September 30, 2011


So far the most experienced agitators and organizers have been missing (in large numbers) from Zucotti Park. But the large network of traditional Labor and community organizing groups are a coming!!

They are planning a demonstration on Wednesday. Mobilizing for the upcoming action is the United Federation Of Teachers, 32BJ SEIU, 1199 SEIU (the largest Union Local in the country), Workers United, Transport Workers Union 100. Very often these Unions lend their names to progressive actions but the actual numbers who show up are few because the Unions doesn't promote it and get the word out to the rank and file. Wednesday may be very different.

In the announcement of their action they made it clear to all those who have been involved with the actions for the last couple of weeks, that they are not coming to control anything, they are coming to add to it. As they said, "It is the right fight, at the right time and we want to be a part of it". Let's hope the power of the Union is exhibited to the younger generation in a massive outpouring in New York City on Wednesday!!

Labor Breaks With The Democrats? Additional Thoughts

Ethnicguy's post of September 27, "Labor Breaks With The Democrats", touches on some very timely issues within the American labor movement and within the broader spectrum of American progressive politics.

I agree with some of Ethnicguy's conclusions, disagree or would differently nuance some of the other conclusions, but mostly Ethnicguy's post lead me to some further thinking.

I'd like to start with Ethnicguy's 3rd from last paragraph:

".... In any event, absent from this discussion is any truly independent role for labor in politics. A break with the Democrats under these conditions could mean an opportunistic move to the right by segments of the labor movement. And under those conditions, it seems to me, it is important for people on the left to work to hold the line against opportunism in the labor movement. Now is not the time to talk about elections-based third parties (except in states with fusion voting) or to pose too much criticism or aim too much fire at the Obama administration. Rather, now is the time to direct the criticism and attack the right directly from within the labor movement."

Opportunism in the labor movement?

Let's face it -- for most of its history the American labor movement has rested comfortably on a foundation of opportunism. Opportunism is what American labor is about. "Punish your friends and reward your enemies" is the basic operational mantra and only core principle of American labor.

This principle was recently re-stated by an anonymous union president who said, "better to be at the table and receive nothing than not to be at the table at all." It never occurs to such union leaders that organized workers could run the kitchen; such thoughts would interfere with the main goal of rubbing shoulders with American capital's mighty and powerful.

With a few very important historical exceptions, American labor has stood only for its institutional survival and narrow prosperity. It has eschewed any notion of representing the American working class and its strategies have relied proudly on collaborating with capital in the narrow interests of furthering the goals of individual unions, their leaders and members -- regardless of the consequences.

Unfortunately, it is this opportunistic mindset that seems to be governing labor's intensification of its political program. Key will be the same reliance on rewarding friends and punishing enemies. And the results will inevitably include backing a couple Republican candidates by a few unions. This intensification will also result in backing lots of the same candidates as before with unions stepping out to do home visits to the unrepresented 90% of American workers, all aimed at securing labor's invitation to the proverbial table yet again delivering nothing to American workers.

That the above is what is likely to come out of labor's intensified political program is virtually guaranteed by labor's refusal to adopt an independent political agenda. And practically speaking, without an independent agenda it will be very hard for labor to have the kind of electoral impact it wants.

Here the problem is simply that the American political process has lost all credibility for working folk, for obvious reasons.

Obama and lightening up on the criticism

I disagree with Ethnicguy regarding the need to circumscribe criticism of the Democrats and the Obama Administration. Labor and all of us need to keep the critical focus on the Democrats. The way I figure it, Obama's recent tendency to push back against the Republicans is almost exclusively due to the criticisms he has received from the progressive end of the political spectrum.

Theoretically, criticism aimed at the Obama Administration and Democratic policy could help move the Democrats toward some kind of relevancy for working people as November 2012 approaches.

Interestingly, labor is not where a lot of this progressive criticism has come from. This is because labor has no principles, agenda, or anything of substance to say to working people. To my mind, labor needs to ratchet up its criticism of the Democrats -- not with threats of bolting the party or staying  home on election day -- but with concrete and substantive analysis. This should include meaningful alternatives and options.

Third Party?

At this point in time, a meaningful third party is pure fantasy. The broad progressive left, including labor, has no analysis or agenda on which to build a third party. A third party dedicated to nothing more than punishing Obama and the Democrats might feel good emotionally but the effect would most likely be to deliver the nation to an extremely authoritarian right wing.

Avoiding Movement Building

American labor is a movement without a mission. Traditional union functions have been abandoned. The abandonment of these functions began when American unions did little more than watch and whine as their guts were carved out through the de-industrialization of the 1980s. Through this period, shop floors were abandoned and strikes -- that primary tool of organized workers -- were as rare as hen's teeth -- in spite of a number of opportunities where an effective strike could have won the day.

The results of this trend within labor has been the loss of any large scale impact on working class economics and the absence of unions in the day-to-day life of working people.

Labor's fixation on the political as the highest priority during the last three decades, and the way in which labor sees its political role, is the obvious consequence of its failure to be a labor movement. The emphasis on the political is not so much due to the potential gains for working people in the political arena as much as something for international union leaders to do in order to justify their otherwise irrelevant existences.

Where I'm going with all of this

The aim of progressives -- and labor progressives in particular -- is to build a movement. "Movement" means collective action, based on solidarity, with certain self-developed goals to be achieved. I see none of this in labor's current political discussion.

Likewise, the broad progressive spectrum in America needs to give up on its demand for the perfect messiah type leader and instead move on its principles through collective action.


Saturday, October 15, 2011, 1:00pm
10 Years in Afghanistan: End the Wars-Bring Our $$ Home


Event to tie the economy to America's ongoing wars
Rally at 1 PM in Shemanski Park (South Park Blocks at Salmon St), and a march at 1:30 PM will bring participants to the First Unitarian Church for a 2:30 PM forum.

Speakers at the rally and forum will address these topics:
--Self Determination for the Middle East?--End Militarism?--Money for Jobs and Health Care?--Protect Human and Civil Rights
The forum speakers will be PSU sociology professor Veronica Dujon, Lewis and Clark College economics professor Martin Hart-Landsberg, and executive director of the national Bill of Rights Defense Committee Shahid Buttar.
October 15 has also been picked as a day of national action by the United National Antiwar campaign (

Cosponsors of the Portland event include Peace and Justice Works Iraq Affinity Group, Portland Peaceful Response Coalition, the Peace Action Committee of the First Unitarian Church, Alliance for Democracy-Portland Chapter, Metanoia Peace Community, East Timor Action Network/Portland, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, International Socialist Organization , Portland Jobs with Justice, KBOO Community Radio 90.7 FM (media cosponsor), Women's International League for Peace and Freedom-Portland, Tikkun Olam committee of P'nai Or, Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights (AUPHR), Augustana Lutheran Church, and Portland Area Rethinking Schools.

Endorsers include Recruiter Watch PDX, Little Light of Mine Friends Worship Group, Jewish Voice for Peace-Portland, Freedom Socialist Party, Women in Black-Portland, Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER), Portland Alliance (media endorser), No War Drum Corps, Oregon Wildlife Federation, and Back 2 the WALL.

For more information or for your organization to get involved, contact Peace and Justice Works at 503-236-3065.


Sunday, October 2, 2011, 5:00 to 7:00pm
TaborSpace 5441 SE Belmont, Portland

Washington and Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility Health Delegation to Gaza

On October 18, health-care workers from WA and OR will be going to Gaza. Maxine Fookson, Nurse Practitioner from Portland, will be a member of this group.

We invite you to a fundraiser to purchase health care supplies requested by Gaza health centers.

~Delicious Middle Eastern food

~Socialize with friends

~Learn about health issues in Gaza

Please join us and spread the word... Maxine Fookson and Ned Rosch

Tax deductible donations to buy medicine and supplies for this trip may be made by sending a check to:
Oregon PSR (Physicians for Social Responsibility)
812 SW Washington Street, Suite 1050
Portland, Oregon 97205
write "Gaza" on memo line.

September 29, 2011


The Socialist Popular Alliance Party is the first leftist party to submit formal notification to the Parties Committee. On Wednesday members marched into Tahrir Square playing Hasabla music in celebration of collecting 6,000 membership notifications (5,000 minimum needed) from 26 different jurisdictions. This qualifies them to apply for official status. They are the first leftist party to reach the required numbers. They now wait for final approval.

Members marched with their party banner including, "Workers, Peasants, Artisan Employees, Students, Professionals and Intellectuals". They entered the square chanting, "Down With Military Rule" and "We Demand Social Justice". Saad Hosni, a peasant from Aswan and member of this new party, "I am here singing and dancing because we are working for the rights of the poor".

They are against reactionary Military Law and demand a timetable for the transitional process. They want a secular state and an immediate end of military trials of civilians. The first party to be approved was the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Freedom And Peace Party. Other leftist parties still seeking required memberships are Democratic Workers Party, Communist Party and the Socialist Party.

The Fight At Jeld-Wen For Workers' Rights

From the Building and Wood Worker's International:

Union members at Jeld-Wen sites across Australia remain in dispute with their employer after more than three weeks of protests and stalled negotiations including a period in which they were locked out of their workplace.

Building on the ongoing web based campaign against Jeld-Wen here , at the BWI Regional Conference, in Seoul on September 21, 2011, affiliates throughout the region expressed their solidarity to CFMEU members during their struggle. In addition, individual unions, such as KAHUTINDO from Indonesia, directly expressed their support for the union’s cause.

Jeld-Wen, a multinational company from the USA, has continued to offer a cut in the workers’ real-wages during negotiations, even going so far as to insult union members by submitting a revised wage offer, increasing their previous offer by $1.70 AU per week - half the cost of a cup of coffee in Australia.

Jeld-Wen must begin engaging in good-faith bargaining with the union and listen to the needs of their loyal and dedicated workers.

BWI will continue to monitor the situation.

September 28, 2011

Stand up for Longview SEPT 29

Stand up for Longview - Solidarity in our Community Night

Civic Circle - downtown Longview, WA by the Post Office
Thursday, Sept. 29th, 5:30pm

Dear Friends,

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 21 in Longview, Washington is waging a heroic battle to stop international conglomerate EGT Development from breaking a longstanding master agreement the ILWU has at the Port of Longview's publicly subsidized grain terminal.

As of Monday, about 135 longshore workers and supporters have been detained and/or arrested, including International Pres. Robert McEllrath and Local 21 President Dan Coffman. On Sat. Sept., 24 the ILWU organized informational picketing to protest police violence against ILWU members and the ILWU Ladies Auxillary who have been brutalized by the police while trying to stop grain shipments and stand up for their jobs and livelihoods against EGT's unionbusting.

Now we have the opportunity to show that all of us in the Northwest stand 100 percent with the ILWU Local 21! We hope this is the first of many Labor/community support rallies defending everyone's rights to organize on the job.

Please also help spread the word about the solidarity night -- tell your friends, unions, family and co-workers and community groups! Let's send EGT a loud message that unionbusters are not welcome in Washington State!

Occupy Portland

Thursday, October 6 at 12:00pm
Location: Portland Waterfront and Pioneer Courthouse Square


protests around the globe

There's an article titled "Protests Rise Around the Globe as Faith in the Vote Wanes," starting on the front page of this morning's New York Times (paper far too often of ill repute) that is quite interesting. It details protests by young people (20s and 30s) in many countries, including Spain, India, Wall Street (well, not quite a country), Greece, and Israel--protests sparked by the so-called Arab Spring (which is hardly over) and against ruling elites and their "democracies." Economic pain and problems are at the root of these protests (which have much of the character of the internet) but many other issues are boiling in the mix. Their politics are anarchist or populist at best, often leftwing democratic, but the protests are committed, mostly large, and international--which should perk up any red--and involve a stew of ideas and movements on the left. The street protests by young people in Israel against their far right wing ruling elite are promising. They all deserve attention and support, even imitation. (It goes without saying that the NY Times has its own often enough depressing or infuriating ideology.)
I think that achieving a better world depends on development of a global human subject (I borrow the term from Theodor Adorno), not on a vanguard party, a process that races against the world-wide destructive thrust of global capital (global warming and exploitation, environmental destruction, endless war, vast injustice and prison systems, etc.). Protests like those in the Middle East and now increasingly in Europe and Israel, and the ongoing protests and revolutionary actions in India and Nepal, Venezuela, among others, are local/regional but also international. The global human subject is coming into being, needs all of our participation and guidance; and we can only hope it, and we, develops in time to overcome and replace global capital, which clearly threatens the world with destruction, and results in an era of human liberation, including and depending on a socialized mode of production. Nothing in this process is easy, simple, or guaranteed.
Mitchell Cohen (of WBAI) posted a brief article by Arun Gupta (editor of The Indypendent) called "The Revolution Begins at Home" which is a plea for more and more people to join the ongoing live-in protest on Wall Street. Gupta's piece also characterizes this protest (which I've heard was first organized by the staff of Adbusters). It's going on right now, in the very heart of global capital, and that alone makes it worth supporting, at least in tactical terms.
As far as I can tell these various protests involve mostly (India's different) young relatively educated people, but I think they're worth paying attention to and even joining when and if opportunity is there. I hope you'll find and read the articles I've referred to (sorry, I don't yet know how to post links to them), and maybe they'll spark some discussion.

September 27, 2011

Labor Breaks With The Democrats?

For seventy years or so someone on the left has been calling for labor to break with the Democrats. Sometimes these calls have made sense and have had some power behind them--the Henry Wallace campaign of 1948 comes to mind--and sometimes, more often, they have been expressions of justifiable moral outrage or, less justifiably, political posturing. We should always look at this question of the relationship between the Democrats and labor in historical and scientific terms freed of moralizing prejudices and political positioning.

The situation just got more complex, or as complex as it's been in my lifetime. The New York Times is reporting:

But the ruling (Citizens United) also changed the rules for unions, effectively ending a prohibition on outreach to nonunion households. Now, unions can use their formidable numbers to reach out to sympathetic nonunion voters by knocking on doors, calling them at home and trying to get them to polling places. They can also create their own Super PACs to underwrite bigger voter identification and get-out-the-vote operations than ever before.

As part of this overhaul, Richard L. Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., has said organized labor will be more independent of the Democratic Party, sitting out races where unions are disappointed with the Democratic candidate's positions on issues important to them and
occasionally financing primary challengers to Democratic incumbents.

The unions said they even intended to back a few Republicans they judge to have been generally supportive of their agenda, like Representative Steven C. LaTourette of Ohio.

Mr. Trumka said unions were tired of Democratic politicians taking them for granted after labor shoveled millions of dollars into Democratic campaigns. In distancing themselves, at least a bit, from the Democrats, unions are becoming part of a trend in which newly empowered outside groups build what are essentially party structures of their own-in this case, to somewhat offset the money flowing into conservative groups that are doing the same thing.

So it would seem from this report that labor leaders are prepared to break from the Democrats and move to the right as a sign of political independence. And not only that, but there is some obvious sense in those circles that labor can compete with corporate spending and win or influence elections. Further complicating the issue is the apparent cave to the Citizens United decision by some labor leaders, which splits some labor forces from allies in the progressive community just as the Move To Amend movement begins to grow. Some of us have noted these trends in labor over the past two election cycles and raised the issue with other leftists with no good results.

The article goes on to say:

Labor leaders complain that after unions spent more than $200 million to help elect President Obama and Congressional Democrats in 2008, the Democrats did not deliver on labor's priorities, including a stimulus
plan large enough to reinvigorate the economy and legislation that would make it far easier to unionize workers, central to labor's hopes of reversing its decline.

In an interview, Mr. Trumka said the A.F.L.-C.I.O. would initially inject $10 million into its still unnamed Super PAC - far less than the $100 million that some conservative Super PACs have - in large part to build a year-round political structure for labor.

"The way we used to do politics is we'd set up a structure six months before the election, and after Election Day we'd dismantle it," Mr. Trumka said. "Now we're going to have a full-time campaign, and that campaign will be able to move, hopefully, from electoral politics to issue advocacy and accountability," meaning holding union-backed lawmakers accountable.

Unions are recasting how they do politics after labor leaders reluctantly recognized their political predicament: as union membership has shrunk in recent years, it has become harder for unions - perhaps the Democrats' most powerful ally - to elect the candidates they support.

Michael A. Podhorzer, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s political director, said the need for a new strategy became evident last November. He said that even though unions conducted a huge campaign operation in Ohio, the labor-backed candidate for governor, Ted Strickland, a Democrat, lost to the Republican, John R. Kasich.

"It became apparent that even in races where union members voted overwhelmingly in support of a pro-worker candidate, we could still lose," Mr. Podhorzer said. "President Trumka asked, `How do we get programs that win elections and not just put up a good fight?' "

Before the Citizens United ruling, unions were banned from using dues money to reach out to nonmembers in political campaigns, but now unions plan to campaign among the 89 percent of Americans who do not belong to unions. Union officials have long complained that when their foot soldiers knocked on doors in, say, Milwaukee or Columbus, Ohio, they wasted huge amounts of time because they could visit only union members' homes and often had to skip 90 percent of the houses. Now they can knock on every door on a block.

Many Democrats wish that money would go directly to party building or individual campaigns. Moreover, many national Democrats fear that labor will focus on state and local races - at the expense of presidential, Senate and House races - to help assure union survival after Republicans in Wisconsin and Ohio enacted legislation sharply limiting the power of public-sector unions.

The comments about Milwaukee and Columbus are clearly wrong, but the article does highlight a way that the most progressive unions and union locals have been doing politics for some time now. In any event, absent from this discussion is any truly independent role for labor in politics. A break with the Democrats under these conditions could mean an opportunistic move to the right by segments of the labor movement. And under those conditions, it seems to me, it is important for people on the left to work to hold the line against opportunism in the labor movement. Now is not the time to talk about elections-based third parties (except in states with fusion voting) or to pose too much criticism or aim too much fire at the Obama administration. Rather, now is the time to direct the criticism and attack the right directly from within the labor movement.

We are past the point of labor having a comfortable spot in any national administration and the role or title of "loyal opposition" does not fit. This much is openly acknowledged by most labor leaders. What is unclear and up for debate is what position exactly that puts labor in and what the social base labor has to draw on is at this point.

Those forces on the left who have continued to call for an immediate break by labor from the Democrats now need to think through the full equation. We see that a break from the Democrats is not necessarily a move to the left, or even a step towards real political independence. Break from the Democrats---and do what exactly? Moreover, these forces need to declare what they will do in 2012. Will they sit out the election, run a progressive candidate and split the left and the working class or will they vote for Obama after all?

September 26, 2011

A Nina Simone song to keep your spirits up

Let's just say this one is dedicated to the memory of Troy...


I liked the current post about Obama advocating more taxes for the rich because it made the point that while people were going "Yaay..finally". They may have missed the second sentence. Paraphrased, "Then, oh boy we will be able to cut Medicare and Social Security". Those who have learned to listen carefully should think, "Wait a minute if the rich get taxed they don't have to touch the social net (and maybe help out the 99ers, too)". But that is not what he wants.

And as usual, where are the details? With him you have to search. They are dripping out:

He is proposing "upper income" beneficiaries pay higher monthly premiums for outpatient and prescription coverage. Questions: Since he estimates this will be one quarter of all recipients, does "upper income" mean those who have a pension? I thought the idea is to try to keep people out of using the Hospital except when absolutely necessary. Why would you make people pay more to use out patient services that could prevent hospitalization.

He also wants Medicare recipients to pay a penalty (hello, HEM) if they purchase privately to help cover Medicare co payments and deductibles. This used to be called supplemental insurance. How dare you try to diminish the economic impact of all these new costs we are raising. Their "reasoning" on this is that they want to limit "overuse". So what happened to preventive care? Or do they think we just like to go to the doctor for a good ole time when there are no other parties going on.

They want to start having $100.00 co payments for home health coverage unless you were just discharged from the hospital. Again, these services can be preventive and keep people out of the hospital. Or maybe they want everyone to run out of their savings and when their resources are below $2,000.00 they can get those services through Medicaid (which of course is being cut to the bone)

As someone depending on Medicare in a couple of years so I don't have to pay over $6,000.00 a year to private insurance and a former Case Manager for Disability and Senior Services..This is CRAP!

September 25, 2011

Part 1: Obama's Push Back; Is it Enough?

I feel good about Obama's pushing back. I like seeing the Republicans on the defensive with Obama's jobs bill and I like even more the Republican scramble as they try to come up with some justification as to why millionaires and billionaires should be given a free pass on taxes.

But all of this is not enough; nowhere near enough to even make a dent as the big picture points increasingly towards global economic collapse.

Obama's recent moves towards combating Republican bully behavior and challenging the Republican "race to the bottom" agenda is good politics. As economic policy, however, Obama's recent policy changes are flawed in aim as well as being too little too late.

Not Enough

Off course and as usual, Obama gave way too much away. So, at the same time the White House announced that raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires is a key priority, the White House also announced that the other half of Obama's $3 - 4 trillion deficit reduction plan will come primarily from Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid cuts.

As such, the White House is doing nothing more than robbing Peter to pay Paul. Cutting entitlement programs, or as I would prefer to call them, universal social benefits, will only add to the national economic structural problem, which is too much wealth at the top and a rapidly decreasing standard of living for everyone else. At the same time too, Obama's jobs program is just too small to have a more than a percent or two effect on unemployment.

The Big Picture

The global economy is about one thing and one thing only; maximum exploitation of resources and populations for maximum profits. Everything else that might be said about the global economy, "world prosperity", "global development", all that stuff is nothing more than window dressing and spin.

The name of the game in the last 30 years of world economic development has been to find the cheapest labor and cheapest resources wherever they might exist, organize these global resources within a global "just in time" production cycle, and the resulting tremendous profits go to the biggest players.

The problem is this global economy is breaking down; indeed, it has been breaking down since 2008 and has been on borrowed time for a least the last decade.

Here's the structural economic mess that is now:

All the world's resources have been organized towards enriching the traditional First World. All of the growth that has happened in China and most of Asia, all of that Free Trade treaty mania is about producing products to be sold in the First World. And to all of those who have organized this global economy go the massive profits.

The First World can no longer afford the goods the global economy makes. Capitalist enterprises -- with their mentality aimed at maximizing all profitable possibilities without regard to effects and costs -- has also shifted living standards downward for most First World citizens.

Global capitalism has evolved over the last 30 years within the context of falling wages, excessive profit extraction (cost shifting benefits, loss of benefits, prohibitively expensive credit, etc.), and over-all rising costs of essentials for those living in North America and Europe.

It is thus no surprise that the last 30 years of global economic history is characterized by galloping income inequality with wealth massively flowing to the top while poverty rates rise for the working classes and poor. (I get a kick out of the right wing's insistence that we call the rich "job creators". The real story is the rich did lots of serious "job destruction" as it moved production from the First World to the Developing World, with real "job creation" being at lower rates of pay and brutal working conditions.)

It was probably a decade or more ago when the First World tipped the balance and passed the point where it could no longer afford the global economy it had created.

This tip in the balance was masked by easily available credit -- although at exorbitant prices -- and it has been this credit which fueled the illusory prosperity of the first decade of the 21st century here in North America and in Europe.

Over the last few months it has become apparent that developing exporter nations are starting to feel the effects of the lack of consumption in the First World. China has reported dropping productive activity during the summer of 2011. India likewise is experiencing a drop in its export oriented industries and services.

And again, capitalist Europe in the form of the European Union is on the verge of collapse, this imminent collapse being the result of the European banking system's over-investment in the project of making Europe one big coordinated market (what the European Union really is) and in European banks' over-participation in the US housing bubble.

Facing Global Collapse

The popular term here in the USA is "double dip recession". Given what's really happening, calling the impending collapse a "double dip recession" is like calling World War II a series of border skirmishes.

With a globally interlocked economy, a crisis at the top of the economic food chain means a crisis for just about everyone on the planet.

As I think about President Obama's recent directional changes I can't help but to look at these changes within the context of global disaster. It's good politics for 2012, but really, we're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Elizabeth Warren on social contract & taxation

Elizabeth Warren, passed over by Obama for the head of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, has announced her candidacy for US Senate from Massachusetts.

September 24, 2011

Mahmoud Abbas At The UN

A news blackout has given us only a partial view of what the Palestinian President said at the UN yesterday while giving full coverage to the Israeli and American sides. At the same time, however, many of the myths or lies the media has tried to create regarding this Palestinian effort have been unmasked. Here is the full speech delivered by President Abbas at the UN.

Mr. President of the General Assembly of the United Nations,
Mr. Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, I wish to extend my congratulations to H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser on his assumption of the Presidency of the Assembly for this session, and wish him all success.

I reaffirm today my sincere congratulations, on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian people, to the government and people of South Sudan for its deserved admission as a full member of the United Nations, wishing them progress and prosperity.

I also congratulate the Secretary-General, H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, on his election for a new term at the helm of the United Nations. This renewal of confidence reflects the world's appreciation for his efforts, which have strengthened the role of the United Nations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Question Palestine is intricately linked with the United Nations via the resolutions adopted by its various organs and agencies and via the essential and lauded role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East - UNRWA - which embodies the international responsibility towards the plight of Palestine refugees, who are the victims of Al-Nakba (Catastrophe) that occurred in 1948. We aspire for and seek a greater and more effective role for the United Nations in working to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in our region that ensures the inalienable, legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people as defined by the resolutions of international legitimacy of the United Nations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A year ago, at this same time, distinguished leaders in this hall addressed the stalled peace efforts in our region. Everyone had high hopes for a new round of final status negotiations, which had begun in early September in Washington under the direct auspices of President Barack Obama and with participation of the Quartet, and with Egyptian and Jordanian participation, to reach a peace agreement within one year. We entered those negotiations with open hearts and attentive ears and sincere intentions, and we were ready with our documents, papers and proposals. But the negotiations broke down just weeks after their launch.

After this, we did not give up and did not cease our efforts for initiatives and contacts. Over the past year we did not leave a door to be knocked or channel to be tested or path to be taken and we did not ignore any formal or informal party of influence and stature to be addressed. We positively considered the various ideas and proposals and initiatives presented from many countries and parties. But all of these sincere efforts and endeavors undertaken by international parties were repeatedly wrecked by the positions of the Israeli government, which quickly dashed the hopes raised by the launch of negotiations last September.

The core issue here is that the Israeli government refuses to commit to terms of reference for the negotiations that are based on international law and United Nations resolutions, and that it frantically continues to intensify building of settlements on the territory of the State of Palestine.

Settlement activities embody the core of the policy of colonial military occupation of the land of the Palestinian people and all of the brutality of aggression and racial discrimination against our people that this policy entails. This policy, which constitutes a breach of international humanitarian law and United Nations resolutions, is the primary cause for the failure of the peace process, the collapse of dozens of opportunities, and the burial of the great hopes that arose from the signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993 between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel to achieve a just peace that would begin a new era for our region.

The reports of United Nations missions as well as by several Israeli institutions and civil societies convey a horrific picture about the size of the settlement campaign, which the Israeli government does not hesitate to boast about and which it continues to execute through the systematic confiscation of the Palestinian lands and the construction of thousands of new settlement units in various areas of the West Bank, particularly in East Jerusalem, and accelerated construction of the annexation Wall that is eating up large tracts of our land, dividing it into separate and isolated islands and cantons, destroying family life and communities and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of families. The occupying Power also continues to refuse permits for our people to build in Occupied East Jerusalem, at the same time that it intensifies its decades-long campaign of demolition and confiscation of homes, displacing Palestinian owners and residents under a multi-pronged policy of ethnic cleansing aimed at pushing them away from their ancestral homeland. In addition, orders have been issued to deport elected representatives from the city of Jerusalem. The occupying Power also continues to undertake excavations that threaten our holy places, and its military checkpoints prevent our citizens from getting access to their mosques and churches, and it continues to besiege the Holy City with a ring of settlements imposed to separate the Holy City from the rest of the Palestinian cities.

The occupation is racing against time to redraw the borders on our land according to what it wants and to impose a fait accompli on the ground that changes the realities and that is undermining the realistic potential for the existence of the State of Palestine.

At the same time, the occupying Power continues to impose its blockade on the Gaza Strip and to target Palestinian civilians by assassinations, air strikes and artillery shelling, persisting with its war of aggression of three years ago on Gaza, which resulted in massive destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, and mosques, and the thousands of martyrs and wounded.

The occupying Power also continues its incursions in areas of the Palestinian National Authority through raids, arrests and killings at the checkpoints. In recent years, the criminal actions of armed settler militias, who enjoy the special protection of the occupation army, has intensified with the perpetration of frequent attacks against our people, targeting their homes, schools, universities, mosques, fields, crops and trees. Despite our repeated warnings, the occupying Power has not acted to curb these attacks and we hold them fully responsible for the crimes of the settlers.

These are just a few examples of the policy of the Israeli colonial settlement occupation, and this policy is responsible for the continued failure of the successive international attempts to salvage the peace process.

This policy will destroy the chances of achieving a two-State solution upon which there is an international consensus, and here I caution aloud: This settlement policy threatens to also undermine the structure of the Palestinian National Authority and even end its existence.

In addition, we now face the imposition new conditions not previously raised, conditions that will transform the raging conflict in our inflamed region into a religious conflict and a threat to the future of a million and a half Christian and Muslim Palestinians, citizens of Israel, a matter which we reject and which is impossible for us to accept being dragged into.

All of these actions taken by Israel in our country are unilateral actions and are not based on any earlier agreements. Indeed, what we witness is a selective application of the agreements aimed at perpetuating the occupation. Israel reoccupied the cities of the West Bank by a unilateral action, and reestablished the civil and military occupation by a unilateral action, and it is the one that determines whether or not a Palestinian citizen has the right to reside in any part of the Palestinian Territory. And it is confiscating our land and our water and obstructing our movement as well as the movement of goods. And it is the one obstructing our whole destiny. All of this is unilateral.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In 1974, our deceased leader Yasser Arafat came to this hall and assured the Members of the General Assembly of our affirmative pursuit for peace, urging the United Nations to realize the inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people, stating: "Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand".

In 1988, President Arafat again addressed the General Assembly, which convened in Geneva to hear him, where he submitted the Palestinian peace program adopted by the Palestine National Council at its session held that year in Algeria.

When we adopted this program, we were taking a painful and very difficult step for all of us, especially those, including myself, who were forced to leave their homes and their towns and villages, carrying only some of our belongings and our grief and our memories and the keys of our homes to the camps of exile and the Diaspora in the 1948 Al-Nakba, one of the worst operations of uprooting, destruction and removal of a vibrant and cohesive society that had been contributing in a pioneering and leading way in the cultural, educational and economic renaissance of the Arab Middle East.

Yet, because we believe in peace and because of our conviction in international legitimacy, and because we had the courage to make difficult decisions for our people, and in the absence of absolute justice, we decided to adopt the path of relative justice - justice that is possible and could correct part of the grave historical injustice committed against our people. Thus, we agreed to establish the State of Palestine on only 22% of the territory of historical Palestine - on all the Palestinian Territory occupied by Israel in 1967.

We, by taking that historic step, which was welcomed by the States of the world, made a major concession in order to achieve a historic compromise that would allow peace to be made in the land of peace.

In the years that followed - from the Madrid Conference and the Washington negotiations leading to the Oslo agreement, which was signed 18 years ago in the garden of the White House and was linked with the letters of mutual recognition between the PLO and Israel, we persevered and dealt positively and responsibly with all efforts aimed at the achievement of a lasting peace agreement. Yet, as we said earlier, every initiative and every conference and every new round of negotiations and every movement was shattered on the rock of the Israeli settlement expansion project.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I confirm, on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, which will remain so until the end of the conflict in all its aspects and until the resolution of all final status issues, the following:

1. The goal of the Palestinian people is the realization of their inalienable national rights in their independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on all the land of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, which Israel occupied in the June 1967 war, in conformity with the resolutions of international legitimacy and with the achievement of a just and agreed upon solution to the Palestine refugee issue in accordance with resolution 194, as stipulated in the Arab Peace Initiative which presented the consensus Arab vision to resolve the core the Arab-Israeli conflict and to achieve a just and comprehensive peace. To this we adhere and this is what we are working to achieve. Achieving this desired peace also requires the release of political prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons without delay.

2. The PLO and the Palestinian people adhere to the renouncement of violence and rejection and condemning of terrorism in all its forms, especially State terrorism, and adhere to all agreements signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel.

3. We adhere to the option of negotiating a lasting solution to the conflict in accordance with resolutions of international legitimacy. Here, I declare that the Palestine Liberation Organization is ready to return immediately to the negotiating table on the basis of the adopted terms of reference based on international legitimacy and a complete cessation of settlement activities.

4. Our people will continue their popular peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation and its settlement and apartheid policies and its construction of the racist annexation Wall, and they receive support for their resistance, which is consistent with international humanitarian law and international conventions and has the support of peace activists from Israel and around the world, reflecting an impressive, inspiring and courageous example of the strength of this defenseless people, armed only with their dreams, courage, hope and slogans in the face of bullets, tanks, tear gas and bulldozers.

5. When we bring our plight and our case to this international podium, it is a confirmation of our reliance on the political and diplomatic option and is a confirmation that we do not undertake unilateral steps. Our efforts are not aimed at isolating Israel or de-legitimizing it; rather we want to gain legitimacy for the cause of the people of Palestine. We only aim to de-legitimize the settlement activities and the occupation and apartheid and the logic of ruthless force, and we believe that all the countries of the world stand with us in this regard.

I am here to say on behalf of the Palestinian people and the Palestine Liberation Organization: We extend our hands to the Israeli government and the Israeli people for peace-making. I say to them: Let us urgently build together a future for our children where they can enjoy freedom, security and prosperity. Let us build the bridges of dialogue instead of checkpoints and walls of separation, and build cooperative relations based on parity and equity between two neighboring States - Palestine and Israel - instead of policies of occupation, settlement, war and eliminating the other.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite the unquestionable right of our people to self-determination and to the independence of our State as stipulated in international resolutions, we have accepted in the past few years to engage in what appeared to be a test of our worthiness, entitlement and eligibility. During the last two years our national authority has implemented a program to build our State institutions.

Despite the extraordinary situation and the Israeli obstacles imposed, a serious extensive project was launched that has included the implementation of plans to enhance and advance the judiciary and the apparatus for maintenance of order and security, to develop the administrative, financial, and oversight systems, to upgrade the performance of institutions, and to enhance self-reliance to reduce the need for foreign aid. With the thankful support of Arab countries and donors from friendly countries, a number of large infrastructure projects have been implemented, focused on various aspects of service, with special attention to rural and marginalized areas.

In the midst of this massive national project, we have been strengthening what we seeking to be the features of our State: from the preservation of security for the citizen and public order; to the promotion of judicial authority and rule of law; to strengthening the role of women via legislation, laws and participation; to ensuring the protection of public freedoms and strengthening the role of civil society institutions; to institutionalizing rules and regulations for ensuring accountability and transparency in the work of our Ministries and departments; to entrenching the pillars of democracy as the basis for the Palestinian political life.

When division struck the unity of our homeland, people and institutions, we were determined to adopt dialogue for restoration of our unity. We succeeded months ago in achieving national reconciliation and we hope that its implementation will be accelerated in the coming weeks. The core pillar of this reconciliation was to turn to the people through legislative and presidential elections within a year, because the State we want will be a State characterized by the rule of law, democratic exercise and protection of the freedoms and equality of all citizens without any discrimination and the transfer of power through the ballot box.

The reports issued recently by the United Nations, the World Bank, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) and the International Monetary Fund confirm and laud what has been accomplished, considering it a remarkable and unprecedented model. The consensus conclusion by the AHLC a few days ago here described what has been accomplished as a "remarkable international success story" and confirmed the readiness of the Palestinian people and their institutions for the immediate independence of the State of Palestine.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is no longer possible to redress the issue of the blockage of the horizon of the peace talks with the same means and methods that have been repeatedly tried and proven unsuccessful over the past years. The crisis is far too deep to be neglected, and what is more dangerous are attempts to simply circumvent it or postpone its explosion.

It is neither possible, nor practical, nor acceptable to return to conducting business as usual, as if everything is fine. It is futile to go into negotiations without clear parameters and in the absence of credibility and a specific timetable. Negotiations will be meaningless as long as the occupation army on the ground continues to entrench its occupation, instead of rolling it back, and continues to change the demography of our country in order to create a new basis on which to alter the borders.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a moment of truth and my people are waiting to hear the answer of the world. Will it allow Israel to continue its occupation, the only occupation in the world? Will it allow Israel to remain a State above the law and accountability? Will it allow Israel to continue rejecting the resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations and the International Court of Justice and the positions of the overwhelming majority of countries in the world?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I come before you today from the Holy Land, the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the birthplace of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him), to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people in the homeland and in the the Diaspora, to say, after 63 years of suffering of the ongoing Nakba: Enough. It is time for the Palestinian people to gain their freedom and independence.

The time has come to end the suffering and the plight of millions of Palestine refugees in the homeland and the Diaspora, to end their displacement and to realize their rights, some of them forced to take refuge more than once in different places of the world.

At a time when the Arab peoples affirm their quest for democracy - the Arab Spring - the time is now for the Palestinian Spring, the time for independence.

The time has come for our men, women and children to live normal lives, for them to be able to sleep without waiting for the worst that the next day will bring; for mothers to be assured that their children will return home without fear of suffering killing, arrest or humiliation; for students to be able to go to their schools and universities without checkpoints obstructing them. The time has come for sick people to be able to reach hospitals normally, and for our farmers to be able to take care of their good land without fear of the occupation seizing the land and its water, which the wall prevents access to, or fear of the settlers, for whom settlements are being built on our land and who are uprooting and burning the olive trees that have existed for hundreds of years. The time has come for the thousands of prisoners to be released from the prisons to return to their families and their children to become a part of building their homeland, for the freedom of which they have sacrificed.

My people desire to exercise their right to enjoy a normal life like the rest of humanity. They believe what the great poet Mahmoud Darwish said: Standing here, staying here, permanent here, eternal here, and we have one goal, one, one: to be.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We profoundly appreciate and value the positions of all States that have supported our struggle and our rights and recognized the State of Palestine following the Declaration of Independence in 1988, as well as the countries that have recently recognized the State of Palestine and those that have upgraded the level of Palestine's representation in their capitals. I also salute the Secretary-General, who said a few days ago that the Palestinian State should have been established years ago.

Be assured that this support for our people is more valuable to them than you can imagine, for it makes them feel that someone is listening to their narrative and that their tragedy and the horrors of Al-Nakba and the occupation, from which they have so suffered, are not being ignored. And, it reinforces their hope that stems from the belief that justice is possible in this in this world. The loss of hope is the most ferocious enemy of peace and despair is the strongest ally of extremism.
I say: The time has come for my courageous and proud people, after decades of displacement and colonial occupation and ceaseless suffering, to live like other peoples of the earth, free in a sovereign and independent homeland.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to inform you that, before delivering this statement, I submitted, in my capacity as the President of the State of Palestine and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, to H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, an application for the admission of Palestine on the basis of the 4 June 1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, as a full member of the United Nations.

I call upon Mr. Secretary-General to expedite transmittal of our request to the Security Council, and I call upon the distinguished members of the Security Council to vote in favor of our full membership. I also call upon the States that did not recognized the State of Palestine as yet to do so.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The support of the countries of the world for our endeavor is a victory for truth,freedom, justice, law and international legitimacy, and it provides tremendous support for the peace option and enhances the chances of success of the negotiations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Your support for the establishment of the State of Palestine and for its admission to the United Nations as a full member is the greatest contribution to peacemaking in the Holy Land.

I thank you.

September 23, 2011

Peace Actions In McMinnville This Sunday

Peace Walk and Fair 2011 with Cindy and Craig Corrie

Sunday, September 25, 2011, 3:00PM - 9:00PM
Join us!  Open to all.  No charge!
Peace Walk and Fair 2011

Sunday, September 25

McMinnville Cooperative Ministries
544 NE 2nd Street
McMinnville, Oregon

3:00   Walk for Peace
Bring your signs, and meet in the Great Room of the newer building at McMinnville Cooperative Ministries!  As we sing together a few peace songs, we'll be energized for our walk!
We'll then amble slowly as a group for approximately one mile through the downtown area of McMinnville and along Baker and Adams Streets.  For people who prefer less walking, we recommend standing at visible street corners where signs can be held up for motorists to see.

4:00   Program
Come early -- about 3:45 -- for a little extra music!  Child care is provided.
We'll begin our program at 4:00 PM.  This year our keynote speakers are Craig and Cindy Corrie.  

5:15   Peace FAIR begins
More than twelve different organizations will display information regarding their peace and justice activities.  You will have the opportunity to talk with an individual who represents this organization.  Share stories, find out how you can participate, increase your network, or buy an book, t-shirt, or item that supports these efforts.

5:45   Soup & Bread Supper
Share a simple meal with new friends and neighbors.  This time together has been an enjoyable and valuable time to share our visions and interests.
Baskets at the table are available for you to make a donation to cover food costs if you wish, but you are our guest, so please don't feel obligated.

Joe Hill

The man who never died: the life, times and legacy of Joe Hill
by William M. Adler
Bloomsbury USA. 435 pp. $30

Joe Hill was the legendary singer and songwriter of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, or the Wobblies), the largest and most successful of the revolutionary syndicalist movements in the USA. He was convicted of a shooting murder in Salt Lake City in 1914 and was executed in 1915. The primary proof of his guilt rested upon a bullet wound he received the same night as a grocer and his son were murdered in Salt Lake.

In between his arrest and murder by the state an international solidarity movement formed in his defense which gathered diverse forces and pressed for either exoneration and freedom or commutation. Much of the music, poetry and artwork we associate with Hill today was done while he was incarcerated and awaiting execution, but not all of it. He left behind an impressive collection of what would become known as "labor songs" and "protest songs" in later years--indeed, he was known for this during his short lifetime--which the IWW published and popularized. The labor movement was in those days in many regions a singing movement and the IWW used this to good effect. An enduring legend has grown up around Hill that holds strong to this day.

Hill insisted upon his innocence but never publicly provided a narrative that might have freed him. He claimed to have been shot in a fight over a woman but never identified the woman or the shooter. He insisted on a fair trial, which he was clearly denied, and did not take the stand in his defense during his trial. Adler's book makes the claim that the author can name the woman and the shooter, thereby proving Hill's innocence, prove who did kill the two people Hill was thought to have killed and dissemble the prosecution's case against him.

It is a relatively easy matter to establish that Hill's trial was unfair and that the judge, prosecutor and jury were biased against him for political reasons. The author does this quite well and without turning his book into a legal brief. There is some repetition and hand-wringing as he makes his case, but Adler is on solid ground as he takes apart the prosecution's case against Hill point by point.

Adler is less convincing when he attempts to provide a counter-narrative to the one developed by the prosecution. There is a strong hint of who the woman was Hill fought over and who shot Hill. There is even much evidence provided which points at who did shoot the two people Hill was wrongly accused of shooting. However, in the end, we have nothing quite fully convincing. We accept Hill's innocence on faith or not, a faith buttressed by Adler's reasonable arguments and suppositions and the terrible travesty of justice that was Hill's trial--but belief in Hill's innocence or guilt remains a matter of faith.

Adler's book, like Anthony Lucas' great book Big Trouble, will introduce many people to the IWW and the labor movement, the field of labor history, the use of the courts against militant labor and the idea that people can protest injustices en masse internationally. Adler's book is well researched, thoughtful and carries in it some obvious and understandable biases which favor Hill and the IWW. It unearths much new information and puts together facts and arguments we have long known about in a new or novel way. This is not the first work to deal at length with Hill or his legal case, but it is by far the best. This book deserves to be read and shared and debated.

My problems with the book are centered on Adler's reliance on the historical work Melvin Dubofsky did on the IWW a generation ago. Much of Dubofsky's work has ether been discredited or superseded by social historians who have provided a better view of the IWW and its history. Neither Dubofsky nor Adler have told us convincingly why the IWW was unable to establish lasting local unions, or even a movement, which survived the strikes they organized. Adler also falls short on dissembling the myth of Joe Hill and Hill's effect on popular culture. He lets an anti-Semitic remark Hill made after the San Francisco earthquake go without question and we do not learn from this book how, or if, Hill ever folded into the mainstream of American working class culture. (In fact, American labor historians have yet to answer the question of what an American worker is.) Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who shared in the leadership of Hill's defense and solidarity work, deserves more room in the text than she got. Adler also lets a supposed quote from Sacco and Vanzetti stand--a quote they did not say or offer. Some of this points to sloppy scholarship and some of it points to accepting the dogmas of one liberal school of US labor history.

Still and all, this is a good book. Read it.


They were not afraid of the LGBT Community, just apprehensive about their reception. Master Sargent Anthony Henry told the New York Times, "I have an exit strategy. I have strategically parked my car on the curbside, I have a way out."

On the day "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was finally abolished the Marines have bravely marched to the shore. Actually all branches of the service were invited to the Tulsa Equality Center and only the Marines showed up. Of course they say they are the best branch of the service so they want to be first in recruiting this new group of Marines.

There were not a flood of applicants. After 4 hours they only talked to three, all lesbians.

The first was already in the Oklahoma National Guard and wondering if there were openings for Behavior Health Officers. She was told "no".

The second had scars on her upper arm from cutting herself in high school. He told her it was a certain medical disqualification but kindly said he would make some calls for her.

The third was an overweight high school dropout. He gently told her to come back when she has a diploma and gets in shape.

The Marines were undaunted by the number ("we usually sign up only one out of 10"). Sargent Henry, an Iraq Veteran, added that the bad economy is a motivation but often it is the same as always: "They want to be a Marine to blow stuff up."

Protest Condi Rice coming to Portland

Wednesday, October 19 at 5:00pm
Location: Oregon Convention Center

September 21, 2011


Leonardo Padura, Cuba's most internationally known author received the 2011 Literary Critics Award in Cuba. He won for his book, "The Man Who Loved Dogs" which recounts the exile and assassination of Leon Trotsky. Padura spent years researching Ramon Mercader for his book. The award goes to the most important title by living authors. Originally published in Spain many believed it would never be published in Cuba. Last year it was published by the Union Of Writers And Artists Of Cuba. When speaking at the Havana Book Fair he said he wanted to address long held myths. For a number of years books by Trotsky have been popular at the book fair. Many believe that when Che Guevara was assassinated he had a copy of Trotsky's, "History Of The Russian Revolution" in his backpack. Whether that is true or not one would think "Permanent Revolution" would have been a better choice.


Dave Bolton, President of Local 440 of SEIU Local 503, was on OPB's "Think Out Loud" program today speaking on PEBB's Health Engagement Model. He took on a spokesperson from PEBB. The program and the blog comments relating to it are worth looking up. Go here for the story's web page and a link to the program. Hit our article links below to see what Willamette Reds has had to say on this issue.

Wilma Lee Cooper

Wilma Lee Cooper died last week. She was 90 years old and will be most often remembered as a Grand Ole Opry star.

Cooper was born in Valley Head, West Virginia and came out of a tradition of mountain singing which is frequently confused with bluegrass. She came from a religious and musical family and from a background in which religion was immediate, up close and personal. Her family appeared in a 1938 music festival organized by Eleanor Roosevelt. She also appeared for many years on the radio station WWVA in Wheeling, where the tri-state coal fields intersect. It's worth pausing and considering what life might be like if we had a government which sponsored people's and folk music and local radio stations which filled the airwaves with that music.

Cooper's career and musical development spanned a period of time which is worth thinking about. The Grand Ole Opry recruited musicians like Cooper--people "from the roots" and out of the working class--and then stylized their music and created something new. This became a part of postwar American mass culture and came to define "country music" as a new category quite separate from people's music, folk music and the blues. This did not happen without cultural struggle and without contradiction, of course. People hung on to their traditional musics despite cultural and political pressures and not every aspiring star fit into the Grand Ole Opry mold. And even the Grand Ole Opry had to concede some space to these musicians. In the 1970s and 1980s some of the more popular and wealthier musicians who had been rejected by the Opry began to be known as "outlaws" and they became successful again precisely because the Grand Ole Opry and the recording industry monopoly had rejected them earlier. The "outlaws" were eventually absorbed by that industry.

There are strong parallels here with what happened to punk rock and ethic musics, of course.

Cooper's music was complex because it reflected the complexities of life in Appalachia, America's "inner colony." Wilma Lee Cooper proudly claimed to be "traditional" and "country." We should study what those terms mean and better understand how culture is being constantly transformed in the US.

Some of Wilma Lee Cooper's best work can be found here.

September 20, 2011

Need help with terminology

In discussions and posts both at Willamette Reds and Corvallis CCDS two terms come up whose meaning in these contexts I am unsure of. These are "theory" and "scientific." Because I have worked with scientists for many years I have a sense of the meaning of these terms in that context, but it seems different here. Any help in understanding, or pointers to relevant literature, much appreciated.

September 19, 2011

Dilek Koc

This will be a rambling, almost stream-of-consciousness, blog entry.

Dilek Koc is a Turkish-born singer of rembetika, the blues music generally associated with the refugees forced to leave Turkey in the disastrous population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923. Rembetika has been generally associated with the tavern, the prison and hashish smokers. Rembetika never really goes away, although it has been alternately repressed and commercialized. There is nothing inherently political about rembetika, but it speaks especially to the displaced and marginalized. It had a brief intersection with the youth and "new ethnic" cultures of the 1970s and 1980s when the film Rembetiko was made and the group Annabouboula was briefly popular. It is a kind of "world music" that most world music fans overlook and which many Greek record stores either refuse to stock or place in the back bins. Rembetika, the Sephardic music of the popular Yasmin Levy and certain klezmer derivations have much in common. Roza Eskenazi was one of the great rembetissas who made this mixture and these influences happen. She has been compared to Bessie Smith--a comparison which will not be made with Koc but which bears some consideration.

Rembetika records were also produced in the United States. I think that they spoke mainly to lonely male immigrants and to people who were for one reason or another excluded from the mainstream of Greek-American culture. A specific rembetika subculture did indeed exist here and that needs to be remembered. Greek-American coffeehouses and mutual aid societies divided over political and cultural questions and often did so dramatically. It took Americanization, forced assimilation, McCarthyism and the passing of time to kill that subculture. Rounder Records did us a great favor by reissuing and translating records that the Greek-American establishment marginalized and sought to overcome.

I am excited about Dilek Koc because her music and its popularity in Greece, where she currently lives, comes at a time when Greek and Turkish nationalists particularly wish to rewrite the past to suit their separate and competing agendas and while popular unrest in both countries grows. I believe that rembetika is one means, one cultural expression, which can interest and unite people--it can be rediscovered, reworked and express "globalization from below" in the way that Manu Chao and other artists do. Woody Guthrie asked that we remember him as a man who told us what we already knew and Antonio Gramsci developed the theory of "organic intellectuals" and rembetika expresses this, or can express this, as it develops. Koc may be one of those organic intellectuals in the making.

Koc recently gave an interview to the right-wing Turkish newspaper Zaman in which she expressed her humanism and her thoughtful approach to her music. She emphasized in that interview the existence of a shared history between Greek and Turkish peoples. She also spoke somewhat candidly about how the Greek economic crisis has affected her. She uses the word "solidarity" at one point in her interview and she clearly rejects the star system. I cannot think of a current and popular American singer who publicly takes such an approach to her music and her career. Her music is beautiful and is worth looking for.

Young musicians in Turkey and Greece will need to go to their shared underground histories and rediscover the languages and the songs which once united the poorest of the poor and those who were forced to emigrate. It's not that Turkey and Greece lack revolutionary musicians, or that Koc and rembetika will fill some existing void, but that history is a tool and a weapon when used correctly and that it is the past and the present which births the future through struggle. We have more control over history and how it is interpreted than we realize and we will be oppressed so long as we see ourselves as history's servants rather than its masters. The fatalism of rembetika can and should be rejected, but the form, rebellion and history of this music can and should be used to create something new and radical. Koc helps that project even if she does so unwittingly.

Many young Americans with no ties to the Balkans or Turkey or the Arab and African countries are discovering the pleasures of relaxing with a narghile. The New York Times recently ran a front-page article warning against this and states are cracking down on "hookah bars." The popularity of smoking a narghile or hookah seems to be growing at the same time as more local bands in places like Portland show an interest in Balkan or Balkan-fusion music. What are missing from the "narghile scene" are the consciousness that this cultural shift indicates and a music which expresses this consciousness. I hope that as these young people adapt new cultural forms and ways of socializing they will look into rembetika music and find Dilen Koc. Without this consciousness and this music something is missing from the experience. Rembetika was, after all, one of the original narghile musics.

See a video of Koc and the mainstream Glykeria here.

Marx and Morality

Marxist-Leninists think about morality a bit differently than other progressives. Like any good Stalinist, I have presented the three major points of departure in list form below, for brevity and clarity. Note that they apply to political conditions in the US specifically.

1. There is no absolute morality. Morality flows from historical conditions, not the other way around. Two million or so years ago, stoning was socially progressive, since it allowed a group of physically weaker humans to overcome a single stronger human, opening up the possibility of a social order different than "strongest rules". Two thousand millennia later, stoning is a brutish practice opposed by progressive humanity. Morality is the endpoint, not the beginning.

2. Our job is not to tell people what is important in life. Individual values also come primarily from social and historical conditions. Our task is to alter those conditions via revolution and winning state power. We cannot expect anyone to accept one set of values while objective conditions favor a different set of values, and no one can expect that the vast majority will or should adopt her or his values under any conditions. We are about material conditions, not subjective views.

3. "Right living" is a religious concept and has no place in a political movement in a religiously heterogeneous society. The idea of right living is not always cited explicitly, but it often permeates many discussions; the stated aim of its adherents is to promote a lifestyle more in harmony with "nature", "social justice" or even personal health and well-being. However, the collection of habits and living arrangements that is collectively referred to as lifestyle also flows from objective conditions, and so engaging in lifestyle based propaganda and organizing amounts at best to putting the cart before the horse. At worst, it leads to cultural chauvinism that considers adherents of a particular lifestyle morally and/or spiritually superior. Our ultimate goal is not to teach people how to "live correctly," as a religious disciple might, but to achieve economic democracy under which the working class decides for itself how it wants to live.

September 16, 2011

Oct 22nd Conference on "ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE: RACE, CLASS AND POWER" in Portland

Environmental Justice addresses the unequal environmental burden and exposure to pollutants borne by racial minorities, immigrants, indigenous peoples, women, low-wage workers and low-income communities. Environmental Justice issues affect and impact many of us. These issues - at our workplace environment and in our communities - involve unions, churches, health organizations, government, human rights and environmental groups.

We invite you to attend our conference ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE: RACE, CLASS AND POWER to learn about the Environmental justice inequalities and injustices that are experienced in our workplace environments and in our communities, and what we can do to respond as a community. We will discuss why it is a matter of fundamental human rights and justice, and not simply an environmental issue. The environmental justice movement is a response to societal racism and classism that affects us all.

Keynote Speaker:

Professor Veronica Dujon is a dynamic and powerful speaker. She will be providing a framework on why particular groups have been exposed to more pollutants and environmental hazards, and how communities can respond.


Conference is from 9am – 2pm in the Portland SEIU Local 503 office, doors will open at 8 AM.


We hope that you’ll join us.
- Theodora Ko Thompson, Co-Chair, Civil and Human Rights Committee
- Carmen Morales-Mayoral, Co-Chair, Civil and Human Rights Committee

Annual Salem Peace Lecture To Feature Rami Khouri

Date: 2011-10-19

Event Time: 7:30 pm

Location: Willamette University, Hudson Hall
SALEM, OR, 97301-3922
In the Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center, east of Smith Auditorium.

Organization: Oregon PeaceWorks

More Info:

Description: CONTACT: CHARLES WALLACE (503) 370-6213
PETER BERGEL 503-371-8002


Rami Khouri will deliver Salem’s annual Peace Lecture on October 19th at 7:30 p.m. at Willamette University’s Hudson Hall in the Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center. As this year’s Peace Lecturer, Khouri becomes the 22nd speaker in a series which has featured such luminaries as Daniel Ellsberg, Philip Berrigan, Helen Caldicott, Jonathan Schell, Dolores Huerta and many others. The lecture is free and open to the public. His topic is “The Arab Spring: Revolution or Evolution?”

Khouri is a Palestinian-Jordanian and a U.S. citizen whose family resides in Beirut, Amman and Nazareth. He is the director of the Issam Fares Institute of Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut as well as editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper.

Each year the Peace Lecture committee also selects Salem’s Peacemaker of the Year. This year the Peace Mosaic Project, which mobilized some 600 area residents to create a peace mosaic on Salem’s YMCA building, will be honored at the lecture.

Khouri has been a visiting scholar at Stanford University and was the recipient of the 2006 Pax Christi International Peace Award for his efforts to bring peace and reconciliation to the Middle East.

He is a frequent commentator on Middle Eastern affairs on National Public Radio and PBS TV, particularly Jim Lehrer’s News Hour.

“Rami Khouri is an ideal person to inform Western audiences about what’s happening on the ground in the Middle East and about the deeper meaning of the ‘Arab Spring,’” noted Peace Lecture committee member Fariborz Pakseresht. “His lecture will explore the interplay between nonviolence and violence in the area this year.”

Khouri holds BA and MS degrees in political science and mass communications from Syracuse University. He held top editor positions for two Middle Eastern newspapers for ten years and his articles have appeared in the Financial Times, the Boston Globe and the Washington Post. He has also held fellowship positions at Syracuse’s Maxwell School, Harvard Divinity School and Harvard’s Kennedy School.

For more information about the Salem Peace Lecture, please contact Willamette University Chaplain Charlie Wallace at (503) 370-6213.

Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness---Newport Mobilizes & Educates

Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness

Date: 2011-09-20

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

Location: St.Stephen's Episcopal Church
410 SW 9TH ST
NEWPORT, OR, 97365-4725
Upstairs meeting room

Organization: Coastal Progressives of Lincoln and South Tillamook Counties

More Info:

Description: As part of the programs planned locally for International Peace Week, the Immigration Information Response Team of Coastal Progressives is hosting a free screening and public discussion of a new PBS documentary, Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness, at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, SW 9th and Hurbert in Newport, on Tuesday, September 20 at 7 p.m..

Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness tells the story of residents of a Long Island village as they come together to take action after a local immigrant is killed in a hate crime attack by seven teenagers. The film provides a blueprint for addressing the underlying causes of the violence, working to heal divisions and taking steps to ensure everyone will be safe and respected.

The film screening will be followed by a discussion about what local residents can do to help keep Lincoln County an inclusive and Welcoming Community for all its residents.

The screening in Newport is also part of the Not In Our Town National Week of Action, September 18-24. During the Week of Action, communities across the country will use the film to find ways to prevent hate crimes and anti-immigrant violence. Public media stations, along with national partners, including faith-based organizations, the Department of Justice Community-Oriented Policing Services Office, National League of Cities, National Hispanic Media Coalition, and Welcoming America, will also use the film to initiate dialogue about intolerance in their communities.

Spanish-language subtitles will be provided. For more information about the event, please contact Jorge Hernandez at Centro de Ayuda, 541 265 6216. For more information about Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness, including the film trailer, visit

Some Coming Class Struggle & Immigrant Rights Events In Our Region

-Saturday, September 17, 12:00 noon. “Coming out of the shadows” action at the Tacoma Detention Center, WA. Immigrant youth that grew up in the US are coming out publicly, “undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic”. Bus and carpools leaving at 8 and 9 am. For more info Contact ONSM at 503 550-3510. Organized by NWIYA (Northwest Immigrant Youth Association).

-Saturday, September 17, 11:00 US Day of Rage, Portland Action of people coming out “raging against the machine” in Pioneer Square, down town Portland: One citizen, One dollar, One vote.

-Monday, September 19, 6:30pm, Crossing the Border to Cananea film, at Musicians’ Union Hall (325 NE 20th Ave. Portland). Come to learn about the long struggle of the Mexican copper miners. Organized by LERC and PCASC, Sept 19, 6:30

-Friday, September 23, 7pm, “Short films to inspire action” night. At SEIU 503 building (6401 SE Foster Rd.). Move beyond Fossil Fuels and demand solutions to the climate crisis.

-Saturday, September 24, 11:45 to 3:pm, Moving Planet Portland A Climate Action Fest at Memorial Coliseum Commons. Come celebrate the idea of environmental justice and, in particular, to look at ways we can put the brakes on climate change by eliminating our reliance on fossil fuels. Fun activities and great speakers.

- Dignity in Schools Campaign National Week of Action on School Pushout, information actions to let people know about the reality behind the drop-out crisis and demand support for school policies that protect and promote the human rights of students. From October 1st to 8th, 2011 info on

-Right to Survive Oct. 10th National day of the homeless, action in Downtown Portland. More info to come