visit my website www.michaelmunk.com
Picture Tribune Photo by L. E. Baskow
An interview with
Munk's Musings: http://www.theportlandalliance.org/Munk
Does Being a Pundit Ever Mean
Having to Say You're Sorry?
FAIR, Oct 22,
It's been said that being a pundit means never
having to say you're sorry. That's probably more true than not, given that there
are few penalties for being spectacularly wrong about the big things.
But that doesn't mean pundits can't decide to
tell readers that they made a mistake. And that's exactly what Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen did today (10/22/13)
"The early denunciations of Snowden now seem
both over the top and beside the point," Cohen writes. He should know–he wrote
one of them. And now he says his initial reaction was "just plain
Cohen's earlier piece (6/11/13) called
Snowden a "self-proclaimed martyr for our civil liberties," and predicted that
he would "go down as a cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood." Cohen closed with
Everything about Edward Snowden is
ridiculously cinematic. He is not paranoiac; he is merely narcissistic. He
jettisoned a girlfriend, a career and, undoubtedly, his personal freedom to
expose programs that were known to our elected officials and could have been
deduced by anyone who has ever Googled anything. History will not record him
as "one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers." History is more
likely to forget him.
A few months later, Cohen is telling readers
that "my mouth is agape at the sheer size of these data-gathering programs."
Snowden is no longer some cross-dressing martyr; he is "an authentic
whistleblower" who might be compared to Paul Revere; he's even "a bit like John
Brown, the zealot who intensely felt the inhumanity of slavery and broke the law
in an attempt to end the practice."
Well, that's something. Cohen is to be credited
for re-evaluating his work, and doing something to clear up the record. Here's
to hoping that some day he might do the same thing about his support
for unconstitutional stop-and-frisk police harassment. But in the meantime, this
is a remarkable turnaround that deserves to be noted.
his hysterical performance during the debate over attacking Syria, Kerry had
earned a reputation for consistently wrong declarations and factual untruths.
Here’s the most recent example. We should stress, however, that those “friendly
host nations”against which the US has fought wars and from which has never
withdrawn its forces (Germany, Japan and the southern part of Korea), legal
jurisdiction of the hosts is usually waived.-MM
The truth about criminal
jurisdiction over US troops in Afghanistan
Commentary: Secretary of State
Kerry jeopardizes US-Afghan security agreement with misstatement
October 19, 2013
During an Oct. 12 press
conference in Kabul, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that under the
pending U.S.-Afghan security agreement, the United States would retain exclusive
jurisdiction over its service members for any crimes they commit in
Kerry unfortunately misstated U.S. law, policy
and practice. What's worse, he did so at a critical juncture in the negotiations
for an agreement to enable American troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014.
And he did this while standing next to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Kerry's
misstatements undermined Karzai's ability to explain and advocate for the
jurisdiction provisions at an upcoming loya jirga, or political
Here is what Kerry said:
"We have great respect
for Afghan sovereignty. And we will respect it, completely … But where we have
forces in any part of the world … in Japan, in Korea, in Europe … wherever our
forces are found, they operate under the same standard. We are not singling out
Afghanistan for any separate standard. We are defending exactly what the
constitutional laws of the United States require."
Returning to the U.S., Kerry repeated his
misstatement, claiming that there is "the question of who maintains jurisdiction
over those Americans who would be (in Afghanistan after 2014). Needless to say,
we are adamant it has to be the United States of America. That’s the way it is
everywhere else in the world." This led The Washington Post to award Kerry
"three Pinocchios," for statements containing "significant factual errors and/or
The secretary may, in fact, have doomed the very
security agreement he was in Afghanistan to save. His comments are also
strategically counterproductive on a larger scale: They perpetuate the myth that
the U.S. does not "allow" the courts of another country to prosecute U.S.
service members for their criminal actions in that country.
Variety of standards
Foreign countries prosecute and imprison U.S.
service members each and every year under the terms of security agreements —
which, contrary to Kerry's claim, apply very different standards than the
U.S.-Afghan agreement. Since Kerry is a lawyer and former district attorney, his
false contention that the U.S. Constitution requires that the U.S. and only the
U.S. prosecute its service members is perplexing.
jurisdiction sections of security agreements between the U.S. and other
countries vary. But for a foreign country in which a large number of American
service members are stationed, such as Japan, South Korea and Germany, that
country has primary jurisdiction over U.S. service members in the vast majority
The only crimes for which the U.S. retains primary jurisdiction
under those agreements are offenses that arise from service members' official
duties (think convoy vehicle accident or military aircraft incident) or from
crimes in which the victims are exclusively American. In all other instances in
which the offense violates laws of both the U.S. and the foreign country, the
foreign country has primary jurisdiction to prosecute U.S. service
current Afghan criminal justice system lacks the procedural safeguards
guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution to ensure a fair trial.
American policy is to maximize U.S. jurisdiction
over its service members. For foreign countries that have a primary right of
jurisdiction over U.S. service members, the United States requests that those
countries waive their right so the American military may take appropriate
action. And in the overwhelming number of cases, countries such as Germany,
Japan and South Korea do waive their right, because they know from decades of
experience that the U.S. does in fact hold its service members
In the small number of cases in which the
foreign country declines to waive its jurisdiction — generally in high-profile
offenses such as rape and murder — the U.S. provides its service member a
foreign attorney at no charge to the service member; another representative to
ensure that the foreign country respects the rights and privileges the agreement
affords the service member; and a dedicated military lawyer to observe, monitor
and report on the proceedings.
Under the current U.S.-Afghan arrangement,
Afghanistan waives jurisdiction over U.S. service members regardless of the
crime. Thus, when U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Bales sneaked out of a forward operating
base in the middle of the night on March 11, 2012, and slaughtered 16 Afghan
civilians, mostly women and children, Afghanistan did not have criminal
jurisdiction. Had Bales committed his offense in Japan, South Korea or a NATO
country, that country could and would have prosecuted him.
jurisdictional scheme in the pending U.S.-Afghan security agreement would lead
to the same outcome as in the Bales case. If, in 2015, a U.S. service member
stationed in Afghanistan commits wanton criminal misconduct against Afghan
civilians, Afghanistan would still not have primary jurisdiction over the
Kerry was right to push back on the claim that the agreement
results in immunity. It does not. That the U.S. Army court-martialed Bales,
convicted him of murder and sentenced him to life in prison without the
possibility of parole is anything but immunity.
But the proposed criminal
jurisdiction arrangement is fundamentally different from the arrangement the
U.S. has with other countries, including those the secretary mentioned. Kerry
undermines American credibility by falsely claiming the U.S. is not singling out
Afghanistan for a separate criminal jurisdiction standard. In fact, there are
legitimate reasons for that separate standard. For instance, the current Afghan
criminal justice system lacks the procedural safeguards guaranteed by the U.S.
Constitution to ensure a fair trial.
Making that point is diplomatically
delicate, if not awkward — especially when President Karzai is standing next to
you. But if Afghanistan is to be treated as a partner, now and moving forward,
the U.S. cannot afford such careless statements by its top foreign-affairs
US foreign fighters in the AfPak theater under
Commander-in-Chief Obama suffered 18 casualties
during the week ending Oct 24 as the official
total for the Iraq and AfPak wars* rose to 121,514.
total includes 81,330 casualties since the US
invaded Iraq in March, 2003 (Operations "Iraqi Freedom" and "New Dawn"), and
40,184 since the US invaded
Afghanistan in November, 2001 (Operation "Enduring Freedom")
AFGHANISTAN THEATER: US foreign fighters
suffered 17 combat casualties during the week ending Oct 24 as the total rose
40,184 The total includes 21,230 dead and wounded from what the
Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and 18,954 dead or medically evacuated
(as of Dec.3, 2012) from what it calls "non-hostile"
IRAQ THEATER: The total of US military
personnel in Iraq is unclear, with estimates ranging from a few hundred to
several thousand. Most armed US employees are designated as civilians. The
casualty total has been revised several times recently and has risen to
35,762 dead and wounded from
“hostile" causes and 45,568 dead or medically evacuated
(as of Dec 3, 2012) from "non-hostile" causes.
US media divert attention from the actual cost in
American life and limb by reporting regularly only the total killed (6,774-
4,489 in Iraq, 2,285 in Afghanistan) but rarely mentioning those wounded in
action (51,571- 32,235 in Iraq;19,436 in Afghanistan). They ignore the 59,908
(44,607 in Iraq,18,463 in AfPak (as of Dec 3, 2012) military casualties injured
and ill seriously enough to be medevac'd out of theater, even though the 6,774
total dead include 1,452 (961 in Iraq, 491 in Afghanistan) who died from those
same "non hostile" causes, of whom almost 25% (332) were suicides (as of Jan 9,
2013) and at least 18 in Iraq from faulty KBR electrical work.
NOTE: It’s unclear whether the AfPak number for WIAs at
some point started to include
medical evacuations for non hostile injuries and
*LIBYA :Operation "Odyssey Dawn" launched
in March,2011 officially ended Oct 31, 2011 with no reported US
WIAs are usually updated on Wednesday at www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf
visit my website www.michaelmunk.com
The 400 managing partners ands top execs at Goldman Sachs are covered by a medical and dental plan that vcosts over $40,000 /year for a family. They pay no co-payments or deductibles, have no limits on doctors or procedures, no restrictions on pre-existing conditions and no requirements for referrals, according to Paul Fronstin, an analyst at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a Washington nonprofit that studies benefits. Ted Cruz’s wife is one of those covered, so the Senator was able to decline federal employee health coverage.- MM For details see http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/27/health/policy/27insure.html?_r=0
US fighters in the AfPak theater under
Commander-in-Chief Obama suffered 38 casualty total for the Iraq and AfPak wars* rose to 121,343.
The total includes 81,326 casualties since the US
invaded Iraq in March, 2003 (Operations "Iraqi Freedom" and "New Dawn"), and
40,017 since the US invaded
Afghanistan in November, 2001 (Operation "Enduring Freedom")
marched in a“Vote No” antiwar protest from the White House to Capitol Hill
Saturday, Sept 7
It is becoming clear that the
congressional vote on war is the target of what the NYT calls “the most intense, uphill
lobbying campaign of the Obama presidency.” The vote will eventually
reflect the relative power of two
major players—(1) the active citizenry which
has mobilized and directed its take against the war for a variety of sometimes
reactionary as well as righteous reasons and
(2) the foreign policy establishment of
media pundits, rich think tanks, the Military-Industrial Complex and the “Israel
First” lobby. These warmongers are making their case on the emotions generated by the Syrian opposition videos of the dead victims of the
alleged gas attack but more politically on the ground of national or
presidential “credibility.” Resurrected from
Cold War era jargon to support the Korean and Vietnam wars, it is the pathetic
consequence of Obama’s “red line”disaster. On example:
Advocates of military action, the most
vocal of whom are pro-Israel activists and organizations worried that
Congress’ failure to back up Obama’s threats against Syria will embolden Iran
and its regional allies, are increasingly making the argument that both the
president’s and Washington’s international credibility is at
stake.This is not longer just about the
conflict in Syria or even the Middle East,” wrote former Sens. Joe Lieberman and
Jon Kyl, co-chairmen of the American Internationalism Project of the American
Enterprise Institute (AEI), a neo-conservative think tank that played a leading
role in championing the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
It is about American credibility. Are we a country
that our friends can trust and our enemies fear?
On the other side, members of the
House, who have problems standing against Obama’s attack on Syria
to listen to their former colleague Sue Kelly (R-NY) who wishes she could go
back to 2002 and re-take her vote for Bush’s attack on Iraq. Then, she voted
under White House and party leadership pressure with 294 others to go to war.
After 12 years in the House, four years later,she lost her seat to an opponent
who targeted her support for a costly, unpopular war fought on false evidence.
As Senators, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry also voted for that war and both
arguably lost their bids for higher office as a consequence.
Today, Kelly advises current members of the
House to be more skeptical of another regime’s case for war and be more aware of
the consequences of supporting war. "Anybody who votes for it, “ she
warns, “ will have to pay the price ... That is unnecessary blood on
The last WAPO “Whip
count” at http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/09/military-action-in-syria-where-the-house-stands/
is 229- 44. But those 229 opposed or leaning will have to
withstand serious pressures next week. And Oregon Dem Kurt Schrader, listed
everywhere as opposed, suggests he could reconsider. “We’re at this point trying to put a group of folks together to see
what kind of language we could all support,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader. His aim
was to gain signatures for a letter that would urge Obama to assemble a
multinational coalition before taking any action on
their members to sign petitions, call their representatives or take direct
action against the war include:
been previously reported that the United States provided tactical intelligence
to Iraq at the same time that officials suspected Hussein would use chemical
weapons. But the CIA documents, which sat almost entirely unnoticed in a trove
of declassified material at the National Archives in College Park, Md., combined
with exclusive interviews with former intelligence officials, reveal new details
about the depth of the United States' knowledge of how and when Iraq employed
the deadly agents. They show that senior U.S. officials were being regularly
informed about the scale of the nerve gas attacks. They are tantamount to an
official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical
weapons attacks ever launched.”
Declassified docs reveal US support for Iraq
New documents highlight double standard as US
mulls intervention in Syria for alleged chemical attacks
Marketing 'Obamacare' shaping up as big
pose in front of a bullet-riddled mural of Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini,
April 20, 1988.Mike Nelson/AFP/Getty
As President Barack Obama considers a military
intervention in Syria following allegations that its embattled government used chemical weapons against civilians, Foreign Policy published declassified
CIA documents Sunday revealing that the
U.S. government knew about Iraq's use of nerve gas against Iranian forces in
1988, but did nothing.
While it isn't a secret
that the U.S. government aided Iraq's military to prevent an Iranian victory in
the nearly decade-long war between the two countries, it is the first time that
official documents reveal the scale of the United States’acquiescence to some of
the largest chemical-weapons attacks in recent history, including the gassing of thousands of Kurds in Halabja, Iraq in 1988.
The CIA documents are part of a secret program
where the U.S. government shared military intelligence with the Iraqi regime,
detailing the positions of Iranian forces after they had discovered a hole in
Iraqi defenses and were planning a strike. The information resulted in several
chemical attacks on Iran and eventually forced the country to the negotiating
table, FP reports.
American officials, including the former head of
the Defense Intelligence Agency, who supervised the program denied the attacks. But retired Air Force Col. Rick Francona, who was a
military attaché in Baghdad during the 1988 strikes, told FP that the U.S.
government was well aware of Saddam Hussein’s deadly intent.
"The Iraqis never told us that they intended to
use nerve gas. They didn't have to. We already knew," he said.
Iraq's gas wars against Iran from 1981 to 1988
were frequently employed to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, which
happened without prior consent from the United Nations Security Council and
under the guise of exposing Hussein’s stock of weapons of mass
In 1983, the U.S. government gathered evidence
of Iraqi chemical-weapon attacks as Iran was building its case for the U.N., but
prevented the information from becoming public, according to FP.
CHICAGO (AP) — It will make you stronger. It
will give you peace of mind and make you feel like a winner. Health insurance is
what the whole country has been talking about, so don't be left out.
Sound like a sales pitch? Get ready for a lot
more. As President Barack Obama's health care law moves from theory to reality
in the coming months, its success may hinge on whether the best minds in
advertising can reach one of the hardest-to-find parts of the population: people
without health coverage.
The campaign won't come cheap: The
total amount to be spent nationally on publicity, marketing and advertising will
be at least $684 million, according to data compiled The Associated
Press from federal and state sources.
About 16 percent of Americans are uninsured, but
despite years of political debate and media attention, more than three-quarters
of them still know little about the law known as "Obamacare," according to
"It's not sugar cereal, beer and detergent,"
said Brooke Foley, chief executive officer of the Chicago-based Jayne Agency,
one of the advertising firms crafting messages to reach the
The Obama administration and many states are
launching campaigns this summer to get the word out before enrollment for new
benefits begins in October.
The targets are mostly the working poor, young
people who are disengaged, or those who gave up their insurance because of the
cost. Three-quarters are white. Eighty-six percent have a high school education
or less. Together they make up a blind spot in the nation's health care
"They've been shut out. It's too expensive and
it's incredibly confusing," said David Smith of the advertising agency GMMB,
pitching the health law's benefits in Washington and Vermont.
Their confusion might only have been magnified
by the administration's surprise announcement recently postponing part of the
system that affects businesses. But that change should not affect many
individuals. A bigger complication is that in about half the states, Republican
governors are declining to cooperate, which will limit the marketing.
The states that have been more receptive to the
health care overhaul and are further ahead in their planning will receive
proportionally more federal money for outreach, advertising and marketing than
Republican-led states that have been hostile to the law.
AP research from all 50 states shows the amount
of government spending will range from a low of 46 cents per capita in
Wisconsin, which has ceded responsibility for its health insurance exchange to
the federal government, to $9.23 per capita in West Virginia, which opted for a
About $4.8 million in public money will be spent
trying to sign up New Jersey's 1.3 million uninsured, for example, compared to
the nearly $28 million spent reaching out to Washington state's much smaller
Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured
people in the nation, three times more than Illinois. But only a fourth as much
public money will be spent on getting people enrolled in Texas.
Austin resident Caryl Mauk, 46, remains confused
about the Affordable Care Act even though Texas' federally run exchange is just
two months away from opening for enrollment.
She hasn't had insurance since she had to quit
her nursing job in 2011 because of a heart condition. She's been struggling with
chest pains, arthritis and fatigue but doesn't know what to make of the new
"Sometimes I just get overwhelmed," Mauk said.
"I don't want to get bad news again, and that slows me down in making
In the GOP states, community groups with federal
grants will lead the effort.
Ads based on research about the uninsured will
soon start popping up on radio, TV and social media. Grassroots organizers are
recruiting their pastors, barbers and mothers and arming them with carefully
worded messages. In some neighborhoods, volunteers will go
The pitch: If you don't make much money, the
government can pick up some of the cost of your health insurance. If you can
afford a policy, by law you have to get one. By getting more people insured, the
government hopes they'll get health care earlier, before winding up in emergency
rooms with expensive problems that could have been prevented.
The political stakes for the Obama
administration in a big response are high. If only the sickest people sign up,
the cost of their medical care could overburden insurance carriers and sink the
new marketplaces. The new system depends on a balanced pool.
The ad campaign already underway in Colorado
demonstrates the search for an effective message.
There, TV commercials show people being
magically transformed into champions. One minute they're shopping for health
insurance on a computer, the next they're winning at a horse race, in a casino
or at the World Series with champagne corks flying. The slogan: "When health
insurance companies compete, the only winner is you."
That's because market research shows Coloradans
like competition, said Tom Leydon, CEO of Denver-based advertising and digital
marketing agency Pilgrim.
The celebratory scenes "remind people of the
good feeling they get when they win," he said.
Despite the focus on winning and champions,
there may be little if any cooperation for the publicity blitz from the
professional sports leagues, which would have the potential to reach tens of
millions of people. Two Republican Senate leaders warned the leagues about
getting involved in "a highly polarized public debate."
In states where there will be no official
cooperation, Enroll America, a coalition of health companies and advocates, has
deployed volunteers to hand out brochures at a farmers market in Austin and hold
house parties in Cincinnati, and plans a seven-figure ad buy across the
"There has to be an echo chamber," said John
Gilbert, national field director for the Enroll America media campaign. "If I'm
uninsured and it's October, I won't be able to go anywhere without (hearing) the
message of enrollment."
Chicago resident Martin Upshaw, whose fast food
job doesn't provide health benefits, said the cost has kept him
"The bottom line is the dollar sign," said
Upshaw, 27, who survived a shooting three years ago. "I would love to be able to
go in and see a doctor and make sure I'm OK."
In Chicago, the Jayne Agency's staff talked to
more than 50 patients at an emergency room to hone the best message. The slogan
they chose: "Don't Just Get By." The ad campaign features real people and their
On a recent Sunday in southwest Houston,
volunteers recruited by Blue Cross Blue Shield set up information tables at a
community center where three Methodist church services are held.
"I'm looking to get where I can go to the doctor
and have a $25 to $30 co-pay," said churchgoer Yolanda Boykin, 60, whose current
job through a temp agency does not provide health insurance.
Another part of the campaign nationwide, focused
on young men, is refining messages for their mothers.
Market research has shown that young adults say
it's often a parent, a girlfriend or a sibling who will push them to sign up for
something like health insurance, said Julie Bataille, helping lead the outreach
for the Obama administration, so the campaign will "make sure moms are
Subject: Greenwald.. "Shame on Feinstein"
Norman Solomon’s challenge to secret program defender Feinstein http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/07
quotes Glen Greenwald “The reason there are leakers is
precisely because the govt is filled with people like Dianne Feinstein
who do horrendous things in secret
But all he could do was vaguely warn since he couldn’t
describe the secret phone data program without violating his oath to keep it
secret. Wyden and Feinstein are both “Israel Firsters” but he’s been vindicated
as a righteous politician on this one.-MM
|Subject: An Example of Bradley Manning's whistleblowing... |
If you follow the
story of the IAEA and Iranian nukes, you may have noticed a pro-US bias in the
IAEA’s bureaucracy in Vienna. That was precisely the result the US expected
when it pushed Yukiya Amano of Japan, a nation with a military alliance
with the US, to be secretary general.
This is an example of the important information the US tries to
keep secret from the public and for which it is trying Bradley
Manning under the 1917 Espionage act.-MM
the “Cold War Liberals” who pushed for aggressive US military policy (like
Vietnam) and fronted the Military-Industrial Complex? These days they’re
“Liberal Hawks” or “’Humanitarian’ Interventionists” and like Rice and Power
want even more aggressive US intervention in Syria than is already underway
(More Patriot missiles to Jordan after sending them to Turkey).-MM
At White House, liberal hawks ascend
The elevation of Susan Rice as national security advisor and Samantha Power
as U.N. envoy hints at a foreign policy fight.
By Jacob Heilbrunn
Los Angeles Times, June 7, 2013
With his decision to elevate Susan Rice to become his
national security advisor and the nomination of Samantha Power as U.S.
ambassador to the United Nations, President Obama is not simply rewarding the
loyalty of two women who have backed him from the start. Nor is he merely
increasing the diversity of his foreign policy team. Rather, their promotions
hints at a new source of fireworks in a growing foreign policy battle in the
Obama administration. Liberal hawks and doves in the White House and the
Democratic Party are struggling for hearts and minds over whether it makes sense
to intervene in Syria and to attack Iran.
Democratic hawks believe that America has a crusading
mission to champion humanitarian intervention. Their credo is exemplified by
former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's reference to America as the
"indispensable nation," one that should intervene abroad whenever and wherever
necessary to defend the oppressed. Count among the hawks New
York Times commentator Bill Keller, who has been demanding
intervention in Syria; Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of
policy planning at the State Department [and head of the $20M/yr New America
Foundation]; and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), a staunch liberal
who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee and is urging limited military
strikes on Syria.
On the other side are the realist skeptics of
intervention in Syria, such as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. And although
Secretary of State John F. Kerry wants to bolster the Syrian rebels, he's not
big on regime change; he favors increased aid as a measure to strengthen
diplomatic efforts to force President Bashar Assad to negotiate.
Both men have been deeply shaped by the Vietnam War, in
which they served with distinction, and the Iraq war. The fear of a repetition
of Iraq is what is prompting liberal pundits such as David Rieff to plead, "Save
us from the liberal hawks." The liberal realists worry that the very military
steps taken to help embattled populations abroad may inadvertently end up
triggering even greater havoc. Like John Quincy Adams, they believe "America
does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy" for fear that America
itself will become the monster.
The conflict between the two camps is probably best
understood as the latest installment in a running dispute over the lessons of
the Vietnam War. Vietnam was originally promoted by Cold War liberals
such as Dean Acheson and Dean Rusk. A younger generation, led by Sen.
George McGovern (D-S.D.), said that the U.S. had lost its way in Southeast Asia
and was becoming an international bad guy. The warriors recoiled. Some became
neoconservatives and left for the GOP; others remained behind to try to stage an
insurgency inside the party.
Ever since, the Democratic Party has been divided when it
comes to foreign policy. During the 1970s and '80s, the doves mostly had the
upper hand, decrying U.S. militarism everywhere, from the invasion of Grenada to
the Nicaraguan revolution. It may have been emotionally satisfying, but the
Democrats also looked weak on foreign policy, a vulnerability that Ronald
Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush exploited.
Then came the Clinton administration. Initially,
Secretary of State Warren Christopher and National Security Advisor Anthony
Lake, both of whom were scarred by Vietnam, kept America out of the conflict. But as atrocities mounted in the Balkans, the calls for intervention,
including from Samantha Power, who made her name as a journalist covering
Serbian aggression, and from Albright, then ambassador to the U.N.,
became increasingly prominent. In 1995, the administration intervened
militarily in the Balkans to bring the Serbs to heel. Hand-wringing about
American power was out. A new taste for intervening abroad under the banner of
humanitarianism was in. The liberal hawks were once again ascendant.
Despite the fiasco in Iraq, key Obama advisors such
as Rice and Power were undaunted when it came to Libya. They
argued that regime change was essential, that the United States could put
together a genuine international coalition, and that it had a profound
obligation to save the civilian population of Benghazi from being annihilated by
Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi's marauding forces. It was supposed to be the
Balkans all over again. Instead, Islamic militant forces have been emboldened
and are spreading the fight to Syria with Kadafi's weaponry.
The chaos in Libya has chastened Obama, who is resisting
attacking Syria militarily. But Libya's travails aren't stopping a chorus of
warrior intellectuals from denouncing what they consider his morally culpable
passivity. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, for example, complains,
"Liberals, once characterized as bleeding hearts, seem now to have none at
Will Obama remain aloof in Syria, or will a liberal
president once again accede to the cries of the hawks? His elevation of Rice and
Power suggests that the pressure will be on from within his own administration.
Both Rice and Power are personally much closer to the president than Kerry and
could seek to undermine him. Even as Rice controls foreign policy from the White
House, Power will occupy a potent pulpit at the United Nations, historically a
highly visible platform for moralistic defenses of America and denunciations of
In naming Rice and Power, Obama, you could say, is
staging his own potent intervention on behalf of the liberal hawks.
Jacob Heilbrunn, a senior editor at the National Interest, is the author
of "They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons."
media, which depend on a “recovery” are leading the cheers heralding its
arrival. But stagnation seems to a better term to apply to today’s global
The Global Economy: A Midyear Snapshot
By Zoltan Zigedy
What happens to the US economy when the Federal Reserve
stops printing money to buy mortgage based securities, treasury notes, and other
bonds? What happens when that body stops injecting 85 billion dollars into the
US economy every month?
These questions torture the economic
pundits in the mainstream press.
Contrary to what most believe there
has been no recovery. The reports from the other principal global economies
have been dismal, recording stagnation or anemic growth. In the mean time, the
US economy has been sustained by forced feeding. The Federal Reserve quietly
prints notes and takes around 85 billion dollars worth of various securities off
the market and parks them on the Fed's balance sheets. The announced reasons for
this action are to keep interest rates low, attracting borrowers, and to thus
stimulate business growth and job creation. An unannounced consequence of the 85
billion dollar injection has been a surge in equity markets and housing prices.
Since both stock portfolios and home values are the principal components in the
psychological “wealth effect” -- the subjective, personal sense of financial
well-being -- they have spurred the impression of recovery and consumer
confidence. Behind this conjured image of recovery, the US economy continues
to stagnate and erode.
Whenever the Federal Reserve has
suggested that it might slow or end this life-support, markets have dropped
Obviously, the Federal Reserve program,
dubbed “quantitative easing,” is a back-door stimulus program. Not a stimulus
program of the New Deal type, not public works and public jobs, but more a
reclamation of the garbage piled up after the massive, destructive party thrown
by the financial sector and a rekindling of the pre-crisis euphoria. No one
in the political establishment, neither Republican nor Democrat, had the stomach
for a full-blown New Deal program, nor did they have any desire to pass even a
little of the cost of a fix-up on to their corporate
So the task of recovery fell in the lap
of the Federal Reserve, an ostensibly independent non-political body. The
Federal Reserve is not political, except when it is. While it can't be dictated
to by the branches of government, its make-up of ivy league professors and
financial industry veterans guarantees loyalty to corporate moguls. It also
keeps an ear open to the powerful as well as the rich. On occasion the Fed even
hears the voices from the barricades, but only when they are at the barricades!
It shares that “independence “ with the
Supreme Court. Like the Supreme Court, the Fed gets occasionally chastised when
it either missed or failed to get the message of a ruling class change in
All central banks boast of their
independence, but all listen closely for a shift in political favor. The Central
Bank of Japan recently demonstrated its fealty to political change. With the
election of Shinzo Abe as Prime Minister, the Bank relented to his pressure and
began a policy of quantitative easing with the goal of doubling Japan's money
supply in two years. Abe, a right-wing nationalist, advocates purchasing
securities and bonds through a speed-up of the Bank's printing presses, but
makes no effort to conceal his real goal: radically reducing the exchange rate
of the national currency, the Yen.
Like his foreign policy initiatives,
Abe's currency policy is a bold act of aggression, in this case, economic
aggression. A weak yen makes Japanese manufacturing products cheaper in global
markets, giving Japan a competitive edge against other global manufacturers. The
rise of Japanese nationalism has not gone unnoticed by other Asian powers.
Chinese demonstrators have trashed Japanese cars in a way reminiscent of similar
spectacles in the US decades ago. Japanese automobile sales have dropped sharply
in the PRC.
While retaliation may well be on the
horizon, the Abe policies have brought a sharp drop in the Yen's value, but also
great volatility in Asian equity markets.
Similarly, for all the US Federal
Reserve's aggressiveness in printing money, the stock market's surge and the
recovery of housing prices have masked serious issues plaguing the real US
[June 2: “Investors have ignored
poor economic news as stocks have risen... The Basil, Switzerland based Bank of
International Settlements said... that central banks' policies of record low
interest rates and monetary stimulus had helped investors “tune out” bad news--
every time an economic indicator disappointed, traders simply took that as
confirmation that central banks would continue to provide stimulus.” as reported
by Fox News.]
Disposable personal income growth is
collapsing, for example. Excepting the 2008-2009 collapse, disposable personal
income growth was lower in 2012 than any time since 1959 and is trending even
lower in 2013. Not surprisingly, the personal savings rate-- a rate that grew
dramatically after the frivolity leading to the 2008-2009 collapse-- has now
dropped sharply. Clearly, workers are taking home less while reducing their
savings to pay the bills. While unsustainable, this tact has buoyed consumer
[May 31: The Commerce Department
reported a .2% pull back in consumer spending for April, 2013.]
Manufacturing production in the US
has declined for three of the last four months. Caterpillar Inc., a bell
weather of the basic manufacturing sector, has witnessed factory orders of
machines, calculated on a rolling three-month average, decline steadily
throughout 2012, moving into negative territory at year's end.
Hyper-exploitation in 2009, in the form
of unprecedented gains of productivity growth, pulled the US economy from its
nadir. But since 2009, productivity gains have slackened with a substantial
decline in the last quarter of 2012 and only a very modest recovery in the first
quarter of 2013. Consequently, anemic corporate revenue growth is increasingly
crimping earnings, once again threatening the rate of profit.
Pressures on profit are demonstrated by
the falling yield on junk bonds. The demand for yield-- the never-ending search
for a higher rate of profit-- has driven the yield on the riskiest investments
lower than at any time in recent memory (a leading high-yield bond index records
a return below 5%, the lowest since records began in 1983!). Conversely,
treasury bonds, once popular as a safe haven, are now commanding greater and
greater yield despite the fact that the Federal Reserve gobbles them up and
removes them from bond markets. Obviously, investors do not want safe
Treasuries; investors do want risky junk bonds! The gap between Treasury yields
and junk bond yields are narrower than any time since 2007. Are we skating on
the same thin ice, the same crisis of accumulation?
Accelerating private debt in Asia
suggests that much of the capital seeking higher profit growth rates has landed
there. But Asia is not the hot bed of growth that it was a few years ago. The
mounting private debt in Asian economies supports risky, speculative projects
and services like commercial and residential real estate. With international
trade tepid, these once export-leading countries are attempting to sustain
growth through speculation and the hope of global recovery. The new Chinese
leadership seems determined to reduce the role of the state sector, market
regulation, and public financing, the very factors that allowed the PRC to
painlessly weather the global crisis. They are determined to entrust the fate of
the economy to global markets. The simultaneous shrinking of government debt and
the explosion of private debt underline this policy shift.
[May 31: The Reserve Bank of
India reported the lowest annual GDP growth rate in a decade for the end of the
fiscal year, March 31.]
The once robust South American
economies are also slowing. Exports to the PRC are declining and exports to the
EU are on the skids, retarding growth throughout the region. Stagnant growth
presents new challenges to the conservative neo-liberal regimes on the continent
as well as the more progressive social democratic governments. Nor do South
American economies offer any relief, as they have until recently, to the global
And, of course, Europe is in a
depression-- a deep and profound depression. The EU as a unity faces both
centrifugal and centripetal forces that challenge any policy resolution.
Moreover, the major parties – conservative, liberal, and social democratic--
have exhausted their policy toolboxes. Until a new road is chosen, the European
Union will only drag the world economy towards a similar fate.
[May 31: Eurostat reports the EU
unemployment rate reached a new high-- 12.2% in April-- the highest level ever
recorded since euro-wide tracking began in 1995.]
The global economy faces two
stubborn challenges: first, a crisis of accumulation and second, an
insufficiency of global demand. They are, of course, inter-related,
continuation of the 2008-2009 collapse, and immune to conventional treatment.
The vast inequalities of wealth and the resultant massive accumulation of
capital hungering for investment opportunities (driven by Marx's tendency for
the rate of profit to fall) stand at the center of the lingering crisis. Capital
continues to seek increasingly risky and unproductive profit schemes, schemes
that strangle productive, socially useful (but unprofitable!) activities. At the
same time, the crisis has immiserated millions and idled a vast mass of human
capital. Left with limited resources and limitless insecurities, these
casualties of the crisis have necessarily reduced their patterns of consumption.
A shrinkage in global demand followed.
harbor illusions of taming capitalism and slaking its thirst for profit. As the
years of crisis continue, it looks more and more like the beast must be
Last week, I warned that the Big O continues will resume its efforts to minimize US losses in the AfPak war by recognizing only those who died inside Afghanistan if its “US deaths” box reports less than 2,220.
Today it reports only 2,092, despite the last (My 31) Pentagon report of 2,221.
That means its editors ignore 129 American servicepersons who the Pentagon counts as official Afghan war casualties because they died supporting the war outside Afghanistan. Last week, in a rare acknowledgement of all those killed in that disastrous war, the O. reported that 2,220 had died.
The paper has been aware for years that the AP unofficial “in-country only”numbers it relies on is lower than the official one. It has never
reported the 120,608 total casualties which include those wounded in action and injured or sickened from “non-hostile”sources. Together with its now rare “US deaths” box, the Big O tries to divert attention from the fact that US troops are still taking casualties (29 last week) in a war most Americans do not support.
My weekly casualty updates are available on request.
Visit my website www.michaelmunk.com
[pdx] KBOO:Not just for Communists anymore
(See below for the source of the quote)
May 20, 2013 If you are NOT a KBOO member, there's never been a better time to join.
There will be an important election for the board in September and we need your vote!
Only members can vote. The bylaws are vague but it is clear that if you are a member 60 days before the election you can vote. Volunteering also makes you a member. If you ARE a KBOO member, please consider attending the next board meeting, June 3, 6pm at the station, 20 SE 8th.
We need to make clear to the board that the current trajectory is unacceptable. And see link to petition for members below.
Latest outrage: Laurelhurst Theatre has an on-screen ad for KBOO saying "not just for communists anymore" There was a call-in with the station manager last night. I was only able to listen to the first part which was awful--her bragging about what a fabulous fundraiser she is without being asked then why is there a financial problem. I didn't hear them take any calls.
If you have the stomach for it you can probably listen online. see info below for name of show. She is doing it again tonight from 7-8. Sorry I didn't get this out in time for last night's show--I've been trying to find out the minimum contribution to be a voting member so I could include it above--a question not answered on the website!
Friends of KBOO, We need your help to convince the KBOO Board to dump the “union-avoidance” consultants, Bullard Law.Here are several ways you can weigh in
– 1.*Call in to the live talk show* “Naked, Raw and Exposed” with the Executive Director
(aka Station Navigator) Lynn Fitch, where she will be talking about “…financial concerns, fundraising plans, a staff unionization update, why there is a need for change at KBOO…”
Monday 7 – 8 pm*** (503-231-8187)
2.If you are a KBOO member*, show up at the next KBOO Board meeting, Monday, June 3, 6pm at the station, 20 NE 8th (s. of Burnside)*
3.Get some background on the conflict by going to www.savekboo.org
4.If you are a KBOO member sign onto the petition below and share it widely https://www.change.org/petitions/to-the-kboo-board-dump-bullard-law
The "Lesser Evil regime" and its media ignore the declared motives
of bombers as retaliation
for US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as
support for Israel.
Ray McGovern has written similar but extended remarks. The
9/11 attackers declared they
were retaliating against US support for Israel and
the House of Saud and so have most of
the actual and entrapped bombers.
submit the serious fragmentation is not primarily among rigid sectarian
groupings but rather among the numerous single issue groups committed to
identity, environment, education and legal reform, peace, jobs et al. An
effective “left” would require melding those movements around an agreement that
the source of their complaints is common to all and must be reformed to achieve
their disparate goals. -MM
Sent: Saturday, May 18, 2013 8:15 AM
Subject: A New Party of the British Left Comes One Step
When Ken Loach launched an appeal to discuss founding a new party
to the left of Labour in March, it sparked a wave of enthusiasm.
Within a few weeks, more than 8,000 people signed up and around 100
local groups were established across the country.
It isn’t hard to see why. Austerity is devastating Britain. While
the Conservative-led government is giving tax breaks to the richest
individuals and biggest corporations, it is driving the most
vulnerable people in the country deeper into poverty with public
service cuts and the bedroom tax, which tragically claimed its first
victim when Stephanie Bottrill committed suicide because she could
not afford the £80 a month charge. Labour’s response to the Tories’
ideological assault on the poor has been weak, and its abstention on
workfare a betrayal. The need for a new party to represent the
interests of the working class, which have been ignored far too long
by the three main parties, has never been greater.
On Saturday, Left Unity held its first national meeting, bringing
together around 100 elected delegates from many of the local groups
that have sprung up over the last few weeks in answer to Loach’s
call. Some came from small towns where groups had only a handful of
members. Others, such as the delegates from Brighton, spoke of
vibrant and big meetings – Brighton already has a signed-up
membership of more than 200 people.
Sitting in the same room together, these were no longer names on
a signature sheet, but passionate activists from a vast range of
left-wing traditions. Many of the familiar old alphabet soup
far-left groups were represented. But there were also young
campaigners from Occupy and UK Uncut, anarchists, Greens, trade
unionists, disaffected Labour supporters and dozens who had never
been involved in any party before, but wanted to change the world
all the same.
With such a diverse group coming together for the first time,
there were inevitably going to be disagreements. It proved too
difficult to agree a statement of principles in such a short space
of time, for example. But the meeting voted to move towards a
founding conference in November and overwhelmingly supported the
idea that a new party of the left should not be a patchwork
coalition of far-left groups hastily thrown up as a temporary
electoral front, but should be an active campaigning organisation
built around the basic democratic principle of one member one
‘We have been through some bitter experiences and we need to
learn from the past,’ Loach said to the meeting. ‘We absolutely need
to be a democratic party and I support the principle of one member,
one vote. We’ve had groups trying to take projects over, we’ve had
manipulations behind closed doors and we don’t want that again.’
‘Just like we don’t want one dominating group, we don’t want any
charismatic leaders,’ he added, clearly expressing his desire not to
be an unaccountable figurehead for the new party. Indeed, despite
Loach’s appeal, much of the hard work has been done by the local
groups, which have grown organically with their own ideas and ways
of working, and Left Unity has been built from the bottom up. This
must continue over the coming months as Left Unity moves towards its
founding conference and the beginning of a vital new party of the
For too long the left has been divided and weak, its energies
exhausted on sectarian splits. And absolutely no one in the real
world cared. If, as Loach said, Left Unity is to learn from the
mistakes of the past, it must be transparent, open, inclusive and
democratic. If, as so many people at Saturday’s meeting said, we
want to make a difference, we must first put aside our own
The time for Left Unity is now.
Portside aims to provide material of interest to people on the
left that will help them to interpret the world and to change
A Strike Is a Strike and Only a Strike
(Photo: bob watt / Flickr)This is the fifth article in the Judicial Amendment Project on the history of the NLRA. The stories in the series to date include:
1. Why Today the National Labor Relations Act Is a Weak Law - and How We Can Restore its Power 28 March 2013
2. Judicial Amendments and the Attack on Worker Rights 4 April 2013
3. Solidarity NOT Forever: How the Supreme Court Kicked Retirees Into the Gutter 11 April 2013
4. Strike and You're Out: The Supreme Court's Destruction of the Right to Strike25 April 2013
There is no question that employees' right to strike increases unions' bargaining power. Last week, we discussed how the Supreme Court decision that gave employers the right to permanently replace strikerschanged the balance of power by weakening labor's strike weapon.
Unfortunately for unions and employees, permanent replacement of strikers is not the only blow to the power of strikes. The court, followed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and lower courts, has limited union strikes in many other ways.
In the early days after passage of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the law was widely resisted by employers. One of those employers was Fansteel Metallurgical. In 1936 and 1937, Fansteel not only refused to bargain with its employees' union, it also isolated the union president from the other workers and tried to impose a "company union" in place of the union the workers had chosen. A "company union" is just what it sounds like. It is a union in name only. It does not represent the employees because it is controlled by the employer instead of the employees. The NLRA made company unions illegal.
The Fansteel employees reacted to their employer's blatant resistance to the law by starting a peaceful sit-down strike, refusing to leave the plant until they were ultimately forced out and arrested. The employer fired the sit-down strikers, but the NLRB ordered their reinstatement because they were only responding to their employer's illegal conduct.
In 1939, the Supreme Court in NLRB v. Fansteel Metallurgical Corp. reversed the NLRB. The court decided that the employees could be fired because they were illegally trespassing on their employer's property. It did not matter that they were protesting the employer's clear violation of the NLRA. The Supreme Court held that the NLRB could not order the employer to reinstate its employees as a remedy for the employer's unlawful conduct. As for the right to strike, the court said the NLRA protected only "lawful strikes." Occupying the plant was not lawful and, therefore, it was not protected by the law. That decision meant that employers who violated the NLRA were given a "get out of jail free" card if their employees committed any illegal action.
While it seems only fair that an employer should not have to employ workers who violate the law, the context is important. These workers were among thousands who were using the most powerful weapon available to them to protest the many employers who simply ignored and blatantly violated the new law that labor had fought so hard to win.
What has followed from the Fansteel decision are a multitude of restrictions on unions' right to strike. When the right to strike is unprotected, as in Fansteel, employees may be fired, not just replaced. An employee who has been fired has no right to return to work. An employee who has been permanently replaced has a right to be recalled to work if the replacement leaves. While being recalled is a slim right, it is better than none.
Although the NLRA does not limit the definition of "strike," the only strike now protected by the NLRA is one where employees stop all work, leave the workplace, and give up all their pay for a period of consecutive days. The union cannot even lawfully time its strike to target an employer when it is most vulnerable. As a result, the strike has been weakened to a point where it is almost useless.
What is particularly shocking is that the right to strike has been eaten away by the courts when the NLRA in Section 13 says that the right to strike is not to be interfered with or impeded or diminished in any way, except by clear language in the NLRA itself. The NLRA nowhere limits the right to strike as the courts have done.
Here are a few examples of judicial amendments that have eroded the right to strike. In addition to the sit-down strike, employees can be fired for a slowdown strike. Employees cannot work at a slower pace to pressure their employer, even when the slowdown reduces the amount of their work to match a paycut by the employer.
A partial strike is also not protected. This means the employees can't do just part of their work. Doing part of their work, but not all of their work, would allow employees to retain some pay while still pressuring the employer.
Intermittent strikes are not protected, either. Employees cannot strike for a few days, return to work for a few days and then strike again. If they strike, they must stay on strike, and if they return to work, striking again risks termination.
Each of these union tactics could be powerful employee weapons to pressure the employer while still earning income and making the employees' replacement by the employer difficult. It is the very power these tactics give employees that has led judges to limit their use. None of these tactics is illegal, according to the courts, yet each is unprotected, so employees who try these tactics risk discharge.
Last but not least, employees may not strike when the employer is most vulnerable to pressure, lest their conduct be found "indefensible." Employees may be fired if they fail to take what the courts decide are appropriate steps to protect the employer from damage resulting from the decision to strike. Employees cannot walk off the job when it might cause damage to the employer's equipment or leave the employer's facilities unprotected. While these decisions may seem reasonable to avoid serious damage for employers, they each limit the power of employees in ways not contemplated by the NLRA.
Beginning with Fansteel, employees' right to strike has been eroded by judicial decisions. As a result, the right to strike does not balance power between employees and employers. Instead, it erodes employee power by creating a quagmire of law where legal protection is uncertain and strikes are extremely risky for employees. No wonder that strikes are now so rare.
At the same time, employers' power has been amplified by Supreme Court decisions interpreting the NLRA, exactly the opposite of what Congress intended. For the next several weeks, our articles will discuss other decisions that judicially amended the NLRA to increase employer power, perverting the workers' law into a law that is more protective of employers.
An excerpt from Chris Hedges,
“When War Hawks Become Human Rights
Officials” read it all at
The appointment of
Suzanne Nossel, a former State Department official and longtime government
apparatchik, as executive director of PEN American
Center [US branch of an international organization which professes
to defend “the
right to write, speak, read and publish”] is part of a campaign to turn U.S.
human rights organizations into propagandists for pre-emptive war and apologists
for empire. Nossel, who was deputy assistant secretary of state
for international organization affairs under Hillary Clinton in a State
Department that was little more than a subsidiary of the Pentagon, is part of
the new wave of “humanitarian interventionists,” such as Samantha
Ignatieff and Susan
Rice, who naively see in the U.S. military a vehicle to
create a better world.
Suzanne Nossl (photo: Leadership Conference on Civil and Human
Our new mayor is stonewalling the public about how his police bureau's
resurrected (2011) cooperation with the FBI in the Joint Terrorism Task
has been going.
Read Dan Handelman's detailed report which concludes:
"Given the very few differences between this report and last year's, it's
astounding that the Chief needed an extra two months to put it together.
We certainly deserve better and more information."
Sometime on Wednesday, the City posted the (draft?) copy of Chief Reese's
mandated annual report on the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) at
http://www.portlandoregon.gov/mayor/article/435908 . The report will be
discussed and voted on for adoption at City Council next Wednesday, March
27 at 9:30 AM (or so, probably actually closer to 9:45).
The report is actually nearly a verbatim copy of the Chief's report from
last year with few exceptions:
1-- after stating how revealing how many cases the Bureau has helped the
JTTF investigate may compromise their investigations (which still makes no
sense), the Chief says the Bureau has worked on at least one domestic
2-- The description of the two officers in the Criminal Intelligence Unit
(CIU) who are assigned to help the JTTF no longer describes them as "very
3-- Whereas last year, the Chief stated the officers did not work outside
of Portland, this year he says "I assigned officers to work on a JTTF
investigation outside the City of Portland, after consultation with the
Commissioner-in-charge." Now, does "this year" mean 2012, or 2013? Was the
Commissioner Adams or Hales? Did they work within Oregon or leave the
state? Who knows.
4-- Explaining why the officers received "Secret" clearance instead of
"Top Secret" clearance, the report explains the difference would be if
they needed to "access FBI facilities unescorted or obtain access to
informant source information." It occurs to me that the Chief reports he
"will not need clearance above the 'Secret' level to manage [the
officers'] work with the JTTF," but doesn't say whether he might seek to
obtain that level of clearance anyway. That his clearance level might be
higher than the Mayor/Commissioner's was the main reason Mayor Potter
pulled out of the JTTF in 2005.
--5 Instead of saying he'd met with the FBI Special Agent in Charge
"numerous" times and "certainly at a rate of more than twice a year," the
Chief now says he conferred on "several occasions" and receives briefings
"a few times a year."
--6 There is no longer a link to the Standard Operating Procedure for the
JTTF, and when I pasted in the old link it led me to a generic page for
If you're wondering about the man recently arrested on charges of
supporting terrorism, a Q&A on the Mayor's website
< http://www.portlandoregon.gov/mayor/article/438826 > says:
> "The Joint Terrorism Task Force:
> The agreement with federal authorities and the city of Portland was not
> invoked in this case. No Portland Police officers were involved in the FBI
> investigation. One patrol car was in the area of the search warrant for
> traffic control only."
Last year, we wrote (with the support of the Japanese American Citizens
League, the National Lawyers Guild, th
e League of Women Voters, the Arab
Muslim Police Advisory Council, CWA Local 7901, and Portland School Board
member Martin Gonzalez) a letter to Council outlining the deficiencies in
the report(s). We asked for more detailed information, particularly how
many hours officers were working give
n the tight city budget, and exactly
how many cases were involved. The new report does not adequately address
any of the concerns raised in that letter. The most concerning one is that
the term "criminal nexus" is still not defined, and we believe the FBI
will invoke need for Portland Police at a lower threshold than would be
appropriate under Oregon law (ORS 181.575, requiring reasonable suspicion
of criminal activity).
I also noticed that the resolution guiding the report requires the City
Attorney to check in with the Oregon Attorney General each year to be sure
that Oregon law. Since no report is required from the City Attorney, we
don't know whether that has happened.
The only item regarding the Commissi
oner in Charge that is noted in this
report is that Mayor Hales met with the FBI on February 14.
There are still no names named (even the Assistant Chief of
Investigations, who was Eric Hendricks until January, and is now Donna
Henderson, nor City Attorney David Woboril, who is again referred to as a
"Senior Deputy City Attorney who has provided legal advice to the Police
Bureau for over fifteen years").
The report still refers to "acts of war" in its section defining
"terrorism" even though there is no mention of "acts of war" anywhere else
in the document.
Given the very few differences between this report and last year's, it's
astounding that the Chief needed an extra two months to put it together.
We certainly deserve better and more information.
I am reminded that the Human Rights Commission issued an analysis of the
JTTF in early 2011 when the debate opened up whether Portland should
re-join (after the 2010 "Holiday Tree bombing" sting).
I hope to round up many of our same community partners, and of course the
ACLU who had been working more directly with the City on the resolution
last year, to testify on Wednesday. I hope others who are interested in
transparency will join us.
(a project of Peace and Justice Works)
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065 (office)
(503) 321-5120 (incident report line)
says: > "The Joint Terrorism Task Force: > > The agreement with federal authorities and the city of Portland was not > invoked in this case. No Portland Police officers were involved in the FBI > investigation. One patrol car was in the area of the search warrant for > traffic control only." Last year, we wrote (with the support of the Japanese American Citizens League, the National Lawyers Guild, the League of Women Voters, the Arab Muslim Police Advisory Council, CWA Local 7901, and Portland School Board member Martin Gonzalez) a letter to Council outlining the deficiencies in the report(s). We asked for more detailed information, particularly how many hours officers were working given the tight city budget, and exactly how many cases were involved. The new report does not adequately address any of the concerns raised in that letter. The most concerning one is that the term "criminal nexus" is still not defined, and we believe the FBI will invoke need for Portland Police at a lower threshold than would be appropriate under Oregon law (ORS 181.575, requiring reasonable suspicion of criminal activity). I also noticed that the resolution guiding the report requires the City Attorney to check in with the Oregon Attorney General each year to be sure that Oregon law. Since no report is required from the City Attorney, we don't know whether that has happened. The only item regarding the Commissioner in Charge that is noted in this report is that Mayor Hales met with the FBI on February 14. There are still no names named (even the Assistant Chief of Investigations, who was Eric Hendricks until January, and is now Donna Henderson, nor City Attorney David Woboril, who is again referred to as a "Senior Deputy City Attorney who has provided legal advice to the Police Bureau for over fifteen years"). The report still refers to "acts of war" in its section defining "terrorism" even though there is no mention of "acts of war" anywhere else in the document. Given the very few differences between this report and last year's, it's astounding that the Chief needed an extra two months to put it together. We certainly deserve better and more information. I am reminded that the Human Rights Commission issued an analysis of the JTTF in early 2011 when the debate opened up whether Portland should re-join (after the 2010 "Holiday Tree bombing" sting). I hope to round up many of our same community partners, and of course the ACLU who had been working more directly with the City on the resolution last year, to testify on Wednesday. I hope others who are interested in transparency will join us. --dan handelman --Portland Copwatch (a project of Peace and Justice Works) PO Box 42456 Portland, OR 97242 (503) 236-3065 (office) (503) 321-5120 (incident report line) firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.portlandcopwatch.org www.michaelmunk.com " title="" target="_blank" href="Our new mayor is stonewalling the public about how his police bureau's resurrected (2011) cooperation with the FBI in the Joint Terrorism Task Force" has been going. Read Dan Handelman's detailed report which concludes: "Given the very few differences between this report and last year's, it's astounding that the Chief needed an extra two months to put it together. We certainly deserve better and more information." --------------------------- Sometime on Wednesday, the City posted the (draft?) copy of Chief Reese's mandated annual report on the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) at http://www.portlandoregon.gov/mayor/article/435908 . The report will be discussed and voted on for adoption at City Council next Wednesday, March 27 at 9:30 AM (or so, probably actually closer to 9:45). The report is actually nearly a verbatim copy of the Chief's report from last year with few exceptions: 1-- after stating how revealing how many cases the Bureau has helped the JTTF investigate may compromise their investigations (which still makes no sense), the Chief says the Bureau has worked on at least one domestic terrorism case. 2-- The description of the two officers in the Criminal Intelligence Unit (CIU) who are assigned to help the JTTF no longer describes them as "very experienced." 3-- Whereas last year, the Chief stated the officers did not work outside of Portland, this year he says "I assigned officers to work on a JTTF investigation outside the City of Portland, after consultation with the Commissioner-in-charge." Now, does "this year" mean 2012, or 2013? Was the Commissioner Adams or Hales? Did they work within Oregon or leave the state? Who knows. 4-- Explaining why the officers received "Secret" clearance instead of "Top Secret" clearance, the report explains the difference would be if they needed to "access FBI facilities unescorted or obtain access to informant source information." It occurs to me that the Chief reports he "will not need clearance above the 'Secret' level to manage [the officers'] work with the JTTF," but doesn't say whether he might seek to obtain that level of clearance anyway. That his clearance level might be higher than the Mayor/Commissioner's was the main reason Mayor Potter pulled out of the JTTF in 2005. --5 Instead of saying he'd met with the FBI Special Agent in Charge "numerous" times and "certainly at a rate of more than twice a year," the Chief now says he conferred on "several occasions" and receives briefings "a few times a year." --6 There is no longer a link to the Standard Operating Procedure for the JTTF, and when I pasted in the old link it led me to a generic page for the PPB. If you're wondering about the man recently arrested on charges of supporting terrorism, a Q&A on the Mayor's website < http://www.portlandoregon.gov/mayor/article/438826 > says: > "The Joint Terrorism Task Force: > > The agreement with federal authorities and the city of Portland was not > invoked in this case. No Portland Police officers were involved in the FBI > investigation. One patrol car was in the area of the search warrant for > traffic control only." Last year, we wrote (with the support of the Japanese American Citizens League, the National Lawyers Guild, the League of Women Voters, the Arab Muslim Police Advisory Council, CWA Local 7901, and Portland School Board member Martin Gonzalez) a letter to Council outlining the deficiencies in the report(s). We asked for more detailed information, particularly how many hours officers were working given the tight city budget, and exactly how many cases were involved. The new report does not adequately address any of the concerns raised in that letter. The most concerning one is that the term "criminal nexus" is still not defined, and we believe the FBI will invoke need for Portland Police at a lower threshold than would be appropriate under Oregon law (ORS 181.575, requiring reasonable suspicion of criminal activity). I also noticed that the resolution guiding the report requires the City Attorney to check in with the Oregon Attorney General each year to be sure that Oregon law. Since no report is required from the City Attorney, we don't know whether that has happened. The only item regarding the Commissioner in Charge that is noted in this report is that Mayor Hales met with the FBI on February 14. There are still no names named (even the Assistant Chief of Investigations, who was Eric Hendricks until January, and is now Donna Henderson, nor City Attorney David Woboril, who is again referred to as a "Senior Deputy City Attorney who has provided legal advice to the Police Bureau for over fifteen years"). The report still refers to "acts of war" in its section defining "terrorism" even though there is no mention of "acts of war" anywhere else in the document. Given the very few differences between this report and last year's, it's astounding that the Chief needed an extra two months to put it together. We certainly deserve better and more information. I am reminded that the Human Rights Commission issued an analysis of the JTTF in early 2011 when the debate opened up whether Portland should re-join (after the 2010 "Holiday Tree bombing" sting). I hope to round up many of our same community partners, and of course the ACLU who had been working more directly with the City on the resolution last year, to testify on Wednesday. I hope others who are interested in transparency will join us. --dan handelman --Portland Copwatch (a project of Peace and Justice Works) PO Box 42456 Portland, OR 97242 (503) 236-3065 (office) (503) 321-5120 (incident report line) email@example.com http://www.portlandcopwatch.org www.michaelmunk.com ">http://www.portlandcopwatch.org
| (Russian TV) has been taunting the NYT, et al for
their silence and the US military for trying to suppress and then minimize
the extent and seriousness of the hunger strike. Inmates lawyers indicate
a majority of the 166 prisoners are participating and the military has
cancelled flights that the lawyers use to meet with their clients.|
Hunger strikes at
Guantanamo nearly double
US military detention center in Cuba confirms 24
prisoners on hunger strike with eight placed "on internal
Al-Jazeera, March 19, 2013
The number of detainees on hunger strike
at Guantanamo has nearly doubled since last week, with at least two
prisoners hospitalized due to dehydration, officials at the military
Captain Robert Durand, Guantanamo
communications director, confirmed on Tuesday that 24 prisoners were on
hunger strike, up from 15 since March 11, AFP reported.
However, he rejected claims that the
majority of detainees were involved in a more widespread
"Today, Tuesday, March 19, 2013, we have
24 hunger strikers, with eight on internal feed," he said. "The reports of
hunger-strike-related deteriorating health and detainees losing massive
amounts of weight are simply untrue."
In recent weeks, lawyers returned from the
US base in Cuba where the prison is located with accounts of clients weak
from hunger and an angry standoff with guards.
The military had said no more than a
handful of prisoners met the definition of being on hunger strike, which
includes missing nine consecutive meals.
That figure rose to 14 on Friday, and then
grew by seven over the weekend.
It has become the largest and most
sustained protest at Guantanamo in several years, but Durand insisted
there is no evidence to support reports of a strike involving most of the
166 men held there.
"The detainees certainly have the support
of one another," Durand said on Monday. "But if it was 166, I would tell
you it was 166. I don't have a reason to lowball or pad the
A prisoner from Yemen, Yasein Esmail, told
his attorney that he lost about 15 kg after striking for 29 days and was
struggling to keep his balance, according to notes taken by the lawyer,
Washington-based David Remes, during a March 5 visit.
"Many of the detainees are desperate,"
Esmail told Remes. "They feel like they're living in graves."
Omah Farah, from the Center for
Constitutional Rights (CCR), said several prisoners in Camp 6 where there
are 130 prisoners had lost between 18 and 22 kg and most had lost between
9 and 13 kg.
Farah accused camp authorities of seeking
to downplay the strike, which began on February 6 to protest searches
carried out by prison guards.
Detainees have accused guards of
"desecrating" Qurans during the searches.
Camp officials have strongly denied any
mistreatment of the religious books.
Another apparent factor in the protest is
the fact that the US has largely stopped transferring and releasing
prisoners because of security restrictions imposed by Congress and the
administration of President Barack Obama.
Durand said there had been no changes in
the way searches are conducted.
He said Qurans are searched for contraband
by Muslim translators, not guards, and are treated in a respectful
The protest is simply a way to attract
attention, he said.
"They have sort of fallen out of the
public view and most of the legal issues have been settled," Durand said.
"If you want to burst back into the media then you have to start
complaining about either Quran abuse or detainee abuse or deteriorating
Guantanamo prison was opened in 2002 to
house prisoners rounded up in the so called War on Terror waged by the
President George Bush administration following the 9/11
Madeleine Albright’s infamous declaration on “60 Minutes” that the death of a
half million Iraqi children from the sanctions imposed by her Clinton
administration was “worth it” ? Today, noted pacifist Kathy Kelly recalled tp://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/war-without-end/:
“Ten years ago, in March of 2003, Iraqis braced
themselves for the anticipated "Shock and Awe" attacks that the U.S. was
planning to launch against them. The media buildup for the attack assured
Iraqis that barbarous assaults were looming. I was living in Baghdad at the
time, along with other Voices in the Wilderness activists determined to remain
in Iraq, come what may. We didn't want U.S. - led military and economic
war to sever bonds that had grown between ourselves and Iraqis who had
befriended us over the past seven years. Since 1996, we had traveled to
Iraq numerous times, carrying medicines for children and families there, in open
violation of the economic sanctions which directly targeted the most
vulnerable people in Iraqi society, - the poor, the elderly, and the
children. I still feel haunted by children and their heartbroken mothers and
fathers whom we met in Iraqi hospitals.
"I think I understand," murmured my
friend Martin Thomas, a nurse from the U.K., as he sat in a pediatric ward in a
Baghdad hospital in 1997, trying to comprehend the horrifying reality. "It's a
death row for infants." Nearly all of the children were condemned to
death, some after many days of writhing in pain on bloodstained mats, without
pain relievers. Some died quickly, wasted by water-borne diseases. As the fluids
ran out of their bodies, they appeared like withered, spoiled fruits. They could
have lived, certainly should have lived - and laughed and danced, and run and
played- but instead they were brutally and lethally punished by economic
sanctions supposedly intended to punish a dictatorship over which civilians had
The war ended for those children, but it has
never ended for survivors who carry memories of them.”
Now something similar seems to be developing
from the Lesser Evil’s sanctions policy against Iran. The sanctions don’t
specifically ban medical materials, although there are efforts to define them as
potentially military supplies, but the sanctions make it difficult for Iranian
importers to buy them because of financial restrictions on Iranian
The US has just complained that its sanction are
not yet sufficiently effective in persuading the people to overthrow their
Surgeons struggle in
Iran as sanctions squeeze drug supplies
pharmacists warn operating theatres will close as medics turn to "old drugs" to
make up shortfall in vital supplies
Iranian women buy medicine from a pharmacy in Tehran.
Photograph: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images
Operating theatres in Iran are running
out of anaesthetics due to a shortage of medicine caused by the unintended consequences of international
Iranian doctors and pharmacists have warned that
hospitals across the country are facing difficulties finding the drugs used
during life-saving surgery.
"Drugs such as Atracurium, Isoflurane and
Sevoflurane are either not available in the market or are very scarce," said
Kheirollah Gholami, a leading pharmacist from Tehran University of Medical
"If these drugs are not supplied, our operating
theatres will have to close," he said, according to quotes carried by the
semi-official Ilna news agency. "You can't just use a hammer to make patients
become unconscious... If you don't have anaesthetics, patients in need of
operations may simply die."
Gholami's warning has been echoed by many of his
colleagues and medical officials, including Mohammad-Mehdi Ghiyamat, who is the
head of the Iranian society of anaesthesiology and critical care. "In the wake
of [the Persian new year] Nowruz holidays, only patients in emergencies can be
transferred to operating theatres and we don't know what to do with the others,"
Shafaonline, a medical news website, quoted Ghiyamat as saying.
"Despite repeated warnings, the officials are
yet to wake up and face the problem," he said. "It's the people and patients who
pay the price for the difficulties."
According to Ghiyamat, the shortage has forced
hospital to resort to procuring "old drugs", which he suggested should raise
concerns. It was not clear whether he was referring to expired medicine or
merely older types of anaesthetics no longer in use.
A combination of trade sanctions that limit
Iran's access to global markets, banking restrictions, the plummeting value of
the country's currency and government incompetence in allocating necessary funds
are accused of contributing to the current crisis.
There are conflicting views on whether the
sanctions or government incompetence played a bigger role in the shortage of
medicine, which potentially affects hundreds of thousands of Iranians with serious illnesses at risk, especially patients
suffering from haemophilia, multiple sclerosis and cancer.
Many believe that sanctions are blanket
restrictions and waivers considered to make sure humanitarian and medical goods
can get through are not working. Others say the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has failed to find appropriate channels to overcome the
In his latest report on the situation of human
rights in Iran, UN special rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed expressed concerns about
"the potentially negative humanitarian effect of general economic sanctions" and
called on the countries behind the punitive measures to make sure that
"humanitarian exemptions are effectively serving their intended
Marietje Schaake, an MEP, called on the EU last
month to reconsider sanctions so that Iran's ability to undertake life-saving
operations is secured.
"Crippling sanctions are only justifiable if
they target the Iranian regime and not the civilian population," she wrote to
the EU's high representative Catherine Ashton. "The EU should stand with the
Iranian population, instead of making their lives even harder."
Schaake said: "The restricted access to
medicines is another undesirable side-effect of the US sanctions. The EU should
consider the wellbeing of Iranian people because they will be instrumental in
creating a freer and less threatening Iran."
The Military-Industrial Complex’s “Global
development” front targets Africa
“The Kyle House Group, a political consulting
firm that focuses on international affairs and global development issues, hosted
a candlelight dinner and discussion with the Consensus for Development
Reform (CDR). CDR is a small group of high level former policymakers
and business leaders launched last year to provide a new strong voice for
private sector led strategy for global development. The dinner featured two
dozen military and business leaders, and was keynoted by General Jim
Jones, former White House national security adviser, NATO Supreme
Allied Commander and Marine Corps commandant. "Africa is the continent of the
future," Jones told the group.
Other presenters included: Veronica
Varekova, goodwill ambassador of the Africa Wildlife Foundation [*],
who had spoken at Davos; Gen. Kip Ward, retired commander of
U.S. Africa Command; Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of
the CIA and NSA; and two CDR co-chairs, former Ambassador to Tanzania Mark Green and Rob Mosbacher, former president
and CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.” –Politico
We unrepentant Marxists already knew that, but I
guess liberals are shocked-MM
Big Bank Immunity: When Do We Crack Down on Wall
Street? By Dean
BakerTruthout, March 11, 2013http://truth-out.org/news/item/15048-big-bank-immunity-when-do-we-crack-down-on-wall-street
Attorney General Eric Holder speaks
at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Oct. 9, 2012.
Holder has told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Justice Department may
have to restrain its prosecutors in dealing with the big banks. (Photo: Luke
Sharrett / The New York Times) The Wall Street gang must really be
partying these days. Profits and bonuses are as high as ever as these super-rich
takers were able to use trillions of dollars of below-market government loans to
get themselves through the crisis they created. The rest of the country is still
struggling with high unemployment, stagnant wages, underwater mortgages and
hollowed-out retirement accounts, but life is good again on Wall
Their world must have gotten even
brighter last week when Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate
Judiciary Committee that the Justice Department may have to restrain its
prosecutors in dealing with the big banks because it has to consider the
possibility that a prosecution could lead to financial instability.
Not only can the big banks count on taxpayer bailouts when they need them; it
turns out that they can share profits with drug dealers with impunity. (The case
immediately at hand involved money laundered for a Mexican drug cartel.) And who
says that times are bad?
It's hard to know where to begin
with this one. First off, we should not assume that just because the Justice
Department says it is concerned about financial instability that this is the
real reason that they are not prosecuting a big bank. There is precedent for
being less than honest about such issues.
When Enron was about to collapse in
2002 as its illegal dealings became public, former Treasury Secretary Robert
Rubin, who was at the time a top Citigroup executive, called a former aide at
Treasury. He asked him to intervene with the bond-rating agencies to get them to
delay downgrading Enron's debt. Citigroup owned several hundred million dollars
in Enron debt at the time. If Rubin had gotten this delay, Citigroup would have
been able to dump much of this debt on suckers before the price
The Treasury official refused. When
the matter became public, Rubin claimed that he was concerned about instability in financial
It is entirely possible that the
reluctance to prosecute big banks represents the same sort of fear of financial
instability as motivated Rubin. In other words, it is a pretext that the Justice
Department is using to justify its failure to prosecute powerful friends on Wall
Street. In Washington, this possibility can never be ruled
However, there is the possibility
that the Justice Department really believes that prosecuting the criminal
activities of Bank of America or JP Morgan could sink the economy. If this is
true, then it makes the case for breaking up the big banks even more of a slam
dunk, since it takes the logic of too big to fail one step
Just to remind everyone, the simple
argument against too big to fail is that it subsidizes risk-taking by large
banks. In principle, when a bank or other company is engaged in a risky line of
business, those who are investing in the company or lending it money demand a
higher rate of return in recognition of the risk.
However, if they know that
government will back up the bank if it gets into trouble, then investors have
little reason to properly evaluate the risk. This means that more money will
flow to the TBTF bank, since it knows it can undertake risky activities without
paying the same interest rate as other companies that take on the same amount of
risk. The result is that we have given the banks an incentive to engage in risky
activity and a big subsidy to their top executives and
If it turns out that we also give
them a get-out-of-jail free card when it comes to criminal activity, then we are
giving these banks an incentive to engage in criminal activity. There is a lot
of money to be gained by assisting drug dealers and other nefarious types in
laundering their money. In principle, the laws are supposed to be structured to
discourage banks from engaging in such behavior. But when the attorney general
tells us that the laws cannot be fully enforced against the big banks, he is
saying that we are giving them incentive to break the law in the pursuit of
Our anti-trust laws are supposed to
protect the country against companies whose size allows them inordinate market
power. In principle, we would use anti-trust law to break up a phone company
because its market dominance allowed it to charge us $10 a month too much on our
cable. How could we not use anti-trust policy to break up a bank whose size
allows it to profit from dealing with drug dealers and murderers with
Pakistan defies US with
gas pipeline to Iran
|Pakistani media reports the government made the deal
to attract support anti US support from the public in coming elections.
Its opponents may remain silent to get US support. Regime change,
Construction of pipeline, intended to help Pakistan
overcome its increasing energy needs, begins despite US
Al-Jazeera, March 11,
Iranian and Pakistani leaders have
inaugurated the construction of a much-delayed section of a $7.5bn gas
pipeline linking the two neighbors, defying the threat of US
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched the
project with his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari at a ceremony on
the border on Monday, hailing the agreement as a blow to US-led sanctions
targeting his country's oil and gas sector.
The two leaders unveiled a plaque before
shaking hands and offering prayers for the successful conclusion of the
project, which involves the laying of a 780km section of the pipeline on
the Pakistani side, expected to cost some $1.5bn.
The pipeline is intended to help Islamabad
overcome its increasing energy needs at a time when the country is facing
increased blackouts and energy shortages.
There are serious doubts, however, about
how Pakistan can finance the project and whether it can go through with
the project without facing US sanctions, which Washington has put in place
to pressure Iran over its nuclear program.
Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder, reporting from
Islamabad, said the agreement with Iran could "entail a heavy price" on
"Pakistan is also very dependent on the
United States when it comes to conventional weapons," Hyder
But Pakistan also faces an energy crisis
and its needs gas that Iran can supply, he added.
Monday's event comes just days before the
government's term is set to expire and could be designed to win votes by
making the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) look like it is addressing
the energy crisis.
The US has opposed the project, instead
promoting an alternative pipeline [sponsored by US ally the House of
Saud-mm] that runs from the gas fields of Turkmenistan to Afghanistan,
Pakistan and then to India.
Washington has also championed a number of
electricity-generation projects within Pakistan such as helping to
renovate hydropower dams.
Iran says it has already finished its side
of the pipeline, which travels 1,150km from the gas fields to the
Gas is supposed to start flowing in by the
end of 2014, although few see that deadline as realistic considering the
delays so far in the project.
"If this deal is finalized for a proposed
Iran-Pakistan pipeline, it would raise serious concerns under our Iran
Sanctions Act," said Victoria Nuland, the US state department spokeswoman,
during a news briefing in Washington last week.
"We've made that absolutely clear to our
Under US regulations, a wide-ranging list
of business-related activities with Iran can trigger US
Certain sales of technology or equipment
that allow Iran to develop its energy sector are barred, as are most
transactions involving gas or other fuels, according to a January report
by the Congressional Research Report.
The regulations also bar business dealings
with Iranian financial institutions.
Iran also faces separate EU and UN
sanctions over its controversial nuclear program, which the West believes
is geared for building nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charge,
insisting the program is purely for peaceful purposes.
OPEN LETTER TO CONCERNED TRADE UNIONISTS
[PLEASE FORWARD WIDELY]
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
Please be advised that a national Labor Fightback Conference for concerned
trade unionists who want to do something about labor's plight will be held
May 10-12, 2013 at the Rutgers University Student Center, New Brunswick, New
Jersey. The undersigned urge attendance at this critically needed
conference, with any interested union free to send as many representatives
This conference will address the key question: "What strategy will enable
labor to mount the most effective and powerful fightback possible against
the corporate assaults?"
The conference is being held in the aftermath of enactment of right-to-work
in Michigan and Indiana; destruction of bargaining rights for Wisconsin
public employees; the all-out assault on defined pension plans; demands by
large corporations making huge profits for substantial concessions; layoffs,
curtailment of benefits, and other austerity measures in cities and states
across the country; 25 million unemployed or underemployed; and the list
And in the months to come, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other
vitally needed social programs will be targeted for steep cuts, which could
imperil the health, safety, welfare and very lives of the tens of millions
of people who are dependent on these programs.
Labor's plight ─ and the plight of the working class as a whole ─ is dire
but by no means hopeless.
Despite the defeat of the recall, we take heart in the mobilization of over
100,000 Wisconsin workers and the occupation of the state's capitol
building, labor's stunning referendum victory in Ohio, the outcome of the
Chicago Teachers strike, victories of the West Coast longshore workers, and
the new winds blowing in the struggles of low paid retail workers at Walmart
and many food centers for a living wage and basic human rights, including
the right to have union representation.
The purpose of the Rutgers conference is to explore how we in labor can most
effectively mount an independent fightback action campaign based on such
united front demands as putting America back to work; preserving and
expanding safety net programs based on No Cuts, No Concessions, No Shared
Sacrifice; Medicare for All; retirement security; and redirecting war
spending to fund human needs.
We also strongly believe that labor must resurrect campaigns to organize the
South and repeal repressive anti-labor legislation, especially Taft-Hartley.
In this regard, we welcome the development of the Southern Workers Assembly
at its recent meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, which drew hundreds of
trade unionists and others.
At the centerpiece of a fightback action campaign, in our opinion, is the
building of labor-community coalitions. The Chicago teachers set an example
for the entire labor movement by the way they forged an alliance with
community groups and activists, which was key to the teachers' victory. The
Rutgers conference can help advance the formation of such coalitions on a
local and national level.
It is through building labor-community coalitions that we will be able to
mobilize the largest number of people. Confining ourselves to lobbying and
nothing more will not get the job done. Street heat that will move hundreds
of thousands ─ even millions when you consider the 90 million people who
depend on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid ─ is what is needed now
more than ever.
Finally, at Rutgers we can discuss how to hold accountable politicians whose
loyalty is to the corporations, not the working class majority ─ politicians
we often supported in the past and who betrayed our trust. How best can we
fight for our own agenda? Isn't it high time to assert labor's political
independence in our workplaces, in the streets, and in the electoral arena,
starting with running independent, local, labor-community candidates for
public office, who run on a platform that reflects the interests of the
We hope that you agree that there is a compelling need for trade unionists
concerned about the issues cited above to convene for a free-wheeling
discussion and debate leading to an action program. Please plan to join us
for the Rutgers conference (a registration form will be posted separately).
We look forward to seeing you there!
An endorsement form is below. We encourage your union to endorse the
conference and do everything possible to build and publicize it.
For further information, please call 973-944-8975 or email
firstname.lastname@example.org or write Labor Fightback Conference, P.O. Box
187, Flanders, NJ 07836 or visit our website at
Ken Riley President South Carolina AFL-CIO
Donna Dewitt Retired President South Carolina AFL-CIO
Kevin Gundlach President South Central Federation of Labor, Wisconsin
Charity Schmidt Co-President University of Wisconsin-Madison Teachers
Assistants' Association (TAA)
Executive Board, South Central Federation of Labor, Wisconsin
From the Emergency Labor Network www.laborfightback.org.
The Sequestra Conspiracy
As the smoke clears on the implementation of the across-the-board cuts in
vitally needed domestic programs, it must be acknowledged that the labor
movement and our allies, together with the overwhelming majority of the
population, have suffered yet another devastating blow, this one
administered by politicians of both major parties, as well as by the
president himself. It is estimated that as a result of the cuts, over
700,000 workers will lose their jobs by the end of this year.
The cuts, known as sequestration, were authorized by the Budget Control Act
of 2011, enacted by large majorities of both Democrats and Republicans and
signed into law by the president, who was the first to advocate
sequestration. Nothing that has happened since and nothing that has been
said since can change that basic truth.
The Obama administration admits its miscalculation. They thought that by
linking cuts in social programs to cuts in military spending, the
Republicans would come around and agree to revenue increases. But it did not
work out that way. The military hawks in the Republican Party were
outnumbered by the Tea Party-backed fiscal hawks, and the Party refused to
budge or rescind sequestration. No surprise there.
Yes, the Republicans bear significant responsibility for what has occurred.
They are the outspoken champions of the wealthy, Wall Street banks, and the
big corporations. And the Republican Party is clearly controlled these days
by the most extreme right wing forces, which has resulted in the Party's
approval ratings sinking to 29 percentile.
But as we go forward and face the danger of more massive cuts to the social
safety net, it is essential that a broad, powerful, inclusive mass movement
be built that is independent of the Democratic Party, which has proved
itself once again to be no friend of labor, the unorganized, the unemployed,
low and middle-income workers, communities of color, and other progressive
sectors of our society.
Look at the recent record. On January 29, 2010, President Obama addressed
the House Republican retreat and said that "the major drive of our long-term
liabilities, everybody here knows, is Medicare and Medicaid and … health
care spending. Nothing comes close." In the summer of 2011, while attempting
to negotiate a "Grand Bargain" with Speaker Boehner, the president offered
to support raising the eligibility age for Medicare and also to change the
cost of living formula for Social Security, which would drive down monthly
payments to seniors. The three leading Democrats in the House of
Representatives -- Nancy Pelosi, Stenny Hoyer and James Clyburn -- all
weighed in on the need to cut earned income benefits ("entitlements"). In
August of 2011 the Democrats and Republicans collaborated in enacting the
Budget Control Act, which included the sequestration feature. This bill
provided for establishing a "Super Committee" of 12 -- six Democrats and six
Republicans -- and charged them with coming up with a plan to cut the
deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next ten years. All six Democrats on that
committee made clear they were for cutting "entitlements" so long as there
were corresponding increases in revenue.
The failure of the Super Committee to reach agreement led to the
sequestration, which is what we have arrived at now. And every member of
Congress who voted for the Budget Control Act that led to this juncture
ought to be held accountable.
The next major challenge faced by advocates of NO CUTS, NO COMPROMISES, NO
CONCESSIONS when it comes to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the
other social programs -- many of which have now taken a major hit -- is
March 27, 2013, by which date Congress must act on a continuing resolution
to keep the government running for the rest of the fiscal year. The same
arguments, charges and counter charges that have filled the airwaves these
past weeks by politicians from both major parties will be heard again.
There are differences between the Democrats and Republicans on the question
of coping with the deficit and the debt -- no doubt about that -- but what
happens if the Republicans cave in and agree to added revenue? Then,
President Obama has repeatedly said, he will support major cuts in
"entitlements," even if it means taking on the liberal wing of his party.
Our labor movement now faces a fateful choice: either rewrite history and
place all the blame on the Republicans for the cuts taking place, while
calling for continued support for the president and the Democratic Party to
protect our cherished benefits; or take an independent path and spearhead
building a broad, massive movement capable of mobilizing millions, including
occupying the nation's Capitol if that becomes necessary, to defeat those
hellbent on placing the burden of the economic crisis and austerity on the
backs of the working class and the great majority, including beneficiaries
of safety net programs that tens of millions depend on for their survival.
It is in this context that we urge the trade union movement to endorse the
conference scheduled for Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on
May 10-12, 2013. Any union endorsing this conference is free to send as many
representatives as it wishes.
The conference is co-sponsored by two labor organizations: the South Central
Federation of Labor, Wisconsin and the South Carolina AFL-CIO. Its stated
purpose is "to explore how we in labor can most effectively mount an
independent fightback action campaign based on such united front demands as
putting America back to work; preserving and expanding safety net programs
based on No Cuts, No Concessions, No Shared Sacrifice; Medicare for All;
retirement security; and redirecting war spending to fund human needs." The
"Open Letter to Concerned Trade Unionists" announcing the Rutgers conference
This is a watershed moment in the life of the labor movement and the nation.
Let's rise to the challenge, recognizing that if we do not, we face the
prospect of further damaging setbacks down the road. We have the numbers and
the power to avert such defeats, but only if we mobilize to do so.
Issued by the Emergency Labor Network (ELN)
For more information write email@example.com or P.O. Box 21004,
Cleveland, OH 44121 or call 216-736-4715 or visit our website at
The Scanner SPECIAL EDITION
The Black Panthers in the Pacific NorthWest
To read the whole Black History Edition click here
Visit my website www.michaelmunk.com
similar to the US public’s delusion about Iraq’s WMDs and you can also blame the
NYTimes reporting on it.--MM
Americans consider Iranian nukes a threat
Korean nuclear program also widely perceived as ‘critical’ danger, poll finds;
Republicans fear Islamism more than do Democrats
The Times of Israel (Jerusalem),
Feb. 20, 2013
NEW YORK — A huge
majority of Americans view Iran’s nuclear program as a “critical threat,”
alongside the North Korean nuclear program and “international terrorism,”
according to a poll released Monday.
The Gallup poll found that 99 percent of Americans believe the
Islamic Republic’s nuclear program is a threat “to the vital interests of the
United States in the next 10 years,” with 83% saying it was a “critical threat”
and another 16% saying it was an “important, [but] not critical” one.
Just 1% declined to say it was at least an important
The poll was conducted February 7-10 among 1,015 respondents aged
18 and older. It has a margin of error of 4%.
The poll asked respondents to comment on nine possible threats.
Iranian nuclear weapons generated the most concern, though only by the slimmest
North Korean nuclear weapons garnered
nearly identical levels of concern, with 83% calling them a “critical threat”
and 14% an “important” one, though these answers came before last week’s
nuclear test by the communist
“International terrorism” rounded out the three
leading threats perceived by the American public, with 81% and 17% calling it a
“critical” and “important” threat, respectively. The remaining threats included
Islamic fundamentalism (53%-28%), China’s
economic and military power (52%-39%), the military power of
Russia (29%-53%) and the conflict between India and
The widest gap by party affiliation related to the perception of
the threat from Islamic fundamentalism, with 70% of Republicans saying it was a
critical threat, compared to 46% of Democrats.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has continued to decline as a
perceived threat, with 44% of those polled saying it was a “critical threat” to
US interests, a drop from 58% in a 2004 poll. Forty-four percent said the
conflict was an “important” threat, and 9% said it was not
Islamic fundamentalism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict both
ranked lower as threats among the young compared with older Americans. Among
Americans under 34 years old, just 35% said Islamic fundamentalism was a
critical threat, compared with 64% among those 55 and older. When it came to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 32% of the young saw it as a critical threat,
compared to 54% of those over 55.
According to Gallup, “this year’s poll marked the first time
Gallup asked about North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons specifically. In
2010 Gallup asked about the two countries’ ‘military power,’ and found 61%
rating each as a critical threat to the United States, second only to
international terrorism. In 2004, the ‘spread of weapons of mass destruction to
unfriendly powers’ ranked second only to terrorism. Thus, Americans have
previously seen North Korea and Iran, and nuclear weapons in general, as serious
threats to the US.”
The findings on American perception of Iran correspond
to other polling in recent years. A Gallup poll conducted in early February 2012 asked
Americans whom they considered to be the United States’ “greatest enemy today.”
The question was open-ended. Nearly one-third, or 32%, named Iran — more than
any other country.
“The high level of concern Americans give to North Korea, as well
as to Iran and to international terrorism, suggest these are areas on which the
public would like the Obama administration and its new foreign policy team to
focus its efforts,” Gallup noted.
Virginia Shipyard as Backdrop, Obama Warns Again on
Tuesday, President Obama told employees at Newport News Shipbuilding, a builder
of nuclear-powered carriers, that their work was in jeopardy because of cuts set
to take effect on Friday.
New York Times: February 26, 2013
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — President Obama
flew on Tuesday to the vast shipyard where the nation’s nuclear-powered aircraft
carriers are built to send a warning that automatic cuts in the Pentagon budget,
only three days away, threatened the jobs of tens of thousands of workers and
America’s fragile economic recovery.
“This work, along with
hundreds of thousands of jobs, are currently in jeopardy because of politics in
Washington,” the president told a crowd of several hundred at Newport News
Shipbuilding, which employs 21,000 people in Virginia and is the state’s largest
industrial employer. “These cuts are wrong. They’re not smart. They are not
fair. They are a self-inflicted wound that doesn’t have to happen.”
Read the rest at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/27/us/politics/obama-takes-budget-warnings-to-shipbuilder.html?ref=us
Robert Gibbs, President Barack Obama's former
press secretary, says that he was once instructed by the White House not to
acknowledge the administration's use of drones.
"When I went through the process of becoming
press secretary, one of the first things they told me was, you're not even to
acknowledge the drone program," Gibbs said on MSNBC's "Up With Chris Hayes" on
Sunday. "You're not even to discuss that it exists."
Or, to paraphrase an oft-quoted line from David
Fincher's 1999 film "Fight Club": The first rule of the drone program is you do not talk
about the drone program.
Gibbs, who was recently hired by MSNBC as a
contributor, called the proposition "inherently crazy."
"You're being asked a question based on
reporting of a program that exists," Gibbs, who served as White House press
secretary from 2009 to 2011, said. "So you're the official government
spokesperson acting as if the entire program—pay no attention to the man behind
Obama's former spokesman said that while the
administration has recently expressed the need to be more transparent about its
use of drones, certain aspects of that program are "highly sensitive" and will
likely remain secret.
“I have not talked to him about this, so I want
to be careful," Gibbs said, "but I think what the president has seen is, our
denial of the existence of the program when it’s obviously happening undermines
people’s confidence overall in the decisions that their government
Columbia River Crossing is a bad deal for Oregon
By Joe Cortright
Joe Cortright is an economist with Impresa Inc. in Northeast Portland.
(oped) February 23, 2013
The Interstate 5 bridge looking east from Hayden Island
After years of postponing a discussion of how to pay for the $3.4 billion Columbia River Crossing, the state has finally hit on a plan: Just borrow the money, and worry about paying later.
While proponents describe it as having a $450 million Oregon price tag, everyone should be clear that if we move forward with CRC, the state's financial liability is open-ended and unlimited: Oregon will be responsible for any shortfalls in revenue from other sources -- both the federal government and tolls -- and for cost overruns.
This is troubling because the CRC financial plan is based on a series of Pollyanna-like assumptions. It counts on a $400 million federal earmark that failed to appear in the latest national highway bill. It is based on outdated and flawed traffic projections that overestimate potential toll revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars. It counts on the federal government paying almost 100 percent of the cost of light rail when it typically pays only half. CRC has yet to deliver an independent "investment grade" toll-revenue forecast that private investors and the federal government will insist on before lending a dime of the billions of dollars needed for this project. And the Oregon Department of Transportation has a well-documented history of huge cost overruns on major projects, like the U.S. 20 project that is more than $200 million over budget.
In theory, the bill legislators are considering now, House Bill 2800, contains "triggers" to make sure other partners contribute to the project. In reality, the fine print makes it clear they're an illusion.
A promised $1.25 billion federal contribution? Nothing in HB2800 requires a specific dollar amount of federal funding. The bill makes no reference to the hoped-for earmark of $400 million in federal highway funds -- which has already evaporated. It only requires that an application for $850 million in federal transit funding be submitted, not approved, before the state issues its bonds. The project could move forward even if the federal government provides much less than the amounts hoped for.
The HB2800 triggers are worded so vaguely that Oregon bonds can be issued as soon as an application for federal money is submitted, without Washington matching Oregon's contribution to the project, and even if independent estimates show that the CRC will generate much less than the hoped-for $1.3 billion in toll revenue. A legislated cost cap, as The Oregonian's PolitiFact Oregon reported Feb. 20, is meaningless and unenforceable.
HB2800 will likely lead to more than a billion dollars of additional state debt. That's not how we've traditionally paid for highways. As recently as 2001, ODOT was essentially debt-free. Since then, it's gone on a borrowing binge, and now 29 percent of all state transportation revenue goes to pay off bonds for past projects -- a number that would grow much larger with the CRC. And because HB2800 doesn't provide any revenues, repaying CRC borrowing will require cutting other urgent transportation needs or raising future taxes.
As we pass this huge new debt on to future Oregonians, it's ironic that the CRC is a project literally designed for a bygone era. The project's traffic projections, based on 2005 data and not updated since, assume gas prices of about a dollar a gallon and steeply growing increases in driving. In fact, traffic levels have gone down and are back to 1990s levels on the Interstate 5 bridges. Numerous studies have pointed out that there are cheaper and faster ways to reduce congestion than a decadelong, $3.4 billion freeway-expansion project. The CRC is a bad project and a bad financial deal for Oregon.
Back in the 1930s, New York's Machiavellian highway builder, Robert Moses, hit on a clever strategy to get projects he wanted: He'd take a small amount of money and get the project started, and then dare the Legislature not to fund the rest of the project and leave it unfinished. It's a classic gambit being used to sell the CRC. We shouldn't fall for it.
Visit my website www.michaelmunk.com
This week, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid cut a deal with Republicans that kept the Senate filibuster in place.
Republicans have used this outdated procedure (which requires a super-majority to pass anything) to prevent a public option, strong Wall Street reform, and climate legislation.
Making matters worse, Reid is trying to punish Senator Jeff Merkley for telling grassroots activists which Democratic senators needed to hear most from their constituents on this issue.
Harry Reid had the power to pass bold new Senate rules, but he was afraid to use this power. And Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is now boasting to his supporters, "We beat the liberals."
Reid should be mad at himself. But the Huffington Post reports, "At Tuesday's closed-door caucus meeting, Merkley was upbraided by Reid for breaking unspoken Senate rules and naming specific senators in a conference call with Democratic activists last week."
We cannot let our friends be punished for helping grassroots organizations be effective in policy fights. Can you chip in $3 to Jeff Merkley's 2014 re-election in Oregon -- to show him that he is not alone? And to reward his bold leadership? Click here.
PCCC members were proud to make thousands of calls in support of Merkley's filibuster reform proposal. We'll continue working with him in the days ahead.-- Adam Green, Stephanie Taylor, Karissa Gerhke, and the PCCC team
Visit my website www.michaelmunk.com
An unverifiable, if heartfelt, assertion: For
the quarter century between 1945 and 1970 (or from Rome Open City to Fellini Satyricon), the world’s greatest popular cinema was produced in
Italy—a realm of glamorous superstars, sensational comedians, and great genre
flicks. A half dozen maestros were backed by a remarkably deep bench,
including writer-director Mario Monicelli (1915–2010), whose 1963 strike
drama I compagni (The Comrades), released in the U.S. as The
Organizer, is popular cinema in the best sense.
The son of a political journalist who moved
from socialism to anarcho-syndicalism to fascism (briefly) to antifascism, and
who also founded Italy’s first film journal, Monicelli is best known for his
socially aware tragicomedies. Still, his oeuvre is not easily synopsized.
He directed some sixty films and wrote or cowrote more than seventy over the
course of a career that began in 1935 with a precocious 16 mm feature based
(like Frank Borzage’s No Greater Glory, 1934) on Ferenc Molnár’s novel The Paul Street Boys and ended seven decades later, when he was
ninety-one, with The Roses of the Desert (2006), a comedy about an
Italian medical unit sent to Libya in 1940.
Monicelli characterized his first studio
features, made in the early fifties and mainly starring the great sad-faced
clown Totó, as “neorealist farce”—shot on location and affectionately
satirizing the struggles of the urban poor. (“The themes that make one laugh
always stem from poverty, hunger, misery, old age, sickness, and death,” the
director maintained. “These are the themes that make Italians laugh, anyway.”)
With the genially caustic A Hero of Our Times (1955), featuring the
young Alberto Sordi as a craven lower-middle-class schemer, and Big Deal on
Madonna Street (1958), an enormous international hit, not least in the
U.S., Monicelli pioneered what would be called commedia
all’italiana—tales of hapless schemers, in Big Deal played against
type by matinee idols Vittorio Gassman and Marcello Mastroianni.
However cowardly or amoral, Monicelli’s
protagonists are essentially sympathetic in their ineptitude—and their
privation. The Great War (1959), cowritten, like Big Deal, with
the team of Age-Scarpelli (Agenore Incrocci and Furio Scarpelli), paired Sordi
and Gassman as dim-witted crooks dragooned into the Italian Army during World
War I. Not simply antimilitarist but antipatriotic, it shared the Golden Lion
with Rossellini’s World War II drama Il generale della Rovere at the
1959 Venice Film Festival. The Passionate Thief (1960), with Anna
Magnani as a would-be con artist, followed, along with a contribution to the
anthology film Boccaccio ’70, a frothy yet piquant comedy about the
oppression, sexual and otherwise, of two young factory workers.
Monicelli always had an ambivalent
relationship with engaged cinema. One of his last works documented the
protests around the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa; late in his life, he thanked
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi “for making me feel young again by joining in
protests against him who has all the makings of a modern tyrant.” At the same
time, his movies are characterized by a marked skepticism: “I always look at a
group of people who want to attempt an enterprise greater than their means.
They begin this enterprise, and they fail.” The bumbling burglars and botched
heist of Big Deal on Madonna Street offer the purest example of such
collective failure. The Organizer, a French-Italian coproduction made
soon after Monicelli started his own production company, is a more complex
dramatization of defeat.
Inspired, according to its director, by the
revolutionary ghosts of Paris’s no longer extant Bastille and set in the slums
of late-nineteenth-century Turin, The Organizer accepts what the
influential Italian Marxist leader Antonio Gramsci saw as “the challenge of
modernity,” namely, “to live without illusions and without becoming
disillusioned.” Life is struggle, and to struggle against one’s lot is to
flirt with futility. To that end, The Organizer is variously (and, for
some, disconcertingly) jaunty, sentimental, comic, and baffling, as Monicelli
applies the tonal shifts associated with the French New Wave to a
straightforward saga of working-class solidarity. Stanley Kauffmann, who
reviewed the movie for the New Republic when it opened in the U.S. in
May 1964, found The Organizer “very interesting and very odd”—by which
he meant anachronistic. Other critics who, like Kauffmann, had lived through
the 1930s also saw The Organizer as a peculiar throwback to the
socially significant movies of that period. “What prompted Mario Monicelli . .
. to make this picture just now?” Kauffmann wondered. Hadn’t the struggle for
workers’ rights long since been won?
Kauffmann was likely unaware of the convulsive
autoworkers’ strike that had shaken Turin—and Fiat—in 1962, and yet his
puzzlement is understandable. Notable for its period detail and Giuseppe
Rotunno’s accomplished faux-daguerreotype cinematography, The
Organizer is not so much a call to action as to recollection—both a
historical monument and a taboo-breaking depiction of a specific moment.
Monicelli meant to remind contemporary viewers that decent working conditions
and wages were gained over time and at considerable cost. The Organizer, which had its Italian premiere at the 35th Congress of the Italian
Socialist Party, is, above all, a movie about how difficult it is to organize
collective action, set in a period when Italian unions barely
Italy’s first capital after the Risorgimento
ended in the 1870s, Turin was in the midst of rapid industrialization during
the period of The Organizer, although the film unfolds some years
before the growth of the industry that made the city Italy’s Detroit, and a
quarter century in advance of the great strikes and occupations of 1920 that
so influenced Gramsci. It’s a grim place. Workers rise at 5:30 a.m. to trudge
from their overcrowded hovels or prisonlike apartment blocks toward the
massive textile factory that squats at their world’s center. As in Metropolis (1927), men exist to serve their machines—the roaring,
relentless signifiers of the brutal, fourteen-hour, dawn-to-dusk regime that
chews up the workers, literally, in one case.
Populating his densely inhabited film with
actual workers, Monicelli was attempting, three years before The Battle of
Algiers (1966), to create a sort of neorealist period piece; using a
strategy that would subsequently be seen in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), The Organizer opens with a montage of historical
photographs that skillfully segues into contemporary facsimiles. Throughout,
Rotunno’s black-and-white cinematography makes evocative use of flat lighting
and gray skies to accentuate the sense of soot and smoke. (Because little was
left of nineteenth-century Turin, the movie was actually shot in the nearby
Piedmontese cities of Cuneo, Fasano, and Savigliano, with the vast factory
interior filmed in Zagreb, Yugoslavia.) “The past is the present, and the
spectator feels as if the film had actually been made in 1895,” wrote Dwight
Macdonald, another man of the thirties, who, as Esquire’s film critic, gave The Organizer its best U.S. notice. “The camera work has the bleak,
grainy quality of photographs by Jacob Riis,” he noted, a comparison to the
author of How the Other Half Lives that was also made by New York
Times reviewer Bosley Crowther, who in turn also invoked the novels of
Émile Zola (“It has the same feeling for the underprivileged”).
Gathering in the hospital where their maimed
comrade has been taken, the largely illiterate workers spontaneously form a
committee and plan a job action that proves to be an abject failure. Then,
suddenly, half an hour into the movie, a most unlikely messiah hops off the
freight train of history and raps at a window of the fetid basement where the
workers doze through their evening literacy classes. Indelibly played by
Marcello Mastroianni, Professor Giuseppe Sinigaglia is a Chaplinesque
conspirator, a hobo in a battered hat and a greasy, threadbare cloak, a
stooped fugitive on the run from the police in Milan. In a movie where neither
Karl Marx nor any of Italy’s working-class heroes are ever mentioned,
Mastroianni’s professor is a stunningly perverse embodiment of
At once shabby and genteel, timid and brash,
idealistic and clumsy, practical and absentminded, this furtively scuttling,
hopelessly myopic intellectual may be a professional agitatore,
but—part holy fool, part wily picaro—he is hardly the positive hero of a
Soviet proletarian drama. (For one thing, he’s no stoic—in one quintessential
Monicelli moment, the famished fugitive greedily seizes a sandwich that a
worker has left behind and then hands it back, abashed, when the man returns
to retrieve it.) And though he has apparently betrayed his class—and also, it
would seem, abandoned his family—the proles are not always appreciative of his
sacrifice. Suspicious of their would-be organizer, they are frequently divided
among themselves, easily intimidated, and readily bamboozled by their
In some respects, The Organizer is a
comedy of uneven development. More stubborn, driven, and successfully
manipulative than he initially appears, the professor matures as an organizer,
swaying a crowd with his hitherto unsuspected oratorical gifts—if not the
power of his logic or his interpersonal savvy. “Why the long faces?” he
cries, bursting into the home of a worker accidentally killed during a
demonstration and brandishing a newspaper: thanks to the dead man’s martyrdom,
the public is now on their side. The mourners are singularly
While the movie’s American title puts the
emphasis on the star, the original Italian title stresses a sense of
solidarity. So does the movie itself, which is essentially an ensemble piece.
“Monicelli has integrated the star into the drama, counterpointing him against
the others instead of reducing them to background music,” Macdonald noted.
“For considerable periods, we don’t see the organizer at all, and when he does
reappear—often materializing with a magical yet quite logical
opportuneness—[he is] first among equals, rather than the usual
star-dictator.” Recurring deflationary bits of business throughout suggest the
futility of individual action: one irate worker confronts his boss, pulls out
his knife, and can’t open the clasp; another makes a fiery speech in a dialect
that his comrades don’t understand.
Toward the end, Monicelli switches gears, as,
sought by the authorities and rejected by those he would lead, the professor
lies low, taken in by a good-hearted prostitute (Annie Girardot, the co-pro’s
requisite French star). Abruptly, he emerges from hiding to address a mass
meeting and, coming into his own as an orator, inspires the workers to occupy
the factory. Still, The Organizer has no happy ending. The strikers
march singing through the streets as the militia is mobilized; the confused
soldiers open fire, an innocent is killed, and the strike is broken. The
professor is berated by the workers he led, his glasses are knocked from his
face, and he begins searching for them on the ground—a startling
And yet, although the movie closes with a long
shot of the defeated workers reentering their factory prison, including a
child forced to take his older brother’s place at the machines, the mood is
not exactly unhappy. The gates close, yet minds have been opened. The
Organizer is a historical comedy that demonstrates a very Gramscian
formulation (pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will) and a very
popular one, to take another Monicelli title: Viva Italia!
A thirty-three-year veteran of the
Village Voice and a proud member of United Auto Workers Local 2110, J.
Hoberman thanks Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan and Dave Kehr for their help in scaling
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
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
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.
The New York Times reporting on the Assange story http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/20/world/europe/assange-casts-himself-as-persecuted-whistle-blower.html?hp
adopts a mantra to avoid investigating the heart of the issue: whether the Obama
administration is preparing to indict Assange for espionage and demand his
extradition from Sweden. That mantra is: "American officials have not publicly disclosed any such
Sent: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 10:39 AM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
October 10, 2012
Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H.
Mark Almberg, communications director PNHP, (312) 782-6006, firstname.lastname@example.org
Private insurers have cost Medicare $282.6
billion in excess payments since 1985
Researchers say privately run
Medicare Advantage plans have undermined traditional Medicare’s
fiscal health and taken a heavy toll on taxpayers, seniors and the
In the first study of its kind, a
group of health policy experts has determined the amount of money
that Medicare has overpaid private insurance companies under the
Medicare Advantage program and its predecessors over the past 27
years and come up with a startling figure: $282.6 billion in excess
payments, most of them over the past eight years.
That’s wasted money that should have
been spent on improving patient care, shoring up Medicare’s trust
fund or reducing the federal deficit, the researchers
The findings appear in an article by Drs. Ida Hellander, Steffie Woolhandler
and David Himmelstein titled “Medicare overpayments to private
plans, 1985-2012.” The article was released online today and is
forthcoming in the International Journal of Health
Hellander is policy director at
Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), a nonprofit
research and advocacy group. Woolhandler and Himmelstein are
professors at the City University of New York School of Public
Health, visiting professors at Harvard Medical School and
co-founders of PNHP.
The article appears at a time when
some lawmakers, including vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan,
have proposed a dramatic expansion of private Medicare plans and
criticized the Obama administration for the modest cuts in the
overpayments contained in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However,
the administration has also touted the fact that private plans are
on the upswing.
Private Medicare plans – previously
referred to as Medicare HMOs and now called Medicare Advantage plans
– have been in existence for about three decades. Such plans, most
of them for-profit, currently cover about 27 percent of Medicare
enrollees and have been growing at a fast clip. UnitedHealth and
Humana are among the largest players in this market, and together
operate about one-third of such plans.
Medicare pays these privately run
plans a set “premium” per enrollee for hospital and physician
services (averaging $10,123 in 2012) based on a prediction of how
costly the enrollee’s care will be.
The authors find that private
insurers have exploited loopholes to garner overpayments above and
beyond what it costs them to care for their enrollees. For instance,
Medicare gives private insurers a full premium for each enrollee,
even for those who get most of their care for free at the Veterans
In addition, through heavy lobbying,
the insurance industry induced Congress and the Bush administration
to add bonus payments to Medicare Advantage premiums beginning in
Finally, private plans cherry-pick
by enrolling seniors whose care will cost far less than the
premiums, guaranteeing large profits. Although private plans must
accept all seniors who choose to enroll, they cherry-picked by
selectively recruiting the healthiest seniors through advertising,
office location, etc., and induced sicker ones to disenroll by
making expensive care inconvenient.
After Medicare began risk adjusting
the premium payment for each patient’s diagnoses in 2004, the plans
began cherry-picking in a new way. They recruited otherwise healthy
seniors with very mild (and inexpensive) cases of sometimes serious
conditions – automatically triggering higher premiums from the
risk-adjustment scheme, but escaping payments for expensive care.
For instance, many seniors have very mild cases of arthritis, heart
failure and bronchitis that require little or no
The full report includes further
details on these and other schemes that private insurers have used
to increase their Medicare payments.
“We’ve long known that Medicare has
been paying private insurers more than if their enrollees had stayed
in traditional free-for-service Medicare, but no one has assessed
the full extent of these overpayments,” said Dr. Ida Hellander, lead
author of the study. “Nor has anyone systematically examined the
many ways that private insurers have gamed the system to maximize
their bottom line at taxpayers’ expense.”
“In 2012 alone, private insurers are
being overpaid $34.1 billion, or $2,526 per Medicare Advantage
enrollee,” Hellander said.
Co-author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler
said: “It’s clear that having Medicare Advantage programs compete
with Medicare doesn’t save us money. In fact the opposite is the
case. The private plans only add waste, and the aggregate waste is
staggering – enough to be a significant drag on the
“Unfortunately, recent legislative
and technical attempts to reduce Medicare’s overpayments to these
insurance firms have had little or no impact,” she said.
“It’s time we look to proven,
cost-effective ways of providing high-quality care to Medicare’s
beneficiaries and to the entire population,” Woolhandler said. “That
means taking a fresh look at the single-payer model of
“Medicare overpayments to private plans,
1985-2012.” Ida Hellander,
M.D., Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H., David U. Himmelstein, M.D.
International Journal of Health Services (forthcoming).
Physicians for a National Health
Program (www.pnhp.org) is a nonprofit educational and research
organization of more than 18,000 doctors who advocate for
single-payer national health insurance. To speak with a
physician/spokesperson in your area, visit www.pnhp.org/stateactions or call (312)
Physicians for a National Health
29 E Madison Suite 602, Chicago, IL
Phone (312) 782-6006 | Fax (312) 782-6007
From deep in a long NYT report report on Iraq: “Iraq and
the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return
of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request
of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army
Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise
on counter-terrorism and help with intelligence. “
This was predicted when Obama’s efforts to
renege on Bush’s withdrawal agreement failed when he would not agree to having
US troops tried for war crimes in Iraqi courts. At the time there were reports
that despite his unsuccessful efforts to keep about 20,000 troops after the end
of last year, he would keep trying.
ACA Vs. Single Payer:
Bury the Hatchet?
The Nation, Aug. 28, 2012
PNHP note: The following exchange among PNHP co-founders Dr. Steffie
Woolhandler and Dr. David Himmelstein, attorney Oliver Hall, and former
health-insurance-executive-turned-whistleblower Wendell Potter was prompted by
an article by Potter titled “Healthcare advocates: Time to bury the hatchet” in
the July 11 online edition of The Nation. Potter’s original article appears at
By Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein
Wendell Potter’s insightful critique of his former bosses in big
health insurance was marred by his reprimand of his newfound friends in
Physicians for a National Health Program and the rest of the single-payer
movement for failing to adopt the political style of his erstwhile
Potter incorrectly implies that PNHP urged a no
vote on President Obama’s health reform by the Supreme Court. Some PNHP
members condemned the ACA for boosting private insurers’ financial (and future
political) power with a trillion-dollar infusion of public subsidies and
mandated premiums. Others welcomed its expansion of Medicaid. All agreed that
the reform would leave at least 26 million Americans uninsured and most others
underinsured; that it would accelerate the corporate takeover of medicine and
increase costs; and that single-payer reform remains an urgent
Potter derides PNHP as a group of strategy-less “die-hards” too
“furious at the president and the Democrats” to vote in November or pursue
rational alliances. How odd to see a group of 18,000 doctors — including a
number of Republicans, conservatives and libertarians — caricatured as
ultra-leftists! His call for diluting the single-payer message in defense of
Obama’s reform mistakes the nature of the group and its role in society.
Physicians are neither politicians nor corporate lobbyists. On health policy, as
in our consultations with patients, we’re ethically bound to tell the truth, not
a tale we only wish were true. Aspirin may ease the pain of cancer, but it must
not be portrayed as a cure.
In Massachusetts, five years into Obama/Romney reform, access to care
has barely budged, medical bankruptcy is common and costs continue to spiral.
Having lived with such reform, doctors in the state favor single-payer over it
by two to one, according to a recent Massachusetts Medical Society
Love it or not, Obamacare is the new status quo. Private
insurers—whose paperwork and profits siphon off nearly one-third of healthcare
dollars—are still in charge. We and our PNHP colleagues remain determined to
replace them with a humane, publicly controlled single-payer system. We invite
others to join us.
STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER, MD, MPH
DAVID U. HIMMELSTEIN,
Founders,Physicians for a National Health Program
New York City
By Oliver Hall
As the attorney who filed the amicus brief on behalf of Single Payer
Action, It’s Our Economy, and Fifty Medical Doctors Who Support Single Payer,
all of which opposed the individual mandate but otherwise
supported the Affordable Care Act, I agree with Wendell Potter that it’s
time for progressives to bury the hatchet [“No Time for Infighting,” July
I invite Potter and other progressives supporting the ACA to join
those who never wavered in supporting what we all know is the only solution to
the healthcare crisis — single-payer, aka Medicare for All. I hope Potter will
blow the whistle on the individual mandate, which he, more than anyone else,
must recognize as a deal with the devil.
If Potter won’t bury the hatchet by embracing single-payer, he should
at least rescind his demand that single-payer advocates support a law
entrenching the same for-profit health insurers he now renounces after a
lucrative career as their PR man. Otherwise, he’s just perpetuating the same old
By Wendell Potter
Our country owes Drs. Woolhandler and Himmelstein an enormous debt of
gratitude for their untiring efforts over many years to see our uniquely
dysfunctional and inefficient multipayer system of private insurance companies
replaced with a more rational single-payer one.
As I thought was evident, I’m on their side now. I agree with them and my
other friends at PNHP that we must keep working for a more humane system in
which private insurers are no longer in charge and can no longer siphon off our
premium dollars to cover unnecessary administrative costs and to reward
shareholders and executives.
I hope Drs. Woolhandler and Himmelstein will take another look at my article.
They’ll see I was suggesting that all reform advocates, not just PNHP members,
might consider taking a more strategic approach to achieving their goals. In
fact, I referred to PNHP only once, in the penultimate paragraph. I did not
write or imply that the organization urged the Supreme Court to declare the ACA
unconstitutional, only that many single-payer advocates (including some PNHP
members I know personally) felt that way and expressed themselves very vocally.
I also did not characterize PNHP as a group of “strategy-less ‘die-hards,’” and
I did not reprimand advocates, single-payer or otherwise, “for failing to adopt
the political style of my erstwhile employer.” Developing a comprehensive
research-based strategy and forming alliances with other organizations to
achieve a goal is not synonymous with adopting the insurance industry’s
Anyone who knows me and what I have written and said about the ACA knows that
I always point out that the law falls far short of getting us to universal
coverage and controlling costs. But I have indeed written that as flawed as the
bill is, it is all we are going to get from the 111th Congress, and that
starting over would mean that millions of Americans who now or soon will have
better access to care would be out of luck for who knows how long if it hadn’t
been enacted. I’ve often cited Drs. Woolhandler and Himmelstein’s 2009 study,
which estimates that, as a PNHP news release put it, “nearly 45,000 annual
deaths are associated with lack of health insurance.” When the ACA is fully
implemented, that number will drop. This means that many friends and family
members will not have to die prematurely. That number will not drop to zero,
however, which is why we need to “get down to the business of developing a
strategy to move forward.” That I did write, and I trust it is something all
reform advocates can agree on.
As well-written as Mr. Hall’s amicus brief was, it didn’t persuade Chief
Justice Roberts to declare the ACA unconstitutional. And as sincere and hopeful
as single-payer advocates were at the beginning of the debate on reform in 2009,
they regrettably were not able to persuade Congressional leaders or the
president to give single-payer even a hearing. So now that the ACA apparently
will move forward, where is the strategy to persuade the public and lawmakers to
even consider single-payer as a replacement for what we have now? Is it likely
that a President Romney and Senate Majority Leader McConnell would be more
receptive than Barack Obama and Harry Reid? Is the best strategy to wait until
the special interests are no longer as powerful as they are on Capitol Hill and
in statehouses or as able to manipulate public opinion? Is it best to wait for
the revolution as millions more Americans fall into the ranks of the uninsured
and die? No, thank you. My children and your children might be among those who
die waiting for the revolution. Any one of us could be. We absolutely need those
who have been unwavering in their support of Medicare for All — including the
single-payer advocates I’m preparing to meet with as I write this — to stay
unwavering and join us to begin the process of developing a strategy to win. I
invite anyone interested in seeing a single-payer healthcare system established
in this country to join in.
This article appeared in the September 17, 2012, print edition of The
Potter’s original article:
Healthcare Advocates: Time to Bury the Hatchet
Wendell Potter | July 11, 2012
Health insurance executives breathed a sigh of
relief when the Supreme Court upheld their favorite part of the Affordable Care
Act (the part that is one of the least popular among the rest of us)—the
individual mandate. And then, I’m confident, moments after they exhaled, they
were on a conference call with their army of lobbyists and PR people to approve
a strategy, developed months ago, to gut the provisions that the rest of us do
like. These are the parts of the law that require insurers to provide coverage
to millions they have long shunned like lepers, and that make the most egregious
but profitable industry practices a thing of the past, like canceling our
policies when we get sick.
Part of their strategy will be a propaganda campaign to persuade us that the
consumer protections in the law are not in our best interest. “The new health
care reform law includes a number of provisions that will increase the cost of
health care coverage,” warned America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the
industry’s largest PR and lobbying group, after the ruling. The provisions in
question are the ones that help finance the expansion of coverage, make premiums
more affordable for older Americans and outlaw benefit plans that provide
inadequate coverage. AHIP’s real concern, of course, is that such measures will
negatively impact insurers’ profit margins.
The strategy will also encourage the industry’s political and media allies to
keep referring to “Obamacare” as a “government takeover” of healthcare. This
fabrication has been widely accepted as truth—one reason the Affordable Care Act
polls so poorly.
Finally, the strategy will seek to exploit the hostility many on the left
feel toward the ACA—and the deep divisions among progressives over whether it
really is a step in the right direction. Insurance executives are counting on
single-payer progressives to stay so disillusioned with the law and those
responsible for it that they will boycott the November election, helping the
industry’s Republican friends to take back Washington.
I’m sure that conference call took place because I was a regular participant
in many like it while serving as head of communications for Humana and, later,
Cigna, two of the country’s largest insurers. Right up until the day I walked
out the door in 2008, I was working with my peers at other companies on such a
strategy to influence public opinion. One of the reasons I quit—and became a
vocal critic of the industry I served for two decades—was that I didn’t have the
stomach to be a part of yet another deception-based effort to undermine reform.
During my career I helped implement the industry’s game plan to defeat the
Clinton reform proposal. A few years later I helped lead a behind-the-scenes
fearmongering campaign, fronted by the National Federation of Independent
Business but planned and financed by the insurance industry, to make sure
Congress never passed a Patient’s Bill of Rights. Congress never did (although
the Affordable Care Act does contain some of those “rights”).
One of the things that differentiates insurance company executives from many
healthcare reform advocates, I’ve learned, is that the former never approach any
high-stakes political game without a well-planned strategy, one that seeks to
take advantage of their opponents’ weaknesses and divisions. It’s true that
without reform advocates, President Obama wouldn’t have had a bill to sign into
law. But in other battles, we in the industry found that advocates could almost
never seem to craft a well-planned strategy or sustainable coalition. One reason
we don’t have universal coverage in the United States today is the failure of
these same advocates to recognize the need for a strategy—and the need to
Senator Ted Kennedy, who fought so hard for universal coverage, learned a
tough lesson on compromise when Richard Nixon was president. Worried that
Kennedy and other liberal Democrats might be able to get enough votes in
Congress to pass a single-payer bill, Nixon proposed an alternative plan that
would have required employers to provide health insurance to their workers. It
also would have had the government finance coverage for low-income Americans who
didn’t have a job. Kennedy refused to negotiate seriously, thinking he could get
his own reform plan enacted the next time a Democrat—maybe even himself—occupied
the White House. He condemned Nixon’s plan as a windfall for insurance
companies. (Sound familiar?)
Kennedy said years later that his refusal to bargain with Nixon was the
biggest regret of his career. He had underestimated the ability of the insurance
industry, the American Medical Association and other entrenched special
interests to join forces and forge a strategy to ensure that, even after the
Democrats took back the White House in 1976 and solidified their control of both
houses of Congress, single-payer legislation would go nowhere. This experience
was one of the reasons he supported reform legislation nearly forty years later
that he knew would fall short of achieving universal coverage and that would be
condemned by many die-hard single-payer supporters as, yes, a windfall for
Among today’s die-hards (many of whom are good friends) are members of Physicians for a
National Health Program and Healthcare-NOW! They are still furious at the
president and the Democrats for their baffling decision not to give single-payer
legislation a decent hearing and for compromising too early and too often, in
their view, with the special interests. Many are no longer
on speaking terms with the staff of Health Care for America Now, the umbrella
organization for unions and advocacy organizations, which didn’t join their calls to kill the bill when the public
option was stripped out. They believed, as Kennedy
did years earlier, that more could be gained by starting over. Many still do and
could be seen alongside the Tea Partiers on the steps of the Supreme Court,
demanding the entire law be struck down.
These divisions are playing right into the hands of my former
colleagues. Progressives must bury the hatchet and get down to the business of
developing a strategy to move forward. The two factions actually see eye-to-eye
on many things, including the fact that the law does much good but does not get
us close enough to universal coverage, and that Obama and Congressional
Democrats made strategic and tactical blunders throughout the reform debate. Now
they must recognize that their true opponents are the people I used to work
for—not one another.
we’ve forgotten that formerly cool Canada has suffered Harper’s reactionary
government since 2006, although the NDP has become the official Opposition.
Harper sucks up to US foreign policy and still has troops in the AfPak war. He’d
probably join Obama’s embargo against Cuba if not for the many Canadian snow
birds who enjoy vacations there.
Canada has closed its
embassy in Iran and will expel all Iranian diplomats in Canada within five days,
Foreign Minister John Baird said on Friday, denouncing Tehran as the biggest
threat to global security. "Diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran have
been suspended," Baird said. He cited Iran's nuclear program, its hostility
toward Israel and Iranian military assistance to the government of President
Bashar al-Assad of Syria, which is locked in civil war with rebels. He also said
Iran was a state sponsor of terrorism.
I wrote http://blog.oregonlive.com/myoregon/2012/08/letters_komen_race_for_the_cur.html:
Remembering a soldier
John Canzano's column ("Why no
one should ever forget Andrew Keller," Aug. 20) was a moving story about a fine
family, but he was wrong when he described the Kellers as like "all of us -- and
America, too." In fact, most of us are isolated from our wars and rarely think
about them at all. The small minority who join the military is most often drawn
from our poorer, less-educated families because they can't find work; need the
benefits, such as education; or, whether for patriotic reasons or not, just want
If we still had the Vietnam War draft, I doubt our political
leaders would be able to drag us into their wars of choice, because then they
would actually have to be fought by "all of us."
In response to letter
writer Michael Munk's comments about those who are drawn to military service
("Remembering a soldier," Aug. 22): As a mother and stepmother (with a
bachelor's degree in business and a nursing degree) of two Marines, Lance Cpl.
Daniel Hofmann and Lance Cpl. Nicholas Braman, I am offended by his sweeping
statements that many who volunteer for military service come from less-educated
families and some "just want to fight."
These two intelligent and
sensitive young men are the grandsons, sons, brothers and nephews of a family
that includes a doctor, pharmacist, chemical engineer, several MBAs, a
microbiologist, as well as relatives with numerous other college degrees and
post-high school educations.
They, like many young men and women today
who are faced with a dismal economy and job outlook, are simply looking for the
opportunity for specialized training and to gain skills to carry them through
life. They are simply willing to fight.
Thank you, Janet Braman, for your fine Letter.
Michael's Munk's comments wre offensive to many decent readers of this paper and
I hope he is ashamed of them. He was merely voicing more bluntly then some of
his ideological soul-mates who have never grown up from the anti-war
anti-military craze that infested this country in the late
Thank you for your letter. Yes, Mr Munk
is sadly ill informed. Our service men and women are firmly middle class, not
from the streets of the poor. They serve willingly and proudly.
Mr Munk, I agree with Frat. Mr Munk hasn't matured over these many
Mr Monk wrote "The small minority who join the military is most
often drawn from our poorer, less-educated families because they can't find
work;" Which is an untrue statement. All Air Force and Navy enlisteds have a
high school diploma as do nearly all Army and Marines, many have some college.
Minorities do not make up a disproprtinate number of the military, and the
combat arms, Infantry types have the fewest minorities.
State Dept Spokesperson Victoria Nuland at press
conference Aug 16: “...obviously, we have our own legal
. I'm going to send you Justice on what the exact status of
that was, OK?
Q: “... so you're saying that there is a legal case
MS. NULAND: I'm saying that the Justice Department
was very much involved with broken U.S. law, et cetera. But I don't have any
specifics here on what their intention would have been vis-a-vis him. So I'm not going to wade into it any deeper than I already have, which was
too far, all right?
Is that any way for journalists to run away from their
responsibility to investigate the facts? Instead they waste valuable space to
comment on Assange's haircut or the proximity of Ecuador's embassy to Harrods's
men's clothing shop?
On June 15, 2011, Scott Shane reported http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/16/us/politics/16brfs-Washington.html?_r=1 that an Alexandria, VA grand jury "is believed to be
exploring whether the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, or others in the group
violated the law by acquiring and publishing military and State Department. “ In
fact, many politicians and pundits have demanded his head, the US refuses to
promise he will not be indicted and extradited.
An Australian TV network
has recently reported on the weird Swedish legal case and revealed details of
the FBI's participation in that grand jury's efforts, to which Assange in his
balcony speech specfically demanded a stop. Watch it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu4WCskniEc
of that was worth reporting on the Times's story, which seconded the matra
invoked the day before by its London Bureau chief, John Burns:
“If American officials have made such preparations, they
have studiously avoided disclosing them.“-MM
Must reading for anyone with a stake in Oregon
number of US military deaths in the Afghan theater officially passed 2,000
by Jun 21. MSM do not report this because they rely on the AP’s count that
ignores troops who died supporting the war (formally: Operation Enduring
Freedom” ) outside Afghanistan.
Weekend Edition August 10-12, 2012
VIA Jack Heyman
A Class Struggle Critique
Longshore Struggle in Longview and Beyond
Labor historian, Cal Winslow, imparts his “wisdom” from above in his
CounterPunch article (7/25/12), “Victory
in Longview, A Year On: And
Some Lessons From Occupy, ”.
His “lesson” is a justification for the ILWU union bureaucracy’s betrayal of a
hard-fought struggle from the bottom up and a gratuitous diatribe against
longshore militants and their allied Occupy radicals who organized some of the
most powerful labor solidarity actions in years. Tellingly, Winslow
evidently did extensive interviews and used quotes from ILWU President Robert
McEllrath, union staff and the police but none from working
longshoremen, except Dan Coffman, president of Longview Local 21.
As a recently retired longshoreman with more than 40 years on the docks and
ships, who has organized numerous solidarity actions in the past and was
actively involved for several months in building support for Longview
longshore, I’d like to set the record straight.
In echoing the union bureaucracy, Winslow concludes the EGT contract was a
“great victory”, but offers no substantive evidence. How can this contract be
a “victory” in light of the following:
1) Although EGT union busting was stopped, ILWU did not win clear
jurisdiction, as is claimed, because non-ILWU workers are still working at
EGT. Furthermore, they signed away the Port Agreement recognizing ILWU
jurisdiction in the Port of Longview.
2) The union’s hiring hall, the monumental gain of the 1934 West Coast
maritime strike that ensures a fair dispatch of work and is the source of the
ILWU’s waterfront power, is bypassed and put on a chopping block if a court
rules against it.
3) This EGT contract has ominously imposed a “No Interruption of
Work” clause. Written in Orwellian style, it “recognizes” ILWU’s right to
respect a picket line, attend stop-work union meetings, refuse to work
unsafely and honor the union’s July 5, Bloody Thursday, when West Coast ports
are closed to commemorate the labor martyrs who were killed by police in the
1934 strike. However, during those “interruptions” EGT can bring in
“outside employees” i.e. scabs to do ILWU work!
4) Union contracts usually contain an amnesty clause so employers can’t
victimize union members after a dispute. Not with EGT. Union members have been
banned from employment for picketing during the dispute. And if you’re on
EGT’s employee list you can be fired at the “sole discretion of the employer”,
no arbitration. To underscore this point, that phrase is used 14 times in
EGT’s 15-page contract. (Read it at www.transportworkers.org)
5) Winslow says “local 21’s membership voted unanimously in favor of the
announced agreement”. Actually no. In violation of the ILWU
Constitution, the membership of Longview Local 21 never even had a chance to
vote on the contract.
That’s all in addition to the 13-hour shifts and other concessions that
Winslow does mention.
Winslow writes, “On the role of the international, we need to hear from the
workers themselves on this point.” Well, here’s what Kyle Mackey, a young
Longview longshoreman and secretary-treasurer of the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Central
Labor Council, had to say, ”The thing I regret most is giving the
International officers authorization to negotiate the EGT contract and them
not letting us read the negotiated contract and vote on it.”
The officers didn’t need authorization to negotiate. They already had that
authority, but they misconstrued that vote as a contract “ratification” vote,
an unprecedented violation of the union constitution.
Mike Fuqua, a third generation Longview longshoreman, adds “90% of the
local oppose the EGT contract”. Kyle and Mike were speaking at a July 29 San
Francisco Labor Forum on the Longview struggle (where ILWU’ers, including
myself, and Occupy activists who built support for ILWU’s struggle spoke).
Readers can see for themselves by watching the video at http://youtube./08gc9lRReeE
Another thing, Winslow also says that the membership “will have the
responsibility of correcting whatever process went wrong, if it did. We can
support them in that.” Thanks for the “support” but at the June ILWU
Convention, San Francisco Local 10 submitted a resolution reaffirming the
basic right of locals to vote on contracts. It was quashed in committee by the
union bureaucrats. On this, Winslow is silent.
The ILWU has signed new contracts before to get jurisdiction, then used job
actions to improve conditions. However, in this agreement if workers organize
three “illegal work stoppages” as employers call them, EGT can declare the
contract null and void.
This is no “victory”, unless you’re viewing it through the lens of a union
bureaucrat. And that’s exactly what Winslow does.
For example on Bloody Thursday this year all West Coast ports were closed
except EGT’s terminal. McEllrath called Coffman and barked at him to get his
members to work “to protect ILWU jurisdiction”. According to Longview
longshoremen, Coffman replied, “I can’t. My men are tired. They’re working
70-80 hours a week at EGT.” They proudly stood down like the rest of the Coast
and honored Bloody Thursday.
After covering for the ILWU bureaucrats, Winslow criticizes Occupy Oakland
for relying on a “handful of contacts in the union….who…never produced a
following…..and relayed…. misinformation” about support in the
union. Yet, in his earlier 12/5/11 piece in CounterPunch ”Who’s
Speaking for Whom? The Case of Occupy and the Longshoremen’s Union” after
lambasting Occupy for “substitution”, Winslow lauds the legacy of ILWU
militancy in the Bay Area—the anti-apartheid boycott, the 2008 May Day
anti-war West Coast shutdown and the 2010 port closure in solidarity with the
besieged Wisconsin workers. The fact is Occupy’s contacts are the same
longshoremen who organized those exemplary actions!
On this history and more about the contract, I encourage people to read the
June 21 leaflet, “Danger! ILWU Headed in Wrong Direction! EGT-Longview
Longshore Contract-Worst Ever!” which was distributed in Local 10 and is
available on the website of the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee (www.transportworkers.org). In his
December 5 diatribe against Occupy, Winslow wrote, “I confess to knowing
little about the officers of the ILWU, the same for the rank and file.” Well,
he has certainly proved that. But that hasn’t stopped him from making common
cause with those ILWU officers who either opposed those actions or sought to
dilute their impact.
Winslow and other reformists are in the business of providing alibis for
the union bureaucracy. Frankly, this cover is one reason why the U.S. labor
movement continues to atrophy. In its May edition Labor Notes advised trade
unionists “How to Bargain Concessions (If You Must)”. That says it all.
Reformists, who don’t envision any possibility of revolutionary change, give
helpful advice about how to negotiate a giveback contract and then call a
terrible contract a “victory”, while union bureaucrats are praised and union
And Winslow is not the only one. For a slew of so-called leftists like the
International Socialists Organization, the Socialist Workers Party, the
Spartacist League, Socialist Action and Socialist Appeal “support” for this
ILWU struggle means reproducing glowing statements by the ILWU tops without
even citing major concessions in the contract or refusing to criticize the
bureaucrats’ repression of the rank-and-file.
Simply put, from a Marxist point of view, in a class conflict a contract
can not be good for both the employer and the union, as ILWU tops, EGT and
Democrat Governor Gregoire maintain. Reformists wittingly prop up the labor
lieutenants of capital and undermine class struggle. For a deeper insight into
the devastating EGT contract concessions readers can view the rank and file
newsletter Maritime Worker Monitor #11, produced by class struggle militants.
It is available at: http://www.labournet.net/docks2/1203/MWM11.pdf
The significance of the EGT agreement is that it may set a precedent for
two master contracts: 1)the Northwest grains negotiations at the end of this
month and 2) the Pacific Coast longshore master contract negotiations in 2014.
It should’ve been evident last year when the Pacific Northwest Grainhandlers’
Association extended the master grain contract for only 1 year, waiting until
the EGT conflict was settled. Now a Northwest grain strike looms on the
horizon. The EGT contract ILWU Coast Committeeman Sundet brayed, “…is key to
standardization of the grain export industry on the West Coast…” Angry that
this settlement was pushed through in “sleazy, backhanded ways” Mike Fuqua,
quoted earlier, joked “The International officers said that the EGT contract
was our foot in the door but if they use the EGT contract as a standard for
the Northwest Grain agreement, that’ll be a foot in our ass!”
CARRYING WATER FOR THE BUREAUCRATS
Today’s labor struggles are occurring in the context of a severe systemic
crisis of global capitalism, one rooted in the falling rate of profit
predicted by Karl Marx. Employers seek to protect the surplus value (profits)
they extract from workers by cutting wages, benefits and working
conditions. Class conflicts will increasingly arise under capitalism in
this epoch. The workers’ fight is not just against the bosses and their
government but the trade union bureaucracy that attempts to mediate between
labor and capital. When the trade union bureaucracy is unwilling to fight the
bosses on behalf of workers’ interests, then to preserve their lofty positions
they inexorably resort to repression of the rank and file.
Winslow edited a book only 2 years ago, “Rebel
Rank and File, Labor Militancy and Revolt from Below During the long
1970s”. He should know what a union bureaucracy is and the role it plays.
One important lesson from that history is that union democracy and
workers solidarity are inextricably linked in the class struggle. Another key
lesson is that independence from the capitalist state is a precondition for
democracy. Unfortunately, some of the union opposition groups dealt with in
Winslow’s book ignored this, and went to the bosses’ government or the bosses’
courts to get into office. But suing the union under the illusion that courts
are somehow neutral will not bring about union democracy. It will only replace
the old bureaucrats with new reformist ones, who then sell out like their
That’s why class struggle trade unionists fight to keep the government out
of internal union affairs and challenge anti-labor laws that restrict workers
power. This is the hard, fundamental lesson of class struggle trade unionism
underscored by James P. Cannon, former Wobbly and later Trotskyist leader. He
and much of the leadership of the Minneapolis Teamsters’ union and the
Socialist Workers Party were imprisoned under the anti-communist Smith
Act signed by Roosevelt and supported by the ossified Tobin Teamster
bureaucracy before the U.S. entry into WWII.
Winslow rationalizes his defense of the ILWU bureaucrats by citing the
union’s history of internal democratic practices. But that’s a practice
the present officials are assiduously trying to bury along with ILWU’s record
of militancy, while praising both to the hilt. Nor do they have a
mandate. Robert McEllrath, the union president, ran unopposed for president in
2006 when he received 7,564 votes, the highest of the International officers,
which amounts to 16.8% of the membership of 45,000. In 2009, the next union
elections, he got 6,660 votes out of a dwindling membership of 40,000 or
16.7%. These facts are verifiable in the ILWU newspaper, The Dispatcher.
Let me give a couple of examples of how the high-handed leadership from the
International played out in the Longview struggle.
When Longview Local 21 president Dan Coffman called for a dual area meeting
of all Washington and Oregon longshore locals, which is done when the union
confronts a serious issue, President McEllrath and Northwest Coast
Committeeman Leal Sundet killed it. (It’s an embarrassment to many ILWU
members that Sundet had been a top officer of the employers’ Pacific Maritime
Association (PMA) before becoming a union member.)
Then, San Francisco Local 10 tried to call a special Longshore Caucus of
all West Coast ports on EGT but to no avail. Local 10 invited Local 21
officers Byron Jacobs, Jake Whiteside and Dan Coffman to speak at our union
meetings. Each time they were intimidated by International officers not to
speak at our meetings. I know because I could hear Coast Committeeman Sundet
screaming in a cell phone call just before our Executive Board meeting was
about to convene, “What the hell are you doing down there with that bunch of
Local 10 takes pride in being a highly integrated union with a militant
tradition, “the red and black local”. San Francisco longshoremen sparked the
1934 West Coast maritime strike that led to the organizing of our “leftwing”
union, as Harry Bridges referred to ILWU. At the November Local 10 union
meeting, Coffman emotionally addressed what he called “Harry’s local” and
thanked us for our solidarity. He knew the International was trying to stifle
that solidarity and isolate the Longview local. They demanded top down
control. Longview oldtimers had warned him, “Don’t turn the struggle over to
the International. They may not have the same interests as the local”. Local
autonomy is a cherished principle in the ILWU. Union democracy
is and always has been an exercise by the rank and file not a gift bestowed by
the union tops from above.
THE REAL HEROES OF THE LONGVIEW EGT STRUGGLE
The heroes of the Longview struggle are the rank and file of Local 21. They
gave it their all in freezing winter weather and nearly 100 degree summer
heat. As Shelley Porter, a longshore worker and mother who was arrested
in her house, put it concisely, “We’ve got no option. We’ve got to win.” They
irrepressibly withstood arrests, fines, pepper spray and beatings from cops
and courts, making Federal Judge Leighton exclaim that he felt like a “paper
tiger”. First they dramatically occupied EGT in July. Then came another bold
action. On September 7 a massive picket line some 700 longshoremen and their
supporters blocked a grain train from entering EGT’s terminal. To his credit
McEllrath who was all the way in the back of the pickets walked to the front.
There he consulted with Portland longshoreman Jack Mulcahy who was organizing
militant pickets in formation and leading chants. When cops started pepper
spraying, pickets pushed back. McEllrath stepped forward amidst the chaos and
was immediately arrested. The hundreds of longshoremen surrounded the
outnumbered cops and they released him, deciding that discretion was the
better part of valor.
McEllrath then appealed to longshoremen to leave. Some stayed for a while
and chanted “No train today!” McEllrath is scheduled to be in court in
September to face charges for leading that protest. He must be defended by all
of labor. This is a frontal attack on arguably the most militant union in this
country. He did what he was supposed to do.
The next day the wrath of the rank and file rained down on EGT.
Longshoremen from the major Northwest ports, Seattle, Tacoma and Portland,
seeing images of the ILWU president being manhandled by cops, stopped work,
and descended on EGT. According to news reports, the cyclone fence was torn
down, grain was dumped from the train cars, and the terminal was briefly
occupied by angry longshore workers. Millions of dollars was lost that day in
shipping, warning employers how far ILWU members were willing to go to protect
The tag, “General” was used at the ILWU Convention to refer to McEllrath,
in a not-so-subtle reminder that a general gives orders. Troops follow without
questioning. During the Big Strike of ’34, none of the union’s leaders, Henry
Schmidt, Germaine Bulcke or Harry Bridges who led the ranks against the
National Guard and police, would deign to call themselves “general”. ILWU had
prided itself on being bottom up not top down.
Jeff Washburn, President of the Cowlitz Wahkiakum Labor Council, was
actually the first arrested. He pleaded not guilty in court, firmly stating
that workers have a right to protest to defend their jobs. At the ILWU
Convention Local 21 only had one resolution. It would allow those arrested to
plead not guilty, like Washburn. It was opposed by the union bureaucrats and
resoundingly defeated in committee. Is that union democracy? Not in my
OCCUPY ACTED WHILE UNION TOPS SPUN LIKE A
So what about Occupy? There had been signs before of a distancing of the
ILWU International president McEllrath’s initial statement of solidarity with
Occupy Wall Street. That was made when Occupy was in New York City. Then, on
November 2, Occupy Oakland shut down the port with a massive,
unprecedented march of some 30,000 demonstrators, occupying the port to
protest the bloody police attack on the Occupy encampment in front of Oakland
City hall in which Iraqi war vet Scott Olsen was hit in the head by a tear gas
canister shot by police. It was also called in solidarity with the Longview
longshore battle against EGT. Not one International officer took part in the
port protest just across the bridge from San Francisco nor did they call on
ILWU members to mobilize for it. They were changing their position on
That morning at the San Francisco dispatch hall when Local 10 member
Anthony Leviege spontaneously took the mike at the dispatchers’ cage and
appealed to longshore workers to stand in solidarity with the Occupy
protesters, many refused to take a job. So many in fact that work in the port
was halted for 2 hours while union officials and maritime employers
frantically scurried to consolidate the gangs so the terminals could work. On
the nightside not one job was picked up in the dispatch. The 2003 bloody
police bloody police attack against longshoremen and anti-war protesters was
fresh in Local 10 members’ minds. Further, longshoremen knew that this action
was also in solidarity with their Longview brothers and sisters and with port
truckers who’ve been trying to get union recognition from the big shipping and
Neither McEllrath nor Sundet were exactly known for organizing mass labor
protests before. Business unionist leaders today haven’t mobilized real class
struggle actions like sit-down strikes which defy capitalist property rights
or a general strike which challenges the power of capital. Yet, these are what
built the American labor movement. Unlike in other countries, these business
unionists believe capitalism is a better economic system than socialism for
True, November 2 was not a general strike by unions, but it wasn’t
substitutionalist either. With tens of thousands of working people marching on
the docks, it was an awesome display of popular anger manifested against
banksters, politicians and police, the guardians of capitalist law and order.
Moreover, it was a warning to the global shippers of the potential for a union
conflict to be turned into a broader class struggle. Occupy’s momentous action
coordinated with Local 10 longshoremen succeeded because of the generalized
malaise from the depredations of capitalism and because of the recent history
of longshore solidarity actions going back to the 1978 refusal to load bombs
to the Pinochet military dictatorship in Chile which by the way was organized
by Herb Mills, one of the longshoremen who signed the “Danger” leaflet warning
that ILWU is headed in the wrong direction.
Up to this point, Local 21 had been leading the militant campaign against
EGT’s union busting. Coffman and his local fought with the International for
the right to have him speak to the media and not just newly-appointed public
relations staffer Jennifer Sargent who knew little about grain operations,
much less about union history on the Columbia River. The local won. Coffman
began speaking to the media.
Coffman knew that the first grain ship had to be stopped or the struggle
was doomed. The power of the ILWU is not in the small port of Longview, but in
the ability of the union to stop global trade at its nexus, in the major
ports. That’s exactly what happened on September 8 when longshoremen left work
in the Northwest ports to protest the police arrest of McEllrath. The ILWU
Coast Committee had promised to hit the ships of STX Pan Ocean, one of the EGT
partners, but nothing was ever done. Frustrated with that lack of support,
Local 21 officers, Coffman and Jacobs, joined an Occupy Oakland march on
November 19 with their local’s banner alongside ILWU members of the Committee
to Defend ILWU carrying their banner “Shut Down the West Coast Ports! Support
the Longview Longshore Workers!”
ILWU bureaucrats had already been starting to distance themselves from
Occupy falsely stating the union could be held responsible for Occupy’s
actions. They acted as a transmission belt for the capitalists’ courts
instilling the fear of hefty fines. Then came the call for Occupy’s Dec. 12
coastwide shutdown. Union tops vociferously opposed it. In L.A.,
newly-appointed port commissioner and former ILWU International president
David Arian, who had appointed McEllrath to his first position at the
International, warned Occupy, according to one activist, that if there was any
attempt to blockade the port, Homeland Security would be called in.
Jeff Smith, Portland president, went on TV to brag that his men would not
honor any Occupy picket line. So the union bureaucrats worked overtime to keep
their members and Occupy in check. Winslow and ILWU bureaucrats gloat that
Occupy’s call for a coastwise shutdown “never materialized”. Actually, that’s
not exactly true. Several ports were shut down. But if it wasn’t completely
successful, why not? Because of opposition from the same union officials
Winslow praises. Nevertheless, when the Occupy lines went up in Seattle,
Portland, Oakland and Longview, longshoremen who had been denied the right to
vote on union action against EGT honored Occupy’s picket lines. The ILWU tops
spun in a fury like whirling dervishes.
ILWU BUREAUCRATS TAKE OVER THE MILITANT LONGVIEW STRUGGLE
So that brings us to the forums in Portland and Seattle, which Winslow
calls “provocative.” Who was doing the provoking? Sundet warned Coffman
against attending an Occupy Portland solidarity rally at the SEIU hall
scheduled for Jan. 5. Speakers included Clarence Thomas, a longtime Local 10
activist who’d been working with Occupy Oakland to organize solidarity
actions and former Portland Local 8 president Norm Parks. When Coffman
began to speak the lights went out and the microphone stopped working. Occupy
Portland organizer Peter Little tried to chair an orderly meeting but Portland
Local 8 President Jeff Smith ran up on the stage to read President McEllrath’s
January 3 letter which adulated bourgeois legality referring to Taft-Hartley,
the courts, DOL, NLRB and labor law no less than a dozen times in two pages.
In case anyone was confused it stated clearly, “A call for a protest of
EGT is not a call for a shutdown of West Coast ports and must not result in
one.” He warns longshore workers to “take extreme caution when
dealing with supporters of non-ILWU sanctioned calls to action” i. e. Occupy.
Then, after the Occupy Portland solidarity rally, Sundet pulled ILWU locals
from the EGT picket line. Local 21 got the message.
The next day January 6, Coffman, having been warned in no uncertain terms
to stay away from the Occupy Seattle solidarity rally at the AFL-CIO Labor
Temple in Seattle or else, Local 21 member Mike Fuqua and a delegation of
Local 21 members went to represent Longview longshore workers. These Northwest
Occupy rallies were being organized by Occupy in conjunction with rank and
file longshoremen precisely because International officers had been blocking
attempts by Local 21 officers to speak at Northwest local union meetings or
continue to organize labor rallies. Coordinated action from ILWU locals
requires an informed and prepared membership. Local 10’s call for labor
caravans to EGT sought to muster a mass mobilization from organized labor and
Occupy. Resolutions for joining the caravans were passed at the San Francisco
and Alameda Labor Councils. Of this crucial labor support not a word was seen
in The Dispatcher newspaper.
A defining moment was about to take place at the Occupy Seattle solidarity
rally. It began with a full house, standing room only coming to hear five
ILWU speakers and others. The event began with a standing ovation for the
dozen or so Longview longshore workers, men and women. In attendance were many
union members and young people. It looked much like the 1999 anti-WTO
protesters with one critical difference, the ILWU union tops were there to
stop the young radicals. But Winslow makes short shrift of this significant
assembly by obfuscating, “The charade of solidarity is best seen in that
offered up in the provocative, ill-fated coastal January road show that
culminated into brouhaha in Seattle.” There have been many videos made of this
rally disruption but the best to view is by the Internationalist Group http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRFPz8qsc1k
which succinctly puts it in the context of the whole Longview longshore
The Seattle brouhaha was begun when Tacoma Local 23 president Scott Mason
interrupted an ILWU speaker (myself) to demand that President McEllrath’s
letter be read immediately. The chair, ILWU member Gabriel Prawl, trying to
maintain order explained that after the speakers were finished the letter
could be read in the discussion period. That was not good enough for the union
bureaucrats. Mason yelled out “Where’s the Local 21 officers?” It wasn’t so
much Occupy the bureaucrats were after, it was the ILWU’ers, the ones on stage
and the ones in Longview. The ILWU bureaucrats and their hangers on proceeded
to physically disrupt the rally. It could have been a scene out of Winslow’s
book portraying the bureaucrats of the United Auto Workers, Mineworkers
or the Steelworkers.
Next, the sea change, a “unifying meeting”, as it was called by The
Dispatcher, of all presidents of longshore locals took place at the
International headquarters on January 10. There is no provision for such a
meeting in the ILWU constitution. Clarence Thomas and another Local 10
Executive Board member supporting Local 21 were barred. The
International President McEllrath led the attack reportedly screaming, “There
is only one general here and it’s me!” Coffman was forced to back down or, as
he was warned, his small local would be stuck with over $1 million dollars in
fines and legal expenses. The denouement of the militant campaign was at hand.
He conceded. According a Portland longshore veteran, Coffman had his head
handed to him, “He was raped, politically.” As the scab ship was underway to
the Columbia River the petrified ILWU International and its defeatist
legalistic strategy stood uncontested at the union’s helm.
“THE GENERAL” RAISES THE WHITE FLAG OF SURRENDER
Now the way was clear for Washington Democrat Governor Gregoire to set up a
meeting between EGT CEO Larry Clarke and ILWU International officers to settle
the conflict before the ship arrived. News media was rife with the Coast Guard
declaring the port of Longview a “safety zone”. The Obama administration
dispatched an armed Coast Guard cutter to escort the scab grain ship. There
were plans for a massive deployment of police, military and Homeland Security
forces to stop the anticipated protests by labor and Occupy, from land and
water. The specter of a nightmare scenario for the capitalists was on the
horizon. Workers fighting for their jobs being bloodily repressed wouldn’t
bode well for the Democrat “friends of labor” in the upcoming elections in the
midst of the worst economic crisis in decades.
McEllrath and Sundet capitulated. Their main concern was to counter the
detailed plans of Local 21, labor and Occupy to mobilize against EGT upon the
arrival of the scab ship . They were determined to make sure there would be no
caravans to Longview, no West Coast ports shutdown, no East Coast ILA port
actions and no international dockworkers’ solidarity. So, a quick legal
agreement deferring to Taft-Hartley anti-union hiring hall measures was
reached right out of the handbook of the National Right to Work Committee and
foisted on the Local 21 membership. EGT had been using Operating Engineers
Local 701 to scab on the ILWU and posing it as a conflict between two unions.
Shamefully AFL-CIO head Trumka echoed this pro-scab position. He even
interceded to overrule the Oregon State AFL-CIO position of support to the
ILWU dispute in Longview. So in the settlement, the ILWU negotiators began by
giving up the Port of Longview requirement that all port work be done by ILWU
labor. Members were asked to vote without showing them what was agreed to. EGT
would not recognize any union but would handpick its workers first from the
Local 21 members. So a caricature of a “union recognition” vote took
place. ILWU workers, of course, voted for ILWU. McEllrath and Sundet
appeared before a Local 21 meeting requesting the phony “authorization to
negotiate” vote. Once they had that in their pocket, the members had no say in
CRITICAL SUPPORT TO THE OCCUPY ACTIONS
Critical support to the Occupy actions was warranted because they sought to
build support for the Longview longshore workers through militant action,
which was sorely needed and which the union leadership opposed even though
Longview Local 21, Local 10 and many longshoremen supported it. The Occupy
activists were trying to work closely with longshoremen in Longview, Portland
and Oakland, less so in Seattle and L.A. Occupy was not cowed by bourgeois
laws or cops, though some of the infantile anarchist pranks served no good
purpose. Yes, there was some anger toward unions expressed but that was
because they didn’t differentiate between union bureaucrats and the rank and
file. I criticized that in my remarks at the Seattle forum when the
bureaucratic heavies moved to break the meeting up. Besides Occupy is not one
cohesive ideology. It had conflicting politics and practices. Its inchoate
left populism and vague anti-capitalist rhetoric has attracted some young
workers who want to fight. Winslow speaks for the bureaucrats who after
getting in hot water early in the fall did what their lawyers told them to do
to avoid a fight at all costs.
CLASS STRUGGLE NOT CLASS COLLABORATION
Longview isn’t the only example of treachery from above. In 2010, the
International blocked locked-out ILWU miners at Rio Tinto’s mining facility in
Boron, California from picketing scab containers at the docks in Los Angeles
and Long Beach. They lied and said that picketing would be illegal. The PCLCD,
the longshore contract, has strong picket line language. They
threathened to cut them off of strike support money if they picketed.
Instead International officers ran a PR campaign with a caravan from the
docks to the desert. Wrong direction! ILWU’s power is on the docks not
isolated in the desert. The International sent members to Rio Tinto
shareholders’ meetings, picketed the British embassy and raised the flag of
patriotism. They did anything but use their power on the docks to defeat the
lockout. In the end, a concessionary contract was signed and “victory” was
declared in The Dispatcher. Yet, scabs were still working in the mine,
seniority was gutted and new miners would not get a defined pension, only a
401K. If ILWU has anymore “victories” like Boron and Longview, it will be a
different union, subservient to employers and union bureaucrats alike, with a
lost legacy of union democracy and militancy.
Shortly after the Rio Tinto disaster, members of the ILWU Office Clerical
Unit (OCU) in the port of L.A. set up picket lines when contract
negotiations broke down. Longshore workers and ship clerks honored the picket
at first. Then the arbitrator ruled that it was not a bona fide picket
line. International officers adhered to the phony ruling as ILWU members
crossed their own union sisters’ and brothers’ picket lines! This phony
ruling was overturned a year later on appeal. This shameful act is not covered
in The Dispatcher but you can read about it in the local media.
It violates one of the ILWU’s basic documents, “The Ten Guiding
Principles” which was drafted during the anti-communist McCarthy period
when the ILWU was under a relentless government attack. These principles were
forged to ensure the union’s survival should the leadership face imprisonment
or deportation. Principle #4 states “……. Unions have to accept the fact
that the solidarity of labor stands above all else, including even the
so-called sanctity of the contract. We can not adopt for ourselves the
policies of union leaders who insist that because they have a contract, their
members are compelled to perform work even behind a picket line. Every picket
line must be respected as if it were our own.” This was ILWU’s own picket
line! This is a clear sign of how ILWU tops have cut the union’s fundamental
The logic of the present leadership of the ILWU, and of almost all top
labor leaders in the U.S. today, stresses that you can’t fight the law. But is
it true? Let’s look:
- * Three years after Reagan crushed the PATCO strike during a most
repressive, anti-labor period, Local 10 longshoremen organized a dock
boycott of a ship from South Africa, the Nedlloyd Kimberly, to protest that
government’s apartheid policies. The union leadership opposed it, but Nelson
Mandela himself thanked Local 10 for it.
- * In 2008, ILWU made history shutting down all West Coast ports to
protest the war on Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the first-ever strike by a
U.S. union against a U.S. war. The PMA screamed bloody murder. Again, the
International leadership did everything it could to stop it and when that
wasn’t possible they tried unsuccessfully to turn it into a flag-waving
exercise. But Iraqi dockworkers expressed their solidarity, and even though
the PMA threatened to sue the ILWU for violating Taft-Hartley, they had to
back down because of union power.
- * And last year, in an exemplary action rank-and-file longshore workers,
shutdown Bay Area ports in solidarity with Wisconsin state workers.
If ILWU longshore men and women can organize these solidarity actions to
support other workers, cited by Winslow as exemplary acts, then why can’t they
shut down the West Coast to defend their own union? For dockworkers facing a
concerted employer offensive these are not academic questions. The future of
our union is at stake.
The ILWU tops blocked coastwide port actions for Longview Local 21. Now
other longshore contracts are expiring: the master grain contract for ILWU’s
Northwest ports, the East Coast ILA’s master contract and the West Coast
in 2014. The question is will longshore workers rise to the challenge before
Jack Heyman is a retired Oakland longshoreman who
participated in many of the Bay Area solidarity actions described in this
article. His years as a militant maritime worker were recounted by Steve
Stallone in CounterPunch (3/2/11).
US military occupation forces in Afghanistan under
Commander-in-Chief Obama suffered 100 casualties in the week ending July 24, as
the official casualty total for the Iraq and AfPak wars* rose to 114,658.
The total includes 79,468 casualties since the US invaded
Iraq in March, 2003 (Operations "Iraqi Freedom" and "New Dawn"), and 35,190
since the US invaded Afghanistan in November, 2001 (Operation "Enduring
AFGHANISTAN THEATER: US forces suffered
97 combat casualties in the week ending July 24 raising the total to 35,190.
This includes 18,561 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as
"hostile" causes and 16,629 dead or medically evacuated (as of May
7!) from what it calls "non-hostile" causes.
IRAQ THEATER: US casualties remained at
79,468 for the week ending July 24. This includes 35,753 dead and wounded from
“hostile" causes and 43,715 dead or medically evacuated (as of May 7) from
US media divert attention from the actual cost in American
life and limb by reporting regularly only the total killed (6,539- 4,489 in
Iraq, 2,050 in Afghanistan) but rarely mentioning those wounded in action
(49,171-32,227 in Iraq, 16,944 in Afghanistan). They ignore the 58,948 (42,752
in Iraq,16,196 in AfPak (as of May 7
!) military casualties
injured and ill seriously enough to be medevac'd out of theater, even though the
6,539 total dead include 1,395 (962 in Iraq, 433 in Afghanistan) who died from
those same "non hostile" causes, including 314 suicides (as of May 7) and at
least 18 in Iraq from faulty KBR electrical work. NOTE: The Pentagon
has stopped its monthly reports on “non hostile” injured and ill. Its previous
website was changed to https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/dcas/pages/report_sum_reason.xhtml
The last total was as of May 7, 2012.
*LIBYA :Operation "Odyssey Dawn" launched
in March, officially ended Oct 31, 2011 with no reported US
Rall will introduce his new “The Book of Obama (Seven Stories)” at Powell’s Hawthorne
at 7:30 PM Thursday, May 31.
Money graf: “ Ms.
DeFranco is to the left of Ms. Warren on a number of issues, including health
care (she supports a single-payer system) and national security (Ms. Warren is
more hawkish). She thinks Ms. Warren is too focused on the need for financial
regulation — a “one-trick pony”
In Massachusetts Senate Race, Top
Democrat Has Rival
MIDDLETON, Mass. — As the lone Democrat seeking
to challenge Elizabeth
in the Senate primary in Massachusetts, Marisa DeFranco has been ridiculed,
admonished and, worst of all, ignored.
But for the moment, Ms. DeFranco, an immigration lawyer with high energy and a scrappy band of
volunteers, is enjoying a burst of momentum. She surprised party insiders by
collecting enough valid signatures by the May 1 deadline — more than 10,000,
gathered everywhere from town meetings to town dumps — to qualify for the
Democratic primary on Sept. 6.
If Ms. DeFranco
clears one more hurdle — winning 15 percent of the delegate vote at the state
Democratic convention in Springfield next Saturday — she will secure a spot on
the primary ballot, giving Ms. Warren, a nationally known consumer advocate, an
unwanted distraction from her anticipated showdown with Senator Scott P.
Brown, the Republican
“I’m sick and tired of party bosses or machines
telling us who’s going to be the candidate,” said Ms. DeFranco, who is 41. “The
democratic process should be messy; it’s a test, it’s a gauntlet.”
Ms. DeFranco’s only other experience as a candidate was
a run for the City Council in Peabody in 2001. She lost, but ended up making
headlines for another reason: filing a complaint with the state after being
barred from a dinner at a veterans’ post, which some of her male opponents were
attending, because she was a woman.
She decided to run for the Senate after the state
attorney general, Martha Coakley, lost to Mr. Brown in the 2010 special election
following Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s death. Ms. DeFranco had volunteered for
the Coakley campaign and watched, stricken, as the Democratic candidate conceded
on election night.
“I was devastated, and I said, ‘That’s it, I’m running
for this seat,’ ” she said during a recent interview at her bare-bones campaign
office in this town north of Boston, where she also lives. “No one believed me.
Ms. DeFranco, who grew up in Erie, Pa., and moved to
Boston in 1993 to attend law school, declared her candidacy in March last year,
months before Ms. Warren did. Six other Democrats, all men, also entered the
race but have since dropped out.
Ms. DeFranco has made it this far with about $40,000 in
donations, according to the most recent campaign filings, and some 40
volunteers, including her husband and mother but also a number of people who met
her over the last year. Ms. DeFranco’s campaign also hired a handful of
professional signature gatherers to help reach the 10,000 required under state
law, she said. Ms. Warren has raised more than $15 million.
John Walsh, the chairman of the Massachusetts
Democratic Party, said Ms. DeFranco would almost certainly get enough delegate
votes at the convention to make the ballot. The front-runner would have to get
more than 85 percent of the delegate vote to knock primary challengers out of
the race, something that has not happened since 1982, he said.
“My own belief is that competition is good and
healthy and makes us stronger,” Mr. Walsh said. “I hear there are a lot of
people who have a different opinion, and what’s going to happen on the floor of
the convention hall is you will have 4,000, 5,000 delegates weighing that
Ms. DeFranco is to the left of Ms. Warren on a number of
issues, including health care (she supports a single-payer system) and national
security (Ms. Warren is more hawkish). She thinks Ms. Warren is too focused on
the need for financial regulation — a “one-trick pony,” as Nancy Weinberg, a DeFranco
supporter from Newbury, put it during a conversation here.
Ms. DeFranco tartly dismissed Ms.
Warren’s recent call for Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, to
resign from the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York after his company
revealed that it had lost at least $2 billion in bad trades. “Who’s not going to
be for firing Jamie Dimon?” she said. “It’s kind of like a throwaway. Tell me
what you’re going to do that’s going to change the average person’s life in
Nor has Ms. DeFranco refrained from criticizing Ms.
Warren’s handling of a controversy over whether she had misrepresented herself as a member of an
ethnic minority, which
stemmed from a Boston Herald article last month. The Herald reported that
Harvard Law School, where Ms. Warren teaches, had once described her as American
Indian when it was under criticism for hiring too many white men.
Ms. Warren has said she is descended from two tribes,
saying she was told so by her family, but has offered no documentation. She has
also not explained why a Harvard official described her to The Harvard Crimson
as a Native American in 1996.
“It says to me that they’re not good on defense, they’re
not good in panic mode and they lack a clear, consistent message,” Ms. DeFranco
said of Ms. Warren’s campaign.
Ms. Warren has barely acknowledged her so far, although
Ms. DeFranco, with evident pride, noted that aides to both Ms. Warren and Mr.
Brown had started following her on Twitter.
Given the tremendous odds against her, Ms.
DeFranco is almost flattered when she hears from Democrats pressuring her to
abandon the race. One such critic, who sent her a “nasty” e-mail that she
answered with a phone call, was typical, she said.
“They said, ‘You’re running for control of the
United States Senate,’ and they just hung up on me,” she said. “The way I see
it, you’re really running for what you can do for the people in the state you
No one close to Ms. DeFranco has urged her to
drop out, she said, at least not yet. Her father, a retired doctor who “thinks
I’m too smart to be in the United States Senate,” only wishes for her to get
“He gets very frustrated,” she said. “He’s
calling me on the phone, and he’s like, ‘Why isn’t Rachel Maddow having you on?’
House voted 303-113 to defeat an effort to limit taxpayer dollars to
bringing the troops home. The vote was on an amendment to the appropriations for
the war sponsored by Reps Reps. Lee, Conyers,
Jones, Welch, and Woolsey. 79 prowar Dems joined 224 Repubs to defeat the
effort, which was supported by 101 Dems and 12 Repubs. The list is at http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2012/roll264.xml
To their credit, all Oregon Dems, Blumenauer, Bonamici, DeFazio and Schrader were among
Threats of military strikes against Iran have many of us concerned. We know peace is possible, but is another Middle East war probable?
Iran Forum: Myths and Facts
Saturday May 19, 2012, 1:00 pm - 4:30 pm First Unitarian Church
1211 SW Main, Portland, OR
Three round table discussions:
** Iran - Myths & Realities
This discussion will provide background on the current crisis and the
geopolitics of sanctions on and war with Iran.
**Friendships - Americans and Iranians
Travelers to Iran will share their experiences.
**The War at Home - Here and There
This discussion features people who know first hand the toll that a war
takes on societies here and there.
Panelists will include:
Farideh Farhi, Professor of Political Science at University of Hawaii and
a public commentator on US-Iran relations
Muhammad Sahimi, Professor of Engineering, USC and a columnist for PBS
Frontline Tehran Bureau
Robin Hahnel, Professor of Economics at Portland State University
Kelly Campbell of Physicians for Social Responsibility
Ahjamu Umi of Occupy Portland
Ian LaVallee of Iraq Veterans Against the War
A flyer is available on our website at
Sponsored By: American Iranian Friendship Council (email@example.com), Occupy Portland, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Veterans for Peace, Peace and Justice Works Iraq Affinity Group, Peace Action Committee of the First Unitarian Church and Portland Peaceful Response Coalition. With financial support by the PSU Middle East Studies Center and through a Parsa Community Foundation grant.
visit my website www.michaelmunk.com
First Mother's Day Proclamation (1870)
By Julia Ward
Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
From the bosom
of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: "Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not
wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often
forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now
leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of
women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace
deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general
interests of peace.
response to growing pressure to provide more info about the regime’s drone
attacks, Obama’s national security advisor asserts that “There is nothing in international law that bans the use
of remotely piloted aircraft for this purpose or that prohibits us from using
lethal force against our enemies outside of an active battlefield, at
least when the country involved consents or is unable or unwilling to take
action against the threat."
Remarkable! Evidently, the Obama regime
acknowledges that international law does prohibit the use of such force in
another country unless that country “consents or is unable or unwilling to take
action against the threat.” Obama claims the
authority to decide what constitutes a
“threat” and whether another state is
“unwilling” to take action against it.” Pakistan is the main victim of this
policy as it once again complains pathetically about Obama’s latest drone
As Tom Engelhardt’s fine essay on Obama’s
imperial powers notes:
“He has few constraints (except those he’s
internalized). No one can stop him or countermand his orders. He has a bevy of
lawyers at his beck and call to explain the “legality” of his actions. And if he
cares to, he can send a robot assassin to kill you, whoever you are, no matter
where you may be on planet Earth.”
It’s worth noting that the lawyer principally
responsible for assuring Obama he could legally assassinate Americans abroad is
David Barron, who played John Yoo’s role in the Office of Legal Counsel by
writing the still secret 50 page authorizing opinion.
Barron left that office to return to Harvard
Law School. Seems that Berkeley and Cambridge harbor some sinister
Read Tom’s essay here:
Keystone union opponents include the Laborers, Teamsters and Building &
Construction Trades which carry much more weight compared to union proponents
--the relatively small Amalgamated Transit and Transport Workers
The leader of
the Laborers denounced the two transport unions: "We're repulsed by some of our supposed brothers and
sisters lining up with job killers like the Sierra Club and the Natural
Resources Defense Council to destroy the lives of working men and
Trumka? "Unions don't agree among ourselves."
Do we see class conflict here?
Environmentalists seem leery of unions and unions are buying the bosses’ line
about regulatory “job killers. The logic of capitalism sure has a way of
splitting potential allies.
There is no
substantial difference between Obamacare and Romneycare. There is no substantial
difference between Obama and Romney. They are abject servants of the corporate
state. And if you vote for one you vote for the
(aka Joe Anybody), the videographer of OccupyPortland's Labor Solidarity
Committee's April 15 Long-Term Jobless Assembly, has emailed me that all
you speakers' talks/Q&A discussions were just uploaded on YouTube.http://youtu.be/g9Fk5RTXLpI It's a nearly 3-hour (2:47)
The order of
speakers is Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, the keynoter; AFSCME Council
75's political consultant Mary Botkin on how to lobby a legislature; Independent
party co-chair Dan Meek on how to start a minor party in Oregon; and Barbara
Ellis on the WPA/Minnesota's Farmer-Labor party/Britain's Labor party.
As Mike noted
below the line, he's also uploading the video on a site called Archive.
Moreover, he has DVDs available, but for all his time/energy/post-production
work on this project he certainly deserves a per-copy charge. If you don't have
his email address handy, his contact is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
OccupyPortland—and in particular the assembly's
sponsors OP's Labor Solidarity Committee—thanks you speakers, for all your
preparations/materials/ and taking out that gorgeous Sunday afternoon to address
this fast-growing, major crisis the nation's political leaders are ignoring,
just as they did in 1930+ until it exploded. We also thank those staffers from
the venue, SEIU Local 503, who made its Portland facility available for the
assembly and helped on Sunday's set-up.
Barbara G. Ellis, Assembly chair
member, OP Labor Solidarity Committee
The Real Health Care Debate
Posted on Apr 9, 2012
By Chris Hedges
The debate surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
illustrates the impoverishment of our political life. Here is a law that had its
origin in the right-wing Heritage Foundation, was first put into practice in
2006 in Massachusetts by then-Gov. Mitt Romney and was solidified into federal
law after corporate lobbyists wrote legislation with more than 2,000 pages. It
is a law that forces American citizens to buy a deeply defective product from
private insurance companies. It is a law that is the equivalent of the bank
bailout bill—some $447 billion in subsidies for insurance interests alone—for
the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. It is a law that is
unconstitutional. And it is a law by which President Barack Obama, and his
corporate backers, extinguished the possibilities of both the public option and
Medicare for all Americans. There is no substantial difference between
Obamacare and Romneycare. There is no substantial difference between Obama and
Romney. They are abject servants of the corporate state. And if you vote for one
you vote for the other.
But you would never know this by listening to the Democratic Party and the
advocacy groups that purport to support universal health care but seem more
intent on re-electing Obama. It is the very sad legacy of the liberal class
that it proves in election cycle after election cycle that it espouses moral and
political positions it will not pay a price to defend. And since we have no
fight in us, since we will not punish politicians like Obama who betray our core
beliefs, the corporate juggernaut rolls forward with its inexorable pace to
cement into place our global neofeudalism.
Protesting outside the Supreme Court recently as it heard arguments on the
constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act were both conservatives from Americans for
Prosperity who denounced the president as a socialist and demonstrators from
Democratic front groups such as the SEIU and
the Families USA health care consumer
group who chanted “Protect the law!” Lost between these two factions were a few
stalwarts who hold quite different views, including public health care advocates
Dr. Margaret Flowers, Dr. Carol Paris and
attorneys Oliver Hall, Kevin Zeese and Russell Mokhiber. They displayed a banner
that read: “Single Payer Now! Strike Down the Obama Mandate!” They, at least,
have not relinquished the demand for single payer health care for all Americans. And I throw my lot in with these renegades, dismissed, no doubt, as cranks or
dreamers or impractical by those who flee into the embrace of empty political
theater and junk politics. These single payer advocates, joined by 50
a brief to the court that challenges, in the name of universal health care,
the individual mandate.
“We have the solution, we have the resources and we have the money to provide
lifelong, comprehensive, high-quality health care to every person,” Dr. Flowers
said when we spoke a few days ago in Washington, D.C. Many Americans have not
accepted the single payer approach “because people get confused by the
politics,” she said. “People accept the Democratic argument that this
[Obamacare] is all we can have or this is something we can build on.
“If you are trying to meet the goal of universal health coverage and the only
way to meet that goal is to force people to purchase private insurance, then you
might consider that it is constitutional,” Flowers said. “Our argument is that
the individual mandate does not meet the goal of universality. When you attempt
to use the individual mandate and expansion of Medicaid for coverage, only about
half of the uninsured gain coverage. This is what we have seen in Massachusetts.
We do, however, have systems in the United States that could meet the goal of
universality. That would be either a Veterans Administration type system, which
is a socialized system run by the government, or a Medicare type system, a
single payer, publicly financed health care system. If the U.S. Congress had
considered an evidence-based approach to health reform instead of writing a bill
that funnels more wealth to insurance companies that deny and restrict care, it
would have been a no-brainer to adopt a single payer health system much like our
own Medicare. We are already spending enough on health care in this country to
provide high-quality, universal, comprehensive, lifelong health care. All the
data point to a single payer system as the only way to accomplish this and
control health care costs.”
Obamacare will, according to figures compiled by Physicians for a National
Health Plan (PNHP), leave at least 23 million people without insurance, a figure
that translates into an estimated 23,000 unnecessary deaths a year among people
who cannot afford care. Costs will continue to climb. There are no caps on
premiums, including for people with “pre-existing conditions.” The elderly can
be charged three times the rates provided to the young. Companies with
predominantly female workforces can be charged higher gender-based rates. Most
of us will soon be paying about 10 percent of our annual incomes to buy
commercial health insurance, although this coverage will pay for only about 70
percent of our medical expenses. And those of us who become seriously ill, lose
our incomes and cannot pay the skyrocketing premiums are likely to be denied
coverage. The dizzying array of loopholes in the law—written in by insurance and
pharmaceutical lobbyists—means, in essence, that the healthy will receive
insurance while the sick and chronically ill will be priced out of the market.
Medical bills already lead to 62 percent of personal bankruptcies, and nearly
80 percent of those declaring personal bankruptcy because of medical costs had
insurance. The U.S. spends twice as much per capita on health care as other
industrialized nations, $8,160. Private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork
consume 31 percent of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment through a
single, nonprofit payer would save more than $400 billion per year, enough, the
PNHP estimates, to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all
But as long as corporations determine policy, as long as they can use
their money to determine who gets elected and what legislation gets passed, we
remain hostages. It matters little in our corporate state that nearly
two-thirds of the public wants single payer and that it is backed by 59 percent
of doctors. Public debates on the Obama health care reform, controlled by
corporate dollars, ruthlessly silence those who support single payer. The Senate
Finance Committee, chaired by Max Baucus, a politician who gets more than 80
percent of his campaign contributions from outside his home state of Montana,
locked out of the Affordable Care Act hearing a number of public health care
advocates including Dr. Flowers and Dr. Paris; the two physicians and six other
activists were arrested and taken away. Baucus had invited 41 people to testify.
None backed single payer. Those who testified included contributors who had
given a total of more than $3 million to committee members for their political
“It is not necessary to force Americans to buy private health insurance to
achieve universal coverage,” said Russell Mokhiber of Single Payer Action. “There is a
proven alternative that Congress didn’t seriously consider, and that alternative
is a single payer national health insurance system. Congress could have taken
seriously evidence presented by these single payer medical doctors that a single
payer system is the only way to both control costs and cover everyone.”
Occupy Portland Labor Solidarity
Job Finding Meeting
More Info: 503-239-9432
email@example.com US military occupation forces in Afganistan and Iraq under Commander-in-Chief Obama suffered 300 casualties in the period ending April 10, as the official casualty total for the Iraq and AfPak wars* rose to 112,983.
job-finding meeting for the long-term unemployeds in
County and Clackamas county by OccupyPortland’s
committee has been set for Sunday afternoon, April
15. It will be held
from 2 to 5 p.m. at SEIU Local 503’s
headquarters, 64th and SE Holgate
The purpose is to organize this sector of the unemployed
obtaining public-works jobs in the Greater Portland area and
either by lobbying city and state officials and/or by starting
Labor party advocating public-works jobs. OccupyPortland's
focus is on East County and Clackamas County. It's part of the
group's outreach to the most pressing needs of the 99% in the
Speakers will be Oregon Labor Commissioner
as keynoter; Mary Botkin, political coordinator for
Council 75 of
Oregon’s AFSCME (American Federation of State, County
Employees), on lobbying; Dan Meek, co-chair of the
of Oregon, on how to start a party; and Barbara G.
historian, on the WPA (Works Progress Administration)
Minnesota’s Farmer-Labor party of the Great Depression
Salon magazine, an influential online publication, recently
Oregon’s Angus McGuire, communications director of SEIU Locals
503’s We Are Oregon community program to help East County’s
unemployed. He saw “parallels with the Great Depression when
unemployed councils were pivotal to securing relief and jobs programs
as well as eviction defense on a mind-boggling scale.” New York City
councils quashed 77,000 evictions. He indicated WAO polling of
residents revealed a great “opportunity in organizing the
January figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor
1,100,000 people in the category of long-term
months), officially called “discouraged workers.” Of
638,000 are men, 421,000 are women, an overall increase of
the previous month.
Oregon’s January statistics lists
15,900 long-term unemployed,
according to the Oregon Office of
Economic Analysis. It noted that
Oregon’s lower unemployment
rate (8.9%) wasn’t “so much due to
improving labor market conditions,
but rather due to people giving up
looking for work who are no longer
counted among the unemployed.”
Today’s political conditions mirror those
of the Great Depression in
which President Franklin D. Roosevelt
created the Works Progress
Administration in May 1935 by Executive
Order. Within seven months,
3,541,000 were on the WPA payroll. Jobs
ranged from infrastructure
repair and construction to flood-control
projects, building and
staffing thousands of schools, hospitals, and
park systems. Today’s
additional possibility is in environmental
TIME magazine noted in early February that the long-term
were at least 43% of the latest statistics (12,800,000) and
that these “invisibles” will determine not just the economy
stock market, but the November elections for president, Congress,
state offices. Its business columnist noted: “The November
will likely be decided by swing states that have lots
underemployed and discouraged workers” such as Pennsylvania,
Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Nevada.
if those nearly 16,000 long-term unemployeds—
as well as families and
friends—take political action to obtain
public-works jobs prior to the
November elections, they will make a
significant and positive change
to the state’s unemployment situation.
The Oregon Employment Department’s
reported that the state’s overall unemployment
January averaged 9.9%, but seven counties were at 12.0%
Crook, Douglas, Grant, Harney, Jefferson, Lake, and Malheur.
county had the highest number of unemployeds (14.6%), Clackamas
Multnomah counties ranged from 8.0% to 9.9%.
The total includes 79,493 casualties since the US invaded Iraq in March, 2003 (Operations "Iraqi Freedom" and "New Dawn"), and 33,490 since the US invaded Afganistan in November, 2001 (Operation "Eduring Freedom")
AFGANISTAN THEATER: US forces suffered 286 casualties in the week ending April 10, as the total rose to 33,490 including the new monthly report on those inflicted by "non-hostile" causes. This includes 17,111 dead and wounded from "hostile" causes and 16,379 dead or medically evacuated (as of April 2) from "non-hostile" causes.
IRAQ THEATER: Us forces suffered 14 "non hostile" casualties in the period ending April 10 as the total rose to 79,493. That includes 35,750 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and 43,743 dead or medically evacuated (as of April 2) from "non-hostile" causes.
US media divert attention from the actual cost in American life and limb by reporting regularily only the total killed (6,412 - 4,488 in Iraq,1,924 in Afghanistan) but rarely mentioning those wounded in action (47,818--32,224 in Iraq, 15,594 in Afghanistan). They ignore the 58,753 (42,781 in Iraq,15,972 in AfPak (as of April 2) military casualties injured and ill seriously enough to be medivaced out of theater, even though the 6,412 total dead include 1,369 (962 in Iraq, 407 in Afghanistan) who died from those same "non hostile" causes, including 312 suicides (as of April 2) and at least 18 in Iraq from faulty KBR electrical work.
*LIBYA :Operation "Odessy Dawn" launched in March, officially ended Oct 31, 2011 with no reported US casualties.
WIA are usually updated on Tuesday at www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf
Non combat casualties are usually reported monthly at http://siadapp.dmdc.osd.mil/personnel/CASUALTY/castop.htm
visit the new photo gallery on my website www.michaelmunk.com
Cheney cancels Canadian speech
By: Staff Writer
The Winnepeg Free Press, March 13, 2012
TORONTO -- Former U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney has cancelled a Canadian speaking appearance due to security concerns sparked by demonstrations during a visit he made to Vancouver last fall, the event promoter said Monday.
Cheney, whom the protesters denounced as a war criminal, was slated to talk about his experiences in office and the current American political situation at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on April 24.
"After speaking with their security advisers, they changed their mind on coming to the event," said Spectre Live Corp.'s Ryan Ruppert, of Cheney and his daughter Elizabeth. "(They) decided it was better for their personal safety they stay out of Canada."
Last Sept. 26, Cheney's appearance in Vancouver was marred by demonstrators who blocked the entrances to the exclusive Vancouver Club.
visit the new photo gallery on my website
Lake Oswego High: Racist Tweets
are Only Tip of the Iceberg
A racially insensitive, antagonizing environment
has been the worst kept secret for generations
By Bruce Poinsette
The Skanner News, March 9, 2012
I wish I could say I was surprised to read that three football players from
my Alma Mater Lake Oswego High School (LOHS) were suspended for targeting a
former Black teammate with racist tweets, but I know better.
I was watching from the bench on the infamous night when our crowd broke out
into chants of "You can't read," and "Hooked on phonics," to taunt a Black
Lincoln basketball player. It was an embarrassing time to say I represented
LOHS and yet it provided a glimpse into the daily problematic behavior that
is persistent throughout the school.
As a Black student who went through the Lake Oswego (LO) school system, I've
seen a culture of both systemic and overt racism that isolates students of
color, especially Black.
The town has the nickname "Lake No Negro" (or as one of the suspended
football players put it, "Lake NoN****r") for a reason. According to Census
Data, LO has a Black population of 0.7 percent.
I've lived in LO all my life, written for the town newspaper, played in high
school band and was on LOHS's only state championship basketball team, yet I
still catch people pointing and staring at me like a zoo animal when I walk
When I was in school I stood out like sore thumb and was reminded of it all
In kindergarten, a Saudi student named Muhammad and I, the only two children
of color in the class, were separated from the rest of the students and told
we could play with blocks while the teacher taught the others how to read.
My mother still gets upset when she remembers the class Reading Night and
how I struggled in front of all my classmates and their parents. My
kindergarten teacher would go on to suggest that I be held back, which my
parents had to fight.
This was just one of many instances where teachers had lower expectations of
me than my white peers. In sixth grade I had to get 100 percents on every
Wordly Wise test for five straight weeks to prove I deserved to be in an
advanced group and was proficient enough in a textbook I had completed three
years earlier at another school. I was told by a counselor that I "didn't
look like a TAG student," when I applied for the Talented and Gifted (TAG)
program in seventh grade.
During high school basketball season, coaches didn't seem to care when other
Black players were late or didn't attend classes, as long as they were
eligible to play. As a junior I remember asking a spring league basketball
coach to excuse me from a game (other players missed games for AAU and
spring football practices with no punishment) so I could take my SATs. My
minutes were drastically cut for the rest of the season.
Unfortunately, the attitudes of offending adults seemed to manifest in
students' daily interactions. The hallways and playgrounds were a hotbed for
racist jokes and other offenses.
I've lost count of the times I was told, "I didn't know you could talk like
that," because I didn't sound like someone from a BET music video, which is
sadly the only exposure many of my white peers had to Black people.
Jokes that I only got into my advanced classes because of Affirmative Action
were also a favorite of many students.
What's disturbing is that while some people were mean spirited, the vast
majority really didn't understand they were being offensive. The idea of
respecting culture was a joke, both literally and figuratively.
Meanwhile, any serious discussion of inequality by a minority was met with
the accusation that "You must hate white people."
Five years removed from high school graduation, I would be naive to think
this culture of racial ignorance and white privilege has somehow been
eradicated. Statements by school officials and parents trying to frame the
football players' twitter comments as an isolated incident are misleading.
A racially insensitive, antagonizing environment has been the worst kept
secret for generations.
This is an opportunity to be honest and address the root of intolerance in
LO, rather than launch another public relations campaign that pretends race
is not an issue in "Lake No Negro."
It now appears that David J. Barron, now a Harvard law prof, (although its website does not mention his position as the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel acting head) is the "John Yoo" of the Obama administration. It was he, not Virginia Seitz, the current head of that office, who wrote and signed the infamous "Assassination Memo" of the OLC, according to anonymous sources who spoke with the New York Times last fall. Read it at
It turns out that OLC has had numerous acting heads under Obama. Barron served from January 2009 to June 2010, replacing [unknown]. He was followed by Johnathan Cedarbaum until suceeded by Caroline Krass in December 2010, who reportedly quit in protest in June 2011 because Obama rejected her view that Obama's Libyan campaign was indeed a "war" that required congressional action. She was suceeded by Virginia Seitz, who was confirmed by the Senate as Assistant AG on June 30, 2011 and accoring to the DOJ website, is still in that position..
This corrects my previous suggestion that Seitz wrote the memo:
Virginia Seitz heads the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel, which provided Obama with
>> the legal justification for assassinating US citizens on his order. Under
>> the Bush administration this office became notorious for enabling torture
>> under opinions written by staffer John Yoo and approved by Jay Bybee as
>> OLC head. Yoo is still a law professor at UC Berkeley and Bybee was
>> appointed by Bush to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ( Bybee is
>> currently sitting in Portland).
>> Stonewalling FOIA requests by the NYTimes and the ACLU, the Obama
>> administration refuses to acknowledge that Seitz's OLC "assassination "
>> document even exists.
>> Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has led the congressional challenge to the
>> assassination program by demanding what he calls the "secret law" be made
>> public. After AG Eric Holder failed to mention the OLC document in a
>> speech yesterday (and refused to answer questions about it), Wyden
>> declared: "These questions [about the program] should not be a matter of
>> 'secret law' settled behind closed doors by a small number of government
>> lawyers--every American has the right to understand when the government
>> is allowed to kill them."
>> The Obama adminsitration, which also relied on the OLC to claim that
>> bombing Libya was not "war," asserts its killing of US citizens without
>> due process was authorized by Congress when it signed off on the invasion
>> of Afghanistan after 9/11 but refuses to make its legal reasoning public.
visit the new photo gallery on my website
On the other hand, Wyden leads a fight to get Obama to explain how he
legally orders assassinations of US citizens.
> Liberal media are always beating up the straw men and women of the
> deranged Repubs but don't often note when they're joined by
> Dems--especially designated liberals.
> Senate warmongers led by Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Graham (R-SC) have been
> joined by almost one third of Senate in an "Israel First" demand --an even
> more aggressive posture toward Iran than Obama has already adopted. As
> Robert Perry points out
> " the next preemptive war could be launched not against Iran for actually
> building a bomb or even trying to build a bomb but rather for simply
> having the skills that theoretically could be used sometime in the future
> to build a bomb. The "red line" has been moved from some possible future
> development to arguably what already exists."
> The Democratic warmonger cosponsors who include several "liberals" like
> Wyden (OR) Brown (Ohio) Udall (Col) and Blumenthal (CT). Other Dems are
> Casey (PA), (Maryland), Schumer and Gillibrand (NY), Nelson (FL) and
> Nelson (Neb), Pryor (Ark), Menendez (NJ), Cardin and Mikulski (Md),
> McCaskill (Mo), and Coons (Del). They join 14 of the most deranged Repubs
> plus Collins (Me) and Brown (Mass).
> visit the new photo gallery on my website
"The revolution is not going to
come through the labor movement." And that is true, at least
in its current configuration. But the revolution that many
occupiers dream about can't happen without workers either.
If the Occupy movement keeps growing, then organized labor
will have to decide which side it is really on."
The optimistic take should have also considered the often tense relation
between Occupy and the traditionally militant ILWU in Occupy's efforts to
shut down west coast
ports in solidarity with its Longview WA local' struggle with scab herder
What Occupy Taught the Unions
SEIU and others are embracing the movement that has
succeeded as they have faded
by Arun Gupta
Salon.com February 2, 2012
VIA Portside http://portside.org
Unions are in a death spiral. Private sector unionism has
all but vanished, accounting for a measly 6.9 percent of
the workforce. Public sector workers are being hammered by
government cutbacks and hostile media that blame teachers,
nurses and firefighters for budget crises. To counter this
trend organized labor banked on creating more hospitable
organizing conditions by contributing hundreds of millions
of dollars to the Democratic Party the last two election
cycles. In return Obama abandoned the Employee Free Choice
Act, which would have made union campaigns marginally
easier, failed to push for an increase in the minimum wage,
and installed an education secretary who attacks teachers
and public education.
The Obama administration's dismal record on labor issues has
been compounded by the rise of the Tea Party movement, which
portrays unions as public enemy No. 1, and the Supreme
Court's Citizens United decision, which opened the political
floodgates to corporate money. By last year, organized labor
realized that its days were numbered unless it took a
So it went back to basics. Across the country unions threw
resources into community organizing, aiming to build a
broad-based constituency outside of the workplace for
progressive politics. In cities like Chicago, Philadelphia
and Portland, Ore., newly formed community groups found
ready support for organizing around issues of economic
justice, but they were stymied by a national debate
dominated by voices blaming government spending for an
economic crisis caused by Wall Street.
Occupy Wall Street changed that. It flipped the debate from
austerity to inequality, uncorked a wellspring of creative
energy and started taking creative risks that unions
typically shun. Within weeks unions adopted the 99 percent
versus the 1 percent and started organizing actions under
the Occupy banner. One labor leader said "the Occupy
movement has changed unions'" messaging and ability to
mobilize members. Union-affiliated organizers around the
country say it has helped workers win better contracts and
bolstered labor reformers.
While union organizers stress the importance of the
movement's autonomy, they are also joining in, providing
advice, experience, supplies and access to money and space.
Many believe, as one Chicago labor activist put it, that
"Occupy is too big to fail." In fact, the Occupy movement is
in the vanguard of labor, enticing workers into the streets,
making them negotiate harder and think bigger.
But the Occupy movement is also a double-edged sword. Some
observers say organized labor shares the blame for its
decline because unions treat members as clients who pay dues
in return for benefits, are riddled with self-serving
leaders, stuck in a busted collective bargaining system, too
close to Democrats and too willing to ally with big business
in return for jobs. If the Occupy movement revitalizes
labor, as the left did during the 1930s, then it could
invigorate rank-and-file militancy, foster internal
democracy and sweep out officials who protect their fiefdoms
and perks at the expense of fighting for the 99 percent.
"Point of no return"
Angus Maguire is communications director at We Are Oregon, a
community group active in Portland that was established last
summer by two Service Employees International Union locals.
In 2011, he says, "there was a general conversation
throughout SEIU, taking a sober look at the decline in labor
organizing. It was an explicit acknowledgment that if labor
doesn't change how it engages with people it would cease to
exist in a meaningful way. It was reaching a point of no
In Oregon, SEIU locals 49 and 503, which represent more than
30,000 workers, decided they needed to organize non-union
members outside of the workplace "around the most pressing
issues relating to the economic crisis." The genial 35-year-
old father of two says, "We did a door-to-door outreach
campaign in East Portland, the poorest part of the city,
talking to people about unemployment and foreclosure."
Maguire says We Are Oregon's goals are twofold. "One is to
organize and achieve material wins. The second is to change
the political environment and conversation. When we started
last summer there wasn't much conversation in the media
around wealth disparity."
On the East Coast, Anne Gemmell, political director of Fight
for Philly, says the organization was founded in May by
labor and faith-based groups such as the SEIU, to organize
around issues of economic justice. One factor was Citizens
United, which she says "was a scary development for churches
and labor. If the gates are thrown wide open to corporate
money, then traditional organizing models could be in
Fight for Philly also began with a door-knocking campaign,
she says. "We were testing interest in fighting back against
inevitable service cuts as the economic meltdown hit
municipalities, and we had over 10,000 conversations." Fight
for Philly, she went on, is "trying to educate people that
the budget crisis is due to the 2008 economic meltdown
caused by banking and corporate greed, not by government
waste, fraud and mismanagement as many anti-government
voices would have the public believe." But last summer, she
explains, the media discussion "was all about austerity
debates, the super committee and how we are going to cut
social spending. It was not about growing inequality."
In stepped Occupy Wall Street on Sept. 17, but nearly every
left, progressive and labor group was skeptical or even
dismissive of the few hundred scruffy campers raging against
the machine in downtown Manhattan.
Some of the wariness stemmed from OWS's congenital aversion
to establishment politics. On the first day of the
occupation Zuccotti Park I talked to organizers, seasoned
and new, who were committed to radical democracy, skeptical
of electoral politics and opposed to capitalism. Their
politics couldn't have been more distant from unions like
the SEIU, Teamsters and United Auto Workers, which are top
down and centralized, joined at the hip with the Democratic
Party and eager, even desperate, to be the junior partner of
Even before Occupy Wall Street pitched its first tent, the
politics were so amorphous that one person kept blocking
outreach to unions on the grounds that it needed to attract
Tea Partyers. "When Occupy was conceived there was no
outreach to labor," says Ari Paul, a New York City labor
reporter. "They were hesitant to even let unions be a part
of it, because they were seen as bureaucratic and short-
Jackie DiSalvo, who attended pre-occupation general
assemblies, helped change that by forming the labor outreach
committee the first week of OWS. She is a retired associate
professor of English who took part in the 1964 Mississippi
"I was attracted to the movement because they adopted the
line of the 99 percent against the 1 percent," DiSalvo said
in an interview. "It was very class-conscious politics. I
thought the only way it was going to have any strength was
to have a working class and trade union base because they
bring resources, numbers and political realism. They would
give Occupy a broader constituency than the young people
sleeping in Zuccotti who were precarious workers, unemployed
For the first few days, however, the unions stayed away
because "the initial press reports were Occupy Wall Street
was a bunch of freaks," says DiSalvo.
On Sept. 22, five days after it began, Occupy Wall Street
received its first union backing: delegates from the City
University of New York's 25,000-member Professional Staff
Congress marched to the park in a show of support. Other
unions "were hesitant," says DiSalvo, "because they didn't
know who we were and what we were going to do, but they very
quickly got over their hesitancy and embraced us, endorsed
us, and provided support such as supplies, storage room,
printing literature and meeting space."
On Saturday an unpermitted march that began at Zuccotti Park
swelled to more than 2,500 people as it coursed through the
streets of Lower Manhattan. It was set upon by riot police,
and in the first iconic incident of casual police violence
against occupiers, a commander was filmed pepper-spraying
women in the face who were standing on a public sidewalk.
The video of the women falling to the ground and screaming
in agony went viral. When I visited Zuccotti Park on Monday,
Sept. 26, it was bursting with occupiers and support. Unions
started showing up, and I heard the same story from two
reputable sources. A group of SEIU organizers with the
gigantic healthcare workers Local 1199 stopped by to deliver
blankets, ponchos, food and water. The labor organizers said
that the previous Friday they had been barred by their union
leadership from visiting the occupation, but now SEIU was on
DiSalvo says, "It was the police attacks that made them
move. But it was also progressives in the unions who won the
leadership over." Over the next few months around 30 unions
endorsed Occupy Wall Street including SEIU and the AFL-CIO
executive board, whose president, Richard Trumka, traveled
to New York to meet with the labor outreach committee.
"Trumka felt that unions had been raising the point about
the growing inequality and the seizure of power of the
rich," says DiSalvo. "Occupy Wall Street was the first time
those issues received massive attention in the press. He
felt we were creating a lot of support for labor that they
were unable to generate because we broke through the media
There is widespread agreement that the Occupy movement has
directly benefited labor.
In Chicago an organizer with SEIU who wished to remain
anonymous called the Occupy movement "a game changer." He
said his union "recognized that it can no longer focus just
on what happens in the workplace. Our members who work in a
hospital go home to a community that is being devastated by
foreclosures and school closures."
The SEIU co-founded Stand Up! Chicago, which kicked off last
June with a protest against a convention for CFOs of major
corporations. When Occupy Chicago formed it coincided with
Stand Up! Chicago's week of actions last October in the
financial district. Occupiers were maintaining an around-
the-clock protest at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and
the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The organizer says, "We
had this great synergy because we were doing actions in the
financial district and Occupy Chicago was right there and
would join us. They helped us get the attention of the press
in a way we wouldn't have otherwise."
"Occupy is a true left expression and expansion of free
speech," Anne Gemmell of Fight for Philly says. "We are
going to occupy this space until you pay attention to us. It
has empowered the organizations that do the door knocking,
phone calling and rally planning." She explains that the
occupation at Philadelphia City Hall helped workers in
contract negotiations. Gemmell says about 1,000 support
staff and stagehands "were in negotiations that were tense
and confrontational with the Kimmel Center, a major arts
center near the occupation." A week after Occupy
Philadelphia set up camp the workers won a contract on
better-than-expected terms. Following that victory 2,500
office cleaners who were negotiating with the management of
some 100 corporate high-rises around City Hall inked a
contract with wage increases for three years in a row.
"Occupy has a positive spillover effect, even if it's not
directly involved in the organizing campaign," says Gemmell.
"There were very few office cleaners or stagehands ...
sleeping in tents at city hall, but they are all part of the
99 percent and benefited from the new political climate that
Steve Early, a former union organizer and author of "The
Civil Wars in U.S. Labor," says, "I was encouraged by the
positive interaction between Occupy Wall Street and the
Communication Workers of America," which staged a 15-day
strike against Verizon last August. Early says after the CWA
called off the strike with inconclusive results, "the union
was struggling to find ways to take action against Verizon."
Because Zuccotti Park is close to the work locations of CWA
Local 1101, which was involved with the strike, CWA workers
were regulars at the occupation.
"Things have gotten so bad in the private state of Verizon
that workers are much more open to different viewpoints,"
says Early. "At Zuccotti, unemployed youth were being thrown
together with workers who've been with Verizon for 20 years
and are trying to hold on to their pay and benefits."
The cross-pollination aided dissidents in Local 1101 who had
been organizing for four years, Early says. "The reform
slate swept out the incumbents in the Local 1101 election
held in November. Their victory was positively impacted by
their work with the Occupy movement as well as other
organizations like Labor Notes and the Association for Union
Democracy." Early adds, "The synergy works best when there
is an organized group within the unions. The Occupy movement
needs someone to relate to within labor."
Early claims Occupy's ability to organize with labor is
hamstrung by the tendency of many unions to undermine rank-
and-file militancy and democracy. He says union attempts to
mobilize the public against corporations - like SEIU's Fight
for a Fair Economy campaign - have not resonated as well as
the more spontaneous and grass-roots activities of OWS.
A year ago the 2.1-million member union launched the Fight
for a Fair Economy to mobilize low-income workers in urban
areas against public sector cuts. The price tag for the
campaign was in the millions of dollars, according to the
Wall Street Journal. Early says, "The campaign looked good
on paper, but was top-down, staff-driven and a consultant-
shaped message that was boilerplate union rhetoric. The
ground troops for Fight for a Fair Economy did not have much
As for another campaign run by the California Nurses
Association/National Nurses United, which called for a
financial transaction tax on Wall Street traders, Early says
it was "much more savvy and programmatic but it framed the
fight as `Main Street vs. Wall Street,' without actually
reaching many Main Streeters beside nurses themselves."
Early says contrast that with the Occupy movement. "It is
bottom up, decentralized, has much better framing and uses
direct action creatively. These unions and others have
glommed onto it and have adopted the 99 percent versus the 1
Like many, Early sees potential for occupiers and unions to
learn from each other, but he puts the emphasis on the
workers themselves. He says, "Hopefully, rank-and-filers
will realize they don't need to wait for grand plans and
official orders from union headquarters. As Wisconsin
workers demonstrated a year ago, they can take their own
creative initiatives and have much more impact. Plus,
exposure to Occupy will hopefully foster more Madison-style
cross-union activity and bottom-up decision making. By
continuing to organize, agitate and educate around labor
issues - while learning from union members in the process -
occupiers can help spread an anti-capitalist message that is
relevant to day-to-day workplace struggles but very
different from the much fuzzier official messaging of
The Occupy movement's 99 percent message could prove
troublesome for labor leaders. Ari Paul argues. "There is a
limit to how much union leaders will fight the 1 percent
because they do depend on the 1 percent." By way of example
he points to the issue of healthcare: "One of the reasons
unions don't call for universal healthcare is because it is
more politically expedient to get companies to fund good
healthcare plans for union members who will keep voting you
DiSalvo echoes this sentiment. "The labor movement has
fairly narrow orientation of just fighting for their own
members' contract demands to the point they don't fight for
their own members when they become unemployed. They should
have set up an unemployed workers council by now."
That is a big question on many people's minds. While
organized labor is potentially a powerful force with 17
million Americans in unions, it's dwarfed by the more than
25 million people who are unemployed or can't get full-time
"The labor movement has so far missed an opportunity in
organizing the unemployed and underemployed," admits Maguire
of We Are Oregon. He says there are parallels with the Great
Depression when unemployed councils were pivotal to securing
relief and jobs programs as well as eviction defense on a
mind-boggling scale. (Some historians claim that councils in
New York City moved 77,000 evicted families back into their
homes.) Maguire maintains, however, that there "are also big
differences today in terms of the political climate and
class consciousness. It's fair to say there is an
opportunity in organizing the unemployed, and no one
including the labor movement has figured out how to do
Unions are trying to think more creatively. On Nov. 17, as
thousands of occupiers were trying to actually shut down
Wall Street, unions organized actions in three dozen cities,
focusing on shutting down bridges to highlight the crumbling
infrastructure across the United States and the jobs that
could be created by funding repair and rebuilding. Nearly
1,000 people were arrested in the peaceful sit-down protests
and some bridges shut down for hours, but the unions seem
afraid to escape the confines of the very system responsible
for their demise.
The aim was to put pressure on Congress to pass the Obama
administration's jobs bill that could be most charitably
described as inadequate. Paul, the labor reporter, notes
that many unions back corporations in the hopes of getting
union jobs: Carpenters and electricians unions in New York
City side with the real estate industry in support of mega-
construction projects and the United Steel Workers has been
pushing for World Trade Organization sanctions against China
over allegations of "unfair trade practices."
More broadly, Steve Early has taken SEIU to task for
collaborating with the healthcare industry against the
interests of its union members. And Paul notes that leaders
of New York's Transit Workers Union Local 100, which was one
of the first unions to endorse Occupy Wall Street, has not
actively challenged the investment banks that make hundreds
of millions of dollars in profit on the bonds New York State
relies on to fund mass transit. Paul says while Occupy Wall
Street has been calling for the public transit debt to be
canceled, TWU leaders "do not publicly criticize the Wall
Street banks too much because the same banks are managing
the workers' pensions."
Many union organizers counter that labor is in a different
position than the Occupy movement, but they can still work
together. An SEIU organizer in Chicago, who asked not to be
identified by name, says, "When you are a labor leader you
have to be very pragmatic because you are making decisions
about contracts, wages and healthcare that affect your
members. What's exciting about Occupy is that it doesn't
have those contradictions. Occupy doesn't have to have a
million conversations to mobilize its members. They just do
Anne Gemmell seconds that. She sees Occupy benefiting labor
in part because it doesn't have any issues of potential
liability that a union with resources, members and paid
staff do. "There are no leashes holding Occupy's energy
That energy will intensify this year. Occupy Los Angeles has
put out a call for a general strike on May Day. There are
plans for a month-long occupation of Chicago in May when the
rulers of the world come to town in the form of the G-8 and
NATO, and it seems likely that many occupiers will flock to
the Democratic and Republican national conventions next
Next fall the presidential election could see both sides at
odds as occupiers will be decrying both parties as
hopelessly corrupted by corporate dollars, even as organized
labor mobilizes tens of thousands of union members to get
out the vote for the Democrats and Obama.
The Chicago organizer says, "The revolution is not going to
come through the labor movement." And that is true, at least
in its current configuration. But the revolution that many
occupiers dream about can't happen without workers either.
If the Occupy movement keeps growing, then organized labor
will have to decide which side it is really on."
[Arun Gupta, a New York writer and co-founder of Occupy the
Wall Street Journal, covers the Occupy movement for Salon]
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The article targets only Aero in its report on the "torture taxi""
business. But one of its links was to Portland-based Bayard Foreign
Marketing, a CIA front managed by the late attorney Scott Kaplan. In 2004,
it bought a Gulfstream
permitted to use U.S. military bases with the tail
number N44982 (formerly N379P and N8068V) from another CIA front, Premier
Executive Transport Services. The plane was used by the CIA to kidnapp suspected
terrorists and deliver them to its secret torture chambers around the
The Oregon Bar declined to discipline Kaplan in 2007, presumably for
the same reason the article says another torture taxi company was let off the
hook by the courts in 2008: the federal government pleaded a "state secrets"
defense. That company, although not named in the article, was Jeppesen
Travel Services, a Boeing subsidiary.
N.C. air transport company Aero
has role in extraordinary rendition, report says
By Jay Price
SMITHFIELD, N.C. — With fresh ammunition from a
University of North Carolina law school report, activists renewed their call
Thursday for state officials to take legal action against Aero Contractors Ltd.
For years the Johnston County, N.C., air transport company, which has links
to the CIA, has been accused of being a taxi service for paramilitary teams that
pick up terrorism suspects in one country and fly them to another where it's
easier to interrogate and, perhaps, torture them. The process is known as
Law professor Deborah M. Weissman and members of the protest group North
Carolina Stop Torture Now gave copies of their report to representatives of
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and Gov. Bev. Perdue on Thursday
morning, then released it during a news conference at the Johnston County
Airport, where Aero is based.
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gallery on my website
The Class War Has Begun (http://www.theportlandalliance.org/Munk)
And the very "Class-less-ness" of our society makes the conflict more volatile, not less.
by Frank Rich
New York Magazine, Oct 30, 2011
* For details on the Portland reference, see the Portland Red Guide (site # 49, pp 62-63) For the rest of Rich's article, go to http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/10/30-4
During the death throes of Herbert HooverÙs presidency in June 1932, desperate bands of men traveled to Washington and set up camp within view of the Capitol. The first contingent journeyed all the way from Portland, Oregon,* but others soon converged from all over—alone, in groups, with families—until their main Hooverville on the Anacostia RiverÙs fetid mudflats swelled to a population as high as 20,000. The men, World War I veterans who could not find jobs, became known as the Bonus Army—for the modest government bonus they were owed for their service. Under a law passed in 1924, they had been awarded roughly $1,000 each, to be collected in 1945 or at death, whichever came first. But they didnÙt want to wait any longer for their pre–New Deal entitlement—especially given that Congress had bailed out big business with the creation of a Reconstruction Finance Corporation earlier in its session. Father Charles Coughlin, the populist “Radio Priest” who became a phenomenon for railing against “greedy bankers and financiers,” framed WashingtonÙs double standard this way: “If the government can pay $2 billion to the bankers and the railroads, why cannot it pay the $2 billion to the soldiers?"
[ MPI/Getty Images)] The Bonus Army veterans stage a mass vigil on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol in 1932.
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First The Oregonian ignores and then dismisses the ILWU's battle with the
Portland scab herder EGT*and now pronounces its knee jerk contempt
("illegal and inexcusable" behavior) for the working class. Its
prescription-- let a judge decide-- is based on the knowledge that
pro-union judges are a rare as a doug fir in the Alvord desert.
Several years ago, the ILWU held its international convention in Portland.
After a session, the hundreds of delegates marched from the convention
hotel to support the pickets at Powell's Books on Burnsde. Police in riot
gear and nightsticks barred the street. The longshoremen led by their
president pushed right through the police line, which gave way and all
traffic stopped as the demo joined the picket line.
The reason the ILWU survived scabs, vigilantes and McCarthyism is that as
a militant union, they haven't lain down before the bosses' judges with
their injunctions and police enforcers. And that's why the "somebody" who
can answer the Oregonian editorial board's question is not a judge but
union members and supporters who practice the solidarity contained in the
old Wobbly slogan: "An injury to one is an injury to all." -MM
* for details, go to
Longview needs a swift answer
By The Oregonian Editorial Board
September 25, 2011
Yes or no, is a new terminal at the port obliged to use longshore union
They are literally fighting for jobs at the Port of Longview. The
pepper-spray arrests of longshore union leaders and other protesters
Wednesday was the latest spasm of violence surrounding a new $200 million
grain terminal on the Lower Columbia River.
Scores of members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local
21 have been arrested this month on charges of blocking trains, damaging
rail lines, spilling grain, threatening private security guards, and most
recently, assaulting police officers. That behavior is illegal and
inexcusable, and the blame belongs entirely with the union.
But it is the responsibility of the federal courts to resolve in a timely
manner the legal question at the heart of the incendiary dispute that has
passions running dangerously high not just at the port, but throughout
Longview and at ports elsewhere on the West Coast. Is Portland-based EGT,
the owner of the sophisticated new terminal, obliged under its lease with
the Port of Longview to use longshore union labor?
We'll not guess at the answer. But the stakes are high, and not just
because jobs are now so scarce. Since the 1930s, and the sometimes bloody
union battles of that era, the ILWU has handled grain at every major port
on the West Coast. If EGT breaks the longshore union's hold on grain at
the Longview port, it could embolden grain companies at other West Coast
ports to challenge one of the United States' most powerful unions.
This is a major economic issue potentially affecting the entire West
Coast, and it comes a crucial time for Northwest farmers trying to get
their wheat and other grain to market. However, the federal courts are
taking their sweet time with EGT's lawsuit against the port. The Longview
Daily News reports that a ruling isn't expected until sometime next
That's a mighty slow train to justice on an issue that threatens every day
to hurtle out of control, just as it did on Sept. 7 and 8, with hundreds
of union protesters stormed the EGT terminal. Again, there's no excuse for
the union's actions or for the smearing of the members of another union,
the Gladstone-based International Union of Operating Engineers Local 701,
which EGT's operating contractor has turned to for workers. The members of
the engineers union are not "scabs" or interlopers -- in fact, their
local's jurisdiction covers Southwest Washington, including the
This is an issue that already has heated to a slow boil for a year. And it
has been more than nine months since EGT sued the port, arguing that it is
not bound by its lease to contract with the longshore union. And soon, it
will be three months since the port asked a federal judge to order EGT to
honor an agreement to hire Local 21 labor.
Longview shouldn't have to wait another six to nine months for an answer.
The community is burning through its limited law enforcement resources to
clear the way for grain trains to reach the EGT terminal. Last week there
were police in riot gear on hand from at least eight jurisdictions; police
even felt compelled to deploy an armored vehicle called the "Peacekeeper."
Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson had it right when he told The Daily
News, "The courts should recognize that this is not a situation that can
sit on a legal shelf for six to eight months. ... "Somebody needs to step
up and move this thing along."
That somebody is a federal judge.
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War update! US military occupation forces in Iraq and Afganistan and attacking forces in Libya under Commander-in-Chief Obama suffered 111 combat casualties in the week ending March 22, as the official casualty total rose to 102,681.
The total includes 77,833 casualties since the US invaded Iraq in March, 2003 (Operations 'Iraqi Freedom" and "New Dawn"), 24,848 since the US invaded Afganistan in November, 2001 (Operation "Eduring Freedom").and none since it attacked Libya (Operation "Odessy Dawn").this month.
IRAQ THEATER: US forces suffered one combat casualty in the week ending March 22, as the total rose to 77,833. That includes 35,553 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and 42,280 dead and medically evacuated (as of Feb. 28) from "non-hostile" causes. NOTE: There are still 50,000 US troops in Iraq, but they rarely seek combat and remain in their bases most of the time.
AFGANISTAN THEATER: US forces suffered 110 combat casualties in the week ending March 22, as the official total rose to 24,856 The total includes 11,848 dead and wounded from "hostile" causes and 13,008 dead and medically evacuated (as of Feb 28) from "non-hostile" causes.
LIBYA THEATER The two air force officers in the downed F-15E were reportedly rescued but there was no information on whether they were injured..
US media divert attention from the actual cost in American life and limb by only reporting regularily the total killed (5,945 -4,444 in Iraq, 1,501 in Afghanistan) but rarely mentioning those wounded in action (42,732--32,051 in Iraq, 10, 681 in Afghanistan). They ignore the 55,287 ( 41,338 in Iraq, 13,008 in AfPak as of Feb 28) military casualties injured and ill seriously enough to be medivaced out of theater, even though the 5,945 total dead include 1,276 (942 in Iraq, 334 in Afghanistan) who died from those same "non hostile" causes, including 282 suicides (as of Feb 28) and at least 18 from faulty KBR electrical work.
WIA are usually updated on Tuesday at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf
non combat casualties are usually reported monthly at http://siadapp.dmdc.osd.mil/personnel/CASUALTY/castop.htm
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