October 28, 2010

Corvallis event: Celebration of Palestinian culture and fundraiser

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

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

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

Check our website for updates and more information.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information contact valori@peak.org.

Download flier here.

October 27, 2010

In Praise of Nestor Kirchner

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

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

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

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

October 19, 2010

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

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

Date: 2010-10-21

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

Organization: Portland Central American Solidarity Committee PCASC

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

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

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

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

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

Background from press release below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why the persistent high levels of unemployment?

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

In a recession businesses downsize and create unemployment.

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

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

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

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

A No Growth Economy

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

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

When will this end?

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what can be done?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 15, 2010

Thoughts on Recent European Events

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

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

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

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

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

Class War:

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

End of the Rhine Model:

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

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

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

Which Way Will it Go?

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

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

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

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

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

5. What do you think?

October 12, 2010

Riots In Belgrade--Clinton Whistles Past The Graveyard

The great Serbian novelist Milorad Pavic once remarked that Serbs always forget but never forgive.

Something of this attitude played out last Sunday as approximately 6000 demonstrators took to the streets in Belgrade, called into the streets by the ultra-right allegedly to protest and stop the Belgrade Pride parade. The last Pride event in Belgrade was many years ago and was broken up by fascist thugs who attacked Pride participants while the police looked on and hardly interfered. In the intervening years Serbian laws have been put in place with certain guarantees for human rights, but these changes have come in response to western pressure and have been crafted by politicians who show little real interest in human rights. They also came into being as Serbia was isolated internationally and then threatened with dismemberment. Kosovo has been taken from Serbia with little regard given to most standards of international law, the Serbian Republic enclave cannot develop politically or economically on its own terms and growing Turkish influence in parts of Serbia and Bosnia often seems to deliberately threaten Serbian stability. Toxic sludge from Hungary is showing up in Serbian waters. Inflation is running at about 8 per cent. There is much happening in Serbia which might cause people to panic or become frustrated.

The 6000 protesters were met in the streets by about 5600 Serbian police who protected less than a handful of Pride participants. Many of the police were poorly prepared for the fighting that followed. At the end of the day more than 150 people were injured, most of them police, and at least 240 people were arrested. The rioters attacked the Pride event, the Democratic Party offices, offices of the Socialist Party and the Liberal Democrats, RTS (national television), the Belgrade mosque, a number of embassies and many businesses. Serbian Orthodox Church involvement in the demonstrations and the involvement of established ultra-right groups was evident from the beginning of the demonstrations. Decentralized groups of hooligans and fascists appeared with professionally printed obscene signs and Molotov cocktails and fought police forces in coordinated running skirmishes throughout downtown Belgrade. It is rumored that these forces either sought to overthrow the government with a coup or are setting the stage for a future coup attempt. These rumors are so credible that the government has responded with a strong statement that it will resist being overthrown. The intelligence services have weighed in by stating that the Serbian state is secure.

Did the demonstrators really care so much about the few Pride participants and what they represent or is there more at stake? Clearly the right was able to mobilize anti-gay sentiment and did so with the help of some in the leadership of the Serbian Orthodox Church. But the right was also able to capitalize on other hatreds and fears as well and on the despair so many in Serbia feel as their country further divides and as living conditions continue to deteriorate for most Serbs.

Echoes and aftershocks of last Sunday's events have been felt in Parliament as certain far-right politicians seek to justify or excuse the violence and as others call for the legal banning of far-right organizations. Many of the parliamentarians who are seeking to justify the violence are at the same time questioning why the government sent in police forces who were not properly prepared for the confrontations. This allows them to opportunistically play to both sides of the issue and posture as the forces of disorder and order in the same moment. They also claim that the organizers of the Pride event are a collection of expatriates and NGOs, charges which make little sense to those outside of Serbia but which are potentially loaded and explosive within the country. A group of Serbian futbol fans also violently disrupted a futbol match in Genoa today.

Some points bear repeating: the Serbian government has been forced to defend people---gays and their supporters--who they do not care about; they have had to do so as a result of laws passed under western pressure and with the hope that Serbia might have a few crumbs from the tables of the world powers; the under-equipped Serbian police were cynically used and perhaps deliberately put in a tough position by some of these politicians; Serbia has received very little from the west for its structural and legal adjustments; the dismemberment of Serbia and what was Yugoslavia continues; the Serbian far-right represents a threat not just to human rights in Serbia in the immediate sense, but also to whatever is left of civil society in the Balkans; and this may well have been a coup attempt, or may lead to a coup in the not-so-distant future.

Serbs have not forgiven the west for the aggression launched against it and for having caused the breakup and dismemberment of Yugoslavia. What they have forgotten is that this was the project of an international far-right in alliance with neo-liberal economic forces and governments. This project could not have been accomplished without a worldwide push for capitalist hegemony and without the cooperation of certain Serbian far-right forces. Gays do not figure into the equation.

Hillary Clinton showed up in Bosnia and Serbia today to lecture people in both countries about what they must do next in order to enter the EU and civilized western Europe. She insisted once more that the Balkans must be remade in the image of the west and seemed deaf, dumb and blind to the disastrous results of such pressure so far. Some spokespeople for NGOs showed some unfortunate and badly misguided enthusiasm for her remarks. This raises other questions--were the riots possibly planned or provoked in order help or hurt the Obama/Clinton plan for the Balkans? Do they provide--or will they provide--a pretext or basis for the "shock and awe" and economic-political shock therapy needed to either remake the Balkans in the image of the west or drive it backwards?

October 11, 2010

A thoughtful analysis of the One Nation March

The following looks back at the One Nation March on October 2nd. It is written by Bill Onasch who is a longtime union activist and advocate for the need for a Labor Party in the United States:

October 3, 2010

Worker March Meets Liberal Rally

Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the trip to our nation’s capital to join in the One Nation march and rally. I did watch parts of the event on CSPAN, and I’ve read most major news accounts. The role of unions was so evident the New York Times sent their labor reporter, Steven Greenhouse, to cover the demonstration.

Clearly, it was big. The organizers claim 175,000–but numbers are always tricky. It definitely wasn’t as big as the huge Solidarity Day action summoned by the AFL-CIO in response to Reagan’s destruction of PATCO in 1981 but it wasn’t a bad effort by a rusty, weakened labor movement that rarely gets involved in such mass action tactics.

Whether they came as part of union mobilizations, or through contingents organized by civil rights, immigrant rights, environmental and antiwar groups, the crowd was obviously overwhelmingly working class in composition. Unlike recent shows staged by the cracked tea pots, the color and gender diversity of our class was displayed. They were there to demand action on war, human rights, the environment–and, above all, jobs.

The organizers countered Glenn Beck by using Ed Schultz, the host of MSNBC's "The Ed Show", as one of the masters of ceremony. Ed managed to demonstrate history is no more his strong suit than his Fox rival. “They (Beck/Tea Party) talk about the forefathers, but they practice discrimination. They want to change this country.”

I’ve got some not-so-late-breaking-news for Ed. Our “forefathers” included slave owners; the most important task they assigned to a woman was Betsy Ross sewing a flag; The Declaration of Independence refers to “merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” The first Constitution they submitted was silent on democracy. It was only a credible threat of armed rebellion by farmers and workers that forced the hasty addition of ten amendments--that became known as the Bill of Rights.

Discrimination is not a recent development that can be blamed on the Big T. Along with occasional campaigns of ethnic cleansing, racism, sexism, and homophobia have been a part of the American Experience since the “forefathers” started the expansion from sea to shining sea by taking other people’s land. I digress, but falsification of our own history is a hot button with me. It is indeed one reason we keep reliving the same disasters.

The President spent the weekend at Camp David. Congress recessed to go campaigning shortly before the march. One that stuck around to speak was Chicago Democrat Rep. Luis Gutierrez who gave his pitch for immigration reform–which is highly controversial within the immigrant rights movement.

Most rally speakers did speak in favor of peace, justice, and jobs, jobs, jobs. One was Bob King, President of the UAW which mobilized 5,000 members for the march:
“We believe that by working together we can build abundance to lift up everyone. We can’t do that through divisiveness. We believe that we have to rebuild a social movement in America.”

If the “we” meant the working class and our allies, I would heartily endorse this statement. But for King "we" includes the auto bosses and the party presently in power in Washington in a “social movement.

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka was more explicitly goal-oriented, “promise that you'll make your voices heard, for good jobs and justice and education today and on Election Day.” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry helpfully reminded, “October Second is about November Second [election day].”

While no platform speakers as far as I know differed from this pitch hustling votes for the party in power the organizers did not exclude groups with other perspectives from endorsing or participating. To their credit, they stood up to Glenn Beck’s red baiting of a sponsors list that included organizations such as the Communist Party and International Socialist Organization. NAACP President Ben Jealous, one of the initiators of the action said, “This is a big tent. Anyone who wants to stand up to create jobs and defend the jobs of teachers, police officers, nurses, firefighters — I say come on and join us.”

The march gave a hint of the potential of our unions and allies to mobilize power in the streets. But the rally failed to focus this power on needed ongoing tasks. Nor did it for the most part help clear away the Establishment propaganda and educate angry workers about the real causes of our present crises–much less offer a working class program to resolve them.