Thursday, March 29, 2012

Anonymous 1:1

A retiring agent the Wall Street Journal calls the FBI's "top cyber cop" says of the US government's war on hackers, "We are not winning," and other experts the Journal talked to aren't even that optimistic. The article lists some of the bigger successful hacks and takedowns. Another expert says there isn't "a single, secure unclassified computer network in the US." It's a chilling article for anyone who looks to the authorities for protection and guidance.


Against that backdrop, Anonymous, those Robin Hoods of the internet, in a video released this evening on the YouTube channel of The Anon Message, declares that the Revolution of 2012 has begun.




 This video is longer and slicker than most that have been posted in the name of Anonymous. It makes the case that the US government is far too corrupted by money to be reformed and must be toppled. It warns of the ongoing, relentless efforts by governments including our own to censor the internet, and of the increasing oppression of dissent in the streets, but says that with the numbers we have, we can and shall overcome.


In the 1960s, you often saw someone holding up a sign saying "The End Is Near." It was a somewhat ironic takeoff on the biblical notion of an end times, but it also presaged that the optimism of the times was fading and that the world was not going to end up being a better place as a result of the social uprisings of the time, as many of us had hoped and expected.

Intentionally or not, it predicted the coming of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, of Reaganomics, or Neoliberalism, our current economic system, which has resulted in wage and income inequality of historic proportions, and which has resulted in a generation of students leaving college under a mountain of debt, with no jobs and no future on the horizon.

Near the end of the Anonymous video released tonight, someone wearing the iconic Anonymous mask is shown holding a sign that is a somewhat ironic takeoff on that earlier one. It says, "The Beginning Is Near."

.

Monday, March 26, 2012

(note: Published on This Can't Be Happening (http://www.thiscantbehappening.net)




Finally Getting it Right? Here’s Hoping the Supreme Court Tosses Out ‘Obamacare’


Created 03/25/2012 - 12:45
by: Dave Lindorff


The US Supreme Court has a chance to do the people of America a big favor, perhaps atoning at last for its shameful betrayal of the electoral system in 2000 when a conservative majority stole the Florida, and national election, for George W. Bush, and for the liberal-led and equally shameful betrayal of fundamental property rights in the Kelo v New London case that, in 2005, upheld the public theft of private homes in Connecticut on behalf of a government-backed resort development. The court can atone for these betrayals by declaring the ramshackle, corrupt, hugely expensive and cynically misnamed Affordable Care Act to be unconstitutional.


The act, pushed through a Democratic Congress by President Obama in 2010, is a disaster, a cobbled-together set of measures that was fatally corrupted by the insurance lobby and other parts of the nation’s medical-industrial complex, which leaves millions uninsured, continues to tether workers to their employers like indentured servants, and undermines the Medicare program, which should be the cornerstone of a real health reform.


By killing this monstrosity of political expedience and lobbyist strong-arming, the Supreme Court’s conservative wing could give us a good chance to finally move the country to a real national health reform which would reduce costs substantially, provide quality health care to all, and finally drive a stake through the heart of the health insurance industry, the real “vampire squid” of American capitalism which has been sucking money out of American’s wallets and driving many into bankruptcy for decades (family health crises are the major single cause of bankruptcies and homes foreclosures in the country).


How can it be a good thing to kill a program that at least eliminates things like the denial of insurance coverage because of “pre-existing conditions,” or the throwing people off of coverage when they get seriously sick?


The Supreme Court has a chance to atone for its sins by ruling 'Obamacare' unconstitutional.The Supreme Court has a chance to atone for its sins by ruling 'Obamacare' unconstitutional.


Because these reforms have come at the cost of keeping the insurance industry central to the whole health financing process, when all it is in reality is a blood-sucking middleman that makes its money by figuring out ways to deny care to those it is supposedly “covering.”


By killing the whole “Obamacare” law, the court will throw the system back into crisis mode, forcing the public and the political system to finally consider the only real answer: expansion of the Medicare program to cover everyone.


There is a reason why the US is the only major modern developed nation in the world (with the exception of Switzerland, which is an interesting case about which I have written earlier [1]) that relies on the private insurance industry and employer-based coverage and that it also spends more on health care both per person and as a percentage of GDP of any other nation (20% of $14.6 trillion in 2010!) , while being well down on the rankings in terms of health statistics such as life expectancy and infant mortality.


The reality, which both the political leadership and the corporate media have studiously avoided discussing, is that if the US were to shift to a system in which every person was covered by a well-funded Medicare program such as is currently available to every citizen over the age of 65, the total cost of healthcare for the nation -- currently about $2.9 trillion per year -- would be massively reduced, as would the cost of health care for nearly all individuals, with the exception of those politicians and wealthy executives, and perhaps a small group of workers in highly unionized professions, who have their entire family insurance coverage paid for by the taxpayer or by their companies.


The reason extending Medicare coverage to everyone instead of just those who have reached 65 would be cheaper is quite obvious. The older people are, the more their medical care costs. In fact, even within the Medicare program, 90% of the $475 billion in costs, or about $428 billion, is for medical care for the 10% of the Medicare population who are the oldest. The other younger Medicare recipients require far less medical care. This is even more true for people who are under 65. People in middle age typically have far fewer visits to the doctor, far fewer hospitalizations, and are in general far healthier than those over 65. The only exceptions to this inverse relationship between age and cost of health care are infants and small children, who can require more care, including childbirth itself, than older children, and women who have children, who obviously require more care than younger or older women, or women who choose not to have kids.


Politicians have refused to consider Medicare-for-all as a reform option because of course it would require raising taxes, which in the US has become a political death wish, but that’s simply because no political leaders have had the courage--and no corporate news organization has shown the ethical integrity -- to point out that raising the Medicare tax from its current 1.5% on employee and employer, would mean that employees and employers would at the same time be relieved of paying for private insurance coverage, doctor’s bills and hospital co-pays, prescription drugs, etc.


The savings that most people would see in getting rid of the private costs of health care, and the savings employers would see in no longer having to pay for private insurance coverage for their workers, would dwarf any tax increase needed to fund this expansion.


Furthermore, as I have pointed out earlier, there would be other huge taxpayer savings that would happen instantly with the adoption of universal Medicare such as they have in Canada. Among these: $100 billion in Veterans care (who needs the socialized Veterans Administration system when all veterans would have their care covered under Medicare?), $100 billion a year in federal subsidies to state Medicaid programs, which cover (sort of) the health care for the poor, plus the other $50 billion that state taxpayers pay for at the state level (another $50 billion goes to pay for nursing home care for the indigent), plus several hundred billion in “charity care” which is either directly paid by state and local agencies (with taxpayer funds) to public and private hospitals that cover those indigent patients who don’t qualify for Medicaid but who cannot pay their hospital bills, or that is simply “cost shifted” into higher costs and ultimately higher premiums for insured patients. As well, it is estimated that some 20-30 percent of the nation’s entire $2.9 trillion annual health care bill is spent on administrative costs, most of which is part of the effort by the insurance industry to deny or reduce coverage, or by the insurance industry and the other parts of the system to collect payments from patients or employers. Nearly all of that absolutely wasted $2-300 billion in non-care expenditure would simply vanish in a Medicare-for-all system, which devotes only about four percent of its budget to administrative costs. That is to say, in other words, that by adding everyone to Medicare, taxpayers would automatically save -- immediately -- $650-750 billion in current costs.


Add to that the over $1 trillion in private insurance premiums paid annually by US workers and their employers, and by the self-insured self-employed, all of which would no longer be needed, and you’ve eliminated some $1.7 trillion in health care costs, or more than half the nation’s total medical bill, which would allow for a quite substantial increase in Medicare payroll taxes while leaving almost everyone feeling quite a bit better off, and much more secure.


We know all these above savings would be real. Canada, which has Medicare-for-all, devotes 10% of GDP to health care for its citizens, making it one of the most expensive systems in the world, except for the US, which currently devotes an astonishing 20% of GDP to health care, and which, once Obamacare goes into full force in 2014, will be devoting an even higher percent because of the lack of cost controls in the system.


And remember, while the US spends twice as much as Canada as a percentage of GDP, our “system” still leaves over nearly 50 million people with no real access to health care, with too much income or assets to be able to qualify for Medicaid, but still unable to afford see a doctor or to pay for a critical medical test or for needed medicine. Canada, at half the cost, leaves nobody out in the cold.


You’ve never read an analysis like this in a corporate-run newspaper or seen it presented on a corporate radio or TV news or public affairs program. They all get far too much in advertising revenue from the Medical-Industrial Complex. You haven’t heard it on public broadcast networks either, which have been happily taking money from the same industry sources, like Johnson & Johnson, Aetna, and Merck for example, or foundations like Robert Wood Johnson, for years. Michael Moore laid it out in his wonderful film Sicko, which did a beautiful job of debunking the US media’s disinformation about the Canadian and French and British health care systems, but that film has been suspiciously absent from late-night TV film programs, despite its great reviews and awards.


But the Supreme Court’s current hearing considering several conflicting appellate court rulings on the constitutionality of “Obamacare” offer us hope that we will finally get to hear this argument about Medicare-for-all, because if the court’s ideologically right-wing majority tosses out Obamacare, and says that the federal requirement that people have to buy insurance if it isn’t provided by their employer is illegal, the whole Rube Goldberg edifice collapses, and there will basically only be two remaining choices: letting tens of millions of Americans die of easily curable diseases because they cannot afford health insurance or medical care and the government won’t pay for them, or expanding the Medicare program to cover everyone.


Obviously, the moneyed interests that hope to continue to earn profits off the public by denying us care, will continue to try and buy Congress and the president. And obviously the majority of American businesses, led by the US Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, will continue to advocate for an employer-based health insurance system because of the control it gives them over their workers. (How many unionized workers will dare to strike if they are going to have their health care benefits cut off while they’re walking a picket line? How many non-unionized workers will demand a raise or challenge an unsafe working condition if there’s a risk of being fired and losing health coverage for a family?) If the American people look squarely at those two options, and given the large number who have learned over the past four years that almost anyone can suddenly find her or himself jobless and without health benefits, it seems clear which option the vast majority of us will demand: Medicare for all.
Source URL: http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/1113


Links:
[1] http://pubrecord.org/commentary/7061/accidental-experience-health-system/

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Facebook isn't like....





.


.



.



.




.






.



.

Facebook isn't like watching television



.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Welcome to the American Spring


by Max Berger, Organizer with the Occupy Movement
reprinted from The Huffington Post


(note: Is Occupy back from its winter break? I can say that the traffic on Facebook within and between the various groups around the country continues unabated. Because I'm signed up for many groups -- in order to get their news feeds -- I'm almost daily invited to meetings, training sessions, teach-ins, protests and other actions that are taking place all the time around the country. But as Berger reports, the powers that run this country will not stop short of violence in trying to prevent Occupy from re-establishing itself.)

This week, the American Spring began. You may not have heard much about it yet, because the media seem mostly to have missed it (much as they missed the original occupation of Wall Street at first). But the seeds of the occupation have started to flower into a movement reborn.

Last night, the cracks in the surface began to show. Hundreds of mostly young people came together for a few brief, beautiful hours to celebrate the six-month anniversary of the occupation of Wall Street. On St. Patrick's Day, a night usually associated with mischief and drunken debauchery, we met in a public park to connect with each other and reestablish the bonds that hold our community together. It was a celebration of what's best in America -- civic community, freedom of association, self-expression -- and an indication that the American Spring will be as big as last fall.

But, last night I also saw the worst of America. The movement to restore democracy may find a willing public, but it will be violently opposed by Wall Street and their cronies in elected office. Instead of protecting, or celebrating, a generation of young people fighting to restore hope to our nation's future, I saw police do everything they could to suppress our right to express ourselves and gather freely.

I saw dozens of peaceful protesters violently choked, stomped on, and beaten with night sticks. I saw police wantonly beat retreating protesters trying to escape. I saw a woman get sent to the hospital after police brutally beat her and left her seizing on the ground. I saw the first broken window of Occupy Wall Street; ironically, it came from police smashing it with a peaceful protester's head. Coming on the heels of recent reports of police infiltration and monitoring of the Occupy movement, it was a chilling vision of what democracy looks like in America.

We have always been a nation where our legally afforded rights are only as valuable as our ability to fight for them. The American Spring is an echo of the international movement started in Tunisia, Spain, Greece and Egypt. But, crucially, it's also part of the long struggle within the soul of our nation founded as a beacon of freedom with millions in slavery. Our democracy only works if each generation takes up the struggle to build a more just and humane world.

We are a generation rising from the ashes of the American Dream, staring out at a nation, and a world, stripped bare by the unshackled forces of international finance. Although some of us grew up in plenty, our horizons were limited by the poverty of a culture that suggested our only legitimate aspiration was private profit. As we came of age, the notion that countries dedicated solely to profit suffer some form of poverty went from a moral argument to an economic reality. We saw our economy collapse and our democracy implode because too many people believed individuals deserve sole credit for their successes or their failures.

The Occupy movement is determined to build a society where every individual is valued because we believe no one succeeds or fails on their own. We are each as responsible for ourselves as we are for each other. We will continue to attack a political and economic system designed to concentrate power in an increasingly smaller number of hands. We believe in a nation where our democracy controls Wall Street, instead of letting Wall Street control our democracy. We are building a movement to hold the people who destroyed our economy and privatized our democracy accountable to the will of the public.

We know our struggle to build a truly democratic society will be met by increasingly strong resistance from the oligarchs that benefit from the status quo. That's why we are making our struggle more fun, more accessible, and more easily understandable to the public. As the weather begins to turn in New York, the movement has started to re-emerge. Last Thursday, we launched FightBAC, our first corporate campaign, by bringing furniture to a Bank of America to say if they continue to foreclose on homeowners, the American people will foreclose on them. We started holding weekly Spring Training marches from Liberty Square to Wall Street to practice for May Day.

Last fall, our movement showed what was possible when people came together to fight for their vision of the future. The movement will take off again if more people feel empowered to speak their minds and share their dreams. Days like yesterday show the promise and the peril of becoming a part of a movement for democracy at this point in our nation's history. It was a reminder that our rights are only aspirations and our democracy only exists if we continue to create it together. The American Spring will succeed if people like you believe our rights are worth fighting for, and our democracy is worth reclaiming.
Another Timely Photo Found on Facebook






.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Nuestro deber es luchar - Our Duty is to Struggle

A transcript of the nine hour discussion about the environment Fidel had in February with intellectuals and Latin American ministers is now available in English or Spanish as a free book in PDF form at the web site Cubadebate. It's called, in English, Our Duty is to Struggle.

Fidel announces at the beginning that he is there to listen, but he talks a lot, too. He questions the participants about their country's situations and about their presentations. At 85 he is said to be frail, physically, but he was engaged in the discussion throughout the nine hours, and the meeting didn't begin until 1:30 p.m. He displays an agile mind and an encyclopedic knowledge base: for example, off the top of his head he can quote how many cubic feet of natural gas reserves a given country has.

The book is put together in a format that makes it easy to scan through. There's a table of contents, list of participants with bios, appendixes, etc. The book contains photos taken during the discussion, including the picture of Fidel posted here. Take a look





.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Law Will Allow Employers To Fire Women For Using Whore Pills

Photo: Jezebel.com
That's the headline on a Jezebel.com article about a proposed law in -- where else, Arizona -- that would let employers make sure the contraception their employees use is for "non-sexual reasons."

For Rush Limbaugh, the fallout for calling women who use contraception "sluts" continues, with headlines like this that openly ridicule him and articles keeping his infamous rant alive.

And the list of advertisers who no longer want their brands associated with him continues to grow, reaching 142 this afternoon, according to Thinkprogress.org (scroll down for list update).


.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Stock Market Zooms Past 13,000




Driven by news of increasing retail sales, investors returned to the market today, lifting stock prices to new highs. Analysts attribute the increase in retail sales largely to the fact that fewer consumers have to worry about making house payments. A contributing factor has to do with demographic shifts in the US population, as more Americans now receive remittances from Mexico.



.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Note: This excellent essay by Reham Alhelsi about the role of Palestinian women in the liberation struggle not only fills in some missing history but provides a lot of the context, the back story, for the ethnic cleansing that is ongoing in Palestine today and for the resistance to it. It is also posted at the author's web site, My Palestine.

The Women of Palestine and the Struggle for Liberation

 


Hayat Al-Balbisi had always wanted to be a teacher. But her father was dead, her mother paralyzed and sick at home, her sister blind, leaving the family with no supporter. So Hayat, a student at the Teachers College in Jerusalem, decided to search for a job to support her family and support her education. And although she was lucky enough to find a job at the Palestinian radio in Jerusalem, her dream of teaching children never faded. So, when she heard that the school of Deir Yassin was in need of teachers, and despite knowing that the village was surrounded by 6 Zionist colonies, Hayat didn‘t think twice: she was going to teach the children of Deir Yassin. Deir Yassin was a beautiful prosperous village at the outskirts of Jerusalem, a peaceful village with a population of 750 residents.

Zionist terror gangs, who had stolen all the land surrounding Deir Yassin and built illegal colonies everywhere, had their eyes set on Deir Yassin because of its wealth and its position. Deir Yassin was known as a peaceful village, and some even report that its residents had prevented Palestinian fighters from staying in the village or using its land as an area from which to fight the Zionist terrorists. In March 1948, the leaders of the 6 Zionists colonies surrounding Deir Yassin met with the heads of the village and suggested a peace pact, a non-aggression treaty with Deir Yassin. Most probably, because the village was surrounded by several Zionists colonists, was besieged and continuously threatened by them and because the villagers had little means to protect themselves in case of an attack, Deir Yassin agreed to the pact with the Zionist colonists. Now we know that the agreement was in fact nothing but a pretext, a smokescreen to trick the peaceful residents of Deir Yassin in believing they were safe from Zionists terrorism. For in fact, the terror gangs Irgun and Lehi were planning a wide-scale attack on Deir Yassin, an attack that will delete the village from the map and a massacre that will wipe out the indigenous people of Deir Yassin, an attack that would set an example to all Palestinian villages. The Zionists chose the people who signed a “non-aggression” treaty and as a “thank you” massacred them, raped their mothers, wives and daughters, paraded their children naked before executing them.

In the early hours of Friday, the 09th of April, 1948, and in a joint operation coded “Operation Unity” the 3 terrorist gangs Irgun, Lehi (Stern) and the Haganah (later Zionist terrorist army) attacked the peaceful village of Deir Yassin with the aim of killing as many Palestinians as possible and to force the rest out of their homes and lands.

This operation was part of the “Plan Dalet”, the master military plan of the Zionists for the systematic expulsion of as many Palestinians as possible and grabbing as much Palestinian land as possible before the British Mandate was over. “Plan Dalet” lasted from 01.04.1948 to 15.05.1948, consisted of 8 major military operations against Palestinian communities and gave Zionist terror gangs a green light to massacre Palestinians and destroy their villages and towns. This Plan and its operations caused the ethnic cleansing of 213 Palestinian villages (40% of all Palestinian villages) and made 413,794 Palestinians refugees (54% of the Nakba refugees) making it the main plan behind the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

The Irgun attacked the village from the south east, Stern attacked it from the east while the Haganah bombarded the village with mortars. Around 80 Palestinian villagers fought heroically and tried to protect the residents and the village from the over 1000 Zionist terrorists, but, with few guns and limited ammunition, they had little chance against fully-armed terror gangs. In this three-front battle, the Zionists used all sort of automatic weapons, missiles, cannons and tanks.

The fighting continued until around 15:30 afternoon when the Palestinians ran out of ammunition. The Zionists opened fire at whoever they caught trying to escape, and then moved into the village and started their “clean up”: they moved from one house to the other, torturing civilians before killing them, executing the injured, raping women, slaughtering children.

Those who weren’t killed by machine guns or grenades were slaughtered with knives. Whole families were lined up against the wall of their homes and executed. Pregnant women were bayoneted and the bodies of children were mutilated. Money and jewellery were snatched from the bodies of victims and other personal belongings were stolen before houses were burnt.

Of the 144 houses of Deir Yassin, at least 15 were blown up over the heads of their inhabitants by the Zionist terror gangs. Most sources put the number of martyrs at 254, some up to 360, including 25 pregnant women who were bayoneted and 52 children who were maimed in front of their mothers before being beheaded and the mothers slain, and 60 other women and girls were also killed and their bodies mutilated. The bodies were found in houses and under the rabble of the destroyed homes, including the maimed bodies and parts of bodies of 150 women, children and elderly and many were scattered along the streets of the village.

In addition to those butchered in their homes, 25 Palestinian men were rounded up by the Zionist terrorists, loaded onto a truck and paraded through Jerusalem in a sort of “victory tour” before being executed at a nearby quarry and buried in a mass grave. Also, around 150 women and children who survived the massacre were uploaded into trucks and paraded naked through the Jewish neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, where Jewish residents mocked, insulted and attacked them, some even took photographs, after which some were returned to the village and executed, others “dumped” in Jerusalem.

During the battle and the massacre, some residents of Deir Yassin managed to escape from the western entrance of the village and ran to nearby Ein Karim. There, they asked the stationed Arab soldiers to help Deir Yassin, but the soldiers declined saying that they had orders not to interfere. (More on the Deir Yassin Massacre)

After her son and husband were killed while defending their village from Zionist terrorists, Hilwa Zeidan grabbed her son’s gun and fought in defence of her home until she was killed. She wasn’t the only one: the women of Deir Yassin stood side by side with their fathers, husbands, brothers and sons. They cared for the wounded, provided food and water and dug trenches to prevent Zionists advancement into the village.

Other women risked their lives to save the wounded. Using a ladder, Thiba Aqel, Rabi’a Aqel, Jamila Salah and others carried the wounded to Ein Karim. Hayat Al-Balbisi was in Jerusalem that day, it was a Friday – a holiday, but the minute she heard news of an attack on Deir Yassin, she rushed to help. Deir Yassin had become her home, the people of Deir Yassin had become her family and the children of Deir Yassin had become her children. She was a Red Cross worker, having previously attended first aid courses.

In Deir Yassin, 15 girls and boys took refuge at the school with Hayat. She turned the school to a rescue centre and placed the sign of the Red Cross on the door of the small house, thinking that this way she was protecting the children and the wounded and that the Zionists would respect humanitarian law and not attack a Red Cross centre. She helped the injured as much as she could, and when the village fell in the hands of the Zionist usurpers, and as these terrorists were entering Palestinian homes one after and the other and killing whoever was inside, many were forced to leave their homes to save their children’s lives and theirs.

And as Hayat was leaving with the others, she heard the moans of someone calling for help. She went back to check, and near one house, she found a man, moaning and bleeding from his wounds. Despite the advancing Zionist killers, she remained by the injured’s side, comforting him and providing whatever help she could. Her emergency supplies had run out and she only had her headscarf with which to tie his wound, she had the Red Cross sign on her arm to show her mission. But the sign didn’t help her. 18 years old Hayat, who always wanted to be a teacher, was shot dead by Zionist terrorists while helping an injured Palestinian.

Fifty-five children who survived the massacre, after being uploaded in trucks and paraded in Jewish neighbourhoods like war trophies, were dumped near the Old City, where they were found by 32 years old Hind Al-Husseini. She scolded the children and told them to go home because the roads were dangerous. Hours later, when she found the children still standing in the same spot, she asked them about their homes, and the eldest child told her that they were from Deir Yassin and had no home, they had lost their parents in the massacre. She took them to her family’s mansion “Dar Al-Husseini”, built by her great grandfather in 1790, which she renamed into “Dar Al-Tifl Al-Arabi” (Home of the Arab Child).

Hind Al-Husseini dedicated her whole life to the orphans of Deir Yassin and other Palestinian children, cared for them and provided them with an education. Today, the mansion houses a school, a museum for Palestinian folklore and art, and a library on Islamic research and the Arab heritage of Jerusalem.

Hayat Al-Balbisi and Hind Al-Husseini are only two examples out of thousands and thousands. Palestinian women have always been an integral part of the Palestinian struggle for freedom and liberation. Palestinian women have always been men’s partners in resistance and in fighting Zionist occupation and colonization, whether as villagers, as workers, as teachers, as activists or as freedom fighters. The Palestinian history of resistance is full of names of heroes, activists who refused to remain silent or inactive while Palestine was being usurped. But in addition to the many names that are recorded in Palestinian history, there are the thousands and thousands of unnamed heroes, the activists and the fighters whose names we will never know, but who will always be part of us because they are our grandmothers, our mothers, our sisters, our friends and comrades.

The first recorded political action organized and carried out by Palestinian women was a protest that took place in 1893 in Al-Affouleh against the building of the first Zionist colony and against Zionist theft of Palestinian land. Palestinian women increased their activism during the British Mandate over Palestine: conferences were held in Palestine and abroad to warn of Zionist colonization, popular protests were organized in protest of Zionism and the British mandate policies against Palestinians and demanding the rights of the Palestinian indigenous people. Various popular and medical committees were formed by women, which in addition to calling for civil disobedience, provided aid to those wounded in protests and confrontations with British mandate police and Zionist terror gangs, and distributed food rations to the needy. During these protests and activities, some women were killed and others imprisoned by the mandate police. And cases are reported where Palestinian women would be brought to morgues to identify Palestinian protesters or revolutionaries killed by the mandate police, and because the families of the martyrs were often harassed and collectively punished, these relatives would look at the faces of their loved ones, lying on a cold table covered in their blood, would walk out of the morgues with their head raised, hold back the tears, and deny any knowledge of the killed person‘s identity to protect their families. Not only did many Palestinian women sell their scarce jewellery so their husband can buy a gun to defend their homes and homeland, but others sold their belongings to help the revolutionaries, while others toured towns collecting donations for the revolutionaries.

In 1921, Emilia As-Sakakini and Zalikha Ash-Shihabi established the first Palestinian Arab Women’s Union. It organized protests against the British mandate, Zionist colonization and the Belfour declaration. Famous female activists at the time include Maryam Izz-Iddin Al-Qassam, Nabiha Nasir and Aqilah Al-Budeiri.

1929 was a turning point for women activism in Palestine: during Al-Buraq Uprising in August 1929, women went to streets of Palestine to protest, clashed with British mandate police and helped the wounded. Among the 116 martyrs who fell in the Uprising, 9 were women: Aisha Abu Hasan (one of the female leaders of the Uprising, from ‘Atara, Jerusalem), ‘Izziyyeh Salamah (one of the female leaders of the Uprising, from Qalonia, Jerusalem), Jamila Al-Az’ar (from Sur Bahir, Jerusalem), Tashawil Hussein (from Beit Safafa, Jerusalem), Mariam Mahmoud (from Yafa), Halima Al-Ghandour (from Yafa), Fatma Haj Mohammad (from Beit Daris), and two women from Arab Al-‘Resiyyeh who were killed together with 12 Palestinian men in the north of Palestine. Many others were wounded or beaten. Among the 900 Palestinians detained by the British mandate police at the time, 3 were executed: the heroes Mohammad Jamjoum , Ata Az-Zir and Fouad Hjazi.

1929: Palestinian women protesting @ home of British
High Commissioner (L). Car protest in Jerusalem (R). Source: Walid Khalidi: Before Their Diaspora


Following the Uprising, the first Palestinian Arab Women’s Conference, one of the largest women gatherings in Palestine, took place in Jerusalem from the 26th to the 29th of October, 1929. The main aim of the conference was to organize the Palestinian women movement and widen the scope of its activities in face of the political situation and increased Zionist colonisation. The over 300 participants agreed on boycotting British products, the establishment of a media centre to inform the world of what is happening in Palestine and organizing more protests. The conference concluded with a delegation of 14 women sent to meet the British High Commissioner and present him the demands of the conference which included the cancellation of the Balfour declaration, halting Jewish immigration to Palestine and the replacement of the Jewish attorney general because he was known for his prejudice.

After the meeting with the High Commissioner, the 14 women rejoined the rest of the conference participants and went on a 100-car protest that paraded the streets of Jerusalem in protest of the British mandate policy towards the indigenous Palestinians. The women made a protest stop in front of foreign embassies.
Female activists from this period include Andalib Al-Amad, Milia As-Sakakini, Ni’mati Al-Alami, Katrin Siksik from Jerusalem, Adele Azar from Yafa, Mariam Khalil and Sathij Nassar from Haifa, Nabiha Mansi and Ruqaya Al-Karmin from Acca.


Tarab Abdel Hadi and Matiel Mogannam. Source: passia.org

During the 1930s, the struggle of Palestinian villages against Palestinian land theft by the Jewish immigrants spread widely and became stronger, making many Palestinian villages the centre of resistance against Zionist colonization. While in cities, such as Jerusalem, women from elite Palestinian families concentrated their activism on organizing protest marches, writing petitions, providing relief, collecting donations for martyrs‘ families and following up the conditions of Palestinian prisoners, in villages on the other hand, women were more connected to resistance work on the ground, and had duties such as building roadblocks and trenches, transporting food, supplies and weapons to the fighters in the mountains, scouting and monitoring the locations and movements of the enemy and fighting in defence of their villages in any means available to them such as by throwing stones at British soldiers from roof tops.

On 15.04.1933, Palestinian women from all over Palestine marched to Jerusalem‘s holy sites in protest of general Allenby‘s visit. Tarab Abdel Hadai, a Muslim Palestinian, marched to the church of Holy Sepulchre and addressed those present there, while Matiel Mogannam, a Christian Palestinian, marched towards the mosque of the Dome of the Rock and addressed those present there. Both women warned of the Zionist immigration and the plans for the replacement of the indigenous Palestinian population with Zionist colonists.

During the 1936 revolution which lasted 6 months, women’s role was also significant. 600 female students held a conference on 04.05.1936 in Jerusalem and declared a strike until the demands of the Palestinians are met. In ‘Akka female students organized a large protest during which they were attacked by the British mandate police.

In Nablus female students and women went to the streets in protest as well. Women committees collected funds for the families of martyrs and prisoners, held secret meetings in homes, sew clothes for the Palestinian fighters, collected jewellery to sell and buy guns for the fighters. Others watched the movements of the British soldiers and reported to Palestinian fighters, transported food, water, material and weapons to the fighters, and even hand-clashed with British soldiers to free fighters.

Many Palestinian women in villages learned using the gun, and some fought next to their husbands to defend their homes and villages. One example is 50 years old Fatma Ghazal who was killed on 26.06.1936 during the battle of ‘Azzun between British soldiers and Palestinian resistance fighters. Some reports say that Fatma was killed by British snipers while transporting food and water to a group fighters who were taking refuge under an olive tree, other reports say she was killed while fighting side by side with the men and defending the village.

During Bal’a battle in 1936, when the British mandate forces besieged the village, Palestinian women provided the fighters with water, food and weapons, and while the men were defending the village and fighting the British soldiers, the women encouraged them through national songs and zaghareet, until the fighters gained victory.

Fatma Khaskiyyeh Abu Dayyeh, born in At-Tirah in 1902, is one example of Palestinian women who were active in the armed resistance during the 1930s, the 1940s and during the Nakba. She was well-trained in the use of many types of weapons and often fought side by side with her husband. In an interview before her death, Fatma recalls how during the Ottoman rule, she caught one Ottoman soldier stealing her family’s harvest. She beat him before taking him to his superior who punished him for the theft.

During the 1936-1939 revolution, Fatma was in charge of the weapons’ storage place of the revolutionaries, used to transport not only water and food, but also weapons to the fighters and help fighters escape British soldiers. During the Nakba of 1948, Fatma was in charge of a 100 fighters. She warned them not to waste the scarce bullets, and threatened that for every wasted bullet a fine of 10 piasters will be paid.

In one incident, a fighter borrowed a gun to fight the Zionist gangs in 1948 and returned it damaged. Fatma scolded him, reminding him that there was scarcity in weapons available for Palestinian fighters and one should take good care of them. She ordered him to repair the gun before bringing it back.

During the fighting around her village, she was stationed in a trench and wore a kuffiyyeh like her fellow fighters. In the interview, she recalled the inaction of one Iraqi officer who was stationed close to where the fighting was taking place, and how he was crying and saying that they had orders not to fight. But another Iraqi officer and his soldiers disobeyed the orders and fought side by side with the Palestinians.

Between the 15th and the 18th of October 1938, the first Arab Women Conference took place in Cairo in support of Palestine. Delegations attending came from Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Iran. The Palestinian delegation with its 27 participants was the largest, and called for the support of the Palestinian revolution, the release of Palestinian political prisoners and the boycott of British products. The conference declared its support to Palestinians demands of cancellation of the Belfour, stopping Jewish immigration to Palestine and stopping the illegal transfer of Arab lands to Jews. It also condemned the brutal and repressive British policy against the indigenous Palestinians.

Palestinian female activists collecting donations for the revolutionaries 1938. Source: Walid Khalidi: Before Their Diaspora

As Zionist land theft and attacks of Zionist terror gangs increased, more women became active in the fight against Zionist colonization. On one hand, efforts increased to inform Palestinians, Arabs and the world of Zionist plans for Palestine and to refute Zionist propaganda and lies: Letters were sent to Arab leaders asking for support, and to British leadership denouncing the mandate actions in support of Zionism, and demanding the release of Palestinian political prisoners and the return of those deported.

On the other hand, this period witnessed the birth of some prominent and active Palestinian women groups such as „Zahrat Al-Uqhuwan“ (the Chrysanthemum), a secret group founded in Yafa in 1947 as a charity to help poor Palestinian students, but turned to direct military work after one of its founders, Muhiba Khorsheed, witnessed the killing of a Palestinian child. The group supported and fought alongside Palestinian revolutionaries, provided them with food and weapons, nursed the wounded and provided training for women in first aid and using weapons.

In Haifa, another group, “the Sisters of Al-Qassam”, became active, and its members fought next to Palestinian revolutionaries. Other groups include the “Land” secret group with the aim of helping the wounded, transporting food and water to Palestinian fighters, digging trenches and fortifications. Several groups and committees collected donations to help the families of the martyrs and prisoners and to support Palestinian revolutionaries.

Adlah Fatayer and Fatma Abul Huda 1947, Source: google images

Another group was “Mala’ikat Al-Rahma” (Angels of Mercy), which was a medical group active in Nablus and Jerusalem. Among its activists were Fatma Abul Huda, Hidaya Mar’ashly, Lamya Hijab, ‘Afaf Al-Khammash, Lamya ‘Arafat, Abla Nabulsi and In’am Tbeileh.

Adlah Fatayer from Nablus used in the 1930s and the 1940s to transport food to the fighters and watch the movement of British soldiers in the streets and alleys of Nablus and warn the revolutionaries. In addition to her experience in the use of weapons, Adlah was trained in first aid.

When the fighting intensified in 1947, Andalib Al-Amad established a small hospital in Nablus called ‘Ash-Shahba’’, some 100 women volunteered, including Adlah, to help and take care of the wounded. They used to grind sugar and treat the wounds with it. Some used to prepare food at home and bring it to the hospital for the wounded every day.

Some of the women like Adlah Fatayer, Fatma Abul Huda and Yusra Touqan joined the revolutionaries in the battlefields. In an interview, Adlah Fatayer described how she moved with the revolutionaries from one battlefield to the next, from Ar-Ramah to ‘Arraba to Ash-Shajara to Tarshiha, providing medical help to the wounded and supporting the fighters. And during the exodus, many Palestinians were forced into south Lebanon. On the way, they were continuously bombed by Israeli planes and because the supplies ran out, Adlah and her colleagues had to use tree leaves to treat and bandage wounds and branches to stabilize broken bones. The number of dead and injured was so high, that the injured had to be laid on top of the dead and transported in trucks.

On 23.04.1948 and while providing medical aid to the wounded during the attack on Haifa, 19 years old Juliette Nayif Zaka, was killed by Zionists gangs.

During the Nakba, women transported messages and news to the fighters, hid revolutionaries in barns and storage rooms, smuggled food and weapons to the fighters, monitored the movements on the roads, provided medical help and fought next to men defending their villages.

On 11.06.1948, Zionist terror gangs occupied Al-Birweh. About 2 weeks later, on 23.06.1948, more than 200 Palestinian men and women marched to liberate the village. On the way, they passed a group of Arab soldiers, and asked them to join. The soldiers refused, saying they had orders not to interfere. Only 96 of the villagers were armed with guns and had some 30 to 45 bullets, and the rest had sticks, axes and shovels. Despite being poorly armed, the villagers defeated the well-armed Zionist usurpers and liberated Al-Birweh. The Arab soldiers who had previously refused to lend help entered the village after its liberation, forced the Palestinian fighters to leave, claiming they were better equipped to protect the village from another Zionist attack. The next day, Zionist terror gangs attacked the village and defeated the Arab soldiers and reoccupied the village.

Palestinian women’s role in the struggle for freedom and liberation continued after the Nakba. And today, they continue to organize and provide education and health services in villages and refugee camps. They build homes for the children orphaned by Zionist terrorism. They protect and promote Palestinian cultural heritage. They defy the curfew, the closure and the bullets. They make cheese and bread and lead the boycott of the Zionist entity. They knit clothes for the prisoners and organize sit-ins and marches demanding the release of their children, brothers and fathers from Israeli prisons. They care for their homes and provide for their children when their husbands are imprisoned or martyred. They go to the streets to protest the brutality of the Israeli military occupation, they fight for the liberation of Palestine, resist the occupier and refuse to remain silent. Palestinian women are the teachers, the nurses, the builders, the farmers, the workers, the mothers, the sisters, the protectors, the supporters, the activists, the comrades, the freedom fighters, the prisoners, the martyrs.

Their weapon is the gun, the stone, the axe and the shovel, the olive sapling, the song, the tale, the flag, the thob. They are Leila Khaled who wrote the name Palestine high in the sky. They are Muntaha Hourani who planted the land with red poppies. They are Dalal Al-Mughrabi who painted Palestine from the River to the Sea. They are Wajiha Rabay’a who sacrificed her life to prevent the soldiers from kidnapping her son. They are Lina An-Nabulsi who fell, but never stopped singing for Palestine. They are Hana’ Ash-Shalabi, hunger-striking for freedom and justice.

They are every woman planting the fields, every woman defending the land. They are the thousands and thousands of heroes, the thousands and thousands of Palestinian women steadfast despite oppression and the Zionist terror. They are the thousands and thousands of Palestinian women dreaming of the return and marching towards Palestine. They are the fighters who never rest, the prisoners who defeat death, the martyrs who pave the way to Jerusalem. They are the partners in resistance, the guardians of the revolution, and the symbol of steadfastness. They are the daughters of Palestine.

PS: Palestinian women don’t need to be lectured on resistance, armed or popular, nor do they need to be “taught” how to resist the occupation. “Activists” who claim in interviews that they are “bringing” popular resistance to Palestinian villages and “teaching” resistance to Palestinian women should first read the history of popular resistance in the villages they are supposedly bringing popular resistance to, and secondly should read about Palestinian women and their role in resistance and the struggle for liberation.

Sources:
www.palestineremembered.com
www.passia
www.wafainfo.ps
www.pcrp.ps
www.felesteen.ps
www.nablus-city.net
www.wajeb.org




.
Trickle Down Politics

The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover didn’t know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night, anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands.”
  • Within an article by Will Rogers in the St. Petersburg Times - Nov 26, 1932

I found that quote while looking to nail down the source of a quote the Las Cruces Sun-News credited NM State Senator Eric Griego with. It was in a story about the "pre-primary convention" held today in Albuquerque by the Democratic Party. The voting took hours and Griego told the Sun-News:

"We're Democrats. We're not part of any organized party." 

The original, by Rogers, who lived 1879-1935:

"I am not a member of any organized party. I'm a Democrat." 


In New Mexico the two major parties tightly control who gets to run for office and who doesn't, and you have to be approved by party members at "pre-primary" vetting conventions like the one held today before you can get on the ballot.

Griego is one of three Democrats who want to fill the 1st US Congressional District house seat being vacated by Martin Heinrich, who is running for the US Senate. The others are former Albuquerque mayor Martin Chavez and Bernalillo County Commissioner Michele Grisham, all three of whom got enough votes from party members for their candidacies to proceed.

Of note at today's convention, I thought, were the vote totals for the two men who want to run as Democrats to fill the seat of retiring US Senator Jeff Bingaman: New Mexico State Auditor Hector Balderas, who I wrote about once before, and Heinrich, who I've also written about.

Balderas has been polling 17 to 30 points behind Heinrich and is way behind in fundraising and name recognition, and an early sampling of "pre-primary convention" delegates had him trailing 47-30.

Today Heinrich received 907 delegate votes. Balderas got 749, or 45 percent.

Could it be that people are tiring of Heinrich?

It hasn't been much of a campaign between those two. Their campaign ads, their interviews, are nothing but vague, general, and very tepid Democratic boiler plate. Balderas has the backing of some union locals, Heinrich the backing of some big internationals. The winner will likely face Republican Heather Wilson, and word came down early from the national Democratic Party that primary contenders should go easy on each other so as not to ruin the party's chances of retaining the senate seat, and Balderas has been doing exactly that.

So I don't know what to expect from Balderas, but I do know what to expect from Heinrich, going by his record in the US House. Nothing. He's followed the pattern set down by Bingaman in his almost 30 years in the senate, which, incidentally, coincides with the time during which Republicans have controlled the political discourse in the US while wages and living standards of working people steadily declined and while income and wealth gaps between the rich and the rest of us slid back to 1920s levels, while Democrats sat by and did nothing except figure out how to keep their own jobs.

During those 30 years of trickle down economics, which, as Will Rogers knew, is nothing but a gimmick to redistribute wealth upwards, Bingaman and his acolyte Heinrich have followed the same strategy. Keep your name out of the papers, say nothing controversial, and when there's a contentious battle going on, one that pits the interests of rich potential donors versus the working people who elected you, remain in your office until it's over, then issue a strongly worded press release stating your strongly held convictions on the issue. And above all, don't do anything that might lead anyone to believe you're an advocate for working people. A little of that talk is alright during your election campaigns. You do need their votes, after all. But as far as actually doing anything to help working folks, like introducing legislation, attending rallies, making speeches or getting something in the media that might begin to counterbalance 30 years of non stop right wing propaganda, don't you do it.


.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Illegal Employers

Colorlines.com has an interesting discussion of the use of the word illegals, and the term illegal aliens, to refer to people from other countries who are here without all the right documents. In a section of tips for Journalists they point out that employers who use undocumented labor and who, knowing these workers are undocumented, often use that fact to exploit, abuse, and often, not even pay them, are never arrested or talked about in derogatory terms. They also trace the origin of the terms illegals and illegal immigrants to, you guessed it, a Republican strategist.

I've reproduced the section intended to enlighten Journalists below because it sums up the issue. The embedded links are those carried over from the original.


Why Drop the I-Word?
 

Linking immigrants to language like "illegals" (the i-word) is dehumanizing, racist, confuses the immigration debate and it's just not legally accurate. This anti-immigrant strategy has been moved into the media by a web of people and organizations committed to halting and derailing reasoned, informed debate and policy on immigration.

John Tanton, the founding father of America's modern anti-immigration movement, helped spawn a host of organizations like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Center for Immigration Studies and Numbers USA which leverage hate language against immigrants to promote fear and encourage division, they are often quoted by mainstream media outlets.

Back in 2005, political strategist Frank Luntz issued a language memo to Republicans to guide how they framed immigration. "Illegals" is shorthand for "illegal immigrants," the preferred term used to describe undocumented immigrants in his memo. It is no wonder that with clear direction to use "illegal immigrant," the shorthand slur has become just as common among media pundits and political campaigns.

In addition pollsters like Stan Greenberg, Celinda Lake and Guy Molyneaux, engaged by beltway organizations Center for American Progress and America's Voice, recommended that democrats adopt tougher language on immigration to engage more voters and create bipartisanship to achieve immigration reform. At this time political consultant Drew Westen, also recommended that democrats use the i-word to be more effective. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) became one of the biggest cheerleaders for use of the term. 

Here are the top 3 reasons to eradicate this hateful term: 

Reason #1 It's dehumanizing. The i-word is shorthand for other harmful racially charged terms that dehumanize people. The i-word promotes violence and discrimination. It sends the message that immigrants are sub-human and undeserving.

Reason #2 It's racist. Use of the i-word affects attitudes toward immigrants and non-immigrants alike, most often toward people of African, Asian, and Latin American descent. The discriminatory message is not explicit, but hidden, or racially coded. 

Reason #3 It's inaccurate legally and confuses the debate. Immigration judges and attorneys don't use the i-word.  Journalists who treat all transgressions as "alleged," - a tenet of ethical and professional journalism, don't use it either. The i-word finds many people guilty before they are tried and ignores the fact that our laws are unjustly applied. Immigrants without documents are regularly hired as cheap, exploited labor with a limited ability to protect their own rights. No one else who benefits from the set up, including the employers who recruit and hire these migrants, is labeled this way. 

The i-word is used to unfairly label and scapegoat people who are out of status due to a variety of systemic circumstances. For example, many people:
  • Are brought to the country against their will or by employers who often exploit them for cheap labor.
  • Fall out of status and overstay their VISAS because of school or employment.
  • Risk being killed in their country of origin due to political or religious beliefs or sexual orientation.
  • Are affected by natural disasters and/or other reasons beyond their control.
  • Are forced by economics and harmful policies like NAFTA to leave their country to simply provide for their families.
  • Are on a backlog waiting years to get processed, even when they are eligible to get papers through a relative. Reason.org illustrates this well with a chart of "Our Nation's Broken Immigration and Naturalization System."



Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is the appropriate term to use in place of the i-word?
The Colorlines.com style guide in this toolkit includes terms that journalists and others can use to accurately describe a person's situation (e.g. undocumented immigrant, unauthorized immigrant, and immigrant without papers) without being dehumanizing or compromising professional journalistic standards.

The Drop the I-Word campaign's focus is on eradicating the dehumanizing i-word (illegals) from common usage and public discourse. We are not focused on settling on a new term because a single phrase will not be adequate to describe the status of all people caught up in the broken immigration system.
  • Is dropping the i-word about being politically correct?
Dropping the i-word is about protecting humanity and dignity. Accusations of political correctness divert the public from a serious conversation about race and the responsibility that media has in reporting the news in a complete and responsible way. 

Political parties, interest groups and even some media outlets use anti-immigrant talking points and catch phrases to influence the American public. Language matters - especially if it comes down to labeling human beings and determining their future. It's time we reject all hateful racist language.
  • Does dropping the i-word ignore rule of law?
The U.S. is a country of laws, but if the laws are causing inhumane treatment of people, racial profiling and lack of human rights protections, we need to look at how to fix our laws so that they also match our values. Currently, corporations and products have more rights to move across nations than some immigrants do. While businesses freely cross borders, they are not marginalized, penalized or criminalized the same way immigrants have been. There should not be a double standard about our laws, about who gets to break them, and who gets treated humanely.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

We Don't Want To Hear It


I spend a lot of time wondering why Americans in general don't seem to notice or care about the ongoing decline in their wages and standards of living and indeed why, sometimes, those of us who point out the fact are accused of whining, or of not being patriotic or optimistic.

Americans above a certain age have had it drilled into them from birth that every generation of American can expect to enjoy a higher standard of living than their parents did. They are not prepared, psychologically, to accept the fact that what they think of as the American Dream has ended. They think the economy will improve and things will return to the way they were. Or just one more election and things will be right again. Whether they see the solution as more Democrats or more Republicans, they see a way out.

Also, Americans above a certain age are insulated from the worst effects of the decline. They already have theirs.

Of the few unions that still exist, many have accepted so called two tier wage level contracts, whereby their wages and benefits are protected but new hires come in at lower pay levels. They already have theirs.




Like their parents, sacrifice and struggle are not in the collective memory of younger Americans. They did not go through it and don't know the history of it. They know little or nothing of the sacrifice and struggle of the kind that built the American labor movement, or that proceeded unions when workers during the depression held sit down strikes in auto factories and unemployed Americans marched by the thousands, the struggle and sacrifice that resulted in Americans enjoying the highest standard of living in history, when even Southern employers had to pay decent wages to attract workers because Southerners by the tens of thousands were fleeing for high paying union jobs in the North.

They have no idea that, when they look at the militarized police who show up at Occupy Wall Street rallies with assault weapons, dressed like commandos,  there was a day when an American industrialist could call up a governor or even a president and have the national guard set upon striking workers. They don't know about the massacres of workers by national guard troops or private militia like the Pinkerton agency, like the one that took place just up the road from here, just across the state line in Ludlow, CO, when strike breakers set fire to a striker's camp and then shot men, women and children as they escaped their burning tents.

But younger Americans aren't being inundated with the amount of American exceptionalist propaganda their parents were. They can understand the difference between a CEO's wages and theirs. They are the ones who are finding out that the jobs they assured would be there, that they were educated for, no longer exist and aren't coming back.

They have to find their own solution to the problem of declining living standards for the 99 percent during a time of record profits for the 1 percent, because their parents are like those Republicans who want to do away with Social Security. They've got theirs, and can't understand why everybody else doesn't have theirs. It's just not part of their reality.



.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Caracas Consensus

Often we hear of the Washington Consensus, the set of economic practices and principles North America and Europe, sometimes Russia, as well as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), operate under. Neoliberalism on a global scale.

James Petras
Neoliberalism has failed wherever it's been tried, including the US. It's failed to improve the living standards of workers -- after 30 years of waiting nothing has yet trickled down -- and yet it continues to be promoted here and abroad and pushed onto developing countries as a condition for IMF loans.

I've written about neoliberalism before. The economic paradigm introduced and promoted by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Chile's Augusto Pinochet, Germany's Helmut Kohl, and which we currently labor under, by which government social services are reduced and wages and living standards flatten out, and eventually begin to decline, as they are now in the US and Europe, and even more rapidly in the peripheral European countries.

Key to its strategy has been the assault on labor unions, which were largely responsible in the post World War II years in western nations for their working classes achieving the highest standard of living in the history of the world; a bigger piece of the pie. Another key element to neoliberalism is reducing taxes on the wealthy, and the US is the prime example. If not for the so-called Bush era tax cuts, there would be no federal budget deficit. The deficit is the hammer they use to decrease social program spending, and they're even using it to attack Social Security, which has nothing to do with the deficit.

Taken together -- slashing taxes on the wealthy and weakening labor -- we see the results. Record profits, no part of which go to the workers whose labor creates the wealth that makes those profits possible, and income and wealth gaps at 1920s levels, while European and American working classes, during a recession that is reducing wages even further, pay through their taxes for massive bailouts for the wealthy, that is, for their broad daylight, out in the open looting of federal treasuries.

In Latin America it's a little different story. Most countries there have already rejected neoliberalism, albeit with some significant exceptions. US influence there is in rapid decline, again with some significant exceptions, as in the the US backed coup that removed President Manuel Zalaya from office in Honduras in 2009, that is, the Barak Obama-Hillary Clinton backed coup.

As explained by James Petras in his latest article, Latin American countries are rejecting the Washington Consensus. They are forming their own economic and political alliances and ignoring the old US dominated Organization of American States, or OAS. Latin America countries no longer have to ask US banks or the IMF for loans, nor adhere to the harsh conditions they impose -- the austerity measures, the slashing of government services, pensions, wages. Quoting Petras:

"During the financial crises of 2008-2010 of the US and Europe, Latin America was able to turn increasingly to China for financing: China’s lending to Latin America grew from $1 billion dollars in 2008, to $18 billion in 2009 to $36 billion in 2010."

In fact, Petras does such a dazzling job of laying out the global context in which Latin America's liberation from US dominance is taking place that I am reproducing the entire article here. I encourage you to read it. It will be one of the most cohesive, concise explanations you can find at the moment for what is now happening in the world and what we can expect in the future.


Colombia’s Quest for Peace and Justice: The International and National Context

James Petras :: 27.02.12 

Introduction: Between April 21 -23, the National Patriotic Council (ed: of Columbia)  will convoke thousands of activists from most of the major urban and rural social movements and trade unions, human rights groups and indigenous , afro-colombian movements, who will meet to unify forces and launch, what promises to be the most significant new political movement in recent history.

United by a common pledge to seek a political solution to over 60 years of armed social conflict, the meeting will decide on a strategy to defeat past and present narco- para political regimes, recuperate land and households for 4 million displaced peasants, Indians, farmers and Afro-Colombians. Central to the mission of this gathering will be the recovery of national sovereignty, severely compromised by the presence of seven US military bases, the large-scale, long-term takeover by foreign multi-nationals of the country’s mineral and energy resources and the protection of indigenous and afro-Colombian communities from environmental depredation. The April meeting has been proceeded by mass gatherings, organized by popular councils, intent on breaking military, paramilitary and the landlords political machines’ control over the electorate.

There is good reason to believe that this political movement will succeed where others failed, in large part because of the width and breadth of the participants, the growing co-operation and unity in common struggles for land reform, participatory democracy, and near universal opposition to US backed militarism and the neo-liberal free trade agreement.

International Perspectives: A Promising Context

Never has the international climate, especially in Latin America, been so favorable for the growth of Colombia’s popular democratic initiative and the eventual political success of this “movement of movements”.

Throughout most of South America and the Caribbean a favorable historic moment of regional autonomy has taken organizational form, backed by almost all the major countries in the region. ALBA( Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America) links a dozen Caribbean and Andean countries in a pact of regional integration led by the dynamic, democratic, anti-imperialist government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. UNASUR,(Union of South American Nations) MERCOSUR (Common Southern Market) and other regional organizations, are expressions of the growing political and economic independence of Latin America and a rejection of the US dominated OAS (Organization of American States). In practical terms, the growth of these independent regional organizations has meant a rejection of US sponsored military intervention, as illustrated by their repudiation of the Washington backed military coup in Honduras in 2009. Latin America’s opposition to Washington’s Free Trade of the America’s Agreement led to the growth of intra-regional trade and forced Washington to seek ‘bilateral’ free trade agreements’ with Chile, Colombia, Panama and Mexico.

The growth of autonomous regional integration provides two strategic advantages: it lessens economic dependence on the US and weakens Washington’s leverage in imposing economic sanctions against any nationalist, populist or socialist government in the region. This is evident in Washington’s failure to secure any Latin American support for its blockade of Cuba or sanctions against Venezuela. The decline of US political influence and economic dominance opens a historic opportunity for a popular nationalist and democratic government in Colombia to realistically develop a new alternative development model centered on greater social equity.

The dynamic growth of Asian markets, especially China, provides Latin America with a historic opportunity to diversify its markets, increase trade and secure favorable prices for its exports. The advantage of Asian trade relations is that they are not encumbered by subversion by the CIA and the Pentagon – they are based on strictly mutually beneficial economic relations and non-intervention in the internal relations of each country. The diversification of trade is well advanced: China has replaced the US and the EU as the principle trading partner of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru and the list is growing as Asia rapidly expands at over 8% and the US-EU economies wallow in recession.

Latin America is no longer subject to the cyclical volatility of US-EU financial markets. During the financial crises of 2008-2010 of the US and Europe, Latin America was able to turn increasingly to China for financing: China’s lending to Latin America grew from $1 billion dollars in 2008, to $18 billion in 2009 to $36 billion in 2010. Moreover, countries like Argentina and Ecuador, which cannot access private capital markets in the US and EU because of debt defaults,can draw loans from Chinese state banks. Between 2005-2010, China lent Latin America $75 billion and by 2010 Chinese loans exceeded the combined loans of the IMF, World Bank and BID.

Moreover, Chinese state banks do not impose harsh political and economic “conditions” to their Latin borrowers as does the IMF. In other words, Latin Americans intent on external financing, can borrow from China to finance structural changes including agrarian reform and the nationalization of banks without fearing economic reprisals from overseas lenders.

ALBA provides an important ‘sub-regional grouping’ and a forum representing a forceful rejection of imperial wars, an opportunity for deeper Caribbean integration and a defense against imperial political and military intervention as well as favorable subsidies on petroleum imports. ALBA provides Colombia with an opportunity to deepen its strategic ties with Venezuela and Ecuador, as they share a common frontier , highly complementary economies and a common historical and cultural Bolivarian legacy.

In contrast to the period between the late 1970’s to 2000 when Washington dominated Latin America via client military and civilian regimes and the neoliberal dogma enshrined in the so called Washington Consensus of 1996,and limited the freedom of action of an independent popular government, today, a free and independent Colombia would have an immensely more favorable international, political and economic environment.

The Decline of US Global Power

US influence is declining on a world scale: China and India have displaced the US as the major trading partners in Asia, Latin America, Africa and in major countries in the Middle East. Russia’s economy and military has recovered from the catastrophic pillage during the Yeltsin era and is pursuing an independent policy .This is evident in Russia’s military sales and petroleum agreements with Venezuela, its UN Security Council veto of the NATO backed mercenary assault of Syria and its closer ties with China.

Along with the emergence of a multi-polar world of Russia-China-Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa is in the midst of a series of anti-imperialist and popular democratic rebellions which threaten US client dictatorships.

Equally important the US’s prolonged, costly and losing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been immensely unpopular internally, and along with the fiscal and trade deficit and financial crises, has undermined public support for new large scale ground wars.

In other words the US is much less capable of sustaining a large scale military intervention against a major country like Colombia, if and when a new popular government is elected. 

The Demise of the Neo-Liberal Capitalist Model 

Today as never before in recent history, real existent “free-market capitalism” has, demonstrated on a world scale its failure to provide the essentials of the good life. In Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy youth unemployment hovers between 35% to 50%; and overall unemployment approaches or exceeds 20%. In the EU and the US real unemployment and underemployment exceeds a quarter of the labor force.

Economic recession, financial crises and declining living and working conditions are the defining conditions of the US and Europe. In other words, the capitalist model in crises for five years offers no alternative for the great majority working in the ‘developed imperialist countries’ or the so-called “developing countries”.

This presents a golden ideological opportunity to demonstrate that a socialist society based on democratic participation is a viable alternative to crises ridden capitalism.

Class and National Struggles: The Emerging Reality

Throughout the world today, from Southern Europe to the Middle East, from Asia to North America, mass popular revolts, have taken prime of place. General strikes, mass demonstration and street fighting rage in the capitals of Greece, Portugal and Italy. Mass democratic movements confront dictators in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, and the Gulf States. ‘Occupy movements’ in the US and Spain spread to new countries, rejecting class based “austerity”. In the face of the recovery of profits at the expense of massive cuts in wages, public services, pensions, health care, new middle class sectors join the struggle.

Even in the high growth Asian capitalist countries, like China, the working class rebels against the inequalities and exploitation: over 200,000 strikes and protests in 2011 recall the popular rebellions of the Cultural Revolution against hierarchy and abuse. In summary the regional and world correlation of forces is very favorable to the emergence of a new dynamic unified political movement in Colombia. However, there are dangers and obstacles that need to be taken into account. 

Obstacles and Challenges 

The decline and decay of US power and influence does not lessen the dangers of direct Special Forces assassinations, indirect military intervention via local military proxies and economic destabilization.

Washington has developed a clandestine army of special forces, armed assassin operations, in 75 countries. The US retains 750 military bases around the world. As we saw in Honduras, the US still has leverage over the military and allies among the oligarchs to overthrow a progressive government. The US has a reserve army of local politicians and NGOs ready to replace established dictators when they are overthrown.

Washington and NATO Europe provided air and naval support and supplied arms to local mercenaries and fundamentalists to overthrow independent leaders like Gadhafi in Libya.Today they provide arms to mercenaries to assault President Assad in Syria. The US and EU are building a military armada surrounding Iran and promoting economic sanctions to strangle its economy. More ominously Washington is encircling China and Russia with military base, missiles and warships.

In other words, imperialism in economic decline still retains military options to deter the advance of a pluralist global political system. Imperial states do not surrender power unless they face unified regional alliances and, equally important, governments with united mass popular support.

The positive development of Latin American integration is a step toward greater independence but it has strategic weaknesses: namely internal class contradictions and conflicts over development models. Economic growth and diversification of markets has lessened US dominance but it has also strengthened the power and wealth of the domestic ruling classes and multi-national agro-mineral corporations. 

Inequalities of wealth, income and landownership flourish in Brazil, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and elsewhere, even as some of these regimes claim to be “popular governments”. Moreover, the “anti-imperialism” of ALBA countries like Bolivia does not extend to the dozens of foreign owned mineral extracting and petroleum exploiting multi-nationals which dominate the country. Argentina may promote an independent foreign policy but over one-third of its countryside is owned by foreign capital.

In other words while the growth of independent governments in Latin America contributes to limiting the domination of the US, Colombian movements must also recognize the limitations and class contradictions of the ‘progressive’ countries in the region. Only Venezuela has pursued strong redistributive and nationalist policies.

The principle obstacles facing the new Colombian political movements are domestic: the entrenched oligarchy and its allies in the state, especially within the military and paramilitary forces. If the external environment is largely favorable, the internal political regime presents a formidable obstacle, especially the continued assassination of dozens of prominent trade union, peasant and human rights activists.

The de-militarization of civil society beginning with the dismantling of the US military bases, the discontinuation of Plan Colombia and the demobilization of the armed forces (over 300,000 plus private paramilitary gangs) are major steps toward opening political space for the excrcise of democratic rights. The democratization of elections requires the termination of the state penetration and coercion of civil society.

The democratization of Colombia requires the growth of powerful independent social movements representing all popular sectors of Colombian society; judicial investigation and prosecution of ex narco-President Álvaro Uribe and his closest collaborators, for political homicides, needs to extend to the present Santos regime. The recent “free trade agreement” between Obama and Santos must be repudiated as it is an obstacle to domestic development and deepening more promising economic relations with Venezuela and the rest of Latin America and Asia.

Above all over 4 million displaced Colombians, forcibly dispossessed by the Uribe regime, must be mobilized to repossess their lands and provided with credit, loans and an opportunity to escape their current misery and squalor.

Colombia’s current rulers cannot point to a single example of a successful neo-liberal model in Europe, Latin America or the United States. Neo-liberal Mexico and Central America are over-run by drug cartels,with 80,000 plus homicides over the past 5 years and the lowest growth rates in the region. The US economy stagnates with over 20% un and underemployed. The European Union is on the verge of disintegration. Clearly Marx’s critique of growing capitalist immiseration is being confirmed. It is time for the new political movements to consider a “Colombian road to socialism” built on public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, agrarian reform, sustainable agriculture, and environmental protection under democratic control.

It is in this spirit of optimism and critical analysis that I send my solidarity and unconditional support to the organizers, activists and militant participants attending this historic gathering. I am confident sooner rather then later they will lead Colombia to its “second and final independence”.

James Petras latest book on Latin America co-authored with Henry Veltmeyer
is “Beyond Neoliberalism:A World to Win” (Ashgate:Surrey 2011)


.