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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Goodbye George Carlin by John Tognolini


I remember the first joke I heard from George in the early 1990's. It was on video showing his live performances in the US. It was just after George Bush Snr. bombed Iraq into the the stone age in the first Gulf War. I can't remember the exact words but he said basicially,


"When was the last time we bombed any white people? Oh the Germans right. And why? They wanted to rule the world. Now that's the US's job."


It take couraqe to to be a comic, particulary when you expose the unchallenged political power of wealthy elites and George Carlin had that.


And we should praise that. Even better, copy his example and go for the wealthy and the bigots. Make them and their politics targets for laughter and satire. George Carlin had both the moral and physical courage to do that.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

George Carlin Mourned as a Counterculture Hero

LOS ANGELES - Acerbic standup comedian and satirist George Carlin, whose staunch defense of free speech in his most famous routine “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television” led to a key Supreme Court ruling on obscenity, has died.

Carlin, who had a history of heart trouble, went into St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica on Sunday afternoon complaining of chest pain and died later that evening, said his publicist, Jeff Abraham. He had performed as recently as last weekend at the Orleans Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas. He was 71.

“He was a genius and I will miss him dearly,” Jack Burns, who was the other half of a comedy duo with Carlin in the early 1960s, told The Associated Press.

Carlin’s jokes constantly breached the accepted boundaries of comedy and language, particularly with his routine on the “Seven Words” - all of which are taboo on broadcast TV and radio to this day.

When he uttered all seven at a show in Milwaukee in 1972, he was arrested on charges of disturbing the peace, freed on $150 bail and exonerated when a Wisconsin judge dismissed the case, saying it was indecent but citing free speech and the lack of any disturbance.

When the words were later played on a New York radio station, they resulted in a 1978 Supreme Court ruling upholding the government’s authority to sanction stations for broadcasting offensive language during hours when children might be listening.

“So my name is a footnote in American legal history, which I’m perversely kind of proud of,” he told The Associated Press earlier this year.

Despite his reputation as unapologetically irreverent, Carlin was a television staple through the decades, serving as host of the “Saturday Night Live” debut in 1975 - noting on his Web site that he was “loaded on cocaine all week long” - and appearing some 130 times on “The Tonight Show.”

He produced 23 comedy albums, 14 HBO specials, three books, a couple of TV shows and appeared in several movies, from his own comedy specials to “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” in 1989 - a testament to his range from cerebral satire and cultural commentary to downright silliness (and sometimes hitting all points in one stroke).

“Why do they lock gas station bathrooms?” he once mused. “Are they afraid someone will clean them?”

He won four Grammy Awards, each for best spoken comedy album, and was nominated for five Emmy awards. On Tuesday, it was announced that Carlin was being awarded the 11th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, which will be presented Nov. 10 in Washington and broadcast on PBS.

Carlin started his career on the traditional nightclub circuit in a coat and tie, pairing with Burns to spoof TV game shows, news and movies. Perhaps in spite of the outlaw soul, “George was fairly conservative when I met him,” said Burns, describing himself as the more left-leaning of the two. It was a degree of separation that would reverse when they came upon Lenny Bruce, the original shock comic, in the early ’60s.

“We were working in Chicago, and we went to see Lenny, and we were both blown away,” Burns said, recalling the moment as the beginning of the end for their collaboration if not their close friendship. “It was an epiphany for George. The comedy we were doing at the time wasn’t exactly groundbreaking, and George knew then that he wanted to go in a different direction.”
That direction would make Carlin as much a social commentator and philosopher as comedian, a position he would relish through the years.

“The whole problem with this idea of obscenity and indecency, and all of these things - bad language and whatever - it’s all caused by one basic thing, and that is: religious superstition,” Carlin told the AP in a 2004 interview. “There’s an idea that the human body is somehow evil and bad and there are parts of it that are especially evil and bad, and we should be ashamed. Fear, guilt and shame are built into the attitude toward sex and the body. … It’s reflected in these prohibitions and these taboos that we have.”

Carlin was born on May 12, 1937, and grew up in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan, raised by a single mother. After dropping out of high school in the ninth grade, he joined the Air Force in 1954. He received three court-martials and numerous disciplinary punishments, according to his official Web site.

While in the Air Force he started working as an off-base disc jockey at a radio station in Shreveport, La., and after receiving a general discharge in 1957, took an announcing job at WEZE in Boston.

“Fired after three months for driving mobile news van to New York to buy pot,” his Web site says.

From there he went on to a job on the night shift as a deejay at a radio station in Fort Worth, Texas. Carlin also worked variety of temporary jobs including a carnival organist and a marketing director for a peanut brittle.

In 1960, he left with Burns, a Texas radio buddy, for Hollywood to pursue a nightclub career as comedy team Burns & Carlin. He left with $300, but his first break came just months later when the duo appeared on Jack Paar’s “Tonight Show.”

Carlin said he hoped to would emulate his childhood hero, Danny Kaye, the kindly, rubber-faced comedian who ruled over the decade that Carlin grew up in - the 1950s - with a clever but gentle humor reflective of its times.

Only problem was, it didn’t work for him, and they broke up by 1962.

“I was doing superficial comedy entertaining people who didn’t really care: Businessmen, people in nightclubs, conservative people. And I had been doing that for the better part of 10 years when it finally dawned on me that I was in the wrong place doing the wrong things for the wrong people,” Carlin reflected recently as he prepared for his 14th HBO special, “It’s Bad For Ya.”
Eventually Carlin lost the buttoned-up look, favoring the beard, ponytail and all-black attire for which he came to be known.

But even with his decidedly adult-comedy bent, Carlin never lost his childlike sense of mischief, even voicing kid-friendly projects like episodes of the TV show “Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends” and the spacey Volkswagen bus Fillmore in the 2006 Pixar hit “Cars.”

Carlin’s first wife, Brenda, died in 1997. He is survived by wife Sally Wade; daughter Kelly Carlin McCall; son-in-law Bob McCall; brother Patrick Carlin; and sister-in-law Marlene Carlin.

Associated Press writer Christopher Weber contributed to this report.

VICTORIAN AUSTRALIAN MANUFACTURING WORKERS UNION STATE CONFERENCE POLICY ON CLIMATE CHANGE







The AMWU recognises that the most serious issue facing humanity is the issue of climate change as a result of global warming. If urgent action is taken within the next 10 years, it may be possible to prevent runaway climate change from occurring. Runaway climate change is the point at which global warming is irreversible. Global warming is a catastrophe for the entire planet. With respect to humanity, the AMWU recognises that it will be working class people who will suffer most.

While the previous Howard government refused to set targets for lowering greenhouse gas emissions, the current Rudd Labor government's targets are so low that they would not prevent runaway climate change from occurring. By treating the issue of climate change as an economic problem rather than an environmental emergency, the Rudd government is unlikely to adopt the changes that are urgently required unless pressure is applied.

The AMWU is concerned that many of the solutions being put forward by governments, corporations and sections of the environment movement are ones which will be ineffective in stopping climate change but which will shift the cost of action against global warming from big business to working class people.

For these reasons, the AMWU pledges to involve itself in the campaign to stop global warming. The AMWU believes that the big polluting corporations which are responsible for global warming should be responsible for paying the costs of fixing the problem. Working class people are not responsible for the problem.

For this reason, the AMWU is opposed to measures such as increasing energy bills. Particularly those of low income house holders. The AMWU will support initiatives which provide demonstrable net benefit (in moving from unsustainable to sustainable practices). It notes the claimed potential of such technologies as 'clean coal' and carbon capture and storage. Carbon capture and storage is an experimental technology, not proven anywhere on a commercial scale.

The AMWU is sceptical about the potential of CCS to reduce emissions in the next 20 years as scientists say we must. It retains an open mind on these, and will support them if their viability can be proven and they do not impose unreasonable/any costs on current and future generations. In the meantime, any research and development initiatives should be predominately funded by private industry and openly monitored / audited by the relevant government body and stakeholders.

The AMWU is sceptical about carbon trading as an effective mechanism to address climate change because the market, without strong intervention by governments around the globe, will not reduce emissions. Conference reaffirms its opposition to Nuclear power generation.

The AMWU calls on the government to commit to a radical reduction of greenhouse gases. This policy needs a focus on energy and water conservation by industry. A centrepiece of this requires the government directing resources for climate change into developing and sustaining a domestic manufacturing industry producing renewable energy systems. This industry must be located in communities most effected by a shift to renewable energy generation.

The AMWU commits to campaigning for members in the energy industry not to be disadvantaged. It calls on the government to guarantee and provide all these workers with the appropriate additional training and skills and maintaining as a minimum their current pay and industry conditions in any replacement low or zero carbon generation facilities.

The AMWU recognises that for runaway climate change to be prevented, a mass movement along the lines of the Your Rights at Work campaign is required. The union movement has an important role to play to help develop such a movement.

As a first step, the AMWU needs to:

·invite guest speakers on the issue of climate change to address members' meetings,

· consider clauses in EBAs for factories & worksites to take measures to reduce their greenhouse gas contribution,

· involve itself in the climate change movement,

· develop a training program for delegates around Climate Change,

· regional areas affected by AMWU policy need to be fully consulted and involved in development of AMWU Policies that may effect the region.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

NSW energy privatisation: Labor rats make deal with Liberals by Dick Nichols

The expected showdown in the struggle over the NSW Iemma government’s proposed electricity privatisation has stalled.

While the bills enabling the sell-off received their first reading on June 4, they then disappeared from the parliamentary agenda as it became apparent that Iemma and his treasurer, Michael Costa, didn’t have the numbers. The legislation risked defeat in both houses.

This was despite “left” cabinet ministers, such as deputy premier John Watkins and agriculture minister Ian Macdonald berating MPs to agree to the sale, and right-wing power broker Eddie Obeid having offered nearly every member of his faction a cabinet position. In the Legislative Assembly, nine Labor MPs, including ex-ministers Grant McBride, Kerry Hickey and Phil Koperberg as well as government whip Gerard Martin were either committed to, or considering, crossing the floor, risking a Iemma loss by one vote.

In the Legislative Council five ALPers — Linda Voltz, Mick Veitch, Penny Sharpe, Ian West and Helen Westwood — were ready to oppose the bills. When added to Green and Coalition votes this would have torpedoed the sell-off. Simultaneously, a mass meeting of Central Coast power industry workers voted on July 11 for an “immediate stoppage of work by all members across the industry if the sell-off legislation is passed by the Lower House of NSW Parliament”.

Before the vote the meeting was addressed by Greens MLC John Kaye, the most prominent parliamentary opponent of electricity privatisation. On June 16, Iemma caved in and accepted the Coalition’s five “community safeguards”, including having the NSW auditor-general review the proposed sale and report back to parliament. Iemma also agreed to a “rural and regional communities impact statement”, an independent committee to oversee the spending of the sale proceeds, a parliamentary committee to oversee commitments on renewable energy and a review of proposed safety nets for low-income earners.

The deal was announced after the NSW National Party state conference on June 14-15. The rank-and-file of the Nationals are strongly opposed to the sell-off. Delaying the announcement until after its conference allowed Nationals’ leader Andrew Stoner to escape having to explain to his members why he accepted the Liberals’ conditional support for the sell-off. The Nationals conference also rejected a merger with the Liberals. The heat now goes onto the auditor-general.

Exactly what does a “review” of the sell-off proposal mean? What terms of reference is the auditor-general to follow? Opponents of the sell-off are already demanding that the auditor-general’s review take the form of a public inquiry with broad terms of reference, which would allow the full case against privatisation to be heard. It is already being suggested to MPs opposing the sell-off that they introduce legislation proposing such terms of reference.

Iemma’s deal with the Coalition opens a new phase in the drawn-out fight against NSW electricity privatisation. The defeat of Labor's arrogant Macquarie Street clique was a victory for the campaign against the sell-off: without the mobilisation of community opinion and the numerous community meetings this year about the ins and outs of power privatisation there would not have been the 702-107 NSW ALP conference vote against the sell-off in May.

It is also doubtful whether 14 Labor MPs could have been persuaded to oppose it in parliament. But the campaign must not relax: if it is to win it must plan for a worst-case scenario in the September session of parliament — an auditor-general’s report that allows a Iemma-Coalition majority to vote through the sell-off. Here, it would be of great use to the campaign if the NSW ALP Administrative Committee applied the big stick to Iemma’s ministerial clique of Labor rats for flouting party policy.

That message should be made crystal clear when Iemma fronts the committee in early July. It wouldn’t be the first time a NSW ALP premier has been shown the door by the party. In 1916, Premier William Holman was forced out of the party for supporting conscription, only to join up with Labor’s traditional conservative opponents to continue in office as a leader of a “Nationalist” government. In the short term, Holman lorded over a shrunken group of Labor MPs. However, the conscription split did not put the ALP out of office in NSW — the party returned to win the 1920 election.

State-wide mass protest However, a win against the privatisers is only certain if this fight mobilises the 85% state-wide opposition to the sell-off in industrial and community action. We need to continue informing and mobilising the mass sentiment against the sell-off. This includes multiplying the suburban stalls, the pickets of MPs’ offices and challenging MPs to face their electors.

But we also have to continue to push for a state-wide day of action against privatisation, to be launched by a cross-union delegates’ meeting convened by Unions NSW or the public sector unions. Preparation for such a protest has to include mass leafleting of railway, bus and ferry stations and public sector workplaces. With Iemma and Costa’s surrender to the Coalition, Unions NSW now has to refocus on the industrial and community campaign that was put on the backburner during the last two months of lobbying ALP MPs.

It is critical that planning starts now for a mass protest rally outside the NSW parliament when the September session begins. The Sydney Power to the People group is planning for a “Super Saturday” of suburban stalls on August 16 and a monster public meeting against the sell-off on August 30.

For its part, the Socialist Alliance in NSW will be putting its heart and soul into the campaign over the next few months, and is encouraging everyone to get involved. For details visit the Socialist Alliance web site at . Meetings of the Sydney Power to the People group take place every Wednesday at 7pm in the AMWU building, Chalmers Street, Surry Hills. For details contact Colin Drane on 0419 698 396.

[Dick Nichols is the national convener of the Socialist Alliance.]
From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #756 25 June 2008.

Togs's Quotes for Sunday June 22 08

“I am not a liberator. Liberators do not exist. The people liberate themselves.”
Che Guevara 1928-1967

Destroying The Best In Britian by John Pilger

“Economies need to be made, though not in the pursuit of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.When I first came to live in Britain, much of ordinary life was premised on a sense of community. It was mostly undeclared; occasionally, it would become vivid, even heroic. Watching Durham miners, defeated but unbowed by hunger and debt, march back to the pit in 1985, led by their women, was a glimpse of Britain at its best. In spite of Thatcher and Blair, that communal decency survives, though you may have to look for it. A good place to look is a local post office.”

Obama’s Chicago Boys by Naomi Klein
“Another of Obama’s Chicago fans is 39-year-old billionaire Kenneth Griffin, CEO of the hedge fund Citadel Investment Group. Griffin, who gave the maximum allowable donation to Obama, is something of a poster boy for an unbalanced economy. He got married at Versailles and had the after-party at Marie Antoinette’s vacation spot (Cirque du Soleil performed)–and he is one of the staunchest opponents of closing the hedge-fund tax loophole. While Obama talks about toughening trade rules with China, Griffin has been bending the few barriers that do exist.Despite sanctions prohibiting the sale of police equipment to China, Citadel has been pouring money into controversial China-based security companies that are putting the local population under unprecedented levels of surveillance.”
http://togsplace.blogspot.com/2008/06/obamas-chicago-boys-by-naomi-klein.html

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
Quotes from George Orwell 1903-1950 English Writer
"He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt, and his only mission each time he went up was to come down alive." Chapter 3, pg. 38

Quotes from Joseph Heller (1923-1999) Catch 22
“Yes, I think it's really important to acknowledge that Dr. King, precisely at the moment of his assassination, was re-conceptualizing the civil rights movement and moving toward a sort of coalitional relationship with the trade union movement. It's I think quite significant that he was in Memphis to participate in a demonstration by sanitation workers who had gone out on strike. Now, if we look at the way in which the labor movement itself has evolved over the last couple of decades, we see increasing numbers of black people who are in the leadership of the labor movement and this is true today.”
Angela Davis 1944- American socialist organiser and professor.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Obama’s Chicago Boys by Naomi Klein

Barack Obama waited just three days after Hillary Clinton pulled out of the race to declare, on CNBC, “Look. I am a pro-growth, free-market guy. I love the market.”

Demonstrating that this is no mere spring fling, he has appointed 37-year-old Jason Furman to head his economic policy team. Furman is one of Wal-Mart’s most prominent defenders, anointing the company a “progressive success story.”

On the campaign trail, Obama blasted Clinton for sitting on the Wal-Mart board and pledged, “I won’t shop there.” For Furman, however, it’s Wal-Mart’s critics who are the real threat: the “efforts to get Wal-Mart to raise its wages and benefits” are creating “collateral damage” that is “way too enormous and damaging to working people and the economy more broadly for me to sit by idly and sing ‘Kum-Ba-Ya’ in the interests of progressive harmony.”

Obama’s love of markets and his desire for “change” are not inherently incompatible. “The market has gotten out of balance,” he says, and it most certainly has. Many trace this profound imbalance back to the ideas of Milton Friedman, who launched a counterrevolution against the New Deal from his perch at the University of Chicago economics department. And here there are more problems, because Obama–who taught law at the University of Chicago for a decade–is thoroughly embedded in the mind-set known as the Chicago School.

He chose as his chief economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist on the left side of a spectrum that stops at the center-right. Goolsbee, unlike his more Friedmanite colleagues, sees inequality as a problem. His primary solution, however, is more education–a line you can also get from Alan Greenspan. In their hometown, Goolsbee has been eager to link Obama to the Chicago School. “If you look at his platform, at his advisers, at his temperament, the guy’s got a healthy respect for markets,” he told Chicago magazine. “It’s in the ethos of the [University of Chicago], which is something different from saying he is laissez-faire.”

Another of Obama’s Chicago fans is 39-year-old billionaire Kenneth Griffin, CEO of the hedge fund Citadel Investment Group. Griffin, who gave the maximum allowable donation to Obama, is something of a poster boy for an unbalanced economy. He got married at Versailles and had the after-party at Marie Antoinette’s vacation spot (Cirque du Soleil performed)–and he is one of the staunchest opponents of closing the hedge-fund tax loophole. While Obama talks about toughening trade rules with China, Griffin has been bending the few barriers that do exist.

Despite sanctions prohibiting the sale of police equipment to China, Citadel has been pouring money into controversial China-based security companies that are putting the local population under unprecedented levels of surveillance.

Now is the time to worry about Obama’s Chicago Boys and their commitment to fending off serious attempts at regulation. It was in the two and a half months between winning the 1992 election and being sworn into office that Bill Clinton did a U-turn on the economy. He had campaigned promising to revise NAFTA, adding labor and environmental provisions and to invest in social programs. But two weeks before his inauguration, he met with then-Goldman Sachs chief Robert Rubin, who convinced him of the urgency of embracing austerity and more liberalization. Rubin told PBS, “President Clinton actually made the decision before he stepped into the Oval Office, during the transition, on what was a dramatic change in economic policy.”

Furman, a leading disciple of Rubin, was chosen to head the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project, the think tank Rubin helped found to argue for reforming, rather than abandoning, the free-trade agenda. Add to that Goolsbee’s February meeting with Canadian consulate officials, who left with the distinct impression that they had been instructed not to take Obama’s anti-NAFTA campaigning seriously, and there is every reason for concern about a replay of 1993.

The irony is that there is absolutely no reason for this backsliding. The movement launched by Friedman, introduced by Ronald Reagan and entrenched under Clinton, faces a profound legitimacy crisis around the world. Nowhere is this more evident than at the University of Chicago itself. In mid-May, when university president Robert Zimmer announced the creation of a $200 million Milton Friedman Institute, an economic research center devoted to continuing and augmenting the Friedman legacy, a controversy erupted. More than 100 faculty members signed a letter of protest. “The effects of the neoliberal global order that has been put in place in recent decades, strongly buttressed by the Chicago School of Economics, have by no means been unequivocally positive,” the letter states. “Many would argue that they have been negative for much of the world’s population.”

When Friedman died in 2006, such bold critiques of his legacy were largely absent. The adoring memorials spoke only of grand achievement, with one of the more prominent appreciations appearing in the New York Times–written by Austan Goolsbee. Yet now, just two years later, Friedman’s name is seen as a liability even at his own alma mater. So why has Obama chosen this moment, when all illusions of a consensus have dropped away, to go Chicago retro?

The news is not all bad. Furman claims he will be drawing on the expertise of two Keynesian economists: Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute and James Galbraith, son of Friedman’s nemesis John Kenneth Galbraith. Our “current economic crisis,” Obama recently said, did not come from nowhere. It is “the logical conclusion of a tired and misguided philosophy that has dominated Washington for far too long.”

True enough. But before Obama can purge Washington of the scourge of Friedmanism, he has some ideological housecleaning of his own to do.

Naomi Klein is the author of many books, including her most recent, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.Visit Naomi’s website at http://www.naomiklein.org/, or to learn more about her new book, visit http://www.shockdoctrine.com/.

Published on Saturday, June 14, 2008 by The Nation

In the great tradition, Obama is a hawk by John Pilger

In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger reaches back into the history of the Democratic Party and describes the tradition of war-making and expansionism that Barack Obama has now left little doubt he will honour.
In 1941, the editor Edward Dowling wrote: "The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it." What has changed? The terror of the rich is greater than ever, and the poor have passed on their delusion to those who believe that when George W Bush finally steps down next January, his numerous threats to the rest of humanity will diminish.

The foregone nomination of Barack Obama, which, according to one breathless commentator, "marks a truly exciting and historic moment in US history", is a product of the new delusion. Actually, it just seems new. Truly exciting and historic moments have been fabricated around US presidential campaigns for as long as I can recall, generating what can only be described as bullshit on a grand scale. Race, gender, appearance, body language, rictal spouses and offspring, even bursts of tragic grandeur, are all subsumed by marketing and “image-making”, now magnified by "virtual" technology. Thanks to an undemocratic electoral college system (or, in Bush’s case, tampered voting machines) only those who both control and obey the system can win. This has been the case since the truly historic and exciting victory of Harry Truman, the liberal Democrat said to be a humble man of the people, who went on to show how tough he was by obliterating two cities with the atomic bomb.

Understanding Obama as a likely president of the United States is not possible without understanding the demands of an essentially unchanged system of power: in effect a great media game. For example, since I compared Obama with Robert Kennedy in these pages, he has made two important statements, the implications of which have not been allowed to intrude on the celebrations. The first was at the conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), the Zionist lobby, which, as Ian Williams has pointed out, "will get you accused of anti-Semitism if you quote its own website about its power". Obama had already offered his genuflection, but on 4 June went further. He promised to support an “undivided Jerusalem” as Israel’s capital. Not a single government on earth supports the Israeli annexation of all of Jerusalem, including the Bush regime, which recognises the UN resolution designating Jerusalem an international city.

His second statement, largely ignored, was made in Miami on 23 May. Speaking to the expatriate Cuban community – which over the years has faithfully produced terrorists, assassins and drug runners for US administrations – Obama promised to continue a 47-year crippling embargo on Cuba that has been declared illegal by the UN year after year.

Again, Obama went further than Bush. He said the United States had "lost Latin America". He described the democratically elected governments in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua as a "vacuum" to be filled. He raised the nonsense of Iranian influence in Latin America, and he endorsed Colombia’s "right to strike terrorists who seek safe-havens across its borders". Translated, this means the "right" of a regime, whose president and leading politicians are linked to death squads, to invade its neighbours on behalf of Washington. He also endorsed the so-called Merida Initiative, which Amnesty International and others have condemned as the US bringing the "Colombian solution" to Mexico. He did not stop there. "We must press further south as well," he said. Not even Bush has said that.

It is time the wishful-thinkers grew up politically and debated the world of great power as it is, not as they hope it will be. Like all serious presidential candidates, past and present, Obama is a hawk and an expansionist. He comes from an unbroken Democratic tradition, as the war-making of presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter and Clinton demonstrates. Obama’s difference may be that he feels an even greater need to show how tough he is. However much the colour of his skin draws out both racists and supporters, it is otherwise irrelevant to the great power game. The "truly exciting and historic moment in US history" will only occur when the game itself is challenged.

Togs's Quotes for Sunday June 15 08


“As the 40th anniversary of the death of Argentinean-born revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, murdered in Bolivia on October 9, 1967, on the orders of the CIA, arrives, there is increasing evidence that his spirit of struggle against injustice continues to get stronger in Latin America.Five left-wing Latin American governments used the United Nations’ September 25-October 3 General Assembly meeting to slam US imperialism and corporate control of the world economy — the very things Che died fighting against — insisting these two things threatened to destroy the planet. Representatives of the governments of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua attacked the hypocrisy of the US government, and demanded changes to the global capitalist system that puts profits before people’s needs and the environment.”

Che Guevara's legacy lives on in Latin America by Stuart Munckton

http://togsplace.blogspot.com/2007/10/che-guevaras-legacy-lives-on-in-latin.html

“Beyond the sound and fury of its conquest of Iraq and campaign against Iran, the world’s dominant power is waging a largely unreported war on another continent – Latin America. Using proxies, Washington aims to restore and reinforce the political control of a privileged group calling itself middle-class, to shift the responsibility for massacres and drug trafficking away from the psychotic regime in Colombia and its mafiosi, and to extinguish hopes raised among Latin America’s impoverished majority by the reform governments of Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.”

Latin America: the hidden war on democracy by John Pilger

http://togsplace.blogspot.com/2008/04/latin-america-hidden-war-on-democracy.html

“On Sept. 11, 1973, Pinochet's forces attacked the Chilean presidential palace. Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president, died in the palace, apparently by his own hand, because he was unwilling to surrender to the assault that demolished Latin America's oldest, most vibrant democracy and established a regime of torture and repression.”

South America: Toward an Alternative Future by Noam Chomsky

http://togsplace.blogspot.com/2007/01/south-america-toward-alternative-future.html

“Remember the “ownership society,” fixture of major George W. Bush addresses for the first four years of his presidency? “We’re creating…an ownership society in this country, where more Americans than ever will be able to open up their door where they live and say, welcome to my house, welcome to my piece of property,” Bush said in October 2004. Washington think-tanker Grover Norquist predicted that the ownership society would be Bush’s greatest legacy, remembered “long after people can no longer pronounce or spell Fallujah.” Yet in Bush’s final State of the Union address, the once-ubiquitous phrase was conspicuously absent. And little wonder: rather than its proud father, Bush has turned out to be the ownership society’s undertaker.

Well before the ownership society had a neat label, its creation was central to the success of the right-wing economic revolution around the world. The idea was simple: if working-class people owned a small piece of the market–a home mortgage, a stock portfolio, a private pension–they would cease to identify as workers and start to see themselves as owners, with the same interests as their bosses. That meant they could vote for politicians promising to improve stock performance rather than job conditions. Class consciousness would be a relic.”

Disowned by the Ownership Society by Naomi Klein

http://togsplace.blogspot.com/2008/02/disowned-by-ownership-society-by-naomi.html

“It is clear from this inundation of personal stories of abuse and retribution against ordinary Americans that a network of criminal behavior and intention is catching up more and more mainstream citizens in its grasp. It is clear that this is not democracy as usual — or even the corruption of democracy as usual. It is clear that we will need more drastic action than emails to Congress.The people I am hearing from are conservatives and independents as well as progressives. The cardinal rule of a closing or closed society is that your alignment with the regime offers no protection; in a true police state no one is safe.

I read the news in a state of something like walking shock: seven soldiers wrote op-eds critical of the war — in The New York Times; three are dead, one shot in the head. A female soldier who was about to become a whistleblower, possibly about abuses involving taxpayers’ money: shot in the head. Pat Tillman, who was contemplating coming forward in a critique of the war: shot in the head. Donald Vance, a contractor himself, who blew the whistle on irregularities involving arms sales in Iraq — taken hostage FROM the U.S. Embassy BY U.S. soldiers and kept without recourse to a lawyer in a U.S. held-prison, abused and terrified for weeks — and scared to talk once he got home. Another whistleblower in Iraq, as reported in Vanity Fair: held in a trailer all night by armed contractors before being ejected from the country.”

American Tears by Naomi Wolf

http://togsplace.blogspot.com/2007/10/american-tears-by-naomi-wolf.html

“Torture works,” an American special forces major - now, needless to say, a colonel - boasted to a colleague of mine a couple of years ago. It seems that the CIA and its hired thugs in Afghanistan and Iraq still believe this. There is no evidence that rendition and beatings and waterboarding and the insertion of metal pipes into men’s anuses - and, of course, the occasional torturing to death of detainees - has ended. Why else would the CIA admit in January that it had destroyed videotapes of prisoners being almost drowned - the “waterboarding” technique - before they could be seen by US investigators?”

Torture Does Not Work, as History Shows by Robert Fisk

http://togsplace.blogspot.com/2008/02/torture-does-not-work-as-history-shows.html

Cochabamba was where the US Military Advisory Group, which was supervising the operation to capture and kill Guevara, established its HQ. And it was to Cochabamba that I fled from Camiri in 1967 after being briefly arrested, accused of being a Cuban guerrilla called Pombo, Che’s bodyguard and one of those who escaped the encampment and returned safely to Cuba. I holed up there till I could get a flight to La Paz and a connection to Europe via Brazil. Hearing me reminisce with Richard Gott, who was also defending humanity, and who had been the Guardian’s chief Latin America correspondent in 1967, a young Telesur journalist from Madrid said: ‘God. It’s just like listening to Spanish Civil War veterans returning to Spain."

London Review of Books Diary: Caracas/Cochabamba by Tariq Ali

http://togsplace.blogspot.com/2007/06/london-review-of-books-diary.html

Quotes compiled by John/Togs Tognolini each week , check out Togs's Place.Com

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Workers and environmentalists need a new alliance by Cam Walker

Like many others, I cut my activist teeth during the Franklin River campaign of the early 1980s. Like thousands of others, I joined the blockades in south west Tasmania and, like hundreds of others, was arrested for my troubles and spent a week in Risdon Jail.

After close to a decade campaigning to save forests in the Otways, East Gippsland and south eastern NSW, by the mid '90s, a number of forest activists decided to shift our focus to government. But as the timber union was sufficiently anti-green and the ALP proved to be as wedded to woodchippers’ money as the Coalition, that shift became pointless.

At the time, the two parallel movements — the unions and the greenies — essentially viewed each other as the “enemy”, despite the real enemy being the governments’ sanction of logging operations and profit-hungry corporations. Meanwhile, the contractors struggled to make payments on their equipment.

Today, we see the same dynamics unfolding although the conflict is over coal, not forests. We could be drawn into another lost decade of blockades on coal mines, ships and power plants if not for the climate scientists’ warnings that we have a few short years — 2015 at the very latest — to turn around greenhouse gas emissions.

As the climate change movement is increasingly targeting coal, we are already in the trenches with the mining division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), which is siding with the coal industry. If our focus is coal, the unions are unlikely to shift. Equally, the rising direct action climate change movement sees coal as the main target (because it is such a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions).

This pits the environment movement against workers, potentially making unions the enemy again — and real dialogue all but impossible. Is there another way? We can learn from the approach deployed by the Earthworker alliance of the '90s. Seeing the fraught relations during the forests’ debate, it sought to concentrate instead on sustainable energy and fibre. If the climate change movement were to adopt a similar strategy it would have to focus on energy savings and renewables, rather than coal.

Energy efficiency Many researchers suggest that we can make relatively easy, but deep — between 30-45% compared to existing emissions — greenhouse emissions reductions through energy efficiency measures. The key point is that these cuts would be “job rich” and could be achieved with the technology we already have (as opposed to commercially untested “clean” coal).

They usually pay themselves off in a matter of years, and don’t push serious problems onto future generations as “clean” coal and nuclear energy would. In addition to energy efficiency measures, we need a thriving local renewable energy sector, which would also produce thousands of new jobs.

Climate scientists say that rich nations like Australia will need to reduce greenhouse emissions by anywhere between 80-100% compared with current rates. To do this means we have to change how we plan our cities and agriculture. We need to move towards more compact urban dwellings and with less reliance on cars. We will need to get smarter at harvesting water and generating energy from low-impact sources within cities.

We will need a rapid retrofitting program of commercial buildings, public housing and private residences, as well as profound changes to the way we build new housing stock. But to do all this, we need real collaboration from the unions — initially from those who stand to gain the most from such a job-rich transition such as the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the CFMEU (especially the construction and energy divisions), the Electrical Trades Union and the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union.

We need unions to take the lead with the progressive part of the environment movement to frame a series of political demands that could include: rebuilding our energy infrastructure to harness renewable energy; vastly improving public transport, pedestrian and cycling infrastructure; building fast rail links between Australia’s major cities; electrifying the rail network (and then running the trains on new renewable energy); and building carbon-neutral buildings and retrofitting existing buildings.

Jobs

The two movements can work on developing a political agenda flowing from agreed demands. Apart from creating many thousands of jobs, considerable economic activity and large cuts in greenhouse emissions, we will also generate a real working relationship between the green movement and the trade unions. This will, in turn, allow us to tackle the hard issue: what to do with the coal industry.

Once workers see that jobs in energy efficiency and renewables are a real option, the natural fear that comes with facing restructure will be lessened. If we can work out a transition strategy for energy sector jobs, we can ensure job security for workers in the coal industry. Just one large renewables factory in the Victorian Latrobe Valley would greatly facilitate a transition for energy workers.

We need greater support for job training and retraining, and apprenticeships in the renewable energy and retrofit industries with a commitment to existing workers that none will become unemployed. We would aim to create jobs, especially through apprenticeships in emerging industries. This would mean that over time the coal industry would scale down as younger workers move directly into low-carbon industries. How do we begin this process? It may seem unrealistic, but those of us who are trade union members and environmentalists have to demand as much from our union leaderships.

Unions have to act on the historical opportunity presented by a major shift to energy efficiency and renewables which could yield tens of thousands of new jobs. A just transition Without unions how can the restructure that is coming be job rich? Ultimately, the agenda of most large environmental groups is to protect the environment, not jobs. We need radical action focused on the notion of a just transition.

Initially, we could set up state-wide working groups bringing unions, green activists, academics and researchers together to hammer out agreement on our campaign “asks”. Friends of the Earth has already created drafts of these policy goals. This could be followed by an education program within unions and environmental groups about why such a “just transition” approach is not only possible, but necessary.

We then need concerted political action to make sure state governments do take action on energy efficiency and renewables. If we get this far, we will have broken out of the current political impasse on the question of coal. We will have helped create thousands of new jobs across Australia and stopped this country from being a radical over-emitter of carbon dioxide. The climate science clearly shows that the rich nations must take a lead in deep and binding cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.

A strong alliance between trade unionists and the environmental movement will mean we can do this while creating massive job opportunities and building community cohesion in the face of the changes that will come with global warming. [Cam Walker is the national campaigns coordinator for Friends of the Earth.

This article is based on a paper to the Climate Change/Social Change conference, organised by Green Left Weekly, in Sydney, April 11-13.]
From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #754 11 June 2008.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Public transport: tinkering not enough by Sue Bolton and Ben Courtice

Hasn’t the Victorian state government noticed that climate change is speeding up alarmingly and that transport is the fastest growing cause of greenhouse emissions in Australia?

Even its Eddington transport report, Investing in public transport: an east west link needs assessment, released in March, assumes it isn’t possible for people to switch from cars to public transport. Eddington’s recommendation continues the tradition of building more freeways while tinkering with public transport. Premier John Brumby got the report he wanted: it will provide enormous contracts for big business. But the needs of the travelling public in the age of catastrophic climate change don’t get a look in.

Remember when former Premier Jeff Kennett declared that Melbourne needed Citylink because the Monash Freeway was like a parking lot at peak hour? Now, we have an uninterrupted peak hour parking lot all the way from the Monash Freeway to the Westgate Bridge and beyond. Implementing the $18 billion Eddington “plan” means postponing the tackling of public transport to the never-never: road congestion and greenhouse emissions will increase with every road built.

The main beneficiaries will be the construction companies, that will make massive profits from building the tunnels, the banks that will finance them and the petrol and motor vehicle companies that will continue to sell more cars and trucks. Also, the companies operating the public transport system have no interest in such improvements, especially as the government pays them handsome subsidies. These subsidies have doubled since 1999.

People use cars instead of relying on public transport because the services are unreliable, frequently cancelled and overcrowded; there are none near where they live; the closest private bus service doesn’t run at night or on the weekend; and it doesn’t cater for shift workers or for people working on weekends or at night. Every one of these problems can be resolved.

More people would want to use public transport if it was more convenient than using the car. Since petrol prices started to rise rapidly in 2007, people have been switching from cars to public transport to travel to and from work. But the system hasn’t been able to cope. But when more resources are put into public transport, as happened during the Olympic Games in Sydney and the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, there was a big rise in patronage.

Patronage on the V-Line country services has roughly doubled over the past year due to a 20% fare cut, increased services and new carriages. These examples clearly show what is possible. The public transport system, as it exists, isn’t a real alternative for most people. The Socialist Alliance is calling for the billions earmarked for the Eddington “plan” to instead be invested in public transport.

We need an extension of services, new services and an increase in their frequency. Thousands more staff should be hired, new rolling stock purchased and the necessary infrastructure put in place. As a safety measure and to encourage greater patronage, all train stations should be fully staffed.

We also say public transport should be free, and it should be publicly owned and operated. There should be a moratorium on road building: maintain the roads and keep them safe, but with peak oil and climate change, vehicle usage must be massively downgraded in favour of public transport and rail freight.

As state and federal governments — Labor or Liberal — tend to go with the interests of the big oil and automobile industries, we have to organise to demand our views are heard and our needs met. Only a broad-based movement that demands serious action on public transport and stands up to the road lobby will be able to force governments to take the necessary action.

Socialist Alliance is helping build such a movement. Along with climate action groups, we are active in the campaign against the Victorian desalination plant and against the push for more freeways. Only mass collective action can force the government and the energy industry to phase out coal and shift to renewable energy.

Sue Bolton and Ben Courtice [This article is based on a position paper adopted by the Victorian Socialist Alliance state executive in May.]

The West’s Weapon of Self-DelusionThere are gun battles in Beirut –- and America thinks things are going fine by Robert Fisk

So they are it again, the great and the good of American democracy, grovelling and fawning to the Israeli lobbyists of American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), repeatedly allying themselves to the cause of another country and one that is continuing to steal Arab land.

Will this ever end? Even Barack Obama — or “Mr Baracka” as an Irish friend of mine innocently and wonderfully described him — found time to tell his Jewish audience that Jerusalem is the one undivided capital of Israel, which is not the view of the rest of the world which continues to regard the annexation of Arab East Jerusalem as illegal. The security of Israel. Say it again a thousand times: the security of Israel — and threaten Iran, for good measure.

Yes, Israelis deserve security. But so do Palestinians. So do Iraqis and Lebanese and the people of the wider Muslim world. Now even Condoleezza Rice admits — and she was also talking to Aipac, of course — that there won’t be a Palestinian state by the end of the year. That promise of George Bush - which no-one believed anyway — has gone. In Rice’s pathetic words, “The goal itself will endure beyond the current US leadership.”

Of course it will. And the siege of Gaza will endure beyond the current US leadership. And the Israeli wall. And the illegal Israeli settlement building. And deaths in Iraq will endure beyond “the current US leadership” — though “leadership” is pushing the definition of the word a bit when the gutless Bush is involved — and deaths in Afghanistan and, I fear, deaths in Lebanon too.

It’s amazing how far self-delusion travels. The Bush boys and girls still think they’re supporting the “American-backed government” of Fouad Siniora in Lebanon. But Siniora can’t even form a caretaker government to implement a new set of rules which allows Hizbollah and other opposition groups to hold veto powers over cabinet decisions.

Thus there will be no disarming of Hizbollah and thus — again, I fear this — there will be another Hizbollah-Israeli proxy war to take up the slack of America’s long-standing hatred of Iran. No wonder President Bashar Assad of Syria is now threatening a triumphal trip to Lebanon. He’s won. And wasn’t there supposed to be a UN tribunal to try those responsible for the murder of ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005? This must be the longest police enquiry in the history of the world. And I suspect it’s never going to achieve its goal (or at least not under the “current US leadership”).

There are gun battles in Beirut at night; there are dark-uniformed Lebanese interior ministry troops in equally dark armoured vehicles patrolling the night-time Corniche outside my home.
At least Lebanon has a new president, former army commander Michel Sleiman, an intelligent man who initially appeared on posters, eyes turned to his left, staring at Lebanon with a creditor’s concern. Now he has wisely ordered all these posters to be torn down in an attempt to get the sectarian groups to take down their own pictures of martyrs and warlords. And America thinks things are going fine in Lebanon.

And Bush and his cohorts go on saying that they will never speak to “terrorists”. And what has happened meanwhile? Why, their Israeli friends — Mr Baracka’s Israeli friends - -are doing just that. They are talking to Hamas via Egypt and are negotiating with Syria via Turkey and have just finished negotiating with Hizbollah via Germany and have just handed back one of Hizbollah’s top spies in Israel in return for body parts of Israelis killed in the 2006 war. And Bush isn’t going to talk to “terrorists”, eh? I bet he didn’t bring that up with the equally hapless Ehud Olmert in Washington this week.

And so our dementia continues. In front of us this week was Blair with his increasingly maniacal eyes, poncing on about faith and God and religion, and I couldn’t help reflecting on an excellent article by a colleague a few weeks ago who pointed out that God never seemed to give Blair advice. Like before April of 2003, couldn’t He have just said, er, Tony, this Iraq invasion might not be a good idea.

Indeed, Blair’s relationship with God is itself very odd. And I rather suspect I know what happens. I think Blair tells God what he absolutely and completely knows to be right — and God approves his words. Because Blair, like a lot of devious politicians, plays God himself. For there are two Gods out there. The Blair God and the infinite being which blesses his every word, so obliging that He doesn’t even tell Him to go to Gaza.

I despair. The Tate has just sent me its magnificent book of orientalist paintings to coincide with its latest exhibition (The Lure of the East: British Orientalist Painting) and I am struck by the awesome beauty of this work. In the 19th century, our great painters wondered at the glories of the Orient.

No more painters today. Instead, we send our photographers and they return with pictures of car bombs and body parts and blood and destroyed homes and Palestinians pleading for food and fuel and hooded gunmen on the streets of Beirut, yes, and dead Israelis too. The orientalists looked at the majesty of this place and today we look at the wasteland which we have helped to create.

But fear not. Israel’s security comes first and Mr Baracka wants Israel to keep all of Jerusalem — so much for the Palestinian state — and Condee says the “goal will endure beyond the current American leadership”. And I have a bird that sits in the palm tree outside my home in Beirut and blasts away, going “cheep-cheep-cheep-cheep-cheep” for about an hour every morning - which is why my landlord used to throw stones at it.

But I have a dear friend who believes that once there was an orchestra of birds outside my home and that one day, almost all of them — the ones which sounded like violins and trumpets — got tired of the war and flew away (to Cyprus, if they were wise, but perhaps on to Ireland), leaving only the sparrows with their discordant flutes to remind me of the stagnant world of the Middle East and our cowardly, mendacious politicians. “Cheep-cheep-cheep,” they were saying again yesterday morning. “Cheap-cheap-cheap.” And I rather think they are right.

Published on Saturday, June 7, 2008 by The Independent/UK

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Togs's Quotes for Sunday June 8 08


“Thirty years ago earlier, when the Chicago School counterrevolution took its first leap from the textbook to the real world, it sought to erase whole nations and create new ones in their place. Like Iraq in 2003, Chile in 1973 was meant to serve as a model for the entire rebel continent, and for many years it did. The brutal regimes that implemented the Chicago School ideas in the seventies understood that, for their idealised new nations had to be born in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil whole categories of people and their cultures had to be up “from the roots.”
Naomi Kline, page 330, The Shock Doctrine, The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

“A parallel world of truth and lies, morality and immorality dominates how the crime in Iraq is presented to us. In recent months, the invaders have vanished. The US, having murdered and cluster-bombed and napalmed and phosphorus-bombed, is now a wise referee between, even a protector of, "warring tribes". The buzzword is "sectarianism", blurring the truth that most of the attacks by the resistance are against the foreign military occupiers: on average, one every 15 minutes. That the majority of Iraqis, Sunni and Shia, are united in their demand that US and British forces get out of their country now is of no interest. Has journalism ever been so voluntarily appropriated by black propaganda?”

John Pilger, Busy Fondling Their Self-Esteem, New Statesman 4-10-06
“Aboriginal people across Queensland and across Australia have lost allconfidence in the capacity of the criminal justice system to address ourneeds”,
Sam Watson, Socialist Alliance spokesperson on Indigenous issues.

A man like Santiago Alvarez, who can be heard on a telephone, calling on one of his underlings to throw C-4 explosives into Havana's Tropicana nightclub and "do away with all that"--all that being hundreds of people--a man like Santiago Alvarez who had machine guns, bazookas and grenades in a massive Miami arsenal, is sentenced to only a four-year prison sentence this week in a southern Florida federal court.Yet, the Cuban Five, five men who were in Miami working to prevent a terrorist like Alvarez from killing innocent people, who never possessed a weapon, who never engaged nor intended to engage in the "espionage conspiracy" they were falsely convicted of, received 15 years to double life after their 2001 trial, and the added punishment of being denied family visits.

Gloria La Riva.

The law doth punish man or woman
That steals the goose from off the common,
But lets the greater felon loose,
That steals the common from the goose.

Anonymous

What are laws but the expression of some class which has power over the rest of the community?

Thomas Babington Macauly, Baron Macaulay, 1830

The love of justice in most men is nothing more than the fear of suffering injustice.
Francois, Due de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims, (1665)
Justice is like a train that's nearly always late.
Yevgeny Yevtushenko, A Precious Autobiography (1963)
The only way to make the mass of mankind see the beauty of justice is by showing them in pretty plain terms the consequence of injustice.
Sydney Smith, quoted in Roads to Ruin, by E.S.Turner, (1950)
In any civilised society, a police force is a necessary evil, but some members of it are more evil than necessary.
Ken Buckley, President, Council of Civil Liberties, Sydney Morning Herald, 8 March 1969.
"I would like to know what business an honest man would have in the Police as it is an old saying it takes a rogue to catch a rogue..."

Ned Kelly, 'Jerilderie Letter', 1879, in Overland, No 84, 1981
"The law, in all its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges."

Anatole France, The Red Lily, (1894)
"I have never seen a situation so dismal that a policeman couldn’t make it worse."

Brendan Behan
"To the right wing “law and order” is often just a code phrase, meaning “get the niggers”.To the left wing it often means political oppression."

Gore Vidal (1975)
"The law isn’t justice. It’s a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may also turn up in the answer."

Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye, (1953)
“Awestruck by Margaret Thatcher, Blair and Brown aped her achievements within their own party, squeezing old social-democratic ideas out of themselves, drop by drop. They were all market fundamentalists now. Deregulation and privatisation became a mantra and over the last ten years the social divide in the country between rich and poor increased more than even under Thatcher. Redistribution of wealth was no longer on Labour’s agenda.”
Tariq Ali, Power Can't Shape Truth Forever, New Labour is Dead
http://togsplace.blogspot.com/search?q=Power+Can%27t+Shape+Truth+Forever%2C+New+Labour+is+Dead+
“Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper.”
George Orwell
“The enemy is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on.”
Joseph Heller, Catch 22
Quotes compiled by John/Togs Tognolini for Togs’s Place.Com
http://togsplace.blogspot.com/

Saturday, June 07, 2008

On the Future of Israel and Palestine, An Interview with Ilan Pappé and Noam Chomsky By FRANK BARAT


Barat: Thanks for accepting this interview. Firstly I would like to ask if you are working on something at the moment that you would like to let us know about?
Ilan Pappé: I am completing several books. The first is a concise history of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the other is on the Palestinian minority in Israel and one on the Arab Jews. I am completing an edited volume comparing the South Africa situation to that of Palestine
Noam Chomsky: The usual range of articles, talks, etc. No time for major projects right now.
Barat: A British M.P recently said that he had felt a change in the last 5 years regarding Israel. British M.Ps nowadays sign E.D.M (Early Day Motions) condemning Israel in bigger number than ever before and he told us that it was now easier to express criticism towards Israel even when talking on U.S campuses.
Also, in the last few weeks, John Dugard, independent investigator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the U.N Human Right Council said that "Palestinian terror 'inevitable' result of occupation", the European parliament adopted a resolution saying that "policy of isolation of the Gaza strip has failed at both the political and humanitarian level" and the U.N and the E.U have condemned Israel use of excessive and disproportionate force in the Gaza strip.
Could we interpret that as a general shift in attitude towards Israel?
Ilan Pappé: The two examples indicate a significant shift in public opinion and in the civil society. However, the problem remained what it had been in the last sixty years: these impulses and energies are not translated, and are not likely to be translated in the near future, into actual policies on the ground. And thus the only way of enhancing this transition from support from below to actual policies is by developing the idea of sanctions and boycott. This can give a clear orientation and direction to the many individuals and ngos that have shown for years solidarity with the Palestine cause.
Noam Chomsky: There has been a very clear shift in recent years. On US campuses and with general audiences as well. It was not long ago that police protection was a standard feature of talks at all critical of Israeli policies, meetings were broken up, audiences very hostile and abusive. By now it is sharply different, with scattered exceptions. Apologists for Israeli violence now tend often to be defensive and desperate, rather than arrogant and overbearing. But the critique of Israeli actions is thin, because the basic facts are systematically suppressed. That is particularly true of the decisive US role in barring diplomatic options, undermining democracy, and supporting Israel's systematic program of undermining the possibility for an eventual political settlement. But portrayal of the US as an "honest broker," somehow unable to pursue its benign objectives, is characteristic, not only in this domain.
Barat: The word apartheid is more and more often used by NGO's and charities to describe Israel's actions towards the Palestinians (in Gaza, the OPT but also in Israel itself). Is the situation in Palestine and Israel comparable to Apartheid South Africa?
Ilan Pappé: There are similarities and dissimilarities. The colonialist history has many chapters in common and some of the features of the Apartheid system can be found in the Israeli policies towards its own Palestinian minority and towards those in the occupied territories. Some aspects of the occupation, however, are worse then the apartheid reality of South Africa and some aspects in the lives of Palestinian citizens in Israel, are not as bad as they were in the hey days of Apartheid. The main point of comparison to my mind is political inspiration. The anti-Apartheid movement, the ANC, the solidarity networks developed throughout the years in the West, should inspire a more focused and effect pro-Palestinian campaign. This is why there is a need to learn the history of the struggle against Apartheid, much more than dwell too long on comparing the Zionist and Apartheid systems.
Noam Chomsky: There can be no definite answer to such questions. There are similarities and differences. Within Israel itself, there is serious discrimination, but it's very far from South African Apartheid. Within the occupied territories, it's a different story. In 1997, I gave the keynote address at Ben-Gurion University in a conference on the anniversary of the 1967 war. I read a paragraph from a standard history of South Africa. No comment was necessary. Looking more closely, the situation in the OT differs in many ways from Apartheid. In some respects, South African Apartheid was more vicious than Israeli practices, and in some respects the opposite is true. To mention one example, White South Africa depended on Black labor. The large majority of the population could not be expelled. At one time Israel relied on cheap and easily exploited Palestinian labor, but they have long ago been replaced by the miserable of the earth from Asia, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere. Israelis would mostly breathe a sigh of relief if Palestinians were to disappear. And it is no secret that the policies that have taken shape accord well with the recommendations of Moshe Dayan right after the 1967 war : Palestinians will "continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave." More extreme recommendations have been made by highly regarded left humanists in the United States, for example Michael Walzer of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton and editor of the democratic socialist journal Dissent, who advised 35 years ago that since Palestinians are "marginal to the nation," they should be "helped" to leave. He was referring to Palestinian citizens of Israel itself, a position made familiar more recently by the ultra-right Avigdor Lieberman, and now being picked up in the Israeli mainstream. I put aside the real fanatics, like Harvard Law Professor
Alan Dershowitz, who declares that Israel never kills civilians, only terrorists, so that the definition of "terrorist" is "killed by Israel"; and Israel should aim for a kill ratio of 1000 to zero, which means "exterminate the brutes" completely. It is of no small significance that advocates of these views are regarded with respect in enlightened circles in the US, indeed the West. One can imagine the reaction if such comments were made about Jews. On the query, to repeat, there can be no clear answer as to whether the analogy is appropriate.
Barat: Israel has recently said that it will boycott the U.N conference on Human Rights in Durban because "it will be impossible to prevent the conference from turning into a festival of anti-Israeli attacks" and has also cancelled a meeting with Costa Rican officials over the Central American nation's decision to formally recognize a Palestinian state. Is Israel refusal to accept any sort of criticism towards its policies likely to eventually backfire?
Ilan Pappé: One hopes it will backfire one day. However, this depends on the global and regional balances of power, not only on the Israelis 'over reacting'. The two, namely the balance of power and Israel intransigence, may be interconnected in the future. If there is a change in America's policy, or in its hegemonic role in the politics of the region, than a continued Israeli inflexibility can encourage the international community to adopt a more critical position against Israel and exert pressure on the Jewish state to end the occupation and dispossession of Palestine
Noam Chomsky: One can agree or disagree with these decisions, but they do not imply "refusal to accept any sort of criticism towards its policies." I doubt that these particular decisions will backfire, or will even receive much notice.
Barat: How can Israel reach a settlement with an organization which declares that it will never recognize Israel and whose charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state? If Hamas really wants a settlement, why won't it recognize Israel?
Ilan Pappé: Peace is made between enemies not lovers. The end result of the peace process can be a political Islamic recognition in the place of the Jews in Palestine and in the Middle East as a whole, whether in a separated state or a joint state. The PLO entered negotiations with Israel without changing its charter, which is not that different as far as the attitude to Israel, is concerned. So the search should be for a text, solution and political structure that is inclusive - enabling all the national, ethnic, religious and ideological groups to coexist
Noam Chomsky: Hamas cannot recognize Israel any more than Kadima can recognize Palestine, or than the Democratic Party in the US can recognize England. One could ask whether a government led by Hamas should recognize Israel, or whether a government led by Kadima or the Democratic Party should recognize Palestine. So far they have all refused to do so, though Hamas has at least called for a two-state settlement in accord with the long-standing international consensus, while Kadima and the Democratic Party refuse to go that far, keeping to the rejectionist stance that the US and Israel have maintained for over 30 years in international isolation. As for words, when Prime Minister Olmert declares to a joint session of the US
Congress that he believes "in our people's eternal and historic right to this entire land," to rousing applause, he is presumably referring not only to Palestine from the Jordan to the sea, but also to the other side of the Jordan river, the historic claim of the Likud Party that was his political home, a claim never formally abandoned, to my knowledge. On Hamas, I think it should abandon those provisions of its charter, and should move from acceptance of a two-state settlement to mutual recognition, though we must bear in mind that its positions are more forthcoming than those of the US and Israel.
Barat: During the last few months, Israel has accentuated its attacks on Gaza and is talking of an imminent ground invasion, there is also a strong possibility that it is involved in the killing of the Hezbollah leader Mughniyeh and it is pushing for stronger sanctions (including military) on Iran. Do you believe that Israel's appetite for war could eventually lead to its self destruction?
Ilan Pappé: Yes, I think that the aggressiveness is increasing and Israel antagonizes not only the Palestinian world, but also the Arab and Islamic ones. The military balance of power, at present, is in Israel's presence, but this can change at any given moment, especially once the US withdrew its support.
Noam Chomsky: I wrote decades ago that those who call themselves "supporters of Israel" are in reality supporters of its moral degeneration and probable ultimate destruction. I have also believed for many years that Israel's very clear choice of expansion over security, ever since it turned down Sadat’s offer of a full peace treaty in 1971, may well lead to that consequence.
Barat: What would it take for the U.S to withdraw its unconditional support to Israel?
Ilan Pappé: Externally: a collapse of its Middle East policy, mainly through the downfall of one of its allies. Alternatively, but less likely, the emergence of a counter European policy. Internally: a major economic crisis and the success of the present coalition of forces working within the civil society to impact such a change.
Noam Chomsky: To answer that, we have to consider the sources of the support. The corporate sector in the US, which dominates policy formation, appears to be quite satisfied with the current situation. One indication is the increasing flow of investment to Israel by Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and other leading elements of the high-tech economy. Military and intelligence relations remain very strong. Since 1967, US intellectuals have had a virtual love affair with Israel, for reasons that relate more to the US than to Israel, in my opinion. That strongly affects portrayal of events and history in media and journals. Palestinians are weak, dispersed, friendless, and offer nothing to concentrations of power in the US. A large majority of Americans support the international consensus on a two-state settlement, and even call for equalizing aid to Israel and the Palestinians. In this as in many other respects, both political parties are well to the right of the population. 95% of the US population think that the government should pay attention to the views of the population, a position rejected across the elite spectrum (sometimes quite explicitly, at other times tacitly). Hence one step towards a more even-handed stance would be "democracy promotion" within the US. Apart from that eventuality, what it would take is events that lead to a recalculation of interests among elite sectors.
Barat: CounterPunch featured an interesting debate on the 1 state vs 2 states solution last month. It started with a Michael Neumann article saying that "the one state solution was an illusion" and was followed by articles from Assaf Kfoury entitled "One-State or Two-State?" - A Sterile Debate on False Alternatives" and Jonathan Cook entitled "One state or two, neither, the issue is Zionism". What's your opinion on this and do you think that in view of the "facts on the ground" (settlements, bypass roads...) created by Israel a 2 state solution is still possible?
Ilan Pappé: The facts on the ground had rendered a two states solution impossible a long time ago. The facts indicated that there was never and will never be an Israeli consent to a Palestinian state apart from a stateless state within two Bantustans in the West Bank and Gaza totally under Israeli control. There is already one state and the struggle is to change its nature and regime. Whether the new regime and constitutional basis would be bi-national or democratic, or maybe even both, is less significant at this point. Any political outfit that would replace the present racist state of affairs is welcome. Any such outfit should also enable the refugees to return and even the most recent immigrants to remain.
Noam Chomsky: We have to make a distinction between proposal and advocacy. We can propose that everyone should live in peace. It becomes advocacy when we sketch out a realistic path from here to there. A one-state solution makes little sense, in my opinion, but a bi-national state does. It was possible to advocate such a settlement from 1967 to the mid-1970s, and in fact I did, in many writings and talks, including a book. The reaction was mostly fury. After Palestinian national rights entered the international agenda in the mid-1970s, it has remained possible to advocate bi-nationalism (and I continue to do so), but only as a process passing through intermediate stages, the first being a two-state settlement in accord with the international consensus. That outcome, probably the best that can be envisioned in the short term, was almost reached in negotiations in Taba in January 2001, and according to participants, could have been reached had the negotiations not been prematurely terminated by Israeli Prime Minister Barak. That was the one moment in the past 30 years when the two leading rejectionist states did briefly consider joining the international consensus, and the one time when a diplomatic settlement seemed within sight. Much has changed since 2001, but I do not see any reason to believe that what was apparently within reach then is impossible today. It is of some interest, and I think instructive, that proposals for a "one-state solution" are tolerated within the mainstream today, unlike the period when advocacy was indeed feasible and they were anathema. Today they are published in the New York Times, New York Review of Books, and elsewhere. One can only conclude that they are considered acceptable today because they are completely unfeasible -- they remain proposal, not advocacy. In practice, the proposals lend support to US-Israeli rejectionism, and undermine the only feasible advocacy of a bi-national solution, in stages.
Today there are two options for Palestinians. One is US-Israeli abandonment of their rejectionist stance, and a settlement roughly along the lines of what was being approached at Taba, The other option is continuation of current policies, which lead, inexorably, to incorporation into Israel of what it wants: at least, Greater Jerusalem, the areas within the Separation Wall (now an Annexation Wall), the Jordan Valley, and the salients through Ma'aleh Adumim and Ariel and beyond that effectively trisect what remains, which will be broken up into unviable cantons by huge infrastructure projects, hundreds of check points, and other devices to ensure that Palestinians live like dogs.
There are those who believe that Palestinians should simply let Israel take over the West Bank completely and then carry out a civil rights/anti-Apartheid style struggle. That is an illusion, however. There is no reason why the US-Israel would accept the premises of this proposal. They will simply proceed along the lines now being implemented, and will not accept any responsibility for Palestinians who are scattered outside the regions they intend to incorporate into Israel.
Barat: During my recent trip to Israel/Palestine it became obvious (talking to people, reading newspapers, watching the news) that something scared Israel a lot: a Boycott. Are you in favor of this type of actions and do you think that they could bare fruit?
Ilan Pappé: Yes I am and I do think it has a chance of triggering processes of change on the ground.
Noam Chomsky: Boycotts sometimes make sense. For example, such actions against South Africa were effective, even though the Reagan administration evaded congressional sanctions while declaring Mandela's ANC to be one of the "more notorious terrorist groups" in the world (in 1988). The actions were effective because the groundwork had been laid in many years of education and activism. By the time they were implemented, they received substantial support in the US within the political system, the media, and even the corporate sector. Nothing remotely like that has been achieved in this case. As a result, calls for boycott almost invariably backfire, reinforcing the harshest and most brutal policies towards Palestinians. Selective boycotts, carefully formulated, might have some effect. For example, boycotts of military producers who provide arms to Israel, or to Caterpillar Corporation, which provides the equipment for destroying Palestine. All of their actions are strictly illegal, and boycotts could be made understandable to the general public, so that they could be effective.
Selective boycotts could also be effective against states with a far worse record of violence and terror than Israel, such as the US. And, of course, without its decisive support and participation, Israel could not carry out illegal expansion and other crimes. There are no calls for boycotting the US, not for reasons of principle, but because it is simply too powerful -- facts that raise some obvious questions about the moral legitimacy of actions targeting its clients
Barat: Coming back from Israel/Palestine a few weeks ago, the director of ICAHD U.K said that, in spite of Annapolis, "not one thing on the ground has improved{...} witnessing Israel judaisation of the country left me feeling cold and angry". Seeing this, could Palestinian resistance (which has mainly been non violent so far) go back to an armed struggle and start the most brutal 3rd intifada?
Ilan Pappé: It is difficult to understand the 'could' - theoretically they can and they may, the question is whether it is going to produce different results from the previous two uprisings, the feeling is that it is not likely.
Noam Chomsky: My opinion all along has been that the Palestinian leadership is offering Israel and its US backers a great gift by resorting to violence and posturing about revolution -- quite apart from the fact that, tactical considerations aside, resort to violence carries a very heavy burden of justification. Today, for example, nothing is more welcome to Israeli and US hawks than Qassam rockets, which enable them to shriek joyously about how the ratio of deaths should be increased to infinity (all victims being defined as "terrorists"). I have also agreed all along with personal friends who had contacts with the Palestinian leadership (in particular, Edward Said and Eqbal Ahmad) that a non-violent struggle would have had considerable prospects for success. And I think it still does, in fact the only prospects for success.
Barat: What NGO's and charities working for justice in Palestine should focus on in the next few months?
Ilan Pappé: They know best and I hesitate to advise them. I think they gave us guidance with their call for boycott and if they continue with initiatives like this it can be very helpful. But most importantly it would be great if they could continue to work for reconciliation and unity in the Palestinian camp.
Noam Chomsky: The daily and urgent task is to focus on the terrible ongoing violations of the most elementary human rights and the illegal US-backed settlement and development projects that are designed to undermine a diplomatic settlement. A more general task is to try to lay the basis for a successful struggle for a settlement that takes into account the just demands of contesting parties -- the kind of hard, dedicated, persistent educational and organizational work that has provided the underpinnings for other advances towards peace and justice. I have already indicated what I think that entails -- not least, effective democracy promotion in the reigning superpower.
Frank Barat lives in London. He is a member of Palestine Solidarity Campaign London and ICAHD UK.
from CounterPunch June 6, 2008

Not much of a true believer by Dean Mighell


It's ironic that Kevin Rudd comes from Queensland, the state where the Australian Labor Party was founded in the 1890s by striking unionists under the sacred Tree of Knowledge.In 2008, it's symbolic that the Tree of Knowledge is now dead. This irony must not be lost on Australian workers when they look at our industrial relations laws.

At the last federal election, outside any major party, the Australian trade union movement conducted the best-resourced and most sophisticated political campaign in our nation's history. The Your Rights at Work campaign was fundamentally responsible for creating awareness of the Howard government's unjust industrial laws and ultimately the removal of the Coalition government. Many Australian workers suffered under Work Choices, and they voted to get rid of it; all of it. They believed Rudd when he said he would "rip up Work Choices".

I saw this as political spin and viewed it with caution. It's easy to say what governments will get rid of, it's another thing to replace it with something of substance. Since the election, Rudd and Julia Gillard have really done nothing more than re-decorate the Work Choices bus. It has a fresh coat of paint and new tyres, but it's still essentially the same vehicle John Howard drove. Howard used Work Choices to force down workers' conditions and to restrain unions from looking after their members' interests. Sure, AWAs may have changed but individual contracts remain, albeit with a better safety net. Unfair bargaining laws are entirely intact and building-industry workers are still subjected to laws that fail the most basic of human rights and International Labour Organisation conventions, to which Australia is a signatory.

Remember the political witch-hunt that was the Cole royal commission into the building industry? Despite no criminal conduct from unions, we ended up with the Australian Building and Construction Commission. This political police force against construction workers was put in place for Howard's multi-millionaire property developer and builder mates, and Rudd and Gillard retain it. I don't believe Rudd understands unions or workers or the coercive powers of the ABCC's taskforce which include compelling witnesses to give evidence under threat of jail and leaving building workers with less rights than drug dealers or armed robbers charged with serious crimes.

Rudd a true believer? I think not. Yet six months after the election, unions and workers rightly ask if the YRAW campaign was truly effective, or is there still a long way to go? Workers perceive bad laws under a Howard government as bad laws under the Rudd Government. Rudd has retained 95 per cent of Work Choices which makes the laws Rudd's, not Howard's, so let's get serious here. Was the YRAW campaign about getting rid of the Howard government or ensuring that laws consistent with our international obligations are restored to protect workers? Having rallied many workers and community people in support of the YRAW campaign, the union movement itself has a responsibility to genuinely fight bad laws regardless of who governs.

There is no doubt that we and the YRAW campaign suffered with the defection of ACTU secretary Greg Combet. Rudd recruited our team captain and left us silent and compromised when he and Gillard backflipped on promises to Australian workers and their unions. The union movement was so committed to the removal of the Howard government that it was paralysed in terms of fighting Labor for a better deal on industrial relations, and Rudd knew it. More than a year ago, Rudd and Gillard put forward their industrial-relations policy at the ALP national conference. Many unionists agreed to play a "team game" and reluctantly supported their policy. Backroom discussions took place and promises to unions were made to avoid a fight on the conference floor.

It was poor policy from a worker's point of view, but better than Work Choices and there was always the hope of convincing Labor in government of a better deal. Right? In election mode, there were many "on the run" policy changes from the government-in-waiting. Employer associations were overjoyed with the Gillard/Rudd promise to retain laws that cripple unions' bargaining rights to get a better deal for their members. And the illegitimate child of the process that was the building industry royal commission, the Australian Building Industry Taskforce, has been fully preserved along with its coercive powers.

Let's not kid ourselves, Work Choices survives and there seems little planned legislation to change it. How will the Australian union movement respond? Gone are the days of Paul Keating or Bob Hawke when the ACTU had great influence, which resulted in important social change. Industry productivity went up, superannuation was introduced and industry reform was paramount. The ACTU is now treated like a second-rate lobby group and is either pointedly ignored or, worse, deliberately opposed for the sake of a populist agenda.

The Australian Industry Group and business lobbyists appear to have more influence on the Government than the ACTU. It can't be long before Gillard formally names AIG chief Heather Ridout as minister for industrial relations. In many respects unions must accept responsibility for their lack of influence over the ALP: we have the numbers but don't use them. It may also be argued that too many union leaders are compromised by their political aspirations, and sitting Labor MPs supported by unions find it hard to stand up to the popular Rudd. His popularity will pass, and Labor MPs must be held accountable for their voting in caucus.

The bottom line is that unions should only support a political party if it's in the interests of their members to do so. The unique relationship between unions and Labor must be questioned in the interests of members if it compromises our ability to get a better deal for workers. Rudd won the election on the back of Australian workers, not employer associations. With our members' support and effective leadership, unions can again become the most powerful political lobby group in this country.

With more than two million members, resources and a commitment to working people, we are far from a spent force. Let's be brave and committed enough to say to the ALP: we will not mobilise for you or donate a cent if you ignore ILO conventions. Unions don't want unfettered rights to run amok; however, we do demand a fair go. It's hardly a radical initiative. It's time for the union movement to put its members' interests first and to stop waiting for someone to save us.

Dean Mighell is the Victorian state secretary of the Electrical Trades Union.

from the The Australian, June 05, 2008