Progressive Calendar 05.10.10
From: David Shove (
Date: Mon, 10 May 2010 04:34:43 -0700 (PDT)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   05.10.10

1. Peace walk       5.10 6pm RiverFalls WI
2. Afghanistan      5.10 6:30pm

3. Nationalize oil! 5.11 6:30pm
4. Bicking/police   5.11 6:30pm
5. Labor/food ind   5.11 7pm
6. MN 9-11 truth    5.11 7pm
7. Urban gardening  5.11 7pm

8. Marjorie Cohn   - Obama's Kagan choice will push Court to the right
9. Mark Weisbrot   - Venezuela and Greece: compare and contrast
10. Eric Toussaint - Bolivarian Venezuela at the crossroads
11. Harry Kreisler - Empire's downward slope/Talking with Chalmers Johnson
12. ed             - Dems in heaven?  (haiku)
13. ed             - Bumpersticker

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From: Nancy Holden <d.n.holden [at]>
Subject: Peace walk 5.10 6pm RiverFalls WI

River Falls Peace and Justice Walkers. We meet every Monday from 6-7 pm on
the UWRF campus at Cascade Ave. and 2nd Street, immediately across from
"Journey" House. We walk through the downtown of River Falls. Contact:
d.n.holden [at] Douglas H Holden 1004 Morgan Road River Falls,
Wisconsin 54022

--------2 of 13--------

From: Rowley Clan <rowleyclan [at]>
Subject: Afghanistan 5.10 6:30pm

May Potluck
Supper Meeting
Monday, May 10;  6:30 P.M.
Michael Servetus Unitarian Society
6565 Oakley Dr. NE; Fridley, MN

Who:  You and. someone from your church ... or another church? ...Your own
pastor? An interested friend, neighbor or relative?
Why:  Support, networking, delicious food, and an outstanding program!

The program will be a presentation by William Davnie.
he War in Afghanistan --
How it Creates New Problems and Solves None

More Information:  William Davnie retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in
2007 after more than 26 years serving as a diplomat abroad and in the
State Department in Washington, DC. Among other places, he served in
Tajikistan and visited Afghanistan, and served at the U.S. Embassy in
Baghdad during the summer of 2007. He and his wife now live in
Minneapolis. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, he was a Presbyterian
pastor in North Dakota, and he remains active in church affairs.

Mr. Davnie wrote an article which appeared in the Minneapolis Star/Tribune
in October of 2008. It may be found on the internet at:

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From: MN Socialist Alternative <mn [at]>
Subject: Nationalize oil! 5.11 6:30pm

Free Public Forum
OIL SPILL DISASTER: Stop the Polluters! Nationalize the Oil Corporations!
Tuesday, May 11th
6:30 PM
Mayday Books, 301 Cedar Ave,

Speaker followed by open discussion. Teddy Shibabaw, community organizer
with Socialist Alternative, will present on the ecological and economic
disaster unfolding along the Gulf Coast following the explosion and
sinking of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig two weeks ago. Who will be made
to pay for this disaster and the massive clean-up? Can the profit-driven
agenda to expand drilling pushed by big oil, Obama, and the Republicans be
stopped? Is it possible to adequately regulate polluting industries under
capitalism? How can we channel the rage at this disaster into a stronger
movement for transforming our energy economy into a sustainable and humane
system of renewable energy production? Come join us for a discussion on
these crucial questions and more. For more analysis, see:

Sponsored by Mayday Books and Socialist Alternative  |  612.760.1980  |  mn [at]  |  |  612.333.4719  |  maydaybookstore [at]

--------4 of 13--------

From: patty <pattypax [at]>
Subject: Bicking/police 5.11 6:30pm

This Tuesday, May 11, our guest will be Dave Bicking, from Minneapolis and
an x-member of the Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority.  Topic,
Police Brutality in Mpls. especially, and other things.  Dave is a Green
Party member and has run for Mpls City Council trying to get some sane
input into politics.  He has worked tirelessly for the RNC 8 which went to
court just last week.  His daughter, Monica, is one of the 8.  He will be
able, maybe to give us an update.

Pax Salons ( )
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: Peter Rachleff <rachleff [at]>
Subject: Labor/food ind 5.11 7pm

a presentation by Dr. Deborah Barndt Associate Professor of Environmental
Studies, York University, Toronto, Canada
Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 7 PM
Weyerhaeuser Chapel
free and open to all
sponsored by the History Department and the Friends of the Saint Paul Public
for more information: Peter Rachleff at 651-696-6371

This year's "Untold Stories: Labor History" (our 12th annual series) is
organized around the theme of workers in the food industry "from the
fields to our tables."  We have already heard presentations on the early
20th century migration of Tejanos to the sugar beet fields of the Red
River Valley in northwestern Minnesota, the organization of Mexican,
Guatemalan, and Salvadoran farm workers in contemporary southeastern
Minnesota, the organization of producers' cooperatives in rural Minnesota
in the 1930s and consumers' cooperatives in the Twin Cities in the 1970s,
and the Hormel strike of 1985-86.

This Tuesday evening, May 11, we will hear from Professor Deborah Barndt
on "Workers in the Global Food Industry: Activism and Organization."
Barndt (Ph.D., Sociology, Michigan State University) has written several
highly praised books, including WOMEN WORKING THE NAFTA FOOD CHAIN: WOMEN,
Her talk on Tuesday night will be built around two case studies, that of
the Immokalee workers in Florida and a new urban agriculture project in
Toronto.  Her talk is free and open to all.

For more information on the "Untold Stories" series, as there are several
learning opportunities yet to come, please see

--------6 of 13--------

From: Joan Malerich <joanmdm [at]>
Subject: MN 9-11 truth 5.11 7pm


Those who missed hearing Dr. David Ray Griffin a couple of weeks ago on
April 24 missed a real truth treat.  Griffin's topic was did 9-11 justify
the invasion of Afghanistan, but he covered many other important related
issues and answered many of the questions the audience had.

9-11 is THE most important issue there is because what happened on 9-11
identifies our imperialist system.  It goes to the root of our moneyed
interest government system.  I don't believe that we can change this
rotten system until the masses wake up and learn the facts of 9-11, and
those facts show that 9-11 was an inside job.

Because of the deception surrounding 9-11--SOME of the destructive events
that the masses have allowed our moneyed interest government to do are:

Invaded two more countries, maimed and killed millions of innocent human
beings, and added more to the US "terrorist list."  9-11 is the dream of
the Project for the New American Century Neocons (and neoliberals).
Thousands of US soldiers have been killed and thousands more have been
physically and/or mentally incapacitated--causing a huge drain on the
veterans hospitals and on society for the loss and cost of what would and
should have been productive youth.

Spent trillions of $$$$ that could have been used for (1) universal
single-payer health care (2) Free education through college for all (3)
Established LOW-INCOME housing for the tens of thousands of homeless
around the country

Police brutality would not have been put on steroids.

Ignored what was happening with the Federal Reserve and the Banking
system.  etc, etc, etc.


9-11 Truth Meeting
Tuesday, May 11, 2010 from 7 PM to no later than 9:00 PM
1441 Cleveland Ave. N., St. Paul, Minnesota --- across the street from
the St. Paul U of M campus
This is Lori's Coffee House


9/11 Truth Meeting Tuesday, May 11, 2010 7 pm start until no later than 9 pm
Everyone welcome
Introductions (especially welcome new faces)
Additions to agenda
Treasurers report
Results from David Ray Griffin event:  attendance, feedback, finances, etc
9/11 Truth Leadership trainings
Possibility of second monthly meeting (related to #4 ?)

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From: Do It Green! Minnesota <Do_It_Green_Minnesota [at]>
Subject: Urban gardening 5.11 7pm

Come to a Do It Green! Minnesota workshop and learn simple skills you
can use to become a green, self-sustaining city dweller.  Workshops
are interactive and presented by local Twin Cities experts. Workshops
are limited to 10-15 people, so register quickly!

Do It Green! Minnesota members will receive priority registration and
discounts. Click below to become a member now!

Click here to become a member now!

Each month, Do It Green! Minnesota will partner with a local individual,
nonprofit, or business to host an interactive workshop. Participants will
get the chance to ask questions, witness up-close the techniques used by
trail-blazing members of the community, and engage in hands-on urban
homesteading activities. For questions please contact Ami or Eva at
info [at] or 612-345-7973.


Gardening II:  Preparation and Planting by Marianna Padilla
Tuesday, May 11, 7:00-9:00pm
Learn to choose tools, prepare the soil, and plant your garden. This
is the second of five gardening workshops
Cost:  $20 per session or $75 for all 5 gardening workshops

Gardening III:  Tending and Harvesting by Marianna Padilla
Tuesday, June 8, 7:00-9:00pm
Find out about watering, mulching, weeding, composting, and harvesting
your garden.  This is the third of five gardening workshops.
Cost:  $20 per session or $75 for all 5 gardening workshops

Gardening IV:  Food Preparation and Preservation, Part I by Marianna
Tuesday, July 13, 7:00-9:00pm
Discover the secrets of preparing garden-fresh dishes and preserving
your harvest for later. This is the fourth of five gardening
Cost:  $20 per session or $75 for all 5 gardening workshops

Backyard Beekeeping by Elise Kyllo
Tuesday, Aug 3, 6:30-8:00pm
Get an up-close view of raising bees in an urban environment.
Cost:  $15 for the public or $12 for Do It Green! Minnesota members

Gardening V:  Food Preparation and Preservation, Part II by Marianna
Aug 10, 7:00-9:00pm
Discover the secrets of preparing garden-fresh dishes and preserving
your harvest for later. This is the fifth of five gardening workshops.

Cost:  $20 per session or $75 for all 5 gardening workshops

Backyard Homesteading:  Farm Tour, Potluck, & Produce Exchange, by
Ellen Telander
Saturday, September 11, 11:00am-1:30pm
Tour a working farm and bring a dish for the potluck and your extra
harvest for a produce exchange.
Cost:  $10 for the public or $8 for Do It Green! Minnesota members

--------8 of 13--------

Obama's Kagan Choice Will Push Court to the Right
Can Kagan Fill Stevens. Mighty Shoes?
by Marjorie Cohn
Common Dreams

[Every election the Dems scream at us that we have to vote for Dubious Dem
because of the Supreme Court. And then we get this. I haven't voted Dem
for president since 1992, and never will vote for one in the future; may
all big party big guys rot in hell.  ed]

As the Rehnquist court continued to eviscerate the right of the people to
be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, Associate Justice John
Paul Stevens filed principled and courageous dissents. For example, the
majority held in the 1991 case of California v. Acevedo that although the
police cannot search a closed container without a warrant, they can wait
until a person puts the container into a car and then do a warrantless
search because the container is now mobile. In a ringing dissent that
exemplified his revulsion at executive overreaching, Justice Stevens wrote
that "decisions like the one the Court makes today will support the
conclusion that this Court has become a loyal foot soldier in the
Executive's fight against crime."

The founders wrote checks and balances into the Constitution so that no
one branch would become too powerful. But during his "war on terror,"
President George W. Bush claimed nearly unbridled executive power to hold
non-citizens indefinitely without an opportunity to challenge their
detention and to deny them due process. Three times, a closely divided
Supreme Court put on the brakes. Justice Stevens played a critical role in
each of those decisions. He wrote the opinions in Rasul v. Bush and Hamdan
v. Rumsfeld and his fingerprints were all over Boumediene v. Bush.

Unfortunately, [worthless -ed] President Barack Obama has continued to
assert many of Bush's executive policies in his "war on terror." Elena
Kagan, reportedly Obama's choice to replace Justice Stevens, has never
been a judge. But she has been a loyal foot soldier in Obama's fight
against terrorism and there is little reason to believe that she will not
continue to do so. During her confirmation hearing for solicitor general,
Kagan agreed with Senator Lindsey Graham that the president can hold
suspected terrorists indefinitely during wartime, and the entire world is
a battlefield. [Up yours, Obama - ed]

Justice Stevens ruled in favor of broad enforcement of our civil rights
laws. In his 2007 dissent in Parents Involved in Community Schools v.
Seattle School District No. 1, he wrote that "children of all races
benefit from integrated classrooms and playgrounds." When Kagan was dean
of Harvard Law School, she hired 32 tenured and tenure-track academic
faculty members. Only seven were women and only one was a minority. "What
a twist of fate," wrote four minority law professors on, "if the
first black president - of both the Harvard Law Review and the United
States of America - seemed to be untroubled by a 21st Century Harvard
faculty that hired largely white men."

Obama has a golden opportunity to appoint a giant of a justice who can
take on the extreme right-wingers on the Court who rule consistently
against equality and for corporate power. When he cast a vote against the
confirmation of John Roberts to be Chief Justice, Senator Obama said, "he
has far more often used his formidable skills on behalf of the strong and
in opposition to the weak." Justice Stevens has done just the opposite.

If he wants to choose a non-judge, Obama could pick Harold Hongju Koh or
Erwin Chemerinsky, both brilliant and courageous legal scholars who
champion human rights and civil rights over corporate and executive power.
Unlike Kagan, whose 20 years as a law professor produced a paucity of
legal scholarship, Koh and Chemerinsky both have a formidable body of work
that is widely cited by judges and scholars.

But it appears Obama will take the cautious route and nominate Kagan, who
has no record of judicial opinions and no formidable legal writings. After
the health care debacle, he should know that the right-wingers will not be
appeased by this milk toast appointment, but will oppose whomever he
nominates. [Obama is right wing and likes right wingers. Such is our fake
"two party" system in Yerscrewedland. -ed]

The Warren Court issued several landmark decisions. It sought to remedy
the inequality between the races and between rich and poor, and to curb
unchecked executive power. Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote these words,
which would later become his epitaph: "Where there is injustice, we should
correct it. Where there is poverty, we should eliminate it. Where there is
corruption, we should stamp it out. Where there is violence, we should
punish it. Where there is neglect, we should provide care. Where there is
war, we should restore peace. And wherever corrections are achieved, we
should add them permanently to our storehouse of treasures."

Conservatives decry activist judges - primarily those who act contrary to
conservative politics. But the Constitution is a short document and it is
up to judges to interpret it. Obama has defensively bought into the
right-wing rhetoric, saying recently that during the 1960's and 1970's,
"liberals were guilty" of the "error" of being activist judges. Rather
than celebrating the historic achievements of the Warren Court - and of
Justice Stevens - Obama is once again cowering in the face of conservative
opposition. [Not cowering - secretly _rejoicing_ every time the rich are
given a new way to screw the poor and the earth. -ed]

Obama should do the right thing, the courageous thing, and fill Justice
Stevens' seat with someone who can fill his shoes. If he nominates Elena
Kagan, Obama will move the delicately balanced court to the Right. And
that would be the wrong thing. [And that's just what Obama wants. We are
screwed for another three years. And then most of us will run to vote for
him to screw us another four years because we never learn. -ed]

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and past
President of the National Lawyers Guild.  She is the author of Cowboy
Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and co-author of Rules
of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent (with
Kathleen Gilberd).  Her anthology, The United States and Torture:
Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse, will be published in 2010 by NYU
Press. Her articles are archived at

--------9 of 13--------

Compare and Contrast
Venezuela and Greece
May 7 - 9, 2010

With Venezuela's economy having contracted last year (as did the vast
majority of economies in the Western Hemisphere), the economy suffering
from electricity shortages, and the value of domestic currency having
recently fallen sharply in the parallel market, stories of Venezuela's
economic ruin are again making headlines.

The Washington Post, in a news article that reads more like an editorial,
reports that Venezuela is "gripped by an economic crisis," and that "years
of state interventions in the economy are taking a brutal toll on private

There is one important fact that is almost never mentioned in news
articles about Venezuela, because it does not fit in with the narrative of
a country that has spent wildly throughout the boom years, and will soon,
like Greece, face its day of reckoning. That is the government's debt
level: currently about 20 percent of GDP. In other words, even as it was
tripling real social spending per person, increasing access to health care
and education, and loaning or giving billions of dollars to other Latin
American countries, Venezuela was reducing its debt burden during the oil
price run-up. Venezuela's public debt fell from 47.5 percent of GDP in
2003 to 13.8 percent in 2008. In 2009, as the economy shrank, public debt
picked up to 19.9 percent of GDP. Even if we include the debt of the state
oil company, PDVSA, Venezuela's public debt is 26 percent of GDP. The
foreign part of this debt is less than half of the total.

Compare this to Greece, where public debt is 115 percent of GDP and
currently projected to rise to 149 percent in 2013. (The European Union
average is about 79 percent.)

Given the Venezuelan government's very low public and foreign debt, the
idea the country is facing an "economic crisis" is simply wrong. With oil
at about $80 a barrel, Venezuela is running a sizeable current account
surplus, and has a healthy level of reserves. Furthermore, the government
can borrow internationally as necessary - last month China agreed to loan
Venezuela $20 billion in an advance payment for future oil deliveries.

Nonetheless, the country still faces significant economic challenges, some
of which have been worsened by mistaken macroeconomic policy choices. The
economy shrank by 3.3 percent last year. The international press has
trouble understanding this, but the problem was that the government's
fiscal policy was too conservative - cutting spending as the economy
slipped into recession. This was a mistake, but hopefully the government
will reverse this quickly with its planned expansion of public investment
this year, including $6 billion for electricity generation.

The government's biggest long-term economic mistake has been the
maintenance of a fixed, overvalued exchange rate. Although the government
devalued the currency in January, from 2.15 to 4.3 to the dollar for most
official foreign exchange transactions, the currency is still overvalued.
The parallel or black market rate is at more than seven to the dollar.

An overvalued currency - by making imports artificially cheap and the
country's exports more expensive - hurts Venezuela's non-oil tradable
goods' sectors and prevents the economy from diversifying away from oil.
Worse still, the country's high inflation rate (28 percent over the last
year, and averaging 21 percent annually over the last seven years) makes
the currency more overvalued in real terms each year. (The press has
misunderstood this problem, too - the inflation itself is too high, but
the main damage it does to the economy is not from the price increases
themselves but from causing an increasing overvaluation of the real
exchange rate.)

But Venezuela is not in the situation of Greece - or even Portugal,
Ireland, or Spain. Or Latvia or Estonia. The first four countries are
stuck with an overvalued currency - for them, the euro - and implementing
pro-cyclical fiscal policies (e.g. deficit reduction) that are deepening
their recessions and/or slowing their recovery. They do not have any
control over monetary policy, which rests with the European Central Bank.
The latter two countries are in a similar situation for as long as they
keep their currencies pegged to the euro, and have lost output 6 to 8
times that of Venezuela over the last two years.

By contrast, Venezuela controls its own foreign exchange, monetary and
fiscal policies. It can use expansionary fiscal and monetary policy to
stimulate the economy, and also exchange rate policy - by letting the
currency float. A managed, or "dirty" float - in which the government does
not set a target exchange rate but intervenes when necessary to preserve
exchange rate stability - would suit the Venezuelan economy much better
than the current fixed rate. The government could manage the exchange rate
at a competitive level, and not have to waste so many dollars, as it does
currently, trying to narrow the gap between the parallel and the official
rate. Although there were (as usual, exaggerated) predictions that
inflation would skyrocket with the most recent devaluation, it did not -
possibly because most foreign exchange transactions take place through the
parallel market anyway.

Venezuela is well situated to resolve its current macroeconomic problems
and pursue a robust economic expansion, as it had from 2003-2008. The
country is not facing a crisis, but rather a policy choice.

Mark Weisbrot is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic
and Policy Research. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security:
the Phony Crisis. This article was originally published in The Guardian.

--------10 of 13--------

Nationalization and Worker Control
Bolivarian Venezuela at the Crossroads
May 7 - 9, 2010

The economic, social and political situation in Venezuela has changed a
lot since the failure of the constitutional reform in December 2007, which
acted as a warning to the Chavez government.[2] This failure had the
effect however of reviving the debate on the need to have a socialist
perspective. The debate revolves around several key questions: further
nationalization, workers' control, the place of the PSUV (United Socialist
Party of Venezuela), people's participation, etc.

On Sunday 15 February 2009, 54.36% of the country's citizens voted "yes"
to the amendment to the Constitution that allows political representatives
to stand for successive mandates without any time limit.[3] Up to then the
Constitution had only allowed two successive mandates: there had to be a
break before the candidate could apply again.[4] In 2013, at the end of
his second mandate, Hugo Chavez will have the possibility to run again for
president. If he is re-elected, his mandate will end in January 2019. This
is why some Chavist activists are now concerned about what changes may
occur by then that could consolidate the progress achieved since Chavez's
accession to power.

Nationalization, workers. control: achievements and limitations

In April 2008, after 15,000 workers at the SIDOR steel plant, part of the
Argentine group Techint, had been on strike for nearly two months, Hugo
Chavez announced that the company was being nationalized. The workers'
main demand was for 9,000 temporary contracts to be converted into
unlimited duration contracts. Given the employer's refusal,
nationalization was the best way for the government to guarantee that the
workers' demand was met -- a decision workers perceived as a great

SIDOR was founded as a State-owned company during the 1960s, was then
privatized and sold to foreign capital in 1997 under Rafael Caldera's
presidency. The April 2008 re-nationalization takes on particular
significance since this modern and efficient company is a production tool
that Argentinian capital, and Techint in particular, wished to hold on to.

It should be noted that the Chavist government of the state in which SIDOR
is located had ordered the police to repress the strike as soon as it
started. In addition, the minister of Labour had done nothing to support
workers' demands. As a consequence Hugo Chavez' decision to nationalize
the company and to remove the minister was perceived as a shift in the
workers' favour. All the more so as, at about the same time, he announced
an increase in interprofessional minimum wages and public sector salaries
as well as the nationalization of the cement industry, which so far had
been in the hands of three TNCs (Lafarge - France, Holcim - Switzerland,
and Cemex - Mexico).

In the following months and during 2009 the government made further
nationalizations in the food industry[5] (which affected both national
capital - Lacteos Los Andes - and the grain TNC Cargill). The government
justified these nationalizations as being essential for improving the
population's food supply. Finally the Bank of Venezuela, one of the
largest private banks in the Santander group (one of the two leading
banking groups in Spain) was also taken over by the State.

All these nationalizations, as well as those that had occurred earlier (in
the electricity sector, telecommunications, the Orinoco oil fields, etc.),
led to generous compensations for the former owners: Venezuela uses part
of its oil revenue to regain control of certain strategic sectors of the
economy. The main objective of such compensation is to avoid legal
penalties for not abiding by bilateral treaties on investments signed by
Venezuela. International law makes it possible for States to nationalize
companies provided they give reasonable compensation to owners. Venezuela
could proceed in a more radical way if it withdrew its signature from
bilateral treaties on investments, left the ICSID (International Centre
for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, i.e. the World Bank's tribunal
on investment issues), and secured its liquidities and other assets abroad
so as to avoid seizure. This of course would further increase the
hostility of the establishment in industrialized countries and of the TNCs
within the country (all the major transnational oil companies are present
in Venezuela as well as General Motors, Mitsubishi, Daimler-Chrysler,

The rather cautious way chosen by the government did not prevent a company
like ExxonMobil from trying to have 12 billion dollars belonging to PDVSA
(Petrleos de Venezuela Sociedad Annima) seized by Dutch and British courts
in 2008. This is one good reason for Venezuela to enter into an alliance
with other countries of the South so as to repudiate bilateral treaties on
investments that include clauses that could be detrimental to the nation's
interests, to withdraw from the ICSID and WTO, and to set up a
multilateral body in the South to settle disputes - in other words, an
ICSID that would be a Southern alternative to the World Bank's ICSID,
which serves the interests of large private TNCs.

In 2009, further nationalizations again raised the issue of workers'
control. Left-wing trade unions and workers' collectives are in fact
demanding the implementation of control mechanisms through which workers
can control the boards of nationalized companies. They want in this way to
ensure that the original objectives of such nationalizations will be
adhered to; they also want to prevent bad management, wastage,
embezzlement, corruption, and misuse of company assets by insisting on the
opening of ledgers, transparent commercial and industrial strategies, and
the periodic submission of balance sheets and accounts. They rightly voice
their distrust of many of the private executives who stayed on after
nationalization, but also of some new executives who look after their
personal interests rather than seek what is good for the community.
Achieving and indeed demanding control increases workers' self-confidence
and their capacity to collectively contribute to a socialistic kind of
management and labour relations on the one hand, and, on the other, create
a counter-weight within companies in the hands of private capital.

We see instances of workers occupying private companies and demanding
their nationalization. Inevitably the issue of workers' control will have
to be raised again in the oil industry. It first flared up during the oil
lockout (December 2002 - January 2003), when workers, who wanted to resume
production, had called an oil conference. Later Hugo Chavez rejected the
idea of workers' control in this key industry because of its strategic
importance, whereas of course it would be a good reason to go for it. The
same applies to the production and distribution of electricity, which were
also nationalized. Workers in this sector started demanding control in
September 2009. Electricity supply in Venezuela is critical since over 50%
of its production[6] is 'lost' or diverted (meaning stolen) during
distribution. Losses are mainly due to the use of old equipment because
before they were nationalized by the Chavez government, certain companies
like Electricidad de Caracas (owned by AES, a U.S.-owned TNC) were almost
systematically deprived of the necessary investments to buy new machines.
On the other hand, large private industrial companies steal and squander
large quantities of energy. There are also unauthorized electric hook-ups
in residential areas but in the case of working class households, which
are not big consumers, such piracy is limited. Workers in the electricity
sector are in the best position to solve the issue of supply and to fight
squandering and bad management by senior executives - and thus avoid power
cuts. These are the arguments being developed by trade union leaders to
demand workers' control.

Angel Navas, president of the Electricity Sector Workers' Federation
(FETRAELEC), told the media during a demonstration by some 3,000 workers
in Caracas on 25 September 2009: "We the workers are in touch with users
in the neighbourhoods. We know how we can solve the crisis... We have to
change the bureaucratic structures and the structures of capitalist
management into structures with a socialist vision. We must change
production relations and do away with all this bureaucracy which is
killing the company".[7]

During the first half of 2009 Hugo Chavez stated at a public meeting with
worker managers that he was favourable to a law on the election of
managers of nationalized companies[8], but nothing has happened since then
to put this commitment into practice.

This struggle for workers' control of company management is essential. Its
outcome is decisive for the ongoing process in Venezuela.[9]

Eric Toussaint, Doctor in Political Science (University of Liege and
University of Paris VIII), is president of president of the Committee for
the Cancellation of Third World Debt . Belgium , author of
The World Bank: A Critical Primer, Pluto, London, 2008.

Translated by Christine Pagnoulle and Judith Harris, in collaboration with
Francesca Denley and Stephanie Jacquemont


[1] Eric Toussaint, Doctor in Political Science (University of Liege and
University of Paris VIII), is president of CADTM Belgium (Committee for
the Abolition of Third World Debt, ). He is the author of A
diagnosis of emerging global crisis and alternatives, VAK, Mumbai, India,
2009, 139p; Bank of the South. An Alternative to the IMF-World Bank, VAK,
Mumbai, India, 2007; The World Bank, A Critical Primer, Pluto Press,
Between The Lines, David Philip, London-Toronto-Cape Town 2008; Your Money
or Your Life, The Tyranny of Global Finance, Haymarket, Chicago, 2005.

[2] On 2 December 2007 51% of voters said "No" to Chavez' constitutional
referendum as against 49% voting "Yes". This is Chavez' only electoral
setback between 1998 and 2009. See Eric Toussaint, "The failure of 2
December 2007 can be a powerful lever for improving the process currently
unfolding in Hugo Chavez' Venezuela", December 2007,

[3] It should be remembered that article 72 provides for the possibility
of citizens recalling the President of the Republic and all other elected
officials half-way through the term of office.

[4] The campaign depicting Hugo Chavez as a "despot for life" played on
the scandalous nature of unlimited re-election. Yet several European
democracies work in the same way. This is the case in Spain, Italy and the
United Kingdom for the post of Prime Minister, and in Germany for the post
of Chancellor (in all 4 countries, it is the head of government who really
holds the reins of power). In France, up to the adoption in July 2008 of
the constitutional law on the modernization of institutions, there was no
limit on the number of consecutive mandates. Since then, the number of
consecutive mandates is limited to two.


[6] We should also note, however, a very positive structural feature in
Venezuela: electricity is very largely produced from dams and rivers.
Fossil fuels are only rarely used and there are no nuclear power plants.

[7] See a very interesting video of the demonstration with interviews of
several TU leaders on the Marea Socialista website:

[8] This was the case on 21 May 2009 during a meeting between Hugo Chavez
and 400 delegates from the steel and aluminium industries held in the
State of Guayana. A meeting to consolidate other commitments made during
this important assembly took place on 21 August 2009 in the context of the
"Plan Guayana socialista". See Marea socialista, no.22, p. 3.

[9] To know more about initiatives or position statements on workers'
control in Venezuela, read issues 19, 20, 21 and 22 of the magazine Marea
Socialista, July-August 2009, which discuss the situation at SIDOR,
CorpoElec, Cadafe, cement works, Cafeaca, Alcasa, Carbonorca.See

--------11 of 13--------

The Downward Slope of Empire
Talking With Chalmers Johnson
May 6, 2010

Chalmers Johnson, president of the Japan Policy Research Institute, is the
author of the bestselling Blowback and The Sorrows of Empire. He appeared
in the 2005 prizewinning documentary film Why We Fight. He lives near San

Kreisler: Once upon a time you called yourself a "spear-carrier for the

Johnson: ".for the empire," yes, yes.

That's the prologue to Blowback; I was a consultant to the Office of
National Estimates of the CIA during the time of the Vietnam War. But what
caused me to change my mind and to rethink these issues? Two things: one
analytical, one concrete. The first was the demise of the Soviet Union. I
expected much more from the United States in the way of a peace dividend.
I believe that Russia today is not the former Soviet Union by any means.
It's a much smaller place. I would have expected that as a tradition in
the United States, we would have demobilized much more radically. We would
have rethought more seriously our role in the world, brought home troops
in places like Okinawa. Instead, we did every thing in our power to shore
up the Cold War structures in East Asia, in Latin America. The search for
new enemies began. That's the neoconservatives. I was shocked, actually,
by this. Did this mean that the Cold War was a cover for something deeper,
for an American imperial project that had been in the works since World
War II? I began to believe that this is the case.

The second thing that led me to write Blowback in the late 1990s was
something concrete. Okinawa prefecture, which is Japan's southernmost
prefecture, is the poorest place in Japan, the equivalent of Puerto Rico;
it's always been discriminated against by the Japanese since they seized
it at the end of the nineteenth century. The governor at that time,
Masahide Ota, is a former professor. He invited me to Okinawa in February
of 1996 to give a speech to his associates in light of what had happened
on September 4, 1995, when two marines and a sailor from Camp Hansen in
cen-tral Okinawa abducted, beat, and raped a twelve-year-old girl. It led
to the biggest single demonstration against the United States since the
Security Treaty was signed. I had not been in Okinawa before. Back during
the Korean War, when I was in the navy, I took the ship in to what was
then called Buckner Bay, now Nakagusuku Bay, and dropped anchor. Other
officers on board went ashore. I took a look at the place through the
glasses, and I thought, "This is not for me". But we were anchored in the
most beautiful lagoon, so I went swimming around the ship. So I had been
in Okinawan waters, but I'd never touched ground before.

I have to say I was shocked to see the impact of thirty-eight American
bases located on an island smaller than Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands,
with 1.3 million people living cheek-by-jowl with warplanes . . . the
Third Marine Division is based there; the only marine division we have
outside the country. And I began to investigate the issues.

The reaction to the rape of 1995 from, for example, General Richard
Meyers, who became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - he was then
head of U.S. forces in Japanand - all he said was that these were just
three bad apples, a tragic incident, unbelievably exceptional. After
research, you discover that the rate of sexually violent crimes committed
by our troops in Okinawa leading to court-martial is two per month! This
was not an exceptional incident, expect for the fact that the child was so
young and, differing from many Okinawan women who would not come forward
after being raped, she was not fully socialized and she wanted to get
even. This led to the creation of a quite powerful organization that I
greatly admire called Okinawan Women Act Against Military Violence.

I began to research Okinawa, and my first impulse - again, as a defensive
American imperialist - was that Okinawa was exceptional: it's off the
beaten track, the press never goes there, the military is comfortable. I
discovered over time, looking at these kinds of bases and other places
around the world, that there's nothing exceptional about it. It's typical.
Maybe the concentration is a little greater than it is elsewhere, but the
record of environmental damage, sexual crimes, bar brawls, drunken
driving, one thing after another, these all occur in the 725 bases (the
Department of Defense' acknowledged number; the real number is actually
considerably larger than that) that we have in other people's countries.
That led me to write Blowback, first as a warning.

But it also led you to publish this book Okinawa: Cold War Island, edited
by you, which looks at the various aspects of this. And what you're saying
is, it's not only the social cost; it has impinged on the people of
Okinawa's right to have some kind of democratic existence.

Essentially, Okinawa is used as a dumping ground by the Japanese. They
want the security treaty, but they don't want American troops anywhere
near mainland Japanese. So they put them down, as I say, in the equivalent
of Puerto Rico, and the conditions fester. The governor of Okinawa today,
a very considerably conservative man, Mr. Inamine, is still, nonetheless,
always saying, "We're living on the side of a volcano. You can hear the
magma down there. It may blow. And when it does, it'll have the same
effect on your empire that the breaching of the Berlin Wall had on the
Soviet empire".

In one of your books you say that as a consultant or an adviser to the
CIA, you were not impressed with the reports and analysis that you were
viewing. So we were not in a position to understand what was going on,
just as a matter of the information we were getting.

This is what blowback means. "Blowback" is a CIA term that means
retaliation, or payback. It was first used in the after-action report on
our first clandestine overthrow of a foreign government, the overthrow of
Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, when, for the sake of the British Petroleum
Company, we claimed he was a Communist when he just didn't want the
British to keep stealing Iranian resources. In the report, which was
finally declassified in 2000, the CIA says, "We should expect some
blowback from what we have done here". This was the first model
clandestine operation.

By blowback we do not mean just the unintended conse-quences of events. We
mean unintended consequences of events that were kept secret from the
American public, so that when the retaliation comes, the public has no way
to put it into context. Just as after 9/11, you have the president saying,
"Why do they hate us?" The people on the receiving end know full well that
they hate us because of what was done to them. It's the American public
that is in the dark on that subject.

I conceived of Blowback - written in 1999, published in a warning
to the American public. It was: you should expect retaliation from the
people on the receiving end of now innumerable clandestine activities,
including the biggest one of all, the recruiting, arming, and putting into
combat of mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan in the 1980s who are the main
recruiting group for Al Qaeda today.

The warning was not heeded. The book, when it was first published, was
more or less ignored in this country. It was very nicely received in
Germany, and in Japan, and in Italy, in places like that. But then after
9/11, when all of a sudden, inattentive Americans were mobilized to seek,
at least on an emergency basis, some understanding of what they were into,
it became a best-seller.

You're raising a very important point, which is that our policies often
lack an understanding of our own actions. But also.

Not just lack of understanding. They've been kept secret. That's why the
subtitle of The Sorrows of Empire is "Militarism, Secrecy". I want to
stress secrecy and say a word or two about that in a moment - and the End
of the Republic..

Two days after 9/11, when the president addressed Congress and asked
rhetorically, "Why do they hate us?" my response was: "The people
immediately around you are the ones who could tell you with precision why.
That is, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Colin Powell, Richard Armitage...these
are the people who ran the largest clandestine operation we ever carried
out, in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

They could explain to you, in detail, why... Once the Soviet Union had
been expelled in 1989 from Afghanistan and we simply walked away from it,
the people we had recruited, trained, and equipped with things like
Stinger missiles - the first time the Stinger was ever used against a
Soviet gunship was in Afghanistan. Once we had achieved our purposes, we
just walked away, and these highly armed young men felt, "We've been used.
We were cannon fodder in a little exercise in the Cold War, in a bipolar
competition between the Soviet Union and the United States". Then we
compounded that with further mistakes like placing infidel troops (our
troops) in Saudi Arabia after 1991, which was insulting to any number of
Saudi Arabians, who believe that they are responsible for the most sacred
sites in Islam: Mecca and Medina. Osama bin Laden is so typical of the
kinds of figures in our history, like Manuel Noriega or Saddam Hussein,
who were close allies of ours at one time. We know Saddam at one time had
weapons of mass destruction because we have the receipts!

Osama bin Laden comes from a wealthy family of a construction empire in
Saudi Arabia. He's the sort of person that you would more likely expect to
see on the ski slopes of Gstaad with a Swiss girl on his arm, or as a
houseguest in Kennebunkport with the first President Bush and the
notorious "petroleum complex" of America. But he was insulted. He had been
in Afghanistan. The base where he trained mujahideen, at Khost, the CIA
built for him. It was one of the few times we knew where to hit. Because
we built it, we did know where they were. He then was disgusted with us
and certainly gave us fair warning in the attack in 1993 on the World
Trade Center.

Talk a little about what militarism is, and what imperialism is.

What I want to introduce here is what I call the "base world". According
to the "Base Structure Report", an annual report of the Department of
Defense, in the year 2002 we had 725 bases in other people's countries.
Actually, that number understates in that it does not include any of the
espionage bases of the National Security Agency, such as RAF Menwith Hill
in Yorkshire.

So these are bases where we have listening devices?

These are huge bases. Menwith Hill downloads  every single e-mail,
telephone call, and fax between Europe and the United States every day and
puts them into massive computers where dictionaries then read them out.
There are hundreds of these. The official Base Structure Report also
doesn't include any of the main bases in England disguised as Royal Air
Force bases even though there are no Britons on them. It  doesn't include
any of the bases in Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan, any of the bases in
Afghanistan, the four bases that are, as we talk, being built in Iraq.
They put down one major marine base for Okinawa - there are ten - and things
like that. So there is a lot of misleading information in it, but it's
enough to say 700 looks like a pretty good number, whereas it's probably
around 1,000.

The base world is secret. Americans don't know anything about it. The
Congress doesn't do oversight on it. You must remember, 40 percent of the
defense budget is black. No congressman can see it. All of the
intelligence budgets are black.

No public discussion.

In violation of the first article of the Constitution that says, "The
American public shall be given, annually, a report on how their tax money
was spent". That has not been true in the United States since the
Manhattan Project of World War II, even though it is the clause that gives
Congress the power of the purse, the power to supervise.

The base world is complex. It has its own airline. It has 234 golf courses
around the world. It has something like seventy Lear Jet luxury airplanes
to fly generals and admirals to the golf courses, to the armed forces ski
resort at Garmisch in the Bavarian Alps. Inside the bases, the military
does every thing in its power to make them look like Little America.

There are large numbers of women in the armed forces to-day, [yet] you
can't get an abortion at a military hospital abroad. Sexual assaults are
not at all uncommon in the armed forces. If you were a young woman in the
armed forces today and you were based in Iraq, and you woke up one morning
and found yourself pregnant, you have no choice but to go on the open
market in Baghdad looking for an abortion, which is not a very happy

Militarism is not defense of the country. By militarism, I mean corporate
interest in a military way of life. It derives above all from the fact
that service in the armed forces is, today, not an obligation of
citizenship. It is a career choice. It has been since 1973. I thought it
was wonderful when PFC Jessica Lynch, who was wounded at Nasiriyah, was
asked by the press, "Why did you join the Army?" She said, "I come from
Palestine, West Virginia; I couldn't get a job at Wal-Mart". She said, "I
joined the Army to get out of Palestine, West Virginia" - a perfectly
logical answer on her part. And it's true of a great many people in the
ranks to-day. They do not expect to be shot at. That's one of the points
you should understand; it's a career choice, like a kid deciding to work
his way up to Berkeley by going through a community college, and a state
college, and then transferring in at the last minute or something like

Standing behind it is the military-industrial complex. We must, once
again, bear in mind the powerful warnings of probably the two most
prominent generals in our history. George Washington, in his farewell
address, warns about the threat of standing armies to liberty, and
particularly republican liberty. He was not an isolationist; he was
talking about what moves power toward the imperial presidency, toward the
state. It requires more taxes. Everything else which he said has come
true. The other, perhaps more famous one was Dwight Eisenhower in his
farewell address, where he invented the phrase "military-industrial
complex". We now know that he intended to say
"military-industrial-congressional complex," but he was advised not to go
that far.

What interests me here is that we're talking about something that looks
very much like the end of the Roman Republic - which was, in many ways, a
model for our own republicand - its conversion into a military
dictatorship called the Roman Empire as the troops began to take over. The
kind of figure that the Roman Republic began to look for was a military
populist; of course, the most obvious example was Julius Caesar. But after
Caesar's assassination in 44BC, the young Octavian becomes the "god"
Augustus Caesar.

I'm not trying to be a sensationalist, but I actually do worry about the
future of the United States; whether, in fact, we are tending in the same
path as the former Soviet Union, with domestic, ideological rigidity in
our economic institutions, im perial overstretch - that's what we're
talking about here - the belief that we have to be every where at all
times. We have always been a richer place than Russia was, so it will take
longer. But we're overextended. We can't afford it.

One of my four "sorrows of empire" at the end of the book is bankruptcy.
The military is not productive. They do provide certain kinds of jobs, as
you discover in the United States whenever you try and close a military
base - no matter how conservative or liberal your congressional
representatives are, they will go mad to try and keep it open, keep it
functioning. And the military-industrial complex is very clever in making
sure that the building of a B-2 bomber is spread around the country; it is
not all located at Northrop in El Segundo, California.

I have grave difficulty believing that that any president can bring under
control the Pentagon, the secret intelligence agencies, the
military-industrial complex. The Department of Defense is not, today, a
department of defense. It's an alternative seat of government on the south
bank of the Potomac River. And, typical of militarism, it's expanding into
many, many other areas in our life that we have, in our traditional
political philosophy, reserved for civilians. [For example,] domestic
policing:  they're slowly expanding into that.

Probably the most severe competition in our government today is between
the Special Forces in the DOD and the CIA over who runs clandestine

What you're really saying is that, lo and behold, we've created an empire
of bases, a different kind of empire, and that it's basically changing who
we are and the way our government operates.

The right phrase is exactly what you said: "lo and behold". It reminds you
of the Roman Republic, which existed in its final form with very
considerable rights for Roman citizens, much like ours, for about two
centuries. James Madison and others, in writing the defense of the
Constitution in the Federalist Papers, signed their name "Publius". Well,
who is Publius? He was the first Roman consul. That is where the whole
world of term limits, of separation of powers, things like that, [began].

Yet by the end of the first century B.C., Rome had seemingly
"inadvertently" acquired an empire that surrounded the entire
Mediterranean Sea. They then discovered that the inescapable
accompaniment, the Siamese twin of imperialism, is militarism. You start
needing standing armies. You start having men who are demobilized after
having spent their entire lives in the military. It's expensive to pay
them. You have to provide them, in the Roman Empire, with farms or things
of this sort. They become irritated with the state. And then along comes a
military populist, a figure who says, "I understand your problems. I will
represent your interests against the Roman Senate. The only requirement is
that I become dictator for life". Certainly, Julius Caesar is the model
for this . . . Napoleon Bonaparte, Juan Peron, this is the type of figure.

Indeed, one wonders whether we have already crossed our Rubicon, whether
we can go back. I don't know.

In your indictment of what we are becoming, or maybe have become, you go
through a list. We can't do all of it; we don't have enough time. But,
essentially, civilians who think in military ways now making decisions,
the Pentagon expropriating the functions of the State Department, a policy
being perceived as military policy as opposed to all of the dimensions of
people around the world who meet Americans meet soldiers. That's how we
represent ourselves abroad, just as the Roman Empire represented itself
abroad as the Legionaires. People have to conclude, even if they don't
come into military or armed conflict with us, that this is the way the
Americans think. This is the way they represent themselves today. It's not
foreign aid any longer. It's not our diplomats. It's not the Fulbright
program. It's the military. It's uniformed eighteen- to
twenty-four-year-old young men and some young women.

As a student of Asian political economy, you wrote the classic on MITI. In
the final analysis, your judgment is that we will not only suffer
political but also economic bankruptcy.

So, what do I suggest probably will happen? I think we will stagger along
under a facade of constitutional government, as we are now, until we're
overcome by bankruptcy. We are not paying our way. We're financing it off
of huge loans coming daily from our two leading creditors, Japan and

It's a rigged system that reminds you of Herb Stein, [who], when he was
chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in a Republican
administration, rather famously said, "Things that can't go on forever
don't". That's what we're talking about today. We're massively indebted,
we're not manufacturing as much as we used to, we maintain our lifestyle
off huge capital imports from countries that don't mind taking a short,
small beating on the exchange rates so long as they can continue to
develop their own economies and supply Americans: above all, China within
twenty to twenty-five years will be both the world's largest social system
and the world's most productive social system, barring truly unforeseen

Bankruptcy would not mean the literal end of the United States, any more
than it did for Germany in 1923, or China in 1948, or Argentina just a few
years ago, in 2001 and 2002. But it would certainly mean a catastrophic
recession, the collapse of our stock exchange, the end of our level of
living, and a vast series of new attitudes that would now be appropriate
to a much poorer country. Marshall Auerbach is a financial analyst whom I
admire who refers to the United States as a "Blanche Dubois economy".
Blanche Dubois, of course, was the leading character in Tennessee
Williams's play A Streetcar Named Desire, and she said, "I've always
depended upon the kindness of strangers". We're also increasingly
dependent on the kindness of strangers, and there are not many of them
left who care, any more than there were for Blanche. I suspect if the
United States did start to go down, it would not elicit any more tears
than the collapse of the Soviet Union did.

Do you see a configuration of external power, Japan, China, the EU, that
will be a balancer that might not just confront us but might help guide us
to changes that would be good for us and them?

Once you go down the path of empire, you inevitably start a process of
overstretch, of tendencies toward bankruptcy, and, in the rest of the
world, a tendency toward the uniting of people who are opposed to your
imperialism simply on grounds that it's yours, but maybe also on the
grounds that you're incompetent at it. There was a time when the rest of
the world did trust the United States a good deal as a result of the
Marshall Plan, foreign aid, things of this sort. They probably trusted it
more than they should have. Today that is almost entirely dissipated At
some point, we must either reduce our empire of bases from 737 to maybe
37 - although I'd just as soon get rid of all of them. If we don't start
doing that, then we will go the way of the former Soviet Union.

Harry Kreisler's interview with Chalmers Johnson is taken from his new
book Political Awakenings, just published by the New Press, printed here
by permission of the publisher.

Copyright 2010 Harry Kreisler.

--------12 of 13--------

 Dear St Peter: let
 me in: I worked night and day
 for lesser evil!

--------13 of 13--------

                             LESSER EVIL
                          good enuf for DEMS
                          good enuf for GOD
                          good enuf for YOU


   - David Shove             shove001 [at]
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