|Progressive Calendar 05.10.10||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|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 --------1 of 13-------- From: Nancy Holden <d.n.holden [at] comcast.net> 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] comcast.net. Douglas H Holden 1004 Morgan Road River Falls, Wisconsin 54022 --------2 of 13-------- From: Rowley Clan <rowleyclan [at] earthlink.net> 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 763-571-5229 http://www.msuu.org 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: http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentary/30055429.html?elr=KArksc8P:Pc: UthPacyPE7iUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUU --------3 of 13-------- From: MN Socialist Alternative <mn [at] socialistalternative.org> 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, Minneapolis<http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=301+cedar+ave,+minneapolis&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=24.514195,56.513672&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=301+Cedar+Ave,+Minneapolis,+Hennepin,+Minnesota+55454&z=15> 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: http://socialistalternative.org/news/article19.php?id=1373 Sponsored by Mayday Books and Socialist Alternative SocialistMinnesota.org | 612.760.1980 | mn [at] socialistalternative.org SocialistAlternative.org | SocialistWorld.net MaydayBookstore.org | 612.333.4719 | maydaybookstore [at] gmail.com --------4 of 13-------- From: patty <pattypax [at] earthlink.net> 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 ( http://justcomm.org/pax-salon ) are held (unless otherwise noted in advance): Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Mad Hatter's Tea House, 943 W 7th, St Paul, MN Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats. Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information. --------5 of 13-------- From: Peter Rachleff <rachleff [at] macalester.edu> Subject: Labor/food ind 5.11 7pm WORKERS IN THE GLOBAL FOOD INDUSTRY: ACTIVISM AND ORGANIZATION 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 Library 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, FOOD, AND GLOBALIZATION (1999), WILD FIRE: ART AS ACTIVISM (2006), and TANGLED ROUTES: WOMEN, WORK, AND GLOBALIZATION ON THE TOMATO TRAIL (2007). 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 http://www.thefriends.org/untold.htm --------6 of 13-------- From: Joan Malerich <joanmdm [at] iphouse.com> Subject: MN 9-11 truth 5.11 7pm INFORMATION REGARDING THE TUESDAY MAY 11 MEETING IS BELOW MY COMMENTS 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. BELOW IS SHIRLEY'S MESSAGE REGARDING THE NEXT MN 9-11 TRUTH MEETING. 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 CLICK HERE FOR (map <http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Lori%27s+Coffee+House,+St.+Paul&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=49.891082,79.013672&ie=UTF8&z=12&iwloc=A>). FROM SHIRLEY OF MN 9-11TRUTH GROUP 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 ?) --------7 of 13-------- From: Do It Green! Minnesota <Do_It_Green_Minnesota [at] mail.vresp.com> 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! http://cts.vresp.com/c/?twincitiesgreenguide/290d46514c/8acadfd1b4/836131ac8a 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] doitgreen.org or 612-345-7973. WORKSHOP SCHEDULE: 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 Padilla 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 workshops. 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 Padilla 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 Salon.com, "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 www.marjoriecohn.com --------9 of 13-------- Compare and Contrast Venezuela and Greece By MARK WEISBROT CounterPunch 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 business". 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 By ERIC TOUSSAINT CounterPunch 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. 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. Up to then the Constitution had only allowed two successive mandates: there had to be a break before the candidate could apply again. 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 victory. 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 (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, etc.). 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 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". 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, 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. 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 www.cadtm.org , 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 Notes.  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, www.cadtm.org ). 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.  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, http://www.cadtm.org/The-failure-of-2-December-2007-can  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.  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.  http://voixdusud.blogspot.com/2009/03/lindustrie-alimentaire-dans-la.html  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.  See a very interesting video of the demonstration with interviews of several TU leaders on the Marea Socialista website: http://mareasocialista.com/trabajadores-372.html  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.  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 http://mareasocialista.com/ --------11 of 13-------- The Downward Slope of Empire Talking With Chalmers Johnson By HARRY KREISLER May 6, 2010 CounterPunch 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 Diego. Kreisler: Once upon a time you called yourself a "spear-carrier for the empire". 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 2000.as 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 thought. 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 that. 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 operations. 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 China. 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 developments. 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] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments vote third party for president for congress now and forever Socialism YES Capitalism NO To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8 Research almost any topic raised here at: CounterPunch http://counterpunch.org Dissident Voice http://dissidentvoice.org Common Dreams http://commondreams.org Once you're there, do a search on your topic, eg obama drones
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