Saturday, January 31, 2009


SUNY Professors and Staff Demand:
Tax the Rich; Not Us

by Mike Tolochko

The United University Professions, an affiliate of the New York State United Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution today demanding that the Legislature and Governor enact a progressive tax to get New YORK STATE out of the financial crisis. If revenue is the issue, UUP said that revenue must not come from those who are already in crisis.

UUP represent 35,000 all teaching personnel, professors, etc, and, also professional personnel in NY State hospitals. There are also over 3,000 retirees of the UUP.

The resolution passed today's Delegate Assembly of 286 by a 123 to 67 margin. Most of the 67 were delegates who didn't think the progressive tax should be the TOP legislative issue. Overall, the resolution enjoyed overwhelming support. The resolution came from the economically hard hit Buffalo area UUP Chapters where the president of SUNY Buffalo is attempting draconian measures to balance his budget.


Progressive Tax in New York State

Whereas levels of taxation, under balanced budget requirements, drive the ability of the state to fund services, while high income persons are most able to pay taxes,

Whereas state-supported services provide very many of the needs of the residents of New York State, and the incomes workers receive in providing these services sustain their families and their communities and improve the welfare and economic activity of the state,

Whereas more than one hundred economists in New York State on December 13, 2008 called for an increase I the taxation of high income earners as a significant aid to improving the state's economy and sustain those in most need,

Whereas the press release of the Fiscal Policy Institute, dated August 5, 2008, reminds us that New York has the most unequal distribution of incomes among the fifty states, and that in no other state does the highest one percent [1%] of taxpayers receive so much more relative to the entire bottom half [50%] of taxpayers, i.e., 2.68 to 1.

Whereas the top income tax rate in New York has fallen from 15.375% in 1976 to 6.85% presently, and the top rate is achieved for those filing jointly with income levels merely passing $40,000,
Whereas, the state budget crisis can be overcome through restoration of progressivity across the three major tax revenues – sales, property and income – and that income tax is the principle means of overcoming regressivity of taxation,

Whereas adding progressivity into the New York State income taxation – in which the tax income rate begins to rise from 8.375% at $200,000 incomes to 12.375% for incomes above $10 million – would, together with the anticipated increase in federal disbursement to New York State, solve the budget balance starting with the upcoming fiscal year, and

Whereas a campaign centered around restoring progressivity to the New York State taxation would place UUP in a leadership position across the unionized work force, as well as with wide sectors of the New York State population, at a time when such consideration is more needed than ever,


BE IT RESOLVED that UUP adopts a policy that restoring progressivity to New York State's taxation through increasing the income tax rate on the high-income earners is the most equitable and effective means of maintaining services for residents across the state and furthermore significantly aids stabilizing the economy, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the President of UUP set up an urgent task force to place this policy before the people of New York, our representatives in the legislature, the Governor; and work with public-and private-sector unions, including affiliates NYSUT, AFT, and the NYS AFL-CIO, toward the same objective, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that UUP use at least one-third of its media outreach budget to focus specifically upon this policy, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that UUP request of other unions and our affiliates to their using part of their media budget toward the same policy


French General Strike; January 29, 2009

2.5 Million Strike in France;
50,000 in Montpelier

by Mike Tolochko

Across Europe and around the world, the 2.5 million French worker and their unions, joined by French people from every walk of life, everyone is happy and encouraged that the fight back against corporate interests is taking place. Reports from newspapers in European and other countries report this support.

The 50,000 in Montpelier was the largest demonstration for many decades.

In this instance the General Strike was against the right wing government of Nicholas Sarkozy; and, also, the right wing policies of the European Union. Was Sarkozy moved. No. He made it clear that his policies would continue.

Now it is reported that the French united labor and political movements will be meeting to take this struggle to another level.

For workers and their unions in the US, unless they caught Internet coverage; or a very brief mention in some media circles, this act of working class rage did not take place.

This is not unusual. Regardless of the administrations in the White House and Congress, the corporate media keeps such working class expressions of rage off the front pages.

Given the struggles taking place in every state of the United States against massive cutbacks; and, our national government dealing with the national financial, economic ad social crisis....organized labor is also planning its next steps.

Stay Tuned.

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Message to Republicans

by Norman Markowitz

The House has voted the more than 800 billion "stimulus package." The legislation might more accurately be called the Economic Emergency Rescue Act od 2009 as the first New Deal relief bill, the Federal Emergency Relief Act of 1933 created the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.

A handful of House Democrats and all, I repeat, all, House Republicans voted against the bill. This included House Republicans like Chris Smith in New Jersey who has long received AFL-CIO support and others both in New Jersey and through the nation, "moderate" Republicans representing urban and suburban districts whose people are on the front line of the economic crisis as the nation and the world stand on a symbolic borderline between recession and depression.

I have a message for the Republican House delegation in New Jersey and all others who the media and many of their constituents consider "moderates" or even "liberals." Tens of thousands of jobs are being lost in the private sector here and hundreds of thousands right now through the country as debt ridden states launch a new round of cutbacks which will reduce the quality of vital public services, make them more expensive, and cost jobs. Where will the buck that you have been passing to state and local governments since the beginning of your Reagan presidency stop now that the money is stopping? What are you going to say to the people of your districts who at worst lose their jobs and their homes? What are you going to say to the people
of your districts who if they are fortunate will "only" have to live with deeper insecurity and anxiety as their real incomes decline along with their health and pension benefits, their schools, roads, garbage collection, and a lot more?

Will you say "read my lips no new taxes" while regressive property taxes, regressive toll road taxes, regressive sales taxes and local fees of all kinds rise as existing public revenues decline? Will you blame it all on the low income people in the cities who elect Democrats now that more and more of your constituents are in the same boat with those people? Or will you try to pass the blame onto the Governors and Legislatures, most of them led by Democrats in the states where you, the "moderate" Republicans ,are elected, will if the plan fails have to carry out the crippling cutbacks that will reduce the quality of citizens lives?

I think that readers of this blog through the country should write to those Republican House delegates who voted against the economic rescue plan and tell them how they feel about this action. They should also write to their U.S. Senators, both Democrats and Republicans and make it clear that they don't want the Rescue Plan watered down with tax reductions for the wealthy and the corporations and other subsidies for those who created the crisis. That is the kind of "compromise" that Senate Republicans, who are threatening to filibuster the bill, are talking about.

And they should state, tactfully or bluntly depending on their temperament, an old popular citizens call to action in U.S. politics "we'll remember in November." In New Jersey there will be a state election this November where the Republicans who are allies of those who voted against the plan will be up for re-election, along with the Governor. In other states, there will also be elections. For the congressmen in question, we will have to remind them that November, 2010 isn't that far away and their first major vote of 2009 have hurt both the peoples future and their political future.

Another Reason Marx Wanted to Dedicate Das Kapital to Darwin?

from Discover online blog

Darwin’s Anti-Slavery Views May Have Guided His Theory of Evolution

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution may have been shaped by his abhorrence of slavery as much as by his keen observations of Galapagos finches, a new book argues. Darwin’s Sacred Cause, by Adrian Desmond and James Moore, notes that slavery propaganda of the time often claimed that different races belonged to different species, a notion that Darwin’s work obliterated. The book suggests that Darwin’s unique approach to evolution - relating all races and species by “common descent” - could have been fostered by his anti-slavery beliefs [BBC News]. Published to coincide with Darwin’s 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of his publication of On the Origin of Species this year, the book is likely to stir up a new debate over Darwin’s motives.

Many members of Darwin’s extended family were deeply devoted to the abolitionist cause, including his grandfather, Josiah Wedgwood, who founded a chinaware company and produced cameos distributed by anti-slavery campaigners; the medallions bore the legend “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?” Darwin’s mother and wife were Wedgwoods and anti-slavery was what Darwin called a “sacred cause”. He was taught to see the oppressed black as a “brother”. This explains why, when he went to Edinburgh University at 16, he could apprentice himself to a freed Guyanese slave to learn the art of bird preservation without thinking it [beneath his dignity] [Times Online]. Darwin later described that former slave as one of his intimate friends.

During the voyage of the Beagle, Darwin saw scenes of slavery in South America that horrified him. He saw the aftermath of slave revolts and the instruments of torture, and heard of a planter who threatened to sell the children of recalcitrant slaves. “It makes one’s blood boil, yet heart tremble,” he wrote [Times Online]. Of course, that was also the voyage when Darwin tromped over the Galapagos Islands noting the differences between the beaks of finches and shells of tortoises that lived on different islands. After returning from his journey, he began working on his theory that all animals evolve from common ancestors through the process of natural selection.

The authors of the new book say they aren’t disputing that the scientific observations he made in the Galapagos were crucial to Darwin’s thinking, but they argue that his political views must have shaped the way he saw the world, and allowed him to put the pieces together. “There’s got to be reasons why he came to common descent images of evolution when there was no precedent for that in the zoological science of his day,” Desmond [said]. “It comes out of anti-slavery” [Reuters].

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Iraqi Communist Party Election Rally in Baghdad



The Way I See It - Some Observations on President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Speech
January 24, 2009
Don Currie, Chair, CPS [CPS- Canadians for Peace and Socialism. CPS is in solidarity with the Communist Party of Canada. This article is reprinted from the journal Focus on Socialism.]

President Barack Obama’s January 20th inaugural speech reflected the deep unresolved divisions between far right US reaction, class privilege and wealth, racism and war, versus a popular movement of the democratic masses of the USA demanding an end to US violations of international law, for racial equality, jobs, peace, medical care, affordable housing and a better life.

President Obama appealed for US society in the midst of war and economic depression to reconcile and unite in a common purpose. He said the USA is ready to lead again without defining what that meant. Past US leadership, by President Obama’s own admission, has been deep into the quagmire of US imperialist war and a global capitalist depression.

A similar appeal is being widely promoted in Canada by the far right and the faint hearted Parliamentary opposition. Appeals for grand coalitions imply an equivalence of responsibility between the victims and the perpetrators, the oppressed and the oppressors. Workers, the impoverished and exploited do not cause wars and economic dep ressions.

The source of war and economic depression is systemic. What the people of the USA confront is what the people in all class ridden societies confront. Capitalism in the imperialist stage is the source of war and economic depression. It is incapable of redemption and further progressive development and must be replaced. The full realization of that fact has not as yet captured the imagination of all people, but it is gaining ground.

Movements for progressive change are underway everywhere in the world. They arise independently of US politics. The USA is part of history. It is not the sum total of history. In fact the reality is quite the opposite. The more the masses struggle to break free from the global system of capitalism the more likely will it be for the people of the USA to eventually change their own country for the better. They cannot do it alone.

The people of the USA will achieve their aspirations with progressive humankind and against their own oppressors, but never with their own oppressors against progressive humankind. No country can oppress others and itself remain free.

There was an echo of the “with us or against us” Bush rhetoric in the Obama speech with references to “open hands and closed fists” that is in contradiction to the ideals of the movement he represents. The notion of the imperial prerogative of rewarding friends and smiting enemies runs deep in US society. It was particularly grating to hear newly confirmed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pander to the Bush policy on the alleged nuclear threat posed by Iran and to sabre rattle with the discredited “all options are on the table” which everyone knows means all out war.

It was disturbing and discordant to hear President Obama equate fascism to communism. The Soviet Union, a Communist State, stood shoulder to shoulder with the people of the USA and other countries of the anti-fascist alliance in World War Two, sacrificing 20 million of its people in the struggle to defeat Hitler fascism. The people of the USA and Canada owe a debt of gratitude to that sacrifice.

China, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Viet Nam and North Korea are socialist states with mass Communist Parties. Many other countries are considering socialism as the way forward for their societies. They will not ask the permission of the USA to do so.

The reference of President Obama in his speech to Khe Sanh bears scrutiny. Khe Sanh was a major battle launched by the US Marines against the People’s Army of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam that extended from January to April of 1968. The Viet Nam Liberation forces imposed a near defeat on US forces in that battle before finally defeating and expelling the US invaders in 1973. There is a lesson from Khe Sahn for the USA and it is not one of military heroism. Khe Sanh contains a more sober lesson. A sovereign people resisting foreign invasion can never be defeated.

Sovereign peoples are not seeking a US solution to their problems. Sovereign peoples are fighting for the right to their own solutions in accordance with their own history and their own resources, needs and aspirations.

The articulation by a US President, however compelling and attractive he may be, of what constitutes universal ideals, acceptable global progress and development, may resonate well in the USA but fall on deaf ears outside the USA. The phenomenon of Obama mania now sweeping the world, unaccompanied by a profound change in the global aims of US imperialism will soon die out.

Countries not favoured by US imperialism will look askance on pronouncements of a change in US global policy until President Obama acts to lift the US embargo of Cuba, releases the five Cuban heroes incarcerated in US jails, and not only closes the US prison at Guantanamo Bay but returns the whole occupied territory of the base to the sovereignty of the people of Cuba.

The Obama Presidency will fall far short of its promise for real change, until the USA ceases to support the criminal acts of aggression and occupation of the Government of Israel against the Palestinian people and their homeland. And unless the US not only leaves Iraq and Afghanistan but brings to justice the US and NATO leaders that have caused the deaths and misery of millions of Iraqi and Afghan people.

President Obama will soon visit Canada. He is reported to be planning to draw down US troops from Iraq and redeploy them to Afghanistan, as many as an additional 30,000. That means a widening of the war with the danger that it will be spread to Pakistan and Iran. Today the US is reported to have again bombed civilians in Pakistan. That is not a decision that only affects the USA, that is a decision that also affects Canada.

The President has already stated that he will be calling upon US “allies” to do more to help out in Afghanistan. Canada will be under pressure from the USA to remain in Afghanistan indefinitely and to deploy more Canadian full time and perhaps even reservist soldiers to the combat zone. When was the last time the Conservative minority government refused a US request for military support?

There is a clear threat that Canada will be caught up in a widened US war in the region involving Iran and Pakistan. President Obama must be sent a clear message by the Canadian peace movement that his appeals for a widened war are in lock step with the Bush doctrine of regime change and it will be condemned and rejected with the same vigor shown the Bush policy.

The Globe and Mail on January 20th reported that Prime Minister Harper is seeking to discuss with President Obama a deal that will provide Canadian government financial guarantees for US pipelines that will send Alaskan and Canadian natural gas to US markets as well as linking Canadian hydro electric grids to export clean Canadian hydro electricity to US markets. This will be done even as Canadian long term energy needs are threatened.

The Stelmach Conservative Government of Alberta is sanctioning and promoting the transport by pipeline of Tar Sands bitumen to the USA where it is being upgraded and refined in US facilities creating jobs in the USA at the expense of energy sector workers in Canada.

The sell-out of vital Canadian natural resources continues regardless of who occupies the Presidency of the USA or who is Prime Minister of Canada. The affront to Canadian sovereignty by successive US administrations has not been made less because the Presidency in the USA has changed.

2009 marks the 60th Anniversary of the 2nd edition of Tim Buck’s famous work, “Canada – The Communist Viewpoint.” This work was the first exposure of the dire consequences for Canadians of the integration of the economies of Canada and the USA and the subordination of Canadian Independence to the plans of US imperialism for global hegemony.

2009 is also the 53rd Anniversary of the Labour-Progressive Party’s (Communist) Submission to the Royal Commission on Canada’s Economic Prospects. The Submission outlined a detailed plan for the independent economic development of Canada based on the processing in Canada of its rich natural resources utilizing Canada’s abundance of cheap energy.

Anti-communism and the cold-war prevented the Canadian people from considering these proposals.

Decades later many are discovering the fundamental truth of what the Communists said at another time. The struggle to gain Canadian independence and control over its own energy and natural resources is the first step in halting the de-industrialization of our country and the restoration of its economy. The main obstacle to peaceful economic development is not President Obama, it is the complicity of Canadian finance capital and its record of betrayal of the national interest for the fast buck.

What a sell-out Conservative Government will never say to a new US President the left-patriotic and democratic forces of Canada must!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New York Times Backs Hilda Solis

Hilda! Hilda! Hilda!
The New York Times

Unemployment is rising as mass layoffs grip the nation.

Millions of Americans who need full time jobs can only find part-time work.

Waves of professionals and college graduates are working at jobs beneath the levels associated with their career and educational achievement, which is bad for them and bad for the workers who would otherwise have gotten those jobs.

The employment picture didn't suddenly turn dismal. The Bush years saw the worst job growth of any business cycle since World War II. Wages stagnated, even as labor productivity rose, which means that the gains from work found their way not into paychecks, but into corporate profits, share prices and dividends. As a result, income inequality has reached levels not seen since the Gilded Age.

If there was ever a time the nation needed a strong secretary of labor, this is it. And yet, for the past several days, at least one Republican senator has been using a parliamentary procedure to hold up the confirmation of Congresswoman Hilda Solis (D-California), President Obama's choice for labor secretary. The "hold" tactic delays a full vote by the Senate on the nomination, pending, well, pending what?

Apparently, some Republicans were frustrated by Ms. Solis's less than forthcoming answers about the administration's plans for the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make it easier for workers to organize unions. She was evasive, as nominees typically are when asked to commit their boss to controversial issues during a confirmation hearing.

But for any senators to claim that they can't make up their minds until they have a better answer directly from Ms. Solis, or from the stacks of written questions she must now complete as if doing penance, is ridiculous.

Ms. Solis voted for the union organizing bill when it passed the House in 2007. Senate Republicans prevented the bill from coming to a vote that same year. But then-Senator Obama voted in favor of bringing it to the Senate floor and he supported it during the campaign.

It's safe to assume that Mr. Obama and Ms. Solis support unions. And assuming that Mr. Obama's campaign promise is enacted into law, it will become easier than it has been for workers to form unions.

And that would be a good thing, because strong labor unions help to push wages up by bargaining for more of the pie to go for workers' wages, rather than for bonuses and profits for executives and shareholders.

The delay in confirming Ms. Solis isn't because the Senate needs to know more. It's a way for Republican senators to score tough-guy points with business constituents who are driven to distraction by the thought of unions.

The betting is that Ms. Solis will be confirmed. It's past time to get on with it.

Writers Review; Juno Diaz and Jamaica Kincaid

Juno Diaz and Jamaica Kincaid Read at 92nd Street Y
Support New Federal WPA for Writers AND READERS

by Eric Green

Two of the most exciting writers of our age presented their works and comments at the renowned location in NYC for such events: The 92nd Street Y.

Juno Diaz is a Dominican Republic born writer who immigrated to the US early in life. His two books, "Drown" [1996] and "The Brief Wondrous Lie of Oscar Wao [2007] both received many awards. He recently was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He teaches at MIT and is the fiction editor for Boston Review.

Jamaica Kincaid was born in Antigua and immigrated to the US as a teenager. She has written many books since her first in 1983. Her "The Autobiography of My Mother" [1997] won a major award. Ms Kincaid teaches at Harvard and lives in Vermont. She is a mentor to many writers.

The moderator characterized each writer by saying Kincaid is known for repetition and Diaz for cursing. Simple descriptions for neither protested it.

They both, each for 30 minutes, read selections from recent and past works.

Juno Diaz read from some recent short stories, not from his books. The high school students in the audience loved his comments. And, his words were true to his books and the moderator's description.

Ms. Kincaid read from her book about her beloved brother. [My Brother 1997] The reading focused on his shame of being a homosexual and his contracting HIV AIDs and ultimately dying. Ms. Kincaid's writings are often painfully described and sometimes hard to read; and, here she read her words. She was very well received. She almost has an elevated status among almost all US writers. She was wonderful.

In the question and answer period, most of the questions were about writing and their influences.

In a departure from literary questions, when asked if they would support a WPA writers project from the new Administration, they both said a strong "Yes." Diaz then added we just don't need writers, we need readers. He said he would "support giving $10,000 to each person who read 20 books a year." Everybody in the audience agreed with the answer to the question and Diaz's comment.

The moderator made a point to support the concept of such a federal program should be part of a stimulus package.

Iraq Communists Campaign With Vigor


The Communist Party doesn't have much of a chance in elections Saturday, but its candidates see an opportunity to woo voters unhappy with sectarian politics and wary of freewheeling capitalism.

By Tina Susman and Raheem Salman
January 28, 2009

Reporting from Baghdad -- "Comrade, come in," the man said, ushering a visitor into the lobby of Iraqi Communist Party headquarters.

Across the busy intersection, a banner stretched across a newly renovated building promised the imminent opening of American fast-food restaurants, including "Kentacky Fried Chicken." Throughout the capital, portraits of Imam Hussein were omnipresent, reminders of a Shiite Muslim pilgrimage commemorating his death in AD 680.

In a nation where religious parties dominate and many people dream of a wealthy life in the West, it's not easy being a Communist. But that doesn't seem to worry the enthusiastic comrades buzzing about the party's sprawling four-story headquarters.

After decades on the sidelines or behind bars, they are banking on disenchantment with the religious parties now in power, and a wariness of freewheeling Western capitalism, to lift their fortunes in provincial elections Saturday.

"In the past five years, the people have begun to understand that these political parties failed to achieve what people were hoping for," said Abdul Munim Jabber Hadi, wearing a blood-red tie and gray suit as he prepared to go out campaigning Sunday.

Hadi is one of 27 Communist Party candidates vying for seats on Baghdad's 57-member provincial council. He is not expecting most of his fellow Communists to prove victorious.

The party won two seats on the council four years ago in the last provincial elections, and the 275-member national parliament has two Communists. So it will take time to build power, explained Hadi, an exuberant man with a thick gray mustache.

"We're in the process of building the new Iraqi state," he continued, as he sipped tea and waited for his volunteer pamphleteers to show up. Across the room, a white-haired man was discussing his years in the former Czechoslovakia and opining about President Obama's plans for repairing the U.S. economy.

Conversations laced with reminiscences are common among party members, many of whom spent years in exile or prison under a succession of repressive Iraqi regimes.

Mohammed Jassim Labban, a member of the party's Central Committee, was studying social sciences in Moscow when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. "It was very hurtful," he said, grimacing at the memory of statues of Lenin being yanked down.

Hadi, once a professional soccer player, spent four years in prison on charges of trying to topple Saddam Hussein's regime. He speaks proudly of his mother, who urged him to stick to his principles, even if it meant death by hanging. "That's my mother," he said with a chuckle. "She was a strong believer."

Both blame the collapse of the Soviet empire on an overly rigid interpretation of socialist ideas.

"We believe that Marxist theories are not sacred. Nothing is sacred in politics," said Labban, insisting that Iraq's Communists would not force people into collective farming or impose state control over the economy.

Just what they would do if they gained power remains vague. Like most of the parties fielding candidates -- about 14,500 people are running -- the Communists speak of improving electrical service, creating jobs, ending corruption and wiping out sectarianism, without saying how they would accomplish their goals.

Labban pointed to the United States' financial problems as proof that "wild capitalism," as Hadi called it, is not the answer. "We're not gloating, but we expected such a crisis, because the system was set up that way," Labban said.

The Communists have their own economic woes. They depend on private contributions to fund their campaigns. They can't afford TV ads, so they hit the streets to spread their message.

Hadi, who gives $20 a month to the party, goes out daily to bellow through a bullhorn that the Communists are the "party of the poor" and of "the hard-working people."

On Sunday, he visited the Shorja market, a chaotic, mile-long strip lined by tall, crumbling apartment blocks dark with grime. As he marched down the street shouting hoarsely, volunteers wearing yellow jerseys with black lettering fluttered around like giant bumblebees. They thrust Communist Party literature at vendors and shoppers, dodging donkey-drawn carts and wooden wheelbarrows pushed by skinny young men moving tomatoes and space heaters.

To get here from the party office, Hadi hailed a taxi. His volunteers crammed into a minivan. There were no visible signs of security.

Two Communist Party politicians have been killed in the northern semiautonomous region of Kurdistan since Dec. 18. In the days before the January 2005 provincial elections, two Communist Party members in Baghdad were assassinated. But Hadi didn't seem concerned for his safety and was brimming with energy as he barreled through the crowded market at midday. The working-class Iraqis operating the stalls are the people the Communists hope to lure away from the bigger parties

"I'll vote for them," said Mehdi Abbas, a taxi driver, citing the party's support for nationalizing the lucrative oil industry. "And the most important thing is that when these people win, we'll get rid of the turbaned clerics," he added with a laugh.

Jamil Hussein, a dapper engineer in a tweed overcoat, said he had supported the Communist Party in 1958 after a coup ousted the nation's monarchy and brought hopes of social and economic reforms. "But the circumstances were stronger than our hopes," he said.

Even now, Hussein said, he doubted the Communist Party could make a comeback against the religious forces in power.

"Its popularity is not like before," he said.

Religious leaders agree. Ahmed Massoudi, a spokesman for the movement loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr, said he doubted there was a future for the Communist Party.

"It contains good, esteemed figures, but its opportunities are limited because most Iraqis are Muslims and concerned with religious thoughts. Religion plays a major role in life here, so a party like the Communist Party has little chance to play a major role," he said.

The Communists say it is just such attitudes that will work to their advantage. Most Iraqis prefer a secular government, Hadi said, as an old woman in a black abaya waved away a campaign flier. A man selling fresh fish accepted three fliers but then carefully placed one in each of his barrels of fish.

None of this discouraged the candidate.

"After five years, the people are at a crossroads," he said. "They can vote for those they already elected, or they can go for the new, democratic secular powers."

National Strike in France: Thursday, January 29

National Strike in France

THURSDAY, January 29, 2009


Mike Tolochko

The French left and left center is reacting to the Sarkozy government's economic and political policies with a NATIONAL STRIKE ALL ACROSS FRANCE.

The Communist Party, Socialist Party, ultra left Parties; and, the CGT, CFDT, FO and educational unions are all united for the first time in decades.

The issues: ALL OF THEM.

So, be sure to use your internet to find out the results of the Strike/Demonstration.

You probably won't see much of it in the mass media television and print media. You might want to ask your local television and radio stations to cover this event.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Film Review: SAG 2008 AWARDS

Screen Actors' Guild 15th Annual Awards

by Eric Green

"Good Evening Comrades," announced Sean Penn when he accepted the Best Actor Award for his amazing portrayal of Harvey Milk, in the film by the same name. He laughed and said, "that was for O'Reilly."

The Screen Actors' Guild Annual Awards to both Film and Television actors, a similar set of awards as done for the Golden Globe Awards, are sandwiched between the Golden Globes and Oscars.

This is the only union sponsored awards show ever on television. It is broadcast on TNT and not commercial television, but the audience is very big.

Other awardees included: Best Actress, Meryl Streep for Doubt; Best Supporting to Kate Winslet for "the Reader" and Heath Ledger for his role in "The Joker. Winslet was also nominated for "Revolutionary Road" as a lead actor.

In a surprise to everyone in the audience, or so it seemed, "Slumdog Millionaire," the film from India and directed by British director, Danny Boyle, received the best movie or as SAG says it, best ensemble movie of the year.

Penn received a standing ovation, when he took the podium. In addition to the "comrades" comment and thanking and citing everyone involved in the film, "Milk" he made special mention of Mickey [Rourke] and Benito's "Che."

Alan Rosenberg, the head of Screen Actors' Guild, spoke about SAG and the other unions in the field: Directors Guild, Writers Guild, and also, IATSE and the Teamsters. He concluded his remarks by saying he "looks forward to passage of the Free Choice Act to that everyone can join a union." That was probably the biggest audience to hear that policy promotion.

Middle East Report Online

For an interesting take on the Middle East google: Middle East Report Obama's Change.

Coal: The Four-letter Word That Won't Go Away

Coal miners are now suffering from black lung disease at a higher rate than in the previous decade. In fact, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the prevalence of black lung disease has doubled over the past five years.

Read the whole story here...

Reid: Vote on card check bill, a labor priority, likely in summer

Las Vegas Sun
By Lisa Mascaro
Tue, Jan 27, 2009

— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate will likely turn its attention this summer to the Employee Free Choice Act — the union organizing bill being watched in Las Vegas and across the nation.

Standing beside fair-pay advocate Lilly Ledbetter late last week after the Senate passed landmark legislation named in her honor, Reid made clear that the wage discrimination bill was not the last on the labor agenda.

The union organizing bill, sometimes called card check, is an “important piece of legislation,” he said. “We’re going to get to that,” Reid said. “We’re hoping to get to it sometime this summer.”

The Senate will be where the action is on the Employee Free Choice Act. The bill passed the House in 2007, but died on a near-party line vote after only one Republican crossed over to support it in the Senate. With an expanded Democratic majority under Reid, it could be closer to passage.

The bill would make it easier for unions to organize and would likely bring union representation to workers at the remaining casinos on the Strip still without it.

The legislation would allow workers interested in forming a union to simply sign a card, returning to a system that had been in place for decades, until business persuaded Congress to require secret-ballot elections.

The secret ballots could still be used, but the new bill would provide the option of organizing with the sign-up cards. Unions say management often drags out the elections, using the time to pressure workers to vote no.

Read the whole story here...

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Weather Makers (5)


Reviewed by Thomas Riggins

Part 5

The golden toad was a beautiful small toad that lived in Costa Rica until the end of 1980s. It is now extinct, and Flannery calls it the "first documented victim of global warming." It was our gas guzzling cars and coal fired power plants that wiped out the delicate climate of its environment "as surely as if we had flattened its forest with bulldozers."

The golden toad was the first, but not the last. Enter RHEOBATRACHUS SILUS, the gastric brooding frog, formerly a native of Australia. This frog was first found in 1973. It was very unusual. The scientist who found opened its mouth to see a little tiny frog sitting inside. What was R. silus up to?

It had evolved to swallow its eggs which hatched into tadpoles in a special chamber of its stomach (where digestion would not take place) and when a tadpole turned into a little frog up it came into momma's mouth to be released into the world. Six years later there was no more R. silus. Although it too was killed by global warming the cause was not documented until after the cause of the golden toad had been.

There is a world wide die off of frogs, toads and other amphibians going on at this time. Many, if not most, are killed by a fungus SAPROLGENIA FERAX. But the reason this fungus is killing them is that climate change has weakened the amphibian embryo by allowing more ultra violet light to reach the Earth, and the rise in Earth's temperature is spreading the fungus and allowing it to attack more and more victims. Also the ponds that many tadpoles live in are drying up before they can turn into frogs and toads.

Some extra info. SCIENCE DAILY (online) for 1-21-2009 reports another major threat to frogs. The headline reads "Frogs Are Being Eaten To Extinction, Experts Say." Despite the fact that amphibians are "the most threatened animal group" hundreds of millions of frogs are being hunted to extinction for their legs. Frog legs are on menus throughout the world-- including school lunch menus in Europe. The crash in frog populations is similar to that of the marine fisheries. Bon appetit!

Some of the most serious consequences of global warming can be seen in the redistribution of rain fall patterns. As the Earth warms there is more rain at higher latitudes in winter, Flannery reports. This will, and has, produced more serious avalanches and flooding. Just watch the evening news!

But just as serious, in fact more serious, is that rainfall will also diminish in other areas where it has been plentiful. A new drier climate has been created in the Sahel region of Africa-- "an enormous swathe " of land from the Atlantic coast to Sudan. For the last 40 years the monsoon rains have failed to appear in this region, due to climate change caused by the European and American (and now Indian and Chinese) use of hydrocarbons for energy.

We have destroyed the rain and the consequence has been a rash of famines that have killed hundreds of thousands. All those starving Ethiopians we have seen on TV ever since the 1980s are starving because of our capitalist economic activity driven by coal and oil. Besides warming, "global dimming" is going on. The dust particles we pump into the air blocks sunlight from reaching the oceans and their cooling affects the rain fall and monsoons that are needed in the Sahel. The "moral implications" of this, Flannery says, "seems to have gone all but unnoticed in the world's news media." There is a direct causal link between our use of coal and other hydocarbons and the mass famines in Africa.

The tragic events in Dafur can also be explained by the West's causing of so much climate change. The camel herding nomads have been driven into the agricultural areas of Dafur seeking food and water for their animals and themselves due to climate change. Conflict broke out between them and the farmers in the agricultural areas. The two groups are classified as Arabs and Africans but, except for herding or farming, the groups are "culturally and physically indistinguishable" according to Flannery.

There are all sorts of political complications but "we see the west focusing on religion and politics as the problem, rather than the well-documented and evident environmental catastrophe that is its ultimate cause." We had better focus on the real causes because, "So big is the Sahelian climate shift that it could influence the climate of the entire planet."

If you remember, we live at the bottom of the troposphere which extends upwards about seven miles to meet the stratosphere-- the boundary region is called the tropopause. Flannery reports that in 2003 scientists discovered that the tropopause has risen by several hundred meters. This is important because this "is where much of our weather is generated." Greenhouse gasses trapped there heat up the whole planet causing more and more powerful hurricanes and other extreme weather phenomena.

These are some of the effects of this warming worth mentioning:
1. More flooding: 7 million people were flooded out yearly in the 1960s, but now the yearly figure is about 150 million.
2. More extreme heat waves. 26,000 people died from the heat in Europe in 2003 from July to September.
3. In 2004 the temperature in Egypt hit 126.8 degrees F. One of highest "ever recorded."
4. All the continents are right now in the process of shrinking. "This is because, courtesy of heat and melting ice, the oceans are expanding."

Part 6 coming up.

Obama tells the Republicans to Get Some Sense aka "deLimbaughize"

by Norman Markowitz

Rush Limbaugh has been on the air for a very long time now, doing a mild version of the kind of demagoguery that sociologists Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Gutterman analyzed in their classic study Prophets of Deceit, after WWII. The subtitle of their work was "techniques of the American agitator" and they were looking at anti-Semitic fascist demagogues (Gerald LK Smith was their central model) who used personal and political insults and vilification and often popular forms of humor, to dehumanize and demonize minorities and political opponents. They also made the point that these demagogues were engaged in a kind of show or racket, supporting themselves by appealing to and enhancing the prejudices of those who bought their political message, attended their rallies, read their publications as against organizing a serious and far more dangerous political movement.

Rush Limbaugh has engaged in the kind of racket that Lowenthal and Gutterman analyzed in Prophets of Deceit sixty years ago for a long time. He has made millions in what is called in the U.S. "conservative" talk radio (a Frenchman I knew who had lived in Vichy France during WWII and told me in the 1990s that, if you delete the anti-Antisemitism, Limbaugh and his colleagues reminded him strongly of the kind of people who dominated Vichy "talk" radio, vilifying the Allies, the previous popular front government, and of course all enemies of the glorious France of Marshall Petain, Pierre Laval, and their heroic friend and ally, Adolf Hitler).

Unlike Gerald LK Smith, et al, in the 1930s through the 1950s, Limbaugh's message and those of his radio colleagues has commercial sponsors and helps to run interference for the Republican Right, which feeds off it.

President Obama answered Limbaugh's bullying nonsense by telling Republicans, who are gearing up to fight his stimulus package, "you can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done."

The media response was interesting in regard to the media. Obama was picking a fight with Limbaugh, not vice versa, even though Limbaugh has attacked him viciously for months. Obama "risked" launching a "new culture war" by fighting back against a radio demagogue who, like Joe
McCarthy in the Senate (the Lowenthal Gutterman study was published a year before McCarthy got started) had the tacit support of the "respectable" right-wing in his hysterical red baiting tirades. It is possible that Limbaugh, like McCarthy, will end up doing himself in by biting the Republican hands that feed him, although I doubt it.

Just as Bill Clinton was about to take power sixteen years ago, Limbaugh launched vicious attacks on Lani Guinier and Clinton withdrew her nomination for a Justice Department position. Unlike Clinton, President Obama has made it clear that he is not starting his administration by appeasing his enemies. He is also moving ahead with a stimulus package that grows more necessary every day as the large corporations which have been the center of the U.S. economy since the late 19th century continue to lay off tens of thousands (large U.S. based corporations, for example, announced today that they were laying off 62,000 workers in both the U.S. and abroad as the depression danger deepens.

Franklin Roosevelt buried the "social resentment" issues of the 1920s by ending Prohibition, having nothing to do with fundamentalists(while he did identify himself as Christian and make references to a beneficent God in some of his speeches) and building a class based political coalition that united rural and urban Americans, Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish Americans, and began a process of bringing African Americans and their oppression into national politics. Obama, by his first decisions on abortion education, stem cell research, the closing of Guantanamo and the ban on torture, is moving quickly and bravely in the same direction. He is telling the "social resentment" or "culture war" right that he is not afraid of them and will not appease them, just as he is telling those who elected him that we will move forward to overcome the economic crisis in their interest. He is also telling that to media, who hopefully will get the message--namely that listening not only to Rush Limbaugh but to tabloid news television, insults and put downs and endless scandal mongering as against addressing economic and
social issues, doesn't enable citizens to understand anything and to act as citizens to get anything done.

More ultra-right media chatter

Have you listened to the right-wing media lately?
Columbia Journalism Review
By Michael Massing

In the weeks following the election, the debate over the issue of media bias, and of whether the press was overly kind to Barack Obama, has continued to swirl. Much less attention has been paid to another, more troubling aspect of the coverage, and that’s the relentless and malevolent campaign that the right-wing media waged against the Democratic candidate. Few people who did not regularly tune in to the vast, churning combine of bellowing radio hosts, yapping bloggers, obnoxious Web sites, malicious columnists, and the slashingly partisan Fox News have any idea of just how vile and venomous were the attacks leveled at Obama. Day after day, week after week, these outlets worked determinedly to discredit and degrade Obama, accusing him of being a Muslim, a Marxist, a radical, a revolutionary, a socialist, a communist, a thug, a mobster, a racist, an agent of voter fraud, a black-power advocate, a madrasah graduate, an anti-Semite, an enemy of Israel, an associate of terrorists—even the Antichrist. Supplemented by a flood of viral e-mails, slanderous robocalls, and Internet-based smear campaigns, these media outlets worked to stoke firestorms of manufactured rage against Obama and the Democrats in what was perhaps the most concerted campaign of vilification ever directed at an American politician.

In light of Obama’s victory, one might be tempted to let it all pass. That would be a mistake. For the effects of that campaign remain with us. What’s more, the campaign itself is still going on.

Read the whole article here...

The union way up America

From the Los Angeles Times
Opinion The union way up America, and its faltering economy, need unions to
restore prosperity to the middle class.
By Robert B. Reich
January 26, 2009

Why is this recession so deep, and what can be done to reverse it?

Hint: Go back about 50 years, when America's middle class was expanding and the economy was soaring. Paychecks were big enough to allow us to buy all the goods and services we produced. It was a virtuous circle. Good pay meant more purchases, and more purchases meant more jobs.

At the center of this virtuous circle were unions. In 1955, more than a third of working Americans belonged to one. Unions gave them the bargaining leverage they needed to get the paychecks that kept the economy going. So many Americans were unionized that wage agreements spilled over to nonunionized workplaces as well. Employers knew they had to match union wages to compete for workers and to recruit the best ones.

Fast forward to a new century. Now, fewer than 8% of private-sector workers are unionized. Corporate opponents argue that Americans no longer want unions. But public opinion surveys, such as a comprehensive poll that Peter D. Hart Research Associates conducted in 2006, suggest that a majority of workers would like to have a union to bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions. So there must be some other reason for this dramatic decline.

Read the rest of the article here...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Peace in the Middle East?


Thomas Riggins

If the polls are right Benjamin Netanyahu is set to become the next PM of Israel after the elections on 2-10-09. President Obama has expressed interest in working towards a comprehensive peace in the Middle East between Israel and its neighbors and between Israel and the Palestinians. Almost every serious observer of the region thinks that peace is possible. There appears to be only one major factor to overcome and that is to persuade Israel to actually want peace.

Israel can have peace with a guaranteed security arrangement by doing three things. Giving up the land it has illegally occupied since 1967 and returning to the 1967 borders which will be internationally guaranteed. Allowing a Palestinian state to come into existence on the West Bank and the Gaza strip with its capital being East Jerusalem, and returning the Golan Heights to Syria-- as mandated by international law.

If Likud wins the upcoming elections and Netanyahu becomes PM it is unlikely that any of the things necessary for real peace in the region will be undertaken by Israel. Netanyahu gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal (1-24-09) in which he forthrightly stated: “We’re not going to re-divide Jerusalem, or get off the Golan Heights, or go back to the 1967 boundaries.” So what is there to talk about? It will be interesting to see how President Obama can get the peace process started again, and concluded, with this Israeli attitude.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Film Review: Oscar Nominations Announced

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

by Eric Green

Each year, at 8:30am Eastern Standard Time and 5:30am, Pacific Time, the Academy announces their Oscars. Time stands still for the studios; all of the actors, directors, and everyone else associated with individual films; and filmgoers.

Like with previous nominating announcement the results are a strong mixture which doesn't make much sense. Afterall the voters are members of the Academy with varying interests. It would be nice to see the breakdown on their interests.

The Good

The Good in the Oscar nominations this year is the nominating of Mickey Rourke for his stellar performance in "The Wrestler." And, of course, the nomination of Sean Penn for "Milk." And, the other side, that Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolle and Kate Winslet were nominagted for best actress in "Rachel Getting Married", "Changeling" and "The Reader, [and not Revolutionary Road]" respectively.

In the supporting category, Heath Ledger for "The Joker and Josh Brolin in "Milk;" and, Marisa Tomei, in the "Wrestler." It is a shame that Ledger's last performance wasn't in a leading role or as a director, a direction he was headed.

The Good news continues with the director of "Slumdog Millionaire," Danny Boyle being nominated as well as the directors of "Milk", Gus Van Zant, and "The Reader" Stephen Daldry.

Nominated in the best Foreign Language Film, the one entered by Israel, is the anti-war film, " Waltz with Bashir." The director and creator of this film, Ari Folman, has said that he is happy to be received accolades, like the Golden Globe Awards, but he hopes that people pay attention to the anti-war, and human suffering, message of the film.

The Best Picture category nominates the anti-Fascist, Anti-Nazi film, "The Reader" which was not expected in the official film reviewers' circles. But, the Good continues with the nominating of "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Milk."

Nominating two African American women in Best Supporting roles, Viola Davis in "Doubt" and Taraji P. Henson in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was well done.

The Bad News

The Bad news started with the snubbing of "The Wrestler" in the best film and best directing categories. Darren Aronofsky deserved the nomination.

The total snubbing of films like "Cadillac records," "Iron Man, " "Red Belt" and "Gran Torino" is unfortunate.

Jeffrey Wright worked in four films in 2008, but was left out completely from any nominations.

Bruce Springsteen's, original song, "The Wrestler," more than deserved nomination. Only three songs were nominated.

The film that I thought would get broad recognition was, "Synecdoche" the Charlie Kaufman film that featured Philip Seymour Hoffman. I was totally wrong. The film did not get even one nomination for any of the categories.

Neither Good Nor Bad

The dumping of "Revolutionary Road" for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" --- they seemed on the same "Hollywood" high publicity path is just noteworthy.

If "The Reader" does get the recognition is deserves, I can only hope that the discussion will focus on its anti-Fascist and anti-Nazi intent. Winslet's nomination for this film, one of many nominations, deserves the Oscar.

Comments to Look For

Oscar viewers are always looking for targeted comments from Oscar awardees. For example, if Winslet wins, will she comment on the purpose of her film? Also, will Folman's "Waltzing with Bashir's" creator and director, make some comments about peace in the Middle East if he wins?

Will any of the actors say something about the need for more diversity for these selections? Will they say something about the economic crisis filmmaking is and will be in for the next years?

It is said that there were 650 films made in 2008; but only about 450 are expected in a couple of years. Will this mean less opportunities to African-American, Latins and women actor and directors?

The entertainment industry must be included in the economy of our country. Just as the arts and humanities were included in the 1930s federal support. It made it possible for a whole generation of culture workers to be borne; it should be done today. Any federal support cannot be given over to the big industry studios, on the contrary. There is enough truly independent filmmaker to allow them to document the growing suffering taking place across our country. And, allow these workers to document the suffering across our northern and southern borders. This message given on Oscar's night would be well received in that audience and across the country.

The international film world, tuning in across the world, would also give a collective support.

Film Review Synecdoche

And You Thought You Had Problems

by Eric Green

So what does the word Synecdoche mean? The simple translation is that it is a metaphor for accepting a part of the responsibility for something.*

Well Charlie Kaufman's film by the same name could be summed up that, "All Life is a Metaphor."

Filmgoers like me should have been forewarned that any film effort by Kaufman would not be a normal day at the movies. His previous films like "Being John Malkovich," "Adaptation"; and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" were brilliantly created and directed. In 2004 Time Magazine named Kaufman as one of the top 100 most influential writers. That meant his current film had to be seen.

Kaufman starts out his film by giving a sense of comfort. He begins the film with a rather normal looking university theater professor, Caden Cotard, played by Seymour Philip Hoffman, taking his class and theatre troop through the final stages of another comforting event, that is, a production of "Death of a Salesman."

So far so good.

Then Kaufman brings in Hoffman's family life with the comforting presence of his wife, Adele, played by Catherine Keener. We know her and trust her. We see their 4-year old daughter, Olive, played by Sadie Goldstein. We have seen Keener in many films, but many theatergoers have seen her acting in "Being John Malkovich."

We see that Hoffman has a number of medical, physical and mental, problems, both real and imagined. And, we see that Keener is totally happy with her life; and, Hope Davis, their marriage counseling therapist appears to help the couple surpass, what seemed like normal, easily overcome problems.

That is when all hell breaks looks.

For the next two hours, we have Samantha Morton, a hired ticket salesperson at the theatre, tempting Hoffman, just before and during Keener and their 4 year old, flee the country to Germany. Jennifer Jason Leigh enables her in that trek.

And, then Hoffman wins a genius award from the Macarthur Foundation, and he heads off to New York City, to make sure that he uses that Award in the most effective way.

There we find Michelle Williams. Time moves ahead and she has entered Cotard's life both as part of his theatrical world and then as his new wife and father of a child. But, that doesn't end there by a long shot.

Cotard makes trips to Germany trying to find Adele, but more importantly, his daughter, Olive.

Emily Watson another British actor arrives, Morton is also British, and plays a major role in Hoffman's tortured life.

Out of the blue, so to speak, Diane Wiest, the well-known US actress, picks up Cotard life when most other women die or disappear.

The production that Cotard develops moves between real life and wild nitemarish dreams. There is a large city set within a gigantic film studio which also mimicks life.

In case you think that it is only a bevy of wonderfully talented women actors who are surrounding Cotard's life, Tom Noon, plays a key role in playing the role of Cotard. And, Jerry Adler plays the role of Cotard's father.

At one point, Weist asks permissionto play a non-traditional perforance by also playing Cotard. Cotard agrees.


The closest that this film got to being nominated for the 2008 Oscar's was Hoffman's nomination for his performance in the film "Doubt." That's right, not one nomination for this amazing film.

That might be a slight bright spot. The level of this film being a true "downer" cannot be underestimated. I worried for Hoffman acting this role. He has performed many challenging roles, but none as demanding as this one.

Remember the old adage, "What could go wrong, Will go Wrong." Well, with this film, the adage should be adjusted to be, "What could go wrong; will not only go wrong, but will go as far wrong as the mind could possibly imagine."

There are many people I know who should NOT see this film. It is just too heavy to endure.

For people genuinely interested in filmmaking creativity and then the actual production with hugely talented actors, this film cannot be missed.

You may have to use your NetFlix, use it.

Kaufman has shown humor in his films, but the only humor in this film is that the horrendous life experiences that Cotard endures makes you smile for all the wrong reasons.

This film deserved recognition and it will get it.

Well this film is trying a creative effort.

* Wikipedia helps us understand the word: The word "synecdoche" is derived from the Greek συνεκδοχή, from the prepositions συν- + εκ- and the verb -δέχομαι (accept), meaning originally the acceptance of a part of the responsibility for something.

Synecdoche is closely related to metonymy (the figure of speech in which a term denoting one thing is used to refer to a related thing); indeed, synecdoche is considered a subclass of metonymy. It is more distantly related to other figures of speech, such as metaphor.
More rigorously, metonymy and synecdoche may be considered as sub-species of metaphor, intending metaphor as a type of conceptual substitution (as Quintilian does in Institutio oratoria Book VIII). In Lanham's Handlist of Rhetorical Terms p. 189 the three terms have somewhat restrictive definitions, arguably in tune with a certain interpretation of their etymologies from Greek:
metaphor: changing a word from its literal meaning to one not properly applicable but analogous to it; assertion of identity rather than, as with simile, likeness.
metonymy: substitution of cause for effect, proper name for one of its qualities, etc.
synecdoche: substitution of a part for whole, species for genus, etc.


Surge Dirge and Withdrawal From Iraq

Thomas Riggins

I am tired of hearing right wing pundits taking about the “success of the surge” and that the only reason “liberals” dislike W is because he was right about Iraq and about the surge working. The truth is we pumped money into the Sunni militias we were fighting and enticed them over to our side (in the old days it was called "paying tribute,”) but they have no loyalty to us at all.

The Shia militias have not been defeated nor disbanded but are laying low to see what happens next. The so called “success” could explode in the face of the U.S. at any moment. That’s not just my opinion. Ryan Crocker the U.S. Ambassador in Iraq [until February when he will be replaced] is quoted in the Wall Street Journal [1-23-09] as saying, “Anything can happen. That’s why my mantra has been that things are still fragile and still reversible.”

“Still reversible” means that massive cilvil conflict can break out again if the Iraqis don’t like how the U.S. and its dependent government are running the show. Most Iraqis want us out and the sooner the better. Obama says it will take 16 months. Crocker warns against “a precipitous withdrawal.” There is nothing “precipitous” about 16 months.

Sweden’s Fix for Banks: Nationalize Them

The New York Times
January 23, 2009
Sweden’s Fix for Banks: Nationalize Them


The Swedes have a simple message to the Americans: Bite the bullet and nationalize.

Officials in Washington are trying to figure out how to shore up American banks that once ruled the financial world but now seem to weaken by the day, despite receiving hundreds of billions of dollars in government aid.

With Sweden’s banks effectively bankrupt in the early 1990s, a center-right government pulled off a rapid recovery that led to taxpayers making money in the long run.

Former government officials in Sweden, many of whom come from the market-oriented end of the political spectrum, say the only way to solve the crisis in the United States is for the government to be prepared to temporarily take full ownership of the banks.

Read the whole story here...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ultra-right Media Already Going Bonkers

A battle over what happened in Gaza

From the LA Times:
Human rights groups say Israel may have committed war crimes. Israeli officials deny the charges, saying every effort was made to minimize civilian casualties.
By Jeffrey Fleishman
January 23, 2009

Reporting from Jerusalem — The graves are dug, the wounded tended, but the battle over what happened in the Gaza Strip during Israel's 22-day offensive remains unfinished.

International organizations, citing videos and witnesses, say Israel may have committed war crimes in Gaza's villages and city alleys. The Israel Defense Forces deny such allegations, issuing their own video clips and assessments.

Ninety-four percent of Israelis supported the campaign to stop Hamas from its long- standing practice of indiscriminately firing hundreds of rockets a week into southern Israel. Human rights organizations say the Palestinian militant group's targeting of towns such as Sderot and Ashkelon also constitutes war crimes, as does the practice by Hamas leaders, regarded by the West and a number of Arab countries as terrorists, of using civilians as human shields.

The legal implications of the deaths of at least 1,300 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, will be debated, with much of the wrangling likely to concern such issues as proportionality, targeting and how careful efforts to not harm the innocent can go horribly wrong when tank shells stray from their coordinates.

Moral questions also linger among Israeli peace activists troubled by the relative lack of public introspection over the destruction and civilian deaths wrought by their army's immense firepower during the fighting in the cramped territory. They say Hamas' abuses do not erase Israel's responsibility for such incidents as the shelling of a United Nations school that killed dozens of civilians sheltered there. Even if Hamas had to be weakened, they wonder how their nation, where memories of the Holocaust are so thoroughly embedded, could look past the plight of 1.5 million Palestinians trapped in a dense war zone they couldn't escape.

"We are witnessing a moral corrosion that is destroying everything at a fantastic pace," said Michael Sfard, a lawyer with Volunteers for Human Rights in Tel Aviv. "We've reached a threshold of insensitivity that we had never reached in the past."

The offensive "on Gaza may be squeezing Hamas, but it is destroying Israel," Ari Shavit wrote in the left-leaning Haaretz in the days before the operation ended. "Destroying its soul and its image. Destroying it on world television screens, in the living rooms of the international community and most importantly, in Obama's America."

"Wars must be just and proportional," he continued. "Without being just, Israel cannot triumph on the battlefield."

Hamas' incessant rocket attacks and its decision to not renew a six-month cease-fire in early December, after Israel did not end its 18-month blockade of Gaza, allowed Israel to dwell less on second-guessing the consequences of the military operation.

Even as its troops withdrew this week, Israel echoed with resolve over what was hailed as a just mission in an endless conflict punctuated by air raid sirens and suicide bombers. This is a nation, after all, that has faced the rise of Hamas, the 2006 war with the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon and bellicose rhetoric from an Iran accused of pursuing nuclear weapons.

Twenty-eight Israelis have been killed in rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza since 2001, Israeli officials say.

Suggestions that Israeli forces may have committed human rights violations have led to new government restrictions on soldiers. To prevent military officers from being named in potential war crimes or human rights lawsuits, the government will allow officers to be interviewed on TV only if their names are withheld and their faces blurred.

"The government will stand like a fortified wall to protect each and every one of you from allegations of disrupting the moral [equation]," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly told his military officers and commanders. "If such a disruption exists, it is actually what is being directed against us: For seven years the world was against rocket fire on Israel, but didn't lift a finger."

More than previous Middle East military campaigns, and the round-the-clock public relations efforts, this battle was accentuated by technology. Palestinians with cellphone cameras documented bomb blasts and surrender flags; Israel Defense Forces soldiers were ordered to film firefights as evidence to later rebut any war crimes charges.

"I think the feeling of many Israelis is that Gaza's behind a wall and it's not my responsibility," said Haim Yacobi, co-founder of Planners for Planning Rights, a group of engineers and architects promoting human rights. "It's the politics of fear. Israeli politicians are using it as a very effective mechanism. It has to do with the dehumanization of Palestinians in Gaza."

Israel, however, found itself on the public relations defensive, based on sheer numbers if nothing else. Whereas at least 1,300 Palestinians were reported killed, including 410 children and more than 100 women, Israel said 13 of its citizens died, 10 of them soldiers.

Human Rights Watch and other groups allege that Israel's tactics for achieving a military advantage in Gaza led to disproportionate death and suffering of a civilian population that was denied medical care, refuge and electricity, especially in the urban warfare in and around Gaza City.

"Gaza became a kind of free fire zone for the Israelis," said Fred Abrahams, senior emergencies researcher for Human Rights Watch.

The Israeli army saw a different picture: Guerrillas vanishing into tunnels, popping up for ambushes, then slipping into civilian populations and firing rockets that were edging closer to Tel Aviv. It was as if Hamas had used Gaza as a dense, sprawling human shield to hide its militants, including its leaders, who Israeli officials said used a bunker beneath a hospital as their headquarters. With such a panorama, Israeli officials say, civilian casualties were not intentional, but they were unavoidable.

Shortly after announcing the cease-fire Saturday, Olmert said Israel regretted "the loss of civilian life among the citizens of Gaza who were not involved in terror and served as hostages for the murders of Hamas. We did not fight against them; we did not wish to harm them or their children or their parents or their siblings."

Yet moral and legal questions surround the Jan. 6 Israeli shelling of a school run by the United Nations Relief Works Agency in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza. Hundreds of Palestinians had sought shelter there. The Israeli military says it encountered mortar rounds coming from the school and returned fire. The U.N. said that 42 civilians died and that no militants fired from the compound.

John Ging, the senior U.N. official in Gaza, who has called for an independent inquiry on possible war crimes, said Israel's claims are "unfounded and unsubstantiated. . . . That's been the position with all these cases. They just throw this excuse out there."

Human rights groups have asked the Israeli attorney general's office to investigate military actions that allegedly included the shooting of ambulance workers, the blocking of humanitarian aid and the targeting of civilian houses and government buildings. The Israeli military is looking into whether its forces properly used phosphorus artillery shells. The weapons, which cause severe burns, are not illegal but they are banned from use in heavily populated areas.

While the legal issues are parsed, Israeli intellectuals are engaged in stinging word battles. Novelist A.B. Yehoshua and prominent liberal journalist Gideon Levy have penned open letters to each other.

"We are not bent on killing Palestinian children to avenge the killing of our children," Yehoshua wrote in Haaretz. "All we are trying to do is get their leaders to stop this senseless and wicked aggression."

Two days later, Levy responded to Yehoshua, saying the novelist had "fallen prey to the wretched wave that has inundated, stupefied, blinded and brainwashed us. You're actually justifying the most brutal war Israel has ever fought. . . . Outcomes, not intentions, are what count -- and those have been horrendous."

Support the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act


To rebuild our economy, we need to quickly and aggressively make a major investment in our country. We must create jobs and invest in renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation, schools and health care. We also must invest in America's families and the nation's workforce by ensuring that states can fund the services they depend on, including health care, public safety and education.

That is why President Obama, together with leaders in Congress, has proposed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. But some members of Congress are seeking to stop this critical legislation. We can’t allow Congress to sit idly by while millions of Americans lose their jobs and homes.

Your voice is critical. Tell Congress to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act now.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A people's inaugural

by Joe Sims
From People's Weekly World Newspaper

Huge crowds, unprecedented in U.S. history, gathered in Washington on Tuesday, to celebrate and welcome President Barack Obama to the White House. Pre-inaugural estimates of up to 3 million participants seemed on mark, with newspapers like the Washington Post calculating 2 million people on the Mall.

With many participants both with and without tickets unable to gain entry, the overall numbers are likely higher. “I had tickets and couldn’t get in,” said a New York City teacher whose story was echoed by many others.” We got here early but it was just too big.” Her family managed to watch President Obama’s speech at Union Station.

“You have to conceptualize this as a populist inauguration,” said political analyst, University of Maryland professor and long-time activist Ron Walters to the Washington Afro-American. “You have people coming here from all over the world; people coming from across the country – many bunking in with relatives – just because they want to be a part of history.”

Read the whole story here...

A Black in the White House: Would the world start to change?

A few weeks ago, we could see on TV a little grandmother ovationned, brought to arm's length by the inhabitants of her village in the depths of Kenya; his small son had just been elected ... President of the United States of America.
On that day, everywhere in the world, people cried out with joy, concerts were organised, to welcome the election of Barak Hussein Obama : across the Southern states in the USA, but also in Africa (for example in Kenya), , in occupied Palestine, in Latin America, in China...
At home, progressists could not remain indifferent to such an important event in the history of USA, a superpower which dominates our entire planet, directly or indirectly.. Some have responded with great condescension or contempt to this popular jubilation: 'They will be disappointed ! What an illusion ! "... Others were simply delighted. We were among them.
Of course, Obama represents the two-party system which locks the "democracy" in the U.S.A .Of course, he comes from a bourgeois party, alter-ego of the Republican Party, and its program hardly differs from the one of his main opponent Mc Cain. Of course, his black skin was a tactical excuse for the Democratic Party, which played then an important card for these elections. Besides, this election has absolutely nothing to do with a political revolution, unlike what happened with the elections of Hugo Chavez or Evo Morales ... especially because he is the candidate of the big U.S. owners who spent a fortune for his campaign !
The Communists never support a "providential man" who magically induces confidence, but the political expression at a time of the change in power relations, more favorable to the people’s struggles, even if they’re fleeting. Relatively speaking of course, it is not because Leon Blum was one of the gravediggers of the Popular Front in France in 1938, that we should not support him in 1936 during the rise of this front.

96% of black Americans, (many of them were added to the electoral roll for the occasion), 67% of Latinos, many of the white "middle class" jeopardised by the crisis, but also some white racists from the traditional Republican electorate, exasperated by the endless mandate of Bush gave a very clear majority to Obama, in a country that lived few decades ago, under an horrible regime of apartheid...
Against a U.S. bourgeoisie whose history is made of class oppression and racial discrimination, the heroic Civil Rights Movement, started in the 60s here, marked a further and decisive step, which would probably have been welcome by our fellow Afro-American Bolsheviks such as Harry Haywood...

This vote is also a strong signal in the class struggles within the U.S., and the support of Obama by the Communist Party of the U.S.A against the bloody Mac "GI" Cain, has nothing to do with opportunism. Rejection of occupation wars, rejection of unsustainable health system, rejection of liberticidal laws, rejection of capitalism’s crisis consequences; so many reasons to express that the American people is fed up with Bush and his administration.

This election is also celebrated beyond the USA. Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, leaders of progressive countries that have been suffering for such a long time from the imperialist domination of the arrogant U.S.A has welcomed this great victory and the departure of Bush. Objectively, the mere fact that the U.S. bourgeoisie is forced to propose a black president is significant of a change in their political tactics, forcing a weakening in more "flexibility", at least in a first time. This tactical change is not only related to the acceleration of the crisis of capitalism, undermining today ‘s imperialist centers themselves, but also to a new context at the international level, where dominated people are beginning to stand up and restore hope that everyone used to believe lost. The history of struggles turns a dark page of a unipolar world, and announces a "multipolar" world, therefore more fragile towards the socialist revolution for which we fight! When people who believed in the electoral victory of Obama experience its objective limits, they will fight with more and more determination more and more io take their destiny in hand!

Rally of Communists Circles (RCC), France, November 2008

You can read the pamphlet published by the Henri Barbusse Circle "A Black elected President of the United States of America, a new stage in the struggle for equal rights!" by going to our website or by ordering the paper version by email.

What happend to me on the way to the Inaugural

By Joe Sims

When walking down 34th street to pick up train tickets to the Washington Inauguration on Monday, MLK Day, I heard someone shout out the N word. Looking up it turned out to be a white person yelling it at another white person. Really! Enraged, bitter, full of hate, the man spit the word out in the course of several other obscenities. Initially I thought I heard him wrong, but then, he said it again! “That’s a first,” I muttered resisting the urge to scream out F-you in response while still within shouting distance. “No, not today” I appealed to my better angel, but then immediately felt ashamed at not saying anything.

“What’s gotten into you?’ I argued with myself going below ground into the lobby adjacent to the Amtrak ticketing section. But then, stepping off the elevator, I heard the word again, this time said jokingly, by two young people at first glance of indeterminate race working behind a donut counter. They could have been Asian, Arab, Latino, perhaps even African American, definitely people of color, but of a hue difficult to easily or quickly place in this increasingly multi-cultural morass called New York.

This time, though there was no surprise: one of the unfortunate by-products of hip hop culture (which ironically played an enormously understated role in getting Barack Obama elected president) is the easy and frequent use of the N word in urban street discourse.

I just couldn’t get away from it - and this on the day celebrating Martin Luther King’s life and legacy.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Not long after Election Day, a group of young thugs from Bensonhurst, enraged by Obama’s victory, went out with baseball bats searching for easy victims. In fact, after the November success, hate crimes were up, as were gun sales despite the economic hardship spreading across the land. Victory at times can be more dangerous than defeat, proving vigilance is neglected at everyone’s peril.

I was surprised therefore to read Monday morning of a King celebration in San Francisco where a pastor suspended the traditional King march in favor of an in-door program, emphasizing the celebratory quality of the moment, claiming now is not the time to protest.

“Was that appropriate?” I wondered with mixed feelings, knowing full well that The Dream while drawing closer remains far in the distance for most. On the one hand, appropriateness of time and place is an issue. Part of me understood the minister’s bent of mind and the desire to give pause and praise the moment. Surely, the millions who assembled on the Washington Mall on Tuesday came not in protest but in jubilee celebration of what for most was a Juneteenth moment, a joyful collective shout of huge accomplishment and Yes We Can, a positive affirmation of love for everything that is great and wonderful in America.

But as if I needed a reminder, here as I went to celebrate was an epithet of genocide, torture and hate tossed now with brine at a white person no less, and then a moment later, easily and with a laugh on a sacred day of reverence and memory, on the eve of a history none of us ever dreamed.

Take a pause for the cause? Maybe But the body that breeds hatred and despair seems never to rest and when set back can grow even more dangerous.

Yes a great and wide plateau has been reached, but the mountain still looms. Today we celebrate: tomorrow we march.

Obama acts on his Progressive Promises

by Norman Markowitz

Whatever was happening on Wall Street, this was a good day in the life of the United States of America. President Obama did something politicians in the U.S. particularly are not distinguished for doing. He promptly kept his word on some of his campaign promises.

The president signed an executive order closing Guantanamo and abolishing the CIA's "secret prisons" abroad which have disgraced the U.S. in the eyes of the world's people. He also banned the use of the torture techniques under interrogation that the Bush administration both practiced and defended. The order was signed in a ceremony with a group of retired admirals and generals who campaigned for it--those no longer under military discipline but with the understanding that these policies had brought the military itself into disrepute. The order also specifically calls upon U.S. authorities to make sure that the prisons in which detainees are held conform to Geneva Convention standards, whereas the Bush administration had denied that the Geneva Convention really covered much of anything in its "war against terrorism."

While the CIA will continue its activities(hopefully not using bureaucratic means to circumvent the order as J. Edgar Hoover did to executive orders he didn't like) and prisoners will still be taken and interrogated, this is a big step away from the abuses of water boarding, rendition, subcontracting torture to third party nations, that Americans have become so accustomed to that they are regularly themes on television drama and action adventure series.

President Obama also put a rapid end to the conflict in Iraq on the table as a major priority for his administration.

Finally, in an act applauded by animal rights supporters (including myself) the Obama administration issued a memo halting a screwball Bush administration maneuver that would remove grey wolves from the Endangered Species Act in the Northern Rockies, except for Wyoming, which, I guess, rightwingers would contend that the superior wolves would then enter, thus upgrading the grey wolf population. Unfortunately, the Bush administration, in a parting shot, was able to file and publish last minute regulations which not only undermine the Endangered Species Act but which threaten the environment, including provisions that allow mining deposits to be dumped within 100 feet of flowing streams and exempt agribusiness farms from having to notify public officials when they release unsafe levels of toxic emissions into communities. Earth Justice, an environmental rights public interest law group, is suing on these and other last minute Bush maneuvers. Hopefully, the Obama administration will support the suits.

In his inaugural address, President Obama used some words from an old roadway song when he said, "we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin the work of remaking America." As in the entire speech, his tone was measured and practical. These first acts against those who under Bush violated human rights in the name of "national security" and those who as always deny that there is such a thing as animal rights and welfare or environmental issues that restrict business profit are steps in the direction of remaking American policy, without which one cannot remake America as a civilization.

Is Sen. Jim DeMint an idiot?

He may be. I turned on C-SPAN to watch a little of the debate on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which should pass today and would help people who experience wage and hiring discrimination to seek redress.

DeMint opposes the bill. But he is offering an amendment to the bill that would create a National Right to Work Law, which is an attack on unions and workers and their ability to collectively bargain for better wages and benefits.

Though his amendment will be defeated here in a minute or two, his logic is painfully silly. He is attaching an amendment to a bill he opposes. Hypothetically, let's say his amendment passed. He would then vote to defeat a bill that carries his amendment; or he would vote for a bill he opposes just to pass his silly amendment?

Aside from the fact that his amendment has nothing to do with pay discrimination and that his actions are ludicrous, DeMint's actions suggest he is simply dishonest and wasting taxpayer dollars forcing the Senate to consider such nonsense.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Salmonella in Peanut Butter?

Salmonella is an intestinal organism that originally breeds in the guts of livestock. How can it get into peanut butter?

Film Review: Notorious

Film Review: "Notorious"
Brooklyn Rap on Inauguration Day

by Eric Green

Somehow it was poetic justice to watch "Notorious" on the same day as watching the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States. And, watching the film in a Brooklyn theatre where Notorious B.I.G. was well known to the almost, 4pm, full house audience; that made the film experience even more important.

A Family Affair

The incredible part of the film is the involvement of so many people who were close to the lead character, Christopher Wallace, aka, Notorious B.I.G; or as he was professionally known, Biggie Small.

The film was a creation of a major figure in the Hip Hop world, Sean "Puffy" Combs, and the mother of the lead character, Voletta Wallace. In the film the great Angela Bassett played Voletta Wallace. Wallace was, and is, a middle strata Jamaican woman who gained her graduate degree during the course of her son's brief life.

His real life son, Christopher Jordan Wallace, whose mother is, the singer, Faith Evens, the only love interest that B.I.G. married, played the 8-13 year old Christopher Wallace. In his short 24 years, he fathered two children. Antoinette Smith plays Evans.

The director of film, George Tillman, Jr., previously directed, Men of Honor, a film in which he directed icons of Hollywood, Robert DeNiro, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Charlize Theron. This film was probably a more challenging directing effort since he had to direct a brand new crew of actors and actresses in a film which he had to deal with highly difficult, super charged event in music industry, that is, the era of the Gangster Rap---the 1990s.

Tillman made it possible for Jamal Woolard a Rap singer, but new actor to play this lead role and steering him to accurately portray this music icon was a great job.

Was this film an accurate description of that period, or just one that Combs and Mrs. Wallace wanted to portray? Did the writers Reggie Rock Bythewood and Cheo Hodair Coker get it right?

Well, the film certainly had the feel of an accurate film effort. And, by seeing the responses to the film they seemed to have done a great job.

One key figure in that rough, mostly male world was, and is, Lil Kim a Brooklyn singer who had a love relationship to B.I.G. Naturi Naughton played Lil Kim. [Naughton is an honor student at Seton Hall University in New Jersey where she majors in Political Science.] She was amazing and could have stolen the show. Her singing, emotions and physical dimension made her Lil Kim. That Lil Kim is still alive and singing probably made this all the more difficult.

East Coast West Coast

I have to make a clear disclaimer. I know almost nothing about the Rap, in this case, Brooklyn Rap period, with its music and artists. I watched like many others the tragic outcome of the infamous deadly fight between the West Coast singers; lead in part by the murdered icon Tupac Shakur and the East Coast lead, in part, by B.I.G.

Sean "Puffy" Combs is credited with discovering B.I.G. and plays a key role throughout the film. He is well played by Derek Luke..

The raw depiction of those events didn't pull any punches. Sometimes it was hard to watch. Sort of reminded me of "The Wrestler" in that regard.

The Records

B.I.G.'s released two albums. The first "Ready to Die" in 1994; and, the second was released two days after he was killed, in 1997, "Life After Death." The latter record has grossed over $10 million. During the film Christopher Wallace performed the songs and many in the audience sang along; yes, an old fashion sing-a-long.

Obama and Cosby

Both President Barak Obama and actor, Bill Cosby, will probably see this film…they should. They are both highly concerned and have voiced that concern about the abandonment of children fathered by Black men. This film has that dimension, but on more than one occasion, the writers, directors and actors made it clear toward the end of the film, that changing the typical reality had to take place. B.I.G. seemed to be moving in that direction before he was killed.

In one poignant scene, h told his daughter, after cursing out a woman, using the "B" word liberally, that she should never allow a man to call her that "B" word. He used the full word in both instances.

This is a crude, difficult film to see, but it is a must see. The interplay between the street drug industry and the music industry is well put. Both are seen as making a living when no other good jobs are immediately available.

The cinematography of the film was very different, but very well done. The Brooklyn scenes were clear and to the point. The Brooklyn Bridge never looked so good.

This film shows that the struggle ahead and avenues for change won't be easy, but that road will be traveled.

Could this film been made better? The better question would be did Tillman and everyone else associated with the film do a good, if not very good, job in fitting the short, but life filled life of Christopher Wallace into a 2-hour film time frame? I vote yes.

In the closing credits, each of the main characters of the era is shown both in their real photos and the actors who played them. This was very well done.

NOTE: Lastly, Christopher Wallace kept a close relationship with his mother. He is seen congratulating her on her successful college; and, in her struggle against breast cancer. When Voletta tells him that she has breast cancer, he tells a close friend and is overwhelmed with fear for her future. His friend told him that his mother died of breast cancer. Public health and medical people familiar with this breast cancer know that the prevalence of breast cancer among Black woman is well above all other sections of women.