watershed moment in US politics. It is a turning point in the public debate about what should be on the agenda of the next president. Get ready for some big changes. Get ready to help make those changes happen.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Dr. Strangelove II: The Attack on Senator Obama's Refusal to Love the Bomb

I thought I would respond at length to Tom Riggins' fine piece on the really outrageous comments that a few Democratic presidential hopefuls have made about Senator Obama's statements rejecting the use of nuclear weapons in the Middle East against the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

Tom was really being too kind. These candidates seem to have more interest in throwing stones at Obama than remembering Albert Einstein's famous comment (concerning the inevitable use of nuclear weapons in WWIII) that WWIV would be fought with sticks and stones,or Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's statement that nuclear war was the only kind of war where the survivors would even the dead. One might remind Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd (a liberal Democratic Senator who is the son of Senator Thomas Dodd, the former FBI man who in the 1950s headed the Senate equivalent of HUAC) that even those politicians who have no compunctions against both building, stockpiling, and at least threatening to use nuclear weapons saw those weapons as either deterrents to or a vital part of major wars, which have always been their purpose, not a weapon against suicide bombers and saboteurs

These Democratic candidates might also remember if history has any interest to them that right-wingers from the inception of the nuclear era muttered about using nuclear weapons as part of a preventive war against the Soviet Union, and "selectively" in the Korean war against North Korean and Chinese forces. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles used nuclear blackmail which he called "brinkmanship" to threaten Koreans, Chinese and Vietnamese (but not the Soviet Union, which even he understood had nuclear weapons of their own by then) in the 1950s, and boasted about "going to the brink," which horrified most liberals and progressives, even those who had accepted the cold war and was implicitly challenged by the the two time Democratic presidential candidate, Adlai Stevenson. Barry Goldwater picked up on a theme that many right-wing military fans used to talk about when he advocated giving field commanders the power to use "tactical nuclear weapons" (that
concept itself has a Dr Strange love quality to it) but the Democrats brilliant answer in 1964 was a commercial (pulled because of protests after it was shown but it had its effects) or a little girl in a field as the nuclear countdown began. When Democrats hide from or try to pretend that they are no different on foreign policy than the Republicans they usually lose, as they did in presidential elections through the majority of the cold war era. When they focus on domestic progressive issues and de-emphasize militarism and war, in short, when
they represent policies that their voters support, they usually win.

On this issue at least, I think it is time to ask these Democrats the question that Casey Stengel famously asked to a very bad New York Mets team in the early 1960s--does anyone here know how to play this game? Are these Democrats more interested in emulating Bush's fear tactics and advancing their chances for the nomination by attacking Obama than they are in beating Bush? Do they agree with Bush and right-wing Republicans that the Democratic party is "soft" on terrorism as right-wing Republicans proclaimed that they were "soft" on Communism and revolution to the point that they have to say that they will never "tie the hands
of the military" even if those hands are on nuclear buttons.

Or are they simply "crackpots"? Not crackpot realists, the term C. Wright Mills used in the 1950s to describe Dulles, Herman Kahn, and all those cold war enablers and implementers who saw military escalation
both conventional (as an alternative to nuclear) and nuclear (as cheaper than conventional) as "tough-minded" responses to the "real world." Al Qaeda isn't a country like the U.S. or the USSR or a military alliance system like NAT0 or the Warsaw Treaty. Don't they realize that "terrorism" is a tactic used by groups who cannot or will not fight conventional wars or guerrilla wars. That point has been made by most serious strategic thinkers for more than a century now, and is still central to the thinking of British and European planners against terrorist groups, but it is rarely made here, since the "war against terrorism" has become both an enormous political pork barrel and a fixed idea against serious thought on a wide variety of questions.

Frankly, I doubt that John Foster Dulles or even Herman Kahn would see any utility in threatening or using nuclear weapons against a relatively small internationally organized groups, particularly a group like Al Qaeda that trains people to be suicide bombers and revels in a sociopathic death wish, which it dresses up in ecclesiastical garb. That is "crackpot" even more than "crackpot realist."

Such a policy would be giving Al Qaeda what it wants, besides letting the genie of nuclear warfare out of the bottle where it has stayed since the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks. Of course, one should remember that
the most likely place to use such weapons would be where Al Qaeda is really headquartered, that is, the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas where it began in 1988 as part of the Reagan war to "free Afghanistan" from its revolutionary Communist government and its Soviet supporters. Pakistan does have nuclear weapons, a point that should be taken into account

Although most of the Democratic candidates refrained from this participating in this nonsense, those did, or, like Hillary Clinton, saw these issues as "hypothetical" are hurting the people who regularly vote for their party and helping the Republicans. By turning on each other on such absurd grounds they can only give the discredited right-wing Republican administration and party time to regroup and make better use of their traditional large financial edge for the 2008 elections.

As a final point, I showed the Battle of Algiers, to a Summer Class that I am teaching (not the one in U.S. history, but one in the History of Imperialism) very recently. I mentioned to the class that the army had U.S. troops in Iraq watch the film to get a greater understanding about how to fight terrorism immediately after the beginning of the occupation (ironic, since the film is clearly against the French colonialists and for the Algerians).

Also, and this may be a comment on the military itself and its lack of understanding, the film does have the French elite paratroop commander directing the counter-insurgency make the point over and over again that
the military factor is very secondary in fighting the insurgents and their terrorist tactics. This is a police problem and police tactics are necessary to defeat the enemy. Although all of the Democratic candidates were far better students than GW Bush, (and they could afford the tuition for my Summer courses, although I would like to see them revive the idea of free tuition public higher education) those who attacked Obama might see the Battle of Algiers and see if they can learn something

The French knew what they were doing in Algeria and they lost because they could not deal with the underlying social-economic questions or the allied question of national liberation. The French were actually successful by using both brutal (widespread torture) and sophisticated police methods in suppressing the urban insurrection and they still lost because of their failure to deal with the exploitation and dehumanizing social oppression that colonialism had meant for many generations in Algeria.

The Bush administration hasn't known much of anything about what it has been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Terrorism, national or international, is still a police matter, not significantly, much less primarily a military matter.

The "war on terrorism" is for domestic political consumption and the politicians who go along with it to the tune of the 460 billion "military budget" and verbal arms races to prove that they are "stronger" on terrorism than their opponents get further and further away from both doing the cooperative international police work necessary to really eliminate such groups and developing a foreign policy and an international economic that will support democratic and progressive forces in countries like Pakistan who are their enemies and will undertake reforms that will undercut the support that groups like Al Qaeda have not supporting regimes and ruling groups.

These are the issues, along with addressing the needs of the working people of our country which the Democratic candidates should be addressing rather than attacking one of their number not talking like a
crackpot and/or a member of the Bush administration.

--Norman Markowitz