January 30, 2010

Save the Party

The latest from the Political Affairs pre-convention discussion:

By Dean Christ, Kevin Kyle, and Joan Phillips

We think the CPUSA convention, postponed several times, cannot come soon enough. We believe the Party has been heading in a wrong direction in far too many ways.

What has happened the Party’s tradition of class struggle, anti-racism, anti-monopoly, anti-imperialism, political independence, international solidarity, and indeed Marxism-Leninism?

Instead of building the Party, the current top leaders (no matter what they think or claim they are doing) have been dismantling the Party piece by piece: eliminating the print versions of the People’s Weekly World and Political Affairs, giving away the Reference Center for Marxist Studies, keeping bookstores shut, abolishing the national Organization Department and several clubs in New York, not to mention cutting YCL funding instead of prioritizing it.

To read more and contribute your own article to the pre-convention discussion, go here.

January 28, 2010

What They're Saying About Us...

Oregon voters delivered a "tax the rich" message yesterday, voting to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy to prevent cuts in public education and other social services.

The voters solidly approved two ballot measures: Measure 66 raises taxes on households with taxable income above $250,000 (less than 3 percent of the state's population), and Measure 67 raises the minimum tax on corporations from its current $10 (!) and increases the tax rate on upper-level profits.

Read more here.

January 26, 2010

Oregon Voters Overwhelmingly Approve Meansures 66 and 67

This evening, Oregon voters approved new taxes on the wealthy and many businesses by a vote of 55% to 45%. Many anticipated a close election; the results of the vote were however a landslide.

This past summer, the Oregon legislature approved new taxes which would later become Measures 66 and 67. These taxes were deemed necessary by Oregon's Democratic lawmakers in order to preserve Oregon's schools and social safety net. Under Oregon law however, tax increases passed by the legislature can be forced to a public referendum if enough citizen signatures are gathered. Unfortunately enough signatures were gathered to force the new taxes to a public referendum.

Specifically, Measure 66 would raise the income tax for households making in excess of $250,000 while Measure 67 defined a new minimum tax for businesses, finally replacing the 1931 $10 minimum corporate tax. Both of these taxes were strongly opposed by the right wing and many businesses who claimed that these taxes would kill jobs and lead to massive layoffs.

Evidently, most Oregon voters didn't buy businesses' argument that a maximum 1.3% tax on profits would kill thousands of jobs. Oregon voters also recognized the need to preserve a strained safety net and an educational system which has already taken severe cuts.

While primarily of local concern, the results of the Oregon tax vote has a national component as well. Tonight's results demonstrate that voters will tax the wealthy and their businesses in order to combat the current economic depression. Thus, these results are contrary to those right wing pundits who are projecting a substantive move to the right based on last week's upset victory of Republican Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate election.

Democratize the Federal Reserve Bank by Sam Webb

What seemed a foregone conclusion - the reappointment of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for another four-year term - has turned into a matter of contention. For this we have to thank Massachusetts voters. Their rebellion that took the unfortunate form of electing a right-wing Republican to fill the Senate seat of the late Edward Kennedy has recalibrated nearly everything in politics, including and not least, the reappointment of Bernanke. No one was expecting his coronation, but nearly no one expected anything but token resistance to his reappointment by President Obama.

Read more here.

January 25, 2010

Chock Full Two Weeks of Eugene Events

Chock Full Two Weeks of Eugene Events

DATES: Jan 25, 2010 through Feb 06, 2010

January 25--7-9 pm Sister Helen Prejean.
"Inalienable Human Rights Today: A Presentation by Sister Helen Prejean." All community members are invited to attend a free public presentation by the internationally renowned Sister Helen Prejean. Most widely known for her Pulitzer Prize-nominated book, "Dead Man Walking," Prejean has advocated against capital punishment & emphasized restorative justice since mentoring death row inmate Patrick Sonnier in 1982. She will be speaking about her present work & continued efforts to abolish the death penalty.
175 Knight Law Center, UO Campus, Eugene OR
Contact: Ariel Broadous, 541-346-0140

January 26--5:30-7:30 pm "Faces of HIV/AIDS."
HIV Alliance presents Culturally Diverse Stories Panel Discussion, a frank & honest presentation by people living with HIV/AIDS of their personal life stories & the realities of living with HIV/AIDS. Impacts on family & social issues will be discussed. Participants include an African American woman, a Hispanic man, a Caucasian/Native American woman who is a college student & single mother, & a Caucasian mother of four. Presentation will also include an overview of the agency by HIV Alliance Executive Director Diane Lang. Free.
Library Reading Room, 225 Fifth St., Springfield OR
Contact: Janet Bott, 541-342-5088 Ext. 15

January 26--7-9 pm Immigration Reform.
Panel on Immigration Reform: In Political, Historical, & Economic Context, Hosted by UO Housing's Community Conversations. Moderated by Knight Law Dean Margie Paris. Panelists: Francisco Lopez, Executive Director Causa Oregon; Guadalupe Quinn, Immigrant Rights Advocacy Program Coordinator, Amigos Multicultural Services; Daniel HoSang, UO Asst. Professor, Political Science/Ethnic Studies Dept.; Raquel Hecht, Immigration Rights Attorney, Hecht & Norman LLP; Nick Fluery; M.P.A, M.C.R.P. Program Manager, Sustainable Cities Initiative, UO.
LLC Performance Hall, UO Campus, Eugene OR

Janury 27--6:30 pm Cuba Report.
"Impressions of Cuba: Stories, Videos, Connections." Local activists report back from their recent trip to Cuba, which focused on connections between Japanese American & Japanese Cubans. Oral presentation & showing of video based on the trip; refreshments provided. Free.
Many Nations Longhouse, 1630 Columbia St., UO Campus, Eugene OR
Contact: 541-345-5739

January 28--6-7:30 pm Water Crisis Documentary.
Mills International Center in collaboration with UO International Business & Economics Club & UO Outdoor Program presents "Flow: For Love of Water" (2008, 84 min) by Irena Salina. From both local & global perspectives, documentary examines the harsh realities behind the mounting water crisis. Learn how politics, pollution & human rights are intertwined in this important issue that affects every being on Earth. With water drying up around the world & the future of human lives at stake, the film urges a call to arms before more of our most precious natural resource evaporates. Free & open to public.
Mills International Center, EMU, UO Campus, Eugene OR
Contact: 541-346-0887

January 29--6-8 pm "Knock on Wood."
BRING Gallery presents exhibit, hosted in part by Brenner's Green Gallery, of local artisans' fine handcrafted furniture & decorative sculptures made from salvaged & discarded wood. Live music, beverages by Oakshire Breweries, appetizers by Baker's Dozen. In addition to hand-crafted furniture, lighting fixtures, & sculpted pieces, exhibit will feature examples of flooring, counter tops, beams & other pieces milled from the urban forest. Information on where to recycle wood & the role trees play in a healthy ecosystem will be available. Visitors will also find weekend specials on select wood items. Show runs to April 15.
BRING Gallery, 4446 Franklin Boulevard, Glenwood OR
Contact: Julie Daniels, 541-746-3023

February 1--7:30 am-3:30 pm Local Food Connection.
4th annual event designed to connect local farmers, ranchers & fishers with food buyers of all types, hosted by Cascade Pacific Resource Conservation & Development; co-sponsored by EWEB, Oregon Tilth, & LCC Center for Meeting & Learning. Register by January 22 at URL; $20 includes lunch made from locally produced ingredients. Scholarships available; call for information.
Building 19, Main LCC Campus, 4000 E. 30th Ave., Eugene OR
URL: http://www.cascadepacific.org/lfc.htm
Contact: Kelly Hoell, 541-341-4663 Est. 21

February 5 and 6--11 am-1 pm Beyond War Study Series.
Free, 8-week series is an opportunity to explore the global principles & personal practices that help foster a nonviolent world. Learn how social change happens & strategies that can prevent & resolve conflict. Discussion leaders: Martin Jones & Cheryl Larson. Sign up by visiting or calling Campbell Community Center, 541-682-5318. Register for #86962.
Campbell Community Center, 155 High St., Eugene OR
Contact: Anne Millhollen, bweugene@beyondwar.org; 541-517-3601

Sam Webb & The Socialist Moment

Is this a socialist moment? I hear this question when I travel. So here is the answer I usually give when asked at public meetings.

Read more here.

No! No! No.....

I do not know a soul, not one person who actually likes what has been masquerading as health care reform.

All the same, for the last couple of days my computer has been barraged by Move On, Bold Progress, other e-mail players. The message is "call your legislator, pass health care reform now, include a public option". The message here seems to be, "shove this turkey down the Republicans' throat"; a legislative victory no matter what the cost.

This is all wrong, wrong, wrong. To shove the health care reform turkey down the Republican throat is to run this turkey down the throats of millions of people, including working people, unemployed, and the poor. Move On, Bold Progress, and most importantly, elected Democratic officials must learn that legislation has consequences. Health care reform has consequences, and for working people, these consequences are overwhelmingly negative.

So, once again I rant and rave.

The point is though that working people aren't stupid. Working people know when they are being screwed, they know health insurance reform has been designed for the health care and hospital chains and the insurance companies. They know with limited income, low wages and unemployment insurance that they can't pony up even a couple of hundred a month (for an inadequate insurance policy to boot). This is why the Democrats lost in Massachusetts last Tuesday.

A quiet and secret debate:

The news gives us the blow-by-blow of the legislative shenanigans, ad nauseum. This is not where the real debate is though; not right now. The real debate is between the Democratic base, who are sorely disappointed about where their 2008 efforts have gone, and the Democrats elected to office who can't seem to understand the difference between the constituencies that elected them from the corporations which fund them.

The end result of this secret debate could be a new understanding on the part of the Democratic base that real power resides in the streets with the people. If such an understanding develops, then a wide and united front demanding real change is possible. The equivocators will meanwhile either fall in behind the "lead of the street" or will be forced out of the way.

Health Care Reform: Accept No Substitute:

Anybody who really cares about serious and productive changes in health care knows damned well that the whole health care debate, and resulting packages, are flawed to the core. The devil is in the details and their just ain't enough lipstick in the world to make this pig of a capitalist "reform" work for the people.

So scrap it!

There are really only two ways to provide real health care on a universal basis. One of these ways is a Single Payer approach, the other something like a British National Health Service approach.

Thus, if we are serious, if we want real universal access to quality health care we had better embrace a model that can really get us there. It is not time to quibble about "what is possible" with a bunch of politicians. It is time to start putting our demands out there... And insisting on them!

Upcoming events with Physicians for a National Health Plan

Upcoming events with Dr. Oliver Fein, PNHP president

We invite you to join us at the at following events with Dr. Oliver Fein, president of Physicians for a National Health Plan, during his visit to Portland, Oregon.


Single-Payer Soiree
Fundraiser for Portland PNHP
The McMenamins Kennedy School
Sunday, January 31, 7-10 p.m.
5736 Northeast 33rd Ave, Portland

Keynote speaker: Oliver Fein, M.D., PNHP president

Entertainment provided by the Mad As Hell Doctors Tour in Review, OHSU medical student Project on the Uninsured, Bob Wickline, Al Bradbury, The Nurses Band and the Post Riders


Health Reform 2010: Where do we go from here?
Providence Cancer Center, 4805 Northeast Glisan Street
Monday, February 1, 7-9 p.m.
A special event co-sponsored by Providence Portland Internal Medicine Residency Population Based Health Elective and City Club of Portland

Panelists include:
Robert Dannenhoffer, M.D., immediate past president of the Oregon Medical Association
Oliver Fein, M.D., president of Physicians for a National Health Program
Eric Fruits, Ph.D., Cascade Policy Institute
Rajiv Sharma, Ph.D., associate professor of economics, Portland State University

Moderated by Paul Gorman, M.D.

If you have any questions about either event, contact Dr. Peter Mahr at peter.n.mahr@gmail.com.

DOE to take comments on draft Hanford study

DATES: Jan 26, 2010 through Feb 02, 2010


MORE INFO: http://hanfordwatch.org/

DESCRIPTION: DOE to take public comment on draft Hanford study

The Department of Energy will hear public comments at a Jan. 26 meeting in Richland on a wide-ranging draft study that lays the groundwork for cleanup of the Hanford nuclear reservation for decades to come.

It's one of eight meetings planned in the Northwest. The Richland meeting at the Red Lion Hanford House will start with an open house at 6 p.m. followed by presentations by DOE and the Washington State Department of Ecology at 7 p.m. Public comment then will be heard until 10 p.m.

Other meetings will be Feb. 2 in Boise; Feb. 9 in Hood River, Ore., and Feb. 10 in Portland. A Seattle meeting is being rescheduled and three more meetings will be added to the list.

Among the decisions the Draft Tank Closure and Waste Management Environmental Impact Statement recommends are entombing the Fast Flux Test Facility, emptying 99 percent of waste from underground tanks, leaving the emptied tanks in the ground and continuing to ban many types of radioactive waste from being sent to Hanford.

The 6,000-page study is posted at http://www.hanford.gov.

Massachusetts election lesson: "Don't Mourn, Organize!"

Don't Mourn, Organize!" This is the growing call from labor and progressive forces following the upset election in Massachusetts of Republican Scott Brown to fill Edward Kennedy's seat in the U.S. Senate.

Brown's election gives Senate Republicans, who have blocked every piece of legislation for people's needs, one more vote, threatening defeat of health care reform to which Kennedy devoted his career.

Even before the polls closed, the right-wing and the media began their spin that the president and Congress should forget their agenda and give in to Republican obstructionism.

Read more here.

A related article is here.

January 24, 2010

Bill Fletcher Jr. : Time for the Left to Get Serious

I'm going to highly recommend the linked article by Bill Fletcher Jr. published in the Winter 2009/10 edition of "Democratic Left", publication of Democratic Socialists of America (my personal affiliation).

Bill brings forward a crisis many of us have not adequately talked about. This is a crisis in state legitimacy. In a nutshell, many people expect the state to take the lead in protecting the population when capitalism fails. To date however, the Obama administration has been primarily focused on saving capitalism's heavyweights, at the expense of those most suffering at the bottom. Such priorities have lead to a wide perception that the Obama Administration has abandoned the needs of the people. Here, the right is able to step in, not because they have solutions, but because they're willing to speak to and exploit the fears of many.

There's a tone of alarm in Bill's article. The right wing threat is not to be taken lightly. The invisibility to date of the Left has only increased the viability of the right wing hate machine. The remedy is a viable and visible Left able to speak to capitalism's failure and offer real direction and solutions to the dog's breakfast capitalism has left us messed on the floor.


(Link is to a PDF document... please look for the Bill Fletcher Jr. article)

January 22, 2010

Scott Baio?

In recent months Scott Baio, best known for loser roles on "Happy Days" and "Joanie Loves Chachi," has been riding the rightwing circuits saying that there is a Hollywood blacklist and that he's on it because he's an out-front right-winger. Apparently that has not gotten the has-been grade-b actor enough publicity. He went one step further and posted a disgusting joke about Michelle Obama on Twitter and, according to Baio, then got death threats in response.

Read a rather dumb article about that here.

Alleged Twitter death threats are not going to get Baio the work he is looking for or the attention he's apparently craving unless he really is as desperate as he sounds. The right-wingers who are flocking to Baio's defense must be desperate for a hero and have clearly put aside their manners and respect for the office of the Presidency. There was a time when these folks condescended to calling women "ladies" and put name-calling and personal digs beyond the pale. One must now reflect on how far the mighty have fallen: the right-wing had Ronald Reagen and John Wayne and are now reduced to Scott Baio and his frat boy antics.

That said, it's easy to imagine the next Republican regime putting him in charge of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Smithsonian or the Federal Communications Commission.

For the record, I have never met anyone on the left who made death threats, supported making death threats or watched "Happy Days" or "Joanie Loves Chachi."

Oregon Women Lead At The Salem YWCA Tonight

A pro-choice and pro-women crowd gathered at the Salem YWCA this evening to hear a program organized by Oregon Women Lead and mark the Roe vs. Wade decision. The crowd filled the large meeting room and ate, drank and mixed in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere while two lonely protesters stood outside for awhile.

Inside we heard the inspiring story of how six women formed and still keep Oregon Women Lead (OWL) going. This is not a membership organization or a movement so much as it is an exercise in civil society and from-below organizing. The six women who are OWL have connected with one another and others to form a network which values women's participation in politics and seeks to move that participation forward in meaningful ways. It's a healthy sign of political discourse and it demonstrates how vital even a small group can be to democracy. One of the speakers encouraged those present to form similar groups, which is exactly what is needed now in Salem.

We also heard a history of Planned Parenthood in Salem and how the struggles to build a Planned Parenthood clinic and win reproductive and health choices for women coincided here in ways which genuinely empowered at least a few women and eventually enabled the Planned Parenthood clinics in Salem and McMinnville to serve as many as 9200 men and women. The four women who spoke about this were the founders of Salem's Planned Parenthood efforts and the local NARAL chapter. They were "ordinary" women who worked out the means of organizing other women and winning allies for their efforts. Their eventual victory in getting the Salem Planned Parenthood clinic open and on good footing led to other steps in political empowerment. All four of the women have gone on to lead other efforts.

These four speakers seemed to draw many lessons from their experiences. First, they used and built networks of women and allies. Second, each win along the way led to another step and other wins. Third, they had to insist that allies in Portland shared their vision. Fourth, they made efforts to win over or neutralize their opposition. Fifth, they emphasized the need to build womens' political power and recognized that the Supreme Court and Congress are not ours and are not allies now. There was an emphasis on finding women to run for and win political offices in the upcoming elections this evening.

The speakers seemed to have a faith and trust in the spontaneity and creativity of the womens' networks they tapped into and created. Many of the women they acknowledged as helping out were also union members and activists in other local efforts. Serving 9200 people and meeting some of their healthcare needs--and doing it with sliding scale fees and people from the communities--is truly serving the people. We hope that efforts like this will broaden and take on more positive political significance and add adult education components which help to politicize and move our communities leftward.

This evening's event almost didn't happen. The event had been scheduled at the Marco Polo restaurant but pressure from the local ultra-right, once again led by hate radio deejay Bill Post, forced the restaurant to cancel. Some of the calls coming in to the restaurant must have been particularly ugly. After the event was cancelled Post wrote on his blog, "I am also somewhat upset. I clearly told my listeners NOT to blame the restaurant, not to call them and criticize them, but to call out the OWL group AND I specifically said we should all make dinner reservations for Friday night, NOT a protest. Some people took things into their own hands and really hurt Jackie's feelings. She says she feels very sad for all the hateful things people said. Is that what Pro Life people should be known for?" It's easy for Post to be upset after interfering with a business and the right to assembly, of course. It's the sorrow of an arsonist after lighting a match and it proves how dangerous the ultra-right is and how little control the leaders of that movement have over their lost followers. Now he says that he wants to "show our loving support" for the owner of Marco Polo. The absence of any real protest at the event demonstrates that the local reactionaries are paper tigers.

Be that as it may, OWL probably got a bigger crowd at the YWCA than they would have gotten at Marco Polo and the layout of the room enabled strangers to meet and get to know one another. One nice touch was having notepads and cameras placed throughout the room so that people could write their own messages and take photos of the evening for OWL.

Credit Card Law and Supreme Corporate Flaw

I've been receiving many "Changes to Your Terms and Conditions" notices from my credit cards lately. I scan them, briefly, get the gist, and file them. These recent additions to my files have been actually quite heartening. They are basically a collection of "This is the crap we can no longer do to you".

They include changes such as, a 'finance' charge is now an 'interest' charge, and payment over the minimum due will now be applied to the higher interest rate balances as opposed to those of lower interest rate first. My favorite thus far is, "You will not be charged a fee for spending over your credit limit unless you agree to allow us to do so." What the...?

Now, I am the first to grumble about all that hasn't happened since the great repudiation of Republican insanity in the elections of 2006 and 2008. But I was actually feeling like there may be a hint of daylight here. A sign that a bit of corporate oppression was losing out to the rights of the people. I was ready to give proper praise for Congressional work in favor of the masses. Then the Supreme Court put me back in my place. My long-standing, angst-ridden place.

Apparently, legislation such as this is ENOUGH, and the corporate world can take no more of it. Their patience has worn thin. The people are on the verge of catching a tiny break. Economic Darwinism is being improperly stunted, and the rules of nature must be set straight once again. So, to the rescue come the Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse of Democracy.

If the appointment of George W. Bush in 2000 wasn't enough; if corporate ownership of voting machines wasn't enough; if you thought there was a shred of democracy left to be cherished,.. you may be left wondering in the next few years... "What the hell happened to my country?"

The same five justices that routinely side with corporate interests over the interests of the people have decided that this will indeed be a fascist nation, and it will be so according to the law. Corporate speech is equal to individual speech. Corporate rights are equal to individual rights. And these are both understatements by far. If money is speech, then corporate money will speak far louder than that of the people. And corporations have the ability to live forever, unlike we the lowly people. Immortal rights. Gods of American capitalism. America by and for the corporations.

So, be prepared for the coming elections in 2010. An onslaught of corporate money is no doubt going to flood the races. Democrats and Republicans alike are guilty of playing the roles of corporate whores. But if the need for election finance reform wasn't glaringly clear before, it will explode into our consciousness in the near future. Senate and House seats, State and Federal, are up for sale now more than ever.

Fighting against big money interests for the betterment of the bottom 95% will become increasingly difficult. But the fight must be had. If bigger money continues to equal greater speech then our democracy will soon be completely bankrupt.

January 21, 2010

Sam Webb: Setting The Record Straight

January 20, 2010

It is said by some on the left that the Communist Party USA has no differences with President Obama. Just to set the record straight: we do and we express them. For example, we opposed the nearly unconditional Wall Street bailouts and deployment of more troops to Afghanistan. We argued for a bigger stimulus package. And we said the president should push the envelope more; otherwise he runs the danger of the extreme right turning the popular discontent over the economic crisis against him, the Democratic Party, and the people's movement that supports his agenda. Isn't this what we saw in Tuesday's election in Massachusetts, where a right-winger was elected to the Senate?

Read more here.

What's Missing From the Critiques of Obama

It has been only a few days since the upset victory in Massachusetts of Republican Senator-elect Scott Brown and already some of America's most prominent liberal commentators have opined on its significance.

Most have been blistering criticisms of President Obama for abandoning his popular broad social vision and replacing it with ineffective, patchwork legislation resulting from insider maneuvering. This is most apparent in the health care debacle but appeasing conservatives also explains delaying labor reform, postponing goals of gay equality and shamefully interfering in a woman's personal right to decide when to start a family.

Then, there is the catastrophic diversion of billions of dollars to Wall St. instead of funding actual government-run infrastructure projects employing millions, a failure that can only be explained by Obama's persistent refusal to challenge corporate control of anything - employment, health care or banking.

Yes, there is plenty to fuel the outrage among left-leaning supporters of Obama. Progressives for Obama even dropped their namesake from their title, renaming themselves Progressive America Rising. For these liberal and radical wordsmiths, that qualifies as much a stinging rebuke as it gets.

Read more here.

Tax Fairness Protest @ US Bank in Ashland, OR.

January 19, 2010- Oregonians marched on US Bank in Ashland to protest the bank's disrespect for its unemployed customers. For the bank its nothing but greedy profit that drives its huge contributions to the NO on Measures 66 & 67 campaign. At the same time they spend big bucks to defeat these measures the US Bank gets money and unemployed customers because it has a contract with the State of Oregon to automatically receive unemployment compensation bucks from people who have been laid off from work. The bank actually stands to gain as unemployed ranks swell.

Read more here.

The Supreme Court and Unions

Today's Supreme Court decision opened the way for a flood of unlimited corporate money into the political process. The Democrats will decry the decision - but the reality is that almost all of them take Corporate money and Union money.

Will this decision finally be the explosion to shake loose the ossified brains of the leaders of our Unions? Are they ready to take off their blinders to the corporate control of both parties? It was clear as a bell for this past year that the banks controlled the Democratic Party's response to the financial crisis and the Health Insurance Companies wrote the script for the Medical Care debate.

It is past time for the Union movement to start discussions about forming a Labor Party in this country. Every other industrialized country has a party based in the Trade Unions. They have at least one party that represents the interests of the Working Class. After the last year it should be clearer than ever that all the Union money and Union resources that have gone into the Democratic Party and gone to Democratic candidates has been for naught! Any Unionist who has in the past believed that the Democratic Party is in anyway a party that represents our interests must have had their eyes opened. Or at least will be open to discussing alternatives.
The Supreme Court decision should energize the discussions around the need for a Political Party that empowers the Working Class.
What can individual rank and file Unionists do right now, right away? We can inform the political action committees of our locals that we do not want any money going to any candidate who is also receiving corporate money. (Thanks to opensecrets.org the information is readily available). If we oppose the gates being opened for corporate money why would we give worker's money to candidates who are also receiving money from corporate and business interests? It never made any sense and it makes less sense now.

The Supreme Court decision is an opportunity to bring Class Consciousness into our Union political programs just like we do on the shop floor or in the offices of our workplaces.

All the Free Speech Money Can Buy!

It's a terrible, terrible decision.

The Supreme Court today made it legal. Corporations are now able to put any amount of money into the political process in just about any manner they want. So now it's the law; freedom of speech is no longer free. Instead, its all the free speech money can buy.

Think about it. We have institutions in this nation which control billions and trillions of dollars. They are accountable to no one. They are not internally democratic, they are not even accountable to stock holders! Yet these corporations are able to dwarf and drown the collective voices of the polity with the weight of their money? Go figure...

I'd like to get a Tea Party response to this decision of the Supreme Court. I'd like to get this response because there is nothing in the Constitution which gives basic civil rights to corporations, yet Tea Party activists rely so heavily on the sanctity of the Constitution.

Funny, but the framers of the Constitution wouldn't have even recognized the kind of concentrated economic and political power that corporations represent and have been able to wield only in the last roughly 100 years. Such institutions didn't exist in the late 18th century. The closest model to the modern corporation was something like the British East India Company; a corporation which was created through Crown and Parliamentary Act.

The story of how corporations were able to achieve "super-citizen" status is an interesting one. Its not a story to be told here, but the achievement of such super status is a mere 100 or so years old and is itself the product of trust, holding company and corporate power beginning in the late 19th century.

In the words of Bob Dylan:

"Money doesn't talk, it swears".

January 20, 2010

Viewing "The KKK In Oregon, 1920-1923"

Several of us attended the showing of "The KKK In Oregon, 1920-1923" at the Salem public library this evening. The auditorium was packed to the point that all seats were full and many people had to stand in the back. The crowd was multi-generational, multi-ethnic and multi-racial. After the film there was a good discussion on the Klan, racism, steps forward and backward in our community and education. The systemic nature of racism was discussed in general terms.

The film is a good starting point for discussions about the history of organized racism in Oregon and the history of the KKK in Oregon and across the south. It uses a few talking heads, most notably a professor from PSU and faculty from Willamette University, to make it points and still black-and-white photos of Native Americans, pioneers, Catholics and Catholic churches, Japanese families, African-Americans and dustbowl refugees. The film exposes the political power the Klan grabbed in Oregon in the early 1920s and the quotes provided sound at least vaguely familiar--the rhetoric from the '20s may still be heard at local tea parties. The strength of the film is in its ability to bring up past struggles and to provoke meaningful discussion.

The film has several key weaknesses. There is a reliance on a few photographs where more could have been shown. There are several key loose ends in the film which pass without explanation or context. Most seriously, there is no mention of the Klan's anti-union and anti-left ideology and little explanation is provided on the fight-back against the Klan and its ideas in the film. Viewers are left wondering how and why the Klan lost power.

In the discussion period we were glad to hear that Salem may soon have a museum dealing with Black history here and that much work is being done on African-American pioneer and settlement history. Many of the points made by people in the audience demonstrated that the local on-going conversation on race has reached a new and better stage and that people want information and knowledge that the mainstream media is not providing.

January 18, 2010

Marxism & Slavery

We got a question last night about how we view slavery--do we defend it or oppose it? The quick answer is that a revolutionary movement that fights for the liberation of humankind is unalterably opposed to slavery. The longer and more scientific answer is that we have a particular understanding of slavery and slave societies which situates slavery in a historical context. Also, real Marxism is anti-dogmatic; when science and scientific methodology are used correctly and disprove a held belief, we change our viewpoint to accord with what has been scientifically determined.

Arab archeologists and news media have been talking for awhile now about new findings which tend to prove that the Great Pyramid was not built by slave labor or constructed with seasonal labor. This story is not making it into the American media. If the research and the reports are correct, Marxism will have to continue to look at questions of historical development and further revolutionize our thinking on historical processes. Bourgeois science, on the other hand, will have a greater methodological problem as the body of evidence grows indicating how relatively civilized the so-called "primitive" societies were and how labor is a determining factor in shaping human interaction. Read the latest story about the most recent Great Pyramid discoveries here.

For a great essay on slavery and how Marxism understands slavery, go here.

News Reports From Haiti & A Reflection From Fidel

Two very different stories are emerging from Haiti. One story is that aid is arriving and that problems of destroyed infrastructure are being solved by US Marines while looting and burning is taking place around them. We hear talk of long-term rebuilding and some mention of Haiti coming under the control of either the US or the UN so that humanitarian interevention can continue. NPR and Bill Clinton have been on hand to cover these stories from these angles. The other story emerging is about US control of Haitian airspace and the airport at Port au Prince, doctors and cargo planes not being allowed in, supplies being held up and chaos taking over as the risk of disesases spreads. BBC has done some interesting reporting which is apparently being ignored by American media; go here and here for those stories.

One comrade said it well when he wrote, "Why are some people, particularly in the media, so involved with recording the relief effort, when in reality, they are ignoring the larger picture of the Haitian tragedy? Wasn't there, a few years ago, a
democratically elected Aristide government whose overall plans had to be to repair the crumbling infrastructure? And was it not the Clinton(a real suck upper) administration that interferred in Haiti and through the terror squads crushed the democratically elected government? The real tragedy is that now all the ports and bridges are down, preventing international relief to get in. How fast can our Army engineers rebuild the port, highways and airfield? This is some mess that imperialism brought on, just so the people can be further exploited by foreign owned sweat shops."

Fidel Castro has written the following reflection:

THE news arriving from Haiti paints a picture of the tremendous chaos that was to be expected given the exceptional situation created by the disaster.

Initial surprise, shock, commotion, the desire in the most remote corners of the Earth to provide immediate aid. What to send and how to do so to a corner of the Caribbean, from China, India, Vietnam and other nations located tens of thousands of kilometers away? The magnitude of the earthquake and the country’s poverty instantly generated ideas of imagined needs, which give rise to all kinds of promises that they then try to deliver by any possible means.

We Cubans understood that the most important thing at that point was to save lives, and we are trained not just to confront catastrophes such as this one, but also natural disasters related to health.

Hundreds of Cuban doctors were there, plus a significant number of young, working-class Haitians who have become well-trained healthcare professionals, a task in which we have cooperated for many years with that neighboring sister nation. Some of our compatriots were on vacation, while others of Haitian origin were training or studying in Cuba.

The destruction caused by the earthquake exceeded all calculations; the humble adobe and mud homes – in a city with almost two million inhabitants – were unable to withstand it. Solidly constructed governmental buildings collapsed; whole blocks of houses crashed down upon their inhabitants who, at that time – as night was falling – were inside their homes and were buried, dead or alive, under the ruins. The streets full of people crying out for help. The MINUSTAH – the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti – the government and police were left leaderless or without headquarters. In the first moments, the main task of those institutions – incorporating thousands of people – was to find out who was still alive and where they were.

Read more here.

January 17, 2010

A Fascinating Video Of Politicized Art And Memory

This is, without a doubt, one of the most fascinating and moving pieces I've ever seen on the Internet. I urge you to take the time to look at this and pass it on.

Read the entire introduction then watch the magic created by this young woman since the audio is in Russian.

This video shows the winner of 2009’s "Ukraine ’s Got Talent", Kseniya Simonova, 24, drawing a series of pictures on an illuminated sand table showing how ordinary people were affected by the German invasion during World War II. Her talent, which admittedly is a strange one, is mesmeric to watch.

The images, projected onto a large screen, moved many in the audience to tears and she won the top prize of about $75,000.

She begins by creating a scene showing a couple sitting holding hands on a bench under a starry sky, but then warplanes appear and the happy scene is obliterated.

It is replaced by a woman’s face crying, but then a baby arrives and the woman smiles again. Once again war returns and Ms. Simonova throws the sand into chaos from which a young woman’s face appears.

She quickly becomes an old widow, her face wrinkled and sad, before the image turns into a monument to an Unknown Soldier.

This outdoor scene becomes framed by a window as if the viewer is looking out on the monument from within a house.

In the final scene, a mother and child appear inside and a man standing outside, with his hands pressed against the glass, saying goodbye.

The Great Patriotic War, as it is called in Ukraine, resulted in one in four of the population being killed with eight to 11 million deaths out of a population of 42 million.

An art critic said: "I find it difficult enough to create art using paper and pencils or paintbrushes, but using sand and fingers is beyond me. The art, especially when the war is used as the subject matter, even brings some audience members to tears. And there’s surely no bigger compliment."

Click here to watch this brilliant performance.

Universal Health Care is a Socialist Project

Universal Health Care is a socialist project.

Canadian single-payer health insurance was adopted in the early 1960s. The moving forces behind single payer health care were the Canadian Labour Congress and the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (a socialist federation centered in the western provinces). The British National Health Service (NHS) was founded in 1946 and was a key project of the new post-war Labour government.

Canadian single payer legislation was passed in the Provincial capitols and later, Ottawa. The British NHS was founded in the House of Commons. I do not think it is possible to be this lucky here in the U.S.A.

Here, in the United States, I do not think real universal health care is possible without a revolution. This sounds extreme but is not an exaggeration. Corporate money is so entrenched in U.S. politics (at all levels) that it literally has veto power over any and all reforms which it does not approve and which have not been carved to its standards. If this statement seems a little over-stated, please just step back and take a look at the events of the last year.

If you ask me, the first order of national business is not the banks, it is not health care, and it is not jobs. The first order of national business has to be breaking the political and economic power of the corporations. As long as the corporations rule, nothing progressive is possible.

Dear Larry (Summers): The Recession is Not Over.

It was a week or so before Christmas. I woke up, flipped on the computer and took a look at my Google news. Here it was in black and white, Larry Summers, White House chief of the economic council and Wall Street lackey announces, "The recession is over".

Simple as that!

So, the Great Recession is over. How about that! What relief! I guess that means that I should ignore the roughly 20% unemployment (what it really is if you count the self-employed and under employed who are not eligible to be counted as "unemployed"). We should ignore too that the number of home foreclosures are rising, not decreasing, that a commercial real estate bubble is at the bursting point, and don't forget that the misery index is only increasing as benefits start to run out for folks who have been on the dole for a couple of years now.

Here, good old Larry was on his own with his economic pontificating. I don't think the rest of the Obama Administration, or the Democratic Party for that matter bought Mr. Larry's pronouncement.

The reality is I suspect that the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party know they have screwed up. Look at what's happening. Democratic Senators Dodd and Dorgan have bowed out and are retiring, as are a slew of Congressional Representatives. Obama will jet tonight to Boston to try and save Ted Kennedy's Senate seat from a Republican take-over. Equally important, President Obama himself his turned up his rhetoric and seems to be giving the banks a run for their money (bad pun, eh?) over the issue of recovering TARP funds from the banks in the form of a new bank fee.

In terms of the energy created with the 2008 elections, year number one of the Obama Administration and overwhelming Democratic majorities in Congress has been a disaster. Every promise made has been dashed, votes for change have translated into policies that look an awful lot like the policies of the Bush Administration. Many who voted for such change are now abandoning the Democratic Party in droves.

Personally, I'd like to believe that there is a learning curve in politics. That mistakes can be acknowledged and learned from. That reversing course and taking a different tack is an indicator of alive minds, not an indicator of weakness and vacillation. I think I might be seeing some signs of such thinking; we shall see.

There is one thing which could radically increase such a "re-think" as suggested above. That one factor is of course, a united grass-roots movement of folks who consider themselves to be of a liberal or left persuasion, and who are able to articulate and take action based their political analysis. So far, this movement has not taken place. So far, far too many people cannot see political involvement beyond casting a ballot every two and four years. What such people do over the next couple of years is every bit as important as what Obama and the Democrats do. We shall see again, eh?

January 16, 2010


Popular Cuban writer Leonardo Padura has just published his most recent work. He called it his "most ambitious". It is "El Hombre Que Amaba A Los Perros" (The Man Who Loved Dogs). His book is about the 1940 assassination of Leon Trotsky in his home in Mexico. He was killed by Ramon Mercader a member of the Soviet Secret Police (NKVD).

Padura recently travelled to Spain to speak about his book. He calls Trotsky "the last great theoretician of Marxism". He points out that Trotsky no longer had any power and that his death was the "assassination of intelligence".

It seems to me that assassinations are always attempts to kill ideas. The CIA tried all those years to assassinate Fidel. Likewise, Malcolm X. The murder of Harvey Milk and Martin Luther King. Sometimes it is difficult to see the arc of history when we are in it. But we will carry on with our belief in the working class and our struggle for equality and justice and hopefully get to see that arc bend.

Fidel Castro Reflects On Haiti

Two days ago, at almost six o'clock in the evening Cuban time and when, given its geographical location, night had already fallen in Haiti, television stations began to broadcast the news that a violent earthquake -- measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale--had severely struck Port-au-Prince. The seismic phenomenon originated from a tectonic fault located in the sea just 15 kilometers from the Haitian capital, a city where 80% of the population inhabit fragile homes built of adobe and mud.

The news continued almost without interruption for hours. There was no footage, but it was confirmed that many public buildings, hospitals, schools and more solidly-constructed facilities were reported collapsed. I have read that an earthquake of the magnitude of 7.3 is equivalent to the energy released by an explosion of 400,000 tons of TNT.

Tragic descriptions were transmitted. Wounded people in the streets were crying out for medical help, surrounded by ruins under which their relatives were buried. No one, however, was able to broadcast a single image for several hours.

The news took all of us by surprise. Many of us have frequently heard about hurricanes and severe flooding in Haiti, but were not aware of the fact that this neighboring country ran the risk of a massive earthquake. It has come to light on this occasion that 200 years ago, a massive earthquake similarly affected this city, which would have been the home of just a few thousand inhabitants at that time.

At midnight, there was still no mention of an approximate figure in terms of victims. High-ranking United Nations officials and several heads of government discussed the moving events and announced that they would send emergency brigades to help. Given that MINUSTAH (United Stabilization Mission in Haiti) troops are deployed there-- UN forces from various countries-- some defense ministers were talking about possible casualties among their personnel.

It was only yesterday, Wednesday morning, when the sad news began to arrive of enormous human losses among the population, and even institutions such as the United Nations mentioned that some of their buildings in that country had collapsed, a word that does not say anything in itself but could mean a lot.

For hours, increasingly more traumatic news continued to arrive about the situation in this sister nation. Figures related to the number of fatal victims were discussed, which fluctuated, according to various versions, between 30,000 and 100,000. The images are devastating; it is evident that the catastrophic event has been given widespread coverage around the world, and many governments, sincerely moved by the disaster, are making efforts to cooperate according to their resources.

The tragedy has genuinely moved a significant number of people, particularly those in which that quality is innate. But perhaps very few of them have stopped to consider why Haiti is such a poor country. Why does almost 50% of its population depend on family remittances sent from abroad? Why not analyze the realities that led Haiti to its current situation and this enormous suffering as well?

The most curious aspect of this story is that no one has said a single word to recall the fact that Haiti was the first country in which 400,000 Africans, enslaved and trafficked by Europeans, rose up against 30,000 white slave masters on the sugar and coffee plantations, thus undertaking the first great social revolution in our hemisphere.

Pages of insurmountable glory were written there. Napoleon’s most eminent general was defeated there. Haiti is the net product of colonialism and imperialism, of more than one century of the employment of its human resources in the toughest forms of work, of military interventions and the extraction of its natural resources.

This historic oversight would not be so serious if it were not for the real fact that Haiti constitutes the disgrace of our era, in a world where the exploitation and pillage of the vast majority of the planet’s inhabitants prevails.

Billions of people in Latin American, Africa and Asia are suffering similar shortages although perhaps not to such a degree as in the case of Haiti.

Situations like that of that country should not exist in any part of the planet, where tens of thousands of cities and towns abound in similar or worse conditions, by virtue of an unjust international economic and political order imposed on the world. The world population is not only threatened by natural disasters such as that of Haiti, which is a just a pallid shadow of what could take place in the planet as a result of climate change, which really was the object of ridicule, derision, and deception in Copenhagen.

It is only just to say to all the countries and institutions that have lost citizens or personnel because of the natural disaster in Haiti: we do not doubt that in this case, the greatest effort will be made to save human lives and alleviate the pain of this long-suffering people. We cannot blame them for the natural phenomenon that has taken place there, even if we do not agree with the policy adopted with Haiti.

But I have to express the opinion that it is now time to look for real and lasting solutions for that sister nation.

In the field of healthcare and other areas, Cuba--despite being a poor and blockaded country-- has been cooperating with the Haitian people for many years. Around 400 doctors and healthcare experts are offering their services free of charge to the Haitian people. Our doctors are working every day in 227 of the country’s 337 communes. On the other hand, at least 400 young Haitians have trained as doctors in our homeland. They will now work with the reinforcement brigade which traveled there yesterday to save lives in this critical situation. Thus, without any special effort being made, up to 1,000 doctors and healthcare experts can be mobilized, almost all of whom are already there willing to cooperate with any other state that wishes to save the lives of the Haitian people and rehabilitate the injured.

Another significant number of young Haitians are currently studying medicine in Cuba.

We are also cooperating with the Haitian people in other areas within our reach. However, there can be no other form of cooperation worthy of being described as such than fighting in the field of ideas and political action in order to put an end to the limitless tragedy suffered by a large number of nations such as Haiti.

The head of our medical brigade reported: "The situation is difficult, but we have already started saving lives." He made that statement in a succinct message hours after his arrival yesterday in Port-au-Prince with additional medical reinforcements.

Later that night, he reported that Cuban doctors and ELAM’s Haitian graduates were being deployed throughout the country. They had already seen more than 1,000 patients in Port-au-Prince, immediately establishing and putting into operation a hospital that had not collapsed and using field hospitals where necessary. They were preparing to swiftly set up other centers for emergency care. We feel a wholesome pride for the cooperation that, in these tragic instances, Cuba doctors and young Haitian doctors who trained in Cuba are offering our brothers and sisters in Haiti!

Fidel Castro Ruz January 14, 2009 8:25 p.m. Translated by Granma International

January 15, 2010

Earl Browder, Obama, Republicans And Socialism

Earl Browder gets a bad rap most of the time. He is most often remembered--if he is remembered at all--for his beliefs that communism and capitalism could coexist without contradiction and that a vanguard communist political party of the working class was not necessary in the US. He did a great deal of damage on the left in the mid-1940s. "Browderism" has remained with us as a kind of epithet. If we are honest with ourselves, however, we have to acknowledge Browder's widespread popularity in his day and the good work he did before he "fell off the table" and moved way into the political center of his day. We also have to acknowledge that Browder's thinking never completely disappeared from the left and that it arises now and again. Here is the best article I could find on the internet about Browder--and it is incomplete and rather simplistic.

The following comes from a report Browder made in 1936. I believe that it is still generally relevant if we substitute the present day for "1936," the "tea parties" for "the Liberty League," "Obama" for "Roosevelt," "McCain/Palin" for "Landon" and so on. Beck and Limbaugh are our modern-day Hearsts, or aspire to be. Pat Robertson will do as a modern-day Fr. Coughlin. The demands for universal healthcare have some of the same features of the Townsend movement referred to below. What we are missing here is a "communistic New Deal" (see below) to so arouse the ire of the right, but these forces seem to believe that the Obama administration is a reincarnation of that bygone era.

First, workers are interested, it is not a matter of indifference to them, as to which of two bourgeois parties shall hold power, when one of them is reactionary, desires to wipe out democratic rights and social legislation, while the other in some degree defends these progressive measures achieved under capitalism. Thus, we clearly and sharply differentiate between Landon and Roosevelt, declare that Landon is the chief enemy, direct our main fire against him, do everything possible to shift masses away from voting for him even though we cannot win their votes for the Communist Party, even though the result is that they vote for Roosevelt. This is not an example of the policy of the "lesser evil," which led the German workers to disaster; we specifically and constantly warn against reliance upon Roosevelt, we criticize his surrenders to reaction and the many points in which he fully agrees with reaction; we accept no responsibility for Roosevelt.

Second, while we are not indifferent to the practical result of the election, we cannot support Roosevelt even as a means of defending democratic rights and social legislation which are seriously threatened, because Roosevelt himself is either unwilling or unable to conduct a serious struggle to this end. He is retreating before the attacks of reaction within his own party, as well as from the Republicans...He yields most to reaction when he has the most support from the Left; he fights reaction only to the degree that he thinks necessary to hold labor and progressive forces from backing away. Therefore, even from the narrow viewpoint of using Roosevelt against Landon, it is absolutely necessary to build the independent organization of labor and progressive forces for independent action...

Third, in order to have an alliance with the liberal bourgeoisie against the reactionaries, to preserve democratic rights, it is necessary for the workers and their more permanent allies (farmers and impoverished city middle classes) to have their own independent party, which at the same time prepares and conducts the struggle toward socialism. The two sides of the struggle must be developed together, or both are lost in a swamp of opportunist confusion or a desert of sectarianism...

...Thus, we conclude that the direct issue of the 1936 elections is not socialism or capitalism, but rather democracy or fascism. At the same time we emphasize, and will always emphasize, that a consistent struggle for democracy and progress leads inevitably, and in the not distant future, to the socialist revolution.

This leads us to a concrete phase of utmost importance in the fight to defeat fascism in America, namely, by what means to combat and overcome the influence of the reactionaries among the broad masses. We identify the fascist trend with Wall Street, the Liberty League and the big capitalists; that is absolutely correct. At the same time, these fascist forces, playing upon the most backward instincts and moods among the masses, and even utilizing some of their more positive characteristics, exert tremendous and growing influence precisely among some of the most suffering and desperate strata of the population. Hearst, with his chain of demagogic newspapers, is the classic type. Father Coughlin, with his radio appeals to the common people and his Union for Social Justice, apes closely the technique of Mussolini and Hitler. Huey Long, before his death, was a veritable American Hitler in embryo, with his Share-the-Wealth Clubs and wild demagogy. All appeal to very real grievances among the masses, they touch the sore spots of a suffering population, they rouse popular passions---only to direct them away from the real criminals, the Hearsts, du Ponts, Morgans...against the foreign-born workers, against the Negroes, against "the Reds,"...and now above all they cry out against the "communistic New Deal" and Roosevelt, until the election is over.

One of our sharpest criticisms against Roosevelt is that he has time and again given ammunition to the reactionary demagogues. Today, there is the greatest danger that the Townsend movement for old-age pensions, whose aspiration for security for the aged is socially progressive, may be swung into the most reactionary channel, into support for Landon, precisely because Roosevelt followed up a miserly "security" law by allowing without protest the shameful attack against the old-age pension movement in the Congressional investigation committee. How eagerly Hearst, the Chicago Tribune, the Republicans, sprang forward to comfort Dr. Townsend, and inspire his denunciation of the "communistic dictatorship" in the White House, his slogan "Anyone but Roosevelt" which really means "Nobody but Landon." The fire that puts steam into Father Coughlin's reactionary engine is built of real grievances against Roosevelt, and his retreat in face of that very reaction that Coughlin serves...

...The only way to save these masses from the reactionaries is to go among them with a program of immediate struggle to remedy their grievances now, to show them that the real progressives and revolutionists are the best fighters for their immediate interests...

Two Meetings And 5 Articles: War, Tea Parties, Ukraine, Labor, Healthcare, Gay Rights And Haiti

A couple of us went to see Scarred Land and Wounded Lives last night at the Salem Progressive Film Series held at Salem's Grand Theater. A large crowd turned out to see the film and to hear Peter Bergel (Oregeon Peaceworks), Kelly Campbell (Physicians for Social Responsibility) and Dan Shea (Veterans for Peace) speak.

The film dealt with the environmental and social footprints of wars and was both educational and depressing. Many people sitting around us gasped in shock as the film showed some human and environmental costs of wars and war preparation. The film highlighted the environmental conditions at the Hanford and Umatilla sites so there was much in the film we could all relate to. The speakers all showed slides to drive home the high human, environmental and economic costs of war and war preparations. Peter Bergel's slide show was the most educational and detailed, while Kelly Campbell and Dan Shea had slides which brought the wars and their costs into the immediate and personal realms. The short question and answer period raised some interesting questions but probably did not equip or inspire most people in the audience to increase their activism. It's hard to teach and organize people to resist and then take power.

That said, the evening gets an A+ for being orderly and educational. The recent Schrader and Wyden town halls have been disrupted by the tea party followers when they have intervened to intimidate their opposition. The truth is that people in the center and on the left, whatever our other faults, still generally believe in a reasonable exchange of ideas and education. Our opposition has meanwhile moved into a strategy and tactics of confrontation and disruption. I leave the town halls feeling tense and depressed. I leave our liberal and left events feeling at least somewhat educated, rewarded for my efforts, concerned, resolved to act and (sometimes) depressed.

The film showing last night was followed by a number of news items which have some bearing on what we saw and learned there and at the recent town halls.

Today's issue of The New York Times carries a front page article on the move by some in the tea party movement to seize power within the Republican Party and, eventually, in the US. Leading Republicans are not always happy about this, of course, but in the main this seems to remain their movement for the using. The question we have raised here on our blog--how will the right put the genie back in the bottle when the movement moves too far to the right to suit them?--is being raised in Republican circles as well. Describing the tea party movement, the article notes that "At one extreme are militia members who have shown up at meetings wearing guns and suggesting that institutions like the Federal Reserve be eliminated. At the other are those...who became agitated about the federal stimulus package." We have called for the right to denounce, disinvite and purge the people in their midst who are armed, dangerous and racist. Go here to see a compelling video on this issue.

The lead stories in the press today are about Haiti. The front page of The New York Times today carries an above-the-fold picture of a body in Port-au-Prince and a story about how hopes are fading for people trapped in rubble and otherwise hurt in the earthquake. A comrade pointed out to me that the press now shows dead people more frequently than in the past, but never shows dead Americans. An NPR news anchor essentially asked a former ambassador today if Haiti could or should be saved, and by mid-afternoon the story of Haiti was shifting to discussions about whether or not the country could or should become a UN or US protectorate. I do not remember any natural disaster provoking this kind of heartless discussion in the media previously. Haitian leaders were hurrying to say that Haiti has a government, but their comments were generally being sidelined.

The other lead story in The Times today reported that union leaders, Congressional leaders and the White House have reached an agreement on healthcare which increases the thresholds at which policies will be taxed, separates dental and vision care from the calculations in 2015, exempts state and government workers and collectively bargained health plans from the tax until 2018 and moves the threshold for workers in high risk occupations. Looking at this from a pragmatic point of view, we can commend the union leaders for their good efforts in defending their members' immediate interests and in crafting a deal which may help make unionization more attractive to some workers. Union healthcare plans regulated by the Taft-Hartley provisions have always felt threatened by healthcare legislation because they have often provided a "union edge" which helps union organizing and are often overseen by self-interested joint labor-management bureaucracies. Public workers are at the center of union organizing nationally and have often had to forego salary increases in order to keep whatever healthcare benefits they can. This recent move gets those plans and these workers on board for some kind of healthcare reform. The loss of anticipated tax dollars to fund healthcare is problematic.

Still, it is difficult to not feel sold or sold out at this point. We entered the healthcare fight hoping and working for national healthcare, sacrificed that fight for universal care and have now arrived at the eve of a compromise which could pit a part of the working class which has relatively good healthcare against part of the working class who do not. Defending the relative privileges of part of the working class against the needs of other workers and the entire working class has not built the labor movement over the long haul in the past. Indeed, holding on to our piece of the pie without a militant organizing strategy has weakened us. This is not just a matter of workers being divided, but is also one of labor isolating ourselves and perhaps losing progressive allies who justifiably wanted more and wanted better. AFL-CIO president Trumka and SEIU president Stern are talking tough, so let's hope that they mean it and follow through.

NPR ran a story today about how certain American evangelical pastors intervened in Uganda with an anti-gay agenda and won a hearing at the highest levels of government there. This has led to a situation where homosexuality has been criminalized and may become a capital offense. Some of the American pastors now regret their interference and say they are working behind the scenes against the law. Others are stone cold silent and are apparently able to live with themselves as this tragedy unfolds or develops. One had the nerve to say that interfering in Uganda's affairs now would be a form of condescending colonialism. The Times also ran a story on the Ukrainian elections and mentioned that each of the three leading candidates for the Ukrainian presidency are using highly-placed American political consultants to manage their campaigns. Both situations smack of neo-colonialism and imperialism of the worst kinds.

Finally, two labor items caught press attention today. Someone at a news desk somewhere woke up to the fact that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has only had two working members for the past two years. Republicans are currently blocking appointments which would create a full Board, but the conflict goes back to the point in 2008 when Democratic senators blocked two of President Bush's nominees to the NLRB. Many cases are now headed to the courts and it seems that we're in for a protracted struggle in the courts over their authority to rule and over the decisions they may make. Senator McCain (remember him?) is the bad guy here.

The other labor item to get press attention today is the creation by the AFL-CIO of an online college for union members. This will expand the National Labor College and provide some resources for union members and their families. The emphasis of the effort, it seems, will be on providing the means for career advancement for union members.

NAACP President On Obama's First Year

Sam Webb sent the following:

The Nation asked several leaders their opinion about Obama's first year; this one is worth noting because who he is and represents

Benjamin Jealous
President, NAACP

Barack Obama came to Washington riding a wave of movement activity that had been building for many years. It culminated in his successful insurgent primary battles and presidential campaign. The power of that surge has carried our nation forward on many fronts, including: stemming massive job losses, increasing women's ability to ensure fair treatment in the workplace, rebuilding the Justice Department's ability to protect Americans' basic individual rights and setting the stage for what appears to be the imminent passage of major healthcare reform.

The greatest victory of Obama's first year, in other words, occurred months before it began. It happened when he decided to stitch together the dreams of many stripes of American idealists into one powerful force for change.

The greatest failure of his administration's first year rests in the hands of all of us who are committed to manifesting our nation's dream of liberty and justice for all. In too many instances in the past twelve months we have powered down, left the field for the bleachers and chosen to play armchair pundit rather than continue leading.

Like every great wave, the one that brought change to Washington must be regenerated or it ebbs. More important, our communities' and families' fortunes, which in so many instances were already in perilous condition, will ebb with it. Real change emerges from the collective power of a robust and inspired movement. 2010 must be the year we begin to fight at scale again.

January 14, 2010

Silverton To Mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Silverton People for Peace will show two excellent videos dealing with the African-American experience in Oregon on Monday, January 18 at 7:00 PM.

The presentation will be held at the Rolling Hills Bakery at 106 1st St. in Silverton.

A few of us went last year and thoughtr the event hosted by Silverton People for Peace at the bakery was great.

Be there!

Helping Haiti

From Freedom Road Socialist Organization:

Haiti Emergency Step One: Donations!

Written by Dennis O'Neil

As this is being written, there is no way to tell how bad the catastrophe that has hit Haiti will get. The government there is estimating the earthquake has caused an almost unbelievable 100,000 deaths!

There are important political lessons to be drawn, and already analyses and denunciations of US imperialism's culpability are flooding the left blogosphere. This is well and good--important work--but it is not the main task before us for the next few days.

Millions of folks in this country, and around the world, are filled with horror and sympathy and want to respond. When Katrina hit, people all over took up collections of food and supplies, threw everything in the biggest truck around, popped the clutch and headed towards NOLA. Communities opened their homes to the displaced. That stuff is not so easy to do in Haiti's case and the main thing that people are doing, besides praying, is giving money.

Several charities have set up phone numbers one merely has to dial or text to make an automatic $5 or $10 donation. Oxfam and the Red Cross and other big dogs in what we might call the NGO-industrial complex are spamming and phonebanking like crazy. So are religious charities.

The immediate task for progressives and revolutionaries for the next couple of days is to try and capture some of this flood of resources for the grassroots organizations of the Haitian people (and of course to do some education in the process).

One such group is the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund established by a group of folks in the US who have been doing Haiti solidarity work since 1991, working closely with Haitians to build and support mass-based civic groups on the ground there--unions, peasant cooperatives, schools, women's organizations and more.


From the Quixote Center: see more here.

Also check out the perspectives and work at TransAfrica Forum.

The AFL-CIO suggests that we go to Doctors Without Borders, Partners in Health, Red Cross International Response Fund, RN Response Network, Solidarity Center Education Fund or United Way Worldwide Disaster Fund.

January 13, 2010

Oregon State Worker Salaries

Bill Post is trying to create a scandal where none exists by running a story on his blog about how public workers' salaries are public record. He's trying to put this at the door of the Democrats and taunt state workers with it.

We doubt that many state workers--or many other people, for that matter--will go to a blog called "Bill's Waste Of Air" for their news, and especially so if they arrive there and are taunted. For the record, we have never had any problem finding out what any state worker or state official makes: most libraries carried the information before bills passed in the legislature. Failing that, one can go to the SEIU Local 503 website and find copies of contracts with wage scales. I imagine that most public worker unions do this. If more info is still needed, the FOIA has existed long before legislation passed and Bill Post was wasting precious air.

What all of this information does not show is the tremendous struggles public workers have had to engage in to get what little they have and the depressive impact of high healthcare costs and furlough days on state worker wages and other benefits. That's a hidden detail and Bill Post is one of the last people who can reasonably and truthfully explain it. People on his side of the political spectrum tend to skip over these hidden facts and go right to the sucker punch line: public workers may get more than you do, so let's cut what they have.

If public worker salary information were not publicly and readily available, Post & Co. would be filing FOIA requests and waving copies of the Constitution without stop 'til they got it. The Oregonian and other media outlets made hay out of this last year.

One last salient point. Much of the SEIU Local 503 state worker union contract deals with a grievance procedure and layoff language that often times confuses people and doesn't work in every case. This is not the union's fault or responsibility: the state will simply not give in without a strike over issues of union and worker power (like grievance procedures and better layoff language) and too few state workers have been willing to strike since 1997. Many workers would trade a great deal to be able to win grievances and expand what the grievance procedures cover and also win real job security that properly values seniority. A look at the salaries that people make tells less than half of the story.

Religion In The Service Of Imperialism

Religious Right Leader says Haiti "swore a pact to the devil"--From People For the American Way

People For the American Way President Michael B. Keegan today condemned a statement made by Religious Right leader Pat Robertson, who said that the nation of Haiti has been cursed ever since it "swore a pact to the Devil."

In discussing the earthquake, which the UN says has killed thousands of people, Robertson said:

And you know Kristi, something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French, uh you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the Devil. They said we will serve you if you'll get us free from the French. True Story. And so the Devil said "OK, it's a deal." And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor. That island is Hispaniola is one island. It's cut down the middle. On one side is Haiti, on the other side is the Dominican republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc.. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. Uh, they need to have, and we need to pray for them, a great turning to God and out of this tragedy. I'm optimistic something good may come.

Michael B. Keegan, president of People For the American Way, issued the following statement:

"Pat Robertson's comments about the victims of this earthquake are reprehensible.; Unfortunately, they fit right in with his history of mean spirited attacks accusing his opponents of causing natural disasters and terrorism.; To blame the victims of this disaster for what they've been through is appalling.; Regrettably, Pat Robertson can't be written off as an eccentric aberration of the right-wing-he's still a leading figure in the conservative movement.;

"At a time when our attention should be focused on helping the victims of this disaster, Robertson's comments are beyond the pale."

Call Today For Healthcare Reform

Today is the AFL-CIO National Call-In Blitz for health care reform. THe AFL-CIO says to tell your U.S. representative: Don't tax our health care benefits, make employers pay their fair share and cut costs with a public health insurance option. Call 1-877-3-AFLCIO (1-877-323-5246) toll free now!

WE say: call with any progressive demand for healthcare and have a serious conversation with the person you're talking to about the issues.

Whatever you do--make the call and give credit to the AFL-CIO mobilization on healthcare when you do!

William Z. Foster--Yesterday And Today

William Z. Foster was one of the early mainstays of the US communist movement. His work helped give that movement much of its shape and content and imprinted the movement with a class struggle content. Few people think about or discuss Foster's work and writing today, which is a shame because he left us with quite a legacy and a number of books which still make for good or provocative reading. I just finished his From Bryan To Stalin. Read more about Foster here.

Some of Foster's writing can be used creatively. The following passages from From Bryan To Stalin rings especially true and can be updated by excising the old names and replacing them with current names, and especially so in light of the recent economic crisis, the tea party movement, the Obama administration and changes underway in both the Republican and Democratic parties:

The heart of the fascist danger resides in the fact that there are millions of impoverished, discontented and confused workers, farmers, professionals, etc., mostly unorganized and leaderless. Finance capital, by means of false promises, illusory programs, and downright terrorism, seeks to put its agents at the head of these rebellious masses and thus to turn their very disaffection and demand for improved conditions into the most powerful weapon in the service of reaction and fascism. The essence of fascist strategy is to draw its indispensable forces from those very social strata that should be its deadliest enemies.

In the 1936 elections we witnessed the first real mobilization of the forces of incipient American fascism. The vast bulk of finance capital, the basic source of fascist trends, was represented directly by the Republican Party and the Liberty League, and was united behind Landon. It was determined to beat Roosevelt at any cost, and Landon's campaign of synthetic liberalism, by obscuring the true reactionary program of the capitalists, approached fascist demagogy...

The big capitalists freely support the Democratic Party in many places...where it serves their local needs; but on a national scale they opposed Roosevelt, because to them he typifies that traditional American liberalism which they intend to destroy and to replace by a ruthless domination over the masses...The great financial interests feared that in order to extricate themselves from a difficult situation it was absolutely necessary to temporarily adopt some such program as Roosevelt proposed. But at all times the capitalist oligarchs looked very much askance at Roosevelt's toleration of trade unionism and his partial relief for the unemployed, the farmers, the small bank depositors, small home-owners, etc...

Under this heavy fire Roosevelt has steadily retreated to the right. He had made concession after concession to Wall Street...But the pressure of the masses against such action on his part has been very great, and Roosevelt's rightward course is not sufficiently fast or decisive to suit the great financial interests. They are determined to make a clean sweep of the civil rights and living standards of the masses. In the stormy days ahead they foresee an urgent need for drastic repressive measures to control the rebellious masses and Landon is the man they had chosen for their present-day leader in this job of mass impoverishment and enslavement. Roosevelt is no real barrier to fascism, and Landon was the chief political standard-bearer...A victory for Landon, while it would not immediately have ushered in fascism, would have stimulated and facilitated its growth.

It was a sinister indication when the Republican Party, the party of capitalist reaction, had to abandon its traditional policy of placing as its candidates avowed reactionaries and to select a figure, Landon, that would give it a pretense of liberalism. Such a maneuver was in itself highly demagogic and it smacked of the usual fascist strategy...

Fascism does not solve the basic capitalist contradictions, but instead greatly intensifies them.

If we substitute "tea party movement" for "Liberty League," "2009" for "1936," "McCain/Palin" for "Landon" and "Obama/Biden" for "Roosevelt" we have the very beginnings of a rough analysis of what's going on today.

January 12, 2010

Making Us Panic--H1N1 And The Media, Class & Rewriting History

Many people no doubt turn away from reading or watching news reports because the news itself is often so bad and because the bad news is delivered in ways which don't help us think and which disempower us. This often seems true across the political spectrum of news media. The more often we read or watch the news alone, moreover, the less empowered we are. Having a discussion group to discuss events helps me to get a handle on things, even when--or especially when--it flies in the face of the direction of modern capitalist technology, which seems intent upon isolating the individual. Socialist Yugoslavia and socialist Cuba made major strides in collective discussion and the study of social problems. We can learn and adopt much from their examples.

Closely related to this are stories and events which I increasingly believe are edited into the news to make people panic en masse while experiencing fright or terror as individuals.

The president of the Council of Europe’s Health Commission, German Wolfgang Wodarg, has accused pharmaceutical lobbies and governments of waging a campaign of panic around the H1N1 virus. Read about it here.

The US media seems to jump through hoops while trying to convince us that class and class relations either don't matter at all or are mediated by a democratic society in which everyone can succeed and have enough if we put our minds and bodies to honest work. When the system breaks down, then, we look upon our looming poverty as something which is our fault. Read another version of reality here.

The media, in league with the right wing, rewrites history in ways which diminish the roles played by "ordinary people" in making history. Read something about that here.

The alternative message is this: don't panic, study social questions with others, understand the system and build your faith in the collective ability of "ordinary people" to change the world.

Salem Progressive Film Series--Thursday Night

Salem Progressive Films

Thursday, Jan 14--7:00 pm

DESCRIPTION: In all it's stages, from the production of weapons through combat, to clean up and restoration, war entails actions that pollute land, air and water, destroy biodiversity, and drain natural resources. If we cannot eliminate war, we can at least require a fuller accounting of war's costs and consequences, and demand that destructive forces used in our name leave a lighter footprint on this highly vulernable planet.

Guest speakers include:
Peter Bergel, Executive Director of Oregon PeaceWorks
Kelly Campbell, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Respsonsibility
Dan Shea, Vietnam Vet, Agent Orange Victim, Veterans for Peace

Held at the Grand Theater
191 High St NE
Corner of Court and High streets

For more information: www.salemprogressivefilms.net 503-588-8713 or 503-779-5288

"Rethink Afghanistan" to show in Portland on Thursday

Film Screening: Rethink Afghanistan

Thursday, Jan 14--7:00 pm

National Lawyers Guild Portland Chapter

MORE INFO: http://portlandnlg.org


RETHINK AFGHANISTAN--A Brave New Films Production


Followed by a conversation with Director Robert Greenwald

JANUARY 14, 2010
7:00 p.m.
Clinton Street Theater
SE 26th and Clinton


We looked into the future and the problem is us--Sam Webb

Last year at this time, tens of millions had high hopes for 2009. Americans had just elected the first African American president, whose campaign message, "Change We Can Believe In," heralded a new direction for the country - more decent, more peaceful, more just.

A year later, many of those hopes are still unfulfilled. The "Change We Can Believe In" has not yet materialized for many. How do we explain the slow pace of change? For many progressive and left people the answer, the problem, is Barack Obama.

Read more here.

January 8, 2010

Abusing Human Rights--From ZZ's Blog

The doctrine of human rights, as we know it - an invention of the era of liberation from feudal tyrannies - reached its apogee with the adoption of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948, a declaration that expanded the classical notion of individual, personal, and formal rights to include a measure of social and economic rights. The debates over this declaration, occurring with the onset of the Cold War and largely obscured by the sharp ideological divisions of the time, highlighted the limitations of existing rights doctrines in addressing the socio-economic concerns that emerged with the maturation of capitalism. For most of the world’s people, the individual rights spawned by liberation from absolute, tyrannical rule were fine, but irrelevant to the conditions of desperate poverty, homelessness, insecurity, and social neglect spawned by an exploitive capitalist system and its destructive wars. For most of the world’s people, social and collective rights were at least as important as individual rights. For most of the world’s people, rights to the material means of survival, security, and welfare were at least as important as rights to act without restraint.

Read more here.

US Trade Unionists Try To Visit Cuba

Bill Preston and Carl Gentile organized a U.S. Trade Union Research Delegation that will visit Cuba on January 10-17, 2010. The Delegation’s research on trade unions in Cuba will be facilitated by the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC), the Workers’ Central Union of Cuba, the country’s national labor federation. Bill and Carl organized a diverse group of full-time labor activists who are elected officials and staffers with AFL-CIO and Change to Win affiliated unions. They built unity among Left and Center forces around demands to end the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba, end the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba, and establish normal diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba. Bill and Carl are now working to develop the Delegation’s awareness of the importance and urgency of the additional demand to free the Cuban Five.

On December 9, 2009, the Delegation received word through a third party that “former AFL-CIO president Thomas Donahue” wished to meet with the Delegation. Thomas Donahue is not a legitimate labor leader, for reasons Bill and Carl explain below. Their document describes Donahue’s deep, long-term involvement with counter-revolutionary activities promoted by the CIA and neoconservatives. It also explains why the so-called “dissident trade unionists” in Cuba promoted by Donahue here in the U.S. are not even in fact trade unionists in any real sense of the concept. This document communicates a debate challenge to Thomas Donahue from Chris Townsend of the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE). Donahue so far has failed to reply at all to this debate challenge, which the authors forwarded on Dec. 21, 2009 along with this document to a person able to contact Donahue.

Read more here.

A Great Documentary On The Tea Party Movement, The Minutemen & The Nazis

Click here to see a short piece Al Jazeera ran on the tea party movement, the anti-immigrant groups and the nazis. Will the leaders of the tea party movement publicly disavow the Ku Klux Klan and nazi forces within their movement and purge them or not?

January 7, 2010

The KKK in Oregon: 1920-1923

An Oregon-made film about the KKK in Oregon has been showing around the region and we will have an opportunity to see it in Salem this month on January 20, 2010.

The Skanner's article last October had this information about the film:

The documentary tells how the group promoted its racial and religious agenda from Tillamook to La Grande, reaching about 5,000 members.

The film covers the group’s demise, the aftermath and reasons why it could not maintain its leadership and power over local businesses and politics. For instance, in the early 1920s certain members of the Klan, called Kleagles, were dispatched to all states in the Union to drum up support for the organization outside of its stronghold in the South. What Klan organizers found when the Kleagles arrived in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest were near perfect social conditions to recruit, especially when an atmosphere of nativist feelings engulfed the nation after World War I.

Powerful movie clips, interviews and photos culled from local, state and national archives also are included in the 60-minute film.

“The Klan was very influential here as a political power,” (filmmaker) Coulter said. “They were able to place many of their members in local government around the state and sponsored several statewide measures against minorities and certain religions. Many viewers will be surprised to learn how large and active they were as a group.”

7 PM
Salem Public Library, Loucks Auditorium
585 Liberty St SE

After the screening there will be a discussion lead by four panelists: the film director, a Salem historian, and two community members.

January 6, 2010

Congressman Schrader does Salem (January 6th)

This was one of those "townhall meetings".

This was a terrible meeting.

This townhall happened at the Louck Auditorium at the Salem Library. The format was pretty basic; questions were taken by lottery for an hour and a half. About 300 people showed up for this meeting. Unfortunately for the meeting, as well as the future, about half the attendees were extreme right Tea Baggers, who effectively controlled the agenda.

So, for an hour and a half, I watched Representative Kurt Schrader, nice guy, a committed centerist, a Democrat, dance to a barrage of right wing insults, sloganeering and hollering. This was not pretty...

As I see it, there's no point in doing a town hall blow-by-blow narration with this meeting. On the other hand, there were some themes that came forward which might be worth talking about.

First, this meeting was a demonstration of the ineffectiveness and inability of the political Center to govern. Kurt Schrader is a centerist and has a lot in common with the politics of the Obama Administration. Ideologically, these are the folks who are proceeding down a line which says that the current economic crisis (and this meeting was 100% about economics) can be solved by passing new regulations and appealing to the capitalist class to be nice and act socially responsible. In this sense, Schrader talked a bit about legislation to free up credit to keep small businesses afloat (a good thing) and the need for a finance bill which specifically limits the overlap investment banking and commercial banking (also good).

But this was as far as Schrader got. The rest of the meeting was a trip through Tea-Bagger ideology at the expense of Congressman Schrader and his reputation (these people are not nice).

In this insulting fashion, Schrader was yelled at in terms of the deficit. The Constitution was sited ad nauseum in an argument aimed at blocking health care legislation. Hostility towards immigrants was clear, and everybody experiencing hard times is a "loafer". Out of an hour and half, this content took up at least an hour.

The relevance of all of this is is this: The fulcrum of the national debate is now clearly somewhere between a weak centerism on one hand and an extreme right on the other. This was the scene in Salem on January 6; this is where things evidently are at in Washington D.C. as well.

The placement of this unfortunate fulcrum is largely the result of the centerists here and in D.C. People favoring real health care reform, who are concerned about jobs and what's happening on Main Street, who want real change; these people were not present last night. Why? They are demoralized, confused and feeling betrayed. What these people have seen in the last year is not what they thought they were voting for in November 2008. Betrayal is in the air and in this country, betrayal means staying at home and hiding... And in the meanwhile, it's the Tea-Baggers filling the void.