Wednesday, December 31, 2008
After having to put up the John McCain/Sarah Palin saber rattling about Russia's "aggression" against Georgia last August (still grist for the mill with right-wing know-nothing radio big mouths) its nice to see the New York Times report (12-31-2008) on its front page that it was President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia who initiated the hostilities by "ordering an attack on separatists in South Ossetia."
He said he had to do so due to a "Russian invasion." The Times reports that since August "no evidence has emerged to verify the claim." Saakashvili tried to convince JOHN McCAIN that he didn't start the war and McCain's response was "I don't need proof." He would have made a swell president.
2009 starts tomorrow and the Obama administration will begin in a matter of weeks. The U.S. stock market is down 40% from last year (a spectacular decline) and the flow of capital into any kind of capacity, productive or not, is frozen(it is not yet like 1930, when the money had really stopped, but it is not that far away from it). That Barack Obama will take office rather than John McCain is the most hopeful event that the U.S. and for that matter, given the U.S. role in the world economy and in international relations, the people of the world have. Here are ten resolutions for the new administration, "ripped from the headlines" of world events, as the "law and order" crime shows that inundate U.S. television announce.
1. A New York Times story today announces that for the first time a majority of Cuban-Americans favor the lifting of the 48 year old embargo. The story has nothing positive about socialist Cuba, nor does it deal with the pre revolution history of Cuba and the role of successive U.S. governments in holding Cuba as a semi-colony. But it does deal with the personal tragedies of Cuban families in Cuba and the U.S. The Obama administration should end the embargo before it reaches its 49th anniversary. The administration should also restore full and friendly relations with Cuba. Cuba can because of the achievements of its revolution be a real ally and real friend of a progressive America in fostering economic and social development, raising standards of health care and education for example, throughout the hemisphere.
2 The Israeli attacks in Gaza, motivated as some Israeli progressives observe, by political infighting in preparation for new elections, are very bad for the Israeli people, the Palestinian people, and the peace process. They are also bad for Jewish people everywhere because they both encourage and help to legitimize political anti-Semites who in recent years have increasingly pointed to Israeli policies as "evidence" to support their anti-Semitic propaganda. The Obama administration must not be afraid to make it clear to the Israelis that it will no longer provide either direct or indirect support for unilateral Israeli military actions. Hamas is an clerical reactionary organization with a history of murderous attacks on Israeli civilians. It has also engaged in a quasi civil war with the Palestine Liberation Organization (although I don't have figures at my fingertips, I would estimate that it has probably killed more Palestinian political enemies than Israelis over the years). The Obama administration should work directly with both the Palestinians and the Israelis in developing an economic development plan for the region, a "Marshall Plan" of sorts to raise Palestinian living standards and foster economic and social integration. Hamas would then be compelled to either go along with that (as would the Israeli right) or oppose and try to sabotage it. If Hamas and the Israeli right took the latter course, which they probably would, this would serve to weaken them politically.
3. The Obama administration should show its commitment to a peace and development policy by connecting its withdrawal from Iraq to policies that bring together the Iraq's diverse communities and focus on raising the living standards of Iraq's Shia Muslim majority. In this regard the administration should reverse the Bush policies of running interference for transnational oil companies in Iraq.
4. The Bush administration should restructure the 700 "bailout" to finance capital, making the protection of jobs and wages the first priority for all endangered businesses, not the protection of owners and investors. In this regard, the administration might entertain (this is purely my idea) a leasing system for bankrupt institutions, rather than selling them off at dirt cheap prices, with buyers having to pay back more over time as the institutions became more profitable, thus rewarding the government and taxpayers for their increased profitability (the exact reverse of the Savings and Loan bailout) If one says that this would be a disincentive for buyers, the answer would be to either nationalize or simply end those institutions which could not be restructured in this way.
5. The Obama administration should act immediately to enact the Employee Free Choice Act and commit itself to the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act, a position by the way which was written into the Democratic party platform from 1948 to 1988, although never acted upon. The administration should, like the Roosevelt administration in the 1930s, identify itself clearly with union organizing drives and make a sharp increase in the percentage of unionized workers a very high priority.
6. The Obama administration should reverse Senator Obama's campaign position and endorse HR 646 or a "single payer" health care program of its own, explaining to the American people that such programs are the rule in the developed world, have been successful everywhere, and have resulted in health care which is both much cheaper for the people, much more equal, and much more effective in terms of life expectancy and other major barometers of public health.
7. The Obama administration should begin to disengage from Pakistan, which today is obstructing U.S. military actions against the Taliban forces in Afghanistan and work with India and the new government in Bangladesh on a general South Asian peace and development program, stressing demilitarization and economic and social integration.
8. The Obama administration should call for the repeal of the "Patriot Act" which has trampled upon the civil liberties of American citizens.
9. The Obama administration should close down Guantanamo as a prison camp, repudiate the use of torture, and repudiate also the gobbledygook that the Bush administration used to explain its violations of the Geneva Rules of War.
10. The Obama administration should concentrate its major efforts domestically on economic reconstruction and, to use a post WWII phrase, reconversion in the U.S. to a peacetime economy. This means using much of the 700 billion bailout and much more in other policies to revitalize the public sector, make long-term social investments in infrastructure, health care, education, housing, transportation, and energy, while at the same time sharply and consistently reducing military budgets to wean corporations away from the easy money of military contracts which over time have undermined the national economy.
These are my ten new years resolutions for America and the world.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
The divisions taking hold among Republicans are becoming more severe as the party prepares to accuse its outgoing president of embracing "socialism."Read the whole story here...
The slur that conservatives were so fond of lobbing at Barack Obama during the presidential campaign is now being directed toward President Bush and GOP lawmakers who supported federal bailouts of the banking and auto industries.
At its meeting next month, the Republican National Committee is set to vote on a resolution formally opposing the bailouts, accusing Bush of helping nationalize the banks and taking "another dangerous step closer toward socialism," the Washington Times reports Tuesday.
St. Charles, Missouri-based Propper International, the largest military apparel manufacturer in the U.S., does not pay sick days to its workers. According to an article in New York Times, Tom Kellim, Propper's chief executive, did not deny that the company fails to give workers the sick days required by Puerto Rico Law 180.
Under Puerto Rico Law 180, employees are to receive 12 sick days and 15 vacation days each year. Approximately 6,000 workers manufacture U.S. military apparel in Puerto Rico and many of them do not receive these mandated paid time off.
"Propper and other contractors in Puerto Rico have specifically chosen to manufacture there because it is the cheapest location and provides them with the highest profit margin compared to the rest of the country. Military uniform manufacturers that operate in Puerto Rico are fully capable of providing their workers with benefits in accordance with Puerto Rican law. It is time that they pay the same sick and vacation leave as other industries there."
Workers at Propper International are currently organizing for union representation by UNITE HERE and they have been battling anti-union efforts from the manufacturing company. To read the New York Times article, click here. For more information, please go to www.militaryuniformswatch.info
Please join us. Sign our petition. Contact your legislators. Help us get the word out.
ONE PERCENT FOR THE ARTS
Programs that paid thousands of artists and writers comprised one of the most creative aspects of the New Deal. Thousands received relatively small outlays of funds for their work, and the nation's artistic heritage was greatly enhanced. The same kind of initiative is needed today.
We call on Congress to recommend that the government spend 1% of the stimulus plan on arts and culture ($6 billion if the final package totals $600 billion), building on the New Deal's Federal Art Project and the Federal Writers Project....
Read the full petition and sign here...
Monday, December 29, 2008
There are some films that are not for the weak at heart or stomach. Darren Aronofsky's, "The Wrestler," is one of the films. What makes the difficult scenes to not witness is that they are so much integral to the film they should be watched, as much as possible. That said, I turned my head a lot!
If there was ever a film role ever meant for an actor it is Mickey Rourke's portrayal of Randy "the Ram" Robinson, an aging professional wrestler who after years of service is now relegated to semi-professional, small, under the radar, venues. This wrestling circuit has no regulations governing this "sport."
Add to that scenario an aging stripper to the mix, Cassidy/Pam, academy awardly played by Marisa Tomei; and, you have a film that is quite amazing. Evan Rachel Wood playing Jennifer, Robinson's estranged daughter, gives a family/friendship triangle that is creatively developed for the screen.
The film's importance was best demonstrated through Aronofsky's credits at the end when he displayed many from the wrestling community to whom, in a sense, the film was dedicated. This goes along with the great locations for the filming; deep in the heart of New Jersey with everything that that means. Wrestling websites are very positive about the film, saying that it is a very realistic portrayal of their lives and activities.
There is an air of predictability about the film, but, given the guts of the film, that would be inevitable. But, even with those thoughts lurking in the back of your heard as you watch the film, there is so much more that overcomes that inevitable outcome.
The wrestling scenes were clearly played by Rourke. No way that a stand in, given the nature of the film, could have been used. And, given Rourke's real life boxing experience, it wasn't necessary. He is clearly aware of the abuse that an athlete can endure and give out. A professional wrestler by the name of Afa Anoa'I was hired to give the technical advise to Rourke.
Rourke was a professional boxer for a few years and won many fights.
At first and even second, you have to ask yourself; what does this barbaric, grotesque entertainment "sport" have to do with me? Don't worry, as time passes, a few hours after you leave the theatre, it will hit home.
Randy's way of dealing with the end of his career as a wrestling entertainer may have a gruesome end, but for other professional athletes, especially boxers, coping with the same issues, the end isn't that much different. For other workers and professionals who are put out to pasture when their playing days are not longer wanted; and, are relegated to the sidelines of life, this film will hit home. It may take a few more years and less violent for some of us, but the emotional aspects are definitely universal.
But, the ultimate kudos for this film must go to its director, Darren Aronofsky. The film moves at a quick, even pace; characters are developed alone and then in combination with others. The attention to details is amazing. The world of professional wrestling and its fan base is done without judgment; after all, these same things happen in professional baseball, football, etc., i.e., "fan days," etc.
The "fake" aspects of wrestling are not hidden, but "fake" as they might be, the physical abuse that these workers take is over-the-top.
The final event of the film, is a great original written and sung by Bruce Springsteen, appropriately called, "the Wrestler." Springsteen met and paled around with Rourke when he was in Los Angeles in 1898-90. Often going motorcycle riding together. They remained friends thereafter..
Springsteen was aware of the film being produced and during his tour in Europe in 2008, he wrote this song and offered it to Aronofsky. He put the song, done acoustically, where it belonged, i.e., at the end covering the film's credits. It wraps the whole film together.
This is a very crude film, about a very crude existence. If you can handle it….see it.
In the U.S. former government officials often become either lobbyists or high paid executives for corporations over whom they previously had some regulatory power. They then often return to government much richer than when the left to serve the interests of those corporations.This has been most pronounced of course in the Pentagon and Pentagon related activities (with the outgoing Vice President, Dick Cheney the best recent example).
But there is an interesting story in the New York Times today which, when one reads between the lines, should give us some insight into how capitalists always work to profit from all conditions, including disasters. The title, which could have just as easily been in the Peoples Weekly World, is "Veterans of 90s bailout hope to profit from this One." What the article is referring to are the former government regulators, now in private practice, who are representing the collapsing institutions of finance capital in their attempt to get as much as they can from the 700 billion dollar bailout Also, the article looks at various finance capitalist clients of these men with dreams of buying up these institutions at dirt cheap prices, thanks to public financing. A key figure in all of this is William Seidman, who chaired the Resolution Trust Corporation which administered the Savings and Loan bailout and is now, according to the Times reporter, both representing various clients and serving as an advisory to both Secretary of the Treasury Paulson and economists of the Obama transition team. (Mother of mercy, is that a conflict of interest?)
If you believe that the masters of capital are moving away from the principle that Oliver Stone immortalized in the film "Wall Street, "that is, "Greed is Good," get a load of Seidman's comment about his activities. "It is an enormous market[the battle to both get a piece of the 700 billion and to buy up institutions cheap that government funding will revive] I am really enjoying this." "Fortunes will be made here, no doubt about it," another former Resolution Trust official notes. Another official notes with a bit a guilty glee, that while the financial crisis is a disaster for the nation, "the opportunity going forward is unprecedented. It is fantastic. It is as if I had been in training for this for the last 40 years of my career."
These men and their firms see the crisis as a way to make millions for themselves and billions for their clients. They are the "vultures" of state monopoly capitalism, like the old Wall Street "bears," coming in to both buy cheap in the midst of a crisis in which it is public assets that will be sold off. Right now, as Sam Zell CEO of the bankrupt Tribune company who made his fortune buying up Savings and Loan properties in the first great bailout notes "the best opportunity right now is in the debt area, mortgages. We have been buying all along."
Millions of people face foreclosure on their homes and "the best opportunity right now is in the debt area, mortgages." Tens of millions of workers who live paycheck to paycheck face the possibility of unemployment which will devastate them and their families and prominent figures like William Seidman are "really enjoying this." This is the system that praises itself as the foundation of progress and civilization, which defines conduct that would be considered pathological in normal social relations as good?
Immediately I thought of the old Robber Barons, particularly Jay Gould, who set up crises like this to profit from them (sometimes with the inside information of bribed government officials but not with their capital). Establishment scholars used to like at capitalists like Gould as the 'exceptions" to a system in which others, like Morgan and Rockefeller, however destructive their policies were to labor and small capitalists, were nevertheless developing a large corporate industrial system that raised living standards over time. While I never really bought that one, business leaders like Zell and functionaries like Seidman show that under the present decaying system of state monopoly capitalism, figures like Gould are now quite openly the rule rather than the exception.
What this shows is the necessity for a policy to make this "bailout" very different than the last one, to look seriously at public ownership and forms of regulation that will stop the profiteering (perhaps by making those who be these institutions be subject to various surcharges and other forms of taxation that will return to the public sector the built of the profits which come from them). I would also advise the Obama transition team to take with a pitcher of salt "advice" from these former bailout officials. They have little to offer, except perhaps as an example of what not to do in distributing the 700 billion in public investment.
Part Three- Conclusion
"Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number IS Six hundred threescore AND six."-- Revelation 13:18
In the last part of his essay Engels explains that the purpose of the Book of Revelations (by John of Patmos) was to communicate its religious vision to the seven churches of Asia Minor and to the larger sect of Jewish Christians that they represented.
At this time, circa 69 AD, the entire Mediterranean world much of the of Near East and Western Europe were under the control of the Roman Empire. This was a multicultural empire made of hundreds of tribes, groups, cities and peoples. Within the empire was a vast underclass of workers, freedmen, slaves and peasants whose exploited labor was lived off of by a ruling class of landed aristocrats and merchants. In 69 AD the empire was in essence a military dictatorship controlled by the army and led by the Emperor (from the Latin word for "general"-- imperator).
At this time there were peoples but no nations in our sense of the word. "Nations became possible," Engels says, "only through the downfall of Roman world domination." The effects of which are still being felt in the Middle East and parts of Europe, especially eastern Europe.
For the exploited masses of the Empire it was basically impossible to resist the military power of Rome. There were uprisings and slave revolts but they were always put down by the legions. This was the background for what became a great revolutionary movement of the poor and the exploited, a movement that became Christianity. The purpose of the movement was to escape from persecution, enslavement and exploitation. A solution was offered. "But" Engels remarks, "not in this world."
Another feature of the work is that it is a symbolical representation of contemporary first century politics and John thinks that Jesus's second coming is near at hand. Jesus tells John, "Behold, I come quickly" three times (22:7, 22:12, 22:20). His failure to show up by now doesn't seem to pose a problem for Christians.
As far as the later Christian religion of love is concerned, Engels reports that you won't find it in Revelation, at least as it regards the enemies of the Christians. There is no cheek turning going on here: it's all fire and brimstone for the foes of Jesus. Engels says "undiluted revenge is preached." God is even going to completely blot out Rome from the face of the earth. He changed his mind evidently as it is still a popular tourist destination and the pope has even set up shop there.
As was pointed out earlier the God of John is Yahweh, there is no Trinity, it is He, not Christ, who will judge mankind and they wil bel judged according to their works (no justification by faith here, sorry Luther), no doctrine of original sin, no baptism, and no Eucharist or Mass. Almost everyone of these later developments came from Roman and Greek, as well as Egyptian
mystery religions. Zoroastrian elements from the Zend - Avesta are also present. These are the idea of Satan and the Devil as an evil force opposed to Yahweh, a great battle at the end of time between good and evil, [the final conflict] and the idea of a second coming. All these ideas were picked up by the Jews during their contact with the Persians before their return after the Babylonian captivity and transmitted to the early Christians.
Once we realize all this we can also see why Islam was able to rise to the status of a world religion as well. Those areas of the world that were not the home land of Greco-Roman paganism were open to Islam which spread in areas of Semitic settlement and where Christianity had been imposed by force, so could Islam be.
We will give Engels the last word, the Book of Revelation "shows without any dilution what Judaism, strongly influenced by Alexandria, contributed to Christianity. All that comes later is Western , Greco-Roman addition."
Sunday, December 28, 2008
At this moment of extreme crisis, J Street wants to demonstrate that, among those who care about Israel and its security, there is a constituency for sanity and moderation. There are many who recognize elements of truth on both sides of this gaping divide and who know that closing it requires strong American engagement and leadership.
Sign the petition here...
Saturday, December 27, 2008
by Eric Green
LA Police Dept. [LAPD] Exposed Again
Eastwood Does A Great Job: Also, Again
If the creator of "Dirty Harry" and similar films is attempting to continue to establish a whole new legacy of his film making, "Changeling" is an important step in that direction. He has taken his often irreverent, in some cases anti-establishment characters, and turning them into social movement activists. In this case, Changeling, Clint Eastwood took a true story and put it on a Hollywood size screen and has done it well.
Expertly casted by the legendary Ellen Chenoweth [although she doesn't seem that old; check her out on the Web]; with cinematography by the expert lens of Tom Stern; and the music for the film created/written by Eastwood himself and arranged and developed by his long time colleague and jazz legend, Lenny Neihaus, this film has so many requisites it is hard to stick to the actual film content itself.
This is a dark film, and its filmed in a very dark method. The period, 1928-1935, is perfectly filmed and very realistic. You really feel you there and comfortable in that period, although while your comfortable in the period there is a rare moment in the film that is not discomfortable. The attention to detail of automobiles, trolleys, etc. was amazing. And, you learned how the telephone company worked through the lives of workers themselves.
The main story line is the corruption of the LAPD and the methods it used to deal with people who got in their way, i.e., police work or just personal attacks. Christine Collins, very well played by Angelina Jolle, had her son stolen by a deranged, Gordon Northcott, frighteningly played by Jason Butler Harner. How she got in the way of the LAPD is the true story line.
The main bad cop is played quite well by Jeffrey Donovan; and, Amy Ryan does a strong performance as a prostitute who comes to the aid and adviser to Collins.
The corruption and systematic tortures employed by the LAPD starts for many of us during the 1960s when it came to light that they were teaching these torture methods to the old Saigon police force. The wholesale killings and abuses were often traced back to the Saigon police force who got it from the LAPD. Not to say that the Diem regime couldn't apply torture itself, but the LAPD gave them the "legitimacy."
Well, that corrupt LAPD had a history before the 1960s.
In the 1920s one more abusive techniques of the LAPD was to put its enemies into psychiatric incarceration with the use of drugs and electric shock treatments. As the film reported these psychiatric torture methods were mostly used against woman enemies. It was called a C-12. A Rev. Gustav Briegleb, played perfectly by John Malkovich, comes to Collins' aid and helps unravel the LAPD abuses at the time.
Eastwood takes these events and makes them into a film that is educational and entertaining. The educational part is important to Eastwood these days. His two films on WWII, "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters from Iwo Jima," are cases in point.
Eastwood has come a long way since he was the right of center Mayor of Carmel, California [1986-88]. Then he supported Gov. Ronald Reagan. He now describes himself as a libertarian. If he is one, then he is a rare one with a socially conscious activism that takes on the right people to be opposed to. In 2003, Democratic Governor of California, Gray Davis, appointed him to the State Park and Recreation Commission where he served as co-chair. He was reappointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Recently, on a PBS television talk show with Charlie Rose, a couple of years ago, he expressed his opposition to the Iraq war. That was when it wasn't very popular in those circles. His opposition, as he said, went beyond just the Iraq war.
"Changeling" has largely been removed from distribution, but it is worth tracking down.
NOW ON TO GRAND TORINO!
Friday, December 26, 2008
I former student of mine sent me a article from the website Open Left,
posted by David Sirota. The article was titled "Historians Pretty Much
Agree That FDR Prologued the Great Depression". Sirota had appeared on
Fox News with Monica Crowley, who parleyed her fawning internship with
Richard Nixon at the end of his life into a career as a minor
conservative "pundit." Sirota was there to challenge this absurd "big
lie,"which Crowley raised on Fox News, and he tried to, only to be
laughed at. In his article, Sirota tries to get in the last laugh by
citing scholarly sources in detail where Fox propagandists cited none,
not even the false and twisted sources that Joe McCarthy was famous for
With all due respect to Sirota, who deserves respect for subjecting
himself to Fox News, one really doesn't have to be defensive about this
issue, and answering Rupert Murdoch's propagandists is almost beside the
point. The rightwing hatred of and mythology about New Deal labor
liberalism, like all extreme prejudices, is essentially about them, or
rather the class interests they serve and the audiences they seek to
influence. Citing real and documented history to them is a little bit
like the attorney for the Jewish-American plaintiffs who in the 1920s
sued Henry Ford, publisher of the virulently anti-Semitic newspaper, the
Dearborn Independent, which in turn had published the major anti-Semitic
tract, _The Elders of the Protocols of Zion_. based on a totally
fabricated set of events and accompanying historical chronicle. When
the attorney cited in very great detail,real Jewish history, Ford
responded famously that history itself was "the bunk" That is pretty
much what the Fox News people were implying when the laughed at Sirota.
Of course, there is a rightwing school of thought, much more among
economists than historians, who do contend that New Deal regulatory and
social welfare policies did prolong the depression, which would have
been far less severe if 1920s Republican policy had been continued.
There are even those ultras who attack Herbert Hoover for moving in a
"statist" direction away from the free market principles of Calvin
Coolidge. But outside of the right, its media and think tanks, most of
this has never been taken seriously by most historians since it flies
in the face of real events. Unemployment reached a peak of between 25%
and 38%(the former statistic is from the Hoover administration, the
latter from labor movement sources) in the Winter of 1932-1933. New
Deal policies over the next four years cut those numbers in half and
also led to a significant strengthening of the labor movement and with
that workers rights. The major setback of 1937, where the term
recession was first coined, has been attributed, as Sirota rightly says,
by most historians to Roosevelt's reduction in spending. These are
liberal and centrist historians by the way, scholars who are in
substance more not less conservative than major New Dealers. New
Dealers like Harold Ickes and others called this recession a "capital
strike" against both the administration and industrial workers, and
Ickes particularly condemned the "50 families" who controlled much of
the corporate wealth of the country.
For myself and most Marxists, the failure of the New Deal was always
that it did not go far enough, not that it went too far, in increasing
workers rights and seeking to regulate the abuses of capital. What
"Historians pretty much agree " on is that the depression did not end in
the U.S. before WWII, as it really didn't end anywhere else, except in a
grotesque way in Nazi Germany, where the fascist dictatorship smashed
the unions, launched a huge state supported re-armament program,
builidng what I consider to be th first modern military industrial
complex, not only or even primarily as an economic program but as the
basis for wars of aggression and conquest.
In the 1930s, the U.S. had about 1/3 of the world's industrial
production and was before the New Deal significantly behind other
developed capitalist countries in its regulatory and social welfare
programs. The New Deal, as Fox News will never understand, both saved
and instituted significant reforms of the capitalist system, which stuck
for the next two generations. As Marxists and Communists "correctly"
understood at the time, these reforms were by no means permanent and
would be challenged by the capitalist class, which in reality only
accepted them as an alternative to socialism, when the capitalists were
in a position to do so(as they were politically by the 1980s).
Fox News is trying to send a message to Obama that following the New
Deal model as against continuing the Bush policies will have a
disastrous effect. That is a message that insults Obama's intelligence
and one that he can only laugh at.
Speaking of laughter, or rather a little satire at Fox expense, I can
imagine other Fox News sorties into twentieth century history, for
example "Historians pretty much agree with Patrick Buchanan that U.S
inovlvement in World War II was largely unnecessary and peace was
possible with Hitler were it not for the Roosevelt administration;"
"Historians pretty much agree that Roosevelt tricked the Japanese into
bombing Pearl Harbor to save his friends in London and Moscow;"
"Historians pretty much agree that Roosevelt 'gave' Eastern Europe to
the Soviet Union in 1945 because of his socialist sympathies;"
"Historians pretty much agree that Communists in the State Department
were directly responsible for the Chinese Revolution;" "Historians
pretty much agree that General MacArthur's policy of bombing China and
using nuclear weapons in Korea and China would have won the Korean
war;" "Historians pretty much agree that General Westmoreland's call in
1968 for 200,000 more troops after the Tet Offensive would have brought
victory in Vietnam, were it not for the liberal media and the anti-war
movement" and so on and so on. Fox News could dig up literally and
figuratively talking heads to support those positions, but they would be
digging the graves of the past instead of advocating policies that help
dig the graves of contemporary capitalism, which they have been doing
for many, many years.
Engels views on early Christianity were formed from his reading of what he considered "the only scientific basis" for such study, namely the new critical works by German scholars of religion.
First were the works of the TUBINGEN SCHOOL, including David Strauss ("The Life of Jesus"). This school has shown that 1) the Gospels are late writings based on now lost original sources from the time of Jesus and his followers; 2) only four of Paul's letters are by him; 3) all miracles must be left out of account if you want a scientific view; 4) all contradictory presentations of the same events must also be rejected. This school then wants to preserve what it can of the history of early Christianity. By the way, this is essentially what Thomas Jefferson tried to do when he made his own version of the New Testament.
A second school was based on the writings of BRUNO BAUER. What Bauer did was to show that Christianity would have remained a Jewish sect if it had not, in the years after the death of its founder, mutated by contact with Greco-Roman paganism, into a new religion capable of becoming a world wide force. Bauer showed that Christianity, as we know it, did not come into the Roman world from the outside ("from Judea") but that it was "that world's own product." Christianity owes as much to Zeus as to Yahweh.
Engels maintains that THE BOOK OF REVELATIONS is the only book in the New Testament that can be properly dated by means of its internal evidence. It can be dated to around 67-68 AD since the famous number 666, as the mark of the beast or the Antichrist, represents the name of the Emperor Nero according to the rules of numerology. Nero was overthrown in 68. This book, Engels says, is the best source of the views of the early Christians since it is much earlier than any of the Gospels, and may actually have been the work the apostle John (which the Gospel and letters bearing his name were not).
In this book we will not find any of the views that characterize official Christianity as we have it from the time of the Emperor Constantine to the present day. It is purely a Jewish phenomenon in REVELATIONS. There is no TRINITY as GOD has SEVEN SPIRITS (so the HOLY GHOST is impossible Engels remarks). JESUS CHRIST is not GOD but his SON, he is not even equal in status to his father. Nevertheless he has pretty high status, his followers are called his "slaves" by John. Jesus is "an emanation of God, existing from all eternity but subordinate to God" just as the seven spirits are. MOSES is more or less "on an equal footing" with Jesus in the eyes of God. There is no mention of the later belief in ORIGINAL SIN. John still thought of himself as a Jew, there is no idea at this time of "Christianity" as a new religion.
In this period there were many end of times revelations in circulation both in the Semitic and in the Greco-Roman world. They all proclaimed that God was (or the Gods were) pissed off at humanity and had to be appeased by sacrifices. John's revelation was UNIQUE because it proclaimed "by one great voluntary sacrifice of a mediator the sins of all times and all men were atoned for once and for all-- in respect of the faithful."
Since all peoples and races could be saved this is what, according to Engels, "enabled Christianity to develop into a universal religion." [Just as the concept of the workers of the world uniting to break their chains and build a world wide communist future makes Marxism-Leninism a universal philosophy.]
In Heaven before the throne of God are 144,000 Jews (12,000 from each tribe). In the second rank of the saved are the non Jewish converts to John's sect. Engels points out that neither the "dogma nor the morals" of later Christianity are to be found in this earliest of Christian expressions. Some Muslims would presumedly not like this Heaven, not only are there no virgins in it, there are no women whatsoever. In fact, the 144,000 Jews have never been "defiled" by contact with women! This is a men's only club.
Engels says that the book shows a spirit of "struggle", of having to fight against the entire world and a willingness to do so. He says the Christians of today lack that spirit but that it survives in the working class movement. We must remember he was writing this in 1894.
There were other sects of Christianity springing up at this time too. John's sect eventually died out and the Christianity that won out was an amalgam of different groups who finally came together around the Council of Nicaea (325 AD). Those who did not sign on were themselves persecuted out of existence by the new Christian state.
We can see the analogy to the early sects of socialists and communists, says Engels. We can also see what happened after the Russian Revolution (Leninists, Stalinists, Trotskyists, Bukharinites, Maoists, etc., etc.). Here in the US today we have the CPUSA, the SWP, Worker's World, Revolutionary CP, Socialist Party, Sparticists, and etc., etc.).
Engels thought that sectarianism was a thing of the past in the Socialist movement because the movement had matured and outgrown it. This, we now know, was a temporary state of affairs at the end of the 19th Century with the consolidation of the German SPD. The wide spread sectarianism of today suggests the worker's movement is still in its infancy.
Engels says this sectarianism is due to the confusion and backwardness of the thinking of the masses and the preponderate role that leaders play due to this backwardness. The Russian masses of 1917 and the Chinese of 1949 were a far different base than the German working class of the 1890s.
"This confusion," Engels writes,"is to be seen in the formation of numerous sects which fight against each other with at least the same zeal as against the common external enemy [China vs USSR, Stalin and Trotsky, Stalin and Tito, Vietnam vs China border war, Albania vs China and USSR. ad nauseam]. So it was with early Christianity, so it was in the beginning of the socialist movement [and still is, peace Engels!], no matter how much that worried the well-meaning worthies who preached unity where no unity was possible."
Finally, for those fans of the 60s sexual revolution, Engels says that many of the sects of early Christianity took the opposite view of John and actually promoted sexual freedom and free love as part of the new dispensation. They lost out. Engels says this sexual liberation was also found in the early socialist movement. He would not, I think, have approved of the excessive prudery of the Soviets.
Stay tuned for part 3.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
This is the season to remind all our Christian friends of the relationship between Christianity and Marxism-Leninism and the working class movement. Engels ("On the History of Early Christianity") tells us that there are "notable points of resemblance" between the early working class movement and Christianity.
First, both movements were made up of oppressed poor people from the lower ranks of society. Christianity was a religion of slaves and people without rights subjugated by the state and very similar to the types of poor oppressed working people that founded the earliest socialist and worker's organizations in modern times.
Second, both movements held out the hope of salvation and liberation from tyranny and oppression: one in the world to come, the other in this world.
Third, both movements were (and in some places still are) attacked by the powers that be and were discriminated against, their members killed or imprisoned, despised, and treated as enemies of the status quo.
Fourth, despite fierce persecution both movements grew and became more powerful. After three hundred years of struggle Christians took control of the Roman Empire and became a world religion. The worker's movement is still struggling. After its first modern revolutionary appearance as a fully self conscious movement (1848) it achieved a major impetus in the later part of the nineteenth century with the growth of the First and Second Internationals, and the German Social Democratic movement. It too is now a world wide movement with Socialist, Social Democratic and Communist parties spread around the world. [The rise and fall of the USSR was a bump in the road the consequences of which have yet to be determined.]
The Book of Acts reveals that the early Christians were primitive communists sharing their goods in common and leading a collective life style. This original form of Christianity was wiped out when the Roman Empire under Constantine imposed Christianity as the official religion of the state and set up the Catholic Church in order to make sure that the religious teachings of Jesus and the early followers of his movement would be perverted to protect the interests of the wealthy and the power of the state.
With few exceptions, all forms of modern day Christianity are descended from this faux version, based on a mixture of Jewish religious elements and the practices of Greco-Roman paganism, and only the modern working class and progressive movements (basically secular) carry on in the spirit of egalitarianism and socialism of the founder of Christianity.
Engels points out that there were many attempts in history (especially from the Middle Ages up to modern times) to reestablish the original communistic Christianity of Jesus and his early followers.
These attempts manifested themselves as peasant uprisings through the middle ages which tried to overthrow feudal oppression and create a world based on the teaching of Jesus and his Apostles.
These movements failed giving rise to the state sanctioned Christianity of modern times. Engels mentions some of these movements-- i.e., the Bohemian Taborites led by Jan Zizka ("of glorious memory") and the German Peasant War. These movements are now represented, Engels points out, by the working men communists since the 1830s.
Engels reveals that misleadership is also a problem in these early movements (and still today I would add) due to the low levels of education found amongst the poor and oppressed. He quotes a contemporary witness, Lucian of Samosata ("the Voltaire of classic antiquity"). The Christians "despise all material goods without distinction and own them in common-- doctrines which they have accepted in good faith, without demonstration or proof. And when a skillful impostor who knows how to make clever use of circumstances comes to them he can manage to get rich in a short time and laugh up his sleeve over these simpletons." The Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwell types have been around for a long time. I am sure readers can add a long list of names.
Stay tuned, part 2 coming up.
WFTU calls for an international day of struggle
18 December 2008
The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) held an "International Seminar on Globalization and workers' rights" in Lisbon on December 15 and 16, 2008.The seminar was jointly organized with FESAHT - Federation of Agriculture, Food, Beverage, Hotels and Tourism of Portugal, FEVICCOM - Portuguese Trade Union Federation of Construction Ceramics and Glass Workers and SNTSF - National Union of Railway Workers. All these structures affiliated to the CGTP-IN.
The seminar was attended by 150 trade union leaders from 24 countries on the five continents, including dozens of trade union structures of the CGTP-IN.
The participants in this initiative analyzed the current international context and discussed and approved several lines of action to address the neoliberal globalization and the current crisis and to defend the rights and interests of workers.
The trade unionists approved a resolution on the revision of the directive on working time, which is currently being discussed at the European Parliament. The resolution demands that the members of the European Parliament reject the proposed revision of the directive, which profoundly affects the fundamental rights of workers and that, if approved, would impose a total liberalization and deregulation of working hours, causing a deep social deterioration.
Participants at the International Seminar also adopted a trade union declaration, which reflects the priority lines of action and guidelines for the development of joint actions and mobilizations at national, regional or branch level in the world, to defend and promote the rights of workers.
In this context, the WFTU announced that it will promote on April 1 2009, an "International Day of struggle for workers rights against exploitation." This global action received the unanimous support of all participants, who committed themselves to organize on that day initiatives in their respective countries, particularly in enterprises and workplaces.
[See WFTU Website for photos from Conference]
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
shoplifting are rising sharply. This isn't really news for people who
are not rightwing Republicans, i.e. people who know that crimes of all
kinds are related to unemployment and poverty, not to bad character
and/or bad genes. But there are few new wrinkles. For example, there
are websites that are selling fake receipts that aid shoplifters, along
with other websites that are selling security software to help shop
owners catch shoplifters (a comment on the "free market" or the fine old
capitalist art of playing both sides against the middle).
But there are more serious aspects to this story. Police and story
security people comment that the large increase in shoplifting seems to
be coming from new people (as against drug users and other traditional
shoplifters) who are both desperate and bolder than the usual petty
criminals. This also was characteristic of the great depression.
Meanwhile, another news item states that many are coping with the
economic crisis by turning to craft stores and making their own holiday
gifts, something that may be quite positive for individual development
but not for a mass consumer economy based on moving large quantities of
mass produced goods purchased on various forms of credit.
Finally, there is, for those who believe that the rightwing is going
into hibernation, there is a serious but very funny article in the New
York Times on primate behavior deceitful lying aspects in humans. The
article, taking the Madoff financial swindle/scandal and the Blagojevich
political scandal as its point of departure, throws in a bit of
sociobiology, citing a study that connects "sneaky" behavior in non
human primates with the size of the "neo cortex" or "highest region of
the brain (19th century racists used to play games like this to portray
Caucasians as a more advanced race of humans) There are also studies
of humans based on lying which provide fascinating data, although I am
in no way convinced by the interpretations of the data, that is, that it
is relatively easy to lie and be deceitful, that human have a blindness
to lying and perhaps a desire to be deceived (an interpretation which
dovetails nicely with modern advertising). And having been tricked by
house cats over the years in a variety of ways, I am also doubtful that
the size of the neo cortex is the key to understanding deceitful
behavior, a view that support popular conceptions of a "human nature"
that is nasty and combative.
If we develop policies to abolish poverty and establish far-reaching
economic security and people are still shoplifting in great numbers
then I would be more willing to accept such views. If we establish a
society based on broad economic and social equality and security, that
is a socialist society, and we see economic and political crooks like
Madoff and Blageojevich proliferating, I would more willing to entertain
sociobiological interpretations of behavior. Such interpretations are
usually used to argue that socialism can never really work. Until there
is a socialist society developed over a long period of time, one in
which people will not have been sociologized to fight with each other
for wealth and power for a long time, we can never know whether or not
people will choose to act cooperatively and honestly because in all
class divided societies most people respond to threats and opportunities
rather than making rational choices.
Monday, December 22, 2008
From the AFL-CIO:
America’s workers want to form unions. Research shows nearly 60 million would form a union tomorrow if given the chance.
Too few ever get that chance because employers routinely block their efforts to form unions—and our current legal system is too broken to stop them. As many as one-quarter of employers illegally fire workers who try to form unions.
The Employee Free Choice Act would give workers a fair chance to form unions to improve their lives by:
In the 110th Congress, the Employee Free Choice Act had widespread support.
More than three-quarters of Americans—77 percent—support strong laws that give employees the freedom to make their own choice about whether to have a union in their workplace without interference from management (PDF).
Allowing working people to choose for themselves whether to have a union is the key step toward rebuilding America’s middle class. Union membership brings better wages and benefits and a real voice on the job (PDF). It’s no accident that the 25-year decline in workers’ wages in our country has paralleled a 25-year slide in the size of the America’s unions.
The Employee Free Choice Act would put democracy back into the workplace. Majority sign-up would ensure the decision whether to form a union was made by majority choice, not by the employer unilaterally.
Workers can still vote under the Employee Free Choice Act. At any time, if 30 percent of the workers want an election, they can have one. And once they have a union, workers also vote to elect their union representatives.
The Employee Free Choice Act has the support of hundreds of respected organizations and individuals—major religious denominations, academics and civil and human rights groups and others.
The AFL-CIO union movement is working in many ways to restore good jobs, health care and retirement security—but passing the Employee Free Choice Act is our top priority because we cannot create balance for working people or rebuild the middle class unless workers genuinely have the freedom to form unions for a better life.
politicalaffairs.net — I have a bit of hostility towards Mahbubani, given some of the statements he has made about China in the past where he has described the CCP not as the Communist Party of China but as the Chinese Capitalist Party.
President-elect Barack Obama has set up a website to gather ideas from ordinary citizens on the most important issues facing our country.
Obama wants to hear from you about health care. Now is our chance to show the president-elect the tremendous support nationwide for single payer health care.
Single payer universal health care is the only solution that will take profit out of health care. We need health care reform that will:
* Create a publicly-financed, privately-delivered universal health care program covering all Americans;
* Cover all medically-necessary services without charging co-pays or deductibles;
* Eliminate corporate greed from our health care delivery system.
Thank you for your continued support for a better democracy.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Sean Penn and Beyonce' Knowles Over-The-Top Performance
These three films have a few things in common: First they each were distributed in time for the Oscar nominations; each featured incredible acing performances; and, each of them is quite special.
The most memorable film is the Gus Van Zandt film, "Milk." This politically historical film treats an important social movement with honesty and effectiveness. There isn't a slow moment in this film. This especially significant given the Hollywood level of production. Usually "Hollywood" films are more about the over the top drama, mind confusing special effects and manipulating historical events for financial ends. Van Zandt avoided those pitfalls.
Well Gus Van Zandt is a different kind of mass media director
Darnell Martin on the other hand, created "Cadillac Records". Martin wrote and director the film. She was clearly taken by the history of Chess Records and the discovery of by Alan Lomax of blues Singer Muddy Waters. But, she didn't stop there. True to the history of Chess Records she put on the screen a few of the most important Blues, Jazz and Rock and Rolls stars of the Post WW II period. This film was marked by excellent casting and then the follow through of casting with amazing musical performances. That in itself was as major victory.
Jeffrey Wright was perfectly cast as Muddy Waters and along with Chess Records founder, Leonard Chess, a Polish immigrant, is the centerpiece of this him. Adrien Brody plays Chess and is on screen more than anyone else. The film leaves out Len Chess's brother, Phil.] The film is narrated by Willie Dixon, and is played by Cedric the Entertainer, a singer who successfully fought through the issue of payment for lyrics and music of Black performers. This film is worth seeing for many reasons, but, especially for two Off-the-Screen performances: Beyonce' Knowles who plays Etta James; and Eamonn Walker who does an amazing performance of Howlin' Wolfe [Original name Chester Burnett.] The film also has Mos Def doing a remarkable Chuck Berry. Berry remains one of the most compelling and interesting rock and roll stars….he remains active at the age of 82 years old. The film is worth seeing for these performances, alone.
A "Christmas Tale" is a French film, which takes you through 2 ½ hours of a grueling family scene that is sometimes hard to watch. Catherine Deneuve [with her daughter, Chiara Mastroianni, via Marcello Mastroianni] is the matriarch of the family, but not a willing one. This film was reviewed in newspapers with a high number of stars; which usually means it will be a center of attention for the Best Foreign Film of the year. This film will join other films, which excruciatingly dramatize dysfunctional families on the screen. Although, this time the family is French.
Sean Penn's performance of Harvey Milk is almost frightening. As soon as he hits the screen, you think it is Milk and for the next 120 minutes he doesn't disappoint. Josh Brolin as White is also amazing. Playing White, in some ways, was far more difficult, but he pulled it off with flying colors.
Penn has already been nominated in the Golden Globe Awards; and, will surely gain an Oscar nomination. Given Penn's international work for peace and justice, his winning the OSCAR would be very important.
At the same time, while Jeffrey Wright's performance of Muddy Waters was extremely good, it wasn't until Beyonce' Knowles came on screen that this film really took off. Now, granted, as Executive Producer of the film, which usually means this person gets the money for the film, it could be said that she bought the role of Etta James. If she did, so be it, but casting her as Etta James was the right decision. When she finished her performance singing Etta James' great song, "I'd Rather Be Blind," there wasn't a dry eye in the theater. With this performance, she definitely establishes herself as a serious and potentially great actor. And, it has been reported that after visiting Phoenix House in NYC, a drug rehab program, she donated all of her salary for the film to that important program. She is a winner all the way around.
Eamonn Walker who was selected to play the great blues singer, Howlin' Wolfe, was born in London, England. He trained as a dancer, but then a leg operation forced him to give it up, he turned to his second love: acting. His father is from Grenada and his mother is from Trinidad. He attended the University of North London; and studied to become a social worker. He founded the Flipside Theatre Company in London. He was the first black actor to play Othello at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. His performance will certainly attract Best Supporting Actor attention. Darnell Martin's selection of Walker has a little history. Martin has a long history of directing highly successful episodes of television hits like Law and Order and the award winning OZ [HBO]. In fact, Martin directed Walker in the three 1997 episodes of OZ; Plan B, Capital P, and the Routine. Other note worthy performances included: Gabriella Union as Muddy Waters mate, Geneva Wade; and Columbus Short's, Little Walter. Eric Bogosian plays Rock and Role producer, Alan Freed.
Darnell Martin is one the very few, if there are any, African-America woman film directors working these days.
Christmas Tale, on the other hand, was an ensemble performance that is too rare these days. The number of immediate and extended family members of the Vuillard family were over 12, with each having their own individual issues. Yet, the director, Arnaud Desplechin was able to intertwine many of them and most importantly with the film's matriarch, Junon, played by Catherine Deneuve and her husband, Abel Vuillard, played Jean-Paul Roussillon. French filmgoers will recognize him, as well as, Mathieu Amalric, who plays Henri a son of Junon and Abel, who is just about over the top in his family antics. Desplechin does a good job in keeping the film going for its rather long length.
Cadillac Records takes place in Chicago [although it was filmed in New Jersey]; Milk in San Francisco and Tale in Lille, which is northeastern France.
Cadillac Records director Martin recreates the 1950s and 1960s; and does it well. You definitely feel that you are living through that exciting musical period. The financial rip-off of Black artists and writers is described very well. Howlin' Wolfe's role is particularly important in that regard. But, Willie Dixon is the overall key person that issue. The post film credits do a very good job in describing that time period.
Milk is the 1970s with the mass struggles that the Bay Area had experienced in the 1960s ad '70 as backdrop. The frenzy of that time period in Height Asbury was done extremely well. "The Castro" was also well described and portrayed. Van Zandt did an excellent job linking the struggle of Gay activists to other social and political struggles of the day. One character became active in the Bay Area after witnessing Anti-Fascist rallies in Barcelona, Spain., in which gay and lesbian activists too an active role.
Tale is contemporary that is purely a sociological family fracas.
The best directing job was the highly full-length film experienced Gus Van Zandt. His film was complete from the beginning through the middle to the end. The continuity was smooth and flawless. The film credits at the end are noteworthy. Each character is labeled and a real life photo of the person who was portrayed then replaces the photo of the actor. And, Van Zandt tells the filmgoers the activities of those activists; and they were considerable.
Tale had a similar feeling for the full length of its length, which for films these days was very long. Arnaud Desplechin, a highly experienced film maker showed his abilities in taking this film of misfits and hard-to-like characters come to life on screen; and, make them worth watching and wondering how the film would end. And, actually care how the film would end.
Martin, on the other hand, did a great job in directing each actor to fully explain and characterize the musicians and others who they were hired to portray. She had to dodge the many potholes that any writer and director would encounter when creating a film that has such a rich history. But, technically speaking, in linking of the films many scenes she seemed to be directing a motion picture with the same short scenes that a television show would command. The continuity between scenes and performances could have been better. Clearly, with more opportunity to direct films, this skill will no doubt improve.
Penn and Knowles
You'll surely be seeing Sean Penn in the Awards shows. I can only hope that judges will allow Beyonce Knowles the freedom to be seen as an actor of more than modest means. More than just a great singer. She is a real talent who deserves more jobs in film. A Best Supporting Award should be on her shelf. And, as said before Eamonn Walker deserves similar recognition.
Take Action NOW! Call their district or state offices on Monday, Dec. 22 and ask them to provide real health care reform by supporting single-payer, publicly-financed health care.
NOW's call for real reform heats up on Dec. 22 when we kick off the campaign along with our coalition partners to advance the dream of universal, single-payer public financing of health care reform.
NOW activists called for single-payer health care 15 years ago, and now with reform possible in this new administration, it's the perfect time to urge those who will lead our country and our states (as well as the general public) to take the positions that are best for women and families. Please call your senators and representatives on Dec. 22, and form or join local coalitions in support of a single-payer solution--and encourage others to do the same. Read the background information below, or go to our website and enter your zip code to see our call-in talking points and your senators' and representative's district phone numbers.
Take Action: Help Set the Agenda for the Next Secretary of Labor
Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao made a mockery of her office, stripping workers of basic protections and promoting corporate interests.
With a new administration taking shape, including our next Secretary of Labor, Rep. Hilda Solis, we have an opportunity to undo the damage – but only if we can make our priorities heard.
Cast your vote for the most pressing issue facing America's workers. We'll tally the results and deliver them to Rep. Solis when she steps into office.
To vote, go here...
politicalaffairs.net — When immigration agents raided Smithfield Food's huge North Carolina slaughterhouse two years ago, organizer Eduardo Peña compared the impact to a "nuclear bomb."
Saturday, December 20, 2008
On January 23, 2009, students and labor unions across the country will be demonstrating against the sharp attack by President Sarkozy's education program. This marks for the first time in decades, all 7 union federations in France, CGT, FO, CFDT, Catholic Unions and three others joining together. It took Sarkozy gain that unity..
But, the icing on the cake, the unifying coalition that stopped Sarkozy in his tracks was when students and unions joined together.
That is the good news from France. Education cutbacks are dead for the time being. The January 23rd demonstrating will keep that struggle alive.
The bad news is that Sarkozy got one of his main changes; i. e., moving the retirement age to 70 years old. It was only a few years ago the age was 55 years old.
Friday, December 19, 2008
politicalaffairs.net — Announcing a new direction with respect to the rights of American workers and their economic security, President-elect Barack Obama appointed Hilda Solis, a member of the House of Representatives from California to head the Department of Labor.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the police broke into the offices of Memorial, a group that has built a large collection of evidence related to the brutal treatment by Stalin. The reason for the raid was flimsy, the groups spokesperson stated. According to the article, the police had linked Memorial to a group under investigation for opposing Vladimir Putin and his party's government.
Memorial claims it has no ties to any extremist group, let alone the one under investigation. Further, they believe the police action was meant to send a message to the group about its work around keeping a documentary record of Stalin's crimes. Many of their documents, photos, and files unrelated to the stated purpose of the police raid were damaged or taken by police.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the police raid coincides with a general effort in Russia to rehabilitate Josef Stalin. Government approved history text books portray the former Soviet leaders as a pragmatist and as efficient. One text book approved by the Putin regime noted that Stalin may have been justified to use violence against perceived political opponents in order to "ensure maximum efficiency."
Surveys in Russia currently indicate a growing approval of Stalin over the past few years.
The story is disturbing in all of its aspects. No doubt the Putin regime is attempting to rehabilitate Stalin primarily to boost support for its own attempts to hold onto power long after its legal rights have run their course. In addition, it is well-known that Putin has used extra-legal means and violence to suppress political opposition. Is his goal to be become the capitalist Stalin? Apparently.
Attempts by anyone to rehabilitate Stalin, along with his crimes and errors, should be harshly rejected.
As Jared Diamond demonstrated in his book surveying the economic, political and evironmental conditions of societies that collapsed vs those that prevailed in times of systemic crisis, adaptation to objectively mandated social restructuring is not guaranteed. Nor is success often completely foreclosed. The outcomes flow from the good and bad choices societies make.
The themes of "Two Tactics" are tempting. Despite the historical and other gaps between then (1905 on the eve of the 1905 Russian Revolution) and now, revolutionary democratic principles (I will have to spell them out) are again going to contend with opportunism (which will have to be defined anew) in determining the shape and content of the restructuring process. Of course, contrary to then, I think I will attempt an argument in Lenin's style against a "Leninist" tendency toward a split in 'social-democracy' at this time! :)
This would be a fun thing to blog on. Anyone interested?
Maybe the holidays will give me enough time to play with this. But I will have to stay away from the wine.....
cheers, and Happy Holidays
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Mixing up science and religion usually does no credit to the cause of scientific understanding. The latest instruction from the Vatican on bioethical issues is a case in point. The Saturday New York Times, 12-13-2008, ("Vatican Issues Sweeping Bioethics Document" by Laurie Goodstein and Elisabetta Povoledo) has a report that illustrates this.
It took six years for the Congregation of the Faith (formerly, and better known, as the Inquisition) to come up with 32 pages of dogma relating to human sexuality and procreation. The Vatican is opposed to in vitro fertilization, cloning of humans, pre-implantation embryonic gene testing, and research on embryonic stem cells the report says.
Why? Well, because "babies should only be conceived through intercourse by a married couple" and "every human life-- even an embryo-- is sacred." If you did not know the difference between an acorn and an oak tree you would not be a credible botanist. And if you can't tell the difference between a two celled conceptum and a human being you don't know much about biology either. This did not stop the Vatican from making pronouncements on the subject.
"Dignitas Personae" (misnamed "The Dignity of the Person") inveighs against "the morning after pill, the intrauterine device and the pill RU-486, saying these can result in what amounts to abortions." It is clear that the personhood and dignity of women and of the human beings that might develop from concepti are not taken into consideration.
If the Vatican ban on these birth control devices were to be carried out millions of women would suffer from unwanted pregnancies, not have the right to control their own bodies, and their personhood would trampled on in the name of unscientific religious dogma.
There would also be millions of unwanted children born into misery, poverty and short diseased ridden lives. Some "Dignity of the Person." All because some cranky old men who don't particularly like women (and may be overly fond of children) can't tell the difference between an acorn and an oak.
Why is the church against in vitro fertilization? The head of the Catholic Medical Association, Kathleen M. Raviele says "God creates through an act of love." But not always. What about rape? Is God creating through an act of love then?I don't think so. Raviele continues, in the lab "It's the technician who's creating. What in vitro does it separates the creation of a child from the marital act."
That is just ridiculous. If God does the creating he does all of it. The technician just facilitates the fertilization-- which is still a marital act if the people are married and want to have a child this way. And as far creating a potential person is concerned, its just as much an act of love when any two consenting adults arrange a way in which to have a baby.
Josephine Johnston of the Hastings Center (which does research into bioethics) is quoted as saying, "The idea that [in vitro] is not done within the spirit of marital love, I find very strange." Not so strange when you consider that religious dogmas are held out of irrational prejudices and not based of objective scientific criteria.
Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer in Rome stated the church issued "Dignitas Personae" in order "to give voice to those who have no voice." In other words, to give voice to two celled concepti on their way to becoming blastocysts. Too bad it doesn't give voice to the millions of poor and oppressed real persons living in poverty and war zones around the earth whose dignity and humanity would be preserved or restored by the very procedures the church seeks to ban.
If the auto industry collapsed, workers in all 50 states in a wide variety of manufacturing and service industries would lose work and possibly lose their jobs.
But according to new analysis at the Economic Policy Institute, the six states most harmed by an auto industry collapse include Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama.
The loss of auto jobs would grow those states' unemployment rates by 4 to almost 9 percent, EPI reports.
EPI estimates that the crisis would lead to a quick loss in revenues to states by about $150 billion.
Other states that would face severe crisis in these events would include South Carolina, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Illinois, Mississippi, Oregon, Missouri, Nebraska, and many more, with these states seeing unemployment jump by 2.3% to 3.9%.
See more detail here.
Stop Unfashionable Conduct at Zara
Zara workers joined UNITE HERE in Fall 2007 in order to improve working conditions at their store. They were tired of their unpredictable schedules, working shortstaffed, bosses' favoritism, and disregard for seniority.
Instead of respecting employees' right to join a union, since Fall 2007, ZARA has engaged in conduct which may have violated the Quebec Labour Code, including:
- Firing four employees who supported the union at ZARA's Rockland Mall store in April and May 2008
- Demoting two employees who led a union drive at ZARA's downtown Montreal store in August 2007
- Holding anti-union meetings at three Montreal stores in 2007-2008, in one case telling employees that joining a union is "treason" against the company.
TAKE ACTION TODAY!
Last month we witnessed a historic election. Progressive Democrats won all across the country thanks to the hard work of DFA members like you. Now, we have to put these new majorities to work to help save the hard working American middle class.
It is called the Employee Free Choice Act.
Unionized workers are the backbone of a strong and growing middle class and the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) will re-empower American workers to freely form and join a union.
But major corporations are against the bill and have already come out swinging. Anti-EFCA ads are already on radio and television, and big businesses like McDonald's are pressuring middle management to organize against the bill. We need to take a stand and fight back against big business.
Write your local paper today supporting the Employee Free Choice Act
The current system for workers to come together to improve working conditions is broken. Corporations can intimidate or lay off employees who try to organize and bargain collectively, leaving millions of middle class people working without health insurance, at unfair wages and in potentially unsafe conditions.
The Employee Free Choice Act puts the power to organize back in the hands of working people, protecting them from corporate coercion and threats. It fixes a broken system that heavily favors corporations over people, and empowers millions of Americans by bringing democracy into the workplace.
Use DFA's easy letter-to-the-editor tool and write a letter today
by Jocelyn Rice
published online December 15, 2008 by DISCOVERY ONLINE NEWSLETTERS
Time and again, on local school boards and in national courts, evolution wins out over creationism. Despite the strength of these victories, however, evolution continues to encounter competition in the classroom. According to the first rigorous nationwide survey of how evolution is taught in U.S public schools, as many as one in eight high school biology teachers presents creationism or intelligent design as a viable scientific alternative to evolution.
The researchers, led by Penn State political scientist Eric Plutzer, questioned nearly 1,000 teachers about their personal beliefs and the amount of class time they devoted to evolution and creationism. The results? About one in six of the surveyed teachers espoused young-earth creationist views, and most of them taught their students those views. Only 23 percent strongly agreed that evolution was a central theme in their teaching.
The survey suggests that teachers might be more willing to build their coursework around evolutionary principles if they felt better prepared. “Teachers who lack confidence in their own knowledge of evolution feel uncomfortable getting into confrontations about it with either students or members of the community,” says Michael Berkman, coauthor of the study. Providing teachers access to courses in evolution could help bridge that gap, but there is no current strategy to apply such a plan to the nation’s schoolrooms. Berkman adds, “Science organizations and people who are concerned about instruction in biology should be paying attention to what’s actually going on in the classrooms.”
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
You can join the growing international call for the release of al-Zaidi! Click here to sign a petition: http://www.iraqsnuclearmirage.
By now, you've all seen the footage of the Iraqi journalist hurling his shoes at George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad this past Sunday. Click here to see a YouTube video of the event.
What has not been so widely reported are the words Muntadar al-Zaidi, a correspondent for Cairo-based al-Baghdadiya TV, shouted out. As the first shoe was thrown at Bush, he said: "This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog." And with his second shoe, which the president also dodged, al-Zaidi said: "This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq."
This bold statement also has to be understood in its cultural context. Showing the soles of your shoes to someone, let alone tossing your shoes at them, is a sign of contempt in Arab culture.
After throwing his shoes, al-Zaidi was wrestled to the ground by security personnel and hauled away. According to Democracy Now! this morning, "Muntadar al-Zaidi has been held without charge for over twenty-four hours and has been reportedly beaten in jail. His brother said al-Zaidi has suffered a broken hand, broken ribs and internal bleeding, as well as an eye injury. Earlier today, al-Zaidi was handed over to the Iraqi military command in Baghdad."
We urge you to join the growing international call for the release of al-Zaidi! Click here to sign a petition: http://www.iraqsnuclearmirage.
Monday, December 15, 2008
As I was channel surfing between football games Sunday, unhappy that my team, the Giants, were losing, I came across a CNN newsclip and burst out laughing hysterically. Somebody was throwing his shoes at a ducking Bush. Bush looked like a straight man in a very funny comedy skit. It seemed the the incident was at a Bagdad news conference and the shoe thrower was a young Iraqi television journalist. The CNN reporters then gravely explained that shoe throwing in Arabic speaking countries is a deep insult (not to mention a threat to the throwee) because it signifies that the individual is as low as the dirt on one's shoe. I kept on laughing as they showed the incident over and over again, comedy relief from a disastrous occupation.
The story today is that the shoe thrower is becoming a transnational hero in Arabic speaking countries, although he is in jail and may face up to seven years in prison for an attack on a head of state. I am sure his station's ratings will be boosted greatly. He may end up in Iraq as a cross between Ted Koppell and Geraldo Rivera, combining the serious and the sensational.
What this shows of course is the complete disaster that the Iraq occupation was and the need for a rapid exit strategy for the U.S, a strategy. which will be connected to policies that help the Iraqis repair the damage that has been done. Barack Obama doesn't have George W. Bush's baggage and doesn't have to worry about ducking a reporter's shoes (unless the reporter is from Fox News).
He has the opportunity though of advancing a peace oriented policy which will improve U.S. relations with both Arabic speaking countries in the region and Iran. While the not so new Secretary of Defense, Thomas Gates, isn't such a hopeful choice for such a policy, given his track record, it is important to remember that Gates lilke Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is working for Obama and is duty bound to advance the administration's foreign policy. This incident, while a drop in the bucket of Iraq disasters, is nevertheless an example that that bucket has been overflowing for a long time and the occupation must not only end but be replaced by a peace policy that helps Iraq reconstruct from the disaster and prevents similar disasters in the future.
On this episode we talk with John Rummel who is the organizer of the Communist Party in Michigan about the auto crisis and the need for a bailout for workers.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Some quotes from the press:
"marauding mobs of Molotov-cocktail wielding youths"
Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/14/greece-riots-youth-poverty-comment>
"orgy of violence"
Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/14/greece-riots-youth-poverty-comment>
"It is a sickness"
Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/14/greece-riots-youth-poverty-comment>
"further riots in Greece"
Pasted from <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7782039.stm>
"youths vandalised a gymnasium"
Pasted from <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7782039.stm>
"anarchists happy to use violence"
Pasted from <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7782039.stm>
So on and so on… the press is united in condemning, albeit faintly and with excuses, what it can only comprehend as 'riots': meaning a disorganised and slightly crazy outpouring of violence and brutality for its own sake. This must comfort them a little, we can assume. They completely forget, usually, that the greatest violence was committed by a security force, and not the protesters, with the killing of a fifteen year old student.
An 'old friend' of a BBC correspondent Malcolm Brabant (we can see he is not politically biased then), with a 'wealth of experience in Northern Ireland', is stated as calling the 'riots' the 'velvet riots' as opposed to the 'velvet revolution' that was so denoted in Czechoslovakia.
'...This has been a huge non-event," he said.'
Pasted from <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/7781516.stm>
Because, he says, there is relatively little harm done to people on either side.
Thus the bourgeois press belittles these protests, and tries to put the best gloss on things for their class and its morale. Yet it seems so noteworthy that much smaller protests led to the demise of socialist governments in Eastern Europe than are now taking place in Greece. The Greek government hangs on like a limpet, obstinate, bullying, ineffective, privileged.
The analysis in the press, such as it is, leads to recriminations against the particular way capitalism has been organised in Greece. The history of cronyism and corruption, the terrible wages and poor prospects of the youth. The economic situation, the crisis common across the capitalist world, is more-or-less avoided being connected with it. They seek for Greece a new 'incorruptible' government, presumably like those we are more familiar with, that is, those currently seeking bail-outs amid colossal credit swindles.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
General Strike on December 10, 2008
The Executive Secretariat of ALL WORKERS MILITANT FRONT (PAME) salutes the thousands of working men and women, youth, pupils, women and immigrants who massively, militantly and decisively participated in the huge demonstrations of PAME in all the cities of Greece. It especially salutes the working class who struggled against the employers in the factories and companies for the success of the strike.
"The demonstrations of PAME were very well organized, disciplined, stewarded and alive all over Greece. They answered and condemned the antilabor policy, repression and terrorism. PAME continues the organization of the struggle against plutocracy, its parties, the E.U., against the employers' terrorism and the state repression", is stated in the announcement of PAME.