October 31, 2012

A Peoples' Victory In The Fight To Save The Post Office

A victory for mass action to save the P.O.

San Francisco post offices spared the axe

By Dave Welsh

After a year-long mass protest campaign, San Francisco Postmaster Raj Sanghera announced in September that Bayview, Visitacion Valley and Civic Center post offices had been taken OFF the closure list. McLaren station on busy San Bruno Avenue was also spared.

This is a victory for postal workers and community members from all over the country, who have been working hard to resist the planned destruction and privatization of the public Post Office.

It's especially a victory for the communities that organized to pack the public hearings in 2011 to protest the closing of Bayview, Visitacion Valley and Civic Center. They gave the USPS managers an earful.

This was followed up by mass leafleting in the Mission, Bayview, Tenderloin, Bayshore, Excelsior, Viz Valley and Fillmore neighborhoods by the Save the People’s Post Office coalition, which includes the Senior Action Network, SF Labor Council, Living Wage Coalition, Occupy, Poor Magazine and Church Women United. Thousands saw our banners and signs and took the flyers.

Then on June 27, 2012, this local coalition organized a rally at the Federal Building, a march of 200 through the oppressed Tenderloin district, and an occupation and people's speak-out inside the Civic Center Post Office, where many homeless and low-income people go to pick up their mail.

The Bayview, Visitacion Valley and McLaren stations are all in working class neighborhoods in the southeastern part of San Francisco and home to many African American, Asian, Latino and white families who depend on their neighborhood post office. Victory celebrations are being planned.

Here are some of the key actions over the last year in the growing national movement to save the Postal Service:

* A 4-day hunger strike in Washington DC, organized by the national network called Communities & Postal Workers United (CPWU), including "stop starving the Postal Service" demonstrations in Congress. The hunger strike broke through the media blockade and put our message in the national media. Since then CPWU chapters have sprung up in various parts of the country.

* An attempted citizen’s arrest of Postmaster General Donahoe by retired New York postal worker John Dennie, during a rally outside USPS headquarters. Dennie charged Donahoe with violating laws prohibiting delay or obstruction of the mails.

* Many local actions by community/labor coalitions in New York, Baltimore, San Francisco/Berkeley, Portland, Los Angeles/Orange County, Chicago, Colorado, Arizona, Vermont, Seattle, North Carolina, Philadelphia, Boston, New Orleans and elsewhere – including marches, petition drives, Town Hall meetings, canvassing, local hunger strikes, post office occupations, as well as a “road warrior” tour of rural post offices in Oregon by retired carrier Jamie Partridge and the Rural Organizing Project. A USPS plan to eliminate 840 motor vehicle operator jobs in California sparked protests on both coasts.

* A growing campaign to stop the sale of over 70 historic post offices in collusion with the privatizing real estate mega-firm of CB Richard Ellis (CBRE). Headed by financier Richard Blum (husband of California US Senator Dianne Feinstein), CBRE has the exclusive contract to sell these properties, in deals worth billions. Many of these post offices are architectural treasures that also house priceless New Deal-era murals and sculptures honoring working people – public treasures paid for by the taxes of our parents and grandparents and now being sold off for private profit as if they were shopping malls. These post offices are fixtures of downtown areas, convenient, and centers of civic life. The Citizens Committee to Save the Berkeley (CA) Main Post Office has enlisted the entire City Council and thousands of residents to “Stop the Sale.”

* Postal union resolutions and speeches from the floor of the Letter Carriers and American Postal Workers national conventions, denouncing PMG Donahoe and the privatizers, and calling for organizing local community/labor coalitions to build a powerful nationwide grassroots movement to save the Postal Service. Resolutions also committed the unions to organizing a national demonstration in Washington D.C. In addition, many central labor councils, state federations and individual unions vowed support for saving the P.O.

* Actions at the Republican and Democratic party conventions, where demonstrations included “Save the Post Office” contingents.

The USPS decision to cancel the planned closing of four post offices in San Francisco demonstrates that our movement is having an effect. But we must be vigilant: The big push to implement the Donahoe slash-and-burn program will come after the election and in 2013. Our movement needs to grow, and grow fast to stop the juggernaut. It's up to us to mobilize our members and communities to push the privatizers back on their heels.

From Freedom Road: Why I’m a Socialist Feminist

I was initiated into feminism in footie pajamas.

My aunt Susan and her partner Niki kept a bulletin board on display in their farmhouse kitchen, on which they pinned dozens of political buttons. When I stayed with them, I’d stand on the cold tiled floor in front of that bulletin board and read the unfamiliar slogans in their brazen fonts. I’d ask my aunts what each one meant as they flipped pancakes on the griddle, white sunlight pouring in through the windows.

What does “I am pro-choice” mean? I’d ask. And why was it under a picture of a hanger with a red line through it? What does homophobia mean? Pinned to the board was also a snapshot of a group of men in silly top hats marching in a parade. They were carrying a banner that said, “Lift the ban! Gays in the millinery!” I hadn’t quite figured out what “gay” meant – that wouldn’t register until I watched an episode of “Golden Girls” where Rose’s brother came out to her. It didn’t occur to me that Susan and Niki’s relationship was romantic in the way that my parents’ relationship was. Not until they officially came out to my siblings and me, and confirmed what I had suspected ever since I saw that “Golden Girls” episode. But I knew they loved each other and had no patience for sexist men.

At a formative age, I was schooled in their brand of politically active, spiritually charged feminism. The kind of feminism that cut its teeth on the gay rights movements of the 1980s and in college town Take Back The Night rallies; the kind that rejuvenated itself with all-women book clubs and xeroxed newsletters about environmental consciousness. Susan and Niki invited me to their women’s spirituality group retreats where we discussed the female nature of the divine and cooked a lot of pasta.

When one of their friends said, “We are feminists. Do you know what a feminist is?” I nodded.

“Um, yes? Someone who believes in women’s rights?” I said in that self-conscious tone of a 13-year-old girl. Didn’t everyone know what a feminist was? Wasn’t everyone worth talking to a feminist? Who didn’t believe in women’s rights? I had somehow been lucky enough to arrive at the shores of teenagerhood taking it for granted that I was just as brilliant and incredible as any boy, and believing most people in the world would agree with me.

Read more here.

Defending against foreclosure - Portland

At 11AM yesterday morning the Sheriff was at Patricia and Darren's SE home. The couple are resisting foreclosure and eviction. Their story is similar to many homeowners facing foreclosure today. Patricia fell ill and she tried to get a modification and failed. The bank stopped communicating with her and after a year told her that they lost their paperwork then they started all over again but were denied. At the same time they were trying to modify, the bank sold their home.

There was a standoff that quickly escalated from 3 sheriff’s deputies to over 30 police officers. We alerted our rapid response network and close to 50 supporters showed up within minutes. The police used every resource they had and took the home from Patricia and Darren, but they did not do so quietly. Every major news network was out yesterday covering the story and shedding light on police-backed, unjust foreclosures.

The events at Patricia and Darren’s had the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the City of Portland spending tax dollars to evict homeowners suffering in the foreclosure crisis. Expenditures of tax dollars on foreclosure evictions is a public subsidy to bank profits and the profits of a developer industry that is poaching homes for profit in Portland.

In the last seven days we have kept Alicia in her home, supported Will and Heather as they announced their resistance and now have stood up to the Sheriff and the Portland Police. Things are really heating up in Portland!

We need your help to spread the word and help change the tide on foreclosure. Many people don’t know that this issue goes beyond an individual homeowner and those most vocal against homeowners are making this issue out to be the fault of the homeowner on news sites.  We need your help to ensure that people understand that this is a systemic problem.

Click here and take a look at the media coverage from yesterday’s standoff and take a moment to comment on the comments section of the news sites.

In Solidarity,

Angela MacWhinnie
We Are Oregon

Romney -- stuck in 1950s

Ryan Budget Facts

From Sen Bernie Sanders:

The House budget drawn up by Rep. Paul Ryan would end Medicare as we know it, according to Sen. Bernie Sanders. It also would cut spending on virtually everything but the Pentagon while still spending more than the Treasury takes in by providing $1 trillion in tax breaks for the wealthy and profitable corporations, according to Sanders, a member of the Senate Budget Committee who has monitored and analyzed the Ryan plan.


The Ryan plan will end Medicare as we know it within 10 years by providing an $8,000 voucher for seniors to purchase a private health insurance plan.

The Ryan plan will increase out-of-pocket health care costs for a typical 65 year-old senior by more than $6,000 in 2022 - more than double the cost under current law.

And the problem gets worse and worse over time, so that by 2030, the out-of-pocket health care costs paid by seniors will climb to about $11,000.

Under the Ryan budget, Medicare's eligibility age would rise from 65-67 from 2022 to 2033.

Prescription Drugs

Under the House Ryan plan, nearly four million seniors would pay over $2 billion more for prescription drugs in 2012 alone by re-opening the Medicare Part D prescription drug donut hole.

Children's Health Insurance

If the Ryan plan becomes law, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 1.7 million children would lose health insurance by 2016. 


The Ryan budget would cut Medicaid by over $770 billion by turning it into a block grant program, and threatening the life-saving nursing home care of millions of senior citizens.
Slashing Medicaid as the Republicans want to do could cost America more than two million private-sector jobs over the next five years.

Affordable Health Care Act

The Ryan budget would completely repeal the Affordable Health Care Act preventing an estimated 34 million uninsured Americans to get the health insurance they need. 

Cancer Screenings

The Ryan budget will force over 7 million seniors to pay more for cancer screenings and prevention programs, while requiring senior cancer patients to pay millions more for lifesaving cancer drugs immediately.


The Ryan plan could force at least one million seniors to pay over $110 million more for annual wellness visits in 2012.

Pell Grants

At a time when the cost of a college education is becoming out of reach for millions of Americans, the Ryan budget would slash college Pell grants by about 60% next year alone reducing the maximum award amount from $5,550 to about $2,100. 


At a time when over 40 million Americans don't have enough money to feed themselves or their families, the Ryan budget would kick up to 10 million Americans off of Food Stamps, by slashing this program by more than $125 billion over the next decade.


At a time when our nation's infrastructure is crumbling, the House Ryan budget would slash funding for our roads, bridges, rail lines, transit systems, and airports by nearly 40 percent next year alone.

Defense Spending

Despite the fact that military spending has nearly tripled since 1997, the House Ryan budget does nothing to reduce unnecessary defense spending.  In fact, defense spending would go up by $26 billion next year alone under the Ryan plan.

$1 Trillion in Tax Breaks for Corporations and Wealthy  

The Ryan budget provides over $1 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthiest 2 percent and large corporations by permanently extending all of the Bush income tax cuts; reducing the estate tax for multi-millionaires; and lowering the top individual and corporate income tax rate from 35 to 25 percent.

Protects Big Oil

The Ryan budget protects $44 billion in unnecessary and expensive tax breaks and subsidies for oil and gas companies, even as oil companies are reporting record profits.

Costs Jobs

Mark Zandi, the former economic advisor to John McCain when he was running for president, has said that the Ryan budget plan will cost America 1.7 million jobs by the year 2014, with 900,000 jobs lost next yea

October 30, 2012

Assembly for Paid Sick-Days: 10/31/2012

Join us for a Special Assembly for Paid Sick-Days Tomorrow Morning in Portland

Tomorrow morning, Causa Oregon, Vecinos En Alerta and Allies will come together for a Special Assembly in Portland. We will ask our Portland City Mayor and City Commissioners to support a policy that will allow EVERYONE in our community to receive paid sick days from their employers.
“Now that the City Council knows that 40% of private-sector workers - and 57% of Latinos - in Portland don't have a single paid sick day it is their obligation to act," said Francisco Lopez, Executive Director of Causa Oregon. “Workers can't wait any longer for them to address this important economic issue.”

Lopez added, “This is an equity issue, because it disproportionately impacts people of color and low-wage workers -- those who are already disadvantaged in our current economy.”

Special Assembly on Paid Sick Days
When: Wednesday, October 31st, 2012
Time: 9am
Where: Portland City Hall, 1221 SW 4th Ave # 110, Portland, OR 97204


According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, tens of millions of workers in the United States lack paid sick days, which means that all too often they must choose between their health and their financial security. Currently, no state or federal law guarantees access to paid sick days, so workers can lose pay or be fired just for getting sick. A minimum paid sick days standard would help to protect millions of working families from falling further into financial.

Important Facts:
Providing paid sick days is actually good for business.  Those who do provide paid sick days see reductions in turnover, increases in employee morale and productivity, and healthier employees at work.

Sick children at school and sick workers at work aren’t good for the community.  It spreads disease, reduces productivity and often leads to delayed medical treatment -- making common health problems worse and more expensive to treat.

The people who are least likely to be able to go without a days pay are also the least likely to have paid sick days to recover at home or take care of their sick children.  A single unpaid day can compromise a family's ability to pay rent or buy groceries.  And that reality doesn't mean you should have to be forced to work sick.

Julie Parrish and Koch Brothers $$

 Parrish busted in Koch cash cover-up

After investigation, Parrish reports contribution from Koch Industries

OREGON - After an investigation from the Oregon Secretary of State’s Elections Division, Rep. Julie Parrish (Oregon State Legislature, House District 37) has disclosed a campaign contribution from the controversial, right-wing Koch Industries.  On October 29, after admonishment from the Elections Division, Parrish re-amended her campaign filing to show that the check did indeed come from Koch Industries.

“This is a good step, but Julie Parrish never should have tried to hide her Koch Industries contribution in the first place,” said Melissa Unger director of FuturePAC.  “The voters will have a chance to decide if they want to support a Koch Industries candidate. That’s what our system is all about.”

In September, Parrish attempted to hide the contribution by filing it as “Georgia Pacific,” despite clearly having received a check from Koch Industries.  After entering the Koch Industries contribution in ORESTAR, Oregon’s campaign finance reporting system, Parrish amended the contribution and created a new one for the same check, this time posting it as Georgia Pacific Financial Management LLC.

Oregon’s election transparency rules require that checks be attributed to the exact name of the donor or organization that wrote the check.

“Clearly this election season, Julie Parrish is trying to run as a moderate.  That façade is shattered when you take money from extreme right-wing interests like Koch Industries,” said Unger. “Now, not only do Oregonians know that Julie Parrish is the Koch Industries candidate, but they also know she was caught trying to cover it up.”

Vote against the far right and continue the struggle for fundamental change

Some progressives object to voting for Obama/Biden and/or working on their election campaigns or campaigns of other Democrats.  They say that as long as we vote for them, or work for their election, we are collaborating with the ruling capitalist class.

My thoughts are this:  If you can hold more than one thought in your mind, you can vote/work for Obama/Biden AND still have the consciousness that this vote/work exists within the current structure, which needs, of course to be changed at the base.  You can vote/work for Obama/Biden and be very mindful that Obama is not what you really want.  You vote mindfully and keep on struggling for that better world.  A vote for Obama does not mean you agree with the system you're voting in, or for the fact that Obama works within that system or that the Dems are trending to the right.  If you think that voting is collaborating, then when you live in a capitalist system, you are collaborating just by living.  If you own a car or property, or have a job, you are collaborating; by participating in the capitalist economy, you are collaborating.

Those of us who yearn for a just and equitable world, where the planet is safe from capitalist rapaciousness, still can vote as described above.  You can think of it as voting against the far right and social extremism.  A couple of examples follow.

We are voting to retain the right to choose (Ryan wants to withdraw this right, even in the case of rape).  We are voting to retain the wage equity gained for women (Ryan opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act).  We vote to continue the struggle for full marriage equity (Romney opposes same-sex marriage and supports DOMA.  He does not object if States "banned adoption by same-sex couples and restricted their rights to hospital visitation and other privileges.").  And more.

We continue to work and to struggle, and to educate ourselves and others about our dilemma.

2012: 76 Years Of Misleaders On The Left Calling Workers And The Oppressed To Vote For The "Lesser Evil"

I was reading James Cannon recently and it only seemed like yesterday - but in 1960 he wrote about the preceeding elections.  He referred to the 1936 Presidential election when Communists and some Socialists called for "Beat Landon At All Costs".  So Cannon could see 1936 through to 1960.  But we can see 1936-2012 and how that has worked out for the working class in this country.  His quote from 1960, "Running errands and ringing doorbells in order to beat some capitalist political faker at all costs in order to elect some political shyster at all costs." Yep, that sums up the last 76 years.

There are those like James Cannon, a founding member of the Communist Party in the U.S. and member of the Communist International until 1928, who was raised in a different socialist tradition.  He saw the program of class struggle and independent working class politics being lost.  People were forgetting these basics taught by Eugene Debs  in 1900.

In 1901 there was a great upsurge of radicalization which influenced the formation of the Socialist Party Of America.  It was a fusion of different socialist groups who moved away from policies of class collaboration and towards independent socialist action.  For example many came from the Populist Movement.  When the Populist Party was swallowed up by the Democratic Party they eventually left, understanding the need for a Socialist Party independent of the Democratic Party.  They had their fill of capitalist party politics.

In the early days the Communist Party believed in class struggle and even had a slogan, "Class Struggle v.s. Class Collaboration". They actually understood that the evil of "lesser evil-ism" is class collaboration, later they used a euphemism, "popular front".  This policy has led to slaughter of revolutionaries and aborted revolutions.  Just a few examples occurred in Great Britain in 1926, Spain and France in 1936.  And France again in 1968.

Amid all the talk about changing the Democratic Party or claiming to "use" the Democratic Party is the brutal fact that in a political coalition with the capitalist class they always call the shots.  And that eventually the Democratic mask will inevitably become the face.

October 29, 2012

Top Climate Scientist to Unions: "We Have a Planetary Emergency," Calls for Action.

"We Have a Planetary Emergency"
Hansen, leading NASA climate scientist, urges unions to act

The world's most well-known climate scientist, James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute, addressed 75 union leaders and allies at a global trade union roundtable in New York City this month. 

Entitled "Energy Emergency, Energy Transition," the event was convened by ILR's Global Labor Institute (GLI), part of the new Worker Institute at Cornell. The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation's New York City office partnered with GLI in organizing the Oct. 10-12 event. 

"The truth is, we have a planetary emergency," Hansen said. Union representatives from 18 countries listened in silence as Hansen described what is happening to the earth's climate, ice sheets, oceans and weather patterns.

Hansen's presentation can be seen below and at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ffcdj9Oaqw.

"The volume of Arctic sea ice has been reduced by 75 percent in just 30 years. Greenland's ice sheet is losing mass at about 300 cubic kilometers per year. Sea levels are going up, and there is a danger that the ice sheets will begin to collapse and we could get several meters (of rising sea levels) in one year – which would be disastrous," Hansen said. 

"The frequency of extreme weather events is changing because the planet is getting warmer. It was exceedingly hot this past summer, and the frequency and area covered by these events are both increasing."

"We have only burned a small fraction of the fossil fuels, but we can not burn all of them. And yet the governments are going right ahead, encouraging even more use of fossil fuels through mountain top removal, tar sands, tar shale, drilling in the Arctic. We can't do that if we want to be fair to our children."

Solutions for the climate problem and for our children's futures are really going to depend on workers understanding the situation, he said.

"It's hard to communicate with people if they feel their job is threatened, but the jobs associated with clean energy technologies would be good jobs. Workers will get much better opportunities. We need to have cooperation and understanding between labor and environmental organizations and people who are concerned about the future of their children."

In an interview following the presentation, Hansen said, "Unions are an important force globally. They represent hundreds of millions of workers and their families. The thought of having them joining in the effort to bring about an energy revolution to fight climate change is very exciting. Stabilizing the climate is a battle for survival that needs everyone involved." Hansen said he was speaking as a citizen, and not a NASA employee.

In his talk, Hansen urged that a price be placed on carbon emissions at source. This, in turn, he said, would unleash the development of clean and renewable energy, energy conservation and next-generation nuclear power, which Hansen regards as an important option in the global effort to reduce global warming pollution. 

Hansen's policy proposals sparked a spirited debate among the attendees. Union representatives from Latin America and South Africa questioned whether pricing carbon should be the main solution, given the capacity of the fossil fuel companies to control the political debate.

Energy unions from Canada, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, and Russia echoed Hansen's call for unions to be part of the solution to climate change and to seize the opportunities to build unions and create jobs.

Others addressing the international group included leading commentator James Gustave Speth, a professor at Vermont Law School; Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch; and Robert Howarth, a Cornell scientist concerned with the global warming effects of methane leakage from "fracking" for shale gas.

More information about the roundtable, including participants, presentations and trade union statements on climate change and energy, is available at

People’s Democratic Congress' (HDK) Middle East Conference Concludes with Declaration

The “Middle East Conference” organized by the People’s Democratic Congress (HDK) at Istanbul’s Bosphorus University ended with a 13 point declaration calling for the unity of the peoples in the region. The panelists covered a range of topics from the ongoing conflict in Syria to Palestine and the latest developments in Turkey.

The "Middle East Conference" organized by the People's Democratic Congress (HDK) at Istanbul's Bosphorus University between Sept. 20 and 21 ended with a 13 point declaration regarding the developments in the region. 

Various representatives and party officials from Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Germany attended the conference that lasted for five sessions through the weekend.

Foti Benlisoy (Turkey, academic,) Mohamed Waked (Egypt, academic and activist), Hamma Hammami, (Tunisian Workers' Party) Lhoussain Lahnnaoui (Morocco, Democratic Path Party,) Erhan Keleşoğlu (Turkey, academic,) Meryem Ebu Dakka - (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,) Ali Selman (Lebanon Communist Party,) Ahmed Ebu Suud Hanini (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,) Ali Fayyad (Lebanon, Hezbollah,) Mehmet Bekaroğlu (Turkey, academic,) Bahiga Hussei (Egyptian Communist Party,) Radia Nasravi (Tunisia, deputy) and Erhard Crome (Germany, Rosa Luxemburg Foundation) took the floor on the first day of the conference.

The second day kicked off with an opening speech by Sebahat Tuncel, the Istanbul deputy of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP.)
"Missing the crux of the problem"

İnam Elmasri from the Syrian Communist Party said the opposition in Syria was supported by imperialist forces and that the western press and the Qatar-based Arab broadcasting station Al-Jazeera were distorting the facts in the country, adding that they were defending Syria's territorial integrity instead.

Nermin Osman, a YNK deputy from southern Kurdistan, also delivered a speech that led to some dispute among the Arab participants in the conference. Osman was criticized for the southern Kurdistani administration's collaboration with the United States during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 after he spoke about the Arabs' silence in the face of all the cruelty and oppression that befell upon the Kurds and their muted response to the Halabja massacre during the First Gulf War.

"[They] are trying to squeeze the debate on Syria into an equation with [either al-Assad on one hand or the Free Syrian Army on the other.] This is causing us to miss the crux of the problem. The real issue is to support the egalitarian, libertarian and progressive movements in the region and to prevent Turkey from intervening there, as well as supporting the Kurds' gains in the area... The United States and Europe are quite content to load all the burden of the proxy war in Syria on Turkey. Turkey caused grave harm there by positioning the opposition next to the Free Syrian Army rather than [attempting to] unite all the opposition. What we need to do is to unite the struggles for freedom," the Peace and Democracy Party's (BDP) Mersin Deputy Ertuğrul Kürkçü also commented.

The declaration

The resulting declaration stressed the following points:

-The participants affirm the progressive and democratic contents of the Arab uprising which at its core aspires to justice, freedom and bread for all peoples.

-Our conference is in agreement that the struggle of the peoples in the Middle East and North Africa targets the neo-liberal policies of imperialism and the local dominant classes which lead to unemployment and deepening poverty, as well as the autocratic regimes that serve as a means to impose these policies on the people.

-Our conference draws attention to the new tactics and policies of the imperialists who wish to sustain their dominance over these countries following the fall of Bin Ali and Mubaraq who used to govern Tunisia and Egypt in accordance with the imperialists' interests. At the same time, the conference expresses its support for the people who are striving to continue the revolution and to create a free and just society.

-Major western powers are trying to expand their influence across the entire region by finding new collaborators, especially among Islamic movements that identify with neo-liberal policies.

-Major western powers are now trying different methods in Syria after openly intervening in Libya based on a rhetoric of "democracy" and "fighting against oppression."

-Turkey sits at the center of all plans to intervene in Syria, as the strength of the al-Assad regime combined with the support it receives from Iran, Russia and China deters western imperialists from engaging in open conflict. Turkey must immediately abandon this policy and shut down all NATO bases in its territory.

-The government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey is arming and organizing the armed gangs in Syria under the name of the "Free Syrian Army" and the "Syrian National Council" while providing bases, training, logistics and managerial coordination for them.

-Our conference strongly condemns the prospects of a military intervention against Syria and Iran by Turkey, major western powers and the United States and announces its support for all efforts toward achieving a permanent and fair peace in the region.

-Our conference cautions the people against the policies of sectarianism in Syria followed by the United States, Turkey and other imperialist major powers. The people's interest lies in a popular, democratic and secular opposition rather than the dichotomy of al-Assad versus an imperialist intervention.

-Our conference announces its support for mass action by the people rather than acts that are disconnected from the people and which help to suppress true opposition by the people. To this end, our conference also announces its backing for the Kurds' struggle to for self-determination and autonomy in west Kurdistan, as well as the Palestinian people's liberation struggle against Israeli Zionism. We recognize that Israel's unconditional evacuation of occupied Palestinian lands and the recognition of Palestine as an independent and sovereign state with membership in the United Nations are in the interests of all the peoples of the region.

-All revolutionary and dissident democratic movements in the region should pay special heed to women's struggle for equality, freedom and liberation in view of the fact that all kinds of sexist repression and violence in the region bear a direct connection to the prevalent political and social circumstances there.

-Our conference regards the ongoing hunger strikes in Turkish jails as part of our people's struggle for freedom and democracy and identifies with the prisoners' demands.

-Our conference expresses its wish for the sustenance of organized efforts by all these peoples to unite their struggles and to take charge of their common destiny. (AS/HK)

October 28, 2012

Portland, Oregon Prepares for Pre-Election Anti-Austerity Protest

By Shamus Cooke, Countercurrents | Report
On November 3rd Portland community and labor groups will declare "enough is enough" by organizing a first for the U.S. - a large demonstration against government austerity cuts.
The protest takes aim at the governmental policy of austerity — where public deficits on a city, state, and federal level are being addressed by “cuts only" budgets, resulting in continued de-funding of education, health care, transportation, and other vital public services, combined with an attack on public sector workers.
The pre-election date of the protest is no accident, but an intentional action that, in part, aims to bring awareness to the post-election cuts slated to “fix” the national deficit. Although Democrats and Republicans are still wrangling over a specific dollar amount of cuts, they do agree that at least $4 trillion in cuts — including social programs like Medicare, education and likely Social Security — are "necessary" ($4 trillion is Obama's proposal; Paul Ryan's is $6 trillion).
Nearly all politicians claim there is no alternative to austerity cuts, which in Portland have caused devastation to public schools and other social services.
The alternative solution to austerity is obvious: budget deficits should be fixed by taxing the corporations and the wealthy, who have benefited for decades from a bi-partisan policy of lower tax rates, while working people have seen property, liquor, and other regressive taxes levied against them. These pro-corporate policies are in large part the cause of the current deficit, the recession — caused by the big banks — is another cause.
Giant protests against austerity in Europe have attracted hundreds of thousands and evolved into citywide general strikes, thanks in large part to the active participation of the European labor movement. In Portland, the anti-austerity demonstration is endorsed by locals from Service Employees International Union, Communication Workers of America, Letter Carriers, Laborers, Jobs With Justice, and other community groups including Occupy Portland.
If the Portland protest is large enough it will have succeeded in educating the community about the special interest, pro-corporate agenda behind the national and local austerity cuts, while also showing practical alternatives to austerity: making the rich and corporations pay for the crisis they created.
Ideally, the Portland demonstration will be the beginning of a working-class coalition of labor and community groups with the potential of growing into a powerful European-like movement capable defeating not only city and state austerity budgets, but working with other cities to change social policy on a national level.
Economists agree that the economic downturn shows no signs of real recovery, ensuring that austerity will remain an issue that threatens the livelihoods of all working people for years to come. Better to start fighting it now!
The protest begins 1pm, at Portland's Holladay Park on November 3rd.

October 26, 2012

Breaking News: Wells Fargo Dumps Private Prison Stock



We are excited to announce a major victory in our Wells Fargo Divestment Campaign!
According to SEC filings recently made public (see below), Wells Fargo has divested nearly 75% of their holdings in Geo Group, the nation's second largest private prison company.

This comes after months and months of public pressure from the community working to expose this dirty connection between Wells Fargo and the private prison industry.

We wanted to take a moment to celebrate this win before we head back into the fight. Obviously 75% is not 100% and Wells Fargo's ties to the private prison industry run deeper than holding shares. PCASC will continue to pressure Wells Fargo until all ties are cut and the private prison industry is dismantled. We work towards a world where all prisons are abolished.

Thanks to everyone who has been involved in supporting this campaign and continue to fight for justice! Follow our ongoing work on pcasc.net and keep up to date through our Wells Fargo Divestment Campaign Timeline.


Tuesday, November 13th. We'll be organizing and event with Students For Unity at Portland State University to talk about our campaign and the effects detention and incarceration is having on women. Guest speaker Vikki Law will be there, as well as members of the community who have been directly affected by prisons and detention centers. More details to come.

From Portland Jobs with Justice---New Strategies in Movement Building

I wanted to make sure you knew about the event that we are pulling together next week:

Monday, October 29th, 7pm - Portland Rising Presents: New Strategies in Movement Building--with Leo Panitch and Sam Ginden of York University and the Toronto Workers Assembly - at the Musicians Hall, 325 NE 20th Ave.

Sam and Leo are scholars and activists with a long history of participation in unions and community movements.  Drawing upon their understanding of contemporary economic and political challenges and the experience of the Toronto Workers Assembly, they will share their thoughts about how best to build a strong progressive community and a more effective movement for change.  This is a great opportunity for building our own community strengthening our organizing efforts.

Hope to see you all for what is sure to be an exciting discussion.

No 3rd Bridge - Salem - Nov. 4

Concerned Salem residents will get the opportunity to hear from experts about the proposal to build a new $687 million freeway spanning the Willamette River and connecting Highway 22 to I-5.

The NO 3rd Bridge Briefing will take place on Sunday, November 4th at 3 p.m. in the Anderson A meeting room at the Salem Public Library.

The featured speaker will be Scott Bassett, a transportation policy analyst for fifteen years, who has been following the planning process for the 3rd Bridge. Bassett will describe in detail the 3rd Bridge plans that will be considered by the Salem City Council at a public hearing on November 5th at 6:30 p.m. He will also show how the need for a new bridge is now highly questionable in light of declining traffic on the existing bridges, and he will present his ideas on how to relieve congestion at peak hours without spending many hundreds of millions on a new bridge.

Also speaking at the briefing will be a member of the project Task Force who is not in favor of building a 3rd bridge. Doug Parrow, who represented the Bicycle Transportation Alliance on the Task Force, will give an insider's perspective on the project, and explain why he believes better infrastructure for bike transportation is one answer to relieving traffic congestion.

Bob Krebs, a member of the project Oversight Team for the Salem-Keizer Transit District Board, will share how planning for the 3rd bridge will proceed from here. The District has not taken a position on the 3rd bridge. Krebs will also share his ideas about how better mass transit between West Salem and downtown might be a viable solution to relieve peak hour traffic congestion.

Following the presentation there will be time for audience members to have their questions about the 3rd Bridge answered by the expert panel. Panel members will also explain how citizens can participate most effectively at the Salem City Council public hearing on November 5th.

Carl Bloice: Vote Smart and then Prepare for the Next Stage

By the time these words go out into the internet there will be about 10 days left before the election. So, it doesn’t seem worthwhile taking the time to address the proverbial question on the Left: who to vote for or whether to vote at all? Some readers will be out actually working to re-elect President Obama. I assume others are beating the bushes for either Jill Stein of the Green Party, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party. James Harris of the Socialist Workers Party, Stewart Alexander of the Socialist Party, Libertarian Party presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, or Constitution Party nominee Virgil Goode. I suspect few are pushing Mitt Romney.

Most people reading this column regularly can have little doubt about who I’m voting for. But, hey, this is California; the Obama-Biden ticket can assume it has our electoral votes sewed up. I’ll be rushing off to the polls with urgency because we’ve got some critical state measures before us (don’t we always?). The big money, buy-elections people are trying to strangle union and progressive expression with one measure (Prop. 32). Insurance moguls are spending millions of dollars on a proposal to sock it to working class drivers (Prop. 33). Liberals and progressives are trying to insure that any genetically engineered frankenfoods sold at the supermarket are labeled as such (Prop. 37). And, while it doesn’t go as far as most of us on the Left would like, there’s a proposal that would mean more resources for our state’s underfunded schools (Prop. 30). Also, I think affordable housing activist, Christina Olague, is the best choice to represent our inner-city district on the San Francisco City - County Board of Supervisors.

I don’t vote absentee unless I have to; I like going to the polls and seeing my neighbors there and having them see me and wearing the little badge reading “I voted” on my lapel as I shop or enter the neighborhood bar.

Carrying the fight to the mat would have been the correct response to the opposition’s intransigence.The fundamental question in this campaign, I believe, is the country’s future economic policy. As begrudging and inconsistent as it is, the Obama policy is generally in favor of a neo-Keynesian direction of further investment in the economy to increase consumer demand, while the Romney-Ryan approach is tax cuts for the rich and regulatory deregulation. The difference between these two policies is not inconsequential. Tenaciously high unemployment and growing poverty is a reality. For millions of working people, decisions made over the next four years will have a direct impact on their daily lives. The same, I think, can be said about immigration policy, reproductive rights, and LGBT equal rights.

Yea, I’ve heard the argument. For every negative thing that can be said about the GOP there’s something awful to cite about the other party; for every positive thing the Obama Administration may have accomplished there is something it did that is grossly offensive. One Left commentator wrote last week that he hoped Obama is reelected because his future failures will further radicalize us. That’s just another version of the tired old, and morally dubious, worse-the-better argument.

Read more here.

AFL-CIO: Nearly 70,000 Retirees Join Vice President Biden on Medicare, Social Security

Nearly 70,000 Retirees Join Vice President Biden on  Medicare, Social Security

Nearly 70,000 members of the Alliance for Retired Americans joined a call this week with Vice President Joe Biden to learn more about the Obama administration’s commitment to keeping Medicare and Social Security strong for future generations. The call was organized by the Alliance.

“President Obama and I have a fundamentally different view from Mitt Romney on how to move this country forward—and a fundamentally different value system. There is no place where that is more profound than retirement security,” said Vice President Biden on the call. “I don’t view retirement security based only on how it affects retirees, I view it based on how it affects the entire family.”

Seniors and working families are depending on the president to protect Social Security and Medicare from benefit cuts.

“....Mitt Romney wants to sell Medicare off to the big insurance companies and give away our Social Security to Wall Street,” said Barbara J. Easterling, president of the Alliance for Retired Americans.

As part of its Let’s Not Be the Last Generation to Retire campaign, the Alliance is educating and mobilizing seniors on the issues and the candidates in the 2012 elections.

From ZZ's Blog---Where have All the Profits Gone?

Mid September marked the fourth anniversary of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, widely viewed as the final trigger of the global economic collapse, a shock that remains the dominant factor in global economic life. Friday, October 19 brought a dramatic drop in US equity values, caused, commentators speculate, by dismal reports of US corporate earnings. The most observant of these commentators did not fail to point out that Friday was also the twenty-fifth anniversary of the largest US one-day percentage drop in stock values. The fact that such an anniversary came to mind reflects a general and widespread fear that more economic turbulence is forthcoming.
The growing gloom overshadows the glowing September report of retail sales released earlier in the week. Despite stagnant or slipping incomes, the US consumer turned to the credit card to boost purchases at retail stores, online, and in restaurants. Signs of an improving housing market also fueled optimism.
Opinions change quickly. A week earlier---Tuesday, October 9---the International Monetary Fund released its World Economic Report. While raising fears of a global downturn, the report cut the probability of a US recession by nearly a quarter from its April forecast!
Taken together, the sentiments of the last two weeks demonstrate widespread confusion and uncertainty.
Read more here.

October 25, 2012

Vote Socialist!

With the U.S. presidential elections coming up again, a lot of workers and activists are eagerly discussing the campaigns, watching the debates, and even hitting the pavement to campaign for their candidates. We in Socialist Action commend people who take politics seriously and who are committed to fighting for what they believe in. However, we urge people to abstain from casting a ballot for the Democrats or Republicans, and to instead cast a protest vote for socialism.
Elections pose the question of which class shall rule. Should it be the class that has crashed the economy and stolen the jobs and homes of millions, or should it be the working class? That’s why we’re calling on people to Vote Socialist.
With both the Democrats and Republicans having been bought and paid for by Wall Street, we feel now more than ever it’s crucial for working people to declare their political independence by voting socialist.
Contrary to what the defenders of the status quo say, we don’t believe that casting a vote for a socialist candidate is a wasted vote.Change does not come through elections, but from social movements and mass action. But a protest vote for a socialist candidate can be used to send a message that you reject the misplaced priorities of our current political system and the political trap of lesser evilism!
We are calling for people to vote for whatever socialist candidate is on the ballot, or running as a write-in candidate, in their state. In particular, we endorse the following candidates for president:
• Peta Lindsay of the Party for Socialism and Liberation
• James Harris of the Socialist Workers Party
• Stephan Durham of the Freedom Socialist Party
• Stewart Alexander of the Socialist Party
While we have differences with each of these organizations on a number of political questions, we are giving them our critical support because we feel their campaigns represent a step towards working-class political independence. Campaigns such as these can serve as a placeholder for what our class ultimately needs—a mass labor party based on the unions.
Even more important than casting your ballot this fall, we urge you to get involved in your union, in the antiwar movement, in the women’s movement, the immigrant rights movement—in the social movements that really can and will bring about the change we so desperately need!
Photo: Tony Savino / Socialist Action

Crisis of Global Capitalism talk in Salem 10/30/2012

Click to enlarge

October 24, 2012

NNU: Finally A Union Standing Up Now Against Looming Bi Partisan Social Security Cuts

It was encouraging to see Rose Ann De Moro, Executive Director of the 185,000 member National Nurses United, writing about the need to prepare for the substantive attacks on Social Security after the election.  I am sure it was supposed to be "inside" knowledge but a few Democrats blew the whistle on what they call "The Grand Bargain" that has been agreed to by both parties.  Undoubtedly that is why you keep hearing the term, "Fiscal Cliff" which is pure fiction but meant to make people very afraid.  The Congressional Democrats that have leaked the upcoming deal seem also to be very afraid as they are not speaking publicly but have left that to Sen. Bernie Sanders (Independent).  And Bernie to his credit has been talking about it wherever he can get on the airwaves.

De Moro points out that the signals from Obama are indeed ominous.  This is definitely true.  Every time the President or Vice President has been forced to address Social Security they make a strong statement claiming they will never allow Social Security to be privatized.  This of course is a diversion as there are many attacks on Social Security being floated around that are short of privatization.  This campaign trick was particularly clear in the Vice President debate.  We do know that the President told the Congressional Republicans earlier this year that he is willing to cut Social Security and that a few months ago much to everyone's surprise Rep. Nancy Pelosi said that she has no disagreement with Obama's Simpson/Bowles Commission and their proposals for austerity.  De Moro also mentioned that David Axelrod, a top campaign aide to the President told reporters that discussion of Social Security should wait until after the election.  But, of course!

De Moro made some important points about the lies about Social Security that we hear from both parties.  When you hear Social Security being described as an "Entitlement" that person is an enemy of Social Security.  When you hear anyone alluding to the fact that Social Security is contributing to the deficit that is a lie and when they say Social Security is broke they just lied again.  The Trust Fund has a surplus of $2.6 Trillion and in 2022  it is expected to reach $3.7 Trillion.

There are already Bi-Partisan proposals calling for cutting of benefits starting in 2014, raising the retirement age and changing the benefit calculation.  While most unions have a tunnel vision focus on turning out their members to get Obama re-elected, at least one union leader knows there is a struggle ahead and that we need to prepare for it now!

Prisoners’ Health Deteriorating in Hunger Strikes

The Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) Mersin Deputy Ertuğrul Kürkçü spoke to bianet about the trying conditions in prisons where hundreds of inmates launched a hunger strike over a month ago. Lawyer Cemil Özen also warned about the prisoners’ deteriorating health condition.

The Peace and Democracy Party's (BDP) Mersin Deputy Ertuğrul Kürkçü drew attention to the insanitary conditions and prisoners' lack of access to clean water at the Karataş Women's Closed Prison in the southern province of Adana where inmates joined in a country-wide hunger strike across Turkey's jails over a month ago.

The hunger strikes began in protest of the continued isolation of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK,) and the obstacles that lie before the use of the Kurdish language in Turkey.

Lawyer Cemil Özen also told bianet that his client Tayyip Temel had also begun to encounter serious health problems.

"[Authorities] have moved the women on hunger strike at the Karataş prison to a separate ward. The strikers are not receiving visits. They have not been placed under any isolation in this region's prisons, as far as we have heard. They have someone keeping them company," Deputy Kürkçü said.

20 inmates are currently on hunger strike at the Adana Kürkçüler Prison, while five more inmates have also joined them at the Karataş Women's Closed Prison, Kürkçü explained.

Seven minors currently under arrest at the Mersin E-Type Prison have also gone on a hunger strike, he added.

All the strikers at the Kürkçüler Prison are convicts, and half of them have been on hunger strike since Oct. 5, while the rest joined them on Oct. 15, he said.
"The deadlock can lead to loss of lives"

"The health condition of the prisoners who started the strike on Oct. 5 has begun to deteriorate. No one has yet been taken to hospital," Kürkçü said, though he also explained that the inmates at both the Karataş and the Kürkçü prisons had access to medical professionals.

"There was already a grave problem of sanitation at the Karataş Prison. They have no running water. Firefighters bring water to the prison, but this is no drinking water. The prison guards also said they did not drink off from this water. Prisoners who do not have enough money to buy drinking water use this water instead," he said.

The prison is at double its maximum capacity, while there is also a significant problem of rats and insects, Kürkçü added.

The issue could potentially lead to more fateful consequences, and the government should not test the prisoners' determination, he said, adding that the deadlock could result in the loss of some lives.

"[People] should strive for a solution regarding these [prisoners] who have rightful demands and whose lives are in peril, rather than talking about why or how the strike began," Kürkçü said.
No vitamins for the hunger strikers

Meanwhile, lawyer Cemil Özen highlighted the prisoners' deteriorating health condition, especially at the Diyarbakır D and E-Type prisons where inmates have been on hunger strikes since Sept. 12.

"They have a range complaints including headaches, nausea, joint disorders, vomiting, diarrhea, sleep disorders and weakening perceptions," lawyer Özen said.

Journalist Tayyip Temel can only speak for a few minutes, while he has become overly sensitive to noise and is experiencing difficulties in walking, reading and speech, he said, adding that the prison administration had also turned down a request to acquire a vitamin complex.

Prison officials refused to comment to bianet on the issue and said they were not authorized to speak on or provide information about the hunger strikes.

Temel has also shed excessive amounts of weight and is having difficulty even when he is only drinking water, lawyer Özen said, adding that the hunger strikers were going through some medical checks nonetheless.

Other inmates who began the hunger strike on Sept. 12 and Mazlum Tekdağ, who had penned a letter to the BDP's co-chair Gültan Kışanak, are also in a similar condition as Temel, he noted. (AS)

From Maya Angelou: Pretty or plain, heavy or thin, gay or straight, poor or rich‏

From Maya Angelou:

I am not writing to you as a black voter, or a woman voter, or as a voter who is over 70 years old and six feet tall. I am writing to you as a representative of this great country -- as an American.

It is your job to vote. It is your responsibility, your right, and your privilege. You may be pretty or plain, heavy or thin, gay or straight, poor or rich.

But remember this: In an election, every voice is equally powerful -- don't underestimate your vote. Voting is the great equalizer.

Your vote might make the difference. Don't fool around with this: You can vote early in Washington, so find your early vote polling location and do it now.

Once you've done that, make sure your friends know exactly where they can vote early, too.

As a country, we can scarcely perceive the magnitude of our progress.

My grandmother and my uncle experienced circumstances that would break your heart. When they went to vote, they were asked impossible questions like, "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" When they couldn't answer, they couldn't vote.

I once debated with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. about whether an African American would ever be elected president. He believed it would happen within the next 40 years at the time -- I believed it would never happen within my lifetime.

I have never been happier to have been proven wrong.

And since President Barack Obama's historic election, we've moved forward in courageous and beautiful ways. More students can afford college, and more families have access to affordable health insurance. Women have greater opportunities to get equal pay for equal work.

Yet as Rev. King wrote, "All progress is precarious."

So don't sit on the sidelines. Don't hesitate. Don't have any regrets. Vote.

You don't have to wait until Election Day. Voting has already begun in Washington -- so go, rise up, and cast your ballot early:


And make sure everyone in your life knows where they can vote early, too:


Your vote is not only important. It's imperative.

Thank you,

Dr. Maya Angelou

October 23, 2012

Election 2012: Fog of right-wing lies is lifting---Sam Webb

The most extreme voices in the Republican Party - who in fact control the GOP - have been quiet as church mice as Mitt Romney has migrated to more moderate positions on a range of issues in the closing weeks of his campaign for the presidency.

Should anyone be surprised by the deafening, yet noticeable, silence on the right? I don't believe so. It is very predictable for two reasons.

First, the right wing is ready to do anything - and I mean anything - to win this election. They see it as their political Armageddon, especially given their existential alarm about the changing demographics (majority minority) of the country.

If that means right-wing fundraising political action committees (superPACs) spending hundreds of millions of dollars on anti-Obama attack ads riddled with falsehoods, they will do it. If it means making racist appeals to white voters, they will happily do it. If it means suppressing the vote of people of color, young people and seniors, they will show no hesitation to strangle the laws on voting rights.

And if it means that their candidate has to temporarily shed his "severe conservative" positions because they aren't resonating with voters across the country, in the battleground states, and among women, these folks will be the last to object. Right-wing extremists never allow truth to get in the way of their cause.

The other reason that the extremists on the right are not going apoplectic about Romney's political makeover is that if there is a Romney victory it doesn't matter too much which Mitt shows up at the White House. Why? Because the center of political and legislative initiative, as they see it, will reside not with Romney, but rather with a right-wing controlled Congress.

In the New York Review of Books, Frank Rich penetratingly writes:

... in the event he [Romney] enters the White House, he will serve as a pliant errand boy for the elements in the base he tried and failed to placate throughout the campaign. Grover Norquist spoke for the real powers-that-be in the GOP when he told the Conservative Political Action Committee in February that the GOP candidate's only function as president would be "to sign the legislation that has already been prepared" by the Republican congressional caucus, starting with the government-slashing Ryan budget.

In other words, Romney would be little more than a puppet. He wouldn't call the shots; he wouldn't set the agenda. That would be done on Capitol Hill, particularly in the House of Representatives where tea party Republicans currently reign supreme.

And as we know, the right wing has an agenda to undo all the economic and social legislation enacted ever since the New Deal.

It would overturn the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") to get the ball rolling. And then it would move to destroy Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid in the name of "responsible" deficit reduction.

And from there the GOP extremists in Congress (and on the U.S. Supreme Court) would set their sights on other long-standing social legislation and policies that have protected people's rights and improved living standards.

Nothing in their mind is too sacred to undo; everything is subject to nullification and destruction. Whatever you might say about the right wing, one thing is for sure - when they have their hands on the levers of power, they have no hesitation to use that power in the interests of the 1 percent.

Indeed, they are salivating at the thought of overturning the great legislative achievements of the 20th century - achievements that have brought a measure of security and happiness to millions of Americans.

But what stands in their way at the present moment is millions of Americans who are seeing through the fog of lies and deceptions issuing from the propaganda machine of Romney and the right wing.

I believe - and polls in the battleground states reveal - in the end truth will win out. And people-to-people action will help make it so.

Occupy Salem and Oregon AFL-CIO Host: "Green Jobs: A Healthy Economy in a Healthy Environment"

Occupy Salem will be hosting a talk, "Green Jobs" A Healthy Economy in a Healthy Environment", on Monday, October 29 at 7pm. The presenter for this talk will be Barbara Byrd, Oregon AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, and Treasurer, Labor Network for Sustainability. The talk will be held at the Oregon AFL-CIO building at 2110 State St, in Salem.

A transition to an environmentally sustainable economy will involve radical transformations in social and economic practices and policies. Contrary to mainstream thinking, labor unionists are in the fore front of the fight for our planet and labor unions can be a critically positive force in achieving a sustainable world.

Hunger strikers in Turkish prisons

“A Scream of Self-Inflicted Pain”

Metin Bakkalcı, the head of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV,) spoke to bianet about the ongoing hunger strikes initiated by 615 inmates to protest the obstacles that lie before the use of the Kurdish language and the continued isolation of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK.) 

Ankara - BIA News Center
22 October 2012, Monday

As hundreds of inmates in Turkey's prisons entered their 41st day of hunger strikes today, human rights activist Metin Bakkalcı emphasized the need to question the circumstances that have led them to resort to such an act.

"People are causing direct injury to themselves while we all bear witness to it. Hunger strikes are a process that directly concerns all of us. The bottom line is not about whether hunger strikes are right or wrong. It follows that such circumstances are in place that a person feels that all avenues to express him or herself have been shut and lets out a scream by inflicting injury on his or her body as a means of self-expression," Metin Bakkalcı, the head of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV,) told bianet.

Some 63 inmates first initiated the hunger strikes on Sept. 12 to protest the continued isolation of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK,) and the obstacles that lie before the use of the Kurdish language in Turkey. Since then, hundreds more jumped on the bandwagon, with the number of inmates on hunger strike now soaring up to 615 prisoners across 58 jails in the country.

"Going from bad to worse"

"The environment where the field of self-expression has been limited to one's own body is also the [same] environment we are living in, too. We have been witnessing how the freedom of expression in this country has been narrowing down at an ever accelerating pace. In this regard, we all bear responsibility for the hunger strikes, starting with the government," Bakkalcı said.

Bakkalcı also noted that the prison population in Turkey has swelled from about 55,000 up to 125,000 since 2005, with human rights violations also gathering speed with each passing day.
"Operation 'Return to Life' on Dec. 19, 2000 played a major role in the increasing frequency of human rights violations," he said:

"[Authorities] then begun transferring [inmates] to F-type prisons which are based on isolation and de-humanization. As of today, the practice of isolation is in place in a great majority of the 377 prisons across Turkey. Isolation and solitary confinement are defined as acts of torture and ill-treatment in all international documents, and we have been witnessing torture and ill-treatment since 2000. This has only gone from bad to worse," he said.

Bakkalcı underlined the fact that the solitary confinement of Öcalan at a prison on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara had been going on for 13 years.

"Human rights cannot be negotiated. They have come about through a consensus built over thousands of years of human suffering throughout history, and universal human rights declarations are all based on these," he said.

"The essence of all these [declarations] include ensuring the right to self-expression at all levels. It is a point of consensus, beyond any negotiations. People reserve the right to express themselves in every language and in every environment," he added.

"The issue could be resolved within the hour"

The hunger strikes constitute an indication that the Kurdish issue has reached an intolerable level, Bakkalcı said.

"We are all going through a test of humanity. This scream is the reality of this country and concerns all of us. It is therefore impossible to accept this deep silence, this non-chalance," he added.

"Above all, this is the government's responsibility, as the government is the body which we authorize to take action. We charged the government with the task of upholding and improving human rights. It is thus committing a crime by not living up to this task," Bakkalcı said.

"I am not informed about what these people have been influenced by and to what extent. Their lawyers, however, are also lacking information, as [authorities] have not granted any opportunities to acquire sound knowledge about their situation," he said.

"The doors of communication must be opened wide immediately. This matter could be resolved within the hour. [People] went through a lot of suffering. I hope the state does not insist [on its position.] The government ought to clear the way [for a resolution to] this problem beyond any of their personal preferences," he added. (EKN)

October 22, 2012

Obama Demands Detention Without Trial

Four years ago, Barack Obama ran for president on the promise of closing the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within one year of taking office. Today, the prison remains open—the pledge all but forgotten. Instead of dismantling Guantanamo and with it the government’s power to detain without a trial, Obama wants to expand this power and apply it to U.S. citizens and non-citizens alike. He is attempting to legalize through courts and legislation what Bush merely asserted through executive opinion.

On Dec. 31, 2011, the president signed into law the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, with a key provision that allows the U.S. government to imprison any person without trial or charges who is deemed a member of, or having “substantially supported” the Taliban, al-Qaeda, or “associated forces.” In January, Chris Hedges filed a lawsuit against the law and was joined by several other activists and journalists (including Daniel Elsberg and Noam Chomsky).

In court hearings the Obama administration refused to define terms such as “associated forces” and “substantially support” or say whether or not the plaintiffs could be imprisoned without trial for the journalistic and political activity they already practice. The government has refused to say whether people are already detained under this law, and has claimed that it would have the right to do so under previous laws anyhow.

In May, federal Judge Katherine Forrest issued an order temporarily blocking the government from using this provision. On Sept. 12 she ruled the indefinite detention provision unconstitutional, with an order to permanently bar its use. Forrest found that terms like “associated forces” and “substantial support” are so vague as to make it possible to detain people for the most basic exercise of free speech and political activity.

The Obama administration responded without delay, filing in rapid succession an appeal to overturn Forrest’s ruling and an emergency stay (to keep her ruling from going into effect during the appeals process). The stay was granted, and the appeal will go to the Second Circuit Court. If Forrest’s ruling is upheld there, the case will have nowhere left to go but the Supreme Court.

The determination with which Obama has defended this law now makes it clear that he favored it all along. The grand legislative good cop/bad cop routine has been exposed in court by a few activists.

Of course, turning back the 800-year-old right to a trial is only one part of Obama’s drive to strengthen the state’s repressive powers. Obama has claimed—and exercised—the right to assassinate U.S. citizens at will. He has gone to great lengths to defend torturers and war criminals, even leading an unprecedented campaign against those who expose these crimes.

He has indicted six government whistle-blowers under the 1917 Espionage Act—twice the number indicted under all previous administrations combined. His administration has continued the policy of pre-emptive prosecution (a combination of frame-ups and criminalization of thought) and has overseen FBI raids and subpoenas of 23 labor, antiwar, and international solidarity activists.

Yet this wave of repression is by no means invincible. A national defense campaign prevented Chicano and antiwar activist Carlos Montes from serving a lengthy sentence on trumped up charges. Twenty-two other activists targeted with FBI intimidation have refused to testify at grand juries after two years of subpoenas, and have yet to be charged with contempt. The movement against the NDAA has won enough traction to win a rare (though fleeting) court victory and expose the real objectives of the Obama administration.

In the face of this offensive in general and in each particular case, we have a choice. We can remain silent, and embolden the reaction. Or we can use each instance of repression to educate, find allies, and inspire thousands and millions with confidence and determination through independent mass action in defense of our basic rights.

Capitalists may break their own laws when expedient, but their rule depends upon a widespread belief in their system’s morality and a fear of their power. When masses of working and oppressed people lose both of these through education, experience, and struggle, the continued existence of capitalism is put into question.

Photo: May Day 2012 protest in New York City. By Tony Savino / Socialist Action

'Hidden Battles' To Show In Eugene Oct. 25

FILM: 'Hidden Battles' Oct 25 in Eugene

Date: 2012-10-25

Event Time: 7:00 pm

Location: First United Methodist Church
EUGENE, OR, 97401-3960

Organization: Oregon Women's Action for New Directions (WAND)

Description: Film Presentation of "Hidden Battles"

Date: Thursday, October 25, 2012
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive St., Eugene
Cost: Free
Sponsor: Oregon WAND – Women's Action for New Directions

This film takes a look at what it means to kill another human being during times of war from the point of view of soldiers who’ve had to do it. Local Truth in Recruiting volunteers will lead a discussion following the film.

Basic Rights Oregon Endorses Candidates, Urges Strong Vote For Brown And Avakian

This is the weekend that Oregonians start receiving our ballots in the mail, and as Basic Rights Oregon's Organizing Director, I wanted to make sure you know that this election, there is a clear choice between candidates who are standing up for equality and those who would set us back.

Click here to see a list of equality pac endorsed candidates!

Two of our state's most steadfast supporters of LGBT rights are facing tough reelection campaigns.

Secretary of State Kate Brown, has been a longtime leader and advocate for the LGBT community. As a legislator, she was chief sponsor of the state's first domestic partnership legislation and successfully spearheaded a law to stop and invalidate local anti-gay ballot measures across the state. She has a great track record of protecting access to the ballot for all Oregonians, while her opponent is raising fears of so-called "voter fraud," a tactic used in other states to decrease access to the ballot for minorities, low-income residents and other marginalized communities.

Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian received the 2012 Equality Advocate Award from Basic Rights Oregon for outstanding leadership in passing and enforcing non-discrimination and domestic partnership legislation. His opponent, Republican Bruce Starr, voted against the law which makes it illegal to deny employment to gays and lesbians saying instead, "there's no vast discrimination." Democratic candidate Brad Avakian has made significant rulings on workplace and public accommodation discrimination claims, he knows discrimination is real.

It is also important to support pro-equality candidates in the Oregon House and Senate to ensure we have a pro-equality majority. A pro-equality majority in the Oregon House would put State Rep. Tina Kotek in a position to be chosen by her collegues as the first lesbian Speaker of the House, not just in Oregon but anywhere in the country!

These and other candidates need your support, your time and most of all your vote. Please read our slate of endorsed candidates before filling out your ballot. You can also help get out the vote for equality by signing up for a phone bank shift today!

In Solidarity,

Raahi Reddy
Organizing Director
Basic Rights Oregon

Marxism-Leninism Today: Interview with FARC Commander Timoleón Jiménez

Written by Carlos Lozano Guillen

Timoleón Jiménez: “We have been disposed to searching for peace.”

Timoleón Jiménez, commander in chief of the central high command of the FARC-EP, is the visible head of the legendary guerrilla movement. Today he’s committed to the search for a democratic peace by means of new dialogue with the national government.

It’s an orientation that the FARC-EP guerrillas have long continued. During the Caguán dialogues, Manuel Marulanda,[ long time FARC leader] told VOZ: “Revolutionaries see peace as one of their flags.” (N.B. To facilitate peace negotiations with the FARC beginning in 1999, President Andres Pastrana’s government established Caguan in Southern Colombia as a demilitarized zone.)

This interview takes place at an historical moment, at the portal of a new effort to achieve peace in Colombia. Here are Timoleón Jiménez’s concrete and precise responses. One could say without false optimism that peace is closer now than before, but there’s a quite tortuous route ahead. The whole country is hoping there won’t be new frustration.

Carlos Lozano - You begin a new process of discussion with a government that in some way is a descendent of Uribe’s “democratic security.” How does the FARC approach this?

Timoleón Jiménez - We always have been disposed to looking for solutions other than war. With Uribe, that wasn’t possible what with his open disavowal of our political orientation. Santos not only is heir to democratic security, but more than that, one of its star protagonists. (N. B. President Alvaro Uribe, in power in 2002-2010, propounded “Democratic Security” as his national security plan directed at “terrorism,” i.e. the FARC.) In fact, with embellishments to the name he is continuing it. But as he himself says, Santos decided to assume the risks of dialogue and take positive steps along these lines. Any Colombian would say that the real danger is war, not dialogue. On that account we don’t waver in accepting conversations in a search for peace. In regards to how to approach the new process, I would say that we do it with great expectations of arriving at an end to conflict. The President reiterates that he doesn’t want to commit errors of the past, and we trust that’s the way it will be. You know that the main error of all previous processes was to come to the table demanding surrender, with no real disposition to solving the causes that led to and kept on feeding confrontation.

CL - The agenda includes the theme of “giving up arms,” which would be the point at which an agreement or a peace pact has arrived. What does the FARC expect in this regard?

TJ - Without thinking of an arrival point of laying down arms we would lack any sense of beginning a process aimed at a definitive termination of conflict. Giving up arms consists of giving up on use of force, of appeal to any type of violence as remedy for economic or political ends. It’s a veritable good - by to arms. If we made that into a reality it in Colombia, our country would take an enormous leap forward. For the first time, we trust that the Santos administration and all sectors resorting to violence as a method of economic and political action are together with us on this criterion.

“Errors of the Past”

CL - President Santos has said his government insists that this negotiating process “not repeat the errors of the past,” also offers a guarantee it’s heading toward an end of conflict and indicates his government will maintain military operations and military pressure on the FARC. What assumptions does the insurgency have so the process might end up successfully?

TJ - The dominant Colombian oligarchy, with solid support from U.S. governments, has for almost 50 years bet on exterminating the guerrillas. Twelve presidents, one serving twice, have invariably promised to finish us off. To do so, they’ve given the military apparatus a free hand. When Santos orders intensified operations, sections of the extreme right are not satisfied. He does it because he believes with them, as with all previous governments, that in fact he can make us surrender through force of arms. It’s precisely that vicious cycle that needs to be broken. If you look at the general plebiscite giving approval to conversations on peace, you see that the great majority of Colombians don’t share the idea of a military solution, among other reasons because, with more wisdom than their governments, they know it’s not possible. We start out with the idea that this process will be successful. But that depends on those great majorities inclined toward a political solution having the opportunity to speak out, get mobilized, exert their influence, and decide the outcome. And we are inviting them to do it.

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