Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gates arrest: Part of Boston’s racism, then & now

From Worker's World

Published Jul 29, 2009 3:16 PM

The July 16 arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. in his own home in Cambridge, Mass., is but the latest glaring incident in the long history of racism permeating Boston, going back to the 1970s desegregation battles and before.

From the end of Black Reconstruction following the Civil War until the 1970s, there was never a single African American on either the Boston City Council or Boston School Committee.

These all-white committees ran a segregated, separate and unequal school system in Boston up through 1974, 20 years after the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Topeka Board of Education declared segregation unconstitutional.

Black parents had to go to federal court to obtain an order in 1974 mandating racial balance through busing to gain equal access to educational resources in Boston. That same year Boston became famous worldwide as a focus of racism. A right-wing white supremacist movement called “Restore our Alienated Rights,” led and organized by Boston City Councilors like Louise Day Hicks directly out of Boston City Hall, organized racist marches.

Buses carrying African-American children to schools in South Boston and other white neighborhoods were stoned. A picture was flashed round the world of a Haitian man being dragged off a porch in South Boston by a racist mob. Another picture showed African-American attorney Theodore Landsmark suffering a broken nose as he was assaulted with a U.S. flag by racists on Boston City Hall Plaza.

In 1974 progressive forces mobilized from all over the country to answer the racist forces. A 25,000-strong national march against racism took place in Boston on Dec. 14. Busloads of antiracists came from all over the country, including the Deep South. It was the largest civil rights demonstration to take place since the 1963 March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The 1974 march put a halt to the racist mobilization, encouraging the people of Boston to come out against racism.

In subsequent years, antiracist forces defended African-American homes from racist attacks. African Americans, Latinas/os and Asians have gained representation on the Boston City Council. But racists, championed by Mayor Thomas M. Menino, have continued to try to return to “neighborhood” unequal schools and eliminate school transportation.

After forming the Coalition for Equal Quality Education, community, labor and progressive forces beat back the attack again this year. The school committee was forced not to take action on a plan that would have drastically cut school transportation and limited access of the Black and Latina/o communities to quality educational opportunities. But the fight will continue in the fall, and racist right-wing forces will only be emboldened by the attack on Professor Gates and the right-wing chorus supporting this latest racist police conduct.

Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Call for Climate Change and Economic Crisis Articles for Perspectives on Anarchist Theory

Wednesday, July 29 2009 @ 11:12 AM CDT
From Infoshop News
We believe that this is a crucial year, one in which societies must begin to confront the catastrophic implications of climate change in a bold and revolutionary fashion. Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, the journal of the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS), is calling for submissions that address climate change and the current economic crisis from radical and revolutionary positions. We see the ecological crisis as an indictment of dominant social structures, and would like to publish essays exploring ways this moment as an opportunity to radically restructure society for the better.

Call for Climate Change and Economic Crisis Articles
for Perspectives on Anarchist Theory

Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, the journal of the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS), is calling for submissions that address climate change and the current economic crisis from radical and revolutionary positions. We see the ecological crisis as an indictment of dominant social structures, and would like to publish essays exploring ways this moment as an opportunity to radically restructure society for the better.

The world today faces the immediate impact of a global recession, coupled with the quickly unfolding reality of catastrophic climate change. The economy and the environment are inextricably linked, as capitalist economic decisions erode ecological balance and long-term sustainability. Ecology may be the one question which capitalism can not answer. This climate crisis, a threat to the lives of billions of people - primarily the poor of the southern hemisphere - as well as countless plant and animal species, has not as of yet received due consideration by the anti-authoritarian Left. It has received some attention from the Left, and from the anti-civilization, primitivist Grenn Anarchy camps, but we are seeking further elaborations and more systematic treatments from social revolutionaries and anti-authoritarians.

We would like to publish articles presenting, but not limited to, any and all of the following:
• analyses of the root causes of climate change, with an emphasis on industrial capitalism and the profit motive,
• ways in which an anarchist society would resolve the problems inherent in greenhouse gas emissions, as well as explorations of various aspects of the crisis, from transportation to energy production,
• organizing experiences and strategies, particularly those involving work for environmental justice and the struggle against environmental racism,
• the economic crisis from a revolutionary perspective,
• the origins of the economic crisis, both systemic and local, made clear and accessible for lay people,
• opportunities for change that the converging environmental and economic crises present to revolutionaries, and
• an anarchist economic model that would avoid the devastating consequences of capitalism, such as endemic poverty, unemployment, and the perennial “boom and bust” cycle.

We believe that this is a crucial year, one in which societies must begin to confront the catastrophic implications of climate change in a bold and revolutionary fashion. Without serious changes in social structures, the human systems and the natural environment may be changed in such negative ways as to make them unrecognizable, or even unlivable. As immediately, the economic crisis is taking its toll daily on the lives of poor and working class people, as well as the middle class. What analyses and what solutions do anarchists and anti-authoritarians have to offer?

Perspectives is published on-line and articles are posted as they are ready. We are also considering publishing an annual print edition. All accepted articles will be published on our website, and will be considered for the print edition.

You can contact us at:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

IWW Protest Challenges Starbucks Unionbusting (GRIID)

From Infoshop

Former Starbucks Corp. workers who say the company fired a barista in East Grand Rapids for attempting to organize a union held an informational protest Saturday outside the coffee chain's location in Gaslight Village. A group of about 15 people gathered outside the entrance at 4:30 p.m. holding signs and banners and occasionally chanting pro-union slogans. They claimed to passers-by that the Seattle-based coffee chain engages in unfair labor practices.

EAST GRAND RAPIDS -- Former Starbucks Corp. workers who say the company fired a barista in East Grand Rapids for attempting to organize a union held an informational protest Saturday outside the coffee chain's location in Gaslight Village.

A group of about 15 people gathered outside the entrance at 4:30 p.m. holding signs and banners and occasionally chanting pro-union slogans. They claimed to passers-by that the Seattle-based coffee chain engages in unfair labor practices.

The group was joined by former East Grand Rapids employee, Cole Dorsey, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World union, who was fired in June 2008. Dorsey said he has been trying to get reinstated since the company settled a complaint in January with the National Labor Relations Board made on his behalf.

Cole, who is unemployed, said he still wants his job back and for other workers to have a stable work schedule and be given enough hours to qualify for health benefits.

"We should be able to have our rights not trampled on," Cole said.

Media representatives from Starbucks Corp. did not return a telephone call and email from The Press.

Erik Foreman, a union member who said he is a barista at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minn., said he came out to support Cole and Starbucks employees in Quebec who recently joined the union. Foreman said Starbucks workers should be paid a living wage and have guaranteed hours.

"A lot of (baristas) struggle to pay their bills," Foreman said. "We're not the only workers that think America needs a raise...especially because increasingly these are the only jobs out there."

Dozens of local news media outlets were contacted about this protest, but only the Grand Rapids Press and WOOD TV8 showed up. However, as of Sunday morning, channel 8 had not posted anything on their website about the IWW action, instead they featured a 2-day event outside of one of the downtown bars that included trampoline demonstrations.

A doctor's advice to his patient

From Socialist Worker

Helen Redmond reports on a Chicago doctor who had an invitation to the White House to talk about health care--until someone found out his views on the subject.

Dr. David Scheiner appears on Democracy Now!Dr. David Scheiner appears on Democracy Now!

DR. DAVID Scheiner was Barack Obama's personal physician for 22 years, until 2007.

Scheiner is a member of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) and an advocate of a single-payer health care system that gives coverage to everyone through a government program.

Back in those days, Barack Obama was in favor of a single-payer system too. At an AFL-CIO conference in 2003, he declared:

I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer, universal health care system. And I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, is spending 14 percent of its gross national product on health care, and not providing basic health insurance to everybody.

Everybody in, nobody out. A single-payer health care plan. That's what I would like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first, we have to take back the White house, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.

Fast forward. Obama gave up his support for single payer as he began to prepare his run for the presidency. Fast forward again. The Democrats now control the Senate and the House, and Obama himself controls the White House. But now, Obama wants to see something other than single-payer.

When ABC news producers were organizing a health care forum at the White House for June, they invited Scheiner to attend. The staff at ABC thought it would be a good television moment--Obama would be surprised by his former doctor, who would be allowed to ask a question or two. Scheiner got the invitation to the forum on June 19, and had several conversations with producers at ABC, who assured him everything was on track.

Then, on June 22, two days before the event, Scheiner received a call telling him his appearance was being nixed. "We have too many people, we have to cancel you," he was told. "Maybe someday, you'll be on Nightline."

That wasn't the whole story, of course. Someone forgot to do a thorough background check: Scheiner is still a supporter of single-payer, and now a public opponent of the Democrats' plans for health care "reform" that keeps private insurance in the mix. If he were to ask a question about that, it wouldn't be a warm, fuzzy, everyone-in-total-agreement television moment. Scheiner was disinvited.

"I don't know who did it," Scheiner told the Single Payer Action Web site. "It could have been the White House. I could see [White House Chief of Staff] Rahm Emanuel doing something like that. That's his style."

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

THE OBAMA administration has gone to great lengths to keep any proposals for single-payer--or even a discussion of it--out of the debate about health care reform in Washington. Obama claims that he might support single-payer if he was "starting from scratch," but it's unrealistic to consider now.

Obama did say that that all voices would be heard at Sen. Max Baucus' "roundtable" discussions on health care in the committee he chairs, but proponents of single-payer--PNHP, the California Nurses Association and others--were shut out, despite repeated requests to be included. Thirteen advocates of single-payer, among them doctors and nurses, disrupted those hearings, and were dragged out and arrested--and single-payer finally got mainstream press coverage.

A study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) found that in hundreds of stories about health care in major media outlets earlier this year, during the lead-up to a White House summit in March, only five included the views of advocates of single-payer.

But support for a single-payer, government-financed health care system is at an all-time high. A recent New York Times poll found that 72 percent of those questioned supported a government-administered insurance plan--something like Medicare for those under 65. Fifty-nine percent of physicians support single-payer.

As for Dr. Scheiner, he won't be silenced about single-payer. He's speaking at a rally on July 30 in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the 44th anniversary of Medicare--and in favor of HR 676, Rep. John Conyers' legislation to establish a single-payer system.

Urgent—Support Leonard Peltier

From Worker's World

Published Jul 23, 2009 9:00 PM

Leonard Peltier, like Mumia Abu-Jamal, has become known around the world as a symbol of U.S. government injustice toward the peoples it has abused and betrayed over centuries.

Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier

Peltier has a full parole hearing coming up on July 28—the first one since 1993. It is important that all those fighting racism and injustice let the government know that they support Peltier’s release from prison.

Peltier was a leader of the American Indian Movement in 1976 when he was arrested and charged with the deaths of two FBI agents during a shootout at the Pine Ridge Reservation of the Oglala-Lakota Nation. He has now been imprisoned for more than 33 years—one of the world’s longest-held political prisoners—and his health is frail.

According to Amnesty International, the Parole Commission, after an interim hearing that refused to reconsider its 1994 decision to deny Peltier parole, acknowledged that ‘’the prosecution has conceded the lack of any direct evidence that [Peltier] personally participated in the executions of the two FBI agents. ...’’

However, the position of the Parole Commission has been that Peltier must accept “criminal responsibility” for the killings in order to get parole. It’s a “Catch 22” situation for Peltier, who has always maintained his innocence.

Two other AIM members, Dino Butler and Robert Robideau, who admitted they were present during the shootout, were tried and acquitted of the murders of the FBI agents on the grounds of self-defense after they provided ample testimony to the atmosphere of terror that existed on the reservation.

It was after their acquittals, said Amnesty in an appeal to President Bill Clinton in 1999 for a pardon, that “the government intensified its pursuit of Leonard Peltier.”

Peltier has continued to speak out in support of Native peoples’ rights. He has won international acclaim and support for his tireless activism on behalf of human rights for Indigenous peoples. He is also an internationally acclaimed writer and artist. In 2004, Peltier ran for U.S. president on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket.

There are only a few days left to act. Letters supporting Peltier’s parole effort should be addressed to the U.S. Parole Commission, 5550 Friendship Blvd., Suite 420, Chevy Chase, MD 20815-7286. Your letter must reference Peltier’s prison number, 20815-7286.

Free Leonard Peltier!

Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Protesting Chinese steel workers kill manager

From World Socalist Web Site

By John Chan
28 July 2009

In another sign of the explosive social tensions in China, thousands of workers at the state-owned Tonghua Iron and Steel Group in the northeastern Jilin province beat the newly-appointed manager to death last Friday in an angry protest against a government-backed takeover by a privately-owned steel company.

Last Wednesday, the Jilin provincial state asset committee decided to sell its majority stake in Tonghua to Jianlong Heavy Industry. On Friday morning, thousands of workers led by redundant and retired workers blocked local highways and a rail line supplying raw materials to the mill and halted all seven furnaces. Workers clashed with 1,000 police and paramilitary officers who were called to break up the protest. Three police cars were smashed and more than 100 people were injured.

The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy reported that 30,000 workers joined the riot, while the official Xinhua newsagency claimed there were only 1,000.

At nightfall, Chen Guojun, Jianlong’s new general manager, arrived and ordered workers to return to work. Chen reportedly declared that he would cut the 30,000 workforce to 5,000. According to a local police officer who spoke to China Daily, this infuriated the workers. “Chen disillusioned workers and provoked them by saying most of them will be laid off in three days,” he said.

Workers refused the order to return to work, battered Chen with boots when an argument broke out and pushed him from a second-storey office. He died later, as 10,000 workers reportedly prevented police and ambulance officers from rescuing him.

Workers were also incensed by the fact that Chen was paid three million yuan ($US 440,000) a year—about 300 times their average wage—while workers retired from the plant received as little as 200 yuan ($29) a month.

The protest was only ended at 10 p.m., after the provincial government announced on television that it would permanently shelve the privatisation plan. Workers lit fire crackers to celebrate. Xinhua reported that the provincial authorities halted the merger to “prevent the situation from expanding” into a broader movement by workers in northeastern China, where large sections of state industry were shut or sold in the 1990s.

The incident exposed the ticking time bomb produced by the combined impact of the global economic crisis and the ongoing dismantling of state-owned enterprises for the enrichment of China’s new capitalist elite.

In 2005, Jianlong became the second largest shareholder of Tonghua after the provincial government sold 49 percent of its stake. Far from making Tonghua more efficient, the new management under Jianlong made major losses last year and cut central heating in winter to Tonghua workers and their dependents. Thousands of Tonghua workers staged a protest in March over the cutting of wages. In response, Jianlong withdrew its investment.

However, when Tonghua made a profit again in June ($US6.2 million)—largely due to the Beijing government’s stimulus packages—Jianlong returned, this time seeking a 65 percent stake. The Jilin government immediately agreed, as part of the national government’s policy of consolidating the steel industry in the hands of larger conglomerates.

The privatisation of Tonghua was typical of the plundering of state assets—through collusion between the Stalinist Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the capitalist elite that the regime has cultivated—at the expense of the working people.

Jianlong’s owner, Zhang Zhixiang, was China’s 10th richest man in 2008, with a fortune of $2.9 billion. Set up in 1999, Jianlong owns 17 businesses in steelmaking, resources, shipbuilding and machinery, and last year ranked 158th in China’s largest 500 companies. The state-owned Tonghua was the 244th largest enterprise, with an annual output of seven million tonnes of steel.

Because of the global slump, China’s steel industry has been increasingly embattled. China’s annualised steel production rate in June only reached 545 million tonnes—a record level—as a result of stimulus packages in infrastructure building and subsidised car and home appliances production.

China accounts for 60 percent of global steel production and buys two-third of the world’s sea-borne iron ore. However, the three big international mining corporations (Brazil’s Vale, the Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto and Australia’s BHP Billiton) only agreed to a cut in 2009-10 prices of 33 percent—less than the 40 percent cut Beijing wanted. Burdened with extortionate price hikes in recent years by these mining giants, the pricing dispute is a matter of life and death for Chinese steel companies.

China’s top 27 steel producers lost a total of 9.6 billion yuan ($1.4 billion) in the first half of 2009—compared with profits of 36.3 billion yuan in the same period last year. In order to increase its bargaining power over iron ore prices, Beijing issued a plan in January that by 2011, the top five producers should account for 45 percent of China’s steel output—up from 28.5 percent. Hence the official backing for the Jianlong takeover, despite the hostility of workers.

The intense pressures on the steel industry—the bedrock of China’s manufacturing-based economy—are also reflected in this month’s arrest of Stern Hu, the Chinese iron ore head of Rio, allegedly for stealing commercial information that put Chinese steel makers at a disadvantage in the iron ore price negotiations.

The protests by Tonghua workers are only the tip of the iceberg of the unrest generated by the intensifying exploitation of the working class. The London-based Financial Times warned on Monday: “The violent riot in northeast China late last week involved up to 30,000 workers, a reminder of the ongoing sensitivity about lay-offs from state companies in industries targeted for consolidation. The government laid off about 50 million workers in state enterprises in the 1990s, equal to the combined workforces of Italy and France at the time, but many companies still retain bloated staffing rosters.”

The restructured state-owned firms have kept redundant workers on their payrolls, but only on poverty-level allowances, making them the new urban poor in China. When private owners completely take over state enterprises, however, they cut off even the last lingering support to redundant workers, which was a major factor behind the angry eruption at Tonghua last week.

The violent protest was driven by the same underlying processes that sparked the riots in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi on July 5 after two Uighur workers were killed in a Guangdong toy factory. Uighurs and other oppressed minorities are being used as cheap labour under conditions where plunging export orders have eliminated some 20 million jobs, even as 20 million job seekers and 7 million college graduates try to find work this year. Amid rising job losses, a disgruntled Han worker spread a rumour that Uighur workers had raped two girls at the factory, which led to the ugly brawl.

While the ensuing military-police repression in Xinjiang drew more international attention, protests are constantly erupting in China over social inequality, official corruption, rising unemployment and the lack of basic social services like healthcare. Liu Kaiming, executive director of the Institute of Contemporary Observation in Shenzhen, told Bloomberg News: “Many ordinary people in China are now filled with pent-up frustrations as they see their livelihoods diminish with the economic crisis. It’s spreading from north to south, and many tiny disputes can easily be inflamed into major clashes.”

According the National Bureau of Statistics and Ministry of Human Resources, the number of labour disputes rose 98 percent to 237,000 cases last year from 2007. This appears to be a gross under-estimate. The March issue of the Hong Kong-based Trend magazine reported that there were 546,470 labour disputes across China from last September to March—a seven-fold increase from the end of 2007. In the export-dependent coastal provinces like Guangdong, Fujian and Jiangsu, the increases were 10-fold.

The magazine also noted that in the first two months of 2009, more than 500 private businessmen and senior executives were murdered, as a result of not paying, or cutting, wages or because of the intensifying exploitation of workers. The latest protest by Tonghua workers indicates that class relations in China are reaching boiling point.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Who killed EFCA?

From Socialist Worker

Adam Turl explains how big business and the politicians on their payroll conspired to block the Employee Free Choice Act--and why unions failed to challenge them.

In February, SEIU mobilized to deliver 1.5 million postcards in support of EFCA to Senators in Washington D.C.In February, SEIU mobilized to deliver 1.5 million postcards in support of EFCA to Senators in Washington D.C.

THE EMPLOYEE Free Choice Act (EFCA) is dead--killed off by Corporate America while the unions stood by passively.

EFCA had been the centerpiece of organized labor's designs on the new Democratic president and Congress. The legislation was set to easily pass in the House of Representatives, and would certainly have garnered a majority of votes in the Senate, although not necessarily enough votes to defeat a filibuster.

The three key planks of the legislation were:

-- A "card check" provision that would have allowed workers to form a union by a simple majority signing union cards. Card check is necessary because current labor law essentially forces workers to organize a union twice--once by signing cards and a second time in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election, often held months or even years later--all in the face of massive (and often illegal) employer intimidation.

-- Binding arbitration on companies that refuse to sign an initial union contract. This measure is necessary because companies often refuse to bargain with newly formed unions, delaying negotiations until they can try to get the union decertified.

-- Increased fines on companies that violate workers' rights to organize. This is important because companies routinely break the law by firing union organizers to kill off organizing drives. While such employers may eventually have to pay fines for such actions, they view it as a worthwhile investment in what anti-labor lawyers call "union avoidance."

Such legislation, even in its original form, wouldn't have been a panacea to reverse labor's decline. But it would have been an important tool for unions to organize the unorganized, and give workers confidence that federal law was on their side.

Now, however, a "compromise" in the Senate has jettisoned the card check provision--the most important part of the proposed legislation--from EFCA.

There are several suspects in connection to the murder of card check--and all of them are guilty, to one degree or another.

The first group in the lineup is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and corporate lobbyists, and their massive, multimillion-dollar K Street smear campaign. The next group includes, of course, congressional Republicans.

But with Senate Democrats now holding a 60-seat "filibuster proof" majority, EFCA's killers needed the collusion of "moderate" and conservative Democratic senators--including Dianne Feinstein of California and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, the home state of anti-union behemoth Wal-Mart. Both reneged on earlier support for EFCA.

Behind this gang was a wider group of accessories--including other congressional Democrats and the White House, which failed to muster even a modest lobbying effort for EFCA.

Lastly, EFCA's enemies needed a labor movement that pulled its punches to give Corporate America the political space it needed to finish off the pro-union legislation. Unfortunately, organized labor obliged.

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

HOW DID things go so wrong?

First of all, labor misread the dynamics of the Democratic Party and its commitment to pass genuine pro-labor reform. While the Democrats put forward EFCA in the first place, they are at the end of the day a pro-corporate party. So predictably, they wavered on the legislation. The Senate hemmed and hawed for months, and the legislation remained in limbo.

Instead of disciplining conservative Democrats into supporting EFCA, the party leadership started the process of compromising on the content of the legislation. Ultimately, six Democratic Senators--Tom Harkin (Iowa), Arlen Specter (Pa.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Thomas Carper (Del.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Charles Schumer (N.Y.)--met behind closed doors and came up with the "compromise" that removed card check.

As the Atlantic Monthly put it:

The failure of card check, now known as "majority signup," speaks as much to the political priorities of the Obama administration as it does the power of moderate Democrats, most of whom opposed card check for fear of alienating employers in their mostly non-union districts.

As of a few months ago, labor strategists could accurately claim as many as 58 votes in the Senate, just two shy of the magic 60 needed to avoid a filibuster. But even as President Obama and Vice President Biden dutifully praised card check in speeches, the White House did not put any political muscle into passing it, and they very clearly indicated to Congressional leaders that its passage was less important than health care, its economic stimulus efforts, its financial industry regulation proposals...

The loss of "card check" is a major blow. However, if the remaining version were passed, it would still be an improvement over current law.

The "compromise" EFCA would include a reduced period for union elections--from three months to 10 days after union cards are filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The new EFCA would retain binding arbitration on first union contracts and increased fines on companies that violate workers' rights.

It may also include something called "injunctive relief," which would force employers to immediately reinstate workers if the NLRB believed they had been fired for union activity. Another possible amendment would provide greater access to worksites for union organizers.

However, since Democrats already gave away card check without a fight, there is little reason to believe they will mount a vigorous defense of the compromised EFCA when the Republicans move in to destroy what remains.

Meanwhile, Corporate America shows no sign of scaling back its multimillion-dollar war against EFCA, continuing a take-no-prisoners approach to defeat the proposal to force binding arbitration on employers.

Tellingly, opponents are now calling the compromise EFCA "card-check Lite." The Chamber of Commerce's Randel Johnson told reporters that his organization will "remain adamantly opposed to the bill, regardless of whether card check provisions remain in or out...the arbitration provisions are completely unacceptable to us."

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

LABOR'S RESPONSE, by contrast, has been that of a deer caught in the headlights. The end of card check was announced just days after President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with 11 AFL-CIO and Change to Win union leaders to assure them that the White House remained committed to EFCA.

At the time, Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen told reporters, "We believe [Obama's] commitment to [EFCA] is as strong now as it ever was...He said he will work with us to get this done." Yet while the White House was promising action, the details of the killer "compromise" were being ironed out on Capitol Hill.

But labor leaders should not have been surprised. Several of them appear to have--at the very least--telegraphed their willingness to dump card check. According to the Chicago Tribune, "A Democratic official familiar with compromise talks on [the] bill...said union leaders are willing to drop the politically volatile card check plan to win over wavering Senate Democrats."

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Andrew Stern, while publicly claiming absolute victory on EFCA was assured, were reportedly involved in ongoing "negotiations" on jettisoning card check.

Nevertheless, the official AFL-CIO blog had a "see no evil" take on the defeat: "Despite speculative news reports today, momentum for real labor law reform is still going strong, and we can still be optimistic that a bill will be signed into law this year giving workers--not their bosses--the choice about how to form a union."

Stern echoed those sentiments--but went even farther in letting Congress off the hook:

As we have said from day one, majority signup is the best way for workers to have the right to choose a voice at their workplace. The Employee Free Choice Act is going through the usual legislative process, and we expect a vote on a majority signup provision in the final bill or by amendment in both houses of Congress. With Congress focusing on health reform legislation this summer, a vote on the EFCA is not expected until the fall at the earliest.

Stern also bears responsibility for the labor infighting that has made the fight for EFCA that much harder. Besides ordering the undemocratic takeover of the SEIU's big West Coast health care local, Stern's union has also absorbed a breakaway faction of the UNITE HERE union and launched raids on workplaces already organized by that union.

But many other labor leaders share the blame for the card check fiasco. Instead of harnessing the anger of union members to fight for what's left of EFCA, some labor leaders appear to be lowering expectations. According to the New York Times:

One top union official, who insisted on anonymity because lawmakers and labor leaders have agreed not to discuss the status of the bill, said, "Even if card check is jettisoned to political realities, I don't think people should be despondent over that because labor law reform can take different shapes."

AFL-CIO spokesperson Eddie Vale also put a positive spin on the setback. "As Schoolhouse Rock taught us, this is the normal process of how a bill becomes a law," he said, in a reference to the old educational cartoon for kids. "We are very optimistic about passing the strongest labor law reform since the Wagner Act," a reference to the 1935 federal law that guaranteed workers the right to organize.

Vale's optimism is almost certainly misplaced. And by focusing on the formal way "a bill becomes law," labor leaders missed the real way pro-worker and pro-labor reforms like the Wagner Act were won--through struggle and grassroots mobilization.

In the case of EFCA, this would have meant protests, organizing drives, strikes and activating at least a fraction of the millions of union members in order to put pressure on ever-wavering Democrats.

A number of left-wing labor activists have argued for months that labor's largely legislative strategy was putting the battle for EFCA at risk. While important local actions have been organized--most recently, a march of some 1,500 workers in Arkansas--they have been too few and far between to put enough pressure on the Senate and White House.

"Privately, union hands and progressives are sniping at what they view as a poorly handled legislative strategy," wrote Sam Stein for the Huffington Post. "When Senate Democrats began airing their concerns with the bill, there was little pushback from the grassroots community. Instead, talk of compromise began almost immediately."

This was true from the start--when unions pulled field organizers after the 2008 election rather than keep them in place to organize for EFCA, as originally planned.

It is time--once again--for organized labor to take stock of its serious and deteriorating situation. With wages declining and jobs continuing to melt away, unions are going to be necessary for millions to maintain their livelihoods--and even their lives. But to organize those workers we need a fighting labor movement, not one that compromises away its goals without any real battle at all, as it did with EFCA.

Union members and progressives are right to "snipe" about the failed strategy on EFCA. But criticism isn't enough. We need to mobilize the union rank and file and unorganized workers to chart a new--and militant--course for organized labor based on class struggle and solidarity.

As jobless claims rise, Wall Street celebrates corporate profit reports

From World Socialist Web Site
By Barry Grey
24 July 2009

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits rose by 30,000 in the week ended July 18, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The total for the week was 554,000.

With nearly 15 million people out of work, according to official figures, and 6.5 million jobs having been eliminated since the recession began in December of 2007, this week’s initial jobless claims report spells increasing social misery for millions of workers.

Wall Street, however, responded to the jobless claims report, along with better-than-expected corporate earnings and a slight increase in June existing home sales, by pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 188 points, ending the day above the 9,000 mark for the first time since last November.

The Dow is up more than 5 percent this month and has added nearly 1,000 points in two weeks.

The diverging fortunes of workers and the corporate elite are the result of ruthless cost-cutting by big business, which is taking advantage of the recession to slash jobs and wages and drive up productivity. The banks and big corporations are being aided and abetted by the policies of the Obama administration.

Although weekly jobless claims are below their high point earlier this year, they remain far above the 300,000 to 350,000 level that economists say is consistent with stable employment.

Some 4.4 million job seekers nationwide were out of work for 27 weeks or more in June. The number of people on emergency extended state and federal programs continued to rise. When the extended benefit rolls are included, the total of people receiving jobless benefits rises to more than 9.1 million, according to figures for the week of July 4, the latest data available.

The figures on jobless pay claimants provide only a pale reflection of the actual jobs crisis. As a result of decades of restrictions, more than half of those laid off are ineligible for jobless benefits.

Some indication of the social toll of rising unemployment, officially at 9.5 percent in June, the highest level in 26 years, can be gleaned from figures on home foreclosures, which are increasingly affecting holders of prime mortgages who have lost their jobs. Last week, RealtyTrac reported that foreclosures are continuing to set records.

There were 1.9 million foreclosure filings in the first six months of this year, a 15 percent increase from the first six months of 2008. One in 84 homes received a foreclosure filing in the first half of the year.

June was the fourth consecutive month that foreclosure filings surpassed 300,000. The number of properties receiving one or more filings in the second quarter totaled nearly 890,000—the highest since RealtyTrac began issuing its report in 2005. In California, which led the nation, one in 34 homes received a foreclosure filing.

On the housing crisis, as with every other aspect of the social disaster hitting the working class, the Obama administration’s policies, which are based on voluntary compliance by banks and mortgage servicers, have done nothing to provide meaningful relief.

“The Obama plan doesn’t seem to be having a significant effect,” says Mark Zandi at Moody’s “Foreclosures will continue to rise through the end of the year.”

Another measure of social distress is a 6.2 million increase in the number of Americans relying on food stamps since the recession began. This is expected to rise to a near-record of one in nine Americans.

The official jobless rate does not include workers holding part-time jobs because they cannot get full-time employment and those who have dropped out of the labor market, including so-called “discouraged” workers—those who have given up looking for work because they are unable to get a job. The number of discouraged workers nationwide has more than doubled in the past year.

The Labor Department also reported Thursday that the number of mass layoffs by US employers hit 2,763 in June, a slight decrease from the record set in May. Mass layoff actions are defined as job cuts by a single employer involving at least 50 people.

Employers initiated 3,489 mass layoffs in the first quarter of 2009 that resulted in the separation of 559,000 workers from their jobs, the highest first-quarter level on record.

Mass layoffs last month affected over 279,000 workers. Of these, 45 percent were reported in the manufacturing sector. The corporate offensive against jobs has been particularly brutal in manufacturing. Nearly 2 million factory jobs have disappeared since the recession began.

As a result of a decades-long downsizing of manufacturing in favor of financial speculation, the United States now ranks behind every industrial nation except France in the percentage of overall economic activity devoted to manufacturing, according to the World Bank. The Bank places the current place of US manufacturing at 13.9 percent, down 4 percentage points over the past ten years.

Job cuts reported this week include:

• Caterpillar, the world’s largest construction and mining equipment maker, which reported Tuesday that it plans widespread temporary layoffs and rolling factory shutdowns. Layoffs and early retirements have reduced the company’s work force this year by 17,100, 15 percent of the total.
• Houston-based Continental Airlines, which said it would slash 1,700 more jobs on top of 1,200 already announced.
• Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, which announced that 1,400 employees, about 4 percent of its work force, took offers of cash and travel benefits to leave the company.
• Avon, the cosmetics seller, which reported Thursday that it plans to eliminate 1,200 jobs in the next four years and close two plants, one in Springdale, Ohio and the other in Neufahrn, Germany.

The Federal Reserve Board, which, along with the Obama administration, has been hailing the success of the government’s bank bailout program and predicting an imminent economic recovery, issued a report last week that gives an indication of what the “recovery” will mean for workers. The Fed raised its fourth quarter 2009 unemployment forecast to as high as 10.1 percent and said the jobless rate would still be near 9 percent by the end of 2011. Even these figures are considered low by many economists.

In two days of testimony before Congress this week, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke opposed even minimal relief in the form of a second economic stimulus package and called on Congress and the Obama administration to put in place a plan to sharply reduce spending for Medicare and Medicaid.

This position was echoed by Obama’s chief economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, who said the administration had no plans to push for new measures to alleviate the jobs crisis, declaring smugly that the “two-year program that we put in place was one that had been gathering and increasing force over time.”

The Wall Street Journal on Thursday published an article (“Job Cuts Outpace GDP Fall”) that provides insight into the class-war strategy being pursued by the American ruling elite in the current recession. The article notes that unemployment is rising much faster in relation to the decline in the gross domestic product than in previous recessions.

It explains that corporations are using mass layoffs not only to cut costs, but also to squeeze more production from the remaining work force. It cites a report by Macroeconomic Advisers, a St. Louis forecaster, which estimates that productivity grew at a rapid 5 percent annual rate in the second quarter of this year.

It then notes that corporations are reporting better-than-expected profits, despite the worst recession since the 1930s, “because they have cut costs so aggressively.” It cites as examples Caterpillar, which this week raised its profit forecast, and IBM, which reported a 12 percent rise in second quarter profits despite falling revenue. The Journal comments, “The secret: It is cutting costs by $3.5 billion this year.”

The article quotes Paul Volcker, the former Fed chairman and current economic adviser to Obama, who says approvingly: “You certainly have the impression that businesses in general have learned to slash payrolls and employment faster than in the past. There’s been a steep decline in business activity without the conventional impact on profits. Somehow, companies have managed to keep productivity higher than you might have thought given economic activity.”

It is this increased exploitation of workers and the prospect of a permanent reduction in wages and benefits that Wall Street is celebrating. The implications for the working class are nothing short of catastrophic.

Meanwhile the banks, which have benefited from hundreds of billions in bailout cash and trillions more in other subsidies, at taxpayer expense, are flaunting their good fortune by ramping up salaries and bonuses to levels as high or higher than those that prevailed before last year’s crash.

The Washington Post reported Thursday, “So far this year, the top six US banks have set aside $74 billion to pay their employees, up from $60 billion in the corresponding period last year.” As the newspaper points out, this windfall will go disproportionately to top executives and traders, in the form of multimillion-dollar compensation packages.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Exiled leader plots Honduran border crossing

(AFP) – 5 hours ago

MANAGUA — Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has vowed to end his month-long exile by staging a dramatic border crossing from Nicaragua, defying government threats to arrest him and warnings the move will prompt bloodshed.

Zelaya, who was bundled out of bed by the Honduran military on June 28 and ushered out of the country, said he would make his latest bid to return home on Friday after Costa Rican-brokered talks with the de facto government collapsed.

The one-time businessman said he would travel to northern Nicaragua on Thursday and "to the border the following day," in a move sure to enflame already heightened tensions in the small Central American nation.

Speaking from Nicaragua -- where he is hosted by president and former guerilla leader Daniel Ortega -- Zelaya said he would go to the border unarmed. "I will be accompanied by my wife and children," he told journalists.

Earlier this month Zelaya made an abortive attempt to land in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, but was blocked by military units deployed at the airport's only runway.

On the ground, his supporters clashed with security forces loyal to de facto president Roberto Micheletti, killing at least one person and wounding several others.

Regional powers, including the United States, have backed Zelaya's quest to regain office, but urged him not to return for fear of prompting bloodshed in a country some say is teetering on the brink of civil war.

On Wednesday, hundreds of white-clad demonstrators protested against Zelaya's return in the capital, where the situation has become increasingly polarized.

"We don't like you, Mel," one banner read at the demonstration, using Zelaya's nickname.

The ousted president's supporters have announced their own demonstrations.

Zelaya's use of Nicaragua as a base to enter Honduras could also inflame regional tensions. Micheletti has accused leftist governments in Nicaragua, Venezuela and Ecuador of fomenting tension in the country, hinting at plots to escalate the crisis into a military conflict.

Hopes for a mediated solution to the crisis were scuttled when Micheletti's government rejected fresh proposals that would allow Zelaya to return to power until his term ends in January.

Acting Honduran foreign minister Carlos Lopez Contreras told CNN's Spanish station that Zelaya's return as president was "impossible."

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias had called for Zelaya to head a national unity government, until his term ended in January.

In return, the de facto leadership would see sanctions against the country lifted, a limited amnesty for political crimes and a bar on Zelaya seeking constitutional reforms designed to let him seek another term in office.

But negotiators for the interim government returned to Honduras saying the deal presented in Costa Rica would not be signed by their leader.

"As I see it, it will be difficult for him to sign up," spokesman Mauricio Villeda said.

Zelaya meanwhile told Venezuela's Telesur channel that the crisis mediation "had practically failed." The interim leaders had "decided to deny all possibility of an agreement," he added.

Arias, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work as a mediator ending the region's brutal civil wars, suggested that if both sides failed to agree, they turn to international bodies, such as the Organization of American States (OAS).

They should seek a solution there "to the worst crisis in almost three decades of the young Honduran democracy," he said.

A frustrated Arias said Honduras had turned into the North Korea or Albania of Central America.

The European Commission's External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner called on both sides to defuse the crisis.

"Everything must be done so there is a peaceful solution, not a military confrontation," she said during a trip to Mexico.

This week, the European Union this week increased its pressure on the new regime, suspending 65.5 million euros (93 million dollars) in aid to Honduran institutions as part of the international aid freeze.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.


Picture the Homeless **
support our TENT CITY*

As the foreclosure crisis festers, Bloomberg and the banks fail us. While
the homeless population continues to escalate, landlords and the city
continue to keep buildings empty. In fact, the total volume of potential
apartments in vacant buildings and lots in Manhattan alone exceeds the
number of homeless households in shelter and on the street citywide!
The time has come to create the movement we want and build the housing we
need. From Miami to Sacramento to here in New York City, homeless people
aren't waiting around. It's time to take back the land! Join us in our
direct action!

Gather ...
*Thursday, July 23, 9:30 AM**

Downtown: 14th Street/Union Square South
Uptown: 116th Street & Morningside Avenue

Look for "PTH" red-lettered flag

*We will be leaving for the site at 10am sharp*


Info: 646.314.6423



*Imagen de los Desamparados*

Mientras que la crisis de la hipoteca se genera, Bloomberg y los bancos
sigue fallando. El tiempo ha llegado para construyir el movimiento que
queremos, y las viviendas que necessitamos. Desde Miami a Sacramento hasta
Nueva York, los desamparados no estan esperando mas. Es tiempo para reclamar
las tierra. Juntanse con nosotros.

NYC quiere decir: El lugar a donde podemos estar en casa

Reunion de solidaridad:
En apoyo para nuestro cuidad de carpas
Jueves, Julio, 23, 9:30 AM*

DOWNTOWN: Calle 14th, Union Square South
UPTOWN: El parque Morningside; esquina de la calle 116 y la avenida

Partiremos al sitio a las 10AM y punto

Inf.: 646.314.6423

Miren; See;

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bringing the War Home: The Weather Underground at Forty

From the LA Progressive

by admin posted on Wednesday, 22 July 20090

Mark Rudd led student protests at Columbia University in 1968.

Mark Rudd led student protests at Columbia University in 1968.

Forty years ago, the Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM) faction of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) drafted a statement to be employed in a factional dispute with the Maoist Progressive Labor (PL) wing of the organization. At the June 1969 Chicago convention of SDS, the RYM group,now known as the Weathermen, expelled the PL wing and effectively dismembered SDS as a national student organization.

The Weather Manifesto—based upon lyrics from Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues (1965) that “you don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind is blowing”—assailed the Progressive Labor movement for failing to comprehend the revolutionary nature of global anti-imperialism in which American capitalism and empire were under attack in Cuba, Vietnam, Algeria, Bolivia, Angola, and throughout the Third World in conjunction with domestic revolutionaries such as the Black Panthers. Living in the belly of the beast, it was imperative that radicalized American students join the revolutionary struggle that would usher in the millennium of world communism. White youth would be radicalized to support black liberation through the example of the Weathermen renouncing nonviolence and joining the armed struggle against American imperialism.

The bellicose nature of the Weather Manifesto evoked considerable controversy then and now, as the radicals sought to embody their principles with the formation of revolutionary collectives that would “bring the war home.” In other words, the goal was to subject Americans to some of the violence and destruction inflicted daily upon the Vietnamese people. Terming themselves the Weather Underground, the New York City collective planned a bombing that would simulate the Vietnam experience by creating death and destruction during a military dance at Fort Dix in nearby New Jersey. Instead, on March 6, 1970 the bomb was triggered by accident, destroying a New York City town house where the explosives were being assembled. Dead in the explosion were Weather members Ted Gold, Diana Oughton, and Terry Robbins.

Following this tragedy, the Weather Underground members re-evaluated their strategy. While not disavowing the principles of their Manifesto, the Weather Bureau, or leadership cadre, asserted that symbolic attacks against institutions and manifestations of imperialism such as military induction centers and government offices would galvanize the support of the American working class. Thus, the Weather Underground did not consider themselves terrorists as their goal was not to induce fear amongst the American people, but rather to demonstrate that it was possible to strike against the institutions and property of the capitalist “pig” state which sought global control over the working class and people of color. The Weather Underground conducted a series of bombings in the early 1970s which sought to symbolically bring the war home without the taking of human life. Warnings of impending explosions were provided to authorities in order to avoid the type of tragedy which occurred in the Weather town house explosion.

But the Weather Underground failed to incite a working-class revolution in the United States, and with the end of the war in Vietnam, many radicals attempted to re-enter mainstream society. Individuals such as Mark Rudd, Bill Ayers, and Bernardine Dohrn surrendered to authorities and were able to arrange plea bargains as more serious charges were dismissed due to massive civil rights violations and illegal domestic surveillance by the government in the COINTELPRO or Counter-Intelligence Program. Black Panther leaders such as Fred Hampton, however, were victims of more deadly government repression and were unable to negotiate plea bargains. Other Weather Underground members such as David Gilbert and Judy Clark remain incarcerated for their roles in a Brink’s robbery in which three people were killed.

What are we to make of the Weather Manifesto and Underground after forty years? Certainly some on the radical left continue to perpetuate the myth of the Weather Underground as romantic revolutionaries. On the other hand, efforts by the political right to keep the cultural wars of the 1960s alive were negated in the 2008 Presidential election as few voters were influenced by accusations that Barack Obama was linked to terrorism through his far from intimate associations with Bill Ayers,now a professor of education at the University of Illinois, Chicago. And, of course, Obama was a school boy during the heyday of the Weather Underground. More serious assessments of the Weather legacy are available in the Academy-Award nominated documentary The Weather Underground (2003) and recently published memoirs by Rudd and Ayers.

In My Life with the SDS and the Weathermen Underground (HarperCollins, 2009), Rudd credits filmmakers Sam Green and Bill Siegel with providing the incentive to prepare his memoir. Rudd remains a political activist opposed to manifestations of American imperialism such as the war in Iraq, but he expresses serious reservations regarding the strategy employed by the Weathermen. In an orgy of self-indulgence, the Weather faction destroyed SDS; a student organization which offered the best potential to organize the growing campus opposition to the Vietnam War. In addition, the Weather fascination with violence split the antiwar movement and alienated the working class which the radicals hoped to rally with their Manifesto and revolutionary action. Rudd laments that the Weather Underground abandoned the tactics of organization and participatory democracy which fueled the early campus antiwar movement and the Columbia University insurrection which Rudd does not repudiate.

In Fugitive Days (Beacon Press, 2001; revised edition 2009), Bill Ayers is more ambivalent. While denouncing the intolerance and machismo of the Weathermen, he regrets that he did not do more to end the immoral Vietnam War. Seeking to recreate the mood of the times, Ayers describes the increasing frustration with the Vietnam War which drove antiwar activists to more extreme positions. He also accounts for the naiveté with which many associate the Weather Underground by evoking the milieu of the late 1960s. With a growing protest movement in the United States and the global struggle in which anti-imperialist forces were on the march in Vietnam, Algeria, and Angola, the Weathermen believed they were on the winning side of history—creating new communities free from capitalist exploitation and embracing the Che Guevara prediction that numerous Vietnam-type conflicts would topple the American regime. This impression of a brave new world was also fueled by the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia and the revolt of students and workers on the streets of Paris. Revolution in America and the world seemed inevitable. Or at least so thought the radicals as well as Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover. Indeed, what is even more surprising in retrospect than the illusions of the Weathermen regarding a working-class revolution in the United States is the assumption of the Nixon administration that the radicals were capable of bringing down the government. The fears of the Nixon administration fueled the repression of the antiwar movement and dissenters such as the Black Panther Party, culminating in the record of criminal misconduct revealed in the Watergate scandals. The illusions of both leftist radicals and the reactionary political right reveal much about the passions and insecurities unleashed during the tumultuous 1960s.

The Weather Manifesto was a product of the times and reflective of an increasing radicalization of the antiwar and civil rights movements induced by government suppression and the frustrations of addressing de facto segregation, economic inequality, and the intransigence of a government intent upon pursing a war of aggression in Vietnam. The tragedy for many was the abandonment by the Weathermen of the principles established in the 1962 founding document of SDS, The Port Huron Statement.

Addressing issues of imperialism, racism, economic inequality, the military-industrial complex, and the sense of alienation experienced by many individuals seemingly overwhelmed by the powers of impersonal institutions such as the university, The Port Huron Statement advocated greater democracy rather than armed revolution. These sentiments would seem to resonate well with the young people of today who have re-established SDS. While the Iraq War has failed for a number of reasons, including the absence of a military draft and sustained media coverage, to provoke Vietnam era-style protests, the youth of the twenty-first century are technologically savvy and intent upon creating a world community to formulate solutions for environmental concerns of which the protesters of the 1960s were only dimly aware. Perhaps social networking will provide the organizational impetus, advocated by Rudd, to implement the democratic vision of The Port Huron Statement rather than the days of rage envisioned by the Weather Manifesto.

Ron Briley

Mr. Briley is Assistant Headmaster, Sandia Preparatory School.

Republished with permission from The History News Network.

LA Progressive

The class issues in the US health care debate

From World Socialist Web Site

22 July 2009

The Obama administration’s push for health care “reform” has exposed the class realities that dominate American politics and the social interests which Obama defends.

Under Obama, the issue of health care reform has been shifted from providing decent medical care for all to slashing the cost of health care to businesses and the government, primarily by cutting costs for Medicare and fundamentally changing the nature of the Medicare program.

Depending on his audience, Obama at times seeks to conceal the reactionary essence of his proposal by presenting it as a plan to provide health insurance to the uninsured. But even if his plan were enacted in full, it would still leave an estimated 18 million Americans without any form of health coverage.

In a blitz of interviews Monday and Tuesday, Obama refused to endorse a provision of a House version of his health care plan that would impose a small tax surcharge on the rich. Under the House plan, individuals making more than $280,000 a year or families earning more than $350,000—about 1.2 percent of US households—would be required to pay the surtax. For a family making $500,000, the surtax would amount to about $1,500.

The tax surcharge provision was included in a bill passed by a House committee last week, and within days the head of the Congressional Budget Office issued a highly critical report declaring that Obama’s reforms would not slow the rise in health care costs and suggesting a tax on employee health benefits.

This sequence of events was not accidental. The media, speaking for the ruling class, has been overtly hostile to the tax surcharge, complaining that the provision would unduly penalize the rich.

For their part, the Republicans oppose any expansion of government-backed health insurance, and are calling for even more draconian cuts in existing programs.

There was a time when Social Security and Medicare were considered the “third rail” of American politics. “Third rail” refers to the electrified rail on subway train tracks, the implication being that if you proposed cuts in Social Security or Medicare, you were, politically speaking, a dead man.

Now you have a Democratic president and Democratic Congress that are proposing unprecedented cuts and a fundamental restructuring of Medicare, and a proposal to slightly increase taxes on the rich to help pay for the up-front costs of the plan is treated with horror and indignation by the media. Any increase in taxes on the rich is revealed to be the “third rail” of contemporary American politics.

The class priorities are clear in the contrast between Obama’s insistence on reducing health care costs and his policy toward the banks. In testimony Tuesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Neil Barofsky, special inspector general for the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP), said that the potential cost of the government bailout of the banks could reach $23.7 trillion.

Obama contends that slashing health care costs is the overriding requirement for reducing the budget deficit and restoring the economy. This is universally echoed in the media and the political establishment. No one asks: Why a fundamental social need such as health care? Why not military spending? Or interest payments to the banks on the national debt?

As a result of the administration’s policies—escalating the war in Afghanistan, enlarging the military, doubling the national debt to finance the bailout of the banks—the costs for these budget items are rising at record rates.

There has been an outcry within the political establishment and the media over the estimated $1 trillion price tag over 10 years for the health care plans being debated in Congress. This is approximately equal to the amount allocated annually by the US government in military-related expenditures, which account for about one-third of the entire 2009 fiscal year budget.

The New York Times has been leading the campaign to slash health care costs at the expense of the working class. In a July 20 editorial, it hails Obama’s latest proposal to set up an “independent expert body to propose fair payment rates and other cost-saving reforms for Medicare.” What this will mean in practice is indicated, although in deliberately vague terms, in the remainder of the editorial.

It states: “If the government simply extends subsidized insurance to millions of uninsured people but fails to force fundamental changes in the delivery or financing of health care, then federal health care costs will keep escalating at excessive rates.” The editorial continues: “Medicare ought to be empowered, for example, to reduce its payment rates to the highest-cost hospitals and most inefficient doctors.”

This means, in plain language, that hospitals which spend similar amounts to treat Medicare patients as they do to treat wealthy patients should be penalized and placed at a competitive disadvantage with hospitals that provide cut-rate care to Medicare patients. The “spendthrift” hospitals will be confronted with the alternative of reducing their care for those whose bills are paid by Medicare or going out of business.

And what, precisely, is meant by “inefficient” doctors? This is a code word for those doctors who provide roughly equivalent care—tests, procedures, medications—to Medicare patients as to those able to pay on their own. They too will be faced with the alternative of cutting back on the care for Medicare patients, or being financially penalized.

The Times spells this out when it writes: “That is probably the best way to get them to stop providing needless tests and treatments that don’t improve the health of the patient.”

One should consider the meaning of “needless.” How is this to be determined in advance? The only way to determine with certainty whether a procedure or test is “needed” is if, having been denied a more expensive method of treatment, the patient fails to recover or dies!

The editorial continues, reinforcing the same point: “Medicare should also be allowed to use the results of comparative effectiveness research to set reimbursement policies favoring the best treatments.”

This is nothing other than a demand that Medicare be restructured to become a cut-rate system for providing substandard care to the working class and the poor. In a fundamental sense, this represents the unwinding of Medicare as a system of universal health care for the elderly. When the program was launched in 1965, it was based on the social principle that all elderly people were entitled to the same level of medical care, regardless of their income or socioeconomic status. It is this principle that is under attack by the Times and the Obama administration.

In its place, Medicare is to become a class-based system of reduced care to workers and poor people, while the wealthy will have access to the best treatment.

The Times goes on to make clear its support for proposals to tax employee health benefits, saying, “A tax on employer-provided benefits would probably also encourage workers to choose lower-cost policies, and use health care more sparingly.”

That is, health care is to be rationed to the “rabble” of society, so that the corporations can increase their profits by reducing their health care outlays, while the wealthy continue to enjoy the benefits of a tax system skewed in their interests.

The Times expresses the outlook of contemporary American liberalism and the social layers upon which it is based, i.e., sections of the financial elite and the most privileged layers of the middle class. It articulates the contempt for the working class that the liberal establishment, which supports the Democratic Party and the Obama administration, shares with its Republican counterpart.

Kate Randall and Barry Grey

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Honduran unions call general strike

Tuesday 21 July 2009
By Morning Star Reporter in Tegucigalpa

In a direct challenge to Honduras's military dictatorship, the country's three main trade union federations have called a two-day general strike, beginning on Thursday.

Yesterday, 150 delegates representing both public and private-sector workers met in the capital city Tegucigalpa.

Speaker after speaker, most of whom were dressed in jeans and T-shirts, angrily denounced the military regime and demanded the return of elected President Manuel Zelaya.

Mr Zelaya, who continues to be recognised by the international community as its sole legitimate president, was expelled from Honduras three weeks ago by masked soldiers and bundled onto a plane to Costa Rica.

He has declared that he intends to re-enter the country within a week - with or without the agreement of the coup plotters.

Interrupted by applause and cries of "it's now or never," secretary-general of the CUTH federation Israel Salinas announced a mass demonstration in Tegucigalpa on Thursday to coincide with the strike.

The CUTH represents 250,000 workers in both urban and rural areas.

Previous protests against coup leader Roberto Micheletti have been
confronted by large numbers of armed soldiers and police.

Mr Salinas told the Morning Star that opposition to the coup is gathering strength. "We have been in the streets for 22 days and our movement is becoming stronger and stronger.

"Our aim is to stop production, trade and transport," he said.

Despite the resistance of the oligarchy, Mr Zelaya's government had doubled the minimum wage and the trade unions predict that unless the coup regime is removed from power, it will attempt to reverse this and other progressive measures.

"Manuel Zelaya is the first president we have had who is with the poor
people," said Mr Salinas.

The trade union leader called on the British government to freeze all
economic ties to Honduras and to use its influence in the United Nations to further isolate the military dictatorship.

Yesterday, the European Union announced that about £60 million worth of aid to Honduras would cease with immediate effect. The United States is still providing aid to the regime.

UN Universal Health Care Right - Cuba Si! Yankee No

From Op-Ed News

by Jay Janson
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."

"The UN General Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and "to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories."

In the New York Times Sunday Magazine , July 18, 2009, on the eve of a Congress health care vote, a feature article: "Why We Must Ration Health Care - A utilitarian philosopher's argument for placing a dollar value on human life, by Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University."

Why, in the wealthiest country in the world does caring for its citizens register far below a priority for the free and unregulated flow of capital, money and commodities - if the well-being of its citizens registers at all?

As socialist Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont points out, though many veterans of the U.S. military enjoy government VA Administration's socialized medicine and the elderly enjoy some amount of Medicare's socialized government medical insurance, all the rest of Americans have to purchase expensive private medical attention and/or buy costly medical insurance from companies which make a profit by limiting medical services.

Inside the Times Magazine article, a candid statement,"Estimates of the number of deaths caused annually by the absence of health care [in the U.S.] go as high as 20,000."

The article is well intentioned, but the difficulty it presents is so complicated and perplexing. Why all the financial calculations and manufactured worries to avoid implementing that universal right to health care? Why the desperate corporate attempts at masking how much more modestly endowed societies manage to do it - and do it more humanely than the superpower known to control nearly half the world's wealth and resources?

Yours truly has personally experienced wonderfully kind and relaxed good health care in three European and two Asian countries In student days, I broke my ankle skiing. The Austrian resort physician's fee required that I pay a bit in addition to the precisely cataloged German medical insurance coverage for each specific charge, X-ray, bone setting, and cast. All students in Germany have had complete coverage since Chancellor Bismarck instituted a national insurance program before W.W.I. I had a bicycle accident; went to my landlady's family doctor, who was satisfied to accept what the basic coverage paid. Citizens go to whatever doctor they want to; no 'in the system' - 'out of the system', 'co-pay', 'deductibles', HMO restrictions.

In communist run Yugoslavia: "No, if your child has fever, don't bring it out into the cold, we will send a nurse or doctor within the hour." Going for a consultation myself, invariably, it was a skilled woman nurse practitioner, or a fine woman doctor specialist - no charge in every case.

In Italy, my family's coverage seemed to have been double. One from the State Radio Corporation I was working for and there was also the local clinic, again, no charge, even for house calls.

Everyone in Hong Kong seemed to be covered for everything, and although, when I visited someone in hospital, I was amazed at the crowding - beds in corridors and so many family members allowed to be there even overnight, the patient and sweet tenderness of the nurses and kindness of the staff was awesome, and everyone seemed to be happily in the flow. Medical services were at high standards.

In Hanoi, in nominally communist Vietnam in the nineties, I had a student accompany me to get a chest X-ray at a sprawling outdoor hospital of alcoves among the shade of palm trees along the sides of the enclosed treatment rooms, and was impressed with the calm, relaxed, and well organized staff, and again the easy-going charm of nurses and technicians, and the attentiveness that I witnessed all around me toward other patients.

In summation, when there is no money to be made or profit to be taken, there isn't that tension one always feels in doctor's offices hospitals in the States, even after one's coverage has been checked out before being admitted for care.

In civilized countries, medicine and medical attention is not really a business, but a dedication, as is music, art, science, or any profession. To profess a discipline is not the same as what is commonly called in strongly capitalist American society, 'making money' or earning wages from someone else's 'money making'. In no country can the best hospitals and medical research clinics ever 'pay for themselves' let alone make a profit, any more than a fine symphony orchestra, library, museum and so many other institutions and amenities provided within cosmopolitan society can. So why the scam of making money from sickness. Seems unethical at best, savage at worst?

When the highest principles of humanity are put into practice the results are amazing - e.g.:

Cuba provides free health care without the worry, by Peter Eisner
Worldfocus, June 26, 2009

Apropos of the current health care debate in the United States: What happens when a government you happen not to approve of does some good things? The case in point is Cuba, where the level of health care is startling.

Medicine has long been held up as one of the success stories of Fidel Castro's half-century tenure.

During a Worldfocus reporting trip several months ago (February 2009), I had the chance to check out the reality of the claim at various points along the health care track. At one end of the spectrum, I spoke to a retired woman who lives with her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren in a small apartment in downtown Havana. The family's basic income is about $40 a month. They could use more money, but not for health care.

There was an 80-year-old writer who had a quadruple bypass several years ago. He was taken to the provincial hospital with the best reputation for the surgery, recovered at the hospital and at a facility where his family joined him, and now has regular checkups with a doctor who reminds him to keep exercising. No bill for him or his family. It was free.

I spoke to an African-American woman from New York who attends the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba. The students there are Cubans and foreigners from two dozen countries; the young woman told me the program was life-changing; she would never have had the means to study medicine in the United States. It's free - but wait; there's a catch. Americans who attend must promise the Cuban school that they will practice medicine in poor or under-served communities in the United States.

Finally, I interviewed Dr. Gerardo Guillen, the research director of the Cuban Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, who described pioneering pharmaceutical research. The center is experimenting with drugs to treat and cure prostate cancer and hepatitis C. The center already produces and distributes a drug that treats and cures deep wounds characteristically suffered by diabetes patients. Guillen estimates that tens of thousands of people in the United States could be saved from amputations if they had access to this particular drug. It's not licensed in the United States.

Cuban Americans, among others, sometimes come to Cuba for treatment or for other medical intervention they could not afford back in the United States. The cost for visitors? Not free - but a fraction of what it would cost at home."

(Peter Eisner has been an editor and foreign correspondent at The Washington Post, Newsday and The Associated Press. He was founder and president of Newscom, an international online news service, and speaks Spanish and Portuguese.)

In the 1960s when we chanted "Cuba Si! Yankee No!" we could not have imagined that a tiny Latin American nation of 6,669,000, now more than 11,000,150, would see its revolution survive U.S. embargo, economic sanctions, CIA sabotage, assassination attempts, and invasion, to surpass its superpower neighbor in quality health care, in citizen longevity and lowest infant mortality rate.

Yes, Cuba has long made Article 25 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights a comfortable reality for its citizens.

No, the United States of America has not.

Maybe, the American public will soon become aware that it is the deception and propaganda of the corporate managed media cartel that blocks health care from being accepted as a human right in the US.

‘The coup dies or constitutions die’

From Worker's World

Published Jul 20, 2009 9:14 PM

Reflections by Comrade Fidel Castro, reprinted from Granma, July 10.

The countries of Latin America were struggling against history’s worst financial crisis within relative institutional order.

When U.S. President Barack Obama—while on a trip to Moscow to discuss vital topics on the subject of nuclear weapons—was declaring that the only constitutional president of Honduras was Manuel Zelaya, the ultra right-wing and the hawks in Washington were making maneuvers for Zelaya to negotiate a humiliating pardon for the illegalities attributed to him by the perpetrators of the coup.

It was obvious that before his people and the world such an act would be tantamount to his disappearance from the political stage.

It is a proven fact that when Zelaya announced he would be returning on July 5th, he had decided to fulfill his promise to share the brutal repression of the coup with his people.

Traveling with the president was Miguel d’Escoto, the president pro tempore of the U.N. General Assembly, along with Patricia Rodas, the Honduran foreign minister, a Telesur journalist and others, a total of nine persons. Zelaya maintained his decision to land. I know for a fact that in mid-flight, when they were nearing Tegucigalpa, he was informed from the ground about Telesur broadcasting the moment when the enormous mass of people awaiting him outside of the airport was being attacked by soldiers with tear gas and automatic rifle fire.

His immediate reaction was to request that they [gain] altitude in order to denounce the events on Telesur and to demand of the commanding officers of those troops that they cease the repression. Then he informed them that he would carry on with the landing. The high command then ordered the landing strip to be blocked. In a matter of seconds, motorized transport vehicles were obstructing the runway.

The Falcon jet made three passes, at a low altitude, over the airport. Specialists explain that the tensest and most dangerous moment for pilots is when fast, small planes—like the one carrying the president—reduce speed for touchdown. That’s why I think that attempt to return to Honduras was audacious and brave.

If they wanted to put him on trial for alleged constitutional crimes, why not allow him to land?

Zelaya knows that it was not only the Constitution of Honduras that was at stake, but also the right of the peoples of Latin America to elect the people who govern them.

Today Honduras is not just a country occupied by a coup, but it is also a country occupied by the armed forces of the United States.

The military base at Soto Cano, also known by its name of Palmerola—located less than 100 kilometers from Tegucigalpa and reactivated in 1981 under the Ronald Reagan administration—was used by Col. Oliver North when he was running the dirty war against Nicaragua, and from there the U.S. government directed the attacks against the Salvadoran and Guatemalan revolutionaries that cost tens of thousands of lives.

That is the location of U.S. Joint Task Force Bravo—made up of personnel from the three forces—which occupies 85 percent of the area of the base. Eva Golinger reveals its role in an article published on Rebelión web site on July 2, 2009, entitled, “The U.S. military base in Honduras at the center of the coup.” She explains that “the Constitution of Honduras does not legally allow for foreign military presence in the country. A ‘handshake-like’ agreement between Washington and Honduras authorizes the important and strategic presence of hundreds of U.S. soldiers on the base, under a ‘semi-permanent’ deal. The agreement was reached in 1954 as part of the military aid the United States was offering Honduras ... the third poorest country in the hemisphere.” She adds that “... the agreement that allows the military presence of the United States in the Central American country can be removed with no notice given.”

Soto Cano is also home of the Aviation Academy of Honduras. The components of the U.S. military task force are partly made up of Honduran soldiers.

What is the objective of the military base, the planes, the helicopters and the U.S. task force in Honduras? Without any doubt they are only adequate for use in Central America. The war on drug trafficking does not require those weapons.

If President Zelaya is not returned to his position, a wave of coups threatens to sweep away many Latin American governments, or these will be at the mercy of the ultra right-wing military, educated in the security doctrine of the School of the Americas, an expert in torture, psychological warfare and terror. The authority of many civilian governments in Central and South America will become weakened. Those dark days are not very far back in time. The military perpetrators of the coup would not even pay any attention to the civilian administration of the United States. It can be very negative for a president who wants to improve that country’s image, like Barack Obama does. The Pentagon formally obeys the civilian power. The legions have not yet taken over control of the empire as they did in Rome.

It would not be understandable for Zelaya to now admit to stalling maneuvers that would wear out the considerable social forces that support him and only lead to an irreparable attrition.

The illegally overthrown president does not seek power, but he defends a principle, and as Martí said: “One just principle from the depths of a cave can be mightier than an army.”

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