Saturday, February 28, 2009

Chavez sends army to rice plants

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has ordered the army to take control of all rice processing plants in the country.

Mr Chavez accused some firms of overcharging by refusing to produce rice at prices set by the government.

He warned that some companies could be nationalised if they tried to interfere with supplies of the grain.

Mr Chavez - who has nationalised large swathes of Venezuela's economy - did not say how long the government intervention would last.

Major rice processors in the country include the US-owned giant Cargill and Venezuela's main food company, Polar.

Last year, Venezuela seized control of plants and offices belonging to Mexican cement giant Cemex.

In 2007, the government said it had taken control of the massive Orinoco Belt oil projects as part of President Chavez's nationalisation drive.

Price squeeze

Announcing the move to send troops to the rice plants in a televised address to the nation on Saturday, Mr Chavez criticised the producers for failing to sell their rice at government prices.

"I have ordered the immediate intervention in all those sectors of agro-industry, intervention by the revolutionary government," he said.

"This government is here to protect the people, not the bourgeoisie or the rich."

He said that those companies who had threatened to paralyse rice production could be expropriated.

"I will expropriate them, I have no problem with that, and I'll pay them with bonds. Don't count on me paying with hard cash," he said, without mentioning any companies by name.

The agriculture minister later confirmed that the military were in control of at least one major national producer, Primor, the BBC's Will Grant reports from Caracas.

Further interventions are expected in the next 48 hours.

In Venezuela, the government provides basic foodstuffs at low prices in state-run markets known as "mercales".

But many rice, wheat, meat and dairy producers complain that the price regulations leave them without a profit and that many are facing bankruptcy, our correspondent says.

The country's inflation levels are the highest in Latin America and, as a result, there are often shortages of items such as rice and coffee, leading to hoarding and sale on the black market.

With President Chavez recently granted the right to stand for a third term in office, he is keen to ensure the provision of cheap food to the poor is not put in jeopardy, Will Grant adds.

Christo-Fascist James Dobson steps down from 'Focus on the Family' chair

ERIC GORSKI
AP News

Feb 27, 2009 15:23 EST

Conservative evangelical leader James Dobson has resigned as chairman of Focus on the Family but will continue to play a prominent role at the organization he founded more than three decades ago.

Dobson notified the board of his decision Wednesday, and the 950 employees of the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based ministry were informed Friday morning at a monthly worship service, said Jim Daly, the group's president and chief executive officer.

Dobson, 72, will continue to host Focus on the Family's flagship radio program, write a monthly newsletter and speak out on moral issues, Daly said.

Dobson's resignation as board chairman "lessens his administrative burden" and is the latest step in a succession plan, the group said. Dobson began relinquishing control six years ago by stepping down as president and CEO.

"One of the common errors of founder-presidents is to hold to the reins of leadership too long, thereby preventing the next generation from being prepared for executive authority," Dobson said in a statement. "... Though letting go is difficult after three decades of intensive labor, it is the wise thing to do."

While Focus on the Family emphasizes that it devotes most of its resources to offering parenting and marriage advice, it is best known for promoting conservative moral stands in politics.

Dobson, a child psychologist and author, has gotten more involved in politics in recent years. He endorsed Republican John McCain last year after initially saying he would not, and also sharply criticized Democratic candidate Barack Obama.

On political matters, Dobson "will continue to speak out as he always has — a private citizen and not a representative of the organization he founded," said Gary Schneeberger, a Focus on the Family spokesman. He said the nonprofit ministry and Focus on the Family Action — an affiliate set up under a different section of the tax code that permits more political activity — will continue to be active on public policy.

Dobson has a devoted following. His radio broadcast reaches an estimated 1.5 million U.S. listeners daily. Yet critics say his influence is waning, pointing to evangelicals pushing to broaden the movement's agenda beyond abortion, gay marriage and other issues Dobson views as most vital.

"In the short term, in the near term, Dr. Dobson will stay committed to the issues close to his heart," Daly said in an interview. "He'll continue to speak out on those topics."

Daly said there is no timetable for Dobson to leave the radio program, and the group will "look for the next voice for the next generation" while Dobson remains on the air.

That will likely mean not one person behind the microphone but several speaking on their respective areas of expertise, Daly said. The organization, anticipating a post-Dobson era, for several years has tried out different voices on the broadcast and in giving media interviews on hot-button social issues.

At the same time, Focus officials have acknowledged difficulties in raising money from younger families critical to its future. The economy also has hurt. Last fall Focus on the Family eliminated more than 200 staff positions, its largest employee cutbacks ever.

Daly said the group is now "right on track" with a revised annual budget of $138 million.

Dobson's wife, Shirley, also resigned from the Focus board. The new board chairman is retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Patrick P. Caruana, a longtime board member and a former executive with defense contractor Northrup Grumman.

"I don't see any dramatic departure from what Focus stands for," Caruana said of Dobson's leaving the board. "There are obviously younger people the ministry would like to reach, and we're on track to do that."

Chomsky: Humanity's survival 'by no means a sure thing'

02/27/2009 @ 3:24 pm

Filed by David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster


Here's a unique suggestion: instead of dropping chocolate, red meat, alcohol or any other frivolous comfort, why not think about how to eliminate global hegemony?

Yes, that "hegemony," defined by Merriam-Webster as "the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group."

"How should Americans, as a whole, consider the season of Lent?" asked blogger Dandelion Salad. "Using Noam Chomsky as a lens, it would be good to start with our misuse of the planet, our militarization of space, and ultimately our irrational commitment to global hegemony ... All of which threaten our own survival and the future lives of our grandchildren."

To the uninitiated, Lent is a 40-day period leading up to Easter Sunday during which adherents to Catholicism give up something important to themselves. The action of sacrifice is symbolic of a Biblical tale in which Jesus -- revered as the savior of mankind by Christians -- wanders the desert, fending off the devil's temptations.

Speaking from his office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author, scholar and philosopher Noam Chomsky offers a glimpse at what the greatest threats to human survival are today, in the context of his 2003 book, 'Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance.'

Chomsky's full comments are carried in the video below.

"What I mean by that is pretty straightforward," said Chomsky. "Survival is a word we all understand. I'd like to know whether there's going to be a world -- a decent world -- where, say, my grandchildren can live. That's the question of survival.

"The survival of the human species is by no means an obvious thing. There are very severe threats to survival. We learn about them all the time. The threat of environmental destruction is much too real to put to the side. The threat of destruction by weapons of mass destruction -- that has come very close many times. We just learned at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, a terminal nuclear war was averted by one word by one submarine commander who countermanded the order to send off nuclear missiles.

"... So, survival of the species is by no means a sure thing. Decent survival. Well, what's hegemony? Hegemony has to do with the domination of the International system by small sectors of power. At the moment there happens to be one superpower, but it does not dominate the rest of the world in all dimensions, but overwhelmingly dominates it in one dimension: Namely, the military dimension."

"Unfortunately, if you look at the factors that surround hegemony, the short term goals to maximize profit, to increase control of the world and so on, and ask how those goals will play out, turns out they do threaten survival," said Chomsky.

"And, it's a deep problem because the decisions are not irrational within the framework of the institutions in which they're being taken," he continued. "But, they may be utterly irrational as compared to the likelihood that my grandchildren will have a world to live in."

"Across the board, the choice of hegemony or survival is one that we must face if we care about our grandchildren," he concludes.

This video was posted to YouTube Feb. 26.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Will Legalizing Pot Save California from its Cash Crunch?

By Bruce Mirken, Marijuana Policy Project
Posted on February 25, 2009, Printed on February 27, 2009
http://www.alternet.org/story/128963/

California state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) has announced the introduction of legislation to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcoholic beverages. The bill, the first of its kind ever introduced in California, would create a regulatory structure similar to that used for beer, wine, and liquor, permitting taxed sales to adults while barring sales to or possession by those under 21.

Estimates based on federal government statistics have shown marijuana to be California’s top cash crop, valued at approximately $14 billion in 2006 — nearly twice the combined value of the state’s number two and three crops, vegetables ($5.7 billion) and grapes ($2.6 billion) — in spite of massive “eradication” efforts that wipe out an average of nearly 36,000 cultivation sites per year without making a dent in this underground industry.

Ammiano introduced the measure at a San Francisco press conference this morning, saying, “With the state in the midst of an historic economic crisis, the move towards regulating and taxing marijuana is simply common sense. This legislation would generate much needed revenue for the state, restrict access to only those over 21, end the environmental damage to our public lands from illicit crops, and improve public safety by redirecting law enforcement efforts to more serious crimes,” said Ammiano. “California has the opportunity to be the first state in the nation to enact a smart, responsible public policy for the control and regulation of marijuana.”

“It is simply nonsensical that California’s largest agricultural industry is completely unregulated and untaxed,” said Marijuana Policy Project California policy director Aaron Smith, who also spoke at the news conference. “With our state in an ongoing fiscal crisis — and no one believes the new budget is the end of California’s financial woes — it’s time to bring this major piece of our economy into the light of day.”

Independent experts from around the world, from President Nixon’s National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse in 1972 to a Canadian Senate special committee in 2002, have long contended that criminalizing marijuana users makes little sense, given that marijuana is less addictive, much less toxic, and far less likely to induce aggression or violence than alcohol. For example, in an article in the December 2008 Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Australian researcher Stephen Kisely noted that “penalties bear little relation to the actual harm associated with cannabis.”

Bruce Mirken is communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project.
© 2009 Marijuana Policy Project All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/128963/

China scorns U.S. rights record in tit-for-tat exchange

BEIJING (Reuters) - China maintained its scornful response to human rights criticism from the United States, throwing back assertions that Washington was culpable for racism, crowded prisons and torture.

The U.S. State Department sharply criticised China on Wednesday in its annual report on human rights across the world, saying its record "remained poor and worsened in some areas" in 2008.

In the now well-scripted tit-for-tat exchange over the issue, Beijing dismissed the criticisms as "meddling," but also late Thursday issued its tenth annual assessment of human rights in the United States.

That record was not good, said the report issued by the State Council Information Office, the government arm in charge of news and propaganda.

"The U.S. practice of throwing stones at others while living in a glass house is a testimony to the double standards and hypocrisy of the United States in dealing with its human rights issues," said the Chinese report.

The U.S. State Department report said detention and harassment of dissidents, petitioners, human rights defenders and defense lawyers rose with high-profile events such as the Beijing Olympic Games in August.

Citing details from U.S. newspapers and international rights groups that Beijing often dismisses as biased, the Chinese report described crowded prisons, racial inequality, poverty and gun violence that it said blighted the U.S. record.

In past decades, China's ruling Communist Party outright dismissed human rights as an alien and subversive idea. But now it is trying to persuade its own citizens and the world that Beijing has successfully advanced rights, especially through economic growth.

Washington should "face its own human rights problems with courage and stop applying double standards to human rights issues," said the Chinese report. © Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

Capitalist economists intensify calls to ‘nationalize’ banks

Published Feb 26, 2009 10:49 PM

As the staggering bank losses continue to mount, representatives of the U.S. ruling class are coming to the forced realization that many of the largest financial institutions in the U.S. are insolvent.

The big banks are the heart of the modern capitalist system. The credit that the banks pump out is the system’s lifeblood. Many capitalists fear that if banks as big as Citigroup and Bank of America collapse, it could trigger a heart attack that could potentially prove fatal for the capitalist system. This fear is why a growing chorus of capitalist politicians, economists and pundits are calling for the government to take over the big banks. They want the state to perform an emergency bypass surgery in the collective interest of the capitalist class.

In a recent television interview, the very conservative Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, “This idea of nationalizing banks is not comfortable. But I think we’ve got so many toxic assets spread throughout the banking and financial community that we’re going to have to do something that no one ever envisioned a year ago. ... If nationalization is what works, then we should do it.” (ABC-TV, Feb. 15)

Senate Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd said recently, “I don’t welcome it at all, but I could see how it’s possible it may happen. ... I’m concerned that we may end up having to do that.” (Bloomberg, Feb. 20)

And, in a refutation of his own theories, former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan, who confidently declared in 2005, “The use of a growing array of derivatives and more-sophisticated approaches to managing risk are key factors underpinning the greater resilience of our largest financial institutions,” is also calling for the nationalization of the big banks because of ever growing losses on derivatives, securities and other “sophisticated” approaches to managing risk.

What it means for workers and oppressed

An editorial in the New York Times recently opined, “Americans have a visceral horror of the word nationalization. So call it restructuring or majority ownership. ... We increasingly believe it is the least bad solution to a truly desperate situation.” (New York Times, Feb. 22)

Whatever the bourgeoisie chooses to call it—nationalization, restructuring, conservatorship, etc.—there is no doubt what it would mean for the working class. The state under capitalism is the representative of the collective interests of the capitalist class. If the capitalist state intervenes in the market, it does so in the interest of the capitalist class as a whole, with the objective of ensuring the survival of the capitalist system.

Frederick Engels, in his 1890 book, “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific,” forecast that the ever growing intensity of the regularly occurring capitalist crises would eventually compel the capitalist state to take increasing control of production and finance.

Engels wrote, “But the transformation into state-ownership does not do away with the capitalistic nature of the productive forces. The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine—the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage-workers—proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with. It is, rather, brought to a head.”

What is the alternative?

The capitalist mode of production is inherently crisis prone. Because of the anarchy of production under capitalism, where each capitalist is compelled by competition with others to continually expand production irrespective of the limits of the markets, crises of overproduction are inevitable. As the capitalist mode of production continues to spread to nearly every corner of the globe, the tendency is for each crisis of overproduction to become more universal and therefore worse than the preceding one.

Crises of overproduction stand as clear indictments of the capitalists’ inability to control modern-day productive forces. Increasing state control of these productive forces further confirms how truly superfluous is the capitalist class.

The capitalist class in the U.S. would like workers to believe that by nationalizing the banks, the current crisis can be brought under control. They assert that “better regulations” can ensure that a crisis like this does not occur again.

But as Engels wrote, “State-ownership of the productive forces is not the solution of the conflict. ... This solution can only consist in the practical recognition of the social nature of the modern forces of production, and therefore in the harmonizing with the socialized character of the means of production. And this can only come about by society openly and directly taking possession of the productive forces. ... By this act, the proletariat frees the means of production from the character of capital they have thus far borne. ... Socialized production upon a predetermined plan becomes henceforth possible. ... In proportion as anarchy in social production vanishes, the political authority of the State dies out. ... When, at last, it becomes the real representative of the whole of society, the State renders itself unnecessary. As soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon our present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from these, are removed, nothing more remains to be repressed, and a special repressive force, a State, is no longer necessary.”

To accomplish this tall task is the historic mission of the proletariat. With the growth of working-class consciousness, unity and solidarity, this mission becomes more feasible by the day.


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.

March planned for today to mark Oscar Grant's birthday

By Angela Woodall
Oakland TribuneBy Angela Woodall

STAFF WRITER

Nearly two months after a Hayward man was shot to death by a BART officer, protesters have threatened to disrupt service at the Fruitvale station in Oakland where Oscar Grant III died the morning of Jan. 1.

The small group gathered at the station Thursday to announce that they would shut it down next Thursday during rush hour unless officials met their ultimatum for increased accountability and other demands organizers have made since early January.

Meanwhile, Grant supporters are expected to march today — on what would have been his 23rd birthday — from the Hayward downtown BART station to City Hall.

Hayward police said they will have extra officers working in the area of the demonstration "to facilitate a peaceful protest."

"We have been in contact with the family, and they are hoping it will be a peaceful demonstration," police Lt. Chris Orrey said. "We will protect their right to assemble."

The Hayward march is scheduled to start with a rally at the BART station between 4 and 4:30 p.m. Marchers then will walk up A Street to Foothill Boulevard, take Foothill to B Street, then go down B to City Hall.

On Thursday at the Fruitvale station, about 15 people walked from the station's plaza upstairs to the platform where Grant was shot. They placed flowers inside a chalk outline meant to represent where Grant's body lay after BART Officer Johannes Mehserle shot the unarmed

A broadcast of the entire update is available at www.bart.gov/news. BARTtv News will also post video of an update from members of the BART Board Police Review Committee.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Justice Department will stop medical marijuana raids, Attorney General says

02/26/2009 @ 11:09 am

Filed by John Byrne and David Edwards

In a little-noticed remark Wednesday, Obama Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Justice Department will no longer raid medical marijuana dispensaries established under state laws but technically prohibited by the federal government.

The decision marks a shift from the Bush Administration, which was more draconian in its approach to hunting those who sought to dispense marijuana for medical purposes.

Numerous states have decriminalized marijuana in recent years, and new fiscal pressures are turning more states toward being more lenient toward first-time drug offenders as the cost of keeping drug users in jail becomes untenable for state budgets.

The remark was caught by The Huffington Post's Ryan Grimm.

The Drug Enforcement Administration continued to carry out such raids after Obama's inauguration, Grimm says, despite an Obama campaign promise to cease the practice. But asked at a press conference Wednesday, Holder said it wouldn't be the Administration's policy going forward.

"No" it won't be Obama policy, Holder said. "What the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing in law enforcement. He was my boss during the campaign. He is formally and technically and by law my boss now. What he said during the campaign is now American policy."

During the campaign, Obama told an Oregon newspaper that he agreed with the idea of medical marijuana. "I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that's entirely appropriate," said Obama

At a campaign stop 2007 campaign stop in New Hampshire, Obama was specific about medical marijuana raids. "I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users."

Children of the Revolution

Ed Vulliamy and Helena Smith join frontline activists in Athens to discuss the worst civil unrest in Europe for decades

A heavy chain binds the iron gates of the philosophy faculty of the university of Athens, the city where the notions of philosophy and of university were invented in the shadow of the Acropolis. But this does not mean that the building is empty, or that there is not effervescent discourse in progress; quite the reverse, the place is teeming with people and ideas. It has been - as have thousands of colleges, schools, city halls, offices and every other kind of building across Greece - occupied. Put under occupation by, in this case, the students. So that the walls, inside and out, like every wall in Athens, are lined with the slogans of the insurrection which propelled the most tumultuous and prolonged riots in a European city since 1968, after the killing by police of a 15-year-old, Alexis Grigoropoulos, as he chatted with friends on a street corner on 6 December 2008.

Many of the axioms are reminiscent of 1968, blending humor and mischief: "Merry Crisis and a happy New Fear" and "Kill the cop inside you". Others are merely enraged: "Fascist state, you are deaf - the gallows await you!" Others are relevant to the moment: "Billions for the banks, bullets for the children." And one dismisses that era of revolt by their parents: "May '68 is dead. Fight Now!"

Inside what is properly known as the Faculty of Philosophy, Psychology, Pedagogy, Music and Mathematics, students discuss the origins of the uprising, and its causes. They talk first about the "precarity" of their lives, and the fact that in Greece a quarter of those aged between 17 and 25 are unemployed. One student, Alexis, explains how for two years they have been occupying campuses all over Greece in protest against the government giving formal university status to private colleges (many of which have franchising agreements with British universities). Another student, Chariklia, says, "Half of all women who leave high school are out of work. What is the future for them and what does that say to the school kids who came on to the streets with us?" They talk about short-term contracts, "outsourcing", work without security or representation, of the impossibility of finding a good job unless connected in a client system of patronage and who-you-know. Then the conversation becomes more general. "Society has the face of freedom and choice," says Angeliki. "But that is all it is, a facade. This bad job or that bad job, this rubbish on television or that rubbish on television, this product or that product. We are rebelling against that false choice." Time after time, students and activists pleaded with us not to make cliched references to Ancient Greece, but then a girl named Yianna said: "Don't forget that in Greek myth, chaos was not disorder, it was a vacant space awaiting occupation. Chaos was the space into which the silver egg was laid which hatched Eros." We laughed, because now that cliched reference is unavoidable, and a hint of the complexity and intelligence behind the chaos of December's uprising, and the aftermath it has unleashed, is out in the open.

Much has been written about the ferocity of the attacks on shops, the destruction of property and its cost to the Greek economy and image (Athens has been less affected by criminal violence than any other capital in Europe). And more will be written in retrospect as it becomes clear that the uprising is not against anything that is uniquely Greek, but against postmodern society and a system of globalised capitalism. There were riots in support of the Greeks outside the country's embassies as far away as Brazil, and as rioting now spreads to Bulgaria, Latvia, Iceland and Russia, the Greek uprising has been called "the first credit-crunch riot". They are certainly the first riots against the "cult of greed" about which we hear so much these days. But, it emerges, they are also about much more than that.

In Greece, the insurgents have been given a collective name, the koukouloforoi - the hooded ones, because they hide their faces with balaclavas, gas masks, crash helmets and Palestinian keffiyehs to conceal their identity, but also as protection against the regular soakings with tear gas. But what if the violence of the koukouloforoi is not "mindless", as Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis put it, but mindful What if their contempt for society, politicians and consumerism has a lexicon that is not just revolutionary dogma? And, as the authorities in Bulgaria, Iceland and Latvia failed to ask before the riots came their way, and Britain has so far failed to ask: what if it happens here?

Alexis Grigoropoulos was shot dead at the corner of Messolongiou and Tzavela streets, but the signs above the shrine to the dead boy now call both thoroughfares Alexis Grigoropoulos Street. Football scarves, candles and flowers are laid at the spot, at which people linger in silence. There are thousands of messages and tributes. To quote a few of them is to articulate the mood: "Let beauty bloom from your blood"; "You hold your head up just enough to see the sky"; "And we go on, but we won't go slow, we'll put up such a fight. Keep your head high, kiss your fist, and touch the sky. It is not too late."

The corner is in an alleyway of a quarter of Athens called Exarchia, described by visiting reporters as a "ghetto" of "self-styled anarchists". As a neighbourhood, Exarchia is more complicated than that. It resembles the Lower East Side of Manhattan: a vortex of alternative culture, lifestyle and politics, but with more political edge, peppered by fancy bars and bistros, so that elegant, non-rioting couples might venture out for a daring date by crossing the triangular square - in which youths huddle around fires and where riot police patrol their quarry - in search of some nice gastro bar.

At the western edge of Exarchia is the polytechnic, where thousands flocked after Grigoropoulos was killed. Only fine art and architecture are taught on this campus now, students lurk in the shadows of recent history beneath graffiti reading "Kill the cops". It's a place that only weeks ago was an urban battlefield of burning cars and torched property. The smell of charred masonry still lingers in the air. In the district's heart is the square around which the little streets are lined with bars, cafes and squats. Streets like Themistokleous, which climbs past sexy lingerie boutiques, cellar tavernas, a shop named Dark Cell Records and a bustling Saturday-morning fruit market to a place called Nosotros, from the balcony of which flies a red and black flag. It is the meeting place for some of those whose creed formed an iconic expression, if not a kernel, of the December uprising - anarchism.

Nosotros is a place of meetings, film screenings, endless political discourse and quite a few beers, where migrant workers can get free evening classes in the Greek language. It is here that Niko, a youth who works in a bookshop, draws the starting line for several nights of conversation: "When they killed Alexis, everyone felt it could have been any of us, so we made it all of us. The riots, then the uprising, went from there."

One slogan still painted across the shops ravaged in central Athens during December says simply: "Buy until you die" - it is accompanied by the circled A of the anarchists. Niko has no problem discussing his reasons for smashing shop windows: "It was almost funny to see the faces of the people whose 'right to shop' we had deprived them of, like we had insulted their religion - which we had, I suppose."

"Besides," volunteers another man, joining the conversation, "smashing things up is not what matters. Above all, this revolt was an assertion of dignity and a statement of presence. Of all the slogans, our most important was, 'We are here.'"

The second man, a carpenter, turns out to be a historic figure in the Greek anarchist movement. He comes from the town of Agrinio, which has a tradition of anarchism. Nikos Ioannou argues that while previous rebellions had been against a military junta (from 1967-1974), "There are similarities between then and now. The means of control have changed, and people enjoy a perception of freedom, but we would argue that the colonels were less powerful than a shopping mall, and in this way, Greece has turned another page in its history with this insurrection. Greece is a society in which individual rights were never established. This uprising has given people who were never part of our movement a new understanding of what it means to be who they are."

The conversation continues deep into the night. We discuss the different traditions of and differences within anarchism, and a man called Tassos, branding himself an anarcho-syndicalist, describes his attempts to spread the energy of the uprising into his construction workers' union. We also discuss the United Kingdom and why, according to Valia, a photographer, "You are not able to create the kind of uprising in your country that we have created here because the methods of control in your country are far more sophisticated and accomplished. And your people are more subservient."

When we suggest to Ioannou that the anarchists lit the touch paper in December, he replies: "Maybe, but the main ingredient was the school kids. Greek youth saw themselves in the face of this boy, and that is why school kids were the flour in the dough of the insurrection." Not only that, but the school children, of whom Alexis Grigoropoulos was one, tend to be those most eager to give the insurgency political shape, although they had no previous political experience. One of those involved is Stefanos, aged 15, who has joined a demonstration to try and secure the release of those arrested during December. He notes the fact that they are to be charged under anti-terrorist legislation and says that: "Smashing things up may be a way to relax, but it isn't going to change the future. I never expected to be involved in anything like that, and if they hadn't shot a boy my age I probably wouldn't be. But now that I have been I want it to make a difference, not to end there."

The demonstration is attacked by the police, leaving our group trapped between a baton charge and a wall of tear gas, nasty stuff imported from Israel after Greek supplies ran out in December. That night, militants from the Black Block - a wing of the anarchist movement which counts large numbers of teenagers in its ranks - is arraigned outside an immigrant advice center that they have occupied in order to defend migrants in their own way. The Black Block is to be found, usually masked, at the core of violent international demonstrations against G8 summits in Genoa and Prague. It does not usually talk to the media and in Athens tends not to hang around for a chat in Nosotros either.

The group is facing down columns of riot police who broke up their demo earlier that day and seem to be of a mind to seize back the migrant center. It doesn't happen, this street battle is no pushover for the police.

"When we last met up with those ones wearing blue," says one of them, "down in Pireus, we had their shields and helmets flying all over the place." The police have hardened their tactics of late, but they know that one more stray bullet, one more dead teenager, and Greece will have an all-out insurrection on its hands, with the Black Block - whose numbers in Greece far exceed those anywhere else except perhaps Italy - willing to fight it.

The speaker at the demonstration, a young woman we shall call M, who joins me across the road, knows England well and makes a salient point about Greece by reference to the UK. "We are at one extreme edge of Europe, but not really part of Europe, and you are at the opposite edge, but also not part of Europe. Here, an uprising, there... nothing. Though the violence is the same in your country, in fact it's much worse. But you commit it against each other; knife crime, drunken fights and gangs. Here, we challenge the state and the banks, not each other. This is to do with consumption," she continues. "In 1975, Greece was promised the benefits of capitalism, but never really got to sample them like you did. We never had the delusion of wealth for the masses, of mass consumerism, which is now causing your crisis, but which neutralizes you in a way. Your violence is about consumption: alcohol, drugs, television and clubbing. But we're not drunk or stoned, and we have just been tear-gassed on a demonstration, not in a nightclub. This is not a gang fight, it is a fight against the state.

"What we have had in Greece is a civil war that never goes away. I am young, from a left-wing family, and some of us who come from left families, educated but constantly persecuted, have grown up with political warfare, the police in our homes, the struggle in our lives. My family has suffered a political murder in every generation since the Nazi occupation."

There is long, bitter and deep history behind this Greek uprising. Like other countries under Nazi occupation, a heroic resistance was fought in Greece, largely organized by communists. But in war's wake, Greece became a pawn in the nascent Cold War. The resistance, which had fought alongside the British against Hitler, found themselves persecuted by a British-backed government. Britain, and later America, then took the side of the Royalists and the far right which had collaborated with the Nazis in a bloody civil war which defeated the left in 1949. A precarious attempt at a reform of authoritarian rule began with the election of George Papandreou's centrist party in 1965, but was crushed by the "colonels' coup" of 1967 - steered by the CIA.

In that history, one moment resounds loudly in the events of last December, a call to the streets as a legacy in itself: the student occupation of Athens's polytechnic in November 1973, and its subsequent, brutal repression by the junta. The number killed when the colonels ordered tanks into the polytechnic campus, crashing through its gates, has never been ascertained, but no one disputes the fact that the highest casualties were among the 150,000 non-student civilians who had converged on the streets outside the occupied building in support of the occupation. The junta's victory was brief, however, and the polytechnic occupation - which was itself the culmination of six years' democratic opposition to the regime - was seen as the catalyst of its eventual downfall.

One of the most famous images of the days leading up to the 1973 occupation was the face, beaten to pulp, of Makis Balaouras. He is nowadays either to be found in the dusty offices of the weekly paper Epochi, with pictures of the Beatles and Che Guevara on walls otherwise lined with box files, or marching on the streets with his 19-year-old daughter, including one demonstration on which we were separated from him after a phalanx of riot police drenched all of us with tear gas.

His history with the police has left its mark. Balaouras looks wearier than his 56 years and talks - with a striking mix of gravity and good nature - about a "passing of the relay baton" between the uprising of 1973 and last December's riots, "from one generation to another. The legacy of dissatisfaction is passed on in Greece by special circumstances. The crucial moment was after the war, when in other countries those who had fought the Nazis were hailed as heroes, while here the generation that liberated Greece was executed, exiled and imprisoned, and those who had collaborated with the Nazis were rewarded. This experience plays a role in what we see happening now.

"When it came to 1973," he continues, "we wanted to get everyone, more than the students, involved. For that, I was arrested many times, beaten, tortured and, after the occupation, jailed in solitary confinement for three months. A friend of mine called Moustakis was tortured so badly they had turned him into a vegetable by the time he died."

Balaouras pauses and then adds: "And all the while, your hippies were coming to the beaches as if Greece was a playground [that would be people like Leonard Cohen and the character played by Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia!], even though one of our demands was that they stay away! But these have been grandiose battles that we have fought here, the struggle in Greece has a magnitude to it, a tradition of resistance spawned of that magnitude, which we see resurrected today."

But not all veterans of 1973 are sympathetic to the December uprising. One leading member of the polytechnic occupation was Dimitris Hadzisokratis, who now leads a left-wing parliamentary group wary of the current insurgency, as are the powerful Communist Party, whose views his alliance shares. He meets us in his office in parliament, to contrast then with now. "What happened last December was an explosion, not a revolt," says Hadzisokratis, "which means something else. The situations are entirely different, we were rebelling against a dictatorship, they are rebelling against a democracy. We had a set of demands and goals. Yes, there were ultra-leftists and anarchists involved, but they were doing something else, and that's all I see in this explosion. Who are they fighting, exactly? It is amorphous, it has no aim and, as such, it will reach an impasse and will be judged as pointless."

Those steering the current uprising, many of whom are decisively not anarchists, take offended issue with Hadzisokratis's notion that the December uprising was without demands. Panos Garganas, who edits Workers' Solidarity, the paper of the radical leftwing Socialist Workers Party (SEK), retorts: "There were clear demands. Disarming the police and calls for the government to resign were very prominent." Garganas founded the party while an exile from the junta in London, and is now a lecturer in civil engineering at the polytechnic itself.

"This was not," he says, "something that came out of nowhere. Greek history was volatile and unstable from the 1930s until the 1970s, and now the experience of the 30 years since the events of 1973 has been building towards a head. Athens is one of the few places where Bill Clinton faced hostile demonstrations. The worldwide outrage against the war in Iraq in 2003 never abated in Greece, the demonstrations went on and on. Over the past two years, the student movement has staged continuous occupations against government plans to put private colleges on a par with the state universities, against a constitutional provision. Most parliamentarians favored this privatization, but the students defeated the measure with their own actions. And this confidence is emboldened by the government being caught in a string of scandals - corruption so brazen it's like they're eating boxes of chocolates without even bothering to take off the wrapping paper. "

Like any party of the far left, Garganas's SEK operates, as one of its members in the university's economics faculty, Manolis Spathis, puts it: "As a small cogwheel trying to get bigger cogwheels moving."

"Our task now," says Garganas, "is to move this new-found confidence into areas which characterize the latest phase of capitalism - issues such as the defence of migrant workers and rights in the workplace."

This involves offering support to a range of extraordinary and often unexpected and continuing offsprings of the December uprising - wave upon wave of sit-ins and occupations of city halls, vacant spaces, offices and factories.

Most unexpected of all was the occupation of a call center operated by the Altec telecoms group by employees threatened with redundancy without compensation. Altec was part of the recent break-up into the private sector of Greece's formerly state-run telecommunications system.

"There was a complete lack of political culture in the place," says Giorgos Sotiropoulos, who worked as part of the technical support team. "A call center is as alienated as you can get. It's insidious. You're pitched against your co-worker by the fact that the supervisor is counting how many sales you make in how many calls and minutes. So it really mattered that it was a call centre we occupied, because the kind of enemy this insurrection in Greece is fighting is typified by this work. The enemy is amorphous, it is virtual, and that makes fighting it far more challenging than fighting a junta of colonels. Our enemy is a society which offers procedural freedom, and perceived freedom, but no physical, substantive freedom. But this situation is not irreversible, and we demonstrate this by finding a way of being free through uprising.

"It was a huge decision," continues Sotiropoulos, "and an incredible experience for most people, ladies with children, people who had never thought they would get involved in such a thing. A whole new vocabulary, a whole new feeling of collaboration that none of us had ever known. We just stayed there for five days, hung banners from the windows, and at night women would come and bring us food and pastries. In this movement, you testify by your actions. It is an eruption of the real thing against virtuality."

After tortuous negotiations, the occupiers finally won an agreement for redundancy payments and jobs for some people who wanted to stay on. "Without the uprising, this would never have happened," says Sotiropoulos. "It was in the air and got people thinking in a totally different way."

Sotiropoulos and his friends gather for another demonstration on a cold Wednesday night, the uprising again moving into quarters beyond the polytechnic walls, this time in outrage against an attack on a cleaning lady called Konstantina Kuneva, and thereby against two features of society: outsourcing and the subsequent abuse of migrant labour. Kuneva, who is from Bulgaria, works for a company called Oikomet, which won an outsourced contract to clean the Athens metro. Kuneva was also an organiser of the Household and Domestic Cleaners Union and began campaigning for union recognition at Oikomet, better conditions and pay on a par with what it was before privatisation. On 23 December, she was abducted and forced to drink sulphuric acid. She has gone on to become the unexpected emblem of the Greek uprising, several thousand taking to the streets for the march, attacked and split into two groups by riot police, the rear half drenched in tear gas, and the inevitable riot duly beginning.

One feature of these occasions is the destruction of CCTV cameras, which are not simply put out of action by the balaclava-clad activist climbing the pole like a lumberjack up a tree but, as icons of the enemy, trashed in the spirit of some Aztec sacrifice. The youth hammering away until he (or she) prizes out its white "heart" to hold aloft to the applauding crowd. Another fusillade of face-flaying, lung-wrenching tear gas follows, restaurant windows are smashed. Finally, Sotiropoulos turns to us and says: "What's the point of this? Time to find the subway, clear our lungs and get a beer."

Another cloud of thick smoke clears, this time caused by the fans' flares and smoke bombs at the Olympic football stadium as AEK Athens take to the field. You can see the flag behind the goal - that of the Lebanese Hezbollah militia. Unlikely in a British ground, it has been hoisted there by one of a group of AEK fans called Original 21, after the gate number of their section at the team's old stadium, who are overtly and militantly political.

Around Alexis Grigoropoulos's "shrine" in Exarchia, the letters AEK are painted everywhere, with a circle round the A. Yards from the site of the shooting is the Original 21 fan clubhouse - the slogan "Fuck Modern Football" and a skull wearing AEK colours painted on the hoardings. Utterly strange to the world of English football, these AEK fans are part of an international alliance with "twin" crews supporting Livorno in Italy, Marseille in France and St Pauli Hamburg in Germany, with whom they rally to help fight fans of teams with a fascist identity and for anti-globalisation demonstrations in loose co-ordination with the Black Block. Around the Grigoropoulos shrine are also slogans painted by the Livorno Autonomous Brigades who, with the Original 21crew, were to the fore in December's uprising and street fighting with the police, at which they are markedly adept.

At the match, they are easy to spot, with their Palestinian keffiyehs and heavy-metal Exarchia T-shirts. A lad called Vassilis explains how at both football and during riots, "youth confronts the frontline weapon of the state, its foot soldiers in the police. But we want to fight the system itself, not just its soldiers, that's why we do the political stuff." Another fan, Dinos, explains that the ethos is that of "being 'ultra' in all areas of our life, supporting the team with the same passion as we attack authority and the system that did what was done to Konstantina Kuneva".

You were on those demonstrations too, for the cleaning lady?

"Yes, of course, and with our comrades from Livorno at Genoa against the G8 when they killed another young boy. We spent all last December on the streets. After they killed Alexis, the police didn't dare enter the stadium, so we attacked them outside."

Into this melee comes another element, a group calling itself Revolutionary Struggle, which last week assaulted a police station with automatic weapons, shot and injured a police officer in Exarchia on 5 January and ambushed a riot police bus with machine guns 10 days later. The group is a descendant of the now disbanded November 17th movement, named after the day the polytechnic was stormed by the junta, akin to the Italian Red Brigades or German Baader-Meinhof group, which issues long theoretical attacks on the anarchists and other left groups for not conjoining its armed struggle, and which is bitterly counter-attacked by the anarchists as "elitist" in return. This week, the new Sect of Revolutionaries emerged, attacked a police station with grenades and left a maiden proclamation in the form of a computer disc on Grigoropoulos's grave, listing journalists, media celebrities, leading capitalists and state functionaries among its targets

Far from this fray, Professor Constantinos Tsoukalas, the elder statesman of Greek political philosophy, watches all this from his lofty apartment, lined with venerable books, which he especially likes for "its asymmetry" and view of the Acropolis. He see "the uprising as a symptom of the end of political hope and the beginning of something else. One of the nefarious consequences of the end of the Cold War and the emptiness of the global market that was supposed to put an end to ideology but, in crisis, has instead created this moment of great ideological tension.

"I mean look at the spectacle of these politicians: this Greek government and every other government - though perhaps Obama is an exception - lurching from day to day without a clue what to do apart from babble. Not only does the Greek government have no plan, it does not even pretend to have a plan. What they are demonstrating - Karamanlis, Berlusconi, Blair, Brown, Sarkozy - is that there is no longer any reason to go into politics apart from power in and of itself, the money that power brings and the further money that having been in power brings. They degenerate the game with greater and greater visibility, and the more they degenerate it, the more degenerate the people who go into politics. Which leads to moral indignation, despair and anger."

That in turn, continues Tsoukalas, becomes either "various forms of depression, as in your country, or to a statement of presence - a loud NO! as happened here, and a maelstrom".

A maelstrom which has been spreading across Europe ever since a banner bearing the command Rebel!, translated into several languages, was hung from the ramparts of the Acropolis itself.

© Guardian News & Media 2008
Published: 2/21/2009

Oped: How you can bring gay marriage to Calif.



Next Thursday, the California Supreme Court will hear arguments in our legal challenge to Proposition 8.


As we seek to overturn Prop 8, we have the broadest array of support ever seen on an LGBT issue before any California Court. This support speaks directly to the relationships and coalition work that many in the LGBT, religious, business, and civil rights communities have been doing for years.


However, there is another truth motivating the breadth of voices calling on the court to invalidate Prop 8. Prop 8 is an assault on the California Constitution and the most fundamental principal of any functioning democracy: all people will be treated equally under the law.

As a white lesbian leading a national LGBT legal organization and a straight, African-American Christian leading a national civil rights legal organization, we stand side-by-side in common cause. Racism and homophobia undermine and diminish any dream of a just and fair nation. If allowed to stand, Prop 8 would eviscerate equal protection of the law and leave every minority in California vulnerable to majority sentiment and whim. Today it may be same-sex couples and that is unacceptable under any circumstance, but tomorrow any unpopular minority could be next.


In this fight for justice we are sisters, and we ask that every fair-minded Californian join our family in standing against Prop 8. We ask you to join us and engage in conversations about the harms Prop 8 poses to all Californians.


Please, talk to your friends and family, attend rallies and marches, post and comment on blogs, and write letters to the editor. Please visit our GET INVOLVED section of our website: http://www.nclrights.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issue_caseDocket_prop8legalchallenge_GetInvolved for tips on how to have these important conversations.


As you talk about the harms of Prop 8, please remember to acknowledge the essential role of the Court in protecting minority rights and remind your audience of the threat that Prop 8 poses to freedom and equality for all Californians. If a bare majority of voters can change our state Constitution to take away rights from a historically targeted minority group, what is the point of having a California Constitution?


It is crucial that our community and allies stand up against this harmful proposition and be visible. It is our chance to show the world that we will not stand for discrimination and intolerance. So make your voice heard today. Click here for some sample letters and blog posts that you can use to draft your own personalized letter: http://www.nclrights.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issue_caseDocket_prop8legalchallenge_GetInvolved

Our nation is on a new path. A path that makes us all feel a renewed sense of shared values, hope, and humanity. Prop 8 demeans us all and stains our collective vision of a new day. Such a law should not be permitted to stand.


Kate Kendell is the executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Eva Jefferson Paterson is the president of the Equal Justice Society.


Group plans traffic disruptions until demands are met in BART officer case

02/26/2009 @ 10:51 am

Filed by David Edwards and Rachel Oswald

A new protest group called "No Justice, No BART" will attempt to shutdown a BART station during rush hour traffic in an effort to gain public attention and support for a murder conviction of the BART officer who shot an unarmed man in the back on New Year's Day.

Officer Johannes Mehserle has already resigned from the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police department over his role in the shooting death of 22-year-old Oscar Grant. He is facing murder charges, reports KGO-TV San Francisco.

The shooting death of Grant has caused public outrage as it was caught on videotape and widely disseminated over the Internet.

In addition to calling for a murder conviction of Mehserle, "No Justice, No BART" is also demanding the suspension of all other police officers involved in the fatal shooting while each is investigated, as well as the resignation of BART's general manager, police chief and any other employees believed to be accountable in an alleged attempt to cover up the shooting investigation.

"No Justice, No BART" will attempt to shut down the Fruitvale BART station during the evening rush hour next Thursday.

"The group says that until demands are met, it will hold weekly actions that disrupt BART's ability to conduct business as usual," according to KGO-TV.

The BART board of directors will also soon receive reports from an outside consultant firm hired to review the system's police department and the internal affairs investigation of the shooting.

The class character of the steroids issue

Published Feb 25, 2009 3:01 PM

The following remarks were made at a Feb. 20 Workers World Party meeting in New York City. Gimbel is a former baseball consultant for the Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos.

Marxists cannot ignore the fact that under capitalism, anti-drug wars are police measures meant to intimidate the working class. The steroid issue is just the sports version of the drug wars that have jailed so many poor people.

Taking “supplements” of various sorts had been considered an accepted part of sports for millennia. When industrial capitalism was on the rise in the 1800s, it developed the sciences of chemistry and modern medicine. The new chemical and medical knowledge was available to all industries, including the newly developing sports industry. Athletes were encouraged to use these new chemical products. Some of these concoctions were useful, but most were sold by snake oil salesmen as “magic bullets” that would guarantee victory.

Prior to steroids, there were amphetamines. It wasn’t considered cheating to use them, even though amphetamines often have a greater impact on performance than steroids. The use of steroids is a medical issue only. There is nothing wrong with trying to improve your performance in sports, provided that it is done under medical supervision that will protect the athlete from taking unnecessary health risks.

Dr. Norman Fost states, “It is hypocritical for leaders in major league baseball to trumpet their concern about fair competition in a league that allows one team (the Yankees) to have a payroll three times larger than most of its competitors.

“A particularly egregious example of this hypocrisy was the juxtaposition in the 1988 Olympics of Ben Johnson and Janet Evans. Johnson broke the world record for the 100-meter dash and not only had his gold medal taken away but became the permanent poster child for the immorality of steroids, which, though illegal, were available to virtually anyone who wanted them. Evans, after winning her medal in swimming, bragged about the key role of her greasy swimsuit, which the Americans had kept secret from their competitors, and went on a prolonged lecture tour as ‘America’s Sweetheart.’”

What are the facts about steroids? There is no scientific definition for “performance enhancement.” There is no scientific proof that anabolic steroids improve the performance of baseball players. Steroids are a serious health risk only if they are used by adolescents because adolescent muscles have not yet fully developed. Adult health risk is minimal.

Anabolic steroids will add testosterone to the bloodstream and thereby increase male aggression and, as a male hormone, it improves upper body muscle mass, primarily in the shoulder girdle area. It is exactly this area that has little effect on player performance because pitching, and especially hitting power, comes from the thigh area and the lower torso.

Power involving swinging a bat or throwing a ball is not dependent on the arms, which act merely as the holders of the bat or ball. Just try swinging a bat or throwing a ball while keeping your thighs and your torso very still.

When the media attacked Alex Rodriguez’s use of steroids, I decided to check my analysis of Rodriguez’s performance during the years from 2001 to 2003 when he was taking steroids to see if Alex’s performance improved during that period. A-Rod’s performance went down each year! If my analysis proved anything at all, it proved that steroids may have hurt, not helped his performance.

So why is there all this fuss about steroid use in baseball rather than in sports where steroids could actually improve performance?

Profit drives sports industry

Professional sports leagues are huge multibillion dollar industries directly connected to the banks and the entire ruling class. Professional sports are part of the entertainment industry. The sports industry must produce surplus value just like every other capitalist industry. The players are high priced workers performing under contract to some of the richest capitalists in the world. Just as in other industries, drug testing is a way for the bosses to put unions on the defensive. Every union tries to fight against drug testing of its members.

Professional baseball is the biggest professional sports industry in the U.S. Major league baseball teams are huge transnational operations. Each team’s massive organization includes subsidiary teams in the minor leagues, at AAA, at AA, at High-A, and Low-A, with players under contract to the major league team but playing for subsidiary team owners who are dependent on the quality of players that are lent to them, and then a pair of teams in short season rookie ball directly owned by the major league team. The major league teams have training facilities in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela where they can obtain lower cost talent, as well as scouts looking for talent all over the world.

The minor league franchises are so profitable that the major league team owners have been successfully able to “blackmail” minor league cities into building new stadiums by threatening to move their franchise to another city. KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s are each individual cartels that compete with each other in the fast food industry. Major league baseball is a cartel of 30 team franchises that have a complete monopoly on their industry. When Barry Bonds was “blacklisted” by the 30 team owners in 2008, he had nowhere else to go for equivalent employment.

The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and the steroids issue date back to the very same year: 1968. The steroids issue began with the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. The Olympics are the corporate sports version of the United Nations, with a capitalist structure that is dominated by U.S. imperialism.

Olympics and anti-communist hysteria

The steroids issue began to percolate at the 1960 Olympics with insinuations that the Soviet athletes were getting an illegal advantage. As a result—prior to the 1968 Olympics—the International Olympic Committee instituted new anti-doping regulations and dope detection tests. During the 1968 Mexico City Olympics revolutionary tensions came to a boil.

Oct. 2, 1968, ten days before the start of the 1968 Summer Olympics, was the date of the Tlatelolco massacre in Mexico City, in which more than 300 student protesters were killed by the Mexican army and police. In 1968, for the first time, athletes from East and West Germany were members of separate teams, after having been told to compete in a combined German team in 1956, 1960 and 1964.

At the 1968 Olympics, Black Power protests were made by U.S. athletes, most notably Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who, during the playing of the U.S. national anthem, raised their black gloved fists on the winners’ stand, a defiant statement of Black Power which electrified the world in possibly the greatest moment in sports history.

The Mexico City Olympics were the first Olympics televised worldwide using communication satellites. Six months before the Mexico City Olympics, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. The Soviet athletes again dominated at the 1968 Olympics, but it was the amazing performances of the East German [German Democratic Republic] athletes, as well as others from the other socialist countries in Eastern Europe, that outraged U.S. imperialism.

The Cold War was at its height and U.S. imperialism was bogged down in Vietnam. The victories of little East Germany over the mighty U.S. constituted “the straw that broke the camel’s back” and the imperialist colossus needed an explanation of why its great athletes were being bested by little East Germany.

Do you remember all the attacks in the media leveled against the East German athletes, particularly against the women? The media raised a furor stating that they were cheating by using illegal substances. Never did they mention that illegal drugs were in use at least as much by the U.S. athletes at the 1968 games or that steroids and other drugs were more widely used by professional and amateur U.S. athletes in general, because the U.S. is a richer country, where it is much easier to obtain these drugs.

Following the 1968 Olympics, and as a result of the whipped up hysteria against the East German athletes, steroid use became “controversial.” The witch hunt over steroid use was about to begin in earnest.

Sports Illustrated opened up the attack on steroid use in its June 23, 1969, issue in a piece written by Bill Gilbert. A close reading of the article is very revealing in actually showing the widespread use of steroids by athletes all over the world, especially by U.S. athletes. Yet the resultant propaganda was to place into the public’s mind that the East German and other communist athletes were cheaters. Here are some quotes from that article:

“The oftentimes bitter confrontation between the United States and Communist teams has understandably produced a lot of such feelings. ‘We are usually a long way behind the Russians in drug use,’ says U.S. Weight Lifter Bill Starr. ‘They make a scientific study of it. If they come up with something good, their teams all get it. Here it is a hit or miss thing.’”

The article goes on to say: “The Russians, according to Americans, had a new wonder, anti-tension, pro-concentration pill. Some East Europeans were said to be taking a caffeine concentrate as a pick-me-up before competition. But East Europeans believe the same thing about Americans. Foreign athletes find it inconceivable that American athletes, coming from the land of towering pill factories, are not the most thoroughly doped competitors in the world. ‘American athletes have the most expensive urine in the world,’ says Ray Baldwin, trainer at Xavier University and formerly with the Cincinnati Royals.

“It took four physicians to revive the marathon winner of the 1904 St. Louis Olympics, an American, Tom Hicks, who proved to be loaded on strychnine and brandy.”

Big business, gov’t target baseball union

Now let’s go to major league baseball. The MLBPA is a product of that revolutionary period, and it is a product of the civil rights movement. Baseball players had no rights prior to 1968. They could be traded from team to team at will and most players, even many stars, had to work second jobs in the off season.

In 1968, Curt Flood, a proud Black athlete and the star centerfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, challenged the reserve clause and refused to report to the Philadelphia Phillies, the team he was traded to. While Curt Flood personally lost his challenge to the reserve clause and never played again, the players ended up winning the war as a result of his action because it made the players realize that they had to make a stand against the owners so as to win some control over their lives.

The players united behind the MLBPA and the union immediately entered into battle with the fabulously rich team owners. Over the years, the MLBPA won every strike and the union was often referred to in the big-business media as the most powerful union in the U.S. Being the most powerful union means being the biggest target of corporate revenge!

It is the steroid witch hunt that has given the team owners their first and only victory against the baseball union, but the team owners needed the help of the government in order to obtain that victory. John McCain called Senate hearings on steroids in baseball by dragging helpless, star baseball players before his Senate committee with the television cameras and the whole country watching in a witch hunt atmosphere. By this means, the team owners were finally able to get the union to accept a new contract with concessions, and without needing a lockout. One of those concessions wrung from the union was the agreement for drug testing of all players.

The corporate media are now claiming that an official of the MLBPA had been tipping off players just before they were to be tested. Some in the corporate media have stated that, if proven, this would allow the team owners to rip up the union contract. The use of steroids as a means of racist attack on star Black athletes like Barry Bonds, Ben Johnson and Marion Jones cannot be ignored.

On a positive note, I was very pleased to see Hank Aaron defend Barry Bonds last week as the legitimate home run record holder. The MLBPA is the most powerful union in sports and the sports bosses are using the steroid “weapon of mass distraction” to try to put the players and their union on the defensive.

We need to stand shoulder to shoulder with the players and their union against the corporate bosses and defend the players that have come under attack, be it Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez or Roger Clemens.


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 Stanford 'land seizure'

The government of Antigua and Barbuda has called on parliament to approve the takeover of land and assets owned by Sir Allen Stanford, the financier.

Sir Allen, the islands' largest private employer, has been accused in the US of a large investment fraud.

An emergency parliamentary session will on Thursday consider authorising the seizure of about 100 hectares of land and assets belonging to him.

This could help secure the jobs of 800 employees and pay his company's debts.

His businesses on the island include two restaurants, a newspaper, cricket grounds, a development company, a three-branch local bank and the headquarters of his offshore bank.

Shocking fraud

Sir Allen faces civil charges after being accused by the US authorities of defrauding up to 50,000 customers around the world.

Last week, FBI agents in the US state of Virginia served the Texan billionaire with civil legal papers from the SEC, the US financial watchdog.

Sir Allen disappeared from public view when he was accused by the SEC of an $8bn (£5.6bn) fraud. The SEC filed a civil case in court describing the case as a "fraud of shocking magnitude".

The cricket impresario is accused of luring investors with promises of improbable and unsubstantiated high returns on certificates of deposit and other investments.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/americas/7911688.stm

'There will be blood'

Harvard economic historian Niall Ferguson predicts prolonged financial hardship, even civil war, before the ‘Great Recession' ends

Globe and Mail Update

Harvard author and financial crisis guru Niall Ferguson has landed with a thud in Ottawa, spreading messages that could make even the most confident policy makers squirm.

The global crisis is far from over, has only just begun, and Canada is no exception, Mr. Ferguson said in an interview before delivering a presentation to public-policy think tank, Canada 2020.

Policy makers and forecasters who see a recovery next year are probably lying to boost public confidence, he said. And the crisis will eventually provoke political conflict, albeit not on the scale of a world war, but violent all the same.

“There will be blood.”

Continued at:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090223.wferguson0223/BNStory/crashandrecovery/home?pageRequested=all&print=true



Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Damn that Lincoln: Abe's to blame for Jindal

From Greg's e-mailpost
by Greg Palast

Exclusive to Buzzflash.com by Greg Palast
Damn that Abe Lincoln. When Louisiana and Mississippi seceded from the Union, a sensible president would have sent them a box of chocolates with a note, "Goodbye and good riddance."

Tonight, following Barack Obama's budget presentation to Congress, effectively the president's first State of the Union Address, the Republicans have chosen to give their party's response, the governor of the state that wanted to leave the Union, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal.

Jindal's going to tell us that Barack Obama is a terrible President because Obama wants to require states like Louisiana to extend unemployment insurance to - get this - the unemployed! (Technically, the federal government would pay 100% of the cost of reforming Louisiana's and Mississippi's Scrooge-sized benefit requirements.)

Jindal, and some other Republican governors, notably Haley Barbour of Mississippi, are actually turning down millions in federal funds for their own state's unemployed out of fear that, four years from now, they may have to maintain full unemployment insurance like the rest of America.

Barbour's excuse, parroted by Jindal, is that the Obama payments to the unemployed of their states would mean, when the economy returns to expansion, that their state would have to increase unemployment insurance taxes and payments to the US average, scaring away new employers. "I mean, we want more jobs," says Barbour. Um, this is the Governor of MISSISSIPPI talking. Exactly what new "jobs" is he talking about? Is Microsoft is based in Gulfport? Is Genentech opening its new headquarters in Bogalusa?

As an economist, I can tell you that the only industry Mississippi leads in is deep-fried chicken-dog manufacturing. I will admit that Louisiana and Mississippi can boast of growing employment at several casinos and cathouses spilling across what the locals charmingly call the "Coon-ass Riviera." Jindal's Louisiana is, after all, the state that solved its unemployment problem by sending its unemployed to Texas in FEMA trailers.

And it's true that Jindal's and Barbour's states do lead the nation in a few indicators. Like poverty: Mississippi has America's highest poverty rate. Louisiana is third worst in America.

And how about their commitment to education? Louisiana ranks 5th and Mississippi 2nd worst in school kids' math scores. As Randy Newman notes about the gulf states' education policies, "good ol' boys... from LSU, went in dumb, come out dumb, too."

Jindal himself is a product of a more advanced culture: His parents are Democrats. The Jindals are Hindus who come from the Punjab in India, a state known for its welfare safety net. Jindal, turning away from the successful example of his parents' politics and culture, has gone native, becoming a born-again Christian Republican who doesn't accept Darwinian evolution nor Keynesian economics. (I hear he may complete his redneck makeover next week by marrying his cousin at a tractor pull.)

For over a century, Louisiana and Mississippi have been trying to attract employers by changing their economy from one based on involuntary servitude to one based on voluntary servitude, selling their citizens to the lowest bidder. The results are blindingly visible: Mississippi and Louisiana, under the Barbour/Jindal Republican regime, maintain the lowest per-capita incomes in the nation (50th and 46th respectively). Mississippi and Louisiana infant mortality rates (1st and 3rd in deaths in the USA) would shame Costa Rica.

Years back, when I worked as an economic consultant to New Orleans, the Louisiana State Legislature was about to require that schools teach evolution as merely a theory equal to the Bible's literal creation myth. When asked if this would harm big employers' views of the state, I said, "Not at all: most national employers think of Louisiana as a state filled with Bible-thumping, dumb-bell rednecks. You won't have to worry about changing that impression."

OK, it's easy to make jokes about America's own Third World states. And before I get a zillion complaints, I'll be the first one to note that Louisiana has birthed the extraordinary, including the greatest of America's investigative journalists, the late Ron Ridenhour, jazz, Chris Ruth's Steakhouse and gris-gris. And it was Louisiana that long ago led the nation in social reform, whose governor, in 1932, led the national fight to create a program now known as "unemployment insurance." Really.

Nevertheless, Jindal's rejection of funds for his state's own unemployed simply follows a history of local Republican plantation-mentality cruelty. After Hurricane Katrina, I met a young man, Stephen Smith, who was stranded with a family on Highway 10 for four days while George Bush photo-strafed him from overhead. An elderly man with Stephen died of dehydration after giving his grandchildren his last bottle of water. (See Stephen on Big Easy to Big Empty, click here.)

I investigated the drowning of New Orleans and the "let'm drown" rescue plans of the Bush Administration. What I found was sickening, heartless and Republican. Marie Antoinette at least offered cake.

Now, once again, the Republican party, by making Jindal the party's official spokesman, is adopting the Barbour-ous refusal to reach out a saving hand to Americans drowning in this economy.
So, let me make a suggestion for Governors Jindal and Barbour. If you cannot join America in accepting our President's call to arms against disaster, if you reject our President's State of the Union - then leave the Union.

As the prescient Phil Ochs sang,
And here's to the government of Mississippi In the swamp of their bureaucracy they're always bogging down…
…And the speeches of the governor are the ravings of a clown
Oh, here's to the land you've torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

Amen.
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Greg Palast's investigative reports can be seen on BBC Television Newsnight. Palast, author of the New York Times bestsellers Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, is a Nation Institute/Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow for investigative reporting. Pick up the DVD of Big Easy to Big Empty at http://www.PalastInvestigativeFund.org.
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