December 30, 2009

Corvallis Solidarity With Palestine

Here are messages from Jessica, a student from Corvallis:

WE ARE GOING Dec 30th, 2009 by Jessica
Several hours later, we are about to leave for Gaza with Jodie Evans, co-founder of CODEPINK. WE have TWO BUSES. We are GOING.

Update from Jessica Dec 30th, 2009 by Jessica
Oregon students Jess and Sarah are on the bus to Gaza. Our heart is with the Gazans and that is why we have decided to occupy the bus until it leaves for Gaza. Before we boarded the bus, the March steering committee announced that they made the wrong decision by accepting the Egyptian government’s offer for a 100 person delegation. The delegation boarded the buses where we were told by the steering committee that the Gazans did not want us in just that many words. Three hours later, we have called Gazans and Gazan civic organizations and they are waiting for us. We are accountable to those who fundraised to send us here and we are accountable to those who we have said we would come to help. Right now, we have filled one bus (50 people) and Marchers are piling onto a second bus. We want to bring aid and break the siege on Gaza and that is exactly what we are going to do. Please contact the media, please talk to your community organizations, and please keep us in your thoughts.”
-Jessica Campbell

EDIT: Two buses of people have been filled refusing to give up on their journey. Please help Jessica by distributing updates.

It seems they may have garnered enough clout to break the standstill. Hopefully they can now push through and make it to the other side. This is a moment of truth for what could be a historic march.

Please notify your congresspersons that two of their constituents are currently en route to Gaza.
DeFazio: (202) 225-6416
Wyden: (202) 224-5244
Merkley: (202) 224-3753
Blumenauer: (202) 225-4811
Wednesday, December 30, 2009, 6:30pm
Corvallis Multicultural Literacy Center
128 SW 9th St, Corvallis, OR

OSU junior Jessica Campbell will be one of 1000 Americans (including 100 students, 3 from Oregon) marching with 50,000 Palestinians on the Gaza Freedom March on December 31st. For a full description of the March and the Oregon students participating go to:

Join us for a potluck dinner and "live coverage" of preparations for the march. We plan to Skype with Jessica and the other Oregon students as they prepare to start the march that morning in Gaza.

This event is free and open to the public, but any donations collected will go for school supplies for children in Gaza living in tent camps.

Event sponsored by Palestine Action Group.

January 9 March & Rally In Portland For Palestine

March-Rally & Report Back
Saturday, January 9 @ 12 Noon
Gather at Pioneer Courthouse Square march to Hoffman Hall (PSU)
1 Year Commemoration of Assault on Gaza & Students Report Back
Justice for Gaza! US out of Middle East! End US Funding for Apartheid!

* Sarah Hassouneh- Portland State University
* Jessica Campbell- Oregon State University
* Michael King- Lane Community College
* Allison Weir- of
* Peter Miller - of AUPHR.ORG
* Saed Bannoura- of IMEMC.ORG

Sponsored by: Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, Portland Peaceful Response Coalition, and the International Socialist Organization

December 29, 2009


Yesterday Cuba allowed U.S. diplomats their first visit with the U.S. Contractor who was detained Dec. 4th. His employer, Development Alternatives, Inc admits that he works with their U.S. Contract to manage $8.6 million to "Transition Cuba To Democracy" and "assist civil society groups" on the Island.

On Dec. 21st Raul Castro commented on the case in a speech to the Cuban General Assembly. He stated that the man is "euphemistically called a U.S. Contractor" but was "illegally supplying sophisticated satellite communications equipment" to groups the U.S. government "aspires to organize against our people." This is the only time any Cuban official has publicly referred to the case. The prisoner is believed to be in one of Cuba's high security prisons.

Also this week a group of Unitarians from Portland were sent home when there were irregularities with their license and visas. Because of the U.S. Travel Ban the United States requires individuals to be licensed by the U.S. government. Most Americans travel through a third country and purchase a tourist visa at the airport. (Why the Unitarians had both, may have appeared strange). Some U.S. travelers feel safer not violating U.S. law and travel with a license. Some, like Rev. Lucius Walker and the Pastors For Peace Caravan refuse to apply for a license and see their travel as civil disobedience. It looks like to me that Cuba may be looking more closely at all U.S. travelers. After all, if you travel on a U.S. license granted by the U.S. government it could be that you are working for the "Cuba Transition Plan". On the other hand the current American sitting in jail illegally entered on a Tourist Visa (clearly he was not there as a tourist).

One group that will have no problem with Cuban authorities will be those traveling with Rev. Walker. They are well known and much loved by the Cuban people. For the rest of us it just makes traveling to Cuba the adventure it always is.....

Ask Senator Wyden To Change His Approach To Trade

We need the TRADE Act to have better and balanced trade. Here's a good, easy way to contact your Representative and Senators to urge them to support the TRADE Act.

Click here to take action.

About Those Cadillac Healthcare Plans And Taxes

There is a middle-class tax time bomb ticking in the Senate’s version of President Obama’s effort to reform health care.

The bill that passed the Senate with such fanfare on Christmas Eve would impose a confiscatory 40 percent excise tax on so-called Cadillac health plans, which are popularly viewed as over-the-top plans held only by the very wealthy. In fact, it’s a tax that in a few years will hammer millions of middle-class policyholders, forcing them to scale back their access to medical care.

Which is exactly what the tax is designed to do.

Read more here.

GM Workers Get an Unwelcome Holiday Bonus

General Motors assembly line workers are scheduled to receive a dubious “gift” in the coming year. Thanks to GM management, the Obama administration’s automobile task force and the collaboration of the United Auto Worker’s union leadership, General Motors will run auto plants on three shifts, twenty-four hours a day in 2010. Beginning on January 4, the Kansas City (Fairfax) plant will inaugurate the three-shift scheme.

According to The Wall Street Journal (In Risky Move, GM to Run Plants Around Clock, Kevin Helliker, 12-22-09), long standing industry standards engage the assembly line for two shifts with sufficient time for cleaning, maintenance, and restocking before the start of a new daily production cycle. Among industry experts, the two-shift regimen is believed to be the most efficient production technique; two shifts, operating 250 days a year, is considered 100% of capacity according to these experts. But the Administration’s auto czars, while negotiating the $50 billion investment infusion of public funds, pressed GM to operate at 120% of capacity.

Read more here.

December 27, 2009

Portland Demonstration in support of the Gaza Freedom March

DATE: Dec 31, 2009
TIME: 1:00 pm
ORGANIZATION: Al-Nakba Awareness Project
WHAT: Demonstration in support of the Gaza Freedom March by 1,360 human rights activists from 42 countries, in coordination with demonstrations scheduled worldwide.
WHEN: New Year's eve, Thursday December 31, 1-4 pm.
WHERE: The grassy area between EWEB and the Ferry Street bridge in Portland.
WHY: Illegally blockaded for 2.5 years by Israel, the Gaza strip also suffered massive damage from the Israeli air campaign and subsequent military invasion in January. This attack, called an "onslaught" by the National Lawyers Guild war crimes investigators (see has left the most heavily impacted regions looking "like the epicenter of a massive earthquake" according to a June 29, 2009 International Red Cross report. The Israeli government refuses to allow import of cement or other building materials to repair the infrastructure damage and degradation.

The siege of Gaza has caused the following results:

. 95% closure of industrial operations due to lack of electricity, production materials, and inability to export products, causing massive unemployment and poverty.

. No running water in 25-30% of households, and degradation of 80% of available water below WHO safety standards.

. 69 million liters of untreated sewage pumped daily into the Mediterranean - the Palestinian fishery - due to Israeli destruction of waste treatment facilities.

. Inability of farmers to access 30% of arable land, controlled by Israel as a "buffer zone"

. 80% rates of both depression and school failure among Palestinian children.

. 50% of infants and toddlers have anemia and 70% suffer from Vitamin A deficiency.

. Nearly 20% of Palestinian patients needing emergency medical treatment outside Gaza are denied permits by Israel.

. Hospitals experience power cuts lasting 8-12 hours daily.

Richard Falk, retired Princeton Professor of International Law and UN Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, likened Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto even before the military onslaught.

Please come to stand in support of human rights and international law. Palestinian flags encouraged.

Sponsored by the Al-Nakba Awareness Project: Advocating freedom, justice and equality in the Holy Land

Labor and Democracy Under Attack in Honduras

Event: Labor and Democracy Under Attack in Honduras
Start Time: Thursday, January 28 at 7:00am
End Time: Thursday, January 28 at 9:00am
Where: SEIU 503 labor hall @ 6401 SE Foster Rd. in Portland.

Blindskills Inc. vs. Capitalism

Did you catch the article in the Statesman Journal today by B.T. Kimbrough writing about Blindskills Inc.? If not, read it here.

Blindskills was, or is, a kind of small capitalist success story. A small entrepreneur saw a need and built a business around helping the visually impaired. The visually-impaired community was helped, the wider community was helped and, we can assume, the organization's founder made a small profit in the process. Profit was really the smallest part of the deal, it seems. Carol M. McCarl came to the work she did with a genuine passion.

It was an uphill struggle, but the kind of struggle Carol M. McCarl relished. Then came the capitalist crisis and state budget cuts followed. A state budget was pushed through which cut most social spending and threw the Blind School under the bus. Donations to Blindskills Inc. are way down now, in part because many people wrongly assume that the closing of OSB meant the closing of Blindskills Inc. My bet is that that most working people--and the working class in the US gives proportionally more money to charities than anyone else in society--also have less to give because of layoffs, furlough days and at least relative impoverishment as jobs and home ownership disappears. The article by B.T. Kimbrough begs for support for a worthy cause. We will see much more of this as the capitalist crisis continues to deepen for working people.

Let's back up a ways here. What capitalist crisis?

The crisis we're talking about here is the one in which we have seen about 2% to 3% of all mortgage holders (10%-15% of all subprime mortgages, which make up less than 25% of all mortgages) default. The world capitalist economy showed remarkable sensitivity to an American economic problem and demonstrated that it has a fundamental weakness where profitability and accumulation of profits are concerned--such a weakness, in fact, that we say that the problems are on-going and structural and that we are now paying for them with a prolonged recession which will go well into 2010.

Remember that labor productivity and profitability began to increase in the early 1980s after rates of profit declined in the late 1960s and early 1970s. These increases were triggered by lean production internationally and by strategic shifts and diversification in productive capacity by capitalists in this period. This caused deregulation and brought with it privatization and disinflation internationally. Capitalists took the low road and continued to invest in technologies which set people in competition with one another for work and for resources. Profits continued to rise to a point, but stagnation and the risky business of investing in fictitious capital took over. The stock market crash of '87, the savings and loan crisis of the early '90s, the bursting bubble and the current mess all mark specific moments in the capitalist crisis.

There is no solution to this crisis which will benefit both workers and capitalists, or, if you prefer for now, people who pay the bulk of taxes and the wealthy who don't. It can be logically argued--and I accept this logic--that the wealthy have been all about redistributing wealth for a generation now and that the current crisis reflects their insatiable greed which now seeks to make money from public services, either through outright privatization or by changing tax codes and fee schedules for their collective benefit. There aren't funds or resources in the public domain to take care of people and restart or jump-start the economy because the public domain is being drained by the wealthy, with the right-wing as their front men telling you that government is bad. Is this class warfare talk? You betcha.

We experience this crisis, as I say, by seeing privatization and a return to the 19th century notions of charity. I remember going to rallies to keep the School for the Blind open and hearing resistance to the push backwards to old notions of charity. I mistakenly thought then that we were defending a social safety net. In fact, there is almost nothing of that net left to defend and the right-wing, allied with conservative Democrats who bought into neo-liberalism, are pushing further against the charities. An NPR story sounding the attack on charitable giving and non-profits ran today and can be read or heard here.

Even the 19th century notion of charity is now under attack, as the NPR story demonstrates. Socialists put forward a notion of social solidarity and fight for the right of every oppressed person to have a voice and be heard, for social inclusion and for social responsibility exercised through the state, or government, and through social organizations of the oppressed. We go further and say that this fight and these organizations are what prepares oppressed people to eventually govern society.

The state budget which formed out of the economic crisis saw too many Democrats cave in and the Republicans behave as crass opportunists. Sara Gelser will move on to bigger things, stepping over the school she helped, or allowed, to close. We heard some mumbling from leading Republicans about helping the School for the Blind--their idea of "help" being to privatize the school or take the needed funds out of the compensation package for state workers on a short-term basis. Such "help" is regressive and reactionary, not to say mean-spirited and grandstanding.

What would we have suggested instead? What did we suggest at the time?

Our position remains the same as it has been: make the rich pay. Use taxes, eminent domain and refusals to close or curtail social services. Expropriate social wealth.

What we are left with today is Blindskills Inc. practically begging for community support, a fractured sense of social solidarity, an empty school, kids and families in need of services which the state should be providing, Gelser moving up the ladder and Republicans plotting to take more away from society. A model capitalist company played by the rules and seems to be losing. It is, really, all a form of barbarism.

December 26, 2009

A Response to Cletus and Vinnysmom.

(This is being "posted" as a response to Cletus's and Vinnysmom 1221's comments to the "Letter to Salem Hate Radio Icon, Bill Post" article. I've posted this only to avoid the character limitations that go with comment type posts... Sorry to all.)

Well, actually Cletus, I'm not so sure "earned" is the right term for the VA benefits (although I certainly do not begrudge the benefits. If you follow the historical record, a lot of what the VA and GI benefits were about was indeed a social program aimed at something other than the end of WWII putting the country right back in the Great Depression.

With that said, I'll stand by the broad brush label "selfish" and "hypocrite" I used for Tea-Baggers earlier. Anecdotal yes... But, you know, I was at an anti-health care rally about a month ago at the State capitol. One of the Tea-Bagger guys walked across the line to the pro-health care advocates and an argument insued. So here's the guy from the anti side, and he's yelling at a couple of pro health care guys about how he's going to lose his health insurance if the Democrat health care bill goes through. The two pro health care guys (all of these guys are late 40s through 50s) say in response, "I don't have any health insurance".

The odd thing about the whole interaction was that the Tea-Bagger guy didn't/couldn't acknowledge that the other guys already didn't have what he was afraid of losing. He just kept shouting about how he was going to lose his. The lack of hearing was palpable.

So, along these same lines, there's probably 60 million people who have no health insurance in this country. Is it your guys' claim that these folks are all lazy welfare cheats and other kinds of free-loaders?

Cletus, you ask for logic, OK. So there are 60 million folks without health care. Many million and millions of such folk work. They work for small employers who can't afford to offer any health insurance, or they work low-wage jobs where employers don't want to offer health insurance. And by the way, there are now a lot of laid off folks drawing health insurance subsidies as part of the unemployment insurance.

So, here's a question:

The millions laid off over the last year and a half. Was this spike of unemployment an epidemic of laziness? In your view should these people be helped with health insurance?

And what about the 60 million where 90% plus work yet still have no health care. What do you do about those folks? Or are you just going to stand there and tell em' that their employment is a joke and that really, they're just lazy at heart.

And how about yourselves? Got any solutions to insurance that doubles its price every 10 years and increasingly delivers less each year?

A true gripe I've got with "conservatives" is that I hear the anger and rage, I see the guns, but I have not yet heard a proposed solution on anything at all from today's conservatives... Nothing except an attitude of "screw these people, screw those people, but don't screw me". And this goes for health care, how to deal with the banks, unemployment and on and on...

Ever heard the old saying, "Don't go complaining about a problem without proposing a solution"? That solution Cletus is what political self responsibility is... Yup, really.

Vinnysmom 1221, I've got to ask. Are you suggesting that Nazi movement never existed? That there were no black shirts or brownshirts, no SA and no SS? Are you suggesting that maybe there was no Holocaust? Are you suggesting that Hitler wasn't bankrolled by Germany's upper-crusties.. By Krupp and Theissen and all the rest? I'm almost afraid to ask, but I don't know how else to respond to your comment about stuff read in school versus "Real History" (Although I do agree with you that schools don't teach history or most anything. Schools don't teach critical thinking... Are you open to critical thinking or do you just want to supplant your own ideology?)

Just to bust any further stereotypes, I made a comment about you guys and guns. I'm fine with you carrying any kind of armaments around you want. I mean have a howitzer if you want...

Also, there are plenty of Priuses with Obama stickers on them, and I bet lots do double park. I don't know any of them though. I don't know anybody with a Prius, or for that matter anybody with a new car. I bought a Yugo off the dealership floor once, in 1987... That's the only new car I've ever bought. None of the folks here at Willamette Reds fit the "wine and cheese party" stereotype.

Finally, Obama has not won any more brownie points from me than he has from you. You guys really do need to understand that Obama is not a socialist, that subsidizing banks, insurance companies and hospital chains is not a socialist program and to stop confusing Willamette Reds' orientation with that of the current administration or the party currently in power.

Last but not least, Cletus and Vinnysmom, a Merry Christmas to you too (seriously I mean it.. Be Well and Merry Christmas).

December 23, 2009

A Letter to Salem Hate Radio Icon, Bill Post

Hey Bill, my name is Chuck Wynns. I'm one of the Willamette Reds. And by the way, I'm not Ethnicguy...

I can't believe you actually think a tobacco store in a closed mall should have an exemption to the no-smoking rule. I mean, do you really think folks should cough and gag for your convenience?

You might think such a thing because that's the way Tea-Baggers think.

There's this Tea-Bagger neighbor of mine, and his visitor drives a pick up truck. This visitor always takes two parking spaces for his rig. Hey, he's a Tea Bagger. I mean, he has a pick up truck, he's entitled to two spaces, right?

The thing about the hate politics gig is that the whole deal boils down to one core principle... "All for One, One is Me".

You hate "big government" and government involvement. So how come I don't see you turning in your Medicare or VA benefits? How come you don't turn your Social Security back? The bottom line is that you are all for government involvement as long as it is for you and you alone.

Do you really think Ethnicguy has created an imaginary cast of characters called Willamette Reds? Again this is tea-bagger thinking. Everything is a conspiracy; everything is a hidden deception.

Of course, this is a true case of the kettle calling the pot black. You see conspiracy everyplace because this is the kind of politics you practice -- based on a shifty foundation of lies and deception.

"Death Panels"; what a joke. Actually read the text sometime!

And then there's your Measure 66/67 ads. You lie through your teeth when you put out that crap about everybody getting hammered with back withholding taxes... Well yeah, if "everybody" makes a quarter million or are a corporation they might owe a piddling amount. Since that legislation was passed last year you've had plenty of time to plan, adjust, set aside that additional $140 (if you're a corporation).

But these are fine nuances of detail. Are you willing to falsify on the grand scale the facts, the reality that you don't understand yet?

If you had any integrity at all, you'd allow the words of a real socialist to be heard before you start flinging around a term which you don't understand and are intentionally slandering at the same time. What a piece of work!

So, here's my offer. If you ever hit the point where maybe for credibility's sake it makes sense to talk to or interview a real socialist before slandering, let us know, let me know. Any time, any place....

And this reminds me..

Tea-Baggers are way out of line with this "Obama is a Marxist" rhetoric, and the Obama posters with the Hitler mustache. First, I am a Marxist, and there is absolutely nothing Marxist about Obama's policies at all... One more gross mis-representation????

As for the Hitler Mustache, take a look at yourselves:

There was time in the late 20s and early 30s Germany where a movement of ignoramuses with rotten principles, bankrolled by top corporations and industrialists, actually took power... This is the Third Reich of course.

You guys look a lot like the that movement of 80 odd years ago. Your movement is based on intentional lies and deception covered with a veneer of preposterous conspiracy theory. Your modus operandi is fueling social hate and scapegoating. You have no respect for civil rights except your own... For these reasons I fear the Right.

December 22, 2009

Dreaming of a Red Christmas: How to Survive the Holidays

It always happens around the same time in the evening. I'm at a Christmas dinner with my extended family. Sometime between the second round of drinks and the start of the meal, my uncle starts his famous rant about smoking bans. He hits all the libertarian talking points in between gulps of lager: they're bad for business, they expand the role of government, they're paternalist, they're an invasion of privacy. It's unlikely that anyone at the table actually brought up the subject, and my uncle doesn't smoke. But declaring his utter loathing for those laws over the roast turkey and asparagus has turned into a holiday tradition. Like a battery-operated-blinking-light Christmas sweater, it's impossible to ignore. One year I made the mistake of calmly suggesting that smoking bans protect low-income servers who work long hours in bars and would not like to die of lung cancer. I was told they should find another job or “get over it.”

Ah the holidays. What is it about them that brings reactionary family members out of the woodwork? As if the anxiety of travel, money and weather weren't enough. As if the messages of, “Yay America! Yay Christianity! Go eat a lot and buy a lot and thank God you live in the U.S.!” weren't offensive enough. On top of the full frontal cheery assault that starts around mid-September, we now have to deal with in-laws who ask us what we think should be done about all the illegals jumping the border, oh and please pass the gravy.

The best I can give you in the way of surviving these trying times is a list of dos and donts, mostly from my own experience.

Read more here.

Trade Unionists ask Richard Trumka to support boycott of Israel

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, stated at an October 2009 dinner of the Jewish Labor Committee:  "And tonight, let me tell you that, so long as I'm president, you will never have a stronger ally than the AFL-CIO.  That's why we're proud to stand with the JLC to oppose boycotting Israel."

In response, trade unionists have written a letter to Trumka asking him to reconsider this position, and to support the international boycott of Israel.

The letter states, in part:
In the past ten years alone, U.S. military aid to Israel was $17 billion; over the next decade, it will be another $30 billion. As in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. aircraft, white phosphorous and bullets kill and maim on behalf of the occupiers, while both Democratic and Republican politicians condone the slaughter. Amidst deepening economic crisis, workers in this country pay a staggering human and financial price for U.S.-Israeli war and occupation throughout the region.
Despite all of this, however, many U.S. labor officials -- often without the knowledge or con-sent of union members -- have ignored Palestinian appeals for justice. Instead, they continue to collaborate with the Histadrut, the Zionist labor federation that not only supported Israel's war on Gaza, but which has spearheaded -- and whitewashed -- racism, apartheid, dispossession and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians since the 1920s.
They have invested billions of our union pension funds and retirement plans in State of Israel Bonds. They have actively encouraged the U.S. to provide the money and weapons that oppress Palestinian workers, and to ensure Israel's role as watchdog for U.S. domination over the oil-rich Middle East. 

Read the rest here.

December 21, 2009

Hugo Chavez On Socialism

From remarks made in Copenhagen:

There is a group of countries that consider themselves superior to us in the South, us in the Third World, us the underdeveloped countries, or, as a great friend Eduardo Galeano says, us, the crushed countries, as if a train ran over us in history.

In light of this, it's no surprise that there is no democracy in the world and here we are again faced with powerful evidence of global imperial dictatorship. Then two youths got up here -- fortunately the security agents were decent -- some shoving, and they collaborated, right? There are many people outside, you know? Of course, they, many people, do not fit in this room. I've read in the news that there were some arrests, some intense protests, in the streets of Copenhagen, and I salute all those people out there, most of them youth.

Of course young people are concerned, I think rightly much more than we are, for the future of the world. We have -- most of us here -- the sun on our backs, and they have to face the sun and are very worried.

One could say, Mr. President, that a spectre is haunting Copenhagen, to paraphrase Karl Marx, the great Karl Marx. A spectre is haunting the streets of Copenhagen, and I think that spectre walks silently through this room, walking around among us, through the halls, rising from below. This spectre is a terrible spectre almost nobody wants to mention: capitalism is the spectre -- almost nobody wants to mention it.

It's capitalism, the people are roaring, you can hear them out there.

I have been reading some of the slogans painted on the streets, and of those slogans of these youngsters, some of which I think I heard when I was young, and of the young woman there, I have noted two. You can hear, among others, two powerful slogans. One: Don't Change the Climate, Change the System.

And I take it on board for us. Let's not change the climate, let's change the system! And consequently we will begin to save the planet. Capitalism is a destructive development model that is putting an end to life; it threatens to put a definitive end to the human species...

And I think that's true. If the climate were one of the biggest capitalist banks, the rich governments would have saved it.

I think Obama has not arrived. He received the Nobel Peace Prize almost the same day that he sent 30,000 soldiers to kill more innocents in Afghanistan, and now he comes to stand here with the Nobel Peace Prize, the president of the United States.

But the United States has the machinery to make money, to make dollars, and has saved -- well, they believe they have saved -- the banks and the capitalist system.

Well, this is a side comment that I wanted to make previously. We were raising our hand to accompany Brazil, India, Bolivia, China, in their interesting position that Venezuela and the countries of the Bolivarian Alliance firmly share. But hey, they didn't let us speak, so do not count these minutes please, Mr. President...

The rich are destroying the planet. Do they think they can go to another when they destroy this one? Do they have plans to go to another planet? So far there is none on the horizon of the galaxy...

Well then, Mr. President, climate change is undoubtedly the most devastating environmental problem of this century. Floods, droughts, severe storms, hurricanes, melting ice caps, rise in mean sea levels, ocean acidification, and heat waves, all of that sharpens the impact of global crisis besetting us.

Current human activity exceeds the threshold of sustainability, endangering life on the planet, but also in this we are profoundly unequal.

Let's remember: the 500 million richest people, 500 million, this is seven percent, seven percent, seven percent of the world's population. This seven percent is responsible, these 500 million richest people are responsible, for 50 percent of emissions, while the poorest 50 percent accounts for only seven percent of emissions.

So it strikes me as a bit strange to put the United States and China at the same level. The United States has just -- well, it will soon reach -- 300 million people. China has nearly five times the U.S. population. The United Status consumes more than 20 million barrels of oil a day; China only reaches 5-6 million barrels a day. You can't ask the same of the United States and China...

Cease the aggressions and the wars! We the peoples of the world ask of the empires, those who try to continue dominating the world and exploiting us. No more imperial military bases or military coups! Let's build a more just and equitable economic and social order, let's eradicate poverty, let's immediately stop the high emission levels, let's stop environmental degradation and avoid the great catastrophe of climate change, let's integrate ourselves into the noble goal of everyone being more free and united...

Socialism, the other spectre Karl Marx spoke about, walks here too. Rather it is like a counter-spectre. Socialism, this is the direction, this is the path to save the planet, I don't have the least doubt. Capitalism is the road to hell, to the destruction of the world. We say this from Venezuela, which because of socialism faces threats from the U.S. empire.

From the countries that comprise ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance, we exhort -- and I want to, with respect, but from my soul, exhort in the name of many on this planet -- the governments and peoples of the Earth, paraphrasing Simón Bolívar, the Liberator: if the destructive nature of capitalism opposes us, let's fight against it and make it obey us, let's not wait idly by for the death of humanity.

History calls on us to unite and fight.

If capitalism resists, we are obliged to take up a battle against capitalism and open the way for the salvation of the human species. It's up to us, raising the banners of Christ, Muhammad, equality, love, justice, humanity, the true and most profound humanism. If we don't do it, the most wonderful creation of the universe, the human being, will disappear -- it will disappear.

This planet is billions of years old, and this planet existed for billions of years without us, the human species, i.e. it doesn't need us to exist. Now, without the Earth we will not exist, and we are destroying Pachamama as Evo says, as our indigenous brothers from South America say.

Finally, Mr. President, and to finish, let's listen to Fidel Castro, who said: "One species is in danger of extinction: humanity."

Let's listen to Rosa Luxemburg, who said: "Socialism or Barbarism."

Let's listen to Christ the Redeemer, who said: "Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, we are capable of not making this Earth the tomb of humanity. Let us make this earth a heaven, a heaven of life, of peace, of the peace of brotherhood for all humanity, for the human species.

Anti-Mining Activist Ramiro Rivera Assassinated in Cabañas

Anti-Mining Activist Ramiro Rivera Assassinated in Cabañas, El Salvador; Demand an investigation and an end to the murders!

Ramiro Rivera Gómez, vice-president of CAC (Comité Ambiental de Cabañas/ the Environmental Committee of Cabañas) and a local leader in the community struggle against the environmentally destructive gold mining projects proposed by Pacific Rim, was assassinated on Sunday, December 20, 2009 in the Trinidad neighborhood of Ilobasco, in the department of Cabañas where he lived.

Héctor Berríos reports that Ramiro Rivera was killed by hitmen carrying M-16 rifles. Ramiro’s thirteen-year old daughter who was with him on Sunday afternoon was also injured but is reportedly in stable condition.

On August 7 of this year, Ramiro Rivera was shot 8 times, but survived the vicious attack. Oscar Menjívar, previously implicated in physical attacks on anti-mining activists, was arrested and charged with Ramiro’s attempted murder. Community members report that Menjívar had previously worked for Canadian mining company Pacific Rim; Pacific Rim denies that he has ever been an employee.

Since his recovery, Mr. Rivera had been under the protection of two police officers from the Witnesses and Victims Protection Unit of the National Civilian Police. On the afternoon of December 20th, they were apparently unable to protect him.

Since June of 2009, when anti-mining and FMLN activist Marcelo Rivera (no relation to Ramiro) was found tortured and killed in Cabañas, there have been continued attacks, death threats and attempted kidnappings of community members and activists who have vehemently opposed the proposed El Dorado gold mine. The Ministry of Environment denied mining exploitation permits to Pacific Rim , a Vancouver-based mining company, which subsequently announced a $77 million dollar lawsuit against the Salvadoran government under CAFTA, the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement.

Despite the overtly political overtones of this wave of violence, local police authorities and the former Attorney General's office have classified these cases as common crimes. Salvadorans are fearful and outraged by the continued violence but also by the inability or unwillingness of the police and the office of the Attorney General to protect community activists like Ramiro Rivera and to halt the violence.

Join the international response to this repression of anti-mining organizers in Cabañas TODAY. Call on the Salvadoran authorities to carry out an exhaustive investigation of these crimes and their motives.


1)E-mail Rodolfo Delgado, head of the Organized Crime unit of the Attorney General’s Office (Sample e-mail text at the end of this alert) This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it. Please copy Human Rights Ombudsman Oscar Luna to your email, via his front desk:

2) Please forward a copy of your sent email to cispes@; This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it.

SAMPLE E-MAIL ( English translation below):

Estimado Señor Rodolfo Delgado:

Como miembro de la comunidad internacional, quiero expresar mi profunda preocupación por lo más reciente hecho de violencia contra un líder social en Cabañas, el asesinato de Ramiro Rivera Gómez. Después de que él fue baleado ocho veces en agosto del 2009, fue bajo la protección de la Unidad de Protección de Víctimas y Testigos de la Policía Nacional Civil.

El asesinato de Ramiro Rivera parece otro hecho de violencia sistemático que ha traspasado en Cabañas desde el junio de este año: el secuestro y brutal asesinato del activista Gustavo Marcelo Rivera; las amenazas de muerte a periodistas de Radio Victor ia, al director de la Asociación de Desarrollo E conómico y Social Santa Marta (AD E S) y a varios líderes comunitarios de Cabañas; el sabotaje al sistema electrónico de Radio Victor ia; y los intentos de asesinato de los líderes comunitarios, Padre Luis Quintanilla y Ramiro Rivera.

Considero que existen suficientes evidencias para presumir que el asesinato de Ramiro Rivera y los demás crímenes están relacionados y forman parte de una campaña para intimidar a las organizaciones sociales en Cabañas. E s preocupante que la Fiscalía, bajo la dirección de Ástor Escalante, adjudicó a priori estos crímenes a la violencia común, ignorando las evidencias y antecedentes presentados que indican la naturaleza política de los eventos.

Por lo tanto como miembro de la comunidad internacional, hago un llamado para que ahora bajo la dirección del nuevo Fiscal General de la República Romeo Barahona, la Fiscalía realice una investigación imparcial, exhaustiva y efectiva en el caso del asesinato de Ramiro Rivera y de todos estos casos, para dar a conocer a los autores intelectuales y materiales de estos crímenes y garantizar así la protección de los líderes sociales en la región de forma verdadera.

Después del asesinato de Marcelo Rivera en junio, más de cien organizaciones de los Estados Unidos y Canadá mandaron una carta a la Fiscalía expresando su preocupación grave con los atropellos a los derechos humanos. También el Congresista Jim McGovern de los Estados Unidos expresó la misma preocupación en reuniones con el Señor Fiscal General, Romeo Barahona, y representantes de la Administración del Señor Presidente Mauricio Funes, durante su visita reciente a El Salvador.

También le estoy mandando una copia de este mensaje al señor Procurador para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, licenciado Oscar Humberto Luna, quien ha mostrado un compromiso fuerte para proteger la seguridad y los derechos humanos de los líderes sociales en Cabañas.

De quedar estos eventos en la impunidad, se estaría generando un clima de temor e incertidumbre para los demás líderes comunitarios, contrarrestando así los avances logrados en el proceso de democratización del país.

Agradezco de antemano sus gestiones para agilizar las investigaciones y espero que pronto se haga justicia en estos casos y se brinde protección a las víctimas y reparación a los familiares de Ramiro.

[Tu nombre/ Your name]


Translation of Email:

As a member of the international community, I want to express my profound concern about the most recent act of violence toward a community leader in Cabañas: the assassination of Ramiro Rivera Gómez. After being shot eight times in August, Mr. Rivera was under the protection of the Victims and Witnesses Protection Unit of the National Civilian Police.

The assassination of Ramiro Rivera appears to be another systematic act of violence that has occurred in Cabañas since June of this year: the kidnapping and brutal assassination of the activist Gustavo Marcelo Rivera; the death threats against journalists at Radio Victor ia, the director of the Association for Social and Economic Development (ADES) and other community leaders in Cabañas; the sabotage of the broadcasting equipment at Radio Victor ia; and the assassination attempt against the community leaders Father Luis Quintanilla and Ramiro Rivera.

I believe there is sufficient evidence to assume that Ramiro Rivera's murder and the other crimes are linked and part of a campaign to intimidate community organizations in Cabañas. It is alarming that the Attorney General’s Office under the direction of former acting Attorney General Ástor Escalante attributed these crimes to common violence, ignoring the evidence and antecedents that indicate the political nature of these events.

Therefore as a member of the international community, I now call on the Attorney General’s Office under the leadership of new Attorney General Romeo Barahona to carry out impartial, exhaustive and effective investigations of the assassination of Ramiro Rivera and all of these crimes in order to bring to justice the intellectual and material authors of these crimes and guarantee the protection of other community leaders in the region.

After the assassination of Marcelo Rivera in June, over 100 organizations in the U.S. and Canada sent a letter to the Attorney General’s office expressing their serious concern about the human rights abuses. Representative Jim McGovern of the U.S. Congress expressed the same concern in his meetings with Mr. Attorney General Romeo Barahona and with representatives of the administration of Mr. President Mauricio Funes during his recent visit to El Salvador .

I am sending a copy of this message to the Human Rights Ombudsman, Mr. Oscar Luna, who has shown a strong commitment to protect the security and human rights of social movement leaders in Cabañas.

Leaving these crimes in a state of impunity creates a climate of fear and uncertainty for the rest of the community leaders, undermining the advances in the democratic process in El Salvador.

I thank you in advance for your efforts to speed up the investigations and I hope that there will soon be justice in these cases and that the victims' lives will be protected and Ramiro’s family will be compensated for their loss.

[Your name]

December 20, 2009


Cuba has a lot of problems with trademark infringement and rarely wins in a U.S. Court. Have you been in a liquor store lately? Me either. Until last week - I was buying a Christmas present and imagine my surprise to see Cohiba cigars prominently displayed. How could this be? Then I saw the small print that said, "Made In the Dominican Republic". My companion told me not to make a scene..and it being Christmas and all I complied.

Now I see that state owned Cubatabaco got a favorable ruling on December 14th in its 12 year battle with U.S. General Cigar. U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet bars General Cigar from selling Dominican made cigars using the label Cohiba. HOWEVER, the judge issued a stay of the injunction pending an appeal by General Cigar. They have said they will continue to market "Cohibas" until there is a final judgement in the 12 year old case.

Cubatobaco has ongoing litigation to claim the profits General Tobacco has made from using the Cohiba trademark. Cohibas are sold worldwide by Habanos, SA a joint venture between Cubatobaco and a Franco-Spanish subsidiary of Britain's Imperial Tobacco. Yes, this is a small victory but we have to take whatever we can get. If you are in a liquor store make a scene!

December 19, 2009

A Holiday Story

A fantasy in the spirit of Charles Dickens:

In February of 2009, with his poll numbers and public expectations exceptionally high, President Obama announces that he supports the House health care reform bill with the most co-sponsors: HR 676, the universal, single payer plan. He notes that this has always been his answer to fixing the broken, for-profit system that now fails patient needs and burdens our economy. Immediately, the health care industry and big Pharma go into full attack mode, condemning the bill as "socialism". Obama meets with Democratic House leadership and emphasizes that “the American people need this bill and we will give it to them. This victory will pave the way for an overwhelming victory in the 2010 elections!”

House conservative Democrats join Republicans in attacking the House bill, citing industry generated polls and conservative pundits in arguing that the “American people do not want a government plan, but one that leaves health care in the hands of the private market.” The health care industry and its friends rush multi-million dollar attack ads into play, much as they did during the Clinton administration.

Read more here.

December 18, 2009

Thoughts on Salem Hospital budget cuts

There was an article in the Statesman Journal on Wednesday, Dec. 16th, concerning some upcoming budget cuts at the Salem Hospital.

It states, "Salem Health announced in October that that the nonprofit hospital was dealing with losses for the first time in nine years." And that "Officials said demand for hospital services is greater than ever, but how people are paying for services has changed: More people are on government-insured programs such as Medicare, which has lower reimbursement rates, or self-pay; fewer patients have private insurance."

Of the $9.3 million to be cut, "About $3.6 million will be trimmed from labor expenses." And "About 80 percent of the projected job cuts are not related to patient care," according to Aaron Crane, the chief financial officer for Salem Health.

Now there are some other strategies involved with this budget scale-back, such as haggling with drug companies and feeding people less. But what I initially thought about was the fact that more workers would be let go. And as Crane said, these are people that are "not related to patient care" (i.e. not doctors, etc.). I didn't read anything about management going anywhere either. As we know, cuts are usually made from the bottom up. What strikes me as sadly ironic is that within this very article it states that part of the problem is that "fewer patients have private insurance" or are on government programs with a lower reimbursement rate. And now more people will be added to that growing population.

As a side note, I'm not one to criticize lower reimbursement rates from government programs. That's not the issue at all. Costs are astronomical, and any diehard conservative that would bloviate for hours on government expenditure cannot complain about lower rates paid by government. The cost of insurance premiums and prescription drugs are at the root of the trouble. Conservatives love to whine about tort reform, but lawsuits are a minuscule portion of the overall costs. And as much as the cons despise lawyers they are the first in line, with the most expensive lawyer, when the need arises.

So, it wasn't as much as a day later, on Thursday, Dec. 17th, that I heard about a study in the headlines on Democracy Now! Outside of the intrinsic value that workers have as people, this study laid it out in economic terms. I've quoted the blurb in its entirety.

"And a new study from a progressive British think tank says low-income workers, such as hospital cleaners, have a far higher economic value to society than bankers. The New Economics Foundation says bankers take away seven British pounds for every one pound they earn. By contrast, hospital cleaners create ten pounds of economic value for every pound they earn. The study’s authors say the findings suggest pay structures should reward jobs that create societal benefit, not profit."

Good luck seeing that to fruition.

So, as nothing is done that will cut to the chase on the real problems of our health care system, those laboring behind the scenes, those on the night shift, those we may not seek out though we benefit from their efforts... those people will again become casualties in a battle that seems out of their control. Those in Washington, D.C. that we pay to represent us are many times paid far more by those who hope to profit from our sickness and death.

And as the laborers described above are seen as expendable in the war for the bottom line, their value... our value!.. as workers in this society and economy is under-appreciated and ignored. Apparently, the solutions sought to the current budget troubles, at Salem Hospital and elsewhere, will continue to benefit those who suck the life out of the very system they adore, at the expense of those who add the most life to our economy and nation.

Eventually, the system will fail. Must we wait until the bottom falls out before we fix it? As the fossil fuel industry tells us of the global climate crisis, the health care industry also tells us, "Not until the last dollar has been made".

Steamed Baristas Shut Down Fort Worth Starbucks Drive-Thru to Demand Affordable Healthcare

Subject: Steamed Baristas Shut Down Fort Worth Starbucks Drive-Thru to Demand Affordable Healthcare and Paid

IWW Starbucks Workers Union (Industrial Workers of the World)
Contact: Michele Cahill, 817-368-5892

December 18, 2009

Steamed Baristas Shut Down Fort Worth Starbucks Drive-Thru to Demand Affordable Healthcare and Paid Sick Days for those Diagnosed with H1N1

Press Conference: December 18, 12:00 noon, 8th and W. Rosedale Starbucks, Fort Worth

Fort Worth, TX- Baristas and community supporters at the 8th and Rosedale Starbucks shut down the store’s drive-thru this morning and delivered a list of demands including affordable health care options and sick days for those displaying H1N1 or other cold and flu symptoms. Starbucks doubled the cost of the company health insurance plan in September, leaving many workers unable to afford treatment because of sky-high deductibles and premiums.

“We’ve had enough. Baristas should not be forced to expose customers to H1N1 or other contagions and stay sick longer, just in order to be able to make the money they need to support their families and pay astronomical health care costs. We’re making $7.30/hr., that’s a nickel above minimum wage,” said IWW Barista Michelle Cahill.

The protesting baristas are members of the Starbucks Workers Union, which is an international campaign of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) labor union. The store action makes the 8th and Rosedale location the first Starbucks in Texas to have a public union presence.

Baristas decided to move toward unionization after many workers were forced to continue working while displaying intense H1N1 and other flu symptoms, enhancing the likelihood of spreading the flu virus. The baristas are demanding that those who display H1N1 or other cold and flu symptoms be excused from work with pay to avoid exposing customers to Swine Flu.

Casey Keeling, another union barista at the store, said, “Watching our coworkers be forced to serve customers while they were sick with H1N1 was the last straw. Something needs to change- in our workplace and in this country. We have decided to form a union to fight for affordable health insurance, paid sick days, a fair wage, and secure work hours. And they could at least give us a first aid kit for the store.”

While portraying itself as a ‘socially-responsible’ employer, all of Starbucks' retail hourly workers in the U.S. are part-time employees with no guaranteed number of work hours per week. According to Starbucks figures released to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 40.9% of its employees (including managers) are covered by the company health care package, a lower percentage than the oft-criticized Wal-Mart, which insures 47% of its workforce.

Since the launch of the IWW campaign at Starbucks on May 17, 2004, the company has been cited multiple times for illegal union-busting by the National Labor Relations Board. The company settled numerous complaints against it and a judge's guilty verdict on more than 30 additional rights’ violations was recently upheld on appeal by the Board in D.C. Starbucks’ large anti-union operation is headed by CEO Howard Schultz and operated in conjunction with the Akin Gump law firm and the Edelman public relations firm.

The IWW Starbucks Workers Union is a grassroots organization of over 300 current and former employees at the world's largest coffee chain united for secure work hours and a living wage. The union has members throughout the United States and Canada fighting for systemic change at the company and remedying individual grievances with management.

Union baristas, bussers, and shift supervisors have fought successfully toward improved scheduling and staffing levels, increased wages, and workplace safety. Workers who join the union have immediate access to co-workers and members of the community who will struggle with them for a better life on the job.

About those guns in the closet...

Prior to the elections, and practically ever since, gun sales in the United States picked up. The media was surprised and credited the spike in sales to fears on the right that the new administration would tighten gun ownership rules, or even ban gun ownership altogether. The president's promise not to do so carried no weight with these folks and they spent their salaries on guns and ammo. We heard a great deal about this as we met people at their doors during the campaign season.

I took a gloomier view than the media and ascribed the spectacular increase in sales of guns and ammo to at least a latent feeling on the right that they could overthrow the government, or cause all kinds of mischief that would lead to such an overthrow, by force of arms. In other countries this is known as a "strategy of tension" and fascists have proven the world over that it works. Coupled with right-wing hate radio, teabag rallies and incendiary calls from the right to resist healthcare reform and the census, my gloomy or jaundiced view seems reasonable. The right showed at least a defensive interest in excusing the assassins in their midst who took so many lives jut before and just after the election. Their silence now, and their lack of violence now that they're more fully armed, hints that some coordination is taking place on that end of the political spectrum.

The gun and ammo industry, which knows better than their best customers which ways the political winds are shifting, have done nothing to quiet the fears and anger of the people buying up their stock. It can reasonably be argued that these companies survive because of social crises, in fact. It used to be common practice that gun salesmen signed you up for the NRA when you made a first purchase. A drop or loss in sales means a drop or loss in NRA membership.

Regardless of why so many right-wing people have been buying up guns and ammo, there has been no legislation put forward to ban or restrict arms, arms sales or ammo manufacture and sales. An attempt by the right-wing to link gun ownership, or limitations on gun ownership, to pending healthcare legislation two months ago got laughed away. The NRA continues its ridiculous, though quite successful, local and state lobbying campaigns and have done so perhaps to the point that the organization's main rank-and-file, who generally join for ammo discounts, are growing complacent. Still, they are registering some impressive legislative successes.

Now gun and ammo sales are dropping, and dropping fast. Orders and backorders going to major manufacturer Sturm, Ruger and Smith & Wesson have flattened sales and caused at least a small stock dive which is registering this week. Sturm, Ruger is especially vulnerable because it makes low-end products that people can buy or pass by in their search for something better and more durable. Smith & Wesson still has police department sales to fall back on--the kind of weaponry that comes in useful when dealing with protests, strikes and civil disturbances. FBI background checks are down 20% from last year.

The guns that have been purchased will be resold, traded or put in the closet with the once-used exercise equipment. You will see them at yard sales next to the ab workout machine. It made sense when you bought it, but after a try or two you gave up and let the weight gain on you. You pass it by and feel guilty and fat.

I hope that the unused guns draw a stronger reaction--a wince, maybe, or outright shame. Were you really so easily hoodwinked into parting with your money by Rush Limbaugh or Bill Post or Glenn Beck? Would you really shoot your neighbor and climb over her body to get food and medicine during a social cataclysm?

December 16, 2009

Call For Entries: 2010 Search For Peace Film Festival & Art Exhibit

Free and open to the public March 5-7 at the St. Pius X Community Center at 1280 NW Saltzman Road in Portland.

The organizers are seeking video and art work relating to peace and non-violence. Entries will be accepted until January 31.

Art work and written works can be e-mailed to info@searchforpeace

For information and to see previous exhibits go to or call 503-646-5449.

Listening To Palestinians Speak In Portland And The Kairos Palestine Document: A Prayerful Call Of Palestinian Christians To End The Occupation

The struggle in Palestine goes on and on. A pessimist will say that it has gone from bad to worse and will continue to do so. Somewhere in the back of our consciousness we can imagine Palestinians completely dispossessed and living in refugee camps managed by the U.N., their land taken by Israeli settlements which suck the water from the land and change the region's ecology and the former Palestinian cities as kinds of glorified theme parks for tourists. And we can imagine the world community allowing this to happen, with some protests and conflict but with deals being cut in the end. What then? The logical progression for Israel would be to turn on its Israeli-Arab citizens and further relegate them to second-class or subserviant citizens.

A more optimistic view holds that every day that Palestinians survive is a victory. Really, given the lopsided balance of power existing between Israel and Palestine it is an amazing victory that Palestinians remain in any parts of their country and that the country itself still appears on anyone's maps. And not only that, but Palestinian resistance movements continue, however divided and contradictory they may sometimes appear to be, while something like religious fanatical settler-colonialism takes over Israel and seems to overcome most progressive or liberal Israeli forces. We can hope--we do hope--that the resistance will develop and broaden and that it will meet a powerful Israeli socialist movement that is for full peace and justice and the creation of a secular and democratic state for all. Regardless of conditions in Israel, of courrse, the Palestinians have every right to resist the occupation with any and all means chosen by their progressive and democratic movements.

I was thinking of these points as I was listening to Alison Weir and two Palestinian Christians talk this evening at a presentation given in Portland. Alison Weir heads If Americans Knew, an information-gathering and advocacy group which frequently and courageously confronts zionist disinformation and pays a heavy price for its work. One of the other great speakers this evening was the director of the International Middle East Media Center, who could speak from his own experience about Israeli terrorism. The other was Hala Gores, who I always learn so much from.

This evening's events were thrown together quickly, but the talks were to the point and directed at Christians who may have forgotten our origins and our sisters and brothers in Palestine. I was dismayed to see how the apartheid wall constructed by Israel has encroached upon places in Palestine familiar to me. Like many people, I have avoided looking previously because seeing the wall and the spread of the settlements has been too painful. In two hours the speakers guided me through some of my most pessimistic feelings.

The point of departure for the talks this evening was, besides the approaching Christmas, the release of the Kairos Palestine Document, a prayerful call of Palestinian Christians to End the Occupation. Really, this document needs to spread through the American churches as part of a struggle for liberation theology and as part of the broader anti-imperialist struggle. It should be made available and studied carefully. We have a responsibility to this and hold clergy accountable for reacting positively to it. After all, in the current situation christian-zionism has emerged as a major force backing the occupation and a means of holding the megachurches here hostile to reactionary politics.

December 15, 2009

"Paris" Is Showing At The Salem Cinema--A Film Worth Seeing

Two of us caught a showing of "Paris" at the Salem Cinema the other night. I think that the film is worth seeing. Here's why.

The film brings together some aspects of many peoples' lives in an urban setting and reminds us of how complex our lives are and how little we know one another and, we can say, ourselves as well. The film is not a documentary, and does not pretend to be, but it shows some of the stress points of modern urban alienation and some of the qualities in people which make life bearable and redeemable.

The characters and their experiences are mainly observed or connected to one another by a man waiting in his apartment for a heart transplant, but there is no magical realism or happy ending in the film which connects everyone and assures us that all will be well. In fact, there are points when we worry: will an immigrant make it safely from Africa to France, will a person survive a motorcycle accident, will human relationships flower or die? A few people triumph over angst and adversity, a couple of people stand poised at the end of the film for a new beginning, but in the main urban life goes on as it has since the beginning of the film. This is another kind of realism.

We noted that the heart patient lives in a country with a better medical system than the one we have here in the US. There is no freaking out about the costs of the operation so the patient and those close to him can experience one another in more human and unmediated ways, and they struggle vainly to do so. One of the characters is involved in union contract negotiations and can speak frankly or bluntly with her work mates about the sacrifices the negotiating team is making and what support she needs from them. This will be less familiar to an American audience than to a French audience, sad to say. Several of the characters are proletarians who stutter through their lives trying to find connection and love. The prejudices of a small shop owner are painted for us as emblematic of class relations and class insecurities. The Africans live on the periphery, even in Paris, and may be the least sullied of all the dreamers and hopers. In almost every case the filmmaker draws us in: we want to step into the film and help most of these lost people. Perhaps we want to help because we ourselves also need so much help. To some extent, then, the film is a somewhat distorted mirror.

The soundtrack is an odd mix that doesn't quite fit the mood of the film or help set its scenes most often. The film is awkward enough and the soundtrack makes it more so, giving the alienation expressed more depth and more of an edge.

We can argue--we should argue--with the way the film gives more to men than to women and with the closing arguments made by the main character. Something more than a city is at stake here, although the film clearly loves Paris, and the film works against itself perhaps in reminding us that human alienation and tragedy have not yet surpassed the ability of people to act affirmatively and set matters right.

December 14, 2009


The New York Times revealed the detention of a U.S. Government contract employee in Havana Dec. 5th. The name has not been disclosed but the information that he works for Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI) says all we need to know. DAI is one of the largest U.S. Government Contractors. It is a CIA Front Organization dedicated to destabilizing governments considered unfavorable to U.S. interests. Usually working under the cover of USAID or the State Department or the U.S. Embassy.

It is now in Cuba with millions of dollars to be used to destroy the Cuban Revolution. Last year the U.S. Congress approved $40 Million to "promote transition to democracy" in Cuba. DAI was awarded the main contract - "The Cuba Democracy And Contingency Planning Program".

The most detailed information about DAI is documented by Eva Golinger who writes about DAI activities in Venezuela. She received the "International Award For Journalism" in Mexico in 2009 for her book "The Chavez Code - Cracking U.S. Intervention In Venezuela". DAI was contracted by USAID two months after the failed coup against Hugo Chavez. They were awarded a multi million dollar contract to funnel money to the groups who had months earlier attempted a coup and created economic sabotage.

In Cuba the detention of this DAI employee confirms that the Obama Administration has no plans to change Cuba policy and actually it has stepped up espionage, infiltration and subversion. Cuba has now exposed the DAI intelligence operation (recruiting agents, distributing resources to promote destabilization and regime change). If Eva Golinger is correct this is exactly what they have been doing in Venezuela for the last 7 years.

December 13, 2009

Second Salem Area Pena Held

Friday evening, December 11, brought the second Pena to Salem's Coffee House Cafe. The Pena was hosted and organized by the Mid-Willamette Valley Jobs with Justice.Pena is a tradition of the Mexican and Latin American left. Participants bring their songs, poems and writings to share with each other. The atmosphere is one of open participation and sharing in a gathering of comrades. It's a bit like an open mike night at the bar, except those attending tend to know each other and performances are within a particular context or theme.

Friday's Pena was a quiet affair. The mood was positive as performers and participants move forward with the peoples' struggle. At the same time, we all know the struggle will continue to be hard and long. This sentiment was apparent at the Pena too.

Performers included the wonderful Bajo Salario (Low Wage), a duet of performers who really know how to belt out a tune. Sam Davila performed a number of songs, combining a well-played guitar with a solid and expressive voice.

Resilience was the theme. In this spirit songs were political, yet transcended the struggle as well. Bajo Salario performed a song about a peasant, exploited and oppressed. Yet still this peasant could find beauty in the world and hope in nature. Other songs were sung, about the animals, and loves as well as the Fight. Clearly hope is a necessary requirement in carrying the struggle forward!


Pedro Sosa delivered a solid rap on the resilience of immigrant workers. He held up a $5 bill. You can crumple it, wad it up, throw it in the trash, yet still this little bill still contains its value. You can crumple up the immigrant worker, throw em' in the trash, tear them to pieces, but such solid folk still contain their value too. Thus, Pedro's lesson.

And then Honduras...

Friday's Pena was an acknowledgment of the continuing struggle for economic justice by Honduran workers and peasants. The story of this struggle was told by activist Maribel Gomez. The struggle as she tells us has been going on for decades. The struggle hit a new crescendo last June when a junta of wealthy landowners took power in a coup against the populist government of President Zemalya.

For decades, Honduran workers and peasants have been intimated, shot, and disappeared. Honduras has become a land where workers and peasants are worth nothing and where no human degradation is too deep. Yet still, the struggle continues and wealthy landowners still cannot call themselves secure.

My bet is is that there are Penas still yet to come. Next time one comes around, attend! It is time well spent.

December 11, 2009

The Kozlov Verdict

Lyudmila and Oleksandr Kozlov have been sentenced to seven years and three months for abusing their children. Their sentences may be shortened or they may go into an alternative incarceration program and so avoid harder prison time. Their convictions stem from abusing their three children and are shorter consecutive prison terms than were requested, but are still longer than the terms recommended by the deputy district attorneys handling the case. In fact, the verdicts represent the feelings of an obviously pro-family judge and jury. Marion County Circuit Judge Thomas Hart took some time to further admonish and shame the defendants during sentencing.

The sentences also mark the system's frustration with people who claim that God is defending them and who show little or no remorse. Lyudmila Kozlova, in particular, has been portrayed in the media as unbalanced and unrepentant. There is no word on appeals; God rarely moves cases into the higher courts of the land.

Saying that the case is tragic is saying too little and too much at the same time. The entire drama has been a clashing of cultures and politics as the Kozlovs have been misrepresented in the media and by their supporters, who have gathered at the Marion County courthouse in their version of an almost-daily vigil or rally that never sought broader public support and could not coherently explain their version of the case to outsiders. They were seeking God's justice and may well have gotten it. The children involved are the primary victims, of course, and there is reason to be concerned about what will happen to them next. The Kozlov son who made the triggering phone call about the abuse has been portrayed as the strong and sane one in the family. At 14 he is a competent speaker and writer and protected his siblings. The children should not be placed back into an environment in which they are at risk, but they should also not be so removed from their ethnic community that they cannot access the positive support systems that community has in place.

The larger community is not prepared to distinguish between Russians and Ukrainians or between the factions present in those communities. This case, sadly, has given outsiders a distorted view into those communities and factions and it has caused people to say, "Those Russians..." as if that settles the matter. The Russians and Ukrainians here are known alternately as hard workers, car thieves, docile immigrants, bigots and members of subcultures who have no interest in the outside world. Every stereotype is wrong and none fit. At least some people in the local Russian and Ukrainian communities have reacted defensively in the wake of the trial.

One part of the community no doubt supports Lyudmila Kozlova and is certain that they alone know the truth that has escaped everyone else and that the judge and jury have damned themselves with this verdict. These are the people with the clear and far-away look in their eyes. Other factions no doubt want to assimilate to the extent that they can, maintain their religious and communal ties in light of this assimilation, get on with their lives and are embarrassed by this negative publicity. This trial may mark a turning point in social relations and this turning point will probably not be a good one.

Imagine if the Kozlovs had been Black or Latino.

Speaking parenthetically, I appreciate the people on the right who leave their trials in the hands of God. The jails may soon be filled with such people. In the '60s, when such was done regularly by the civil rights movement and the Catholic left, God was at first of a mixed mind when it came to American civil trials and legislation. It had been one hundred years or more since anyone here had asked God to weigh in on court cases involving civil rights and wars and God probably had to consult the relevant texts. In the end, though, God generally backed the left. In the intervening years God has shown little change in direction: S/He still seems to favor the progressives when they sincerely call out for judgement. Next up at bat will be Bill Sizemore and we will soon see what is in store for him.

December 10, 2009

Salem Speaks Up On Human Rights Day

Perhaps one hundred people came together at the downtown First United Methodist Church this evening to mark Human Rights Day. These observances have been going on since 1992 and they come with proclamations from the governor and the mayor. Janet Taylor, Salem's mayor, makes a point of attending with some City Council members and ranking police officials.

The evening opened with a good role play done with young people from the Luz group, which works with Mano a Mano. The youth did a skit and asked audience members to point out the details of oppression we observed in the skit. The role play dealt with sexism, forms of privilege, education, legal presence and the DREAM Act. Many of the audience members understood the issues, but some clearly did not and saw it as a play about kids who hope to one day become mayor. Norma Sanchez spoke spontaneously on he DREAM Act.

A singing group who refer to themselves as the Awesome Aunties did some satirical songs on human rights. Their last song, "I'm Dreaming of a New City," sung to the tune of "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," should have given Mayor Taylor apoplexy.

The open mic, or speak out, part of the agenda was covered by middle-class and working-class people who talked about racism, the NAACP, bullying, the death penalty, the unemployment compensation system, Micronesian rights and transgender issues. Two people from the labor movement spoke. Many of us arrived thinking that there would be some emphasis or news on the police department and racial profiling, but none came up. This may be less about community satisfaction with the police department overall, and more about who was in the room.

The youth left early, probably bored and confused by so many older white people talking about youth and racism. The gang kids and their families stayed away. If rank-and-file union members were there, they did not speak. It's good to know that so many people like living here, and that leading African-Americans in the community say they feel safe and also note an absence of overt racism, but I wondered as I listened how matters might go if the police were not present, if the room had more Latinos and African-Americans and if action plans to take on problems were being discussed.

The people that most needed to be there were absent. The whackos gathered around Bill Post & Co. could have shown up and learned something, spoken up themselves and been exposed as the frauds they are. The kids most likely to be targeted by the police or pushed aside in the classrooms or denied employment opportunities could have--should have--overcome their alienation for an evening and turned out. An organized left could have used the opportunity to layout an understanding of racism and the prisons. We don't want Janet Taylor and liberal Salem walking away from these events feeling that all is well.

December 9, 2009

Peña Cultural in Salem

Event: Peña Cultural in Salem
Start Time: Friday, December 11 at 7:30pm
End Time: Friday, December 11 at 10:30pm
Where: Coffee House Cafe at 135 Liberty St. NE in Salem

December 8, 2009

Salem MoveOn.Org Rallies For Healthcare

About 75 people rallied at the State Capitol in Salem tonight for single payer or a strong public option--take your pick--and heard Peter Bergel and some excellent music, Bill Burgess speak and two other other speakers as well. Lights on the State Capitol steps spelled out "HOPE." MoveOn sold healthcare buttons designed by a local artist. It was freezing cold, annoyingly so, but most people in the crowd probably connected to being in solidarity with people all over the US who were doing the same thing last night. The leader of the Marion County Democrats who spoke did an excellent job of framing the issues and connecting struggles.

What is most lacking in Salem is the means to unite people on the left behind a common program and build events with a broad, but common, left perspective. We don't have to agree on everything, but we do need to better coordinate existing activity and challenge one another to do more and do better. We have actions undeway--this rally, antiwar work, a program on police profiling on Thursday evening, a pena on Friday, phone banking underway on ballot measures and more--but we don't have a program or unity or coordination.

Tonight was a good step forward and the MoveOn folks did a great job.

Ralph Nader's New Book--The View From Socialist Appeal

Ralph Nader, a long time figure on the American left, has written a new book which typifies his basic political outlook, but also marks a new turn in the elucidation of his views. The American tendency toward a philosophy of “pragmatism,” and the predominance of reformist ideas within the broader American left in general, are both personified by Nader, and his new book seems to set a seal on his overall political development in this direction.

Read more here.

Trumka And The Jobs Summit

Trumka told host Ed Schultz that in the discussions among President Obama, administration officials, economists and business leaders, there was a broad consensus that we need to fix an economy that has shed millions of jobs. Trumka said of the jobs summit:

I think it worked really well. The president really does understand the urgency of job creation. He said it on numerous occasions: jobs, jobs, jobs. I think his staff and Cabinet understand the importance of job creation. A lot of good ideas came out today that are usable. If we turn them around real quick, we can start putting Americans back to work in weeks.

Read more here.

National Conference to Create Living Wage Jobs, Meet Human Needs and Sustain the Environment Greatly Exceeded Expectations

Our November 13-14 National Conference to Create Living Wage Jobs, Meet Human Needs and Sustain the Environment greatly exceeded our expectations. Over 125 attendees came representing over 50 organizations. The diversity of attendees was as impressive as their numbers. People came from Atlanta, Chicago, California and many points in between. Participating organizations spanned the broad range of constituencies we need to mobilize to achieve the conference goals of jobs for all at a living wage. The religious community, labor, community non-profits and employment policy experts all participated.

Read more here.

Sign up now for Mike Munk’s Red Tour of Portland

Red Tour of Portland
With Michael Munk
Sunday, December 13 | 1PM
$10 General / $8 Picklers

Who were the Portlanders who fought for the eight-hour workday, women and gay rights, for the end of the Vietnam War and for civil rights for all? Join Michael Munk, author of The Portland Red Guide: Sites & Stories of Our Radical Past (Ooligan Press, 2007) and the Dill Pickle Club in examining our city’s tradition of progressive activism – one often taken for granted by Portlanders today.

Learn about sit down shipyard strikes, working class watering holes, radical union eat-ins, a forgotten lesbian abortionist doctor and the Police Department’s covert Portland Red Squad. Through a two-hour walk and happy hour, Munk will highlight sites and stories of our radical past – starring a cast of activists and oddballs rarely found in local history texts.

The tour will end with drinks at Paddy’s Bar & Grill – itself a stop in Munk’s guidebook, as the site of The Harbor Club, an early gay bar the City of Portland closed in 1965. Space is limited to 30 people and will fill to capacity. Books will be available for sale afterward. As Portland Tribune writer Phil Stanford reviewed Munk’s tome, “Who knew that being on the losing side of just about everything could be so fun?”

Visit Mike's website at

BETHLEHEM TODAY: A powerful talk and slide show by a Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem

A powerful talk and slide show by a Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem

Portland Central Library
801 Southwest 10th Avenue (at SW Yamhill)

Wednesday, December 16
5:30 to 7:30 pm

Palestinian Christians from Bethlehem and Nazareth will give a powerful presentation and slide show about "Bethlehem Today." We know that many people are enormously busy with work, shopping, and Christmas festivities, but we hope people will take time out to learn first-hand about the land where this all began and what is happening to it now. Please tell others about the event! (flyer attached)

Americans give Israel $7 million per day -- more than to any other country on earth. As we sing about "little town of Bethlehem," joy to the world," and "peace on earth," it seems appropriate to participate in an informed discussion about this town, region, and what can be done to bring peace.

Also participating will be Rev. Dick Toll, founder of Friends of Sabeel--North America (, who has just returned from Bethlehem, and Alison Weir, founder of If Americans Knew (, an independent journalist who has traveled throughout the region.

Interfaith Vigil & Posada for Immigration Reform

"Interfaith Vigil & Posada for Immigration Reform" on Thursday, December 10 at 4:30pm.

Event: Interfaith Vigil & Posada for Immigration Reform
What: Rally
Start Time: Thursday, December 10 at 4:30pm
End Time: Thursday, December 10 at 7:30pm
Where: starting at The Edith Green Federal Building, 1220 SW 3rd Avenue, Portland, OR

Sam Webb On The Pesent Political Moment

Slightly over a year ago, the American people elected a young African American to the presidency and increased the Democratic majority in the Congress. President Obama’s victory represented a repudiation of right-wing ideology, politics and economics and a setback for neoliberalism in both its conservative and liberal skins.

This victory was a long time in coming. When it finally happened it did so not only because of the brilliance of the candidate, but also due to the broad shoulders of a people’s coalition.

The swing­ in the political pendulum ushered in the possibility of a new era. After 30 years of right-wing dominance, the balance of political power tilted once again in a progressive direction.

Though that tilt wasn’t far enough for a people’s agenda to be easily enacted, political advantage did shift, and that’s no small accomplishment.

Perhaps it is obvious, but if McCain and Palin had been elected, a public option would not be in the center of the conversation — in fact, health care reform wouldn’t even be on the agenda. The Employee Free Choice Act would be off labor’s wish list. The stimulus package would be far smaller and unemployment much higher. There would not be a Puerto Rican woman on the Supreme Court. Our government would be actively supporting the coup regime in Honduras, and relations with Cuba would be frozen or worse. Legislation extending hate crimes to include anti-gay violence would still be on the ‘to do’ list. And not a word would have been mentioned about the abolition of nuclear weapons.

In short, President Obama’s election has made a difference, and the progressive movement has space to dream again. There are limits and obstacles to be sure, but what should frame our outlook are hope and possibility. The great reformer of the 20th century, Rev. Martin Luther King, taught us this lesson.

The purpose of this discussion paper is to assess where the country and world are a year after the election, refine our strategic and tactical policies, outline some practical actions, and discuss our role in a very complex situation.

Read more here.

Obama, Afghanistan And The USSR

The following article by Norman Markowitz appeared in Political Affairs last spring. It is worth a read in light of the latest word on a troop surge in Afghanistan as it debunks much of what we hear about the USSR's intentions and failings in Afghanistan.

The Obama administration, as it seeks to withdraw from Iraq, finds itself in a far more difficult and complicated situation in Afghanistan. In February, the National Security Archive, a Washington-based institute that uncovers classified documents from the Cold War era, released a collection of fascinating documents from Soviet sources in the Gorbachev era. These primary source documents concern the Gorbachev leadership’s attempts to extricate the USSR from its years-long military intervention in Afghanistan. From these documents, we might glean some important historical lessons about military intervention in Central Asia and look for alternatives to the Obama administration's plan to increase troop numbers there.

While I do not share the sympathetic portrayal of the “reformers” in the Gorbachev leadership of the USSR put forward by the analysts at the National Security Archive, particularly Gorbachev’s naïve, or worse, effort to cooperate with the Reagan administration and the Pakistani dictatorship, the documents could be a valuable source of information on the region for the Obama administration, as it seeks to learn from the past in order not to repeat the errors of the past.

Read more here.

December 7, 2009

Obama Steals Bush’s Speechwriters

From The Progressive:

By Matthew Rothschild, December 2, 2009

If you closed your eyes during much of the President’s speech on Afghanistan Tuesday night and just listened to the words, you easily could have concluded that George W. Bush was still in the Oval Office.

Or, at the very least, that Obama had stolen his speechwriters.

Because, like Bush, Obama had barely cleared his throat when out came the first mention of September 11, along with the Bushian line: “We did not ask for this fight.”

Like Bush, Obama lied about the lead up to the Afghanistan war, saying that the United States invaded “only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden. “

That’s false.

“President George Bush rejected as ‘non-negotiable’ an offer by the Taliban to discuss turning over Osama bin Laden if the United States ended the bombing in Afghanistan,” the Guardian reported on October 14, 2001.

Like Bush, Obama looked straight ahead into the camera to address the people of a country he’s about to inflict more hell upon, and said: “I want the Afghan people to understand—America seeks an end to this war and suffering.” And like Bush, he added: “We have no interest in occupying your country.” He even went further out on a flimsy rhetorical limb by saying the United States wants to “forge a lasting friendship in which America is your partner, and never your patron.”

Well, it’s sure acting like a patron today.

Like Bush, Obama exaggerated the “contributions from our allies” in this war effort, which is overwhelmingly American.

Like Bush, Obama cited Al Qaeda’s “attacks against London and Amman and Bali.”

Like Bush, Obama promised a long war against terrorism. “The struggle against violent extremism will not be finished quickly, and it extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said. “It will be an enduring test of our free society, and our leadership in the world.”

And like Bush, Obama went to great lengths to distort the record of that “leadership.”

“More than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades,” he said.

Well, let’s see: The United States led the world to the cliffs of nuclear annihilation during the Cold War. The United States invaded one Latin American country after another, and subverted other governments there covertly. The United States helped overthrow governments in Ghana and the Congo, and supported racist forces in southern Africa. The United States plunged into the Korean War, and then supported one dictator after another in South Korea. The United States killed between two and three million people in Indochina. And the United States supported Suharto in Indonesia, who killed nearly a million people, some at the behest of the CIA, after taking power in 1965. The U.S. also supported Suharto’s invasion of East Timor ten years later, which took another 200,000 lives.

Obama can call that “global security,” if he wants to, but it’s dripping red.

And here’s another whopper: “Unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination,” he said.

Well, what does having almost 1,000 military bases in more than 100 countries mean, then?

Obama went on: “We do not seek to occupy other nations.”

Well, the United States has invaded or overthrown dozens of countries in the last six decades, and it doesn’t need to occupy them if it can install a puppet regime instead.

And he went further: “We will not claim another nation’s resources or target peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours.”

Well, maybe not for those reasons, but certainly to make profits for our private corporations and for perceived U.S. security. See Guatemala. See Chile. See the Carter Doctrine.

Obama ended this riff by saying, “We are still heirs to a moral struggle for freedom. And now we must summon all of our might and moral suasion to meet the challenges of a new age.”

Compare Obama’s airbrushed historical account with the following passage from Bush’s 2004 State of the Union Address:

“America is a Nation with a mission, and that mission comes from our most basic beliefs,” he said. “We have no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire. Our aim is a democratic peace -- a peace founded upon the dignity and rights of every man and woman. America acts in this cause with friends and allies at our side, yet we understand our special calling: This great Republic will lead the cause of freedom.”

Finally, like Bush, Obama ended his speech by alluding to 9/1l again, citing the “memory of a horrific attack.”

The White House speechwriters must have carpal tunnel by now from all their cutting and pasting of Bush’s rhetoric into Obama’s mouth.

And that he didn’t choke on these words tells you all you need to know about Obama.

December 6, 2009

Democrats Enrage Gay Community - AGAIN!!

The New York State Senate voted down Marriage Equality and rallies broke out in Union Square. The rage was not only from the bills defeat, but because of the "Democrat Traitors". While all Republican Senators voted against the bill, it was the 8 Democrats who voted against Marriage Equality who were the targets of widespread anger.

It is generally accepted that it was the LGBT Community that put the Democrats in control of the State Senate. Some of these Democrats had been vocal supporters of Marriage Equality, like Dem. Hiram Monserrate of Queens. But two can play that game.

The rallies following the defeat were not candlelight vigils and they were not just useless venting of rage. They were group planning meetings about the 2010 elections and the New York Seats. One speaker, "They think we have no where else to go, well the backlash begins - and in New York the LGBT Community can be powerful."

What the Democrats have yet to learn is that they will not only be losing monetary donations and foot soldiers, but votes. As the Democrats were named and shamed they have yet to see what it means to a constituency to find out their "friends" in the Democratic Party betrayed them. This may last past 2010 and outside the state boundaries of New York.