Saturday, October 31, 2009

Obama admin. responds to AFL-CIO report on ICE and its anti-immigrant actions

For more information click here.

Statement of US Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis on this week's immigration enforcement and workers" rights report
Department of Labor
OPA News Release: [10/30/2009]

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today issued the following statement regarding the AFL-CIO and American Rights at Work report "ICED OUT: How Immigration Enforcement Has Interfered with Workers' Rights."

“The Department of Labor is firmly committed to protecting the rights of all workers, and especially the rights of the most vulnerable workers in our economy.

“The violation of any one worker’s rights is cause for concern to all American workers. When unscrupulous employers abuse vulnerable workers, honest employers and their workers suffer.

“I am proud that, as of Oct. 13, the Labor Department has hired 224 new wage and hour investigators to seek out employers in violation of the law wherever they may be. These investigators are working hard every single day to ensure that every worker is paid at least the minimum wage, that those who work overtime are properly compensated, that child labor laws are strictly enforced and that every worker is provided a safe and healthful environment.

“Wage and hour laws apply to every single worker in this country, regardless of immigration status. My department is working tirelessly to protect all workers’ rights.”

For more information click here.

Hondurans celebrate agreement ending the coup

From the Alliance for Global Justice:

Honduran National Front of Resistance to the Coup celebrates restoration of Zelaya!

Vows continued struggle for a just society!

Comuniqué No. 32

The National Front of Resistance to the Coup d'Etát, facing the imminent signing of a negotiated agreement between the commission representing the legitimate President Manuel Zelaya Rosales and the representatives of the de facto regime, communicates the following to the Honduran people and the international community:

1. We celebrate the upcoming restoration of President Manuel Zelaya Rosales as a popular victory over the narrow interests of the coup oligarchy. This victory has been obtained through four months of struggle and sacrifice by the people who, in spite of the savage repression unleashed by the repressive forces of the state in the hands of the dominant class, have been able to resist and grow in their levels of consciousness and organization and turn themselves into an irrepressible social force.

2. The signing on the part of the dictatorship of the document which mandates "returning the holder of executive power to its pre June 28 state," represents the explicit acceptance that in Honduras there was a coup d'état that should be dismantled in order to return to institutional order and guarantee a democratic framework in which the people can exercise their right to transform society.

3. We demand that the accords signed at the negotiating table be processed in an expedited fashion by the National Congress. We alert all our comrades at the national level so that they can join the actions to pressure for the immediate compliance with the contents of the final document from the negotiating table.

4. We reiterate that a National Constituent Assembly is an unrenounceable aspiration of the Honduran people and a non-negotiable right for which we will continue struggling in the streets, until we achieve the re-founding of our society to convert it into one that is just, egalitarian and truly democratic.

"At 125 days of struggle, nobody here surrenders!"
Tegucigalpa, M.D.C. October 30, 2009


Governing through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and Created a Culture of Fear. By Jonathan Simon. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Pp. 330. $29.95 cloth.

Reviewed by Jeannine Bell in Law & Society Review [reposted from BNET]

In Governing through Crime, Simon explores the state's exploitation of ordinary Americans' fears about crime and security over the past four decades. In arguing that a variety of state actors govern though crime, Simon meticulously traces the development of the so-called war on crime from its creation during the Johnson Administration through the contemporary war on terrorism. Simon-who selfconsciously attempts to provoke debate on the negative consequences of American leaders' focus on crime-aims to depict the culture of fear that has been created around crime and its implications for American life and American democracy in a variety of contexts.

The book's first four chapters, "Power, Authority, and Criminal Law," "Prosecutor-in-Chief," "We Are the Victims," and 'Judgment and Distrust," display the structural, historical, and theoretical basis for governing through crime. After setting out some of the most visible attributes of the war on crime in Chapter 1-crime rate and imprisonment statistics and the structural arrangement of power in the regulation of crime-in Chapter 2, Simon outlines the metamorphosis of executive power in the form of presidents' and state governors' quest to define themselves and their objectives in relation to crime. He tracks the executive branch's prosecution complex from the mid-1960s, when President Lyndon Johnson first declared a "war on crime" as part of his Great Society through the second President Bush's war on terrorism. Simon convincingly argues that the changes implemented as a result of governing through crime have not necessarily increased security. Rather, governors' and presidents' shouldering of the mantle of the prosecutor has increased spending on crime control and has also expanded criminal sanctions while creating powerful vulnerabilities.

In Chapters 3 and 4, Simon explores the impact of the war on crime on legislatures and courts. Chapter 3 explores legislators' manipulation of the public's fear of crime. Simon contends that at the federal level, governing through crime in the contemporary period originated with the Safe Streets Act of 1968. Among other things, this act changed the rules of evidence and authorized new federal funding for law enforcement, corrections, and courts. This legislation, according to Simon, created a harsh but lasting representational legacy that "to be for the people, legislators must be for victims and law enforcement, and thus they must never be for (or capable of being portrayed as being for) criminals or prisoners as individuals or as a class" (p. 100). The next chapter addresses the jurisprudence of crime, beginning with the Warren Court's criminal procedure revolution and continuing through its rollback during the Burger and Rehnquist courts. Simon suggests that American courts at both the federal and state level have reacted to the war on crime by ceding power to the executive branch, thereby sacrificing individual liberty. According to Simon, this is in part based on the trust that the executive will make the appropriate trade-off.

The last three chapters of the book provide case studies exploring the effects of the war on crime on domestic relations, education, and the workplace. Chapter 6, "Governing Domestic Relations through Crime," presents how the family has been transformed by the state's responses to domestic violence, child custody, juvenile delinquency, and public housing crime. This chapter describes myriad overlapping threats to the family and the ways in which the state has come to prioritize the family as a locus of crime and criminals. In the next chapter, on education, Simon maintains that with respect to schools, our energy and focus have been centered on crime, with little attention paid to the actual scope of the problem of school violence. School administrators have employed in-school detention, zero-tolerance policies, and other penal mechanisms in a way that mirrors the war on crime outside the classroom.

In the most interesting of the three case studies, on crime victimization and punishment in the workplace, Simon examines the history of employers using the criminal law to control their workers. He also describes how civil rights law and, barring that, violence, has become a tool of employee resistance. In the wake of such developments, he claims, the workplace has been transformed by employers' needs to screen prospective and current employees not just for fraud and drugs, but also for violent behavior.

Simon's provocative book is most notable for its emphasis on the ways in which fear of crime and the manipulation of crime affects middle- and upper-class white Americans. Although Simon readily acknowledges that minorities and the poor are governed through crime, regrettably he focuses only very briefly on the impact of the war on crime on marginalized citizens. Greater attention to the extent to which the lives of racial and ethnic minorities are circumscribed by excesses in policing, criminal sentencing, and incarceration would have strengthened the book. Nevertheless, Simon's purpose is to show the ways in which the war on crime has led to vulnerabilities in areas we do not usually contemplate. In exposing the ways in which manipulating the fear of crime has reshaped American private life, Simon's book makes a valuable contribution to the law and society literature.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Breakthrough in Honduras?

Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release
October 30, 2009


Breakthrough in Honduras

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered the following remarks Friday morning, October 30, 2009, in Islamabad, Pakistan:

I'm very pleased to announce that we've had a breakthrough in negotiations in Honduras.

I want to congratulate the people of Honduras as well as President Zelaya and Mr. Micheletti for reaching an historic agreement. I also congratulate Costa Rican President Oscar Arias for the important role he has played in fashioning the San Jose process and the OAS for its role in facilitating the successful round of talks.

As you know, I sent Assistant Secretary Tom Shannon and his deputy Craig Kelly and the White House NSC representative for the Western Hemisphere Dan Restrepo to Honduras yesterday after speaking with both President Zelaya and Mr. Micheletti last Friday to urge them finally, once and for all to reach an agreement.

I cannot think of another example of a country in Latin America that having suffered a rupture of its democratic and constitutional order overcame such a crisis through negotiation and dialogue.

This is a big step forward for the Inter-American system and its commitment to democracy as embodied in the Inter-American Democratic Charter. I'm very proud that I was part of the process, that the United States was instrumental in the process. But I'm mostly proud of the people of Honduras who have worked very hard to have this matter resolved peacefully.

We're looking forward to the elections that will be held on November 29, and working with the people and government of Honduras to realize the full return of democracy and a better future for the Honduran people.

Struggle for Health Rights

Public Option: Worth Fighting For;
The House Version Puts One Foot In The Door; Don't Abandon The Struggle

by Phil E. Benjamin

The House has released its side of the national health care legislation. It is not HR3200; its HR 3962 and there are many changes, some of them responding to the peoples' health movement. Now we await the other side of the aisle, the Senate version to be announced. The balance of forces is all actively at play. The legislation that emerges from the House/Senate Conference committee will not doubt be also different. That is where the power of the peoples' health movement will be felt.

Discouraged Yes: Giving Up No

The Wall Street/health insurance, drug and medical device companies distortion of the health care legislative debate in Congress has reached its crucial point. After extending their hands in friendship to the Democratic Party leadership, they quickly reverted back to the deceitful, lying ways.

What was once seen as a glorious effort to bring heath care services to everyone in our country, at little or very minimum out of pocket [and taxing] costs, has been reduced to a scrambling for the crumbs that are left to fight over. It has driven many activists to the sidelines of the struggle. Too many have given up any hope for a decent national health program. Skepticism and cynicism is clouding the goal that we must continue to struggle for. The first goal of the monopolies effort is to discourage and defeat those in its opposition. Unfortunately, right now, they are being too successful in that strategic goal.

This isn't first time that the peoples' movement has had to piece together the crumbs to make a nice cupcake and possibly a cake that makes sense and benefits all of us. Keeping our own goals ahead of us is crucial to the immediate struggle. It will also steel us for the upcoming struggles in the health and jobs arena as well as for our anti-war, anti-nuclear, anti-climate change and working class agenda. The rallying cry of past struggles remains true today, "Dare to Struggle; Dare to Win."

True Public Option

Make no mistake about it. The most advanced 'Public Option" is taking place every minute of every day, starting in 1946, in the United Kingdom. That's right, it is a National Health Service. There the hospitals are all public and the physicians and nurses are government employees. Being a federal and state worker in the UK is job of dignity and respect. With some variations, this same "Public Option" is alive and well in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, all of Scandinavian countries and other countries. This is the mortal fear of Wall Street and international capital. But, here in the United States a national health service/public option program is alive and very well in Veterans Hospitals. This program is protected by U.S. veterans against the attacks of the profiteers; and, believe it, these profit thirsty corporations try everyday to privatize the VA hospitals. Congresswoman Barbara Lee's HR 3000, the Josephine Butler National Health Service Act is a live piece of legislation that can be considered at a latter date.

The next level of 'Public Option" is the John Conyers HR 676 "Single Payer" legislation. In this "Public Option" the financing of a national health bill that would cover everyone in the country would be fully public. The hospitals would remain in the current state of mostly non-profit and public status. The "global budgeting" proposal within this bill would bring the private hospitals into a more coherent, rational system of care. And, there would be strong incentives for physicians to work in this "Public Option." This

HR 676 closely mirrors the current Medicare program and is sometimes referred to as a "Medical For All" proposal. This is a "Public Option" that would cover everyone and be the cheapest national health care program. The Congressional Budget Office [CBO] was not asked to "score" HR 676 for good reason. The Democrats would not allow the bill to be seriously considered, for it knew, it would receive a very low-cost score. After all, Single Payer would have eliminated the insurance industry as a major player. That is where much of the high cost lies in the House and Senate bills.

The leadership of the Democratic Party determined that it could not or would not eliminate the insurance industry from running our national health program. The term used was it would be too "disruptive" to the insurance industry to do that. Left out of the reasoning are the 50 million who have no health insurance and 60 million who have poor coverage will continue to have their lives disrupted every minutes of every day.

"Public Program" Within a Private System

When Senator Harry Reid, the head the US Senate, bowed to the demands by the peoples' health movement and by the White House, and installed a "Public Option" within the US Senate Finance Committee proposal, it was a major victory. But, this victory is just a foot in the door. To make sure the door doesn't smash our collective feet, the peoples' health movement must keep up the struggle.

Right now, it is hard to determine just what this "Public Option" would function along side the current unbridled private, for-profit health insurance companies. And, probably even when a bill is passed and signed by President Obama, there will be many rules and regulations that will need to be written to put the bill into action. That will become another arena of struggle.

Clearly, the best "Public Option" that would really serve the people would be a "Public Option" that mirrors Medicare. This option would be the least costly given its removal of profiting making from system. This is still entirely possible and it is that goal that the peoples' health movement is mobilizing around.

The House/Senate Conference committee must be forced to consider that alternative even if it just for the money saving aspects.

Support and Opposition

This is a crucial time. The forces of reaction are gathering against any form of "Public Option." Their methods are the usual feeding confusion and a significant number of outright lies. The full barrage of the Medical Industrial Complex has been mobilized. And, be sure, that Wall Street financiers and other industries' Boards of Directors where corporate executives of health insurance companies jointly sit and conspire…they are also mobilized. The collusion between all sections of capital is at play. There is no question that they have the money and the power. And, it is an open fact that their millions of dollars are contributed to mostly Republican politicians but the sad fact is that they give millions to Democratic Party politicians as well. Former leaders of WEllPoint Insurance Company actually wrote the U.S. Senate Bill for its Chair Max Baucus. No one denied that fact. Baucus was actually proud of his corporate relations. He has no shame.

The October 28th, 2009 lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal, "the WEllPoint Revelation" shows the strategy of Wall Street. Here they cite the same corrupt, self-serving studies released earlier, that is, the high cost of the Senate Finance Committee Health Proposal. WellPoint's own people wrote that bill for Baucus and probably ghost wrote the editorial. Get the picture?

WellPoint's former employees, who knows they could still be on their payroll, did the research and wrote the legislation for Senator Max Baucus, legislation that they now condemn as being too costly. You can be sure that the leadership of the Republican Party's 2010 Congressional Strategy program will soon weigh in with their condemnation. These are the same forces that Baucus courted and used as his excuse to devise his legislation, legislation that makes the insurance carriers in charge. With these carriers in charge, the price tag must be exorbitant.

Is Baucus party to the cynical policymaking, who knows? One thing for sure, the Industry is in charge.

One key politician is the U.S. Senator from Connecticut Joseph Lieberman. When asked did his opposition to any "Public Option" have to do with the power of the insurance industry in his state, he denied it. The second editorial in the Oct. 28th WSJ is, "Lieberman Steps Up." He is opposed to any form of national health that isn't controlled by the insurance carriers. His opposition for any "Public Option" flows from that. Yes, WSJ editors love him. The facts speak for themselves. Lieberman is: Pro-War; Pro Industry; and, anti worker……He has no shame. The voters of Connecticut should do recall of his election.

Surely, HR 3962's size will be a main feature of the attack from the right wing. It is one foot tall; 1,990 pages and 400,000 words. And, it weighs 20 lbs. This is all according to the NY Daily News, which often copies Republican Party diatribes from their fax machine.

But, given all of that corporate and right wing political power and their millions, the power of the peoples' health movement got the insertion of a "Public Option."

Senator Lamar Anderson of Tennessee said in his opposition to the "State 'Public Option' Opt Out" provision, as being considered in the its first and current Senate version, that that was the same kind of "opt out" in the 1965 Medicaid national bill. And, that only one state opted out, Arizona.

Not only did Arizona not join Medicaid until 1983, but only those folks whose income was less than 1/3 of the poverty level were eligible at that time. And recent events, Arizona had an initiative in 2008 to keep Arizona out of any federal health care plan and legislation trying to do the same in 2009, both of which failed. Under the Senate proposals being considered, individual states can "Opt Out" of the federal program.

Anderson's analysis and cynical comments, if true, would be good news for those opposed to the "State 'Public Option' Opt Out" and support a national health bill with a full "Public Option." But if that "State 'Public Option' Opt Out" stays in, close attention must be made to the language of "Opt Out" so that it cannot be used to undermine the full intent of universal access to health care services.

"Single Payer" advocates who support a "Single Payer" option for States under any national legislation should beware to not getting teamed up with the "State 'Public Option' Opt Out" proposals.

That is where the struggle will take place over the next days and weeks.

Financing the Bill

But, while we are struggling to get the best 'Public Option" we must make sure that the working class [relabeled the middle class] doesn't pay for it or any aspect of the national health legislation. The combined House bills make it clear that there must not be any taxing of health benefits to pay for the legislation. There must be a wealth tax. That wealth tax started at people making over $250,000 for single persons; $350,000 for a family of 4, but has been elevated by Speaker of House, Nancy Pelosi. The new bottom is $500 million for a single person and $1 million a year for a family of 4. We must demand that the level of tax go back to where it started at the $250,000 level. The House has chose, rightly so, to tax the wealthy and to NOT tax health benefits of working class people. The Senate Democrats clings to the taxing of union health benefits.

Procedural Maneuvering

To be sure the leaders of the U.S. Senate and to a less extent the House leadership must overcome many procedural issues to get a bill that will acceptable to the peoples' health movement. The mass media is filled with filibuster and anti-filibuster noise plus other confusing rhetoric. All of these voting issues will fade into the back if the movement is large enough and loud enough. That is the job ahead.

Immigrant and Women's Rights Coverages

Two major peoples' rights issues remain before the Congress and White House.

The first one is making sure that the United States does the same as is done in other industrial and another countries in terms of human rights. That is making sure that everyone residing in the country will receive his or her full health rights.

This means that the health bill must not be limited to legal citizens and legal immigrants. That is not enough.

The nation's religious organization and leaders: Christian, Jewish and Moslem clerics should be sounding the alarm for the rights of every man, woman and child to health services. Immigrants, regardless of their status, work hard at jobs where they often pay the same taxes well all pay. That's right. They pay taxes that go for social security, Medicaid and Medicare and sundry of other purposes. But, they are not able to use that same tax revenues like the rest of us when the need and time occurs.

Public health professionals must raise a similar cry. They should raise the practical public health danger of infections and diseases when everyone is not given the basics of public health vaccines, immunizations and primary health are services. The H1N1 threat is an obvious reason for total inclusion. It would do better than any national wide vaccine program.

The complete application of the Roe V. Wade national law should be applied. The law should protect women's' right to all reproductive services. All groups, not just woman's groups must fight for full health services relating to reproductive services. The House version only allows for these rights in the case of rape, incest and a direct threat to a woman's life. This is barbaric thinking. These decisions belong to the physician and woman; third parties should not be involved, at all.

Reproductive planning should all be considered in the same package. For example, vasectomies: Planned Parenthood reports: "Private health insurance policies may pay some or most of the cost. In nearly all states, Medicaid covers vasectomy." The question is: why are women discriminated against?

Local Action/National Impact

What has been clear over the past weeks and months, the actions of tens of thousands of angry people are being heard in Washington, D.C. That local rage must be galvanized under clear and understandable themes such as: "Public Option: Medicare." That is becoming a rallying cry that makes sense.

For example in Arizona: Actions continue around the country. October 29, was "Trick or Treat Day" at insurance companies. Activists in Phoenix are going to demonstrate at United Health Care, Senator Kyl's office, and one of Senator McCain's residences. They are all within walking distance of each other in Phoenix's "Financial" district. Good visual.

On the day that the House version was released more activists were arrested protesting the role of insurance carriers. Local based, national actions will surely increase over the next period of time. The Senate version will, I am sure, get its share of opinion. Get in touch with your local health care activists and join in.

Send in your local's actions!!

Will Zelaya be restored?

Real estate developer wants to tear down anti-fascist monument in Berlin

From friends of the "Ernst Thaelmann memorial"

A short look back: The memorial was built in the 50ties. The GDR built it to remember the meeting of the leadership - the central committee - of the communist party of Germany (KPD) and its chairman Ernst Thaelmann on the 7th of February 1933. On the 30th of January 1933, one week before, the Nazis came to power in Germany and this meeting of Thaelmann and his comrades was the first meeting of a German party to organize the antifascist resistance. Thälmann held his famous "Ziegenhalser Speech" there, where he called all antifascists to unite and fight against the fascist regime. This meeting, which had to be organized illegally, is also a proof that there even more German antifascists than only the resistance of military members: While Stauffenberg needed 11 years and a nearly lost war, the communists needed one week to start the struggle against the Hitler-regime.

After 1989/1990 the Treuhand-Anstalt (a government agency to sell all the peoples property of the GDR to private hands and the state) was owner of the soil, the building and the memorial. They sold it 2003 to an official of Brandenburg. This guy closed the memorial immediately and tried - since seven years - to destroy it.

Only the big nationwide and international solidarity prevented a demolition. Now we have to increase our efforts, because the owner wants to destroy the memorial right now and the authorities of Brandenburg protect his plans.

This were the reasons why we started an international campaign. The authorities have to understand, that there are a lot of people - especially outside of Germany, especially so called "VIP's" - who support our struggle.

We send you an appeal against the demolition of this important and famous memorial. This appeal can be signed - online or on paper. Direct link to sign online here. Or have a look at our site:


Reflections by comrade Fidel

The Empire has ruled the world through economy and deceit rather than force. At the end of WWII, it had attained the privilege of minting the convertible hard currency, the monopoly over the nuclear weapon and the possession of most of the gold in the world while it was the only large-scale producer of manufactured equipment, consumer goods, food and services worldwide. However, there was a limit to the printing of paper money: the gold standard at a regular price of 35 dollars a troy ounce. This was the situation for over 25 years, until August 15, 1971, when an executive order issued by President Richard Nixon led the United States to unilaterally call off that international arrangement thus defrauding the world. I’ll never tire out of repeating it. That was how it threw on the world economy its military buildup and war adventure expenses, especially the Vietnam War, which according to conservative estimates cost no less than 200 billion dollars and the lives of over 45 thousand American youths.

More bombs were dropped on that small Third World nation than were used in the latest world war. Millions of people were killed or maimed. The suspension of the gold standard turned the US dollar into a hard currency that could be printed at will by the US government without the backing of a regular value.

The Treasury bonds and bills continued to circulate as convertible hard currencies. The states’ reserves continued feeding on that paper money that, on the one hand, could be used to buy raw material, properties, goods and services anywhere in the world while on the other favored American exports with respect to the rest of the economies of the world. Both, politicians and academics repeatedly mention the true cost of that genocidal war admirably portrayed in Oliver Stone’s film. Sometimes in their calculations people tend to overlook the fact that the millions of dollars of 1971 are not the same as the millions of dollars of 2009.

One million of dollars today, when the price of gold –a metal whose value has been the most stable through centuries-- exceeds one thousand dollars a troy ounce, is worth about 30 times its value when Nixon suspended the convertibility. Therefore, 200 billion dollars of 1971 amount to 6 trillion dollars of 2009. If this is not taken into account the new generations will not have an idea of the imperialist barbarity.

Likewise, when reference is made to the 20 billion dollars invested in Europe after the end of WWII --through the Marshall Plan to rebuild and control the economies of the main European powers which had the necessary labor force and technical culture for a fast development of production and services—people usually do not take notice of the fact that the real value of what the empire invested at that time amounts to 600 billion dollars at the current international value. They don’t realize that 20 billion dollars would hardly cover today the construction of three large oil refineries with a capacity of 800 thousand barrels of gasoline a day, in addition to other oil by-products.

The consumer societies and the absurd and whimsical waste of energy and natural resources that today threaten the survival of the human species could not be explained in such a short historical period without knowing the irresponsible way in which developed capitalism, in its highest stage, has governed the destiny of the world.

Such amazing waste explains why the debt of the two most industrialized countries in the world, the United States of America and Japan, amounts to approximately 20 trillion dollars.

Of course, the US economy is reaching an annual Gross Domestic Product of 15 trillion dollars. The capitalist crises are cyclical as the history of the system unequivocally shows but this time it is something else: it is a structural crisis, as Professor Jorge Giordani, Venezuelan minister of Planning and Development, explained last night to Walter Martinez in his Telesur program.

The press dispatches released today, Friday October 9, bring some additional irrefutable data. An AFP dispatch from Washington indicates that the US budget deficit for fiscal year 2009 amounts to 1.4 trillion dollars, that is, 9.9% of the GDP, “something unseen since 1945, after World War II,” it added.

In the year 2007, the deficit had already been one-third of that figure, and high deficits are expected in 2010, 2011 and 2012. That huge deficit has practically been mandated by the US Congress and government to bailout that country’s large banks, to prevent unemployment from rising beyond 10% and to release the United States from the recession. It is only natural that if they inundate the nation with dollars, the big stores will sell more goods, the industries will increase their outputs, less people will lose their housing, the wave of unemployment will subside and the Wall Street stocks will see their value grow. It was the classical way to solve the crisis. But, the world will never be the same. Paul Krugman, a celebrated Nobel laureate in Economics, has just said that international commerce has sustained its worst fall, worse even than that of the Great Depression, and expressed his doubts of a speedy recovery.

It is not possible to also inundate the world with dollars and believe that the paper money without a gold backing can retain its value. Other sounder economies have emerged. The US dollar is no longer the hard currency reserve of every state; actually, those who still have it wish to distance from it albeit trying, as much as possible, to prevent its devaluation before they can get rid of it.

The European Union Euro, the Chinese Yuan, the Suisse Franc, the Japanese Yen –despite this country’s debt—and even the Pound Sterling and other hard currencies have come to take the place of the US dollar in international commerce. Once again the metal gold is becoming a significant international reserve currency.

This is not a whimsical personal opinion, nor do I wish to slander that currency.

Another Nobel laureate in Economics, Joseph Stiglitz, has said --according to a press dispatch-- that it is most likely that the green bill continues to be downcast, that politicians do not determine the exchange rates neither do speeches. He said this on October 6, at the IMF and World Bank Joint Annual Assembly held in Istanbul. The meeting was received with smashed shop windows and fires caused by Molotov cocktails.

Other news related that the European countries were afraid of the negative effect of the dollar’s weakness with respect to the Euro and its consequences for the European exports. The US secretary of the Treasury said that his country was interested in a strong dollar. Stiglitz laughed at the official statement and said --according to EFE-- that in the case of the United States the money has been wasted and the reason has been the multimillion bailout of banks and wars like that of Afghanistan. Again according this press agency, the Nobel Laureate insisted that instead of investing 700 billion to help the bankers, the US could have used part of that money to help the developing countries and this would have encouraged global demand.

The president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, had sounded an alarm a few days before and warned that the dollar would not be able to endlessly preserve its status as the reserve currency.

An outstanding professor of Economics at Harvard University, Kenneth Rogoff, has said that the next big financial crisis will be that of the public deficits.

The World Bank has stated that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had showed that the world central banks had accumulated fewer dollars during the second semester of 2009 than at any other time during the past ten years while increasing the amount of Euros.

On October 6, the AFP published that gold had reached the record figure of 1,045 dollars for one ounce due to the weakening of the dollar and fear of inflation.

The London daily Independent reported that a group of oil-producing countries were considering the replacement of the dollar in commercial transactions by a pool of hard currencies including the Yen, Yuan, Euro, gold and a future common currency.

The news, either leaked or deduced with impressive logic, was denied by some of the countries supposedly interested in that protective measure. They do not want it to collapse, but they neither want to continue to accumulate a currency that has lost 30 times its value in less than three decades.

I cannot avoid mentioning a dispatch from EFE, that cannot be accused of being anti-imperialist press agency and that in the present circumstances carries especially interesting opinions:

“Experts in economics and finances agreed in New York today that the worst crisis since the Great Depression has resulted in a less significant role for that country in world economy.”

“Recession has changed the way in which the world looks at the US. Now our country is less significant than before and this is something we should admit, said David Rubenstein, president and founder of the Carlyle Group, the largest risk capital firm in the world, in his address to the World Business Forum.”

“The financial world will be less focused in the US. (…) New York will never again be the financial capital of the world, a role it will have to share with London, Shanghai, Dubai, Sao Paulo and other cities, he said.”

“…he described the problems the US will face once it leaves behind a major recession that will still be around for a couple of months.”

“…the huge public debt, inflation, unemployment, the dollar’s loss of value as a reserve hard currency, the energy prices…”

“The government should reduce public expenses to cope with the debt problem and do something it does not like much: raise taxes.”

“Columbia University economist and special UN advisor Jeffrey Sachs has agreed with Rubenstein that the US economic and financial predominance is fading.”

“We have left a system focused on the United States for one which is multilateral…”

“…twenty years of irresponsibility, first by Bill Clinton’s administration and then by George W. Bush’s, caved in to Wall Street pressures…”

“…the banks negotiated with ‘toxic assets’ to obtain easy money, Sachs explained.”

“What is important now is to recognize the unprecedented challenge of achieving a sustainable economic development that is consistent with the basic rules of physics and biology on this planet…”

On the other hand, the reports coming directly from our delegation in Bangkok, capital of Thailand, were absolutely not encouraging:

Our ministry of Foreign Affairs literally reported that “what was under discussion was basically whether or not to ratify the concept of common but differentiated responsibilities among the industrial nations and the so-called emerging economies, essentially China, Brazil, India and South Africa, and the underdeveloped countries.

“China, Brazil, India, South Africa, Egypt, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the ALBA countries are the most active. In general, most nations in the Group of 77 are holding correct and firm positions.

“The figures of carbon emissions reductions under discussion do not correspond with those scientifically calculated to keep the rise in temperature under 2 degrees Celsius, 25-40%. At the moment, the negotiation is moving around a reduction of 11-18%.

“The United States is not making any real effort but accepting just a 4% reduction with respect to the year 1990.”

In the morning of this Friday 9, the world woke up to the news that “the good Obama” of the riddle –as explained by Bolivarian President Hugo Chavez Frias at the United Nations—had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I do not always agree with the positions of that institution but I must admit that, at this moment it was, in my view, a positive action. It compensates the setback sustained by Obama in Copenhagen when Rio de Janeiro, and not Chicago, was chosen as the venue of the 2016 Olympics, a choice that elicited heated attacks from his right-wing adversaries.

Many will feel that he has yet to earn the right to receive such an award. Rather than a prize to the President of the United States, we choose to see that decision as a criticism of the genocidal policy pursued by more than a few presidents of that country who took that nation to the crossroads where it is today. That is, as a call for peace and for the pursuit of solutions conducive to the survival of the species.

Fidel Castro Ruz

Thursday, October 29, 2009


From a joint letter of labor and civil rights advocates:

It took much too long, more than a decade. And it came at too great a price: the brutal killings of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. are just two among the thousands of crimes motivated by hate and bigotry.

But this week, the president put pen to paper and fulfilled a campaign promise, the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, extending the federal hate crimes statute to include sexual orientation and gender identity along with race, religion, gender, national origin and disability. Our deepest hope and strong belief is that this new law will save lives. Now, lawmakers and the president have made an imperative statement to the country and the world: Our nation will no longer tolerate hate-motivated violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

We have worked long and hard for this and its passage is historic.

Read the full commentary here...

Joe Lieberman just makes stuff up


Responding to proponents of the public plan who argue that it would actually lower costs, Lieberman insisted that if the public option paid lower reimbursement rates than private insurers, medical providers would shift costs to Americans with private coverage:

LIEBERMAN: If the public option, the government run health insurance company negotiates hard to lower the reimbursement — the money it’s paying to hospitals, doctors — they’re [providers] going to have to get that money somewhere. And where they’re going to get it is from the 200 million Americans who today have private health insurance. Premiums will go up. It’s exactly what’s happened with Medicare and Medicaid. [...]

When people hear public option, I think they think it’s for free. It’s not for free. Somebody is going to have to pay for it and you can bet it’s going to be the taxpayers and the people who pay health insurance premiums now.

Obama admin. takes on housing discrimination


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently proposed new regulations to ensure that its housing programs are open to all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The regulations clarify that the term "family" as HUD uses it includes LGBT individuals and couples and requires HUD grantees and participants in HUD programs to comply with local and state non-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation and gender identity. The regulations specify that any mortgage loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration must be based only on credit-worthiness and not on unrelated identity factors.


Only Under Capitalism

It is interesting to read that the latest Noble Peace Prize winner has just signed the greatest war funding bill in the history of humanity.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Another Reason Why Capitalism Stinks : Science Daily

High Death Rates And Short Life Expectancy Among Homeless And Marginally Housed [PS The last sentence in this article is a no brainer! tr]

ScienceDaily (Oct. 28, 2009) — Homeless and marginally housed people have much higher mortality and shorter life expectancy than could be expected on the basis of low income alone, concludes a study from Canada published on

Previous studies have found high levels of excess mortality among the homeless compared with the general population, but little information is available on death rates among homeless and marginally housed people living in low-cost collective dwellings, such as rooming houses and hotels.

So, researchers at St Michael's Hospital in Toronto and Statistics Canada compared death rates and life expectancy among a representative sample of homeless and marginally housed people with rates in the poorest and richest income sectors of the general population.

Using data from the 1991-2001 Canadian census, they tracked 15,000 homeless and marginally housed people across Canada for 11 years.

Mortality rates among homeless and marginally housed people were substantially higher than rates in the poorest income groups, with the highest rates seen at younger ages.

Among those who were homeless and marginally housed, the probability of survival to age 75 was 32% in men and 60% in women. This compared to 51% and 72% among men and women in the lowest income group in the general population.

For men, this equates to about the same chance of surviving to age 75 as men in the general population of Canada in 1921 or men in Laos in 2006. For women, this equates to about the same chance of surviving to age 75 as women in the general population of Canada in 1956 or women in Guatemala in 2006.

Remaining life expectancy at age 25 among homeless and marginally housed men was 42 years -- 10 years lower than the general population and six years lower than the poorest income group.

For homeless and marginally housed women, remaining life expectancy at age 25 was 52 years -- seven years lower than the general population, and five years lower than the poorest income group.

A large part of this premature mortality is potentially avoidable, say the authors. Many excess deaths were attributable to alcohol and smoking-related diseases and to violence and injuries, much of which might have been related to substance abuse.

There were also many excess deaths related to mental disorders and suicides.

This study shows that homeless and marginally housed people living in shelters, rooming houses, and hotels have much higher mortality and shorter life expectancy than could be expected on the basis of low income alone, they conclude. These findings emphasise the importance of considering housing situation as a marker of socioeconomic disadvantage.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Indian Wars Go On

from Survival International online

Kayapó Indians are to hold a protest against a huge hydro-electric dam planned for Brazil’s Xingu River, one of the Amazon’s main tributaries.

The week-long protest will start on 28 October and take place in the Kayapó community of Piaraçu. At least 200 Indians are expected to gather. Representatives from Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy, and the Ministry of the Environment, have been invited there to talk with the Indians.

The Kayapó and other indigenous peoples oppose the dam, saying they have not been properly consulted about it and have not been informed of its true impacts on their lands.

The dam will divert more than 80% of the flow of the Xingu River, and have a major impact on fish stocks and forests along a 100 km stretch of the river inhabited by indigenous peoples. Survival has protested to the government about the project.

The Kayapó are furious with Edison Lobão, the Minister of Mines and Energy, who recently stated that ‘demoniac forces’ were preventing the construction of large hydro-electric dams in Brazil. Kayapó leader Megaron Txucarramae said, ‘These words are very ugly and are offensive to us and to those who defend nature.’

Belo Monte is one of the largest infrastructure projects in the government’s Accelerated Growth Programme. In 1989 the Kayapó organised a massive protest against a series of dams planned for the Xingu River. They successfully lobbied the World Bank to pull out of funding the project, which was then shelved.

Dams planned for other Amazon rivers are also the target of indigenous protests. A year ago, the Enawene Nawe tribe ransacked a dam building site in a bid to stop dozens of dams planned for the Juruena river. The Indians say the dams will ruin the fishing on which they depend.

In the western Amazon, the Santo Antônio dam, part of a complex of dams being built on the Madeira River, will flood the land of at least five groups of uncontacted Indians. One group is thought to live only 14 kilometres from the main dam construction site.

In a letter to President Lula, the Kayapó explained their position: ‘We don’t want this dam to destroy the ecosystems and the biodiversity that we have taken care of for millenia and which we can still preserve. Mr. President, our cry is for studies that are well-done and which seek to discuss with indigenous peoples this great ecological cradle of our ancestors… We want to participate in this process without being treated as evil demons who hold back the country’s evolution.’

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘The real impact of the dams has been hidden. If they go ahead they will destroy the lives, land and livelihoods of many tribes. No amount of compensation can ever make up for damage on this scale, that will wreck peoples’ lives and independence.’

Friday, October 23, 2009

JFK Not So Original!

Does this sound familiar? Ask not etc...

"In the great fulfillment we must have a citizenship less concerned about what the government can do for it and more anxious about what it can do for the nation"

--Warren G. Harding
Address at the Republican Convention, June 7, 1916 Chicago

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Vietnam Era Closeup--Three Faces Three Views

by Norman Markowitz

I admit that I was surprised when I was asked to participate in the 2009 Vietnam Veterans Forum sponsored by the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Vietnam Era Educational Center. I was asked to participate in a morning social issues panel. Later there would be panels on the diplomatic and military experiences of the Vietnam Era with both scholars and veterans participating. Everybody has their stereotypes, myself included, and there are always examples to reinforce stereotypes, as there were here, both for me and for those in attendance still deeply committed to either the ideology of the cold warriors who launched the war or simply to the kind of thinking that Randloph Bourne captured in his classic "WAR IS THE HEALTH OF THE STATE" writing during WWI, that when war comes, the nation becomes the state becomes the government and dissent becomes the enemy within.

But much more importantly, among both the teachers who were in the audience(since the forum is part of their educational enrichment, and there were lesson plans and teacher guides provided to those who attended) and the Veterans themselves, there was an understanding that those who plotted the war and sent a draft army to fight it did not understand the history of the region or the meaning of the war that they launched with their intervention for both the Vietnamese, the Americans, and the global community.

I led off my social issues panel with a presentation that looked at two wars, the war in Vietnam and the War on poverty, and contended that the first defeated the second, regardless of what was happening in the field in Vietnam, since those who were most committed to the war on poverty and necessary to its victory, the progressive activists of all social movements in the U.S. were most against the Vietnam War, and those who were most for the Vietnam War, the anti-labor, anti-civil rights "conservatives," were most strongly against the the war on poverty, and the more the Johnson administration relied on their support in Congress to escalate the war, the more it retreated on the war on poverty. As I looked at the audience, I saw some disapproval but more smiles and nods from working class Veterans, people my age and from the class that I had come. Later, a number came up and told me that they had liked what I had said and discussed their experiences in working class neighborhoods, one near my own in the Bronx

In my panel, Katherine Parkin, an associate professor of history at Monmouth University, gave a powerful presentation on women in the Vietnam War, both women in the service in the U.S. and Vietnamese women. Her treatment of mass prostitution in Vietnam made many in the audience uneasy. Hettie Williams, a lecturer at Monmouth University in African-American History also made many uneasy when she presented in clear and powerful terms the effects of the war on African-Americans, dealing with both the ghetto rebellions as she called the "riots" and the forms of discrimination that Blacks experienced in the war, especially the much higher casualty rates, which some questioners disputed. Ironically, many in the audience considered my presentation less radical, and those who questioned me were generally sympathetic, raising questions about the Great Society medicare program and its relationship to the present health care struggle, the role of the CIA in coups both in Vietnam and earlier in Guatemala.

The Second panel dealt with diplomacy. Here Christopher Fisher, an assistant Professor of History in the hisory and African-American studies departments at the College of New Jersey(and someone who I know and respect from his work as a student at Rutgers) gave an insightful presentation on Lyndon Johnson connecting both the personal and the political in trying to make sense of how the Vietnam war policy developed.

David Kaiser, a distinguished historian and author of American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Vietnam War, presented a well reasoned analysis of the flaws in the strategic thinking of the Vietnam War policy planners. Jeffrey Kimball, a Professor Emeritus from the University of Miami, former President of the Society of Peace Historians and the author of many important works on the Vietnam War dealt with the Nixon policies and their destructive consequences. Here there were many questions about what might have been in Vietnam, some from those who believed that the war was avoidable had U.S. governments going back to Wilson at Verseilles to statements that "we" were "winning" the war under Nixon and could have won it iwth a more "aid" to Saigon. One questioner, a Veteran and teacher in a parochial school who I had in a generally friendly way crossed political swords with before the sessions began, made a general criticism of the panel and a general accusation that they were "glorifying Communism." When he was challenged on this, he said that he meant the first panel, which I took as a compliment
The third session was in many ways the most interesting. Major Jonathan Due, a West Point graduate, tank corps officer, Iraq War veteran, and currently an Assistant Professor of History at West Point(his scholarship deals with the army's reconstruction after the Vietnam War) presented an analysis of military realities which dealt in a realistic and insightful way with what the modern military is, namely a large bureaucratically organized institution, the thinking of its senior officers, and their relationship to political power. Frank Desanto, a draftee, veteran wounded in combat, who later used his GI benefits wisely to receive BA and MA degress in elementary education and educational administration respectively, becoming a public school teacher, spoke of his experiences, his bonding with his fellow soldiers, and like many working class vets, his conflicted views about the war which he thought somehow might have been won and also his views that class conflict, the struggle between the rich and the poor here especially had a lot to do with the war.

Howard Bryant, an African-American drafted out of the 11th grade and sent to Cambodia during the 1970 invasion was for me the most interesting story. Like Desanto he was very conflicted about the war, focusing on the way the soldiers were treated by their superiors during the war and by the general public afterward (which many took issue with) Although he worked at many jobs after the war, including a dozen years in the U.S. Postal Service, he was eventually diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and declared 100% disabled. He today which with Veterans groups and seeks to help veterans who still bear the physical and psycholigical scars of the Vietnam war to seek help.

There were people like Howard Bryant from my neighborhood in the South Bronx, working class and minority youth without either the college future or the criminal records that would exempt them from the draft. I know that that some didn't come back. I don't know how many experienced the postwar difficulties of Howard Bryant, but I suspect, given their class and ethnicity many did.

The forum ended with a keynote address by Howard Confora a leader of Kent State students during the May 4 1970 killings. Confora was himself wounded and spoke of the students who died, whom he knew. He spoke also of the hidden history of the protest, how he, the son of a factory worker, not the stereotypical "hard hat" of Nixon propaganda but a strong union man, had come to oppose the war. Confora waved the black flag in front of a national guardsmen before the shooting started. I had always been told that the flag represented anarchism. Confora explained that it was in honor of a working class friend who had been killed in Vietnam, whose death was a factor in the protests. Confora also relayed his suspicion that the ROTC building had not really been burned down by the protesters . They had tried and failed, only to discover later to their surprise that the building had burned (they believed that police agents had done that as a provocation, which did happen in other instances) Confora also related his view that the order to fire(in spite of massive evidence, the national guard denied that there was ever such an order) may have come directly from the governor with whom the commander were in contact and possibly from the Nixon White House, with whom the governor was in contact.

Confora, who has for nearly forty years been a leader of May 4 Movement for Truth and Justice, mentioned that his accounts of the events at Kent State have been sold to Hollywood and will be made into a movie, a movie which, by focusing on the working class character of both the protesters and the soldiers will hopefully help to dispel the myths long progagated about the Vietnam War.

The New Jersey Veterans Memorial at Holmcdel New Jersey is an excellent facility, open to the public. A facility that helps all of us understand a history that is still very much with us and, if we do not learn from it, will be with us for a long time.

Film Review: Food Beware – Great Film of Kids Against Pesti cides in Foods in France

by Eric Green

"Food Beware" or the original French film name "Nos enfants nous Accuseront"

What can a little French town of about 3,000 people tell the world? What can such a speck on the earth, a town whose students are about evenly divided between public and Catholic schools? And, add on top of that, a town with a Mayor who is a leading member of the French Communist Party. This later fact is not presented in the new exciting film, "Food Beware" but it is positively, pointed out by a Columbia University based blogger in his review of the film. He included that fact by saying that it was a shame that the mayor's affiliation was not stated.

This film's director, Jean-Paul Jaud, does the remarkable job of moving between a very high level Paris scientific/medical conference sponsored by UNESCO and a town in Southern France, Barjac. This is not an easy job for a filmmaker, but he does it with ease and keeping the attention of viewers.

Edouard Chaulet, the mayor of Barjac, opens the film along side the main Catholic priest in presenting the children of the town with the proposition of turning their schools' cafeterias over to organic food, i.e., cooking, growing and eating. Chaulet and the priest agreed to convert both the public and Catholic school cafeterias to organic.

Remember, this is the same country that welcomed the McDonald food chair a few years ago. Given the very high reputation that the French have for their fine cuisine, McDonalds has been a severe contradiction. But, there is growing movement against. This film is certainly one big step in that direction.

The UNESCO conference gives the grim statistics that pesticides and poorly prepared foods are yielding in France in general, and in Barjac in particular. The inclusion of personal stories, ala Michael Moore, puts a human face on the 100,000 children who die of diseases caused by the environment. And, in Europe, also, that 70% of cancers are linked to the environment: 30% to pollution and 40-% to food. And, added fact is that in Europe cases of cancer in children have risen by 1.1% yearly for 30 years.

Very oddly, France used to be No. 1 in the use of pesticides in the farmlands, but now has dropped to a still far too high No. 3.

These often frightening facts are screened throughout the film in a way that is not boring and thoughtless.

In this film, Jaud introduces you to Mayor Chaulet and shows his deep roots in the community and especially with the farmers in the area. Chaulet knows that to keep this effort going, i.e., extending the schools cafeterias to everybody's food table, he will have to enlist the support of all farmers. He held a conference of those farmers and it was clear that more would be needed. Later at a community meeting

But, the film is a film for and about children, our next generation. Not that older peoples' fate are sealed with the over accumulation of pesticides and GM foods in our systems, but clearly the point of the film was win over the youth.

A 20-minute version of the film that directly addresses youth audience would be a good idea.

Tactically speaking, Jaud clearly wanted to show how the people of Barjac intended to win over their support by their example; and, not by conducting an anti-corporate, anti-agri-business campaign. The corporate forces were not left out, but this was not a film targeting the Cargills. There are films that do that and can be used in an educational series of film on this important subject.

But, it was clear, that Chaulet and his supports are fully aware of the odds against them. and who those forces are.

The instructing of students to grow their own organic vegetables was particularly important. And, conversations with the students were throughout the film and conducted in a very effective way.

Food coops and organic farm supporters across the country would do well to screen this film as part of fundraising campaigns and awareness programs.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What's Class Got to do With It? A Review

Michael Zweig, ed., What's Class Got to Do with It? American Society in the Twenty-first Century
Labour/Le Travail, Fall, 2006 by Jason Russell [REPOSTED FROM BNET]

Michael Zweig, ed., What's Class Got to Do with It? American Society in the Twenty-first Century (Ithaca: ILR Press 2004)
FEW TOPICS make capitalist elites in the United States writhe more than class conflict. This is presumably because they would much rather have the American populace acquiesce to a social and economic system that advantages a minority and seriously disadvantages the majority, rather than have discussions of class lead anyone to have revelations about introducing a new system. Class-based analysis has fallen from prominence in the United States in recent years, a fact that Michael Zweig notes in his introduction to this collection of essays that seek to address this problem. This book covers a lot of ground, and provides a good introduction to a mode of analysis that should be at the forefront of the social sciences and humanities in the United States.

Class used to form one part of an analytic triumvirate that included gender and race. However, as Bill Fletcher and Sue Cobble show in their essays, the latter two variables have tended to eclipse the first in the past couple of decades. Fletcher, in particular, argues that there has been a failure within academic circles to appreciate the impact of race on class. Other analytic approaches--particularly whiteness--have instead grown to prominence. However, class is shown here to be inextricably linked with other variables including gender and race.
Successive American governments, from Reagan up to the current Bush, have skilfully used neo-liberal rhetoric to dismantle much of the social welfare state that was erected during the 1930s and 1940s. Francis Fox Piven argues that neo-liberalism has had an important influence on social welfare policy. Piven illustrates that there is little question that neo-liberal politicians have effectively demonized those who are reliant on social welfare programs. Class has thus played an important role in the shaping of government policy.

This book clearly shows that the American economy does not equally distribute wealth. In the most engaging essay in this collection, Gregory De Freitas and Niev Duffy show that working-class youth are particularly disadvantaged in the United States. Young workers experience a lower rate of unionization than their older peers, more difficulty accessing higher education, and substantially lower wages. This analysis further illustrates the complexity of class as it shows that class conflict, if based on such variables as access to education and wage differentials, could manifest itself through generational conflict. Challenges with access to education are particularly difficult as young members of the working class also face the prospect of having to work while going to school. Michelle M. Tokarczyk provides an interesting analysis of this problem, as well as showing the class structure that can exist in a university setting.

The main difficulty of this book is that it is an attempt to engage the vast issue of class in a relatively short 183 pages. This effort, while timely, led to the unfortunate inclusion of essays that, while being quite informative, do not necessarily reveal enough about class in America in the early years of the 21st century. Globalization appears here in essays by Leo Panitch and Katie Quan. The former includes an analysis of the meaning of 9/11, and the latter discusses American workers in relation to those in other countries. However, for the American working class, globalization has not simply meant cheering the war in Afghanistan or purchasing goods made in low-wage countries, it has also meant catastrophic job loss and deindustrialization. Curiously, there are no extensive discussions of blue-collar job loss in this book despite the impact that this has had on the working class.

Class-based analysis is a framework founded in Marxist thought, but Marx only appears in this volume through references to The 18th Brumaire. Marx's major critique of capitalism, Das Capital, is absent. Hegemony is mentioned but Antonio Gramsci is not. Zweig and his colleagues are right to bring class back to academic analysis, but bringing back the theory behind it is also necessary. This book would have benefited from a brief chapter on how theory applies today. While Zweig is right to say that class-based analysis has fallen out of favour, a broader explanation why would have helped strengthen the arguments presented by the various contributors.

Organized labour is discussed by Michael D. Yates, but be focuses primarily on the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations [AFL-CIO] and the effect of 9/11 on the federation. Recent events like the creation of the Change to Win Coalition and the phenomenal growth of unions like the Service Employees International Union [SEIU] and Unite-HERE confirm that the AFL-CIO does not entirely represent the future of the American labour movement. The future of organized labour and its role in the lives of the working class may be more promising than Yates suggests. A discussion of working-class politics would also have been a welcome addition to this book. Yates touches briefly upon labour's interaction with the Democratic party, but no essay is devoted entirely to labour and politics. Numerous studies have shown that many working-class voters voted Republican through the post-World War II decades--markedly so during the Reagan years. Zweig would have better served his readers by devoting more attention to politics.

Recent studies of the working-class experience--notably Lizabeth Cohen's A Consumer's Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America (New York 2003)--have suggested the importance of consumer culture in shaping the American working class. Citizenship is in many ways equated with an individual' s ability to participate in consumer culture. Zweig may have better served his readers by deleting one of the articles on globalization and instead including one on consumerism as it has been so central to the working-class experience in the United States.

William K. Tass mentions E.P. Thompson in his essay, and a quotation of Thompson's which he references--"class happens"--leads to my last criticism of this book. (72) Thompson also suggested that classes do not form in isolation, and instead form in relation to each other. Tokarczyk and Barbara Jensen touch upon this problem in their essays bur they focus upon the role of education in shaping social class and this does not provide a sufficient insight into how and why classes exist and interact in America. We also do not see why mentioning social class causes fits of indignation among the capitalist class. Are American capitalism and its social system so fragile that they cannot bear a little scrutiny?

This book is an admirable attempt to bring class-based analysis back to the forefront of academic discourse, despite its short length and somewhat uneven content. Capitalism is in many ways the ideology that does not speak its name de spite its vast influence. Indeed, discussions of class have become the object of scorn within broader public discourse in the United States. However, as Zweig and his colleagues have shown here, class does indeed matter and class-based analysis is still an excellent method of critiquing capitalism and the divisions that it causes.

Jason Russell
York University

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

100 Percent Clean Energy Is Possible

[from ScienceDaily]

Shifting The World To 100 Percent Clean, Renewable Energy As Early As 2030: Here Are The Numbers

ScienceDaily (Oct. 19, 2009) — Most of the technology needed to shift the world from fossil fuel to clean, renewable energy already exists. Implementing that technology requires overcoming obstacles in planning and politics, but doing so could result in a 30 percent decrease in global power demand, say Stanford civil and environmental engineering Professor Mark Z. Jacobson and University of California-Davis researcher Mark Delucchi.

To make clear the extent of those hurdles – and how they could be overcome – they have written an article in Scientific American. In it, they present new research mapping out and evaluating a quantitative plan for powering the entire world on wind, water and solar energy, including an assessment of the materials needed and costs. And it will ultimately be cheaper than sticking with fossil fuel or going nuclear, they say.

The key is turning to wind, water and solar energy to generate electrical power – making a massive commitment to them – and eliminating combustion as a way to generate power for vehicles as well as for normal electricity use.

The problem lies in the use of fossil fuels and biomass combustion, which are notoriously inefficient at producing usable energy. For example, when gasoline is used to power a vehicle, at least 80 percent of the energy produced is wasted as heat.

With vehicles that run on electricity, it's the opposite. Roughly 80 percent of the energy supplied to the vehicle is converted into motion, with only 20 percent lost as heat. Other combustion devices can similarly be replaced with electricity or with hydrogen produced by electricity.

Jacobson and Delucchi used data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration to project that if the world's current mix of energy sources is maintained, global energy demand at any given moment in 2030 would be 16.9 terawatts, or 16.9 million megawatts.

They then calculated that if no combustion of fossil fuel or biomass were used to generate energy, and virtually everything was powered by electricity – either for direct use or hydrogen production – the demand would be only 11.5 terawatts. That's only two-thirds of the energy that would be needed if fossil fuels were still in the mix.

In order to convert to wind, water and solar, the world would have to build wind turbines; solar photovoltaic and concentrated solar arrays; and geothermal, tidal, wave and hydroelectric power sources to generate the electricity, as well as transmission lines to carry it to the users, but the long-run net savings would more than equal the costs, according to Jacobson and Delucchi's analysis.

"If you make this transition to renewables and electricity, then you eliminate the need for 13,000 new or existing coal plants," Jacobson said. "Just by changing our infrastructure we have less power demand."

Jacobson and Delucchi chose to use wind, water and solar energy options based on a quantitative evaluation Jacobson did last year of about a dozen of the different alternative energy options that were getting the most attention in public and political discussions and in the media. He compared their potential for producing energy, how secure an energy source each was, and their impacts on human health and the environment.

He determined that the best overall energy sources were wind, water and solar options. His results were published in Energy and Environmental Science.

The Scientific American article provides a quantification of global solar and wind resources based on new research by Jacobson and Delucchi.

Analyzing only on-land locations with a high potential for producing power, they found that even if wind were the only method used to generate power, the potential for wind energy production is 5 to 15 times greater than what is needed to power the entire world. For solar energy, the comparable calculation found that solar could produce about 30 times the amount needed.

If the world built just enough wind and solar installations to meet the projected demand for the scenario outlined in the article, an area smaller than the borough of Manhattan would be sufficient for the wind turbines themselves. Allowing for the required amount of space between the turbines boosts the needed acreage up to 1 percent of Earth's land area, but the spaces between could be used for crops or grazing. The various non-rooftop solar power installations would need about a third of 1 percent of the world's land, so altogether about 1.3 percent of the land surface would suffice.

The study further provides examples of how a combination of renewable energy sources could be used to meet hour-by-hour power demand, addressing the commonly asked question, given the inherent variability of wind speed and sunshine, can these sources consistently produce enough power? The answer is yes.

Expanding the transmission grid would be critical for the shift to the sustainable energy sources that Jacobson and Delucchi propose. New transmission lines would have to be laid to carry power from new wind farms and solar power plants to users, and more transmission lines will be needed to handle the overall increase in the quantity of electric power being generated.

The researchers also determined that the availability of certain materials that are needed for some of the current technologies, such as lithium for lithium-ion batteries, or platinum for fuel cells, are not currently barriers to building a large-scale renewable infrastructure. But efforts will be needed to ensure that such materials are recycled and potential alternative materials are explored.

Finally, they conclude that perhaps the most significant barrier to the implementation of their plan is the competing energy industries that currently dominate political lobbying for available financial resources. But the technologies being promoted by the dominant energy industries are not renewable and even the cleanest of them emit significantly more carbon and air pollution than wind, water and sun resources, say Jacobson and Delucchi.

If the world allows carbon- and air pollution-emitting energy sources to play a substantial role in the future energy mix, Jacobson said, global temperatures and health problems will only continue to increase.

Monday, October 19, 2009


"Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth" by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou, Art by Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna (New York, Bloomsbury, 2009) pp. 347.

Reviewed by Thomas Riggins

This is an excellent graphic novel, Howard Zinn calls it "extraordinary," about the life and times of Bertrand Russell and his search for the foundations of mathematics. Believe it or not, this is a really good read and not a dry and esoteric exercise in the history of mathematics.

In a brief "Overture" we are told this is a real honest to God comic book and it has a real story line about real people and events (although some fictional elements have been added to juice up the story they are minor).

The framework of the book is a lecture given by Bertrand Russell at an American university a few days after the invasion of Poland in 1939. On his way to the lecture hall Russell encounters protesters who want the US to stay o ut of the war and they expect Russell, who was world famous for his opposition to WWI, to join with them. Instead he invites them to his lecture with the idea that his views on the new war will be revealed. They accept and they all go to the lecture hall together.

Russell's topic is "The Role of Logic in Human Affairs" but he actually recounts the major episodes in his life and his philosophical search to establish the truth of mathematics as a branch of logic. Actually the comic ends in 1939 and Russell lived another 30 or so years so there is room for a follow up comic.

His "lecture" (it's not an historical lecture just an excuse to introduce Russell as the narrator, is divided into six parts. The first, "Pembroke Lodge," recounts Russell's youth at his Grandfather and Grandmother's estate where he was brought up after the early deaths of his father and mother. In the second part, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", Russell goes off to the study mathematics and philosophy at Cambridge, meets his life long friend G.E. Moore, meets the woman who will be his first (of four) wives, and takes classes with Alfred North Whitehead with whom he will later collaborate in writing the three volume "Principia Mathematica" their magnum opus on the foundations of mathematics.

Part Three is called "Wanderjahre". Russell and his bride travel to the continent visiting Germany and France and Russell has fictional encounters with the great mathematicians Frege and Cantor (inventor of set theory). Although fictional these meetings further the plot by introducing some of the mathematical ideas that Russell was working on in the first decade of the 20th Century.

In part four, "Paradoxes," Russell and Whitehead work on Principia Mathematica, Russell's marriage cracks up, he attempts to seduce Whitehead's wife (and fails). The title of this part refers to certain logical paradoxes, especially "Russell's Paradox," which led Russell and Whitehead to conclude that without finding solutions to logical paradoxes they could never prove that the foundations of mathematics rested on logic.

Part five is called "Logico-Philosophical Wars." Ludwig Wittgenstein shows up to study logic with Russell at Cambridge and calls Russell's whole outlook into question. Meanwhile, World War I breaks out. Wittgenstein goes off to fight for Austria (not very enlightened) and Russell ends up in prison (for six months) for anti war activities.

In part six "Incompleteness" we find Russell married again, having a son, and running a progressive school based on his philosophical views on education. His and Whitehead's project for establishing the foundations of mathematics gets a fatal blow from a young mathematician named Kurt Godel who proves his "Incompleteness Theorem" which shows that the goal of the "Principia Mathematica"-- a complete proof that mathematics rests on logic is unattainable.

Russell ends his speech by saying to his American audience that he can't tell them what to do with respect to fighting or not fighting in W.W.II. They will have to logically think this out for themselves.

Anyone with an interest in 20th Century Anglo-American philosophy will really enjoy reading this book. I have only skimmed the surface in this review.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

People take on Lou Dobbs


Friday, October 16, 2009

Ghana Wins Major World Cup Match in Cairo

African Country Wins FIFA [Soccer] Under 20 Championships on African Soil

Mike Tolochko

For the first time, Ghana has won a World Cup Championship and they did it on African Soil. And, they did it by beating perennial champion Brazil.

No, it is the World Cup Finals that will take place in South Africa; it is the UNDER 20 year old World Cup; but the enthusiasm seen on ESPN this afternoon shows that 2010 will be a great year for soccer.

Brazil is a 4-time winner of this Under 20 Year old World Cup.

Ghana won the match after the match ended in a zero to zero tie in regulation. They won it in playoff kicks and when the first round of playoff kicks was finished, they went into sudden death.

Ghana won it. Ghana had come close a few times in the last couple of decades, but in 2009, they won it.

The match took place in Cairo, Egypt. One of the main flags around the stadium was, "So No to Racism."

Now, its time for the FIFA World Cup to really get going.

Protest at health insurance monopoly


Video: Trumka presses for public option


150 years since the raid on Harper's Ferry

from Steven Vincent Benet's " John Brown's Body":


I have, may it please the Court, a few words to say.

In the first place I deny everything but what I have all along admitted: of a design on my part to free slaves. . . . Had I interfered in the matter which I admit, and which I admit has been fairly proved . . . had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, or the so-called great . . . and suffered and sacrificed, what I have in this interference, it would have been all right. Every man in this Court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.

I see a book kissed which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament, which teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do unto me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me further to remember them that are in bonds as bound with them. I endeavored to act up to that instruction. I say I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done, as I have always freely admitted I have done in behalf of His despised poor, I did no wrong, but right. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the
furtherance of the ends of justice and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel and unjust enactments, I say, let it be done.

Let me say one word further. I feel entirely satisfied with the treatment I have received on my trial. Considering all the
circumstances, it has been more generous than I expected. But I feel no consciousness of guilt. I have stated from the first what was my intention and what was not. I never had any design against the liberty of any person, nor any disposition to commit treason or incite slaves to rebel or make any general insurrection. I never encouraged any man to do so but always discouraged any idea of that kind.

Let me say also, in regard to the statements made by some of those connected with me, I hear it has been stated by some of them that I have induced them to join with me. But the contrary is true. I do not say this to injure them, but as regretting their weakness. Not one but joined me of his own accord, and the greater part at their own expense. A number of them I never saw, and never had a word of conversation with, till the day they came to me, and that was for the purpose I have stated.

Now I have done.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Elections in Greece

Elections in Greece
Socialist Win Big; Communists Maintain Parliamentary Seats and Vote.

Mike Tolochko

With right wing/conservative politicians winning elections in Germany, France and Italy, the experience in Greece could be a little different.

National political elections took place in Greece on October 4th,  2009.   The main focus of the elections by the press in Greece and around the world was the resounding win of the Social Democratic Party, the PASOK.   The N.D., Conservative Party, the incumbent political party took a distant second.  

The third political party in the election was the KKE, the Greek Communist Party.  They maintained their percent of vote from previous years and, also their MPs in the Greek Parliament.   Their 7.54% vote turned into 21 Members of Parliament.

The Greek Parliament has 300 members.  

There was a very large turnout to vote.   In total 7,044,479 people voted, that is 71% of the population.  In the U.S. the actual number of voters as a percent of the general population is less than 30%.    

The Votes were the following:

PASOK (Social Democrat)         43.92%   160 MPs
N.D. (Conservative)                    33.48%     91 MPs
KKE (Communist)      7.54%     21 MPs
LAOS (Neofascists)      5.63%     15 MPs
SYRIZA ("Left")      4.60%     13 MPs

The vote of the LAOS, the neofascists, was seen  as very worrisome.    An ultra-left party received 4.6% of the vote.   

The KKE see both of the major parties as essentially the same in basic issues.   Both major parties take the same basic political and economic, neo-liberal positions.  They share the same anti-people positions on health, education, social security and privatizations.   And, in fact, that following political and personal scandals these take turns winning elections.   

They govern in turns since 1974

1974-1981 conservatives,
1981-1989 social democrats,
1989-1993 conservatives,
1993-2003 social democrats,
2003-2009 conservatives.

Both major neo-liberal parties control all newspapers, TV channels and electronic media.
They cooperate closely with the embassies of the USA, Germany, etc.

The KKE has its own television, radio and newspaper.

The WFTU General Secretary George Mavrikos was reelected member of the
parliament with the Communist Party of Greece.    He was elected in a working-class suburb with 34,027 votes.


Children of Hiroshima Appeal to President Obama

Coming on the heels of the International Disarmament and anti Nuclear War meetings in Mexico City, September, 2009, a special New York Times Full Page Appeal to US President Obama was made by the No Nuke Network: Students of Hiroshima Against Nuclear Weapons.  

The final working document of the Conference strongly encouraged participants to more effectively mount local demonstrations against nuclear weapons.   The year 2010 has a nunmber of national and interantinal mass demobstartions, planned.  The focus of the leadership was direct energy toward President Barak Obama of the U.S,, and , UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.    Brown has drawn the ire for his insistence of pushing the nuclear Trident.  

The Appeal Says:    "Dear President Obama,  the Children of the world have a dream….."

The Full Page NY Times Appeal is on Page 9 of the Business Section.

The Appeal says:

"Dear President Obama,

"We are Junior high and senior high school students in Hiroshima Japan.  Like Children everywhere, we want to live in a peaceful world.  We want our own children, and their children, to live in peaceful world, too.

"Because our home is Hiroshima, we understand the importance of peace.  We understand how quickly everything you love can be lost forever.  Parents, children, relatives, friends, schoolmates, homes, businesses even dreams themselves.

"Recently we formed a group. Our group is called the "No Nuke Network:  Students of Hiroshima against Nuclear Weapons."   Our dream is to see nuclear weapons abolished from the world so that children of all nations, and children of generations to come, will never face the horror of nuclear war.

"Mr. President, we know you have the same dream. And we believe your efforts as the leader of the United States can help abolish these awful weapons.  We may be young, but we are determined to support you, as may others are around the world in realizing this dream.

"This is why we invite you, very sincerely, to visit Hiroshima on day soon.  By seeing first hand how terrible nuclear weapons truly are, as we as the passion for peace of our citizens, we believe you would be deeply inspired to do everything possible to eliminate these weapons from our earth.

"In the meantime, we will be folding paper cranes for you.  As you may know, the origami crane is a symbol of peace.  Our goal is to fold more paper cranes than the roughly 23,000 nuclear weapons now in the world.  W hope the cranes will offer you further inspiration.

"Thank you for reading our letter, Mr. President.   We do hope you will consider visiting Hiroshima.  It would be a great honor to welcome to our city and join hands for a peaceful world.

"Respectfully, No Nuke Network:  Students of Hiroshima Against Nuclear Weapons"

2010 and 2020

Watch for a dramatice incrase in demonstrations for Peace, Disarmament and anti-Nuclear war in 2010.  A few national and international demonstrations are being planning.    The goal for a full nuclear disarmament by 2020.

Please note: message attached

Group bidding for St. Louis Rams drops Rush Limbaugh

From ESPN:

Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was dropped from a group bidding to buy the St. Louis Rams.

ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported the story on Wednesday.

Limbaugh was to be a limited partner in a group headed by St. Louis Blues chairman Dave Checketts. Checketts said in a statement Wednesday that Limbaugh's participation had become a complication in the group's efforts and the bid will move forward without him.

Checketts told the Associated Press he will have no further comment on the bid process.

Read or view the story here...


Book Review of Rashid Khalidi, The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood

By: Joel Gordon

From the opening lines of The Iron Cage Rashid Khalidi confronts the tough question facing Palestinians: Why did they fail to establish an independent state before 1948 and what was the impact of that failure in subsequent years? Couching this work in terms of "failure" rather than victimization, Khalidi turns history on its head, leaving doors open for a far-reaching discussion of the predicament faced by nascent, then aborted, Palesntinian nationalism. A nationalism that is rooted in indigenous rather than Zionist and, by extension, Western/European history and historiography. ( Or at least a discussion that is not dominated by the latter.)

Khalidi recognizes, for example, the importance of the pioneering work of Israel's "new historians," many of whom have played a vital role in challenging and ultimately undermining the Zionist meta-narrative. Yet he also recognizes that their work - with all its strengths and shortcomings - ultimately tells us little about the history and evolution of the Arab community of mandatory Palestine before and after the nakba/catastrophe of 1947-48.

The bars that make up the "iron cage" are a series of constraints that have confronted the Palestinians, many of them imposed from without, since the inception of the British Mandate and with which the populace and its shifting bases of leaders - many found wanting but all operating at a distinct disadvantage relative to Zionist colonizers - have had to confront.

Khalidi's is not a standard narrative history. Rather, it is an extended interpretive essay that provides a framework for reconsidering Palestinian history. Khalidi does not seek to create a new Palestinian meta-narrative; rather his aim is to incorporate the predicaments faced by Palestinians over time in both specific local and broader regional, colonial and postcolonial contexts. In doing so, he goes a long way toward achieving his lofty goal of uncovering a "hidden history... obscured, at least in the West, by the riveting and tragic narrative of modern Jewish history" (xxix). And he restores a sense of agency to Palestinians, whatever their failings or shortcomings, in attempting to confront institutional and ideological barriers toward a national sovereignty similar to their neighbors in the Arab world.

For readers familiar with Khalidi as an articulate exponent-analyst of contemporary Palestinian politics, particularly since Oslo, the earlier chapters may prove to be the most stimulating. He begins Chapter 1 by examining classic arguments concerning under what circumstances Palestinians were driven from their homes in 1947-48. He does not shy away from confronting head-on "Orwellian euphemisms" such as "transfer" that have too long dominated the historical debate (5). Quickly, however, he cuts to the heart of the matter: why did Palestinian society crumble so rapidly during the Palestine war?

Seeking answers, Khalidi examines factors of "incommensurability" (13) between the Zionist Yishuv and local society - political and economic development, human capital, disparities between urban (Zionist) and rural (Palestinian) majority spheres, and the reality that, relative to Palestine's Arabs, the "highly cohesive and unified yishuv" (8) was privileged by a "self-selecting sample" of ideologically-driven pioneers (18). He compares Palestinian society to surrounding Arab countries, all of them relatively new states (having experienced a much more common style of colonialism than Palestine, as well as at least partial liberation). Looking at literacy, education, the press, and economic statistics, he finds no specific explanation for the nakba, but persuasive evidence to dismiss the "canard" that Palestinian society was either less than "complete" or "irremediably mired in social backwardness" (29).

In Chapter 2 Khalidi examines the peculiar colonial institution that was the Mandate. Starting with the constitutional structure created to address Britain's commitments under the Balfour Declaration (the text of which was reprinted in its entirety in the mandate charter) - he notes how ninety percent of the country's population "was effectively ignored as a national or political entity." Palestinians found themselves thereafter facing a "cruel dilemma" (33). The British withheld official recognition to the Arab Executive composed of local notable leaders, "denying the representative nature of any body purporting to speak for the Palestinians, unless, as a precondition it accepted Britain's policy of support for the Jewish national home and the concomitant denial of Palestinian national rights" (42). By contrast the British and the League of Nations granted the Jewish Agency "quasi-official diplomatic status," which lent the Zionist movement "an international legitimacy" (45).

If that did not condemn "Palestinian politics to an even higher level of frustration than politics in other Arab countries" (45), the British imposed a "communitarian paradigm" on Palestinian society that followed on the "well-established British predilection... for developing privileged relations with real or invented aristocratic elites, rather than political formations rooted in the middle classes or the mass of the people" (52). The "unique institution" (61) was the Supreme Muslim Council under the direction of a newly reconfigured mufti - an official who now bore little relation to what he had been under Ottoman rule (the office had generally been held by an outsider, rather than a member of a local family engaged in competition with other notable families) and which now put mandate-sanctioned authority over religiously diverse Arab Palestine in the hands of a Muslim cleric. And a relatively minor figure to boot, the notorious Amin al-Husayni, polarizing even before he turned on his colonial patrons in the 1930s, when he "felt obliged to align himself with a growing popular rebellion" (62).

With Palestinian elites "hopelessly divided internally" (80) - not in small part due to British and Zionist strategies of "divide and rule" - how could one speak of anything other than "a failure of leadership" (the title of Chapter 3)? Those who "felt themselves to be the natural rulers of the country," the "legitimate heirs to the Ottoman dominion," equal to their peers in other Arab lands (80-1) were horrified, and ultimately paralyzed, by the rise of militant nationalism from below with their attendant calls for social reconfiguration. British repression of the revolt of 1936-39, as Khalidi notes in Chapter 4, "largely determined the outcome of the 1948 war" (105). He reminds us that no colonial rebellion succeeded in the interwar period. But with casualties running to more than ten percent of the male population, existing political divisions "became envenomed"(108). Rejection of the 1939 White Paper, against the grain of majority opinion, represented "the last important decision the Palestinians took by themselves for decades" (118).

Khalidi suggests that a more militant stand prior to 1936 might well have furthered Palestinian national aspirations. But having acted too late, the Palestinians entered a low point; between 1939-1949 they "lost agency" and "were either not consulted, or were effectively ignored" by an international community that eventually approved partition (125). The "thin reed to hang on" (129) remained support for antagonists of Jordan's Abdullah, who conspired with Zionist leaders to occupy Arab Palestine. Paradoxically, the "traumatic impact of the shared experience of 1948 on the entirety of Palestinian society helped to weld it together even more strongly, obliterating much that had transpired before 1948, rendering many earlier divisions irrelevant, and creating a sort of tabula rasa on which Palestinian identity could be reestablished" (135).

That "tabula rasa" Khalidi treats in the final two chapters. In Chapter 5 he assesses the long career of Yasser Arafat, who, compared to earlier nationalist leaders, attained "unrivaled, universal recognition" (144). Arafat must be assessed in terms of the vacuum that he filled, before his rise to prominence - Ahmad al-Shuqayri, the bombastic original chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, does not even merit mention - and following the assassination of his closest early collaborators, Abu Jihad and Abu Iyad. After that, "virtually no one could stand up to him" (147). Khalidi does not refrain from taking issue with political failings of the movement between June1967 war and Oslo. Under Arafat the PLO failed to develop a "framework for a full-fledged Palestinian state" (175) or to move from a "liberation strategy" (177). Palestinian leaders are judged "ill-prepared to lead such a transformation" and unable to "understand the limits of violence" (178). The establishment of the Palestinian Authority produced "the effective abandonment of the majority of Palestinians who live outside of Palestine" (180).

Penning his final lines last summer as bombs rained on Lebanon and Israel moved back into Gaza, Khalidi's final chapter is understandably bleak. The two-state solution, supported by a succession of American governments, has given way to a one-state "default option" (201) imposed by Israel and, for now, approved by Washington. This leaves Palestinians "stateless in Palestine" (the chapter title), foreclosing the agency that Khalidi has attempted to insert into the narrative. He writes, metaphorically, of an "iron cage." But, as the photograph on the dust-jacket reminds us, the concrete separation/apartheid wall that Israel is constructing in the West Bank may be more apropos. The essential precondition for any solution, Khalidi contends, is dismantling the "structures of colonialism and repression that originally engendered it" (216). Instead, the wall serves to formalize the annexation of Israel's 1967 war spoils, further uprooting Palestinian society, along with the precious groves that are confiscated.

Iron Cage or Concrete Wall, the struggle continues. Khalidi's book is ever timely, a provocative, dispassionate evocation of his people's yearning to fashion their own history.

Joel Gordon, Professor of History at the University of Arkansas, is the author of Nasser: Hero of the Arab Nation (2006).

Reposted from: Logos a journal of modern society & culture. 2008: Vol.7, Issue 2. ISSN 15430820.