Sunday, July 27, 2008

U.S. Workers Face Long, Hot Summer

If you work for a living, the news just keeps getting worse. Oil prices have reached record levels of over $140 per barrel – 14 times higher than just ten years ago. OPEC predicts it could rise as high as $170 before the end of summer. Choosing between food, medicine and gasoline is now the norm for millions of working class families. Contrast this with the mega-profits of ExxonMobil, which raked in $40.6 billion in 2007 and another $10.9 billion in just the first three months of 2008. While thousands of U.S. troops and Iraqis continue to suffer and die, Big Oil is moving might and main to secure long-term, no-bid contracts to exploit Iraq’s biggest oil fields.

The U.S. is in the worst housing slump since the Great Depression as home prices fell by a record 15.3 percent from a year ago in the first few months of the year. Mortgage defaults and home repossessions have skyrocketed as working people are unable to make ends meet.

For six months in a row, U.S. companies have cut more jobs than they have created; 62,000 jobs were lost in June alone. The official unemployment rate is 5.5 percent, but the real figure is far higher. By the Labor Department’s own estimates, if the under-employed are included, the rate is actually 9.7 percent, up from 8.3 percent in May 2007. Those who do have jobs are having hours cut and their wages do not keep up with inflation.

Andrew Tilton, an economist at Goldman Sachs recently stated: “The labor market is clearly deteriorating, and it’s highly likely to keep deteriorating. It’s clear that the housing downturn and credit crunch are still very much under way. Clearly, there are more jobs to be lost in housing, finance and construction – hundreds of thousands of more jobs to be lost collectively.”

The boom was possible due to increased squeezing of the working class and mind-boggling levels of debt: people spent far more than they earned by putting purchases on credit cards or borrowing against rising house prices. In June, the index of consumer expectations fell to its lowest level since May 1980. At the same time, the index of current personal finances fell to 69, the lowest on record, from 80 in May.

70 percent of U.S. economic activity is based on consumer spending. Now the house of cards has collapsed and is having a knock-on effect throughout the rest of the economy. According to Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics: “Slowing wage growth and falling employment is absolutely toxic if your business is selling anything to consumers.”

Starbucks has announced it will close stores and cut up to 12,000 jobs. Car sales nose dived in June, by 28 percent for Ford, 21 percent for Toyota and 28 percent for General Motors. GM stock plunged to its lowest level since 1955 as investors dumped this once “sure thing” investment and backbone of the American economy.

On Wall Street, the speculative bubble continues to burst; share prices have fallen 20 percent since October. Citigroup and Merrill Lynch will likely have to take further massive write-offs on bad debt. American Express and Discover reported that customers are falling further behind on payments and UPS and Federal Express reported a slowdown in shipments. United Airlines has cut costs and capacity by laying off 950 pilots and may have to delay delivery or cancel orders of new jets from Boeing and Airbus.

In other words, a vicious downward spiral of layoffs and cuts, leading to steeper falls in consumption and even more layoffs is in the cards. Perfectly good factories are being shuttered and thousands laid off. On top of that there is the rapidly rising cost of food and energy. As always, it is the rich who benefit during the boom times, while workers suffer during the slumps.

This is the situation as we head into the 2008 presidential elections, now just a few months away. No wonder Americans are thirsty and enthusiastic for change! “Obama-mania” is sweeping the nation as millions of people – even former Bush supporters – want to believe that the two party system can offer them a way out. But what do Obama and the Democrats really offer working people? Now that he has secured the Democratic Party’s nomination, he is showing his true colors. He is working hard to prove to the real rulers of the U.S. – Big Business – that he is the man for the job. Despite this or that secondary or stylistic difference with his opponent John McCain, he is a staunch defender of the capitalist system.

Is Obama in favor of the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan? Far from it. Does he reject war with Iran? Not at all. While he favors diplomatic engagement, he calls Iran a threat and says he is prepared to use military force if necessary. Does he call for a universal, single-payer health care system that cuts out the greedy and inefficient insurance companies? Nope. Instead, he merely wants to “regulate” the private health industry while giving them billions of public dollars by subsidizing people’s sky-high insurance premiums. Does he call for the repeal of Taft-Hartley and other anti-union laws? Does he support immediate and unconditional amnesty for immigrant workers and their families? Not a chance. But people are so sick of Bush that they see what they want to see in Obama.

And yet the labor movement continues to throw its energy and money behind the Democratic Party. Both the AFL-CIO and Change To Win have endorsed Obama. Between the two labor coalitions, some $300 million – more than five times as much as they spent in 2004 – and countless volunteer hours will be spent this electoral cycle to elect a president that does not represent working people. There are 15 million workers organized in these two federations – that’s roughly one in every four voters that will go to the polls in November. Imagine if all of these resources were instead mobilized to build a mass party of labor that put forward candidates truly fighting in the interests of working people? The labor movement must break with the Democrats!

In the meantime, there are candidates who are fighting in workers’ interests: to stop the war, for universal health care and education, to rebuild the country’s inner cities and crumbling infrastructure. Cynthia McKinney’s “Power to the People” campaign for President and Cindy Sheehan’s campaign against Nancy Pelosi for the House of Representatives show that there are options outside of the two party duopoly.

There are many illusions in Obama and the Democrats in general, and most people will have to go through the experience of a Democratic administration before they realize that we need a complete break from the parties of Big Business. But experience teaches, and the long, hot summer of 2008, with rising unemployment, inflation, and unending war will continue to transform the consciousness of the American working class.

John Peterson

Friday, July 18, 2008

Bush’s Adventure in Iraq: Who Has Gained From It?

By Dekel Avshalom and Fred Weston
Friday, 18 July 2008

Amid five years of mutual slaughter, thousands of dead, millions of lives ruined and a war that has no end in sight, US president George W. Bush keeps insisting on his victory in Iraq. George W. seems unable to stare reality in the face.

In reality none of the war's proclaimed goals have been achieved: weapons of mass destruction were nowhere to be found; Iraq, instead of magically transforming itself into a puppet bourgeois democracy after the eviction of Saddam Hussein from power, has totally disintegrated and became a hotbed for international terrorism of all sorts. This is while American soldiers and Iraqi citizens lose their lives on a daily basis.

However, from the shortsighted point of view of the major oil companies, which the Bush family comes from, the war seems to be their greatest victory in recent history.

The fact is that the war was never about protecting the world from weapons of mass destruction or bringing democracy to Iraq. The war was about enforcing the rule of the United States, a declining imperialist power and getting control of oil supplies and establishing some kind of control over the whole of the unstable Middle East.

On 19.6.08, the New York Times reported that 36 years after Saddam Hussein nationalized the Iraqi oil fields, the pro-imperialist puppet government in Iraq has granted concessions to all the major world oil companies to "service" Iraqi oil fields again. After 36 years in the cold, they are back: the oil giants Exxon Mobile, Chevron, Total, British Petroleum and Shell have now returned to plunder the most lucrative oil fields in the world. From their narrow perspective, these measures of the present Iraqi government are a welcome step, and for them it makes all the destruction and bloodshed worth it. From this to actually getting the oil flowing is another question.

The True reasons for Fighting Iraq

The major western oil companies suffered a setback after Iraq and other oil producing states had nationalised their oil fields. The US government seriously considered military intervention. The Carter administration even responded by setting up a stationary military force that could intervene in the Middle East at short notice. They even contemplated the possibility of invading parts of Saudi Arabia, that area where the oilfields are concentrated, should the regime fall.

However, in that period, the situation in the Middle East was too delicate for such an intervention. During the Cold War, the American attitude toward the Middle East swayed between two extremes. One was the immense importance of controlling Gulf oil for American capitalism and the military machines and modern weaponry that sustain it. The other was the fear that if America were to become too openly aggressive in defending its interests, the Arab masses could become radicalised and leaders could emerge who might turn to the Soviet Union for help.

We also have to remember that Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party initially received US support, as it removed the pro-Soviet Abd el-Karim Qasim in the 1963 coup. The US knew perfectly well that if they tried to replace Saddam, his successor might turn out to be even worse for them. On top of that, despite his "mischief" in nationalising the oil fields, Saddam had proven himself as a vital force in guaranteeing imperialist interests in the region. They could count on him to slaughter the communists (which he did), block Iran's anti-Western regime, and help to keep oil prices low.

The final argument against invading Iraq was that the oil companies, even after losing the concessions, were still making massive profits from shipping, refining and marketing oil and oil products. In that period, oil supplies were abundant and the price was on the rise. However, all this was about to change.

Since the late 1980s, all the arguments against war in Iraq and to regain direct control over oil had become irrelevant. First, the fall of the Soviet Union changed the balance of forces in the region. With the Soviets out of the way, the US had become the world's only superpower. An intoxicating feeling of omnipotence swept through all the top ranks in Washington. They felt they now owned the world and that they could do anything they wanted.

Second, as demand for oil increased reserves in oil fields around the world started to go down, while new oil discoveries in the Persian Gulf were still increasing. Persian Gulf oil started to become the most lucrative and abundant oil reserves in the world. Controlling the Gulf thus became much more urgent for American imperialism.

Finally, Saddam Hussein had ceased to function as an agent of "stabilisation" in the Gulf. Faced with the bankruptcy of his country after the costly war with Iran, and furious at the US and his regional neighbours for not providing financial help after fighting Iran for them, Saddam decided to occupy Kuwait. After witnessing Kuwait flooding the oil market and thus reducing oil prices, he knew that by conquering it, he would have greater control over oil prices. He naively thought he could reconcile US fury by reducing oil prices. However, he did not take into consideration who was now in charge of the White House - the Bush family and its very close links to the oil giants - the ones who had their eyes on controlling Iraqi oil again after decades.

The accumulation of these conditions paved the way for the first Gulf War. In that war, while the Soviet Union was still in existence, replacing rebellious leaders by means of direct military intervention was not the option of choice for the US government. In such a delicate matter, it usually preferred to intervene indirectly. It encouraged coups by the local opposition using economic sanctions and covert aid from the CIA. That is how Saddam himself came to power in the first place, together with many other contemptible dictators. This is why during the Clinton administration, there were US and UK attempts to destabilize the regime through sanctions and continuous low-level military attacks, but not through the use of direct military means to oust Saddam from power.

As we have seen, during the time of George W. Bush, a feeling of omnipotence flowed through the veins of the American leaders, and with such important goals at stake, the choice was to intervene directly.

The terrorist attacks in 2001 on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were just a pretext for something that had been planned long before. According to a testimony of Mr. Paul O'Neill, the former Secretary of the Treasury, the Bush administration started planning an invasion of Iraq almost immediately after being elected. In fact, it was reported on the BBC in 2005 that US officials had started to look among the Iraqi opposition for a successor to Saddam well before September 11.

The big oil companies started operating in Iraq immediately after the US-led invasion, using their own personnel to direct oil extraction, receiving immunity from the local puppet-government. The recent agreement reported in the New York Times is another important step in assuring American and Western control over the oil fields. It made sure that Russia and China would be kept out of Iraq, thus securing American control over the Gulf region and its oil fields - the greatest treasure in the history of humankind.

The Complexity of the War's Balance Sheet

From the shortsighted point of view of the oil giants and their prime butler George W. Bush, the war may look like a victory. However, in reality it is creating new contradictions that can be very damaging for the future of American imperialism.

The American entanglement in Iraq teaches us that the political exponents of the bourgeoisie do not always act according to the interests of the class they are supposed to represent. In terms of how quickly the US forces were able to take Iraq the war was a staggering victory. Now the Bush clique thought they had control of the country and could set about exploiting its huge oil reserves.

However, things have turned out somewhat differently to what Bush had anticipated. From a political perspective, the war has been a staggering defeat. US imperialism has in fact been weakened by the war. The feeling of omnipotence that permeated the US ruling class a few years ago has proven to be unfounded.

They underestimated the power of local resistance and the implications of such a war for the US. Getting bogged down in an unwinnable war in Iraq has severely damaged the ability of the US to intervene elsewhere. It has also had a huge impact on the American masses themselves. The fact that Democratic Party candidate for president, Barack Obama was the first candidate in history to say publicly that he is sometimes ashamed of his country is an indication of how bad things have become. He would never have said such a thing if he did not know for sure that millions of Americans today would sympathise with such a statement. The fact that he raises the idea of a phased withdrawal from Iraq also indicates what the real mood in the USA is.

The American ruling class is trying to get out of the mess it created by blaming everything on one man - George W. Bush. The ongoing common narrative, shared by both Republican and Democratic leaders, is that once Bush leaves everything will start to sort itself out. Even the extremely critical documentary made about the war by the "provocative" commentator Michael Moore goes along with that story. The victory of Obama within the Democratic Party also indicates a desire to see something completely different in the White House. However, what will the response of the American masses be once they see that Obama as President - if he manages to win - will continue to act according to the interests of the US ruling class?

The contradictions that led to the war will still be present after Bush leaves office. The United States will still need to maintain some kind of control over the oil-rich Gulf and keep its competitors, mainly Russia and China, out of the region. The US ruling class are facing a dilemma. As long as Iraq is unstable, the American army cannot leave because then nothing would guarantee the existence of the pro-American regime. At the same time, they cannot win this war.

On the other hand, the longer they stay the more bogged down they get. As more and more US soldiers are killed, together with the growing economic crisis in the USA, the masses will demand more and more that the US administration pulls out of Iraq. US imperialism could end up being forced to pull out of Iraq prematurely. Thus all of the economic "achievements" in controlling the oil fields would be lost.

Thus, it seems that the second Gulf war has produced a contradictory and unstable situation. It weakened US imperialism, while formally strengthening the US oil companies. This contradiction cannot continue for too long. It is clear that by weakening US imperialism militarily there are serious implications for American capital as a whole.

For that reason, the Iraqi war may turn out to be the undoing of the "American empire". And this comes only a few years since US imperialism seemed so powerful and unchallenged on a world scale. The debacle in Iraq has revealed the real underlying weaknesses of US imperialism.

Is Iran Next on the Imperialist's Agenda?

There is another country in the Persian Gulf that slipped out of US domination long ago - Iran. In an ideal situation, controlling Iran along with Iraq and the rest of the Gulf States would definitely complete the picture of US world domination. It would give it control over huge oil reserves. It would break the independent OPEC cartel and would give American capital the almost total ability to control oil prices in its own interests. Profits would also be huge.

At one stage it seemed that Bush was indeed preparing to attack Iran, but the quagmire of Iraq has changed that perspective. IF they are unable to stop the insurgency in Iraq they have no hope of dominating Iran. The failures in Iraq have forced the US ruling class to seriously rethink their whole strategy. Even the obtuse Bush has had to start thinking in terms of the real situation on the ground and not the dream world of his limited cerebral capacities.

Already the Baker Report - or as it is known officially, The Iraq Study Group Report: The Way Forward, A New Approach - back in December 2006 came up with a completely different solution. It suggested reducing US military forces in Iraq to a minimum and involving Iran and Syria in helping to bring the fighting to an end. Bush wasn't too happy with the Report's proposals, but it clearly revealed the thinking of an important section of the US ruling class. They had concluded the war was unwinnable, too expensive and was causing more serious problems than had been anticipated. The contradictions created in Iraq made it impossible for American imperialism to take over Iran directly. The irony of all this is that Iran, which had been classified as one of the world's "rogue regimes" had actually emerged strengthened in the region.

On the basis of this new situation, the prospect of a US attack on Iran receded. Initially there was talk of a US missile strike on Iran's nuclear research facilities, but even this became less and less likely. How to solve this dilemma? Among the Bush entourage an idea emerged that there might a way out of this complexity. The United States could rely on one of its satellite states in the regions to protect its economic goals, while the political burden would be carried by that satellite state.

Can Israel Solve the Problem?

That satellite state is Israel. Recently, Israeli senior officials have repeatedly and threateningly raised the idea that Israel is very close to taking military steps against Iran, using its nuclear energy projects as the pretext. Moreover, both the incumbent American president and the two candidates have issued clear statements of support for Israel and its "right to defend itself", some saying that the amber light was on for Israel, indicating that could prepare to attack.

In Israel, the state is using the media for propaganda against Iran. The media keeps bombarding the Israeli masses with frightening images of Iran's "crazy", "fanatical" and "anti-Semitic" leaders waving a nuclear arsenal. Even "science" has been recruited for this mission. An Israeli "expert" on Islam with an international reputation, Professor Moshe Sharon, recently stated in an interview to the state-owned radio station, that "according to Shiite principles", Iran, unprovoked, would definitely use atomic weaponry on Israel as soon as it develops a nuclear capability.

A military conflict between Israel and Iran would most definitely result in thousands of victims, if not much more. After losing the war in Lebanon, the Israeli ruling class, and its military chiefs, need to demonstrate that are still a powerful military force. They are building up the illusion, fed by the army bureaucracy, that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) may be incapable of fighting guerrilla forces, but are most capable against a regular army.

The fact that they desire war as a means of distracting attention away from the serious internal crisis Israel is facing, can be seen in the bombing of a Syrian facility not so long ago. The problem was that the Syrians didn't take the bait. They refused to retaliate. Syria would have been the ideal, a sit shares a border with Israel and a conventional war would have been possible. How does Israel fight a conventional war with Iran, with two armies moving against each other across a border? This means that a military conflict between Israel and Iran would be reduced to a bombing campaign.

In any case, a larger part of the Israeli army's training programmes in recent years was about combating terrorist and guerrilla fighters rather than regular armies. Furthermore, the soldiers combat experience has mostly been in policing the Occupied Territories. These soldiers may be experts in bullying, destroying homes, chasing and shooting at Palestinian workers and torturing tied-up prisoners, but their combat training is much more questionable. The army's commissioned ranks are not in a much better shape: consumed with greed and corruption, they care much more about their future political careers and financial investments than about the shape of the army they are commanding, as the previous war against Lebanon revealed.

On top of all this, as the US administration attempts to retie diplomatic relations with Iran, an attack by Israel would not help the situation. It is clear that the US administration and the Israeli ruling class see things differently on this issue. It is enough to recall the "leaking" in the USA that intelligence sources claimed Iran had no nuclear research for military purposes. That was clearly to blunt Bush' ability to convince the US public of the need for air strikes on Iran. Israeli intelligence sources immediately came out with a statement that according to their information Iran did have in place nuclear research programmes for military purposes. Clearly, the interests of US imperialism and those of the Israeli ruling class are not always the same!

Israel, for its own interests, could launch air strikes against Iran. They would claim that this is to stop the nuclear programme. The problem is that Israel cannot stop Iran' nuclear research. At best it can damage it, delay it, slow it down. But that would only convince the Iranians of the need to accelerate their nuclear research programme, as a deterrent against future attacks. So, whichever way it goes, it is not likely that Israel can save America from its contradictions in the Middle East.

The media in Israel is whipping up war frenzy, claiming that Iran is a threat to the very existence of Israel. But even here we have to see that any verbal threats on the part of the Iranian president are really for domestic consumption. The Iranian regime is facing growing internal turmoil, with strikes and student protests. The living conditions of the masses are becoming unbearable. In reality, the conditions for revolution are maturing and the regime is being weakened. Sooner or later it will fall.

Serious bourgeois analysts in then West can see that the regime is weak and they are pushing for a different approach. This involves opening up diplomatic links, entering into "dialogue" with the Iranian regime, opening up its economy, using investment as a means of pressurising the regime into moving in the direction imperialism requires.

In Israel too, there are growing social and economic problems. There is also a crisis at the top with scandal after scandal emerging, involving Olmert himself. The sabre-rattling is thus a useful tool in diverting people's attentions away from the real problems.

The tragedy in Israel is that there is no leadership of the labour movement prepared to offer a real alternative. The leadership of the Israeli labour federation - the Histadrut - has a history of handing the Israeli workers to the state on a silver plate when "national security" issues are raised. On the other hand, the Israeli masses are still convinced that the army is their sole protector against the "barbarian" Arab world. They feel they are surrounded by hostile regimes that only wish to see the end of Israel. In reality that is not true. The despotic Arab rulers find in Israel a useful tool. They can blame it for all the ills that afflict the Arab World. So they mouth condemnation of Israel, while in practice they are allied to the same US imperialism that backs Israel. The case of Saudi Arabia is the most obvious one, but most of the others are in a similar situation.

The situation is a tragic one. The Israel ruling class could drag the nation into another messy military conflict, which would solve none of the problems. The Israeli masses will sooner or later awaken to a new understanding of the true nature of the Israeli state, which is not at all to provide a safe homeland for the Jews. It is in fact a satellite of imperialism in the region, albeit an unstable one.

The interests of the Israeli masses and those of the Zionist ruling class are not the same. The Zionists use the historical fear of the Israeli masses of a new holocaust to keep them within a political straitjacket. To break out of that straitjacket a genuine socialist perspective is required.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hunter Thompson Reincarnates To Comment On The Infamous New Yorker Cover

Hat Tip: Fellow Traveler

“The humor of the campaign trail is relentlessly cruel and brutal. If you think you like jokes, try hanging around the cooler after midnight with hired killers like James Carville or the late Lee Atwater, whose death by cancer in 1991 was a fatal loss to the Bush re-election effort. Atwater could say, without rancor, that he wanted to castrate Michael Dukakis and dump him on the Boston Common with his nuts stuffed down his throat. Atwater said a lot of things that made people cringe, but he usually smiled when he said them, and people tried to laugh.

It was Deep Background stuff they figured; of course he didn’t mean it. Hell, in some states you could got to prison for making threats like that. Felony Menacing, two years minimum; Conspiracy to commit Murder and/or Felony Assault with Intent to commit Great Bodily Harm, minimum 50 years in Arkansas and Texas; also Kidnapping (death), Rape, Sodomy, Malicious Disfigurement, Treason, Perjury, Gross Sexual Imposition and Aggravated Conspiracy to Commit all of the above (600 years, minimum)

…And all of this without anybody doing anything. Ho, ho. How’s that for the wheels of justice, Bubba? Six hundred fifty-two years just for downing a few gin-bucks at lunch and trading jokes with warriors…

That is the kind of humor that campaign junkies admire and will tell their children…

You have to be very mean to get a laugh on the campaign trail. There is no such thing as paranoia.”



Thursday, July 10, 2008

Food and Blogging Continues: Try Kurdish-Turkish

There is no interest in my sardine tacos, or my use of coffee as a spice. I asked several bloggers, to send me recipes; preferably easy to prepare, common ingredients, ethnic etc. In addition if I print the recipe, I'll plug your blog. Send recipes to me at the email address at my profile. I was going to print them all in one post, but I acquired too many. Political agreement doesn't matter. Atleast every month I'll continue this series. Leave comments about food, the blog, restaraunts etc. Everyone who sent recipes, will eventually have them published. I'm going in random order.

The next recipe comes from the Turkish-Kurdish blog Rastî. If you are interested in the struggle of the Kurdish people, particularly in Turkey for national rights, this blog is where to go for the latest news. You will find information not found in mainstream sources. Where else will you learn that there are few Turkish Kurds on the Iraq border, contrary to what Turkey will tell you.

Now the Main Event

Eggplant Kurdish Style

I never use the large, roundish eggplants for this because they have to be soaked in salt water to remove the bitterness. For this recipe, the eggplants must be whole. The slender eggplants in the West, known as "Japanese" or "Chinese" eggplants, are the ones to use for this recipe, as they are not bitter and require no soaking.

Eggplants cooked on coals acquire a smoky, slightly sweet, taste. The addition of red pepper flakes compliments the smoky sweetness very well. This dish can be served with grilled meats or as a meze selection.

6 slender eggplants (called "Japanese" or "Chinese" eggplant and available at Asian markets)
salt to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
olive oil
one lemon
one garlic clove, finely chopped

Wash and dry the eggplants. In a grill with hot coals, lay the eggplants directly on the coals, turning them as they char. Cook them until they are completely soft. Don't worry if they turn black on the outside but take care not to let them burn. Remove them from the coals and let them cool a bit. Peel them, removing all the skin with your fingers or a paring knife. Cut off the tops and throw them away. Slice the eggplants on a plate and mash them with a fork. Add salt, red pepper flakes, a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, the chopped garlic, and a few squeezes of the lemon. Mix the added ingredients into the eggplant flesh well. Serve just warm or at room temperature.

Alternately, some people leave out the red pepper flakes and garlic, and instead substitute a couple of tablespoons of thick yogurt, like labne, and black pepper to taste.

Cacik--Cold Yogurt and Cucumber Soup

This soup is eaten all over Turkey, including the Kurdish Region. It's included with meals or is used as part of a meze selection, and it's wonderfully cooling on hot summer days.

1/2 lb. cucumbers--preferably "Persian" cucumbers (available at Asian markets)
2 cups whole milk, whole fat yogurt--don't even think of using that nasty low-fat/no-fat kind
2 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp fresh mint, finely chopped or 1 tsp dried
1/2 tsp fresh dill, finely chopped or 1/4 tsp dried
1 tsp salt or to taste
ice cubes

If you use regular cucumbers, peel and seed them, then coarsely grate. "Persian" cucumbers only need to be grated. In a large bowl, whisk the yogurt until smooth. Mix in the grated cucumber, vinegar, olive oil, mint, dill, and salt. If the yogurt seems thick, add a bit of water to thin it. Put the cacik in the refrigerator for a couple of hours until it is very cold. Serve in individual bowls, adding ice cubes for extra chill.

Alternately, mash one garlic clove and stir it in with the other ingredients. Leave the clove in the cacik while it chills, but remove it before serving. It will add just a hint of garlic flavor to the cacik.

Ayran (called "Dew" in Kurdish)

Ayran is a yogurt drink that is served everywhere in Turkey. It's especially popular as the drink to accompany grilled meat or kebap meals, although I've had it with other meals as well. It can be made with plain water or with carbonated water. It should be served as cold as possible and it's very cooling and thirst-quenching on hot days.

Whole milk, whole fat yogurt--again, ban the low-fat/no-fat kind
Tap water or carbonated water
salt to taste

You should use equal parts of yogurt and water (for example, two cups yogurt and two cups water). Put the yogurt in a large bowl and whisk it until smooth. Add an equal amount of water and whisk until well blended. Season with salt to taste. If the yogurt seems to make the ayran a bit thick, add a little more water. Ayran should be served very cold. If you use carbonated water, make sure you have chilled it well ahead of time because you will need to serve the carbonated version rather soon after mixing so it doesn't go flat.

Alternately, sprinkle each individual ayran serving with finely chopped mint.



Tuesday, July 08, 2008

El Salvador: Student Leader Assassinated – Solidarity with the BERS-24

By Bloque Popular Juvenil – Peoples’ Youth Block
Tuesday, 08 July 2008

On June 26, at around 10.40pm, comrade Ángel Humberto Martínez Cerón was assassinated just a few metres from his home. He was the General Coordinator of the "January 24" Revolutionary Socialist Students Block (known as BERS-24). The political activity this revolutionary young militant was involved in was the reason why the ruling class decided to silence him.

Comrade Ángel had a spirit of sacrifice for the cause of socialism, and he was aware of the possible consequences of genuine revolutionary activity. He would always say that "we do not need any more martyrs, what we need is revolutionaries dedicating all their energies to the struggle, we need them alive to build socialism". The best tribute we can pay to the comrade is to continue his struggle, never to lose our convictions. He had the qualities of a genuine leader, he was able to inspire confidence and give strength to comrades when they most needed it. Without doubt, the memory of the comrade will inspire future generations to carry on the struggle.

BERS-24 is one of the very few organizations carrying out revolutionary work amongst the youth in Santa Ana, a department in the interior. Currently they are involved in the struggle against the increase in transport prices of, having recently organized a demonstration with 200 students. As a result they have been victims of constant police harassment. Two police officers, numbers 02-1841 and 02-1840, have "accompanied" their daily activities, plainclothes police officers follow the most known members of the organization, and three members of the BERS-24, including Ángel were recently arrested after a protest against the high cost of living. The ruling class is afraid of their activities and will not hesitate to use all means at their disposal to prevent organizations like this from growing and becoming stronger.

However, the assassination of Ángel will not be the end of this campaign of harassment and repression. We hold the mayor of Santa Ana, Orlando Mena, and Francisco Rovira, the Director of the National Civilian Police, responsible for any further attacks and aggressions against FMLN members in Santa Ana, and particularly against those who are part of BERS-24. This assassination reminds us of the sicariato (hired gun killings of activists) in the 1980s. Some of the witnesses say that those who carried out the killing were wearing black balaclavas and footprints matching those of the boots worn by the Special Forces of the National Civilian Police were found at the scene of the crime.

We call on the FMLN to come out publicly against this killing, since this is an attack against all the left-wing organizations in the country. The comrades from of BERS-24 are genuine members of the FMLN and they may face further repression. We ask the FMLN to take up the case and protect the comrades. We cannot allow another political killing to go unpunished. The left-wing and working class organizations should respond by calling a 24-hour general strike against political attacks, killings and harassment.

The ruling class will blame criminal gangs (which they are also responsible for) for this killing. However, we know who organized his assassination. Ángel joins a long list of revolutionaries who have been silenced since the signing of the peace agreements. Under capitalism, the struggle for the emancipation of the working people is considered a crime, a crime against the interests of the ruling class, and they know how to protect their interests, their wealth which has been created with the sweat of the workers.

The alternative is: socialism or barbarism. Under capitalism the emancipation of the working class will not be possible. Today the task is to consolidate strong Marxist organizations. The world socialist revolution is the only way forward and we are convinced that BERS-24 will be at the forefront of the struggle for workers' interests.

We swear on comrade that we will win!

No more martyrs, the FMLN must respond with mass struggle in the streets!

Workers of all countries unite!

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against attacks on the BPJ, FMLN and the Salvadorean left in general.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Colombian Hostages Freed

July 02, 2008

So the big news is hitting the wires...a group of Colombian hostages, including Ingrid Betancourt and three American defense contractors, have been rescued by the Colombian military. This is great news! Of course, everyone who has a stake in Colombia will have some thoughts on this development...

Alvaro Uribe: Hot damn! Talk about timing. Now I can get that constitutional amendment passed for a third term no problem. Hell, they'll probably even want to just make me president for life or something. Viva Uribe!

Everyone Else in Colombia: Oh shit, now Uribe will probably try and make himself president for life or something.

Hugo Chavez: I guess that $300 million I supposedly gave the FARC sure as hell didn't help them LEARN HOW TO HIDE HOSTAGES BETTER!

George W. Bush: Does this mean we can't invade Venezuela?

John McCain: Does this mean we can't invade Venezuela?

Rafael Correa: Does this mean we can bomb Colombian territory without asking them first?

Barack Obama: How can I work "Yes, we can!" into a speech about this?

Christopher Walken in that Amazing SNL Skit: I need more cowbell! I've got a fever for more cowbell!

The FARC: Seriously, we're not very good at this guerilla warfare stuff. Che made it sound eaaaaasy...

The Right-Wing Paramilitary Death Squads: See Alvaro Uribe.

We kid. We're happy that their ordeal is over, and we imagine they're even happier.