Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Iconic civil rights advocate laid off by Village Voice

[In the 1960s The Village Voice was a real alternative newspaper that offered a decidedly left wing bohemian approach to the news and arts. Other more underground newspapers followed it. Papers like The Berkeley Barb, East Village Other, Rat and The LA Free Press.

In their hay day these papers provided both political and cultural dissidents a means of communication. they reported news the main stream conservative media would not report unless it was so obvious they had too.

After the 1960 as the dependence upon advertising grew the tenor of those papers which survived became muted and their slant became more a matter of selling alternative culture and points of view as a commodity rather than reporting upon it as an actual produced by those members of that culture alternative lifestyle.

Starting in the 1980s the Village Voice and other so called alternative news papers across the country started to be bought up by media conglomerates and turned into advertising vehicles for a consumerist culture based on shopping one's way to hipness and edginess. The right restaurants, the right wines, the right bands, the right velvet roped clubs and the stylish drug of the moment.

And less and less substance. Nat Hentoff was old school liberal from a time when that meant something. As the years have gone by I have disagreed with what he says as often as I agree with it. This makes him thought provoking, a rare commodity in a world of Twitter and jumpcut CGI conscious. AADD folks aren't much into thinking and that's a pity.]

12/31/2008 @ 12:03 pm
Filed by Muriel Kane

Long-time civil rights advocate Nat Hentoff has been laid off by the financially troubled Village Voice.

The 83 year old Hentoff had worked for the paper since 1958, only three years after its founding. He responded to the news, which he received by phone on Tuesday morning, by saying, “I’m 83 and a half. You’d think they’d have let me go silently. Fortunately, I’ve never been more productive.”

Hentoff's greatest prominent came in the 1960's, when he was known as both a jazz critic and a leading exponent of free speech. He testified at the 1964 obscenity trial of comedian Lenny Bruce and helped launch the career of a young Bob Dylan. In 1971, a veiled reference in Hentoff's column to the Pentagon Papers helped convince the New York Times to print the documents that revealed the Nixon administration's lies.

In recent years, Hentoff has appeared to grow more conservative. He supported the invasion of Iraq on humanitarian grounds and became an opponent of abortion to the point where he refused to support the candidacy of Barack Obama.

However, Hentoff remains a fervent supporter of the freedom of the press. He wrote in his column for the Voice in 2007, "In the more than half a century I've been a reporter, there has never been as systematic an operation to intimidate and then silence the press as is now taking place under the Bush-Cheney-Gonzales administration."

Earlier this month, Hentoff raised an alarm over the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005, which is about to give give the federal government the power to collect DNA samples from anyone arrested for any crime.

“With all due immodesty," Hentoff told the Times, "I think it doesn’t help to lose me because people have told me they read The Voice not only for me, but certainly for me."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Why I Am a Socialist

Posted on Dec 29, 2008

By Chris Hedges

The corporate forces that are looting the Treasury and have plunged us into a depression will not be contained by the two main political parties. The Democratic and Republican parties have become little more than squalid clubs of privilege and wealth, whores to money and corporate interests, hostage to a massive arms industry, and so adept at deception and self-delusion they no longer know truth from lies. We will either find our way out of this mess by embracing an uncompromising democratic socialism—one that will insist on massive government relief and work programs, the nationalization of electricity and gas companies, a universal, not-for-profit government health care program, the outlawing of hedge funds, a radical reduction of our bloated military budget and an end to imperial wars—or we will continue to be fleeced and impoverished by our bankrupt elite and shackled and chained by our surveillance state.

The free market and globalization, promised as the route to worldwide prosperity, have been exposed as a con game. But this does not mean our corporate masters will disappear. Totalitarianism, as George Orwell pointed out, is not so much an age of faith as an age of schizophrenia. “A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial,” Orwell wrote, “that is when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud.” Force and fraud are all they have left. They will use both.

There is a political shift in Europe toward an open confrontation with the corporate state. Germany has seen a surge of support for Die Linke (The Left), a political grouping formed 18 months ago. It is co-led by the veteran socialist “Red” Oskar Lafontaine, who has built his career on attacking big business. Two-thirds of Germans in public opinion polls say they agree with all or some of Die Linke’s platform. The Socialist Party of the Netherlands is on the verge of overtaking the Labor Party as the main opposition party on the left. Greece, beset with street protests and violence by disaffected youths, has seen the rapid rise of the Coalition of the Radical Left. In Spain and Norway socialists are in power. Resurgence is not universal, especially in France and Britain, but the shifts toward socialism are significant.

Corporations have intruded into every facet of life. We eat corporate food. We buy corporate clothes. We drive corporate cars. We buy our vehicular fuel and our heating oil from corporations. We borrow from corporate banks. We invest our retirement savings with corporations. We are entertained, informed and branded by corporations. We work for corporations. The creation of a mercenary army, the privatization of public utilities and our disgusting for-profit health care system are all legacies of the corporate state. These corporations have no loyalty to America or the American worker. They are not tied to nation states. They are vampires.

“By now the [commercial] revolution has deprived the mass of consumers of any independent access to the staples of life: clothing, shelter, food, even water,” Wendell Berry wrote in “The Unsettling of America.” “Air remains the only necessity that the average user can still get for himself, and the revolution had imposed a heavy tax on that by way of pollution. Commercial conquest is far more thorough and final than military defeat.”

The corporation is designed to make money without regard to human life, the social good or impact on the environment. Corporate laws impose a legal duty on corporate executives to make as much money as possible for shareholders, although many have moved on to fleece shareholders as well. In the 2003 documentary film “The Corporation” the management guru Peter Drucker says: “If you find an executive who wants to take on social responsibilities, fire him. Fast.”

A corporation that attempts to engage in social responsibility, that tries to pay workers a decent wage with benefits, that invests its profits to protect the environment and limit pollution, that gives consumers fair deals, can be sued by shareholders. Robert Monks, the investment manager, says in the film: “The corporation is an externalizing machine, in the same way that a shark is a killing machine. There isn’t any question of malevolence or of will. The enterprise has within it, and the shark has within it, those characteristics that enable it to do that for which it was designed.” Ray Anderson, the CEO of Interface Corp., the world’s largest commercial carpet manufacturer, calls the corporation a “present day instrument of destruction” because of its compulsion to “externalize any cost that an unwary or uncaring public will allow it to externalize.”

“The notion that we can take and take and take and take, waste and waste, without consequences, is driving the biosphere to destruction,” Anderson says.

In short, the film, based on Joel Bakan’s book “The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power,” asserts that the corporation exhibits many of the traits found in people clinically defined as psychopaths.

Psychologist Dr. Robert Hare lists in the film psychopathic traits and ties them to the behavior of corporations:

  • callous unconcern for the feelings for others;
  • incapacity to maintain enduring relationships;
  • reckless disregard for the safety of others;
  • deceitfulness: repeated lying and conning others for profit;
  • incapacity to experience guilt;
  • failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior.

And yet, under the American legal system, corporations have the same legal rights as individuals. They give hundreds of millions of dollars to political candidates, fund the army of some 35,000 lobbyists in Washington and thousands more in state capitals to write corporate-friendly legislation, drain taxpayer funds and abolish government oversight. They saturate the airwaves, the Internet, newsprint and magazines with advertisements promoting their brands as the friendly face of the corporation. They have high-priced legal teams, millions of employees, skilled public relations firms and thousands of elected officials to ward off public intrusions into their affairs or halt messy lawsuits. They hold a near monopoly on all electronic and printed sources of information. A few media giants—AOL-Time Warner, General Electric, Viacom, Disney and Rupert Murdoch’s NewsGroup—control nearly everything we read, see and hear.

“Private capital tends to become concentrated in [a] few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of the smaller ones,” Albert Einstein wrote in 1949 in the Monthly Review in explaining why he was a socialist. “The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.”

Labor and left-wing activists, especially university students and well-heeled liberals, have failed to unite. This division, which is often based on social rather than economic differences, has long stymied concerted action against ruling elites. It has fractured the American left and rendered it impotent.

“Large sections of the middle class are being gradually proletarianized; but the important point is that they do not, at any rate not in the first generation, adopt a proletarian outlook,” Orwell wrote in 1937 during the last economic depression. “Here I am, for instance, with a bourgeois upbringing and a working-class income. Which class do I belong to? Economically I belong to the working class, but it is almost impossible for me to think of myself as anything but a member of the bourgeoisie. And supposing I had to take sides, whom should I side with, the upper class which is trying to squeeze me out of existence, or the working class whose manners are not my manners? It is probable that I, personally, in any important issue, would side with the working class. But what about the tens or hundreds of thousands of others who are in approximately the same position? And what about that far larger class, running into millions this time—the office-workers and black-coated employees of all kinds—whose traditions are less definite middle class but who would certainly not thank you if you called them proletarians? All of these people have the same interests and the same enemies as the working class. All are being robbed and bullied by the same system. Yet how many of them realize it? When the pinch came nearly all of them would side with their oppressors and against those who ought to be their allies. It is quite easy to imagine a working class crushed down to the worst depths of poverty and still remaining bitterly anti-working-class in sentiment; this being, of course, a ready-made Fascist party.”

Coalitions of environmental, anti-nuclear, anti-capitalist, sustainable-agriculture and anti-globalization forces have coalesced in Europe to form and support socialist parties. This has yet to happen in the United States. The left never rallied in significant numbers behind Cynthia McKinney or Ralph Nader. In picking the lesser of two evils, it threw its lot in with a Democratic Party that backs our imperial wars, empowers the national security state and does the bidding of corporations.

If Barack Obama does not end the flagrant theft of taxpayer funds by corporate slugs and the disgraceful abandonment of our working class, especially as foreclosures and unemployment mount, many in the country will turn in desperation to the far right embodied by groups such as Christian radicals. The failure by the left to offer a democratic socialist alternative will mean there will be, in the eyes of many embittered and struggling working- and middle-class Americans, no alternative but a perverted Christian fascism. The inability to articulate a viable socialism has been our gravest mistake. It will ensure, if this does not soon change, a ruthless totalitarian capitalism.

Riots push Greece to the edge

Police battle youths in Athens (20 December 2008)
The riots are estimated to have cost businesses in the capital more than $1bn

By Malcolm Brabant
BBC News, Athens

Pulsating punk rock was stoking up the black-clad army of students outside the University of Athens, as, yet again, they prepared to march on parliament.

The Stranglers were singing: "Whatever happened to all the heroes? All the Shakespearoes? They watched their Rome burn."

The setting was appropriate: the Propylea, as the university's main building is known, resembles a temple from Greece's own glorious classical era.

All along Panepistimiou, or University Boulevard, security men in upscale jewellers, boutiques and the Attica department store, hastily lowered the electronic shutters.

The guards at the Bank of Greece retreated behind supposedly impregnable bronze doors, and steeled themselves for yet another assault on the symbols of wealth, prosperity and unbridled capitalism.

Since a policeman shot dead 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos on 6 December, daily riots are estimated to have cost the entrepreneurs in the capital more than $1bn.

Economic crisis

In among the hooded tops and Arab scarves was a man with owlish glasses and an immaculate mane of silvery, white hair.

Panos Garganas is a career protester who has taken part in every annual 17 November march on the US embassy.

That march commemorates the day in 1973 when tanks of the US-backed military dictatorship smashed through the gates of the Polytechnic university and crushed a student uprising.

Whether it is a demonstration to support asylum seekers or to complain about the intrusion of privacy threatened by CCTV before the 2004 Olympic Games, Mr Garganas will be there.

He is a member of the hard left Socialist Workers' Party and is the total antithesis of the stereotypical rabid Trotskyite: unfailingly polite, articulate, and persuasively reasonable in his arguments.

I asked him to apply some historical context to the most serious civil disturbances in Greece since the fall of the colonels' military dictatorship 34 years' ago.

"I think we should see today's developments in terms of 1989," he replied. "Back then, it was the Eastern bloc that collapsed under the pressure of economic crisis, and popular movements in the streets. Now we are seeing the same in the West."

"The economic crisis is huge and Greece is showing, I think, the future for what will happen in other countries. We could say that 2009, 20 years on, will see the collapse of Western capitalism."

I asked him if he was not simply looking at the recent unrest through the rose-tinted glasses of an old left-wing romantic.

"Well, yes, of course. I am all of those things you just said," he replied. "But this democracy is failing people and the present revolt is much deeper, it will last much longer, it will affect society much more profoundly."

"It does mean misery... in terms of people losing their jobs, their homes and their pensions. There's going to be a lot of suffering. But at the same time people are reacting, not in a resigned way, but with anger and with action and that's always hopeful."

The unrest across Greece is no longer an outpouring of youthful anger over the "martyrdom" of a schoolboy in the Athens district of Exarchia.

As Mr Garganas explained, for many protesters it is now a vigorous attempt both to topple the conservative government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, and to create waves across Europe.

European fears

Further confirmation came from the mouth of Petros Constantinou, a bearded firebrand wearing wire-rimmed spectacles that might have fitted Leon Trotsky.

I asked him to justify the burning and looting of shops belonging to people not remotely connected to the death of Alexis Grigoropoulos.

"When we have revolutions, we don't drink tea in our saloons, we have fights in the streets," Mr Constantinou shouted.

So should Greece's European Union partners dismiss this talk of revolution as being little more than extremist rhetoric, or is there something more substantial to fear?

The riots have clearly unsettled France's President, Nicolas Sarkozy. He has postponed plans to reform the curriculum of secondary school pupils in case they ignite copycat protests.

"In the name of symbols, they can overthrow the country. They are regicidal," Mr Sarkozy told the French parliament. "Just look what's going on in Greece."

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is also deeply concerned and has advised governments to spend more money in an effort to ease the global economic crisis.

In a BBC interview, Mr Strauss-Kahn spoke of 2009 as "really being a bad year".

"I'm especially concerned by the fact that our forecast, already very dark... will be even darker if not enough fiscal stimulus is implemented," he said.

"The question of having social unrest has been highlighted by journalists and I can understand that, but its only part of the problem," he added. "The problem is that the whole society is going to suffer."

At present, the demonstrations across Greece are mainly attracting students, high-school pupils, veteran leftist campaigners and members of the so called 700-euro generation - disenchanted graduates who are unable to break through the ceiling of this nation's minimum wage.

The working and middle classes are staying away, perhaps because of the petrol bombs and tear gas.

There is neither a co-coordinated plan of action, nor a charismatic revolutionary leader.

But Greek trades unions and university students are now trying to mobilise sympathisers who are watching the troubles on television rather than participating.

Sleeping giant stirring

Pay attention to the old-fashioned, Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Greece (KKE). Remember them?

Despite the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet bloc, the Greek hammer and sickle has never conceded the demise of its ideology and has maintained a consistent level of support across the country of about 6 or 7%.

Since 1989, the KKE has appeared something of an anachronism, but the sleeping giant is stirring.

The communists have been among the more responsible politicians over the past fortnight, condemning the violence and exerting tight discipline over their protest rallies.

Intelligently, they are doing their utmost not to alienate the masses, whereas Syriza, the coalition of the left, supported by younger voters in the last general election, has been accused of stoking the flames.

Foreign income

Pay attention also to Greece's key sources of foreign income next year. If they fail, then Mr Constantinou's revolution could attract more foot soldiers.

Tourism and shipping each contribute around 20% towards Greece's national earnings.

The sight of smoke obscuring the Acropolis is likely to deter American tourists doing a grand Mediterranean tour.

The collapse of sterling against the euro means that British tourists, who help sustain Crete, Corfu, Halkidiki and other package holiday destinations, may choose to get their annual sun fix in Croatia or Turkey.

The desperation of Greek hoteliers will be used by British travel companies as an excuse to drive even harder bargains.

This year, during a break in Corfu, the owner of a quaint clifftop apartment complex told me that his colleagues were struggling to break even, as they were only getting five euros per bed, per night.

The crash earlier in 2008 of British travel firm XL has left scores of Greek hoteliers close to bankruptcy.

Some had been waiting a year for XL to pay their 2007 invoices. The demise of XL will mean that some island entrepreneurs will lose two years' income.

If you fly into Athens International Airport, take a look out of the window as you cross the Straits of Salamis between the port of Piraeus and the island of Salamina.

This is the location of one of what was arguably the most important sea battle of all time.

In 480 BC, the Athenian navy destroyed the armada of King Xerxes of Persia and thus ensured that Western civilisation evolved under Greek, rather than Asian, influence.

Today the straits are filling up with dozens of cargo vessels, rocking at anchor and going nowhere. Their owners can no longer afford to run them.

According to George Gratsos, president of the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping, in May of this year, when cargo rates were at their peak, you could get $235,000 a day for transporting iron ore.

"Now you can barely get $3,000," he told me.

That amounts to less than a vessel's daily running costs.

Greek ship owners, who are amongst this country's richest and most powerful people, can afford to sit on their enormous financial cushions and ride out the economic crisis.

But what about the 100,000 Greeks who depend on the shipping industry for their livelihoods?

Most middle class Greeks have been working 16-hour days to provide the bare necessities of life.

Many are now facing ruin through no fault of their own.

So how can Europeans stop Greece's social uprising escalating?

Well, for a start, they could help by taking a holiday in Greece.

Whatever the dire threats of the would-be revolutionaries, the riots are not going to reach the thousands of idyllic beaches and inspiring archaeological sites.

But if you are coming to Athens in 2009, pack a gas mask with your bikini, just in case.

Say What? Has the RepubliNazi Party Lost its Collective Freaking Mind, Or What?

RNC mulls accusing Bush of 'socialism'

12/30/2008 @ 1:34 pm

Filed by Nick Juliano
The divisions taking hold among Republicans are becoming more severe as the party prepares to accuse its outgoing president of embracing "socialism."

The slur that conservatives were so fond of lobbing at Barack Obama during the presidential campaign is now being directed toward President Bush and GOP lawmakers who supported federal bailouts of the banking and auto industries.

At its meeting next month, the Republican National Committee is set to vote on a resolution formally opposing the bailouts, accusing Bush of helping nationalize the banks and taking "another dangerous step closer toward socialism," the Washington Times reports Tuesday.

"We can't be a party of small government, free markets and low taxes while supporting bailouts and nationalizing industries, which lead to big government, socialism and high taxes at the expense of individual liberty and freedoms," Solomon Yue, an Oregon member and co-sponsor of the resolution told the Times.

The resolution reads, in part:
"WHEREAS, the Bank Bailout Bill effectively nationalized the Nation's banking system, giving the United States non-voting warrants from participating financial institutions, and moving our free market based economy another dangerous step closer toward socialism; and WHEREAS, what was needed, and is still needed, to fix the banking industry is not a bailout, but rather a commitment to fiscal responsibility."
Republican leaders in both the House and Senate supported the Wall Street bailout, and GOP presidential candidate John McCain infamously "suspended" his campaign to return to Washington and whip up support for the bill. A Republican-led filibuster blocked the auto industry bailout in the Senate, but Bush decided to use some of the previously approved $700 billion to grant loans to the car companies.

During the campaign, accusations that Obama was a closet socialist proliferated on talk radio, conservative blogs and in McCain/Palin campaign speeches.

For the record, "The resolution also opposes President-elect Obama's proposed public works program and supports conservative alternatives," another co-sponsor told the Times.

The case for a socialist alternative

In a world of war, oppression and economic crisis, the need for fundamental change has never seemed more urgent. Todd Chretien examines the choices we have to make a new future.

THE CURRENT economic crisis has debunked the fiction that there is some sort of iron wall between politics and economics.

For decades, the partisans of the free market fought to liberate their system from the "meddling" of governments and bureaucrats. But when the blue chips were down, Wall Street and its friends in Washington dropped their anti-government ideal like a hot potato. Treasury Secretary and ex-Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson led the charge by demanding the power to disburse $700 billion in taxpayers' money to try to manage the disaster.

This about-face destroyed the last vestiges of the consensus in favor of an unfettered free market among large sections of the business and political elite. No less than ex-Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan--once called "the maestro" by his adoring fans for his supposed genius in orchestrating the economy--admitted in October that he had found a "flaw" in his ultra-libertarian, free-market faith that had led to the housing bubble and subsequent crash.

To top it all off, the Big Three American auto companies are now in a downward spiral, and are warning that they may have to file bankruptcy if the government doesn't bail them out, like it did the banks.

Barack Obama is, according to the New York Times, "looking to the New Deal" for inspiration to guide his plan to stimulate the economy and create 2.5 million jobs during his first term.

This has led to the recognition that the "economy" is just as "political" as gay marriage. That is, there is no "invisible hand" that manages the economy, while voters and politicians decide "social issues" like abortion, environmental protection, health care and education.

Nor is there any sort of abstract "national interest" that governs American military interventions in isolation from domestic politics. All of it is political, and it is all related.

Fortunately, Obama's election represents a renewed interest in politics at an important time. The question is: What political ideas and strategies are available, and which ones should you adopt?

I think there are four basic varieties to choose from: 1) The Right; 2) Liberalism from Above; 3) Liberalism from Below; and 4) Revolutionary Change and Socialism. Of course, this is a simplified description, but the point is to insist on the need to think through the ideas that guide your political actions.

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The Right

While I doubt many readers would consider this option, it's important to understand it. After all, The Right has dominated American politics since 1980.

It did so partially by mobilizing an extremely racist, sexist, homophobic and nationalist base--the so-called Christian Right. However, this base's power was always overblown and, in the end, rested on its utility to the dominant sections of the ruling class, which used it to bring the Republicans to power in order to smash the unions, tear up the social safety net and re-arm the Pentagon. In short, the Christian Right was the battering ram for Wall Street.

One early indication that this relationship of convenience was ending was the decisive support from the wealthiest Americans that Obama received during the election compared to John McCain. Without its agnostic patrons at the top, the Christian Right has been reduced to shouting "Kill him!" at McCain rallies, and is stuck with Sarah Palin as its champion.

The splintering of this coalition, which the post-election sniping between Palin and McCain illustrated, has rendered both weaker for the time being. However, that doesn't mean it will give up. In fact, the far-right "kill him" faction, though marginalized, may well grow more aggressive in the years to come. But The Right is down for now, and it should be kept down wherever it shows its bigoted face.

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Liberalism from Above

Barack Obama's election as president signals the rebirth of official liberalism in American politics. This is a welcome development, but it is important to understand exactly what this means.

Liberalism from Above is not a marginal "deviation" in American history. In fact, it has often dominated for long periods.

For instance, from Teddy Roosevelt's election in 1900 to the end of Woodrow Wilson's second term in 1920, the U.S. government, or at least powerful factions within it, championed breaking up capitalist monopolies, legislation prohibiting child labor, the expansion of public education, environmental conservation and woman's suffrage.

After the right led the Roaring Twenties into the Great Depression of the 1930s, the second Roosevelt, FDR, ruled from 1932 to 1945, ushering in the New Deal.

Official liberalism didn't adopt socialism in these eras, as right-wingers like to claim. Rather, capitalism in the later decades of the 1800s and the 1920s had gotten so crisis-prone and unbalanced that the "free market" required the very visible hand of government to straighten out its affairs and restore profitability.

The aim was not to overturn the system, but defend it. As FDR put it, "I'm the best friend the profit system ever had."

In order to legislate the anti-trust laws or the New Deal, Liberalism from Above needed to overcome resistance within the ruling class, which meant appealing to the working class on a limited and temporary basis in order to make the necessary adjustments. Thus, Teddy Roosevelt's opposition to child labor and FDR's initial tolerance for union organizing and his support for Social Security.

However, there were strict limits on what Liberalism from Above was willing to deliver. During this entire period, Jim Crow reigned supreme in the South, and the official liberals refused to pass anti-lynching laws. Most importantly, the New Deal didn't end the Depression. The Second World War did.

Organizationally, Liberalism from Above is first and foremost concerned with winning Congress and the presidency. Primarily, it relies on big money to do this. But sometimes, it must also "call out the troops," especially come election time, in order to defeat powerful opponents. Thus, FDR relied on the unions to get out the vote, and Obama, despite the millions he raised, had to organize a gigantic volunteer operation to defeat first Hillary Clinton and then John McCain.

This is a tremendously important fact. The millions of union members and college students and ordinary people who worked on the Obama campaign were not optional extras. They made the difference between victory and defeat, and they should be proud of their efforts.

Obama, especially early in the primaries, appealed to the idea of building a "movement," and referenced the labor and civil rights movements as models for his campaign organization. The fact that he won using this imagery and rhetoric shows the hunger for action against poverty, racism and war.

Now, the question is: What will Obama want done with this massive volunteer organization? Where will he lead it? The most likely scenario is that he will want it kept alive to help the Democrats win the midterm elections and himself a second term in 2012. But he won't want to allow it any independent life of its own.

Certainly, many people will be happy to settle for this. "After all," they will say, "if all Obama needs is a volunteer operation to win elections, and then he can carry out positive reforms on our behalf, doesn't that make sense?"

This seems like a reasonable idea. But it is important to keep in mind the limits of what his predecessors were willing to do.

In fact, there is a darker side to liberalism from above. Both Roosevelts and Wilson advocated and employed military power to transform America into the greatest imperialist empire the world has even known. Under the banner of "civilizing" colonial people or "protecting American interests," liberalism from above has never shied away from "wielding a big stick."

Today, Obama's decision to keep Bush's Defense Secretary William Gates on board and to appoint Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State--not to mention his promise to conduct a "surge" into Afghanistan--all indicate he intends to stand squarely in this tradition.

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Liberalism from Below

Liberalism in America has always been double-sided. Liberalism from Below has a powerful history in the U.S., including some moderate sections of the anti-slavery movement and the suffragettes, much of the labor union and civil rights leadership, and, most recently, both the Vietnam and Iraq antiwar movements.

Liberalism from Below has often developed a powerful critique of Liberalism from Above. Time and time again, the conflict between activists on the ground and their supposed champions in high places has led to inspiring political struggles. In the 1930s, union leaders seized on FDR's tepid recognition of the right to organize to launch a wave of strikes, but FDR's supposedly "pro-labor" officials repeatedly sided with the bosses.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" castigated mainstream liberals who argued that civil rights should "wait" until the powers that be felt ready to hand down legislation. King attacked this idea and argued that only mass action would force the politicians' hands. In essence, King had to threaten Liberalism from Above in order to force it to do what it said it would.

In 1964, Students for a Democratic Society adopted the slogan "Half the Way with LBJ," based on his promise not to escalate the war in Vietnam. When he did exactly that within weeks of his election, SDS had a choice--either support Liberalism from Above or organize a mass movement to stop it.

Of course, the tension between Liberalism from Above and Liberalism from Below isn't always this obvious. For instance, the AFL-CIO spent tens of millions of dollars and millions more volunteer hours to get Obama elected. And Obama repeatedly and forthrightly promised to push through the Employee Free Choice Act, which, if passed, could lead to an explosion of unionization.

If Obama keeps his word, the main enemy will be the Republicans and conservative Democrats and their friends at WalMart, who may try to block it. This could lead to a situation where Obama and the AFL-CIO are on the same side of a crucial fight, at least temporarily.

However, the depth of the economic crisis and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan mean that the scale of reforms necessary to end the suffering go well beyond anything that Obama is prepared to endorse.

For instance, his plan to spend federal money to create (or retain) 2.5 million jobs is a welcome change, but it will fall far short of ending unemployment in the U.S. Today, there are at least 15 million people who are unemployed or can only find a crappy, part-time job when they need full-time work. Reducing this number by 15 percent is a welcome start, but it's hardly a solution.

There is a real potential for a struggle to develop in the coming years in the spaces between what Obama has offered, what his friends on Wall Street are prepared to support and the needs of the vast majority of the American working class.

In short, if Liberalism from Above is the response on the part of one section of the ruling class to the excesses of the system it supports, Liberalism from Below is the fight against the inadequacy of that response. However, politically, it is still a struggle that accepts that capitalism can be fixed--even if it must be done so against the will of some capitalists.

Organizationally, Liberalism from Below has developed union and movement structures that are far more durable and effective than mere electoral machines. The NAACP, the National Organization for Women, the AFL-CIO and so on have all mobilized large numbers of people in pursuit of their important goals.

However, most times, their leaderships have simultaneously accepted the idea that they must place their resources at the disposal of Liberalism from Above at election time. This devotion of resources and energy has often been misplaced and led, not to an increase in their power as social movements, but the opposite.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Revolutionary Change and Socialism

Alongside Liberalism from Below, a more radical vision for society has struggled for influence throughout U.S. history.

From the Revolutionary War and the fight for independence, to the Civil War and the struggle to abolish slavery, there were revolutionaries like Thomas Paine and Sojourner Truth who understood that Liberalism from Above would only begrudgingly pursue reform.

From the beginning of the 20th century, that revolutionary tradition has been embodied in the socialist movement, which included the IWW, the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, the Black Panther Party and other socialist groups in the 1960s.

Why socialism? Two reasons.

The United Nations estimates that more than 2 billion people around the world live on less than $2 a day, while 6 million children starve to death or die from easily preventable diseases each year. That's another Holocaust, each and every year.

We have the absurd situation of lacking funds to develop sustainable energy technology, while the U.S. spends more than $100 billion a year to kill Iraqis for oil. We have the most advanced medical technology in the world, but 45 million people go without health care insurance.

Those absurdities--in short, the contradiction between the capacity to create and capitalism's inability to distribute to everyone--helped create the movement for socialism, with the aim of taking the power out of the hands of the private mega-rich who use their wealth for personal gain and putting it into the hands of the people who actually do the work.

Socialists believe that, not only do workers have the right to take over the economy and run it democratically, but that if they do not, the capitalists will continue down the path of war and ruin until they destroy the planet.

The other source of the socialist movement came from the experience of the limitations of Liberalism from Below and the question that has emerged time and again: Do you accept the limits imposed on the struggle, or do you go beyond them and question the whole system?

For instance, it was in the struggle to force FDR to keep to his promises that unionists finally decided they needed to organize a series of citywide general strikes in 1934 that set the stage for the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organizations union federation in 1935 and the mass sit-down strikes that followed.

The liberal union leaderships were afraid to launch these strikes because it would mean confronting the police and embarrassing FDR. It took socialists and communists to say, "If the choice is between FDR's friendship and winning a strike, we say strike."

Martin Luther King Jr. followed a similar path. He helped win the end of legalized Jim Crow, but he recognized that poverty and institutionalized discrimination remained, which led him to say, "You have to ask how people can go thirsty in a world that is two-thirds covered with water."

When you ask that question, it leads you in the direction of the socialist critique of capitalism.

And King had a decision to make about Vietnam. Liberalism from Above insisted that the cause of civil rights would be damaged by taking an antiwar position. In essence, LBJ offered civil rights in exchange for King's support for killing Vietnamese people. King could either accept that offer or move beyond it--which he courageously did in 1967 when he declared that "my government is the primary purveyor of violence" in the world.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

What Kind of Organization?

Socialists believe the first step is to gather together the people who share their point of view in a political organization or party. But because the capitalists control the media, and because workers are taught to submit to the boss and "those who know better," at most times, socialist ideas remain on the margins of society. So to be a socialist, you have to be prepared to be in a minority.

In and of itself, that shouldn't scare any serious person looking to change the world. Every powerful movement that ever changed anything began as a minority opinion.

However, there is the danger that the minority can become contented to "know better"--and just be happy to be "right." This is a recipe for arrogance and sectarianism. Like Marx said, "The philosophers have interpreted the world; the point, however, is to change it."

This means that once you've decided you agree with socialist ideas, you have to do something about it. No matter how small, socialist organizations must always seek to put their ideas into practice in whatever real movements are fighting back against the system, be they large or small.

And because Liberalism from Above helps to legitimate Liberalism from Below, that means participating in movements and organizations that are not socialist in outlook. Instead, they seek to win reforms within the system, like stronger unions, abortion rights, an end to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, immigrant rights, gay marriage and so on.

We do this for two reasons. First, getting rid of capitalism will be a long, tough fight, and the only people with enough power to do it are the huge majority of the working class. And the only way they'll learn to take on the whole system is by starting out taking on some more limited aspect of it.

In other words, you can't learn to swim by reading a book. You learn to swim by going in the water--although it's best if you start off in the shallow end.

Second, once people are in motion, they become more receptive to new ideas and strategies. In the Civil War, white Northern soldiers went to war to preserve the Union, but a number ended up fighting for the rights of slaves.

Eugene V. Debs got into politics as a Democrat and ended up running for president as a socialist while in prison for opposing the First World War, on orders of a Democratic administration. Malcolm X started out as an apolitical, small-time criminal; he emerged as one of the world's foremost revolutionaries. Real political action changes people.

Socialists don't stand aside from that struggle, but seek to participate alongside people who hold different ideas.

In that common struggle, there is a battle for ideas. Liberalism from Above constantly seeks to put limits and conditions on the fight. Movement leaders who represent Liberalism from Below argue for their point of view. Often, that point of view is so pervasive that it is seen as "common sense," but it is, in fact, a highly developed ideology. Socialists try to pull in the other direction, towards mass participation, more radical reforms and questioning the whole system.

The coming political period will be very exciting, but also complex. Barack Obama will sometimes push in the right direction, but he has also made it obvious that he intends to defend the pillars of American capitalism and imperialism.

Socialists will join every fight we can to push things in favor of the working class, for gay marriage, abortion rights, legalization for immigrants and an end to the wars. However, we will also argue against accepting the limits placed on the struggle, or rotten political compromises that would, for example, pit African Americans against gays and lesbians, native born against immigrant workers, unemployed against union members. And in the process, we will try to recruit more and more people to a socialist point of view.

You aren't obliged to agree with the socialists. But you do have the responsibility to participate in the effort to change the world, and to study history and politics in order to clarify what you believe to be the best way forward.

If you have faith in Liberalism from Above, then study so that you can explain your ideas and try to win more people over to them. This leads logically to trying to reform or strengthen the Democratic Party as your main task.

If you believe that Liberalism from Below is a more realistic strategy for change, then you'd better learn what really happened in the 1930s, and during civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, in order to avoid a repetition of McCarthyism and Reaganism.

If you're interested in the socialist, revolutionary point of view, then find a way to meet up and discuss ideas with the socialists in person or online, and join alongside us while we organize around the many pressing issues of the day.

Politics is not a spectator sport. Get in the game.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

What else to read

For an introduction to socialism and the socialist tradition, read The Case for Socialism [2], by Socialist Worker editor Alan Maass.

For a recounting of the hidden history of workers' resistance and the socialist tradition in the U.S., read Sharon Smith's Subterranean Fire: A History of Working Class Radicalism in the United States [3].

Lance Selfa's The Democrats: A Critical History [4] examines the two-party system in the U.S. and focuses on a socialist analysis of the Democratic Party.

Paul D'Amato's The Meaning of Marxism [5] provides a lively and accessible account of the ideas of Karl Marx, using historical and contemporary examples.

The best introduction to Marxism remains The Communist Manifesto [6], written 160 years ago by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. A new edition of the Manifesto, edited by Phil Gasper, provides full annotation, clear historical references and explanation, additional related text and a full glossary.

US housing index in record slump

House prices in 20 US cities fell by a record annual rate of 18.04% in October, according to a closely-watched home price survey.

The index shows that prices of homes is continuing to fall across the US with many areas showing record price falls.

David Blitzer, of Standard & Poor's said: "Home prices are back to their March 2004 levels."

The S&P/Case-Shiller index measures the prices of existing family homes in 20 metropolitan areas across the US.

Record falls

October's annual fall was more than had been expected by analysts, who had been predicting a 17% drop.

The city which showed the biggest price-fall was Phoenix, where home prices plunged 32.6% in the year to October - followed by Las Vegas, which was down 31.7% and San Francisco, down 31%.

Overall, house prices for the 20 metropolitan areas in the survey fell 18.04% in the year to October, the largest drop since its inception in 2000.

The annual fall in prices for the top 10 metropolitan areas was 19.06%, its biggest decline in its 21-year history.

Both indices have now recorded annual declines for 22 consecutive months.

Prices in the 20-city index have dropped more than 23% since their peak in July 2006, while the 10-city index has fallen 25% since its peak in June 2006.

None of the 20 cities saw annual price gains in October - for the seventh consecutive month.

'Decline slowing'

Wall Street's reaction to this latest housing survey was initially muted, as November figures on the depressed state of the housing market have already been published.

Last week, figures from the Commerce Department showed that sales of new homes in the US had slowed to their lowest level in 17 years in November, while new home prices had dropped by the biggest amount in eight months.

Tim Ghriskey of Solaris Asset Management in Bedford Hills, said this survey was "pretty much right in line with expectations but very depressed".

"There are signs we believe that the decline in housing prices is slowing and we're in a bottoming process but clearly this does show that housing prices continue to decline significantly," he said.

The US housing market is in the worst downturn since the Great Depression as a huge supply of unsold homes, the credit squeeze and record mortgage foreclosures has pushed down home prices.

Economists believe the market will not begin to recover until home prices fall far enough to stimulate demand, which has dropped off precipitously.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/12/30 14:51:02 GMT


Monday, December 29, 2008

Report: Military may have to quell domestic violence from economic collapse

12/29/2008 @ 3:39 pm
Filed by Nick Juliano

Deepening economic strife in the US could lead to civil unrest and violence that would require military intervention, warns a new report from the US Army War College.

"Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security," writes Nathan Freier, a 20-year Army veteran and visiting professor at the college.

A copy of the 44-page report, "Known Unknowns: Unconventional 'Strategic Shocks' in Defense Strategy Development," can be downloaded here. Freier notes that his report expresses only his own views and does not represent US policy, but it's certain that his recommendations have come before at least some Defense Department officials.

The author warns potential causes for such civil unrest could include another terrorist attack, "unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters." The situation could deteriorate to the point where military intervention was required, he argues.

"Under these conditions and at their most violent extreme," he concludes, "civilian authorities, on advice of the defense establishment, would need to rapidly determine the parameters defining the legitimate use of military force inside the United States."

While the scenario presented is "likely not an immediate prospect," Freier concedes, it deserves consideration. Prior to 9/11, no one in the defense establishment would have envisioned a plot to topple skyscrapers with airliners, and the military should not be caught so off-guard again, he says.

To the extent events like this involve organized violence against local, state, and national authorities and exceed the capacity of the former two to restore public order and protect vulnerable populations, DoD would be required to fill the gap," he writes. "This is largely uncharted strategic territory."

Freier's report has merited some concern as it comes alongside revelations that the Defense Department has assigned a full-time Army unit to be on-call for domestic deployment.

An article in Monday's El Paso Times notes that military and police officials in Texas are unaware of team-up efforts such as those suggested in the report.

Arizona authorities told the Phoenix Business Journal they are similarly unaware of any new plans, although the Phoenix Police Department made clear its officers "always train to prepare for any civil unrest issue."

The Posse Comitatus Act restricts the military's role in domestic law enforcement, but it does not completely preclude involvement in cases of emergency or when emergency law is declared. As of now, though, such scenarios seem unlikely.

The bulk of Freier's report recommends refocusing Defense Department strategy toward thinking outside the box, in general, and the unlikely possibility of domestic deployments is just one longshot example he uses to illustrate a worst case scenario.

Premarital Abstinence Pledges Ineffective, Study Finds

Teenagers Who Make Such Promises Are Just as Likely to Have Sex, and Less Likely to Use Protection, the Data Indicate

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 29, 2008; A02

Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a "virginity pledge," but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.

"Taking a pledge doesn't seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior," said Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics. "But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking."

The study is the latest in a series that have raised questions about programs that focus on encouraging abstinence until marriage, including those that specifically ask students to publicly declare their intention to remain virgins. The new analysis, however, goes beyond earlier analyses by focusing on teens who had similar values about sex and other issues before they took a virginity pledge.

"Previous studies would compare a mixture of apples and oranges," Rosenbaum said. "I tried to pull out the apples and compare only the apples to other apples."

The findings are reigniting the debate about the effectiveness of abstinence-focused sexual education just as Congress and the new Obama administration are about to reconsider the more than $176 million in annual funding for such programs.

"This study again raises the issue of why the federal government is continuing to invest in abstinence-only programs," said Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "What have we gained if we only encourage young people to delay sex until they are older, but then when they do become sexually active -- and most do well before marriage -- they don't protect themselves or their partners?"

James Wagoner of the advocacy group Advocates for Youth agreed: "The Democratic Congress needs to get its head out of the sand and get real about sex education in America."

Proponents of such programs, however, dismissed the study as flawed and argued that programs that focus on abstinence go much further than simply asking youths to make a one-time promise to remain virgins.

"It is remarkable that an author who employs rigorous research methodology would then compromise those standards by making wild, ideologically tainted and inaccurate analysis regarding the content of abstinence education programs," said Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association.

Rosenbaum analyzed data collected by the federal government's National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which gathered detailed information from a representative sample of about 11,000 students in grades seven through 12 in 1995, 1996 and 2001.

Although researchers have analyzed data from that survey before to examine abstinence education programs, the new study is the first to use a more stringent method to account for other factors that could influence the teens' behavior, such as their attitudes about sex before they took the pledge.

Rosenbaum focused on about 3,400 students who had not had sex or taken a virginity pledge in 1995. She compared 289 students who were 17 years old on average in 1996, when they took a virginity pledge, with 645 who did not take a pledge but were otherwise similar. She based that judgment on about 100 variables, including their attitudes and their parents' attitudes about sex and their perception of their friends' attitudes about sex and birth control.

"This study came about because somebody who decides to take a virginity pledge tends to be different from the average American teenager. The pledgers tend to be more religious. They tend to be more conservative. They tend to be less positive about sex. There are some striking differences," Rosenbaum said. "So comparing pledgers to all non-pledgers doesn't make a lot of sense."

By 2001, Rosenbaum found, 82 percent of those who had taken a pledge had retracted their promises, and there was no significant difference in the proportion of students in both groups who had engaged in any type of sexual activity, including giving or receiving oral sex, vaginal intercourse, the age at which they first had sex, or their number of sexual partners. More than half of both groups had engaged in various types of sexual activity, had an average of about three sexual partners and had had sex for the first time by age 21 even if they were unmarried.

"It seems that pledgers aren't really internalizing the pledge," Rosenbaum said. "Participating in a program doesn't appear to be motivating them to change their behavior. It seems like abstinence has to come from an individual conviction rather than participating in a program."

While there was no difference in the rate of sexually transmitted diseases in the two groups, the percentage of students who reported condom use was about 10 points lower for those who had taken the pledge, and they were about 6 percentage points less likely to use any form of contraception. For example, about 24 percent of those who had taken a pledge said they always used a condom, compared with about 34 percent of those who had not.

Rosenbaum attributed the difference to what youths learn about condoms in abstinence-focused programs.

"There's been a lot of work that has found that teenagers who take part in abstinence-only education have more negative views about condoms," she said. "They tend not to give accurate information about condoms and birth control."

But Huber disputed that charge.

"Abstinence education programs provide accurate information on the level of protection offered through the typical use of condoms and contraception," she said. "Students understand that while condoms may reduce the risk of infection and/or pregnancy, they do not remove the risk."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Israel tanks mass near Gaza as jets again pound Hamas

Agence France-Presse
Published: Sunday December 28, 2008

GAZA CITY (AFP) — Israeli tanks massed at the Gaza border on Sunday as warplanes again pounded Hamas targets in the densely populated enclave where raids have killed nearly 290 people in less than two days.

Dozens of tanks and personnel carriers idled at several points near the border after Israel warned it could launch a ground offensive in addition to its massive air blitz.

Hamas responded to the ongoing bombardment by firing rockets the farthest yet into Israel, with one striking not far from Ashdod, Israel's second-largest port, some 30 kilometres (18 miles) north of Gaza . It caused no casualties, medics said.

The Islamist movement accused Israel of "committing a holocaust as the whole world watches and doesn't lift a finger to stop."

"The Palestinian resistance reserves the right to hit back at this aggression with martyr operations," spokesman Fawzi Barhum told reporters, referring to suicide bombings which Hamas hasn't carried out against Israel since January 2005.

Britain, France and Russia joined the growing international chorus for a halt to the violence.

Pope Benedict XVI implored the international community to do "all it can to help the Israelis and Palestinians on this dead-end road... and not to give in to the perverse logic of confrontation and violence."

But Israeli Defence Minster Ehud Barak vowed to "expand and deepen" the bombing blitz, unleashed in retaliation for persistent rocket fire by militant groups.

"If it's necessary to deploy ground forces to defend our citizens, we will do so," his spokesman quoted him as saying.

The cabinet gave the green light to call up 6,500 reserve soldiers, a senior official told reporters after the meeting.

Warplanes continued to pound the impoverished and overcrowded territory of 1.5 million people, where many streets were deserted and schools and shops stayed shut as hundreds of funerals were held.

Jets bombed a series of tunnels on Gaza's border with Egypt -- a lifeline for Hamas used for smuggling in goods and weapons into the enclave, which has been virtually sealed by Israel since the Islamists violently seized power in June 2007.

At least two people were killed in the bombing.

Later on Sunday, jets targeted several metal workshops across the Gaza Strip, where according to the Israeli military rockets were manufactured.

One woman and a man were also killed when a missile hit a family home in the neighbourhood of Zeitoun in eastern Gaza City, medics said.

And as pressure mounted within the impoverished territory, dozens of Gazans tried to break through the border into Egypt following, only to be stopped by Egyptian police firing into the air.

Businesses in the occupied West Bank, including annexed Arab east Jerusalem, observed a strike in protest at the onslaught that one Palestinian human rights group called "the bloodiest day in the history of the (Israeli) occupation."

Since early Saturday, at least 289 people have been killed and more than 600 wounded, medics said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the campaign was launched "in order to regain a normal life for the citizens in the south who have suffered for many years from incessant rocket, mortar and terror attacks."

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni urged the international community to cast blame on Hamas.

"I expect the international community, including the entire Arab world, to send a clear message to Hamas: 'It is your fault. It's your responsibility. You're the one who's being condemned,'" she told NBC's Meet the Press.

The Israeli bombardment has sparked widespread international concern.

In New York, the UN Security Council called for an "immediate halt to all violence" and urged all sides "to stop immediately all military activities."

In Rome, the pope said that "the terrestrial homeland of Jesus cannot continue to be the witness of such bloodshed which is repeated ad infinitum."

Egypt, which had brokered a six-month truce between Israel and Hamas that expired on December 19, said it was trying to negotiate a new ceasefire.

But a senior Israeli official told AFP that "we have our goals and our timetable and we don't seek mediation."

Israel's main ally Washington has blamed Hamas "thugs" for provoking the offensive by firing rockets into the Jewish state from Gaza , and urged Israel to avoid causing civilian casualties.

And French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed his deep concern about the escalating violence and "his strong condemnation of the provocations that led to this situation as well as the use of disproportionate force," according to a statement released by his office.

The Israeli offensive sparked protests in the occupied West Bank, where two demonstrator was killed in clashes with police. More than 50,000 rallied in Egypt and hundreds in Dubai.

Israel unleashed "Operation Cast Lead" against Hamas in the middle of Saturday morning, with some 60 warplanes hitting more than 50 targets in just a few minutes.

By Sunday, some 230 targets had been hit, the military said.

Hamas has responded by firing more than 90 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel, killing one man and wounding a handful of other people.

Army chief Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi told the cabinet on Sunday that half of Hamas's rocket launch sites were destroyed in the initial wave of Israeli attacks.

The Israeli blitz came after days of spiralling violence since the expiry of the Gaza truce. It comes less than two months before snap parliamentary elections in Israel called for February 10.

And Men Created a God in Their Image

Ever notice how all modern gods are men?

And how these Men gods all pronounce male superiority? As well as dictate that women are lesser and should be submissive and obey men as men are supposed to obey ultra daddy in the sky?

Now being a wise assed authority questioning anarcha-feminist I just find my self being compelled to ask the question that always made me annoying, "Why?"

I mean when it come to having some sort of powerful magical mojo at a time when folks don't know jack about science especially biology popping out babies would seem to top anything that guys could do and would make the idea of god being female seem pretty obvious.

Although perhaps having this ability meant women didn't have the need to create any imaginary sky daddy as creator of life when they could DIY it.

It seems to me that men might just have been jealous of this ability and have had the need to subjugate those with this ability. How better to subjugate a whole class of people who have between their legs the power to give life than to create an unchallengeable invisible dictator of male supremacy. Of course this sky bully has to be in your image hence all "real gods" are male and they all dictate that women are to obey the here and now orders of men while men have only to obey the sociopathic voices in their heads.

While all the furor over Prick Warren's participation in Obama's Inauguration seems to be coming from the LGBT/T communities everyone seems to be overlooking the obvious. Prick Warren is a raving woman hating misogynist. He claims to be the voice of imaginary sky daddy and to have the authority to tell women they must carry babies they don't want because imaginary sky daddy says no to birth control and abortion.

Oh and imaginary sky daddy says women are lesser than men and have to obey male authority. Sweet if you are a penis person. Prettty sucky if you are a vagina person since that pretty much means that being female means you were born to be what Simone de Beauvoir called "The Second Sex" or what John Lennon described as "The nigger of the world".

Now I was only marginally elated at the nomination of Obama. Yeah, yeah first Black man etc, etc but to me the most important part of him just being more of the same old same old was the part about him being a male. His election is just business as usual with a penis person with darker skin. No up ending of the male dominant female submissive paradigm there.

So I wasn't surprised when he threw LGBT/T folks under the bus. And I was even less surprised when he threw women and their right to control their own reproductivity there too.

All the blitther about making abortion rare and the tragedy of abortion... Bullshit! Planned Parenthood should be in the golden doored temples they call churches and their misogynistic cults should be the ones meeting in shabby low rent buildings. Birth control and access to abortion should be free and the choice of women to remain child free should be as celebrated as motherhood.

But they aren't because misogyny demands women be submissive to men and men created a god to act as an invisible bully in the sky to enforce that male supremacy.

And so every single candidate had to say how much they love the invisible sick cruel bully in the sky and how they pray to sky daddy and thank him for male supremacy.

And Obama shows his true misogynistic, homophobic colors and invited the misogynist to say magic words and call dpown a blessing from invisible sky daddy.

No Gods, No Masters

Stop the Israeli massacres in Gaza

Published Dec 27, 2008 10:45 PM

The youth organization FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together) sent Workers World the following statement on the Israeli assault on Gaza.

The massacre of at least 225 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by the Zionist military, using U.S.-supplied F-16s and Apache attack helicopters, is the latest in a long line of crimes against humanity committed by Israel.

After having committed this atrocious, genocidal act, the government in Israel continues to posture, saying they are resolved to continue. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, “Israel is now seeking to wipe out the terrorism which is trying to undermine the whole area. We will not hesitate to strike anywhere where we are attacked.” For good measure, Olmert claims, “The instructions that we have given to our forces are to refrain from inflicting injury and harm on the innocent.”

Any person with a mere inkling of what has transpired in Palestine, and specifically the Gaza Strip, this past year would find Olmert’s statements to be at the least contradictory and/or cynical. These are cold words from a pathological bigot, whose government would like nothing more than to forcibly remove or completely wipe out the Palestinian people.

The creation of the Gaza Strip is no different than the ghettos created by Nazi Germany, the Bantustans in South Africa or the forced removal and relocation of Indigenous people in North America.

Gaza has been made a virtual prison, with no freedom of movement and where the Israeli government cuts off access to vital resources, including food, fuel and medical supplies.

The raining down of 100 tons of bombs exacerbates the inherent problems of the Gaza Strip, created by the conditions imposed by Israel upon the people, leaving rampant destruction, death and injuries.

The daily conditions of life in Palestine for the Palestinian are those of poverty, degradation and physical violence—from the degrading checkpoints that Palestinians have to pass through, where they are humiliated, beaten and denied emergency access to medicine, to the incursions by Israeli military and police into Palestinian areas. The situation is one of severe oppression and repression designed to crush the spirit of a people demanding freedom.

The movement in the U.S. has to raise the struggle of the Palestinian people to the level of importance that it demands, to support the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to support them in their fight for freedom and one secular Palestine.

The anti-war movement must immediately mobilize and demand that these attacks stop, that the blockade of the Gaza Strip be lifted and that the U.S. cease giving military and monetary aid to the terrorist government of Israel.

Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Barry McGuire Singing Eve of Destruction

This song hit the American Airwaves in the late summer of 1965, just as I was going off to college where I would join Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) a few months later.

Some how it seems appropriate for today.

Especially the line about how.

"Even the Jordan river has bodies a floating"

Protectionist dominoes are beginning to tumble across the world

The riots have begun. Civil protest is breaking out in cities across Russia, China, and beyond.

Greece has been in turmoil for 11 days. The mood seems to have turned "pre-insurrectionary" in parts of Athens - to borrow from the Marxist handbook.

This is a foretaste of what the world may face as the "crisis of capitalism" - another Marxist phase making a comeback - starts to turn two hundred million lives upside down.

We are advancing to the political stage of this global train wreck. Regimes are being tested. Those relying on perma-boom to mask a lack of democratic or ancestral legitimacy may try to gain time by the usual methods: trade barriers, sabre-rattling, and barbed wire.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, is worried enough to ditch a half-century of IMF orthodoxy, calling for a fiscal boost worth 2pc of world GDP to "prevent global depression".

"If we are not able to do that, then social unrest may happen in many countries, including advanced economies. We are facing an unprecedented decline in output. All around the planet, the people have reacted with feelings going from surprise to anger, and from anger to fear," he said.

Russia has begun to shut down trade as it adjusts to the shock of Urals oil below $40 a barrel. It has imposed import tariffs of 30pc on cars, 15pc on farm kit, and 95pc on poultry (above quota levels). "It is possible during the financial crisis to support domestic producers by raising customs duties," said Premier Vladimir Putin.

Russia is not alone. India and Vietnam have imposed steel tariffs. Indonesia is resorting to special "licences" to choke off imports.

The Kremlin is alarmed by a 13pc fall in industrial output over the last five months. There have been street protests in Moscow, St Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Vladivostok and Barnaul. Police crushed "Dissent Marchers" holding copies of Russia's constitution above their heads in Moscow's Triumfalnaya Square.

"Russia has not seen anything like these nationwide protests before," said Boris Kagarlitsky from Moscow's Globalization Institute.

The Duma is widening the treason law to catch most forms of political dissent, and unwelcome forms of journalism. Jury trials for state crimes are to be abolished.

Yevgeny Kiseloyov at the Moscow Times said it feels eerily like December 1 1934 when Stalin unveiled his "Enemies of the People" law, kicking off the Great Terror.

The omens are not good in China either. Taxis are being bugged by state police. The great unknown is how Beijing will respond as its state-directed export strategy hits a brick wall, leaving exposed a vast eyesore of concrete and excess plant.

Exports fell 2.2pc in November. Toy, textile, footwear, and furniture plants are being closed across Guangdong, now the riot hub of South China. Some 40m Chinese workers are expected to lose their jobs. Party officials have warned of "mass-scale social turmoil".

The Politburo is giving mixed signals. We don't yet know how much of the country's plan to boost domestic demand through a $586bn stimulus package is real, and how much is a wish-list sent to party bosses in the hinterland without funding.

Shortly after President Hu Jintao said China is "losing competitive edge in the world market", we saw a move towards export subsidies for the steel industry and a dip in the yuan peg - even though China already has the world's biggest reserves ($2 trillion) and the biggest trade surplus ($40bn a month).

So is the Communist Party mulling a 1930s "beggar-thy-neighbour" strategy of devaluation to export its way out of trouble? Such raw mercantilism can only draw a sharp retort from Washington and Brussels in this climate.

"During a global slowdown, you can't have countries trying to take advantage of others by manipulating their currencies," said Frank Vargo from the US National Association of Manufacturers.

It is a view shared entirely by President-elect Barack Obama. "China must change its currency practices. Because it pegs its currency at an artificially low rate, China is running massive current account surpluses. This is not good for American firms and workers, not good for the world," he said in October. The new intake of radical Democrats on Capitol Hill will hold him to it.

There has been much talk lately of America's Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which set off the protectionist dominoes in 1930. It is usually invoked by free traders to make the wrong point. The relevant message of Smoot-Hawley is that America was then the big exporter, playing the China role. By resorting to tariffs, it set off retaliation, and was the biggest victim of its own folly.

Britain and the Dominions retreated into Imperial Preference. Other countries joined. This became the "growth bloc" of the 1930s, free from the deflation constraints of the Gold Standard. High tariffs stopped the stimulus leaking out.

It was a successful strategy - given the awful alternatives - and was the key reason why Britain's economy contracted by just 5pc during the Depression, against 15pc for France, and 30pc for the US.

Could we see such a closed "growth bloc" emerging now, this time led by the US, entailing a massive rupture of world's trading system? Perhaps.

This crisis has already brought us a monetary revolution as interest rates approach zero across the G10. It may overturn the "New World Order" as well, unless we move with great care in grim months ahead. This is where events turn dangerous.

The last great era of globalisation peaked just before 1914. You know the rest of the story.

Massive Israeli air raids on Gaza

Israeli F-16 bombers have launched a series of air strikes against key targets in the Gaza Strip, killing at least 155 people, medical chiefs say.

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Gaza officials and the Hamas militant group said about 200 others were hurt as missiles hit security compounds and militant bases across the territory.

The strikes, the most intense Israeli attacks on Gaza for decades, come days after a truce with Hamas expired.

Israel said the operation would go on "as long as necessary".

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said "it won't be easy and it won't be short".

"There is a time for calm and a time for fighting, and now the time has come to fight," he said, quoted by Reuters.

Israel said it was responding to an escalation in rocket attacks from Gaza.

Palestinian militants frequently fire rockets against Israeli towns from inside the Gaza Strip; large numbers of rocket and mortar shells had been fired at Israel in recent days.

In a statement, Israel's military said it targeted "Hamas terror operatives" as well as training camps and weapons storage warehouses.

A Hamas police spokesman, Islam Shahwan, said one of the raids targeted a police compound in Gaza City where a graduation ceremony for new personnel was taking place.

At least a dozen bodies of men in black uniforms were photographed at the Hamas police headquarters in Gaza City.

Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni defended the air raids, saying Israel had "no choice". "We're doing what we need to do to defend our citizens," she said in a television broadcast.

Israel hit targets across Gaza, striking in the territory's main population centres, including Gaza City in the north and the southern towns of Khan Younis and Rafah.

In the West Bank, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas - whose Fatah faction was ousted from Gaza by Hamas in 2007 - condemned the attacks and called for restraint.

But Hamas quickly vowed to carry out revenge attacks on Israel in response to the air strikes, firing Qassam rockets into Israeli territory as an immediate reply.

At least one Israeli was killed by a rocket strike in the town of Netivot, doctors said.

"Hamas will continue the resistance until the last drop of blood," spokesman Fawzi Barhoum was reported as saying.

Israel also stood firm, saying operations "will continue, will be expanded, and will deepen if necessary".

It is the worst attack in Gaza since 1967 in terms of the number of Palestinian casualties, a senior analyst told the BBC in Jerusalem.

The air strikes come amid rumours that an Israeli ground operation is imminent.

Calls for ceasefire

International reaction was swift and expressed concern, with many world leaders calling for calm and an immediate ceasefire.

A White House spokesman said the United States "urges Israel to avoid civilian casualties as it targets Hamas in Gaza".

"Hamas' continued rocket attacks into Israel must cease if the violence is to stop," the spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, added.

The UK Foreign Office said: "We urge maximum restraint to avoid further civilian casualties."

The French presidency of the EU meanwhile called for an immediate halt to the shooting by both sides.

At least 30 missiles were fired by F-16 fighter bombers. Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that some 60 warplanes took part in the first wave of air strikes.

Hamas said all of its security compounds in Gaza were destroyed by the air strikes, which Israel said hit some 40 targets across the territory.

Mosques issued urgent appeals for people to donate blood and Hamas sources told a BBC reporter in Gaza, Rushdi Abou Alouf, that hospitals were soon full.

Egypt opened its border crossing to the Gaza Strip at Rafah to absorb and treat some of those injured in the south of the territory.

Most of the dead and injured were said to be in Gaza City, where Hamas's main security compound was destroyed. The head of Gaza's police forces, Tawfik Jaber, was reportedly among those killed.

Images from the targeted areas showed dead and injured Palestinians, burning and destroyed buildings, and scenes of panic and chaos on Gaza's crowded streets.

Residents spoke of children heading to and from school at the time of the attacks, and there were fears of civilian casualties.

Reuters news agency said at least 20 people were thought to have died in Khan Younis.

Israeli security officials have been briefing about the possibility of a new offensive into Gaza for some days now, says the BBC's Paul Wood, in Jerusalem.

But most reports centred on the possibility of a ground offensive, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was not expected to authorise any operation until Sunday at the earliest.

Although a six-month truce between Hamas and Israel was agreed earlier this year, it was regularly under strain and was allowed to lapse when it expired this month.

Hamas blamed Israel for the end of the ceasefire, saying it had not respected its terms, including the lifting of the blockade under which little more than humanitarian aid has been allowed into Gaza.

Israel said it initially began a staged easing of the blockade, but this was halted when Hamas failed to fulfil what Israel says were agreed conditions, including ending all rocket fire and halting weapons smuggling.

Israel says the blockade - in place since Hamas took control of Gaza in June 2007 - is needed to isolate Hamas and stop it and other militants from firing rockets across the border at Israeli towns.

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