Friday, July 30, 2010

Fruit Loops, Leninism, and Lunacy

Thomas Riggins

Do you eat Fruit Loops? Do you let your children eat them? Well you would have to be a lunatic to do so after reading about how the food industry dumps all sorts of junk into processed foods and cereals just to make a buck. Take a look at "Ad Rules Stall, Keeping Cereal a Cartoon Staple"-- New York Times 7-24-2010 front page article by William Neuman).

Here is some of the lunacy. President Obama has recognized that there is an obesity epidemic spreading among American children. An epidemic which is increasing cases of diabetes and leading to premature heart problems among kids. No laughing matter. It's caused by junk food being passed off as healthy and nutritious food by the US food industry whose ONLY INTEREST is making big profits-- the kids can go to Hell for all they care.

The government isn't trying to force these food fascists to change what they put in their "food": it was just trying to set nutritional standards for food that could be advertised as healthy to small children watching Saturday morning cartoons.

The food industry has its own standards for child nutrition (it includes candy bars). Here are some perfectly healthy foods for children according to the industry: corn dog with fries (ConAgra), McDonald Happy Meal, Lucky Charms, Cocoa Pebbles, and Fruit Loops. Emm, emm, good! Not!

If you like fat, overweight, rolly polly children these are the foods for you.
The government would allow 8 grams of sugar per serving (too much anyway) but Cocoa Pebbles has 11 and Fruit Loops 12 grams according to the Times.

Anyway, not to worry, the pending rules have been stopped in their tracks.
Congress is paralyzed. The main reason? The food industry objects. That is the only argument against the new rules according to one expert in the field.

Here are some really great quotes from the article. This one from the Association of National Advertisers: "The [government] proposal was extraordinarily restrictive and would virtually end all food advertising as it is currently carried out to kids under 18 years of age."

The proposal was that kid's foods "would have to contain significant amounts of wholesome ingredients." Well that would definitely put an end to the foods currently being advertised since it's all junk.

Here is a gem: "With obesity rates the way they are, it is no longer acceptable for companies to be marketing foods to kids that contribute to obesity and heart disease and other health problems." Ok, this was from the good guys at the Center for Science and the Public Interest, but when was it EVER ACCEPTABLE to make kid's food that contributes to obesity and heart problems?

Some companies know their food is junk and have agreed NOT to pitch it to young children (Coke Cola, Mars, Hershey, Cadbury) but others insist on poisoning kids to make a buck-- Kellogg, McDonalds, Burger King and others.

These are little children we are talking about and these companies have no right to make money by exploiting them and selling junk food. If the government is afraid of big business too bad. But parents would have to be lunatics to buy this stuff.

So much for lunatics and fruit loops, but what has Leninism got to do with it? Well, the theory of monopoly capitalism spelled out in State and Revolution and Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism make fine summer reading and will explain just how this rotten capitalist system works. You will never again think good healthy food is the business of the "food" industry-- it's raw naked profits.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Protect Social Security and Medicare

NOW Participates in Launch of Campaign to
Protect and Strengthen Social Security

Statement of National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill

July 29, 2010

The National Organization for Women is glad to be a part of this large and diverse coalition to strengthen our country's most important and successful social insurance program -- Social Security. Speaking on behalf of NOW's 500,000 members and contributing supporters, my message is simple: Social Security is especially vital to women, who would be disproportionately harmed by cuts in benefits.

The "three-legged stool of retirement" is meant to consist of a pension, personal savings, and Social Security. But all too often, women have neither a pension nor savings. In fact, fewer than one in three women has income from a pension. Moreover, after a lifetime of wage discrimination, women are far more likely than men to have little in the way of personal savings. The situation for women of color is particularly dire. According to a recent report by the Insight Center, women of color often have no personal savings, or even negative net worth, as they head into retirement.

As a result, Social Security is the mainstay for millions of older women. Every year, a major share of the nearly 24 million women age 62 and older who receive benefits are kept out of poverty because of Social Security. Often that monthly Social Security check is their only income.

We call upon the members of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to act responsibly and reject any effort to reduce entitlement program benefits -- now or in the future. Raising the retirement age to 70 would be an especially cruel benefit cut, forcing a hardship on millions of women (and men) who have physically demanding jobs, as our sister organization the Older Women's League (OWL) has found.

If anything, Social Security benefits should be improved -- especially for elderly women, because many exhaust their savings as they grow older, and for disabled, divorced and never-married women who have had modest incomes and have been unable to save and invest for retirement. Reducing benefits for these women would be calamitous.

Rather than cutting Social Security and putting millions of women's financial security at risk, the Fiscal Commission should address the real causes of the deficit -- unfunded wars, irresponsible tax breaks for the wealthiest, and an economic crisis caused by financial regulatory failures. Women are watching the commissioners, but will we be invisible to them?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Congress Must Pass BP Disaster Response and Clean Energy Legislation Now

Congress Must Pass BP Disaster Response and Clean Energy Legislation Now

Washington, D.C. - In response to the introduction of BP accountability and energy packages in both the House and the Senate today, the Sierra Club issues the following statement.

Statement of Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director

"The Sierra Club supports today's action by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to respond to the BP disaster, reduce oil dependence, and create clean energy jobs.

It is imperative that Congress pass the two bills put forth by Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi before the August recess so we can invest more deeply in energy efficiency and hold BP and future polluters fully responsible for the cost of damage and clean-up of their environmental disasters.

The Sierra Club strongly supports the current legislation's focus on cleaning up and regulating the oil and gas industry through MMS reform and the House Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources (CLEAR) Act. These bills will strengthen industry safety standards and prevent future catastrophes like the BP disaster. We also support provisions to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and use a small portion of drilling revenues to benefit communities, ecosystems, and economies, and aid in the Gulf recovery.

We remain very supportive of legislation to protect public health and reduce global warming pollution. Though the bills introduced today are not a substitute for a bold and comprehensive plan to increase the supply of clean energy and to break America’s oil addiction - if passed, they will begin reducing oil consumption and carbon pollution through incentives in the Senate bill for natural gas-powered trucks. And the Senate inclusion of the HOME STAR program that rewards homeowners for purchasing energy-saving fittings for their homes will also create tens of thousands of badly needed jobs.

These bills are a small but important down payment to reduce America's oil consumption. And in the wake of the largest environmental disaster in American history and with news of two oil accidents today, it is essential that Congress make further progress this fall with a strong, clear plan to get off oil and scale up clean energy."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

BP and Academic Freedom

from AAUP Online

The following piece by AAUP president Cary Nelson--about BP's impact on academic freedom following the Gulf oil spill-- was published in Inside Higher Ed on Thursday, July 22.It was followed by interviews with the BBC, the Associated Press, and United Press International. Stories quoting the AAUP president and citing the organization then appeared in over 2,000 media outlets in such countries as Australia, Britain, Canada, Greece, France, Khazakstan, and New Zealand.

BP and Academic Freedom
On Friday, July 16, Ben Raines, a reporter for Mobile, Alabama’s Press-Register, published a story detailing extensive efforts by BP to employ scientists engaged in (or likely to engage in) research about the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Inside Higher Ed has since conducted independent interviews for its own coverage. The contracts offered by the giant company, according to both sources, restrict the scientists from publishing research results, sharing them with other scientists, or even talking about them for as long as three years, a serious restraint in the midst of an ongoing crisis.

Both during the immediate crisis and for an extended period as government leaders and the courts figure out how to respond to the Gulf tragedy, the work these scientists do will essentially belong to BP, which will be free to suppress it or characterize it in any way it chooses. Faculty members under contract to BP, meanwhile, would be unable to testify against the company in court and would be available to testify on the company’s behalf. Several faculty members in the area have confirmed to the American Association of University Professors that they have been offered contracts by BP in exchange for restrictive confidentiality clauses. A notably chilling provision directs contracted scientists to communicate through BP’s lawyers, thus raising the possibility that research findings will be constrained by lawyer-client privilege.

The oil spill is not only a catastrophic economic and environmental disaster for the Gulf region; it also has major implications for energy policy in both the United States and the rest of the world. The ability to share research results promptly and freely is not only a basic tenet of academic freedom; in this case, it is also critical to the health of the region and the world. While more investigative work is needed, the very prospect of an interested corporation worth billions of dollars blocking the free exchange of university research and controlling the work scientists choose to do is deeply disturbing. If knowledgeable scientists cannot testify in court, the ability of injured parties to win just compensation is also jeopardized. But the long-term threat to American society is still more grave: we need independent faculty voices, perhaps more so now — in a knowledge-based society — than ever before.

In its founding 1915 Declaration, the AAUP warned of the “danger of restrictions upon the expression of opinions” that “call into question the moral legitimacy or social expediency of economic conditions or commercial practices in which large vested interests are involved.” Our 2004 “Statement on Corporate Funding of Academic Research” establishes the fundamental standard: “Such contracts should explicitly provide for the open communication of research results, not subject to the sponsor’s permission for publication.”

Universities that prohibit faculty members from doing research that violates this principle, in my view, are protecting academic freedom, not restricting it. Of course in recommending that universities enforce this principle I am going beyond current AAUP policy. The world has changed. The increasing impact of corporate funding on the integrity of faculty research is among the changes higher education must confront. The decision about whether to sign restrictive contracts is not simply a matter of individual choice. It has broad implications for higher education and for the society at large.

At least one university has refused an institution-wide contract with BP for exactly these reasons. Many individual faculty members are declining BP offers or withdrawing from existing ones. Perhaps this is the time to reexamine the increasing role corporations are playing in funding and controlling university research. Universities should work with faculty to set ethical standards for industry collaboration that champion the public interest and discourage faculty members from selling their freedom of speech and research to the highest bidder.

Meanwhile, we urge other news media to join the effort to interview area scientists, gather copies of BP contracts, and publish the results. This story needs to be told in full. Universities should also consider where the public interest lies before permitting faculty members to sign contracts that limit the free exchange of information and bar public testimony. BP itself should certainly invest in research related to the spill, but it should do so without curtailing either faculty members’ free speech rights or their academic freedom. To do otherwise could prove hazardous to all of our health.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Andrew Brietbart's true allegiance: Al-Qaeda

The Obvious in Pakistan and Capitalism Still Going Mad with BP

by Norman Markowitz

92,000 documents concerning the war in Afghanistan have been leaked to The New York Times, Der Spiegel(popular German magazine) and the Manchester Guardian by Wikileaks. 

There is more than enough here  to maintain dozens of bad Arnold Schwarenegger and Sylvester Stallone movies for an indefinite period.  However, the administration is angry at all of this. If I were them, I would be privately happy about it.  The documents all over the Internet reflect the simple truth that  many throughout the world, especially those on the political left in Europe, South Asia, the U.S., have long understood.  The U.S. is  fighting a war in Afghanistan against the forces that it supported in the 1980s against the revolutionary Communist led government and its Soviet military allies with the  same Pakistani ally who played a central role in that conflict in arming and training the forces who became Al Qaeda and the Taliban.  However, our  chameleon-like ally to a considerable extent is still supporting those forces. 
After all,  Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were the only states that continued to recognize the Taliban regime in the late 1990s when its policies had pretty much lost it the support of the rest of the world.  Pakistan is a clerically based state and defacto military dictatorship whose ambitions in South Asia, primarily against India, out of which it was formed with the connivance to the collapsing British Empire sixty years ago, dovetail with groups like the Talilban in Afghanistan.
What the administration should begin to do is rethink the whole South Asia policy, realize that it cannot fight a war against an enemy with an ally who is  to say the least also part enemy.  The Afghan war is an albatross for the administration, at odds with everything positive that it is trying to accomplish in the U.S., opposed by those who are its strongest grassroots supporters.   Now is the time for it to move away from escalation and a military solution toward a larger peace policy for South Asia, one that involves India, China, and other regional states and stops being played by the Pakistani regime, which has developed a sort of military Ponzi scheme in the region, getting billions from the U.S. to fight terrorists and the Taliban and aiding the terrorists so that it can get more billions, some of which has been and is diverted to its own terrorist activities against India in Kashmir.
The other news item concerns BP, which is becoming a miserable household word in the U.S.   BP has a new President, Robert Dudley, an American, born in Queens, New York, who grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and is upset about the disaster in the Gulf, since he has found memories of his summers in Biloxi as a youth.  How did Dudley end up with BP.  He was absorbed into it when it bought AMOCO (ah, the transnational corporations, they, like the rich, are different).  What does his appointment mean.  Besides much more money and fame for him, about what the appointment of a new commanding general for Afghanistan means.  Dudley's big job will be to get leases to drill new wells in the Gulf(which of course BP shouldn't get even without this disaster).  But let me explain why I titled this blog piece Capitalism Still Going Mad with BP(the first part of the title, The Obvious in Pakistan should be obvious).
The story about Dudley in the NYT quotes one Andrew Lynch, a "fund manager at Schroders in London" who says that BP should have a "thorough review of procedures within BP to make sure the message of safety is clear among the people who are out on the drilling rigs.    Once all that is done," Lynch goes on to say,"I can't see why BP can't start growing again.  Deepwater is definitely the right place for them to be.  The future lies in the more complex and technically difficulty challenges offshore."
Are there empty spaces in the head of this fund manager of other peoples money?  Is it possible for him to contemplate the disaster that has already occurred in the Gulf and its repurcussions?  Does he know anyone who works on a rig?   Deep water oil drilling may be  "the right place" for a for profit transnational corporation like BP to be, but it is the wrong place for any rational energy policy.    The future, if there is to be one, lies in "the more complex and technically difficult challenges" of developing in a planned way alternative energy sources to replace fossil fuels, the public green solution which eventually will put BP out of business, since its business endangers both the environment and any  serious economic planning in the public interest.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

BP, Bonuses and Other Issues: Maybe a Bit of Socialism Would be a Very Good Solution

by Norman Markowitz

BP aka British Petroleum aka the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company is still at the center of a sinister soap opera, fixing a truly horrendous leak which resulted from drilling that never should have been permitted; not fixing it; trying to make its case through commercials on TV,;slammed by the Obama administration and Congress, not to mention public authorities in the Gulf region. 
Citizens are learning something about oil rigs, the science of the oil industry, and that is all to the good.  But no one is speaking about an old fashioned, long established serious solution--public ownership of energy resources and public planning to develop those resources. 
That will be called socialism and it really is a socialist policy--and socialism is a good thing, since it is first and foremost  economic policy in the interests of the people first, not any class of owners, investors, or for that matter self-aggrandizing officials, public and private. 
If a nation as  developed and as significant in the global economy would undertake instead of opposing public ownership of energy resources---emember the CIA's "bailout" of what later became BP when it overthrow the Mossadegh government in Iran in 1953 for nationalizing Iranian Oil and turning to the Soviet Union for aid when Britain with U.S. support sought to strangle it economically for doing that--- this would make many things possible in the 21st century that are impossible under capitalism. 
For example, a rational energy development policy which would prevent the corrupt and criminal actions of Enrons and BPs before they occur  If the United Nations or some truly international authority were involved, production and pricing policies  could be established to balance the needs of developed and developing nations.  Also, ecological policies designed to address questions like global warming with no profiteering transnational corporations around to serve as a roadblock to such policies. 
 In the world, Americans have a not so good reputation as whiners(I must admit that I personally whine about a lot of things) and muckrakers, that is, very good at gathering information, exposing abuses, as Karl Marx once noted about U.S. economists gathering valuable economic statistics while their European counterparts dwelled much more in a world of abstract theory.  But Marx also noted that the Americans pretty much stopped there, and exposures  and criticism without serious policy solutions over time become counterproductive, making more and more citizens cynical. 
If what has been exposed about private oil, private energy, what deregulation has specifically has fostered over the last thirty years, then comprehensive regulation is a necessary  albiet not sufficient solution,  Public ownership(in the U.S. the successful model of the Tennessee Valley Authority, despised by capital and blocked from expanding to the rest of the country after WWII by conservative politicians who used the political climate of the cold war to demonize anything, real or imagined which could be called "socialist" is perhaps the best example) is woud be both sufficient and  the best solution.  Certainly TVA was a much better solution for the Tennessee Valley than attempting through regulation and rate policy to have have private companies develop the region.
Another interesting story concerns the Obama administration's criticisms of and attempts to reign in bonuses to executives  who  brought on the fiscal crisis and whose banks  have received hundreds of billions in public funds to keep them afloat.  Kenneth Feinberg, the administration's special master on executive compensation has issued a report that 17 major "financial companies" aka institutions of finance capital paid  out 1.58 billion in "unwarranted bonuses" to their "top earners" in 2008 and 2009 while the financial system was plummet ting  hundreds of billions in investment and pension funds were being lost and the government was pouring in hundreds of billions to hold back a global 1930s style depression.  Here we see a lot a whining again.  Everybody is against these kinds of bonuses pretty much but besides arm twisting and threats, now body is really dealing with the larger questions and suggesting solutions.
Virtually all of us who work for wages and salaries have no relationship to the bonus system,even sales people who work on commissions.  Why should the system exist in its present form to  begin with,\.  What does it mean when   "top earners" of parasitic investment banks and brokerage houses are given bonuses greater than what most workers will have as net income in a lifetime to  make money for their firms by inflating  stock prices, amassing  debt, carrying out policies that do little to advance and much to ;undermine increases in  productive capacity, decent jobs,  and general living standards. 
In the 19th century, the American radical reformer, Henry George, attacking landlords and real estate interests for profiting for from the increase in property values created by industrialization and then charging higher and higher rents which in turn blocked further progress and impoverished workers, advocated a "single tax" that would tax away the }unearned increment" represented by the huge increase in land values.  George gained support from workers by calling for that "single tax" to be used to finance various social reforms.  Maybe one way to deal with this entire bonus system would be to initiate something like a "single tax" of 50% on bonuses of 100,000, 90% on bonuses over 1,000,000  and 100% on bonuses over 10,000,000.  While George was no socialist, that would certainly be a solution to the bonus question, one that would redistribute wealth to the people(conservatives always call such programs socialism) in a good way, instead of redistributing wealth from the people to the rich, which the bonuses are of course about(conservatives call that freedom) 
In any case, these are some thoughts I had while I looked at the news of the day.  I also had  some anger when I read about  Hilary Clinton criticizing the government of Vietnam for its "human rights" violations while in Vietnam and taking credit for her husband's "normalization" of relations with Vietnam during his second term.  even Robert MaCnamera admitted  3.4 million Indo-Chinese perished in a war that the U.S. government fought as an ideological holy war with a strong racist component.  Whatever criticisms might be made of Vietnam's internal "human rights policy," no U.S. government today or in the forseeable future has any real right to make them, unless of course it would really engage the Vietnamese government and come to terms with what was done during the Vietnam War

Juxtaposing Crises

A potentially useful juxtaposition of reports and a sign of the times:
by Gary Tedman

23 July 2010 Last updated at 01:30 GMT
Health gap 'wider than in Great Depression'

By Nick Triggle Health reporter, BBC News
"...The health inequality gap in Britain is greater than it was during the post-World War I slump and the Great Depression, a study suggests.
Despite the continued rise in life expectancy, it is well documented that the gap between richest and poorest has actually been widening in recent years.
Researchers from Sheffield and Bristol looked at early death rates since 1921.

They found the current gap was greater than it was in the 1920s and 1930s, the British Medical Journal reports.
The researchers analysed mortality data for England and Wales, obtained from the Office for National Statistics, and for Scotland, obtained from the General Register Office for Scotland.

Between 1999 to 2007, for every 100 deaths before the age of 65 in the richest 10th of areas, there were 212 in the poorest 10th.
This compared with 191 deaths in the poorest areas from 1921 to 1930 and 185 deaths from 1931 to 1939.
These decades cover probably the toughest economic and social period of the 20th century. ..."
quoted from

Bankers in the pink as austerity measures by-pass Square Mile
City traders are starting to party again thanks to bonus pots that are defying hard times

· Alexandra Topping and Gemma Kappala-Ramsamy

·, Friday 23 July 2010 18.54 BST

"As the sun dipped below the London skyline on a perfect summer's evening, a queue formed outside the lift leading to the Coq d'Argent, one of the Square Mile's top restaurants. In its roof garden, champagne popped and glasses were being filled to the brim after the City had a first glimpse of the billions that will be paid in bonuses at the end of the year. There was little sign of the austerity facing the rest of the country.
'The City is buoyant,' said the head of a firm that supplies technology to the financial services sector. 'Six months ago they were fearful, but now they're coming out again. There's loads of money out there but no one talks about it.'…"
quoted from

CP of China Puts Marxist Theory Online

from People's Daily

The Communist Party of China (CPC) on Wednesday launched an online database on Marxist theory by uploading the Party's major political doctrines to an Internet website, an effort that analysts said is promoting its ideology through information technology.

Uploaded contents to include collected works in Chinese of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, as well as former CPC leaders Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin.

All the works are available free of charge for Internet users to read, while visually impaired readers can listen to recorded voices reciting the content in Chinese.

The website also contains dozens of works explaining the doctrines, research of the communist party as well as the CPC's important documents, files and speeches of General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Hu Jintao and other current leaders.

The database is sponsored by People's Publishing House, copyright owner of those Chinese works and major publisher of translated works of foreign political figures in China.

Liu Binjie, Director of General Administration of Press and Publication, said that the official launch of these works on the Internet would expand the spread of Marxist theories.

The world has entered an era when information, digitalization and other new communication methods are booming, said Huang Shuyuan, president of the People's Publishing House.

The more advanced and powerful communication methods a party uses, the more influential it will be, Huang said.

To help online readers find a classic Marxist reading, the database of the website provides a smart search function which finds the origin based on fractional words that readers input.

"It will greatly help researchers on Marxist doctrines like me, since many of those works could only be available in libraries," said Professor Zhang Guangming with the School of International Relations of Peking University.

"We could search for information about Marxist works at any time in my reading room," Zhang said.

Prof. Zhang Xixian with the Party School of the CPC Central Committee said that the online database represents a new trend for the Party to promote its theories in a more attractive way.

By the end of last year, the number of Internet users in China had reached 384 million users, covering about 28.9 percent of the country's total population.

Li Changchun, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, also attached great importance to the publication of the Party's theories by using multimedia technologies.

The People's Publishing House plans to digitalize its 3.6 billion-word Marxist theories books within two years to complete the database and provide it free of charge to the public.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The U.S. Government as A Beacon of Progress?

I haven't written much for the blog recently because I have been overwhelmed with teaching and union work.  But a story caught my eye  today  that I think is importan. 
In the U.S., many on the left and those who listen to the left are frustrated with what they see as the failings of the Obama administration and the Republican right is literally licking its chops in anticipation of something like a Reagan Bush restoration.  Some unfortunately are sitting on their hands and making criticism of the administration substitute for action to either move it in a more militant direction and challenge the Republican Right, who of course are its main enemies. 
But the administration, operating in  our very complicated state federal system with separation of powers as a further bloc,(compared to many other countries)  is pursuing a broad counter-cyclical Keynesian policy to avoid a major depression.  It  has passed a hugely flawed but very significant health care reorganization which is the first important piece of social legislation in the interests of the people passed in the U.S. since the Civil Rights Act of 1968.  It has succeeded also in  financial re regulation which, although it also is greatly limited, represents the first challenge to  policies of "deregulation" which began at the end of the Carter administration, were accelerated by Reagan, largely unchallenged by Clinton, and  expanded in a disastrous way by W Bush.
But what gets me is that the U.S. major allies in Europe, according to the New York Times today. are moving in a very different direction.  In Britain, the new Tory-Liberal government has launched draconian budget cutting policies reminiscent of the policies of Herbert Hoover in the Great Depression.  European governments, with advanced welfare states by U.S. standards, are also pursuing similar policies.
Can it be that the Obama administration, like the Roosevelt administration in the U.S. before the victory of the French Popular Front government in 1936(which only last a very few years) is more advanced than major European countries today.  Are  opposition Social Democrats, traditional conservative parties and "centrist" coalitions in Britain and Europe acting  far worse than the Democrats or at least the Obama administration in their social-economic policies?
Usually a compare European labor and politics positively to that of the U.S. but we are now in an interesting time, where the "softer" move to the right that was advance globally after the economic restructuring of the 1970s in Europe is intensifying while it is being challenged and curbed in the U.S.  Of course, a significant victory, however they get it, for the "hard" Republican Right in the 2010 elections will both stalemate the Obama administration and make what the Camerons, Sarkozys et al are doing seem mild.
But a defeat for the Republican Right can have the opposite effect, as it did after the 1934 elections, in pushing the Obama administration toward "bailing out" the unemployed and underemployed, and  developing a counter-cyclical policy from the bottom up--stimulating social spending and revitalization as against top down--spending the big money to shore up banks and corporations.  Also, it may lead to a change in U.S. relations with Europe and foreign policy generally, in which the U.S. for the first time since the end of WWII will use its influence to lead nations like Britain, France and Germany away from race to the bottom fiscal conservatism.
Franklin Roosevelt often said "we must act and act now" to face rapd changes and crisis situations.  That remains very good advice.  If we begin to act and act now to revive the political enthusiasm of 2008 we can begin to help build American policies that will begin to fulfill our 2008 hopes, policies and a society that we can identify with and defend
Norman Markowitz

Monday, July 19, 2010

Spies for Hire: Review

Spies for Hire
The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing
by Tim Shorrock [reposted from the Progressive Book Club]
A stunning exposé of a business the government wants to keep under wraps.

From CIA covert actions to NSA eavesdropping, from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo, from the Pentagon’s techno-driven war in Iraq to the coming global battles for information dominance and control of cyberspace, contractors are doing it all. Vital intelligence tasks traditionally have been performed by government officials accountable to Congress and the American people – but that is no longer the case.

Expanding dramatically in the wake of 9/11, when the CIA and other agencies were frantically looking to hire analysts and linguists, the Intelligence Community has been relying more and more on corporations to perform sensitive tasks heretofore considered to be exclusively the work of federal employees.

Drawing on interviews with key players in the Intelligence-Industrial Complex, contractors' annual reports and public filings with the government, and on-the-spot reporting from intelligence industry conferences and investor briefings, Spies for Hire provides the first behind-the-scenes look at this new way of spying. Investigative reporter Tim Shorrock shows how corporations such as Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin, SAIC, CACI International, and IBM have become full partners with the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the Pentagon in their most sensitive foreign and domestic operations. He explores how this partnership has led to wasteful spending and threatens to erode the privacy protections and congressional oversight so important to American democracy.

Shorrock exposes the kinds of spy work the private sector is doing, such as interrogating prisoners in Iraq, managing covert operations, and collaborating with the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans' overseas phone calls and e-mails. And he casts light on a "shadow Intelligence Community" made up of former top intelligence officials who are now employed by companies that do this spy work, such as former CIA directors George Tenet and James Woolsey. Shorrock also traces the rise of Michael McConnell from his days as head of the NSA to being a top executive at Booz Allen Hamilton to returning to government as the nation's chief spymaster.

The outsourcing of intelligence activities is now a $50 billion-a-year business that consumes up to 70 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget. Spies for Hire goes behind today’s headlines to lift the veil of secrecy around this new and frightening national surveillance state.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


(Reflections on Chapter 1 Part 2 of Anti-Dühring)

Thomas Riggins

What is the subject matter and method of political economy according to Engels? First, though, what is political economy? Today we tend to teach economics as a special discipline and political science as another separate subject. This is an attempt by the bourgeoisie to keep politics and economics independent of one another. Marx and Engels, as did most nineteenth century thinkers, thought they were closely interrelated.

Political economy for Engels was the study of the laws governing the PRODUCTION and EXCHANGE “of the material means of subsistence in human society." While production and exchange are human functions they are intimately related to each other and have a reciprocal causative relationship.

However, there are many different ways to carry out production and exchange and they vary from society to society and culture to culture. Thus: “Political economy is therefore essentially a HISTORICAL science.”
By which Engels means its laws are not like those of physics-- the same for all-- but conditioned by historical circumstances.

Nevertheless there are some general statements that can made. For example, Engels thinks it doesn’t matter what society you are dealing with the modes of production and exchange will CONDITION the way the society distributes its social product.

He says large and small scale farming always have very different distribution patterns. This is because the former is associated with class struggle (masters and slaves, lords and serfs, capitalists and wage slaves) while the latter can exist without class struggle (i.e., without classes).

Modern large scale industry can be contrasted with Medieval local handicraft production controlled by guilds. The latter lacks large capitalists and permanent wage slaves and the former is, along with the modern credit system and "free competition" (the exchange form of modern industry and credit) responsible for both these new classes.

Differences in distribution leads to CLASS DIFFERENCES and the development of the STATE which originally came about to defend small groups from external aggression and to protect the common interests (irrigation systems in the East according to Engels). As classes begin to develop the state takes on another function, that "of maintaining by force the conditions of existence and domination of the ruling class against the subject class."

New forms of distribution are not simply neutral developments of the interaction of the MODE OF PRODUCTION and the FORM OF EXCHANGE. In fact as new modes of production and exchange develop the old forms of distribution, the state, and the laws act as drags trying to
maintain the older forms of distribution. The new mode production and exchange faces a long struggle before it can cast off the older forms of distribution.

Engels thought that capitalism, in his time about three hundred years old, was undergoing just such an antithesis in its forms of distribution which was leading to its downfall. He described the antithesis as follows: on the one hand CONCENTRATION OF CAPITAL at one pole of society (that of the bourgeoisie) and at the other pole CONCENTRATION OF THE PROPERTYLESS MASSES without much capital into cities and towns.
He thought that as far a capitalism goes this double concentration "must of necessity bring about its downfall."

Well, Engels' timing was a bit off and the development of monopoly capitalism (modern imperialism), two world wars, premature revolutions in underdeveloped regions of the world, and the development of vast new markets in the third world have postponed the day of reckoning.

Capitalism is now over four hundred fifty years old and the CONCENTRATIONS Engels spoke of are even greater and more unstable. Capitalism has, in fact, run out of places to go and can no longer rely on the expansion of new markets to pull it out of the disruptions and market collapse caused by cyclical overproduction. The DOWNFALL expected by Engels is once again on the agenda and the current inability of the US, Europe, Japan, and much of the rest of the world to overcome the present world wide capitalist crisis means that the final conflict may be closer than any of us thinks.

As long as capitalist production is on the rise everyone, Engels says, welcomes it, even the victims of its way of distributing its products. Capitalism just seems to be the way economics works. The first hints that something is wrong with the system does NOT come from "the exploited masses themselves"-- it comes from "within the ruling class itself." Engels gives as examples the great utopians Saint-Simon, Fourier and Owen.

The appearance of these early objectors indicates that the system has reached the top of its curve and is just beginning to decline. The utopians became aware of the horrible conditions of living the system was forcing upon its wage slaves and were full of moral indignation. But, Engels says, "moral indignation, however justifiable, cannot serve economic science as an argument, but only as a symptom."

If capitalist horrors became more and more manifest in Engels' day just think what they are like today. Millions around the world are unemployed or living in poverty and even slavery (or should I say billions)-- armed conflicts on every continent save Australia and Antarctica over resources and land, and the very oceans as well as the atmosphere, is in the process of being destroyed in the pursuit of capitalist profits.

The duty of economists is to explain how all of this is the consequence of the capitalist mode of production (although many economists prostitute themselves in the service of the system for the rewards of position and money at the cost of truth) and beyond that "to reveal, within the already dissolving economic form of motion, the elements of the future new organisation of production and exchange which will put an end to those abuses." Today only the communist , socialist, and workers parties are able to do this on a grand scale.

In his day, Engels pointed out that political economy had concentrated on the analysis of the capitalist system and had not yet described other modes of production from the past. In the century or so since his death this has been remedied by Marxist historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, linguists and others.

In the meantime capitalism has developed even greater productive capacities than Engels imagined-- but these "colossal productive forces" the capitalists can no longer control-- they can't control their exploitation of the earth without destroying it-- Exxon, BP, and other giant oil companies, they can't mine it with polluting its water and air, blowing off the tops of its mountains, creating hugh rivers of toxic sludge, cutting down it rain forests and melting its glaciers and driving thousands of species toward extinction.

It only remains for us to show that all the vast powers of production the capitalists can no longer control "are only waiting to be taken possession of by a society organized for co-operative work on a planned basis to ensure to all members of society the means of existence and the free development of their capacities and indeed in constantly increasing measure." We should be yelling this from the roof tops: "We're mad as Hell and we're not going to take it anymore!" Put that in your tea bag and brew it. If the BP oil "spill" in the Gulf of Mexico doesn't convince you that the power of modern industry cannot be safely left in the control of for profit corporations, I'm afraid nothing will.

The science of political economy can be traced back to the beginnings of capitalism. Its most famous proponent was Adam Smith (The Wealth of Nations) but it was also advanced by the great French thinkers of the Enlightenment. However, Engels points out, these thinkers thought they were dealing with universal laws of economics, just as physical scientists propose universal laws of nature.

"To them," Engels says, "the new science was not the expression of the conditions and requirements of their epoch, but the expression of eternal reason; the laws of production and exchange discovered by this science were not the laws of a historically determined form of those activities, but eternal laws of nature; they were deduced from the nature of man."

It was the work of Marx, and Engels, that really matured this science and saw that rather than eternal laws of nature economic laws of production and distribution were relative to economic systems-- feudalism, capitalism, etc. This is one reason Engels, in his book Anti-Dühring, could hold Dühring in such disdain who could write, after Das Capital, that he would, in his own words, explain "the most general LAWS OF NATURE governing all economics...."

There are a few more ideas exposited by Herr Dühring that Engels wants to correct. First Dühring thinks that capitalists, for instance, use FORCE as a means to exploit working people. Engels says this is wrong. Engels maintains that EVERY socialist worker KNOWS that force does not cause exploitation it only PROTECTS it: "the relation between capital and wage -labour is the basis of" exploitation and this relation is an economic one not one based on force.

Engels says Dühring also confounds the difference between PRODUCTION and CIRCULATION (i.e., exchange) by lumping them together under and heading of production and then adds DISTRIBUTION as a second and INDEPENDENT department of the economy. Far from this being the case, Engels tells us, distribution is in fact DEPENDENT on the production and exchange relations of any given society. In fact, if we know these two relations for any given historical society we can "infer the mode of distribution" in it.

So, Engels point is that, after a rough start in the seventeenth century and blooming forth in the Enlightenment, the science of political economy became fully scientific in the last half of the nineteenth century with the theories of Marx and the work of those economists who were influenced by him. Through their work working people the world over slowly became aware of their true role in production and distribution (the creation of surplus value) and how it is the exploitation of their labor power that is the basis of the capitalist system.

It is important to note that, for Marxists, it is not the idea that capitalism is somehow unjust and immoral (a la Dühring) that is the key point. Engels writes: "If for the impending overthrow of the present mode of distribution of the products of labour, with its crying contrasts of want and luxury, starvation and surfeit, we had no better guarantee than the consciousness that this mode of distribution is unjust, and that justice must eventually triumph, we should be in a pretty bad way, and we might have a long time to wait."

Engels appears to be a bit too optimistic. We are still waiting for the "impending overthrow" of capitalism. It has been overthrown in a few places but it has also been restored in large areas where it was previously overthrown. So, I think we are still waiting for a general overthrow-- which is long overdue. We should be impatient, but not unduly so. We have been waiting a hundred years or so while many of our fellows have been waiting over two thousand years for the overthrow of this earthly order with even less likelihood of being gratified. But we still "might have a long time to wait."

Well, just why did Engels think we would have a short wait? The reason was that unlike previous centuries when the only forces opposed to the exploitation of the masses of people by the few were based on appeals to morality or ethics, the nineteenth century saw the creation of a MATERIAL FORCE, not an ideal or religious one, that could actually contest and overthrow the existing economic order based on exploitation.

Two great revolutions had recently created movements calling for the end of class exploitation and for the equality of the people-- the English and French bourgeois revolutions. But these movements, Engels says "up to 1830 had left the working and suffering classes cold." But in Engels' day this call and this movement has in one generation "gained a strength that enables it to defy all the forces combined against it and to be confident of victory in the near future."

What made Engels so confident? There were two factors. First, modern industrial capitalism had created a working class ("called into being" a proletariat) that not only had the power to overthrow class privilege but the class system itself and further this is something it must do "on pain of sinking to the level of the Chinese coolie." Second, the bourgeoisie "has become incapable of any longer controlling the productive forces" created by modern industry. The bourgeoisie is "a class under whose leadership society is racing to ruin like a locomotive whose jammed safety-valve the driver is to weak to open."

History has a way of sometimes frustrating our expectations. To the working people of the generation following that of Engels, Lenin and the Russian Revolution represented the promise of the socialist victory. The bourgeois locomotive went off the rails and the resulting crash created two world wars and brought down the colonial empires of the Western Powers (at least de jure.)

However, unbeknownst to Engels, another engine was waiting in the roundhouse. This was the engine of US Imperialism which reconstructed the failed bourgeois system after the Second World War and brought about the downfall of the Russian Revolution. For a generation the call for the abolition of the classes left the workers of the US and it allies once again cold.

Meanwhile, against all expectations, the "Chinese coolies" had liberated themselves and created their own working class and are now creating a modern society based on a mixed economy. However, Engels was not too far off the mark. The advanced workers (in terms of pay scales) of the West are seeing their incomes sinking to the level of the Chinese. This will continue unless they "warm up" to the idea of socialism.

What are the future chances of socialism? Engels two factors are still at work. Capitalism is ripe for overthrow. As far as factor one is concerned. The class consciousness of the workers directed towards this end does not seem to be as developed as in Engels day. This is due to the massive pro capitalist propaganda both in the educational system and the mass media. But this hold is weakening and working people around the world are slowly beginning to wake up from their long sleep and see capitalism for what it really is. A naked system of human exploitation that can and must be replaced.

As for the second factor. The bourgeoisie is out of control! The rain forests, the oceans and the atmosphere are being destroyed by their run away system. These words of Engels are absolutely true today: "both the productive forces created by the modern capitalist mode of production and the system of distribution of goods established buy it have come into crying contradiction with that mode of production itself, and in fact to such a degree that, if the whole of modern society is not to perish, a revolution in the mode of production and distribution must take place, a revolution that will put an end to all class distinctions."

Unfortunately, I cannot agree with Engels that these two factors give me confidence that the Revolution will soon arrive. But that our society will perish if it doesn't seems all too apparent.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Labor on financial reform

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Comprehensive Financial Reform
July 15, 2010

Today's vote represents a historic shift of power—away from big bankers and CEOs to working families and Main Street. For years, big banks have profited on the backs of working families. Millions of working families lost their jobs and still can't find work because of the reckless and selfish actions of Wall Street and the big banks.

After the financial meltdown brought on by Wall Street's greed and irresponsibility, it would have been an outrage for the status quo to stand. Yet all but three Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted against reforming our bloated and unaccountable financial sector.

Fortunately, President Obama and working family leaders in Congress stood firm to put our country back on track toward an economy that works for everyone. In the end, fifty-seven Democrats and three Republicans voted for this landmark legislation. This vote will make it a lot harder for big bankers to indulge their greed at the expense of working people.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act will:

- Create a strong consumer protection agency to protect working people from predatory lenders;

- Shed light on the shadow markets by requiring most derivatives to clear and trade on open, transparent exchanges and mandating that large managers of hedge funds and private equity funds register with the Securities and Exchange Commission;

- Give long term investors new tools to hold corporate boards and senior management accountable; and

- Help prevent future bank bailouts by creating a council of regulators to oversee systemic risk, giving regulators authority to dissolve failing financial institutions while prohibiting bailouts for bank shareholders and executives

- Moving toward restoring of Glass Steagall by limiting banks ability to make risky bets backed by taxpayer funds.

We will continue to fight for reforms that will further address too big to fail financial institutions and make Wall Street pay its fair share to create the 8 million jobs it helped destroy.

As we look ahead to November, when voters will once again have the ability to stay on the path to change or look back to the failed policies of the past, this vote is a defining line in the sand. Working families will be dedicated to supporting leaders who vote to create jobs and hold Wall Street and big business accountable.

Voters now have a clear picture of those who stand on the side of Main Street and those who choose instead to stand on the side of Wall Street. We will not forget.

Boycott arizona – the Sound Strike

Tom Morello for The Sound Strike from Producciones Cimarrón on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

White House sends fourth bill to BP for $99 million

WASHINGTON - The Obama Administration today sent a fourth bill for $99.7 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 fourth bill the Administration has sent to date. BP and other responsible parties have paid the first three bills, totaling $122.3 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 rapid response to oil spills, to compensate individuals and communities harmed by oil spills, and to ensure that the costs of response and cleanup are borne by the responsible parties.

What the labor movement is all about

UAW President King helps launch rally for jobs, justice and peace
Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit -- Newly elected United Auto Workers President Bob King is keeping true to his promise to make the union more aggressive on issues beyond bargaining for worker contracts.

King launched a campaign Monday at the UAW's Solidarity House along with the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.'s Rainbow PUSH Coalition called "Jobs, Justice and Peace," a broad effort that begins with an Aug. 28 march in Detroit.

The date commemorates the June 1963 "Freedom Walk" in Detroit that the UAW helped organize and that was led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., where he first delivered portions of his "I Have a Dream" speech prior to leading the largest civil rights demonstration in history -- the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963.

"We have got to be out there in the streets fighting for social and economic justice," said King, as he stood with Jackson and local clergy. Jackson called Detroit "ground zero for the economic crisis."

Read the whole article here:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Celebration of Venezuela's Independence

More than 600 People Celebrate Venezuela’s Independence in Washington, D.C.

The Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the U.S. and the Venezuelan mission to the Organization of American States (OAS) yesterday celebrated the 199th anniversary of the signing of Venezuela’s Declaration of Independence.

More than 600 people, amongst them diplomats, journalists, academics, leaders of social movements, U.S. government officials, and Hollywood stars like Danny Glover attended the event. Jose Miguel Insulza, the Secretary-General of the OAS, also joined in the celebration of Venezuela’s independence.

“For us the celebration of our independence this year serves as a grand prelude to the event that will take place next year, when on July 5, 2011 the formal union of the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean will be born,” said Bernardo Álvarez, ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the U.S., in reference to the presidential summit that will take place in Caracas next year to formalize the creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC.

Famed actor Danny Glover – star of “The Color Purple” and the “Lethal Weapon” series, as well as chairman of the board of the non-profit TransAfrica Forum – said, “To see what is happening in Latin America at this moment, the type of inspiration that is being developed is remarkable.” He added, “In a way what Simón Bolívar started 199 years ago is coming to some sort of fruition today.”

Venezuelan ambassador to the OAS, Roy Chaderton, similarly highlighted the importance of the celebration, calling it “the dawn of the fight for Venezuela’s second independence, a fight that is taking place at this very moment.”

This year’s celebration of Venezuela’s independence is particularly important, because it takes place during a year-long observance of the country bicentennial, which will be formally celebrated on July 5, 2011 and makes even more symbolic the creation of CELAC on that very date.

“This moment is now being manifested through a very important new concept of participatory democracy, not only in Venezuela, but also through the integration of Latin America and the Caribbean that will have implications for communities here in the U.S.,” said James Early, the Director for Latin America at the Center for Folklife Programs and Cultural Studies at the Smithsonian Institution. “To celebrate Venezuela’s independence is to celebrate new possibilities beyond representative democracy,” added Early.

Officials from Venezuela’s embassy and mission to the OAS were present during the event, where they engaged with representatives from the various sectors of U.S. life and the diplomatic community that joined in the celebration.

The successful reception marked the end of the events to celebrate 199 years of Venezuela’s independence that had taken place in Washington, D.C. The celebration of the date started with the traditional wreath-laying at the statue of the Liberator Simón Bolívar in the nation’s capital on Monday, July 5.

Photos: Jeremy Bigwood, Néstor Sánchez Cordero

Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the U.S. Press and Communications Office / July 9, 2010

Friday, July 9, 2010

Venezuelan Independence Day in DC

Meanwhile in France [the program as in the USA]

from L'Humanite
(Never forget Gaza!)

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Une hyper-austérité opiniatre et stérile
by Patrick Apel-Muler
An obstinate and impotent super-austerity programme

Translated Monday 5 July 2010, by Kristina Wischenkamper

Time is passing, together with the good resolutions. The leaders of the richest countries on the planet used to pretend they were making big finance pay to avoid new economic disasters; nowadays they are making the people pay for big finance. The bill presented at the G20 summit is of an unheard-of brutality; to slash public spending in half between now and 2013, push through ultraliberal structural reform in G20 member societies and apply as widely as possible the sacrosanct dogma of free and undistorted competition.

Long gone is the time when Nicolas Sarkozy pretended to play the troublemaker waking up sleepy consciences. He has just declared a super-austerity programme for France and even his minister François Baroin admits to be preparing “the most difficult [budget] in more than thirty years”. He’s going to make sure he smashes all those social shock-absorbers that helped cushion France from some of the impact of the financial crisis: public investment, social protection, public services. Questioned about the freeze on the salaries of civil servants, the Mayor of Troyes answered that the government wants to “intervene in all aspects of the economy”. We have been warned! However, as for the hidden bonuses given to the Prefects – up to 66,000 euros – if they placidly and blindly carry out ministerial orders, they will continue to grow and grow.
The bad luck of some is the good fortune of others. The members of the Inner Circle have seen their fortune quite simply blossom in 2009. The super rich UMP donors (gifting between 3,00 and 7,500 euros) share with vampires a fear of the light of day. These millionaires indulged by the President preferred to postpone the meeting that they should have had with the presidential party. All this to-do surrounding Eric Woerth, the gold bars of Mr Peugeot, or the fiscal headaches of Mme Bettencourt, are wont to trouble the absolute calm needed to pursue fluorishing business deals. Newsflashes and headlines are for the dolts; sharks swim in other waters. But have no fear, once the laughing is over, Mr and Mrs Woerth will be back with their friends at the racecourse where they have interests far more important than stealing the pensions of tens of millions of French citizens.

To the reign of injustice will be added that of inefficiency. In stifling useful spending and social investment, the powers-that-be are killing off economic growth, cutting tax income as well as contributions to health and pensions funds while hiking the unemployment rate. This policy is aimed only at strengthening financial dividends and markets which, as everyone is beginning to see, don’t sit happily with social progress. To paraphrase Victor Hugo, one might conclude: “This government is a mule. it is obstinate and impotent”.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Holding the Center

Holding the Center
Jean Hardisty and Deepak Bhargava

Eighteen months into the Obama era, the progressive movement is experiencing malaise, based on disappointment about what has been accomplished so far and confusion about the path forward. The sense of disappointment is, in our view, exaggerated. It is important to remember that progressive campaigns and grassroots efforts have played a major role in achieving reforms that are more substantial than anything we have seen since the Great Society: provision of health insurance coverage to more than 30 million additional people and partial regulation of the health insurance industry; the largest (albeit temporary) expansion of antipoverty programs in forty years as part of the Recovery Act; student lending reforms making it easier for young people to go to college; and legislation to increase regulation of the financial sector. There is much to be proud of in the way progressive organizations have risen to the historical moment, educated and mobilized their constituencies, and helped to secure major victories that will have a real, positive impact on people's lives.

Read the whole article here

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Comment: Venezuela Independence Day

by Annie Fox

As an activist for the end of U.S. interference in Latin America, and a Communist, I am deeply offended to see us note Venezuela's national holiday with a greeting from Hillary Clinton. This is the same Secretary of State, Clinton, who a few days ago spoke about the horrors of countries that repress political dissent, explicitly listing Venezuela, along with Cuba and others, while somehow missing Canada & the U.S. She might be part of a different administration from the one that tried to foment a successful coup against Chavez, the elected president of Venezuela, but there are certainly ties between the U.S. and the coup in Honduras; you might recall that, despite some mouth-talk from Obama, he and Hillary Clinton want the Honduran people to just get over it & accept the results of that illegal change of government.

This is so inappropriate I cannot find adequate words for my objection.

posted in lie of a "comment" facility on the PA blog.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Venezuela's Independence Day

Venezuela's Independence Day

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
July 5, 2010

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Venezuela as you celebrate 199 years of independence on July 5.

The cultural ties between United States and Venezuela are deep and enduring, and it is fitting that we celebrate our independence anniversaries within one day of each other.

We share a common history of emancipation and democratic aspiration. Patriots across the Americas committed their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the cause of independence and to ensure that all people would have the right to chart their own destinies. The development of our nations has been driven by common values and a belief in individual liberties, fundamental civil rights such as freedom of speech and expression, and a right to self-determination. Living up to these values is our shared responsibility.

As both the United States and Venezuela celebrate our independence days, let us recommit ourselves to the high ideals of our founders and to the promise of democracy. I wish all Venezuelan citizens everywhere a safe and happy independence day. And I hope that our cultural and familial bonds will only grow deeper in the years to come.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Trumka demands quick action on jobs legislation

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on June Jobs Report
July 02, 2010

Today's unemployment numbers should be a wake-up call to Republicans in Congress who have refused to act to create jobs, stop layoffs and help the jobless. Their repeated 'No' votes on jobs are a slap in the face to America's working families as Congress heads out for a long holiday recess.

Republicans stubbornly refuse to recognize that the private sector's job-creating machine is dead in the water, creating only 83,000 jobs last month. In the Senate this week, every Democrat but one voted to extend unemployment benefits and all but two Republicans voted to block those same benefits. Overall, the economy shed 125,000 jobs in June as the Census reduced its temporary workforce. The unemployment rate fell to 9.5 percent in June, but only because 652,000 workers left the labor force.

The economic recovery is still far too weak to power the job growth we need to offset the almost 8 million jobs lost since the recession began. Meanwhile, 14.6 million workers are formally unemployed, and nearly half of them have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks.

Every effort to dig us out of our 10.5 million jobs hole is being stymied by excuses about the deficit. This is not to say the federal budget doesn't need attention—it does, but over the long term. Right now we have an immediate jobs crisis. And unless we address it soon, we'll only make the nation's economic conditions worse.

It is a national disgrace that members of Congress are heading home to celebrate our nation's birthday after having voted repeatedly NOT to create jobs or to extend unemployment aid. All Americans have been impacted by our jobs crisis, with some families bearing multiple burdens of job loss, foreclosures, and benefit cuts. We're teetering on the brink of a historic national and global depression. And congressional Republicans are pushing closer and closer to the edge.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Finding health insurance just got easier

From Health Care for America Now:

For many families and small businesses, finding the right insurance plan has meant spending hours on the phone deciphering confusing insurance company lingo and reading way too much fine print. Today finding health insurance just got easier with the launch of Homepage
The innovative new website developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services helps you understand all the health insurance options available in your local area for you and your family. After answering just a few basic questions, the website's insurance finder will identify public and private coverage options that might be right for you.

From you can receive updates on the implementation of the new law and, as the website grows, you will be able to research health plan quality ratings, learn about disease prevention, and compare health plan prices all in one place.

This website is just the beginning of the transparency and peace of mind promised by the new law to check the insurance companies' bad practices and greedy behavior. represents an important step in implementation and allows us all to take health care into our own hands.
represents an important step as we move forward to end the insurance company's stranglehold over the American health care system. We hope that this resource will move us closer the peace of mind promised by the new law.

P.S. Uninsured due to a pre-existing condition? Check out the new high risk insurance pools at