Tuesday, October 30, 2012

As a reminder, this, posted on Facebook by Upworthy, plays off Ronald Reagan's statement in one his inaugural addresses that "Government is not the solution, government is the problem."

Reagan, who increased the size of government, raised taxes on the working class, ran up a record deficit, and who cashed every one of his taxpayer funded government pay checks and taxpayer funded government pension checks.

Who spent his entire life, from his B-grade acting days until he went to rot in hell, shilling for corporations, and who launched the attack on our wages and living standards that has continued through Republican and Democratic administrations and congresses, that continues today, that is called Neoliberalism. 


Monday, October 29, 2012

As You Undergo Your Surgery

Jim Baca, the former television reporter, former Albuquerque mayor and long time state and federal government official who now writes the popular Only In New Mexico web log, is in the hospital undergoing knee replacement surgery. In his last posting, written just before entering the hospital, in which he includes a link to a video of a surgeon performing the kind of surgery he is undergoing, he commented on the fact that the science and technology that make his surgery possible is under attack by a Republican Party that has become synonymous with religious fundamentalism. In his piece, which you can read here, as in much of his writing, he makes a lot of connections you might not think of, and provides his usual insights, which are founded in his unique life and experience, and does it with a wit that is just dry enough to allow him to express a truly outrageous sense of humor. Anyway, it inspired a comment by me, from my unique perspective, that turned out to be too long to be accepted by the comment form, so I just put it here.

There are a lot of people pulling for you including me, but I suppose by the time you see this you'll have successfully come through surgery, so congratulations!

And that, as you say, will be thanks to science and  technology. It's quite amazing, the tools the surgeon in the video has at his disposal, which include, outside the camera frame, a lot of well trained people and all kinds technology, in the operating room and throughout the hospital.

All of which is in danger of going away, and religious fundamentalism is one prong of the pitch fork because as you say, they see no need for science and technology.

The other is more ominous, I think. It's not about access to health care. It's that the wealthy, who have their own top notch private schools and hospitals, have funded in the last 30 years a coordinated attack on academia, the source of that science and technology, carried out by the think tanks they finance with help from the religious right, under the Neoliberal trickle down counterrevolution initiated by Ronald Reagan.

Google "Powell memo," written by a conservative corporate attorney from Virginia for a friend at the US Chamber of Commerce, which is seen by some as the blueprint for Neoliberalism in the US, Powell being Lewis Powell who Richard Nixon would soon appoint to the Supreme Court.

At the least, the attack on academia was laid out there. It doesn't get as much publicity as the attacks on unions and on the "Middle Class", but the students saddled with debt know about it. College teachers who have seen tenure become a relic of the past know about it -- most college teachers in the US now are adjunct with no job security, no benefits. Much of college is now huge classes taught by graduate students. Much of college research is now funded by corporations and the results quickly patented, hardly the way for technology to blossom and spread as it did when Jonas Salk invented the polio vaccine and said the patent belongs "to the people."

Academia was attacked by the reactionary Capitalist class Reagan fronted for because it was seen as a hotbed of Liberalism, Socialism and Communism, and because the wealthy never saw the need to help pay for it. They learned how to control the political system and they no longer have to chip in, and aren't required to contribute to the common good -- let the lower classes pay for all of that. Let colleges become advanced vocational training centers where the children of the working class are trained for the low paying jobs of the future, and an extension of the increasingly prison like public schools where under Reform of the kind being advanced by Governor Martinez, young people are trained to fall in line, where critical thinking isn't taught, where there's nothing but never ending testing, and a war on the last of the well educated union teachers.

It's all happened gradually, over 30 to 40 years. At each stage it's become normalized. We've forgotten what it was like before, and anyway, soon no one will be around to remember the America we grew up in where one person working in a family earned enough to buy a house and one or two cars and retired with Social Security and a pension, and where the kids were guaranteed a good college education if they wanted one, paid for not by borrowing obscene amounts but with government grants, and low tuition subsidized by the government and yes, by the rich through the taxes they used to pay.

Democrats give us vague promises about being for the "Middle Class," but they've gone along with all of it, meanwhile the president's Homeland Security forces coordinate the shutdowns of all the Occupy encampments, where peoples' awareness of what has happened was being raised.

What someone like me says about it doesn't even register with most people. The individual things I cite, yes, OK, but the collective picture doesn't make sense. We're Americans, optimistic. We've always believed in a future that will arrive as soon as the economy improves, and in that we're like people who believe in books written by fishermen and shepherds, because we still believe it in the face of declining wages and living standards and as inequality continues to mushroom.

It's 1920 in America, and it will be left to young people to lead themselves out of this. They have no illusions about jobs and pensions, about things coming back that they've never even had. They see that both major political parties have given up on the common good and that platitudes about fighting for the Middle Class in the absence of actually doing so amount to so much hypocrisy. They'll discover everything for themselves and create a better world than this one.

That's what I believe. That's what I hope, but on a rational level it's what I believe because it's what's always happened in the past. People eventually get enough injustice and they rebel. I believe it because we're Americans, and we were born in revolution.

Meeting Up With Mitt On The Road To Damascus

As the hours tick away until President Obama's reelection, as the brief moment of euphoria Republicans felt after the first debate fades into the past, as the polls right themselves once more, from the Republican side emerge the inevitable signs of desperation and despair.

Old Reagan Administration operative Peggy Noonan now writes a column for the Wall Street Journal, but with no good Republican news to be found she resurrects the first debate in her latest column, more than three weeks after it took place.

And poor Mitt, the devout Mormon who is said to have never drunk a drop or puffed a toke. At least now he knows what a euphoria induced adrenaline hangover feels like. The Romney campaign has resorted to photoshopping pictures of its rallies to make them seem larger than they are, like they were in those heady days after the debate when the momentum was on his side and not against him, when the Republican evangelical masses came out of their Biblical comas and for an exhilarating minute or two lusted for the power that can be obtained by quivering before the flickering image of the powerful male.

See the two pictures below, from the Buzzfeed web site, of a rally in Henderson, NV. Note the width of the arena in the top, nonphotoshopped photo, and in the bottom one. Part of the arena and crowd have been copied and pasted so as to widen the arena. Note the supports that hold up the roof in the bottom photo.

I cut out a part of the bottom photo that includes a "Romney 2012" banner hanging form the rafters,, which is visible from the back in the photo, and enlarged and reversed it.

The Freedom Info Network web site goes into some detail analyzing the photoshopping, but even here you can see the duplicated letters, the beams ending in mid air. It's tempting to raise the issue of the Romney campaign's dishonesty, but what interests me more at this point is the sloppiness. What was the thinking when they decided it would be sufficient to send it out like that? "It don't matter anyhow? Them idiots won't never know?

A commenter at Buzzfeed points out that we are not the audience for this picture. It's for the few undecided voters. "This is for the Joe the Plumber types in Ohio that they still want to woo over. If Mitt only talks to 350 people then he's going to look like a loser. If he talks to 35000 he's on fire."

Of course. It's been pointed out too, by Mike Papantonio, that the famous undecided few aren't really aware of anything at all, of what's been going on in politics for the past however many years. They don't know about the 47 percent recording or the Ryan budget or Bain Capital or Romney's various positions on the issues, and they aren't aware of the few places on the internet where the Romney campaign's photo fraudulence is exposed.

As for the quality of their dishonesty, I can do better than that and so can the Apostle Paul. I'd taken a picture June 30, 2011 at sunrise as I turned off US 491 onto N 5, which is a paved two lane highway that cuts across the Najavo Nation in Northern New Mexico. Subsequently in an August 20, 2011 web log entry I wanted a picture that sort of evoked the road to Damascus from the Biblical fable Paul tells of how Jesus appeared to him on that road, which he certainly must have because Paul had two witnesses, Paul says. It's like the movie Inception. A lie within a fable within a made up book that resulted in a made up religion, Paulism, the nasty, selfish, mean spirited Republican version of Christianity in which the gentleness, self sacrifice and love of the teachings of Jesus, who put the Christ in Christianity, are totally ignored.


The Good iBook Says

I had been having a lot of fun with a free photo editing program that did a lot more than the stripped down version of iPhoto that came on my bottom-of-the-line 2006 model iBook G4 laptop that I bought in 2007 just moments before the new ones with the Intel processor chip were announced. I probably spent most of a day doing that photo editing. During the week I work and sleep and do nothing else. On the weekends I sleep half the time and don't even feel like leaving the apartment. I read things on the internet and once in while crack open a book from my vast library of unread books, and maybe make myself a steak and maybe go out and get some barbecue and bring it back here and eat it. If the Tamale Man comes around i don't even have to do that.

I recently upgraded to a reconditioned 2010 model MacBook Air (no hard drive to go out!) and I started to transfer the photo editor over but then thought to go online and see if there was a newer version, and there is, with a few nice added features. It's a nice free download. It runs in Java, which means it will run on any operating system, I read on the internet. It's called Helios Paint. It's what Mitt Romney uses. I know because he didn't have to pay for it. Rich people and poor people are a lot alike in that way.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Think Voting Is A Right? Think Again

With the widespread efforts by Republicans in this election cycle to deny the vote to Democratic constituencies with their nefarious voter i.d. laws and massive purges of voter rolls, it's been said that our voting rights are being taken away. I've said what Republicans are doing is "cheating."

But in the strict legal sense it's not, according to the US Supreme Court. The court's opinion in Bush v Gore after the disputed 2000 presidential election was that “the individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote [for presidential electors].”

A few months later the court affirmed that ruling in saying that residents of Washington DD have no right to vote in presidential elections. The constitution  “does not protect the right of all citizens to vote, but rather the right of all qualified citizens to vote,” the court said.

And it's the states that decide who is "qualified" to vote. That's why Republican controlled state legislatures have been able to deny the vote to so many people this election cycle.

Bush v Gore, recall, came after the 2000 election between Al Gore and George W Bush was decided in Florida, where tens of thousands of likely Gore voters had been purged from the voting rolls in a state where Bush's brother happened to be the governor. In its ruling on the dispute the Supreme Court said, well, fine, those voters may have been purged, but they have no legal recourse because voting isn't a constitutionally protected right.

States and localities decide who gets to vote, and as long as it can't be proven that the state or locality isn't discriminating against a particular group in deciding who can vote, they are free to make up their own rules for voting.

With the Supreme Court's "Citizen's United" ruling allowing unlimited money to be spent on elections by anyone who has money, there has been a move to amend the constitution to overturn Citizens United, and the concept of corporate personhood on which the ruling relies. One of the clearinghouses for this movement is the web site Reclaim Democracy.

The story about voting rights I outline here is on a back page at Reclaim Democracy. Perhaps it should be the main issue. I think so. How can we pretend to have a democracy when the right to vote can be snatched away as easily as Republicans did it in Florida in 2000 and are doing it now in every state they control?

As I have said been saying, Republicans have a huge demographic problem. The constituencies they rely on for their votes are becoming a smaller and smaller share of the US population.

But the real "demographic problem" is for Anglos in general. In a few decades, a few short years, Anglos will begin to see their position of privilege disappear, and most of them don't even realize the benefits of being a member of the dominant social group. They don't know the advantages in employment it gives them, the advantages in finding housing, credit, and all kinds of other things. They have never handed in an employment application and been told "We'll be in touch," while the application is marked with a checkmark in the corner and put in a separate pile.

I've had a couple people here in New Mexico, Hispanic people, tell me that New Mexico is different. They talk about New Mexico almost like it's some kind of oasis of interracial harmony. It could be. At least among the elite. On the street I see a somewhat different situation, the same one that holds sway in the country at large. This is the United States of America, after all. This is the human species.

I don't intend to go into that here. It wouldn't convince anyone one way or the other. People have their own life experiences to go by. People who live in this country know what it's capable of, know the highs and lows human nature is capable of.

But when Anglos in general begin to realize what being a minority means to them, when they see themselves losing the benefits that have always accrued to them naturally because of that part of human nature that unconsciously leads people to take care of their own, and that they never knew directed a lot of their own behavior, look for a lot of now benevolent Liberals to change their tune about "diversity," about equal rights for all, and look for the assault on things we take for granted, like our assumed right to vote, to accelerate. The time to ensure that voting is a constitutionally protected right is now.


Friday, October 26, 2012


From www.sungazing.com via Samuel Greenberg's Facebook page


Thursday, October 25, 2012

4 More

"Since the Denver debate, Mr. Obama has held the lead in 16 Ohio polls against 6 for Mr. Romney. In Nevada, Mr. Obama has had the lead in 11 polls, to Mr. Romney's 1. Mr. Obama has led in all polls of Wisconsin since the Denver debate, and he has had five poll leads in Iowa to one for Mr. Romney."

This was from Nate Silver, New York Times, in today's article titled "Romney's Momentum Seems to Have Stopped."

As you know, without Ohio Romney never had a chance, and he never really had a chance to win Ohio. He won't even win some of the other swing states he would have needed. There is still the potential for the election in a given state to be stolen, if it is close, but that's a big if. In early voting in Ohio Obama is leading Romney by a substantial margin.

Silver talks about the rise and fall of Romney's poll numbers since the first presidential debate, which Romney is said to have "won." He doesn't analyze why this all has happened but my take on it is that Romney's "momentum" was owing to how his performance in that debate affected certain Republicans who had not before enthusiastically supported Romney. Romney was self confident and assertive while President Obama was less so. It has been commented that Romney put on an "Alpha male" performance.

In animals that live in pack like wolves the alpha male is the strongest or most aggressive. He intimidates other males or beats them in fights and the other males "fall in line."

In human however there is more at play, with our complex human psyches. Part of the reason some males submit to other males has an element of sexual submission to it. Republican males love a strong authoritative leader. Even among Republican leaders they take turns submitting to each other.

You don't have to think very long about Republicans, and Republican Christianity, and some of the obsessions that drive those groups, for this to make sense.

Romney will now limp, let us say, to the finish line.



Monday, October 22, 2012

¡Fidel Está Vivo!
George McGovern RIP

Joking that he had been "killed by the media," the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, demonstrated today, by releasing one of his Reflections columns and photographs that show him walking with a cane but quite alive, that he is not, as has been widely reported, in a vegetative coma.

Fidel holding the latest edition of Granma - Cuba Debate photo.

Interestingly, in Gawker's obituary article about George McGovern, the former South Dakota senator and 1972 Democratic Party presidential nominee, who died Sunday at 90, there are two photographs of McGovern with Fidel.

McGovern, one of the few Democrats who had the guts to keep on calling himself a Liberal even after that word became a slur that other Democrats ran from in horror, was, from the beginning, going back to the Kennedy Administration's reckless attempts to topple Fidel, in favor of a humane and sensible policy toward Cuba and always spoke out against the US blockade of Cuba.

George McGovern and Fidel Castro during McGovern's 1975 trip to Cuba - photo Gawker.com

Democrats as a whole have also been afraid to stand up to those who have demonized Cuba, with the result that the Cuban people have suffered under our blockade for 50 years, and with the result that Cuba is thought of by most Americans as some kind of ruthless dictatorship instead of the one place where people have struggled against all odds to create a just and humane alternative to Capitalism, the shortcomings of which those same Americans are now starting to become aware of.

In his new Reflections column, Fidel remarks on the fact that many are deceived by the mass media, which are "almost all in the hands of the privileged and wealthy," and compares the recent rumors of his demise with the erroneous reports that came out about the "Bay of Pigs" undercover operation 50 years ago when the Kennedy brothers tried unsuccessfully to overthrow him.

Fidel also remarks on the so-called "Cuban Missile Crisis," when he allowed the Soviet Union to install nuclear armed missiles in Cuba similar to the ones the US had installed in Turkey on the Soviet Union's border. Considering all the attempts by the US to overthrow the Cuban government, before and after the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban government "did not hesitate to ascede to such a risk," Fidel writes.

"Our conduct was ethically irreproachable," Fidel says, and he has never made excuses for what they did.

"The truth is that half a century has passed," Fidel writes, "and we are still here with our heads held high."


Notes: Gawker's George McGovern obituary has many other interesting photographs from McGovern's life, including one of him and a very young Bill Clinton who looks to be channeling Elvis.

Fidel's new Reflections column, and a number of other photographs of him taken yesterday, are in Cuba Debate. I have not seen the column translated into English anywhere yet, although it will be soon. The quotes I use here are from my Google translation of it.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Romney's Magic Underwear Will Be Gone Forever

President Obama has spent a lot of time lately pointing out that Mitt Romney has changed his position various times on various issues, and this week began using the term "Romnesia" to describe his Republican opponent's proclivity for prevarication.

Conventional wisdom is that in the first presidential debate Obama failed to point out the instances in which Romney introduced new, more moderate policy positions and is now making up for it. But it might be that Obama is trying to remind the Republican Evangelical Protestant Christian base, who have always been cool toward Romney, of why they were cool toward him in the first place, because it was when this base got all titillated and fired up by what has been described as Romney's alpha male performance in the first debate that Obama's lead in the polls began to diminish. In other words, the president is practicing a kind of voter suppression.

It's a perfectly legal and ethical kind, unlike the Republican kind, which has included wholesale purging of voter rolls and putting up legal barriers to voting, all of which has been for the purpose of suppressing the vote of Democratic leaning constituencies.

The Republican have resorted to cheating because they have a serious demographic problem. The US population is changing in ways that favor Democrats, and some of the more surprising ways are described in a new study by the Pew Foundation that finds that a record number of Americans, 20 percent, don't identify with any particular religion.

The study also finds that those who identify as Protestant are for the first time a minority of Americans, at 48 percent of the population, the rest being Catholic or some other faith, or the 20 percent who say they are unaffiliated, which includes a record 13 million atheists. These trends are not good for Republicans, who have come to rely on their Protestant Christian base for votes. They are good news for anyone who is sick of seeing right wing religion become a large part of the Republican agenda.

Although the rise of the Hispanic population in the US is the Republicans' main demographic problem, it also helps explain why Protestants are in decline in the US, as Hispanic immigrants tend to identify as Catholic.

Republicans also have a problem in that those who don't identify with an organized religion are mainly younger people, who tend to vote Democratic. This represents a simple and straightforward demographic shift, as younger people replace older more traditionally religious people, but it begs the question of why Republicans are spending their time suppressing the votes of poor folks, Black folks and Hispanic folks and aren't trying to keep young people from voting.

That might be because it's traditionally been more socially acceptable in White Protestant dominated America to discriminate against the poor, the Black and the Hispanic. It's just easier to get away with.

It might be that Republicans are already trying to suppress the vote of young people but we haven't yet put our finger on it. There's a broad and deep strain in the critique of Capitalism about how it uses things like the media and the culture of consumerism as social control, of how those with the power and money consciously (and I'd say moreso unconsciously) use it to direct the masses into forms of thought and behavior that won't threaten their control and their perks and privileges.

The Magic Underwear Factor

I say, above, that Republicans cheat because they have a demographic problem. To be more precise, Republicans cheat because it's in their nature. Recall that Martin Luther started the Protestant offshoot of Christianity to satisfy a demand, the lust by the German nobility to steal land, first land held by the Catholic Church, which at the time owned about half of Europe, and later land held in common by the peasantry, land known as "The Commons," where people were free to graze their livestock and forage for food, and gather firewood, their only source of fuel for cooking and heating.

In the early 1500s, when Luther came along, Capitalism was in formation. The innovations in technology and transportation that would make Capitalism's rise possible had begun to appear and the political stability that allowed commercial trade to replace barter was taking shape. But the enclosure of the commons, the term used to describe the privatization of that land, i.e., it's seizure by the nobility, it's theft, was the prime necessary precondition for the formation of Capitalism. That land is what made up the original capital, and the dispossession and poverty its theft caused created the large pool of cheap labor Capitalism needed to be profitable.

Before Luther founded Protestantism and came up with its central doctrine, that you are excused for your earthly sins because Jesus Christ has already paid for them with his death, the Catholic Church prevented the nobility from excessive abuse of its power. It was universally believed that the only way to heaven was through the Catholic Church, and the church used that belief to impose a measure of fairness on the nobility. But Luther came along and said to the nobility, "I, Martin Luther, can get you into heaven. You don't need no Catholic Church."

Luther was kicked out of the church and would have stood trial for heresy but he was given protection by the nobility, who also gave him the resources he needed to start his new religion. And as soon as Luther got Protestantism started, the right wing wackos began to appear, like John Calvin, who told the rich that their expropriated wealth was simply proof that they were blessed by God -- a belief held by Republican Christianity today -- which replaces the Biblical suspicion of, and Jesus' explicit condemnation of, wealth accumulation, and the Catholic Church's requirements for charity.

So the link between Protestantism and Capitalism goes back to the beginning, and conservative Protestants still today identify closely with the Capitalist ruling class and believe that power should rest in the hands of corporations instead of with the people or with the people through government.  

(Note: I was raised a Protestant, although in a Liberal Democratic context.)

Out Of The Darkness

New Mexico's pundit, Jim Baca, recently linked to this picture on his web log

Baca comments that "At the end you could substitute Romney's magic underwear."

Jim Baca has a wonderful and unique sense of humor. I got a laugh out of that, but it also made me aware that I'm more pessimistic that I used to be. I like the thought that talking snake stories will disappear, but I don't know if they will.

It's probably true that advances in science and the spread of education to the masses have contributed to the decline in the popularity of organized religion. But it's also true that religion exists because of the nature of human nature. Religion provides certainty. It supplies definite answers to questions like "Where did we come from?" It makes it easier to understand some things about life and the universe. We, or someone else, might eventually answer all those questions definitively, but religion also helps us grapple with the fear of death, and cope with the ultimate demise of our ego.

Religion has risen and fallen before. Republican Christianity, a distaste for which has contributed to religion's current decline, according to the Pew study, might go away, or it might be replaced by a nicer religion. Economic factors might pave the way for another religious upsurge.

Perhaps when we go away and someone else takes our place there won't be any religion, but maybe the stories they concoct will be more outlandish than ours.


Jim Baca, who comments on religion from time to time, today, on reflecting on the film Argo, had some interesting and insightful comments about the similarities between Muslim and Christian fundamentalists.

These articles about the Pew Research study bring out different aspects of its findings.

Agence France Press (AFP, via Raw Story)

Washington Post

Jezebel (the increasingly popular blog from Gawker Media)

Huffington Post


Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Russell Tribunal On Palestine

Those who seek justice for Palestinians face a variety of obstacles, and the biggest is that it's not widely known that the Palestinian people even need justice.

People don't know, for example, that the story about Palestine being an uninhabited desert where the few Jews who escaped the horror of the Holocaust created a thriving, plucky little democracy, is just not true.

Alice Walker - photo Bud Korotzer
Most people don't realize that in order for there to be an Israel, half of native Palestinians were forcibly removed from their farms, homes, villages and cities. People don't know that those Palestinians and their descendants, now amounting to millions of people, still live in deplorable conditions in scattered refugee camps. They don't know that the Palestinians who stayed behind are having their land systematically stolen and face daily terror and humiliation from Israeli occupiers who want them, too, to leave. They don't know that the water Israel uses to "make the desert bloom" is diverted from Palestinian aquifers.

It's also not widely known that Israel's ongoing impunity for its treatment of the Palestinians -- which owes primarily to the fact that the treatment is invisible to people who causally follow the news -- has always been made possible by the United States, that the US has always been Israel's most important supporter because it regularly uses its power, including its power and influence at the United Nations, to protect Israel from the consequences of its treatment of the Palestinians.

Harry Belefonte - photo Bud Korotzer

 To counteract the kind of power a force like the US has, with its state apparatus and its access to the news media, those who oppose what it's doing have to somehow get the truth out, after first, of course, establishing what the truth is, in a way that holds up to the kind of misinformation and propaganda a force like the US is capable of.

One way to do it is with a people's tribunal. The peoples, or citizens, tribunal, can establish the need for justice and bring attention to a cause at the same time. It does this by collecting evidence under formal, legally sound conditions, i.e. documentation and sworn testimony, and enlisting noteworthy people to participate.

Citizen tribunals have only moral force, but they are a way for activists to counter their lack of power and mainstream media access. Citizen tribunals looking into such things as South African apartheid and various US military interventions have helped publicize those situations while providing other activists and groups with solid fact based ammunition with which to agitate for changes in policy.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine, which concluded a session in New York this past weekend, is focusing attention on Israel's violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and its war crimes. It is collecting the testimony of experts and witnesses, and its jurors and participants include well known people like Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Cynthia McKinney, Harry Belafonte, Russell Means of the American Indian Movement, Israeli academic Ilian Pappe, and Pink Floyd guitarist Roger Waters, all whose gravitas and celebrity lend credibility to and draw attention to the Palestinian cause.

Photo Bud Korotzer
The Russell Tribunal On Palestine is one of a number of tribunals over the years initiated by the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, which was formed by famed intellectual Bertrand Russell in 1963. The first Russell Tribunal in 1966 collected evidence against the Vietnam War and was organized by Russell and French intellectual Jean Paul Sartre. Other Russell tribunals have investigated such crimes as the US backed 1973 military coup in Chile and the US war against Iraq.

Previous sessions of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine were held in Barcelona, London and Cape Town and focused on corporate and European Union complicity in Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, and on establishing that Israel's occupation of the remaining Palestinian territories by means of violence, separation and discriminatory laws amounts to a system of apartheid.

Photo Bud Korotze
According to the tribunal's web site a final session will be organized in February, 2013 to announce the tribunal's overall conclusions.

For more:

Russell Tribunal On Palestine

Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Afghanistan Girls

Girls in Afghanistan began going to school again after the US led invasion ousted the Taliban Islamic fundamentalists. These pictures are from a BBC story about progress in girl's education and about peoples' anxieties about what might happen when the US leaves Afghanistan.


Monday, October 8, 2012

The Bolivarian Revolution Continues


The US and International media kept quoting each other saying Hugo Chavez was in the toughest election of his career. Even Democracy Now's Amy Goodman repeated it, based on no evidence except polls conducted by the oligarchy.

CdO photo
On Sunday Chavez cruised to a comfortable victory. His winning margin has been larger in some elections, but he won by 9 points (10 is usually considered a landslide) garnering 7.4 million votes as 81 percent of Venezuelans voted.

The Bolivarian Revolution is the name Chavez has given to his mostly top-down Socialist reforms, which have included nationalization of key industries, and resources such as the country's large oil reserves, all of whose owners have been paid a fair price. Bolivarian comes from Simon Bolivar, the Venezuelan hero who liberated much of South America from colonial rule in the early 1800s. Chavez' millions of mostly poor, but also well educated Venezuelan supporters, knew that universal health care, better education, a voice in government through their local councils, and the many other reforms implemented by successive Chavez governments, were better than returning to the days when the country's wealth went only to the rich, or to the days of US-backed dictatorships.

Despite the fact that almost all the media in Venezuela (where there are no press restrictions) is owned by the oligarchy and attacks him relentlessly, Chavez has now been re-elected three times (he begins his fourth term) in free and transparent elections, in full view of international observers, going back to 1998, and during that time has survived one US-backed coup and a crippling US sponsored shut down of the oil industry.





Writing just before the election in The Guardian, Mark Weisbrot contrasted the strong support Chavez gets from his fellow Latin American leaders with his demonization by the US government and the Western media, both of which routinely refer to Chavez as a "dictator." He noted that Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center has observed 92 elections in countries around the globe, called Venezuela's electoral process the "best in the world." Voters vote by touching a screen. The machine then prints out a ballot, which the voter verifies and drops into a box, making it almost impossible to rig an election.

Weisbrot said in part:

"The opposition will probably lose this election not because of the government's advantages of incumbency – which are abused throughout the hemisphere, including the United States, but because the living standards of the majority of Venezuelans have dramatically improved under Chávez. Since 2004, when the government gained control over the oil industry and the economy had recovered from the devastating, extra-legal attempts to overthrow it (including the 2002 US-backed military coup and oil strike of 2002-2003), poverty has been cut in half and extreme poverty by 70%. And this measures only cash income. Millions have access to healthcare for the first time, and college enrolment has doubled, with free tuition for many students. Inequality has also been considerably reduced. By contrast, the two decades that preceded Chávez amount to one of the worst economic failures in Latin America, with real income per person actually falling by 14% between 1980 and 1998."

The Venezuela Analysis web site is a good way to keep up with Venezuela, and there are articles there that discuss the various aspects of the Bolivarian Revolution.


From Facebook - origin indeterminable


Friday, October 5, 2012

What Debate?

The first five news outlets I looked at when I got home from work this morning, the top portions of which I posted screen shots of above, all have exactly the same headline: "Gee, Republicans, 7.8 percent unemployment, isn't that too damn bad."


Monday, October 1, 2012

Economics For The Working Class

 A web site called The Economic Populist is the source of a lot of what you've been hearing about economic inequality, from Occupy Wall Street encampments to the presidential campaign. A lot of what I've written on this web log came from the Economic Populist via other outlets that are reprinting and linking to its articles.

Class consciousness has come to America. The Ruling Class, the 1 percent, always was very class conscious. They act as a class, to protect their interests and privilege, but working Americans have tended not to. In the last part of the 1800s and early 1900s, immigrants from Europe and Latin America fostered a lot of class consciousness in America, and their thinking made it's way into New Deal legislation in the form of things like Social Security and Workman's Compensation, and eventually Medicare and Medicaid. By incorporating those ideas into the New Deal, President Franklin Roosevelt, a dues paying member of the Ruling Class from a wealthy old family, co-opted the movement begun by those immigrants, effectively undercutting the class consciousness that drove the popular uprisings of that day and was behind the growing Labor Movement, and had resulted in many Socialists being elected to public office in the United States.

After the New Deal was enacted class consciousness faded, and faded, until ultimately, working Americans were voting in large numbers for people like Ronald Reagan, and the Democratic Party, once at least nominally the party of the Working Class, put forth candidates like Bill Clinton, a Southern fiscal conservative whose success owed in large part to adopting many of the Republican Party's positions, such as "ending welfare as we know it," pushing treaties like NAFTA and promoting the World Trade Organization. The media became much more conservative, led by people like Rush Limbaugh who, any time anyone pointed out that the Ruling Class was having it pretty good, accused whoever said so of engaging in "class warfare," and the very idea of working people thinking as a class was demonized.

That began to change during the current economic crises. It had been patently obvious to some for some time that living standards for working people were in decline, and that wealth was being transferred upward at an increasing pace, and that government was enabling this process, but the economic crises and particularly the bailouts started bringing out in the open the fact that government served only the wealthy.

Then came Occupy Wall Street, which changed the conversation in America. Its use of the 1 percent/99 percent dichotomy provided an easy way for people to think in terms of class and to explain what was happening to them. President Obama quickly put an end to the physical occupation of parks and buildings, and the Occupy movement is still struggling to find other ways to express the discontent that made it happen in the first place, but the cat was out of the bag. Class consciousness had come to America.

President Obama quickly adopted the economic populism expressed by Occupy and its class conscious, 1 percent versus 99 percent language, and he and his campaign have relentlessly used that language to define his opponent Mitt Romney as a member of the 1 percent, which heretofore was a category of people Americans admired and respected. Romney, a lifelong 1 percenter, never had a chance at being elected president in the current, more class conscious climate, despite problems that otherwise would have doomed Obama's chances at re-election, such as long term unemployment of over 8 percent and the mass home foreclosures Obama has done nothing to stop.

But before Occupy there were people who had been trying to raise issues of class and economic inequality, and when the time was right for Occupy to emerge, these people had the ammunition ready. The work they had been doing, in breaking down and interpreting economic statistics in ways the mainstream media wasn't doing, and did not even want to, began to show up on Occupy signs and in the talk of Occupy members, and began to filter out into the population at large, until eventually even the mainstream media was forced to acknowledge that there was growing economic inequality in America.

A lot of that work was being done and is being done at The Economic Populist, where you'll find a lot of what you need to know to make sense of the American and world economies. It not only lays out the information we need to know but does it in a way that's easy to understand, free of the kind of economic jargon people who discuss economic issues often use to hide the truth. I've put a link to The Economic Populist web site in the right hand column, which will display the latest article. Other current articles include: