Wednesday, January 23, 2008



Bay Area United Against War Statement in Response to IVAW

"In response to the Iraq Veterans Against the War Open Letter to the antiwar movement: We oppose any demand on the movement to refrain from mobilizing against the war. This demand has hurt the struggle in the United States to end the war. We support all actions of the movement to end the U.S. war on, and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. We urge the whole movement to come together to organize unified protest actions."


2017 Mission St (@ 16th), San Francisco


**Please circulate this message widely**

Take action right now to defend free speech rights!

Dear Linda,

At a public meeting called by the National Park Service on Saturday, January 12 in Washington, D.C., representatives from the Partnership for Civil Justice, ANSWER Coalition, Nicaragua Network, Grassroots America, and others demanded that there be no new restrictions placed on the right of the people to access the National Mall for free speech activities.

The National Park Service (NPS) is undertaking an initiative similar to that launched to exclude protests from New York City's Great Lawn. It will be used to further restrict or ban protest on the Mall from current levels. This is a component of a nationwide campaign of corporate-sponsored organizations working in partnership with government entities that claim that protests, rallies and demonstrations harm grass or "green space" or "natural resources" and must therefore be restricted or banned or shunted off to designated protest pits.


Right now, you can email the National Park Service demanding that there be no restrictions on the right of the people to assemble. We have set up an easy to use mechanism that will allow your message to be sent to the National Parks Service:

United States Government: National Park Service
614 H St NW, Washington, DC 20024 - (202) 619-7159

It is urgent that people around the country take action to stop the plan of the Bush Administration's Interior Department to obstruct free speech rights for mass assembly protest in Washington, D.C. The Bush White House plans to complete this process and deliver a knockout punch to free speech rights by January, 2009, the very last month that Bush will remain in office.

The National Mall has been associated for decades as the site for mass assembly protest and gatherings. On January 18, 2003, the ANSWER Coalition organized a demonstration of 500,000 prior to the invasion of Iraq. The Nation of Islam led the Million Man March in 1995 on the Mall. The National Organization for Women sponsored the March for Women's Lives bringing more than a million people to the Mall in 2004. A huge gathering for immigrant rights took place on the Mall in 2006 as part of a nation-wide outpouring. From the Bonus Marchers of the early 1930s, to Dr. King's Poor People's March of 1968, and the anti-war Moratorium of 1969, the Mall is the historic anchor for the exercise of free speech rights in the United States.

A lawsuit filed by the Partnership for Civil Justice on behalf of the National Council of Arab Americans and the ANSWER Coalition successfully overturned regulations in New York City that were used to prevent mass assembly protest in the Great Lawn of Central Park during the Republican National Convention. Those planning changes to the use and access to the National Mall have stated that they see structure used to restrict use of the Great Lawn as a model for their activities.

The NPS has set up a "public-private" partnership that allows business interests and real estate developers -- in coordination with the government -- to determine the future of the National Mall.

The Jan. 12 public meeting was intended to have low attendance to allow the government to claim public involvement while simultaneously excluding it. When confronted with the fact that they had done no legitimate outreach about the public meeting to the hundreds of thousands of people who have actually used the National Mall, the President of the Trust for the National Mall responded that she had sent notice to the Board of Trade! The NPS issues 3,000 permits a year for the use of the National Mall, but there has been no effort to notify any of those organizations about the proposed changes. Their attempt to exclude people from this process could not be more clear.

At the hearing the officials tried to quiet the outraged voices of the people, to change the topic of discussion, and to dismiss their concerns. They did, however, keep saying, just send us a message on-line. That is what we are asking everyone to do today.

The government is trying to end the public "comment" period by February 1, 2008. The ANSWER Coalition also demanded at the hearing that the sham process of the NPS be halted. We demanded that a moratorium be declared so that the people of this country can be able and informed to weigh in with their opinion. The National Mall belongs to the people. Click this link to send your message to the National Park Service

Please tell a friend about this important fight for free speech by forwarding this email by clicking this link.


Help us in this fight to keep the National Mall open for the exercise of free speech. We are undertaking a major organizing initiative to counter the government's plans. The ANSWER Coalition has an unwavering commitment to defend the free speech rights and civil liberties of the people of this country. But this challenge, which ranges from the streets to the courtrooms, requires significant funds, and we simply cannot do it without your help. Please click this link to make your donation right now


A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
National Office in Washington DC: 202-544-3389
New York City: 212-694-8720
Los Angeles: 213-251-1025
San Francisco: 415-821-6545
Chicago: 773-463-0311


Support GI Resistance!
Help stop the war... Support of U.S. war resisters currently seeking sanctuary Canada. What you can do today:
1. Attend or organize an event on January 25-26
2. Sign the "Dear Canada" letter (if you have not already)
3. Hold a house party to show "Breaking Ranks"
4. Use these resources to get friends involved
January 25-26 U.S.-Canada Actions
Courage to Resist

On Friday, Jan. 25, community members will hold vigils and delegations to Canadian Consulates in Washington D.C., NYC, Seattle, SF, LA and elsewhere.

"Army of None" Pacific Northwest Tour
Co-author David Solnit and Seattle Chapter President of Iraq Veterans Against the War Chanan Suarez Diaz at events this week in Tacoma, Olympia, and Vancouver BC.

Oakland, CA Benefit Book Release Event Jan. 17
Col. Ann Wright (ret.) presents her new book "Dissent: Voices of Conscience" with special guests Daniel Ellsberg and Cindy Sheehan at Oakland, CA Courage to Resist benefit.

Sign the letter "Dear Canada: Let U.S. War Resisters Stay!" at:

January 25-26 Events: "Let Them Stay!"

There is still time to organize a delegation to a Canadian Consulate near you or hold vigils or other public events that day, or the following day Saturday, January 26 in support of war resisters.

Let us know what you are planning. Send events to

Friday January 25

Keith Mather, David Solnit, Father Louis Vitale, Steve Grossman, Gerry Condon, Jacqueline Cabasso, Jeff Paterson, Evangeline Mix comprise similar delegation to Canadian Consulate on 5/15/06 in San Francisco. Photo Bill Carpenter

Consulate General of Canada
580 California Street, San Francisco
(four blocks north of Montgomery St BART)
Noon to 1 pm vigil, 1 pm delegation
Sponsored by Courage to Resist
Info: , 510-488-3559



For more information contact:
Robert Manning (925)787-3354

BlogFest to Memorialize Molly Ivins and Demand an End to War in Iraq

WHAT: Raise Hell for Molly Ivins BlogFest.

WHERE: Grace Cathedral, 1100 California Street in San Francisco.

WHEN: Thursday, January 31st, 2008, from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM. (the one-year anniversary of Molly Ivins' passing.)

WHO: The BlogFest is being produced by The Raise Hell for Molly Ivins Campaign ( The campaign was inspired by Molly Ivins' words about the war in Iraq, in her last column before her passing. - "Raise hell...Hit the streets...We need people in the streets banging pots and pans and demanding END IT, NOW!"

PURPOSE: This special event will honor the memory of Molly Ivins and carry on her legacy of activism through the Raise Hell for Molly Ivins Campaign, which is organizing people across the United States to demand that Congress act to end the war in Iraq and stop an attack on Iran.

PROGRAM: The BlogFest will feature continuous blogging by activist bloggers and the public, the signing of an on-line petition, and a live netcast of the event. The evening's program will begin with an Interfaith Ceremony, followed by a Labyrinth Walk for Peace, the announcement of the Winner of "The Ballad of Molly Ivins" Songwriting Contest, a video presentation on Molly Ivins' life, a Memorial Pledge to Molly Ivins, by the event's participants, to work tirelessly to end the war in Iraq and stop an attack on Iran, and music and poetry performances.

HOW: People can participate in the BlogFest by adding their comments to the activist blogs during the event. They can also sign the on-line petition and participate in the "Pots and Pans Protests" on the third Friday of the month, to tell their local representatives and senators who voted for the surge and the on-going funding for the war in Iraq to change their vote or lose at the ballot box. The "Pots and Pans Protests" are held on the third Friday of the month to coincide with the monthly events of the Iraq Moratorium.

TICKETS: Tickets are $10.00 with no one turned away for lack of funds. Tickets are available at the door beginning at 5:45 PM. Advanced tickets are available by calling The Raise Hell for Molly Ivins Campaign at (925) 787-3354.


Honoring Mumia Abu-Jamal and His Friends - Fighters for Freedom
Dennis Bernstein, Lynne Stewart, Michael Franti,and others...
Sunday, February 3, at 2:00pm
ILWU Local 34 Hall, 4 Berry Street, San Francisco

Dear Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal,

The struggle to Free Mumia is in high gear. With considerable media coverage and interest being generated with the showing of the interview on The Today Show with Maureen Faulkner and the mobilization of Mumia's supporters to ensure the truth about the case was televised, to the amazing new evidence of crime scene manipulation (all of which is viewable on the Mobilization's website), we think 2008 has the potential of making real gains in winning Mumia's freedom.

We proudly announce a very special event: On Sunday, February 3, at 2:00pm the Mobilization is sponsoring a gathering: Honoring Mumia Abu-Jamal and His Friends - Fighters for Freedom, with Dennis Bernstein, producer of KPFA's Flashpoints, Lynne Stewart, attorney falsely convicted of conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism, Michael Franti, performing artist and a founder of Power to the Peaceful concert festivals, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, who shut down the West Coast ports to free Mumia, Barbara Lubin, Director, Middle East Children's Alliance, Jonathan Richmond, singer/songwriter and Aundre Herron, attorney and comedienne - "Wonderwoman", and many others. The event will take place at the ILWU Local 34 Hall, 4 Berry Street, San Francisco, just to the left (East) of the Pac Bell/Monster Baseball Stadium (plenty of free parking and Muni Metro accessible). The event will start at 2:00pm, sliding scale of $10-$15, no on turned away for lack of funds. We will show The Today Show program and people can stay afterwards for an information gathering (and Super Bowl watching).

We don't have much time to building the event - please post to your email lists and tell everyone you know.

Please attend the next Mobe meeting, which is on Saturday, January 12, 2008, 10:30 am at 625 Larkin near Eddy, San Francisco. Remember to press #202 to be buzzed in. That's the office of the Freedom Socialist Party.

We will be organizing for several important upcoming events at which we'll pass out leaflets for our February 3rd meeting, include the Demonstration to Defend Reproductive Rights and Roe v. Wade (Saturday, January 19th, 10:30am at Justin Herman Plaza, Market and Embarcadero in San Francisco) and at the annual Martin Luther King Day events (Monday, January 21).

See you at the Mobe meeting this Saturday, January 12th at 10:30 am, 625 Larkin Street, at Eddy in San Francisco.

End the Death Penalty!

Laura Herrera and Jeff Mackler, Co-coordinators
The Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
[ The Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal is supporting this event and encourages you to publicize it and attend. - Howard Keylor (for the LAC) ]


2017 Mission St (@ 16th), San Francisco





A ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals on Mumia's case, based on the hearing in Philadelphia on May 17th 2007, is expected momentarily. Freeing Mumia immediately is what is needed, but that is not an option before this court. The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal calls on everyone who supports Mumia‚s case for freedom, to rally the day after a decision comes down. Here are Bay Area day-after details:


14th and Broadway, near the Federal Building
4:30 to 6:30 PM the day after a ruling is announced,
or on Monday if the ruling comes down on a Friday.

Oakland demonstration called by the Partisan Defense Committee and Labor Black Leagues, to be held if the Court upholds the death sentence, or denies Mumia's appeals for a new trial or a new hearing. info at (510) 839-0852 or


Federal Courthouse, 7th & Mission
5 PM the day after a ruling is announced,
or Monday if the decision comes down on a Friday

San Francisco demo called by the Mobilization To Free Mumia,
info at (415) 255-1085 or

Day-after demonstrations are also planned in:

Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Toronto, Vancouver
and other cities internationally.

A National Demonstration is to be held in Philadelphia, 3rd Saturday after the decision

For more information, contact: International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal,;
Partisan Defense Committee,;
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC),;


World-renowned journalist, death-row inmate and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal is completely innocent of the crime for which he was convicted. Mountains of evidence--unheard or ignored by the courts--shows this. He is a victim, like thousands of others, of the racist, corrupt criminal justice system in the US; only in his case, there is an added measure of political persecution. Jamal is a former member of the Black Panther Party, and is still an outspoken and active critic of the on-going racism and imperialism of the US. They want to silence him more than they want to kill him.

Anyone who has ever been victimized by, protested or been concerned about the racist travesties of justice meted out to blacks in the US, as well as attacks on immigrants, workers and revolutionary critics of the system, needs to take a close look at the frame-up of Mumia. He is innocent, and he needs to be free.




In 1995, mass mobilizations helped save Mumia from death.

In 1999, longshore workers shut West Coast ports to free Mumia, and teachers in Oakland and Rio de Janeiro held teach-ins and stop-works.

Mumia needs powerful support again now. Come out to free Mumia!

- The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
PO Box 16222, Oakland CA 94610




1) Mexico Hits Drug Gangs With Full Fury of War
January 22, 2008

2) MoveOn and the Liberal War Party
No Retreat
January 19 / 20, 2008

3) The Dollar and US Hegemony:
Suspended in Air
by Ingo Schmidt
January 23, 2008

4) Rich Countries Owe Poor a Huge Environmental Debt
By The Guardian, UK
January 21, 2008

5) Palestinians Topple Gaza Wall and Cross to Egypt
January 24, 2008

6) The Fed Weighs In
January 23, 2008

7) Congo’s Death Rate Unchanged Since War Ended
January 23, 2008

8) A $200-a-Gram Tax on Cocaine
By Sewell Chan
January 23, 2008, 12:21 pm


1) Mexico Hits Drug Gangs With Full Fury of War
January 22, 2008

RÍO BRAVO, Mexico — These days, it is easy to form the impression that a war is going on in Mexico. Thousands of elite troops in battle gear stream toward border towns and snake through the streets in jeeps with .50-caliber machine guns mounted on top while fighter jets from the Mexican Navy fly reconnaissance missions overhead.

Gun battles between federal forces and drug-cartel members carrying rocket-propelled-grenade launchers have taken place over the past two weeks in border towns like Río Bravo and Tijuana, with deadly results.

Yet what is happening is less a war than a sustained federal intervention in states where for decades corrupt municipal police officers and drug gangs have worked together in relative peace, officials say. The federal forces are not only hunting cartel leaders, but also going after their crews of gunslingers, like Gulf Cartel guards known as the Zetas, who terrorize the towns they control.

The onslaught has broken up a longstanding system in which the local police looked the other way for a bribe and cartel leaders went about their business.

In Río Bravo, for instance, the state police station sits across the street from a walled compound that until recently was used as a safe house by Zeta gunmen. A deadly gunfight broke out when federal agents tried to arrest men carrying machine guns in a car.

As grenades exploded and gunfire ripped the air, Jesús Vasquez, 65, dived behind the dusty counter of his store. He hugged the concrete and prayed.

“It was ugly,” he recalled. “It’s the first time something like this has happened.”

President Felipe Calderón, who won office in 2006 on a promise to create jobs, has spent most of his first year in office trying to break up organized crime rings. To the consternation of some liberals here, he has mobilized the military to do it, sending 6,000 troops into Tamaulipas state alone.

As those troops, along with thousands of federal agents, have begun putting pressure on drug gangs, the midlevel mobsters and hit men have put up a surprising amount of resistance. Again and again, they have chosen to fight it out rather than surrender.

They have ambushed and killed more than 20 police officers this year. In the past two weeks, four federal agents and three Baja California police commanders have been assassinated, along with the wife and child of one of them, apparently in retaliation for arrests, law enforcement officials said.

That violence has spread to the United States. On Saturday morning, drug-smuggling suspects from Mexico killed an American border patrol agent, Luis Aguilar, 32, when he tried to stop their cars in sand dunes about 20 miles west of Yuma, Ariz., then fled back across the border. Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, said the killing demonstrated how Mexican criminal organizations had responded to the crackdown on their operations with increasing brutality.

“The Zetas are defying the state,” said Jorge Chabat, an expert on narcotics trafficking and security at CIDE, a Mexican research group. “This operation in the north of Mexico in recent days has no precedent.”

It remains to be seen whether Mr. Calderón’s strategy will work in the long run. Many of the nation’s most-wanted drug kingpins continue to elude federal forces, often with the help of local police officers.

Some federal officers admit privately that they face an uphill battle as long as local police officers continue to tip off drug gangs about their movements. The threat became clear on Saturday when federal officials arrested four local policemen in Nuevo Laredo, along with seven civilians, and charged them with feeding the Zetas information over police radio frequencies.

“You cannot count on the local police,” said a veteran federal inspector in Reynosa, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job. “The problem lies in the state police. They are completely at the service of these guys.”

In Tamaulipas state, just south of eastern Texas, the government’s focus has been on strangling the Zetas. Founded by former Mexican commandos trained in the United States, the Zetas have long been the professional assassins of the Gulf Cartel, which controls the flow of drugs along the Gulf Coast and across the Texas border. The group is believed to have scores of members, though the exact number is unknown.

The gunmen remain a formidable force, the authorities say. Federal police commanders in the state must stay on the move and keep their location secret to avoid assassination attempts. The state federal attorney general’s office has been vacant for months; officials in Mexico City say they are having trouble filling the post.

Edgar Millán, a federal police commander who is in charge of tracking down the Zetas, said a contingent of 1,200 officers in Tamaulipas searched every day for members of the group, hitting specific targets believed to be safe houses and watching for cars carrying gunmen.

The federal police also run a system of 10 checkpoints on major highways in the eastern half of the state. Most of the time, they stop cars with tinted windows that carry two or more young men, hoping to make it harder for the gunmen to move.

But the Zetas have a sophisticated spy network as well, Commander Millán said in an interview. They employ taxi drivers, store clerks, street vendors and members of the local police to keep them apprised of the movements of federal officers.

Several times in the past four months, the police have been close to capturing the leader of the cartel, Heriberto Lazcano, only to have him slip away at the last moment, Commander Millán said. Two other important reputed cartel leaders, Jorge Eduardo Costilla and Miguel Ángel Treviño, have also eluded capture.

While the Gulf Cartel leaders remain at large, the government scored a success in Sinaloa on Monday when it captured Alfredo Beltrán Leyva, one of five brothers who are high-ranking lieutenants in the Culiacan-based cartel.

Though the big bosses have slipped through the dragnet — the offensive that was started against the Zetas in late November after a prominent local politician was murdered in Río Bravo — it has paid off in many respects, officials said. The police have arrested about 40 reputed members of the gang and seized dozens of machine guns, rifles, side arms, grenades and boxes of ammunition.

The federal police have also begun to submit local police officers to a battery of tests to determine who might be linked to organized crime. Among the tests are polygraphs, drug tests and the vetting of personal finances. The goal is to weed out collaborators.

Many people here say they welcome the federal intervention, even if it means having columns of troops patrol their streets. But others voice doubt that government forces can ever stamp out the cartel, given its infiltration of the local police. All the federal forces have accomplished, they say, is unleashing more violence.

“Living in Mexico has become very difficult,” said one man who had been searched at a roadblock near Matamoros. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of drug dealers. “Even Colombia is looking better.”

Others complain that the presence of soldiers and federal agents, along with the gun battles, has scared away American tourists, an important source of income. Last year, about six million fewer people visited border towns than in 2006; hotel bookings are down and sales of package tours have fallen steeply, according to the Association of Mexican Hotels and Motels.

“A lot of people used to come over the border to eat and buy things,” said Alfredo Tantu, 40, the owner of El Cazador Restaurant near Río Bravo, as the smell of roasting baby goat wafted from his kitchen. “Now, almost no one comes because of all this police action.”

James C. McKinley Jr. reported from Río Bravo last week and added updated information from Mexico City on Sunday and Monday.


2) MoveOn and the Liberal War Party
No Retreat
January 19 / 20, 2008

"Antiwar groups retreat on funding fight" read the headlines. The story underneath describes a retreat by MoveOn and other liberal elements of the antiwar movement who, after failing to get a withdrawal deadline passed in the US Congress in 2007, are now merely trying to prevent the US and Baghdad governments from signing n agreement that would keep US forces in Iraq until 2018. This strategy, its supporters believe, can still provide a difference between Democrats and Republicans to voters in the upcoming elections.

This scenario is exactly what happens when an element of the antiwar movement ties itself to a party invested in keeping a war going. Unfortunately for the antiwar movement in general, this strategy is pervasive throughout much of the movement and has rendered the current movement against the war in Iraq completely moribund. Instead of an antiwar movement, there is a repeat of 2004, when UFPJ, MoveOn and other antiwar organizations put their money and efforts into the Anybody But Bush campaign and helped give the country four more years of George Bush.

This election year, George Bush isn't running, but the war and occupation will continue long after he's gone unless the self-appointed liberal leadership in the antiwar movement either quits tailing the Democratic Party or just shuts up. Since neither of these phenomena are likely to happen, it is up to the grassroots of the movement to wrest the mantle of leadership away from these lobbyists and put the movement back into the streets where its real power is. The lobbyists have had their chance and all they've done is spend a ton of our money on advertising, lobbying and salaries with no tangible results. This should make it clear to the people who actually make up the antiwar movement that our hopes lie in hard work, street protests and direct action, and developing strategies that are not based on the US election cycle.

This may very well require a new organization stepping up to the plate. UFPJ has struck out as a national organization, primarily because they have refused to organize or help organize any national demonstrations in a year. ANSWER, meanwhile, seems to have forfeited their place in the game because of their perceived sectarianism and a bit of red and Muslim-baiting. MoveOn and similar organizations are, on the national level, much more like spectators and concessionaires at this point than they are real players, having thrown in their lot with the democrats. The only existing national organizations that could possibly provide fresh leadership at this time are Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). However, given the rather specific constituency of both of these groups, it would seem that there would need to be some other groups either currently in existence or yet to be formed willing to coalesce and create a truly national mobilization to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring the troops home.

Let the candidates tell their lies. Let them argue about how they are against the wars while they vote for the wars. Let the national antiwar organizations that have hitched their wagons to the Democrats or Ron Paul be dragged into the dead-end ditch of electoral politics. But let those of us interested in having a vibrant and viable antiwar movement ready to hit the streets after January 2009 start trying to figure out how the hell we're going to do that. This doesn't mean your vote is meaningless. It just means that it isn't as meaningful as the candidates and the liberal elements of the antiwar movement want you to think it is. If it was, don't you think we would know when the troops would be out of Iraq?

Ron Jacobs is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs' essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch's collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at:


3) The Dollar and US Hegemony:
Suspended in Air
by Ingo Schmidt
January 23, 2008

Once again, speculation about a dollar crash abounds. The hegemonic roles of the US currency and economy have repeatedly been called into question since the 1970s. Skeptics saw each major economic downturn and depreciation of the dollar as the beginning of the end of US hegemony. In defiance of the often predicted decline, the US is still No. 1 within the capitalist world system, and the US-led cartel of imperialist world domination is still intact. That is why we have to ask whether the current weakness of the dollar and the US-triggered economic crisis are just another cyclical phenomena that will essentially reproduce US hegemony or indications of major power shifts among capitalist states and social classes.

Paul Krugman issued the catchword for the debate on the future of the dollar and the US economy, the "Wile E. Coyote Moment," comparing the dollar to Wile E. Coyote who has run off a cliff, standing on thin air. According to this analogy, the mortgage crisis is the last cliff for the dollar before its final plunge. Whether Krugman's grim prediction will come true remains to be seen.

What is noteworthy is that, at the same time as the dollar declined, the US foreign deficit reached record highs, contrary to the market logic that predicts a smaller current account deficit in the case of currency depreciation. This is a new development. In the past, depreciations and decreasing current account deficits actually went hand in hand. What does the current de-linking of dollar rates and the US current account position imply?

Irrationality of Capitalism -- Limits to Bourgeois Economics

To answer this question, we have to look at the dollar, the current account, and economic trends over the last three decades. Then, two things stand out. First, the dollar has gone through two phases of significant appreciation since the 1970s, peaking in 1985 and 2001. Second, only during the first of these two phases dollar rates and current account deficits moved, as market logic predicts, in opposite directions. Since the economic downturn of 1991, the deficit has increased constantly, showing almost no connection to dollar rates or the business cycle. If the foreign deficit depended on exchange rate developments, it would have been reined in by dollar depreciations since 2001. That did not happen.

Dollar Index

Current Account Balance

Keynesian economists dispute the relation between exchange rates and foreign trade that figures so prominently in neoclassical economics. According to their view, trade flows, which are statistically recorded in the current account balance, depend on the purchasing power of companies and households. The 2001 crisis was followed by a recovery based on credit expansion and massive inflows of foreign capital. These two factors generated additional purchasing power, parts of which were happily spent on imported goods, causing ever higher current account deficits. In the Keynesian story, capital markets are in the driver's seat, generating and allocating the finances that can later be used to buy goods and services. Plausible as this explanation may be, it is not totally convincing, because capital inflows imply higher dollar demand and, therefore, should have eventually triggered currency appreciations. That didn't happen either.

Since neither the logic of goods markets nor that of capital markets can explain the development of dollar rates and US foreign deficits convincingly, some economists, the most prominent among them Yale professor Robert Shiller, have drawn the conclusion that economic agents' irrational behavior, such as herd behavior of financial investors, must be the reason for "market-adverse" developments of currencies and current accounts. This view is shared by Krugman, who fears that badly informed investors have taken the nominal dollar rate at its face value, i.e. as proper representation of the value produced in the US economy, for too long but will be forced to give up their imagined wealth once the dollar crashes.

New Keynesian economists like Krugman and Shiller view excessive greed and lack of information as the causes of irrational exuberance, to use Shiller's terminology, which, in turn, triggers economic crises. Accordingly, crises could be avoided if investments were calculated objectively, based on complete information, instead of, to use Keynes' term, animal spirits. The recognition of ignorance in economic decision-making, Keynes' point of departure from (neo)classical economics, is missing from the New Keynesian view. The New Keynesian search for proper governance structures to complete incomplete information also disregards the fact that the right to private property entails the power of property holders to withhold information from the public and that of top managers to provide sugarcoated information to shareholders. Equally neglected is the fact that capitalist competition not only is a breeding ground for the greed for profit but makes investment driven by such greed a precondition for survival, no matter that it causes over-accumulation and crises at the same time. Thus, Keynes' "animal spirits" had better be called "capitalist spirits."

Following Marx, we can see that individual capitalists are behaving more or less rationally within an irrational system. However, their socially uncoordinated behavior produces crises that look like the result of individual misbehavior in the eyes of capitalists and economists alike. The highest form of misbehavior, of course, is political intervention because it completely runs counter to the market logic. Thus, apologists of capitalism like Milton Friedman see political intervention as misguided shackles on the market's invisible hand. However, if we see both individual capitalists' appetite for profit and political intervention as indispensable parts of the capitalist mode of production, it is possible to explain the de-linking of dollar rates, current account deficits, and business cycles without swinging wildly between theoretical assumptions of complete information and the practical retreat from reason into irrational instincts.

The First Recurrence of a Strong Dollar: the Second Cold War and Industrial Restructuring

The disintegration of the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates, economic crises, and an upswing of anti-imperialist and workers struggles in the 1970s challenged the capitalist world order, which largely had been shaped by the US in the aftermath of World War Two. The US bourgeoisie, after recovering from the shock of not being invincible, reacted to these challenges with a declaration of war against the Soviet Union, anti-imperialist movements, and the American working class. This war against the world's subordinated classes aimed at the expansion of world markets and a shift of income distribution from wages to profits. Propertied classes from all capitalist countries honored the strategic farsightedness and boldness with which the American bourgeoisie carried out the program for profit expansion through massive investments in the US. These capital inflows led to a rising dollar, indicating the trust that capitalists of all countries deposited in restored US hegemony.

Each increase in the dollar value from 1979 to 1985 pushed organized labor in the US further onto the defensive. Imported goods that became more competitive as a result of the rising dollar limited sales opportunities for domestic industries. US bosses eagerly used more competitive markets as a pretext to attack the incomes and working conditions of their workers.

The anti-socialist rollback (in this regard it should be remembered that American union bureaucrats and Soviet apparatchiks are nothing but varieties of the same socialist breed in the world view of US conservatives) soon started to bear fruits. Soviet interim leader Andropov already suggested, albeit vaguely, concession vis-à-vis the US-led West that would materialize under Gorbatchew. The AFL-CIO under Lane Kirkland, much more bound to class collaboration than the Soviet leaders, was at a loss in the face of the capitalist offensive right from its beginning. Under these circumstances, pushed by the US government, the American, German, and Japanese central banks heavily intervened in currency markets in 1985. Through this, the dollar was turned around, and competitive pressures were loosened, giving some relief to US industries. Increasing masses of surplus value that had been squeezed out of American workers thus could be realized through increasing market sales.

The Second Recurrence of a Strong Dollar: the New World Order and New Economy

The weak dollar from 1985 to 1995 was abandoned in the same way it was initiated, through coordinated central bank intervention. While industrial capital in the US enjoyed increasing sales and profits in the slipstream of the declining dollar, Wall Street became concerned about the future of the US as the world's financial center. In the early 1990s, the US, having just gone through recession, was manufacturing a new world order after the disintegration of the Soviet empire, so big money could persuade the government and central banks that the weak dollar was incompatible with the reputation of the last superpower. Steered by the emerging Wall Street-Treasury Complex, to use the term of liberal economist Jagdish Bhagwati, world capitalism entered a phase of multilaterally negotiated market expansion, computer-based reorganization of global supply chains, and financial explosion.

Profits were up for grabs again and the dollar was rising again, too -- until the New Economy bubble burst in 2001. After that, the military-industrial complex increasingly replaced Wall Street's threadbare capital fetish. Not the invisible hand of the markets but the iron fist of the US army was now declared the guarantor of profit. However, the US army's inability to end the insurrections in Iraq and Afghanistan has closed the circle between the crisis of US hegemony in the 1970s and the present day. Back then, the American Way of Life, having reached its limits of productivity and profit growth, also lost much of its appeal. Notably, the Vietnam debacle made the US seem a paper tiger ready to be overthrown, and the civil rights movement and labor unrest led the power elite to fear the loss of their control. Since that time, the US dollar hegemony has been restored twice, first in the name of a Second Cold War and after that under the slogans of the New World Order and New Economy. The continuation of this fragile hegemony currently depends on the absence of serious challengers, be they imperialist rivals or anti-capitalist movements. Until such challengers materialize, US hegemony, as well as the dollar, will remain suspended in mid-air.

Ingo Schmidt teaches economics at the University of Northern British Colombia in Prince George. He also works as a labor educator.


4) Rich Countries Owe Poor a Huge Environmental Debt
By The Guardian, UK
January 21, 2008

The environmental damage caused to developing nations by the world's richest countries amounts to more than the entire third world debt of $1.8 trillion, according to the first systematic global analysis of the ecological damage imposed by rich countries.

The study found that there are huge disparities in the ecological footprint inflicted by rich and poor countries on the rest of the world because of differences in consumption. The authors say that the west's high living standards are maintained in part through the huge unrecognised ecological debts it has built up with developing countries.

"At least to some extent, the rich nations have developed at the expense of the poor and, in effect, there is a debt to the poor," said Prof Richard Norgaard, an ecological economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who led the study. "That, perhaps, is one reason that they are poor. You don't see it until you do the kind of accounting that we do here."

Using data from the World Bank and the UN's Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the researchers examined so-called "environmental externalities" or costs that are not included in the prices paid for goods but which cover ecological damage linked to their consumption. They focused on six areas: greenhouse gas emissions, ozone layer depletion, agriculture, deforestation, overfishing and converting mangrove swamps into shrimp farms.

The team calculated the costs of consumption in low, medium and high income countries, both within their borders and outside, from 1961 to 2000. The team used UN definitions for countries in different income categories. Low income countries included Pakistan, Nigeria and Vietnam, and middle income nations included Brazil and China. Rich countries in the study included the UK, US and Japan.

Striking disparities

The magnitude of effects outside the home country was different for each category of consumption. For example, deforestation and agricultural intensification primarily affect the host country, while the impacts from climate change and ozone depletion show up the disparity between rich and poor most strikingly.

Greenhouse emissions from low-income countries have imposed $740 billion of damage on rich countries, while in return rich countries have imposed $2.3 trillion of damage. This damage includes, for example, flooding from more severe storms as a result of climate change.

Likewise, CFC emissions from rich countries have inflicted between $25 billion and £57 billion of damage to the poorest countries. Increased ultraviolet levels from the ozone hole have led to higher healthcare costs from skin cancer and eye problems. The converse figure is between $0.58 and $1.3 billion.

The team publish their results today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We know already that climate change is a huge injustice inflicted on the poor," said Dr Neil Adger at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Norwich, who was not involved in the research, "This paper is actually the first systematic quantification to produce a map of that ecological debt. Not only for climate change but also for these other areas."

"This is an accounting tool that allows you to say how much the high-income world owes the low-income world for the environmental externalities we impose on them," he said.

The team confined its calculations to areas in which the costs of environmental damage, for example in terms of lost services from ecosystems, are well understood. That meant leaving out damage from excessive freshwater withdrawals, destruction of coral reefs, biodiversity loss, invasive species and war. So the researchers believe the figures represent a minimum estimate of the true cost.

"We think the measured impact is conservative. And given that it's conservative, the numbers are very striking," said co-author Dr Thara Srinivasan, who is also at Berkeley.
—, January 21, 2008


5) Palestinians Topple Gaza Wall and Cross to Egypt
January 24, 2008

RAFAH, Egypt — Thousands of Palestinians streamed from the Gaza Strip into Egypt on Wednesday after a fence at the Rafah border crossing was toppled, going on a buying spree of fuel, medicine, soap, cigarettes and many other supplies that have been cut off during days of blockade by Israel.

The scene at the border was one of a great bazaar, with Palestinians piling donkeys, carts and motorcycles high with goats, mattresses, chickens, televisions, cement and other goods they had been unable to buy in Gaza.

Israel ordered the closing of its border crossings into Gaza last week, halting all shipments except for emergency supplies, after a sustained and intense barrage of rocket fire into Israel by militant groups in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas. Israel allowed in some fuel, medical supplies and food on Tuesday, as temporary relief, but has said that its closure policy remains in place.

Initial reports suggested that Hamas militants had used explosives to blow a hole in the corrugated-iron border fence at Rafah. The Rafah crossing into Egypt has been shut since Hamas took over Gaza in a short war with Fatah last summer.

Witnesses reported hearing explosions early Wednesday morning, and said that Hamas then sent bulldozers to push the fence over. Some reports said Hamas militants had blown several holes along the fence. Later television footage showed that the fence had been toppled in several sections.

People began pouring over the fence before dawn, said one witness, Fatan Hessin, 45. She had crossed into Egypt to be reunited with a childhood friend. “I am not Hamas or Fatah, but I thank Hamas for this,” she said.

Arye Mekel, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said: “I think Hamas has been planning this for a long time. Maybe they thought this would be an opportune time.” He was referring to the mounting international concerns over Israel’s blockade.

Hamas supporters held a protest in Rafah on Tuesday, when dozens of protesters, many of them women, tried to push through the crossing into Egypt in two waves and were forced back by Egyptian police officers and soldiers, sometimes using a water cannon and shooting into the air.

On Wednesday, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt said he ordered his troops to allow Palestinians finally to cross because the Palestinians were starving, The Associated Press reported.

"But today a great number of them came back because the Palestinians in Gaza are starving due to the Israeli siege," he said, according to the A.P.

Gaza’s population of 1.5 million depends on imports for most basic supplies. After the border fence fell, Egyptian merchants took goods to the Egyptian side of Rafah to sell, and some Palestinians were bringing home televisions and computers.

Bags of cement were in particular demand, since building materials have been in short supply for months due to restrictions Israel imposed after the Hamas takeover of Gaza. Israel suspects Hamas of using cement to build tunnels.

Muhammed Mowab, 22, a student and barber, said he brought in 25 bags of cement to build a home so that he could get married, which he has been awaiting for a year. He said he had paid the equivalent of about $5 per bag, compared with $75 a bag of cement in Gaza.

Gas stations on the Egyptian side of the border were besieged, according to the BBC.

There were few signs of police officers directing the crowds, and Egyptian border guards stood aside to let the Palestinians cross. Riot police waited a few streets away.

The Rafah crossing has been a point of controversy between Egypt and Israel. Hamas and Egypt have opened the crossing briefly on a few occasions, most recently to permit about 2,000 Palestinians to make the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.

But Israeli officials contend that Hamas exploits these occasions to bring weapons and money into Gaza from Egypt.

Mr. Mekel, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said of the latest breach: “The danger is that Hamas and other terror organizations will take advantage of the situation to smuggle in weapons and men and make a bad situation in Gaza worse.”

Aid officials had warned earlier this week that Gaza, gripped by fuel and electricity shortages, was two or three days from a health and food crisis.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides assistance to Palestinian refugees and their descendants, announced Monday that it would have to suspend its food aid to 860,000 Gaza residents by Wednesday or Thursday if the crossings from Israel into Gaza were not reopened, because the group was running out of the nylon bags it uses to measure and distribute staples, like flour.

Ms. Hessin, who used the breach of the border to meet up with her childhood friend, Inshira Hanbal, on the Egyptian side, said: “We are extremely tired of this life. The closure, the unemployment, the poverty. No one is working in my household.”

On Tuesday, Israel pumped about 750,000 liters of industrial diesel into Gaza, part of the 2.2 million liters it said it would provide for one week only to Gaza’s main power station, which had shut down after its tanks ran dry.

On Tuesday afternoon, the plant started one of its three turbines, bringing power to parts of Gaza City that had been dark or running on generators.

Steven Erlanger reported from Rafah, Egypt, and Graham Bowley from New York. Isabel Kershner contributed reporting from Jerusalem.


6) The Fed Weighs In
January 23, 2008

Tuesday’s stock market gyrations were stomach churning. There is no doubt that without the Federal Reserve’s large emergency interest rate cuts, the market slide would have been worse. The main stock gauges in the United States all fell, but not as far or as fast as some of their global counterparts and not as much as feared.

It is too early to put the antacids away. The surprise rate cuts — like the fiscal stimulus plan President Bush announced on Friday — were mainly intended to show that the powers-that-be can act decisively. That is better than the months of ambivalence and denial that have led up to this moment. There’s still no guarantee that it will be enough to pull the economy out of the hole.

Since last September when it began cutting rates in hopes of blunting the credit crunch, the Fed and its chairman, Ben Bernanke, have left the impression that they were reacting to events rather than steering them. Until this month, President Bush was touting the strength of the economy as if the prospect of more than one million Americans losing their homes and a possible recession were mere sideshows.

Rate cuts alone — even one as deep as Tuesday’s — are unlikely to provide a powerful enough fix, especially given the severe problems in the housing market. Rate cuts cannot forestall foreclosures, turn bad loans into good ones or undo the worse effects of the housing bust on consumer spending. At best, rate cuts may buy some time for the economy to stabilize without being derailed along the way by damaging market panics.

The White House and lawmakers are right that the economy needs a broader stimulus package. Mr. Bush’s $145 billion proposal is ample, but too heavily skewed toward tax rebates that would provide no relief for tens of millions of lower-income Americans. Mr. Bush’s proposal would also spend far too much on business tax breaks, which curry favor with his political base but will have far less bang for the buck than other options.

Little wonder then that the brutal sell-off in global markets so far this week was seen, in part, as a vote of no-confidence in the Bush administration’s ability to turn the American economy around.

If there is one message above all from this week’s global market turmoil, it is that the White House and Congress need to put aside their political and ideological differences and come up with a sound stimulus plan that helps to restore both confidence and the economy. The best way to do that is with a package that will get money back into the economy as efficiently as possible: bolstered unemployment benefits, more generous food stamps, aid to states and tax rebates that also go to low-income workers who are most likely to spend their extra cash immediately.

If policy makers are smart — and lucky — rate cuts and fiscal stimulus will help the economy rebound before Americans suffer much greater pain. If policy makers do not act sensibly and swiftly, they may find themselves where they clearly don’t want to be: trying to engineer an even more expensive and politically charged taxpayer-financed bailout of the mortgage mess. If falling markets aren’t incentive enough, that should prod them to get the fiscal stimulus right the first time around.


7) Congo’s Death Rate Unchanged Since War Ended
January 23, 2008

DAKAR, Senegal — Five years after Congo’s catastrophic war officially ended, the rate at which people are dying in the country remains virtually unchanged, according to a new survey, despite the efforts of the world’s largest peacekeeping force, billions of dollars in international aid and a historic election that revived democracy after decades of violence and despotism.

The survey, released Tuesday, estimated that 45,000 people continue to die every month, about the same pace as in 2004, when the international push to rebuild the country had scarcely begun. Almost all the deaths come from hunger and disease, signs that the country is still grappling with the aftermath of a war that gutted its infrastructure, forced millions to flee and flattened its economy.

In all, more than 5.4 million people have died in Congo since the war began in 1998, according to the most recent survey’s estimate, the latest in a series completed by the International Rescue Committee, an American aid organization. Nearly half of the dead were children younger than 5 years old.

Perhaps most alarming, while the death rate has slightly decreased in eastern Congo, the last festering node of conflict, it has actually increased in some parts of central Congo, though the area has not seen combat in several years. The study’s authors and other aid organizations said the focus of aid dollars on the east and neglect of the region by government were the most likely explanations for the changes. These surprising findings demonstrate the depth and complexity of Congo’s continuing crisis, said Richard Brennan, health director for the International Rescue Committee and one of the survey’s authors.

“The Congo is still enduring a crisis of huge proportions,” Dr. Brennan said. “Protracted elevations of mortality more than four years after the end of the war demonstrates that recovery from this kind of crisis is itself a protracted process. The international engagement has to be sustained and committed for years to come.”

The survey was based on a sample of 14,000 households surveyed in 700 villages and towns across Congo from January 2006 to April 2007.

Its authors emphasized that the figures in the report are estimates, based on widely accepted statistical methods for estimating death tolls in disasters, but the cumulative figure for how many have died since the war began has a wide margin of error given the difficulty of the terrain in Congo and the lack of precision in basic demographic information, like the prewar mortality rate or even Congo’s current population.

Still, improvements in security since 2004, when the last survey was completed, meant that researchers were able to visit many areas that were off limits last time, and as a result, its authors said, the current survey provides the most complete picture yet of the toll of Congo’s slide into despair.

That picture is not encouraging. The mortality rate in Congo is 57 percent higher than the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, the survey found. Particularly hard hit were young children, who are especially susceptible to diseases like malaria, measles, dysentery and typhoid, which can kill when medicine is not available. In one village in North Kivu Province, a hot spot of continued fighting, three women of the 20 households surveyed had lost two children each in the 16 months covered by the survey period, Dr. Brennan said.

Less than half a percentage point of the deaths were caused by violence, illustrating how the aftermath of war can be more deadly than combat itself. Much of the emergency aid is focused on the eastern part of the country, where militia battles with Congolese troops have chased nearly half a million people from their homes in the last year. A peace agreement to end that conflict was reached Monday.

But the increased mortality in areas outside of the volatile east is particularly worrying because it points to longer-term problems that endure long after the bullets have stopped flying.

“Given the nature of this country, the vast differences in terrain, the broken infrastructure, I am not surprised,” said Alan Doss, the newly appointed chief of the United Nations’ vast peace operation in Congo. “This will take a long time to turn around.”

The Congolese government spends just $15 per person each year on health care, according to the World Health Organization, less than half of what is recommended to provide the most basic but lifesaving care, like immunizations, malaria-fighting mosquito nets and hydration salts.

“The past two years, we can say the health situation has not improved at all,” said Brice de le Vingne, operations coordinator for the region that includes Congo for the aid group Doctors Without Borders. “The only thing that improved a bit is mobile phone coverage. We now are in contact with more people to know that the situation is not good.”

Mortality surveys are crucial tools for aid agencies, United Nations peacekeepers and even historians, but the methods used to compile them have come under attack.

For example, a 2006 survey by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that concluded that 600,000 Iraqi civilians had died since the American invasion — far above the estimates given by the Iraqi government and other sources — was attacked as “not credible” by President Bush and the Pentagon, and criticized by other scientists as well.

For the current survey, teams of workers fanned out across Congo, a nation as big as the United States east of the Mississippi, but with rivers instead of roads, canoes and bicycles instead of airplanes and cars.

Debarati Guha-Sapir, director of the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, a research institution in Belgium, said that the Congo survey was methodologically sound. Still, extrapolating from clusters of data over an area as vast and with as many unknowns as Congo presents particular problems, she said.

“The fact is that you have a high mortality rate in Congo altogether by any standard,” Dr. Guha-Sapir said. “Of which some is the result of conflict, some is governance, some is that no heath services are available in many areas, some is just pure poverty and the horrible legacy of what colonialism and Western greed did to Congo.”

A number of variables make the survey results inevitably imprecise, particularly when trying to turn an abstract death rate into a number of actual deaths. The population of Congo, for example, is essentially unknown: the United Nations estimated it to be 56.8 million; the Congolese Ministry of Health says it is 69.9 million. If the United Nations figure is right, for example, the actual number of deaths in the most recent survey period would be 522,000, but if the government figures are right, the figure would be 1.05 million, the study found.

The number of deaths attributed to the conflict and its aftermath is based on how many people would be expected to die under normal circumstances. Because Congo’s prewar mortality rate is disputed by different sources, it is also a source of imprecision.

According to various United Nations estimates, the prewar rate was below that of sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, but the survey’s authors said they chose to use the higher rate of the continent to be conservative.

Still, even the death rate for sub-Saharan Africa could be a problematic baseline, said Dr. Guha-Sapir, because in many countries the most basic kinds of censuses are carried out rarely, and not always with precision.

Ultimately, using the most conservative and least conservative assumptions, the data show with 95 percent certainty that 3.5 to 7.8 million people have died since 1998, according to the survey’s authors.

An earlier survey by the International Rescue Committee, completed in 2004, was published in 2006 in The Lancet, a British medical journal, but the most recent survey was declined for publication by The Lancet. Other experts said such a rejection did not necessarily undercut the scientific validity of the findings.

Dr. Brennan said that despite inevitable imprecision, the data point to a vast crisis.

“Is it possible that as few as five million people died?” he said. “It’s much more likely that 5.4 million died. But the exact number isn’t as critical. These data can help us understand the scale of the problem and target our solutions to save lives.”


8) A $200-a-Gram Tax on Cocaine
By Sewell Chan
January 23, 2008, 12:21 pm

Among the hundreds of proposals contained in Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s second executive budget, which he unveiled on Tuesday in Albany, is a provision that would impose a $3.50-a-gram tax on marijuana and a $200-a-gram tax on other illegal drugs, like cocaine.

We took a look at the fine print to better understand the details of this legislative proposal — which, incidentally, is very similar to a proposal that Mayor Edward I. Koch put forward in 1988. (That proposal, to tax illegal drugs in New York City, also at a rate of $200 a gram, did not come to fruition.)

The new Spitzer proposal would require “tax stamps” on “all marihuana and controlled substances acquired or possessed by a dealer in this state,” defined as any person who makes, buys, owns, distributes or transports drugs into or within the state. (And yes, the state government spells marijuana with an H, not a J — a quirk that The Times explained last year.)

This part of the proposal, which would require approval by the State Legislature to become law, seemed particularly noteworthy:

The bill sets a tax stamp rate for marihuana of $3.50 per gram, and of a controlled substance at $200 per gram or fraction thereof, whether pure or dilute. The tax is paid by the dealer, in advance of his or her receipt of the marihuana or controlled substance, through the purchase of tax stamps from the Department of Taxation and Finance (“Department”). Upon receipt of the product, the dealer must affix enough stamps to the packages of marihuana or the controlled substance in order to show the tax has been fully paid.

Of course, drug dealers are unlikely to obtain tax stamps before selling their illegal wares. So the law would require police agencies and district attorney offices to notify the State Taxation and Finance Department about any dealer who has failed to pay the tax. “This requirement does not apply, however, if providing the information would violate a legal prohibition or would interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation or prosecution,” the proposal states.

The Spitzer administration projects that the proposal would raise $13 million in the 2008-9 fiscal year and $17 million each year thereafter. According to the Spitzer administration, 29 other states have already passed laws imposing tax liability for controlled substances: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that supports legalization of marijuana and seeks to move the war on drugs from criminal justice to public health, expressed concern about the proposal in a phone interview. He said:

I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, it seems perfectly reasonable for people to pay on a tax on selling something, whether it’s legal or illegal. On the other hand, these tax stamps seem like a gratuitous piling-on in the drug war. We already in this country and this state lock up people more frequently, and for longer periods of time, on drug charges than almost any other country. We already subject them to civil and criminal asset forfeiture. We already keep them on parole and probation longer than anybody else, thereby effectively reducing their ability to earn legal income once they come out of jail or prison. And we’re already spending tens of billions of dollars locking up people for drug-law violations. If Spitzer really wants to help deal with the budget issue, he should be more aggressive in reforming the Rockefeller-era drug laws.

Mr. Spitzer has, in fact, appointed a commission to examine the Rockefeller-era drug laws, which impose harsh penalties even for nonviolent drug users, but the commission is not expected to make sweeping changes to existing law. The new Spitzer proposal would include a civil penalty for failure to pay the tax, among other enforcement provisions.

In several states where laws imposing tax stamps on drugs have been adopted, the laws have been challenged on the grounds that they violate double jeopardy. In other words, drug dealers who already have served their sentence may not then face a separate punishment in the form of taxes on their drug sales, some courts have ruled. In Tennessee, which imposed a tax on illegal drugs in 2005, the state collected $3.5 million over two years, but an appellate court has found the law to be unconstitutional.

As Mr. Nadelmann pointed out, New York State already has procedures for seizing the assets of drug dealers — the taxes would be on top of any such property seizure.

Taxes on illegal goods actually have a long history in the United States — and the stamps that authorities have printed to be affixed to illegal drugs have been often sought after by collectors and philatelists.




World Briefing | The Americas
Cuba: No Surprises, No Losers
Officials said that more than 95 percent of registered voters turned out at the polls on Sunday to endorse a slate of parliamentary candidates, including Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl. Of the 8.2 million voters, 3.7 percent submitted blank ballots and 1 percent voided their ballots in some way. Election officials called the results a success; critics called it a farce. As in past elections in the one-party state, nobody lost. There were 614 candidates and the same number of seats being chosen in the National Assembly.
January 22, 2008

World Briefing | Asia
India: Bird Flu Spread ‘Alarming’
India’s third outbreak of avian flu among poultry is the worst it has faced, the World Health Organization said. The chief minister of West Bengal State, which is trying to cull 400,000 birds, called the virus’s spread “alarming.” Uncooperative villagers, angry at being offered only 75 cents a chicken by the government, have been selling off their flocks and throwing dead birds into waterways, increasing the risk. New outbreaks were also reported this week in Iran and Ukraine.
January 19, 2008

National Briefing | West
California: Thermostat Plan
After an outcry of objections, the California Energy Commission withdrew its proposal to require new buildings in the state to have radio-controlled thermostats that, in a power emergency, could be used to override customers’ temperature settings. Instead of making the proposal part of new state building requirements, the commissioners will discuss the use of the “programmable communicating thermostats” when considering how to manage electrical loads — with the understanding that customers would have the right to refuse to allow the state to override their wishes.
January 16, 2008

PDC Fact Sheet
Murdered by Mumia: Big Lies in the Service of Legal Lynching
Mumia is Innocent! Free Him Now!

Britain: Lethal Bird Flu at Famed Swan Reserve
World Briefing | Europe
The deadly H5N1 strain of avian flu has reached one of England’s most famous swan breeding grounds, the Abbotsbury Swannery on the Dorset coast. Tests on three dead mute swans confirmed the virus, spread by wild birds. The manager said he was working to determine how many swans might be affected.
January 11, 2008

Utah: Cholera Suspected in Bird Deaths
National Briefing | Rockies
About 1,500 dead birds that washed up on the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake may have been killed by avian cholera, an expert said. Dead grebes, ducks and gulls were being sent to the National Wildlife Health Center of the United States Geological Survey in Madison, Wis., for examination. “If I was a betting man,” said the expert, Tom Aldrich of the State Division of Wildlife Resources, “I would bet it was cholera.” The disease, which poisons the blood, spreads when birds are overcrowded and food supplies are short. It does not affect humans. [Doesn't affect humans? How does the death of birds not affect humans?]
January 5, 2008

United Nations: Assembly Calls for Freeze on Death Penalty
In a vote that made for unusual alliances, the General Assembly passed, 104 to 54 with 29 abstentions, a nonbinding resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. Among the countries joining the United States in opposition to the European-led measure were Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Opponents argued that the resolution undermined their national sovereignty. Two similar moves in the 1990s failed, and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the new vote was “evidence of a trend toward ultimately abolishing the death penalty.”
December 19, 2007

Carbon Dioxide Threatens Reefs, Report Says
National Briefing | Science and Health
Carbon dioxide in the air is turning the oceans acidic, and without a reduction in emissions, coral reefs may die away by the end of the century, researchers warn in Friday’s issue of the journal Science. Carbon dioxide dissolves into ocean water, changes to carbonic acid, and carbonic acid dissolves the calcium carbonate in the skeletons of corals. Laboratory experiments have shown that corals possess some ability to adapt to warmer waters but no ability to adapt to the higher acidity. “Unless we reverse our actions very quickly, by the end of the century, reefs could be a thing of the past,” said Ken Caldeira, a scientist at the Carnegie Institution’s department of global ecology and an author of the Science paper.
December 14, 2007

Iraq: Marine Discharged Over Killing
World Briefing | Middle East
A Marine reservist, Lance Cpl. Delano Holmes, 22, of Indianapolis, was sentenced to a bad-conduct discharge and reduced in rank to private, a day after being convicted at Camp Pendleton, Calif., of negligent homicide in the 2006 stabbing death of an Iraqi soldier he stood watch with at a guard post in Falluja. He has served 10 months in a military prison and will not spend any more time in custody. The lance corporal’s lawyer has said that the killing was in self-defense. Prosecutors contended that he killed the Iraqi and then set up the scene to support his story. He was also found guilty of making a false official statement.
December 15, 2007

Canada: Mounties Urged to Restrict Taser Use
In a report, the watchdog commission that oversees the Royal Canadian Mounted Police recommended that Taser stun guns be used only on people who are “combative or posing a risk of death or grievous bodily harm,” much like a conventional firearm rather than a nightstick or pepper spray. The report was ordered by the government after a confused and angry Polish immigrant, Robert Dziekanski, left, died at the airport in Vancouver after being stunned at least twice by Mounties. The report found that Tasers were increasingly being used against people who were merely resistant rather than dangerous.
December 13, 2007

Greece: Tens of Thousands March in Strike
A one-day strike by unions representing 2.5 million workers brought Athens to a standstill. Protesting planned government changes to the state-financed pension system, an estimated 80,000 people marched through central Athens. In Thessaloniki, 30,000 people rallied, the police said. The strike shut down hospitals, banks, schools, courts and all public services. Flights were canceled, and public transportation, including boats connecting the mainland with the islands, ground to a halt. More strikes are expected next week.
December 13, 2007




Russell Means Speaking at the Transform Columbus Day Rally
"If voting could do anything it would be illegal!"


Stop the Termination or the Cherokee Nation


We Didn't Start the Fire

I Can't Take it No More

The Art of Mental Warfare

http://video. videoplay? docid=-905047436 2583451279




Port of Olympia Anti-Militarization Action Nov. 2007


"They have a new gimmick every year. They're going to take one of their boys, black boys, and put him in the cabinet so he can walk around Washington with a cigar. Fire on one end and fool on the other end. And because his immediate personal problem will have been solved he will be the one to tell our people: 'Look how much progress we're making. I'm in Washington, D.C., I can have tea in the White House. I'm your spokesman, I'm your leader.' While our people are still living in Harlem in the slums. Still receiving the worst form of education.

"But how many sitting here right now feel that they could [laughs] truly identify with a struggle that was designed to eliminate the basic causes that create the conditions that exist? Not very many. They can jive, but when it comes to identifying yourself with a struggle that is not endorsed by the power structure, that is not acceptable, that the ground rules are not laid down by the society in which you live, in which you are struggling against, you can't identify with that, you step back.

"It's easy to become a satellite today without even realizing it. This country can seduce God. Yes, it has that seductive power of economic dollarism. You can cut out colonialism, imperialism and all other kind of ism, but it's hard for you to cut that dollarism. When they drop those dollars on you, you'll fold though."

—MALCOLM X, 1965


A little gem:
Michael Moore Faces Off With Stephen Colbert [VIDEO]


LAPD vs. Immigrants (Video)


Dr. Julia Hare at the SOBA 2007


"We are far from that stage today in our era of the absolute
lie; the complete and totalitarian lie, spread by the
monopolies of press and radio to imprison social
consciousness." December 1936, "In 'Socialist' Norway,"
by Leon Trotsky: “Leon Trotsky in Norway” was transcribed
for the Internet by Per I. Matheson [References from
original translation removed]


Wealth Inequality Charts


MALCOLM X: Oxford University Debate


"There comes a times when silence is betrayal."
--Martin Luther King


YouTube clip of Che before the UN in 1964


The Wealthiest Americans Ever
NYT Interactive chart
JULY 15, 2007


New Orleans After the Flood -- A Photo Gallery
This email was sent to you as a service, by Roland Sheppard.
Visit my website at:


[For some levity...Hans Groiner plays Monk]


Which country should we invade next?


My Favorite Mutiny, The Coup


Michael Moore- The Awful Truth


Morse v. Frederick Supreme Court arguments


Free Speech 4 Students Rally - Media Montage


'My son lived a worthwhile life'
In April 2003, 21-year old Tom Hurndall was shot in the head
in Gaza by an Israeli soldier as he tried to save the lives of three
small children. Nine months later, he died, having never
recovered consciousness. Emine Saner talks to his mother
Jocelyn about her grief, her fight to make the Israeli army
accountable for his death and the book she has written
in his memory.
Monday March 26, 2007
The Guardian,,2042968,00.html


Introducing...................the Apple iRack


"A War Budget Leaves Every Child Behind."
[A T-shirt worn by some teachers at Roosevelt High School
in L.A. as part of their campaign to rid the school of military
recruiters and JROTC--see Article in Full item number 4,]




George Takai responds to Tim Hardaway's homophobic remarks




Another view of the war. A link from Amer Jubran


A Girl Like Me
7:08 min
Youth Documentary
Kiri Davis, Director, Reel Works Teen Filmmaking, Producer
Winner of the Diversity Award
Sponsored by Third Millennium Foundation


Film/Song about Angola


"200 million children in the world sleep in the streets today.
Not one of them is Cuban."
(A sign in Havana)
View sign at bottom of page at:
[Thanks to Norma Harrison for sending]



"Cheyenne and Arapaho oral histories hammer history's account of the
Sand Creek Massacre"

CENTENNIAL, CO -- A new documentary film based on an award-winning
documentary short film, "The Sand Creek Massacre", and driven by
Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho people who tell their version about
what happened during the Sand Creek Massacre via their oral
histories, has been released by Olympus Films+, LLC, a Centennial,
Colorado film company.

"You have done an extraordinary job" said Margie Small, Tobient
Entertainment, " on the Colorado PBS episode, the library videos for
public schools and libraries, the trailer, etc...and getting the
story told and giving honor to those ancestors who had to witness
this tragic and brutal is one of the best ways."

"The images shown in the film were selected for native awareness
value" said Donald L. Vasicek, award-winning writer/filmmaker, "we
also focused on preserving American history on film because tribal
elders are dying and taking their oral histories with them. The film
shows a non-violent solution to problem-solving and 19th century
Colorado history, so it's multi-dimensional in that sense. "

Chief Eugene Blackbear, Sr., Cheyenne, who starred as Chief Black
Kettle in "The Last of the Dogmen" also starring Tom Berenger and
Barbara Hershey and "Dr. Colorado", Tom Noel, University of Colorado
history professor, are featured.

The trailer can be viewed and the film can be ordered for $24.95 plus
$4.95 for shipping and handling at

Vasicek's web site,, provides detailed
information about the Sand Creek Massacre including various still
images particularly on the Sand Creek Massacre home page and on the
proposal page.

Olympus Films+, LLC is dedicated to writing and producing quality
products that serve to educate others about the human condition.


Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC
7078 South Fairfax Street
Centennial, CO 80122,+Don


Join us in a campaign to expose and stop the use
of these illegal weapons


You may enjoy watching these.
In struggle


FIGHTBACK! A Collection of Socialist Essays
By Sylvia Weinstein


[The Scab
"After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad,
and the vampire, he had some awful substance left with
which he made a scab."
"A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul,
a water brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue.
Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten
principles." "When a scab comes down the street,
men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and
the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out."
"No man (or woman) has a right to scab so long as there
is a pool of water to drown his carcass in,
or a rope long enough to hang his body with.
Judas was a gentleman compared with a scab.
For betraying his master, he had character enough
to hang himself." A scab has not.
"Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.
Judas sold his Savior for thirty pieces of silver.
Benedict Arnold sold his country for a promise of
a commision in the british army."
The scab sells his birthright, country, his wife,
his children and his fellowmen for an unfulfilled
promise from his employer.
Esau was a traitor to himself; Judas was a traitor
to his God; Benedict Arnold was a traitor to his country;
a scab is a traitor to his God, his country,
his family and his class."
Author --- Jack London (1876-1916)...Roland Sheppard]


Stop funding Israel's war against Palestine
Complete the form at the website listed below with your information.


Sand Creek Massacre
(scroll down when you get there])

On November 29, 1864, 700 Colorado troops savagely slaughtered
over 450 Cheyenne children, disabled, elders, and women in the
southeastern Colorado Territory under its protection. This act
became known as the Sand Creek Massacre. This film project
("The Sand Creek Massacre" documentary film project) is an
examination of an open wound in the souls of the Cheyenne
people as told from their perspective. This project chronicles
that horrific 19th century event and its affect on the 21st century
struggle for respectful coexistence between white and native
plains cultures in the United States of America.

Listed below are links on which you can click to get the latest news,
products, and view, free, "THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" award-
winning documentary short. In order to create more native
awareness, particularly to save the roots of America's history,
please read the following:

Some people in America are trying to save the world. Bless
them. In the meantime, the roots of America are dying.
What happens to a plant when the roots die? The plant dies
according to my biology teacher in high school. American's
roots are its native people. Many of America's native people
are dying from drug and alcohol abuse, poverty, hunger,
and disease, which was introduced to them by the Caucasian
male. Tribal elders are dying. When they die, their oral
histories go with them. Our native's oral histories are the
essence of the roots of America, what took place before
our ancestors came over to America, what is taking place,
and what will be taking place. It is time we replenish
America's roots with native awareness, else America
continues its decaying, and ultimately, its death.

READY FOR PURCHASE! (pass the word about this powerful
educational tool to friends, family, schools, parents, teachers,
and other related people and organizations to contact
me (, 303-903-2103) for information
about how they can purchase the DVD and have me come
to their children's school to show the film and to interact
in a questions and answers discussion about the Sand
Creek Massacre.

Happy Holidays!

Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC,+Don

(scroll down when you get there])

SHOP: Articles at">

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