Friday, February 29, 2008

Clinton and the Republican Politics of Fear

by Norman Markowitz

As her campaign continues to stumble, in spite of the enormous advantages with which she began, Hillary Clinton continues to show that her only interest is to get a nomination that will help her become president, even if her campaign undermines her party and strengthens John McCain and a Republican administration and party which has brought the nation to the brink of disaster.

A new Clinton ad begins with hokey Hollywood doom music and a narrator saying "its three in the morning and your children are asleep" There is a world crisis and the white house phone is ringing. Your vote will decide who answers the call.

Senator Obama responded quite rightly that "we've seen these ads before. There the kind that play on people's fears... Later he went on to mimic the narrator of the ad, saying that at three in the morning when your children are asleep and there is a world crisis, shouldn't the phone in the White House be answered by "the one--the only one who had judgment and courage to oppose the war in Iraq from the start."

But Clinton isn't stopping. She mocked Obama's opposition to the war in 2002 as mere rhetoric from someone who held no responsible position, hoping Democratic voters will forget that she supported Bush and the war. She then ignored Obama's opposition in 2003, up to the last day, trying to portray him as uncertain in his opposition, and then pulled a George W. Bush by saying that "when he got to the United States Senate he voted exactly as I did."

On what? Obama got to the Senate in 2005, more than a year and a half after the invasion and well into the occupation. Did he vote for the war funding, as most others in the Democratic party did, as a sort of fait accompli? Sure, but that is very different from Hillary Clinton's transparent maneuvering on the Iraq war, which like everything else, is about selling Hillary Clinton.

I wish Obama had voted against the war funding but I remember that Abraham Lincoln, who eloquently opposed the Mexican War before it began, then defended his vote for subsequent war funding and no one in his Whig party side, most of whom had done the same thing, went out to attack him in ways that could only help the pro war, pro slavery Polk administration.

Harry Truman, who was not above using such fears against the left, but not against members of his own party, once said that if the people are given the choice of voting for a Democrat who talks like a Republican and a real Republican, they will choose the real Republican.

The more Hillary Clinton talks like a Republican (at least an Arnold Schwarzenegger Republican) the more she helps the real Republican candidate, John McCain, and the real Republican in the White House, George Bush. If she does get the nomination (and she would be a far weaker candidate than Obama) I can imagine a McCain commercial that begins: "Its three o'clock in the morning and your children are asleep. There is call to the White and there is a world crisis. Will you feel safe if a woman answers the phone as commander and chief of our armed forces?"

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Foreclosing on the American dream

A sticker attached to the Baltimore Sun last week announced, “Foreclosed home auction … March 8-11 … Over 500 homes must be sold!” What a world of trouble in those words: 500 homes, once shelter to families who toiled to keep up with mortgages, utility bills, car payments, food and gasoline.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Senate Republicans Filibuster Home Foreclosure Bill

by Joel Wendland

Senate Republicans today filibustered a modest attempt to ease the home foreclosure crisis. The bill would have modified credit counseling and bankruptcy laws to ease the ability of homeowners to renegotiate mortgages with lenders. It would also have provided funds to state and local communities to purchase foreclosed homes.

Bush and the Republicans cited the bill's price tag as too steep, even though the $4 billion allocated for the measure is lest than half of the monthly price tag for the Bush-McCain war in Iraq.

In related news, John McCain was sharply criticized this week for failing to develop any ideas to ease the housing crisis.

Protesters gathered at a McCain campaign event in Cincinnati, Ohio on Tuesday to protest McCain's inaction. Protesters pointed out that many McCain campaign bundlers come out of the finance, real estate, and insurance industries.

These vested interest appear to not want to see any changes to regulations that may restrict their speculative activities or to bankruptcy laws that aid homeowners.

These charges came the same week that Federal Elections Commission Chair David M. Mason, a Republican, wrote to John McCain telling him that his current campaign spending may be illegal. Ethics charges have haunted McCain this past week, giving wings to a rumor that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney may reenter the race.

John McCain: Fewer Jobs, More Wars


One in One Hundred U.S. Citizens are in Jail in the Land of Freedom?

by Norman Markowitz

There is an the news today which will in all probability be noted and forgotten. A study done for the Pew Center on the States concludes that one percent of the adult population of the U.S. is currently in prisons and jails.

The Justice Department, in the time honored tradition of using statistics to underestimate bad news, counts children its its computations, making the number one in one hundred and thirty. For African American males, the number is one in fifteen, for African American males ages twenty to thirty four, one in nine (for Latino adults, one in thirty six). The director of the Center, Susan Urahn, apparently a well-meaning and decent person, goes on to say "we aren't really getting the return in public safety from this level of incarceration," as if putting people in jail is like investing in the bond market for security. Urahn goes on to say that the massive increase in incarceration was easy and popular politics, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, "when we did have the money."

Today, though, state expenditures for what critics have long called the "prison industrial complex" have skyrocketed, representing a huge burden for state governments whose spending and borrowing privileges are far more limited than the federal government. About one in nine state government employees in the U.S. is employed in some part of the prison industrial complex, the same percentage as African American males ages twenty to thirty four. The Pew study, mentioning the huge number of non violent offenders incarcerated, advocates alternatives to incarceration and also early release programs.

The study apparently doesn't deal with the deep institutional racism reflected in the date it presents which cannot be separated also from the class system of unequal justice. It also doesn't see incarceration as a form of terrorism (watch it young man; Black or white, but especially Black; you can wind up in a very bad place, being gang raped in the showers of a place prison, as they say over and over again in the fictional shows, if you step out of line by getting caught with drugs or pretty much getting caught with anything). It doesn't deal with the local political economy of the prison industrial complex, which has become a kind of public jobs program, albeit a very unproductive, for communities through the country.

And it doesn't deal with the deep anti-humanist, anti-progressive concept of what I call a "punishment society" which reactionaries and so called conservatives have been pushing since the Nixon years and implementing since the Reagan years (with no real opposition during the Clinton years).

What is a punishment society. Hurt people and make them afraid to get out of line, particularly if they are working class and/or minority people, rather than helping them overcome their problems, providing them with help to help themselves (what I call a "therapeutic society" which is something conservative writing mocks as "soft-headed" and expensive "liberal" policies, but in effect reflects what is offered to upper and upper middle class whites who get out of line, that is, "treatment" programs, "counseling" and community service, even, if they can afford it, "rehab" instead of prison).

I recently looked at work in progress by Professor Heather Thompson, a Professor of History at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte on the Attica Prison rebellion, its suppression, and its long-term consequences for U.S. society as it moved in the direction of making incarceration into a way of life for more and more people by multiplying prison population growth. Thompson is dealing with the questions that the Pew study has apparently ignored and has uncovered remarkable archival material, particularly about the inside story of the rebellion and its aftermath, along with its larger long-term social consequences.

Hopefully, when she completes and publishes her work, the right Republicans and their appeasers among the DLC Democrats who have been in power through this entire period in the U.S. will have been decisively defeated and we will have a national government committed to "de-incarceration" and social reconstruction as an alternative to the prison industrial complex. which will become part of history rather than current and future events. And such a government, if it really reverses and rolls back the post Attica policies, will pursue "de-incarceration" policies to move in the direction of an socially just society, not simply, as the Pew Center study suggests, because escalating rates of incarceration are no longer affordable.

Republican FISA Logic: It is OK to Risk Lives for Corporations

By Joel Wendland

George W. Bush is lashing out again. This time at congressional Democrats who refused to pass his domestic spying expansion under FISA along with telecom immunity. But Republican arguments on passing this bill stretch both the bounds of rational thought and the Republican pretense at sincerity.

And big money may be behind their drive to protect the telecoms.

The Republican Party and its front groups have launched a series of TV attack ads aimed at certain Democratic members of the House. Republicans feel if they can distort the issue enough they might be able to convince some voters that Democrats are trying to weaken national security.

The message is like the old Dick Cheney line: if you don't do what we say, the terrorists will get us.

This time it's if the Democrats don't roll over and give major telecom corporations immunity for breaking the law and providing your private information to George W. Bush, then the terrorists will get us.

But here is really what happened. In Congress, Senate Republicans led by Mitch McConnell and John McCain threatened to filibuster and George W. Bush threatened to veto a FISA extension that did not have an immunity clause for corporations who broke the law.

In other words, by Bush-McCain-Republican logic it is wrong for the Democrats to risk national security, but it is OK for them to risk American lives in order to ensure that a few corporations get immunity for breaking the law and passing your private information on to the federal government.

And staunch Bush/McCain/Republican efforts to put corporate interests before what they claim are national security interests isn't just about politics. It's about the cash.

According to Washington-based Roll Call (via Huffington Post), Republican congressional aides and even some members are putting out the word that they want more donations from the telecommunication corporations for their efforts on this matter.

Where's Jack Abramoff and Tom Delay when you need them? Oh, right. On their way to jail.

William F. Buckley, 82

Thomas Riggins

There is no doubt, from reading the New York Times obituary (2-28-2008), that Buckley was a talented and bright person. But his legacy, I fear, is mostly negative and his existence was a not a boon to humanity. A few quotes from the Times reveals why.

“Mr. Buckley’s greatest achievement was making conservatism – not just electoral Republicanism, but conservatism as a system of ideas – respectable in liberal postwar America. He mobilized the young enthusiasts who helped nominate Mr. Goldwater in 1964 [types like John Bolton] and saw his dreams fulfilled when Mr. Reagan and the Bushes captured [an apt word indeed] the Oval Office.” Bush Jr. even gave him The Medal of Freedom, forever sullied from its contact with both of them.

Reagan and the Bushes have given us a legacy of war, racism, constitutional betrayal, corruption at the highest levels of the government, vote rigging, and a foreign policy predicated on the repression and oppression of the world’s poorest people in the interests of the profits of the big American multinationals and their CEOs. This is the “greatest achievement” of William F. Buckley.

He showed his true conservative opinions and his deep hatred for the American constitution and its promise of diversity and freedom of speech in his 1951 book God and Man at Yale, which “called for the firing of faculty members who advocated values out of line with what he saw as Yale’s traditional values [fascism?]”. The Times reports that he had to spend $10,000 (no small sum in 1951) to get this book off the ground. This tripe would never have been seen without this financial intervention.

He showed his true colors when his magazine National Review lined “up squarely behind Southern segregationists saying that Southern whites had the right to impose their ideas on blacks who were as yet culturally and politically inferior to them.” Of course they were “politically inferior”—they were not allowed to vote or to participate in politics! If this is “intellectually acceptable” then it says more about the level of intellect in the US ruling class and its sycophants than it says about Buckley.

It is at least comforting to know that his magazine and the intellectually juvenile articles published in it could not survive if it depended on the support of the American people alone. “The magazine,” the Times points out, “has always had to be subsidized by readers’ donations, supplemented by Mr. Buckley’s lecturing fees.”

The whole conservative movement, in fact, rests on nativism and racism and is the intellectual offal of monopoly capitalism whose creature it is and whose financial backing keeps it afloat.

Thomas Riggins is the book review editor of Political Affairs and can be reached at

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Office workers union backs H.R. 676

Pro-labor Web site Workday Minnesota reports that OPEIU this week became the 12th international labor union to endorse single-payer health care legislation, H.R. 676 authored by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.)

Among others who have endorsed are: the UAW, IAM, ILWU, NEA, APWU, UE and a host of labor affiliated organizations such as CLUW, CBTU, and the ARA.

Additionally, 27 state AFL-CIO federations have backed the bill as well as dozens of area federations and local unions. See here for a full list.

H.R. 676 is a bill that would expand Medicare to cover every person in the country. It allows individuals and families to have their choice of doctor, but eliminates corporate bureaucracy and private profit from provide health care. How many billions in pure profits should pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment corporations, private hospital, and insurance companies get of your sickness anyway?

The program would be funded by a small increase in the Medicare payroll tax, but this would be counterbalanced by eliminating costly premiums for working families and for employers. There is no doubt that employers would save huge amounts on labor costs and reduce labor problems like turnover and job retraining if workers are worrying less about the cost of health care with a national health insurance program like this.

Concerns over waiting times and quality of care are distractions invented by opponents of the concept. Just ask one of the 47 million people without insurance right now how long they have waited to see a doctor. Ask one of the 100 million or so with lousy coverage how long they waited before making a choice to see a doctor or pay for groceries.

If you want to know more about different health care issues, problems and real solutions, check out fact sheets produced by the California Nurses Association here.

NAFTA destroyed auto in Ohio

by Joel Wendland

NAFTA has moved front-and-center in the race for the Democratic nomination, not because any one candidate moved it there, but because free trade policies have hollowed out Ohio's manufacturing industry. Workers have forced the issue back into the spotlight.

According to a brief report by the labor-backed Economic Policy Institute, Ohio has lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000.

EPI admits that since NAFTA was implemented about 15 years ago, the automotive trade, a sector crucial to the economies of states like Ohio and Michigan, between the US and Mexico has grown. But "the effects on Ohio and other industrial states have been overwhelmingly negative."

In auto parts, for instance, the U.S. had a $2.4 billion surplus with Mexico in 1993; by last year the deficit was $12 billion. The auto deficit in total, reports EPI, stood at about $31 billion 2007.

EPI doesn't really get into finger-pointing, which is fine. But a little more analysis would be helpful.

NAFTA eliminated trade barriers between Mexico and the US. This fact made it profitable for GM, for example, to close factories in Ohio and Michigan and other places and move production to Mexico.

In the process good union jobs with good benefits were killed here – with attendant ripple effects like a weakened tax base for stable communities and public services, growing unemployment problems, internal migration etc. – in favor of low-pay and weak labor rights in Mexico.

Only the labor movement and the UAW have stood in the way of a complete breakdown of unionized auto production in the US.

While right-wing xenophobes are quick to blame Mexico and Mexicans, the real culprits in this affair are the corporations and the profit system that puts profits before our communities and our needs. Additionally, politicians who side with corporate interests and fail working families are also culpable.

The NAFTA debate in Ohio is crucial because both Democrats (Clinton a little more recently than Obama) are promising to renegotiate NAFTA in order to stem the flow of jobs out of the economy.

By contrast, John McCain traveled to Ohio and told voters there that they should just get used to it and kiss good paying jobs good bye.

No more stark difference ever existed.

Economic Crisis Requires New Solutions

by Joel Wendland

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that George W. Bush thinks our economy is neither in recession nor headed for recession. It must be nice to live in a dream world.

Bush main reason for stating so is political, however. He wants to try to avoid criticism of his remaining days in office, for one. But he also is planning to block renewed calls for economic stimulus that focuses on giving aid to state governments facing fiscal crisis – and some such calls are coming from both Democratic and Republican governors – and on investments in infrastructure.

Recall that Bush and previous Republican controlled Congresses collaborated to slash grants to states for programs like Medicaid. Not only has this been a public health disaster, but it also means that states are forced to shift more resources from things like public education and public safety to cover Medicaid recipients.

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) (along with others) recently called for a rejection of the Bush Medicaid cuts. And labor is leading the political charge to pass new investments in infrastructure reconstruction.

It is pretty clear that the economic crisis is quickly eroding dedication to hardline Republican ideological demands for cutting social programs to pay for tax breaks for the rich and endless war in Iraq.

But their are even newer signs that the economic problems we face are not so readily solved merely by adjusting interest rates or dishing out tax rebates.

The housing crisis has caused a huge credit crunch. Homes are not worth as much as the mortgages owed to banks. On the other hand, inflation is growing, driven by higher food and energy costs (a la the Iraq war). The Fed's instinct is to cut interest rates. But won't that fuel inflation? How do working families deal with losing more homes, higher prices, unemployment, and weakening wages?

Obviously political leaders are going to have to start thinking outside of the "free market," individualist, business-interests-first box they have constructed that got us into the mess in the first place.

1. End the war
2. Invest in U.S. infrastructure (both physical and social)
3. Invest in alternative energy
4. Expand anti-poverty and public health care programs: from food stamps to unemployment compensation to Medicare and Medicaid and S-CHIP
5. Impose an indefinite moratorium on home foreclosures.

The Anti-Racist Majority Comes of Age

In early July of 2007 the Supreme Court boldly struck down the legal underpinnings of Brown v. the Board of Education. In a five to four decision, the Republican majority on the court, overturned desegregation plans by school districts in Louisville, Kentucky and Seattle, Washington.

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Black History Month: Henry Winston and the African American

Strategy for a Black Agenda first came out in 1973. The book was and remains a fundamental contribution to the struggle. The issues that Henry Winston raised centered on the unity of the class and national questions.

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American Axle & Manufacturing Workers Strike

The United Auto Workers struck American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday when no deal was reached on a new labor pact. The largest porportion of American Axle parts are for GM’s pickups and SUVs.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Utility Workers Union Endorses Obama

Barack Obama picked up his fourth AFL-CIO union endorsement today from the 70,000 member Utility Workers. Other AFL-CIO unions that have endorsed him include the Transport Workers, the Boilermakers, and the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters.

D. Michael Langford, the national president of the UWUA, said:

Sen. Obama understands our issues, supports our goals and will do what is right for utility workers, our families, our communities and our country. We join him in his fight for change in America that will put working people first.

Last week, Obama won the backing of the Change to Win Federation after the Teamsters, the Service Employees International Union, UNITE HERE, and the UFCW announced their support for the Illinois Senator.

Tens of thousands of members of these unions live in the primary states of Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont, which will be contested on March 4th.

The Thought and Reality of Michael Dummett

By Thomas Riggins

The British thinker Michael Dummett is generally considered one of the most important living philosophers writing in English. The TLS of 2-8-08 has a review of his new book (based on the Gifford Lectures he gave in 1996-97) “Thought and Reality”: Paul Boghossian “Powers for the divine.”

Having recently re-read Lenin’s “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism”, I was struck by the similarity of the problems being dealt with today by some contemporary philosophers and those dealt with by Lenin a century ago. I will use Leninist terminology in braces {}to make the arguments clearer.

Boghossian says that Dummett has been occupied over his career by two “master thoughts.” Master thought one is “that the metaphysical dispute between a realist {materialist} and anti-realist {subjective idealist}” about a particular area of reality (or “domain”) can only be seen as a disagreement about “the meaning of statements” about the area in dispute. Master thought two is that the theory of meaning provides a general argument “which tends to favour anti-realist {subjective idealist} conceptions of meaning over their realist {materialist} alternatives.” Let us see if much has changed since Lenin’s day.

Boghossian illustrates Dummett’s views by taking a mathematical example. In 1742 Christian Goldbach proposed “every even integer greater than two is the sum of two primes.” A mathematical realist who thinks the number system has an objective existence thinks that Goldbach’s proposition is either true or false independently of us. An anti-realist holds that the number system is the a construct of the human mind and the answer to Goldbach’s proposition is only true or false if “we have built enough into our notion of number to settle the matter.”

Enter Dummett’s First Master Thought: this dispute can only be resolved on the basis of whether or not math statements are true or false even if we cannot show that they are or not. That is, do they have what he calls JUSTIFICATION-INDEPENDENT TRUTH CONDITIONS. The question now becomes, according to Boghossian, can something be true “even if we have no justification for accepting it” or do we need a proof or some such justification in order for something to be true?

Enter Dummett’s Second Master Thought: the theory of meaning, according to Dummett, implies that without JUSTIFICATION CONDITIONS our statements about things have no meaning. If follows that there are NO justification-independent truth conditions. Thus the mathematical anti-realist is correct. This applies to all domains or areas of knowledge (so my use of “materialism” and “subjective idealism” is not too far off the mark as it may have been if ONLY the philosophy of mathematics was involved).

Boghossian thinks Master Thought One maybe have something in its favour but that Master Thought Two, justificationism, has too many problems. When it comes to a statement about the past, for instance, the truth or falsity of “X occurred” seems to common sense to depend on if “X occurred” or not and not on if we can give a proof or justification about the occurrence one way or another. Dummett seems to realize this problem and in another book, "Truth and the Past” tries to deal with it.

With respect to the past, Boghossian writes, Dummett says, in effect, that statements about the past are true “if and only if anyone suitably placed in time and space would be, or would have been, in a position to establish it as true.” But what about situations where it would have been totally impossible for someone to have been “suitably” placed—such as the moment of the Big Bang?

Dummett is led by his anti-realism, as Boghossian points out, “to the view that there could not have been a world without sentient beings.” But we know that the earth existed before there were any sentient beings on it. Also human beings have a different kind of sentience than other beings, so how do we explain living in a “common world?” “The realist {materialist},” the reviewer writes, “who believes in the world as it is in itself, independent of our ways of apprehending it, would easily be able to make sense” of all these problems. But how can Dummett do so.

Just as his great predecessor Bishop George Berkeley did, Dummett calls in God to be the guarantor of his system of justificationism. And here is the link between Lenin and Dummett. Anti-realist {idealist, and especially subjective idealist} arguments are as old as the hills, and a good reading of “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism” may make you doubt that Dummett is “one of philosophy’s most searching minds” (his other big interests are tarot and Roman Catholicism, to which he has converted)—but we can at least agree that his book “may not be the last word on the difficult issues it treats.” That book came out in 1908.

The Caribbean Labor Movement and the Cold War

On this episode, Political Affairs contributing editor Gerald Horne talks about his recent book Cold War in a Hot Zone published by Temple University Press, which tells the story of the Caribbean Labor Congress in the Cold War.

Political Affairs #59 - The Caribbean Labor Movement and the Cold War

Hillary Clinton "Red Baits" Cuba and Obama

by Norman Markowitz

In the 18th century, Dr. Samuel Johnson, the famous British writer ("man of letters" they would say at the time) made the famous statement that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" (today that would be translated as chauvinistic nationalism) In the 20th century, red baiting was both a refuge and a form of political hate speech for a great many scoundrels – J. Edgar Hoover, Martin Dies, Joe McCarthy, and of course both pre and post World War II presidents, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, to name
but a very few.

Now, in the 21st century, Hillary Clinton has got into the act, denouncing Barack Obama for offering to negotiate with Cuba, a "rogue state"(her crude comment) without conditions, mocking Obama for looking toward the sky and speaking about ""hope" and "unity" without knowing anything. At the same time, she seeks to separate herself from "my friend" (her words, not mine) John McCain, who still follows the Bush path of military intervention while she, representing what was once called "the vital center" looks toward negotiations.

Hillary Clinton is losing, in spite of all of her advantages, because millions of Democratic voters are concluding that one Clinton in the White House was enough just as one Bush in the White House was more than enough. In her desperation, she is reviving a version of "cold war liberal" ideology that characterized leadership groups in the Democratic Party in the 1950s and the 1960s.

The late historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr was the most important advocate of that ideology, beginning in a very famous political tract, The Vital Center, written in the late 1940s. The work condemned "tenderminded" liberals who wished to end the cold war by negotiations with the Soviet Union, to recognize the legitimate security needs of the Soviet Union and the global revolutionary situation, as cockeyed (and in the subtext somewhat effeminate) idealists and praised "tough minded" liberals, "realists," who supported the containment doctrine, the military buildup, and the Korean war and nuclear arms race.

Schlesinger was around as an adviser to the Kennedy administration during the Bay of Pigs invasion (and even played a minor role in the public relations for it from the U.S. side) although he later turned against the Johnson administration's escalation of the Vietnam War, which resulted in the discrediting of cold war liberal ideology and policy and the victory of Richard Nixon (there were other reasons for Nixon's victory, of course, including a racist backlash against Great Society Civil Rights policies, but the Vietnam escalation was a central reason).

Cold war liberalism, with its "macho" ideology of "tough minded realism," was, to paraphrase Karl Marx, a tragedy, in that it set back labor and progressive forces in the U.S. enormously by committing the Democratic Party and much of the Center Left to fight an endless cold war on the side of rightwing dictatorships, conservative and reactionary forces globally, the forces that had been defeated in the Second World War. It also retarded in the early postwar period the movements for Civil Rights and Women's rights. Hillary Clinton's use of it, once more to paraphrase Karl Marx, is a historical farce, not only its portrayal of Cuba, a nation that was a U.S. "protectorate" (satellite was the term used for such states in other places) until the revolution, a nation occupied by U.S. marines over and over again until the 1930s, a nation whose economy was largely controlled by absentee U.S. companies, all until the revolution.

But it is also a farce because Hillary Clinton is recycling an ideology of warfare and conflict with a sexist subtext, out of her desperation. Hopefully, she will lose the nomination. Also, hopefully the tragedy will not replay itself, as McCain and the Republicans pick up on her attacks and use them, condemning Obama as a "tender-minded" liberal unfit to be president, the way Republicans picked up on cold war liberal charges to attack Adlai Stevenson particularly in the 1950s as a "tenderminded liberal" unfit to lead the country as against the "experienced, realistic" military man, Dwight Eisenhower.

Bad Boys, Nasty Boys: Out of the GOP’s Closet

Republican party politicos espouse an unflagging devotion to old-fashioned morality and family values, inveighing heavily against gay marriage, abortion, homosexuality, adultery, feminism, crime, stem-cell research, secularism, and liberalism.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

John Bolton: Boisterous Bully of Bloviation

by Thomas Riggins

There is an excellent review of John Bolton's new book, "Surrender is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad" by Brian Urquhart (a former UN under-secretary general) in the March 6, 2008 issue of The New York Review of Books ("One Angry Man").

Urquhart points out that Bolton was unhappy with the Bush administration's change of course in its second term (from gung ho go it alone militarism to some limited recognition that cooperation with US allies and the broader international community
was in order).

The review says that the title of his book refers to not giving up one's political views and ideals and that, "There is no doubt about Bolton's vision of himself as the dauntless defender of US principles as he sees them." And what principles he sees!

A jingoist, xenophobic, America runs the world so get out of way, attitude more or less sums up the Bolton world view which derives, Urquhard believes, not from the neocons but from his early 60s encounter with and support of Goldwaterism. Urquhart alludes to a Col. Blimp flavor to some of his pronouncements, but this does Col. Blimp a disservice. For all of his pomposity and foolishness, Col. Blimp was kindhearted on a personal level. Bolton reveals himself to be petty, nasty, and small minded.

Urquhart reminds us that as an undersecretary of state, before his stint at the UN, "he did much to undermine America's leadership and position in the world." Actually, not a bad thing as undermining and weakening the power of the number one imperialist power strengthens the world progressive movement. Perhaps Bolton is a secret anti-imperialist? What Urquhart has reference to, however, is Bolton's role in undermining the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the International Criminal Court. Of course he could have only done this with the consent of his masters Bush, Cheney and the ineffective Colin Powell.

When Condoleeza Rice took over State Bolton was bounced over to the UN job but he was so incompetent for the position he could not even get confirmed by the Republican controlled Senate. He got a recess appointment in August 2005-- he lasted about a year or so and had to resign when it became obvious that the new Democratic controlled Senate would never confirm him-- he was such an embarrassment.

His role at the UN was basically disruptive as he had no regard for the institution, its goals, or international organizations and treaty commitments in general. His book also reveals his personal animus towards those he disagrees with, blaming them for policy failures which were the results of the actions of others. So his book seems not to be a trustworthy account of his record and the actions of the UN.

For example, he has a great dislike for Kofi Annan whom he says "was simply not up to the job" of Secretary General, a view that history is not likely to validate. He blames Kofi Annan for the Oil-for-Food scandal in Iraq. "It was," however, Urquhart says, "the Security Council, including the US, that allowed Saddam Hussein's government to negotiate deals and kickbacks directly --- without UN supervision --- with the hundreds of commercial firms involved." He also fails to note UN success stories. His book appears to be just a nasty minded distorted account of his activities with little regard for truth or accuracy.

He is also stupidly indiscreet. He reveals that when seeking a replacement for Kofi Annan Rice told him "I'm not sure we want a strong secretary general." They then agreed on Ban Ki-moon. Urquhart calls this "a gross disservice" to Ban Ki-moon and, I might add, to Rice as well-- but it is good to know what is really going on, so thanks, John, for spilling the beans.

Bolton now works out of the American Enterprise Institute (where else?) and has become a favorite of the corporate media (The New York Times, The New York Sun, etc.) who love to quote his quaint and outrageous opinions on all major world issues. Urquhart tells us that "Reporters seem to feel that if they quote him, they will have included a 'tough' conservative point of view."

Bolton doesn't think the US should talk with its adversaries. Threats and conventional military actions are all that's really needed to enforce the Pax Americana. Urquhart calls this outlook an "anachronism" and quotes William Pfaff [born in 1928, Pfaff has written eight books and is a frequent contributor to the NYRB] from a 1998 piece: "[T]he belief that America as 'sole superpower' would or could dominate the world, widely held after communism's collapse, rested on the illusion that military and economic power directly translate into political power, and that power is identical with authority. The exercise of authority requires consent, and rests on a moral position." A moral position is something Bolton and his coterie of admirers most certainly lack.

His credo is summed in the following four propositions based on Urquhart:

1. Only US interest count. The UN should serve those interests.
2. Allies are not to be trusted and hostiles must be treated by force as they will never abide by their commitments. The hostiles include North Korea, Iran, any enemies of Israel, and others.
3. Hostiles should not be negotiated with on a long tern basis or rewarded for a change of behavior. Force and violence are always a possibility on our part.
4. Idealists, liberals, multilateralists and "most Democrats" are "almost" the same as the hostile foreigners who oppose our country.

Urguhart concludes, as any rational person must, that Bolton's views and behavior "are a luxury the United States can no longer afford."

Thomas Riggins is the book review editor for Political Affairs and can be reached at

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Horror Story About "Health Insurance" in America

by Norman Markowitz

It is difficult for me to write this, because my anger is so great. The story, from today's New York Times, concerns working class people who essentially risked their life, because they feared that genetic tests showing that they were virtually certain to get diseases that would require expensive treatments might result in both their losing access to any "health insurance." In the U.S. such care is controlled by insurance companies who make their money by maximizing premium payments and restricting benefits, and these working people quite possibly might lose their jobs when and if employers found this out.

I immediately thought of my father, a second hand peddler who walked with a hernia for twenty-seven years, along with suffering other illnesses, including emphysema, the condition that a woman in the article had, until an emergency led him into a public hospital in the Bronx and where he received both an operation and other treatments which he should have had many years earlier. By then I was teaching at Northern Illinois University and could provide him and my mother with substantial financial assistance and move them out of the slums, but the ravages of a lifetime of ill health took its toll. Both died within the next six years. As a final insult, they had initially removed from Medicaid during the early Nixon administration when I began to provide aid to them(although with the help of a Congressman, they got back on the program).

I also thought of a Latina women in Brooklyn whose story I had read about a decade ago--a woman whom I often cite in my classes when I get to the Clinton-Bush years and contemporary America. She was a victim of the Gingrich-Clinton elimination of Aid to Families with Dependant Children (AFDC) and found herself working a subsistence job in order to sustain her family benefits. When she experienced a lot of pain, she delayed as a long as she could seeking medical assistance, because she feared that she and especially her children would lose their health benefits entirely. When she sought aid, it turned out to be too late, the doctors saying that had she come earlier, an operation might have caught her cancer in time and saved her life. All of this happened at a time that both the Republican Right and Bill Clinton personally were taking credit for their "welfare reform." the only major piece of New Deal social legislation (AFDC) which was completely repealed.

But the people in the Times story, like most of the others mentioned, are "middle class" the term used in the U.S. since the 1950s to separate the overwhelming majority of wage and salary workers from the marginalized poor like my late father and the late Latina woman from Brooklyn.

These are people with "health insurance" whom doctors report are increasingly afraid to deal with genetic research that suggests they may be prone to major illnesses like colon cancer and breast cancer because of the "dire economic consequences."

The "health insurance industry," of course has issued denials that it would discriminate against anyone based on genetic testing (which most Americans, given their experiences with that "industry" would take with a pitcher of salt) Business associations are rushing to oppose legislation that would bar such discrimination as unnecessary, but the evidence the article presents is substantial that women, for example, often pay in cash for genetic tests for breast cancer because they don't want their health insurers to get the information.

The article then goes on to mention that Americans are far less likely to use the new diagnostic genetic testing services than citizens of other countries "where people are guaranteed health care." Doctors are quoted as saying that they warn patients of the possible financial risks, because, as one notes, "especially if they are self-employed, I don't want it to be a surprise if their health insurance premium goes up." One woman says simply " I don't want have to work for a big business just to get health insurance. This could be determining what I do with my whole life."

Karl Marx, commenting an an American economist of the mid nineteenth, praised the Americans, in comparison to Europeans in their ability to collect important statistical data, and then noted that they then don't do much with that data, seeing the collection as the end of scholarship and science. In its analysis or lack of one, the article reminded me of that comment.

Capitalism, even our very rich capitalism, transforms everything into commodities to be produced and distributed to accumulate wealth for the capitalist class. The modern bureaucratic corporation is the most important institution of the capitalist class today. The insurance companies are agencies essentially of "bank capital," financing the health care industry for their profit, allied to the pharmaceuticals, who along with companies that produce diagnostic and treatment technologies, function as "industrial capital" within the system.

Together, and they are together, they can be seen as "finance capital," working to sell more and more drugs and other commodities at one end, inventing in some cases new diseases and using television commercials to advertise their treatments, and, of course, restricting services and benefits at the other end. The system is classic "state monopoly capital," since the state plays a leading regulatory role, in the interests of the both groups of companies primarily. who also use doctors at both ends, the pharmaceuticals to push their drugs, the insurers to restrict services and of course to get high premiums from the doctors for malpractice insurance.

As capitalism develops, even our rich capitalism, it deskills and deprives more and more people in order to cheapen their labor, making the "middle class" people in the Times article have the same fears and take the same risks that my father and the woman from Brooklyn did.

You don't need genetic testing to realize that the "health care industry" in the U.S. is and has been for at least half a century a grotesque anachronism that not only deprives nearly fifty million people of any "coverage" but seriously mistreats the majority who have coverage, creating a situation where Americans both take twice as many prescription drugs which in turn cost twice as much as people in other developed countries, have slightly lower life expectancies than people in other developed countries, and have far greater institutionalized inequality in health care than people in other developed countries.

The only real answer is "abolitionism," that is, abolish the present system by eliminating entirely the insurance companies and replacing them with a social security based public administration system of funding. HRH 676, the legislation introduced by Representative John Conyers under the title "Medicare For All , is the most important step in that direction, potentially the most important heath care legislation since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.

A national public health program would compel the pharmaceuticals to sharply reduce their prices by having them sell their drugs to and through the public sector (which is what is done in the rest of the developed world). It would both create "universal coverage" and also effective and less unequal coverage, stressing preventive health programs, including diet, exercise, and holistic therapies which connect patients to their families and communities. For those who say that can't be done, the answer is that it already has been done, in an incomplete but significant way, through the developed world, in some countries, better than others, but in no country except the United States has it been so buried. Once more, to use this quote Franklin Roosevelt's rallying American workers to win the battle of production, (a quote that has great resonance on a great many issues) "it can be done because it must be done."

Reading Lenin 5

READING LENIN: Materialism and Empiro-criticism [ 5 ]
Thomas Riggins

Using our editor's blog to further Marxist education seems like a good idea. So here is a famous work of Lenin's that outlines what Marxist philosophy is all about. It's 100 years old this year and we might ask ourselves what is still valid in this classic. Have new philosophic developments in the last 100 years made this work outmoded? I'm going to post some reflections on the book section by section and anyone who wants to read along and comment is welcome to do so. I hope to post weekly updates and Sunday seems the best day to this as it is a free day for me.

Chapter One Section Three: The Principal Co-Ordination and "Naive Realism"

Lenin now turns to two works by Avenarius, "The Human Concept of the World" and the "Notes." He will give us the essence of the doctrine of the "Principle Co-Ordination" and its relation to our everyday notions of naive realism. Avenarius' thesis is that of, in his own words, "the INDISSOLUBLE CO-ORDINATION OF THE SELF AND THE ENVIRONMENT." The self and the environment are always together, like a horse and carriage or love and marriage! The self is the CENTRAL TERM and the environment is the COUNTER TERM of this co-ordination.

Avenarius thinks this doctrine leaves the belief in naive realism untouched, and Mach ("Analysis of Sensations") thinks so as well. Lenin thinks this is nuts. In fact, he claims this view, which supposedly co-ordinates naive realism with the self (consciousness), is just warmed over Fichte.

Lenin means Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814, 'The Father of German Nationalism'-- a dubious honor), an Idealist who wrote in 1801 that you should "Take care, therefore, not to jump out of yourself and to apprehend anything otherwise than you are able to apprehend it, as consciousness AND the thing, as the thing AND consciousness; or more precisely, neither the one nor the other, but that which only subsequently becomes resolved into the two, that which is the absolute subjective-objective and objective-subjective." The so-called newest philosophy was just a rehash, a century later, of early German Idealism.

Now, what has this empirio-critical doctrine have to do with naive realism? According to Lenin, the naive realism (of "any healthy person") is "the view that things, the environment, the world, exist INDEPENDENTLY of our sensation, of our consciousness, of our SELF and of man in general."

Not only does the world have an independent existence human beings have knowledge about it because it interacts with our nervous system, also a part of the world, and reproduces images of itself of which we are conscious-- human consciousness being a higher order property of the organization of matter. "Materialism." Lenin says, "DELIBERATELY makes the 'naive" belief of mankind the foundation of its theory of knowledge."

Lenin takes great pains to stress that this is not just the partisan view of diamat that he is pushing, but it is the standpoint of modern natural science and of scientists in general, even those who would not consider themselves followers of diamat. (Dialectical Materialism)

As evidence for this view he turns to Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920, 'The Father of Modern Psychology,' along with William James) who maintained the view that any given reality cannot be described without a reference to the "self" (Avenarius and company) is, in his words, "a false confusion of the content of real experience with reflections about it."

Lenin also bolsters his argument my quoting from a 1906 article in 'Mind", still the leading English philosophy journal, by Norman Kemp Smith (1872-1958, best known for his translation of Kant's 'Critique of Pure Reason'-- still the gold standard). After discussing Avenarius' theory of the principle co-ordination of the world of sense experience and the natural world of naive realism viewed as one of complexes of sensations, Smith concludes that Avenarius has failed completely to capture the meaning of naive realism as it is understood by realists [materialists].

Avenarius, Smith writes, "argues that thought is as genuine a form of experience as sense-perception, and so in the end falls back on the time-worn argument of subjective idealism, that thought and reality are inseparable, because reality can only be conceived in thought, and thought involves the presence of the thinker. Not, therefore, any original and profound reestablishment of realism, but only the restatement in its crudest form of the familiar position of subjective idealism is the final outcome of Avenarius' positive speculations."

Lenin has pretty much made his main point in this section, which i will reiterate in a moment. He gives a few more examples of how mixed up Avenarius' views are (from W. Schuppe and O. Ewald-- both of whom will be dealt with in later sections). He again says "it is important to note" that all attempts to combine materialism (realism) and subjective idealism a la Mach and Avenarius into some transcendental philosophy that includes them both is IN FACT an "empty, pseudo-scientific claim." Lenin says that "To build a theory of knowledge on the postulate of the indissoluble connection between the object and human sensation ('complexes of sensations' as identical with bodies; 'world-elements' that are identical both psychically and physically; Avenarius' co-ordination and so forth) is to land inevitably into idealism."

And finally, to end this section, Lenin turns to R. Willy, the disciple of Avenarius, who has to admit that the attempt of his master to reconcile empirio-criticism and naive realism is a failure. Willy says you have to take the belief that Avenarius actually subscribed to naive realism "cum grano salis." Willy writes, "As a dogma, naive realism would be nothing but the belief in things-in-themselves existing outside man in their perceptible form." Willy thinks that is ridiculous, and perhaps it is in the way he formulated it. I mean, "in their perceptible form" is loaded-- there is an X out there but is that X 100% equal to how our senses perceive it?

At any rate, Willy is forced to concede that Avenarius' book, "The Human Concept of the World" is one that "entirely bears the character of a RECONCILIATION between the naive realism of common sense and the epistemological idealism of school philosophy. But that such a reconciliation could restore the unity and integrity of [basic] experience I would not assert." QED.

Next week we will go over Section 4 of Chapter One, "Did Nature Exist Prior to Man?" [Believe it our not this is still a big issue, even one of the presidential candidates thinks that Nature only existed for 5 days prior to man (our actual president is uncertain -- a Yale graduate, oh well if they let Buckley through I guess anyone can go there)! And the people of the world are supposed to take our country seriously!].

cum grano saltis = with a grain of salt

The phrase comes from Pliny the Elder's Naturalis Historia, regarding the discovery of a recipe for an antidote to a poison. In the antidote, one of the ingredients was a grain of salt. Threats involving the poison were thus to be taken "with a grain of salt" and therefore less seriously.-- Wikopedia

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Books Review: Cormac McCarthy and the West and Mexican Experience

Cormac McCarthy's recent book, "No Country for Old Men" & his Border Trilogy

Eric Green

A very important U.S. writer is finally finding some commercial success. His name is Cormac McCarthy and his most recent novel; "No Country for Old Men" has been made into a film, by the same name, under the direction and screenwriting of Joel and Ethan Cohen. After toiling in the world of independent filmmaking, the Cone brothers, are enjoying the commercial success, not by conforming to Hollywood's substandards, no, by Hollywood adjusting to their level. This is the same as McCarthy.

The film has been nominated for a host of Oscars.

A good next step would be for literature readers to sit down with his, "Border Trilogy." These books written by McCarthy in the 1990s trace the everyday, working class lives of the border areas between Mexico and New Mexico/Arizona in the pre World War II era through the 1950s. The geographic sites are Juarez, Mexico, El Paso and rural New Mexico, but, the universality of his work is very apparent.

McCarthy's first book, "All the Pretty Horses" received the National Book Award. His subsequent book, "The Crossing," continues the story of the horse driven world of families dealing with Post War II.

Finally, Bill Parham's life is continued in "Cities of the Plain." In this book, the characters speak about the radical changes taking place in New Mexico, especially with the US army buying up large tracks of land for defense department uses. In the Epilogue of this last book of the trilogy, Billy is in his '70s in the 1990s.

McCarthy is not the easiest writer to read, but the reading, once your hooked, is very rewarding. This is especially true for those interested in life along the Mexican/US border, i.e., between and among Mexicans nationals and their lives with people on the US side of the border. While the reader does get a view of Northern Mexico through the eyes of young, in their teens and twenties, ranch hands from across the border in the US, the insights on Mexican life are rewarding.

The McCarthy novels are not the Old West that Hollywood and major book publishers would like for us believe existed. No, McCarthy shows the greatness of the West with all its warts and difficulties. The Cone Brothers make it possible for all of us do the same; now, many other readers can delve deeper into his body of work.

McCarthy's recent doings. At 74 years old, McCarthy is not standing still. He is a Santa Fe Institute Research Fellow and winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for his book, "The Road," which is bound for filming. The Santa Fe Institute is devoted to creating a new kind of scientific research community, one emphasizing multi-disciplinary collaboration in pursuit of understanding the common themes that arise in natural, artificial, and social systems.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Real McCain

From The Real McCain

News of the Day and the Obama-Clinton Debate

by Norman Markowitz

I thought that I would mention a few points from the news that show both the absurdity of where the Bush administration has led us, building upon a generation of retreat and surrender in the face of political reaction.

Turkey has invaded the Kurdish regions of Northern Iraq again to attack fighters of the Kurdistan Workers party, which fights for a Kurdish state in Kurdish areas of Turkey, where Kurdish people have been a long oppressed minority, as they have also been in Iraq and Iran. The European Union, which is no friend of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) issued a statement criticizing these actions, stating that the "territorial integrity of Iraq is important to us."

But the territorial integrity of Iraq means very little to the Bush administration whose army is occupying the country. The Turkish Prime Minister contacted Bush before the attack. The two governments have been cooperating against the PKK for months, even though the Kurdish minority is really the only group in Iraq which supports the U.S. position, and even though some are probably remember that Saddam Hussein, who did use poison gas against Kurdish people, let 70,000 Turkish troops invade Kurdish regions of Iraq in 1992, soon after he survived the first Gulf War, to do his dirty work for him.

What exists in Iraq is increasingly a classic colonial situation in which U.S. policy is play pawn against pawn,either carve up Iraq or keep it together, which can change depending on its larger geo-political aims, which reflect its interests in controlling the oil of the region and keeping other states from competing with it for that oil.

Speaking about classic colonialism, Kosovo, an Albanian majority region of the Republic of Serbia, has declared its "Independence" from Serbia, the remnant of what was once the Yugoslav federation of Socialist Republics and many thousands of angry Serbian people have protested, doing damage to the U.S. embassy in Belgrade, since the U.S. was the prime mover under Bill Clinton in the NATO intervention in the Yugoslav Civil War of the 1990s.

The destruction of Yugoslavia followed the dismemberment of the Soviet Union. The NATO military, created initially to fight a European World War III against the Soviet Union, was used to intervene in a Civil War on the side of the separatists in Croatia and later Bosnia, Yugoslav Republics, and finally Kosovo, which was a region of Serbia, and to demonize the Serbian people who fought to sustain a Yugoslav state.

Dividing up or "Balkanizing" the Balkans is also a blast from the colonial past, where the great powers divided up the Balkans and used pawns to advance their aims in the region in a famous settlement in the 1870s to "stabilize" their rivalries in Europe as they moved forward to carve up Africa and other regions in the name of "civilization and progress" which U.S. imperialists today call "democracy" as they play pawn against pawn and carve up nations and regions in order to facilitate their exploitation.

As for the debate, particularly on international relations, Senator Obama appears to me to be getting better and Senator Clinton appears to be stuck in a rut. Obama expressed clearer sympathy as I saw it for undocumented workers and Clinton, who has voted for the same Bush supported legislation to "secure" the U.S. border that Obama has.

Clinton criticized the Bush administration for going overboard in its border policies to enforce the legislation. Clearly, Latino voters, who have supported Clinton in earlier primaries, perhaps because of Obama's record on this issue, should understand Clinton's voting record is in no way better than Obama's, and Obama is, in response to his progressive mass constituency, beginning to focus on class or what the press likes to call "populist" issues, which unites Latino, African-American, and white working people.

On the leadership transition in Cuba, Obama, who was criticized justly by a a reader responding to our blog for joining the hypocritical anti-Cuban chorus of U.S. politicians responding to Fidel Castro's resignation, said he would meet with Cuba without preconditions, while making the ritualistic statements that all politicians make all the time about the lack "human rights" and "democracy" in Cuba. Clinton took a position to the right of Obama, saying in effect that she would meet with the Cuban leadership only after they had instituted changes, implying to me that Obama might be, to use the old cold war language that Clinton grew up with in a conservative Republican family, "soft" on the Cubans.

Clinton also showed the limited substance and increasing sense of desperation of her campaign by criticizing Obama for "plagiarizing" from the Governor of Massachusetts, a co-chair of his presidential campaign, who suggested that he use the words that Clinton called plagiarism. Obama laughed this off, as Franklin Roosevelt once famously laughed off Republican attacks that he had sent destroyer at tax payers expense to pick up his dog Fala. In its own way, it is as silly a charge.

As someone who has taught for thirty six and a half years at Rutgers University, I have had a great deal of experience with students who take materials from sources without authorization or proper citation, often because they don't really understand proper citation, sometimes because they are deliberately plagiarizing rather than doing their own work. Anyone who would even suggest that this is "plagiarism" deserves no serious answer.

Obama has frankly, in my opinion, shown far more analytical depth in addressing issues than Clinton, and this was once more on display in the debate.

While powerful forces are still backing Clinton and Obama faces a large hurdle in the upcoming Texas primary particularly, this debate is further evidence that he is the candidate of unity, progress, and victory in 2008.

The Situation of Workers in Israel

From the Economic Policy Institute:

The Situation of Workers in Israel

Dr. Shlomo Swirski
Research Director, The ADVA Center, Tel Aviv

Working people are losing ground in Israel. In the past decade, the proportion of workers earning the minimum wage or less has increased by 50%, and the proportion of poor among salaried workers has increased by almost 30%.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008
4:00-5:30 PM

RSVP for this event here.

This event is to be held at the Economic Policy Institute:
1333 H Street NW,
Suite 300, East Tower
Washington, DC 20005

For more information on this event, contact
For more information on GPN, visit

Thursday, February 21, 2008

[Update] Change to Win Endorses Obama

The Change to Win federation of unions announced today its endorsement of Barack Obama. Change to Win is composed of 7 unions; two-thirds, or 5 are needed to make an endorsement. Teamsters, SEIU, UNITE HERE, UFCW had already separately endorsed Barack Obama.

According to a press release from the Laborers, they abstained from voting on endorsement in order to give their members a chance to respond to a survey announced last week, rather than jump the gun.

The Carpenters originally had endorsed John Edwards, and the Farmworkers backed Clinton.


Change to Win Chair Anna Burger said:

“For workers, this election is about changing America to win a better future for our children. Sen. Obama not only shares our vision and dream, he is uniting Americans in building a movement for change that will have the power to turn that dream into reality.

“He will fight to protect the right of workers to have a voice on the job, guarantee quality affordable health care, create good jobs through rebuilding and expanding our nation’s infrastructure, and fight for fair trade policies to promote job growth,” continued Burger.

“Sen. Obama is building an election coalition that will bring the change this country needs to restore the American Dream for America’s workers. We believe we can make a difference in helping build this new movement. With our six million members, Change to Win unions will play an important role in making sure Barack Obama is the next president of the United States. Our members are active, involved and determined to make a difference.”

Reactionaries and Michelle Obama: Dejavu All Over Again

by Norman Markowitz

There is flack all over the internet and on radio-tv over Michelle Obama's comment that her husband's campaign for president and his achievements made her proud of her country "for the first time." I even heard a small talking sports talker on a New York all sports radio station saying he was thinking of voting for Obama, but after her comment, "Hello John McCain."

While this is propaganda is coming from the right and is predictable, I would suggest that before the Clinton campaign thinks of playing with this (if they do, which I am not saying they are or will) they
should remember that it is similar to the propaganda ploy that the right Republicans used against Hillary Clinton in 1992, when they went wild over her statement that she would not simply "stand by her
man" (even though she did) and simply be the housewife baking cookies(which she never had been).

An old truism about reactionaries is that they learn nothing and forget nothing and continue to do the same thing over and over again, whether it works or not. Their sexist attacks on Hillary Clinton failed to defeat her husband, whom the portrayed as "Billary," and their subsequent demonization of her as an evil left wing female puppeteer, advancing "un-American" policies in the administration, merely highlighted how disconnected from any reality their prejudices were.

Now they are beginning to do the same thing with Michelle Obama, a women who like Hillary was a bright professional woman when she married her husband and would add a great deal to his administration as she has positively to his campaign.

As the Obama campaign continues (and it still may very well be defeated, given the opposition that stands against it) it is reminding me more and more of the Civil Rights movement itself, African Americans, progressive whites, young people, working class white people who knew or came to learn that racism was their enemy not their friend, people who, in the words of a white woman civil rights activist whom I often quote to my history classes, came to believe that the U.S. could and would become "an actual democracy."

These Civil Rights activists were standing up to the flag wavers who either supported or were silent on questions of racism and militarism and taking the flag away from them. They were often, thanks to their struggle and the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. and others, "proud" of their country for the first time--especially those who had matured in the postwar cold war era, and weren't too proud of the Truman Doctrine, NATO, the Korean War, the nuclear arms race, McCarthyism, mindless installment plan consumerism which its message that you are what you buy, and cliches like "the family that prays together stays together." They were proud to be making history in a positive sense, and that is what, I feel, the mass movement supporting Senator Obama is trying to do today. And that is what I think Michelle Obama meant in the comments that the flag wavers of today are denouncing and using as evidence that she will be another "uppity woman," another Hillary Clinton.

McCain Aims to Become Bush Surrogate

John McCain has lost his identity. Once the perennial whipping boy of the hardliners in his party, McCain is campaigning as the champion of endless war in Iraq and on the working class at home.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More than 5 Years, 2 Wars, tens of thousands of lives, and trillions of dollars too late

Upon being asked why the U.S. would not send troops to Darfur, Feb. 19, Bush said:

A clear lesson I learned in the museum was that outside forces that tend to divide people up inside their country are unbelievably counterproductive. In other words, people came from other countries — I guess you’d call them colonialists — and they pitted one group of people against another.

Hello, is this thing on?

Web MD on a Harvard survey on "Socialized Medicine"

From WebMD Medical News

Feb. 14, 2008 -- A new poll shows that U.S. voters are divided on the issue of socialized medicine, which is a single-payer, government-run health care system.

The poll comes from the Harvard School of Public Health and Harris Interactive. More than 2,000 people took part in the poll, conducted by phone in January and February.

First, people were asked how well they understood the term "socialized medicine."

About two-thirds -- 67% -- said they understand the term "very well" or "somewhat well." Thirty percent said they don't understand the term very well or at all. The rest said they didn't know or didn't answer that question.

Read the full story here...

Getting Ready for Academy Awards: Cone and McCarthy Up Front

"Old Men" Versus "Oil for Blood"

by Eric Green

The big face off this weekend will not be Obama and Clinton, it will be The Cone Brothers facing Paul Thomas Anderson.

In the one corner will be the brilliant Cone Brothers with their equally named film adaption of Cormac McCarthy's "No Country for Old Men." In the other corner will be Paul Anderson and his adaptation of Upton Sinclair's "Oil" now called, "There Will Be Blood."

The Sinclair book was significantly changed for the big screen by Anderson, removing any hint of a socialist solution to the greed and avarice of oil lust. On the PBS Charley Rose show, rebroadcast last night, Anderson when asked about the radical change in the Sinclair book, at first seemed to answer, but then just went silent. Daniel Day-Lewis the great actor did not reply either. Clearly, given Day-Lewis's artistic and political direction, he would have enjoyed playing the central figure in the original Sinclair book.

That Anderson chose to even allude to the Sinclair book was in part opportunistic, but on the positive side, maybe some film viewers will find and read the great book. "Oil" is on the same level as the nationally recognized Sinclair book, "The Jungle." But, the enormous resources of the oil barons far outstrips the meat industry. That probably explains the lesser role that "Oil" has in the annuls of literature. Too bad Anderson didn't see fit to resurrect it properly. The anti-oil industry feelings in the US and around the world, today, would have rewarded him greatly.

The Cone Brother on the other hand were faithful to the McCarthy book. The brilliant film depiction of the book should be rewarded on Sunday night. We will see.

Academy Award Viewers and Cone Brother supporters should take the advice of Joel and Ethan and delve more into the works of McCarthy.

A good next step would be to read the "Border Trilogy." These books written by McCarthy in the 1990s trace the border areas between Mexico and New Mexico/Arizona in the pre Wold World II era through the 1950s. Juarez, Mexico, El Paso and rural New Mexico. The first one "All the Pretty Horses" received the National Book Award. The subsequent book, "The Crossing" continues the story of the horse driven world of families dealing with Post War II. Finally, Bill Parnham's life is continued in "Cities of the Plain." In the Epilogue of this last book of the trilogy, Billy is in his '70s in the 1990s.

McCarthy is not the easiest writer to read, but the reading, once you hooked, is very rewarding.

The face of Tommy Lee Jones, in "No Country for Old Men," is the face of McCarthy in these books. Not sure if the Cone Brothers and McCarthy would agree, but, on reflection, Jones just might. If fact Jones" nomination for "In the Valley of Elah" shows that for this year The Academy of Motion Pictures nominators do a great job. That film had a lot of the reality that McCarthy shoots for.

The McCarthy novels are not the Old West that Hollywood would like to us believe existed, no, McCarthy shows the greatness of the West with its warts and difficulties. The Cone Brothers make it possible for all of us do the same.


[Update] Teamsters Back Barack Obama

The 1.4 million member Teamsters Union today announced it would endorse Barack Obama for president.

This is the fourth Change to Win Federation member to back Obama. SEIU, UFCW, UNITE HERE are the others. Obama has also been endorsed by the Transport Workers and the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (AFL-CIO). Altogether, these unions have between 5 and 6 million members.

Obama still lags in labor support behind Sen. Clinton who has won the backing of 12 unions with about 6 million members in total, including AFSCME, AFT, and the Machinists. The Farm Workers, affiliated with Change to Win, endorsed Clinton also.

The Carpenters, the Steel Workers, and the Mine Workers endorsed Edwards. None of these union have indicated new endorsements since Edwards suspended his campaign.

[Update] The Baltimore Sun reports the Boilermakers have also endorsed Obama.

The Last Testament of Benazir Bhutto


Thomas Riggins

I don't know who killed Benazir Bhutto: the radical anti-western so-called "Islamists," the Musharraf government, or the Bush government. All three groups have shown that they don't hesitate to use murder and political assassination to gain their ends. It seems that the ideas put forth by Ms Bhutto, as presented in the New York Times review of her last book (NYT 2/19/2008), which she completed writing just before she was killed, would not please the Taliban, Al-Quaeda, Musharraf or Bush and his followers.

The reviewer, Michiko Kakutani, says she presents her view that Islam is "'an open pluralistic and tolerant religion," that has been "hijacked by extremists." She did not think a clash between religions or civilizations was at issue.

This false use of faith, many think, is similar to Bush's hijacking of modern Christianity to cover up his war mongering and attacking of other countries. Neither group of extremists has the interests of religion or humanity at heart.

Kakutani, I believe, tries to present Bush in a better light than he deserves. He says, and I emphasize it, that Ms Bhutto held "that dictatorship breeds extremism and that democracies --- and here, SHE SOUNDS A LOT LIKE PRESIDENT BUSH -- "do not go to war with democracies" and "do not become state sponsors of terrorism." Maybe this SOUNDS like President Bush, but Kakutani knows full well it doesn't accord with his ACTIONS, nor with the general foreign policy of the US.

He has waged covert "war" (supporting a coup, for instance) against the democratically elected government of Venezuela (the US has a history of overthrowing democracies) and he supports dictatorships whenever it suits him (thus he is responsible for the growth of Islamic extremism to a greater extent that bin Laden who plays the monster to his Dr. Frankenstein) -- the US also has a history of being the dictators' best friend (Indonesia, Chile, Iran under the Shah, Iraq in better days, Indonesia, etc., etc.). It is a sick joke for Bush to talk about democracy after his own taking of power was based on flawed and phony vote counts.

Ms. Bhutto points out that US actions "made generations of Muslims suspicious and cynical about Western motivations"-- she is referring to the overthrow of the democratic government in Iran (1953)-- but the US backing of Israel and its white settler policies against the occupied Palestinians is also a good example.

She also blames the US for the problems of Afghanistan and the Taliban. She says "if the United States had not used Afghanistan as merely a 'blunt instrument to trigger the implosion of the Soviet Union' and then abandoned it, history in the entire region might have been very different." Yes, and we might still have our twin towers standing.

She called Bush's war in Iraq a "colonial war" and "a quagmire for the West and a great and unfolding tragedy for the [Iraqi] people." No wonder Bush's State Department wouldn't give her extra protection when it was found out assassins were after her. She would been a democratic thorn in the side of the our war criminal president!

Her Pakistan People's Party has just won, with other opposition parties, a big mandate against the Dictator supported and sponsored by the US. We will have to wait and see if real democratic change comes about in Pakistan. Even more importantly we will see, in the coming months, if real democratic change can come about in the US. Will the undemocratic and criminal policies of the Bush administration be repudiated and replaced by pro people and pro peace policies, or will we be served up with old wine in new bottles?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mr. Obama May be On His Way to the Nomination and the White House

by Norman Markowitz

I used to like the old Frank Capra movies, steeped in romantic individualism in which the good little guys speak for the people and win. Longfellow Deeds. Jefferson Smith. People with corny names doing great things. As a good Marxist, though, a realized that they were escapist fantasies, even if reactionaries generally hated them and progressives loved them.

Life isn't a Frank Capra movie, but Barack Obama as he continues his campaign is becoming a Frank Capra hero, winning over working people with his vision and hopes for them. Even the cynical old pols and those who write like cynical old pols are beginning to take notice because Obama continues to win and to draw huge numbers of voters into the political process. In Wisconsin, a state with both a strong progressive labor and agricultural tradition which produced the Progressive party of the Robert La Follette and his sons, perhaps the most successful third party at the state level in the 20th century, and reactionary anti-labor, xenophobic Kulak minded forces that produced Joe McCarthy, Obama won a decisive victory tonight over Hillary Clinton.

Obama is winning against a system which was largely put in place to nominate Hillary Clinton. He is winning among white and black voters, among young voters and in Wisconsin in greater numbers among older female voters. He is winning because voters are seeing in him a leader who will advance change, not a market researcher telling them in this market and that market what he thinks they want to hear so he or she can sell himself to them and then get back to the backrooms and do real political business.

That is what Hillary Clinton is telling them over and over again--I am the one with the experience the connections, I can close the deals because I get it, I know what the business is about. The voters are telling her over and over again that she doesn't really get it--that they don't see her kind of experience as a solution. but as was said in her youth and mine, a part of the problem.

It isn't over of course, but Obama, the better candidate, has clearly up to this time established himself as the candidate with significantly broader mass support.

Don't expect John McCain to campaign as a hero from a Frank Capra movie, though. Expect him to run as John Wayne in both Fort Apache and the Sands of Iwo Jima for his Republican friends, and Buck Turgidson (played by a much better actor than Wayne or McCain's hero, Ronald Reagan, George C. Scott) in Dr. Strangelove to the rest of us.

Wisconsin Win Wow!

After a tough campaign in which both campaigns poured massive resources and some dirt began to fly, Barack Obama won the battleground state of Wisconsin by 17 points.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton appeared to split the union vote. According to MSNBC exit polls, union members and their families were 31% of Wisconsin Democratic primary voters, and broke for Clinton by a razor thin margin of 50-49.

More than half (54%) of all Democratic voters said Hillary Clinton attacked Barack Obama unfairly, while only about one-third accused Obama of attacking Clinton unfairly.

90% of Wisconsin Democratic voters said the economy is "not so good" or "poor." And 43% listed it as the top issue today, followed by Iraq and health care.

Whites gave an edge of 53 to 46 to Obama. Men (43% of Dems) backed Obama 61-35, while women (57% of Dem voters) gave a slight edge to Obama 51-49. All indications are that Obama has successfully chipped away at Clinton's base of support.

Some Words Sen. Clinton Should Have Scrutinized More Closely

by Joel Wendland

In the last 24 hours, Sen. Clinton has become very concerned with words. Here is a very small compilation of words, I think she should have been as or even more careful to scrutinize, dissect and question so thoroughly.

In order to convince members of Congress to vote for a resolution for war against Iraq, members of the Bush administration said the following things. A recent study showed that they said things like this hundreds of times in the lead-up to the war. Sen. Clinton voted for the war.
"The threat comes from Iraq. It arises directly from the Iraqi regime's own actions, its history of aggression and its drive toward an arsenal of terror." George W. Bush, October 8, 2002.

"Eleven years ago, as a condition for ending the Persian Gulf War, the Iraqi regime was required to destroy its weapons of mass destruction, to cease all development of such weapons and to stop all support for terrorist groups. The Iraqi regime has violated all of those obligations. It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism and practices terror against its own people." George W. Bush, October 8, 2002.

"We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical and biological weapons across broad areas. We are concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using UAVs for missions targeting the United States." George W. Bush, October 8, 2002.

"We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. Some al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq." George W. Bush, October 8, 2002.

"Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past. Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly-enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year." George W. Bush, October 8, 2002.

"Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud." George W. Bush, October 8, 2002.

"Iran is today the world's leading state sponsor of terror. It sends hundreds of millions of dollars to extremists around the world while its own people face repression and economic hardship at home." George W. Bush, January 2008.

"And what we've seen recently that has raised our level of concern to the current state of unrest ... is that he now is trying, through his illicit procurement network, to acquire the equipment he needs to be able to enrich uranium -- specifically, aluminum tubes." Dick Cheney, September 2002.

"We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." Former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, September 2002.

A couple years later, US Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) chastised President Bush for failing to be honest and noted that there was plenty of evidence available to indicate that what he and his administration was saying was deliberately wrong:
"The President’s decision to ignore intelligence community assessments prior to the Iraq war and to make repeated public statements that gave the misleading impression that Saddam Hussein’s regime was connected to the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 cost him any credibility he may have had on this issue." (September 8, 2006)

Other words Sen. Clinton could reexamine:
"Look around the globe: Those nations which have lowered trade barriers are prospering more than those that have not." First Lady Hillary Clinton to Corporate Council on Africa, 1997.

"The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has assisted the militias and others in killing our Americans and maiming them." Hillary Clinton, November 16, 2007.

"If Iran does not comply with its own commitments and the will of the international community, all options must remain on the table." Hillary Clinton, October 15, 2007.

In response to a question by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann last October about whether or not Democrats would stand up to the president on the expansion of domestic powers through a FISA expansion along with immunity for telecoms that illegally assisted in domestic spying, Sen. Clinton said, "I sure hope so." But on 2/12/08, on a vote on FISA (S 2248: S.2248 as Amended; FISA Amendments Act of 2007), Sen. Clinton failed to vote.

Some Thoughts on the Resignation of Fidel Castro

by Norman Markowitz

Fidel Castro stepped down today as the head of state of socialist Cuba.

The Cuban revolution and socialist Cuba, a bone in the throat of United States imperialism, has and continues to survive the ruling class-made intrigues which have sought to destroy it – the economic blockade which began in 1960 and continues to this day; the CIA organized and funded Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961; the naval blockade or "quarantine" in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 which almost led to an American-Soviet nuclear World War III; the many assassination attempts directed against Fidel Castro personally by CIA sources; the sabotage launched against Cuban agriculture and industry by the import of defective machine parts, attempts to destroy crops and livestock.

All of this from a government whose ultimate insult to the Cuban people was that they had not made a revolution but had merely been puppets of an evil charismatic leader; when Fidel went the revolution would go with him and the privately owned sugar plantations, gangster run luxury hotels would all be restored, an illusion or self delusion that the Bush administration and much of the mass media continue to peddle. Hopefully, these self delusions will not lead the Bush administration to seek to end its ignominious reign by a final vicious act a military attack on Cuba, expecting as the CIA men did in 1961, to march straight to Havana and be greeted by cheering throngs.

Cuba's survival over the last 49 years, including the last 17 when the Soviet Union ceased to exist, is one of the greatest stories in the history of socialism and anti-imperialism, which were and are dialectically inter-connected in modern history.

Cuba was very important to the developing strategy or "game plan" of U.S. imperialism from 1898, 19 years before the Soviet Revolution and the birth of the Communist wing of the world socialist movement, to the development of the cold war, when that "game plan" was globalized. While the Spanish-American War was sold to the American people as a war to "liberate" Cuba from Spanish colonialism, the anti-Spanish Cuban rebel army was not permitted to participate in the Spanish colonial surrender in Havana. The U.S. Army occupied Cuba until the Cubans had put into their Constitution provisions demanded by Sen. Orville Platt, Republican of Connecticut and frank exponent of imperialism, giving the U.S. the "right" to veto Cuban treaties, trade, and loan agreements with foreign powers and intervene militarily in Cuba, all in the name of "protecting" Cuban "self-determination" and Independence.

This policy became the model for direct and long-term U.S. intervention with gunboats and marines throughout central America and the Caribbean over the next 35 years. While the policy was liberalized under Franklin Roosevelt, who repudiated direct military intervention, withdrew marines, and advocated a "good neighbor" policy of encouraging both economic and social reforms and Pan American solidarity, in practice, the U.S. continued to support its corporations and dictatorships that were friendly to those corporations. Even under Roosevelt, indirect U.S. intervention was essential to the overthrow of a liberal revolution in the mid 1930s and the establishment of the Batista dictatorship, which the Cuban people led by Fidel Castro and his fellow revolutionary fighters finally overthrew in 1959. Roosevelt, who was capable of being both frank and had a remarkable sense of humor, referred to leaders like Batista in Cuba and Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and Somoza in Nicaragua as "a son of a bitch but our son of a bitch."

When it became clear to the Eisenhower administration in late 1959 that Fidel and his followers wouldn't simply "face reality" and dampen down the revolution, and become "our son of bitch," the economic war, attempted military invasion, sinister and occasionally comical assassination attempt and raids and sabotage against Cuba were launched and continued for many years.

Cuba survived I would say because its revolution remained close to the people. In spite of the economic war, which amounted to attempted strangulation, in spite of the chronic shortages of many goods, it has achieved spectacular developmental gains in health care, education, general social development, all in the context of a full employment planned socialist economy. One can only imagine how much more Cuba could accomplish for its own people if it had as a friend a progressive America that would both co-exist and cooperate with it, not only ending the blockade but working with Cuba and the newly emerging socialist oriented governments of Latin America to make Franklin Roosevelt's "Good Neighbor"policy and support for Pan-American solidarity a twenty-first century reality. Since U.S. imperialism began in Latin America, and Cuba played such a large role in its historical development, reversing it in Cuba and in Latin America would be a giant step to reversing it globally.

George Bush, running around Africa and running into people who are chanting Obama at him, made a predictable and hilarious statement about Fidel's resignation today. He called it a step in the transition to "democracy" and demanded "democratic elections" not the kind of elections that the "Castro brothers" have been "foisting" on Cuba (why he threw in Raul I don't know, but it may have some deep Freudian meaning connected to his Brother Jeb).

Actually, for Bush to call for democratic elections anywhere, given the stealing of the 2000 election and the still unresolved questions about the Ohio vote in the 2004 election is a little bit like his friend the late Ken Lay of Enron demanding full investigations and strict prosecutions of corporate corruption.

The ruling circles of U.S. imperialism have especially hated Fidel Castro, I think because he beat them over and over again at their own propaganda games. Immediately after the revolution, before it assumed its socialist character, he went on the Ed Sullivan Show. He desegregated the big tourist hotels in Havana (segregated not for Cubans as such but for rich especially Southern American guests) and advertised the hotels in African American communities. At the famous 1960 meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, when U.S. media was vilifying him, he stayed at Harlem's Hotel Theresa. During the Bay of Pigs invasion, he personally led Cuban forces and rallied the Cuban people. He escaped assassination attempt after assassination attempt, some very narrowly. During the "Mariel boatload" which right-wing Cuban exile groups and the U.S. sought to use to destroy the Cuban revolution, he let people leave, including significant numbers of criminals who then became a major problem for American cold warriors who initially welcomed them as "refugees" from "Communist totalitarianism." In the aftermath of the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, when everything became much more difficult, he and the Cuban people stood their ground, to the amazement of both friends and enemies throughout the world.

Fidel Castro has long been a hero to many millions of people in Latin America, workers, peasants, and progressive intellectuals. As an historian, I suspect he will go down in history as the most significant and positive Latin American leader in the 20th century, just as I know that George W. Bush is in a very close race with James Buchanan to go down as the worst president in U.S. history.