Friday, October 31, 2008

General Jack D. Ripper forced to Resign as Head of Japanese Air Force

by Norman Markowitz

Sometimes we in the U.S. who have spent much of our political lives fighting against the ultra-right, racists, militarists, cold and hot warriors, American imperialism in all of its manifestations forget that there are reactionary forces through the world, some in very powerful countries as dangerous as our ultrarightists, with there own complementary imperialist visions.

In Japan today, there was a frightening reminder of that for all of us. General Toshio Tamogami, Japanese Air Force chief of Staff, was removed from his position for an essay he wrote which was published on a Japanese website. (I was unable to access the link to the English translation of the essay, and my comments are on the press reports, which if anything may understate the case, since this is the U.S. establishment press.)

What did Tamogami write? First that "it is a false accusation that our country was the aggressor in the Greater East Asia War" (the Japanese war against China which eventually became the Japanese involvement in WWII as Hitler's major Axis ally). Furthermore, Tamogami contended that Japanese militarist actions in China in the 1930s were "based on treaty obligations" and Korea during the period that it was a Japanese colony, 1914-1945, was "prosperous and safe." But Tamogami didn't stop there. In a contention which would warm the heart of old German American Bundists, pro fascist isolationists, and quite possibly Patrick Buchanan, Anne Coulter and the people cheering at McCain Palin rallies, he argued that Japan was brought into the war by the conspiratorial manipulations of President Franklin Roosevelt who was himself under the influence of Communist International (Comintern) working to advance Soviet and Communist goals.

Tamogami was removed because his embarrassed Japaneses superiors did not want to create conflicts with Asian nations. But along with Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Indonesians, and other Asian peoples who faced death and destruction at the hands of Japanese imperialism, his comment should outrage Americans. In some respect it is reminiscent of the real air force General, Edwin Walker, who was removed from command of a U.S. air base in Europe when it was discovered that he was passing John Birch Society material among the troops accusing Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt of being Communists and the fluoridation of water as part of a Communist plot, among other "assertions." Walker was later put in a mental institution after he tried to provoke a racist to block integration at the University of Mississippi in 1962 and after his release became a stalwart of an ultra-right that was considered a "lunatic fringe." Many believe that he was the major inspiration for the General Jack D. Ripper, the air base commander who launches a nuclear WWIII in Dr. Strangelove.

Tamogami's essay is much more than an embarrassment to the present Japanese government. It is an example of why the Japanese constitution repudiating Japanese militarism and aggressive war must be maintained and why the policies of the Bush administration, which McCain fully supports and would no doubt enhance, of encouraging a major Japanese military expansion as both a threat (or "containment") of China and a way to share the costs of imperialism must be totally repudiated by the next U.S. administration before such policies lead to the development of a real U.S.-Japanese "Axis" military alliance in Asia as against the fictitious "Axis of Evil" that the Bush administration publicized (Iran, Iraq, North Korea) to advance its foreign policy.

Although it is painful to even dignify Tamogami's comments with a serious response based on historical analysis, I will do that.First, Japanese colonial occupation of Korea (which the U.S. had accepted as part of a deal in which Japan accepted U.S. colonial control of the Philippines) was controlled by the Japanese army and infamous for its brutality against the Korean people. While there were some areas of the Japanese empire where civilian forces played a more significant role and imperial rule was less brutal, Korea was neither "prosperous or safe" under Japanese rule as Koreans across the political spectrum well know. Also, hundreds of thousands of Korean women forcibly recruited as sex slaves for the Japanese military during WWII, an issue which has been the source of organized protest for many years.

The crimes of Japanese imperialism against the people of China had nothing to do with "treaty obligations." Japanese militarists used a bombing at a railroad in Manchuria in 1931 as a pretext to invade Manchuria, separate it from China, and establish a puppet state with the last Manchu emperor of China as its nominal head. Japanese imperialists launched a series of attacks against China in the period 1932-1937, sought to use Northern Chinese warlords and other collaborators to gain control of Chinese provinces, and often "defended" their activities as attempts to "protect" China and Asia from Communist and Soviet influence. The Civil War that the Chinese nationalist leader Chiang K'ai-shek was prosecuting against the Chinese Communist party gave Japanese imperialists their opportunity. When Chiang's government agreed to form a United Front with the Chinese Communist party, Japanese militarists responded in 1937 by using another incident, this time in Beijing, to launch a full scale invasion of China without a formal declaration of war. U.S. and European corporations continued to supply Japan with oil and other war materials while this was going on, even though the Roosevelt administration clearly opposed the invasion.

The crimes of Japanese imperialism against the people of China in the period 1937-1945 are among the greatest in history. The mass murder and mass rape of Nanking in 1938 shocked people through the world years before Hitler's wartime atrocities did. Although the numbers are not as specific, no one denies that well over ten million Chinese perished during WWII, a number second only to the 27 millionSoviet citizens who perished in the war. That the Japanese imperialists, who staked their future on the colonial domination of China, covered over these crimes with a corporatist propaganda that they were creating a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" which would produce general prosperity only makes their real crimes more grotesque, like the crimes of the imperialist powers in Africa, which were covered with propaganda that they were bringing "civilization and progress" to the peoples of Africa.

Finally, the U.S. did not manipulate the Japanese into bombing Pearl Harbor, a view that Tamogami shares with old right-wing isolationists. The U.S. refused to accept Japan's domination of China. When Japan occupied French colonial Indochina in the Summer if 1941, following its joining fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in a Tripartite Pact in the Fall of 1940 against both the Soviet Union and the U.S. both of which were not involved in the world war that the Axis was winning at the time, the Roosevelt administration froze Japanese assets in the U.S. ending all trade and Japanese oil imports, particularly.

The Japanese militarist leaders did this following Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union in June, 1941, which meant that they decided to advance their position in China and prepare to conquer British, French and Dutch colonial possessions in Asia and the Pacific( rather than join Hitler in attacking the Soveit Union. This meant, they understood, going to war with the U.S. and implementing the Pearl Harbor attack, which they already had developed as a contingency plan.

U.S. intelligence knew through its code breaking that the Japanese were preparing an attack (they did not know where) Only a U.S. capitulation to Japanese imperialists on China, which Roosevelt would not do, (and was right under the circumstances not to do) could have avoided the war. Ironically, the pro fascist elements in the U.S. whom Tamogami mimics, while they blamed Roosevelt for the Pearl Harbor attack, using the same red-baiting arguments of Tamogami (they also threw in support for the British Empire and of course the "all powerful Jewish interests") were much more comfortable for racist reasons fighting against the Japanese Empire than they were Nazi Germany and generally supported an "Asia first" policy in the war (their racism and in general U.S. racism as prominent CPUSA writer John Pittman noted, helped the Japanese imperialists in their specious argument that they were fighting for "Asia for the Asians" and to drive out the "white"imperialists out of Asia).

The peoples of Asia have every reason to be outraged that a defender of Japanese imperialism held the position that he did. Fortunately, I doubt that the great majority of the Japanese people share or have any sympathy for such views or are ready to either support or passively accept a new militarist course for their nation as a way to "resolve" the economic crisis they face. Although the Japanese militarists were substantially stronger in the 1920s than they are today, one should remember that it was the Great Depression and its effects on Japan which enabled them to gain power over conservative civilian authorities in the 1930s, just as the Great Depression precipitated Hitler's gaining power in Germany.

Tamogami is gone today. We in the U.S. must elect a government this Tuesday which will fight both the economic crisis and the militarist course that has characterized the Bush administration so as to make sure that American Tamogamis will not shaking hands and building alliances with Japanese and other Tamogamis as part of a policy to solve the global economic crisis through imperialist war. as leaders of the German and Italian fascist governments and the militarist dominated Japanese Empire did seventy years ago. The Japanese people also will hopefully remove from power those politicians who would give power to people like Tamogami.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

An Interview: Benefits and Wage Payments To Chinese Laid Off Workers

The Crisis Hits China: Benefits and Payment of Laid Off Workers;
An Interview With Union Organizer in China

Mike Tolochko

This will be an Interview and report of the impact of the capitalist financial crisis on the Peoples¢ Republic of China and its workers. Hundreds of thousands of workers were abruptly thrown out of work, many owed back pay, as toy factories in China suddenly closed for lack of demand from the US and other capitalist countries.

Our interview is with Ellen David Friedman, a long-time organizer with Vermont Educational Association currently teaching in Guangzhou and working with the Guangzhou Federation of Trade Unions, ACFTU.

The ACFTU is the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the largest union federation in the world. Its history pre-dates the Chinese Revolution of 1949.

Special thanks to Wadi¢h Halabi, member of the CPUSA Economics Commission and Board Member, Political Affairs for arranging this interview.

This is the first of a series on this subject.

PA Are these plants, toy plants mostly, unionized?
EDF Many of them will not have the union present, certainly not in any meaningful way. There had been a recent push from the ACFTU for local trade unions to organize in the migrant-dominated sectors, but the Dongguan region has a reputation for being strongly pro-capital. It seems that the rate of unionization is very low in these toy factories.

PA Do laid-off workers have any benefits?

EDF There are benefits for laid-off workers in the law, but they are very often ignored in practice. I assume that this -- along with unpaid wages -- is the motivation for the protests that are now erupting.

There are no unemployment benefits. There are benefits for improper lay-off, but these are voided if the employer shuts down due to bankruptcy.

If they have not been paid by firms that shut down abruptly, do they have any recourse?
No real recourse. If the pressure of the protest is sufficiently strong, it's possible that the government may try to go after some "run away" employers for partial compensation. There is no guarantee that this will happen.

I've learned that the government has now reimbursed the unpaid wages to the 6,000 workers affected by the shut-down of the very large Hong Kong owned toy factory. The government used its own resources, and will now go after the enterprise owners for reimbursement. (This is apparently caused quite a controversy among citizens!)

Between 900 - 1,000 toy factories have recently closed in the Dongguan region. The great majority are small and apparently paid out wages properly before closing. The news article on this situation follows the interview.

PA Are most of these plants in the "Zones"?
EDF I think that the special characteristics that once applied to the special economic zones are now quite generalized... but I don't really know the answer to this. I can try to find out.

The Straits Times

Oct 24, 2008

DONGGUAN (China) - AT LEAST 2.7 million factory workers
in southern China could lose their jobs as the global
economic crisis hits demand for electronics, toys and
clothes, according to industry estimates.

The region has seen massive export-driven expansion in
recent years by supplying the world with cheap consumer
goods, but rising production costs and falling US and
European demand have marked a swift end to the boom.

Now 9,000 of the 45,000 factories in the cities of
Guangzhou, Dongguan, and Shenzhen are expected to close
before the Chinese New Year in late January, the
Dongguan City Association of Enterprises with Foreign
Investment estimates.

By then, the association expects overseas demand for
products from the three manufacturing hubs to have
shrunk by 30 per cent, as the knock-on effects of the US
housing market collapse and credit crunch filter down to
Chinese workers.

'I am afraid it is not going to look good on the Chinese
government if the decline of the export-led industries
and the unemployment problem continue to worsen,' Mr
Eddie Leung, the association's president told AFP.

Mr Leung, also a member of the Chinese Manufacturers'
Association, said the estimate of 2.7 million job losses
was conservative, given that many of the larger
factories in Guangdong province employ thousands of

One of them, Hong Kong-listed Smart Union, a major toy
manufacturer in Dongguan supplying US giants Mattel and
Disney, closed its doors last week, leaving 7,000
workers out of work and with several weeks of back pay

Clement Chan, chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong
Industries, said a quarter of the 70,000 Hong Kong-owned
companies in southern China, 17,500 businesses, could go
to the wall by the end of January.

Describing the likelihood as a 'worst case scenario', he
said Hong Kong firms in the region employed a total of
10 million workers, but did not want to speculate on the
extent of possible job losses.

While small and medium-sized factories are especially
prone, the threat of lay offs looms just as large over
the region's manufacturing giants, further squeezed by
the appreciation of the yuan.

Mr Harry To's Mansfield Manufacturing is a classic
example of the spectacular growth in China's industrial
heartland over the last three decades.

To started a metal business from a small room in Hong
Kong in 1975. In 1991, he joined hundreds of other Hong
Kong entrepreneurs moving their production across the
border into China to take advantage of cheap labour and

He now employs 8,500 workers in 11 factories in China
and Europe. His six factories in Dongguan cover 140,000
square metres.

Mr To's company, which is now a subsidiary of
Singapore-listed InnoTek supplies metal components for
cars, plasma televisions, printers and other electrical
appliances to Japanese brands including Canon, Toshiba,
Epson, Minolta and Fuji-Xerox.

Business for the company, among the largest in its field
in China, has grown by 40 per cent annually in recent
years, but with credit being harder to come by, no
manufacturer is safe, he said.

'With banks being so tight on their lending policies
now, bringing down a factory overnight has now become
very easy.' All his expansion plans have had to be put
on hold.

'Some of our long-time Japanese and European clients
have asked us to stop producing for them in the next two
to three weeks,' he said.

'They said they did not want to have too much stock
piled up in their warehouse as demand continues to

Mr To recently started building a new 70,000 square
metre factory in Dongguan and was planning to hire 2,000
more workers later this year. But now, all work on the
unfinished factory has stopped until more orders roll

'No one would expand their business when the prospects
for the entire manufacturing industry look so grim,' he

Instead of hiring more workers, Mr To is looking at
cutting 1,000 employees across his operations.

But far from being downhearted, he is shifting part of
the company's export-led production to developing
energy-saving electrical appliances for the domestic
market, which he sees as weathering the current
financial turmoil.

'In the long run, I am confident that mainland Chinese
consumers' purchasing power will keep rising as their
Western counterparts continue to lose out.' -- AFP

Hard Work and Swindle (more notes on the crisis)

Gary Tedman

The process of actual economic thrift and abstinence (e.g. by savers, hoarders, stashers, misers), to the extent that it supplies elements of accumulation, is left by the division of labour (which comes with the process of capitalist production) to those who receive the smallest of such elements, and who frequently enough lose even their savings, as do the workers, when banks fail.

On the one hand, contrariwise, the capital of the industrial capitalist is not ‘saved’ by himself, because he has control of the savings of others in proportion to the size of his capital, while on the other hand, the money-capitalist makes the savings of others his own capital, and the credit (which the reproductive capitalist gives to one another and which the public gives to them), he makes a private source of enrichment.

The final illusion of the capitalist system, i.e. that capital is the fruit of one’s own labour and savings is thereby debunked: not only does profit consist in the appropriation of other people’s labour, but the capital with which this labour (of others) is set in motion consists of other people’s property, which the money-capitalist places at the disposal of the industrial capitalist, and which he in turn exploits.

For the lender of loan capital money has been transformed into a paper claim to money, a title of ownership (of a debt). The same mass of actual money can thus represent very different masses of money-capital. With the development of the credit system in capitalism giant concentrated money-markets are created, such as in London and New York, which are at the same time main seats of trade in this paper. The bankers place huge quantities of the public’s money-capital at the disposal of this bunch of dealers, and these gamblers multiply.

In times of crisis the demand for loan capital and therefore the rate of interest reaches its maximum, but the rate of profit, and with it, the demand for industrial capital has to all intents and purposes disappeared. During such times, everyone borrows only for the purpose of paying in order to settle previously contracted obligations.

In our situation, this has even been the case with the big banks, which have been bailed-out by public money, and which have then used the opportunity to purchase other failing banks. In times of renewed productive activity after a crisis, loan capital is again demanded for the purpose of buying and for transforming money-capital into productive or commercial capital. The industrial capitalist invests it in means of production and in labour power.

The notion that the market rate of interest is determined by the supply and demand of loan capital tries to jumble up the credit swindler with the industrial capitalist investing in production, and to make this credit capitalist seem the only capitalist and his capital the only real capital.

In times of stringency, as already implied, the demand for loan capital is a demand for means of payment, and nothing else, it is not a demand for money to purchase. At the same time, the rate of interest may rise very high regardless of whether real productive capital is in abundance or is scarce.

This demand for means of payment is merely a demand for convertibility into money, so far as merchants and producers have good securities to offer. And it is a demand for money-capital whenever there is no collateral, so that an advance of means of payment gives them not only the form of money but also the equivalent they lack (whatever its form) with which to make payment.

This is the point where (according to Marx) ‘both sides of the controversy on the prevalent theory of crises are at the same time right and wrong’ (and they still are at this same stage in ideology!):

1) a) Those who say that there is merely a lack of means of payment either have only the owners of bona fide securities in mind; or b) they are fools who believe it is the dutiful power of banks to transmogrify all bankrupt swindlers into solvent upright capitalists by means of pieces of paper.

2) a) Those who say that there is merely a lack of capital, who are either just quibbling about words, since exactly at such times there is a mass of inconvertible capital as a result of over-imports and over-production, or b) they are referring only to such players with credit who are now in a position where they can no longer get other people’s capital for their own operations and demand that the bank should not only help them to pay for the lost capital, but also enable them to continue their swindles.(!)

Here I have slightly modified and paraphrased some of Marx’s theory (from “Capital III”) that seem to me particularly relevant to the current economic and financial crisis...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama Win Wouldn't End Racism - but It Could Be Beginning

With less than a week until the presidential election, my emotions are going haywire.

read the whole story here...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bush Orders Purge of 200,000 Ohio Voters

Voting rights organizations this week rejected a Bush administration effort to interfere in Ohio's electoral process by ordering a purge of some 200,000 voters from that state's voter rolls. The US Supreme Court earlier this month declared such an effort to purge voters illegal.

read the full story here...

Did you change or are you still the same...

From here

Why Republicans Would Fail Any Test on the Basics of Marxism

by Norman Markowitz

I saw something yesterday that even brought a chuckle to the CNN news team. A newswomen in Atlanta,who reminded me a bit of a minor league Sarah Palin, read these words to Joe Biden "From each according to his ability to each according to his need" and then asked Biden if Senator Obama's tax program wasn't Marxism. Biden asked her if she were seriously asking him that and then laughed and she looked angry and disgruntled.

Actually, given the way the media has dealt with communism, socialism, Marxism, it wasn't so funny. What the McCain campaign, and Palin especially, is trying to do as their position grows more desperate, is to convince voters that Republican tax cuts for the rich and the corporations have really been for them, to help them keep their "hard earned money," and that Senator Obama's moderate and modest call for a return to progressive taxation (he and we have a long way to go to undo the damage of the Reagan Bush tax policies which fostered lower incomes and higher regressive taxes for the majority) as "socialism" which will take money away from them.

First, as any Soviet school child in the past, or Chinese (I hope) or Cuban school child today could tell the Republicans, the principle of socialism is "from each according to his ability to each according to his work" in a planned publicly owned economy. Under capitalism, those who work "hard," work for others who profit from their work by keeping their labor costs as low as possible. Those capitalists who work work at managing their money, their investments, which is the wealth that the working class produces. Furthermore a whole industry of "financial planners" exists for them and the upper management of the corporations function as "organization men" (what capitalist journalists still call "apparatchiks" when the are dealing with functionaries under socialism) whose personal wealth derives from their service to their CE0 and CF0s, not from "hard work."

From each according to his ability to each according to his need, again as any school child who grew up in a socialist country could tell the Republicans, is the ideal of Communism, of a future society that can come into existence after a long period of socialist development, meaning a long period in which the productive forces have developed on the principle of each according to his ability to each according to his work, a period which has seen people with special skills and abilities rewarded differentially on how much their labor has benefited the society as a whole, the common good or as the constitution of the U.S. says, the general welfare, not what their stock portfolio is, or what they can sell in a marketplace.

David Gergen, a man I usually don't listen too much since he reminds of a political bookie (someone who worked for Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton as a political consultant) looked pained on CNN as he listened to this nonsense and said that said that the Democrats hadn't answered the "charges" too well, mentioning Theodore Roosevelt's support for progressive taxation (unfortunately, outside of his foreign policy positions, the present day leaders of the Republican party would call Theodore Roosevelt a socialist, which, by the way, some old guard rightwing Republicans did when he was President).

But Gergen did have a point which showed that he had retained his faculties after working for Nixon and Reagan, itself something that is pretty impressive.

Socialism as a system, and there are many varieties, has at its center public ownership and public planning for production and distribution of goods and service. Regulation and taxation come into play where there is a private sector, but there is no need to tax productive public property under socialism and no real need to tax personal property (automobiles, homes, anything else) owned for personal use. Wealth is in effect reorganized under socialism, not redistributed, returned to the producers of wealth, labor.

But I don't expect the McCain campaign to understand any of that, although they view private property the way socialists view public property, and have not only preached, but much more importantly have practiced enormous redistribution of wealth from the general population of wage and salaries earners to the corporations and the rich, which is why some critics(not me, since I think it sullies the word) call their policies "socialism for the rich."

P.S. As I finish this article I have just heard that McCain has called upon Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, convicted yesterday on seven counts of lying about "gifts" he received amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars, to resign from the Senate. From my readings, Stevens was Sarah Palin's most important political ally in the Republican establishment in Alaska. Perhaps he should talk to his running-mate before he makes such statements (but, has he ever talked to her about much of anything).

The World Series: FOX on a Chilly Night

The FOX on a Chilly Night

Maybe baseball is the "national pastime". Maybe the history, execution, and complexities of the game do indeed mean that studying it can tell you a lot about life in the USA. Maybe millions of people really like to watch it. That does not mean that media moguls should feel free to put it before a mass audience for their own benefit on late October evenings, no matter what the weather is like.

The telecast of last night's Game 5 of the World Series might have been frustrating for many reasons: e.g. two top groups of youthful athletes were playing a summer game in the mud in a cold driving rain, or your team wasn't winning, or there were too many long commercials, or the commentary was of an uneven quality to name a few. But it may end up having one positive result: the TV presentation laid bare for the country to see the influence of the commercial media in determining what we get to see, how we see it, and when. Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of the game and a shred of integrity would have made sure the game was not played when it was. Even leaving aside the obvious profit driven absurdities such as endless playoffs during the post season, the specifics of last night's game still left the moguls some room for rational decision making.

They knew it was going to rain. They knew the rain would continue all night. But they persisted in going ahead with the game at the scheduled late evening hour with no plan for what to do if the conditions became impossible. If the umpires had been the ones truly in control, the game would have been suspended or called off long before MLB officialdom finally agreed to do so. Commissioner Bug Selig's performance at the post game press conference was a major embarrassment for major league baseball as he fielded even the lowest level questions with apparent anguish and surprise. The TV audience had already been treated to the spectacle of watching some of the game's best players trying, on a cold, wet night, to catch, throw and hit a small sphere that is supposed to be bone dry (in fact whether or not a pitcher is applying a small dab of moister to the ball after wiping his brow or licking his finger tips has caused protracted controversy over the years) on a field that is supposed to be bone dry.

All right. Maybe in the grand scheme of things none of this really matters. Maybe this is just a rant from a Philly fan. But perhaps we can draw some rational conclusions--or at least inferences--from all this. If the mass media moguls routinely conduct their other (maybe more weighty) business with the same self serving, cavalier attitude toward the American people that they displayed yesterday towards baseball fandom, not to mention toward the players--and why should we assume otherwise?--then we really do have a huge struggle ahead of us to bring them to heel, or at least to make them responsible for telling the truth rather than trying to invent their own reality and sell it to the rest of us.

Ben Sears

Monday, October 27, 2008

Choose hope over fear

McCain Recycles Bush in his "Bush Free Plan" for the Economy

by Norman Markowitz

John McCain's desperation took a few big rhetorical leaps today as he tried to portray himself as just another anti-Bush candidate. In Cleveland, a special victim of thirty years of Reagan Bush policies, from the various levels of de-industrialization, job loss, anti-[public sector cutbacks, McCain popped up and said that he and Senator Obama both "disagreed" with Bush, but that Obama thought that "taxes were too low" and he thought that "spending was too high."

Spending for what? Public sector jobs programs that would raise the income of Cleveland's citizens along with the citizens of other industrial and "former" industrial cities? Spending for interest payments on a federal debt that has increased from 1 trillion to over 10 trillion in the last 28 years of Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush administration (with Clinton, with all of his other flaws, the only president who really did get the deficit under control in that period). Spending on for the military which has increase nearly five times in that period and is today nearly double what in 1991 with the dismemberment of the Soviet Union?

McCain didn't say. Instead he said that "I have been through tough times like this before, and the American people can trust me, based on my record and results, to take strong action to end this crisis, restore jobs, and bring security to Americans. I will never be the one who sits on the sidelines and waits for the economy to get better."

McCain's "economic plan" is almost beside the point. All one can say is that it has three parts, none of which are especially in the interest of working families. He will buy up bad mortgage paper he says to help banks and let that trickle down to people facing foreclosure. How he will do that specifically is left unclear(the devil, as the British used to say and the finance companies always show, "is in the details," the fine print, which predatory politicians like McCain are no more willing to discuss than the predatory mortgage lenders). He also has "incentives" aka various tax breaks and other small change subsidies to business owners to hire workers and the general population to "save more" (which won't happen unless there are revolutionary changes in our installment plan society)

But McCain shouldn't be taken seriously in any way. He has never been through tough economic times like this. He was born into a distinguished naval officer family and had all the benefits and welfare state security that the military brings. While he did go through very tough times as a POW, this had nothing to do with economic policy. Also, he has no record and results on much of anything during his years in Congress, except a record of fighting with both friends and foes, endless grandstanding as a foe of pork barrel politics, meaningless legislation to deal with campaign financing, and that is it. The Republican politicians who have gotten "results" in Congress over the last generation are first and foremost Newt Gingrich, Trent Lott, his old friend Phil Gramm, in the executive Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and of course Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. The "results" that they have gotten have been disastrous for the American people and the people of the world. McCain was their follower over the decades.

The truth is that McCain doesn't understand what a modern military leader is, much less the head of a government. He has never shown the capacity to delegate authority, take advice, learn, go beyond an overweening ambition and the resentments which have always followed from his failure to achieve the military and later political prizes that he wanted. Now he has the "least valuable" Republican political nomination since 1964, a nomination that he has further devalued by his choice of Palin as his running mate.

Senator Obama will be speaking on the economic crisis to the people on Wednesday. McCain might turn it on and learn something. He also might bring Palin, who is denouncing Obama's plans to "redistribute" wealth. Or he might have a joint appearance with Palin and replay a scene of Richard Nixon's 1952 Checkers speech, drop the military toughness image and portray himself as a "hard working middle class man(he would have to got rid of four of his houses) who will fight for "America" and the "middle class" against the "crooks" on Wall Street and the "Communists" aka "socialists" aka "Marxists" aka "redistributors of wealth." He might even point to Palin ala Nixon and refer to her "good Republican cloth coat" (minus $149,775 in wardrobe expenditures) Palin might then mention a little cocker spaniel she saved from a Polar Bear whom liberals were trying to put on the endangered species list and together they would try to ride a wave of anti-Wall Street, anti-Communist/Socialist and anti-Polar Bear hysteria in to the White House. Who knows? It is, given the level of McCain's arguments, as likely to work for him as anything else.


Part 9 the last installment

Chapter 8 "A New Direction"

Reviewed by Thomas Riggins

Moore tell us the big problem with the polls, which the pollsters themselves know, is that the polls are deliberately designed to NOT reveal what the American people are really thinking.

He points out that people can have opinions that are superficial or ones that are deeply held. Pollsters go out of their way to smooth over this difference because media clients want clear cut expressions of opinions.

People are also often ignorant of the issues they are asked about so pollsters fill them in (they are then no longer a representative sample) to get a definite answer. Sometimes pollsters do ask if people have heard about the issue, other times they don't-- depending on the issue and the kind of responses they want. "That's" Moore says, "a deliberately manipulative tactic that cannot help but undercut pollsters' claims of scientific objectivity."

When asking for opinions pollsters should always have a question that asks if the respondent knows or cares about the issue. Knowing the state of the ignorance of the public is just as important as knowing what it thinks and "suppressing it for commercial or other purposes is
simply unacceptable."

Moore also says a question should be asked about the "intensity" of the opinion. Pollsters should also stop supplying information to the respondents as that makes the poll "hypothetical" rather than an actual reflection of what people are thinking.

The following rule should be applied. Any poll that does not reveal that at least 20 per cent of the respondents are "disengaged" has probably been manipulated. The poll "should be viewed with deep suspicion."

Another thing to be wary of, according to Moore, is a device called the "national electorate." During primary season most polls take a nation wide survey and try to predict the primaries on that basis. This is why they are so often off course. It is too expensive to take state by state polls so the cheaper, and less accurate, "national electorate" is polled instead. If it can't be gotten rid of then at least, after asking "If the election were held today who would you vote for?" add a question about the degree of support for the respondent's choice--i.e., definitely would vote for, leaning towards but might change, have not really decided, etc.

In a section called "Fuzzy Opinion", we learn that wording can determine the outcome of a poll. For example, if you ask a question about the government's wanting to ban some action and use the term "not allow" instead of "forbid" more people will say they agree with the government. More people will agree with programs labeled as "assistance to the poor" that if the term "welfare" is used. More people will support "gay and lesbian relations" than "homosexual relations." So pollsters know how to get the results they want once they figure which buzz words to use or to avoid.

Even the order of the questions can make a poll fuzzy. Given a choice between two answers most people choose the second to the first. The order of questions is also important with multiple questions. Moore gives the example of Bill Clinton getting a better rating when he was rated after Al Gore was rated rather than before Gore was rated.

Moore concludes that "any measure of public opinion is at best a rough approximation of what people are thinking." The margin of error is only one of many ways polls can be misleading. He ends his book by saying the polls could be a better reflection of reality if they would only honestly try to measure the "extent of public disengagement" and not publish "false results to conceal public ignorance and apathy." However, there is no evidence that any of the major media polls are willing to do this. He hopes that their many contradictions will eventually shame them into being more honest with the public. As of now, they are doing a disservice to the democratic process.

UN Session on Developing Countries & the World Financial Cri sis

UN Acts to Protect Rights of Developing Nations as World Economic Crisis Unfolds and Solutions are Being Projected

by Mike Tolochko

As the pressure for change builds up, the design of the new architecture must necessarily be inclusive and democratic to be credible and sustainable."

Those are the words of emphasis by United Nations General Assembly President, Miguel D'Escoto as he invited and convenes a special meeting of the 192 Member States of the UN General Assembly.

On Thursday, October 30, President D'Escoto will establish and convene a "HIGH LEVEL TASKFORCE OF EXPERTS to undertake a comprehensive review of the international financial system, including the major international economic institutions, and to suggest steps to be taken by Member States of the United Nations to secure a more stable global economic order."

The UN Press Release for the session draws on the recently held annual September General Assembly which, "expressed their concern that the global monetary and financial arrangements, established in 1944 at the 'United Nations' Monetary and Financial Conference' at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, needs to be fundamentally reformed to better reflect contemporary economic realities in today's interdependent world and to better respond to the new challenges in a sustainable and equitable manner."

Developing Countries Must be Included

But, it is in the next section of the Press Release that the main reason for this extraordinary session has been put together. D'Escoto and the Press Release make it clear that, "the financial system cannot be solved through piecemeal responses at the national and regional level" and then notably added, "Currently, developing countries voices and interests are not fairly represented in the existing global institutions of economic governance. The developing world includes many more powerful economies than in 1944, its role in the trading system has grown significantly and it includes prominent creditor as well as debtor nations. As such, developing countries have an abiding interest in a democratic rules-based financial system, with effective financing mechanisms and impartial institutions able to deliver timely and tailored advice."

In the background paper provided by the UN, the economic concerns are very deep. "The economies of Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean could come to a standstill. Even the fast-growing Asian countries would suffer major blows. Of great concern at the United Nations is that these global setbacks could produce serious reversals in the efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs], crucial to poverty reduction for billions of people."

The IMF and Bretton Woods Failures

The background paper states it very clearly, i.e., their lack of confidence in current international institutions to deal with the crisis, "….the inadequacies of the international response have raised questions as to the capacity and even the relevance of the Bretton Woods institutions, particularly the International Monetary Fund, in identifying effective action to safeguard the stability of the global economy."

In Preparation for Doha Review Conference

The calling of this October 30th sessions takes place just a few weeks prior to the next major international conference on the topic. This UN Conference on Financing for Development is shaping up to be very crucial session. The UN General Assembly is currently drafting an outcome document for this conference. This conference will be November 29 to December 2, 2008 in Doha, Qatar. This Qatar conference will review the international commitments on financing for development that were identified at the Monterrey, Mexico session in 2002.

The UN General Assembly is making sure that the food crisis and climate change will be high on the agenda.

Four Key Presenters

There will be four major speakers at this Thursday's conference:

Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences [2001] and former Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at the World Bank;

Francois Houtart, Chief Editor, International Journal of Sociology of Religion – "Social Compass"

Prabhat Patnaik, Professor, Centre for the Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharial Nehru University

Pedro Paez, Minister, Economic Policy Coordination of Ecuador and Coordinator of the Southern Bank [South America]

Format of Session

Being an official session of the UN, only Member States representatives will be admitted into the Trusteeship Council Chamber; but, representatives of Non Governmental Organizations [NGOs] will be admitted into the balcony of the room to hear the deliberations.

They call this session an interactive session so that Member State representatives will able to ask the 4 speakers questions following their presentations.

Note: The President of the General Assembly of the United Nations serves for a one year term. In the past, many of these one-year Presidents have put forward many of the more creative ideas which stem from the General Assembly where all of the nations have a voice and use it. This president is combining the MDGs with the international financial crisis.

Report From Session

Stay tuned for Friday to see the results of that session.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Race and the Voters


Thomas Riggins

An article in the October 10, 2008 issue of SCIENCE (Vol. 322, No. 5899) by Jennifer Couzin asks "Do Voter Surveys Underestimate the Impact of Racial Bias? " Her article does not give a clear answer. The reason she cannot arrive at a clear answer is that the polls themselves are so full of biases that they cannot isolate racial bias separately.

She does pose a good question: have the polls "been skewed by an inability to detect racial bias?" Some pollsters think Obama's poll numbers may be off by 6% due to bias but they cannot tell if the polls are or are not reflective of the bias. In other words, its just a guess.

Couzin tells us this bias is called the "Bradley effect" after L.A. mayor Tom Bradley who lost his 1982 bid to be governor of California even though he was ahead in the polls. The assumption is that because he was Black an unexpressed bias cropped up in the election that had not revealed itself in polls.

The article reports that Harvard political scientist Daniel Hopkins, after analyzing every race for the Senate or for a governor from 1989 to 2006, concluded that there was no evidence for the "Bradley effect" after 1996. He doesn't expect race to be a big factor in the 2008 election.

However, Couzin reports that the president of the Pew Research Center, a major polling outfit, (Andrew Kohut) fears that because of "reluctant respondents" [people who don't like to take part in polls] the polls don't really have a representative sample of the population. Studies have shown that reluctant responders are more likely to be racially biased. The Obama lead may not really be there in close polls. Suppose we gave McCain the benefit of the 4% margin of error and the 6% bias drop-- he would have 10 points, maybe 14 points, to add to his poll numbers whenever there is a comparison with Obama. This is a worse case scenario but it is a possibility.

Next the article mentions Michael Lewis Beck who teaches political science at the University of Iowa. He has factored racial basis into his voting model and thinks Obama will win the popular vote, Couzin says, but lose in the electoral college.

Two graduate students in sociology at NYU also did some model building based on racial bias, which they found to be about 16%. The students, Brian McCabe and Jennifer Heerwig, think they got a bigger bias number because the respondents had "greater privacy" (bias is more openly expressed in more private situations). They did their survey over the internet.

However, they should have read, or if they did, heeded, David W .Moore's new book THE OPINION MAKERS: AN INSIDER EXPOSES THE TRUTH BEHIND THE POLLS. Moore points out that the internet polls draw on an unrepresentative sample of the American people, one that seems to be "disproportionately white, male, young, better educated, techno-oriented, and, apparently, conservative." It is impossible to tell from the SCIENCE article how representative the NYU student's group was and consequently how trustworthy their results.

Last, but not least, Couzin, reports on the findings of James Campbell, a political scientist at the University of Buffalo, who predicts that the popular vote, based on his studies, will go to McCain.

So we can't answer the question with which the article opened. But we should bear in mind this. There is already considerable evidence that the Republicans are engaging in voter suppression and intimidation, electronic vote rigging, and inflaming of racial passions and attitudes. One only has to look at the number of Troglodytes turning up at McCain-Palin rallies to be convinced of this. If this election, as have the last two, is stolen from the American people, you can be sure the media and the powers that be will be explaining that the illusion of an Obama victory was due to faulty polls and the "Bradley effect."

Federal Court Issues Stay of Execution for Troy Davis

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Court issues stay of execution for Troy Davis
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Friday, October 24, 2008

The federal appeals court in Atlanta on Friday stayed the execution of Troy Anthony Davis, who was scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection Monday evening.

"Upon our thorough review of the record, we conclude that Davis has met the burden for a stay of execution," the court said in a ruling issued by Judges Joel Dubina, Rosemary Barket and Stanley Marcus. Davis, 40, recently lost an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Davis is on death row for the Aug. 19, 1989, murder of 27-year-old Savannah police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail. Since Davis' trial, seven of nine key prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimony.

The defendant's claims of innocence have drawn opposition to his execution from leaders across the globe, including former President Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI.

Davis' lawyers expressed relief and jubilation over the court's decision.

"This is the first step toward a court hearing to consider the new evidence - something we have been asking for for almost a decade now," attorney Jason Ewart said.

Neither MacPhail's mother or sister had heard the news when a reporter called. The officer's 75-year-old mother, Anneliese, declined to comment until she had more information.

MacPhail's sister, Kathy McQuary, cried.

Earlier this week, Davis asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for permission to pursue another round of appeals in federal court on claims he is actually innocent. Permission for a new round of appeals is required under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

On Friday, the court said the stay of execution is conditional. Davis must make a showing he can meet the "stringent requirements" to pursue another round of appeals, the decision said.

The court directed Davis' lawyers to file a legal brief on their arguments within 15 days. The state Attorney General's Office has another 10 days to respond.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Greenspan "in a state of shocked disbelief" about deregulation

by Norman Markowitz

Alan Greenspan told a House Committee investigating the deluge in finance today of his shock that banks could not regulate themselves. Greenspan then went on to say that he had "found a flaw" in his "free market" world view, adding "I don't know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact." When asked by committee chair Henry Waxman if "your ideology was not right, it was not working," Greenspan added Absolutely, precisely....the reason I have been shocked because I have been going for forty years with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well."

Forty years? Exceptionally well? A flaw? Don't know how significant or permanent it is? These are the comments of the man who was Chair of the Federal Reserve, the the second most powerful executive position in the U.S., for eighteen years? And this ahistorical irrational and comical response to a disaster of this dimension is what he has to say?

First, Greenpan's statements make little historical sense because the deregulation that we are talking about didn't develop forty years ago during the Johnson administration but a generation ago in the Reagan administration, and not all at once. Maybe Greenspan forgot that because in the 1960s, he was a follower of Ayn Rand, whose Objectivist cult looked to free market Supermen,a sort of extreme right-wing individualist anarchism as far removed from reality as the extreme left collectivist underground of the Weathermen which Bill Ayers belonged to at the time. Of course, Randians were never connected to acts of violence against the government. Of course, But then again, Weathermen never served in cabinet positions, not to mention chair of the Federal Reserve.

The Savings and Loan collapse of that period which occurred when Paul Volcker, Greenspan's predecessor, was Chair of the Federal Reserve, might have suggested to Alan that there was a "flaw" in this kind of policy, but it apparently didn't. The decline in real wages, huge rise in income inequality, increase in human suffering that these policies visibly produced in the U.S. didn't factor into Greenspan's thinking either, since the great majority of the victims, particularly children, were either marginal or completely outside of a political process where less than half the eligible voters were voting and non voters were drawn overwhelmingly from lower-income groups whose living standards were deteriorating.

As I read Greenspan I see an interesting hybrid of man, someone who was smart on the specifics, know about the ins and outs of finance, but was totally out of it in terms of the larger picture, a "perfect fool" so to speak for those who would rob the system blind because he was completely blind to their abuses until they overwhelmed the economy--a bit like those in the 1920s Republican governments who didn't have to be bribed to hand over to corporations public property because they believed in a kind of divine right of business.

Perhaps if Greenspan had not gone from being a not so successful Jazz saxophonist to being a follower of Ayn Rand, he might have discovered that the "flaw" in his argument was discovered by capitalist economists in the late 19th century, those who didn't need Karl Marx to explain to them that the way real markets worked had little to do with the theory of the a "self regulating" rational "free market" governed by a "law of supply and demand" where rational "economic man" ate fish when the price of meat was to high and then the price of meat would come down, and bankers invested their capital prudently to seek both the highest and the safest investment and those who didn't would run out of money and collapse just as the economic man who continued to eat meat would run out of money and starve. That system, even without bailouts for the banks or food stamps for the economic man, never had any relationship to reality with the rise of mass production industrial capitalism

Alan Greenspan won't lose his home and I am sure can protect his pension. His distress will be very different from the millions who have for years faced the economic consequences of the policies that he championed, the "forgotten millions" of the 1980s and 1900s whose jobs and pensions were casualties of what some called "the Reagan revolution." Now, when those millions are on the brink of multiplying, when a greatly weakened and under supplied safety net is about to face a huge increase in demand for services, Alan Greenspan's economic theories and policies should be returned to the pre Ragtime nineteenth century world where they already considered relics by many.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Image: A bit of a contrast, eh?

When Do We Say Oh Yeah to Bush and His Media Helpers?

by Norman Markowitz

In 1931, Edward Angly, a journalist who was no radical(not even so much of a liberal) published a book that became a bestseller. The book was titled "Oh Yeah." It really wasn't so much of a book but a compilation of all of the statements from the end of the 1920s to 1931 by President Hoover, members of his cabinet, business leaders, explaining that the depression wasn't so bad, was over, and that pretty much nothing could be done about it.

These comments were accompanied by drawings of a stock market going down and down and unemployment going up and up. I thought of that old book today (I mention it in my class when I teach about the Great Depression, which I hope I will not have to call Great Depression I) and came across a few quotes from it from Herbert Hoover. Actually, although what he was saying had no relationship to reality, it was, compared to Bush, McCain and Palin, not that bad, which may tell us something about where those in power today are.

First a news report from October 1930: "President Hoover has designated Robert R. Lamont, Secretary of Commerce, as chairman of the President's special committee on unemployment. Then another report for October 1930: "President Hoover has summoned Colonel Arthur Woods to help place 2,500,000 men back to work this Winter." Woods was a former police commissioner of New York City, a popular writer on fighting crime, a
military man, the sort of man who could handle anything. Of course unemployment escalated massively(the worst had not yet come when this was written) and Colonel Arthur Woods had nothing except nostrums and gestures to deal with something he understood as well as Sarah Palin understands the Torah, the Gospels, the Koran, or the writings of Confucius.

Back to Hoover though and now things get good. In December, 1930, said in a message to Congress that "economic depression cannot be cured by legislative action or executive pronouncement."

But then, in June 1931, he told spoke to a group of Indiana Republican editors in a different tone: "I am able to propose an American plan to you...we shall by scientific research and invention, lift the standard of living and security of diffusion of wealth, a decrease in poverty and a great reduction in crime, And this Plan will be carried out if we just keep on giving the American people a chance."

Hoover and diffusion of wealth, decrease in poverty. Was Herbert advocating socialism? McCain might think so, but he was simply BS ing for his fellow Republicans, offering them rhetoric totally disconnected from reality.

Then as the collapse deepened, Hoover Oct. 1931 announced a policy that on a small scale something that sounds eerily familiar: "I requested the governors of the federal reserve banks to secure the cooperation of the bankers in their territory to make some advances on the security of the assets of the closed banks or take over some of their assets...such a measure will contribute to free many business activities and to relieve many families from the hardship over the forthcoming Winter and in a measure reverse the process of deflation involved in the tying up of deposits."

Of course the "closed banks had collapsed, their was no FDIC, and more importantly, no social security, unemployment insurance, real trade union rights. Hoover had no desire to deal with the peoples depression but he was turning to policies that, although they were on a very small scale, weren't too different than our capitalists today.

Finally, as things really intensified, Hoover noted "the depression has been deepened by events from abroad that are beyond the control of our citizens or government."

-It is certainly time to say "Oh Yeah" to Bush and McCain, with complete contempt, before we will confront, what Herbert Hoover, more successful in business, more intelligent, and, more of a "compassionate conservative" than either Bush or McCain, faced in 1932.


Part 8

Chapter 7 "Uncertain Future"

Reviewed by Thomas Riggins

In this chapter Moore tries to look ahead at the future of polling. He begins with a discussion of the how the polls blew it with regard to their predictions of the outcome of New Hampshire primary held in January 2008. 11 different polls forecast a defeat for Clinton and a victory for Obama. Clinton won. The main reason the polls were wrong, Moore believes, is because they stopped polling too early. There were many undecided voters and there was a big pro Clinton shift just a couple of days before the election.

Besides stopping polling too early, what other things go on with polls that can make them unreliable? We have discussed some of the problems in earlier parts of this series so let's look at some new problems. First there is the problem of getting a "representative sample." Many polls have a big problem with non responsive contacts. So, there arises the question if those who do agree to respond are just as "representative" of the population as the larger group which includes responsive and non responsive individuals.

One way to handle this problem is to check your representative sample against something called the CPS, i.e., "current population survey" which is provided by the U.S. Census. Moore says there are five groups that are underrepresented by polls, namely, "those who are younger, lower educated, Hispanic, nonwhite, and living in urban areas."

This may look like a serious problem, but it is not. Pollsters can correct for this bias by using the CPS which allows for the "under represented people in the survey [i.e., the poll] to be accorded the same influence their group would have in the population at large...."

Nevertheless, Moore does point out some problems that standard polling faces even with the CPS. The way most polls are conducted results in overrepresentation of Republicans and conservatives at the expense of moderates and Democrats. Even using "rigorous" techniques not usually applied to most polls in order to get a better representative sample one pollster admitted that "much of the population remained beyond our view."

So here we are 2 weeks before the 2008 general election with the polls favoring Obama. Maybe so-- but I wouldn't trust their accuracy. Especially when Moore says that since so many would be respondents just fail to respond to a poll that "it represents an ever-present threat to the validity of all polls." There is also a problem Moore doesn't discuss: i.e., widespread vote rigging and voter intimidation by the Republicans may through off the polls and change the (official) outcome of the election.

What about people who only use cell phones? The consensus for the present is that not enough people only use cell phones to make lack of contact with this segment of the population a problem. Figures indicate that about 7 per cent of voters in 2004 only had cell phones and no land lines. These were also mostly younger voters. Using the CPS they can be weighted into the general population and it will not affect the representative sample which pollsters are trying to select.

This may not always be the case and in January 2008 Gallop began cell phone interviewing as well as the typical land line interviewing technique. Moore says it's just a matter of time before this becomes a general practice for all the polls.

And now, let's look at internet polling. This is not working out too well at present. Harris and Zogby do internet polling. They get volunteers to join a panel and then send them questionnaires. The problem is their "panels tend to be disproportionally white, male, young, better educated, techno-oriented, and, apparently, conservative." They are simply not representative. At least as far as elections go, telephone polls appear to be the better tool.

Another problem with Harris' and Zogby's internet polls is that they are very secretive about how they arrive at their results. Moore says, "that they violate many of the scientific approaches developed over the past several decades for obtaining representative samples of the general public."

There is one other poll, Knowledge Networks, doing internet polling that is trying to use the best scientific principles. It still has some problems but it seems if internet polling has a real future it will be along the lines established by this firm.

Moore draws three conclusions at the end of this chapter. 1. Polls will continue to manufacture rather than report public opinion if they don't change the way they ask and analyze their questions. 2. As a result of not changing their methods they will continue to serve the powerful intrenched interests not the public. 3. Therefore, most people will start to see polls as the enemy of the democratic process rather than the help they could be. Since their real incentive is to make money serving their clients, not honestly reporting public opinion, I don't see how they are going to change.

Coming up, the final part of this series, Chapter 8 "A New Direction."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Karl Marx's Writings, a Growth Industry?

by Norman Markowitz

I came across some interesting references from the BBC and various news services on the internet. First, there is a large spike in Germany and other countries(not yet the U.S) in people purchasing the the classic works of Karl Marx for obvious reasons, that is, trying to understand the global economic crisis.

Even though some capitalist publishers are profiting from this, it should be a source of worry to them, since it means the people are in significant numbers beginning to see the crisis as a crisis of the capitalist system, not of greedy bankers, crooked politicians or misguided economists.

I came across a reference that it is too bad that the left is too weak in many countries to "take advantage " of these developments and I agree with that, although one of the important Marxist axioms about the capitalist mode of production is that its crises and often its changes come quickly, because of its essential instability. So, while there are dangers of open "terroristic" capitalist dictatorships (fascism) and major imperialist wars developing out of this crisis, there are large possibilities on the world scene for major working class victories and the rolling back of the anti-labor, anti-social welfare at the very least that have characterized capitalist global policy in recent decades, an end to "neo-liberalism," NAFTA like agreements, and the establishment of full employment legislation, union shop legislation, and other major advances.

Meanwhile, the ultra-right in the U.S. continues to threaten and use storm troop ideology and methods. ACORN offices have been attacks and ACORN workers have received death threats. The McCain campaign continues to say that it "opposes" all violence but continues to tolerate at its rallies those who call hysterically for violence, reminiscent of the old segregationist politicians in the South who would always say they were against violence after a bombing or a murder but then go back to the rhetoric and the policy that incited the violence.

My sense is that more and more people are turning away from these storm trooper tactics of intimidation and it is backfiring very badly, even among many people who consider themselves conservatives but who are disgusted with the bullies and bigots who are parading around as "defenders" of conservatism.

By the way, speaking of "troopers," state troopers not storm troopers, I came across material from an animal rights group concerning Palin and her unfortunate brother-in-law. It seems that Palin's sister and then husband went out on a Moose hunt, her sister had the permit to kill moose, she couldn't do it and her then husband, the state trooper did, without a permit. Palin, according to the account, has then made this an issue in her and her husband's attempt to get him fired from the state troopers.

The animal rights group was more interested in the Moose and the horrors of the hunt, and frankly so am I. But this ongoing case shows the pettiness and venality of Palin, who would use her position as governor to carry out a personal vendetta against a family member. Her comments that the former brother-in-law was threatening her family, "the first family" of Alaska, which was the cause of her husband's attempts to get him dismissed, are absurd on its face since such threats against anyone, particularly a state official, are a police matter and firing a state trooper with weapons skills doesn't seem to be the best way to keep him from such actions (which he has strenuously denied ever doing).

I doubt Palin will read Karl Marx. I doubt she would know the difference between workers of the world unite, and drill baby drill.

Monday, October 20, 2008

You Can Go Home Again: China returning to Socialized Medicine?

Wall Street Journal Decries Recent Health Policy Moves of China

by Phil E. Benjamin

The British medical journal, the Lancet, has developed a very long and deep discussion on the health policies of the People' Republic of China. Too study that series go to the Lancet website and view, "Health System reforms in China."

Once heralded for their 'barefoot doctors' who brought primary care health care to every part of China, their reputation dropped when in the early 1980s, the whole health system seem to be abandoned and privatized. The results were not good.

Now, as reported extensively in the Lancet; but, now in the Wall Street Journal [Oct 20, 2008], the government seems to be moving back toward its original socialist principles. The Journal article, interesting since that newspaper represents the corporate interests seeking to profit from that country of $1.5 billion people, reports that, "China has unveiled an ambitious plant to achieve universal health care." They report that under current conditions, much of the population is without health care coverage; and for those with coverage there are significant out of pocket charges. The new system will change all of that.

The WSJ reports that the new system will cover over 90% of the population within just 2 years; and the rest by 2020. And, we all know, when the Chinese government makes these projections, they are usually on target with their goals.

The news article also highlights that, "One major point in the draft is to return to the nonprofit motive for national health care."

Clearly, according to this report and the Lancet, the central government will play the central finance role in the system. This is especially true with hospitals.

Keep tuned for more on this. If anyone else has more information, please respond to this blog.

Bush Leaves Medicare and Medicaid in Crisis: There is a Way Out!

The Attack on Peoples' Health is Starting; And, It is Not Directly From the Right Wing
A Going Away Gift from the Bush Administration

by Phil E. Benjamin

The attack on Medicare and Medicaid; the two major federal health programs will not wait until January 21, 2009. It isn't even waiting until November 5th.

The reporting service, Congressional Quarterly, just reports the Facts that federal agencies make public. The problem is that Bush operatives run the federal agencies doing the reporting. And, this federal agency so dear to the hearts of Wall Street, insurance carriers and drug companies is the health industry. It is not quite as popular as the Defense Department contracts are to the Military Industrial Complex, but Medical Industrial Complex isn't far behind.

The overall administrative apparatus that governs the Medicare and Medicaid programs is the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services [CMS]. In the hands of the Bush Administration you can be sure that the numbers and forecasts being put forward are in complete alignment with the profit seeking goals of the health industry. Remember, the last head of the CMS who engineers the disastrous misname, Medicare Modernization Act [MMA] left the CMS after the law was passed and went to work for a major insurance carrier. They truly have not shame.

Don't think for a minute that the growing numbers of uninsured and poorly insured are a worry of the industry. Their only concern is increasing their profits, which means increasing their privatization schemes. They never have and never will care about the wellbeing of people. Their advertisers say the opposite, but the people know the truth.

November 5th

The day after the election when the dust settles; these grim statisticians will start appearing on all the news talk shows declaring the demise of both Medicare and Medicaid unless something drastic is done. Tom Brokaw, in the 2nd presidential debate, started that ball rolling.

The CMS is projecting a growth rate for these two programs higher than the economy in general. In ten years, as reported, the general economy should grow at a rate of 4.8% with Medicaid growing almost twice as much, or 7.9%. Medicare is supposed to grow 7.4%. Together the growth being put forward by the Bush Administration will be 6.7%.

Medicaid Enrollment

Even with very strict enrollment rules, the Medicaid rolls will rise.

CQ Reports:

"The CMS report also projected that Medicaid enrollment will rise 1.8 percent to 50 million this year. Over the next 10 years, enrollment will grow 1.2 percent yearly, reaching 55.1 million by 2017. In 2007, per enrollee spending on non-disabled children covered by Medicaid averaged $2,435 and $3,586 for non-disabled adults. Medicaid's per enrollee spending for the disabled averaged $14,858 and $14, 058 in the case of aged beneficiaries."

Figures Will Hit the Headlines

The figure that will hit the headlines will be the $674 Billion cost of Medicaid by 2017 as compared to now: $339 Billion.

Why? Simple!

The cost of medical care in the US is totally out of whack. When private interests control a system; whether they be profit or so-called not for profit, the charging by hospitals and physician services bears no relationship to the actual costs of service. They load the costs with excessive administrative salaries; excessive insurance costs; out of control medical and equipment supplies; and the growing costs of borrowing from banks to keep them all afloat.

That is the fundamental problem.

Also, with practically no attention paid to preventive and primary care [getting people to a physician or nurse before a visit to the Hospital Emergency Room], the costs will continue to rise.

Also, environmental factors that make people sick and sicker are not seen as a health care issue, the problems will just mount.

A Radical Revision is Due

While the passage of Congressional laws such as HR 676 is a good first step, the importance of training of new physicians and nurses interested in primary and preventive care is essential. With the federal government footing the bill for those training programs, we can get more doctors and nurses to serve in communities by paying off their debt and hopefully staying on.

Also, putting strict requirement against physicians NOT taking patients on Medicare and Medicaid patients we can stem the tide and begin to do the right thing.

The prevention Occupational and Environmental health risks and hazards must start again to become important. Strict regulatory use of OSHA and EPA rules can help get health costs under control.

Standing Up to the Corporate Interests

But, only when elected politicians are forced to stand up to the power of the Medical Industrial Complex will change take place. We may have that opportunity after November 5, 2008, but the power will be in our hands, even then, to hold their collective feet to the fire. Organized labor, all labor unions, and peoples' community and neighborhood organizations must be mobilized to beat those corporate interests. That is the only way it will take place.

Let's start now; increase the pressure on November 5; and get reading to really engage the enemy on January 21, 2008.

Latest Washington Post Spin on Ideology and the Crisis

From Washington Post:

IS THIS the end of American capitalism? As financial panic spread across the globe and governments scrambled to contain the damage, reality seemed to announce the doom of U.S.-style free markets and President Bush's ideology. But this is wrong in two ways. The deregulation of U.S. financial markets did not reflect only the narrow ideology of a particular party or administration. And the problem with the U.S. economy, more than lack of regulation, has been government's failure to control systemic risks that government itself helped to create. We are not witnessing a crisis of the free market but a crisis of distorted markets.

Read the whole thing here....

If only the markets had been freer, with less oversight, with fewer consumer protections, with no rights for workers, with no environmental protections, with no barriers to trade, no limits on any activity, no matter how destructive or anarchistic.... If only.

Needed: 17 million full-time jobs now!

Data released by the Economic Policy Institute last week reveal a worsening unemployment rate has combined with a 14 year high in the underemployment rate. The underemployment rate counts unemployed workers, "involuntary" part-time workers, and people who are "marginally attached" to the labor force by want and need steady full-time work.

According to EPI, "The underemployed currently includes about 9.5 million unemployed workers, 6.1 million involuntarily part-time workers, and 1.6 million workers only marginally attached to the workforce."

That is more than 17 million people who need steady, full-time work.

Powell Endorses Obama, Slams Ultra Right

The 'ultra left' and social democracy

CPUSA representatives such as Riggins and Webb, in PA refer to the political strategy in relation to social democrats. The position stresses the reasons that Communists should respect the social democrats and ‘grasp the positive’ in this; that we should not alienate social democrats from siding with us. I agree. But, I would like to criticize a few aspects of this position which illuminate some problems in theory, and expose another side to this: the danger of smothering analysis and critique of bourgeois democracy, and a consequent blurring of the communist position.

Lenin, as a Bolshevik, constantly struggled against social democracy, in the same vein that earlier, Marx’s “Critique of the Gotha Programme” was also against social democracy: specifically its idea of ‘equality’. The latter critique I think is an absolute necessity to digest for all political groups wishing to label themselves communist.

CPUSA representatives, I think, have tended to play down the significance of this critique (probably for strategic reasons); but we must note, Lenin’s book “Left-Wing Communism – An Infantile Disorder”, is not mainly about countering ‘sweeping characterisations’ made against social democracy (as Webb has claimed), but against opportunism, social chauvinism, and petty-bourgeois revolutionism that, as Lenin said, ‘smacks of anarchism’, and to quote him: “…When it came into being in 1903, Bolshevism took over the tradition of a ruthless struggle against petty-bourgeois, semi-anarchist (or dilettante-anarchist) revolutionism, a tradition which had always existed in revolutionary Social-Democracy…” Lenin, in this text, takes great pains to distinguish between two types of strategic compromise, and he uses an analogy apt for today: compromises that must be made because of banditry, through necessity (because the bandits are armed), and those which are made to become accomplices of banditry. He says “…From beginning to end, their (the Socialist Revolutionary and Menshevik social democratic tendencies) compromise with the bandits of imperialism meant their becoming accomplices in imperialist banditry.”

It is, perhaps, silly to keep suggesting arguments are correct just because certain people made them, no matter how great they are. What is important is why they made these arguments, and with what reasoning. Webb, for instance, has said that today it is different from the Cold War years, today social democrats are ‘bitter opponents of the Bush administration’ and they display more ‘sensitivity’ to issues of equality and diversity, and have increasingly ‘serious doubts’ about capitalism’s ability to provide a decent life for working people. But in articles in PA he does not give much evidence or reasoning for this claim, and the fact of the Iraq war itself seems to me to suggest the opposite. While it is true that this war can be made to seem that it is only a right wing faction of ‘crazy but powerful individuals’ in the US and UK (etc) leadership that started and is conducting it for its own selfish reasons, this would be to accept an illusion of bourgeois ideology: that it is not based in the desires and interests of a ruling class, including those in that class who call themselves social democrats.

As comrade Webb has stated, Stalin called social democrats ‘social fascists’. For Webb this was the result of a sectarian outlook. Yet Stalin and Zinoviev called them this at the time not just to foment division for its own sake (which would be ridiculous, of course) but because of a theory that was meant for the time in which they lived, because then the Communists were fighting, or aiming to fight, fascism and Nazism, and many social democrats sided or were siding with fascism and Nazism. Later there was an ‘about turn’ in this policy and there was the call for a united popular front with social democratic workers against fascism. Such an ‘about turn’ seemed to show mistakes in the former policy and theory. But the change in strategy was also a tactical political decision given the nature of the contemporary circumstances. I mean to stress that it was not a fixed theoretical axiom of Marxism, not a principle. In fact both positions could be described (I would not) as practical failures. That is, in preventing the Nazi rise to power in Germany, in stopping Franco in Spain. But this would also be wrong. My point is that, because these theories were only valid for the time, if either of these positions become lauded into fixed, long term, axioms of Marxist theory (for whatever reason) a mistake is made, and one consequence of this mistake is to ‘blame’ either theory for the ‘failures’ that apparently resulted from them. For instance, should we blame Thalmann and his policy of attacking ‘social fascists’ for not doing enough to stop Nazism, for even exacerbating the problem? We should analyse and criticize his role and circumstances in the struggle, and draw lessons to improve future strategy, yes. But we should not ‘lay blame’ on such a figure personally, because the contradictions that led to the rise of Nazi power were the result of capitalist imperialism and its defence of its pillage against the resistance of the people, which as we know led to Thalmann being put in solitary confinement for eleven years by the Nazis.

But even with the critique of Stalinism, the uncomfortable truth remains that being a ‘liberal minded’ social democratic person did not and still does not render anyone immune from fascist ideologies, and in many cases it leads directly to them, like in the glaring example of ex UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. When some social democrats, today especially, shift their political position, in many instances the ‘logical’ route for them is, sadly, not to Communism; this is for the simple fact that these individuals have often spent many years ‘selling-out’ progressive principles. In fact, traditionally, in all the arguments between Communists groups, social democracy and its versions have been the political grouping that has sided with terrorist policies, and from this position it is not so distant from fascism. Of course here I am talking mainly about professional politicians. Working people who are social democrats are a different matter; they are swayed by these politicians. But historically, I think it is not so clear that social democrats have been more ‘sensitive’ to issues of equality and so on, and I suggest, with all due respect, that it requires a degree of wishful thinking to assert that today things are different.

Surely we need to recognize the role that social democracy has, in this way, of deflecting responsibility for the political actions of the class. Webb and Riggins obviously believe there is ‘no need to persuade’ Communists about the limited nature of democracy in capitalism; this is right of course, there is no need to persuade Communists who are Communists, but what about all those ‘communists’ and ‘communist parties’ today that seem to have forgotten the basics of Marxist theory? It would be nice if all of those who simply named themselves ‘Communists’ gained an instant immunity to bourgeois ideology and did not need to learn their Marxist theory and do all the hard thinking work that this, constantly, entails. Surely any Communist Party needs to define itself properly using its best weapon, Marxist theory, and it needs to clearly distinguish itself, using this theory and its reasoning, from social democracy, or it will simply be swallowed up by it. After all, social democracy is not short of champions or money and it does not need a Communist Party to support it.

The worst thing that could follow from this position would be assisting in imperialist fascist projects in a sort of apologetic way in the guise of helping ‘global equality’: quite a few on the social democratic Left (such as in the UK Labour Party) have succumbed to this on the Iraq war. Another of the worst effects (of this downplaying of the Marxist critique of social democracy) is that it has led to the tarring of the working class with the brush of racism. Given that it is only the working class that allows us to fight racism at its roots (in class) to suggest that this class is racist is grossly unjust, for who is making this assertion? From what position could this accusation come? From another class that has a ‘purer’, ‘better’ or ‘more sensitive’, more ‘politically correct’, understanding of the problem? No.

Such arguments might imply that it is the ‘sensitive’ social democrats that are in such a position, but if we conclude, as surely we must (being Communists), that only Marxist theory can teach us here, what does Marxist theory teach us about such issues as racism, gender, and equality? We come back, of course, to the Marxist critique of social democracy and the social democratic notions of equality and social justice, which tells us that we must always ask the question: ‘equality’, yes, but between whom, for what, and at what level? - Equality with a worm or with Bill Gates? We do need, even as Communists, to remember that Marx said ‘from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs’, and we might want to describe this as ‘equality’ but it is radically (which means it ‘goes to the roots’ of the problem) different from the social democratic notion of equality (in fact a more accurate term might be ‘parity’).

Struggles for democracy (more or better democracy) in the advanced capitalist nations today obviously do not have the exact same role as they did in the Russia of Lenin’s time, before 1905 and until 1917, when they did not at first have democracy at all. Today in the US, UK, and EU, democracy in the form of universal suffrage exists and has existed for some time. It could of course be improved and tinkered with, almost forever. So we could seem to be on a never-ending treadmill. Today the constantly mentioned ‘struggle for democracy’ is a slogan that can therefore be confusing to those not already Communist and whom we seek to persuade, because today these people know we actually have democracy and things in the world appear to be awful, and to be so chiefly because of the policies of the nations with the most apparent democracy (i.e. the US, the UK, and the EU), which makes calls for ‘more of it’ by a Communist Party seem a little strange. Strange, that is, unless they are qualified by the critique of social democracy.

This critique does not mean we should be against a ‘popular front’. But if the critique is downplayed or dismissed in theory, the risk is that the radical difference that Communists offer will be lost. And then there will be those social democrats that in any case abandon democracy because it does not seem ‘ever to achieve anything’ and instead of swinging to the Communists (because now they are the same) will fall into the hands of the religious fundamentalists, who replace democracy with the absolute moral codes of faith and terrorism. This, today, is what I see happening on many sides, it is something that we obviously do not wish to help along, and the critique of social democracy is important, I suggest, in showing there is an alternative and deeper form of struggle than sectarian crusades.