Progressive Calendar 12.12.08
From: David Shove (
Date: Fri, 12 Dec 2008 03:34:28 -0800 (PST)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R    12.12.08

]. Russia/Georgia      12.12 9am
2. Felony fest         12.12 9am
3. Education outlook   12.12 12noon
4. Palestine vigil     12.12 4:15pm
5. Moyers/rule of law  12.12 9pm

6. Peace walk          12.13 9am Cambridge MN
7. Mizna sale          12.13 10am
8. Fast food workers   12.13 10am
9. Human rights        12.13 11am
10. NWN4P Mtka         12.13 11am
11. NWN4P GoldenValley 12.13 1:30pm
12. Rights march/rally 12.13 2pm
13. Northtown vigil    12.13 2pm
14. Mpls GP/2009 elect 12.13 3pm
15. Vets4Peace party   12.13 6pm
16. IWW holiday party  12.13 7pm
17. Economic crash/CTV 12.13 9pm

18. Neil Clark    - Socialism's comeback
19. Lee Sustar    - Victory at Republic! The face of resistance
20. Myles Hoenig  - Time for a real Labor Party
21. Glen Ford     - Obama's center-right presidency; the die is cast
22. Patrick Cockburn - Total defeat for US in Iraq
23. ed            - bumpersticker

--------1 of 23--------

From: "wamm [at]" <wamm [at]>
Subject: Russia/Georgia 12.12 9am

International Forum on the Russia and Georgia Conflict
Friday, December 12, 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. University of Minnesota, Humphrey
Center, Room 215, 301 19th Avenue South, Minneapolis.

Dean J. Brian Atwood will host a public forum on the Russia and Georgia
conflict. Invited participants include Professor William O. Beeman,
University of Minnesota Department of Anthropology; Assistant Professor
Giancarlo Casale, University of Minnesota Department of History; Kathleen
A. Collins, University of Minnesota Department of Political Science; and
Associate Professor Martha Tappen, University of Minnesota Department of
Anthropology. Endorsed by: WAMM.

--------2 of 23--------

From: info [at]
Subject: Felony fest 12.12 9am

In addition to the RNC 8, 10 other individuals are being charged with
bogus felonies by Susan Gaertner, several of whom are making appearances
soon.  The Community RNC Arrestee Support Structure (CRASS, and other allies of the RNC 8 have organized a
number of ways to act in love and rage over the next few days, including a
full day of events this Saturday coinciding with International Human
Rights Day.

Friday, Dec. 12: Felony Fest at Ramsey County Courthouse, 9am

Several people facing felony charges have court appearances this Friday.
Joe Robinson's sentencing and Dave Mahoney's pre-trial are at 9am, and
then Cam Kennedy's pre-trial is at 1:15pm. Joe has asked that we pack the
courtroom for his sentencing.  No rooms have been assigned yet, but go to
15 West Kellogg Boulevard, 131A, and look at the screens for Joseph
Robinson and David Mahoney before 9am and for Cameron Kennedy before
1:15pm. Their room assignments will be posted. Folks from felony support
will also be in 131A in the morning to direct you to where you want to go.

We've also organized a carpool leaving from Minneapolis. To get or offer a
ride to the courthouse in downtown St. Paul, be at Seward Cafe (corner of
22nd Ave and Franklin Ave) at 8:15am on Friday!

More info on felony support:

--------3 of 23--------

From: C Luger <cluger85 [at] YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Education outlook 12.12 12noon

Friday noon December 12 a brown-bag lunch to hear Representative Mindy
Greiling and Angie Eilers speak on "The Outlook for Education in

Rep. Mindy Greiling is chair of the MN House Education Finance Committee.
She proposes "The New Minnesota Miracle" that will "fairly fund the needs
of every students and every district..."

Angie Eilers is Director of Policy for Growth and Justice, an organization
making a persuasive case to invest more heavily in education in our state.
Place: University Lutheran Church of Hope 13th Avenue and 6th St. S.E.
Mpls..  12 noon. Coffee & water will be provided. Please let us know by
email if you plan to attend.

This Committee on the Achievement Gap was authorized by the Board of
Directors of the Minnesota DFL Education Foundation in January 2007. All
who are actively interested in the welfare of our children are welcome to
participate without reference to partisan affiliation or preference... To
look at earlier activities of the Committee click on

--------4 of 23--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Palestine vigil 12.12 4:15pm

Friday, 12/12, 4:15 to 5:30 pm, vigil to end US military/political
support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, corner Summit and
Snelling, St Paul.

--------5 of 23--------

From: t r u t h o u t <messenger [at]>
Subject: Moyers/rule of law 12.12 9pm

Bill Moyers Journal | Returning the Rule of Law

Bill Moyers Journal: "This week on the Journal, Bill Moyers sits down with
political commentator and blogger Glenn Greenwald, who asks: Are
we a nation ruled by men or by laws?

--------6 of 23--------

From: Ken Reine <reine008 [at]>
Subject: Peace walk 12.13 9am Cambridge MN

every Saturday 9AM to 9:35AM
Peace walk in Cambridge - start at Hwy 95 and Fern Street

--------7 of 23--------

From: Mizna  <mizna-announce [at]>
Subject: Mizna sale 12.13 10am

Come to Mizna for our end of year sale! Journals, Books from Arab American
authors, Tshirt clearance, Arab DvDs, Arab American art and more! One day

Artists in the California Building will also be having an open studio sale
on this day!

Saturday, December 13, 2008
10:00am - 2:00pm
Mizna Office
2205 California Street NE #109a
Minneapolis, MN

Mizna is a forum for Arab American art.  Visit our website at or our website at

--------8 of 23--------

From: biego001 [at]
Subject: Fast food workers 12.13 10am

Resource Center of the Americas coffeehour

A Penny More Per Pound: Taking on the Fast Food Industry for Human Working
Fair Food Twin Cities and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Mosaic of the Americas Building
3019 Minnehaha Ave. S. (1 block S. of Lake at 27th Ave.)

--------9 of 23-------

From: info [at]
Subject: Human rights 12.13 11am

Saturday, December 13
International Human Rights Day
11am at Coldwater Spring: A Magical Working in Support of the RNC 800

Directions to Coldwater Spring: From Hwy 55/Hiawatha in south Minneapolis,
turn East (toward the Mississippi) at 54th St., take an immediate right
(South) half-mile down the frontage road & through the cul- de-sac & the

Followed by more activities in support of RNC arrestees!

--------10 of 23--------

From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at]>
Subject: NWN4P Mtka 12.13 11am

NWN4P-Minnetonka demonstration- Every Saturday, 11 AM to noon, at Hwy. 7
and 101.  Park in the Target Greatland lot; meet near the fountain. We
will walk along the public sidewalk. Signs available.

--------11 of 23--------

From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at]>
Subject: NWN4P GoldenValley 12.13 1:30pm

Saturday, 1:30-2:30 PM Golden Valley - NW Neighbors for Peace will hold
large banners on the pedestrian bridge over Highway 55, just west of
Winnetka, in Golden Valley every Saturday. There is plenty of parking in
the lot at the NW corner of the intersection; all are welcome. FYI Carole

--------12 of 23--------

From: "wamm [at]" <wamm [at]>
Subject: Rights march/rally 12.13 2pm

Human Rights Day March and Rally
Saturday, December 13, 2:00 p.m. Walker Church, 3104 16th Avenue South,

The Anti-War Committee will hold its annual Human Rights Day demonstration
to mark the U.S. human rights abuses in Iraq, Palestine, Colombia, the
U.S., and other places across the globe. Gather for an outdoor rally,
followed by a short march, and a closing rally at Walker Church. Sponsored
by: the Anti-War Committee. Endorsed by: WAMM. FFI: Call 612-379-3899 or
visit <>.

--------13 of 23--------

From: Vanka485 [at]
Subject: Northtown vigil 12.13 2pm

Peace vigil at Northtown (Old Hwy 10 & University Av), every Saturday

--------14 of 23--------

From: Dan Dittmann <dan [at]>
Subject: Mpls GP/2009 elections 12.13 3pm

On Saturday, December 13th at 3pm, the Fifth Congressional District Green
Party will be holding a follow up meeting to support plans for the 2009
Elections. The meeting will be at Dunn Brothers Cafe located at 201 Third
Ave S in downtown Minneapolis.

Tentative agenda:
Review and follow up from previous meeting
Goals and time lines

- On street parking typically is not a problem on weekends.
- Most buses heading toward downtown will come near this location.
Several routes includes: 3, 10, 14, 16, and 18.
If there are questions, please call (952) 454-2377 or write to
dan [at] .

--------15 of 23--------

From: "wamm [at]" <wamm [at]>
Subject: Vets4Peace party 12.13 6pm

Veterans for Peace, Chapter 27 Holiday Gathering
Saturday, December 13, 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. St. Martin's Table, 2001
Riverside Avenue, Minneapolis. Join the Veterans for Peace, Chapter 27 at
their annual holiday gathering. Sponsored by: Veterans for Peace, Chapter
27. Endorsed by: WAMM. FFI: Call John, 612-339-3898.

--------16 of 23--------

From: Michele Rockne <MRockne [at]>
From:  <redblack [at]>
Subject: IWW holiday party 12.13 7pm

A Get-Together on Saturday night. Get your holiday progressive book
shopping done and help yer local wobblies at the same time!

I.W.W. Holiday Book Party!
Snacks * Songs * 20% off all books!

Saturday, December 13th, 2008 7:00pm-9:00pm
Mayday Bookstore 301 Cedar Ave(downstairs)
on the West Bank Cedar/Riverside in Minneapolis

Join members, supporters, family and friends of the Industrial Workers of
the World (I.W.W.) Twin Cities General Membership Branch for a party and
book sale.

There will be snacks, and drinks, and coffee. Fellow Worker Matt May will
lead some classic Wobbly anthems. Mayday Books - home of the Twin Cities
IWW monthly meeting will give a special offer of 20% off on all books.

Hang out with friends, co-workers, and comrades! Do your holiday shopping
at a place that supports the I.W.W. - Mayday Books.

Just a few of the titles of interest Mayday Books carries:
WOBBLIES & ZAPATISTAS Conversations on anarchism, Marxism, and Radical
THE BIG RED SONGBOOK 250-plus I.W.W. Songs
BY THE ORE DOCKS A Working People's History of Duluth
DETROIT I DO MIND DYING League of Revolutionary Black Workers
ON THE GLOBAL WATERFRONT The Fight to Free the Charleston 5
JOE HILL The IWW & the Making of a Revolutionary Workingclass
STARVING AMIDST TOO MUCH & Other IWW Writings on the Food Industry
DREAMS OF FREEDOM A Ricardo Flores Magon Reader

--------17 of 23--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: Economic crash/CTV 12.13 9pm

Most judicious Minneapolis Television Network (MTN) viewers:
"Our World In Depth" cablecasts on MTN Channel 17 on Saturdays at 9pm and
Tuesdays at 8am, after DemocracyNow!  Households with basic cable may

Sat, 12/13, 9pm and Tues, 12/16, 8am
A Crash Course on the Economic Crash
Talk recently given by people's economist Karen Redleaf in Minneapolis.

--------18 of 23--------

Socialism's Comeback
By Neil Clark
New Statesman (UK)
December 2008

At the beginning of the century, the chances of socialism making a return
looked close to zero. Yet now, all around Europe, the red flag is flying

"If socialism signifies a political and economic system in which the
government controls a large part of the economy and redistributes wealth
to produce social equality, then I think it is safe to say the likelihood
of its making a comeback any time in the next generation is close to
zero," wrote Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History, in Time
magazine in 2000.

He should take a trip around Europe today.

Make no mistake, socialism - pure, unadulterated socialism, an ideology
that was taken for dead by liberal capitalists - is making a strong
comeback. Across the continent, there is a definite trend in which
long-established parties of the centre left that bought in to
globalisation and neoliberalism are seeing their electoral dominance
challenged by unequivocally socialist parties which have not.

The parties in question offer policies which mark a clean break from the
Thatcherist agenda that many of Europe's centre-left parties have embraced
over the past 20 years. They advocate renationalisation of privatised
state enterprises and a halt to further liberalisation of the public
sector. They call for new wealth taxes to be imposed and for a radical
redistribution of wealth. They defend the welfare state and the rights of
all citizens to a decent pension and free health care. They strongly
oppose war - and any further expansion of Nato.

Most fundamentally of all, they challenge an economic system in which the
interests of ordinary working people are subordinated to those of capital.

Nowhere is this new leftward trend more apparent than in Germany, home to
the meteoric rise of Die Linke ("The Left"), a political grouping formed
only 18 months ago - and co-led by the veteran socialist "Red" Oskar
Lafontaine, a long-standing scourge of big business. The party, already
the main opposition to the Christian Democrats in eastern Germany, has
made significant inroads into the vote for the Social Democratic Party
(SPD) in elections to western parliaments this year, gaining
representation in Lower Saxony, Hamburg and Hesse. Die Linke's
unapologetically socialist policies, which include the renationalisation
of electricity and gas, the banning of hedge funds and the introduction of
a maximum wage, chime with a population concerned at the dismantling of
Germany's mixed economic model and the adoption of Anglo-Saxon capitalism
- a shift that occurred while the SPD was in government.

An opinion poll last year showed that 45 per cent of west Germans (and 57
per cent of east Germans) consider socialism "a good idea"; in October,
another poll showed that Germans overwhelmingly favour nationalisation of
large segments of the economy. Two-thirds of all Germans say they agree
with all or some of Die Linke's programme.

It's a similar story of left-wing revival in neighbouring Holland. There
the Socialist Party of the Netherlands (SP), which almost trebled its
parliamentary representation in the most recent general election (2006),
and which made huge gains in last year's provincial elections, continues
to make headway.

Led by a charismatic 41-year-old epidemiologist, Agnes Kant, the SP is on
course to surpass the Dutch Labour Party, a member of the ruling
conservative-led coalition, as the Netherlands' main left-of centre

The SP has gained popularity by being the only left-wing Dutch
parliamentary party to campaign for a "No" vote during the 2005 referendum
on the EU constitutional treaty and for its opposition to large-scale
immigration, which it regards as being part of a neoliberal package that
encourages flexible labour markets.

The party calls for a society where the values of "human dignity, equality
and solidarity" are most prominent, and has been scathing in its attacks
on what it describes as "the culture of greed", brought about by "a
capitalism based on inflated bonuses and easy money". Like Die Linke, the
SP campaigns on a staunchly anti-war platform - demanding an end to
Holland's role as "the US's lapdog".

In Greece, the party on the up is the Coalition of the Radical Left
(SYRIZA), the surprise package in last year's general election. As public
opposition to the neoliberal economic policies of the ruling New
Democracy government builds, SYRIZA's opinion-poll ratings have risen to
almost 20 per cent - putting it within touching distance of PASOK, the
historical left-of-centre opposition, which has lurched sharply to the
right in recent years. SYRIZA is particularly popular with young voters:
its support among those aged 35 and under stands at roughly 30 per cent in
the polls, ahead of PASOK.

In Norway, socialists are already in power; the ruling "red-green"
coalition consists of the Socialist Left Party, the Labour Party and the
Centre Party. Since coming to power three years ago, the coalition - which
has been labelled the most left-wing government in Europe, has halted the
privatisation of state-owned companies and made further development of the
welfare state, public health care and improving care for the elderly its

The success of such forces shows that there can be an electoral dividend
for left-wing parties if voters see them responding to the crisis of
modern capitalism by offering boldly socialist solutions. Their success
also demonstrates the benefits to electoral support for socialist
groupings as they put aside their differences to unite behind a commonly
agreed programme.

For example, Die Linke consists of a number of internal caucuses - or
forums - including the "Anti-Capitalist Left", "Communist Platform" and
"Democratic Socialist Forum". SYRIZA is a coalition of more than ten Greek
political groups. And the Dutch Socialist Party - which was originally
called the Communist Party of the Netherlands, has successfully brought
socialists and communists together to support its collectivist programme.

It is worth noting that those European parties of the centre left which
have not fully embraced the neoliberal agenda are retaining their dominant
position. In Spain, the governing Socialist Workers' Party has managed to
maintain its broad left base and was re-elected for another four-year term
in March, with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero promising a
"socialist economic policy" that would focus on the needs of workers and
the poor.

There are exceptions to the European continent's shift towards socialism.
Despite the recent election of leftist Martine Aubry as leader of the
French Socialist Party, the French left has been torn apart by divisions,
at the very moment when it could be exploiting the growing unpopularity of
the Sarkozy administration.

And, in Britain, despite opinion being arguably more to the left on
economic issues than at any time since 1945, few are calling for a return
to socialism.

The British left, despite promising initiatives such as September's
Convention of the Left in Manchester, which gathered representatives from
several socialist groups, still remains fragmented and divided. The left's
espousal of unrestricted or loosely controlled immigration is also,
arguably, a major vote loser among working-class voters who should provide
its core support. No socialist group in Britain has as yet articulated a
critique of mass immigration from an anti-capitalist and anti-racist
viewpoint in the way the Socialist Party of the Netherlands has.

And even if a Die Linke-style coalition of progressive forces could be
built and put on a formal footing in time for the next general election,
Britain's first-past-the-post system provides a formidable obstacle to

Nevertheless, the prognosis for socialism in Britain and the rest of
Europe is good. As the recession bites, and neoliberalism is discredited,
the phenomenon of unequivocally socialist parties with clear, anti-
capitalist, anti-globalist messages gaining ground, and even replacing
"Third Way" parties in Europe, is likely to continue.

Even in Britain, where the electoral system grants huge advantage to the
established parties, pressure on Labour to jettison its commitment to
neoliberal policies and to adopt a more socialist agenda is sure to

--------19 of 23--------

The Face of Resistance
Victory at Republic!
December 11, 2008

With a unanimous vote, workers at the Republic Windows & Doors plant in
Chicago ended their six-day factory occupation late on December 10 after
Bank of America and other lenders agreed to fund about $2 million in
severance and vacation pay as well as health insurance.

"Everybody feels great," said a tired but beaming Armando Robles,
president of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (UE) Local 1110.

Melvin Maclin, the local's vice president, agreed. "I feel wonderful," he
said. "I feel validated as a human being. Everybody is so overjoyed. This
is significant because it shows workers everywhere that we do have a voice
in this economy. Because we're the backbone of this country. It's not the
CEOs. It's the working people."

Pointing, he continued, "See that sign up there? Without us, it would just
say 'Republic,' because we make the windows and doors. This shows that you
can fight--and that you have to fight."

The settlement was a resounding victory for union members who were told a
little more than a week earlier that the factory would be closed in less
than three day's time--and that, contrary to federal law, they would get
no severance pay.

So to pressure the company to make good on what it owed them, the workers
voted to stay put after the plant ceased production on December 5.

By deciding to occupy their factory--a tactic used by labor in the 1930s,
but virtually unknown in this country since--the Republic workers sparked
a solidarity movement that forced one of the biggest banks in the U.S. to
pay two months of wages and health care, even though the bank had no legal
obligation to do so.

* * *

WHAT BEGAN as a resolute act of some 250 workers quickly became a national
symbol of working-class resistance in a crisis-bound economy. Hundreds
upon hundreds of union members and officials--not only from Chicago, but
around the Midwest--came to the Republic factory to express their
solidarity and bring donations of food and badly needed funds.

But support for the Republic struggle went beyond the ranks of organized
labor. The fightback crystallized mass anger about the $700 billion
bailout of Wall Street. Even though Bank of America--Republic's main
creditor--is in line receive $25 billion in taxpayer money, the bank
refused to finance the 60 days' pay due to workers under the WARN Act if a
plant closes without the two-month notice required under the law.

Democratic politicians, from President-elect Barack Obama down to Chicago
aldermen, felt the pressure to declare their support for the struggle.

Press coverage was affected as well. For once, the media not only
highlighted the issues in a labor struggle, but also used its resources to
investigate the employer. The Chicago Tribune reported that Republic's
main owner, Rich Gillman, was involved in the purchase of a nonunion
window factory in Iowa to move to. Journalists also uncovered evidence
that Bank of America refused repeated requests to extend more credit to
Republic, despite its infusion of bailout money.

Thus, when UE decided to make Bank of America the target of a December 10
rally, there was a ready response--about 1,000 people turned out on short

"Since we're down here in the financial district, let's do a little
mathematics," said Rev. Gregory Livingston of Rainbow/PUSH. "Bank of
America got $25 billion. Citibank got $25 billion. Republic workers got
how much? Zero.

"That's why we're here in the financial district. It's where the money is.
The people work, and guess whose money is in these banks? Guess whose
money is in the market? Guess whose money is in their pockets? It's our

But what was noteworthy about the picket wasn't the anger against the
banks, but a palpable sense of workers' power. Members of a dozen
different unions were on hand, as were student groups, socialists and
community groups, all inspired by the Republic workers' bold stand.

Larry Spivack, regional director of AFSCME Council 31, summed up the mood
in his speech. "Look around you," he told the crowd, naming the main
financial institutions nearby. "Who created all their wealth?" he
asked--and was answered by the chant, "We did!" "Who has the power?" "We

Spivack continued: "This is a beginning, like when the Haymarket struggle
took place in 1886," a reference to the Chicago martyrs in the struggle
for the eight-hour workday. He concluded with a shout, "Power to the

A few hours later, back at the Republic plant, after workers heard the
terms of the agreement and voted, Bob Kingsley, the national director of
organization for UE, made a similar point in assessing the victory:

The significance of this struggle for the labor movement is that at a time
when millions of American workers are facing greater and greater economic
turmoil, and with it more and more instances of unfairness, there needed
to be a clear symbol of resistance.

What the workers at Republic are is the face of that resistance. They
personify the challenge that the working class faces in today's economy,
but they also symbolize the hope that if we, as workers, stick together,
if we fight together, and if we're willing to push the limits, we can
achieve incredible things. And their victory comes at a time when the
labor movement needs it.

Lee Sustar writes for the Socialist Worker.

--------20 of 23--------

Time for a Real Labor Party
by Myles Hoenig
December 10th, 2008
Dissident Voice

Fool me once shame on you.
You fool me you can't get fooled again.

Spoken like the true idiot that he is.

So we expect a whole lot more out of the Obama administration. One bumper
sticker even said, "Elect Intellect". Kind of turns around the old Adlai
Stevenson quip when one supporter said to him, "All thinking people are
for you:. His response was, ":That's not enough. I need a majority".

The question to be raised is how does having someone new who's smarter
than a fifth grader make a difference in solving the problems we're
facing? Eight years has been a long time for our collective brain to
atrophy. Can Obama restore that? Will it make a difference? When has the
American public ever truly grappled with real solutions? We complain about
the problems all the time. We've always expected our elected leaders to
surround themselves with the "best and the brightest". That often gives
the public the excuse to be the acquiescent sheep they are so carefully
trained to be.

We see the Obama economic team made up of the very types of people who
brought us to the brink of Depression. Being smart just isn't enough.
Missing from the team, and even his cabinet, are the very people who most
truly represent those most hurt by this economic crisis: Labor and
Consumers. Conspicuously absent? Not a word is mentioned of them, even by
organized Labor itself. But that should be no surprise.

The leadership of the CIO sold out the UAW and the labor movement in 1936
when UAW wanted to start their own political party for labor and farmers.
It was either support Roosevelt and the New Deal or funds for organizing
auto workers would be withheld.1 Since then, Labor has been under the
thumb of the Democratic Party for so long now that they think they're part
of the hand. It is no wonder there hasn't been a peep out of organized
labor over the exclusion of Labor in Obama's economic powerhouse team.

The Obama administration's exclusion of Labor clearly shows that the
Democratic Party sees Labor's leaders as their loyal lieutenants. They see
Labor's role as having no value, except to call out their armies during
election time. They also know that if they were to have a real independent
labor voice on their team their entire economic plan to revitalize Wall
Street and the banking houses could crash.

Will the rank and file union members ever wake up to the stranglehold the
Democrats have over them?

What's truly needed now are real alternative political parties. The Greens
are out. In states like Maryland they can't even organize a sock drawer,
let alone a political party. Other state Green Parties are stronger but
overall very weak and getting weaker. If one just goes by raw numbers,
their recent showing in Louisiana had been the margin that helped to
defeat the corrupt Congressman Jefferson. Too often, though, the GP is
reluctant to crow about how it can make an electoral difference or even
try to. If only the Party could have had some bragging rights in 2000,
then 2004 might not have been so disastrous for them!

Libertarians have a very specific message, but with little money and no
good organizers they might just as well duke it out with disenfranchised
voters who might argue for staying home, still leaving the field wide open
for the two main rivals.

Shouldn't this be the time that Labor finally breaks from under the yoke
of the Democrats, who are so hell-bent on being Wall Street's electoral

It is still inconceivable that rank and file union members don't do to
their union bosses what Terry Malone did to Johnny Friendly2 and throw
them all in the water.

The support the Labor movement gives to the Democratic Party is contrary
to the needs of labor. When, since 1947, has any serious Democratic
candidate, let alone the party's platform, ever called for the repeal of
the Taft-Hartley Act, one of the most anti-labor pieces of legislation? It
was the Reform Party candidate, Ross Perot, that Texan Ferengi, who in
1992 railed against NAFTA, our generation's most anti-labor treaty. Bill
Clinton and his Democratic Party pushed it through once elected with
continuing backing from Democrats and Republicans alike. And, the one
issue that often ties up all union contractual activities is not just
outsourcing, bad working conditions or bad bosses, or even wages. It is
health care and the need to keep what coverage they can. If health care
was taken off the table, with a national health care plan along the lines
of Single Payer in place, then unions could focus on real labor issues.
Yet it is taking forever for the Democrats in Congress to sign on to any
real health care plan independent of the health insurance industry.

A Labor Party would have very broad appeal. It would be a party for
working families, regardless of their past political affiliations. And
what difference does it make if it does hurt one party or another? If only
it speaks for its members, why be apprehensive about whether or not its
strength would hurt another's whose interests are clearly not theirs to
begin with? A Labor Party not afraid to stand up to the Democratic and
Republican Parties would honor the labor heroes who struggled or died
fighting for the basic rights of workers in America.

1. "Who made the New Deal?" Lance Selfa, 11/20/08, Dissident Voice. [.]
2. On the Waterfront, 1954 [.]

Myles Hoenig is a disenchanted member of PGCEA, a teachers' union in
Maryland. He also ran a Green Party gubernatorial campaign in Maryland in
2006. (Eddie Boyd. Presente!) He can be reached at:
myles.hoenig [at]

--------21 of 23--------

Obama's Center-Right Presidency
The Die is Cast
December 10, 2008

In case there are any lingering doubts, it's official: Barack Obama has
earned a well-deserved rating of "center-right" politician, courtesy of
the New York Times. The president-elect worked hard to pull himself
rightward, after starting off with a reputation as a liberalish "peace"
candidate. Nobody calls Obama that anymore, not since he endorsed the
bankers' bailout, put the economy's future in the hands of the same people
that set the stage for financial meltdown, and let Bush's War Secretary
keep the keys to the imperial armory. So let's give it to Obama. He won't
ever have an identity crisis, again.

There are lots of political appointments to go before Obama's roster is
complete, but the heavy lifting is done. The ideological pillars of
America's first Black presidency have been planted wholly within the
parameters of governance allowed by big capital and the imperial military.
Obama's "transition" is more accurately seen as a "continuity" of rule by
the lords of finance capital and their protective screen of warriors and
spies. The Obama regime, still incomplete, already reeks of thieves and
war criminals.

Obama's "national security" and economic lineup is an infinity of
ugliness, more repulsive than I could have imagined back in the summer of
2003, when Obama's rise to glory was about to begin. The supremely
talented actor/state senator's capacity for obfuscation; his refusal to
take a firm position on any subject of real controversy; his transparently
false denials of fealty to the corporate Democratic Leadership Council,
which had publicly claimed him - all this should have marked Obama as bad
news for Black America. But his was a fatally attractive package, like the
shiny little cluster bomblets that kids pick up in places like

My colleagues and I were most fearful of the effect Obama's
corporate-rigged explosion onto the national scene would have on the black
polity - both the masses and leadership circles. Obama's phony
progressivism didn't fool us for a second - although we yearned as much as
other African Americans for the appearance of a Great Black Hope. Obama
wasn't "The One," no matter what Oprah said. Rather, he became a menace to
black folks' collective mental health.

We knew that a mass hallucinatory phenomenon was about to occur, that
would loosen many black folks' grips on reality no matter how often and
loudly we warned that Barack Obama was a cynical corporate striver who
encouraged whites to believe that his election would mark the end of black
politics as we have known it. (Take breath, here.) He was the anti-Jesse,
the anti-Sharpton, a fraudulent peace candidate, an eager servant of the
rich. We diligently provided evidence of Obama's true political nature,
and at every juncture before and during the primaries we were proven
correct in our analysis. But no matter. African Americans' pent up hunger
to see a (pretty) black face in the highest place, would not be denied.
They desperately needed the Obama of their imaginings, and would draw and
quarter anyone that questioned the senator's sainthood.

Were black folks "losing their damn minds," as comedian David Alan Grier
puts it on Comedy Central's Chocolate News?

Yes, they were.

Black America became a fortress, impregnable to truth. The ever-mounting
evidence of Obama's abhorrence of real social change beyond his own
singular elevation; his fawning deference to big business; his call for an
additional 100,000 soldiers and Marines; his early refusal to consider a
moratorium on housing foreclosures; his reversal on electronic spying on
Americans - none of these actual, real world occurrences could puncture
the mass delusion. A kind of collective autism sealed off the African
American mind from reality-based phenomena. The cruelest, blanket insults
to African American dignity issued repeatedly from Obama's mouth, yet were
gratefully accepted as proof of the candidate's "tough love" for "his

Fast forward to the present. Obama has awarded his administration's
economic and imperial military portfolios to plundering investment bankers
and their servants (Robert Rubin's derivative-addicted sidekicks) and
endless-warriors (Iran-Contra super-spook and master of intrigue Robert
Gates). In this scariest chapter of world history to date, the Secretaries
of War (let's have some truth in language) and Treasury will be the
dominant players in determining the nation's economic and military place
on the planet. That's where the bulk of the national wealth will be
diverted. Everyone else will scramble for crumbs. The store has already
been given away to the military and economic Right. Thank you, Obama.
Macro military and economic adventures and experiments will be the
governmental order of the day - and whatever else happens will be
sideshows, dwarfed by the massive movement of mega-money deployed to
salvage the imperial system.

Which is why it is pitiful - and sad in the extreme - to hear influential
black activists make a huge deal out of Obama's proposed White House
Office on Urban Policy. "Just you wait and see," these wishful souls seem
to be saying. "Obama's gonna come through for us. Yes, he will." As if a
little advisory outfit tucked into the White House organizational chart
will make a damn bit of difference as the giants of the cabinet battle
over trillions.

Our world changed fundamentally between Obama's acceptance speech in
August, and his endorsement of the banker bailout in early October. The
bottom fell out of the global capitalist financial system. From now on,
it's all crisis, all the time. Obama has done everything humanly possible
to assure the Lords of Capital that he is at their service. His
appointments prove it. But some African Americans - far too many - still
labor under the illusion that a solemn pact exists between themselves and
Obama. It is a belief based on blind faith and things unseen - or an
imagined exchange of winks.

A prominent and highly intelligent, lifelong New York activist assures
audiences that Barack Obama is winking at black folks, to confirm the
understanding between the president-elect and his people. White folks
can't see the wink, but if a black person looks closely - there it is! And
black folks shouldn't hesitate to wink back at him, to acknowledge the
secret we share.

I assume the organizer is speaking metaphorically, though I sometimes
wonder. The point is, although it might appear that Obama has broken his
commitment to African Americans (actually, he never made one), we should
rest easy - his thoughts are with us. Whenever it seems like he's brushing
us off, well, that's just his way of fooling the white folks - in our
interests, of course.

When the psychological need is great enough, people will believe anything.
But chasing mirages is no road to freedom.

Glen Ford is editor of Black Agenda Report, where this article appears. He
can be contacted at Glen.Ford [at]

--------22 of 23--------

It's All Spelled Out in Unpublicized Agreement
Total Defeat for U.S. in Iraq
December 11, 2008

On November 27 the Iraqi parliament voted by a large majority in favor of
a security agreement with the US under which the 150,000 American troops
in Iraq will withdraw from cities, towns and villages by June 30, 2009 and
from all of Iraq by December 31, 2011. The Iraqi government will take over
military responsibility for the Green Zone in Baghdad, the heart of
American power in Iraq, in a few weeks time. Private security companies
will lose their legal immunity. US military operations and the arrest of
Iraqis will only be carried out with Iraqi consent. There will be no US
military bases left behind when the last US troops leave in three years
time and the US military is banned in the interim from carrying out
attacks on other countries from Iraq.

The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), signed after eight months of
rancorous negotiations, is categorical and unconditional. America's bid to
act as the world's only super-power and to establish quasi-colonial
control of Iraq, an attempt which began with the invasion of 2003, has
ended in failure. There will be a national referendum on the new agreement
next July, but the accord is to be implemented immediately so the poll
will be largely irrelevant. Even Iran, which had furiously denounced the
first drafts of the SOFA saying that they would establish a permanent US
presence in Iraq, now says blithely that it will officially back the new
security pact after the referendum. This is a sure sign that Iran, as
America's main rival in the Middle East, sees the pact as marking the
final end of the US occupation and as a launching pad for military
assaults on neighbours such as Iran.

Astonishingly, this momentous agreement has been greeted with little
surprise or interest outside Iraq. On the same day that it was finally
passed by the Iraqi parliament international attention was wholly focused
on the murderous terrorist attack in Mumbai. For some months polls in the
US showed that the economic crisis had replaced the Iraqi war as the main
issue facing America in the eyes of voters. So many spurious milestones in
Iraq have been declared by President Bush over the years that when a real
turning point occurs people are naturally sceptical about its
significance. The White House was so keen to limit understanding of what
it had agreed in Iraq that it did not even to publish a copy of the SOFA
in English. Some senior officials in the Pentagon are privately
criticizing President Bush for conceding so much to the Iraqis, but the
American media are fixated on the incoming Obama administration and no
longer pays much attention to the doings of the expiring Bush

The last minute delays to the accord were not really about the terms
agreed with the Americans. It was rather that the leaders of the Sunni
Arab minority, seeing the Shia-Kurdish government of prime minister Nouri
al-Maliki about to fill the vacuum created by the US departure, wanted to
barter their support for the accord in return for as many last minute
concessions as they could extract. Some three quarters of the 17,000
prisoners held by the Americans are Sunni and they wanted them released or
at least not mistreated by the Iraqi security forces. They asked for an
end to de-Baathication which is directed primarily at the Sunni community.
Only the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr held out against the accord to the
end, declaring it a betrayal of independent Iraq. The ultra-patriotic
opposition of the Sadrists to the accord has been important because it has
made it difficult for the other Shia parties to agree to anything less
than a complete American withdrawal. If they did so they risked being
portrayed as US puppets in the upcoming provincial elections at the end of
January 2009 or the parliamentary elections later in the year.

The SOFA finally agreed is almost the opposite of the one which US started
to negotiate in March. This is why Iran, with its strong links to the Shia
parties inside Iraq, ended its previous rejection of it. The first US
draft was largely an attempt to continue the occupation without much
change from the UN mandate which expired at the end of the year.
Washington overplayed its hand. The Iraqi government was growing stronger
as the Sunni Arabs ended their uprising against the occupation. The
Iranians helped restrain the Mehdi Army, Muqtada.s powerful militia, so
the government regained control of Basra, Iraq's second biggest city, and
Sadr City, almost half Baghdad, from the Shia militias. The prime minister
Nouri al-Maliki became more confident, realizing his military enemies were
dispersing and, in any case, the Americans had no real alternative but to
support him. The US has always been politically weak in Iraq since the
fall of Saddam Hussein because it has few real friends in the country
aside from the Kurds. The leaders of the Iraqi Shia, 60 per cent of the
total population, might ally themselves to Washington to gain power, but
they never intended to share power with the US in the long term.

The occupation has always been unpopular in Iraq. Foreign observers and
some Iraqis are often misled by the hatred with which different Iraqi
communities regard each other into underestimating the strength of Iraqi
nationalism. Once Maliki came to believe that he could survive without US
military support then he was able to spurn US proposals until an
unconditional withdrawal was conceded. He could also see that Barack
Obama, whose withdrawal timetable was not so different from his own, was
going to be the next American president. Come the provincial and
parliamentary elections of 2009, Maliki can present himself as the man who
ended the occupation. Critics of the prime minister, notably the Kurds,
think that success has gone to his head, but there is no doubt that the
new security agreement has strengthened him politically.

It may be that, living in the heart of the Green Zone, that Maliki has an
exaggerated idea of what his government has achieved. In the Zone there is
access to clean water and electricity while in the rest of Baghdad people
have been getting only three or four hours electricity a day. Security in
Iraq is certainly better than it was during the sectarian civil war
between Sunni and Shia in 2006-7 but the improvement is wholly
comparative. The monthly death toll has dropped from 3,000 a month at its
worst to 360 Iraqi civilians and security personnel killed this November,
though these figures may understate the casualty toll as not all the
bodies are found.  Iraq is still one of the most dangerous places in the
world.  On December 1, the day I started writing this article, two suicide
bombers killed 33 people and wounded dozens more in Baghdad and Mosul.
Iraqis in the street are cynical about the government's claim to have
restored order. "We are used to the government always saying that things
have become good and the security situation improved," says Salman
Mohammed Jumah, a primary school teacher in Baghdad. "It is true security
is a little better but the government leaders live behind concrete
barriers and do not know what is happening on the ground. They only go out
in their armoured convoys. We no longer have sectarian killings by ID
cards [revealing that a person is Sunni or Shia by their name] but Sunni
are still afraid to go to Shia areas and Shia to Sunni".

Security has improved with police and military checkpoints everywhere but
sectarian killers have also upgraded their tactics. There are less suicide
bombings but there are many more small "sticky bombs" placed underneath
vehicles. Everybody checks underneath their car before they get into it. I
try to keep away from notorious choke points in Baghdad, such as Tahrir
Square or the entrances to the Green Zone, where a bomber for can wait for
a target to get stuck in traffic before making an attack.  The checkpoints
and the walls, the measures taken to reduce the violence, bring Baghdad
close to paralysis even when there are no bombs.  It can take two or three
hours to travel a few miles. The bridges over the Tigris are often blocked
and this has got worse recently because soldiers and police have a new toy
in the shape of a box which looks like a transistor radio with a short
aerial sticking out horizontally. When pointed at the car this device is
supposed to detect vapor from explosives and may well do so, but since it
also responds to vapor from alcohol or perfume it is worse than useless as
a security aid.

Iraqi state television and government backed newspapers make ceaseless
claims that life in Iraq is improving by the day. To be convincing this
should mean not just improving security but providing more electricity,
clean water and jobs. "The economic situation is still very bad," says
Salman Mohammed Jumah, the teacher. "Unemployment affects everybody and
you can't get a job unless you pay a bribe. There is no electricity and
nowadays we have cholera again so people have to buy expensive bottled
water and only use the water that comes out of the tap for washing". Not
everybody has the same grim vision but life in Iraq is still
extraordinarily hard. The best barometer for how far Iraq is "better" is
the willingness of the 4.7 million refugees, one in five Iraqis who have
fled their homes and are now living inside or outside Iraq, to go home.
By October only 150,000 had returned and some do so only to look at the
situation and then go back to Damascus or Amman. One middle aged Sunni
businessman who came back from Syria for two or three weeks, said: "I
don't like to be here.  In Syria I can go out in the evening to meet
friends in a coffe bar. It is safe. Here I am forced to stay in my home
after 7pm".

The degree of optimism or pessimism felt by Iraqis depends very much on
whether they have a job, whether or not that job is with the government,
which community they belong to, their social class and the area they live
in. All these factors are interlinked. Most jobs are with the state that
reputedly employs some two million people. The private sector is very
feeble. Despite talk of reconstruction there are almost no cranes visible
on the Baghdad skyline. Since the Shia and Kurds control of the
government, it is difficult for a Sunni to get a job and probably
impossible unless he has a letter recommending him from a political party
in the government. Optimism is greater among the Shia. "There is progress
in our life", says Jafar Sadiq, a Shia businessman married to a Sunni in
the Shia-dominated Iskan area of Baghdad. "People are cooperating with the
security forces. I am glad the army is fighting the Mehdi Army though they
still are not finished. Four Sunni have reopened their shops in my area.
It is safe for my wife's Sunni relatives to come here. The only things we
need badly are electricity, clean water and municipal services". But his
wife Jana admitted privately that she had warned her Sunni relatives from
coming to Iskan "because the security situation is unstable". She teaches
at Mustansariyah University in central Baghdad which a year ago was
controlled by the Mehdi Army and Sunni students had fled. "Now the Sunni
students are coming back," she says, "though they are still afraid".

They have reason to fear. Baghdad is divided into Shia and Sunni enclaves
defended by high concrete blast walls often with a single entrance and
exit. The sectarian slaughter is much less than it was but it is still
dangerous for returning refugees to try to reclaim their old house in an
area in which they are a minority. In one case in a Sunni district in west
Baghdad, as I reported here some weeks ago, a Shia husband and wife with
their two daughters went back to their house to find it gutted, with
furniture gone and electric sockets and water pipes torn out. They decided
to sleep on the roof. A Sunni gang reached them from a neighboring
building, cut off the husband's head and threw it into the street. They
said to his wife and daughters: "The same will happen to any other Shia
who comes back". But even without these recent atrocities Baghdad would
still be divided because the memory of the mass killings of 2006-7 is too
fresh and there is still an underlying fear that it could happen again.

Iraqis have a low opinion of their elected representatives, frequently
denouncing them as an incompetent kleptocracy. The government
administration is dysfunctional. "Despite the fact," said independent
member of parliament Qassim Daoud, "that the Labor and Social Affairs is
meant to help the millions of poor Iraqis I discovered that they had spent
only 10 per cent of their budget". Not all of this is the government's
fault.  Iraqi society, administration and economy have been shattered by
28 years of war and sanctions. Few other countries have been put under
such intense and prolonged pressure. First there was the eight year Iran-
Iraq war starting in 1980, then the disastrous Gulf war of `1991, thirteen
years of sanctions and then the five-and-a-half years of conflict since
the US invasion. Ten years ago UN officials were already saying they could
not repair the faltering power stations because they were so old that
spare parts were no longer made for them.

Iraq is full of signs of the gap between the rulers and the ruled. The few
planes using Baghdad international airport are full foreign contractors
and Iraqi government officials. Talking to people on the streets in
Baghdad in October many of them brought up fear of cholera which had just
started to spread from Hilla province south of Baghdad.  Forty per cent of
people in the capital do not have access to clean drinking water. The
origin of the epidemic was the purchase of out of date chemicals for water
purification from Iran by corrupt officials.  Everybody talked about the
cholera except in the Green Zone where people had scarcely heard of the
epidemic. .

The Iraqi government will become stronger as the Americans depart. It will
also be forced to take full responsibility for the failings of the Iraqi
state. This will be happening at a bad moment since the price of oil, the
state's only source of revenue, has fallen to $50 a barrel when the budget
assumed it would be $80. Many state salaries, such as those of teachers,
were doubled on the strength of this, something the government may now
regret. Communal differences are still largely unresolved.  Friction
between Sunni and Shia, bad though it is, is less than two years ago,
though hostility between Arabs and Kurds is deepening. The departure of
the US military frightens many Sunni on the grounds that they will be at
the mercy of the majority Shia. But it is also an incentive for the three
main communities in Iraq to agree about what their future relations should
be when there are no Americans to stand between them. As for the US, its
moment in Iraq is coming to an end as its troops depart, leaving a ruined
country behind them.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of 'The Occupation: War, resistance and
daily life in Iraq', a finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle
Award for best non-fiction book of 2006. His new book 'Muqtada! Muqtada
al-Sadr, the Shia revival and the struggle for Iraq' is published by

--------23 of 23--------

                       The US is an ObamaNation


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