Thursday, March 20, 2008





"- Government may not set the price at which property owners sell or lease their property."


Read the whole thing at:

"Proposition 98, the California Property Owner & Farmland Protection Act is simple -- it provides property rights protections for all. Right now, government has the right to take private property - our homes, family farms, mom-and-pop small businesses - to build a sports stadium, big-box chain store, or a hotel. Politically connected special interests use and abuse government's power of eminent domain to take and develop private property. The is what the initiative does:

- Private property may not be taken by eminent domain for private use under any circumstances (i.e. to build a shopping center, auto mall or industrial park).

- Property may be taken by eminent domain only for public use (i.e. freeway construction, parks, schools).

- Property may not be taken by government and used for the same purposes (i.e. residential housing cannot be used for government housing).

- Family farms and open space are protected from seizures by government for the purpose of selling the natural resources.

- If a public agency takes property under false pretenses, or abandons its plans, the property must be offered for sale to the original owner at the original price and the property tax would be assessed at the value of the property when it was originally condemned.

- If farmers or business owners are evicted by eminent domain, they would be entitled to compensation for temporary business losses, relocation expenses, business reestablishment costs and other reasonable expenses.

- Government may not set the price at which property owners sell or lease their property.

The provisions of this Act shall become effective on the day following the election ("effective date"); except that any statute, charter provision, ordinance, or regulation by a public agency enacted prior to January 1, 2007, that limits the price a rental property owner may charge a tenant to occupy a residential rental unit ("unit") or mobile home space ("space") may remain in effect as to such unit or space after the effective date for so long as, but only so long as, at least one of the tenants of such unit or space as of the effective date ("qualified tenant") continues to live in such unit or space as his or her principal place of residence. At such time as a unit or space no longer is used by any qualified tenant as his or her principal place of residence because, as to such unit or space, he or she has: (a) voluntarily vacated; (b) assigned, sublet, sold or transferred his or her tenancy rights either voluntarily or by court order; (c) abandoned; (d) died; or he or she has (e) been evicted pursuant to paragraph (2), (3), (4) or (5) of Section 1161 of the Code of Civil Procedure or Section 798.56 of the Civil Code as in effect on January 1, 2007; then, and in such event, the provisions of this Act shall be effective immediately as to such unit or space."


Mike Prysner (Part 1 and Part 2 -- please watch both parts. Wow! This is powerful testimony. Thank you, Mike Prysner!
Winter Soldier Testimonies
or try:

Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony, Pt1
Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony Pt2


Tent Cities, USA


The Paris Commune Told in Pictures


"What are they recruiting for?
Murder, rape, torture, war!"

March with us to demand:
No Military in our Schools!
Wednesday, March 19, 5 P.M.
Civic Center, (Near Grove Street) San Francisco

Join with parents, teachers, students, and anti-war activists who demand that schools are for teaching about life skills, not military careers. Together we must demand that the San Francisco school board end JROTC at the end of this current school year, as they originally voted to do in 2006, but then, this year, caved in to Pentagon pressure and voted to extend JROTC for another year—reversing their original, well thought-out decision.

When in 2006, San Franciscans voted overwhelmingly to get the military out of our schools, the school board followed through with a strong resolution stating in part:

"The SFUSD (San Francisco Unified School District) has restricted the activities of military recruiters on our campuses...JROTC is a program wholly created and administrated by the United States Department of Defense, whose documents and memoranda clearly identify JROTC as an important recruiting arm; and...JROTC manifests the military's discrimination against LGBT people..."

It is legally and morally repugnant for the school district to continue to facilitate the military’s access to our students and become fixtures in our schools! As this illegal war in Iraq enters its 6th year, and a war with Iran looms ahead, JROTC must go NOW!

Contact JROTC Must Go!
(415) 575-5543

2017 Mission St (@ 16th), San Francisco
For more information on how you can become involved contact:
Bonnie Weinstein, (415) 824-8730
Nancy Macias, (415) 255-7296 ext. 229


California Assembly Bill Number 2429.
Bill Number 2429 was introduced by Assembly member Strickland on February 21, 2008 in the California Legislature. "This bill would require that a school district that prohibits JROTC programs from being established or conducting activities on its campus or campuses, or that prohibits or hinders its pupils from participating in an off-campus JROTC program, be prohibited from expending state funds on any extracurricular activity, as defined." For more information see

California legislature—2007–08 regular session
Introduced by Assembly Member Strickland
February 21, 2008
An act to add Article 5 (commencing with Section 52760) to Chapter
11 of Part 28 of Division 4 of Title 2 of the Education Code, relating
to extracurricular activities.
Legislative counsel’s digest
AB 2429, as introduced, Strickland. Extracurricular activities: Junior
Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) programs.
Existing law establishes the public school system in this state, and,
among other things, provides for the establishment of school districts
throughout the state and for their provision of instruction at the public
elementary and secondary schools they operate and maintain. Existing
law establishes a public school funding system that includes, among
other elements, the provision of funding to local educational agencies
through state apportionments, the proceeds of property taxes collected
at the local level, and other sources. Existing law authorizes public
schools to sponsor various extracurricular activities for their pupils.
This bill would require that a school or school district that prohibits
Junior Reserve Officers’Training Corps (JROTC) programs from being
established or conducting activities on its campus or campuses, or that
prohibits or hinders its pupils from participating in an off-campus
JROTC program, be prohibited from expending state funds on any
extracurricular activity, as defined.
Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: no.
State-mandated local program: no.
The people of the State of California do enact as follows:
SECTION 1. Article 5 (commencing with Section 52760) is
added to Chapter 11 of Part 28 of Division 4 of Title 2 of the
Education Code, to read:
Article 5. Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC)
52760. A school or school district that prohibits Junior Reserve
Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) programs from being
established or conducting activities on its campus or campuses, or
that prohibits or hinders its pupils from participating in an
off-campus JROTC program shall be prohibited from expending
state funds on any extracurricular activity. As used in this article,
“extracurricular activity” includes, but is not necessarily limited
to, cultural activities such as dramatic or musical performances,
field trips, and interscholastic sports events, and payments made
to school personnel who provide supervision for those activities.
— 2 — AB 2429


Send a letter to the Board of Education

Please expand upon or send the letter below to the members of the
San Francisco Board of Education declaring:

We/I demand that the San Francisco school board phase
out JROTC at the end of the current 2007-2008 school
year, as you voted to do in 2006.

The reasons for phasing out JROTC are laid out very
clearly in the 2006 resolution.
(see below)

"The SFUSD has restricted the activities of military
recruiters on our campuses...

"JROTC is a program wholly created and administrated
by the United States Department of Defense, whose
documents and memoranda clearly identify JROTC as an
important recruiting arm; and...

"JROTC manifests the military's discrimination against
LGBT people..."

Given the dangerous role that the U.S. military is
playing in the world today, and given the military's
ongoing discrimination against LGBT people, it would
be legally and morally repugnant for the school
district to continue to facilitate the military's
access to our students.

Send letters to: (please send copies to Bonnie Weinstein at giobon@comcast and Riva Enteen at

Mr. Norman Yee

Hydra Mendoza

Eric Mar, Esq.

Kim-Shree Maufas

Jane Kim

Mark Sanchez

Jill Wynn

Norman Yee

Substitute Motion , As Amended
Adopted by the Board of Education at its Regular Meeting of November 14, 2006.

Subject: Resolution No. 65-23A1


- Mark Sanchez and Dan Kelly

WHEREAS: The San Francisco Unified School District has banned educational partnerships with outside organizations that discriminate against any group based upon sexual orientation; and

WHEREAS: Civilian control of the military, and restriction of military involvement in civilian affairs is a fundamental characteristic of a healthy democracy; and

WHEREAS: The San Francisco Unified School District has restricted the activities of military recruiters on our campuses; and

WHEREAS: The San Francisco Unified School District has adopted violence prevention and conflict resolution strategies that promote non-violent behavior; and

WHEREAS: The San Francisco Unified School District requires that teachers of all academic courses be fully credentialed; and

WHEREAS: JROTC is a program wholly created and administrated by the United States Department of Defense, whose documents and memoranda clearly identify JROTC as an important recruiting arm; and

WHEREAS: No other potential employer or recruiter is given such a high profile, nor such extensive contact with students; and

WHEREAS: JROTC instructors are not certificated teachers, and may not even possess a college degree of any kind; and

WHEREAS: The San Francisco Unified School District share of JROTC salaries is provided from central budget, while regular PE teachers are charged against each school’s site-based budget; and

WHEREAS: JROTC manifests the military’s discrimination against LGBT people by offering non-LGBT students preferential enlistment options; and

WHEREAS: JROTC is one of the largest after school activities at some High Schools; and

WHEREAS: The Board of Education has received extensive testimony that JROTC promotes self-esteem, community service, and academic and leadership skills; and

WHEREAS: Many other student extra-curricular activities also develop self-esteem, academic and leadership skills, and a commitment to service; and

WHEREAS: The California Education Code permits, and some SFUSD schools allow, students to receive PE credit for sports participation, independent study, or other classes deemed equivalent.

Therefore Be It Resolved: The Board of Education finds that credentialing requirements for academic instructors and courses are not met by the JROTC, except where specifically allowable as a substitute for Physical Education; and

Be it Further Resolved: The Board of Education finds that JROTC programs on campus constitute a form of military recruitment and are in violation of our policy governing fair access for recruiters on campuses; and

Be it Further Resolved: The Board of Education finds that the JROTC program violates our anti discrimination policies with regard to LGBT students and adults; and

Be it Further Resolved: The Board of Education finds that the funding mechanism of the JROTC creates inequities between High Schools in SFUSD; and

Be it Further Resolved: The Board of Education finds that the JROTC is an inappropriate extension of the nation’s military into the civilian sphere; and

Be it Further Resolved: The Board of Education hereby begins a two-year phase out of all JROTC programs in the SFUSD resulting in no JROTC classes in the 2008-2009 school year and beyond; and

Be it Further Resolved: No new JROTC units or programs may be initiated at any SFUSD schools, effective immediately; and

Be it Further Resolved: That SFUSD staff shall not direct or require that students enroll in JROTC as an alternative to PE, or for any other reason; and

Be it Further Resolved: The Board of Education will grant PE credits for sports participation, independent study, and other courses deemed appropriate, and requests staff to provide guidelines for Board approval by the first meeting in January 2007; and

Be It Further Resolved: That the Board of Education calls for the creation of a special task force to develop alternative, creative, career driven programs with the elements of the existing JROTC program that students have indicated important to them, which then will provide students with a greater sense of purpose and respect for self and humankind; and

Be It Further Resolved: That any new programs being implemented beginning academic year 2007-08 are evaluated before the end of the school year to test student satisfaction.


Please Note:

Taken up by the Curriculum and Program Committee on August 23, 2006. Substitute motion accepted by general consent of the Committee. Substitute Motion forwarded to the Board with a positive recommendation from Committee, and to be taken up for action at the September 12, 2006 Regular Board Meeting by a vote of 2 ayes (Mar and Kelly), and 1 nay (Lipson).

Taken up by the Budget and Business Services Committee on 10/18/06. Substitute motion, as amended, forwarded to the Board with a positive recommendation (2 ayes, l nay (Wynns) ). The Budget and Business Services Committee recommends to the Board that the intention of the original motion to develop an alternative program be addressed.

Substitute motion amended and adopted on 11/14/06.


On November 14, 2006 the San Francisco Board of Education approved phasing out JROTC in the schools over two years [see 65-23A1 - Phasing Out The JROTC Program at]. The current Board has delayed implementation. The State Superintendent of Education Jack O’Connell is entertaining an exemption from State law, which will allow JROTC to continue to count as Physical Education credit.

Myth: JROTC doesn’t recruit, it teaches citizenship and leadership.
Fact: Between 35 - 50% of JROTC students who spend three or more years in the program join the military.

Myth: JROTC does not cost the district monies.
Fact: JROTC costs SFUSD almost $ 1 million per year in S.F. taxpayers’ monies. All taxpayers kick in another $750,000 each year through the Department of Defense subsidy. And this $1.75 million goes to a handful of high schools with JROTC programs, causing a funding inequity in the District.

Myth: JROTC doesn’t discriminate; LGBT students participate in JROTC programs.
Fact: There are three tangible benefits for JROTC participation which are denied LGBT graduates of JROTC: (1) enlistment at a higher grade of E2 or E3, meaning greater pay: (2) eligibility for ROTC scholarships and ROTC credit; and (3) eligibility for nominations to the military academies. It is against the law for openly LGBT high school graduates to serve in the US military. And SFUSD is discriminating in hiring staff instructors since they are retired commissioned or non-commissioned officer (i.e., lasted 20 years before being separated from the military), none of whom could have been openly LGBT people. That is discrimination.

Myth: The military provides educational opportunities and job skills that students need.
Fact: Only 12% of male veterans and 6% of female veterans use skills learned in the military in their current jobs. Soldiers must make a $1,200 non-refundable deposit to be eligible for G.I. Bill money starting the first year of service. From 1986 – 93 the military took in $720 million more from G.I.s in non-refundable deposits than it paid out in college benefits. Only 15% of those who pay into the G.I. Bill graduate with four-year degrees.


Mark Sanchez, President, at; Kim-Shree Maufus, Vice President at; Jane Kim at; Eric Mar at; Hydra Mendoza at; Jill Wynns at; and Norman Yee at
S.F. Superintendent Carlos Garcia at 555 Franklin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 and
State Superintendent Jack O’Connell at CDOE, 1420 N Street, Sacramento, CA 95814 (916) 319-0800

JROTC Must Go! - (415) 575-5543 -


Call for an Open U.S. National Antiwar Conference
Stop the War in Iraq! Bring the Troops Home Now!
Join us in Cleveland on June 28-29 for the conference.
Crown Plaza Hotel
Sponsored by the National Assembly to End the Iraq War and Occupation
P.O. Box 21008; Cleveland, OH 44121; Voice Mail: 216-736-4704; Email:

List of Endorsers (below call):

Endorse the conference:


2008 has ushered in the fifth year of the war against Iraq and an occupation "without end" of that beleaguered country. Unfortunately, the tremendous opposition in the U.S. to the war and occupation has not yet been fully reflected in united mass action.

The anniversary of the invasion has been marked in the U.S. by Iraq Veterans Against the War's (IVAW's) Winter Soldier hearings March 13-16, in Washington, DC, providing a forum for those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan to expose the horrors perpetrated by the U.S. wars. A nonviolent civil disobedience action against the war in Iraq was also called for March 19 in Washington and local actions around the country were slated during that month as well.

These actions help to give voice and visibility to the deeply held antiwar sentiment of this country's majority. Yet what is also urgently needed is a massive national mobilization sponsored by a united antiwar movement capable of bringing hundreds of thousands into the streets to demand "Out Now!"

Such a mobilization, in our opinion, commemorating the fifth anniversary of the war -- and held on a day agreeable to the IVAW -- could have greatly enhanced all the other activities which were part of that commemoration in the U.S. Indeed, a call was issued in London by the World Against War Conference on December 1, 2007 where 1,200 delegates from 43 nations, including Iraq, voted unanimously to call on antiwar movements in every country to mobilize mass protests against the war during the week of March 15-22 to demand that foreign troops be withdrawn immediately.

The absence of a massive united mobilization during this period in the United States -- the nation whose weapons of terrifying mass destruction have rained death and devastation on the Iraqi people -- when the whole world will mobilize in the most massive protests possible to mark this fifth year of war, should be a cause of great concern to us all.

For Mass Action to Stop the War: The independent and united mobilization of the antiwar majority in massive peaceful demonstrations in the streets against the war in Iraq is a critical element in forcing the U.S. government to immediately withdraw all U.S. military forces from that country, close all military bases, and recognize the right of the Iraqi people to determine their own destiny.

Mass actions aimed at visibly and powerfully demonstrating the will of the majority to stop the war now would dramatically show the world that despite the staunch opposition to this demand by the U.S. government, the struggle by the American people to end the slaughter goes on. And that struggle will continue until the last of the troops are withdrawn. Such actions also help bring the people of the United States onto the stage of history as active players and as makers of history itself.

Indeed, the history of every successful U.S. social movement, whether it be the elementary fight to organize trade unions to defend workers' interests, or to bring down the Jim Crow system of racial segregation, or to end the war in Vietnam, is in great part the history of independent and united mass actions aimed at engaging the vast majority to collectively fight in its own interests and therefore in the interests of all humanity.

For an Open Democratic Antiwar Conference: The most effective way to initiate and prepare united antiwar mobilizations is through convening democratic and open conferences that function transparently, with all who attend the conferences having the right to vote. It is not reasonable to expect that closed or narrow meetings of a select few, or gatherings representing only one portion of the movement, can substitute for the full participation of the extremely broad array of forces which today stand opposed to the war.

We therefore invite everyone, every organization, every coalition, everywhere in the U.S. - all who oppose the war and the occupation -- to attend an open democratic U.S. national antiwar conference and join with us in advancing and promoting the coming together of an antiwar movement in this country with the power to make a mighty contribution toward ending the war and occupation of Iraq now.

Everyone is welcome. The objective is to place on the agenda of the entire U.S. antiwar movement a proposal for the largest possible united mass mobilization(s) in the future to stop the war and end the occupation.

Join us in Cleveland on June 28-29 for the conference.

List of Endorsers

Join us in Cleveland on June 28-29 for the conference.
Sponsored by the National Assembly to End the Iraq War and Occupation
P.O. Box 21008; Cleveland, OH 44121; Voice Mail: 216-736-4704; Email:


For Immediate Release
Embassy Suites Hotel Anaheim South, 11767 Harbor Boulevard,
Garden Grove, California, 92840
May 16-18, 2008

The 6th Annual International Al-Awda Convention will mark a devastating event in the long history of the Palestinian people. We call it our Nakba.

Confirmed speakers include Bishop Atallah Hanna, Supreme Justice Dr. Sheikh Taiseer Al Tamimi, Dr. Adel Samara, Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, Dr. Ghada Karmi, Dr. As'ad Abu Khalil, Dr. Saree Makdisi, and Ramzy Baroud. Former Prime Minister of Lebanon Salim El Hos and Palestinian Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar have also been invited.

Host Organizations for the sixth international Al-Awda convention include Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Palestinian American Women Association, Free Palestine Alliance, National Council of Arab-Americans, Middle East Cultural and Information Center - San Diego, The Arab Community Center of the Inland Empire, Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid - Southern California, Palestine Aid Society, Palestinian American Congress, Bethlehem Association, Al-Mubadara - Southern California, Union of Palestinian American Women, Birzeit Society , El-Bireh Society, Arab American Friends of Nazareth, Ramallah Club, A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, International Action Center , Students for Justice in Palestine at CSUSB, Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA, Students for Justice in Palestine at UCR, Students for International Knowledge at CSUSB, Muslim Students Association at Palomar College, Muslim Students Association at UCSD, and Muslim Students Association at Mira Costa.


In May of 1948, with the support of the governments of the United States, Britain, and other European powers, Zionists declared the establishment of the "State of Israel" on stolen Palestinian Arab land and intensified their full-scale attack on Palestine. They occupied our land and forcibly expelled three quarters of a million of our people. This continues to be our great catastrophe, which we, as Palestinians with our supporters, have been struggling to overcome since.

The sixth international Al-Awda convention is taking place at a turning point in our struggle to return and reclaim our stolen homeland. Today, there are close to 10 million Palestinians of whom 7.5 million are living in forced exile from their homeland. While the Zionist "State of Israel" continues to besiege, sanction, deprive, isolate, discriminate against and murder our people, in addition to continually stealing more of our land, our resistance has grown. Along with our sisters and brothers at home and elsewhere in exile, Al-Awda has remained steadfast in demanding the implementation of the sacred, non-negotiable national, individual and collective right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands.

The sixth international Al-Awda convention will be a historic and unique event. The convention will aim to recapitulate Palestinian history with the help of those who have lived it, and to strengthen our ability to educate the US public about the importance and justness of implementing the unconditional right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands. With symposia and specialty workshops, the focus of the convention will be on education that lead to strategies and mechanisms for expanding the effectiveness of our advocacy for the return.


We invite all Al-Awda members, and groups and individuals who support the implementation of the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes of origin, and to reclaim their land, to join us in this landmark Sixth Annual International Convention on the 60th year of Al-Nakba.


The convention will culminate in a major demonstration to mark 60 years of Nakba and to call for The RETURN TO PALESTINE. The demonstration will be held in solidarity and coordination with our sisters and brothers who continue the struggle in our beloved homeland.


Organizational endorsements welcome. Please write to us at convention6@

For information on how to become part of the host committee, please write to convention6@

For more information, please go to http://al-awda. org/convention6 and keep revisiting that page as it is being updated regularly.

To submit speaker and panel/workshop proposals, write to
info@al-awda. org or convention6@

Until return,

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
PO Box 131352
Carlsbad, CA 92013, USA
Tel: 760-685-3243
Fax: 360-933-3568
E-mail: info@al-awda. org
WWW: http://al-awda. org

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition (PRRC) is the largest network of grassroots activists and students dedicated to Palestinian human rights. We are a not for profit tax-exempt educational and charitable 501(c)(3) organization as defined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States of America. Under IRS guidelines, your donations to PRRC are tax-deductible.





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


Center for Labor Renewal Statement and Call for the Elimination of Two-Tier Workplaces

On Saturday, January 26, 2008, over 80 U.S. and Canadian auto industry worker/activists met in Flint, Michigan, birthplace of militant unionism in the Auto Industry in the late 1903s. The agenda was how to measure and respond to the crippling impact of the 2007 auto industry collective bargaining agreements. The daylong discussions led to the issuance of the following Statement and Call for a:

Campaign to oppose two-tier wages

The United States has never been an equal opportunity society. During periods of intense collective struggle workers made economic gains, but sustained progress in equity distribution has not been achieved. Capital’s effort to exploit labor is never put on hold for long. Over the past 30 years corporate America, often supported by government, has engaged in an all-out assault on working people. That relentless campaign has increased and extended social inequality to levels many had not thought possible without triggering a concerted rebellion from the ranks of labor. Such an upsurge of resistance has not yet coalesced but there are indications that worker anger and disillusionment is rising.

Corporate aggression, particularly in historically well-organized, higher wage industries is increasingly tied to capital’s global restructuring agenda, which is capitalizing on the low standard of living prevalent in impoverished countries and regions around the world. The rising demand for U.S. worker concessions in such sectors as auto, metalwork, electronics, communications, etc. is part of that restructuring process and, unchallenged, sweeps all workers into a downward spiral of wage and working conditions. Employer claims that competition necessitates wage and benefit reductions in order to save jobs has become the weapon of choice. Workers are told they have to choose between massive reductions for future generations of workers or no job at all.

That this is happening in the most heavily unionized industries reveals the effectiveness of the corporate strategy to both disarm and attract many union leaders and some portion of the base to accept the proposition that pursuing their agenda of “competitiveness” is in our mutual interest. The U.S. labor leadership has not put forward any meaningful alternatives to global corporate restructuring. Embracing the companies’ “competitiveness” agenda is a flawed, if not fatal strategy.

The corporations are demanding, and the unions are accepting, permanent two-tier wage schemes whereby new hires work side by side with workers earning substantially higher wages for the same tasks. This new, generalized wage retreat comes after years of unresolved wage inequities that have disproportionately affected women and workers of color in U.S. workplaces. The introduction of both two-tier and “permanent temporary” workers in auto plants adds more layers of blatant discrimination. We must continue to fight against all forms of discrimination in two-tier wage structures, whether directed at workers of color or women, or now “the new hire” and the defenseless temp workers.

Our acceptance makes us an accessory to corporate divide and conquer schemes

Allowing the employers to expand inequality, rather then resolve it fosters additional resentment among workers and recklessly severs solidarity between generations. Two-tier wage agreements and the use of permanent temporary workers make the union partners in the business of exploiting workers.

Big Three auto contracts institutionalize second-class workers

In the 2007 Big Three auto negotiations the UAW, a once powerful wage and benefits pacesetter, agreed to a radically reduced two-tier wage and benefit package. The Big Three auto agreement cuts wages for new workers by up to 50 percent (67 percent if you include benefits) for doing the same work as current workers. The need to help the companies be more “competitive” to insure “job security” was the advertised selling point. The 25-year history of concession bargaining in auto has not stopped the massive decline in the ranks of the Big Three from 750,000 in 1979 when the concession era began to 170,000 today. Yet contract after contract during that period were heralded as “historic job security” agreements.

In 200 the UAW negotiated a Supplemental Two-Tier Wage Agreement for new hires at Delphi Corporation, a former GM Parts division, which had been “spun-off” as an independent parts supplier in 1999. Members of one UAW-Delphi Local, Local 2151 voted to appeal the International Union’s decision not to permit the thousands of Delphi union members to vote on the Supplemental Two-Tier Agreement, which affected them. In defense of their decision to evade ratification the UAW International Executive Board argued that the “future hire group is a null class.”

The segregation of future union members into a “null class” is a ruthless act of discrimination against an entire generation, and another example of the failure of competitiveness to secure jobs. Delphi subsequently used bankruptcy as a strategy to further restructure and destroy jobs and incomes. Within four years 27,000 out of 33,000 union members were eliminated at Delphi and the remaining workers were brought down to the lower wage and benefit scale.
Wage costs are not the problem

Wages and benefits of assembly workers account for less than 10 percent of the cost of a car and differentials between companies are not significant, especially since GM, Ford, and Chrysler’s competitors are primarily building cars inside the U.S. Furthermore, productivity in the auto industry has been rising rapidly: real output per worker has more than doubled since 1987. Even the Harbour-Felax Report—which analysts consider the industry bible on productivity—has acknowledged that: the Big Three has now largely eliminated the productivity gap with Japanese manufacturers.

In a globally restructured auto industry, it was inevitable that the Big Three would not sustain their monopoly control of the domestic market. Their arrogance toward foreign producers is only matched by their greed and arrogance toward consumers. This resulted in decades of marketing second rate, unimaginative, and shoddily engineered products at the same time union workers were making concessions allegedly to help them be more competitive. Yet, coming on the heels of the Delphi bankruptcy, the 2007 negotiations were pitched as if the sacrifices of workers was the only thing that could help the domestic auto manufacturers out of the “competitiveness” hole they’d dug themselves into. Making workers pay for the bosses’ mistakes is as much a national pastime as baseball.

The new-hire wage rates in UAW contracts with the Big Three automakers are now set below the average industrial wage in the U.S. which is already below that of other major developed countries. The competitive spiral will accelerate as foreign transplants are relieved of the pressure to match union wages. The failure to protect wages, benefits, and working conditions means that it will be even more difficult for the UAW to organize new workers. Yet the real answer to the “competitiveness” question lies in organizing the workers employed by the anti-union foreign owned producers and taking wages, benefits, and working conditions out of competition through solidarity-unionism.

For Canadian Auto Workers whose collective agreements with the same Big Three companies expire in September of 2008, the reduced new worker hire rate and permanent two-tier precedents set in the U.S. will represent a huge challenge. CAW members have traditionally resisted the concession patterns of their neighbors to the South; their continued resistance in their negotiations this Fall would be reinforced by a rising tide of opposition from U.S. auto workers to slashing wages and attacks on worker dignity.

The Japanese companies have already introduced the two-tier half-wage system in Japan. The threat of unionization had, until now, blocked their trying it here. But with the implementation of two-tier in the Big Three plants, they can now do the same in this country. Net result: no shift in relative competitiveness, but a destructive further lowering of wages for all auto industry workers.

Furthermore, now that the new hire wage rate is set below the industry average for the Big Three, workers in the auto parts supply industry will be confronted with a stark choice: accept lower wages or their jobs will be outsourced, or more correctly “re-insourced,” to the big auto companies at the radically reduced new lower tier wages. Once again the net result is zero security for workers and a further collapse in living standards. As part and parcel of the concessions mentality, the auto union failed to pursue its own longstanding demand for single-payer national healthcare (for all). Instead, they agreed to relieve Big Three automakers of billions of dollars in legacy costs for retiree healthcare protection by accepting responsibility for future coverage through an under-funded Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association, or VEBA.

The UAW is not the only union that has bargained away equality within the workforce. This trend is the deathwatch for the labor movement in our era. Union collaboration in wage discrimination for the sake of competitiveness is the counsel of despair. The future of active and retired workers is inextricably bound with the future of new workers. The segregation of future union members into a “null class” is an invitation for “payback” at some future time. If new hires are treated as a “null class,” one day they will in turn classify senior workers and retirees as a “null class.” There is no seniority date for dignity and should be no retirement from solidarity.

The corporate blitzkrieg on working people is subsidized with tax abatements while health, education, and social programs are slashed to the bone. The parrots of the status quo insist there is no alternative to an economic system that degrades workers, deprives the unfortunate of health care, undermines the security of the elderly, and desecrates the environment. It’s a lie. The degradation of the working class is chronic and contagious. We need strategic collective action with allies here and around the world.

History suggests that UAW members would have followed the lead of a progressive leadership to militantly resist the destruction of wage parity and other hard won gains in the workplace. But nearly 30 years of concession bargaining and yielding to the “logic of the competitiveness agenda” produced an opposite result.

Workers throughout all employment sectors face this same assault on wages, benefits, and working conditions in one form or another. It is time for all workers to reject the false logic of corporate competitiveness and reinvigorate the logic of solidarity.

Today, we stand at the crossroad knowing full well where both roads lead. One road leads to division, despair, and social isolation, and the other road points to hope, solidarity, and the dignity of collective struggle.
Call for national campaign

In conjunction with the Center for Labor Renewal, participants at the Flint, January 26, 2008 meeting issue the following Call:

In the face of the continuing assault on worker wages, benefits, and the quality of work life where rising economic injustice is destroying the stability and hopes of an increasing numbers of workers and their families, here and around the world; and where inequality and income discrimination are celebrated by a protected few at the desperate expense of so many others; we call on all workers of conscience everywhere to join a campaign to bring our collective strength and renewed solidarity to the struggle against the agenda of social devaluation and despair.

Workers in the auto industry have a critical role to play in this campaign given the destructive events in that industry which now, more than ever, seeks to validate the pitting of workers against workers, and communities against communities, and the glorification of the false dog-eat-dog, workplace agenda of the corporations today. In that world its “winner-take-all,” and the winner has been pre-determined. We call on all auto workers to reject all forms of wage discrimination and renew the fight for industrial democracy through worker solidarity, and to:

• Build within our workplaces, a movement against two-tier wages, and a renewal of solidarity unionism by means of varied communications vehicles including the internet; web sites; newsletters and plant gate handbills, etc.

• Promote crosscurrents of opposition against the creation of second-class workers in all workplaces.

• Where a two-tier system is in place, concretely demonstrate to the new workers that there is a strong base of resistance against the discrimination they face, and that we all need to remember the lesson that “an injury to one, is an injury to all.”

• Within the Big Three, or any auto workplaces, target the rejection of future agreements (2011 in the Big Three ) if they do not reverse the two-tier system.

• Promote internal democracy to encourage the inclusion and participation of the second tier workers alongside the entire rank and file to change the concessionary path followed by the current leadership.

Such a campaign will need mechanisms to facilitate links, exchange information, and assist in the coordination of future actions. Coming out of a meeting organized by the Center for Labor Renewal (CLR) of 80 activists in Flint, Michigan, the CLR commits to:

• Collect and develop material for building the necessary base in the workplace and its electronic dissemination. Assist in the development and proliferation of additional vehicles of communication.

• Develop an information clearinghouse to gather and disseminate reports and updates on local struggles and developments.

• Support regional forums to assist activists in developing the arguments and organizational capacities to build the solidarity program at the base

• Facilitate national meetings through which local activists can assess the campaign and collectively strategize on further events and actions.

• Promote the development of the analytical tools required by union activists to successfully integrate this campaign with a workers’ struggle that is increasingly global in dimension.

This fight is winnable. The U.S. working class needs a victory and it needs this victory in particular. The one-sided class war against workers has gone on far too long. The defeat of the two tier system is a crucial step in the struggle to address broader inequalities in our society. It’s time to draw the line.

—Center for Labor Renewal/

—Future of the Union/

—Factory Rat/

—Soldiers of Solidarity




1) Costs Surge for Stocking the Pantry
March 15, 2008

2) Through Bush-Colored Glasses
March 16, 2008

3) Obama's Pastor: God Damn America, U.S. to Blame for 9/11
Obama's Pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Has a History of What Even Obama's Campaign Aides Say Is 'Inflammatory Rhetoric'
March 13, 2008—
Check out:

4) Measuring Wealth by the Foot
March 16, 2008

5) The B Word
Op-Ed Columnist
March 17, 2008

6) Please get this Peltier info out there
From: Keith []
Sent: Saturday, March 15, 2008 6:30 PM

7) Chinook Salmon Vanish Without a Trace
March 17, 2008

8) The Case for Another Drug War, Against Pharmaceutical Marketers’ Dirty Tactics
March 17, 2008
Books of The Times
How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves Into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs
By Melody Petersen
432 pp. Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar Straus & Giroux. $26.

9) Examining the war in Iraq after 5 years
Carl Nolte, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, March 16, 2008

10) New Jersey to Consider Health Plan to Cover All
“Of grave concern is the proposal’s underlying policy that seeks to shift the cost of coverage away from a shared responsibility between employers and employees,” said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action. “Senator Vitale’s proposal would have insurance costs borne solely by consumers and taxpayers.”
March 18, 2008

11) Queenfish: A Cold War Tale
March 18, 2008

12) Guantanamo, NY--USA v Hashmi
Lynne Stewart

13) Estimates of Iraq War Cost Were Not Close to Ballpark
“Five years in, the Pentagon tags the cost of the Iraq war at roughly $600 billion and counting. Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and critic of the war, pegs the long-term cost at more than $4 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office and other analysts say that $1 trillion to $2 trillion is more realistic, depending on troop levels and on how long the American occupation continues.”
March 19, 2008

14) Recession, Depression or Stagflation
of Another Kind
By the Editors
March/April 2008

15) Disposable Children, Disposable Slaves
By Bonnie Weinstein
March/April 2008


1) Costs Surge for Stocking the Pantry
March 15, 2008

The government announced Friday that the cost of food had gone up yet again. This came as no revelation to Bruce Newton, a single father of two children.

As he wheeled a cart full of groceries out of a Stop & Shop supermarket in Bloomfield, N.J., on Thursday night, Mr. Newton complained that the price of chicken had become “outrageous,” and eggs were so costly his mother sent him from store to store hunting for the cheapest ones. Essential breakfast items like milk, cereal and orange juice have become “so expensive, but what are you going to do?”

Mr. Newton’s pain is being felt in grocery checkout aisles across the country. Government figures released Friday showed that grocery costs had jumped 5.1 percent in 12 months, the latest in a string of increases. In fact, the nation is undergoing its worst grocery inflation since the early 1990s.

With a few exceptions, nearly every grocery category measured by the Labor Department, which compiles the official inflation numbers, has increased in the last year. Milk is up 17 percent, as are dried beans, peas and lentils. Cheese is up 15 percent, rice and pasta 13 percent, and bread 12 percent.

No food product has gone up as much as eggs, jumping 25 percent since February 2007 and 62 percent in the last two years.

“It’s a great time to be an egg farmer,” said Paul Sauder, a third-generation farmer in Lititz, Pa. His farm ships eggs to food service customers and grocery stores, including Stop & Shop. “We’ve never encountered this kind of run like we’ve had right now.”

While food costs increased, overall inflation held steady in February as the cost of gasoline declined that month, according to the latest Consumer Price Index, which the Labor Department updates monthly. That was an unexpected dose of good economic news that opens the door for more aggressive interest-rate cuts by the Federal Reserve, which is trying to head off a recession.

But many analysts do not expect the lower inflation rate to last. Gasoline prices turned around in March and are setting records every day, hitting a nationwide average of $3.28 a gallon in the most recent report by AAA, the automobile club. That puts more pressure on consumers’ pocketbooks as they muddle through an economic slowdown.

“It’s a temporary respite,” said John Lonski, chief economist at Moody’s Investors Service. “The renewed ascent of gasoline prices, if nothing else, promises a faster rate of inflation for March.”

Still, the flat reading on the Consumer Price Index was a welcome development after several months of steadily building price pressures. Consumer prices were unchanged in February, and the closely watched core index, which excludes the prices of volatile food and energy products, also stayed flat.

With the economy in a significant downturn, and possibly a recession, some had feared a repeat of 1970s-style stagflation. Inflation rose 0.4 percent in January and December, and economists had been bracing for another uptick last month.

Instead, the Labor Department report showed price declines across a broad range of consumer products, including clothing, personal computers and automobiles. The easing came despite a record-low dollar and a rise in the price of imports.

The March inflation report, due April 16, “will capture the extraordinary surge in oil, food and commodity prices that we’ve seen over the last few weeks,” said Joseph Brusuelas, chief United States economist at the research firm IdeaGlobal.

Lower inflation may encourage the Fed to lower interest rates more aggressively at its next scheduled meeting, on Tuesday. Rate cuts promote growth but can push prices higher, and the Fed has struggled to balance its attempts to stave off a recession with the brisk pace of inflation.

For the year, inflation is still running high. Compared with a year ago, consumer prices were up 4 percent in February, and the core index rose 2.3 percent, higher than the Fed’s comfort level.

If there is a silver lining in the food statistics it is that grocery prices did not increase as much in February (up 0.3 percent from the previous month) as they did in January (up 0.9 percent).

But Ephraim Leibtag, who tracks food prices for the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, said that with farm prices remaining near record levels, he was not optimistic that food prices would moderate in 2008. Instead, he predicted that food inflation would be at least as high as in 2007, perhaps higher.

Mr. Leibtag predicted that cereal and baking products would continue to increase because of steep prices for wheat; in fact, the price of cereal and bakery products increased 1.8 percent in February, the largest monthly gain since January 1975. Economists say higher food costs are being caused by rising energy prices, a weak dollar that encourages exports of American crops and food products, and soaring prices for farm commodities like milk, corn and wheat.

Whether eggs will continue to lead the way on prices remains uncertain. For the time being, farmers like Mr. Sauder are enjoying the high prices while they last.

“Two years ago, everyone was ready to give their farm away because they were all losing money,” Mr. Sauder said. “It goes in cycles.”

The sharp increase in egg prices was caused by a confluence of factors, among them a contraction of the industry because of the slump in 2005 and 2006 and a major increase in feed costs. About three-quarters of feed for laying hens is corn, and the price of corn has been driven up in part by government mandates for production of ethanol.

Gene Gregory, president and chief executive of the United Egg Producers, said feed costs have increased about $100 a ton in the last year, to $250. Because the cost of feed is so high and its future direction uncertain, many farmers have reduced the size of their flocks, he said.

“We are in uncharted waters,” Mr. Gregory said. “Egg producers are recognizing higher profits now than they have for many years. But we also realize these things change quickly.”

At the store in Bloomfield, shoppers complained the other night that food costs have left them reeling. “I’ve spent $300 in a matter of two weeks,” Roseann Fede said. “It used to be like $150. Milk, eggs, nonperishable things, everything has gone up in price.”

Jomarie and Rafaelito Ortiz emerged from Stop & Shop with a cart stuffed full of bags, mostly to feed their four teenage boys. Asked whether they have noticed a difference in their grocery bills, Ms. Ortiz said, “Are you kidding me?”

“Our food bills are $600, $700,” she said, explaining that they were closer to $400 a year or two ago. “The cereal was astronomical.”

Her husband agreed and suggested that they might be better off buying a few cows of their own. “The way food prices are going,” he said, “I’m going to buy a ranch.”


2) Through Bush-Colored Glasses
March 16, 2008

President Bush admitted on Friday that times are tough. So much for the straight talk.

Mr. Bush went on to paint a false picture of the economy. He dismissed virtually every proposal Congress is working on to alleviate the mortgage crisis, sticking to his administration’s inadequate ideas. And despite the rush of serious problems — frozen credit markets, millions of impending mortgage defaults, solvency issues at banks, a plunging dollar — he said that a major source of uncertainty today is whether his tax cuts, scheduled to expire in 2010, would be extended.

This was too far afield of reality to be dismissed as simple cheerleading. It points to the pressing need for a coherent plan to steer through what some economists are now predicting could be a severe downturn. Mr. Bush’s denial of the economic truth underscores the need for Congress to push forward with solutions to the mortgage crisis — especially bankruptcy reform to help defaulting homeowners. Lawmakers also must prepare to execute, in case it is needed, a government rescue of people whose homes are now worth less than they borrowed to buy them.

Mr. Bush said he was optimistic because the economy’s “foundation is solid” as measured by employment, wages, productivity, exports and the federal deficit. He was wrong on every count. On some, he has been wrong for quite a while.

Mr. Bush boasted about 52 consecutive months of job growth during his presidency. What matters is the magnitude of growth, not ticks on a calendar. The economic expansion under Mr. Bush — which it is safe to assume is now over — produced job growth of 4.2 percent. That is the worst performance over a business cycle since the government started keeping track in 1945.

Mr. Bush also talked approvingly of the recent unemployment rate of 4.8 percent. A low rate is good news when it indicates a robust job market. The unemployment rate ticked down last month because hundreds of thousands of people dropped out of the work force altogether. Worse, long-term unemployment, of six months or more, hit 17.5 percent. We’d expect that in the depths of a recession. It is unprecedented at the onset of one.

Mr. Bush was wrong to say wages are rising. On Friday morning, the day he spoke, the government reported that wages failed to outpace inflation in February, for the fifth straight month. Productivity growth has also weakened markedly in the past two years, a harbinger of a lower overall standard of living for Americans.

Exports have surged of late, but largely on the back of a falling dollar. The weaker dollar makes American exports cheaper, but it also pushes up oil prices. Potentially far more serious, a weakening dollar also reduces the Federal Reserve’s flexibility to steady the economy.

Finally, Mr. Bush’s focus on the size of the federal budget deficit ignores that annual government borrowing comes on top of existing debt. Publicly held federal debt will be up by a stunning 76 percent by the end of his presidency. Paying back the money means less to spend on everything else for a very long time.

The fiscal stimulus passed by Congress, and touted by Mr. Bush on Friday, could juice growth for a quarter or two later this year. But the economy’s fundamental weaknesses indicate that Americans are ill-prepared for hard times. That makes the need for clear-eyed policies all the more urgent. We need them from the president, Congress and the contenders for the White House.


3) Obama's Pastor: God Damn America, U.S. to Blame for 9/11
Obama's Pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Has a History of What Even Obama's Campaign Aides Say Is 'Inflammatory Rhetoric'
March 13, 2008—
Check out:

Sen. Barack Obama's pastor says blacks should not sing "God Bless America" but "God damn America."

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's pastor for the last 20 years at the Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago's south side, has a long history of what even Obama's campaign aides concede is "inflammatory rhetoric," including the assertion that the United States brought on the 9/11 attacks with its own "terrorism."

In a campaign appearance earlier this month, Sen. Obama said, "I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial." He said Rev. Wright "is like an old uncle who says things I don't always agree with," telling a Jewish group that everyone has someone like that in their family.

Rev. Wright married Obama and his wife Michelle, baptized their two daughters and is credited by Obama for the title of his book, "The Audacity of Hope."

An ABC News review of dozens of Rev. Wright's sermons, offered for sale by the church, found repeated denunciations of the U.S. based on what he described as his reading of the Gospels and the treatment of black Americans.

"The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people," he said in a 2003 sermon. "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."

In addition to damning America, he told his congregation on the Sunday after Sept. 11, 2001 that the United States had brought on al Qaeda's attacks because of its own terrorism.

"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye," Rev. Wright said in a sermon on Sept. 16, 2001.

"We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost," he told his congregation.

Sen. Obama told the New York Times he was not at the church on the day of Rev. Wright's 9/11 sermon. "The violence of 9/11 was inexcusable and without justification," Obama said in a recent interview. "It sounds like he was trying to be provocative," Obama told the paper.

Rev. Wright, who announced his retirement last month, has built a large and loyal following at his church with his mesmerizing sermons, mixing traditional spiritual content and his views on contemporary issues.

"I wouldn't call it radical. I call it being black in America," said one congregation member outside the church last Sunday.

"He has impacted the life of Barack Obama so much so that he wants to portray that feeling he got from Rev. Wright onto the country because we all need something positive," said another member of the congregation.

Rev. Wright, who declined to be interviewed by ABC News, is considered one of the country's 10 most influential black pastors, according to members of the Obama campaign.

Obama has praised at least one aspect of Rev. Wright's approach, referring to his "social gospel" and his focus on Africa, "and I agree with him on that."

Sen. Obama declined to comment on Rev. Wright's denunciations of the United States, but a campaign religious adviser, Shaun Casey, appearing on "Good Morning America" Thursday, said Obama "had repudiated" those comments.

In a statement to, Obama's press spokesman Bill Burton said, "Sen. Obama has said repeatedly that personal attacks such as this have no place in this campaign or our politics, whether they're offered from a platform at a rally or the pulpit of a church. Sen. Obama does not think of the pastor of his church in political terms. Like a member of his family, there are things he says with which Sen. Obama deeply disagrees. But now that he is retired, that doesn't detract from Sen. Obama's affection for Rev. Wright or his appreciation for the good works he has done."


4) Measuring Wealth by the Foot
March 16, 2008

IN a shipyard in Germany, Blohm & Voss workers are building a mammoth yacht called the Eclipse.

Like many things in the secretive world of superyachts, its exact length is hard to pin down. So is the name of its owner, and the cost of building it.

But according to the Web site of The Yacht Report, one of several publications that track yachting with the same intensity that gossip magazines cover Hollywood hunks, the Eclipse is 531.5 feet long.

That’s six and a half feet longer than the Dubai, an 11,600-ton behemoth that now holds the record as the world’s largest yacht. Its owner is the ruler of Dubai, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

The extra length on the Eclipse isn’t an accident. Supersized yachts are the latest examples of one-upmanship among billionaires, many of whom already own a private jet, a Rolls-Royce or two, and multiple mansions.

Despite fear of an economic recession and unrelenting job pressures among those who remain yachtless, there’s still a lot of money floating around the world. And as the superrich get richer, the size of yachts grows bigger and bigger, too.

“When a yacht is over 328 feet, it’s so big that you lose the intimacy,” says Tork Buckley, editor of The Yacht Report. “On the other hand, you’ve got bragging rights. No question, that’s a very strong part of the motivation.”

Who will be the one to wrest bragging rights from the sheik? Blohm & Voss, a leading shipbuilder, isn’t saying. According to an executive at a different yacht company, who requested anonymity because he was concerned about losing clients, it is being built for Roman Abramovich, a Russian tycoon.

Mr. Abramovich already owns the 282-foot Ecstasea and the 377-foot Pelorus, and Web sites that track yachts speculate that he may be the owner of a new 394-foot yacht called Sigma that resembles a battleship. A spokesman for Mr. Abramovich declined to comment.

Just four years ago, when Lawrence J. Ellison, the chief executive of the Oracle Corporation, took possession of the 454-foot Rising Sun, he gained crowing rights over Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder. Mr. Allen’s yacht, the Octopus, is relatively minuscule at 417 feet. (Since then, David Geffen, the Hollywood mogul, has bought a 50 percent share of the Rising Sun from Mr. Ellison.)

Many yacht owners are entrepreneurs or industrialists, rather than royalty or bold-faced names from Silicon Valley, according to yacht designers and builders. “One of my clients is a woman who started her own business and ended up making cocktail-type quiches sold through Costco and Wal-Mart,” said Douglas Sharp, who owns a yacht design company in San Diego.

Like Mr. Abramovich, a growing number of yacht buyers are from emerging markets. “There’s an incredible amount of disposable money in the world at the moment, and a lot of money is coming out of new markets like Russia and Ukraine, as well as India,” says Jonathan Beckett, chief executive of Burgess, a company that helps owners build and charter yachts. “These people have made a lot of money very quickly and have an appetite.”

According to ShowBoats International, a luxury yacht magazine, 916 yachts measuring 80 feet or longer — the traditional definition of a superyacht — were on order or under construction as of last Sept. 1, four times the number in 1997. The biggest gains were among the biggest yachts: 47 yachts were 200 to 249 feet long, up 68 percent from a year earlier, while 23 were 250 feet or longer, an increase of 28 percent.

“When I started in the early 1970s, a 60-foot boat was considered pretty large,” Mr. Sharp said. “A 150-foot boat was queen of the show in Monaco in 1982. In 2008, you wouldn’t be able to find that boat in the marina.”

Some new megayachts are so big that they have to dock in commercial ports. The growth in the number and size of yachts is also making it hard to find qualified crew members.

Still, many yacht owners trade in their boats every few years for bigger models.

“People want more toys to play with. That’s something that drives it,” says Wim Koersvelt, director of Icon Yachts in the Netherlands. “Gyms were unusual 20 years ago, and no yacht is being built now without a gym. They’re buying two- to four-person submarines, have four Jet Skis and little sailboats stored on board, as well as helicopter landing pads.”

It takes two to four years to build a yacht, and prices are rising so quickly that some owners are selling their boats before they’re even finished — for a tidy profit. Mr. Beckett of Burgess says prices have risen 10 percent to 20 percent in the past two years alone. He estimates that a yacht 328 feet long would cost about $230 million today, with prices rising to $650 million for a 500-foot yacht.

Some owners recoup part of their costs by chartering their yachts. Want to sail the Maltese Falcon, the innovative clipper ship built by Tom Perkins, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist? That will put you back around $539,000 to $555,000 a week, not counting expenses for fuel, food or crew. Or the Mirabella V, the elegant sloop owned by Joe Vittoria, the former chief executive of Avis Rent A Car System? That’s $325,000 to $375,000 a week, depending on the season.

There are no signs that demand will slacken. “There are 2,000 superyachts in the world today” over 120 feet long, “and nearly 200,000 people who could afford to buy them,” Mr. Beckett says.

The arms race in yachts echoes the competition among business titans in the last century to build the world’s tallest skyscraper. In his book “Mine’s Bigger,” David A. Kaplan describes the battle between Mr. Perkins and Jim Clark, the co-founder of three Silicon Valley companies, including Netscape, as they competed to build the world’s biggest sailing megayacht.

By the time Mr. Perkins completed his Maltese Falcon, measuring 288 feet, in 2006, it was substantially longer than Mr. Clark’s Athena if measured at the water line.

“Clark could console himself only with the fact that if you included his 33-foot stainless steel bowsprit as part of the length, then his was bigger than anybody else’s,” Mr. Kaplan writes.

Mr. Vittoria holds a different record. His 247-foot Mirabella V has a 292-foot mast — so tall that it can’t fit under the Golden Gate Bridge.


5) The B Word
Op-Ed Columnist
March 17, 2008

O.K., here it comes: The unthinkable is about to become the inevitable.

Last week, Robert Rubin, the former Treasury secretary, and John Lipsky, a top official at the International Monetary Fund, both suggested that public funds might be needed to rescue the U.S. financial system. Mr. Lipsky insisted that he wasn’t talking about a bailout. But he was.

It’s true that Henry Paulson, the current Treasury secretary, still says that any proposal to use taxpayers’ money to help resolve the crisis is a “non-starter.” But that’s about as credible as all of his previous pronouncements on the financial situation.

So here’s the question we really should be asking: When the feds do bail out the financial system, what will they do to ensure that they aren’t also bailing out the people who got us into this mess?

Let’s talk about why a bailout is inevitable.

Between 2002 and 2007, false beliefs in the private sector — the belief that home prices only go up, that financial innovation had made risk go away, that a triple-A rating really meant that an investment was safe — led to an epidemic of bad lending. Meanwhile, false beliefs in the political arena — the belief of Alan Greenspan and his friends in the Bush administration that the market is always right and regulation always a bad thing — led Washington to ignore the warning signs.

By the way, Mr. Greenspan is still at it: accepting no blame, he continues to insist that “market flexibility and open competition” are the “most reliable safeguards against cumulative economic failure.”

The result of all that bad lending was an unholy financial mess that will cause trillions of dollars in losses. A large chunk of these losses will fall on financial institutions: commercial banks, investment banks, hedge funds and so on.

Many people say that the government should let the chips fall where they may — that those who made bad loans should simply be left to suffer the consequences. But it’s not going to happen. When push comes to shove, financial officials — rightly — aren’t willing to run the risk that losses on bad loans will cripple the financial system and take the real economy down with it.

Consider what happened last Friday, when the Federal Reserve rushed to the aid of Bear Stearns.

Nobody expects an investment bank to be a charitable institution, but Bear has a particularly nasty reputation. As Gretchen Morgenson of The New York Times reminds us, Bear “has often operated in the gray areas of Wall Street and with an aggressive, brass-knuckles approach.”

Bear was a major promoter of the most questionable subprime lenders. It lured customers into two of its own hedge funds that were among the first to go bust in the current crisis. And it’s a bad financial citizen: the last time the Fed tried to contain a financial crisis, after the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management in 1998, Bear refused to participate in the rescue operation.

Bear, in other words, deserved to be allowed to fail — both on the merits and to teach Wall Street not to expect someone else to clean up its messes.

But the Fed rode to Bear’s rescue anyway, fearing that the collapse of a major investment bank would cause panic in the markets and wreak havoc with the wider economy. Fed officials knew that they were doing a bad thing, but believed that the alternative would be even worse.

As Bear goes, so will go the rest of the financial system. And if history is any guide, the coming taxpayer-financed bailout will end up costing a lot of money.

The U.S. savings and loan crisis of the 1980s ended up costing taxpayers 3.2 percent of G.D.P., the equivalent of $450 billion today. Some estimates put the fiscal cost of Japan’s post-bubble cleanup at more than 20 percent of G.D.P. — the equivalent of $3 trillion for the United States.

If these numbers shock you, they should. But the big bailout is coming. The only question is how well it will be managed.

As I said, the important thing is to bail out the system, not the people who got us into this mess. That means cleaning out the shareholders in failed institutions, making bondholders take a haircut, and canceling the stock options of executives who got rich playing heads I win, tails you lose.

According to late reports on Sunday, JPMorgan Chase will buy Bear for a pittance. That’s an O.K. resolution for this case — but not a model for the much bigger bailout to come. Looking ahead, we probably need something similar to the Resolution Trust Corporation, which took over bankrupt savings and loan institutions and sold off their assets to reimburse taxpayers. And we need it quickly: things are falling apart as you read this.


6) Please get this Peltier info out there
From: Keith []
Sent: Saturday, March 15, 2008 6:30 PM

KFAI's Indian Uprising for March 16, 2008 from 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. DST #257

Leonard Peltier vs. FBI, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, Case
No. 07-1745MN, University of St. Thomas School of Law Frey Moot Courtroom,
Minneapolis, March 11, 2008.

Peltier was convicted of killing two FBI agents during a 1975 shootout on
the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. But his supporters, including
some human rights groups, believe that he is innocent and that he was
targeted because of his political activism.

About 3,500 pages were turned over for Peltier's original trial in 1977. But
his attorneys have discovered over the years that the actual number of
documents the FBI has on Peltier is 142,579, said attorney Michael Kuzma.

Peltier has tried for nearly seven years to use the federal Freedom of
Information Act to get the tens of thousands of pages still being withheld.
"I just think this thing stinks to high heaven," Kuzma said after the
hearing. He told the court, "We still don't know the truth about what
happened back then."

Judge Lavenski R. Smith asked Kuzma what the remedy would be for Peltier.
Kuzma said the court should conduct "a full in-camera review of the
documents." When Smith expressed some disbelief at that idea, Kuzma added
that, if that were too burdensome, the court could focus on the documents
from 1977, of which Peltier has received none.

Tom Byron, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington,
D.C., argued that "there's no support" for an in-camera inspection of the
records. - St. Paul Pioneer Press excerpt,
Court recording:
Tonight our Guests are:

Michael Kuzma, Arguing attorney for Leonard Peltier; Sr. Legislative Assistant to City Council President, Buffalo, New York and keith rabin producer/co play write of the Stage Production

"My Life Is My Sun Dance" "

To help sponsor or support or for additional information
contact keith @

* * * *
Indian Uprising a one-hour radio Public & Cultural Affairs program relevant
to Native Indigenous people, broadcast each Sunday at 7:00 p.m. CST over
KFAI 90.3 FM Minneapolis and 106.7 FM St. Paul. Producer and host is
volunteer Chris Spotted Eagle. To receive or stop getting announcements:

For internet listening, visit, click Play under ON AIR NOW or
for listening later via their archives, click PROGRAMS & SCHEDULE > Indian
Uprising > STREAM. Programs are archived only for two weeks.


7) Chinook Salmon Vanish Without a Trace
March 17, 2008

SACRAMENTO — Where did they go?

The Chinook salmon that swim upstream to spawn in the fall, the most robust run in the Sacramento River, have disappeared. The almost complete collapse of the richest and most dependable source of Chinook salmon south of Alaska left gloomy fisheries experts struggling for reliable explanations — and coming up dry.

Whatever the cause, there was widespread agreement among those attending a five-day meeting of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council here last week that the regional $150 million fishery, which usually opens for the four-month season on May 1, is almost certain to remain closed this year from northern Oregon to the Mexican border. A final decision on salmon fishing in the area is expected next month.

As a result, Chinook, or king salmon, the most prized species of Pacific wild salmon, will be hard to come by until the Alaskan season opens in July. Even then, wild Chinook are likely to be very expensive in markets and restaurants nationwide.

“It’s unprecedented that this fishery is in this kind of shape,” said Donald McIsaac, executive director of the council, which is organized under the auspices of the Commerce Department.

Fishermen think the Sacramento River was mismanaged in 2005, when this year’s fish first migrated downriver. Perhaps, they say, federal and state water managers drained too much water or drained at the wrong time to serve the state’s powerful agricultural interests and cities in arid Southern California. The fishermen think the fish were left susceptible to disease, or to predators, or to being sucked into diversion pumps and left to die in irrigation canals.

But federal and state fishery managers and biologists point to the highly unusual ocean conditions in 2005, which may have left the fingerling salmon with little or none of the rich nourishment provided by the normal upwelling currents near the shore.

The life cycle of these fall run Chinook salmon takes them from their birth and early weeks in cold river waters through a downstream migration that deposits them in the San Francisco Bay when they are a few inches long, and then as their bodies adapt to saltwater through a migration out into the ocean, where they live until they return to spawn, usually three years later.

One species of Sacramento salmon, the winter run Chinook, is protected under the Endangered Species Act. But their meager numbers have held steady and appear to be unaffected by whatever ails the fall Chinook.

So what happened? As Dave Bitts, a fisherman based in Eureka in Northern California, sees it, the variables are simple. “To survive, there are two things a salmon needs,” he said. “To eat. And not to be eaten.”

Fragmentary evidence about salmon mortality in the Sacramento River in recent years, as well as more robust but still inconclusive data about ocean conditions in 2005, indicates that the fall Chinook smolts, or baby fish, of 2005 may have lost out on both counts. But biologists, fishermen and fishery managers all emphasize that no one yet knows anything for sure.

Bill Petersen, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s research center in Newport, Ore., said other stocks of anadromous Pacific fish — those that migrate from freshwater to saltwater and back — had been anemic this year, leading him to suspect ocean changes.

After studying changes in the once-predictable pattern of the Northern Pacific climate, Mr. Petersen found that in 2005 the currents that rise from the deeper ocean, bringing with them nutrients like phytoplankton and krill, were out of sync. “Upwelling usually starts in April and goes until September,” he said. “In 2005, it didn’t start until July.”

Mr. Petersen’s hypothesis about the salmon is that “the fish that went to sea in 2005 died a few weeks after getting to the ocean” because there was nothing to eat. A couple of years earlier, when the oceans were in a cold-weather cycle, the opposite happened — the upwelling was very rich. The smolts of that year were later part of the largest run of fall Chinook ever recorded.

But, Mr. Petersen added, many factors may have contributed to the loss of this season’s fish.

Bruce MacFarlane, another NOAA researcher who is based in Santa Cruz, has started a three-year experiment tagging young salmon — though not from the fall Chinook run — to determine how many of those released from the large Coleman hatchery, 335 miles from the Sacramento River’s mouth, make it to the Golden Gate Bridge. According to the first year’s data, only 4 of 200 reached the bridge.

Mr. MacFarlane said it was possible that a diversion dam on the upper part of the river, around Redding and Red Bluff, created calm and deep waters that are “a haven for predators,” particularly the pike minnow.

Farther downstream, he said, young salmon may fall prey to striped bass. There are also tens of thousands of pipes, large and small, attached to pumping stations that divert water.

Jeff McCracken, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which is among the major managers of water in the Sacramento River delta, said that in the last 18 years, significant precautions have been taken to keep fish from being taken out of the river through the pipes.

“We’ve got 90 percent of those diversions now screened,” Mr. McCracken said. He added that two upstream dams had been removed and that the removal of others was planned. At the diversion dam in Red Bluff, he said, “we’ve opened the gates eight months a year to allow unimpeded fish passage.”

Bureau of Reclamation records show that annual diversions of water in 2005 were about 8 percent above the 12-year average, while diversions in June, the month the young Chinook smolts would have headed downriver, were roughly on par with what they had been in the mid-1990s.

Peter Dygert, a NOAA representative on the fisheries council, said, “My opinion is that we won’t have a definitive answer that clearly indicates this or that is the cause of the decline.”

Carolyn Marshall contributed reporting.


8) The Case for Another Drug War, Against Pharmaceutical Marketers’ Dirty Tactics
March 17, 2008
Books of The Times
How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves Into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs
By Melody Petersen
432 pp. Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar Straus & Giroux. $26.

By the time Melody Petersen gets around to interviewing Iowa’s state nosologist near the end of “Our Daily Meds,” the facts that she cites don’t even sound that grim. The nosologist’s job is to catalog Iowa’s deceased according to cause of death. He processes about 27,000 death certificates a year. And by his reckoning there were only five deaths caused by adverse reactions to prescription drugs in 2002. That low figure is jarringly out of whack with Ms. Petersen’s investigative reporting in an angrily illuminating book on drug-related corporate malfeasance and patient peril.

“Could drugs be killing people but escaping all blame, leaving them to harm even more Americans until someone, finally, catches on?” Ms. Petersen asks. Given the information that her book uncovers, this a purely rhetorical question. Her study cites reckless and questionable behavior in all aspects of drug companies’ research and marketing ploys, even if much of this is familiar territory. It has been explored by earlier crusaders (notably Marcia Angell in “The Truth About the Drug Companies”) and in Ms. Petersen’s own journalism. She spent four years as a reporter covering the drug industry for The New York Times.

The newer and scarier material in “Our Daily Meds” concerns the increasingly serious consequences of Americans’ dependency on prescription drugs. Disagreeing with Iowa’s nosologist, Ms. Petersen says the lethal consequences of overprescribed or misprescribed drugs are too readily accepted as “natural” death. She cites the unwillingness of pathologists to question the wisdom with which doctors dispense medications. The reluctance of hospitals to perform autopsies, she says, has impeded medical research into what these interactions can do.

“Our Daily Meds” begins by illustrating the established drug-company practices that have led to this sorry juncture. There is the rigging of studies, so that to be deemed “effective” a drug need only perform better than a sugar pill. There are the promotional strategies that evade the need for F.D.A. warnings by, say, planting logos for the sexual enhancement drug Viagra and the antidepressant Wellbutrin on Nascar vehicles. There is the co-option of doctors and university researchers by aggressive, payola-dispensing drug company representatives.

Ms. Petersen, who has done much of her digging with the help of obscure but gratifying corporate documents, even finds feedback from doctors about the bribe-style amenities offered by drug company junkets. (“Hotel too cold inside,” one said, in an evaluation of a June 1998 drug company program, adding, “Resort places preferred.” From a different doctor, miffed at the lack of a chauffeur at another event: “Hired car would have been much preferable.”

But she moves to weightier matters in assessing the directions in which heavy drug dependence is leading Americans. First of all there are the business strategies that have created illnesses out of what used to be facts of life, labeled them as syndromes, and have hooked customers into long-term use of medication to cure them. (Detrol, the obnoxiously advertised cure for what its manufacturer calls “overactive bladder,” is a case in point, especially since it can cause hallucinations that resemble symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.) Second, there are the economics of creating chronic consumers for marginally necessary drugs.

Irate as she is that in a period (1980-2003) when Americans doubled what they spent on cars they increased their spending on prescription drugs by 17 times, Ms. Petersen steps back to consider the long-term consequences of this shift in consumption. She notes that the first generation of children raised in front of ubiquitous, sunny drug-company advertisements (which became legal in 1997) has acquired the notions that prescription pills fix everything, and that they are less dangerous than street drugs. Then, looking to the elderly, she points out that increasing numbers of drugs are accumulating in these patients, with little regard for the consequences.

“As older patients move through time, often from physician to physician,” one doctor tells her, “they are at increasing risk of accumulating layer upon layer of drug therapy, as a reef accumulates layer upon layer of coral.” And when the side effects of sleeping pills or antidepressants mean more elderly people fall down, the solution is not likely to be the scaling back of such prescriptions. “Instead,” she writes, “the companies have used the statistics on falls to create a new blockbuster pharmaceutical market for drugs they claim will reduce the chances of breaking a bone.” The market for just two of these drugs, Fosamax and Actonel, is expected to be worth $10 billion by 2011.

Ms. Petersen compiles this data in anecdotal style, even though they would have hit harder in more crystallized, succinct form. But although she rambles and repeats herself at times, this material remains tough, cogent and disturbing enough to have a serious impact. So do her recommendations at the end of this chilling investigation.

Among them: Look at the pens and tissue boxes in your doctor’s office. If they feature drug ads, then a drug company representative has been courting your doctor, trying to influence the ways in which that doctor issues prescriptions. Don’t trust paid celebrity drug endorsements. Be aware that your symptoms may be caused not by illness but by medication, especially when more than one medication is involved. Ms. Petersen urges more study of these interactions, particularly on the part of police officers who can assess drunk drivers but not overmedicated ones.

“Our Daily Meds” also advocates more supervision of doctors’ research articles, many of which are ghostwritten by drug company spokesmen. It calls for drug watchdog agencies that are not overseen by the government, since government officials can so easily be lobbied. Most drastically, she advocates prison time for executives implicated in pharmaceutical crimes. But those crimes are part of a time-honored tradition. As a federal investigator put it in 1937, after a barely tested elixir killed as many as 30 percent of the people who took it: “Apparently they just throw drugs together and if they don’t explode they are placed on sale.”


9) Examining the war in Iraq after 5 years
Carl Nolte, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, March 16, 2008

The war in Iraq has gone on for five years now, but there is almost no sign of it in the Bay Area, a region where 7 million people live.

There is a hillside full of crosses near the BART station in Lafayette, and the occasional war protest in Berkeley or San Francisco makes the papers and the television news. The only uniforms anybody sees on the streets are cops, or off-duty security guards.

People are worried about a recession, or gasoline prices. It is springtime and the hills are green. The war is far away and out of sight.

Michael Myatt, a retired Marine Corps general, remembers a sign he saw just outside the Camp Pendleton Marine base not long ago: "The Marines are at war. America is at the mall." Yet the war is a presence in the Bay Area, like an underground river, like a storm just off the coast, like a deadly illness that will not go away.

The Bay Area has a reputation for being a hotbed of anti-war sentiment, the legendary "Left Coast" where all the politicians are liberals and all the citizens are activists.

It is also the home of Travis Air Force Base, one of the country's largest with a direct role in Iraq, and a place where anti-war protesters plan to mark the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war with parades and demonstrations.

But mostly, Bay Area people seem to have put the war in the back of their minds. They are not indifferent about the war. They just don't want to think about it.

"I saw a young man in a cross between a gurney and a wheelchair the other day," said Nancy Fox, a Marin County consultant. "I thought maybe he was a casualty of the war. It was so painful to see him that I looked away.

"Have I marched against the war? Have I written the president? Yes. I don't know how to grapple with it. So I look away."

Nearly five years ago, March 20, 2003, on the day after American planes bombed Baghdad and American missiles mounted a failed "surgical strike" to kill Saddam Hussein, thousands and thousands of Bay Area people marched in protest against the war.

They came from all over; San Francisco's hotels were full. One of the protesters was Gen. Myatt's own daughter. Others brought small children so they could see history as it happened.

The protests got out of hand. Mobs surged up Fremont and Harrison streets in San Francisco, trying to shut down the Bay Bridge. Police read the riot act; 2,150 people were arrested in three days of protests in San Francisco.

They did not stop the war. It has gone on for five long years. In that time, the city has changed. Fremont and Harrison Streets, the top of Rincon Hill, where the protesters tried to stop the war, are now the site of a 64-story condo tower.

Richard Becker, national coordinator for the ANSWER coalition, which has organized many of the anti-war protests, has an office upstairs in an old building in San Francisco's Mission District, where he and his associates are planning a big demonstration in San Francisco on Wednesday, the fifth anniversary.

There are posters and signs all over his office. "End the War NOW!"

Becker's father served in World War II - and this war has lasted longer than his father's war.

Becker is no wild-eyed radical; he is bald, middle-aged, with glasses. He has studied the Middle East, and can cite the British experience in Iraq nearly 80 years ago.

He believes the war in Iraq and the projection of American power around the world are deeply wrong. American involvement in Iraq, he says, is "an enormous disaster."

Becker says people are hoping the presidential election will mean the end of the war, but he doesn't buy that. "Powerful forces who have influence on the election have no intention of leaving Iraq. They will not leave until they are forced out."

He believes one way to force change is to demonstrate. San Francisco "is absolutely against the war," he says, "No question about that."

He does not know, and won't speculate, as to how many will turn out Wednesday. "It will depend on the dynamic, when people get together and say, 'Hey, we have to do something.' "
Berkeley style

In Berkeley, meanwhile, the demonstrations have been going on for months, as Code Pink has been trying to close a downtown office aimed at recruiting Marine officer candidates.

To mark the fifth anniversary of the war, they mounted a 24-hour vigil for five days last week.

"I have been protesting for five years," said Joi Zanne, who was out in front of the Marine office on a cloudy Tuesday afternoon. "Because of the people killed, raped or tortured in my name. I am tired of that.

"And people like you and you," she said, pointing at passers-by, "are coming out here and saying 'No!' "

"People come here (to demonstrate) because we can't do anything else to stop it," said Asher Wolfe.

The protest - and the Marine recruiting office - are in a downtown shopping district, with a French bistro and a Japanese restaurant across the street, and a bridal shop next door. The scene of the vigil is quiet, most of the time, as if it were a play staged too many times.

Many of the passers-by decline the pink handbills the protesters hand out. There is a sign that urges motorists to honk for peace, but few do.

Sometimes the pedestrians argue with the Code Pink protesters.

Brian Webb, who works in a nearby bank, says he thinks the demonstrations are counterproductive. He says to the protesters: "You're preaching to the choir."

In the window of the recruiting office, the Marines have a sign: "Serving our country at the tip of the spear."
Travis Air Force Base

But the tip of the spear, at least in the Bay Area, is really 40 or so miles up I-80, at Travis Air Force Base, just outside Fairfield.

There are 10,600 active duty and reserve personnel stationed at Travis. There is a $193 million hospital with 3,662 rooms and more than 2,000 personnel assigned. Travis Air Force base is the biggest employer in Solano County. The Air Force says it pumps $1.4 billion a year into the local economy.

It is a crisp, clean, efficient military base, very much involved with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is part of the air mobility command - "The Best of the Best," they call themselves. The planes based at Travis - tankers, cargo planes, provide the means to project American power far and wide.

"We can go anywhere in the world in 24 hours," said Col. Steven Arquiette, commander of the 60th Air Mobility Wing. "We have a direct impact" on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, he says.

Travis people - Arquiette calls them "folks" - have transported thousands of personnel and tons of equipment in 13,961 sorties in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, as the military calls the war.

Arquiette's planes are able to refuel warplanes in the air, keeping air support and pressure on the enemy. They can do airdrops to isolated units, provide personnel to help in combat operations.

Another unit - the 615th Contingency Response Wing - is one of three in the United States kept on alert to be able to build a complete airfield anywhere in the world. They require only 12 hours' notice.

Travis units also operate medical evacuation planes. "If they can get a casualty to a hospital or medical facility in two or three hours, they have a 98 percent chance of survival," Arquiette says. It is a record of survival of the wounded unmatched in any war.

While others talk in general about war and the wounded, Travis personnel have been there.

"I love this mission," said Lt. Col. Lenora Cook, a medevac nurse. "When you look into the eyes of that injured soldier or Marine and they look at you and thank you."

What are the wounded like? "They are very, very young," said Lt. Col. Nancy Mikulin, another flight nurse. "They don't say very much. If they are Marines, another Marine stays with them. They are very close.

"They don't say anything about wanting to go home. They want to go back. They are very committed, very, very committed."
Missing everything

A commitment is also necessary for those who stay behind. More than half of the personnel in the Air Force are married, and when one spouse is deployed overseas, the other stays behind.

Debra Carmody's husband, Ed, a chief master sergeant, is serving as a loadmaster on planes in an area she will only describe as "southwest Asia." He left in February, and, Debra says, "will be gone for five months or so." The couple have four children; the eldest is 24, the youngest is 9. The 9-year-old was only a baby the first time her father went overseas.

One of the Carmody girls, Elizabeth, is a junior in high school, looking forward to one of those special rites of passage - her first prom.

Her father won't be there to see his daughter on prom night. "It is one of those big moments. He'll hate to miss it," said Debra. "But that is the nature of the job."

Airman 1st Class Joshua Esparza and his wife, Ashley, brought their 18-month-old son, Gabriel, to the Airman and Family Readiness Center, which assists Travis families, the other day on an errand. They watched the little boy play in the hall, running around, talking, smiling. Esparza is in a unit that can be deployed anytime, on a few hours notice.

He is 23, she is 21. Esparza knows that watching his first son grow up is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. But he knows that one day soon, he will be deployed.

"When you are gone, especially when they are young like this, you miss seeing them grow. You miss everything," he said.

Fifty members of the military from the Bay Area have been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. That is not a big number for a region of 7 million people; unless, of course, one of the dead is a member of your family.

Just off the elevator on one of the upper floors at the Marines Memorial Club in downtown San Francisco is a Tribute Memorial Wall; black marble with names engraved in gold. They are the names of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. There were about 2,400 when the wall was dedicated two years ago. Now there are just over 4,000 names.

Sometimes, family members come to the club to see the wall; they reach out to touch the names of the dead, as if to remember them in life. "One thing I have learned is that they lie when they say time heals," said Michael Myatt, the retired Marine major general who is chief executive of the club. "It never heals."

The wall of the dead is not open to the public; the Marines Memorial is a private club. Sometimes, when a nearby facility is rented out for a private party, the wall is sealed off by a curtain.

But the wall is always there, just out of sight, like the war.


The United Nations calls for Iraq and the United States to fix human rights problems. A9

Three hundred people march on the Chevron refinery in Richmond to protest the company they say is profiting from the Iraqi invasion. B1

Protest in S.F.

An anti-war demonstration begins at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the San Francisco Civic Center.

For information, call (415) 821-6545 or (510) 435-0844, or go to www

E-mail Carl Nolte at

This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle


10) New Jersey to Consider Health Plan to Cover All
“Of grave concern is the proposal’s underlying policy that seeks to shift the cost of coverage away from a shared responsibility between employers and employees,” said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action. “Senator Vitale’s proposal would have insurance costs borne solely by consumers and taxpayers.”
March 18, 2008

TRENTON — Thrusting New Jersey again into the vanguard of social change, a bipartisan group of legislators unveiled a proposal on Monday that would require all residents to have health care coverage within three years.

If adopted, New Jersey would become the fourth state to require universal health coverage, following Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont. But at a time when New Jersey is reeling from financial problems, and the country appears headed toward a recession, the plan would avoid adding to the budget and would instead try to redistribute federal and state dollars in a more efficient way.

About 1.4 million of New Jersey’s residents — or nearly 1 in 5 — do not have health insurance. To bridge that gap, State Senator Joseph F. Vitale, a Democrat from Middlesex County who is chairman of the health committee, recommended that the state focus first on enrolling more children in the existing NJ Family Care program for families who earn as much as 350 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $74,200 for a family of four.

Then, Mr. Vitale said, the state would focus on cutting costs while establishing a self-financed plan, run by the state, to provide individuals with health insurance at affordable rates on a sliding scale.

The insurance would be required, not an option: Residents would need to prove they have health insurance, similar to the way drivers must obtain auto insurance. It would be financed, Mr. Vitale said, by using small surpluses in NJ Family Care and Medicaid and revamping the costly and much-maligned system of Charity Care, under which the state reimburses hospitals for costs associated with caring for the poor, often in emergency rooms.

“Through these reforms, we will become better stewards of our limited health care dollars, by using those dollars to cover the uninsured, rather than by throwing those dollars away on inappropriate care in an inappropriate setting, like we do today,” said David L. Knowlton, president of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, a nonprofit foundation. Mr. Knowlton, a Republican, is a former deputy commissioner of health under former Gov. Thomas H. Kean.

The sponsors said that they hoped to introduce legislation formalizing the proposal in the next few days. They also said they would like to enact it before the July 1 budget deadline.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat, has said he favors universal health care. But given the state’s fiscal difficulties, he offered a guarded assessment of the legislators’ proposal.

“The public is well aware that there is nothing closer to my own agenda than providing universal health care,” Mr. Corzine, who traveled to Albany on Monday to attend Gov. David A. Paterson’s swearing-in ceremony, said in a statement. “But I’m a realist, and I understand that the current budget circumstances may inhibit our ability today to reach that common goal.”

New Jersey has long had a reputation of being one of the more aggressive states in trying to expand health care, said Sonya Schwartz, program manager for the National Academy for State Health Policy in Washington. In December, for instance, the state reached an agreement with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield allowing middle-income families to obtain health insurance for children at lower rates — at a loss of up to $1 million in the first year for Horizon.

But now, New Jersey will be trying to learn from — though not necessarily copy — the example set by, most prominently, Massachusetts.

New Jersey’s plan would be similar in that the responsibility for obtaining the insurance would rest with residents and would expand existing state and federal health insurance programs. But unlike Massachusetts, New Jersey would use a single plan administered by the state rather than requiring individuals to buy such a plan in the private market, which Mr. Knowlton said drove costs higher.

“The Massachusetts model is one we don’t want to follow,” said State Senator Robert W. Singer, a Republican from Ocean County. “We do not want a Band-Aid approach. We want a permanent solution.”

Initially, key interest groups representing employers and health care providers applauded the proposal as laying a solid foundation for reducing costs and moving the state closer to universal coverage.

“While most of our members provide health insurance, those that don’t have consistently said the cost is what is preventing them from purchasing insurance,” said Jim Leonard, a vice president with the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. “This initiative will make health insurance more affordable.”

But some unions and consumer groups reacted tepidly, saying it could prompt employers to drop health insurance plans.

“Of grave concern is the proposal’s underlying policy that seeks to shift the cost of coverage away from a shared responsibility between employers and employees,” said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action. “Senator Vitale’s proposal would have insurance costs borne solely by consumers and taxpayers.”


11) Queenfish: A Cold War Tale
March 18, 2008

Atop the globe, the icy surface of the Arctic Ocean has remained relatively peaceful. But its depths have boiled with intrigue, no more so than in the cold war.

Although the superpowers planned to turn those depths into an inferno of exploding torpedoes and rising missiles, the brotherhood of submariners — the silent service, both Russian and American — has worked hard over the decades to keep the particulars of those plans hush-hush.

Now, a few secrets are spilling through a crack in the wall of silence, revealing some of the science and spying that went into the doomsday preparations.

A new book, “Unknown Waters,” recounts the 1970 voyage of a submarine, the Queenfish, on a pioneering dive beneath the ice pack to map the Siberian continental shelf. The United States did so as part of a clandestine effort to prepare for Arctic submarine operations and to win any military showdown with the Soviet Union.

In great secrecy, moving as quietly as possible below treacherous ice, the Queenfish, under the command of Captain Alfred S. McLaren, mapped thousands of miles of previously uncharted seabed in search of safe submarine routes. It often had to maneuver between shallow bottoms and ice keels extending down from the surface more than 100 feet, threatening the sub and the crew of 117 men with ruin.

Another danger was that the sub might simply be frozen in place with no way out and no way to call for help as food and other supplies dwindled.

The Queenfish at one point became stuck in a dead end. The rescue took an hour and tense backtracking out of what had threatened to become an icy tomb.

“I still dream about it every other week,” Dr. McLaren, 75, the book’s author, recalled in an interview. “It was hairy.” The University of Alabama Press is publishing his recollections of the secret voyage.

Sylvia A. Earle, an oceanographer and the former chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said such feats in perilous waters made Dr. McLaren a genuine hero. “The sub could have disappeared, and nobody would have known anything about it,” she said. “But they came through. That’s exploration at its most exquisite.”

After Dr. McLaren’s mission, the Arctic became a theater of military operations in which the Soviets tried to hide their missile-carrying subs under the fringes of the ice pack while American attack subs tried relentlessly to track them. The goal was to destroy the Soviet subs if the cold war turned hot, doing so quickly enough to keep them from launching their missiles and nuclear warheads at the United States.

Norman Polmar, an author and analyst on Navy operations, called the polar environment “very very difficult” for subs. He said ice dangling from the surface in endless shapes and sizes made the sub’s main eyes — sonar beams that bounce sound off the bottom and surrounding objects — work poorly.

Mr. Polmar added that the submarine community nonetheless considered the Arctic “a big deal,” because it had a near monopoly on operations there.

Dr. McLaren commanded one of the Navy’s most advanced warships, a jet-black monster the length of a football field.

It was the first of a large class of submarines specially designed for year-round operations in polar regions. As such, it boasted an array of special acoustic gear meant to help it visualize the complex world beneath the pack ice.

For instance, the sub had a special sensor to detect icebergs jutting downward with threatening spikes. From bow to stern, it had a total of seven acoustic sensors pointing upward to help the crew judge the thickness of ice overhead.

As Dr. McLaren recounts in “Unknown Waters,” the Queenfish, in preparation for its Arctic voyage, was stripped of all identifying marks and picked up a full load of torpedoes.

It arrived at the North Pole on Aug. 5, 1970, rising through open water. On the ice, an impromptu Santa Claus in a red suit frolicked with crew members.

The submarine then sailed for the Siberian continental shelf, where it began its mission of secret reconnaissance.

Moscow claimed seas extending 230 miles from its shores, including most of the shelf, whose waters averaged a few hundred feet deep. But Washington recognized just a 12-mile territorial limit, and Dr. McLaren was instructed to play by those rules.

As the book recounts, the sub repeatedly ventured within periscope range of Soviet land. In the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago, its crew examined the October Revolution and Bolshevik Islands.

The Queenfish also spotted a convoy. “I was able to see and identify all six ships as Soviet,” Dr. McLaren writes. “They consisted of an icebreaker leading a tanker and four cargo ships on an easterly course that slowly weaved back and forth through the chaotic ice pack.”

The main mission was to map the seabed and collect oceanographic data in anticipation of the Arctic’s becoming a major theater of military operations. The sub did so by finding and following depth contours, for instance, by locating the areas of the Arctic Basin where the seabed was 600 feet below the surface. A result was a navigation chart that bore the kind of squiggly lines found on topographic maps.

The goal of mapping the bottom contour also sent the Queenfish into the dead end. The crew was watching a favorite Western movie, “Shane,” when a messenger touched Dr. McLaren on the shoulder and whispered that the sub had ground to a standstill.

“Heart in my mouth, I ran up to the after-port side of the control room,” he writes. “Saturating the iceberg detector scope was bright sea-ice-return in all directions.”

Dr. McLaren ordered all crew movement to cease as he and other watch standers worked the propeller, rudder and stern planes to move the Queenfish slowly backward. Finally, he writes, the boat entered deeper water, and the crew “gave out a huge collective sigh of relief.”

The two-month voyage ended in Nome, Alaska, where the sub and crew encountered a chilly reception. The mayor and other people on the town dock had mistaken the sinister-looking sub without markings as Soviet.

In 1972, Dr. McLaren won the Distinguished Service Medal, the military’s highest peacetime award.

Historians say cold war maneuvering in the Arctic picked up after his mission, with the two sides deploying more submarines beneath the ice. The United States built a total of 36 sister subs to the Queenfish, known as the Sturgeon class.

Little is known publicly of the polar exploits. But every so often the icy world erupted in a foretaste of war. In 1984, an American satellite observed a Soviet sub breaking through the ice of the Siberian sea to test fire missiles.

Military and legal experts said Dr. McLaren’s book, while providing a glimpse into a hidden world of cold war planning, might also make political waves today.

That is because of the sub’s repeated penetrations of what Moscow considered its territorial waters, defying boundaries that Washington refused to recognize. The disclosure of that boldness could bolster the case in international forums for American navigational rights, legal experts said in interviews.

Bernard H. Oxman, a specialist in maritime law at the University of Miami School of Law, called the 1970 voyage “an indication of state practice and a refusal to acquiesce in Russian claims over navigation.” Although Moscow has in recent years relaxed such claims, he added, the legal precedent remains.

So too, Dr. McLaren sees his spy mission as a milestone for freedom of navigation, whether in Russian waters or elsewhere in the contested wilds atop the globe.

Today the issue is hot, because melting polar ice is opening up new shipping lanes and exposing potentially vast deposits of natural resources, including oil. A modern gold rush is getting under way.

“It’s important to maintain freedom of the seas,” Dr. McLaren said in an interview. “That’s something our country has fought for literally from its inception.”

Global warming and the shrinking polar ice pack are creating new opportunities and responsibilities, he said, adding, “We’ve got to stand our ground.”


12) Guantanamo, NY--USA v Hashmi
Lynne Stewart

ALERT; I have just become aware of the latest assault on the 6th Amendment in the case of a young Pakistani Muslim American citizen extradited from Britain and held PRE-TRIAL incommunicado by the use of SAMS at the MCC in Lower Manhattan.

Syed Hashmi was brought to my attention through the Brooklyn Greens who were contacted by his former professor at U Mass Amherst who is mounting a campaign to arouse public officials and the public to the outrageous denigration of Fair Trial the case represents. I have attached the fact sheet and the sign on letter of concern.

Contact should be to Dan Clawson, 413 545 5974; 413 586 6235(home) To sign on the letter email This should be widely publicized. Please bring to the attention of your organization. Love Struggle Lynne

Lynne Stewart
EarthLink Revolves Around You.

A Statement of Concern

Syed Hashmi is a Muslim American citizen being held in a federal jail on two counts of providing material support – and two counts of making a contribution of goods or services – to Al Qaida. As his case goes to trial, we wish to register our concern about the conditions of his detention, constraints on his right to a fair trial, and the potential threat his case poses to the First Amendment rights of others.

The conditions of Hashmi’s detention are draconian. He is in solitary confinement and subject to a regime of severe deprivation. Under special administrative measures (SAMs) imposed by the Attorney General, his communication with other prisoners, attorneys, family, the media, and people outside the jail – as well as access to the news and other reading material – is either prohibited or highly restricted. He is subject to 24-hour electronic monitoring and 23-hour lockdown, has no access to fresh air, and must take his one hour of daily recreation – when it is given – inside a cage.

Hashmi’s right to a fair trial is in jeopardy. The prosecution may present new allegations against him up until the day before his trial begins. It may withhold evidence from him and/or his attorneys yet share that evidence with the judge. He may not communicate with the news media, either directly or through his attorneys. The conditions of his detention may impair his mental state and ability to testify on his own behalf.

The prosecution’s case against Hashmi, an activist within the Muslim community, threatens the First Amendment rights of others. While Hashmi’s political and religious beliefs, speech, and associations are constitutionally protected, the government may attempt to use them as evidence of his criminal intent. This could have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of others, particularly in activist and Muslim communities.

We call upon the United States government to review and alleviate the conditions of Hashmi’s detention, particularly his solitary confinement and the SAMs imposed upon him; to remove or revise the constraints on his right to a fair trial; and to guarantee that his actions – rather than his constitutionally protected statements, beliefs, and associations – constitute the basis of the government’s case against him, in court and in the public arena.

The Case of Syed Hashmi

Syed Hashmi is a 27-year-old Muslim American citizen. He is currently being held in solitary confinement in a federal jail on two counts of providing material support – and two counts of making a contribution of goods or services – to Al Qaida. His trial is set for July 2008. If convicted, he faces seventy years in prison. His case raises concerns about the conditions of his detention, his ability to receive a fair trial, and threats to the First Amendment rights of others.

Hashmi came to the United States from Pakistan with his family when he was three and grew up in Flushing, Queens. He attended Brooklyn College, majored in political science, and graduated in spring 2003. He then attended the London Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom; two members of the Brooklyn College political science faculty wrote him letters of recommendation. At London Metropolitan, Hashmi studied for an MA in international relations, which he received in October 2005.

In June 2006, he was arrested by the British police at Heathrow Airport (he was about to travel to Pakistan, where he has family) on a warrant issued by the US government. In May 2007, he was extradited to the United States, where he has since been held in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.

Under special administrative measures (SAMs) imposed by the Attorney General, Hashmi must be held in solitary confinement and may not communicate with anyone inside the prison other than prison officials. Family visits are limited to one person every other week for one and a half hours and cannot involve physical contact. While his correspondence to members of Congress and other government officials is not restricted, he may write only one letter (of no more than three pieces of paper) per week to one family member. He may not communicate, either directly or through his attorneys, with the news media. He may read only designated portions of newspapers – and not until thirty days after their publication – and his access to other reading material is restricted. He may not listen to or watch news-oriented radio stations and television channels. He may not participate in group prayer. He is subject to 24-hour electronic monitoring and 23-hour lockdown, has no access to fresh air, and must take his one hour of daily recreation – when it is given – inside a cage. While the Attorney General claims that these measures are necessary because “there is substantial risk that [Hashmi’s] communications or contacts with persons could result in death or serious bodily injury to persons,” he was held with other prisoners in a British jail for eleven months without incident.

The US government alleges that during February or March 2004, a man by the name of Junaid Babar, also a Pakistani-born US citizen, stayed with Hashmi at his London apartment for two weeks. According to the government, Babar stored luggage containing raincoats, ponchos, and waterproof socks in Hashmi’s apartment and then delivered these materials to the third-ranking member of Al Qaida in South Waziristan, Pakistan. In addition, Hashmi allegedly allowed Babar to use his cell phone to call other conspirators in terrorist plots.

The government claims that Babar’s testimony is the “centerpiece” of its case. Babar, who has pleaded guilty to five counts of material support for Al Qaida, faces up to 70 years in prison. While awaiting sentence, he has agreed to serve as a government witness in terrorism trials in Britain and Canada as well as in Hashmi’s trial. Under a plea agreement reported in the media, Babar will receive a reduced sentence in return for his cooperation.

The events described above comprise the main allegation that the government has presented to the defense. According to the rules of discovery in federal criminal cases, however, the government may present additional allegations up until the day before the trial begins. Other factors compromise Hashmi’s right to a fair trial: the government may withhold evidence from his attorneys yet share that evidence with the judge; the government may share evidence with his attorneys but not allow Hashmi to see it; Hashmi may not communicate with the news media, either directly or through his attorneys; and the conditions of Hashmi’s detention may impair his mental state and ability to testify on his own behalf.

In addition to Babar’s testimony, much of the government’s case hinges upon evidence about Hashmi’s beliefs, associations, and speech. When Hashmi was a student at Brooklyn College, he was a member of Al Muhajiroun. This group takes and advocates positions well outside the mainstream of American public opinion. The US government, however, has not designated it a terrorist organization nor deemed membership in it illegal. While Hashmi’s beliefs, speech, and associations are constitutionally protected, the government may attempt to use them as evidence of his criminal intent. This could have a chilling effect on the constitutionally protected beliefs, speech, and associations of others, particularly in activist and Muslim communities. Unlike other high-profile post-9/11 cases, in which the defendants were not particularly political, Hashmi is an activist. The government’s increasing attention to this kind of political activity further raises the specter of a chilling effect on First Amendment rights throughout the country.

Hashmi’s case thus raises three concerns: first, the draconian conditions of his detention; second, the undermining of his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial; third, the threats it poses to the First Amendment rights of others. Please help make these concerns heard by signing the attached statement.


13) Estimates of Iraq War Cost Were Not Close to Ballpark
“Five years in, the Pentagon tags the cost of the Iraq war at roughly $600 billion and counting. Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and critic of the war, pegs the long-term cost at more than $4 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office and other analysts say that $1 trillion to $2 trillion is more realistic, depending on troop levels and on how long the American occupation continues.”
March 19, 2008

WASHINGTON — At the outset of the Iraq war, the Bush administration predicted that it would cost $50 billion to $60 billion to oust Saddam Hussein, restore order and install a new government.

Five years in, the Pentagon tags the cost of the Iraq war at roughly $600 billion and counting. Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and critic of the war, pegs the long-term cost at more than $4 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office and other analysts say that $1 trillion to $2 trillion is more realistic, depending on troop levels and on how long the American occupation continues.

Among economists and policymakers, the question of how to tally the cost of the war is a matter of hot dispute. And the costs continue to climb.

Congressional Democrats fiercely criticize the White House over war expenditures. But it is virtually certain that the Democrats will provide tens of billions more in a military spending bill next month. Some Democrats are even arguing against attaching strings, like a deadline for withdrawal, saying the tactic will fail as it has in the past.

All of the war-price tallies include operations in the war zone, support for troops, repair or replacement of equipment, reservists’ salaries, special combat pay for regular forces and some care for wounded veterans — expenses that typically fall outside the regular Defense Department or Veterans Affairs budgets.

The highest estimates often include projections for future operations, long-term health care and disability costs for veterans, a portion of the regular, annual defense budget, and, in some cases, wider economic effects, including a percentage of higher oil prices and the impact of raising the national debt to cover increased war spending.

The debate raging on Capitol Hill, on the presidential campaign trail, in research institutes and in academia touches on such esoteric factors as the right inflation index for veterans’ health care costs; the monetary value of nearly 4,000 soldiers killed; and what role, if any, the war has had in higher oil prices.

Some economists who track the war expenses say they worry that politicians are making mistakes similar to those made in 2002, by failing to fully come to grips with the short- and long-term financial costs.

“The relevant question now is: what do we do now going forward? Because we can’t do anything about the costs that have already happened,” said Scott Wallsten, an economist and vice president of research with iGrowthGlobal, a Washington research institute. “We still don’t hear people talking about that.”

Congressional Democrats, led by Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, have sought to spotlight the rising costs and limited political progress in Iraq.

“This administration still has no clear exit strategy for our troops, no path to political reconciliation, and no accounting of the costs to our budget or economy,” Mr. Schumer said.

The White House press secretary, Dana M. Perino, acknowledged that costs had risen higher than predicted, but said the administration was committed to giving the military everything it needed for success.

“None of these calculations take into account the cost of failure in Iraq,” Ms. Perino said. “Should Al Qaeda have safe haven in Iraq, we are more likely to be attacked again on our homeland. We know the cost of that.”

On the campaign trail, the Democratic candidates, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, often say that money for the war would be better spent at home, as Mrs. Clinton did Tuesday when she pegged the war costs at “well over $1 trillion.”

“That is enough,” she continued, “to provide health care for all 47 million uninsured Americans and quality pre-kindergarten for every American child, solve the housing crisis once and for all, make college affordable for every American student and provide tax relief to tens of millions of middle-class families.”

But what the candidates often fail to note when making such points is that the full cost of the war has been added to the national debt, and that the money spent in Iraq would not necessarily be available for other programs. And, of course, anything short of an immediate withdrawal will entail billions more in continuing expenses.

Debate aside, there is general consensus that Congress will have allocated slightly more than $600 billion for Iraq operations through the 2008 fiscal year.

And some analysts say that may be half the final price.

“Under reasonable scenarios, assuming we don’t pull out rapidly, we may only be halfway through,” said Steven M. Koziak, of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment, a nonpartisan research group. “Even in direct budgetary costs, it’s quite easy to get up on the order of $1 trillion for Iraq alone.”

Meanwhile, the five-year anniversary of the war has focused a spotlight on the costs so far and on future projections.

In a new book, called “The Three Trillion War,” Mr. Stiglitz, the Nobel laureate, and a co-author, Linda J. Bilmes, a professor at Harvard, say the total economic impact may be a staggering $4 trillion or more. Even some economists who call themselves fans of Mr. Stiglitz say they think that number is exaggerated; the authors insist their projections are moderate.

Lawrence B. Lindsey, who was ousted as President Bush’s first economic adviser partly because he predicted the war might cost $100 billion to $200 billion, also has a new book that serves in part as an I-told-you-so.

“Five years after the fact, I believe that one of the reasons the administration’s efforts are so unpopular is that they chose not to engage in an open public discussion of what the consequences of the war might be, including its economic cost,” Mr. Lindsey wrote in an excerpt in Fortune magazine.

Mr. Lindsey insists that his projections were partly right. “My hypothetical estimate got the annual cost about right,” he wrote. “But I misjudged an important factor: how long we would be involved.”

He was not alone.

Congressional Democrats, for instance, predicted that the Iraq war would cost roughly $93 billion, not including reconstruction.

Virtually every forecast was off in this way. “It’s clear that operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have gone on longer and have been more expensive than the projections initially suggested,” Peter R. Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office, said in an interview.

Only one economist, William D. Nordhaus of Yale, seems to have come close. In a paper in December 2002, he offered a worst-case estimate of $1.9 trillion, “if the war drags on, occupation is lengthy, nation-building is costly.”

Getting at the true costs is difficult though. Expenses like an overall increase in troops were paid from the base defense budget, not the war bills.


14) Recession, Depression or Stagflation
of Another Kind
By the Editors

Before the Great Depression of the 1930s, the words recession and depression were virtually synonymous. Both terms referred to the beginning of a cycle of economic contraction. However the recessions that have occurred since the end of World War II were not actual contractions. On the contrary, these post-WWII recessions were characterized by a slowing of the rate of economic expansion rather than a contraction of the overall economy.

These days, if we read between the lines of the reports appearing in the mass media, it can be seen that Washington and Wall Street’s economic experts believe that an old-fashioned recession of the worst kind is heading our way.

Thus, one of the New York Times’s most perceptive economic commentators, Floyd Norris, was among the first to recognize and comment on the critical state of the U.S. economy in his December 28, 2007 column titled, “Credit Crisis? Just Wait For a Replay.” He begins by posing the key question:

“What if it’s not just subprime?

“As 2007 ends, it seems that the financial world shakes every time a company reveals some new exposure to the disastrous world of sub-prime mortgage lending.

“But just how different was sub-prime lending from other lending in the days of easy money that prevailed until this summer? The smug confidence that nothing could go wrong, and that credit quality did not matter, could be seen in the many other markets as well.

“‘The severity of the sub-prime debacle may be only a prologue to the main act, a tragedy on the grand stage in the corporate credit markets,’ Ted Seldes, the director of investments at Protégé Partners, a hedge fund of funds, wrote in Economics and Portfolio Strategy.

“‘Over the past decade, the exponential growth of credit derivatives has created unprecedented amounts of financial leverage on corporate credit,’ he added. ‘Similar to the growth of sub-prime mortgages, the rapid rise of credit products required ideal economic conditions and disconnected the assessors of risk from those bearing it....’

“But if the credit insurers turn out to have had inadequate reserves, what are we to make of the credit default swap market? Mr. Seldes calls it ‘an insurance market with no loss reserves,’ and points out that $45 trillion in such swaps are now outstanding. That is, he notes, almost five times the United States national debt. [Emphasis added.]”

He goes on to explain that one of the most remarkable results of the sub-prime crisis is “that total losses to the financial system may be about equal to the amount of sub-prime loans that were issued.” Norris reports the hedge fund director, Seldes, as also having said in an interview “the financial leverage placed on the underlying assets was so high that the losses multiplied, as the profits did when times were good.”

Norris ends by saying that it was the “greatest credit party in history, made possible by a new financial architecture that moved much of the activities out of regulated institutions and into financial instruments that emphasized leverage over safety. The next year may be the one when we learn whether the sub-prime crisis was a relatively isolated problem in that system, or just the first indication of a systemic crisis.”

Posing the threat of a “systemic crisis” is as close as a responsible bourgeois economist like Norris can go toward suggesting that the threatening recession may turn out to be much longer and deeper than any of the post-World War II recessions. After all, one of the differences between a recession and a depression is that a depression is far deeper and much longer lasting.

Then in the January 25 edition of the British financial journal, The Economist, the editors, reflecting the fact that the American crisis is global, in a piece titled, “It’s Rough Out There,” said this:

“The financial storm that blew up in America’s subprime mortgage market last year has become a hurricane. The ill wind from reckless property lending blasted first the market in asset-backed securities, then banks’ balance sheets and, most recently, stock markets. Across the globe, more than $5 trillion has disappeared from the value of public companies in the first three weeks of January....”

A couple of days later, in an op-ed piece, “Paying the Price for the Fed’s Success,” James Grant, the influential editor of the Wall Street publication, Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, rakes the “experts” over the coals for allowing the “supposedly ‘contained’ sub-prime mortgage problem [to] metastasize into a global financial panic—some days to the down side, other days to the up side.” ( New York Times, January 27)

Grant’s criticisms essentially reflect the generalized concerns over the deeply troubled U.S. economy that has the most serious economic experts in Washington and Wall Street in a tizzy of befuddlement, fear and panic. Grant sums it all up in two sentences:

“Striving so mightily to make one and one add up to three or four or five, Wall Street, Main Street and Washington collectively brought us to the impasse of 2008, in which a debt crisis is superimposed on a downturn in the economy, which is overlaid on a bear market in real estate, which is conjoined with a persistent and worrying weakness in the overseas value of the dollar. As for the crackup in complex mortgage-backed securities, now at the center of the debt predicament, the global bank, UBS, has justly called it the biggest failure of ratings and risk management ever.”

Barely a month later, the Times published a report by another of its seasoned economic commentators, David Leonhardt, titled, “Worries that the Good Times Were Mostly a Mirage.” The headline was followed by the more pointed subhead, “So how bad could it get?” Leonhardt writes:

“Until a few months ago, it was accepted wisdom that the American economy functioned far more smoothly than in the past. Economic expansions lasted longer, and recessions were both shorter and milder. Inflation had been tamed. The spreading of financial risk, across institutions and around the world, had reduced the odds of a crisis. Back in 2004, Ben Bernanke, then a Federal Reserve governor, borrowed a phrase from an academic research paper to give these happy developments a name: ‘the great moderation.’

“These days, though, the great moderation isn’t looking quite so great—or so moderate.

“The recent financial turmoil has many causes, but they are tied to a basic fear that some of the economic successes of the last generation may yet turn out to be a mirage. That helps explain why problems in the American sub-prime mortgage market could have spread so quickly through the world’s financial system. On Tuesday, Mr. Bernanke, who is now the Fed chairman, presided over the steepest one-day interest rate cut in the central bank’s history.

“The great moderation now seems to have depended—in part—on a huge speculative bubble, first in stocks and then real estate, that hid the economy’s rough edges. Everyone from first-time home buyers to Wall Street chief executives made bets they did not fully understand, and then spent money as if those bets couldn’t go bad. For the past 16 years, American consumers have increased their overall spending every single quarter, which is almost twice as long as any previous streak.

“Now, some worry, comes the payback. Martin Feldstein, the éminence grise of Republican economists, says he is concerned that the economy “could slip into a recession and that the recession could be a long, deep, severe one.” [January 23, 2008.]

Thus, it has become increasingly evident to these economic analysts that the U.S. capitalist economy is sinking ever more deeply toward one of history’s most destructive of all economic crises, combining what now appears to be a long and deep crisis of overproduction together with a jump in the rate of inflation. In a word, the demon of inflation joins the devil of recession causing more than a few economic commentators to hark back to the late 1970s when stagflation, the worst of both worlds, roiled the U.S. economy.

This is a most significant departure from the initial impact of a classic economic contraction, which had historically been accompanied by falling, not rising, prices. However, ever since the dollar replaced gold as the international, measure of value, standard of price, and medium of exchange, the value incorporated in commodities by human labor power tends to fall as science and technology produces ever-more sophisticated labor-saving machines.

That is, under normal conditions, when the cost of production falls, prices also fall. But after the global monetary system was separated from its golden base we no longer live under normal conditions. In effect, the falling value incorporated in commodities by labor-saving machines is not only hidden from view by the steadily increasing quantity of valueless paper dollars in circulation; it also explains why prices can rise while the value of commodities fall.
Stagflation, the worst of both worlds

We say the worst of both worlds advisedly. Bad as was the stagflation of the 1970s, it was not as bad as it could get. For example, one of history’s most destructive combinations of economic contraction and inflation—stagflation—sent Germany into a prolonged crisis following its defeat in World War I.

Forced to sign the Versailles Treaty along with the draconic reparations demanded of Germany by the victors of the first Great War, as WWI was known at the time, Germany, which had been one of the richest and most dynamic industrialized imperialist powers in Europe before the war, was transformed into the poorest and hungriest after its defeat.

Thus, in the few short years after it was forced to sign the “peace treaty,” a period of stagnation began that combined mass unemployment and an inflationary crisis best illustrated by the change in the value of Germany’s 1-mark note, which as late as July 1921, could buy a half-dozen eggs and a loaf of bread. The mark fell in value to such a point that by November 1923, the 1-mark note had 9 zeroes added to it, but it could still only buy what the 1-mark note could buy in 1921.

Meanwhile, unemployment had soared to levels nearly as high as during the early years of the Great Depression. The rest is history: Germany entered a period of rising revolutionary struggle that could well have ended in socialist revolution. However, because of the failure of leadership, it ended with the victory of Adolph Hitler’s fascist Brown Shirts, the smashing of the revolutionary German working class, the holocaust and World War II. 1

Though it would be premature to predict that a German-style hyperinflation, joined together with mass unemployment is in the making, it cannot be excluded. After all, the main weapon to combat the kind of economic contraction we saw in the 1930s, now in the hands of the Federal Reserve, remains what boils down to the continued pumping of valueless paper dollars into circulation—reducing the value of all dollars—to combat the threat of a recession of the pre-WWII kind.

This takes us to the source of the current crisis and why something like a German-style combination of inflation and economic contraction has already begun, creating episodes of panic among masses of investors as well as among the economic experts in Washington and Wall Street.
Once again on the debt bomb

The monetary system launched in 1944 at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, by representatives of 44 governments including most of the capitalist world’s imperialist powers was set into motion in order to prevent another Great Depression such as the one that led to World War II. That is, all the measures that attempted to bring the Depression to a halt did not work.

Today, no one knows the true size of America’s public and private debt. However, before the adoption of the Keynesian scheme separating the global monetary system from its golden base one could estimate the extent of any capitalist nation’s indebtedness by measuring the quantities of gold—the most reliable objective measure of value—backing up its outstanding currency. That not only served as a measure of a nation’s solvency but also the creditworthiness of the private sector.

Now that the world monetary system is no longer based on gold, the only measure of the value of currencies is its value relative to the purchasing power of all other currencies; thus no one knows for sure how much each of the world’s paper currencies are really worth. That means that the bottom can drop out of the monetary system suddenly and with little or no warning.
Behind Bernanke’s appointment

According to a report in the Sunday, January 20, New York Times magazine titled, “The Education of Ben Bernanke,” by Roger Lowenstein, “the current Chairman of the Federal Reserve devoted much of his career to studying the causes of the Great Depression.” Lowenstein starts off by pointing out why Bernanke was selected to replace Alan Greenspan. He writes:

“By the time President Bush nominated him to run the Federal Reserve, at the end of 2005, Bernanke knew more about central banking than any economist alive. On virtually every topic of significance—how to prevent deflationary panics, for instance, or to gauge the effect of Fed moves on stock-market prices—Bernanke wrote one of the seminal papers.... And having devoted much of his career to studying the causes of the Great Depression, Bernanke was the academic expert on how to prevent financial crises from spinning out of control and threatening the general economy.”

Thus, if we knew nothing else about the current economic crisis, we now know this much: The appointment of Ben Bernanke to head the Federal Reserve by the real U.S. decision-makers, means that they had anticipated the possibility, if not the likelihood, of an approaching breakdown of U.S. economic equilibrium. It also suggests that they had reason to believe that the next recession would be nothing like the ten previous post-WWII recessions which were all milder, of shorter duration and accompanied by longer periods of expansion than their pre-war predecessors.

In other words, those in charge of keeping the economy on an even keel knew that it was in trouble when Bernanke was chosen to head the Federal Reserve in October 2005. But they also knew that there’s nothing that the Fed can do in the upper reaches of the political, financial and monetary superstructure of the U.S. economy that can fix the source of the unfolding capitalist economic crisis—which lies deep inside the economy at the point of production. The most they can do in the superstructure of the extraordinarily complex American capitalist economic order is keep the underlying contradictions from worsening.

The real problem is, of course, the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. And while it cannot be fixed once and for all time, it can be boosted temporarily by reducing wages and benefits at the point of production and by shifting the tax burden from the rich and superrich to the backs of those on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder.

That’s where the auto industry’s attack on the autoworkers and their union comes into the picture.
GM’s attack on the UAW was an attack on all workers

It doesn’t take a Nobel prize-winning economist to know that the relation between wages and profits is like the two ends of a seesaw; when wages go up profits go down and when wages go down profits go up.

Readers of this magazine know that for the last two years we have focused on the campaign initiated and led by General Motors to lower the wages, benefits and living standards of all members of the United Auto Workers union by more than 50 percent. As we now know, Detroit’s Big Three—GM, Chrysler and Ford—will have already gone a long way toward accomplishing their objective well before the new UAW contract expires in 2011.

We also made clear in our coverage that the attack on the UAW was only the first stage of an attack by capitalist America on the wages, benefits and living standards of all American workers.

The significance of this two-sided attack by Washington and Wall Street on both the fundamental contradictions at the point of production and in the upper reaches of the capitalist economy is a measure of capitalist America’s growing fear of another Great Depression made far more life-threatening by the growing mountain of public and private debt.
History repeats itself—but always with a difference

The “Roaring Twenties,” as it was then known for a variety of reasons, roared in more ways than one. America in the 1920s, was a decade of phenomenal economic growth while the rest of the world’s advanced industrial countries were in a slump. It gave rise to something once known as American exceptionalism, which had been born and reborn more than a few times in American history. It was also a part of the widely touted myth at the time that because the United States was prospering while the world was stagnating it was no longer subject to the laws of capitalist economics.

To be sure, America’s economic health in a stagnating world was indeed an exception to the rule, but it had nothing whatever to do with its exemption from the laws of capitalist economy as laid down by all of history’s most respected economic theoreticians ranging from Adam Smith to Karl Marx. As a matter of fact, the main difference between America in the 1920s and today, is the fact that America was then the world’s biggest creditor nation, while the rest of the world was mired in debt in the aftermath of the Great War, as World War I was known in those days.

That is, from the 1920s until the early 1960s the United States was the world’s largest creditor nation with virtually the entire world paying interest on loans made by Washington and Wall Street to both sides of World War I.
The 1930s and today

If, as the evidence suggests, the U.S. economy is heading toward a major economic crisis on the order of the 1930s, there are several important differences between then and now that must be taken into account starting with the existence of an exactly opposite financial relationship between America and the world in the 1920s and 1930s, and America and the world today.

While the U.S. was the world’s creditor nation back then, America today is the world’s major debtor nation by far. Moreover, in addition to borrowing on a grand scale in order to offset its balance of payments and budgets deficits, it must now also borrow to help pay the interest on its growing mountain of debt.

That is—like the millions of American “homeowners” with sub-prime mortgages, many of whom are already unable to so much as pay the interest on their mortgages, the government of the United States faces a similar problem but on a grander scale.

In other words, like homeowners, corporations and banks defaulting on their debts because they can no longer pay the interest, much less the principal. Capitalist America now is in the exact same position as the millions of workers who owe more than they can ever repay.

In fact, taking all its obligations into account—economic, political and military—capitalist America is locked in an inescapable debt trap of its own making. Worse yet, unlike the homeowner with a mortgage worth more than the house they live in, capitalist America cannot walk away from its mortgage and rent another house!

1 Search the Internet for Leon Trotsky’s, Germany: The Only Road, (September 1932). It provides the best analysis of Hitler’s rise to power and why the two mass workers’ parties, Social Democrat and Communist, failed to form a united front that could have easily crushed the fascist threat and overthrown German capitalism and conquered state power and carried through a socialist revolution.


15) Disposable Children, Disposable Slaves
By Bonnie Weinstein
March/April 2008

Many on the left criticize Marxists for predicting the economic collapse of capitalism. They say that Marxists have been predicting the “death struggle” of capitalism for years and it hasn’t happened yet. They say, capitalism has been able to placate and immobilize the working class. These thoughts are epitomized by the comments of Joaquin Bustelo, a contributor to the Marxism discussion list on the internet, who wrote on January 14, 2008:

“Thus quite often you can read on this list how wages have been going down for decades and so forth and so on. Yet every single material indicator of living standards in this country has been rising over the decades, the size of housing units, how they’re equipped, number of cars, radios and TV sets, energy consumed, etc. etc. etc. And whatever crisis of the moment is said to be sure to doom capitalism—the [Vietnam] War, the [1970s] energy crisis, stagflation, deindustrialization, the S&L crisis, low productivity growth, all the way down to the dot-com, stock markets and housing bubbles of the last decade—have thus far failed to produce the predicted effect.

“To me that says the left underestimates the real resources and strengths of U.S. capitalism, and above all how parasitic it is and how much wealth it siphons off from other countries. Which doesn’t mean that this ‘crisis’ won’t be ‘the’ crisis, but it does tend to make me rather skeptical.”

But Bustelo leaves out the fact that while workers can consume more stuff, the rate of exploitation of workers has increased sharply. Workers are working harder due to speed-up and the general rollback of working conditions across the board. In addition, due to technological production improvements, workers are producing a higher yield for the bosses for his or her labor time while earning a smaller portion of the extra value they now produce.

Bustelo also claims that the reason the antiwar movement has failed to produce youth activists like it did during the war in Vietnam was that there was a draft back then.
Our children live in a different world

What he and everyone seems to ignore is that there is a very different reality for youth today than that of their parents. The gutted organized-labor movement, including two- and three-tier contracts, has qualitatively changed reality for our young people.

To say there isn’t a draft is not quite true either, because there is an economic draft that leads young people to join the military if they have any hope of reaching the economic heights their parents were able to reach—to buy a house or even a new car—without plunging themselves into unmanageable debt or, indeed, being able to even qualify to get into debt. That the military is the only way out of this economic reality is certainly what the Department of Defense is trying to convince young people of. And it spends billions of dollars in advertising money to do so.
Their parents live there, too

Even once-comfortable parents are beginning to feel the pinch. They have to borrow to send their kids to college, and are unable to help them buy a house, something working-class parents in the ’60s and ’70s could afford to do for their coming-of-age kids.

Young adults are finding it much harder to leave the nest. When I was 18 years old, one lousy, unskilled weekly paycheck (in cash, by the way) could take care of my rent for a month and I had plenty left over to buy clothes and eat good food! Those days are gone!

When I struck out on my own, I wasn’t even a high school graduate and could barely type 20 words-per-minute. I hadn’t turned 18 yet and got my first job (as a waitress) in late July of 1963 at Schrafft’s restaurant on 34th Street in New York. My 18th birthday was August 10, 1963. I was working there on August 28, the day of the great March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, led by Martin Luther King, and I was working there on November 22, when Kennedy got killed. Most of the waitresses were Irish and the whole restaurant came to a halt. People were crying all around me. I was fired soon after because, one, I was a lousy waitress and complained about my tips. And I also complained about hearing about Kennedy incessantly. It was driving me insane—you couldn’t escape it. But even still, as poor as my typing was, I gave it a try and was able to go out the next day and get a job in a little print shop in the Bowery that paid $72.00 a week—cash. Newly married, our rent was $75.00 a month and my husband, a union house painter, made much more than me, although his work was seasonal.

Now, young people need to be able to go into debt in order to qualify for a rental unit that will cost half their monthly income! They’d better be able to qualify for a credit card or a car loan and to withstand a credit check (which they will likely have to pay for themselves) when applying to rent an apartment! This leaves them either straitjacketed to credit before they are even out on their own, and, hence, to their low-paid multiple jobs, or out in the streets selling drugs to get the cash for what they need.

For black youth the depression is already here. Their communities are police-occupied and more go to prison than to college.
Kids, you’re on your own

Our youth have no unified voice. They must fend for themselves. Their parents can give them little help—except, perhaps, by babysitting their children. We mustn’t minimize this tremendous problem, because more than half of the children born today are born into single-parent families that have no one but the grandparents to look after them, while the parents do whatever they can to earn the money to feed them. If you have no family to help with the kids, there’s always your car in the parking lot at your jobsite: in other words, you’re on your own. Often your kids are on their own, with older siblings taking care of the younger ones.

This is the effect of multi-tiered pay-scales—whether you work for a union shop or not. All kinds of jobs have multi-tiered pay-scales, where far fewer employees fall into the higher pay-scale category. Young people today make about half what their parents made, adjusting for inflation, and are working even more hours, and fewer have any benefits at all.

Meanwhile, prices have risen. Rents and medical bills are through the roof. The higher costs of real food—fresh meats, produce and dairy products—makes the higher calorie content of fast foods the practical option for the working poor—unhealthy, but affordable. More bang for your buck.

In an interview with Michael Polan entitled, “The Cornification of Food,” broadcast December 4, 2007, by radio station KLCC in Portland, Oregon, he pointed out:

“You can get something like 1,200 calories for a dollar in the snack food aisle and only 250 in produce. You can get 875 calories of soda for $1 and only 170 calories of real fruit juice, of orange juice. So you see, our Darwinian inheritance is to get as much energy with as little expenditure as possible. This is what we’re programmed to do as a species. If you don’t have a lot of money, the way to do that is to eat badly.”

And what of the lives of little kids—today’s grandchildren? They can’t even go out and play. Their only socialization is in school, under restriction and supervision. They have no freedom. They are always being watched, and yet when they’re home from school they are completely ignored, often left alone and cooped up in their homes by parents who have to work long hours.

They live virtual lives in front of the TV or playing video games. They talk to or text-message their friends over the phones if have them. They don’t climb trees or play by the edge of a pond catching frogs, or even hang out in front of the ice cream parlor. Those things exist for them only in the virtual world. They virtually play over the telephone and on MySpace.

There’s an article in the March/April 2007 issue of Orion magazine, entitled “Leave No Child Inside,” about the reduction of attention deficit disorder (ADD) among kids who get to go out and play in nature with other kids. It turns out that letting kids have this opportunity for 30 minutes a day eliminates the need for any ADD drugs. Who’d’a thunk? But most kids rarely get this chance.

“Within the space of a few decades, the way children understand and experience their neighborhoods and the natural world has changed radically. Even as children and teenagers become more aware of global threats to the environment, their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading. As one suburban fifth grader put it to me, in what has become the signature epigram of the children-and-nature movement: ‘I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.’. . . In a typical week, only 6 percent of children ages nine to thirteen play outside on their own. Studies by the National Sporting Goods Association and by American Sports Data, a research firm, show a dramatic decline in the past decade in such outdoor activities as swimming and fishing. Even bike riding is down 31 percent since 1995. In San Diego, according to a survey by the nonprofit Aquatic Adventures, 90 percent of inner-city kids do not know how to swim; 34 percent have never been to the beach.... Studies at the University of Illinois show that time in natural settings significantly reduces symptoms of attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder in children as young as age five. The research also shows the experience helps reduce negative stress and protects psychological well-being, especially in children undergoing the most stressful life events.”

Our youth are cooped-up, criminalized, incarcerated, unemployed and underemployed, underpaid, undereducated, and neglected by parents who have to work two and three jobs just to pay the rent and bring home the Mickey D’s, and who must also neglect themselves, their health, and their well-being. Their children have become society’s disposable children! They have become disposable slaves.

They have no champions. They have no hope. To them, the world’s gone to hell in a hand-basket and their own parents haven’t been able to do a damn thing to stop it, let alone make it better even for themselves, or to show them a way to improve their lives.

According to an article that appeared in The New York Times of January 16, 2008, “Blue-Collar Jobs Disappear, Taking Families’ Way of Life Along,” by Erik Eckholm, about job loss in Jackson, Ohio,

“Throughout the state, the percentage of families living below the poverty line—just over $20,000 for a family of four last year—rose slightly from 14 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2007, one study found. But equally striking is the rise in younger working families struggling above that line. The numbers are more dismal in the southeastern Appalachian part of the state, where 32 percent of families lived below the poverty line in 2007, according to the study, and 56 percent lived with incomes less than $40,000 for a family of four.

“‘These younger workers should be the backbone of the economy,’ said Shiloh Turner, study director for the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, which conducted the surveys. But in parts of Ohio, Ms. Turner said, half or more ‘are barely making ends meet.’ . . . ‘As $15-an-hour factory jobs are replaced by $7- or $8-an-hour retail jobs, more men in their 30s and 40s are moving in with their parents or grandparents,’ said Cheryl Thiessen, the director of Jackson/Vinton Community Action, which runs medical, fuel and other aid programs in Jackson and Vinton Counties.

“‘Other unemployed or low-wage workers, some with families, find themselves staying with one relative after another,’ Ms. Thiessen said, ‘serially wearing out their welcome.’

“‘A lot of major employers have left, and the town is drying up,’ Ms. Thiessen said of Jackson. ‘We’re starting to lose small shops, too—Hallmark, the jewelry and shoe stores, the movie theater and most of the grocery stores.’

“Shari Joos, 45, a married mother of four boys in nearby Wellston, said, ‘If you don’t work at Wal-Mart, the only job you can get around here is in fast food.’

“Between her husband’s factory job and her intermittent work, they made $30,000 a year in the best of times, Mrs. Joos said. Since last fall, when her husband was laid off by the Merillat cabinet factory, which downsized to one shift a day from three, keeping anywhere near that income required Mrs. Joos to take a second job. She works at a school cafeteria each weekday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and then drives to Wal-Mart, where she relaxes in her car before starting her 2:00-to-10:00 p.m. shift at the deli counter.

“Her 20-year-old son went to college for two years, earning an associate degree in information science, but cannot find any jobs nearby. He still works at McDonald’s and lives at home as he ponders whether to move to a distant city, as most local college graduates must. Her 22-year-old son works at Burger King and lives with his grandparents—‘That was his way of moving out,’ Mrs. Joos said.”

Our youth are a giant tinderbox waiting to explode. They have very few opportunities left to them—no home loans, no credit cards, nor decent jobs that pay more than the streets. Many of our children are living in fight-or-flight mode all the time, looking for whatever they can to bolt themselves out of this bleak reality.

Those who are addicted to drugs and/or have criminal records are 75 percent likely to be unemployable. And those numbers are increasing at a phenomenal rate. Prisons are a booming business and education and rehabilitation are becoming more and more expensive and, in fact, unavailable to those who need it the most. Drastic cuts have been and still are being made to drug-rehab clinics that cater to the poor and uninsured.

The working class throughout the world is being pushed further and further toward the brink as the newer generations come of age. That’s what it means when they say the gap between the rich and poor is widening.
Will a kinder and gentler capitalism be able to save the day?

The capitalists and their puppet politicians are not even claiming that. The candidates—all of them—are saying how the American people have had it too good. That we all have to learn to tighten our belts. It’s just that none of this applies to those who have all the money. And everyone in the world knows that. It’s flaunted all over the mass media, on the movie screens, and on the TV—the wealthy draped in their diamonds and designer gowns coyly sporting $30,000 purses; the Forbes 500 moving into the billion-dollar range; the CEOs and their billion-dollar bonuses. Everyone knows about these things, even if they’re selling drugs to their friends in the streets or chatting behind bars in jail.

The question is, what politics will capture the imagination, hope, and hearts of our youth? What politics will offer them a way out of this miserable future? What politics will offer them the strength to change the world for the better for everyone? What politics will make it crystal clear to them that such change is in their own self-interest as well as in the interests of everyone and the planet itself, if they take that power into their own hands and out of the hands of the capitalist class?

Socialism—a world socialist revolution to abolish capitalism and establish a planned economy that serves human needs rather than private profit—is the answer that will secure the gift of a thriving future for all.

Everything has changed for the lives of our children except the one, most fundamental reality: capitalism and its inexorable road back to barbarism. Modern capitalism will pull itself out of the impending worldwide economic crisis of the falling rate of profit—enough to appease the working class—or it won’t. The thing is, to our young people, it sure looks like it won’t. In fact, to our youth it looks like there will be no future.

There is a way out of capitalism’s greed, chaos and inevitable degeneration to barbarism. It is clearly outlined and spelled out in the rich legacy of Marxist literature. These words by Leon Trotsky from his book, The Revolution Betrayed, illustrate the human sentiment behind the transformation of society from a for-private-profit mode of production to production for the satisfaction of the needs and wants of all. Trotsky said :

“The hypocrisy of prevailing opinion develops everywhere and always as the square, or cube, of the social conditions. Such approximately is the historic law of ideology translated into the language of mathematics. Socialism, if it is worthy of the name, means human relations without greed, friendship without envy and intrigue, love without base calculation.”

Socialism will be the evolutionary leap in human social relations that will end human slavery in every form because it is based on human solidarity and love. A worldwide socialist revolution is the gift that we, the world’s working class, can open for our children and grandchildren and the future of humankind. We have only our chains to lose and a world to gain!




North Carolina: Ministers Say Police Destroyed Records
National Briefing | South
Three ministers accused a Greensboro police officer of ordering officers to destroy about 50 boxes of police files related to the fatal shooting of five people at an anti-Ku Klux Klan rally in 1979. The Revs. Cardes Brown, Gregory Headen and Nelson Johnson said an active-duty officer told them he and at least three other officers were told to destroy the records in 2004 or 2005, shortly after a seven-member panel that had been convened to research the shootings requested police files related to them. The ministers did not identify the officer who provided the information. On Nov. 3, 1979, a heavily armed caravan of Klansman and Nazi Party members confronted the rally. Five marchers were killed and 10 were injured. Those charged were later acquitted in state and federal trials. The city and some Klan members were found liable for the deaths in civil litigation.
February 27, 2008

Gaza: Israeli Army Clears Itself in 21 Deaths
World Briefing | Middle East
The army said no legal action would be taken against military officials over an artillery strike in Beit Hanun in 2006 in which an errant shell hit residential buildings and killed 21 Palestinian civilians. An army investigation concluded that the shell was fired based on information that militants were intending to fire rockets from the area, an army statement said. The civilian deaths, it said, were “directly due to a rare and severe failure” in the artillery control system. The army’s military advocate general concluded that there was no need for further investigation.
February 27, 2008

World Briefing | Asia
Taiwan: Tons of Fish Wash Up on Beaches
About 45 tons of fish have washed up dead along 200 miles of beach on the outlying Penghu Islands after an unusual cold snap. News reports said 10 times as many dead fish were still in the water.
February 23, 2008

Zimbabwe: Inflation Breaks the Six-Figure Mark
World Briefing | Africa
The government’s statistics office said the inflation rate surged to a new record of 100,580 percent in January, up from 66,212 percent in December. Rangarirai Mberi, news editor of the independent Financial Gazette in Harare, said the state of the economy would feature prominently in next month’s presidential and parliamentary elections. “Numbers no longer shock people,” he said. Zimbabweans have learned to live in a hyperinflationary environment, he added, “but the question is, how long can this continue?”
February 21, 2008




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,]


"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]


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]


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])

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