December 29, 2010

NEW PRESIDENT OF BRAZIL: 1960's GUERRILLA

DILMA ROUSSEF
1970 - age 22

The newly elected President of Brazil has an interesting history. While she is now 62 and not 22, her past is well known in Brazil and was seen as an asset not a liability.

She was born in Rio de Janeiro, her mother a school teacher and her father a political exile from Bulgaria where he was an active member of the Communist Party. In High School Dilma became a Marxist and in 1967 she joined a faction of the Brazilian Socialist Party. They broke off and joined with others who favored armed struggle against the Dictatorship. She taught Marxist Theory to the new recruits and wrote for an underground newspaper. She was involved with various revolutionary groups and ended up going underground.

There are many stories about her activities in the 1960's and 1970's. The movement she was in definitely was involved in armed struggle although she says she never personally killed anyone. The group she was with reportedly killed some of the U.S. torture experts who were sent to train the General's Death Squads. After three years underground at the age of 19 she was captured by Brazil's Military Police. The Military Prosecutor labeled her the "Joan Of Arc" of the guerrilla movement. She was tortured in Tiradentes Prison and after three years she was released in 1972.

She ended up going to college and getting a Master's Degree in Economics and this year was the Worker's Party candidate. I imagine her political beliefs have evolved. But if past is prologue all of her life experiences will have informed who she is today. At the very least she will be an interesting leader on the world stage.

What will be really interesting is that there was an announcement today that Secretary Of State Clinton will attend her inauguration. Of course Dilma will become the most powerful woman leader in the world. Because the Brazilian economy is one of the largest in the world and that is something the United States cannot ignore. So Hillary will have to hang with leaders from Cuba and the progressive countries in South America. And the elephant in the room will be that the new President went from being Joan Of Arc of the guerrillas who was tortured by those supported by the U.S. to the most powerful leader in the room while Hillary will have to just smile.

December 22, 2010

Which Way For The Left?

The US left spends an incredible amount of time and energy debating its future and does so even as its fortunes wane and its practical influence recedes. Watching this you have to think that writing about and sharing the angst sometimes becomes a substitute for action and organizing.

Now we have two documents circulating which capture two of the many tendencies on the left regarding the present political moment.

The first is the Open Letter To The Left Establishment which is gathering a remarkable number of signatures across the political spectrum of the left. Its broad support makes it difficult to describe the politics behind it and it's clear that there are contradictions among the signers and the efforts they represent which will make practical action on the letter especially difficult. It speaks from impatience and a lack of sustained organizing. Still, it may mark a new point of political clarification, or at least a step in that direction.

The second piece comes from Jarvis Tyner and represents the thinking of the Communist Party leadership. It's entitled "Which way forward for the left" and may have been written in response to the Open Letter. Tyner's piece serves as a cautionary warning or reminder of several key points parts of the left seem to be blowing right past. On the other hand, it raises many more questions than it answers and leaves the key questions of leadership and left identity unresolved. Moreover, its practical application back-burners these questions.

Bear in mind that these are only two of many, many points of view now defining the US left. No one should feel at this point that they have to choose between only two points of view in order to remain on the left or that more nuanced positions are not possible, consistent and practical.

December 21, 2010

More on Peter Egner

Our Willamette Reds blog draws a lot of comments relating to a story I did on Peter Egner awhile back. Croatian fascists accuse me of engaging in "Big Serb propaganda" and Serb fascists accuse me of being anti-Serb. We can't print most of the comments received because of the language used or the threats being made. Read the latest on the Egner case here.

FBI delivers subpoenas to four more anti-war, solidarity activists

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald Expands Witch Hunt--FBI delivers subpoenas to four more anti-war, solidarity activists

The FBI came unannounced to knock on doors at two apartments in Chicago this morning. FBI agent Robert Parker, under orders from U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office, delivered a subpoena to Maureen Murphy. Murphy, like several other individuals served subpoenas, is an organizer with the Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago.

This continues the repression unleashed by Fitzgerald on the anti-war movement since September 24th, when fourteen subpoenas were delivered to anti-war, labor, and solidarity activists in coordinated raids involving more than 70 federal agents. Armed FBI agents raided homes, taking computers, phones, passports, documents, notebooks, and even children’s artwork. A total of 23 subpoenas have been served to activists around the country.

Maureen Murphy said, “Along with several others, I am being summoned to appear before the Grand Jury on Tuesday, January 25th, in the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago. We are being targeted for the work we do to end U.S. funding of the Israeli occupation, ending the war in Afghanistan and ending the occupation of Iraq. What is at stake for all of us is our right to dissent and organize to change harmful US foreign policy." Ms. Murphy is also the Managing Editor of the widely-read website, The Electronic Intifada.

In addition, three women in Minneapolis - Tracy Molm, Anh Pham, and Sara Martin - are threatened with reactivated subpoenas by Fitzgerald’s office and new Grand Jury dates. Tom Burke of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression explained, “It is likely the three individuals, like all the others so far, will continue to refuse to take part in Fitzgerald’s witch hunt. Fitzgerald can then call for putting them in jail as long as he wants.”

For more information: www.stopfbi.net
Contact: Tom Burke, Committee to Stop FBI Repression, 773-844-3612

December 20, 2010

A State Bank In Oregon?

For a few years now the idea of creating a state bank in Oregon based on the model which works in North Dakota has been under discussion. It is a centerpiece of the Working Families Party (WFP) and should logically top the agenda of any political force trying to do reform work here.

We are not talking here about a state bank which looks like and competes directly with other banks, good and welcome as that would be. We do need a people's bank that takes our money, invests it in our communities, pays and charges decent interest rates and is directly accountable to the people. The state bank idea being floated is not that.

Rather, we're talking here about a state institution or agency which invests the state's money in ways which benefit the state budget and services and which partners with existing community banks and credit unions to get money where it is needed and can be put to work in a popular or populist way. OPB did a story on the state bank idea today. Check it out here.

Oregon's divided legislature may help move the concept of a state bank forward. WFP did relatively well in the usually solid Republican areas and the state bank is a good or valid means of testing bipartisanship and the progressive populist spirit which sometimes holds sway in Oregon. On the other hand, it's instructive to note Ted Wheeler's naysaying in the OPB story and it's possible that legislators from both parties could close ranks against the WFP and the principle of "fusion lite" voting which gave it life in the last election. We're left wondering how many decision-makers in the Democratic establishment Wheeler is speaking for and how they will react when pushed from a populist base.

December 9, 2010

This is what struggle looks like

We use a lot of words like "struggle" and "revolution." Most of our fellow working class people here in the US are probably not familiar with what these words mean or the concepts we're trying to communicate. Here is an example of struggle and revolution in Palestine taken from Electronic Intifada. A political struggle or revolution in the US will look much different than a struggle or revolution in Palestine, but some features of what occurs in each country are common the world over.

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank village of Beit Ommar are returning to older models of organizing against the Israeli occupation. These organizers are employing strategies of resistance made famous during the first intifada in order to overcome stagnation and division within Palestinian society. Despite numerous obstacles from Israeli repression and the increasingly heavy-handed policies of the Palestinian Authority, a new National Committee in Beit Ommar is making headway in building a grassroots initiative to expand on the foundations of popular struggle.

Building the popular struggle

Beit Ommar is a large village in the southern West Bank with a population of approximately 17,000 persons, most of whom make their living as farmers. Five Israeli settlements are built on Beit Ommar's land, and the main road leading in to the village has a permanent watchtower guarded by the Israeli military. Several hundred residents from Beit Ommar are currently political prisoners in Israeli prisons, and the village is subjected to late-night raids by Israeli forces almost every night. Despite the oppressive presence of an occupying army, Beit Ommar villagers have a strong history of popular resistance, with active participation from the area during both the first and second intifadas.

In early 2010, Palestinian organizers in the village united to form the National Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. The idea behind this committee is hardly new; rather, the activists are seeking to return to models of organizing used in the first intifada which transcend political party affiliation and combine political struggle with social programs and support.

Additionally, these organizers are seeking to link popular resistance in surrounding villages, and strengthen communication and cooperation especially in Areas C and B in the West Bank. Under the Oslo accords signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the mid-1990s, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip were carved up into areas A, B and C, the latter of which indicates full Israeli control. The National Committee works with the Palestine Solidarity Project, an anti-occupation organization founded in 2006 to facilitate international and Israeli solidarity activists' involvement in demonstrations and other actions in the area. While participation from these solidarity activists is welcome, the committee maintains its focus on strengthening and empowering Palestinian leadership and popular struggle organizing.

Defending the land and resisting occupation

For the past eight months, the National Committee has planned weekly demonstrations against the nearby Karmei Tsur Settlement. Every Saturday, between 50 and 80 Palestinians, supported by Israeli and international solidarity activists, march towards the settlement fence. There they are always stopped by Israeli forces, who use tear gas and arrest activists in an attempt to repress this initiative. The demonstration draws a large number of youth from the village, who the committee recognize as the next generation of leaders in struggle.

Since many residents of Beit Ommar work in agriculture, the National Committee places a strong emphasis on defending farmer rights and access to land. Several days a week, committee organizers and PSP activists accompany farmers in the Saffa Valley, an area directly below the ideological Israeli settlement of Bayt Ayn and which is currently under threat of land annexation by the Israeli military. Since April 2009, when two elderly farmers were attacked by settlers in the valley, the situation in Saffa has escalated with settlers setting fire to crops and the Israeli military frequently imposing military closure. In the last two weeks, 33 Palestinian, Israeli and international solidarity activists have been arrested by Israeli forces while attempting to cultivate land in the valley. In December, Beit Ommar organizers intend to plant several thousand trees both in Saffa and on Beit Ommar land adjacent to the Karmei Tsur settlement in the hopes of deterring Israel's plan to annex more Palestinian land.

Organizers remain steadfast in the face of Israeli repression

In an attempt to repress the popular nature of resistance in Beit Ommar, Israeli forces raid the village almost every night, often trashing homes and arresting youth, particularly those who participate in the weekly demonstrations. In the month of October, 13 Palestinians between the ages of 15 and 28 were arrested solely because they attended the demonstrations. On 11 October 2010, 25-year-old National Committee member Eyad Jamil al-Alami was arrested from his home, given an administrative detention order and held in an Israeli prison without charges. He was released after one month, most likely due to lack of evidence against him. A little more than a week later, Israeli soldiers came to the houses of two committee members at 3:30am, trashed one of the residences and warned both organizers to stop planning demonstrations and hosting solidarity activists.

Despite intensified repression, the resolve of the National Committee in resisting the occupation has only strengthened. Membership in the committee continues to expand. Recently, activists in the neighboring village of Beit Ula contacted Beit Ommar organizers, seeking support for restarting demonstrations against Israel's annexation barrier, which is built on land belonging to Beit Ula farmers. The National Committee is currently working to strengthen the participation of women and youth in the weekly demonstrations, as the protests continue to grow and become more confrontational in nature.

Additionally, the National Committee in Beit Ommar has remained committed to operating outside of the influence of the Palestinian Authority. Organizers have declined offers of resources and delegations of politicians, regardless of their party affiliation. As the Palestinian Authority continues to crack down on other political parties or initiatives outside of its control, organizers in Beit Ommar seek a return to a participatory, grassroots and nonsectarian organizational model that increasingly seems at odds with the PA agenda.

Mousa Abu Maria is a Palestinian resident of Beit Ommar and a member of the National Committee. In 2006, Mousa co-founded the Palestine Solidarity Project along with his wife Bekah Wolf, who has Israeli citizenship. Mousa has spent more than half of the last decade in Israeli prisons, much of the time under administrative detention.

December 7, 2010

Michael Munk On The Turnidge Trial And Commentary

To the editor, The Oregonian

Susan Nielsen raises a very important question but fails to answer it adequately. She asks why an actual bomb that kills two lawmen is perceived by the public as a simple bank job when carried out by a white middle-aged far right ideologue and his patsy son. In the other case, a FBI fake bombing in which the only violence is
visited on innocent Muslims as a consequence of the story is perceived as another scary terrorist plot. When the FBI finds a foreign-born teenage Muslim to carry out their scheme. For Nielsen, the answer is "just human" [nature?].

Really? Then on what do humans rely to form those perceptions? Better look to how the media--including The Oregonian--present the two "Oregon bombs," one real, the other fake. The Woodburn murders are not covered as a terrorist bombing trial because a county prosecutor choose to downplay the ideology of the defendants. But the Christmas tree non-bomb is reported as a federal level terrorist plot against thousands of innocent Oregonians by a Muslim jihadist brainwashed by foreign websites.

Perhaps the larger reason the Woodburn bombers are not depicted as terrorists is because their ideology actually reflects that of a significant minority of American opinion which the media and the prosecutor cannot afford to challenge, while the foreign born Muslim fits the media-constructed symbol of a marginalized but frightening "enemy" perfectly.

Michael Munk

Comment:

We can now only speculate on what might have happened had the FBI applied the same level of scrutiny and surveillance to the local right-wing Tea Party types as they did to the Somali kid charged with the as-yet-unproven attempted Portland bombing. Certainly a few police officers' lives may have been saved in Woodburn had the FBI acted with its full powers and in an even-handed way.

We also need to note that there has been no outpouring of condemnation by the local right-wing zealots of Joshua and Bruce Turnidge. Sadly, we also note that a spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Movement In Islam in Portland---really an irrelevent part of the bigger story---saw fit to go on television recently and backtrack from the progressive stand taken publicly by the Somali and Muslim communities in the Portland area. So one side--the right-wing--by its silence supports terrorism in Marion County while another side--Somalis, Muslims, civil libertarians--takes a more nuanced public position, anti-terrorist to its core, in relation to the Portland events and even has in its ranks people who join in the premature mainstream condemnation of the Somali kid being charged and held for a bombing which did not take place. For this the right-wing deserves mass public denunciation and the Somalis, Muslims and civil libertarians who are concerned with justice, community solidarity and with public safety deserve support.

And no one on the left torched the local Republican Party offices as the Turnidge case moved forward. There was an attack on a mosque in Corvallis, however, that was presumably carried out by right-wingers.

The refusal by the local media to bring terrorism and right-wing zealotry into the conversation surrounding the Turnidge case is indeed striking. If you don't know better, you think that at least one of the duo is just a bank robber gone slightly more wrong. Only late in the trial did another picture begin to emerge.

Stand Up For Teachers, Rethink Schools And Dump "Waiting For Superman"

Not Waiting for Superman:

Who's Bashing Teachers and Public Schools?

And what can we do about it?

Jefferson High School cafeteria 5210 N. Kerby St.

Portland

Friday, Dec. 10, 4 pm - 6 pm

(4 pm social; 4:30 program)

Please join the Portland Association of Teachers and Rethinking Schools this Friday for a talk by Rethinking Schools editor Stan Karp: "Not Waiting for Superman: Who's Bashing Teachers and Public Schools -- and what can we do about it?"

Free/Refeshments provided

Stan Karp taught English and Journalism in Paterson, NJ for 30 years. He now directs the Secondary Reform Project for New Jersey's Education Law Center and is an editor of Rethinking Schools magazine.

Karp has written widely on school reform for Education Week, Educational Leadership, and other publications. He is a co-editor of several books, including Rethinking Our Classrooms: Teaching for Equity and Justice, and Rethinking School Reform: Views from the Classroom. Karp coordinates the www.notwaitingforsuperman.org website for Rethinking Schools.

Check out Bill Resnick's interview with Stan on yesterday's Old Mole Variety Hour: http://kboo.fm/node/25335.

December 6, 2010

Portland Jobs With Justice Mobilizes

From Portland Jobs With Justice:


Dear Friends and Allies,

The Safe Communities Project is a coalition of immigrant and civil rights organizations, working to end local law enforcement collaboration with ICE

From Dec. 10th to the 18th the Safe Communities Project is joining the national efforts to raise awareness and take actions to end local law enforcement collaborations with ICE that criminalizes communities of color and hurts public safety.

We hope that you are able to attend one or more of these actions or events!

1. Opening Night For"CRIMINALES TODOS"A Community Art Exhibit December 10th , at 6pm- 12am Launch Pad Gallery, 534 Se OAK S

2. Know Your Rights and Know How to Protect Them-Dec. 11, at 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.,Center for Intercultural Organizing, 700 N. Killingworth St

3. Jobs with Justice Scrooge of the Year Holiday Party-Saturday, December 11 - 7pm Peace House - 2116 NE 18th Ave

4. Interfaith Vigil and Posada: Welcoming the Stranger-Dec. 16th Vigil 5pm-Terry Schrunk Plaza / Portland Fiesta 5:30pm-First Congregational UCC1126 SW Park Ave, Portland

5. Fifth Indigenous forum and commemoration of the international day of Migrants-Dec. 18, at 11:00 am-2:00pm,4312 SE Stark St. Portland





Opening Night For"CRIMINALES TODOS"

A Community Art Exibit
December 10th , at 6pm- 12am
Launch Pad Gallery,
534 Se OAK ST, PDX, OR 97214

CRIMINALES TODOS is a community call to action through art. Through this juried group show, over a dozen artists will open a dialogue about the prevailing culture of racism & xenophobia. We invite you to join us in solidarity in against discrimination, oppression & ignorance. Opening Night will Feature, MC M4, Diana Ruiz, Xochipilli Aztec Dancers. The Show will run from Dec.10 to - Jan.3 For more information call (503) 427 8704 or visit www.launchpadgallery.org/criminalestodos





Work Shop on "Know Your Rights and Know How to Protect Them"

PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS: DOs and DON'Ts.
December 11, at 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Center for Intercultural Organizing
700 N. Killingworth St

The Center for Intercultural Organizing is hosting a workshop on what to do if you are contacted by law enforcement agents in your car, on the street or at your home. This workshop will be led by Kevin Díaz, Legal Director for the ACLU of Oregon Please sign-up by e-mail murad@interculturalorganizing.org or phone 503-287-4117 (ext.103)



Jobs with Justice Scrooge of the Year Holiday Party
Saturday, December 11 - 7pm
Peace House - 2116 NE 18th Ave

Click here to get tickets or buy votes and directions


"Scrooge of the Year" is a Jobs with Justice dis-honor, given to the individual or corporation that has done the most harm to working families in our community this year. The winner is decided by the number of votes that are purchased. That's right-the votes are for sale-we like to call it "corporate-style democracy" We then present the winner with their award sometime soon after the party.. There are some great contenders for this coveted award, deciding will surely be difficult. One individual that deserves support from the immigrant and ally community is.. Janet Napolitano, Head of DHS-Former governor of the "hate state", Arizona, Janet now heads the Department of Homeland Security. Janet has been nominated because of her work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) which has deported record numbers of immigrants since she took over, and is coercing local law enforcement to hand over innocent people through the Secure Communities program but along with her this year's nominees are: Alan Simpson, Co-Chair of the Deficit Commission; Ken Wegner, Georgia Pacific; Elimane Mbengue and the Portland French School Board of Directors; and Securitas. Scrooge-a-rific!



Interfaith Vigil and Posada: Welcoming the Stranger

December 16th
Vigil at 5pm, Terry Schrunk Plaza
1220 SW 3rd Ave, Portland
Fiesta at 5:30pm, First Congregational UCC
Fellowship Hall, 1126 SW Park Ave, Portland

...Immigrants and diverse faith communities from Portland to Washington, D.C. come together to shine a light on the urgent need for just and humane immigration reform! Here in Portland we are holding an interfaith vigil or "Posada" commemorating Advent, Hanukkah, and the Islamic New Year as seasons of profound welcome for the stranger and shining light into darkness. The Posada will begin at 5:00 in front of the Edith Green Federal Building (1220 SW 3rd Avenue, Portland, OR), followed by a candlelit procession to First Congregational UCC (SW Park & Main) where we will celebrate together with food, lively music and a piñata! Sponsored by: The Oregon New Sanctuary Movement, the National New Sanctuary Movement, American Friends Service Committee, CAUSA, Latino Network, Portland Central America Solidarity Committee, Portland Jobs with Justice, VOZ Workers Rights Education Project, and Witness for Peace Northwest. For more information, e-mail portlandsanctuary@gmail.com or call 503-550-3510.



Fifth Indigenous forum and commemoration of the international day of Migrants

December 18, at 11:00 am-2:00pm
Friends-Multnomah Meeting:
4312 SE Stark St. Portland

Participate in this educational event involving several indigenous communities - cañari/Incas, Mayas, Mixtecos, Zapotecos and Native Americans - who will share their stories/histories, their dreams, their challenges, their fight for unity and their resistance in this country. December 18th is a special date for millions of migrants who are members of diasporas around the world. We carry with us the hope of finding a place that unequivocally welcomes us home. At this event there will be bulletin boards, typical food of each indigenous nation Abya Yala and symbolic ritual. See you there! Sponsored by: VOZ, AFSC and Safe Communities Project For more information call 503-233-6787

From the AFT: Public Workers Push Back

Public employees continue to be Kulongoski’s “sacrificial lambs”

Public employees continue to be Governor Kulongoski’s “sacrificial lambs,” in the effort to reduce the state budget. This week, he released a proposal to eliminate the six percent PERS pick-up for public employees, and cut salaries for teachers. The Governor’s proposal, which reduces the state budget by $2-billion in the next biennium, would have a devastating long-term effect on middle class public employees.


“These cuts would only add insult to injury to public employees who have already borne the brunt of budget cuts in these tough economic times,” said David Rives, AFT-Oregon President. “Governor Kulongoski’s “slash and burn” approach to balancing the budget is not a solution for Oregon’s long-term economic recovery, and only hurts those on the front lines providing vital education and other public services.”


Governor Kulongoski’s last day in office will be January 10. The 2011 Legislature, which convenes February 1, will be charged with determining the budget for the next biennium.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

AFT-Oregon President David Rives talks PERS with City Club


AFT-Oregon President David Rives was invited, along with Oregon AFSCME Executive Director Ken Allen, to speak with a City Club of Portland advisory committee on PERS. The City Club is made up of 1,500 professionals in business, government, social services and other professions, whose mission is to “inform its members and the community in public matters, and to arouse in them the realization of the obligations of citizenship.”

According to Rives, City Club committee members wanted to hear what public employees thought about the PERS and OPSRP retirement plans, particularly in light of proposals to reduce contributions and benefits. Rives said he made it clear that a secure retirement has been promised to many of our members and that it would be unfair to change the terms of that agreement now. Also, market returns for all investments, including PERS, have been affected due to the greed and fraud of financial companies that contributed to the current recession.

“Some districts forecasted wisely and some have adequate reserves to cover increases in actuarial liabilities. A few do not. But that’s no reason to penalize the thousands of our members who have weathered budget cuts and furloughs in these tough times,” Rives said. “We have seen market ups and downs before, and this will sort itself out” without over-reacting with measures that could carry drastic consequences for current and future generations of retirees,” he added.

The City Club will be issuing a report on the PERS system soon. AFT-Oregon will continue to speak out in the debate on PERS. A promise is a promise.

December 2, 2010

Thoughts on Wikileaks

Wikileaks is proving Otto von Bismarck right. People who like laws (and policies) are like people who like sausage, in that neither wants to know how the product is made.

A day or two ago I answered a CNN survey about Wikileaks. The survey question was this: Is Wikileaks a terrorist organization?

I was surprised by the responses. Over 60% of respondents thought Wikileaks should be shut down as a terrorist organization and Julian Assange thrown in jail as an "irresponsible terrorist" (my paraphrase). Less than 40% of respondents saw the Wikileaks documents as the kind of disclosures that are a by-product of of a working and open democracy.

Personally, I like the simplicity of the Wikileaks leaks. There's no "spin", no editing, no framing. Very simply it's just the facts, the documents themselves with nothing else attached. And what we get is a very "close to the ground" look at how foreign policy is made, day by day, call by call, with each little e-mail (and its author) playing its own small role in the edifice of what is called foreign policy. Here we have real "transparency", and my, how it is resented!

Over and over again, the pinnacles of media and governmental power refer to Julian Assange and Wikileaks as "irresponsible". The many authoritarian members of our society are also outraged... "Our troops are put in danger by these leaks", they holler.

This has me asking myself, "what is responsible, what do they mean by irresponsible?". The only answer I can com up with is this. "Responsibility" must mean that one must always act in a way that makes sure the emperor always has his clothes on. Evidently, in our modern democracy, there is a duty and responsibility to portray governmental power as wise and all-knowing (even if we don't agree). Evidently there is a duty to always maintain the theater of government and policy; the backstage is always off limits. The emperor is always the emperor; to catch him naked and practicing his lines cannot be permitted.

So, I guess I must be a terrorist too. I do like transparency, because transparency highlights the process and how the process makes the policy. For me, this kind of transparency can lead to something called "the truth". So, telling the truth is "terrorism"? Anybody who has real democratic values ought to think carefully here.

Years ago, Carl Sandburg framed the whole issue very well in his poem, "Government". To recognize that government is the product of people is an inherent and necessary democratic value. Anything less than this understanding is to take the authoritarian route. Democracy is indeed in a desperate state at this time!

GOVERNMENT

THE Government--I heard about the Government and
I went out to find it. I said I would look closely at
it when I saw it.
Then I saw a policeman dragging a drunken man to
the callaboose. It was the Government in action.
I saw a ward alderman slip into an office one morning
and talk with a judge. Later in the day the judge
dismissed a case against a pickpocket who was a
live ward worker for the alderman. Again I saw
this was the Government, doing things.
I saw militiamen level their rifles at a crowd of
workingmen who were trying to get other workingmen
to stay away from a shop where there was a strike
on. Government in action.

Everywhere I saw that Government is a thing made of
men, that Government has blood and bones, it is
many mouths whispering into many ears, sending
telegrams, aiming rifles, writing orders, saying
"yes" and "no."

Government dies as the men who form it die and are laid
away in their graves and the new Government that
comes after is human, made of heartbeats of blood,
ambitions, lusts, and money running through it all,
money paid and money taken, and money covered
up and spoken of with hushed voices.

A Government is just as secret and mysterious and sensitive
as any human sinner carrying a load of germs,
traditions and corpuscles handed down from
fathers and mothers away back.

November 17, 2010

ARRESTED ON MONDAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE, INVITED TO MEET WITH WHITE HOUSE LIASON ON THURSDAY

GetEqual - McGehee to WH
Robin McGehee created the activist group "Get Equal" after the March For Equality in Washington D.C. last year. People that were tired of the strategy of the Human Rights Campaign which concentrated on traditional lobbying, resulting in nothing for the LGBT Community. This Lesbian Mom who had never been an activist created a grass roots organization which has created a variety of tactics to pressure the Obama administration to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell and pass the Employment Non Discrimination Act. She spearheaded actions that confronted President Obama when he spoke at Democratic Fundraisers, Civil disobedience actions at the White House fence and creative lobbying of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.
And now a White House representative wants to meet with her. There are rumors that the President is finally getting involved with moving repeal forward. In addition he probably doesn't want heckling during his entire 2012 re-election campaign. Of course repealing DADT is a start but how ironic if there is non discrimination in the military workplace but ENDA hasn't been passed to end workplace discrimination in every workplace in all 50 states. I am sure they will get an earful at their meeting in the morning.

Oregon Human Rights Groups Criticize Governor Kulongoski for Ignoring Israel's Human Rights Violations

Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights (AUPHR)

For Immediate Release

Date: November 16, 2010

Contact: Peter Miller
Organization: Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights
Cell: 503/358-7475
Email: pmiller@auphr.org
Organizations Endorsing this Release:

* Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, Portland, www.auphr.org
* Lutherans for Justice in the Holy Land - A Ministry of Central Lutheran Church, Portland, http://www.centralportland.org/ljhl
* Portland Peaceful Response Coalition. Portland, http://www.pprc-news.org
* Corvallis-Albany Friends of Middle East Peace
* Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, Portland State University


Oregon Human Rights Groups Criticize Governor Kulongoski for Ignoring Israel's Human Rights Violations

(Portland, Ore.) Americans United For Palestinian Human Rights (AUPHR) and other Oregon groups expressed dismay over Governor Kulongoski's signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation for business development between the State of Oregon and the State of Israel. "Israel is committing serious human rights violations and racial discrimination on a daily basis against the Palestinian civilian population, both inside Israel and inside the occupied territories," said Peter Miller, President of AUPHR, "This agreement makes all Oregonians complicit in helping to sustain and normalize Israel's occupation and discriminatory practices."

In response, AUPHR has released a new report summarizing the Moral Implications of Doing Business With Israel available on the web at:
http://www.auphr.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4715&Itemid=44 and as a pdf at:
http://www.auphr.org/docs/MoralImplications.pdf

Israel has a long history of discriminating against its own Palestinian Arab citizens in housing, access to state resources, and jobs and this summer demolished an entire village of its indigenous Bedouin population. There are over twenty laws in Israel that privilege Jews over non-Jews. A recent Israeli report shows that, even though Palestinians represent 20% of the population, there is "massive under-representation of Arab citizens across most of the public sector, including in government companies and ministries, where the percentage of Arab staff typically falls below two percent of employees." A recent survey found that "83 percent of Israeli businesses in the main professions admitted being opposed to hiring Arab graduates."

In addition, Israel is rapidly expanding its illegal settlements on Palestinian lands in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It is recognized around the world that a viable Palestinian state requires that Israel stop expanding Jewish settlements. The British Foreign Secretary recently warned Israel that the window of opportunity for a two-state solution to the Palestine Israel conflict is closing because of Israel's ongoing settlement activity. Why is the State of Oregon involving itself in a country that flouts international law with impunity, defies our President, and actively destroys the chances for peace?

Given these very serious concerns and the damage the State of Oregon will do to the human rights of Palestinians by ignoring Israel's abuses, AUPHR asks that the State of Oregon withdraw support for doing business with Israel. "We do not want Oregon to be complicit in serious international violations of human rights and human dignity," said Peter Miller. Should the State of Oregon continue to do business with Israel, the following considerations must be brought to the forefront before it does business with any Israeli company or government entity:


* Is the Israeli organization involved in doing business with or supporting, building, or expanding any of Israel's illegal settlements built on Palestinian lands in violation of International law?
* Does the Israeli organization support Israel's military occupation and domination over Palestinians through development of products or services that enable Israel's human rights violations?
* Does the Israeli organization take advantage of resources, like water or land, which are taken from Palestinians in order to produce products and services?
* Are Israeli citizens who are not Jewish given full rights and opportunities within the Israeli organization? Can a Palestinian citizen of Israel advance into leadership positions within the organization? Are they given the same job opportunities? Are they hired in representative numbers? Do they have the same rights and pay?

Unfortunately, Governor Kulongoski has a history of publicly touting his support Israel and for the right-wing Israel lobby organization the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), saying "support for AIPAC is an article of faith for both political parties. This is as it should be . . ." This new business venture is apparently his attempt to leave a legacy at the expense of Oregon's moral standing.

The response of the governor's office did not attempt to address or even mention the concerns presented.

"We can only hope that Oregon's new governor is more sensitive to the real needs of Oregonians and understands that Oregonians do not want to be forced to support human-rights violations in countries like Israel, " remarked Peter Miller.

Sources:

NEWS RELEASE: Governor Kulongoski Signs Business Development Agreement with Israel,Governor Kulongoski, 27 October 2010

http://www.auphr.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4703&Itemid=44

Rampant employment discrimination against Palestinian workers in Israel, Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, 21 May 2010
http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article11280.shtml

Israel's discrimination against its Arab citizens, Sawsan Ramahi, June 2010,
http://www.middleeastmonitor.org.uk/resources/briefing-papers/1230-israels-discrimination-aga

Window of opportunity for two-state solution closing, Hague warns Israel, Harriet Sherwood November 4, 2010,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/04/william-hague-two-state-solution-israel

UN envoy: Settlements major obstacle to Palestinian state, JPOST Staff,
22 November 2010, http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=192441

Remarks by Governor Ted Kulongoski, AIPAC Oregon Community Dinner 2006, April 30, 2006, http://www.oregon.gov/Gov/speech/speech_043006.shtml

Dennis Kucinich gets it

In an interview with L’Humanité just before the US elections this month, Kucinich was asked: "What is your view of what is presently happening in France, the defense of retirement at 60?"

Kucinich's reply:

People are right to fight cut-backs in their social gains. You know, there exists a parallel debate in the United States. After this conversation I must go to an interview for a national television network, the subject being the reform envisaged for the Social Security program. A debate is launched, in the name of budgetary rigor, to raise the retirement age to 70, and to make cuts in the pensions. This makes no economic sense. On the contrary, we should lower the retirement age. To create jobs for the young, and to have young retired people available for training programs, and for other useful parallel social activities.

Some demand, with loud cries, together with Wall Street, that social security be privatized. Some years ago Bush tried to do this. Most fortunately, he was put in the position of failing. But just imagine what would have happened if he had succeeded. After the disaster of the wars and the financial crash, the peoples’ pensions would have evaporated completely. Today they will often have lost a portion of their savings because the stock market bets made with the money placed in their complementary retirement policies have turned rotten. But if social security had been privatized they would have lost everything.

Read the rest here.

November 7, 2010

Historic monastery says "NO GRACIAS" to the Pope

All the way up the mountain to the Benedictine Monastery called Montserrat in Catalonia were banners saying, "No Thanks" to the visit of the Pope. Including one on the monastery itself. The visit was considered an encouragement to the right wing and conservatives.

Many feel that the visit is an affront at a time when severity measures are being implemented against the people. In addition the money spent in preparation for the visit of a Pope who reflects a reactionary ideology. Montserrat was historically a bastion for the Catalan people against the forces of fascism in Spain. It is officially a park run by the Catalonian government as well as a monastery.

November 6, 2010

THOUGHTS FROM A STRIKE LEADER IN FRANCE

"One of the key elements of the current movement against the retirement reform is the unity of the trade unions which has so far survived. The trade union leadership thus seems to the general population, like an opposition to the government and Sarkozy.

The survival of this unity is explained by the fact that the government remains adamant about the heart of their reform and refuses to negotiate with union leaders. It also is because of the continued intensity of the mobilizations and the depth of the discontent. This makes it difficult for any trade union leader to break away in the coming months.

But there are strategic differences behind closed doors. Not all trade union leaders are demanding repeal of the retirement reform bill. Some are only asking for new negotiations to amend the bill. While the trade union leaders all organize and support continuing mobilizations and days of action they have refused to go all the way to a social confrontation with this government. Also they have made cautious responses while the most combative workers, such as refinery workers, were being attacked. Our very right to strike is being challenged"
Excerpt from: "French Trade Unions: Going Along to Get Along?" By Sandra Demarq, member of the Executive Committee of the NPA (New Anti-Capitalist Party) October 27, 2010

November 2, 2010

After The Election---By William K. Tabb

[These remarks were prepared for the North Atlantic Left Dialogue, Berlin, November 22-23. See http://www.left-dialogue.org/]

The discussion of electoral politics needs to be positioned in the context of the continuing economic crisis, the decades long stagnation of working class real income, growing insecurity with regard to a future which Americans feel is less likely to contain the American Dream future for themselves and their children. Global shifts make the prospects of most workers in the territorial United States bleak even as US-based transnationals and international financiers look to so-called emerging markets for new opportunities.

While the more individualist fractions of capital have always fought the Welfare State, trade unions, and funded politicians advocating small government and laissez faire policies, transnational capital no longer needing a liberal-labor alliance has abandoned commitment to Keynesianism, sees slow growth, and redistribution of the burden of government as a key issue and abandons reformist efforts at any costly modernization of the American state, taking an approach driven by the financialization of American capitalism, pressure for short term maximization of share holder value, and joins in the attack on pensions and healthcare spending as means to reduce the federal debt driven higher in recent years by regressive tax cuts, costs of imperialist militarism, and the financial crisis

With this context obscured by misdirection (guns, gays, and other culture war wedge issues) and now (Big Government, out of control spending, Muslim terrorists and other take back our country issues) the Democrats not wanting to be seen as unpatriotic or anti-business, give away class issues which could win votes (like not extending Bush tax cuts for the top two percent of wealthy Americans) and do the same in the matter of the country's needs for financial reform which would cut the megabanks who have been rescued by the taxpayers and now return to their obscene profiteering ways through social control of investment priorities. They dare not given the need to finance election campaigns under the existing system of money driven democracy

Having compromised to get what they could in these areas they allow the Republicans to distort what is positive in what they have done. The far right does not hesitate to defeat RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) in Republican primaries. The Democrats recruit and fund DINOs in conservative districts achieving 60 votes in the Senate but not having a majority on most anything that matters but getting the blame for achieving too little of the progressive goals they were elected to achieve. The future of progressive politics, youth and minority voters were not drawn to vote in 2010. With twenty percent of Americans un- or underemployed Obama talk of Recovery Summer, heading in the right direction etc. rang hollow. Gridlock will push the Dems further to the center in the next two years hoping the Tea Party right will overstep and the country will return to the Democratic Party for 2010

If the job situation remains bleak, the economy stagnates, and economic insecurity grows, the Fox News Right will grow more threatening and there will be no Left to the left of a John Stewart let us be reasonable and have a respectful discussion in which we agree to disagree politely. Obama will continue to be called a socialist (and far worse) so that his reasonable ideas for change can be ignored. Explaining that the Tea Party is being manipulated by the rich and corporate interests which do not want social regulation or to pay taxes like the Koch brothers will not make a dent in the ability of the Right to mobilize dissatisfaction from a leave me alone,give me the mythical past back legion.

Building and (rebuilding) independent movements of the Left (left of the left-center of the Democratic Party) is the necessary task. What socialists have to contribute is making the connections between issues and the system of capitalism in a language which can be heard by the broader movement as not the same old pitch. It is about a public philosophy which builds and demands solidarity and exposes the class interests served by the ideology of individualism. Free choice as an individual is not possible when what we want is a different sort of society. The critique form the Left needs to be a more accessible explanation of what capitalism has done to the country and its working people, that government is a terrain of struggle just as the workplace is and that we do not need less government or more government but a democratic government which does not bow to capital which finances the show and limits our choices to ones we do not want by saying what we want is unrealistic or socialism. If what we want is socialist and people agree that those things are good let us just agree to define socialism as what working people need and want for themselves and their country.

The discussion of Obama and the Democrats needs to change from is he a sellout? versus we told you he was a capitalist flack misleading voters, to critical support. Support for the president and progressive Democrats when they support things we like and criticism when they favor measures we do not like making it clear at elections we will vote against the extreme right and the party of no which is the attack the working class vehicle of the most vicious sectors of capital. In primaries progressives should vote for principled candidates supporting left ideas and explanations of the system. There are a number of these folks and there will be more. Unlike some on the left I cannot see a successful Third Party effort in the contemporary situation and do not see sellout Democrats as the main enemy. We see what even mildly serious effort to bring capital under some control even to
preserve the system does to the flow of campaign contributions from Wall Street, energy companies and the rest. It is the system stupid. It is the economy, the economic mess, because of the system (stupid). This is not an American thing. Matters are little different in France (the Socialist Party?), the U.K. (a Labour Party?) or Germany (the SDP is social democrat?) The unwillingness to confront global capital and lack of a better explanation turns fearful voters against easy targets, immigrants, terrorists.

The Left of the Obama administration will have to cope with what should be seen as the sellout of Social Security and Medicare in the name of fiscal responsibility. The crisis had generated fear and anger, a setting in which a powerful effort was being made to cut entitlement programs. In the United States while people overwhelmingly supported Social Security as it existed and even the popular Ronald Reagan had been unable to finesse its privatization (nor had George W. Bush), the conventional wisdom was that it was a pot of money which could be raided to pay down the federal debt. As one member of the bipartisan commission on debt reduction said, it was where the money was. The co-chair of the commission appointed by President Obama, former Senator Alan Simpson, has now famously described Social Security as "like a milk cow with 310 million tits," according to an email he sent to the executive director of National Older Women's League making clear his views. He was chosen by a White House which saw Social Security as the likeliest source of the sort of large savings needed to bring projected annual deficits to sustainable levels. It looked to the commission to give Washington cover to cut Social
Security and Medicare instead of alternatives such as weaning corporations ”banks, insurance companies, war contractors”off the federal teat, as Matthew Skomarovsky so accurately writes.

In order to do this a number of issues were widely misrepresented. The aging of America should not be confused with an inability of Social Security, modestly adjusted, to provide for America's retirees. By official count it will run surpluses for the next three decades and needs little adjustment to stay robust for the next three-quarters of a century, based on official estimates. The 2010 Social Security Trustees Report projections it would be possible to not raise the tax until 2020 and between then and 2040 raise the rate by a little under a percent and a half (which would take up only twelve percent of the projected wage growth over that period) leaving our children over forty percent better after the Social Security tax increase than we are, as Dean Baker's calculations show. The relevant bottom line is that Social Security Fund currently and for some decades will have a large surplus. It is invested in US treasury bonds. As it needs to draw these funds it is accused of draining resources from taxpayers. Social Security monies in government bonds being paid to recipients is no different than if Japanese or Saudi Arabian bond holders ask for their money by selling their treasury bonds. Potential retirees did not give the money to the treasury but lent it like the Saudis, Japanese and American investors. They are not draining resources.

If money for Social Security needs to be raised more progressive payroll taxes are possible. The limits to which wages are taxed could be raised from its current $106,000 or, in keeping with the concerns of this book, a financial speculation tax could be implemented. Schemes have been proposed which would not inhibit non-speculative investment and could raise as much as one percent of GDP, $145 billion a year, or twice the projected shortfall in Social Security to pay benefits. (A more modest tax on stock trades in England brings in 0.3 percent of that country's GDP.) While reducing retirement benefits is spoken of in terms of making the difficult choices,” the real difficult choice would be to make Wall Street which has benefited from the rescue from the crisis it created and has grown so wealthy at the expense of America's workers pay.

As Emmanuel Saez reports, after decades of stability in the post-war period, the share of income going to the top ten percent of earners increased dramatically and has regained its pre-war level. He finds the top earnings decile share in 2007 was equal to about half of total income (49.7 percent), a proportion higher than any other year since 1917 and surpassing 1928, the peak of stock market bubble which led to the Great Depression. Between 1993 and 2008 the top one percent incomes received slightly more than half of overall income growth. In the economic expansion of 2002-2007, the top one percent captured two thirds of income growth. These very rich people are heavily stock option receiving top corporate executives and top earners at
hedge fund and private equity and investment banks. Returns from financial investments add more wealth and income to those at the top because the rich disproportionately own financial assets. It is not surprising that there is a close correlation over these decades to the growth of financial assets and rising income for the top one percent. The increase in income polarization also results from the decrease in solid working class jobs which have been destroyed in the era of financialization. The top one tenth of one percent of Americans receive more income than 120 million of their fellow citizens, or half the US population. Looking at the data it is difficult to disagree with William Lazonick that any government policy agenda that seeks to recreate the middle class in the United States needs to begin with an attack on the financialized corporation.

Capitalist democracy is a system in which money power prevents working class issues central to the lives of people to be discussed realistically. Doing that is our job. Voting to prevent a hard right takeover is necessary even as an independent Left needs both its own identity and to be part of a broader struggle for economic democracy breaking down the walls in thinking between politics and economics which serve capital. Working people have to defend the entitlements they have won in the past and demand more government attention to the needs of the twenty million un- and underemployed and growing numbers of the poor including devastating numbers of children who face the harshest future in an economy which puts bankers and transnational capitalists first and hopes for some crumbs to drop down to the rest of us. Over the next two years leading to the 2012 presidential election both parties have reason to make voters forget that it is the system, stupid. It is the job of the progressive Left to interpret events and politics in ways that make clear just how much needs to change. It is change we really need and as the stagnant real wages of the last thirty years morphs into more strident demands for more working class concessions just how this system works is important for us all to understand and talk about.

*These remarks were prepared for the North Atlantic Left Dialogue, Berlin, November 22-23.

Living Wage Needed at Ithaca College! And in Oregon!

As a long time resident of Ithaca NY and a former employee in higher education, I am profoundly aware of the poverty in that area. I struggled with my own rural poverty in Ithaca while raising two children on my own.

The local activist community has the support of a local credit union which calculates the hourly wage needed to live with basic necessities and a modicum of dignity. That figure for 2010 is $11.11.

Enter Sodexho on the scene. Ithaca College has a contract with Sodexho for food service on the campus. Not surprisingly, Sodexho does not pay a living wage. Ithaca College claims it is not responsible.

Please sign the petition and give these people a hand up. And while we're at it, how about a discussion of "living wage" right here in Oregon?

For More information on the living wage and how it is figured.

November 1, 2010

Wages in America -- Most of us are Have-Nots


There are 150,917,735 wage earners in this country for 2009.   That said, 24,315,992 of them earned less than $5000.    50% earned less than $26,261 in 2009.    There are only 0.794% of wage earners who get more than $250,000 per year and only 1.266% of American salaries are over $200,000. 


















David Cay Johnston, the well known tax journalist, found some scary wage data.
Every 34th wage earner in America in 2008 went all of 2009 without earning a single dollar, new data from the Social Security Administration show. Total wages, median wages, and average wages all declined, but at the very top, salaries grew more than fivefold.
The graph below shows the average wage per bracket and the percentage of wage earners in that bracket. 


















The above graph is from this data, wage statistics for 2009. I asked Mr. Johnston for the data he used and he sent me this link. Interesting how this level of breakdown is only available from the social security administration, and not easy to find at that! 

Did you know over 16% of Americans didn't even make $5000 dollars last year and in fact this group averaged $2016 for an entire year? 

Here is the latest quarterly data on wage and salary accruals, from the Q3 2010 GDP release. But this aggregate data does not show the wage breakdown, so as Mr. Johnston notes, the fact most of America is poor goes right by the press and bloggers. 















Below is a graph of the average wage index over time, not adjusted for inflation. Notice it's also misleading because it averages in those uber-rich salaries. Still, it's down 0.97% for the year and $40,934.93 is your average yearly salary in America. We're Poor in other words.  


















The story the numbers tell is one of a strengthening economic base with income growing fastest at the bottom until, in 1981, we made an abrupt change in tax and economic policy. Since then the base has fared poorly while huge economic gains piled up at the very top, along with much lower tax burdens.
What is a median? That is where 50% of the total workers earn less than that number and 50% earn more. The median is different from an average, which just sums up all of the wages earned and divides by the total. But that total includes the uber-rich, which skews the average wage way, way up! Since the United States has high income inequality, it's important to look at the median. What this says is 50% of Americans are living on $26,261 or less. That's poor people! That's less than $505 a week before taxes! 

 


















Below is the cumulative average. Notice the 50% line, it's $26,261!   90% of all Americans earn less than $80,000 per year, 99% earn less than $200,000.  Think about a house payment for a $200,000 home, medical bills, retirement and higher education.   I'd say the middle class isn't being destroyed, it's already been destroyed from this data.





















What about the uber-rich? A very scary fact according to Johnston:
The number of Americans making $50 million or more, the top income category in the data, fell from 131 in 2008 to 74 last year. But that’s only part of the story.
The average wage in this top category increased from $91.2 million in 2008 to an astonishing $518.8 million in 2009. That’s nearly $10 million in weekly pay!
So, 74 people had a 500% salary increase during 2009. Right. Bottom line America is poor and most statistics don't show that. Johnston also notes this all started happening with the Reagan tax cuts, proof positive supply side economics is trickle upon the middle class and you know what kind of trickle we're talkin' about.
In this era, the incomes of the vast majority have barely grown while incomes at the top have soared. Reaganism has trimmed the base of the income ladder while placing a much heavier weight on the top.
Here is Johnston's article which has more alarm bells statistics.

October 28, 2010

Corvallis event: Celebration of Palestinian culture and fundraiser

Sounds like a great event, put together by our friends with the Palestine Action Group and Corvallis-Albany Friends of Middle East Peace.

***
WEEKEND OF PALESTINIAN CULTURE
NOVEMBER 12-14TH
CORVALLIS, OR

The Weekend's events include music, poetry, film, a cooking demonstration, story time and music for children, folk art, a show of traditional Palestinian dresses, live auction and more!

Check our website for updates and more information.

PLUS...
Artwork by children in Gaza will be on display in the Main Meeting Room of the Corvallis Public Library for the month of November.

Plan ahead...
Sign up for the Palestinian cooking workshop on Saturday, November 13th, at the Corvallis Multicultural Literacy Center, 11am to 1pm. $20 donation suggested. Please make checks payable to MECA (Middle East Children's Alliance).

And take a look at this Barometer article about the rap artist, Khaki Mustafa, a 24 year old Palestinian-American. The article states Khaki "is performing at the Corvallis Multicultural Literacy Center during the Palestinian Cultural Festival on Nov. 12. There are no fees to enjoy the show, and donations will go toward buying a water purification system for a United Nations-sponsored kindergarten in Gaza, Palestine."

In addition to celebrating Palestinian culture, this weekend is also about raising $4000 for the Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA) Maia Project. This is the cost to install a water purification and desalination unit at Ashbal Palestine, a kindergarten serving 165 students in the Al-Zaitoun  neighorhood of Gaza City. Read more about MECA and the Maia Project here.

Please join us for these three days of celebration! We're hoping that you'll bring your family and friends. It's going to be a lot of fun! --- middle eastern food! a Palestinian cooking class, artwork by
children in Gaza, fair trade, organic Palestinian olive oil for sale, auction items, music, stories, speakers ... and more!

The Weekend's events are presented by the Palestine Action Group and Corvallis-Albany Friends of Middle East Peace.

For more information contact valori@peak.org.

Download flier here.

October 27, 2010

In Praise of Nestor Kirchner

The news told me this morning that Nestor Kirchner, ex-President of Argentina, died on Wednesday of an apparent heart. Kirchner was age 60 at time of death; his wife, Cristina Kirchner Fernandez is currently the President of Argentina.

Nestor Kirchner will long be remembered in Argentina, and throughout the world as the man who in 2001-02 told the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the rest of the global capitalist gang that they were no longer wanted in Argentina. Throughout the rest of his Presidency, to 2007, Kirchner continued to work on the restoration of a civil society in Argentina, including breaking the power of the military and re-writing Argentina's economic policies to work on behalf of Argentinians instead of global capitalism.

Kirchner was a long time leader of the center-left Peronist Party. Although not a socialist, Kirchner worked to re-include the Argentinian working class and rural poor within the Argentinian social contract. This included bolstering local Argentinian industries at the expense of international capitalism, adapting policies leading to greater income for working people, and restoring necessary social benefits. One of Kirchner's greatest legacies was adopting legislation which placed abandoned factories under the ownership of its previous workers, thus allowing abandoned enterprises to re-open as workers' cooperatives.

No greater tribute could be afforded to Kirchner than today's stock market reaction. Upon notice of Kirchner's death, Argentinian stocks experienced a dramatic rise in value. To be that hated by the international capitalists is testimony enough that Kirchner's service to all Argentinians was both just and effective.

October 19, 2010

CISPES speaker tour in Portland! No Mining, No CAFTA!

Action Name: CISPES speaker tour in Portland! No Mining, No CAFTA!

Date: 2010-10-21

Event Time: 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Organization: Portland Central American Solidarity Committee PCASC

Description: Thursday, October 21 · 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Urban Grinds Coffee House, 2214 NE Oregon St

Featuring Orlando Velasco, anti-mining leader from San Isidro, El Salvador

After rural communities in El Salvador effectively mobilized to prevent gold mining in the state of Cabañas, the ousted North American mining companies - Pacific Rim and Commerce Group - have retaliated with over $200 million in lawsuits against El Salvador, using the investor "protections" of the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR).

The national anti-mining movement is pushing to protect their water, lands and... communities once and for all with a national ban on metallic mining - the first in the world! El Salvador needs our solidarity now as the government battles these outrageous lawsuits. Come & learn how you can join this struggle!

Join us for a special event with a leader of the successful Salvadoran grassroots movement against mining. This event represents the third in a series called "National Sovereignty under CAFTA: Water, Environment, and Free Trade" organized by PCASC.

Background from press release below:

Salvadoran environmental leader visits Portland
Portland group discusses precedent-setting lawsuit, challenges US free trade agreements

On October 21st, Salvadoran organizer and movement leader Francisco Orlando Velasco will visit Portland as part of a national tour. He works with the nationwide Roundtable Against Metallic Mining, and hails from the department of Cabañas, one of the areas most strongly affected by an international mining conflict.

Velasco's visit comes in the midst of an international lawsuit launched by the Canadian mining company Pacific Rim. The company is suing El Salvador under CAFTA for hundreds of millions of dollars in lost profits after the government refused to grant gold mining permits due to the environmental destruction that mining would cause. Resistance against the environmental impact of the mining has led to many assassinations in affected communities, bringing into relief major questions about our current model of free trade.

A very small country with high population density, events in El Salvador represent the future of resource struggles. As basic resources like water and fossil fuels become more scarce under our current system of global trade, we will see environmental and human rights movements come more into alignment. In El Salvador, as in many developing nations, the choice to exploit or privatize natural resources has direct consequences in the health of communities.

The event will also discuss the recent victory of the left-wing FMLN, a political party founded by the armed guerrilla movement of the 90s, and the steps that the government is taking to democratize and socialize the country.

When: Thursday, October 21st from 7pm to 9pm
Where: Urban Grind Café, 2214 NE Oregon St in Portland, Oregon
Details: There will be food and drink for sale at the venue. The event is free and open to the public, but donations will be accepted!

This event represents the third in a series called "National Sovereignty under CAFTA: Water, Environment, and Free Trade" organized by the Portland Central America Solidarity Committee.

Why the persistent high levels of unemployment?

Why the persistent high levels of unemployment?
October 16, 2010
By Duane Campbell
Talking Union
A Project of the DSA Labor Network

In a recession businesses downsize and create unemployment.

Usually in a recovery, businesses invest, hire more workers, and contribute to the recovery. This time we are stuck with high levels of unemployment.

There has been a huge increase in the number of unemployed,and they are remaining unemployed for a longer period of time.

Some 95,000 jobs were lost in September, fueled by a loss of government employment, which declined by 159,000 jobs, and minimal hiring in the private sector, which added 64,000 jobs. September unemployment rate remained unchanged from August at 9.6 percent.

Public-sector job losses include 83,000 lost at the state and local level, of which 58,000 were in education. The 64,000 new jobs is about half of what is required to absorb new labor force entrants. To lower the unemployment rate to 6 % by 2013, the economy needs to add 350,000 jobs a month.

A No Growth Economy

The number of workers who are underemployed, which includes those who are too discouraged to look for work or are working part-time out of economic necessity, worsened to 17.1 % from 16.7% in August.

More than 26 million U.S. workers are without jobs or full-time work. One unemployed worker who spent 35 years in the construction trades has this to say: I'm 52 years old, and I've been kicked to the curb with no job, no insurance and no unemployment left and I could loose my home. And yet I still believe in this country's democracy.

When will this end?

Hopefully Congress can get off their butts and do something for the working people of the United States. Unemployment increases dramatically depending upon your level of education.

Persons with a college degree have about a 4.6 % level of unemployment.

In September the unemployment rate for Black workers was 16.1 %. For whites it was 8.7%, for Latinos it was 12.4%.For each group those under 25 years of age would experience double these numbers, that is 32% for blacks, 17.4%, for whites, and 25% for Latinos.

These racial disparities are in part a consequence lower levels of education and in some cases a higher level of incarceration.

There was a federal government stimulus of about 787 billion dollars that was to increase employment, but more than 40% of that money was directed at tax cuts and another large amount went to state and local governments.

Without this stimulus investment an additional 1.5 million jobs would have been lost. The collapsing economy produced massive layoffs in state and local governments-- firefighters, police, etc. adding to the economic problems of the nation, not resolving them.

So, what can be done?

The U.S. has an aging, or mature capitalist economy. As Steve Max well explains in "Riding Capitalism to the Bottom: Why Republicans Gain as the Economy Falters," the normal tendency in such economies is for a falling rate of profit and slow economic growth--or stagnation.

The dynamic growth that once characterized the U.S. economy is now taking place in countries such as China, Brazil, and India where industrial capitalism is still in its growth pattern.

In the U.S. we have moved more toward finance capitalism which produces great profits for some, and fewer jobs.

To create significant jobs we need a federal jobs program on a significant scale. The 2009/2010 stimulus was too small to truly improve the economy, in significant part because the Republicans blocked efforts to increase the stimulus.

However, now we remain in a jobless "recovery" and it is past time to grow jobs. In August the administration passed a $26 billion stimulus to hire teachers, fire fighters, and other public employees.

Some 15,000 teacher jobs were saved nation wide and the schools were improved. We need many more of these targeted job growth programs. We should use public money to invest in important programs. Spending additional money to build roads, schools, etc. generates new jobs for millions.

For example, road building requires construction workers, and grading and paving equipment, gasoline or diesel to run the machines, raw cement, gravel, and asphalt, surveyors to map the site, engineers and site managers, and even accountants to keep track of costs.

One part of a needed jobs plan is public investment. This includes building roads, bridges, hospitals, and refurbishing bridges, tunnels, and public facilities. We also need to expand the number of teachers, nurses, medical workers, elder and child care workers.

These programs should put new people to work or in training programs. Creating new jobs in construction or in public sector such as teaching, fire and police creates jobs for the presently unemployed.

This was the basic insight of Keynesian economics. Creating jobs, even with deficit financing,causes the economy to grow. These new workers in turn earn incomes and spend their incomes, creating additional jobs in service industries, sales, and paying additional taxes.

These new employees will not receive unemployment benefits. Instead they will gain income and pay taxes. Economic growth comes from people going to work. We are wasting time and resources. Each month that we fail to create jobs, the economy gets worse for us all.

The Republicans should stop blocking job growth. The Economic Policy Institute calls for 4.6 million jobs in the next year at a cost of $400 billion. That is a good start. The impact of new hiring and retention in the public sector (teachers, nurses, firemen, cops, etc.) will in turn stimulate employment in the private
sector.

Targeted investment in jobs could produce as many as 18 million new jobs in the next three years. Public investment should create at least 400,000 jobs per month to provide the kind of stimulus needed to get this economy growing.

Remember what caused this jobs crisis--it wasn't the government.

First came the housing bubble and the selling of near fraudulent home mortgages by corporations such as Country Wide. To make a profit major banks and corporations looted the economy creating an international meltdown. Now, they have been rewarded with bail out money.

The crisis was not caused by students, teachers, public employees nor recipients of social security. Now we have cuts in parks, in universities, in nurses, libraries. School children did not create this crisis.

The major bankers, finance capitalists in the U.S. robbed the bank last year--and the federal treasury. They took hundreds of billions of dollars--Goldman Sachs alone took $10 Billion.

For example, Ken Lewis of Bank of America received an $81 million dollar pension. They have not even been punished. One thing we should do is arrest the top 100 executives and CEO's of these companies, give them a fair trial, and throw them in
jail.

Until we arrest some people there will be no real changes. Our financial system as a whole crashed not because of one bank. Goldman Sachs (with Meg Whitman on the Board) certainly played a major role as did JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and CitiCorp,
along with the many corporate finance institutions like Bear Sterns, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, WaMu.

We had a systemic breakdown because nearly all of our policy makers, academics, politicians, and pundits promoted a failed, self serving ideology of self-correcting financial markets. Finance profiteers walked off with big bucks while contributing to the crash of the system. California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina opposes the past stimulus spending and future spending, except for tax cuts for corporations, as do most of the Republicans running for office. The next step is organizing for jobs. More to come on that.

October 15, 2010

Thoughts on Recent European Events

The last two weeks have been momentous ones for the European Left and European Labor.

First, strikes have been escalating in France for the past month. This is the fight over French President Sarkozy's cuts to the national pension plan which raises the retirement age from 60 to 62 with full pension eligibility raised from 65 to 67.

Here, the French left and working classes are drawing a line in the sand. Strikes began on September 7th and have continues off an on through the rest of the month with approximately 3.5 million striking on September 23rd. As of this week, events have moved towards an important new development in that private sector workers, including refinery and transport workers are joining the fight which previously been carried by primarily public sector workers. As of this week, high school and university students have also joined the fray.

Meanwhile, the September 29th Europe-wide mobilization against austerity cuts was nothing if not a great success. 100,000 thousand folks or more, predominantly trade union members packed the streets of Brussels, headquarters of the European Union, protesting against further privatization efforts, wage and benefit cuts, and government austerity plans which have been adopted by many center-right and center-left European governments.

In Spain, the September 29th mobilization lead to a 10 million worker (half of the entire Spanish working class) engaged in a one day General Strike. French workers were out in force in Paris and other cities including Marseilles, Nantes and Dejon. In Berlin, around 1,000 members of Die Linke (The Left Party) occupied a number of large banks handing out chocolates to bank employees (bank employees are not where the problem resides!) and thoroughly disrupting business otherwise. Thousands of smaller demonstrations and strikes occurred throughout the European Union.

Class War:

John Monks, head of the European Trade Union Confederation, put it bluntly, "this is the start of the fight, not the end". European workers have been watching. After two years of fighting lay-offs and reductions on the shop floor, workers in Europe have seen their governments line up firmly behind the banks and corporations as this top rung of society seeks to solve its profitability problem through drastically lowering the living standards of European workers. According to Michael Hudson, an Economics professor at the University of Missouri, European capitalists are looking to impose reductions of 30 % in wages and benefits on the backs of European workers (Neoliberals Raise Ante in War on Labour; Fateful Struggle Will Set Course for a Generation; Spectrezine, 10/10/10).

End of the Rhine Model:

Following the end of the Second World War, the economic model adopted by western European nations was the Rhine Model. The left and European labor came out of WWII with a great deal of prestige. These workers, their unions and parties were the backbone of the resistance to the Nazi occupation (while many of their employers took the collaborationist route) and were not likely to accept a return to the pre-war status quo. With revolution in the air, the European capitalists of the late 40s and 1950s knew they would need to make concessions. These concessions were a new social contract called the "Rhine Model". The slogan behind the Rhine Model was, "capitalism without capitalists". The model emphasized union and worker involvement in the running of economic enterprises and increases in living standards through wage growth and society wide social benefits.

For the last two decades, the European capitalist class has been seeking a way out of the Rhine Model. Margaret Thatcher's attack on the British trade unions, the formation of the European Union with its emphasis on limiting worker rights and placing new capitalist liberties beyond democratic control, the Euro itself, are all part of the dismantling of the Rhine Model.

The importance of the recent austerity moves throughout Europe is that the intentions are finally out of the closet. Across the continent, capitalists and their governments have put it bluntly, they are out to shake every penny they can out of working class pockets.

Which Way Will it Go?

This is the beginning, not the end. There are a number of possibilities and outcomes:

1. Working class revolt could lead to a political upsurge for the Left, including a key shift to the left on the part of European governments. A key pre-condition would be a return to a Left agenda on the part of the social democratic parties (The French Socialist Party, The Spanish Socialist Party, German Social Democratic Party, for instance). For the last couple of decades these social democratic parties have been moving more and more to the right in some kind of a vain attempt to manage society jointly with the capitalists.

2. The events of September 29th could be the beginning of a long term war between labor and capital, centered primarily around economics with the battles being direct worker actions such as strikes, slowdowns, etc. This long haul class war could eventually result in workers' revolutions.

3. European capitalists and their governments could cross the Rubicon of Repression. Here, European states would mobilize their police and military towards the breaking of strikes and other worker actions. Unions and left parties would be increasingly restricted; various left political trends would be banned and criminalized; Europe would turn in the direction of a sort of neo-fascism.

4. A not likely outcome, but European workers would drop the fight out of a sense of defeat and apathy.

5. What do you think?