Monday, September 29, 2008
Chapter 2 “Manufacturing Public Opinion”
Reviewed by Thomas Riggins
Moore opens this chapter by pointing out that large sections of the public know little, and care even less, about many of the issues that pollsters are asking them to give opinions about. Since the pollsters want to have dramatic splits in public opinion (it makes the poll more interesting for their media clients) they use questions with force-choice answers (i.e., usually two choices are given and "unsure" is not given as a choice) and ignore the fact that many people don't know much about the issues. The polls thus often "distort or completely mischaracterize what the American public is really thinking." I almost said they "misunderestimate" what is going on.
One of the tricks to get around public ignorance on the subject of the poll is to supply some information to the the person being polled. "As you may know X has said that Y is the case. Do you agree with what X says or not." But now you have biased the sample population you are polling by giving them this information. They no longer represent a typical cross section of the public. All polls do this and thus get "a manufactured opinion based on a mythological public-- measures that look like they represent what a rational, informed, and engaged citizenry might be thinking."
The Gallop people tried to get more honest reflections of public opinion. George Gallop decided on a five question poll that would also measure what the public knew about an issue. Moore reproduces the results of a 1953 poll concerning support for the Taft-Hartley Act. The result was CHANGE IT 19%, LEAVE IT AS IT IS 11%, REPEAL IT 3%, NO OPINION 7%, NOT FOLLOWED THE ISSUE 60%.
This approach has not been adopted because the media clients of the polls don't consider it newsworthy to report that 2/3 rds of the public is not aware of the issues they are reporting on. Even though the polling companies know this type of poll is more accurate they have decided to rely mostly on the forced-choice method because it gets the big dramatic results their media clients want. This is shocking because they have no concept of the "truth" but only want to sell their services to their media clients who also have no concept of "truth" but only want more readers or viewers.
This chapter definitely points out the three main ways in which the polls falsify public opinion. 1) By not pointing out how much of the public is uninformed about the issues or doesn't care. 2) By using forced choice methods to get a response the pollster wants rather than what the person being polled would really have responded. This is a variant of the first way. 3) By supplying the person being polled with information he or she didn't have before (as a way of getting a "choice") and thus biasing the sample. Most Americans would not have had the information that was supplied so the polling sample is not really representative. This 3rd point also could lead to a 4th in so far as the information supplied by pollsters is mostly an oversimplified presentation of the issues.
Moore ends his chapter with a quote from Daniel Yankelovich, a great pollster himself and with integrity: "Sad to say, the media who sponsor opinion polls on policy issues have little or no stake in the quality of the poll findings they report."
Coming up next: Chapter Three "Telling Americans What They Think"
I am dashing this off quickly in response to the House vote rejecting the "bailout." Although what has happened is unclear, it appears from what I can gather from the Internet that the rightwing Republicans were the key to the bailout's defeat. One was quoted crazily as saying that the "bailout" would lead the economy "down the slippery slope to socialism, " according to the press.
The stock market has lost over 600 points, which means that tens of millions of people have lost thousands of dollars from their pension funds which are connected to the stock market. Also, I have received emails from left groups hailing this vote as a "victory" and calling upon me to write to Congress supporting it.
My my initial feeling is to say "a plague on both your houses." First, a bailout in any form would be an expression of state capitalism. This has nothing to do with socialism, particularly in this case, where the restrictions on capital that the administration is advocating is so minimal. A bailout to be acceptable to progressives must haven very different minimal conditions, like an immediate ban on forecloses, legislation repealing Gramm-Leach(which in term repealed the 1935 Banking Act's separation of investment banking and depository commercial banking) and provisions that will lift as much of the longterm tax burden for the bailout away from the people and onto capital.
The Republican right has brought this about through three decades of profiteering linked to deregulation. For the Republican right to pose as the "enemies of Wall Street" would be both a big lie and a grotesque joke.
There is an emergency, I feel, since a financial crisis of this dimension, if not checked by state intervention, has in the past led directly to a major depression, whose effects would be far greater than the cost of the bailout even under the conditions that are being put forward right now. But the bailout conditions are bad conditions that can be made much better through the kind of provisions that I have suggested, connecting the bailout to real reform, the way the the New Deal government sought to connect banking reform with progressive
taxation and labor and social legislation.
The votes for that kind of policy are not there by any means now, but the Democrats with the support of labor and progressives can make a start in that direction by changing what Bush and Paulson have given them and crafting much more progressive crisis legislation. Then, with a substantially increased majority and in an Obama administration, serious reforms can be enacted.
Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121
A year ago, the Bush Administration negotiated an agreement with India that would allow expanded trade in nuclear fuel and technology. On September 6, the International Nuclear Suppliers Group caved under U.S. pressure and approved this dangerous deal. Just this Saturday, the House of Representatives approved it. It's up to us to stop it!
The Bush administration is trying to push approval of this complex and important matter through Congress in the few days left before its session ends. Unfortunately, the Democratic Congressional leadership seems inclined to rubber stamp the deal, despite the lack of time for study or debate in the closing days of a session dominated by a financial crisis of historic proportions.
Call your Senators today!
Tell them to stop the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal and to work instead for the global elimination of nulcear weapons and for safe, renewable energy alternatives.
Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Osiris Oviedo de la Torre works for the World Federation of Trade Unions in Geneva Switzerland. She is a Cuban national from Havana, Cuba. Ms. Oviedo is part of the new aggressive stance by the new WFTU.
PA: Before we discuss the WFTU and the ILO organization, can you tell me about the hurricanes in Cuba?
OO: Yes, the two hurricanes, Gustav and Ike, were devastating to our country. Of course, we are used to hurricanes at this time of year; and, there was plenty of advance warning and preparations. But, two in a row was more than we could handle. Fortunately, we have strong national resources and our people help each other. But, we also have some international organizations helping out. They have responded to the crisis to help our already stretched resources. With the tens of thousands of people out of their homes and the deaths, the situation is very difficult.
PA: When did you takeover this position?
OO: When the WFTU met in Havana in 2005 and decided to move its headquarters from Prague to Athens, Greece, they also made a decision to change their personnel in Geneva. The meeting in Havana was at a Congress of the WFTU; and George Mavrikos, from Greece, was elected secretary- general of the WFTU.
PA: It is the ILO in Geneva, right?
OO Yes, the main international organization located in Geneva Switzerland is the International Labor Organization. Since the new WFTU leadership, we have been seeking deeper involvement in the activities of the ILO; those activities that can improve the lives of working class people.
PA: Please explain.
OO: We held WFTU organizational meetings at the ILO's recent Annual Conference. An Informal WFTU Presidential Council Meeting was held on June 4th.
On June 6th, George Mavrikos, WFTU Sec. Gen. chaired a special meeting in Solidarity with Columbia trade Unionists. Ramon Cardona from Cuba and a WFTU head in the American Region spoke. More than 100 trade unionists from Portugal, China, South Africa, Palestine and Venezuela took the floor in that meeting.
PA: Does the WFTU function inside ILO?
OO Many WFTU affiliates have responsibilities in ILO organizations. Prof Ibrahim Ghandour, president of the Sudan SWTUF and President of the OATUU and member of the WFTU Presidential Council was elected to the Workers' Group proposed by the OATUU meeting.
Shaban Azzouz, Secretary General GFTU from Syria and WFTU Council was a member of the Workers Bureau. Their aim is the strengthening the ILO capacity to assist its members efforts to reach its objectives in the context of globalization where Ramon Cardona, WFTU Secretary for America was coordinator.
Sandiago Yagual, Sec. Gen. for CTE from Ecuador and Sourbiandhu Kar, Sec Gen. from the AITUD, India were with the Committee on Skills.
Abid Miro and Valentin Pacho, but leaders of AFTU participated and kept track of ILO committees.
PA: I understand that the Chinese labor federation was seeking ILO recognition. Did the WFTU help in this effort?
OO: Yes, We were very active in helping the Chinese labor federation gain its rightful place in the ILO. There was luke warm support from other labor organizations, but we were fully behind their efforts. We were told that our efforts made it possible for the Chinese trade unionist to gain a Deputy Member status.
PA: Did Mavrikos speak at the ILO conference?
OO: Yes, he spoke at the ILC Plenary. He quoted from Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was created in 1948: "All human beings are born free and equlity in dignity and rights and as they have logic and conscience, they have to behave fraternally one to the other."
He questioned if the millions of human beings dying from hunger should not be protected by that Declaration; as well as the millions in poverty around the world. He focused on migrant workers conditions and, he focused on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the attacks by Israel against the people of Palestine and against the people of Lebanon; don't they violate that Declaration, he asked?
He also made it clear that the WFTU is the oldest labor organization being founded 3 years prior to the Declaration, in 1945, but today is excluded from the Governing Body of the Workers Group.
He said that the WFTU wants an ILO that has pluralism and open to all ideologies; without exclusions and discriminations.
PA: Did the Havana Conference change the WFTU Look at the ILO?
OO Yes. Mavrikos said that the Havana conference sets the WFTU into a new uprising course. He said that we are open to working with all labor federations on an international, national or local level. He made it clear that the WFTU works with all people, regardless of race, color or language.
PA: Finally, does the WFTU have a proposal for ILO participation by labor unions?
OO: Yes, We suggest that before the next elections in the Administrative Council that:
"The Workers group, on behalf of the necessary trade-union plurality, which should also be in force in the ILO Governing Body, to ensure that the WFTU as well as the organizations without international affiliations could be fairly represented [20% and 10 percent respectively] in its various categories."
And, at a meeting of the Workers' Group, 97 ILO Conference, May 29th, 2008, I presented a WFTU proposal. Our proposed formula has been that of 70% for organizations affiliated to the ITUC; 20% for those affiliated to the WFTU and the remaining 10% for those without affiliation.
PA: Thank you very much.
OO: Thank you; and, please remember the new WFTU will be seen more and more in coming months and years.
Kate Atkinson, Case Histories. Back Bay Books. 310 pages. 2004. $13.99;
Philip Roth, The Dying Animal. Vintage International. 156 pages. 2001. $12.95
Reading Atkinson and Roth back-to-back was a good decision even though I hadn't thought about it beforehand. One book, Atkinson, is a mystery but also a novel; and Roth is a pure novel with a lot of mystery around it.
While Atkinson employs a significant number of developed characters in her presentation; Roth sticks with a few well developed ones.
While Atkinson's characters are involved in a rather complex set of events in which they almost touch each other; Roth keeps his characters in a rather narrow, very directed outcome.
While Atkinson is at the first episode of her writing career, a career that is sure to grow, at least I hope; Roth is certainly not at the beginning of his writing career, being in his '70s, but, he doesn't appear to be slowing down.
While the Atkinson book is a sure fire winner and is an easy one to recommend for others to read; you have to read Roth's full presentation to make the same referral.
At first you think that Atkinson was giving the reader a lot of case histories, which may or may not connect. She really knows how to shock the reader within a few pages. But, that is quickly put to rest as she employs a detective, Jackson Brodie, to be the glue for the mysteries in the book. It is interesting that the more I read the mysteries the more I thought I was reading a great novel with a mystery overlay. In fact, some of the endorsements including on the back cover made the same revelation.
This is the first book I've read of Atkinson. Previous books as is this one, reportedly involve only woman playing key roles. In this book, she inserted a strong male character for the first time.
As with Roth's books, you have to hold on as her characters are moving through their complicated lives. But, add the humor, humor that truly has you laughing out loud, that she clearly naturally has, makes her book even more special.
The Dying Animal
Roth's book, as moviegoers know, has been made into a film, Elegy. Reading the book, and Roth's characters which are as usual, highly developed, you can actually visualize the actors chosen to be the professor, Ben Kingsley; the young student, Penelope Cruz; the former student, Pat Clarkson; and the professor's son, Peter Scarsgaard. I haven't seen the film, but knowing these actors, actually makes the reading all the more enjoyable.
As with almost all Roth books, the upfront sexual relations of the main characters often leaves the reader speechless. And, at one point, you find yourself saying, "why I am reading this book?" The professor/writer is particularly hard to take. This is often a refrain when reading a Roth book. But, at that point, the human drama overtakes the often-crude display of sex by the professor and the other characters.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Roth book without some politics. Cuban émigrés in New Jersey get some focus as only Roth can do it.
Both Atkinson and Roth, in these books, have strong woman in center of their books.
John Searle is a well known Oxford educated American philosopher who has been writing and publishing for over fifty years. His latest book is a small tome (128 pages) entitled “Freedom and Neurobiology” and these remarks are based on David Papineau’s review in the TLS of 18 January 2008 (“How We Fit In”). Papineau tells us it is a good lead into Searle’s current philosophical concerns.
We are told that these concerns are to find “a place for humanity within the world described by basic science.” This concern is not unlike that of Wilfrid Sellars whose views I posted in an earlier blog.
Back in the 50s Searle was brought up in the school of linguistic philosophy practiced at Oxford. Ordinary language “embodies the accumulated wisdom [and one might add the foolishness] of past generations.” By the 1980s, according to Papineau, he had moved away from the philosophy of language to that of mind “with language merely the medium by which we make thought public.”
Papineau points out that Searle’s goal of telling us how we “fit in” to the world described by science would not be supported by most practitioners of Oxford philosophy as they are “deeply unscientific” and don’t see how science can help us understand people’s daily activities. This is very unlike Marxism, by the way, which looks to science to explain our relation to the universe and everyday life.
Although Searle has moved beyond Oxford philosophy he shares with it a reliance on "common sense" outlooks over those of complicated philosophical theories. This is just a preference according to Papineau, and it can "sometimes look little more than refusal to address real questions."
The problem of "consciousness" is an example. Papineau points out that Searle rejects both of the commonest current views on it, namely MATERIALISM (consciousness is just what goes on in the brain) and DUALISM (consciousness is "an additional non-physical element of reality": the brain may be responsible for consciousness but our subjective awareness is not the same as chemical reactions in the brain.)
Searle thinks both views go against common sense but he doesn't come up with a coherent alternative third view, according to Papineau, and this suggests that "common sense is leading us astray somewhere." Searle has a similar problem trying to explain "free will" in terms of "common sense." It seems that we have a free will and this means determinism must be wrong somewhere along the line. Searle appeals to quantum mechanics to explain how consciousness can make choices as a result of the indeterminacy principle working on the quantum level in the brain.
Papineau explodes this theory by pointing out that in quantum mechanics "the probabilities of physical effects are always fixed by prior physical circumstances." Papineau doubts that physicists are going "to start looking for violations of quantum mechanics inside the human skull."
Searle has some strange, for Marxists, theories about politics which he discusses in this book. Papineau reports that he says "political power derives from the duties, obligations, permissions and privileges that come with the collective ascription of 'status functions.'" Thus Searle writes that political power "comes from the bottom up." He means that as long as the governed believe that the rulers should have the status they have as rulers they will have it.
This boils down to "rulers rule because the people accept being ruled by the rulers." Papineau thinks these ideas are developed "with originality and flair" but I can't agree. I don't think Searle has said anything meaningful at all. The Pharaoh rules in Egypt because the Egyptians think the Pharaoh should rule, therefore political power comes from the bottom up. That doesn't tell us anything about how the power of the Pharaoh came about, how it was maintained, how the people were led to believe in it, and what social forces and levels of production brought it about and made the ideology that supported it prevail.
How did the rulers of the USSR and of apartheid South Africa lose their power. Searle writes, "In both cases, as far as I can tell, the key element in the collapse of the system of status functions was the withdrawal of acceptance by large numbers of people involved." The key question for Marxists is not THAT people withdrew support of "status functions" but WHY. In the case of the USSR it is even doubtful that they did as in the only so called "free" election (by Western standards) before the collapse the majority expressed a desire to maintain the USSR and not dissolve it.
Papineau laments the fact that Searle's political philosophy rests too much on his own "common sense" and that he ignores the insights of thinkers in the sociology tradition [not to mention Marx and Engels]. Searle mentions in passing Simmel, Durkheim and Weber but remarks the he doesn't think they had much to say about the unique status of institutions. Papineau begs to differ and says, for example, Weber concerned himself with this aspect of political philosophy, citing Weber's definition of the state as an example: The state is a "community that successfully claims a monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force."
Again, for Marxists the question is: what is that claim based on, what is its justification? Papineau himself recognizes that "legitimacy need only be successfully claimed, not endorsed." This would seem to conflict with Searle's "bottom up" views.
All criticism aside, Papineau concludes that Searle is well worth reading as he has made philosophy accessible to the non specialized reading public. He states, truthfully, that "philosophy has become a dry technical business" and that the majority of philosophers "write only for other philosophers about issues that can accurately be termed scholastic." Since understanding philosophical propositions is basic to understanding Marxist thought anyone who demystifies philosophy should be appreciated and Searle at least does that. When we propose Marxist alternatives to some of his ideas we at least have his ideas clearly stated and argued for. But, Marxism leavened by common sense is still the best tool for understanding the complexities of the modern world.
In the wake of Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin's rather disastrous (for her) television interviews, conservatives are beside themselves -- some, like Kathleen Parker, writing in the National Review Online, have suggested Palin herself step aside because she's "out of her league...." and.....wait for it...."If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself."
What a great line! I wish I had thought of it. I didn't though, which is certainly one of what I am sure are many reasons why Ms. Parker is a syndicated columnist and I am not.
This is pure speculation on my part, and I have no proof whatsoever, but could it be that Senator McCain picked the wrong Palin? Because, given Governor Palin's media performance post-GOP convention, I think when someone suggested to McCain the name "Palin," they were thinking of Michael Palin of Monty Python fame.
Of course, they would have to quickly forget it, because Michael Palin is British and therefore ineligible for the presidency. Governor Sarah Palin is eligible for the office, but is something like a right-wing, female version of Billy Carter -- absent the gas station in Plains and the terrible beer. (Think about this: President Carter didn't get to pick his brother; Senator McCain picked Governor Palin for his running mate!).
I agree with Bill Maher who commented that reporter Charlie Gibson spent more time with Governor Palin than did Senator McCain before she was selected for the VP post.
Personally, and hypothetically putting aside the Constitutional dilemma that it would have posed, I think Michael Palin would have made a great VP contender. For any number of reasons.
He's 65 years old, younger than Senator McCain, and he could easily capture the vote of all of us who got turned on to Monty Python when PBS started airing the program in the 1970's.
He's traveled the world.
He's intentionally funny.
He knows a thing or two about Spam and that is very useful in the Internet age.
He was prescient when he participated in writing a sketch about a pet store, where the shop owner had nailed a dead parrot to its perch in an effort to deceive his customers. Is there any better analogy for Republican electoral strategy and economic policy than a dead parrot on a perch?
I have no idea what Mr. Palin's personal politics are, but I could support him. In fact, let's not stop with him -- all the surviving members of Monty Python troupe should have governmental posts. Imagine the fun that Leno, Letterman, Stewart, Maher, and the rest could have with a member of the cabinet named Idle.
My bottom line is this: I want to be able to watch episodes of "30 Rock" and think of Tina Fey as portraying "Liz Lemon" and not "Sarah Palin." Is that too much to ask?
Saturday, September 27, 2008
I watched the presidential debate yesterday and saw a much clearer Obama victory on both style and substance then the talking heads of CNN and MSNBC who tried to minimize and even trivialize what had just gone on before them.
Of Course I wanted Obama to win decisively. But in 1980, even though I cast my vote for Gus Hall, which I am still proud of, I didn't want Ronald Reagan to win decisively over Jimmy Carter, and I thought that he did, although most of my friends tried to minimize that victory. Even though I cast my vote for Ralph Nader in 2000, which I regret very deeply,I didn't want George W. Bush to sort of win without losing in his debate with Al Gore, to break even a contest between Bush's friendly platitudes and Gore's boring pontifications. But that is what I thought happened.
Yesterday, I saw an old man, rigid and pasty-faced, either arrogantly or fearfully refusing to look at his debating opponent, repeating what was in effect Republican boiler plate, emphasizing his "experience" while he said nothing to show that he had any relevant experience. And I saw a much younger man, both in age and heart, confident, articulate, flexible, showing that he he could think on his feet, not respond to his opponents provocations, and make his points clearly and confidently.
Then the talking heads came on and over analyzed everything. Both did well in terms of style(McCain did terribly in terms of style, even compared to the two Bush presidents) McCain's issue was "experience," Obama's "judgment," as if the two can really be separated, and both did well. McCain's childish attempt to say "I was right and you were wrong on the surge and you wont admit it" showed either experience or judgment, not to mention any understanding of guerrila warfare, or the political economic situation in Iraq, the presence of Al Qaeda, the increased influence of Iran, the hundreds of billions of dollars in wasted U.S. money, the army of private contractors who have treated Iraq like a military reservation and U.S. taxpayers as cash cows. These were the statements of a man who not only is incapable of change but incapable of thinking clearly.
Why did the talking heads say such nice things about McCain's abysmal performance, when Obama's victory was so black and white. Perhaps the still can't see Obama's strengths because in another sense they are seeing things in black and white.
American Prayer, Dave Stewart et al
Read the full story here...
My Top Ten favorite Paul Newman movies:
1. Cool Hand Luke, 1967 --"Sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand."
2. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1958 (mostly because of Elizabeth Taylor though)
3. The Hustler, 1961
4. Somebody Up There Likes Me, 1956
5. Exodus, 1960
6. Hud, 1963
7. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969
8. The Sting, 1973
9. Road to Perdition, 2002
10. Empire Falls, 2005
Friday, September 26, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Focus on demanding that the Georgia Attorney General's Office to conduct and INDEPENDENT investigation into the allegations of police and prosecutorial misconduct in Troy’s case.
See the letter you can mail or fax to the AG's office: http://www.facebook.com/l.php?
u=http://www.flickr.com% 2Fphotos%2F26770559%40N08% 2F2880917131%2Fsizes%2Fl%2F
See the YouTube video. http://www.facebook.com/l.php?
u=http://www.youtube.com%<http://www.facebook.com/l. 2Fwatch%3Fv%3DQJz5IR7vqJY php?u=http://www.youtube.com%> 2Fwatch%3Fv%3DQJz5IR7vqJY
As a reminder, here's how to reach out to the AG:
Office of the Attorney General
40 Capitol Square, SW
Atlanta, Ga 30334
Phone: (404) 656-3300
Fax: (404) 657-8733
Thank you again for all you've done!
We hear the neocons and their supporters as well as McCainites and Palinites mouthing off about how successful the "surge" is supposed to be. The fact is that Iraq is still too dangerous and violent for McCain or anyone else with a high profile to visit the country without sneaking in on a "surprise visit." Experts tell us that the relative calm is due to the US bribing the Sunni insurgents to work for us (paying tribute)and the Shite fighters laying low for the time being. It could all fall apart at any time. So have we succeeded in introducing democracy and the rule of law? Not according to an article in the New York Times online ("Western Lawyers Say Iraq Discarded Due Process in Hussein Trial" by John F. Burns).
This article gives evidence that high Iraqi officials "railroaded" Hussein to the gallows in contravention of all legal norms. This was all done out of the office of the prime minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki . An American lawyer who helped Iraq set up the trial said the for those "who wished for it to mark a break with the barbarism which characterized the regime under Saddam Hussein, these events were tragic. They were not tragic because a brutal dictator was put to death without proper legal controls. They were tragic because they demonstrated once again that fair and neutral justice and more importantly the RULE OF LAW IN THE NEW IRAQ IS NOT TERRIBLY DIFFERENT THAN IT WAS IN THE OLD IRAQ."
But only children and hypocrites ever thought that democracy and the rule of law was what the US was all about in Iraq. It's the oil stupid! Should be our response to those praising the US for its accomplishments in Iraq.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Chapter 1 “Iraq and the Polls-- The Myth of War Support”
Reviewed by Thomas Riggins
Discussing the preface to this book in Part 1, we reviewed the claim that the polls distort and misrepresent public opinion. Here is a case in point: how the polls manufactured a pro Iraq War sentiment to bolster the claims of the Bush administration.
In the run up to the war in 2003 the press was reporting a pro war mood in the country. The pollsters typically asked their questions giving two choices and forcing the interviewee to choose an answer. Sometimes a control question was asked when the polling company really wanted to find out what was going on.
The CNN/USA Today/Gallop Poll did this in February 2003 [the war began about a month later] and found that about 30% supported it, 30% were against it, and 40% could care less. That is hardly a pro war mood when 70% either don’t care or oppose it. Moore points out that this neutral factor was not measured by the other polls and practically ignored by the CNN/USA Today/Gallop Poll itself. Ignoring the control question “reveals much,” Moore adds, “about the way that media polls manufacture public opinion for their own purposes.”
The problem is, Moore says, that polls want an answer to their questions even if the people they are asking don't know or care about the issue. Moore says we should distinguish between DIRECTIVE (the person really wants the opinion carried out) and PERMISSIVE (the person doesn't really care what happens) OPINIONS.
Moore gives the example of the poll mentioned above. Are you for the war?-- 59%. Against the war-- 38%. No opinion-- 3%. That is the standard "forced answer" poll. It looks like the people want war! This would have been the original result had not Gallop asked a control or follow up question.
People were asked if they would be upset if their opinions were not carried out-- i.e., if the government did the opposite of what they thought. Now if you take the strong or directive opinions on the war (yes vs no) along with the permissive, don't care group (plus the no opinion group) you get the following. For war-- 29%, Against war 30%, no opinion, unsure, don't really care 41%.
So reporting that 59% favored the war would not have been a true statement of how the public really felt. Most polls (including Gallop) don't usually use a follow up question so most polls are deceitful. The truth was that about 71% of the people didn't want war, were unsure or didn't care one way or the other.
Moore also makes a distinction between "top-of- mind" responses and reasoned ones. That is between an opinion that is just what someone has heard about or been told about (say by a pollster) but really doesn't know much about, and one that has been arrived at after thinking about it and reading about it. This is the difference between a knee-jerk response and a well thought out one.
To get "newsworthy" polls for their clients (the big media) most pollsters lump these two groups together-- even though the answer of the "top-of-the-mind" person may have been elicited by the form or wording of the question itself.
Here is another example of a misleading poll. It was once claimed that most Americans supported what the government was doing at Guantanamo. In 2007 Gallop pollsters did a standard poll asking if Gitmo should be closed or not. They got this answer: yes, close it-- 33%, no-- 53%, undecided-- 13%. But when a control question was asked (as in the Iraq war poll above) i.e., would you mind if the government did just the opposite of what you think, the response was modified to yes, close it-- 19%, no-- 28%, undecided, don't care-- 52%. A big difference as you can see!
Finally, remember the antimissile shield? In 2002 Bush took the US out of the 1972 antiballistic missile treaty and claimed he had the support of the American people. Forced choice polls had been taken and seemed to back him up-- the majority of American people were for the antimissile shield. Gallop did a forced choice poll (only two answers allowed but a person could volunteer an "I don't know.") Here is how the poll turned out. For the shield 64%, against it 30%, neutral 6%. Then Gallop did the same poll but again with a control question that allowed people who didn't care or didn't know anything about what was going on to op out. This result was for it 29%, against 13%, neutral 59%.
The second poll gave a much truer picture of what Americans were thinking than did the first. Moore says opinions are easily manipulated and "that on all sorts of issues, the media polls continually and systematically distort public opinion, with severe consequences for us all." Just ask yourselves if control questions were used in any of the polls that came out saying how popular Palin is. If not, why not?
Coming up next week-- a review of Chapter Two-- "Manufacturing Public Opinion".
John McCain wants to cancel this Friday's first presidential debate in order to return to Washington and find a solution to the present fiscal crisis. McCain is willing to invite Obama, and work with Democrats for the good of the country.
What McCain really wants to do is have photo ops with Congressmen and cabinet members, project the image that I am mature, wise and experienced and Obama is young and wet behind the years. Thus the "Maverick"(with apologies to Maury and his ancestor from whom the term comes) will become the inside dopester, power broker to ride off into the sunset and win the election with or without Sarah Palin.
McCain has supported the deregulation over the last three decades that forms the background to the present disaster. McCain's shopworn rhetoric against "corruption" and "greed" should be weighed against his record of supporting and taking funds from bankers, developers, and big businessmen who have profiteered at the expense of the people for decades. McCain is no "populist" although that is the most abused word in American politics, used to describe anyone from any perspective who denounces "greed" and corruption and says that he is for honesty and, as Superman used to say, "truth, justice, and the American way." Real populists wanted to pass anti-trust laws that would bust the trusts, stop the judiciary from issuing injunctions that would be used to hurt farmers and workers. The more radical ones wanted public ownership of the railroads, a credit and currency system in which government would step in to "bail out" poor farmers losing there land and homes, not the banks and creditors who were taking their land and homes from them. McCain is no more a populist then he is a socialist and the Bush-Paulson "bailout" is in its present form a very expensive textbook case of state monopoly capitalism.
There were some comical sidelights to this story. McCain was at Morgan Library and Museum "preparing" for his Friday debate, New York Times reporters Elizabeth Buhmiller and Michael Cooper write, "which, by coincidence, is where J. Pierpont Morgan bailed the country out of the Panic of 1907 by locking the leading bankers of the day in his library and forcing them to come up with a rescue plan."
Unless I earned my Ph.D in U.S. history 38 years ago in vain or the books I have read that I trust are lies, that isn't remotely what happened although there are a few grains of truth. Morgan the leading finance capitalist in the U.S. intervened over and over again between October 19th and November 2nd, 1907, to get bankers to pump money into a crisis ridden banking system. He also met with and worked with Treasury Secretary George Cortelyou, representing the government of his political enemy, President Theodore Roosevelt, who deposited 25 million in treasury funds into endangered banks. Morgan greatest capitalist rival, John D. Rockefeller, himself the head the second leading finance capitalist syndicate in the country, threw in ten million and phoned the Associated Press that he would "pledge" half of his wealth to preserve the banking system.
But as this crisis ended, with the leading syndicates of finance capital and the government both pouring in funds, a new one began almost immediately as a a major Wall Street firm was threatened with collapse if it did not sell as an asset the Tennessee Coal and Iron Coal Iron and Railroad Company. Morgan seized the opportunity to have the United States Steel Company buy Tennessee Coal and Iron, even though that violated all of Theodore Roosevelt's anti-trust principle and commitments, since U.S. Steel controlled 60% of the market. Roosevelt yielded.
For Socialists, the crisis and its resolution showed as nothing else did who had the power in the capitalist system. It also helped to radicalize the none socialist progressive movement in its demands for far reaching regulatory reforms and real anti-trust policies. It also led the representatives of the large capital in Congress, led by Republican Senate leader Nelson Aldrich (coincidentally John D. Rockefeller's son-in-law) to establish a "National Monetary Commission" to study "reform" of the national banking system.
I haven't written this to be pedantic or to stick it to two New York Times reporters for spreading capitalist myths. The Morgan and Rockefeller syndicates and their allies "saved" the unregulated banking system and profited from the crisis mostly with their own money. The Bush administration is proposing to save the "deregulated" system with public money and no real benefit for the people. The 1907 crisis was a textbook case of the anarchic nature of advanced finance capital. The 2008 crisis is a textbook case of the anarchic nature of a more advanced finance capital.
John McCain, who has in the past often invoked the name of Theodore Roosevelt as a role model, has represented from the 1980s on positions of domestic economic and social questions very far to the right of the positions that Theodore Roosevelt represented from the 1880s on.
McCain is trying to withdraw from a debate with an intelligent and able presidential candidate which he will in all probability lose. The policies of his president and party stand behind the crisis. As Representative Barney Frank, the liberal Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts who is representing House Democrats in negotiations on the "bailout" said of McCain's move, "It is the longest Hail Mary pass in the history of either football or Marys." Since Frank has long been an openly Gay man who has faced the insults and abuse of rightwing
Republicans, that comment may have been a joke somewhat over the head of "Honest" John McCain, boning up in the Morgan Library when he really thought that he would be preparing to play John Wayne in his first debate.
"The story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays invented the public relations profession in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud's ideas to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn't need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires.
Bernays was one of the main architects of the modern techniques of mass-consumer persuasion, using every trick in the book, from celebrity endorsement and outrageous PR stunts, to eroticising the motorcar.
His most notorious coup was breaking the taboo on women smoking by persuading them that cigarettes were a symbol of independence and freedom. But Bernays was convinced that this was more than just a way of selling consumer goods. It was a new political idea of how to control the masses. By satisfying the inner irrational desires that his uncle had identified, people could be made happy and thus docile.
It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate today's world."
This documentary series should be required viewing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPOid2ltntc&feature=PlayList&p=5DB0CCFA1EC04240&index=0&playnext=1
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Reviewed by Thomas Riggins
This is an important book to read, especially during this electoral season. It's not very long (161 pages) but thoroughly explains how public opinion polls are manipulated in this country to produce the results wanted by those who use them to influence and shape public perceptions of reality. As professor Mark Crispin Miller of New York University says, the book presents "A powerful argument that polls do not merely misinform us but pose a genuine, if subtle, threat to our democracy."
The author, David W. Moore, knows what he talking about having been a senior editor for the Gallup Poll for thirteen years. Anyone who wants to know how the polls are used to manipulate public thinking could do no better than to buy this book, either from Beacon Press or through Amazon.com. In the meantime, between now and the election I will go over the salient points in the book so that readers of PA and of our blog will be better prepared not to be taken in by questionable polls. Today I will begin with the preface.
Moore begins by reminding us, with a quote (from political scientists Lawrence Jacobs and Robert Shapiro): "Whether DEMOCRATIC government survives is not foreordained or guaranteed. What is critical is creating the expectation that substantial government responsiveness to public opinion is appropriate and necessary." [This brings to mind Vice President Cheney's response to being informed that the majority of the American people were against the Bush administration's policies in Iraq. "So?"]
Public opinion polls are ONE way that the American people's will can be expressed. But, as Moore says, "For years, we pollsters have systematically misled the American people about the accuracy of out polls."
Polls do state a margin of error but the following statement should be attached to every poll: "In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls." Moore, in fact, when at Gallup included that statement in a report to a client who had commissioned a poll. The client's response was "It essentially says you can't trust any of the numbers. What good is a report like that?" Since this would make all polls doubtful, Moore says that the polling industry and their clients just ignore this qualification.
What this means is that polls are "rough estimates" and not, as they try to claim to be, "precise reflections of reality." If you check closely "you will see large variations among highly reputable polling organizations." [I would question the use of the tern "highly reputable"!]
Which polls does Moore have in mind. The four most important are The New York Times/CBS News Poll, The Washington Post/ABC News Poll, Pew Research, and the USA Today/Gallop Poll.
Other polls he mentions that are less influential are CNN, NBC/Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, Associated Press/Ipsos, Los Angeles Times, Fox, John Zogby [sometimes with Reuters], and Harris Interactive.
What do these polls all have in common? They "give us distorted readings of the electoral climate, manufacture a false public consensus on policy issues, and in the process undermine American democracy."
Stay tuned to see how they do this. Coming up, a review of Chapter One:
"Iraq and the Polls-- The Myth of War Support".
read more here...
There is both confusion and anger at the mass level across the political spectrum about the 700 billion "bailout" of Wall Street banking and brokerage houses which the Bush administration is trying to force through Congress right now. The administration is portraying this as either or, bailout or disaster trying to marginalize debate to create a fait accompli.
First there really is a far-reaching fiscal crisis and something has to be done quickly to contain it. But what Paulson and the Bush administration are in effect trying to do is to "socialize" the losses of major institutions of finance capital on the assumption that the benefits will then trickle down to the masses of people, who will not lose their jobs, homes, and pensions.
For the 700 billion (about a year and a half of the present military budget to put it in perspective) the working class in the administration plan gets nothing.
There will be no restructuring of credit which will help debt ridden families begin to pull themselves out of the economic quicksand that they are currently in. The "regulation" will probably make it harder for them to deal with their current debts. There are no suggestions by the administration or virtually anyone else on how to shift the burden of a bailout onto the deregulated financial institutions which are at the center of the crisis.
For example, the military budget, already representing nearly 1/2 of the worlds official military spending, could be cut in half (to about 250 billion) which would still make it the biggest military budget on earth. Half of the money could go to social investments in labor and the people, the other half to paying off the new debt.
When people are bankrupt or simply cannot pay the debts they have incurred, they are put on some repayment plan. There is understandable outrage through the society about the vast personal wealth which the high executives of these institutions have incurred. But no one yet is talking about repayment.
Just as Franklin Roosevelt proposed a salary limitation for executives during WWII in order to show sacrifice for the war effort, both compensation caps and payback plans for CE0's and CF0's whose wealth ranges from the tens of millions to the hundreds of millions can and should be enacted. Also, since the capitalist class loves regressive payroll taxes for social security and Medicare, a serious program of reregulation could establish an excess profits fund and attach it to FICA, in effect to make the capitalist capitalist class begin to pay directly a much bigger partof social security and allied programs,while reducing the payroll taxes on working people.
Such suggestions are in the U.S. context radical and of the left. But they are antidotes to policies that are radical and of the right, policies that the nation has long endured and which have produced the disaster that we face today.
They are the sort of questions that should be raised today, namely, how can we prevent a collapse that would produce a depression and also make the perpetrators of the crisis pay the great bulk of their own rescue. My suggestions are by no means the only ones or even the best
ones, but they are in the direction of what we should be discussing.
What is, as all labor negotiators always ask, the trade off for working people and the whole people for accepting this unprecedented bailout? At present there is no trade off except the usual trickle down promises. A reasonable position for all non big business sectors of the society to take should be;no trade off, no bailout, since as all labor negotiators know, the more desperate big capital's position becomes, the more concessions they are willing to make.
Monday, September 22, 2008
2. Republican Party boss Saul Anuzis admitted that Republican voters are racist. He was quoted in a recent column by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne as saying that racism might by one of the reasons many Republicans will vote for John McCain.
Did you know that executive pay in the US is today 400 times more than the average worker? Did you know that that a CEO makes more in one day than the average worker makes in a year? By way of comparison Japan's ratio of CEO-to-worker pay is 10 to 1. 30 years ago in the US it was 20 to 1.
These numbers are being placed before the public by Senator Jim Webb of Virginia today as the Senate debates the Bush rescue package. Add to this Bernie Sanders figures spoken also on the Senate floor that today the top one-tenth of 1 percent make more than the bottom 50 percent of the population.
Were you aware that Henry Paulson is trying to ramrod a $700 billion rescue package for these capitalist CEOs that working people will have to pay for, but these same bankers are objecting to ANY LIMIT on their pay as part of the package? Paulson claims the bankers will back out of the package.
Not only that but Paulson is demanding decision making without review: the Treasury secretary would be able to operate in the stock market without review by any person, court or official.
It seems the US is on the verge of a financial dictatorship of banking capital. (By the way, Paulson is a former leader of Goldman Sachs).
Now you have it: the OCTOBER SURPRISE! If you don't vote for it and the economy goes belly up, guess what? Blame the oppostion. By the way, the Republicans did the same thing 6 years ago, with the Iraq war when the authorization of force resolution was forced down Congress’s throat before an election.
These are the same banks whose predatory lending practices led to the biggest loss of the wealth in Black and Latino wealth in US history as a result of the foreclosures.
It's starting to get heavy.
Citing the following conditions assembled European and African trade unionist met:
The consequences of the policies of capitalist globalization, the role of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and the activities of multinationals in the African countries, which is among the root causes giving rise to migration;
The problems arising from the transfer of international capital to achieve equality and justice trade relations withing the framework of international trade;
The elimination of external debt on African countries;
The immigration policies of the European Union [EU] Tens of thousands of people remain in detention centres, in modern concentration camps;
The phenomena of racism and xenophobia reappear slowly;
The violation of trade union and democratic freedoms.
It is these conditions that a resolution was passed that which urges the following:
Work in coordination and exchange of opinions among us at the level of the ILO, UNESCO, the IOM and the other special UN agencies supporting the rights of migrant workers;
The holding of seminars and workshops to support the vital requirements of workers and labor movements including lectures and studies, scientific seminars, forums and conferences.
The host union, PAME, of Greece, committed itself to:
Organize in 2009 a campaign for the rights of African migrants in Europe;
To create text positions on the problems of immigrants and then after discussing with trade unions from Africa and Europe to submit them to the ILO, IOM and UNESCO; and, finally, to propose to the WFTU a sympolic inervention of militant unions during the next session of the ILO in 2009.
George Perros, International Relations head of PAME [All Workers Militant Front], opened the conference and laid out the format for the next couple of days. He said he had to stop the normal proceedings of the meeting due to the policies of the European Union which is making it almost impossible for trade unionist to travel from Africa to Europe.
For example, for this our session, 4 representatives from Congo were denied Visas and another from Gabon was denied. Another trade unionist from Liberia was denied a visa. It is his union that is leading the struggle of agricultural workers against the repressive agricultural policies of the United States.
Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Greek Government was to deliver an opening welcome, but she could not attend due to an emergency. Her statement was read. In that statement she that this conference has their full support. She said that it was globalization that was causing people, forcing people, to find work in Europe. Their government was struggling to maintain a mutli racial and multi national society. She said that she is sure this conference will help in that process and she looks forward to hearing its results.
Perros opening the session. He said that the purpose of the conference was to help us better organize our struggles against the barbaric system of capital globalization which has created povery and wars. He cited world capitalism and the the United States as prime mover in that process.
He cited a theme that was repeated throughout the day. That was the main problem of AFRICAN DEBT. He cited the pharmaceutical industry in that debt accumulation. Cheap labor, espcially, woman workers, are being trafficked at alarming numbers. 20 million to Europe alone. 1.3 million to Greece, many from Africa. The Europen Union is considering legislation to further exacerbate the problems, he said; not solved it.
Miro of the WFTU
Abid Miro, of Syria, representing the WFTU, brought greetings from the WFTU. He also cited the huge burden of debt and the neo liberal policies the EU, the USA and other capitalist countries as the root cuase. He was looking forward to these deliberations, but was very angry about the denial of visas to African trade Unionists.
Ibrahima Sylla, Coordinator for the WFTU in AFrica and from Senegal, thanked PAME for hosting this important conference. He said that this represents an important step for the WFTU and one which will certainly grow. He said that cynical policies which bring this migration by exploiting multi national companies and countries which support these policies are the same that bring harsh immigration policies which force migrants into the hand of human traffickers. They rob of their dignity and bring fear and anxiety to that they won't join unions and fight for their worker rights.
He cited ILO resolution #143 on the Rights of Immigrants.
Abu baker Elsdigg Babiler Mohamed , the Secretary of External Relations for SWTUF of Sudan, also cited the importance of this seminar as a coordinator for future actions.
Boris Boniface, the Exec National Secretary of FESCOS-CCAM, Cameroun, also called for more such meetings to bring these immigration issues to as many trade unionists as possible. But, he also said that he had tremenous problems in obtaining a visa. He had to bring mounds of paper work to the government and the questions he had to answer were demeaning. He has to report on his every activity, including, reporting when he returns home.
Cheikh Sid' Ahmed Sidoummou, the General Secretary of UGTM from Mauritanie, focused on the debt of African countries. He also called attention to the continuing influence of the original colonizers of African countries which gained their independence. These influence must be addressed.
Portugal Transport Unions
Jose' Manuel Oliveira, national coordinator [president], Protugeuse Transport Trade Union Federation, and Fernando Mauficio, ofthe same union, spoke about the intensification of the exploitation taking place. He said that his union has seen this exploitation first hand. It is the transport unions who often work onthe boats where the migrants from across the Mediteranean Sea. He said that we have seen first hand the dying and misery of these migrants. He said that only through strengthing of the class ortiented unions would this change; and it is.
Two repesentatives of the General Union of Palestinian Workers, from Ramallah, attended and spoke: Mohammad Nayef Saleh Yahya, Member General Secreteriat; and Abdul Hadi Abdullah Dar Abu Taha, General Secreriat. They spoke about the continuing occupation by the Israeli government and the closing of over 40% of factories forcing workers to become migrants to survive. They were very please that the PAME and WFTU were taking this initiative. Other union federations are not offering the kind of assistance that can really change things for the better.
Dr. Frank Goldsmith, permanent representative for the WFTU at the UN, reported that the UN often puts forwards good words and sometimes sessions on the problems of migrants. But, these are never done with a worker and trade union focus. Kofi Anan's Millennium Development Goals helped in this process, but Ban Ki-Moon doesn't seem as interested in this kinds of economic and social issues. He needs to be pressured.
Goldsmith then focused on the NAFTA policies of the USA, enacted by Democratic Party leader Bill Clinton. These policies have just about destroyed the economy of Mexico. This has dramatically increased the migrant of Mexican nationals to the US. The "normal" migration in California and Arizona has been significantly increased. In the north,New York City, for example, well over 600,000 Mexican natinals now work where just a few years ago there were very few. The manipulation of this issue by the ultra right in the USA has caused the US Congress to vote for a 700 mile concrete wall between the US and Mexico. Both political parties leadership support this wall. Even both presidential candidates support it.
Onthe other hand, massive demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of US workers and peoples have demonstrated against these inhuman policies. These have been lead, in part, by the leadership of organized labor. The AFL-CIO, radically changing its previous xeonphobic positions, has done a good job in this struggle. But,much more needs to be done.
Clearly, coordination between unions in this room with labor unions in the US is a good next step
PAME Unionist Speak UP
Chrysoula Lamboudi, member of the PAME secreteriat and head of the Womens Secretariet, reported ont the Sunday language sessions held for immigrants in Athens. Over 150 are now attending classes and many more are expected.
Textile and leather workers are organizing migratn workers who are being hired into their industry. They are being urged to seek union office and recently one was elected president.
These sessions were translated in English, French, Arabic and Greek.
At the Sunday session, George Mavrikos, head of the WFTU, spoke. More on his remarks soon.
The draft resolution as cited above, was changed a little, but the essence as said above was adopted.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Most of the experts agree that that nationalization of AIG as well as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae was carried out to prevent not only the collapse of financial capital in the US but to stave off a world wide economic crisis.
These nationalizations will cost over a trillion dollars to the US tax payers-- that is the US working class which pays the bulk of the taxes in this country. But this money is going to the capitalist class.
What the workers should demand is that the trillion dollars not be handed over to the capitalists to make up for the money they lost on the sub prime mortgage market. That still leaves the workers with mortgages and the potential loss of their houses.
The demand should be that the tax money be used to buy up and pay off the mortgages directly. People who were lied to and tricked into taking out loans that had they been fully informed of the consequences they would not have taken out are the people to look out for, not greedy capitalists who brought their own problems on themselves.
We are seeing, right now, an intensification of class warfare directed by the capitalist state against the working class in this country. The take over by the government of AIG, etc., is being done not to help the workers and their mortgage plight, but to give the capitalists the money they could not squeeze out of the workers and still leave the workers holding the bag. Again, I think the demand must be to make this money available to the workers themselves to pay off the mortgages-- at least that is a minimum demand. The capitalists however have no right to be paid off since they made these loans knowing that people couldn't sustain the debt.
Since Bush wants to play at socialism (for the rich) we should also propose as a more just measure than the minimum demand that the government cancel the debt entirely and nationalize the banking system and run it for the benefit of the people not the moguls of Wall Street.
What do you think?
To Learn More About the Case for Troy Anthony Davis, please visit: Amnesty International
To Join Those in Support of Troy Anthony Davis on Facebook: http://www.new.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2549865169
Friday, September 19, 2008
In Charge of Trade Union Work, Greek Communist Party
The Struggle for the Working Class Brings Growth and Success
by Mike Tolochko
George Marinos is the charge of trade union work for the Greek Communist Party. The Party's headquarters are in the working class part of Athens. The area used to have warehouse and factories.
Approaching and entering the Party's offices you are struck by the size and power it represents.
It is a very large building with a few sections. There is the television station which has a full news gathering staff; studios which are digital and fully up to date; and a on air presence across Greece; and a small hotel. The facilities are quite impressive.
In the court yard is a bust of VI Lenin.
The reception area has a large artistic mural by a famous Greek artists. Also, posters and slogans highlighting the events of the day. Lenin is portrayed on all posters.
Then there are the large meeting rooms for the Central Committee; and, the very impressive 1,000 seat ampitheatre with its up to date audio visual abilities.
The other floors are the offices and meetings room the Party needs to function.
Marinos is also a member of Parliament representing the Communist Party of Greece.
PA: Please tell us a little about the history of the Party.
GM: The Greek Communist Party is celebrating its 90 anniversary this year. The Communist Party Youth is celebrating its 40th year. We have been through a long history of struggle for growth and survival. Time doesn't permit a long explanation, we will refer you to a more detailed description. Our comrades have faced imprisonment, death and illegal status. Also, there have been defections. Full legal status as a Communist was not won until 1974. It wasn't until 1962 that known Communists could hold a job. But, through this all, we are here.
In our last Greek election, our party got 8% of the vote which gave us 22 in the Parliament. We hold 3 seats in the European Parliament.
PA: To what do you attribute your advances?
GM: Our party is a Marxist Leninist Party. We are always putting forward the struggles and issues facing the working classes. We always seek a united working class through the struggles of the trade unions. That is why we support a strong and expanding World Federation of Trade Unionists. Unity is our Party is always our goal. Our enemies often ask how we survive and grow? We tell them the same. They may not like our political line and our successes, but we have their full respect.
PA: Where has your growth come from?
GM: Recently even social democratic forces are joining our Party. Of course, workers through their trade union experience, especially the left federation, PAME, are seeing the need for Communist Party.
PA: The discussion then went to the upcoming meeting being sponsored by PAME that will address the problems of immigration. This is a continuing theme as expressed by Marinos. Tomorrow, African tade unionists and PAME unionists will be meeting with representatives of the WFTU to discuss and propose solutions to immigration and work.
What hath Bush wrought? The nationalization by the US of American International Group is a complete repudiation of the free market capitalist philosophy that both parties have championed for decades. Today's NYT [9-18-08] says that European capitalists are shocked by the US's apparent "abandonment of capitalist principles." The US has preached a doctrine of antigovernment intervention in free markets to others for decades but its own actions have "probably undercut future American actions to promote such policies abroad."
Ron Chernow, an important historian of finances, is quoted as saying, "I fear the government has passed the point of no return. We have the irony of a free-market administration doing things that the most liberal Democratic administration would never have been doing in its wildest dreams." Talk about Change! Talk about being a Maverick!
While Ayn Randists and free marketeers around the world are in deep mourning over Uncle Sam's defection towards anti-capitalist economic nationalism others are rejoicing at the fall of the last bulwark of laissez faire. Mario Monti, recently of the European Commission, stated: "For opponents of free markets in Europe and elsewhere, this is a wonderful opportunity to invoke the American example. They will say that even the standard-bearer of the market economy, the United States, negates its fundamental principles in its behavior."
The NYT also quotes Monti as saying while other capitalist states have had to negate the free market due to crises [in Russia, Mexico and some Asian countries-- it seems the "free" market doesn't work all that well]--"[T]his is the first time it's in the heart of capitalism, which is enormously more damaging in terms of the credibility of the market economy." This will certainly encourage the Chinese to strengthen the CPC's control and direction of their "socialist market economy."
Sarkozy's allies in France are hailing Bush's actions as "economic patriotism." A nation's government should jump into the "free" market to support its own when they get into trouble. Bernard Carayon, a French Sarkozyite enthused, saying of the Bushites: "I congratulate them." He added, this is "an era where we have much more regulation and where the public and the private sector will mix much more."
What this really means is that raw, naked monopoly capitalism will have to reveal itself more and more as the myth of the "free" market dies the death of the thousand cuts. Parasitic capitalism's inability to function without continual state intervention, in one form or another (nationalization, loans, tax cuts, credits, etc,), can never be covered up again.
Gary Gensler (who was at the Treasury Department under Clinton) is reported by the NYT as saying: "This is a paradigm shift." What the US did was nationalize a company that was gambling on the market (with derivatives and hedge funds) and lost. The US stepped in to save the investor's cookies-- that is state monopoly capitalism so Bush is no enemy of capitalism. But he is a hypocrite with regard to free markets and competition.
Finally, Ron Chernow is quoted in closing: "It's pure crisis management [the general crisis of capitalism is back with a vengeance]. It's the Treasury and the Federal Reserve lurching from crisis to crisis without a clear statement on how financial failures will be handled in the future. They're afraid to articulate such a policy. [That's because crises are inevitable under capitalism-- they can be postponed and put off for a time, but they return to get you just like Freddie (Mac)]. The safety net they are spreading seems to widen every day with no end in sight." Maybe that end will be the final conflict.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
A couple nights ago I had an experience that I've had countless times in my life: talking with people who seem nice - who have great potential to become friends of mine - and then they make some incredibly racist or homophobic remark. These people managed to do both in the same conversation!
You see, I've just moved to a new town, and I've been trying to get to know my neighbors in my apartment complex. I can be a bit shy, so I don't make friends too fast. But I was impressed by the couple next door. The second night I was here they came knocking on my door, offering me beer and asking me to come over for a while. It went well. All my interactions with them since that time have been highly pleasant, until the other night.
When I was hanging out with them the guy, all of the sudden, started not-so-quietly complaining about "those black people downstairs" who were just "so typical...noisy and obnoxious." I was rather taken aback, because I had heard him say only good things about the young African American woman who lives a few doors down. Well, I'm not sure why I was expecting logical consistency when racism itself is utterly irrational.
Then the girl brought up a bad living situation that one of her friends was in once. She was "totally normal," apparently, but had the misfortune of living in an apartment complex "with a bunch of weird people and gays and lesbians."
I left shortly after that without calling them out on their offensive remarks despite the fact that I fancy myself committed to fighting racism and am, myself, openly queer.*
As you can imagine, I feel pretty crappy about myself for dropping the ball. By not challenging their hateful speech, I did what sociologist Alan Johnson calls "following the path of least resistance," which is part of how all of us, in our daily lives, enable systems of power and oppression to operate. Through my silence, I was helping to uphold White supremacy and was even helping to oppress myself as a queer!
I do take a stand on these issues as often as I can. I speak out. But sometimes I feel like I just can't do it. I feel too beaten down, and I think, "No, I can't even defend myself (or other people) now. I can't try to educate this person, it's useless, I'm just trying to get through my day. I want to be left alone. I'm tired, and sick of dealing with it." Especially when it comes to homophobia I have developed an ability to file my negative emotions away really quickly as though they didn't exist. That's the result of growing up in rural Louisiana, where I had to listen to middle school and high school teachers go on about the "immorality of homosexuality," and hear other kids continually make eloquent statements like, "I hate faggots," even as I was discovering my own sexual "abnormality." I felt like a freak among fools, but at least I could toss those emotions away. Maybe in some situations that's the only thing you can do.
All those years I liked to pretend that I was above it all and that bigotry didn't really affect me. Now, I know different. I know that it contributed to my depression and frequent suicidal feelings that I had throughout my teenage years. It helped give me a painfully-negative vision of the world, but it was an education that made me committed to change. It forced me to become aware of oppression in all its hideous varieties, in a way that I might not have otherwise. I'm not saying that as a queer European American, I have a praeternatural insight into the experiences of other oppressed groups, such as African Americans, but by making analogies to our own experiences, we can at least begin on the difficult road to understanding each other, even though analogies can be misleading: In regard to sexism and racism, Trina Grillo and Stephanie M. Wildman have made the point that "The 'analogizer' often believes that her situation is the same as another's. Nothing in the comparison process challenges this belief, and the analogizer may think that she understands the other's situation fully. The analogy makes the analogizer forget the difference and allows her to stay focused on her own situation without grappling with the other person's reality." Thus, the insights of analogy are only a starting point. Learning to listen is the next, and most important, step. It is a continual process of learning and reflexivity.
Individually, we are bound to fail some of the time, just as I did the other night when I took the path of least resistance. I have found that the most important thing is to collaborate with others who are committed to ending exploitation and oppression. This gives us a strength that we couldn't have alone, and keeps us on the path. Every time I feel like I want to give up, I remember the countless people throughout history who have resisted, who are resisting now, and who will resist in the future. No one should feel like they are alone
*Of course I question the modern concept of sexuality as identity, just as I reject race as an ontological category. I take seriously Foucault's historicist interrogation of sexuality as well as arguments that race is socially constructed. I believe that these categories, like the proletariat in Marxism, are the effects of historically-contingent relations of power. What really connects people consigned to oppressed and abject groups are similar experiences in society, not some essence.
by Mike Tolochko
"ALL WORKERS MILITANT FRONT"
That is the slogan on the cards and building home to the PAME, the leading trade union federation in Greece. PA interviewed George Perros, its Executive Secreteriat member.
PA: What are the main initiatives of PAME in the current period?
GP: Our labor federation is very actively involved in coordinating trade union activities in Greece. Our method of work is actions and struggles! Right now our focus is with young workers and immigrant workers. We are actively oppositng our government's anti-worker programs which cut back on workers rights and attempt to follow the anti worker dictates of the European Union.
We are, everyday, protecting the social security rights of all Greek workers. We fight for a stable working situation; against the privatization being driven by the European Union and forces present here in Greece. Protecting and improving the health, education and lives or workers is our priority.
PA: Is there another labor federation in Greece?
GP Yes! You might want to visualize two sides of trade union struggles. On the one side is PAME which struggles all the time for workers rights against employers dictates. On the other side is a labor federation which subjugates itself to the dictates of the Greek government.
PA: What is the size of PAME?
GP: PAME has approximately 600,000 members. We have been bringing more workers into PAME over the past months.
PA: You indicated a strong interest in international solidarity. Can you describe this?
GP Yes, international solidarity is a major focus of our work. We are directly affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions and agrees with its militant actions and solidarity initiatives. For example, this Saturday, we will be having a special all day meeting with South African Trade unions. In this meeting we will be focusing on the issue of immigration; specifically the immigration of African workers to Europe and Greece.
Also, PAME is hosting displaced Palestinian children due to the very difficult situation in their country. Also, on September 25th a delegation from PAME and Greek workers will be going to Syria/Lebonen; about 130 will be in that delegation.
PA: What are your areas of trade union priorities?
GP: We are focusing on transportation and the dangerous privatization taking place in the airlines and railroads. Unions in the United States interested in solidarity work around those industrial concentrations are invited to email us and join the struggle. Our email is: firstname.lastname@example.org; and our website is: www.pamehellas.gr
Joining Perros at the interview was George Pontikos.
PA: Are you familiar with the struggles of US unions?
GPontikos Yes, in fact, I've read the great history of the US unions, Labor's Untold Story. It was translated into Greek. I also am familiar with the great trade unionist William Z Foster. His writings are of particular important to our trade union in the current tubulant period.
PA: Thank you both: George Perros and George Pontikos; and we will see you at Sarturday's all day meeting with South African trade unionists.
Mass media is talking about Wall Street "greed. "McCain and Palin, the candidates of the party that Wall Street has supported in virtually every election at least since 1884 are also denouncing "greed." Rightwing economists are 'accusing" the Bush administration of violating the sacred principles of free market policy, going "further" than any Democratic administration, and sending bad signals to the rest of the developed world, which in the past it has led toward a "return" to the holy land of "laissez-faire" capitalism, away from the captivity of government regulation.
What is really happening. Barack Obama's comment that this far-reaching crisis is the final verdict on an economic philosophy which has completely failed is a good starting point to understand the present moment. The U.S. government and European governments are pouring hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars or their Euro equivalents into deregulated banks and brokerage houses and the insurers of those institutions. While this may be necessary to prevent a rapid global depression (since the "free market" is not now nor has it ever been "self-correcting." Only, I would say, a lunatic or a "neo-liberal" ideologue would contend that leaders should let the market take its course, "ride out the storm."
But, the sort of state intervention that we are seeing today is intervention from the top in order to save the top, the sort of intervention that even Herbert Hoover accepted in 1932 when the Reconstruction Finance Corporation was created to loan money to banks and other institutions faced with collapse. It is, as Franklin Roosevelt said about a different issue during WWII, the attempt by the conservative coalition in Congress to oppose a program of progressive taxation to pay for the war, a policy of "relief for the greedy, not for the needy." It is also a continuation of the sort of policies that the Reagan administration was compelled to enact when they "bailed out" the Savings and Loan industry from the disastrous speculative collapse that their deregulation policies brought about.
As Marxists we must say over and over again that capitalism as it develops is about the creation of monopoly for private profit, about the use of the state to subsidize the activities of the capitalist class as completely as possible, subsidizing speculation and bailout out failure. According to mass media, the Bush administration has already pumped in nearly half a trillion into the system (near about one year of military industrial complex budget expenditures) and few are talking about comprehensive "re regulation," action to deal with the unregulated global hedge funds, reviving long buried concepts like "excess profits" as part of a policy that would connect progressive taxation to a general regulatory policy that would punish rather than reward predatory speculation.
As Marxists we see the crisis as structural, long-term, and not resolvable ultimately under capitalism, which was the position that Marxists took in the Great Depression of the 1930s.
But that does not mean that we are the left equivalents of the free marketeers, waiting for the collapse and the revolution as they wait for the revival if the "free market" remains "free." We understand that state fiscal policy, taxation and regulation are necessary to protect the interests of the working class. The policies we have advocated in the past are very different from those which the representatives of the capitalist class have advocated and continue to advocate. When they were implemented they were generally successful. In an updated form, they remain vital today, although of course they are not necessarily the only short and medium term solutions.
We support what in the depression was called a "tax on wealth," meaning a serious program of taxing corporate capital and wealthy individuals and families through taxes on high incomes, investments, business transactions, for the purpose of subsidizing the working class in the form of employment and social welfare. We also as in the past, see public ownership and control of sections of the economy, including partial or complete nationalization of banking as a serious option. We reject the "trickle down" theory in all of its expressions and start with the principle that state intervention in the economy is necessary to save the working class and that state policies and subsidies should be centered on the working class and on those sections of capital whose policies expand working class employment and purchasing power.
On that basis we can begin to work with liberals and progressives and influence them to move in that direction. On that basis we can provide masses of frightened and "hungry" working class people with serious nourishment for their understanding, not the junk food that mass media is providing, the choice between "free markets" and capitalist bailouts, which is like a choice between Big Macs and Whoppers.
PA has a backlog of good books we need to review so we are asking for volunteers. We will send you the book and you will send us an 800 word review within a couple of months. This is a great way to get new books and sharpen your critical skills. Depending on need your review will appear in the on-line PA, the editor's blog or on the Independent Media site. No matter where, you will be doing us and yourself a favor. The following 5 books are available now [books marked with an * are by progressives and are especially important]-- please contact me at email@example.com.
1. AMERICAN WARS: ILLUSIONS AND REALITIES * by Paul Buchheit, editor
2. THE POLITICAL ART OF BOB DYLAN ed. by David Boucher & Gary Browning
3. THE END OF EMPIRES: AFRICAN AMERICANS AND INDIA * by Gerald Horne
4. BLUE DIXIE: AWAKENING THE SOUTH'S DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY * by Bob Moser
5. ILLEGAL PEOPLE: HOW GLOBALIZATION CREATES MIGRATION AND CRIMINALIZES IMMIGRANTS*
by David Bacon
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Anyone visiting the efficient and active headquarters of the World Federation of Trade Unions in Athens, Greece is treated to a real confidence booster. In a world that is reeling with the devastating affects of the over whelming greed of the world corporations and their front organizations: World Bank, World Trade Organizations and the International Monetary Fund; here the fight back is in high gear.
The Following Interview is of George Mavrikos, the General Secretary of the WFTU and he is also a Member of the Greek Parliament. He clearly has his plate full; and happy for it.
PA: What are the changes in WFTU?
GM: At the WFTU Congress in Havana, Cuba in December, 2005, the decision was made to move hte WFTU headquarters from Prague, Czech Republic to Athens, Greece. This took place the following month, January, 2006. Most of the records are now in place in Athens, Greece.
PA: What are the main prioities of the WFTU?
GM: We have three main priorities: First at the our actions. We are holding seminars in all the continents with strong solidarity. We just held a Conference on Working Women in Brussels where 105 women from 65 countries attended. We held a conference on Immigration in the 21st Century and last year, in Ecuador 145 trade unionists meet to discuss the new situation in the WEstern Hemisphere. As you know the changes have been dramatic.
The second priority is strengthening our organization. We are strengthening our regional organizations/branches/regions; and, the TUIs, Trade Union Internationals groupings which are active include: Construction with a conference in Greece; Energy with a recent conference in Mexico; Transport with a conference in Brazil; and metalworkers in Spain. TUIs on public services, education/teachers, and agriculture are in the works.
Our 3rd priority is to fully participate in international organizations. For example at the International Labor Org. At the recent meeting of the ILO we fully participating in helping to gain the leadership of the Chinese trade unions into the ILO Governing body. It is said that we were instrumental in that effort. We met with The Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, Italy; and our representative in UNESCO has made our presence their well known. We are also fully represented at the United Nations in New York by our permanent representative Dr. Frank Goldsmith. We are looking more in these arenas.
PA: Have there been any difficulties?
GM: Yes, our affiliates tend to be the most active but also not in strong financial condition. This is why our own financial situation is not as strong as is needed. We take no other money to do our work than from our own affiliates. There is another international trade union group that is trying to convince unions affiliated with us to drop their affiliation. They offer a lot of money, But, they have not been successful.
PA: Are there new initiatives?
GM: Yes, this year we are planning a major meeting in Nigeria for all of our African affiliates. Also, September 19 and 20th, there will be a meeting in Nepal for Asian affiliates in December 15 & 16 in Lisbon on the affects of Globalization on European workers.
In 2009 we will be having a meeting in Peru on Working Youth and Globalization. Comrade Valentin Pacho, sitting right here, will be headed up that important meeting.
And, in 2009, the WFTU will holding its next Executive Council meeting in Cyprus. This will be a good time reassess our positions.
PA: Thank you very much
Traveling on airplanes and using an iPod can be very useful. My iPod has practically all of my CDs on it.
I went back in time to listen to a CD by the amazing and brilliant Townes Van Zandt; and his partner then, Steve Earle. Earle has gone on to become an icon of folk and country singing.
Townes had a short by very productive career. He ended his own life which ended out insights into his great writing and performing; and our own lives.
This album, please get it, is a live performance at the legendary Blue Bird Cafe in Nashville Tennessee.
On the CD he sings his icon song Tecumseh Valley about the life and short lives of coal mining families. Everytime I here it is sends me back.
His ballad to his daughter Katie Belle should be a standard for all 4 year olds and environs.
Earle sings his songs Mercenary Song and Dublin Blues both of which showed at this stage in his life, he brilliance.
There are 20 songs on the CD.
Be sure to make this CD part of your collection.
This week, CNN will be highlighting the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. They report that 10 new stadiums will be built and are moving ahead very well. Lots of work and workers, men and women, are being trained in construction!
They also report that African footballers are ready to compete. Just 10 years ago very few African footballers competed in European leagues. Now well over 60 do!
They are calling the World Cup in SA Nation Building!