Monday, March 31, 2008

USA: Obama and the Democrats' Foreign Policy

By Shane Jones
Monday, 31 March 2008

"War is politics by other means." - Carl von Clausewitz

"I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars." - Barack Obama

Many people are looking to the Democrats, and in particular to Barack Obama for a real change, specifically when it comes to the Iraq war. But on the question of war and foreign policy, does Obama really differ from the current White House administration, or from his party mate Hillary Clinton, or for that matter, from the entire DC political establishment?

You can tell a lot about a person based on the company he or she keeps. Obama is backed by people like billionaire Warren Buffet, who has made his fortune forming and investing in companies that exploit literally millions of people around the globe. Obama's main foreign policy advisor is Zbigniew Brzezinski, a staunch anti-communist who was a key player in the U.S. support and aid to the counter-revolutionary Mujahedin in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In a time of true Double Speak, where "democracy" means "imperialism" and "freedom" means "occupation", "reform" means cutbacks and attacks on social services. In Obama's case, "change" means the continuation of the current state of affairs. He has sung the praises of people like Ronald Reagan, who oversaw a huge expansion of the U.S. military at the expense of the standard of living of millions of U.S. workers and the poor.

When it comes to foreign policy he is a regular smoke and mirrors magician. While boasting about his tough stance against the war on Iraq, he is at pains to prove his reliability to the interests he truly serves. Far from calling for an immediate withdrawal, Obama says that U.S. forces may remain in Iraq for an "extended period of time" maintaining "a reduced but active U.S. military presence" that "protects logistical supply points" protecting "American enclaves likes the Green Zone" so that U.S. troops "remaining in Iraq" will "act as rapid reaction forces to respond to emergencies and to go after terrorists."

Obama has also suggested that he would be in favor of attacking Iran under the pretext of stopping its nuclear program:

"We should take no option, including military action, off the table, sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions should be our primary means to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons."

And on another occasion:

"In light of the fact that we're now in Iraq, with all the problems in terms of perceptions about America that have been created, us launching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in ... On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran."

Obama, who would "take no option of the table," clearly sees the limits of the Bush style of maintaining U.S. imperialist hegemony, and understands that the threat of overt military force must be coupled with maintaining U.S. imperialist power through an international web of diplomacy, that is, deals where others carry out the dirty work at the behest of the U.S.:

"Tough-minded diplomacy would include real leverage through stronger sanctions. It would mean more determined U.S diplomacy at the United Nations. It would mean harnessing the collective power of our friends in Europe who are Iran's major trading partners. It would mean a cooperative strategy with Gulf States who supply Iran with much of the energy resources it needs. It would mean unifying those states to recognize the threat of Iran and increase pressure on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. It would mean full implementation of U.S. sanctions laws. And over the long term, it would mean a focused approach from us to finally end the tyranny of oil, and developing our own alternative sources of energy to drive the price of oil down."

When it comes to Israel, Obama is committed to the status quo:

"We must preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing work on the Arrow and related missile defense programs."

He even goes the extra mile to show his support for the Israeli ruling class:

"We should never seek to dictate what is best for the Israelis and their security interests. No Israeli prime minister should ever feel dragged to or blocked from the negotiating table by the United States."

When pressed on comments he made about the "suffering of Palestinians" Obama makes his position very clear:

"Well, keep in mind what the remark actually, if you had the whole thing, said. And what I said is nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people from the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel, to renounce violence, and to get serious about negotiating peace and security for the region. Israel is the linchpin of much of our efforts in the Middle East."

Although he said he would be willing to meet with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Obama has personally helped advance imperialist propaganda against the Venezuelan Revolution. He co-sponsored a resolution that urged Venezuela to re-open "dissident" radio & TV stations. Like much of the propaganda produced at the time by corporate media, the resolution blurred the issue with that of free speech:

"[The Senate] expresses its profound concern about the transgression against freedom of thought and expression that is being committed in Venezuela by the refusal of the President Hugo Chavez to renew the concession of RCTV ... [The Senate] strongly encourages the Organization of American States to respond appropriately, with full consideration of the necessary institutional instruments, to such transgression."

RCTV was not a "dissident voice". Rather, in 2002, with the backing of the U.S., the Venezuelan ruling class staged a coup in which many people died, and the democratically elected government was thrown out along with the new constitution which had been written with the involvement of millions of ordinary Venezuelans. RCTV was an integral part of the coup, intentionally broadcasting false information and helping to lay the basis for the violence that followed. In 2007, the Venezuelan government simply did not renew RCTV's license to use the publicly owned air waves. RCTV still operates on private cable and satellite feeds. Obama, however, was ready and willing to confuse the issue in the interests of U.S. imperialism.

He has also come out in favor of opening up relations with Cuba. But what does his mean in practice? He would immediately pressure the Cuban government to open up the doors to U.S. corporations and the privatization of the planned economy. And while Obama has paid some lip service to the notion of closing the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo, he has yet to sign on to any legislation that would actually do so.

Obama has also said he would use military force in Pakistan even without consent, under the guise of fighting al-Qaeda:

"If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will."

But he is also willing to bribe a path for U.S. interests too, as he said he would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional on following U.S. "suggestions".

On March 17th it was reported that the U.S. launched missiles in the tribal area of Waziristan in Pakistan. The strike was unannounced by the U.S. and unauthorized by Pakistan. Obama is a proponent of this very type of aggression:

"The first step must be getting off the wrong battlefield in Iraq, and taking the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Obama also sees no problem with the Colombian military crossing the border into Ecuador to launch an attack:

"The Colombian people have suffered for more than four decades at the hands of a brutal terrorist insurgency, and the Colombian government has every right to defend itself against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)."

While Obama squarely blamed the FARC, he was silent on the role of Colombian government and military, the Colombian paramilitaries, and the huge sums of military "aid" that have flowed there since the 1960s. In the last 20 years, 2,574 union organizers and thousands of political activists, peasants, workers and youth have been assassinated by the Colombian government. Is this the "every right to defend itself" that Obama speaks of?

Obama also supports expanding the military. When asked if he would vigorously enforce a law that allows military recruiters on campus, Obama gave an affirmative "Yes". He goes right along with the so-called "war on terror" as a justification of such expansion:

"Our most complex military challenge will involve putting boots on the ground in the ungoverned or hostile regions where terrorists thrive." and "That should mean growing the size of our armed forces to maintain reasonable rotation schedules, keeping our troops properly equipped, and training them in the skills they'll need to succeed in increasingly complex and difficult missions."

He also voted to renew the Patriot Act, and has voted to militarize the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

Obama, who is playing on people's sincere desire for change, has taken a slightly more nuanced approach to foreign policy. Whereas Bush is only semi-coherent, Obama is capable of spinning words to soften the real role he hopes to play to keep the U.S. capitalist class dominant both at home and abroad. Fundamentally, Obama represents the same class interests as Bush and co., but is able to pass it off as though he is something fresh and new. We must understand that real change can only come through our class moving in a revolutionary direction to break the domination of the capitalists. Short of this anything else is simply a "changing" of the guard. RENEGADE EYE

Friday, March 28, 2008

Recession Will Hit Workers & Poor Hardest

This is an editorial that will be in the next issue of Socialist Appeal when it hits the streets.

Almost overnight, the media, corporate CEOs and government officials have gone from proclaiming that the U.S. would somehow avoid an economic slump, to all but recognizing that the country has probably already entered a recession. They are simply acknowledging what millions of workers have known for months and even years: the economy is in trouble, and working people and the poor are being hit hard.

Incredibly, we are told by some pundits that there is nothing to worry about, that it is all part of the “natural cycle” of the system, that less spending on dining and entertainment will lead to a healthier population that eats less and exercises more, that expensive gasoline leads to fewer cars on the road and therefore to less pollution, and so on. Yes, it is indeed part of the “natural cycle” of capitalism, and yes, belts will need to be tightened.

But for some, the “natural cycle” will mean a lot more pain than for others. While some CEOs may need to purchase one less corporate jet this year, millions of workers and poor people will have to choose between buying food, gasoline, heating, medicine, education and keeping a roof over their heads. Merrill Lynch has reported that by the end of 2007, 36 percent of Americans’ “disposable income” went to cover food, energy, medicine and health care, the highest proportion since records began in 1960.

The stock market has taken a beating, as investors realize that the trillions of dollars in fictitious money they have been trading back and forth has little of substance behind it. The dollar has sunk to new lows, oil and gold have risen to new highs, with both food and gasoline prices rising fast. Bear Stearns, once a top-five U.S. investment bank, collapsed in a single day, surviving only due to an emergency buyout by rival JP Morgan Chase for just $2 per share. Less than a year ago it was worth over $158 per share.

The Philadephia Fed index on manufacturing fell to -24.0 in February, from -20.9 in January, a further contraction of the sector. The reading for New York was similarly grim, registering its steepest drop on record. There is a very real danger of stagflation: rising inflation combined with rising unemployment and slow growth or contraction.

The months-long crisis in the housing market has now definitely spread to other sectors of the economy. Home prices have collapsed in many markets, and many borrowers now owe more than their houses are worth. Hundreds of thousands of households are defaulting on their mortgage loans even before the rates reset to a higher level, with twice as many defaults in 2007 than in 2006. The media has even reported cases of people resorting to arson to avoid foreclosure and bankruptcy.
To make ends meet, many workers have had to resort to “pay day” loans at exorbitant rates as high as 800 percent. The Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) recently reported that the average borrower has to pay a total of $793 for a $325 loan. Far from helping people, these predatory lenders succeed only in digging a deeper hole for workers already on the brink of financial disaster.

The loss of millions of quality unionized jobs over the last 30 years means that those with less education are more vulnerable to the effects of a recession than ever. In the past, even many people who didn’t finish high school could make a decent enough life for themselves and their families by learning a trade or working at a factory. These days, even college graduates with specialized training are more and more likely to find themselves working at a low wage, dead-end service job.

A “good job” is defined by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) as one that provides health insurance, a retirement plan and earnings of at least $17 per hour, or about $34,000 per year. In 1979 there were 19.6 million such jobs in the manufacturing sector, the peak of U.S. manufacturing. Since then, nearly 6 million such jobs have been lost, with another 52,000 down the drain in February alone. 30 years ago, one in five high school graduates had a “good job”, by 2005 it was one in seven. According to the CEPR, in 1979, 41 percent of those who didn’t finish high school had “bad jobs”, that is, jobs without health or retirement plans paying less than $16.50 an hour. By 2005, that figure had reached 61 percent.

As the economic crisis worsens, those who lose their jobs will find it even harder to find new employment, and without savings, unable to keep up with mortgage payments, and a gutted social safety net, millions of people will be “out of luck”. Those that do find work will likely have to take major pay and benefits cuts. Many young people and even some not so young have been compelled to move back to their parents’ homes to try and regroup financially and avoid homelessness.
One sector of the economy that remains highly profitable is the so-called “defense” industry. The CEO of Lockheed Martin made nearly $25 million last year. Compare that with the average wage earned by a private in the Army: $25,000. Unable to find work or educational opportunities in the private sector, thousands of working class youth are sucked into the military in an “economic draft”.

Over 4,000 U.S. soldiers and countless Iraqis have died, and the billions of dollars spent on this tragic adventure of imperialism have meant a steady decline in U.S. workers’ standard of living. Bush’s approval rating has sunk to a new low of just 31 percent, forty points lower than it was five years ago when he launched the invasion. This is a decline similar to Lyndon Johnson’s in the late 1960s during the Vietnam War. And still the occupation of Iraq continues, a full 16 months after the Democrats were swept into congressional power with a mandate to end the war. Not one of the Republican or Democratic presidential candidates has a plan to immediately pull all the troops out.

It is in this situation that workers are being asked to vote for either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton to bring about “change”. There is even talk of a “Dream Ticket” with both candidates on the ballot. This is more than enough proof that there are no fundamental differences between them. At root, they both defend the status quo, albeit with this or that cosmetic change. This is why working people need a party of our own. And not only for those born in the U.S., but for all workers.

On May 1st, workers across the country will march for immigrants’ rights. The magnificent mass movement that erupted two years ago has largely been driven underground by a wave of state terror, with tens of thousands being rounded up in raids and deportations. But nothing fundamental has been resolved. Sooner or later, the mass struggle will erupt again, on an even higher level, as the economic crisis forces all workers to come together to defend their common class interests. In the meantime, the scapegoating of immigrant workers for the problems caused by the system itself has increased exponentially. The labor movement must denounce these attacks and stand shoulder to shoulder with our working class brothers and sisters.
John Peterson

Monday, March 24, 2008

Ireland: Easter 1916 - Easter 2008

By Gerry Ruddy
Monday, 24 March 2008

Every Easter since 1916 all over Ireland and in some other parts of the world homage is paid to the men and women of 1916 who on Easter Monday went out to do battle with the then greatest imperialist power in the world. The Easter Rebellion was crushed, the leaders executed, but a spark had been lit that inspired oppressed peoples throughout the world to believe that freedom and independence from Colonialism and imperialism was possible.

Easter 1916 has international significance but unfortunately many of the republicans who gather all over Ireland will not see the international dimension of the 1916 [uprising]. Irish bourgeois nationalists began soon after 1916 to revise the history of 1916.

It became a glorious sacrifice by pure minded Irish nationalists like Padraigh Pearse to redeem the soul of Ireland who by shedding their blood just like Jesus Christ at Calvary reasserted Ireland's manhood and justified the creation of a bourgeois state.

The actual class conditions that motivated the likes of James Connolly and the trade unionists who set up the Irish Citizen's Army to battle capitalism were written out of history. Radical ideas were demonised and the heroes of 1916 elevated into almost saint like status with no politics but a pure love for Ireland and of course totally identified with the Roman Catholic Church. Connolly's Marxism was airbrushed from history. Liam Mellow's call for republicans to appeal to the men and women of no property was demonised as anti-Catholic and communistic. Rome spoke and the people listened! Censorship, piety, poverty, emigration and intellectually sterility became the order of the day from the twenties to the fifties.

During that period those few active republicans in Ireland were generally speaking non-drinking, non-cursing and upholders of Catholic morality. They survived in a stifling environment channelling all their revolutionary energies towards yet another armed uprising or establishing a guerrilla campaign against British interests in Ireland. They had no time for social protest, saw class struggle as alien, and had no understanding of the position of the majority of the Protestant working class. This is not to condemn them for they were in a sense prisoners of history caught in a time warp where intellectual freedom was frowned on, censorship all-controlling and clergy particularly in the partitioned 26 counties almost looked up to as next to God!

But not all conformed. There has always been class-consciousness within republicanism and the story of the role of the left within that fine revolutionary tradition has not yet reached wider layers of the working class.

Only in the late fifties and early sixties did the radical ideas of Connolly and Mellows and the class nature of the struggle for liberation begin to re-surface within Irish Republicanism. That republicanism had gone through many stages since 1916.

It had fought a sustained war of national liberation that ended in partition and the splintering of the Republican forces. It had embraced physical force and the exclusion of any political activity. It had swung to the far left in the thirties and then at the bidding of the bishops rapidly abandoned that left radicalism. It flirted with fascism and Nazism in the late thirties and early 1940's. It began to look to the left when yet another armed campaign, Operation Harvest 56-61, ended in dismal failure with many ex-prisoners demonised, ignored and neglected within areas of Belfast that later became known after 1969 as "republican areas". Older republicans referred to the newcomers as 69'ers.

That swing to the left of course raised issues of policy. The divide between those who argued for a step-by-step approach, first democracy, then national independence and then finally a struggle for socialism, and those who argued for both socialism and independence began. But while that debate was simmering there was also the international explosion of 1968 worldwide when revolution looked to be possible.

Those heady days convinced many that success was just around the corner. Ireland would be united, socialism would reign supreme and the world would be a better place. Yes indeed! The Provos emerged believing that all this talk of socialism was nonsense and was indeed an alien ideology and only direct military action such as bombing the shit out of the 6-counites would yield success. They got it wrong and ended up re-establishing British rule in the north on a firmer basis and without any of that nasty socialism they had so despised in 69/70.

And the left including all the different sections of the republican left? Sadly yet another failure-too introspective, politically sectarian and some were seduced into believing that the rattle of rifles was the sound of revolution. Others believed that they had the way, the truth and the light and so looked down with contempt on others of the left or else launched either verbal or physical murderous assaults on those who failed to share their world-view.

Hopefully all those of a left orientation within the broad family of republicanism will study the barren years from 1916 until 2008 and learn the simple basic lesson that republicanism without socialism is a dead end and that unless and until Left republicans embrace the totality of the international class struggle the prospects of success are nil. Back to Connolly, back to Marx and forward to the liberation of the Irish working class as part of an international victory of the world proletariat.RENEGADE EYE

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Riots in Tibet

By Heiko Khoo
Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Faced with riots and bloodshed in Tibet, the Chinese government responded by casting the blame on the Dalai Lama and the campaign by Tibetan exiles to raise the Tibet issue internationally, in advance of the Olympic Games. Undoubtedly the Dalai Lama, with his followers and friends, have an interest in using these events to exert political pressure on Beijing in the media spotlight, but that alone cannot explain what is happening in Tibet today.

Tibet Autonomous Region

Chinese reporters at the Xinhua news agency reported the scene in Lhasa:

"Dense smoke blanketed the cloud dotted blue sky, burning wreckages emitted an irritating smell and hundreds wailed over the bloodshed.

"Vandals carrying backpacks filled with stones and bottles of inflammable liquids smashed windows, set fire to vehicles, shops and restaurants along their path."

Friday March 14th in Lhasa is described as

"a day when the capital was left in chaos after an outburst of beating, smashing, looting and burning, which officials say, on ample evidence, was ‘masterminded by the Dalai clique'."

Although the attacks on people and property had no political content, they were sparked off by monks' protests on March 10th. According to the Peoples' Daily 300 monks from Zhaibung Monastery confronted security forces and provoked physical clashes. Onlookers then took up the torch and mobs

"set off on a destruction rampage and spared nothing and nobody on their way. Rioters set fire to buildings, torched dozens of police cars and private vehicles and looted banks, schools and shops. Innocent civilians were stabbed, stoned and scourged. At least 10 died, mostly from burns."

All reports of the violence speak of youths in their 20s being involved in the rampage. A Muslim steamed bun shop owner, who was stabbed, reported that several vandals broke into his shop in the tourist zone. "They came to beat us directly and we didn't dare put up any resistance, only begging," he said, "I know some of them. They were nice people before."

The explanation offered by the national and local Communist Party is hollow, although the spark for the riots and bloodshed was the monks' and the Dalai Lama's campaign; the cause of the riots was something totally different. Tibet has seen an influx of Chinese businesses; the wealth accumulated all over China by the newly rich has opened opportunities for investments large and small. Those who fail to benefit are the Tibetan unemployed and migrant workers from the villages.

In the state sector in Tibet, where employment opportunities are booming, Tibetan nationals are unlikely to get the jobs. They are easily out-skilled by the vast pool of potential recruits from every corner of China, thus fostering nationalist resentment.

The ‘average wage' in China represents the earnings of a specific group of employed people in China, known as 'staff and workers', including layers of public employees from upper-ranking cadres down to workers in public utilities or state-owned factories. It therefore excludes migrant workers or workers in small factories or workplaces.

The ‘average wage' in China's cities as a whole is 14,000 Yuan a year, (US$1800) but wages in Tibet are nearly double the average, higher than in Shanghai and second only to Beijing. State sector employment accounts for nearly 94 percent of employment in Tibet as opposed to 66 percent in China's cities on average.

The problem is that such relatively well-paid state employment is disproportionately allocated to people of ethnic Chinese backgrounds. Higher wages are justified on the basis that living in Tibet takes you far from family and friends and often causes serious health problems due to the effects of high altitude. Tibetans, whose skills are generally lower than the ethnic Chinese migrants, look on them as a deliberately privileged layer.

Alongside the influx of state employees, engaged in administration and infrastructure projects, has come an influx of ethnic Chinese traders and to a lesser extent Hui Muslims, whose businesses thrive on the high spending power of state employees and tourists. Their nationwide networks mean Tibetans can't compete with them. The boom in Tibet has encouraged all manner of migrant entrepreneurs to open shop, including beggars' rackets and sex workers. Tibetans often think they too are subsidized by Beijing. Thus it is easy to see wherein the roots of ethnic discontent lie.

All over China the wage levels of workers have not risen in line with the economic boom. Under pressure from the army of migrant workers and the rapaciousness of private sector employers, wages for many have been frozen. According to the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) 26% of China's workers have not received a pay rise for five years despite the economy growing at an average of 10.6%. Profits have been boosted not only by new machinery and work methods but also by holding down wages. The ratio of overall labour costs to GDP has fallen from 53.4 percent in 1990 to only 41.4 percent in 2005.

Officials in Lhasa and Beijing, claim that the ‘Dalai clique', "organized, premeditated and masterminded" the bloody riots and discontent of young Tibetans. This claim is pure foolishness! It is the growing income and opportunity disparities that foster explosions of discontent, here in an ethnic riot or a labour conflict, there in a peasant revolt. It is almost comical, that with absurd income disparities fuelling the anger of tens of millions, the slogan of "build a harmonious society" should have become the Party mantra.

A genuine Communist, i.e. Marxist, policy would sensitively and harmoniously develop the nation and its minority regions on the basis of a democratically planned economy. Instead of this the leadership of the Communist Party of China pursues a bureaucratic plan to open up Tibet to the market.

The riots are not simply a plot by the ‘Dalai Clique'. Although it is clear that the major Western imperialist powers have an interest in weakening China and will exploit the discontent of the minorities in this vast country. The real, and most direct cause of this conflict is to be found in the policies of pro-capitalist forces in control of the party. This will bear bitter fruit all over the nation. While looking at the burnt out scene in central Lhasa, a Tibetan trader by the name of Rawan told the People's Daily, "It was once a shopping haven, but now it is all deserted, like a hell."

On the road to capitalism disparities of income and investment inevitably stir up regionalism, ethnic and national conflicts, resulting in violence and turmoil. Should Tibet ever successfully break away from China, then, as in the past, it would fall prey to one or other of the imperialist powers, "Tibetan Independence" under capitalism is a pipedream.

A united struggle by the Chinese workers together with the Tibetans and other minority groups against the capitalist transformation of China can lay the basis for a voluntary union of the peoples based on a genuinely democratic plan of production under the control and supervision of the workers and peasants themselves.RENEGADE EYE

Monday, March 17, 2008

World Perspectives: Palestine

This post is a small part of a World Perspectives 2008 document.

In many countries the working class, after years of despondency and exhaustion, is taking the road of struggle. We see this in the impressive strike wave in Egypt, but also in Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon and in Israel itself. It is necessary to place on the agenda the fight for working class policies, for proletarian international solidarity and the struggle for socialism as the only lasting solution for the problems of the masses.

It is essential that the revolutionary youth in Palestine understand this. If we accept the argument that Israeli society is just one reactionary mass, then the cause of the Palestinian people would be lost forever. But it is not true! In Israel there are rich and poor, exploiters and exploited, just as in any other country. It is necessary to work to forge links between the revolutionaries in Palestine and the masses in Israel - Jews as well as Arabs. That is the only way to drive a wedge between the reactionary Zionist ruling class and the masses.

We are told that this is impossible. That is not true! On more than one occasion in the past, there have been clear indications that the message from the occupied territories was getting through to the masses in Israel. At the time of the massacre of Palestinians in Lebanon there was a huge demonstration of protest in Israel and in the first Intifada there were clear indications of discontent in Israel, including in the armed forces.

Tactics like suicide bombings and rocket attacks on civilian targets are wrong because they are counterproductive. For every Israeli citizen that is killed they will kill many more Palestinians. This does not do any damage to the Israeli military machine but it is of extraordinary help to the Israeli ruling class and state. By pushing the masses towards the Zionist state, these tactics strengthen the very thing they intended to destroy.

We fight for socialist revolution throughout the Middle East and in Iran, the Gulf and North Africa. We fight against imperialism - the main enemy of all the peoples. But we also fight against landlordism and capitalism - the main agents of imperialism. We are opposed to religious fundamentalism, which attempts to divert the healthy anti-imperialist instincts of the masses into the blind alley of religious fanaticism and reactionary obscurantism. We stand for workers' power and socialism and a new social order that expresses the interests of the masses. We are for the creation of a Socialist Federation of the Middle East, where Jews and Arabs can be guaranteed a homeland in Autonomous Socialist Republics. That is the only real way forward!

No solution to the Palestinian question is possible on the basis of wheeling and dealing with imperialism. The only possible solution is to divide Israel along class lines: to break the stranglehold of reactionary Zionism. But this demands a class position. It is difficult to put forward this position in the given circumstances, but events will provide the Marxists with openings as the masses come to realize the futility of the old methods. In the meanwhile it is necessary to patiently explain our ideas to the most advanced elements. In future our ideas will find a mass echo.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Blogs and Food Part I

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.

My first recipe comes from Chris Ioanniu G, from Athens Greece. Chris's blog is Blog #1. It covers art and on occasion politics. My favorite post was about film credits and poster graphic designer Saul Bass. That post will give you the feeling, you get when you see great art. Chris got on my good side with this.

Now the main event:

Lemon Anise Cookies


½ cup oil

½ cup sugar

½ tsp anise extract

½ tsp lemon extract

3 cups flour

3 tsp baking powder

Prep Time

15-30 minutes


About 3 dozen

Preparation Instructions

Beat eggs with mixer 3 minutes then stir in oil, extracts & sugar. Add flour and baking powder to the mixture, mix to form dough. Form balls & roll in the palm of your hands to form 4 inch strips & then shape into a knot. Place on lightly grease cookie sheets and bake at 350 for 10 - 15 minutes. Cookies are done when lightly browned. Serving: serve warm with coffee or cool and frost with a vanilla cream frosting using confecters sugar a little warm milk, tab of melted butter, 1 tsp of vanilla extractRENEGADE EYE

Monday, March 10, 2008


This article is already a few days dated, but it ties together the loose ends.Renegade Eye

Here’s the written evidence

… and - please say it ain’t so! - Obama and Hillary attack Ecuador

By Greg Palast
March 06 2008

Do you believe this?

This past weekend, Colombia invaded Ecuador, killed a guerrilla chief in the jungle, opened his laptop – and what did the Colombians find? A message to Hugo Chavez that he sent the FARC guerrillas $300 million – which they’re using to obtain uranium to make a dirty bomb!

That’s what George Bush tells us. And he got that from his buddy, the strange right-wing President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe.

So: After the fact, Colombia justifies its attempt to provoke a border war as a way to stop the threat of WMDs! Uh, where have we heard that before?

The US press snorted up this line about Chavez’ $300 million to “terrorists” quicker than the young Bush inhaling Colombia’s powdered export.

What the US press did not do is look at the evidence, the email in the magic laptop. (Presumably, the FARC leader’s last words were, “Listen, my password is ….”)

I read them. (You can read them here) While you can read it all in español, here is, in translation, the one and only mention of the alleged $300 million from Chavez:

“… With relation to the 300, which from now on we will call “dossier,” efforts are now going forward at the instructions of the boss to the cojo [slang term for ‘cripple’], which I will explain in a separate note. Let’s call the boss Ángel, and the cripple Ernesto.”

Got that? Where is Hugo? Where’s 300 million? And 300 what? Indeed, in context, the note is all about the hostage exchange with the FARC that Chavez was working on at the time (December 23, 2007) at the request of the Colombian government.

Indeed, the entire remainder of the email is all about the mechanism of the hostage exchange. Here’s the next line:
“To receive the three freed ones, Chavez proposes three options: Plan A. Do it to via of a ‘humanitarian caravan’; one that will involve Venezuela, France, the Vatican[?], Switzerland, European Union, democrats [civil society], Argentina, Red Cross, etc.”

As to the 300, I must note that the FARC’s previous prisoner exchange involved 300 prisoners. Is that what the ‘300’ refers to? ¿Quien sabe? Unlike Uribe, Bush and the US press, I won’t guess or make up a phastasmogoric story about Chavez mailing checks to the jungle.

To bolster their case, the Colombians claim, with no evidence whatsoever, that the mysterious “Angel” is the code name for Chavez. But in the memo, Chavez goes by the code name … Chavez.

Well, so what? This is what . . . .
Colombia’s invasion into Ecuador is a rank violation of international law, condemned by every single Latin member of the Organization of American States. But George Bush just loved it. He called Uribe to back Colombia, against, “the continuing assault by narco-terrorists as well as the provocative maneuvers by the regime in Venezuela.”

Well, our President may have gotten the facts ass-backward, but Bush knows what he’s doing: shoring up his last, faltering ally in South America, Uribe, a desperate man in deep political trouble.

Uribe claims he is going to bring charges against Chavez before the International Criminal Court. If Uribe goes there in person, I suggest he take a toothbrush: it was just discovered that right-wing death squads held murder-planning sessions at Uribe’s ranch. Uribe’s associates have been called before the nation’s Supreme Court and may face prison.

In other words, it’s a good time for a desperate Uribe to use that old politico’s wheeze, the threat of war, to drown out accusations of his own criminality. Furthermore, Uribe’s attack literally killed negotiations with FARC by killing FARC’s negotiator, Raul Reyes. Reyes was in talks with both Ecuador and Chavez about another prisoner exchange. Uribe authorized the negotiations. However, Uribe knew, should those talks have succeeded in obtaining the release of those kidnapped by the FARC, credit would have been heaped on Ecuador and Chavez, and discredit heaped on Uribe.

Luckily for a hemisphere on the verge of flames, the President of Ecuador, Raphael Correa, is one of the most level-headed, thoughtful men I’ve ever encountered.

Correa is now flying from Quito to Brazilia to Caracas to keep the region from blowing sky high. While moving troops to his border – no chief of state can permit foreign tanks on their sovereign soil – Correa also refuses sanctuary to the FARC . Indeed, Ecuador has routed out 47 FARC bases, a better track record than Colombia’s own, corrupt military.

For his cool, peaceable handling of the crisis, I will forgive Correa for apologizing for his calling Bush, “a dimwitted President who has done great damage to his country and the world.” (Watch an excerpt of my interview with Correa here.)

Amateur Hour in Blue

We can trust Correa to keep the peace South of the Border. But can we trust our Presidents-to-be?

The current man in the Oval Office, George Bush, simply can’t help himself: an outlaw invasion by a right-wing death-squad promoter is just fine with him.

But guess who couldn’t wait to parrot the Bush line? Hillary Clinton, still explaining that her vote to invade Iraq was not a vote to invade Iraq, issued a statement nearly identical to Bush’s, blessing the invasion of Ecuador as Colombia’s “right to defend itself.” And she added, “Hugo Chávez must stop these provoking actions.” Huh?

I assumed that Obama wouldn’t jump on this landmine – especially after he was blasted as a foreign policy amateur for suggesting he would invade across Pakistan’s border to hunt terrorists.

It’s embarrassing that Barack repeated Hillary’s line nearly verbatim, announcing, “the Colombian government has every right to defend itself.”

(I’m sure Hillary’s position wasn’t influenced by the loan of a campaign jet to her by Frank Giustra. Giustra has given over a hundred million dollars to Bill Clinton projects. Last year, Bill introduced Giustra to Colombia’s Uribe. On the spot, Giustra cut a lucrative deal with Uribe for Colombian oil.)

Then there’s Mr. War Hero. John McCain weighed in with his own idiocies, announcing that, “Hugo Chavez is establish[ing] a dictatorship,” presumably because, unlike George Bush, Chavez counts all the votes in Venezuelan elections.

But now our story gets tricky and icky.

The wise media critic Jeff Cohen told me to watch for the press naming McCain as a foreign policy expert and labeling the Democrats as amateurs. Sure enough, the New York Times, on the news pages Wednesday, called McCain, “a national security pro.”

McCain is the “pro” who said the war in Iraq would cost nearly nothing in lives or treasury dollars.

But, on the Colombian invasion of Ecuador, McCain said, “I hope that tensions will be relaxed, President Chavez will remove those troops from the borders - as well as the Ecuadorians - and relations continue to improve between the two.”

It’s not quite English, but it’s definitely not Bush. And weirdly, it’s definitely not Obama and Clinton cheerleading Colombia’s war on Ecuador.

Democrats, are you listening? The only thing worse than the media attacking Obama and Clinton as amateurs is the Democratic candidates’ frightening desire to prove them right.Greg Palast

Saturday, March 08, 2008

In Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of IWD, Let's Turn This Day Into a Day of Protest Against Sexual Apartheid

Hello and Happy International Women’s Day!

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of IWD, let’s turn this day into a day of protest against sexual apartheid.

To support our campaign, you can add your name to our declaration against sexual apartheid, which you can read here: Email your name, organisation (if any) and country of residence to or

You can also join our free seminar on Sexual Apartheid, Political Islam and Women’s Rights on Monday, March 10, from 6:30-9:30pm at Conway Hall, London. Mina Ahadi, Louise Couling, Houzan Mahmoud, Maryam Namazie and Joan Smith will be speaking; Hanne Stinson will be chairing the event. For more information, go to:

You can also read more about sexual apartheid in No Hejab number 1, the first issue of the English publication of Equal Rights Now - Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran edited by Sohaila Sharifi by going to

Best wishes,

Maryam Namazie
BM Box 1919
London WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 7719166731

Maryam Namazie

Thursday, March 06, 2008

On the Assassination of Raúl Reyes and the Colombian Government’s Aggression Against Ecuador and Venezuela - CMR Statement

By Corriente Marxista Revolucionaria in Venezuela
Thursday, 06 March 2008

1)American imperialism is intensifying its offensive against the Latin American revolution. They are witnessing how control is slipping through their fingers and are stepping up their campaign against the revolution. In particular, the imperialists are aiming their fire against the Venezuelan revolution, a point of reference for the masses across the whole of Latin America. All this explains the manoeuvres of the imperialists and the pressure they are exercising in an attempt to put a halt to the shift to the left taking place in the whole continent and especially in Venezuela.

2)In this sense, Chávez's successful mediation to free the hostages, on top of the internal crisis in Colombia and the perspectives for peace, have pushed the Colombian oligarchy and the American imperialists to brutally attack the FARC, assassinating Raúl Reyes, who was in charge of the negotiations to release the hostages. Chávez's mediation in the process has generated huge expectations amongst the masses and has provoked further divisions within the ruling class. At the same time, this very success meant that for the imperialists it would be much more difficult to try to criminalise the Venezuelan revolution in the eyes of the working masses around the world.

3) The assassination of Raúl Reyes and the killing of other 18 FARC guerrillas exposes, once more, the policy of the Colombian State and the US government of trying to avoid any peaceful way out of the conflict with the guerrillas, revealing thus their complete lack of interest in the lives of the hostages. The Uribe government survives on the basis of inciting internal war and constantly using the "struggle" against the guerrillas as a means of attacking the Colombian left. With this massacre, the Uribe government and American imperialism aim to derail the negotiations over the release of the hostages and thus deny any peace in Colombia.

4)The Colombian government, in its attempts to sabotage the release of the hostages and any peaceful way out of the conflict, has not hesitated to invade and bomb Ecuadorian territory. To cove up this abuse, the Uribe government has had to resort to a mountain of lies. Firstly, Uribe stated that the Ecuadorian government knew about the attack and that this had taken place after the FARC had attacked them. He also said that the guerrillas had been killed while the Colombian army was chasing them, something which later was proven to be false. The troops deployed in the area by the Ecuadorian government were witnesses to the fact that most of the dead guerrillas were in pyjamas, having been taken by surprise while asleep. When evidence about these lies started to pile up, the Colombian government changed its tune and pointed the finger at Ecuador, accusing the governments of Rafael Correa of supporting the guerrillas, using alleged documents found in the attack against the FARC.

5)The tactic that the American imperialists and their puppet in Bogotá are following is to criminalise the governments of Ecuador and Venezuela, trying to link them up with the guerrillas and drug trafficking in order to criminalise the revolution in both countries and prepare new acts of aggression against them.

6)While all this has been taking place the Colombian government has moved troops towards its border with Venezuela. Faced with the threat that this means, president Chávez ordered that 10 battalions be move to the border with Colombia in order to prevent any aggression against Venezuela or incursion of the Colombia army.

7)The working class of Latin America and around the world must be aware of the danger of an attack on Venezuela or Ecuador. North American imperialism will not hesitate to divide the peoples of Latin America, who are all brothers and sisters, to set them one against the other and subdue them; they will not think twice about balkanising Latin America to maintain the capitalist system and imperialist exploitation. The reactionary government of Uribe, a puppet of North American imperialism, could serve as an instrument for a military aggression on Venezuela or Ecuador. The Colombian government, armed to the teeth by the imperialists, is a threat to the Venezuelan revolution and the whole of the continent. Should Colombia carry out a new aggression, the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador would be justified in defending themselves with any means at their disposal.

8)The assassination of Raúl Reyes demonstrates that the only way of achieving peace in Colombia is through the revolutionary overthrow of the Uribe government by the Colombian working class in alliance with the peasants. Only a mass movement struggling for socialism can guarantee peace, with the struggle for the expropriation of the means of production from the bourgeoisie and the destruction of the Colombian state. A purely military victory over the Colombian state is impossible. More than 70 years of heroic guerrilla struggle have demonstrated the limitations of this method of struggle, leading up to the current impasse. The guerrilla struggle in the countryside can only be victorious as an auxiliary to the working class struggle in the cities. Only the insurrection of the armed working masses in the cities can put an end to this reactionary and bloody regime.

9)The Marxists of the CMR repudiate the assassination of Raúl Reyes and the violation of Ecuadorian sovereignty by the Colombian army, and support the preventive measures taken by the governments of presidents Chávez and Correa. There are powerful interests within the Colombian state not to deliver peace. More and more the Colombian bourgeoisie is divided due to the weight of the paramilitary in the country and in the State apparatus. This crisis reflects the awakening of the masses after years of brutal repression and a unilateral civil war carried out by the Colombian State and their paramilitaries.

10)Should American imperialism move in the direction of imposing a military action by the Colombian army against Venezuela, the workers, peasants and poor of Colombia must rise up against this imperialist intervention. Any aggression against Venezuela or Ecuador should be seen as the rallying call for the socialist revolution in Colombia. In his attempt to put out the revolutionary fire in Latin America, Uribe will find that he is sparking it off in Bogotá.

11)In Venezuela and Ecuador, the people and the workers would help to free the Colombian people and undermine the threat of the Colombian bourgeoisie and of American imperialism, by deepening the socialist revolution in each of these countries, expropriating the capitalists and building an authentic revolutionary state. That is to say, they would show the way to the oppressed people of Colombia in their struggle to shake off the yoke of capitalism and imperialism. That is the best way of preventing war and the manoeuvres of imperialism.

12)Our slogans are: Against the Uribe-Bush aggression against Ecuador and Venezuela! Unite the workers and peasants of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela! Down with the reactionary Uribe government! Long live the socialist revolution in Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador! Long live the socialist federation of Latin America and the Caribbean!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Obama Craze: Count Me Out

This is from Counterpunch. It exposes Obama's politics as an individual. I would take it farther to say, Obama's politics are typical of the Democratic Party. I believe if the US had a party based on the union movement as the NDP in Canada, the Labor Party of Australia or PSUV in Venezuela, there would be a mass exodus from the Democratic Party. I don't believe the Green Party is the alternative party formation, since it lacks a program
and class basis.

By Matt Gonzalez

Part of me shares the enthusiasm for Barack Obama. After all, how could someone calling themself a progressive not sense the importance of what it means to have an African-American so close to the presidency? But as his campaign has unfolded, and I heard that we are not red states or blue states for the 6th or 7th time, I realized I knew virtually nothing about him.

Like most, I know he gave a stirring speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. I know he defeated Alan Keyes in the Illinois Senate race; although it wasn't much of a contest (Keyes was living in Maryland when he announced). Recently, I started looking into Obama's voting record, and I'm afraid to say I'm not just uninspired: I'm downright fearful. Here's why:

This is a candidate who says he's going to usher in change; that he is a different kind of politician who has the skills to get things done. He reminds us again and again that he had the foresight to oppose the war in Iraq. And he seems to have a genuine interest in lifting up the poor.

But his record suggests that he is incapable of ushering in any kind of change I'd like to see. It is one of accommodation and concession to the very political powers that we need to reign in and oppose if we are to make truly lasting advances.


Let's start with his signature position against the Iraq war. Obama has sent mixed messages at best.

First, he opposed the war in Iraq while in the Illinois state legislature. Once he was running for US Senate though, when public opinion and support for the war was at its highest, he was quoted in the July 27, 2004 Chicago Tribune as saying, "There's not that much difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage.
The difference, in my mind, is who's in a position to execute." The Tribune went on to say that Obama, "now believes US forces must remain to stabilize the war-ravaged nation ­ a policy not dissimilar to the current approach of the Bush administration."

Obama's campaign says he was referring to the ongoing occupation and how best to stabilize the region. But why wouldn't he have taken the opportunity to urge withdrawal if he truly opposed the war? Was he trying to signal to conservative voters that he would subjugate his anti-war position if elected to the US Senate and perhaps support a lengthy occupation? Well as it turns out, he's done just that.

Since taking office in January 2005 he has voted to approve every war appropriation the Republicans have put forward, totaling over $300 billion. He also voted to confirm Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State despite her complicity in the Bush Administration's various false justifications for going to war in Iraq. Why would he vote to make one of the architects of "Operation Iraqi Liberation" the head of US foreign policy? Curiously, he lacked the courage of 13 of his colleagues who voted against her confirmation.

And though he often cites his background as a civil rights lawyer, Obama voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act in July 2005, easily the worse attack on civil liberties in the last half-century. It allows for wholesale eavesdropping on American citizens under the guise of anti-terrorism efforts.

And in March 2006, Obama went out of his way to travel to Connecticut to campaign for Senator Joseph Lieberman who faced a tough challenge by anti-war candidate Ned Lamont. At a Democratic Party dinner attended by Lamont, Obama called Lieberman "his mentor" and urged those in attendance to vote and give financial contributions to him. This is the same Lieberman who Alexander Cockburn called "Bush's closest Democratic ally on the Iraq War." Why would Obama have done that if he was truly against the war?

Recently, with anti-war sentiment on the rise, Obama declared he will get our combat troops out of Iraq in 2009. But Obama isn't actually saying he wants to get all of our troops out of Iraq. At a September 2007 debate before the New Hampshire primary, moderated by Tim Russert, Obama refused to commit to getting our troops out of Iraq by January 2013 and, on the campaign trail, he has repeatedly stated his desire to add 100,000 combat troops to the military.

At the same event, Obama committed to keeping enough soldiers in Iraq to "carry out our counter-terrorism activities there" which includes "striking at al Qaeda in Iraq." What he didn't say is this continued warfare will require an estimated 60,000 troops to remain in Iraq according to a May 2006 report prepared by the Center for American Progress. Moreover, it appears he intends to "redeploy" the troops he takes out of the unpopular war in Iraq and send them to Afghanistan. So it appears that under Obama's plan the US will remain heavily engaged in war.

This is hardly a position to get excited about.


In 2005, Obama joined Republicans in passing a law dubiously called the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) that would shut down state courts as a venue to hear many class action lawsuits. Long a desired objective of large corporations and President George Bush, Obama in effect voted to deny redress in many of the courts where these kinds of cases have the best chance of surviving corporate legal challenges. Instead, it forces them into the backlogged Republican-judge dominated federal courts.

By contrast, Senators Clinton, Edwards and Kerry joined 23 others to vote against CAFA, noting the "reform" was a thinly-veiled "special interest extravaganza" that favored banking, creditors and other corporate interests. David Sirota, the former spokesman for Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee, commented on CAFA in the June 26, 2006 issue of The Nation, "Opposed by most major civil rights and consumer watchdog groups, this Big Business-backed legislation was sold to the public as a way to stop "frivolous" lawsuits. But everyone in Washington knew the bill's real objective was to protect corporate abusers."

Nation contributor Dan Zegart noted further: "On its face, the class-action bill is mere procedural tinkering, transferring from state to federal court actions involving more than $5 million where any plaintiff is from a different state from the defendant company. But federal courts are much more hostile to class actions than their state counterparts; such cases tend to be rooted in the finer points of state law, in which federal judges are reluctant to dabble. And even if federal judges do take on these suits, with only 678 of them on the bench (compared with 9,200 state judges), already overburdened dockets will grow. Thus, the bill will make class actions ­ most of which involve discrimination, consumer fraud and wage-and-hour violations ­ all but impossible. One example: After forty lawsuits were filed against Wal-Mart for allegedly forcing employees to work "off the clock," four state courts certified these suits as class actions. Not a single federal court did so, although the practice probably involves hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide."

Why would a civil rights lawyer knowingly make it harder for working-class people ( Or the people of Hunter Point suing Lennar) to have their day in court, in effect shutting off avenues of redress?


Obama has a way of ducking hard votes or explaining away his bad votes by trying to blame poorly-written statutes. Case in point: an amendment he voted on as part of a recent bankruptcy bill before the US Senate would have capped credit card interest rates at 30 percent. Inexplicably, Obama voted against it, although it would have been the beginning of setting these predatory lending rates under federal control. Even Senator Hillary Clinton supported it.

Now Obama explains his vote by saying the amendment was poorly written or set the ceiling too high. His explanation isn't credible as Obama offered no lower number as an alternative, and didn't put forward his own amendment clarifying whatever language he found objectionable.

Why wouldn't Obama have voted to create the first federal ceiling on predatory credit card interest rates, particularly as he calls himself a champion of the poor and middle classes? Perhaps he was signaling to the corporate establishment that they need not fear him. For all of his dynamic rhetoric about lifting up the masses, it seems Obama has little intention of doing anything concrete to reverse the cycle of poverty many struggle to overcome.


These seemingly unusual votes wherein Obama aligns himself with Republican Party interests aren't new. While in the Illinois Senate, Obama voted to limit the recovery that victims of medical malpractice could obtain through the courts. Capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases means a victim cannot fully recover for pain and suffering or for punitive damages. Moreover, it ignored that courts were already empowered to adjust awards when appropriate, and that the Illinois Supreme Court had previously ruled such limits on tort reform violated the state constitution.

In the US Senate, Obama continued interfering with patients' full recovery for tortious conduct. He was a sponsor of the National Medical Error Disclosure and Compensation Act of 2005. The bill requires hospitals to disclose errors to patients and has a mechanism whereby disclosure, coupled with apologies, is rewarded by limiting patients' economic recovery. Rather than simply mandating disclosure, Obama's solution is to trade what should be mandated for something that should never be given away: namely, full recovery for the injured patient.


In November 2007, Obama came out against a bill that would have reformed the notorious Mining Law of 1872. The current statute, signed into law by Ulysses Grant, allows mining companies to pay a nominal fee, as little as $2.50 an acre, to mine for hardrock minerals like gold, silver, and copper without paying royalties. Yearly profits for mining hardrock on public lands is estimated to be in excess of $1 billion a year according to Earthworks, a group that monitors the industry. Not surprisingly, the industry spends freely when it comes to lobbying: an estimated $60 million between 1998-2004 according to The Center on Public Integrity. And it appears to be paying off, yet again.

The Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007 would have finally overhauled the law and allowed American taxpayers to reap part of the royalties (4 percent of gross revenue on existing mining operations and 8 percent on new ones). The bill provided a revenue source to cleanup abandoned hardrock mines, which is likely to cost taxpayers over $50 million, and addressed health and safety concerns in the 11 affected western states.

Later it came to light that one of Obama's key advisors in Nevada is a Nevada-based lobbyist in the employ of various mining companies (CBS News "Obama's Position On Mining Law Questioned. Democrat Shares Position with Mining Executives Who Employ Lobbyist Advising Him," November 14, 2007).


The New York Times reported that, while campaigning in Iowa in December 2007, Obama boasted that he had passed a bill requiring nuclear plants to promptly report radioactive leaks. This came after residents of his home state of Illinois complained they were not told of leaks that occurred at a nuclear plant operated by Exelon Corporation.

The truth, however, was that Obama allowed the bill to be amended in Committee by Senate Republicans, replacing language mandating reporting with verbiage that merely offered guidance to regulators on how to address unreported leaks. The story noted that even this version of Obama's bill failed to pass the Senate, so it was unclear why Obama was claiming to have passed the legislation. The February 3, 2008 The New York Times article titled "Nuclear Leaks and Response Tested Obama in Senate" by Mike McIntire also noted the opinion of one of Obama's constituents, which was hardly enthusiastic about Obama's legislative efforts:

"Senator Obama's staff was sending us copies of the bill to review, and we could see it weakening with each successive draft," said Joe Cosgrove, a park district director in Will County, Ill., where low-level radioactive runoff had turned up in groundwater. "The teeth were just taken out of it."

As it turns out, the New York Times story noted: "Since 2003, executives and employees of Exelon, which is based in Illinois, have contributed at least $227,000 to Mr. Obama's campaigns for the United States Senate and for president. Two top Exelon officials, Frank M. Clark, executive vice president, and John W. Rogers Jr., a director, are among his largest fund-raisers."


On energy policy, it turns out Obama is a big supporter of corn-based ethanol which is well known for being an energy-intensive crop to grow. It is estimated that seven barrels of oil are required to produce eight barrels of corn ethanol, according to research by the Cato Institute. Ethanol's impact on climate change is nominal and isn't "green" according to Alisa Gravitz, Co-op America executive director. "It simply isn't a major improvement over gasoline when it comes to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions." A 2006 University of Minnesota study by Jason Hill and David Tilman, and an earlier study published in BioScience in 2005, concur. (There's even concern that a reliance on corn-based ethanol would lead to higher food prices.)

So why would Obama be touting this as a solution to our oil dependency? Could it have something to do with the fact that the first presidential primary is located in Iowa, corn capital of the country? In legislative terms this means Obama voted in favor of $8 billion worth of corn subsidies in 2006 alone, when most of that money should have been committed to alternative energy sources such as solar, tidal and wind.


Obama opposed single-payer bill HR676, sponsored by Congressmen Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers in 2006, although at least 75 members of Congress supported it. Single-payer works by trying to diminish the administrative costs that comprise somewhere around one-third of every health care dollar spent, by eliminating the duplicative nature of these services. The expected $300 billion in annual savings such a system would produce would go directly to cover the uninsured and expand coverage to those who already have insurance, according to Dr. Stephanie Woolhandler, an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program.

Obama's own plan has been widely criticized for leaving health care industry administrative costs in place and for allowing millions of people to remain uninsured. "Sicko" filmmaker Michael Moore ridiculed it saying, "Obama wants the insurance companies to help us develop a new health care plan-the same companies who have created the mess in the first place."


Regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement, Obama recently boasted, "I don't think NAFTA has been good for Americans, and I never have." Yet, Calvin Woodward reviewed Obama's record on NAFTA in a February 26, 2008 Associated Press article and found that comment to be misleading: "In his 2004 Senate campaign, Obama said the US should pursue more deals such as NAFTA, and argued more broadly that his opponent's call for tariffs would spark a trade war. AP reported then that the Illinois senator had spoken of enormous benefits having accrued to his state from NAFTA, while adding that he also called for more aggressive trade protections for US workers."

Putting aside campaign rhetoric, when actually given an opportunity to protect workers from unfair trade agreements, Obama cast the deciding vote against an amendment to a September 2005 Commerce Appropriations Bill, proposed by North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan, that would have prohibited US trade negotiators from weakening US laws that provide safeguards from unfair foreign trade practices. The bill would have been a vital tool to combat the outsourcing of jobs to foreign workers and would have ended a common corporate practice known as "pole-vaulting" over regulations, which allows companies doing foreign business to avoid "right to organize," "minimum wage," and other worker protections.


On March 2, 2007 Obama gave a speech at AIPAC, America's pro-Israeli government lobby, wherein he disavowed his previous support for the plight of the Palestinians. In what appears to be a troubling pattern, Obama told his audience what they wanted to hear. He recounted a one-sided history of the region and called for continued military support for Israel, rather than taking the opportunity to promote the various peace movements in and outside of Israel.

Why should we believe Obama has courage to bring about change? He wouldn't have his picture taken with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom when visiting San Francisco for a fundraiser in his honor because Obama was scared voters might think he supports gay marriage (Newsom acknowledged this to Reuters on January 26, 2007 and former Mayor Willie Brown admitted to the San Francisco Chronicle on February 5, 2008 that Obama told him he wanted to avoid Newsom for that reason.)

Obama acknowledges the disproportionate impact the death penalty has on blacks, but still supports it, while other politicians are fighting to stop it. (On December 17, 2007 New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine signed a bill banning the death penalty after it was passed by the New Jersey Assembly.)

On September 29, 2006, Obama joined Republicans in voting to build 700 miles of double fencing on the Mexican border (The Secure Fence Act of 2006), abandoning 19 of his colleagues who had the courage to oppose it. But now that he's campaigning in Texas and eager to win over Mexican-American voters, he says he'd employ a different border solution.

It is shocking how frequently and consistently Obama is willing to subjugate good decision making for his personal and political benefit.

Obama aggressively opposed initiating impeachment proceedings against the president ("Obama: Impeachment is not acceptable," USA Today, June 28, 2007) and he wouldn't even support Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold's effort to censure the Bush administration for illegally wiretapping American citizens in violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In Feingold's words "I'm amazed at Democrats cowering with this president's number's so low." Once again, it's troubling that Obama would take these positions and miss the opportunity to document the abuses of the Bush regime.


Once I started looking at the votes Obama actually cast, I began to hear his rhetoric differently. The principal conclusion I draw about "change" and Barack Obama is that Obama needs to change his voting habits and stop pandering to win votes. If he does this he might someday make a decent candidate who could earn my support. For now Obama has fallen into a dangerous pattern of capitulation that he cannot reconcile with his growing popularity as an agent of change.

I remain impressed by the enthusiasm generated by Obama's style and skill as an orator. But I remain more loyal to my values, and I'm glad to say that I want no part in the Obama craze sweeping our country.

Matt Gonzalez is a former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and is running on Nader's ticket as a vice presidential candidate RENEGADE EYE