|Progressive Calendar 05.29.07||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Tue, 29 May 2007 03:37:57 -0700 (PDT)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 05.29.07 1. Protest UHG health 5.29 9am 2. VetsPeace/KFAI 5.29 11am 3. Natural step 5.29 5:30pm 4. PollyMann 5.29 6:30pm 5. Global health work 5.29 7pm 6. Refuse refuse 5.29 7:30pm 7. Israeli apartheid 5.29 8pm 8. Rally v CEO greed 5.30 12noon 9. Internet tools 5.30 6:30pm 10. Peace dinner 5.30 6:30pm 11. Cindy Sheehan - Leaves Dem Party; meet July 4 in Philadelphia 12. Michael Parenti - Globalization and democracy: some basics 13. James Petras - Imperial rot --------1 of 13-------- From: joel michael albers <joel [at] uhcan-mn.org> Subject: Protest UHG health 5.29 9am Star Tribune,Sunday March 11, 2007, David Phelps 612-673-7269 ´ dphelps [at] startribune.com Despite paying the price, UnitedHealth bounces back; the big insurer is back in Wall Street's good graces - for now. As emphasized by David Phelps' article (see below), everything seems to be rosey again with United Health. (NOT so). Phelps continues to write in exclusively financial terms, not health care and human terms. He states, United's stock price is back up to $53/share, near where it was b4 the stock option backdating scandal. David Phelps buried the following important point mid-article, which should have been the first paragraph. "But the company's troubles are not yet entirely behind it.Still looming are [criminal] investigations by the SEC, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Justice, plus a collection of shareholder lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. Each investigation, review and lawsuit could result in significant fines, penalties, [criminal] charges or financial settlements." Comment: If you'd like to buy a share at $53 each, and attend the United Health Group (UHG) Annual Shareholder's mtg, on Tuesday, May 29th, 2007, 9AM, at corporate headquarters, in Minnetonka, make sure you bring proof of your shareholder statement. For more details see: http://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/invest/index_invest.htm. UHCAN-MN will also sponsor a demonstration that day,right outside of corporate headquarters. Here is the story in human health care terms: Feel free to email or call David Phelps about reporting that side. David Phelps ´ 612-673-7269, dphelps [at] startribune.com. The fact is, 'United" Health Group (UHG) still continues a strategy of: 1. "growth by aquisition", and 2. promoting individual consumer Health Savings Accounts, Both strategies dismantle health care pools, and the very concept of health insurance, which is to pool financial and health risk. UHG's HMO division, "United" Health Care", denies health insurance to hundreds of thousands of people across the country, (including MN, by managing Medica's core insurance functions of underwriting,claims, and billing). "United" is thus, the middle-man of the Medica middle-man. HMOs profit by denying care and coverage (the profit measure Wall Street evaluates is the medical loss ratio, i.e. how much of premium revenues was kept for profit rather than paid out in medical claims). This is what raises their stock price, and the criminal root of the problem. McGuire's $1.6 billion backdating is a corrupt symptom of this larger problem. And i doubt that Universities will be inviting Mcguire to speak at their Commencement ceremonies this year as in recent years. That's just the HMO division.But there's more. Another division, Ingenix, produces billing code software, and arms BOTH SIDES, HMO insurers, and physician groups/hospitals in "billing wars", the tension of which has spawned a booming industry of intermediaries. Moreover, UHG "signed-up 6 million seniors in the Medicare Part D disaster, in a joint venture with AARP, (who has sold UHG health insurance since 1996). Insurers love to get their hands on senior organizations' membership lists. UHG, Humana, and Wellpoint formed a Part D (so-called drug benefit) oligopoly, while over 2,000 other private insurers also sell complicated, confusing drug policies to seniors. The donut-hole (essentially a cap at $2,250 of RX coverage) according to the New England journal of Medicine, is likely to worsen seniors' health outcomes in blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and diabetes, based on similar Rx caps imposed by Medicare HMOs. Part D also raises drug prices, while UHG profits enormously. Medicare Part D is yet another example, under field conditions, of how competitive markets don't exist in health care. UHCAN-MN action at "United" Health Group's Annual Shareholder Mtg last May we chanted, "McGuire You're Fired, single-Payer your hired"! Half of this chant proved prophetic. Even w/out McGuire, UHG's new CEO, Stephan Helmsley's stock options approach $1 billion. UHG's 10 member board of directors, consisting mostly of lawyers, bankers, investors, and no HC practitioners, are all multi-millionaires, Today's (tuesday's) Strib article by Phelps,is equally glowing and flowery as Sunday's, about UHG's latest $2.6 billion all-cash takeover, this time of Sierra Health Services w/ a huge presence in Nevada, Arizona, and Texas. Note that UHG now becomes the largest HMO in the U.S., and the largest corporation in MN in revenues,( from second last year, surpassing Target Corp). Revenues are now at $71 billion, up from $45 billion ! l Last year their profits of $3.3 billion were second only to US Bank, and UHG was #1 in total stock investments by far (no surprise) at a whopping $76 billion, and ranked 4th in total assets at $41 billion. The worst-case scenario for MN will be when UHG buy-out the MN HMOs, or at least enters the MN "market" through legislation that allows HMOs to be for-profit. Such legislation has already been introduced. If you are interested in organizing on this pls call 612-384-0973. Joel Albers Universal Health Care Action Network Minnesota 612-384-0973 joel [at] uhcan-mn.org www.uhcan-mn.org Health Care Economics Researcher, Clinical Pharmacist --------2 of 13-------- From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at] visi.com> Subject: VetsPeace/KFAI 5.29 11am Tune in to the LAST Tuesday of the month, May 29 for a Memorial Day edition with excerpts from an International Women's Day special about women in the military with Veterans for Peace members Chante Wolf and Kim Doss-Smith. "Catalyst" airs Tuesdays, 11am on KFAI Radio, 90.3 fm Mpls 106.7 fm St. Paul online at http.www.kfai.org All shows archived online for 2 weeks after broadcast. --------3 of 13-------- From: Karen Engelsen <Karen [at] afors.org> Subject: Natural step 5.29 5:30pm Alliance for Sustainability Minnesota May 29 & 31 - Natural Step Framework Seminar Tuesday May 29, and Thursday, May 31, 5:30 - 9:30p.m., at Mississippi Market. St. Paul. Sustainability and the Natural Step Framework, This seminar provides an innovative, successful, and cost-effective approach for becoming yenvironmentally and socially responsible based on consensus and systems thinking. Its purpose is to present a common framework comprised of easily-understood, scientifically-based principles that can serve as a compass to guide society toward a just and sustainable future. This seminar is being offered twice, once each in the East and West Metro: -------4 of 13-------- From: patty <pattypax [at] earthlink.net> Subject: PollyMann 5.29 6:30pm Polly Mann will be here and her play titled John Peter Zenger will be read by some people. Here is the gist of it: The play, based on an actual historical event involving John Peter Zenger, takes place in 1735 when the US was still part of the British Empire. Zenger was a German immigrant printer who established the first partisan political journal in the US, The New York Weekly Journal, in which he is accused of corrupting the governor of New York, an appointee of the King. Zenger was tried for printing libelous material. The verdict set the precedent for an important principle of law still in effect today. Much of the material came from transcripts of the trial. Pax Salons ( http://justcomm.org/pax-salon ) are held (unless otherwise noted in advance): Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Mad Hatter's Tea House, 943 W 7th, St Paul, MN Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats. Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information. --------5 of 13-------- From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at] visi.com> Subject: Global health work 5.29 7pm Finding Work in Global Health Tuesday May 29, 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 6, 7 p.m. St. Anthony Park Branch Library, 2245 Como Ave., Saint Paul These events are free and open to the public. For more information, call 651-222-3242 or friends [at] thefriends.org --------6 of 13------- From: Kelly <saintcurmudgeon [at] earthlink.net> Subject: Refuse refuse 5.29 7:30pm Join your neighbors in learning about the proposed plan to burn RDF in our backyard at the Rock-Tenn paper recycling facility.Find out that RDF (refuse-derived fuel) is garbage with serious toxic emissions (including heavy metals and dioxins). Burning garbage in any form is not good for your health! Tuesday, May 29 Green Insitute Report on Biomass Fuels 7:00 pm Hamline Univ. Drew Science Hall 1536 Hewitt Ave. Neighbors Against the Burner 651-647-9908 Tuesday, June 19 Toxic Emissions from RDF 7:30 pm Macalester College Ballroom 1600 Grand Ave. If I go to these, I will report back. I would appreciate a report from anyone else who is able to go. Grace Kelly nicknamed Kelly Curmudgeon from Merriam Park --------7 of 13------- From: Leslie Reindl <alteravista [at] earthlink.net> Subject: Israeli apartheid 5.29 8pm Tuesday, May 29 (and June 5), 8 pm, MTN cable channel 16: Altera Vista presents "Apartheid South Africa and Israel Today: The Parallels." Speaker Farid Esack, South African Muslim theologian, speaking at conference "Divestment from Apartheid Israel: An Organizing Conference." Taped April 28, 2007. Thursday, May 31 (and June 7), 8 pm, SPNN cable channel 15: Altera Vista presents "Apartheid South Africa and Israel Today: The Parallels." Speaker Farid Esack, South African Muslim theologian, speaking at conference "Divestment from Apartheid Israel: An Organizing Conference." Taped April 28, 2007. --------8 of 13-------- To: 'Karen Schultz' <schulars [at] bitstream.net> Subject: Rally v CEO greed 5.30 12noon Wednesday May 30th, working families will be rallying at the MN State Capitol against executive greed and the growing disparity between worker pay (concessions) and executive pay (millions in stock and stock bonuses). All workers and families are invited to join us in the fight back. Working Families against Executive Greed Rally Wednesday May 30, 2007 12:00 noon - 2:00 pm Minnesota State Capitol <http://www.mnhs.org/statecapitol> 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. St. Paul MN 55155 --------9 of 13-------- From: Tim Erickson <tim [at] politalk.org> Subject: Internet tools 5.30 6:30pm I'm looking for a few good folks to accept a last minute invitation to exchange notes on some of the cool tools that are available on the internet. In specific, tools/sites that can be used for community organizing, campaigning, or advocacy. We have the run of the Rondo Library electronic classroom, including 15 computer terminals (connected to internet) and a really fancy Smartboard/Projector. I'll show off some of my favorite web sites/tools - and you can show off some of yours! This will be an interactive/collaborative session. Please, join with me. If you don't know anything about these tools, come along and learn. This session is open to complete beginners to advanced geeks!! If you can make it, please drop me a quick note so I have some idea of who is coming. WHAT: New Tools: Show and Tell "An interactive exchange about new web tools for community/political participation" TIME: 6:30 - 8:00 (Mon, May 30) WHERE: Electronic Classroom Rondo Library (Dale and University, St. Paul) Tim Erickson 651-246-5045 E-Democracy.Org -------10 of 13-------- From: Meredith Aby <awcmere [at] hotmail.com> Subject: Peace dinner 5.30 6:30pm Work A Day for Peace Dinner Event Wed 5/30 @ 6:30pm @ Walker Church, 3104 16th Ave S, Mpls. Want Peace? Work for Justice! The Anti-War Committee is asking supporters (and hungry people in general) to work a day for peace, and join us for a family-friendly thank you dinner event. Supporters will enjoy a delicious dinner of pasta, salad & dessert. We request that supporters donate a day's wages (or an hour's wage -depending on what you can afford) to cover dinner and support the Anti-War Committee. There will be a brief political and cultural program at the event. Money will go to support local peace organizing. --------11 of 13--------- Date: Mon, 28 May 2007 12:52:03 -0400 From: James M Leas <jolly39 [at] juno.com> To: jolly39 [at] juno.com Subject: Cindy Sheehan: leaving the Democratic Party and calling for July 4 meeting in Philadelphia Like her sit-in in Crawford Texas in 2005, Cindy Sheehan's letter to the Democratic Congress following their vote to fund the war (below and at http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/5/26/10135/7518) marks an important initiative for the antiwar movement. Cindy calls for a meeting in Philadelphia on July 4 "to try and figure a way out of this 'two' party system that is bought and paid for by the war machine which has a stranglehold on every aspect of our lives." She concludes her letter to the Democratic Congress by saying, "As for myself, I am leaving the Democratic Party. You have completely failed those who put you in power to change the direction our country is heading. We did not elect you to help sink our ship of state but to guide it to safe harbor. "We do not condone our government's violent meddling in sovereign countries and we condemn the continued murderous occupation of Iraq. "We gave you a chance, you betrayed us." People all over the country have recognized that the vote to fund the war - and all the trickery leading up to that vote - means that new ideas are needed. The Democrats thought they did not have to worry about the vast antiwar majority in this country because we have no where else to go. Cindy Sheehan is sparking an alternative. We all know that business as usual is not enough. The July 4 meeting in Philadelphia provides an opportunity for new ideas and new directions. Ideas from history: When the two parties of slavery (the Democratic Party and the Whig Party) reached a similar point of discrediting themselves in the late 1850s, and people were fed up with both, activists from those parties and various smaller abolitionist parties merged to form the Republican Party that nominated Abraham Lincoln for the 1860 election. He won, and the Whig Party soon ceased to exist. More recently, for decades two major corporate parties alternated control in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez formed a new party in 1998. After his victory in the 1998 election both those two major parties shrank to single digits. Our forefathers gathered to declare independence on July 4, 1776 in Philadelphia and to initiate an alternative to colonial rule. The American people have a similar opportunity on July 4, 2007 to gather in Philadelphia, declare independence from the two colonial war parties, and initiate an alternative that is of, by, and for the people, and free of control by war makers and corporations. I hope everyone will go to Philadelphia on July 4 to support this declaration and contribute proposals for an alternative. Jimmy http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/5/26/10135/7518 Dear Democratic Congress by CindySheehan Sat May 26, 2007 at 07:03:16 AM PDT May 26, 2007 Dublin, Ireland Dear Democratic Congress, Hello, my name is Cindy Sheehan and my son Casey Sheehan was killed on April 04, 2004 in Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq . He was killed when the Republicans still were in control of Congress. Naively, I set off on my tireless campaign calling on Congress to rescind George's authority to wage his war of terror while asking him "for what noble cause" did Casey and thousands of other have to die. Now, with Democrats in control of Congress, I have lost my optimistic naivetÚ and have become cynically pessimistic as I see you all caving into as one Daily Kos poster called: "Mr. 28%" There is absolutely no sane or defensible reason for you to hand Bloody King George more money to condemn more of our brave, tired, and damaged soldiers and the people of Iraq to more death and carnage. You think giving him more money is politically expedient, but it is a moral abomination and every second the occupation of Iraq endures, you all have more blood on your hands. Ms. Pelosi, Speaker of the House, said after George signed the new weak as a newborn baby funding authorization bill: "Now, I think the president's policy will begin to unravel." Begin to unravel? How many more of our children will have to be killed and how much more of Iraq will have to be demolished before you all think enough unraveling has occurred? How many more crimes will BushCo be allowed to commit while their poll numbers are crumbling before you all gain the political "courage" to hold them accountable. If Iraq hasn't unraveled in Ms. Pelosi's mind, what will it take? With almost 700,000 Iraqis dead and four million refugees (which the US refuses to admit) how could it get worse? Well, it is getting worse and it can get much worse thanks to your complicity. Being cynically pessimistic, it seems to me that this new vote to extend the war until the end of September, (and let's face it, on October 1st, you will give him more money after some more theatrics, which you think are fooling the anti-war faction of your party) will feed right into the presidential primary season and you believe that if you just hang on until then, the Democrats will be able to re-take the White House. Didn't you see how "well" that worked for John Kerry in 2004 when he played the politics of careful fence sitting and pandering? The American electorate are getting disgusted with weaklings who blow where the wind takes them while frittering away our precious lifeblood and borrowing money from our new owners, the Chinese. I knew having a Democratic Congress would make no difference in grassroots action. That's why we went to DC when you all were sworn in to tell you that we wanted the troops back from Iraq and BushCo held accountable while you pushed for ethics reform which is quite a hoot...don' you think? We all know that it is affordable for you all to play this game of political mayhem because you have no children in harm's way...let me tell you what it is like: You watch your reluctant soldier march off to a war that neither you nor he agrees with. Once your soldier leaves the country all you can do is worry. You lie awake at night staring at the moon wondering if today will be the day that you get that dreaded knock on your door. You can't concentrate, you can't eat, and your entire life becomes consumed with apprehension while you are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Then, when your worst fears are realized, you begin a life of constant pain, regret, and longing. Everyday is hard, but then you come up on "special" days...like upcoming Memorial Day. Memorial Day holds double pain for me because, not only are we supposed to honor our fallen troops, but Casey was born on Memorial Day in 1979. It used to be a day of celebration for us and now it is a day of despair. Our needlessly killed soldiers of this war and the past conflict in Vietnam have all left an unnecessary trail of sorrow and deep holes of absence that will never be filled. So, Democratic Congress, with the current daily death toll of 3.72 troops per day, you have condemned 473 more to these early graves. 473 more lives wasted for your political greed: Thousands of broken hearts because of your cowardice and avarice. How can you even go to sleep at night or look at yourselves in a mirror? How do you put behind you the screaming mothers on both sides of the conflict? How does the agony you have created escape you? It will never escape me...I can't run far enough or hide well enough to get away from it. By the end of September, we will be about 80 troops short of another bloody milestone: 4000, and MoveOn.org will hold nationwide candlelight vigils and you all will be busy passing legislation that will snuff the lights out of thousands more human beings. Congratulations Congress, you have bought yourself a few more months of an illegal and immoral bloodbath. And you know you mean to continue it indefinitely so "other presidents" can solve the horrid problem BushCo forced our world into. It used to be George Bush's war. You could have ended it honorably. Now it is yours and you all will descend into calumnious history with BushCo. The Camp Casey Peace Institute is calling all citizens who are as disgusted as we are with you all to join us in Philadelphia on July 4th to try and figure a way out of this "two" party system that is bought and paid for by the war machine which has a stranglehold on every aspect of our lives. As for myself, I am leaving the Democratic Party. You have completely failed those who put you in power to change the direction our country is heading. We did not elect you to help sink our ship of state but to guide it to safe harbor. We do not condone our government's violent meddling in sovereign countries and we condemn the continued murderous occupation of Iraq . We gave you a chance, you betrayed us. Sincerely, Cindy Sheehan Founder and President of Gold Star Families for Peace. Founder and Director of The Camp Casey Peace Institute Eternally grieving mother of Casey Sheehan [I applaud Cindy's action. The DP will begin a vicious smear campaign, perhaps the one thing it does really well. Nevertheless one should leave it; suffering the names it will call one is a small price to pay to be rid of it. I kicked the Dem habit back in 1994, and my brain is now almost as blather-free as if I had never taken up 'cratting as a teen-ager. -ed] --------12 of 13-------- Globalization and Democracy: Some Basics by Michael Parenti Published on Friday, May 25, 2007 by CommonDreams.org The goal of the transnational corporation is to become truly transnational, poised above the sovereign power of any particular nation, while being served by the sovereign powers of all nations. Cyril Siewert, chief financial officer of Colgate Palmolive Company, could have been speaking for all transnationals when he remarked, "The United States doesn't have an automatic call on our [corporation's] resources. There is no mindset that puts this country first".[i] With international "free trade" agreements such as NAFTA, GATT, and FTAA, the giant transnationals have been elevated above the sovereign powers of nation states. These agreements endow anonymous international trade committees with the authority to prevent, overrule, or dilute any laws of any nation deemed to burden the investment and market prerogatives of transnational corporations. These trade committees - of which the World Trade Organization (WTO) is a prime example - set up panels composed of "trade specialists" who act as judges over economic issues, placing themselves above the rule and popular control of any nation, thereby insuring the supremacy of international finance capital. This process, called globalization, is treated as an inevitable natural "growth" development beneficial to all. It is in fact a global coup d'tat by the giant business interests of the world. Elected by no one and drawn from the corporate world, these panelists meet in secret and often have investment stakes in the very issues they adjudicate, being bound by no conflict-of-interest provisions. Not one of GATT's five hundred pages of rules and restrictions are directed against private corporations; all are against governments. Signatory governments must lower tariffs, end farm subsidies, treat foreign companies the same as domestic ones, honor all corporate patent claims, and obey the rulings of a permanent elite bureaucracy, the WTO. Should a country refuse to change its laws when a WTO panel so dictates, the WTO can impose fines or international trade sanctions, depriving the resistant country of needed markets and materials.[ii] Acting as the supreme global adjudicator, the WTO has ruled against laws deemed "barriers to free trade." It has forced Japan to accept greater pesticide residues in imported food. It has kept Guatemala from outlawing deceptive advertising of baby food. It has eliminated the ban in various countries on asbestos, and on fuel-economy and emission standards for motor vehicles. And it has ruled against marine-life protection laws and the ban on endangered-species products. The European Union's prohibition on the importation of hormone-ridden U.S. beef had overwhelming popular support throughout Europe, but a three-member WTO panel decided the ban was an illegal restraint on trade. The decision on beef put in jeopardy a host of other food import regulations based on health concerns. The WTO overturned a portion of the U.S. Clean Air Act banning certain additives in gasoline because it interfered with imports from foreign refineries. And the WTO overturned that portion of the U.S. Endangered Species Act forbidding the import of shrimp caught with nets that failed to protect sea turtles.[iii] Free trade is not fair trade; it benefits strong nations at the expense of weaker ones, and rich interests at the expense of the rest of us. Globalization means turning the clock back on many twentieth-century reforms: no freedom to boycott products, no prohibitions against child labor, no guaranteed living wage or benefits, no public services that might conceivably compete with private services, no health and safety protections that might cut into corporate profits.[iv] GATT and subsequent free trade agreements allow multinationals to impose monopoly property rights on indigenous and communal agriculture. In this way agribusiness can better penetrate locally self-sufficient communities and monopolize their resources. Ralph Nader gives the example of the neem tree, whose extracts contain natural pesticidal and medicinal properties. Cultivated for centuries in India, the tree attracted the attention of various pharmaceutical companies, who filed monopoly patents, causing mass protests by Indian farmers. As dictated by the WTO, the pharmaceuticals now have exclusive control over the marketing of neem tree products, a ruling that is being reluctantly enforced in India. Tens of thousands of erstwhile independent farmers must now work for the powerful pharmaceuticals on profit-gorging terms set by the companies. A trade agreement between India and the United States, the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture (KIA), backed by Monsanto and other transnational corporate giants, allows for the grab of India's seed sector by Monsanto, its trade sector by Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill, and its retail sector by Wal-Mart. (Wal-Mart announced plans to open 500 stores in India, starting in August 2007.) This amounts to a war against India's independent farmers and small businesses, and a threat to India's food security. Farmers are organizing to protect themselves against this economic invasion by maintaining traditional seed-banks and setting up systems of communal agrarian support. One farmer says, "We do not buy seeds from the market because we suspect they may be contaminated with genetically engineered or terminator seeds".[v] In a similar vein, the WTO ruled that the U.S. corporation RiceTec has the patent rights to all the many varieties of basmati rice, grown for centuries by India's farmers. It also ruled that a Japanese corporation had exclusive rights in the world to grow and produce curry powder. As these instances demonstrate, what is called "free trade" amounts to international corporate monopoly control. Such developments caused Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad to observe: We now have a situation where theft of genetic resources by western biotech TNCs [transnational corporations] enables them to make huge profits by producing patented genetic mutations of these same materials. What depths have we sunk to in the global marketplace when nature's gifts to the poor may not be protected but their modifications by the rich become exclusive property? If the current behavior of the rich countries is anything to go by, globalization simply means the breaking down of the borders of countries so that those with the capital and the goods will be free to dominate the markets.[vi] Under free-trade agreements like General Agreements on Trade and Services (GATS) and Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), all public services are put at risk. A public service can be charged with causing "lost market opportunities" for business, or creating an unfair subsidy. To offer one instance: the single-payer automobile insurance program proposed by the province of Ontario, Canada, was declared "unfair competition". Ontario could have its public auto insurance only if it paid U.S. insurance companies what they estimated would be their present and future losses in Ontario auto insurance sales, a prohibitive cost for the province. Thus the citizens of Ontario were not allowed to exercise their democratic sovereign right to institute an alternative not-for-profit auto insurance system. In another case, United Postal Service charged the Canadian Post Office for "lost market opportunities," which means that under free trade accords, the Canadian Post Office would have to compensate UPS for all the business that UPS thinks it would have had if there were no public postal service. The Canadian postal workers union has challenged the case in court, arguing that the agreement violates the Canadian Constitution. Under NAFTA, the U.S.-based Ethyl Corporation sued the Canadian government for $250 million in "lost business opportunities" and "interference with trade" because Canada banned MMT, an Ethyl-produced gasoline additive considered carcinogenic by Canadian officials. Fearing they would lose the case, Canadian officials caved in, agreeing to lift the ban on MMT, pay Ethyl $10 million compensation, and issue a public statement calling MMT "safe," even though they had scientific findings showing otherwise. California also banned the unhealthy additive; this time a Canadian based Ethyl company sued California under NAFTA for placing an unfair burden on free trade.[vii] International free trade agreements like GATT and NAFTA have hastened the corporate acquisition of local markets, squeezing out smaller businesses and worker collectives. Under NAFTA better-paying U.S. jobs were lost as firms closed shop and contracted out to the cheaper Mexican labor market. At the same time thousands of Mexican small companies were forced out of business. Mexico was flooded with cheap, high-tech, mass produced corn and dairy products from giant U.S. agribusiness firms (themselves heavily subsidized by the U.S. government), driving small Mexican farmers and distributors into bankruptcy, displacing large numbers of poor peasants. The lately arrived U.S. companies in Mexico have offered extremely low-paying jobs, and unsafe work conditions. Generally free trade has brought a dramatic increase in poverty south of the border.[viii] We North Americans are told that to remain competitive in the new era of globalization, we will have to increase our output while reducing our labor and production costs, in other words, work harder for less. This in fact is happening as the work-week has lengthened by as much as twenty percent (from forty hours to forty-six and even forty-eight hours) and real wages have flattened or declined during the reign of George W. Bush. Less is being spent on social services, and we are enduring more wage concessions, more restructuring, deregulation, and privatization. Only with such "adjustments," one hears, can we hope to cope with the impersonal forces of globalization that are sweeping us along. In fact, there is nothing impersonal about these forces. Free trade agreements, including new ones that have not yet been submitted to the U.S. Congress have been consciously planned by big business and its government minions over a period of years in pursuit of a deregulated world economy that undermines all democratic checks upon business practices. The people of any one province, state, or nation are now finding it increasingly difficult to get their governments to impose protective regulations or develop new forms of public sector production out of fear of being overruled by some self-appointed international free-trade panel.[ix] Usually it is large nations demanding that poorer smaller ones relinquish the protections and subsidies they provide for their local producers. But occasionally things may take a different turn. Thus in late 2006 Canada launched a dispute at the World Trade Organization over the use of "trade-distorting" agricultural subsidies by the United States, specifically the enormous sums dished out by the federal government to U.S. agribusiness corn farmers. The case also challenged the entire multibillion-dollar structure of U.S. agricultural subsidies. It followed the landmark WTO ruling of 2005 which condemned "trade-distorting" aid to U.S. cotton farmers. A report by Oxfam International revealed that at least thirty-eight developing countries were suffering severely as a result of trade distorting subsidies by both the United States and the European Union. Meanwhile, the U.S. government was maneuvering to insert a special clause into trade negotiations that would place its illegal use of farm subsidies above challenge by WTO member countries and make the subsidies immune from adjudication through the WTO dispute settlement process.[x] What is seldom remarked upon is that NAFTA and GATT are in violation of the U.S. Constitution, the preamble of which makes clear that sovereign power rests with the people: "We the People of the United States . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution reads, "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States". Article I, Section 7 gives the president (not some trade council) the power to veto a law, subject to being overridden by a two-thirds vote in Congress. And Article III gives adjudication and review powers to a Supreme Court and other federal courts as ordained by Congress. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people". There is nothing in the entire Constitution that allows an international trade panel to preside as final arbiter exercising supreme review powers undermining the constitutionally mandated decisions of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. True, Article VII says that the Constitution, federal laws, and treaties "shall be the supreme Law of the land," but certainly this was not intended to include treaties that overrode the laws themselves and the sovereign democratic power of the people and their representatives. To exclude the Senate from deliberations, NAFTA and GATT were called "agreements" instead of treaties, a semantic ploy that enabled President Clinton to bypass the two-third treaty ratification vote in the Senate and avoid any treaty amendment process. The World Trade Organization was approved by a lame-duck session of Congress held after the 1994 elections. No one running in that election uttered a word to voters about putting the U.S. government under a perpetual obligation to insure that national laws do not conflict with international free trade rulings. What is being undermined is not only a lot of good laws dealing with environment, public services, labor standards, and consumer protection, but also the very right to legislate such laws. Our democratic sovereignty itself is being surrendered to a secretive plutocratic trade organization that presumes to exercise a power greater than that of the people and their courts and legislatures. What we have is an international coup d'tat by big capital over the nations of the world. Globalization is a logical extension of imperialism, a victory of empire over republic, international finance capital over local productivity and nation-state democracy (such as it is). In recent times however, given popular protests, several multilateral trade agreements have been stalled or voted down. In 1999, militant protests against free trade took place in forty-one nations from Britain and France to Thailand and India.[xi] In 2000-01, there were demonstrations in Seattle, Washington, Sydney, Prague, Genoa, and various other locales. In 2003-04 we saw the poorer nations catching wise to the free trade scams and refusing to sign away what shreds of sovereignty they still had. Along with the popular resistance, more national leaders are thinking twice before signing on to new trade agreements. The discussion of globalization by some Marxists (but not all) has focused on the question of whether the new "internationalization" of capital will undermine national sovereignty and the nation state. They dwell on this question while leaving unmentioned such things as free trade agreements and the WTO. Invariably these observers (for instance Ellen Wood and William Taab in Monthly Review, Ian Jasper in Nature, Society and Thought, Erwin Marquit in Political Affairs) conclude that the nation state still plays a key role in capitalist imperialism, that capital - while global in its scope - is not international but bound to particular nations, and that globalization is little more than another name for overseas monopoly capital investment. They repeatedly remind us that Marx had described globalization, this process of international financial expansion, as early as 1848, when he and Engels in the Communist Manifesto wrote about how capitalism moves into all corners of the world, reshaping all things into its own image. Therefore, there is no cause for the present uproar. Globalization, these writers conclude, is not a new development but a longstanding one that Marxist theory uncovered long ago. The problem with this position is that it misses the whole central point of the current struggle. It is not only national sovereignty that is at stake, it is democratic sovereignty. Millions of people all over the world have taken to the streets to protest free trade agreements. Among them are farmers, workers, students and intellectuals (including many Marxists who see things more clearly than the aforementioned ones), all of whom are keenly aware that something new is afoot and they want no part of it. As used today, the term globalization refers to a new stage of international expropriation, designed not to put an end to the nation-state but to undermine whatever democratic right exists to protect the social wage and restrain the power of transnational corporations. The free trade agreements, in effect, make unlawful all statutes and regulations that restrict private capital in any way. Carried to full realization, this means the end of whatever imperfect democratic protections the populace has been able to muster after generations of struggle in the realm of public policy. Under the free trade agreements any and all public services can be ruled out of existence because they cause "lost market opportunities" for private capital. So too public hospitals can be charged with taking away markets from private hospitals; and public water supply systems, public schools, public libraries, public housing and public transportation are guilty of depriving their private counterparts of market opportunities, likewise public health insurance, public mail delivery, and public auto insurance systems. Laws that try to protect the environment or labor standards or consumer health already have been overthrown for "creating barriers" to free trade. What also is overthrown is the right to have such laws. This is the most important point of all and the one most frequently overlooked by persons from across the political spectrum. Under the free trade accords, property rights have been elevated to international supremacy, able to take precedent over all other rights, including the right to a clean livable environment, the right to affordable public services, and the right to any morsel of economic democracy. Instead a new right has been accorded absolutist status, the right to corporate private profit. It has been used to stifle the voice of working people and their ability to develop a public sector that serves their interests. Free speech itself is undermined as when "product disparagement" is treated as an interference with free trade. And nature itself is being monopolized and privatized by transnational corporations. So the fight against free trade is a fight for the right to politico-economic democracy, public services, and a social wage, the right not to be completely at the mercy of big capital. It is a new and drastic phase of the class struggle that some Marxists - so immersed in classical theory and so ill-informed about present-day public policy - seem to have missed. As embodied in the free trade accords, globalization has little to do with trade and is anything but free. It benefits the rich nations over poor ones, and the rich classes within all nations at the expense of ordinary citizens. It is the new specter that haunts the same old world. Michael Parenti's recent books include The Assassination of Julius Caesar (New Press), Superpatriotism (City Lights), and The Culture Struggle (Seven Stories Press). For more information visit: www.michaelparenti.org. 2007 Michael Parenti [i] Quoted in New York Times, May 21, 1989. [ii] See Lori Wallach and Michelle Sforza, The WTO (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2000); and John R. MacArthur, The Selling of Free Trade: Nafta, Washington, and the Subversion of American Democracy (New York: Hill and Wang, 2000). [iii] New York Times, April 30, 1996 and May 9, 1997;Washington Post, October 13, 1998. [iv] See the report by the United Nations Development Program referenced in New York Times, July 13, 1999. [v] Project Censored, "Real News," April 2007; also Arun Shrivastava, "Genetically Modified Seeds: Women in India take on Monsanto," Global Research, October 9, 2006. [vi] Quoted in People.s Weekly World, December 7, 1996. [vii] John R. MacArthur, The Selling of "Free Trade": NAFTA, Washington, and the Subversion of American Democracy (New York: Hill & Wang, 2000; and Sarah Anderson and John Cavanagh, "Nafta's Unhappy Anniversary," New York Times, February 7, 1995. [viii] John Ross, "Tortilla Wars," Progressive, June 1999 [ix] For a concise but thorough treatment, see Steven Shrybman, A Citizen's Guide to the World Trade Organization (Ottawa/Toronto: Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives and James Lorimer & Co., 1999). [x] "US seeks 'get-out clause' for illegal farm payments" Oxfam, June 29, 2006, http://www.oxfam.org/en/news/pressreleases2006/pr060629_wto_geneva [xi] San Francisco Chronicle, June 19, 1999. --------13 of 13-------- Are the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq the Beginning of the End of the American Empire? Imperial Rot By JAMES PETRAS CounterPunch May 26 / 27, 2007 Washington outlined in explicit language its plans to engage in sequential wars in the Middle East, Southwest and Northeast Asia and the Caribbean. Under the offensive military doctrine of 'Pre-emptive Wars' and the 'Global War against Terrorism', the United States' pursuit of military conquest was backed by Israel, Great Britain and several newly incorporated client states from Eastern Europe. The White House's grandiose scheme of world conquest was orchestrated and pre-maturely celebrated by top Zioncon (Zionist Conservative) officials embedded in the Pentagon, White House and the National Security Council. The imperial wars of conquest however were stopped literally dead in their tracks at their starting point: Iraq and Afghanistan. Subsequent to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, a formidable mass armed resistance emerged from the underground, aided by widespread civilian support. Large majorities of public opinion, major religious communities , trade union militants, small business associations and neighborhood-based community organizations actively and passively opposed the US-led occupation forces at every turn, providing logistical support and intelligence to the armed and non-violent resistance. Similar developments took place at a later stage in Afghanistan. Despite draconian military measures, including the bombing of population centers, systematic mass round-ups of civilians followed by brutal torture, the US military failed to consolidate its rule via puppet regimes. As the resistance grew, Washington's efforts to foment ethnic-religious sectarian warfare and territorial fragmentation failed. By late 2006 it was clear that the imperial army's only territorial conquest was the bunkers in the so-called 'Green Zone'. In 2007 Washington escalated its troop commitments in a desperate effort to fend off impending defeat and to recover massive loss of domestic support. >From a world historical perspective, the Iraqi and Afghan resistance has successfully stymied Washington's pursuit of world domination through a series of offensive wars. The success of the national liberation movements led to the over-extension of the US imperial armed forces weakening efforts to launch programed ground wars against Iran, Syria and elsewhere. The prolonged resistance led to wholesale domestic opposition in the face of never-ending US casualties and skyrocketing financial costs. The demoralization of the US infantry and National Guard prevented Washington from following up its failed coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez with a direct military invasion. The prolonged and deteriorating war in Afghanistan, with the advances of the re-grouped guerrilla fighters especially among the civilian population, has led the US-controlled colonial coalition to engage in indiscriminate bombing of civilians adding to the growth of the anti-colonial resistance. The success of the resistance movements in Iraq and Afghanistan and the appeal of their examples has encouraged new formidable anti-colonial struggles, led by Hizbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia as well as having stiffened the resolve of Iranian leaders to resist US demands to unilaterally suspend their nuclear programs. Further abroad, the weakening of US global military interventionist capacity has taken the heat off of progressive governments in Venezuela and revolutionary Cuba. The consolidation of the Venezuelan nationalist-populist government has had a powerful demonstration impact throughout Latin America, encouraging new anti-imperialist movements and dissident governments in Ecuador and beyond. In an all out battle of ideas, programs, foreign aid and solidarity, Bush is losing out to President Chavez: Unable to launch a full-scale military invasion, to eliminate the Chavez government, Washington has failed to match Venezuela's vast petrol subsidies and promising alternative integration proposals: ALBA has prevailed over ALCA. The failure of Washington's will to a world empire has led to the shrinking of power relative to its global situation prior to 2001. And in large part that is due to the fighting capacity and organized resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan: Both have demonstrated that despite the great store of modern technological warfare and monopolies of media propaganda, wars are decided on the ground, by the popular majorities directly affected. It is they who set in motion the conversion of enthusiastic domestic majorities for the US war to demoralized minorities; it is they who have given backbone and resiliency to the Middle Eastern governments who vacillate between collaboration with and rejection of the colonial powers. James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50 year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in brazil and argentina and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed). His new book with Henry Veltmeyer, Social Movements and the State: Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina, will be published in October 2005. He can be reached at: jpetras [at] binghamton.edu ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments
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