Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Afghan Update: Can the US Win?

Thomas Riggins

The following speculations are based on logical deductions from the report found in the NYT of 6-25-10 ["Pakistan Is Said to Pursue An Afghanistan Foothold] by Jane Petlez, Eric Schmitt and Carlotta Gall. I assume that the empirical descriptions and claims are factual but do not rely on any of the conclusions and opinions expressed by the authors.

This was the lead article on the front page of the Times for that day. It has a very revealing subtitle: "Exploiting Troubled U.S. Military Effort in Selling Itself as New Karzai Partner." This subtitle indicates several things: 1. Pakistan is not a true US ally but it is only using the US to further its own interests in the region (allies don't "exploit" each other. 2. President Karzai is in the market for a new ally since the US military effort is messed up. 3. "Troubled U.S. Military Effort" is code for "losing military effort" since after nine years of war in an undeveloped peasant country the US seems to be running around like a chicken with its head cut off not knowing what to do or when to do it.

The article reports that the actions of Pakistan will increase its influence in Afghanistan "but is likely to undermine United States interests, Pakistani and American officials said." That's great: both our "ally" and we agree they are out to undermine us (and the US will pay for the bill due to the hugh amounts of military aid and money we give to Pakistan).

But our INTERESTS are supposed to be to get rid of al-Qaeda and strengthen the Afghan government. Well Karzai doesn't want to be weaker so that's not why he is listening to the sales pitch. Therefore Pakistan is trying to help out al-Qaeda. OR our INTERESTS are not what we say they are. Fighting al-Qaeda (and the Taliban) are just pretexts given to the American people to keep them ignorant and uniformed.

Here is what Pakistan is offering to Karzai. The warlord SIRAJUDDIN HAQQANI is a major ally of Al-Quaeda and he "runs a major part of the insurgency in Afghanistan." The head of the Pakistani army Gen. ASHFAQ PARVEZ (our ally?) is telling Karzai that he can bring the warlord (the General's friend?) over to Karzai in a "power-sharing" agreement. The General has also offered to "personally" get "the Taliban leadership" (also his buddies?) to sign on, along with some "proxies" (whose "proxies"?).

Well, Sirajuddin Haqqani, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban (and proxies) are just the groups the US is fighting. Wouldn't it be nice if, instead of trying to get them and Karzai set up as a new Afghani government, Pakistan and Gen. Parvez would clue us in on how to defeat them or at least how better protect our troops. Perhaps Karzai, Parvez and company see the US as "dead man walking"-- they know we are through: it will just take us a few billion more dollars, thousands of more dead people, double digit unemployment and the complete deterioration of what's left of the economy (for regular people) before we get the hint.

Enter another player: Lt. Gen. AHMAD SHUJA PASHA (the "spy chief"). It is well known that Pakistan walks both sides of street-- getting funding from the US and passing it along to elements in the insurgency that work as its agents. The Times reports that both Parvez and Pasha are in agreement with President Karzai that the US isn't getting anywhere in Afghanistan and that after the war he should incorporate the Haqqani forces into a new government. The Times refers to Haqqani's forces as "a longtime Pakistani asset." These forces are a major part of the "insurgent" forces killing our troops. Pakistan is ally to die for!

When the war is finally over, and the US pulls out, the final deal-- brokered by Pakistan and the new Karzai government may not "guarantee Washington's prime objective in the war: denying Al Qaeda a haven." If this is the best news from the front that our "newspaper of record" is bringing us after nine years of slaughter, what reason is there for one more US soldier to be killed over there?

Pakistan keeps the Haqqani forces around to use against INDIA. What Pakistan wants is to get India out of Kashmir, the American sideshow in Afghanistan is just a diversion from that ultimate goal. The Times reports that Indian targets in Afghanistan are hit by the Haqqani forces and some times they attack US troops: "a possible signal from the Pakistanis to the Americans that it is in their interests too, to embrace a deal."

Excuse me! But if Pakistan's proxies are killing US troops isn't that a causus belli? Why are we giving a billion dollars to the Pakistani military when it is ordering attacks on US troops? Well it's not a causus belli but it is a causus for whining. General Petraeus informed Congress recently that both Kabul and Bagram Air base suffered major attacks from the Haqqani forces. He informed Gen. Kayani (as if he didn't know already). "Your guys are killing my guys." "I'm shocked! I'll look into it at once. Don't forget the rest of the money you are supposed to send us." "Oh, it's coming. We always pay our allies."

The special envoy, Richard C. Holbrooke, was asked about melding Haqqani into the Afghan government. He didn't think it possible but said "Who knows?" Now there is a long range plan.

Meanwhile Inter-Sevices-Intellegence, Lt. Gen. Pasha's spy agency, is busy convincing Karsai that the US can't win. The American plan for Afghanistan "will not succeed" the ISI said. I expect the CIA told Karsai, "Who knows?"

Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas (Pakistani Army) said: "The American timetable for getting out makes it easier for Pakistan to play a more visible role." What does Pakistan want? It wants "hard core Taliban fighters" included in the final settlement. Those are the people we say we are fighting[ we may deal with "moderate" Taliban] because of their support of Al Qaeda and 9/11. In other words, Pakistan is working to help defeat the US. I'm beginning to think McChrystal gave that interview to Rolling Stone so that he would be fired. He didn't want to be around for the grand finale.

To give cover to its plans Pakistan says that the Haqqanis are willing to dump Al Qaeda (many experts think this is just to make the Americans feel better or a "tactical move" to fool Pakistan). But Gen. Kayani wants to broker a deal with two other leaders of the "insurgents" to fit into Karzai's post war government: the Taliban leader MULLAH MUHAMMAD OMAR and GULBUDDIN HEKMATYAR an insurgent warlord and ally of Pakistan.

[Hekmatyar is a former "freedom fighter" when he fought the Soviets, now of course he is fighting us so he is a "terrorist." This is the level of seriousness of our government and the press when explaining the reality of the war to the American people-tr]

Will Karsai even have a postwar government? Who Knows?

Labor movement slams Republicans for blocking jobless aid

Out of Time: Struggling Families Hoping for Assistance Shafted by Congress
AFSCME Rallies to Demand Aid, Promote Jobs, Protect Services

BOSTON – Dire economic predictions turn to reality this week as states prepare for a new fiscal year without billions of dollars in federal Medicaid assistance, small-business tax breaks, and education funding that Congress has failed to pass. Thousands of AFSCME activists from across the country rallied on Boston Common on Wednesday to demand that Congress help state and local governments fill budget gaps to keep Americans working and protect vital public services that support our communities.

“Right now, services and jobs are on the line. America’s workers, with families to support and bills to pay, just can’t wait for Congress any longer,” said AFSCME International President Gerald W. McEntee. “With each vote against the jobs bills in Congress, Washington is slamming the door in the faces of hard-working Americans wondering what they did to lose their jobs, cops, teachers and child-care. States have reached the point of no return and are now facing economic crises of historic proportions. It’s time for Congress to pass a real jobs bill.”

More than 30 states counted on $24 billion in FMAP funds—money which helps states cover the cost of Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor—while drawing up their 2011 FY budgets. Without this funding, states will be forced to siphon money from other programs in order to close the gap. The results of this shifting will be devastating, and it is likely states will start to see the effects this week.

The rally on Boston Common was also aimed at Massachusetts and Boston politicians who are threatening to close the state’s facilities for people with developmental disabilities and make devastating cuts to the city’s public libraries. The rally called for fair contracts for Massachusetts’ higher education workers represented by AFSCME.

“We are struggling with politicians who want to place the burden of our economic crisis on the backs of public employees and the less fortunate members of society who rely on AFSCME members for essential public services,” said Tony Caso, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 93 and AFSCME International Vice President. “If they think they can beat us then they don’t know what AFSCME is about. When we put our hearts and soul into a fight—nothing can stop us!”

On this last day of the fiscal year in most states, efforts are underway throughout the nation to urge Congress to end the GOP filibuster on the jobs bill and enact legislation to help the unemployed and states dealing with unprecedented budget shortfalls. Ten governors are holding a joint afternoon press conference in Washington, D.C., and rallies are taking place in 18 states. AFSCME members are fighting to preserve essential public services and for working families across the country.

Veterans, Labor, Environmentalists Urge President Obama to Strive for FREEDOM FROM OIL


June 30, 2010

Veterans, Labor, Environmentalists Urge President Obama to Strive for
10,000 American Flags Planted in Front of Washington Monument

Washington, D.C. – Today, veterans, union leaders and environmentalists gathered in the shadow of the Washington Monument to call on President Obama to end America’s dependence on oil. Starting as an online campaign planting 50,000 virtual flags, volunteers began last night planting 10,000 actual American flags on the National Mall spelling out “FREEDOM FROM OIL” to represent those asking the President to respond to the BP disaster in the Gulf with a bold plan to move America off of oil and into a clean energy future.

Sierra Club’s Executive Director Michael Brune was joined by Truman National Security Project COO, former US Army Captain, and Iraq veteran Jonathan Powers and Communications Workers of America Senior Director George Kohl.

Images available here:

Remarks of Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club

"These flags represent tens of thousands of Americans who have watched the BP disaster in the Gulf and want to make sure it never happens again. In our nation’s 244-year history, we’ve faced many daunting challenges, and we have risen to meet them. We are confident that with President Obama’s bold leadership we can achieve Freedom From Oil and put American innovation to work to end our dependence on oil and create a clean energy future."

"There is no doubt that our nation's addiction to foreign energy sources represents a dire security issue, and our country must take some serious steps toward Freedom From Oil by developing solutions that can end our oil addiction and make our nation more secure."

"We haven't even stopped the massive flow of oil from BP’s gushing well yet, let alone begun to respond to the damage it has wrought – and yet the oil industry and many others want to keep drilling off our coasts. They claim it’s the only way to boost the local economy and keep people employed."

"It is unconscionable that Big Oil and its allies would like to declare the region a dead zone in which the only jobs to be had are from more oil drilling."

"This disaster should be a wake up call. We can't return to business as usual and face another disaster like this. It's time to stand up to the oil industry, increase our transportation choices, reduce the need to drive, and embrace the clean energy solutions that will create good, lasting jobs while keeping our fresh air, drinking water, and oceans intact."

"We need President Obama's leadership to deliver a plan to end our dependence on oil over the next twenty years. Every day that we fail to act is a day that we continue to place American security, economy, and climate in jeopardy. We can do better – we can end our oil addiction, and we need President Obama to lay the path to oil independence."

Remarks of Truman National Security Project COO Jonathan Powers:

Former Army Captain and Iraq veteran Jonathan Powers remarked, at the event, “It is a shame that we will let yet another July Fourth pass us by without ending our unnecessary dependence on oil – a dependence that is funding the bullets that our enemies fire at our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is for that reason, and many more, that the fight for energy independence in is being fought here at home, a struggle we hope more Americans will join in support of those who are fighting abroad.”

Remarks of George Kohl of Communication Workers of America:

Our members work in communications building high-speed broadband networks, which will play a critical role in reducing emissions and improving our environment.

Our ability to connect to the world-wide web at world-class speeds is an essential infrastructure for 21st century jobs and a green economy. These networks bring vital information and services to our hospitals, schools, libraries and homes. Yet with all our vast wealth, this critical infrastructure is still out of reach for 100 million Americans.


Winds of change

BlueGreen Alliance, American Wind Energy Association, and USW Provide “Manufacturing Blueprint” to Build Out Domestic Wind Energy Supply Chain and Create U.S. Manufacturing Jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 28, 2010) According to a report released today by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), BlueGreen Alliance and the United Steelworkers, the U.S. wind industry can create tens of thousands of additional jobs manufacturing wind turbines and components if the U.S. passes long-term policies that create a stable market for the domestic wind energy supply chain.

“Wind energy provides one of the most promising sources of new manufacturing jobs for American workers,” said Rob Gramlich, Senior Vice President of Public Policy for AWEA. “This report shows how the right policies such as a Renewable Electricity Standard will build the supply chain and create those jobs.”

“This report represents a major alignment between our goals for energy independence and creating the clean energy jobs of the future,” said Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “This ‘manufacturing blueprint’ is a critical step toward ensuring that we don’t replace our dependence on foreign oil with a dependence on Chinese-made wind turbines. With the right policies, clean energy will help revitalize American manufacturing. We must ensure that American manufacturers have the resources they need to build clean wind energy components and by doing so, help establish America as a global leader of clean energy technologies.”

Winds of Change: A Manufacturing Blueprint for the Wind Industry highlights growth for the American wind industry despite the absence of a long-term and stable market for wind energy, or policies to support wind’s manufacturing sector. While the growth in wind energy manufacturing has been steady — growing from 2,500 workers in 2004 to 18,500 in 2009 — tens of thousands of additional jobs manufacturing wind turbines and components, such as towers, gearboxes, and bearings, could be created with policies that establish a long-term, stable market and support the manufacturing sector’s transition to the wind industry.

“Moving to clean energy is just one piece of the puzzle — we need to ensure that America’s clean energy economy is built by U.S. workers, and creates good manufacturing jobs,” said Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers. “By including common-sense policies like a 25 percent Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), and an extended Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit, in comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation, we can build a wind energy supply chain in the U.S.”

The report follows a recent announcement by AWEA and USW on a “framework agreement” to accelerate the development and deployment of wind energy production in the U.S. The report recommends a federal RES of 25 percent by 2025 with meaningful mid-term targets, regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, and policies specifically aimed at building the U.S. wind energy manufacturing sector.

“Failure to act presents the very real danger that the United States will fall further behind in the race for clean energy and the manufacturing jobs that come along with it,” said David Foster, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “We need to pass a comprehensive plan now to establish the United States as the global leader in clean energy technologies.”

Along with the RES, specific policies aimed at building the wind manufacturing sector include extending and strengthening the Recovery Act’s convertible tax credit program (1603), fully funding the Green Jobs Act, building a transmission grid infrastructure to meet the demand for clean energy and utilizing loan guarantee programs for commercial manufacturing of clean energy.

The report recommends passing Senator Sherrod Brown’s IMPACT Act, which creates a state-level revolving loan fund to help small- and medium-sized manufacturers retool for clean energy markets and adopt energy efficient manufacturing. The report also recommends extending and strengthening the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit with specific incentives and accountability provisions to maximize domestic job creation, including giving highest priority to projects that manufacture clean energy component parts.

Video: The Power of Big Oil

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Podcast #118 - Imprisonment of African Americans a New Era of Jim Crow?, Part 2

On today's episode, we play the second part of our interview with author, lawyer, and civil rights activist Michelle Alexander whose new book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness just came out from The New Press. So stay with us.

Download the mp3 version of episode #118 here

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Podcast #117 - Imprisonment of African Americans a New Era of Jim Crow?, Part 1

It's June 5th, 2010. On this special two-part episode, we interview author, lawyer, and civil rights activist Michelle Alexander whose new book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness just came out from The New Press. Check it out at

Download the mp3 version of episode #117 here

Monday, June 28, 2010

Venezuela: PDVSA’s Statement about Nationalization of Drilling Rigs

Caracas – At the beginning of 2009 the Venezuela state owned oil industry Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA, in Spanish) began a process of re-negotiation of fees of all the firms that offer services in the country. In this process, which in the area of drilling rigs included the participation of 33 companies, only one, Heimlich & Payne (H&P), refused to reach an agreement.

The drilling firm H&P has kept eleven drilling units out of operation for more than a year – 10 3,000 horsepower units in eastern and western Venezuela, and one 2,000-horsepower unit on eastern Venezuela.

Spare H&P, the 32 firms – 14 national, 18 international – that performed services in Venezuela’s oil and gas sector, operating a total of 155 drills throughout the country, reached agreements with PDVSA, representing a sense of confidence in Venezuela’s state-owned firm by its national and international partners.

Regardless, as earlier indicated, and despite almost a year worth of meetings with representatives and directors of H&P, it was not possible to reach an agreement due to the firm’s intransigence.

The nationalization of the oil production drills of the contracting firm H&P will not only translate into an increase in the production of oil and gas in the country, but it will also grant over 600 workers full-time employment with PDVSA –an improvement upon the contract work they had before— and will allow the creation of other sources of work direct and indirect in the hydrocarbons sector.

For all of these reasons, in defense of the interests of the Venezuelan people and taking into consideration that the cited drills have not been in operation for over a year, PDVSA will request that the National Assembly declare them a public utility as stated in Article 4 of the Venezuelan Organic Law on Hydrocarbons.

PDVSA ratifies its intention to keep working with its privately-held partners, both national and international, just as has been demonstrated through numerous projects currently under development, under the existing legal framework and in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Additionally, PDVSA categorically rejects the declarations made by the U.S. empire – repeated in our country by media outlets owned by the oligarchy – through which it seeks to strain Venezuela’s relations with its partners, which in the Orinoco Oil Belt alone have produced projects worth $80 billion and in which services for wells have produced a mixed enterprise with the U.S.-based firm Schlumberger, the world’s major firm in this specialty.

Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) / June 25, 2010

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Film Review: "South of the Border" Oliver Stone and Tariq Ali Combin e for a Powerful Documentary

Oliver Stone and Tariq Ali Create Documentary Masterpiece:

"South of the Border"

Eric Green

In the Q&A at the Angelica theatre in NYC, a producer of the film, "South of the Border", Jose Ibanez, was asked how Tariq Ali, who was sitting and answering questions, was asked to join the film. The answer was quite direct; "We needed Tariq to join us when we were completely lost with far too much material for the film. He did a great job in giving us a good context and background for the film."

The night before, Oliver Stone gave a Q&A to promote his film.

By Saturday, the film opened on Friday, the NY Times had delivered a second comment on the film. Ali said that the first one, a regular review was generally positive. But, clearly Ali said the NY Times leaders were not happy with the film review and they made sure another comment was needed to attack the film as one sided and filled with inaccuracies.

Why the controversy? Simple.

This is a documentary film that describes the career of Hugo Chavez's rise to be elected the head of Venezuela; survived a U.S. inspired coup and now bringing economic, social and financial justice to everyday Venezuelans. Oliver Stone is at his finest in directly questioning Chavez and then other leaders: Evo Morales, of Bolivia; both Kirchners of Argentina; Rafael Correa of Ecuador; Lugo of Paraguay; Lula da Silva of Brazil and then, of course, Raul Castro of Cuba.

The film is brilliant.

Clearly, this film will the shifting the thinking, to a greater extent than has been to date, from the declining of Europe and its Euro; England and of course, the United States, as the only world powers on the earth today. There is a new mighty roar coming from South American and Asia.

Columbia the U.S. Base of Reaction

The right wing extremes of the Bush Administration in the 2000 to 2008, with the accompanied Fox news Fascist style news reporting, are highlighted throughout the documentary. Also, the NY Times Editorial hypocrisy in regard to the failed Venezuelan coup receives good attention.

The film's makers dwell at length on the role of television and radio media played in undermining the democratically elected governments. An objective, fair television station through South American is desparately. The current efforts are simply not enough.

But, Stone and Ali showed the continuing strain of U.S. right wing, militaristic role in South America with the continuing arming of the right wing lead government of Columbia. This film segment was preceded by the great hope that the Obama Administration presented in the area of foreign affairs in general and in South America specifically. The recent hemispheric meeting in Trinidad that President Obama attended was certainly a step forward but the failure to invite Cuba to that meeting meant the majority of South American and Central American countries would not agree to any closing document. Most demanded an end to the Blockade.

No Longer A Phenomena

The rise of radical social democracies; new socialist governments and some just plain old democratic mixed ecomomies in South America was once just seen as a phenomena; but its is clear that they are here to stay.

As Raul Castro and other leaders made clear, these revolutions did not happen because of outside intervention, they came from internal struggles and the voting power of the working class.

But at the same time as each country rejects the Internatiional Monetary Fund and seeks their own way; one country, Cuba was the first, and one which every other countriy clearly admires. The solidarity among these countries was truly inspiring. More films will be needed as the audiences pointed out, are needed to fully describe the changes and the end result of getting rid of the International Montary Fund and its ruler, the USA.

The growth of Brasil in the past ten years, up to the present time, shows how rejecting the IMF can result in growth and not the capitalist economic and financial crisis that has gripped the Euro Countries, England and the USA.

Meetings of the G-20 and within that the G8, that are taking place in Toronto this week show that things are certainly changing First of all, the United Nations General Assembly, a couple of years ago demanded the end to the G8 and making G20 a little broader group to lead those discussions. The then President of the GA, Manuel d'Escoto did a great job for more than a year to galvanize the concept of the G189…..a government of all the world.

A small step was taken this week in Toronto.

Distribution; Distribution; Distribution

Stone on Friday nite and Ali and Ibanez on Saturday afternoon repeated their appeal to those in attendance to help get this film seen.

It is not coincidental that as the G-8 and G20 were meeting in Toronto and the very centrist ITUC was meeting in Vancouver, Evo Morales in answer to a question put to him by Stone on how Morales saw his role, he was quite passionate. He sees his role as President of Bolivia as a union leader leading his country. He referred back to his years as a union leader in Bolivia. You have to keep pushing, pushing.

The film will open in Los Angeles: July 2, 2010;
San Francisco: July 16, 2010;
Berkeley: July 16, 2010
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Friday, June 25, 2010

BP Up to its Old Tricks--( and the Government Too?)

Thomas Riggins

So it seems like it is still "Drill Baby Drill" at BP and with its friends in the government. BP is about to start a new ocean drilling project around three miles off the coast of Alaska, even as millions of gallons of oil still are pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. [Cf. "BP Is Pursuing Alaska Drilling Some Call Risky-- NYT 6-24-10].

Obama said he had stopped all new drilling offshore in the Arctic. So why is BP proceeding? It brought out tons of gravel and dumped them in the Beaufort Sea until it built up a 31 acre pile to a depth of around 22 feet, called it an island, and stuck its oil rig on top of it.

So now BP says they are not drilling in water so the rules that should apply to them are those of "on shore" NOT "off shore" drilling. And, Lo and Behold! The federal regulators agreed and gave the rig "on shore" status-- even though it is sitting three miles off shore! And BP has the worst environmental and safety record of any big oil company (they all have horrible records anyway).

BP already has its environmental permits approved by the feds (under Bush) and the state-- the government just accepted BP's own environmental impact statement and did not bother to do their own (how can you not trust BP?).

By the way, this well is an experimental project-- good luck Alaska. Also good luck to the bowhead whales-- the rig sits next to their migration route.

There is hope this madness can be stopped. BP has to file one last paper before it can begin to drill and the Obama administration can withhold permission-- let's hope it does and cancels this monstrosity left over from the Bush regime.

Obama Warns Insurers About Rate Hikes

Obama Warns Insurers About Rate Hikes
From the Alliance for Retired Americans

An AFL-CIO blog post on Tuesday repeated a warning from President Obama that "health insurance companies should not use the new heath care reform law as an 'opportunity to enact unjustifiable rate increases.'" The President made his remarks at a White House ceremony marking the 90-day anniversary of signing the landmark bill, which he termed "a true patient's bill of rights." The warning came a day after a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) showed that health insurers are raising prices by an average of 20% for working-age adults who are not covered on the job and who buy their own policies. At the ceremony, Obama referred to Anthem Blue Cross of California attempting to raise its rates by 39%, before caving in to pressure. Now, says Obama, "The CEOs here today need to know that they're going to be required to publicly justify unreasonable premium increases on your websites, as well as the law's new website - As we set up the exchanges, we'll be watching closely, and we'll fully support states if they exercise their review authority to keep excessively expensive plans out of their insurance exchanges." Under the law's new rules issued Tuesday, Obama said the insurance companies' "worst abuses will be banned forever." For the full post, go to

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

MacChrystal, Petraeus, A Big Mac for a Whopper while the Oil which got the U.S. into the Region in the First Places spills over the Gulf of Mexico

by Norman Markowitz

First let me thank Tom Riggins for his fine post. I too read the Rolling Stone article (which really wasn't adequately dealt with in the press and TV accounts) and what I read sounded, from both Stanley Mac's aides and himself like a group of cynical foul mouthed characters who reminded me of the Nixon White White House Watergate crowd as a group of people --except they, the military leaders, were the ones managing the corruption and the lies(unlike the Nixon White House inner circle) and talking about their civilians leaders the way Nixon and his aides talked about their political enemies.
Replacing McChrystal with Petraeus though is from what we know like replacing Harding with Coolidge or Boss Tweed with the Tammany Hall leaders who followed him for the next ninety years until Carmine De Sapio, the last old style Tammany leader, finally went to prison in the 1960s. Given what both are, it can't by itself change anything.
Both are Military Industrial Complex (MIC) interchangeable parts in a parasitic system which is a textbook example of Lenin's theory of imperialism--undermining earlier liberal democratic institutions and traditions (for which militarists whatever they say have, given the lucrative industry of which they are a part, as much contempt for as corporate leaders have for unions) and of course creating, extending and expanding wars that consolidate the power of monopoly capital, as it exports capital abroad.
The war in Afghanistan is a lose lose situation for the Obama administration. If Obama really were the Socialist (and particularly the Communist) of right wing fantasies, his administration might stand a chance to do something positive in Afghanistan by supporting a restoration of the policies that the Peoples Democratic Party (Communist Party) of Afghanistan fought for, far reaching land reform, the destruction of the feudal land lord warlord, Islamic clergy power structure which ruled over an impoverished unskilled illiterate people, and of course, general and especially female education. The U.S. given its resources might do a better job at that the the Soviet Union did, because it would not have Russia or any other power supporting the Taliban and the warlords to the tune of billions to arm and train tens of thousands to disrupt all of that.
Of course, I am saying this with my tongue pretty far in my cheek. What the Obama administration can do, though, given what it formally stands for and the hopes of its core constituents, is to carry forward a military withdrawal from Afghanistan, work with India, China, former Soviet Republics in the region and Russia, on some reconstruction and stabilization plan, with the United Nations providing through its various agencies oversight. The longer the administration continues the present course in Afghanistan, the more it divides its own supporters and helps the Reagan-Bush-"Tea Party" extreme right forces regain the initiative and improves their chances to restore their power. And the victory of those forces is a much greater danger to the economic and social security of the American people than anything that can happen in Afghanistan.

The Fall of General McChrystal

by Thomas Riggins

After reading the Rolling Stone article that brought down McChrystal, I can only say that Obama really had no other choice but to "accept his resignation"--i.e., fire him. The arrogance and contempt shown by the general and his immediate staff towards the president and his team, of which McChrystal was obstensively a part, is hard to understand. What planet did McChrystal and his staff think they were living on to make such inflammatory comments about the president and vice president and other members of the administration?

However, there is even a greater story here than the downfall of an unwise general. Below is the conclusion to the Rolling Stone article which indicates that Afghanistan is a LOST CAUSE.

"After nine years of war, the Taliban simply remains too strongly entrenched for the U.S. military to openly attack. The very people that COIN [Counter Insurgency--tr] seeks to win over – the Afghan people – do not want us there. Our supposed ally, President Karzai, used his influence to delay the offensive [the surge], and the massive influx of aid championed by McChrystal is likely only to make things worse. "Throwing money at the problem exacerbates the problem," says Andrew Wilder, an expert at Tufts University who has studied the effect of aid in southern Afghanistan. "A tsunami of cash fuels corruption, delegitimizes the government and creates an environment where we're picking winners and losers" – a process that fuels resentment and hostility among the civilian population. So far, counterinsurgency has succeeded only in creating a never-ending demand for the primary product supplied by the military: perpetual war. There is a reason that President Obama studiously avoids using the word "victory" when he talks about Afghanistan. Winning, it would seem, is not really possible. Not even with Stanley McChrystal in charge. "

Note the following:


This pessimism is only greater if you read the entire article. So while Obama was right to get rid of McChrystal, he is making a great mistake in taking the American people down the road of perpetuating this meaningless war. This was Bush's war, Bush's lunacy. We must convince Obama to abandon it or it will destroy his presidency and open the doors of reaction here at home.

McChrystal-izing a Problem: The Militarization of American Statecraft

Is there a quiet coup occurring in the U.S. government. From Budget Insight:

General Stanley McChrystal’s candid disrespect for civilian leadership is being treated as an issue of bad judgment and personality. But this episode reveals a much deeper dilemma for American statecraft, one that has long roots but has reached near crisis proportions over the past ten years: the gradual erosion of civilian leadership and the militarization of our foreign and security policy.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen warned about this trend in remarks to the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University last year, but it has been under way for years.

Read the whole post here...

Venezuela calls for extradition of terrorist Posada Carriles

The following statement was posted June 15. Sorry for the late posting here:

Venezuela’s National Assembly Urges U.S. to Detain Terrorist Luis Posada Carriles

* Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez indicates that this agreement of the Venezuelan legislature tells the U.S. that it has one path in the case: “Extradite Posada to Venezuela or put him on trial in the U.S. for the crime of terrorism.”

The Venezuelan National Assembly agreed today to “urge the United States of America to respect the Extradition Treaty it has with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and begin the necessary process for the extradition of terrorist Luis Posada Carriles. The agreement was authored in remembrance of the five-year-anniversary of the filing of the extradition request for Posada, which was presented to U.S. authorities by the Venezuelan government on June 15, 2005.

The agreement was delivered by Cilia Flores, the president of the National Assembly, and was introduced by parliamentarian Aurora Morales. In attendance during the plenary session were Bernardo Alvarez, Venezuela’s ambassador to the White House, and Jose Pertierra, Venezuela’s lawyer for the extradition request. They sat alongside family members of the victims of Posada’s terrorist acts.

The National Assembly’s agreement cited the bombing of a Cubana de Aviacion passenger plane in 1976 in which 73 civilians were killed, “including the Cuban National Youth Fencing Team, a pregnant athlete and a nine-year-old girl.” Posada masterminded the attack and was detained for it in Venezuela, but he escaped in 1985 before his trial could be completed, leaving unresolved before the courts 73 charges of homicide.

Also responsible for terrorist acts in Central America and Cuba, Posada has been living freely in the U.S. since 2005, and has faced only minor immigration offenses.

“There is an extradition request made by Venezuela, in accordance with all of the necessary constitutional and legal requirements and procedures. The Supreme National Tribunal has acted, the Public Ministry has acted…Regardless, today we reach five years since the request was made and still his extradition has not been achieved,” stated Flores.

“This conduct by the U.S. government contradicts what has been the supposed war on terrorism and the accusation against other countries regarding terrorism when the most wanted terrorist of the Western Hemisphere is being protected in the U.S.,” explained Ambassador Alvarez.

“Today, with the support of Venezuela’s legislature, we tell the U.S. that it has but one path in this case – extradite Posada to Venezuela or put him on trial in the U.S. for the crime of terrorism. This is the only option that the U.S. has to confirm that it is not applying double standards in the war on terrorism,” he added.

The National Assembly’s agreement also reaffirmed Venezuela’s commitment to “grant Luis Posada Carriles his legal rights and to respect his human rights, as is established in the Constitution of the Republic.”

Venezuela and the United States signed an extradition treaty in 1922 that remains in force.

Press and Communications Office of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the U.S./ 15 June 2010

Greed Behind BP, Mine Disasters

Just came across this very interesting post from the AFL-CIO blog:

United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo W. Gerard and Mine Workers (UMWA) Cecil Roberts take on the root of all evil behind the nation’s disasters in this crosspost from the Campaign for America.

As oil mucked the Gulf of Mexico and families mourned 11 dead rig workers, BP officials proclaimed that the corporation’s priority always was safety. This tracked the tack taken by Massey Energy, whose officials also declared safety was paramount after an explosion in the corporation’s Upper Big Branch mine killed 29 workers.

CEOs commonly make such incongruous assertions to protect profits after corporate-caused disasters. They’re driven by the same factor that is fundamental to the catastrophes—greed.

Nothing wrong with that, right? Not in a society that has converted greed from a vice to a virtue. Not in the place that inspired the book, “Greed is Good: The Capitalist Pig Guide to Investing.” Surely it’s no problem in the land where “Greed” has its own game show on Fox and where Ayn Rand, the “money-is-the-root-of-all-good” philosopher, reigns as Republican queen long after her death…

In Case You Missed It

Health reform created a new Patient’s Bill of Rights that provides strong consumer protections by guaranteeing that people have access to out of network emergency care without increased cost, more choice of a primary care physician, access to OB-GYN and pediatric care without a referral, and the prohibition of rescissions, denial of coverage because of pre-existing conditions for people under 30, and lifetime limits and restricted annual limits that insurance companies used to stop paying for people’s coverage when they got sick.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New York Times Article on Obama Out of Line

New York Times Article on Obama Out of Line
Thomas Riggins

An article in the today's NYT (6-22-10) crosses the line between reporting and Glen Beck style defamation against President Obama. An article by Kevin Sack and Sheryl Gay Stolberg ["As Law Takes Effect, Obama Warns Insurers on Big Rate Increases"] reports that health care reform was helped through Congress due to Obama's "vilification of insurers." "Vilification" means, according to most dictionaries, and Wikepedia:

"Defamation—also called calumny, vilification, slander (for transitory statements), and libel (for written, broadcast, or otherwise published words)—is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, or nation a negative image. It is usually, but not always [in Wales and parts of England--tr] a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed (the claimant)." [Wikepedia]

In fact Obama only said was everyone knows were the practices of the insurance
industry: denying coverage for preconditions, putting caps on payments, leaving millions of people out of the insurance pool, putting profits first, etc.

To report that the president engaged in "vilification" in a supposed news story is irresponsible and partisan, and the New York Times, which claims in its ads that it "employs the best journalists in the world, and the there is no disputing that", is a form of the worst yellow journalism and should be protested by all Times readers interested in factual reporting and not right-wing slander.

Obama admn. sends third bill to BP

WASHINGTON - The Obama Administration today sent a third bill for $51.4 million to BP and other responsible parties for response and recovery operations relating to the BP/Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

As a responsible party, BP is financially responsible for all costs associated with the response to the spill, including efforts to stop the leak at its source, reduce the spread of oil, protect the shoreline and mitigate damages, as well as long term recovery efforts to ensure that all individuals and communities impacted by the spill are made whole.

To provide full transparency of the ongoing efforts and to ensure that the American public is not held accountable for the costs of response and recovery activities, the Federal Government bills BP and the other responsible parties regularly for costs incurred by the Federal On-Scene Coordinator to support Federal, State, and local response efforts and ensure the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund is reimbursed on an ongoing basis.

This is the third bill the Administration has sent to date. BP and other responsible parties have paid the first two bills, totaling $70.89 million, in full.

This invoice is based on specific Federal Government expenses that are subject to billing at this time, including expenses associated with the response of over two dozen Federal entities and agencies from three States, in accordance with the Federal On-Scene Coordinator request for assistance process. Federal response activities not subject to billing at this time, including future activities, will be billed to the responsible parties through subsequent invoices. In addition, these bills do not include any other costs for which BP and the other responsible parties are liable to any other party.

The United States Coast Guard is responsible for administering the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to ensure that individuals and communities harmed by oil spills are made whole and that the costs of response and cleanup are borne by the responsible parties.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chinese Workers Make Gains

Thomas Riggins

It is nice to read the following in the New York Times (2-21-10): "Chinese workers are much more willing these days to defend their rights and demand higher wages , ENCOURAGED BY RECENT POLICIES FROM THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT [read The Communist Party of China--tr] aimed at protecting laborers and closing the income gap."

There is nothing strange about a worker's government defending workers, although the NYT speculates about the motives of the CP (fear of a Solidarity type movement , and other theories not actually based on the evidence presented in the article).

Sticking to just the facts the article reveals that China has enacted laws protecting the rights of working people and that class consciousness is on the rise with more and more working people fighting back against their exploitation by capitalists who are regulated, but not suppressed, by the government as it tries to manage economic growth by a "socialist market economy."

The Chinese government, because of its socialist underpinnings, has been more active in fighting unemployment and job losses than its capitalist counterparts in the the US, Japan, and the EU.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Yesterday in the World of Sports, Capitalism and the old Cold War

by Norman Markowitz

I was going to dash off these thoughts about events yesterday but didn't have time.

First there was the North Korea-Brazil soccer game. Now I confess that I am not a follower of soccer(which the world calls football) but this was very interesting. I even followed the game on the New York Times blog which was filled with ongoing commentary. When the North Korean goal keeper gave up a goal, one blogger joked (I think but who knows) that he would be sent to "the gulag"(post 1970 generic term used in capitalist media for political prisons in socialist countries, regardless of the language, climate, or distance from Siberia).

But most of the commentators I came across had gone beyond this one dimensional way of thinking and many, including supporters of Brazil, praised the remarkable achievement of the North Koreans, the 105th rated team in the world, playing the 1st rated team in the world to the last minute, only to lose 2-1. This got me to thinking what W Bush the former president or Sarah Palin, the former sports reporter and right wing gadfly, might think. Bush probably wouldn't understand the game, confusing goals with home runs. But he would immediately denounce Brazil for playing a game with North Korea, a member of the "Axis of Evil" He would even suggest that patriotic Americans start calling the Brazilian Samba the Texas Waltz, as congressional Republicans once changed the name of French Fries to "Freedom Fries" in the House of Representatives Cafeteria after France criticized the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Sarah Palin would probaby make some comment about the subversive and immoral nature of playing a game with your feet after she announced that she was qualified to discuss this topic because she could see both Brazil and North Korea from her home in Alaska.
Having lived in New Jersey for most of the last forty years, a story about Mikhail Prokhorov, the new Russian "billionaire" owner of the New Jersey Nets(who are planning to move to Brooklyn) caught my eye. Let's call him "Smiling Mike," the name the U.S. press gave to an old Soviet ambassador during the Khrushchev years in the 1950s.
Smilin Mike was in Newark at the Prudential Center, where the team he has just bought will be playing for the next two years before the try to find El Dorado in Brooklyn. Corey Booker the African American mayor of Newark was present and they both tried to hit three point shots unsuccessfully until Booker finally made one. Booker joked that he would bet his salary against Smilin Mike's as to who would make the first shot. Although capitalists really don't live on salary, but on stocks, bonds, interest and dividends, Smilin Mike did not take him up on it.
Seriously, I thought that Smilin Mike and his "new Russian" fellow capitalists are among the oddest capitalists in history. His wealth comes from the privatizing of a complete economy that was built by socialist labor, by the labor and investment of the whole Soviet people. His wealth and those of his associates was based on the confiscation of Soviet public property, taken from directly from the whole people, not indirectly the way Rockefeller in the past or Bill Gates in the present, take their wealth, by using their capital, produced by investments in past labor, to "hire" present labor to produce things. Actually, what happened to the Soviet economy I would describe as theft on a scale unparalleled in human history.

But as an historian I remembered that many of the "great" American Robber Barons of the nineteenth and early 20th centuries fed their egos by purchasing large quantities of European art and marrying off their daughters to European aristocrats. In both areas they often lost a lot of money. By purchasing the Nets, a team that one 12 games out of 82 last year, Smilin Mike may join them. I doubt he will find wealth and fame in Brooklyn with his team, even though in recent decades, the leaders of financially strapped cities have often given sports developers anything they wanted in the hope that new teams and stadiums would revitalize local economies(which they almost never do, as working class housing and recreational facilities are destroyed, public funds are used to subsidize private investment as the fans drive in from the suburbs and go to great lengths to have nothing to do with the communities in which the games are played. I doubt also that the new stadium the Nets will have in Brooklyn, if and when they get there, will be called Prokhorov Field. It will probably have some business name, like Snickers Field, since I am told that Snickers candy bars became popular in the new Russia after the dismemberment of the Soviet Union
Finally, on the point of basketball, I watched the Celtics-Lakers game, and unlike Sam Webb, General Secretary of the CPUSA, whom I respect and support, I was rooting for the Lakers. But this of course is a secondary contradictions. Actually, many of my friends believed that I was rooting for the Lakers because I remain a lifelong Dodger fan, but I told them this had nothing to do with it. For many years in the 1950s and 1960s, I rooted for the Celtics against the Lakers and other teams for the NBA championship because they were from the Eastern Division and I as a Knick fan thought it was my duty to root for the Celtics. The Eastern Division team. Then I realized that I really didn't like the Celtics, this was blind traditionalism. Since then I have rooted for the Lakers when they have played the Celtics to make up for all the times that I rooted against them. Unfortunately, my team, the Knicks, have been owned in recent years by a super rich cable TV mogul, James Dolan, who has led the team as effectively as Mikhail Gorbachev, not Prokhorov, led the Soviet Union.

Monday, June 14, 2010

On BP aka British Petroleum aka the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company

by Norman Markowitz

What goes around comes around, sometimes in odd ways, British Petroleum, the former Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, a global transnational energy corporation, has created an environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico of unprecedented proportions. President Obama has blasted the company, called upon it to suspend dividends, while progressives in Congress are looking into actions to take against it. In Britain, leading conservatives, called Tories, have denounced the president and the U.S., some with no tso subtle suggestions that a man with a Kenyan father really couldn't appreciate what BE(the British Empire) did for the world, not to mention the wonderful achievements of BP, whose stock is widely held by British pension funds.
There are many issues here. The first should be the forgotten and sordid history of BP in what was the CIA's first "great coup" in Iran in 1953

As the Anglo Iranian Oil Company, BP controlled Iranian oil, paid the Iranian government pence on the pound for it, and restricted Iranians to manual labor jobs in their own oil industry After Mohammed Mossadegh, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran nationalized the oil, BP and the British government launched a virtual economic blockade against Iran. When Mossadegh turned to the U.S for help, President Eisenhower told him to do what BP and Britain wanted--that is, surrender and give them back the oil. He then turned for aid to the only country that would help, the Soviet Union, which did, in the hope that it could develop a friendly relationship with Iran similar to the one it had with non-aligned India and thus take Iran out of the cold war encirclement schemes advanced by the U.S. NAT0 bloc.

When Mossadegh did that, the CIA, with the support of British operatives in Iran, launched a coup which overthrew his government in 1953 and turned the Shah, previously a constitutional monarch, into a brutal tyrant. The oil was of course privatized, but the Anglo-Iranian Oil company had to give over forty percent to U.S. oil companies as part of the spoils.
Fast forward to 1978, the Iranian clerically led revolution, and all of the disasters which have followed in U.S. Iranian relations. The Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-1980 was one factor in bringing around Ronald Reagan's election in the U.S. The anti-regulation policies which Reagan launched and others extended in all areas of the U.S. economy made it possible for BP to do the deep drilling which has created this disaster(president Obama has criticized the deep drilling and progressives in Congress are calling for a regulatory overhaul).

The disaster is complicated because BP is a foreign based corporation. However, it shows the necessity of both a global and a public energy policy. Energy resources have been nationalized in many countries because it is widely understood that something so essential to the overall economy should not be in private hands. In the past, socialists and communists in many countries advocated international public ownership and control of energy resources with planning for both development and environmental protection through some United Nations based agency. Such a long term solution should be the prize that those of us who are for socialism keep our eyes on.

We should also make the point which the late Barry Commoner, pioneering ecologist and socialist made decades ago, that it is much easier to deal with environmental questions at the point of production(in this case excavation) then to engage in expensive cleanups after environmental disasters, regardless of who pays. President Obama's support for alternative energy development is a step in the right direction along with the development of "green" industrial processes which will not need cleanup.

The British public did not like George W. Bush much on a variety of issue, but British conservatives are angry that President Obama isn't talking and acting like him. We should praise the President for his statements, listen carefully to his national address on the topic, and call upon him to back up his words with actions.

P.S. One last example of the principle that what goes around comes around in odd ways. Those Brit Tories who are praising BP as a good pension investment might remember that the quasi-privatization of the British pension system was carried forward by Margaret Thatcher's government as part of her general policy of eliminating as much as she could of the British welfare state, making all British social services both less equal and based on regressive taxes.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Language and Culture

This is an interesting article about language and it may also explain why we Marxists argue so much with each other over basically nothing. That is those of us who use "classical" Marxist vocabulary don't understand those of us who have abandoned that vocabulary for ordinary terms in the general language of the people. "Dictatorship of the Proletariat"-- who wants a dictatorship? "Democratic people's dictatorship"-- democratic whaaat? There are many other terms that are now frowned upon as well-- but have the concepts survived under different names? We certainly want a more democratic society, one where working people's interests are more important than those of Wall Street (People before Profits), and we want laws enacted and enforced to that end: and you can be sure the Wall Streeters will squeal and carry on about "dictatorship", left wing extremist workers, etc. So while we don't use the old terminology do we still basically believe in the ideas that terminology expressed--i.e, all power to the working people? Anyway, this article sheds some light on how the language we use shapes our way of thinking about the world and suggests to me that most the arguments (but not all) between people on the left are just word games and not at all substantial.

Robert McCrum
The Observer, Sunday 13 June 2010

Linguist Guy Deutscher debunks the view that language isn't shaped by culture.

Guy Deutscher is that rare beast, an academic who talks good sense about linguistics, his chosen field. In his new book, Through the Language Glass (Heinemann), he fearlessly contradicts the fashionable consensus, espoused by the likes of Steven Pinker, that language is wholly a product of nature, that it does not take colour and value from culture and society. Deutscher argues, in a playful and provocative way, that our mother tongue does indeed affect how we think and, just as important, how we perceive the world.

An honorary research fellow at the University of Manchester, the 40-year-old linguist draws on a range of sources in the book to show language reflecting the society in which it is spoken. In the process, he explains why Russian water (a "she") becomes a "he" once you have dipped a teabag into her, and why, in German, a young lady has no sex, though a turnip has.

What's your new book about in a nutshell?

It's about why the world can look different in other languages. I try to explain why in the race to ascribe to our genes all the fundamental aspects of language and thought, the immense power of culture and nurture has been grossly underestimated.

How has it been underestimated?

For example, I argue that the mother tongue has considerable influence on the way we think and perceive the world. But there's a great deal of historical baggage attached to this question and so most respectable psychologists and linguists won't touch it with a bargepole.

It's like being a historian and talking about national character, isn't it?

Exactly. But I think we are grown up enough now to look at this question in a scientific way.

Can you give me an example of what you mean?

The most striking example involves what I call the language of space – how we describe the arrangement of objects around us. Take a sentence such as: "The child is standing behind the tree" – you'd imagine all languages would behave in the same way when describing something so simple. It's almost inconceivable that there would be languages that don't use such concepts at all. For centuries, philosophers and psychologists have had us believe that such egocentric concepts of space such as "in front of", "behind", "left" or "right" are the universal building blocks of language and cognition.

And aren't they universal?

Well, this remote aboriginal tongue turned up – called Guugu Yimithirr, from north Queensland. These people have a way of speaking about space that is incredibly odd, because they don't use any such concepts at all. So they would never say: "The child is behind the tree." Instead, they would say: "The child is north of the tree."

It also happens to be the language that gave us the word kangaroo.

Yes, it's famous for that, but it should be doubly famous. These people say things such as: "There's an ant on your northern foot", or: "I left the pen on the southern edge of the western table in your northern room in the house." You might think that their weird way of speaking about space must be a one-off. But the discovery of this language inspired a great deal of research and we learned of other peoples around the globe, from Mexico to Indonesia, who speak in a similar way.

What consequences does such a language have for your perception of space?

Growing up with such a language essentially develops in your brain a sort of GPS system, an unfailing sense of orientation, and the reason is fairly straightforward: if from the age at which you start talking, you have to be aware of the cardinal directions every waking second of your life in order to understand the most trivial things that people say around you, then your language trains you to pay constant attention to your orientation at all times. Because of this intense drilling, the sense of directions becomes second nature. If you ask the Guugu Yimithirr how they know where north is or where south is, they look at you in amazement, just as you would be flummoxed if I asked you how you know where in front of you is and where behind is.

Is your dominant interest to do with neurology or linguistics?

My focus is on the effects of language on thought, but I try to concentrate on those effects that can be demonstrated scientifically. Neurology may be an exciting subject, but we are still profoundly ignorant about its subject matter – we know little about how the brain works. So to show any influence of language on thought, we need to find examples where this influence has practical and measurable consequences in actual behaviour.

If we were having this conversation in 50 years' time, it would be much easier to talk about real neurology, because we would be able to scan the brain and find out exactly how each different language influences different aspects of thought. Our current ruminations about the subject would then look pitifully primitive. But progress can only come through trying and failing and failing better.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Philippines Independence Day

Tomorrow marks the 112th anniversary of the declaration of independence by the national independence movement of the Philippines, headed by Emilio Aguinaldo. At the event, which is celebrated below in a statement from the U.S. State Department, Aguinaldo's group declared their country's independence from colonial Spain.

The declaration, which adopted much of the rhetoric of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, specifically in order to appeal to U.S. authorities for recognition as an independent nation, was ignored by the McKinley administration.

Subsequent appeals for recognition also fell on deaf ears. American officials, over the vocal opposition from the labor movement and other democratic forces, proclaimed the need to occupy the Philippines in order to "civilize" the locals. Some even pretended that such declarations and appeals for recognition never happened and insisted that Filipinos wanted the U.S. to govern them.

When Philippines nationalists resisted and protested against military occupation, they were branded criminals, rounded up and housed in the very concentration camps the Spanish had built to imprison opponents of colonial rule. Subsequent U.S. military action led to a decade-long war against insurgents in the country. U.S. military policies included rounding up males over 11 years old as "enemy combatants." Historians estimate that at least one million Filipinos were killed in the action, in what amounted to the 20th century's first genocide.


From the U.S. State Department
Philippines Independence Day

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
June 10, 2010

A video message is available here: &

Secretary Clinton recorded the following video statement in honor of Philippines Independence Day on June 12:

On behalf of the American people, I offer congratulations to the people of the Philippines on the 112th anniversary of your declaration of independence. This is a momentous time for your country, and the United States congratulates you on your successful election last month – a testament to the strength of your democracy and a positive example for the world. We look forward to witnessing a smooth transition to the new administration in the coming weeks.

The affinity between our countries and peoples runs deep. Filipinos and Americans are connected by ties of friendship, family, and culture, and by the contributions of some four million Americans of Filipino ancestry living in the United States and 150,000 Americans living in the Philippines.

Our nations have enjoyed a long history of cooperation and collaboration. We fought side by side in defense of freedom during World War II. And this partnership continues today, whether we are working together to promote peace and development, combat extremism, or help victims of natural disasters.

The United States is grateful for our alliance with the Philippines and for the benefits it brings to both our peoples. And we look forward to working closely with your new president to continue our strong bilateral partnership. On behalf of the United States, please accept my best wishes for your continued success and prosperity on this special day. Mabuhay!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Unemployment nearing Great Depression levels for African Americans and Latinos

Below are the findings of a new report compiled by the Economic Policy Institute of the impact of the recession on 50 major U.S. cities:

* In 2009, the national annual unemployment rate was 9.3%. Five of the 50 largest metropolitan areas had unemployment rates over 11.3%—2 percentage points above the national rate—while seven experienced rates that were less than 7.3%—2 percentage points below the national rate.
* Only one metro area had a white unemployment rate above 11.3% (Detroit, 13.8%). Nine metro areas had a Hispanic unemployment rate above 11.3%, and 14 had a black unemployment rate above that level.
* No metropolitan area had a black unemployment rate below 7.3%, and only two areas had Hispanic unemployment rates below 7.3%. Nearly half of the areas—24—had white unemployment rates below that level.
* In all but two metropolitan areas, the white unemployment rate was lower than the overall rate. For the 50 largest metropolitan areas, the average white unemployment rate is 0.8 times the overall rate.
* The Hispanic-white unemployment ratio was highest in Providence, R.I. In Providence the Hispanic unemployment rate was double the white rate, and the gap was 11.3 percentage points.
* The black-white unemployment ratio was highest in Minneapolis and Memphis. In these metropolitan areas, the black unemployment rate was three times the white rate.
* In many instances, disparities are visible in unemployment rates even when we compare racial subgroups with the same level of education. We need to ensure that nonwhites have equal employment opportunities in the labor market.

Senate Blocks Republican Push for Big Oil Bailout

Senate Rejects Big Oil Bailout
Now Must Act to Spur Clean Energy, End Oil Dependence

Washington, DC: The Sierra Club praised the Senate today for rejecting a resolution that would have bailed out Big Oil and blocked EPA from enforcing the Clean Air Act to reduce global warming pollution.

Statement of Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director

The Senate did the right thing today. With oil still gushing into the Gulf because of a Wild West approach to environmental and safety regulations, it would have been be remarkably irresponsible to exempt polluters from even more laws. Adding insult to injury, the legislation would have stalled new fuel economy rules for cars and trucks that are on track to reduce our oil dependence and save consumers at the pump.

The resolution would have erased the finding of EPA that global warming pollution is a threat to human health and safety, and would have blocked action required by the Supreme Court. The effect would have been to weaken the Clean Air Act, leaving oil and coal companies free to keep on putting global warming pollution into the air without any safeguards or regulation.

Opponents and supporters of this resolution should agree on one thing--it is the Senate's job to put America on the path to a clean energy future. Instead of challenging the EPA's authority to keep the air clean and reduce global warming pollution, the Senate must challenge itself to take responsibility and pass strong, comprehensive climate and energy legislation this year and end our oil dependence.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Republican alternative to climate legislation #fail

From Sierra Club:
For Immediate Release
June 9, 2010

Contact: David Willett, 202-675-6698

Lugar Bill Fails to Deliver Clean Energy Future
Sierra Club Urges Lugar to Join Bi-Partisan Energy Effort

WASHINGTON, DC- As the Senate considers several energy provisions this week, the Sierra Club issued the following statement.

Statement of Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director:

We welcome Senator Lugar's efforts to join the discussion over U.S. energy policy in the Senate but unfortunately there are several elements of this bill that fall short of the mark, particularly when it comes to ending our dependence on dirty energy like oil and coal. We have serious concerns about the bill's failure to reduce our oil dependence, adequately address global warming, and its potential to weaken clean air standards. This bill is simply not the right path to a clean energy economy.

As President Obama has said, it's time to end the cozy relationship Big Oil has with government. The public is learning more about how the oil industry got around environmental and safety regulations in the Gulf. Congress must now set ambitious goals, hold polluters accountable, and craft comprehensive climate and energy legislation that works for America's middle class.

The West Virginia coal mine tragedy and the oil disaster currently unfolding highlight the desperate need for a new clean energy economy that ends our self-destructive addiction to dirty energy. We need to move away from dangerous and deadly energy sources towards greater efficiency and cleaner energy. Every day the Senate fails to pass clean energy and climate policy, we put our economy, our national security and our environment at risk. Now is the time to put America back in control of our energy future with comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation.

Given his dedication to energy issues, we hope that Senator Lugar will become actively involved in Majority Leader Reid's and President Obama’s effort to craft a bipartisan, comprehensive climate and energy bill that moves our country beyond our dependence on dirty energy sources such as oil and coal, and into a clean energy economy.

In addition, the Sierra Club urges the Senate to quickly reject Senator Murkowski's resolution to bail out Big Oil and Coal by blocking EPA's ability to enforce the Clean Air Act when it comes up for a vote tomorrow. The Senate should be spending time responding to the Gulf disaster and moving us towards a clean energy future rather than finding ways to let polluters like Big Oil off the hook.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Podcast #118 - Imprisonment of African Americans a New Era of Jim Crow?, Part 2

Subscribe to this podcast in iTunes

Podcast #118 - Imprisonment of African Americans a New Era of Jim Crow?, Part 2

On today's episode, we play the second part of our interview with author, lawyer, and civil rights activist Michelle Alexander whose new book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness just came out from The New Press. So stay with us.

Download the mp3 version of episode #118 here

Video: 21st Century Program for Jobs

21st Century Program for Jobs from Communist Party on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Working-class Intellectuals

by Gus Hall

Many working people, especially in the capitalist world, go through life in the belief that the world of ideas, of theory and science, is beyond their ability to understand. They believe theory and science have very little to do with their everyday lives or activities. They accept the idea that the world of ideas, the realm of thought, is for intellectuals and professionals.

That, of course, is how the ruling class of all past and present exploitative societies have wanted it. They know that a class that thinks will not long accept exploitation or slavery. In all pat exploitative societies book and schools were for the ruling-class elite. These elites were "ordained" to do the thinking for the working people. Such concepts, of course, reflect reality in societies where there is a sharp division between physical and mental labor.

U.S. capitalism has always promoted the concept that thinking should be limited to the chosen few. The capitalist class fought against the establishment of the public education system. They lost the battle but never gave up. They have continued their attempts to limit the number of students and as much as possible to limit the scope of education only to satisfying industry's technological requirements.

Read more here...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Determining Your Philosophy Dialectically

By Gary Tedman

Philosophy, as it exists officially (academic and institutional), has a professional relationship to the sciences: it defends them, elucidates them, and provides a framework through which we can think them, especially in their combination. It tries to tell us what they mean, in human terms: how should we live our lives, according to science? You might say this is the function or purpose of philosophy today, it is its job.

Philosophy as we know it comes in two main strands, materialism and idealism.

Materialism is opposed to Idealism in the "theory of knowledge" - in the theory of how knowledge is derived. In the jargon, the "theory of knowledge" is called epistemology. For a Materialist, being (existence) comes before thought: you must be, first, in order to think. Idealists hold the contrary view: ideas come before existence. Note that we must not confuse the strict philosophical meaning of materialism with the casual sense of love of money and the things it can buy.

Marxism is essentially a materialist theory, but added to its theory of knowledge is always the dialectic, which furnishes the conception of development and change. This idea of development is known in philosophy as ontology, the theory of being or existence. So we have epistemology and ontology: materialism + dialectics, or dialectical materialism.

The dialectic was initially taken over by Marx from Hegel, the great idealist philosopher, but in a transformed way. To put it very schematically, Marx brought this process down to earth so that, afterwards, material (economic) factors determined social change in history, and not the human spirit or ideas. The resultant philosophy is materially "determinist," in that material factors cause events.

Determinism is the philosophical principle that material events that take place (in time) are caused by material events that happened previously, hence the simple idea of cause and effect in history. These causes can be worked out empirically, studied, tested, and in some cases reproduced, and so can also be predicted. This is a fundamental procedure of science (e.g. it leads to advances in technological products).

Podcast #117 - Imprisonment of African Americans a New Era of Jim Crow?, Part 1

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Podcast #117 - Imprisonment of African Americans a New Era of Jim Crow?, Part 1

It's June 5th, 2010. On this special two-part episode, we interview author, lawyer, and civil rights activist Michelle Alexander whose new book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness just came out from The New Press. Check it out at

Download the mp3 version of episode #117 here

President Obama addresses oil spil

Friday, June 4, 2010

Do Celtics have what it takes against defending champs the Lakers?

Do Celtics have what it takes against defending champs the Lakers?
by: Pepe Lozano
People's World
June 4 2010

In what's being dubbed as one of the most anticipated and emotional match-ups in recent history the 2010 NBA finals got underway June 3 and basketball fans nationwide are hoping for an exciting series.

But do the Boston Celtics green team have what it takes against the purple and yellow defending champs - the Los Angeles Lakers?

On Thursday the Lakers playing at home dominated in game one with a 109-89 victory. Kobe Bryant scored a whopping 30 points for the Lakers and his teammate Pau Gasol scored 23.

The Celtics trailed by double digits throughout most of the game and it wasn't pretty.

I was hoping the Phoenix Sun's would have advanced to the finals.

Read the whole article here

Results from the Communist Party's 29th National Convention

Results from the
Communist Party's
29th National Convention

Special Convention Reports

Resolutions Adopted at the Convention

Ninetieth Anniversary Celebration

Coverage of the Convention by the People's World

Where Is O'Reilly's Anti-Immigration Retraction?

June 4, 2010
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has repeatedly cited one reason to support Arizona's harsh new anti-immigrant law: the state's exploding crime rate.
As FAIR documented in a May 17 Action Alert, there is no such crime wave in the state. What's more, most research shows that immigrants tend to commit less crime than the population at large.
The day after the FAIR alert, O'Reilly (5/18/10) was still at it, declaring that "crime in Arizona is up." When his guest, Cathy Areu of Catalina magazine, pointed out that the El Paso "is one of the safest cities in the United States"-- proof that the presence of immigrants does not increase crime--O'Reilly replied: "That's a bunch of baloney."
He was wrong. El Paso is regularly ranked as one of the safest cities in the United States (L.A. Times, 5/13/10). In fact, border towns with heavy levels of immigration are among the safest cities in the U.S. (AP, 6/3/10).
On May 21, O'Reilly claimed that Arizona is "overrun with crime and everything else and people getting slaughtered on their ranches. I mean, it's insane."
But since then, O'Reilly's stopped making these false accusations. Maybe he saw the FAIR petition demanding that he stop. Or maybe he read the story in another Murdoch-owned news outlet, the Wall Street Journal (5/25/10), about how the newly released FBI crime statistics for 2009 show that the violent crime rate "plunged 16.6 percent in Phoenix, despite a perception of rising crime that has fueled an immigration backlash."

That false perception and backlash have been perpetrated by media figures like Bill O'Reilly.
Is this Fox's way of admitting a series of errors? If O'Reilly realized that he was wrong, then he should tell his viewers.
Over 2,500 activists have signed the petition to Fox News demanding that O'Reilly stop his immigrant crime slurs.
Please sign and add your voice--and we'll demand a response from Fox News Channel.