Friday, February 29, 2008


Usually its some big corporation or some city planner that wants to tear down a nice old house and build a parking lot. Not this time. In Davenport, Iowa the villain is St. Paul Lutheran Church.

In fact such a situation is not so unusual. Churches, some of them anyway, have lots of money and lots of power and their hard to fight against. Especially those monstrosities known as "megachurches.

The church in Davenport led by Rev Peter Marty (pictured here) has grand plans for a "grand campus."

After fighting the church for years the family that occupied the house (which has been designated as historical) finally moved out. Jeanne Truesdell and her husband had seen the church buying up houses all around them...and then tearing the suckers down. They resisted until Jeanne died and her husband grew ill.

Rev. Marty accuses those who want the historic house preserved of worshiping idolatry.

This is the same Rev. Marty who could barely wait for Jeanne to be laid at rest who showed up within hours of her funeral pressuring the family again to sell.

Did I mention that Rev. Marty was concerned that if someone else got hold of the house they'd turn it into apartments and he didn't really want apartment dwellers as neighbors for his church?
I forget the part where Jesus wailed against apartment dwellers.

Rev. Marty is not my idea of a good Christian.

A Davenport resident who identified herself as "d\'port moma" took on the reverend in the local newspaper, "We've watched the ridiculous, gaudy -- and I'm sure hugely expensive -- expansion of your church, and then you turn around and claim you can't afford to rehab this house," she wrote in anger.

Another reader wrote, "I drove by St. Paul's for the first time yesterday since the renovation and I literally gasped at the gaudiness of it, especially what I figured out were supposed to be three enormous towering crosses. My first thought was, 'that's obscene in it's pretentiousness'. I felt embarrassed as a Christian to be even remotely associated with something so far removed from what I feel are Christ's teachings of humility and use of our resources to help others, not to glorify ourselves."

American neighborhood all over the country are threatened by these giant churches whose only aim seems to just get bigger...and make more money.

Some local governments, feeling they have sound reasons to do so, have been attempting to limit the size and location of megachurches through application of zoning laws. Fat chance as the churches in question say their freedom to worship is being violated.

Robert Longley, a long time consultant for local municipalities says that unlike traditional churches, the impacts of megachurches on a city's infrastructure more closely resemble those of a business with 2,000 employees or a modest-sized retail center. Traffic, noise, and sheer building massing in otherwise residential settings are just a few of the most often mentioned negative impacts of megachurches, which pay no taxes toward maintaining the city services they impact.

Jim McAllister of Scottsdale ,AZ and a community columnist for the Arizona Republic writes these monster churches,
" no income tax so they usually have plenty of money to add schools, gymnasiums, amphitheaters, and playgrounds. As these places grow, so does the accompanying activity in the form of seven days per week traffic, more noise, more lighting, and lower property values in the area. This is not the church of your daddy that just operated on Sunday; this is a large corporation with the pastor acting as chief executive or 'PastorPreneur.' A lot of these churches have other revenue streams such as publishing and recording income and TV and radio programming. Many have orchestras play at services; gone are the days of mom helping out the pastor by playing the organ on Sunday. This is big business in the name of God."

...and as such anyone and anything standing in their way shalt face his wrath, I reckon'.

"It's unfortunate that churches can't abide by the same rules that anybody else has to abide by," said Susan Kennedy, president of the Jupiter Farms (Florida) Environmental Council, as quoted in a Palm Beach Post article. "You wouldn't want a Super Wal-Mart or a giant-sized church placed in a small residential community."

No, I sure as hell wouldn't.

The following story is from the Quad City Times.

Council says historic home can be torn down

Davenport aldermen, overriding a unanimous recommendation by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, cleared the path for St. Paul Lutheran Church to tear down a registered historic home on Main Street. The council refused to grant the home local landmark status.

Although the council passed an amendment delaying the demolition for 60 days — to give time for preservationists to find a way to save the home — the church has no legal obligation to do so without the local designation.

The family that lived in the Henry Deutsch House at 2101 Main St., listed on the National Register of Historic Places, resisted requests by the church to buy the property for years.

“My mom did not want to move out of that house, because she knew the church was going to get it,” said Dana Young, the daughter of Jeanne and Kenneth Truesdell who lived in the home until 2006. “You should have seen all the beautiful homes that were on that street and then torn down by the church.

“Each time they told people they were going to use them, then they tore them down. My feeling is they’ve never intended to keep any of these homes up. The first one they said was going to be used for the pastor’s house, but that never happened. They tore it down.”

Young said it was the death of Jeanne Truesdell and the failing health of her father that led to the eventual sale in April 2006. Kenneth Truesdell needed the proceeds of the sale to pay for his placement in an assisted living center, she said.

Young, and her sister Renee Truesdell, said they were “miffed” at St. Paul’s Pastor Peter Marty’s aggressive pursuit of the home after their mother’s death.

“Not even an hour after my mother’s funeral, Pastor Marty came over to our house and brought up that he was still interested in buying the house and wanted to go through it again,” she said. “We’d never met him before. We hadn’t even been home for an hour or changed, and he was over there.”

The future of the home — built by Davenport architect Dietreich Harfst in 1906 utilizing Craftsman and Frank Lloyd Wright concepts — was hotly debated at Wednesday’s council meeting.

Third Ward Alderman Bill Boom, who cast the lone no vote, attempted to get the landmark designation resolution tabled for 60 days, stating he had been in contact with a member of the St. Paul parish who was interested in funding renovation.

But the tabling move was avoided when Alderman Shawn Hamerlinck, 2nd Ward, instead proposed an amendment to grant the demolition, but only after the 60-day delay.

Members of the Historic Preservation Commission said they felt betrayed by the nine aldermen who voted against landmark designation.

“To be belittled at times is heartbreaking,” said John Frueh, the commission’s chairman. “I don’t like seeing the politics involved here. The ordinance sets out how this is supposed to work. This house is worth preservation.”

Frueh, and commission member Fritz Miller, pointed out that the house is structurally sound and is currently livable.

However, Marty said renovating the house is economically infeasible. The church, he said, looked at renovation but deemed it too expensive.

Marty said estimates to renovate the house — obtained from local contractors who do that type of work — show it could cost more than $500,000 to make it livable. Even after that level of investment, the most the house would be worth is likely around $250,000.

Those facts were disputed by commissioners and the remaining members of the Truesdell family.

Miller said the $500,000 estimate would be for “museum quality” restoration and noted that area real estate agents have sold similar sized houses in the Vander Veer Historic Neighborhood for between $200,000 and $400,000.

Also, Miller said, the church knew before buying the home that it was a historic property.

“There is a plaque by the front door that says it’s on the register,” Miller said. “The church knew full-well it was historic property. That’s not debatable. In our commission meetings, Pastor Marty said it was to be used for parking. They didn’t want this building to renovate, that’s plain.”

Young also disputed Marty’s previous claim that the house was in “deplorable” condition. She and her sister frequently stayed there up until her mother died in 2006, and the home was in sound shape, she said.

“It was not deplorable,” she said.

Church leaders knew what they were buying and should not have been surprised at the home’s condition, she added.

“They went through the house several times, they had it inspected, they knew what condition it was in,” she said.

When the council appeared ready to table the landmark designation legislation earlier in the meeting, Marty expressed frustration.

“I fear the idolization of a structure in this instance,” he said. “It’s idolatry of an old structure.”

Further, Marty said, he was unaware of any parishioners willing to fund renovation efforts.

“If in fact there are gifts forthcoming, we were not aware of it,” he said.

He also denied the church is interested in the property solely to create more parking spaces.

“This has nothing to do with consolidating our campus,” he said. “Everything we’ve done has had to do with the financial unreasonableness of this.”


The Lubicon Nation is a small aboriginal society living in north-central Alberta, Canada. They have seen their traditional lands overrun by massive oil and gas exploitation which has destroyed their traditional lands and way of life. The Lubicon people are struggling for their future. In fact a report way back in 1983 accused the federal and provincial government of committing genocide for allowing and contributing to the physical and cultural destruction of the Lubicon People.

It is still going on today.

The Lubicon Nation though will not die without a fight. The Lubicon may be few but they are courageous.

The odds they are battling though are are their enemies.

In the last 28 years an estimated $13 billion in oil and gas revenues from over 1700 wells have been taken without the consent of the Lubicon, who themselves have yet to receive one single cent.

And the big corporations aren't done.

The Friends of the Lubicon - Alberta (FOLA) says that TransCanada is moving ahead with plans for a jumbo 42" gas pipeline cut right through unceded Lubicon land and despite Lubicon objections. TransCanada has the support of Shell, Suncor, Imperial Oil, Exxon Mobile, Cargill and Nexen. The pipeline will transport natural gas to the tar sands, allowing for expanded tar sands processing capacity.

In a letter to TransCanada, Lubicon legal counsel F. M. Lennarson wrote that the "response of the Lubicon people is that they are the aboriginal owners of the land that TransCanada wishes to violate with this huge new pipeline."

FOLA has even worse news for us. They say in a disturbing and related development, Bruce Power -- a 3,800 employee operator of six nuclear reactors in Ontario -- has bought out a controversial 6 billion dollar proposal to build a nuclear power generating plant west of Lubicon Territory -- not far from the "energy corridor" through Lubicon Territory that TransCanada is proposing to use for their new jumbo gas pipeline. Predictably in a colonial set-up, Bruce Power is majority-owned by TransCanada and Saskatoon-based Cameco Corp. Cameco is the largest "investor-owned" uranium mining firm in the world and produces 20% of the the world's supply of uranium.

Fort Chip resident Peter Cyprien resident of Fort Chip and Co-Chair of a coalition of First Nations, environmental organizations, scientists, health care employees, organized labour, faith communities and social justice groups called Keepers of the Althabasca River -- points out that his people are already paying the price of mindless resource exploitation. He says water from the river can no longer be drunk; fish caught in the river often have tumors and the moose are sick and can't be eaten.

John Schertow recently wrote in the ACTivist Magazine:

Things are looking grim for the Lubicon. Like so many other indigenous People in Canada, they have no recourse. I’m not even sure they could seek legal action, because 28 years of illegal and unbridled resource exploitation has systematically impoverished the Lubicon People. It’s as if they’re just supposed to stop existing."

Please take that literally, because at the rate things are going, that is precisely what the Lubicon are faced with: social, cultural, even physical death."

...This completely preventable, ongoing human rights catastrophe is no less than an act of developmental genocide; one that the government deliberately enables by their refusal to comply with their own law and unwillingness to respect the rights of the separate and distinct Lubicon Cree Nation. The most they’ve ever really done is offer a demeaning ‘take it or leave it‘ settlement package, something that was beyond unacceptable to the Lubicon."

The same can also be said about TransCananda, who’s only ever issued a strongly-worded statement that talks about how much ‘they respect the rights of the Lubicon’, about ‘how dedicated they are’ to their financial prosperity and physical well-being. But of course, when it came time to actually do it—well they just didn’t."

The following is taken from the blog Intercontinental Cry.

TransCanada Investors concerned over Lubicon rights abuse

In their plans to build a jumbo pipeline across unceded Lubicon territory, TransCanada’s failure to consult and address the concerns of the Lubicon Cree has begun ricocheting back at the company.

According to a Press Release by the Friends of the Lubicon dated February 26, TransCanada shareholders have learned of the failure and are now “taking the company to task for mismanaging the issue of aboriginal land rights and rightly raising the possibility of delays and/or cancellation of the project if Lubicon land rights are not properly addressed by the company.”

In a letter to letter to the Chairman of the Board of TransCanada (pdf), one investor writes:

“As shareholders, we are deeply concerned with Lubicon Statement of Intent to Participate as well as with management’s handling of this situation.

“At minimum, it constitutes an undisclosed and poorly managed risk to our investment, including potential negative impacts on TransCanada’s financing, insurance, public image or anticipated regulatory decisions. It could also lead to legal or political challenges and serious delays in company plans and projections, which could in turn threaten the company’s markets for the natural gas to be carried by the NCC pipeline, as potential buyers turn elsewhere for their energy needs. One need only look at the delays and difficulties faced by other northern pipelines to see that failure to adequately address aboriginal land rights along the pipeline route has the potential to delay or even terminate an otherwise green-lit project.

“More to the point, however, this situation constitutes an unacceptable failure by management to adequately address a serious, internationally recognized human rights issue that pertains directly to the operations of the company. This is deeply troubling to us as shareholders.”

Here the investor is referring to the fact that the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) has previously issued two rulings in defense of Lubicon rights, in 1990 and 2005. Both of them explicitly called for Canada to ensure the Lubicon were consulted “before granting licenses for economic exploitation of the disputed land, and ensure that in no case such exploitation jeopardizes the rights recognized under the [International] Covenant [on Civil and Political Rights].”

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights issued a similar ruling in 2006.And there was yet another ruling in November 2007 by the Special Rapporteur for Housing, which called for Canada to “place a moratorium on all oil and extractive activities in the Lubicon region until a settlement is reached with Lubicon Lake Nation.”

Canada has failed, or perhaps more accurately “refused” to take action in respect to these rulings. TransCanada has been doing the same so far, but with the shareholders now coming forward that may have to change.

To that end, the Friends of the Lubicon ask that “if you or someone you know holds shares in TransCanada (either directly or through a mutual fund), please contact Friends of the Lubicon. We can assist you with making your concerns known to TransCanada and ensuring that your investments contribute to supporting the Lubicon Nation rather than profiting from this assault on the rights of the Lubicon people.”

Friends of the Lubicon
P.O. Box 444, Stn. D,
Etobicoke, ON
Canada, M9A 4X4
Tel: 416-763-7500


Villagers and others opposed to the construction of Indonesia's first nuclear plant in the foothills of Mount Muria, a dormant volcano on the north coast of Java gathered by the thousands on Thursday in protest.

Government officials have consistently brushed away complaints about the region's unstable tectonics and the project's high costs, contending that the country can ill-afford to forgo atomic energy. Environmentalists warn that on top of frequent earthquakes and occasional tsunamis, Indonesia has more environmentally sound sources of alternative power to chose from, including geothermals and natural gas.

The Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI) says the quake that occurred in the Java Sea last August, which reached 7 on the Richter scale, confirms that the area is unsuitable for the construction of a nuclear power plant. The organization argues the planned development of a nuclear power plant in Semenanjung Muria, Central Java will increase the disaster risk because there are almost no areas in Indonesia that are free of earthquakes.

The nuclear radiation leakage accident at the Japanese Kashizawaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant last July WAHLI again demonstrates that there is no nuclear power plant design that can overcome natural phenomena such as earthquakes. WALHI contends, "It was lucky that there was not worse radiation leakage, since the majority of the nuclear reactor complex had been shut down for inspections by the Japanese nuclear safety agency due to some previous instances where reactor safety data had been falsified by TEPCO. If not for this, a major disaster could have occurred with regional impacts."

"What happened in Japan is a warning," said Dian Abraham, coordinator of Manusia, an anti-nuclear lobby in Jakarta. "It could happen here. The government should stop their plans now."

"Under the area where the power plant is planned there is now a minor fracture that didn't exist in the 1990s," says Nur Hidayati, the Jakarta-based climate and energy coordinator for Greenpeace Southeast Asia. "Indonesia has a lot of earthquakes. If a nuclear power plant is built here, the dangers will increase."

Clearly the villagers around the site of the proposed plant agree.

'Members of the Balong village community oppose the nuclear power plant!' reads a huge anti-nuclear banner fixed at the village's entrance gate.

"I am afraid the power plant will explode, and even if it doesn't explode, radiation could still leak," Sutrisno, a 59-year-old schoolmaster whose wooden home is one and a half kilometers, or one mile, from the planned power plant told the International Herald Tribune not long ago.

Java, it must be pointed out, is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

However, it isn't only on Java people are concerned.

Australian critics fear a catastrophic accident would have a major impact on nearby countries, of which they are one.

Clive Hamilton, an Australian who has just spent two years as a senior economic and environmental adviser to the National Planning Agency in Jakarta, said one of his main concerns was that "Indonesia does not, at the moment, have the technical expertise to safely operate nuclear power plants."

He said Indonesia was "an extremely unstable area geographically."

If nuclear power were developed there, he added, then Australia and other nearby countries, particularly Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Papua New Guinea, "should be very concerned because there is the potential of a major accident."

Despite fears of accidents and the opposition of environmental groups several Southeast Asian governments have either firm plans to develop nuclear power stations in the coming decade or have begun studies into its potential.
The following is from the Jakarta Post.

Locals reject nuclear project on Mount Muria

Up to 3,000 villagers staged a rally in Jepara, Central Java, (which if you look really close is the red dot on the accompanying map) Thursday to oppose the planned construction of a nuclear power plant on the regency's Mount Moria.

The protesters, mostly residents of Balong village in the Kembang subdistrict, as well as students and activists, carried protest posters and banners.

They converged at a building in the middle of a sugar cane plantation which served as the National Atomic Energy Agency's Ujung Lemah Abang Nuclear Power Station Safety and Research observation facility.

They stopped at the building entrance and addressed the crowd on the risks associated with nuclear power and later worked together to form the foundation of a concrete wall.

"This is our fourth protest since last year," rally coordinator Firdaus Rahmadi told The Jakarta Post at the site on Thursday.

"We only sealed the building symbolically in the three earlier demonstrations, but now we are really sealing it with a concrete wall."

He said despite the protests, the government had not been decisive on the construction of the power station, which he said it had planned since the 1980s.

"The presence of the office, built in 1995, indicates that the government will resume with its plan," Firdaus said.

"We have decided to oppose it due to the risks it would pose to our lives.

"We also demand the central government to revoke the law pertaining to nuclear energy enacted in 1997," he said.

The idea on the nuclear power plant came from former vice President B.J. Habibie when he was minister for research and technology in the 1990s and it won support from former president Soeharto.

The plan was closely linked with the construction of the large Kedung Ombo dam, but the project was stopped after it met with strong opposition both at home and overseas.

Bricklayers and residents worked hard to erect the wall which measured around eight meters in length.

Trucks carrying sand, bricks, cement and water were going back and forth at the site, right in front of security guards.

Mufid Busyairi, a legislator of the National Awakening Party (PKB) and member of the agriculture and forestry affairs commission at the House of Representatives, was picked to lay the wall's corner stone, which was followed-up by Balong village officials and residents.

"I purposely came here to observe the public's aspirations firsthand," Mufid said.

A number of House members have reportedly decided to oppose the planned nuclear power station.

Those who come from the Jepara electoral district have long-since opposed it.

"But the House is split over the plan," Mufid said.

Balong village chief Suwanto was compelled to engage in the brick-laying activity because residents urged all village officials to take part.

"I'm in the middle. I can only follow the wishes of the people," Suwanto said.

"But on the other hand I also wish they could comply with the existing law.

"I'm grateful they have never resorted to anarchy during the series of protests so far," he said.

A philosophy student at the Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Darul Hasyimfath, said he was surprised to see House members at the protest in favor with the people.

"Don't be a hero in this issue," he said,

"Even we students, who had earlier informed people of the hazards of nuclear energy, feel that we haven't done anything special.

"The local residents are actually the champions.

"They fight for the cause.

"The House members are just politicians.

"Now they may likely say they oppose the program, but they will be in favor later when the political course shifts," Darul said.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


What the heck is going on with this whole Barack Obama thing? So many Americans are so excited they can hardly stand it. I admit I even find myself sometimes with chills as I listen to the guy talk, as I see a Black man with a serious chance of being our next President.

Then five minutes later, I say to myself, "huh?"

Let's face it comrades, Sen Obama is a mainstream Democrat who supports nuclear power as a good option, who is ready to send the troops back into Iraq, who proclaims his readiness to unilateral action if he finds it necessary, who is not interested in a mortgage moratorium or any other real answers for people in the process of losing their homes, who makes very clear that although he happens to be Black he is not a Black candidate (god forbid) and which maybe is why he couldn't find time to attend the State of the Black Union forum in New Orleans this month , who although proud of his talk against the Iraq War never votes to cut off funds (which even his party finally found the courage to do during the Vietnam War), who calls himself a "movement," who runs an Oprah like campaign, whose wife warned us many long months ago that this would be our only chance to elect her husband President because they had other things to do then run for office (like make sure the kids get to ballet), who surrounds himself with a slightly different batch of Bill Clinton's advisers then does Hillary Clinton, who listens to the voice of Zbigniew Brzezinski, who endorsed George I (and who brilliantly, you may remember, armed the mujaheddin in Afghanistan to fight against its communist government and who led the U.S. toward a new arms buildup - a policy that is more generally associated with Ronald Reagan now), who just like Hillary Clinton voted for an extension of the corporate-neoliberal North American Free Trade Agreement to Peru, and who despite what he keeps saying does not offer a plan for universal health care.

And here is one for you...

I'll just bet you didn't know during the primary campaign in South Carolina, as pointed out by Glenn Greenwald at Salon, the good Sen. Obama distributed a brochure which seem to include religious appeals at least as overt and explicit as anything Rev. Huckabee has done. The center page of the brochure proclaims -- in the largest letters on the page -- that Obama is a "COMMITTED CHRISTIAN," and includes three pictures of Obama, all of which show him praying or preaching in a Church, and also includes a fourth picture: of the interior of a Church with a large cross lurking in the background. The page also says that Obama is "guided by his Christian faith" and quotes Obama saying: "We do what we do because God is with us."

That same page prints Obama's views "on the power of prayer," and -- using the same language George Bush has frequently used as a signifier to evangelical voters -- says that Obama is "Called to Christ," "Called to Bring Change" and "Called to Serve."

Similarly,Greenwald reports, the front page of the brochure shows Obama in a chin-on-hand contemplative posture and underneath, it reads: "Answering the Call." The last page shows two more pictures of Obama in Church, proclaims him again in large letters to be a "COMMITTED CHRISTIAN," and describes how he "felt a beckoning and accepted Jesus Christ into [his] life."

Now, I know, as a Jew, maybe I'm overly sensitive to this sort of thing, but as a left winger from way back I think we all should be.

I've got to say this, okay, so don't yell at me. What really irks me about Sen. Obama is that he seems to think we, you and me, are all so lucky to have the opportunity to hear him, to see him, to support him (maybe because he is "called"). And it bothers me that he gets so prickly about any criticism of him (for which he always has an answer anyway). I mean, do you remember what he said if he could think of some major fault of his. He started talking about a messy desk.

But, my friends (as John McCain always says - I feel like calling McCain to let him know I'm not his friend), I'm not here trying to tell you that Sen. Obama is worse than anyone else currently trying to move into the White House, just that he isn't one of us...and he isn't better than us either.

Wouldn't it be nice, my fellow Americans, if we really, just once in a Presidential election, could vote for a real progressive, someone truly on the left, for someone who would really shake things up and really make those changes every candidate for President since George Washington has been promising?

Oh well, that isn't going to happen in my lifetime. And I've known that all of my lifetime.

So I'll vote for Obama (whom I'm presuming will be the candidate) in November and be very happy he isn't George Bush or John McCain. That's something anyway.

Now check out below my proof that I'm not the only one and that despite what Sen. Obama seems to think it is okay from time to time to be critical of him.

The following two commentaries are taken from
Black Agenda Report.

Obamarama: Is it a Movement? Or is it Marketing? And What Should We Be Doing?
A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Bruce Dixon

"The Obama 'movement' demands nothing from the candidate except to get elected."

When you visit on the web, the button in the lower left corner says “join the movement”. The Obama campaign frankly claims to be the direct successor to and the current incarnation of the movement for justice and human rights which won Black voting rights and an end to Jim Crow. Unprecedented numbers of young people have been put in motion, the corporate media breathlessly tell us, by “the Obama movement” and Hillary Clinton's staffers have publicly wrung their hands in dismay at the futility of running against, not a rival campaign, but against a “movement.”

While there many similarities between a well-executed twenty-first century US presidential campaign, and a successful multimedia and viral marketing campaign, there are many important differences between both of these and a transformative movement for social change.

All three, to be successful, must tap into widespread, deeply held beliefs in their target audiences, and take full advantage of horizontal, person to person communications inside those audiences to push their message, a process marketers call “viral marketing.” But the content of marketing and political campaign messaging is dictated from the top. Though the masses are passive consumers and sometimes the transmitters of marketing and partisan political messaging, they are seldom or never its originators.

By contrast the goals, the messages, the plans, and the tactics of the mid twentieth century movements for civil and human rights did not come from the top down, they came from the bottom up. They came from union halls, student dormitories and church basements. They came from meetings in the back rooms of restaurants and at kitchen tables across the South and around the country.

"Mass social movements aim to alter relations of power. They are impolite and sometimes operate outside of or in defiance of the law."

The greatest difference between the top-down messaging of marketing and political campaigns and the messages of mass movements for change is in the scope of what they demand, and who they demand it from, and how those demands are backed up.

The goal of marketing campaigns is to get large numbers of people to change or affirm habits of consumption. Political campaigns need to get out their vote and win the election for their candidates. The objectives of marketing and political campaigns are time-limited, respectful of authority and strictly inside the bounds of law and decorum, whether shopping, registering voters, canvassing, calling house meetings, or getting out the vote.

Mass social movements aim to alter relations of power. They are impolite and sometimes operate outside of or in defiance of the law. They make impossible, reckless, irresponsible demands, like respect, human rights and the vote to people who didn't have them - like stopping an unjust war, halting foreclosures and gentrification, like guaranteeing the absolute right to organize a union, to strike and to win a living wage. But the Obama “movement” demands nothing from the candidate except to get elected. There are no yardsticks, no demands placed upon Obama by his constituents, no goals that have come from independently organized meetings or other processes in Black America.

Activists are saying that Obama can and will be held accountable eventually - after he is elected. But how realistic is that?

Unless activists both inside and outside the Obama campaign are organizing their own meetings, raising their own demands, and building their own networks apart from those of the campaign's they won't even have the names, or the phone numbers or the email addresses of the thousands of young and old people eager for change who have come forward to work on the campaign. The day after the election the “Obama movement” will be just like those “movements” that elected Black mayors in cities across the land. Over. And another precious organizing opportunity will have been missed.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon.

BAR managing editor Bruce Dixon can be contacted at Bruce.Dixon(@)

Freedom Rider: Progressives Cave to Obama
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

"There is no movement left to speak up or fight back."

The progressive movement is on its death bed, in critical condition for many reasons. Activists are demoralized after George W. Bush cheated his way into office, committed crimes against humanity, and subverted the constitution without punishment or even serious risk of political damage. Eight years of evil doing have taken their toll on activists' willingness to take action.

The Democrats are not blameless. The prospect of a Hillary Clinton nomination was another slap in the face to the most loyal Democratic voters. The Yale educated lawyer claimed she didn't know the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq was just what it said. The sorry excuses went on forever and the disgust only grew. Her vaunted inevitability silenced Democrats, who prepared to hold their noses and support the lesser of two evils.

The prospect of more humiliation from yet another Clinton put restless Democrats in the mood to look for other options. Barrack Obama scored points because he expressed opposition to invading Iraq back in 2003 when the crime was first committed. It doesn't seem to matter that as a United States Senator his votes on Iraq are the same as Hillary Clinton's. It doesn't matter that he once opposed establishing a deadline for withdrawal. It doesn't matter that he parrots the words of Republicans when he speaks of "the excesses of the 60s and 70s." None of what he says matters, because speaking up would mean fighting back, and there is no movement left to do that.

"MoveOn never bothered to make demands of Obama."

The end of movement politics has infected nearly everyone, like a mysterious illness in a science fiction film. If a movement still existed, MoveOn would not have made an Obama endorsement via popularity contest. They never bothered to make demands of him, to ask questions before giving him their support. Their endorsement is worthless because it gives Obama cover and asks nothing in return.

MoveOn spreads the conventional wisdom that super delegates are more likely to be pro-Clinton and are willing to subvert the popular will on her behalf. They have even circulated a petition to prevent super delegates from choosing the nominee. What MoveOn doesn't say is that both Clinton and Obama have used their political action committees to make contributions to super delegate campaign funds. They also fail to mention that Obama leads in making these contributions.

His PAC has given $698,200 to super delegates. Hillary Clinton has made $205,500 in contributions to super delegate coffers. In other words, Obama is more adept at buying votes than Clinton. "Yes we can" indeed.

"Obama is more adept at buying super delegate votes than Clinton."

MoveOn is not alone. It is incomprehensible that The Nation magazine endorsed Obama after making the following statement. "This magazine has been critical of the senator from Illinois for his closeness to Wall Street; his unwillingness to lay out an ambitious progressive agenda on healthcare, housing and other domestic policy issues; and for post-partisan rhetoric that seems to ignore the manifest failure of conservatism over these past seven years."

If The Nation has so many qualms about Obama, why endorse him at all? The editors could have simply made a statement of non-support for Obama or Clinton. The sad plight of progressives is all too obvious. "While his rhetoric about ‘unity' can be troubling, it also embodies a savvy strategy to redefine the center of American politics and build a coalition by reaching out to independent and Republican voters disgruntled and disgusted with what the Bush era has wrought." The Nation should explain to readers why Democrats ought to "redefine the center" with independents and Republicans instead of having their own agenda and fighting to make it a reality.

If even The Nation bows down in thrall of the over hyped "center," then all hope for true change is gone. In other words, capitulation is the order of the day, and Obama makes it more palatable than Hillary Clinton does.

"Capitulation is the order of the day."

After eight years of Clintonian triangulation, and another eight years of Bush lawlessness, the center isn't what is used to be. The center will accept an occupation of Iraq, as long as there is pretense that it will end. The center will not undo the Bush attacks on the Constitution. The center will tell black people that they are "90% of the way" towards equality. Actually, Obama already declared that "there is no black America" so the fight for equality will become irrelevant.

Black voters are overwhelmingly pro-Obama. Now supposedly anti-war and progressive organizations have also thrown in the towel. Race pride, however misguided in this case, explains Obama's appeal to black Americans. White progressives have no such excuse. Nevertheless they have chosen to suspend disbelief and jump on the winning bandwagon.

The stampede to Obama reveals the emptiness of the Democratic left. They are every bit as cynical as the man they support. They want a seat at the table. They don't really care what is decided at that table as long as they are included. Pro-war, anti-war, who cares? Just spell the name right on the White House invitation and let the triangulation begin.

Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.Com. Ms. Kimberley maintains an edifying and frequently updated blog at More of her work is also available at her Black Agenda Report archive page.


Teamsters are rallying outside AmerisourceBergen Corp.'s annual shareholder meeting in Philadelphia today accusing the company of unfair labor practices. Workers want the giant medical supplies distribution company to honor the significant sacrifices workers have made to help AmerisourceBergen become one of the most successful medical supply companies in the Northwest.

Teamsters spokesman Galen Munroe in Washington D.C. said the company has used threats and intimidation tactics to demand economic concessions involving workers in Seattle. He said the rally is meant to raise awareness among company shareholders and investors that management's refusal to "bargain in good faith could lead to prolonged work stoppages that could effect their investment," Munroe said.

During ongoing contract negotiations, AmerisourceBergen threatened employees with the closure of a Seattle area facility and utilized illegal tactics to bully workers into backing off efforts to secure a fair contract. In addition, the company erected a chain-link fence around the facility, marched temporary workers through the work site, and sent letters to workers’ homes threatening to replace them in the event of a strike.

The company also presented contract proposals that would impose a discriminatory pay system based on favoritism that would undercut the wage standards set by AmerisourceBergen's competitors. “These proposals would allow AmerisourceBergen to eliminate union members’ jobs, and impose workplace policies that would have a negative impact on the families of long-time employees,” John Williams, Teamsters Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer and director of the Teamsters Warehouse Division said last fall.

Williams added, "Teamsters and AmerisourceBergen customers will be standing up to management and insisting they respect the laws of this country, the well-being of their employees and their customers' need for a dependable distribution network."

Members of the Teamsters walked off the job late last month in a one day strike (see picture) to protest workers’ rights violations at AmerisourceBergen ’s (ABC) Northwest distribution hub.

“The last thing we want is a strike,” said Wil Rance, Local 117 business agent. “We understand that service disruptions put the pharmacies and hospitals that rely on AmerisourceBergen for safe and reliable service in a tenuous position. Management just has not left us with a choice. That is why we called for only a one-day warning strike. The company seems to be more interested in violating the law than protecting the interests of its customers and their patients.”

Leonard Smith, union director of organizing said of the walk out."We've been in negotiations now for almost a year, and the employer has been engaging over that time in numerous unfair labor practices in violation with labor law."

Union News reports the union filed an unfair labor practice charge against AmerisourceBergen with the National Labor Relations Board. The union charged that the company changed working conditions without negotiating first and has refused to meet with workers to negotiate a contract.

"We did find at the conclusion of our investigation merit to some of the charges against the employer," NLRB regional director Richard Ahearn said. "We're in the process now of trying to reach a settlement, and absent that, we would issue a formal complaint."

The board found that AmerisourceBergen refused to continue bargaining unless the union agreed to the wage proposal, which is termed an "improper condition," and that the company changed production standards and shift times on employees without bargaining.

AmerisourceBergen, the third-largest U.S. pharmaceutical distributor behind McKesson Corp. and Cardinal Health, has 11,000 employees nationwide.

The following is from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Teamsters Warn of Possible Work Stoppages, Service Disruptions at AmerisourceBergen

AmerisourceBergen warehouse workers from across the country rallied with hundreds of their fellow Teamsters outside ABC's annual shareholders meeting in Philadelphia today. The protesters sounded a warning to investors about ongoing and illegal workers' rights violations by the pharmaceutical distributor that could result in widespread work stoppages and service disruptions in the coming months.

Last week, Region 19 of the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against ABC for violating federal labor laws protecting workers' rights. The complaint comes on the heels of a recent unfair labor practice strike at ABC's Pacific Northwest distribution hub.

"The last thing we want is widespread work stoppages, but management just continues to back our members into a corner. The company seems to be more interested in bullying its workers than protecting the interests of its customers," said John Williams, Director of the Teamsters Warehouse Division.

Several East Coast distribution hubs are entering contract negotiations in the near future including ABC's newly acquired Bellco facility in New York.

"Early indications show that despite record profits and outrageously high CEO pay and perks, management is seeking draconian cuts from these workers similar to what was experienced at their West Coast distribution hubs," said Williams.

Inside the annual meeting, investors also voiced concerns that ABC's Good Neighbor Pharmacy Network and Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), such as Medco, are under increased scrutiny by major union-negotiated health care plans due to the potential for service disruptions.

"AmerisourceBergen management is quickly earning a bad reputation among pharmacy benefit managers, independent pharmacies and union-sponsored health plans as a troubled supplier," said Fred Gegare, Teamsters vice president and chairman of the Central States Health and Welfare Fund. "As a trustee of one of the largest Teamster Health and Welfare plans in the country, I'm outraged that AmerisourceBergen pursues scorched-earth tactics towards workers," Gegare said.

He added that he is convening a nationwide meeting of Teamster health and welfare plan trustees next week to discuss the labor abuses at AmerisourceBergen and decide on further action. "Our trustees will be examining options for ensuring that the pharmaceutical distributors that serve our members both provide reliable, excellent service and respect workers' rights," Gegare said.

The rally comes on the heels of AmerisourceBergen's Chief Executive David Yost reassuring shareholders and Wall Street analysts at the company's December investors meeting that he anticipated no work stoppages in the future.

The Teamsters report that during recent contract negotiations, AmerisourceBergen threatened employees with the closure of the Northwest facility, erected a chain-link fence around the facility, marched temporary workers through the work site, sent letters to workers' homes threatening to replace them in the event of a strike, and fired a shop steward.

Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Israel's Haaretz reports the Jewish community of Russia is worried over a rumor campaign by nationalist parties claiming that Dmitri Medvedev, President Vladimir Putin's handpicked successor, is Jewish.

Russian Jewish leaders declined to comment on the rumors officially, fearing to lend them credibility. Off the record, however, one said: "I pray it isn't true, because it would only make trouble, for him and for us."

Can you believe it?

Of course you can?

This is Russia in the 21st century where anti-Semitism is A-OK.

Nikolai Bondarik, who heads the St. Petersburg branch of the nationalist Russian Party, told the Moscow Times on Wednesday "We are categorically against him [Medvedev] because he is an ethnic Jew and does not conceal his sympathies toward Judaism." He also charged that with Medvedev in power, foreigners and Jews would plunder Russia's natural resources; "tens of thousands" of Israelis would be given key positions in bodies such as "the police, army, and secret services"; and Russia's relations with the Arab world would be destroyed.

Bondarik also said, "A president ought to be related by blood with his people. Imagine if Japan was run by a Chinese president."

Those crazy Jews are everywhere and if you don't watch out you'll be "plundered."

American nut cases don't want to be left out of the fun.

On David Duke's official web Duke points out, "The man chosen by Putin to take his place as the President of Russia, Dimitry Medvedev, recently appeared at a Chanukah lighting of a Menorah, a commemoration of a Jewish massacre of Gentiles. Jewish leaders claim that Chanukah is a lesson for the need of Jewish chauvinism and Jewish separateness from all other peoples. Medvedev chose the occasion of this Jewish nationalist holiday to warn of the threat of Russian nationalism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism."

How dare he!

You can't fool David. Duke goes on, "It is quite possible that Medvedev himself may be Jewish — he has the same name as the Second World War, Jewish-Bolshevik terrorist, Dimitry Medvedev, and a remarkably similar name to the American Jewish extremist, Michael Medved."

Nor can you fool the fellow who wrote these comments on the blog
War in Iraq:

"Both Putin and Medvdev are friends of the Zionist Lubavitchers (see above picture as proof) and will not fail them in supporting the Zionist entity but they have to do it in a covert manner."

Medvedev has a Talmudist mother and Putin is not far from that with cousins living in the Zionist entity and who are Talmudists according to Eduard Hodos website."

By the way Medvedev was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church at age 23.

The following, I'm happy to report, is taken from

Jewish Roots Haunt Putin's Heir

MOSCOW— As Russian President Vladimir Putin prepares to hand over the keys of Kremlin to his confidante First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, far-rightists are trying to spoil the transition landscape, claiming that the presidential front-runner was a Jew in disguise.

"It's common knowledge. Medvedev never hide his sympathy towards Judaism," Nikolai Bondarik, who heads the nationalist Russian Party in St Petersburg, told Reuters Tuesday, February 26.

Nationalists allege that Medvedev is not a pure Russian, claiming that his mother's last name, Shaposhnikova, is Jewish; therefore, he is not fit for presidency.

"A president ought to be related by blood with his people. Imagine if Japan was run by a Chinese president," Bondarik said.

The website of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, a far-right nationalist group, has also debated Medvedev's alleged Jewish roots and used insulting slang words for Jews.

One viewer posted pictures of two Russian Jewish businessmen, Roman Abramovich and Boris Berezovsky, asking surfers to compare facial features with Medvedev.

Medvedev has always said he follows the Russian Orthodox church. But his campaign staff declined to confirm or deny he has Jewish roots.

Putin, 55, is due to step down after a March 2 election but has said he will become prime minister.

Medvedev is certain of victory, largely thanks to Putin's iron grip on the levers of power.

He is believed to be a continuation of Putin's own policies.

Rights groups expect a Soviet-style 99.6 percent vote for Medvedev.


Medvedev said he follows the Russian Orthodox church.
Moscow's Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt dismissed the nationalists' accusations of Medvedev as new take on a well-worn theme among the rightists.

"In the 1990s groups said (then president Boris) Yeltsin was Jewish. The same has been said of (US President) George Bush," Goldschmidt told Reuters.

Goldschmidt, who is also Chairman of the European Conference of Rabbis, said the nationalists are used to targeting politicians who defend of sympathize with Jews.

"Anyone who is against xenophobia and racism is seen by some circles as 'internationalist', or somewhat Jewish", he said.

The nationalists' smear campaign is not confined to Medvedev but extended to other election rivals and other politicians.

A video on the internet video-sharing website Youtube shows Andrei Bogdanov, leader of the Russian Democratic Party, covered with a large Star of David.

Anti-Kremlin campaigner Garry Kasparov, a former world chess champion, is part-Jewish.

One far-right website said he was not qualified to criticize a pro-Kremlin politician because of his origins.

Russian Jewish leaders decry rising attacks by nationalists targeting the Jewish minority, estimated at some one million.

Last year, there were about 20 recorded attacks on Jewish people and property in Russia, according to the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ), a US non-governmental organization.

They included graffiti on Jewish gravestones saying "Holocaust 2007", a vandalized synagogue in the far eastern port of Vladivostok and an assault on a visiting rabbi from Canada.


Folks living in Appalachia are over it as far as being depicted as "inbreeds" and bizarre not quite normal human beings. Who can blame them? Think about all the jokes, comments, movies and TV shows which you've heard or watched, without blinking an eye, which have demeaned citizens of one whole part of this country.

Would you have said nothing if such derogatory comments, television shows, or movies were about African-Americans, Jews, Muslims, or just about any other grouping?

Why, then, is it okay to make fun of people living in the hills and valleys of the Appalachian region of America?

Why, then, is it okay to paint the people who live there as some sort of evolutionary throw backs?

Some fellow named Everett Sizemore in an article entitled "Appalachian Americans: The Invisible Minority" answered that question like this. He wrote, "Appalachian-Americans are not generally discussed in multicultural textbooks or thought of as a distinct cultural group, yet they exhibit major cultural differences when compared to the common social construct of 'white America'. For this reason they continue to be marginalised, even in a time when acceptance of ethnic minorities and ideals of a pluralistic society are the norm."

Sizemore argued argues that Appalachians are a distinct cultural group, who have experienced oppression and marginalisation similar to that endured by racial and ethnic minorities such as the African, Native and Mexican Americans.

I think he is on to something there. In fact, if you look at a map of persistent rural poverty you will see that, except for Appalachia, these are places where people of color live.

Anyway for the people of Appalachia, it must be especially galling when the "beautiful people" of Hollywood are the culprits behind such bigotry. Equally galling would be the "funny" comments about hillbillies oftentimes made by the so called educated elite of this great land of ours.

The hardworking people of Appalachia have battled a "left behind" kind of poverty for years. They've been largely ignored when it comes to social programs or economic assistance. I remember only three mainstream politicians who really seemed to give a hoot - Lyndon Johnson, Bobby Kennedy and John Edwards - about fighting the real poverty which has been a staple of life for too many in the region. (Of course, thanks to the Ohio primary, Hillary Clinton's campaign will be touring Appalachian Ohio soon which continues its pattern of economic struggles, according to the Small-Area Income and Poverty Estimates recently released by the U.S. Census.)

Robert Kennedy was moved in Appalachia by the unmet needs of the community's inadequate schools, its environmental degradation, and the working families he spoke to who had trouble feeding their children.

"Family after family still survives on beans and potatoes or rice, cornbread and fat back," Kennedy said during his visit back in 68. "In many of the counties of Eastern Kentucky, more than half of the adult men, sometimes over three quarters, have no work." Kennedy was not only bringing attention to poverty--but also to how people in Appalachia were cut out of access to education, and decent jobs, and lived without health care.

It ain't all that different today. In fact, more than 40 years since the Johnson administration announced a program to fight poverty in Appalachia, many people there struggle to afford basic food and shelter. Central Appalachia had a poverty rate that was nearly twice the rate for the rest of the nation in 2000...and rural Appalachians experienced a rate of poverty than was 40 percent higher than the rate in metro Appalachia.

Cynthia M. Duncan author of the book, "Worlds Apart: Why Poverty Persists in Rural America," says of Johnson's Poverty program, "... without greater commitment to investment in education and skills, without a significant economic engine to create the kind of jobs that support a solid middle class that can be holding government accountable, it didn't have a lasting, far-reaching effect for the region."

A 2004 article in the now defunct New Standard pointed out:
"Poverty in Appalachia has a long history--from immigrants who settled in the hills and died young in coal mines at the turn of the century to today's impoverished residents who work at Wal-Mart, McDonald's and Dairy Queen after being laid off from mining and manufacturing jobs."

Most of the jobs were lost as industries switched from Appalachia?s bituminous coal to cleaner-burning Western coal. Between 1950 and 1960, more than 640,000 Appalachians lost coal and agricultural jobs, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette."

Mining now employs just two percent of the workforce in Appalachia?s coal-producing region, according to the ARC. In the last four years, 4,000 coal miners have lost their jobs. Around 1,500 still die each year from black lung disease, according to the
United Mine Workers of America."

Most of the mining jobs have been replaced by low-paying, non-unionized service sector jobs. In 2000, the service sector employed more than half of all Appalachian workers. Two million of these workers are in occupations classified as particularly low-skilled and low-paying."

It's 2008 and the rich and famous still think its funny.

I don't.

You shouldn't.

The following is from the Lexington, Kyntucky Herald Leader.

W.Va. governor protests film using negative W.Va. stereotypes

CHARLESTON, W.Va. --Gov. Joe Manchin and a miners' union took offense Tuesday to a planned scene from an upcoming film starring Julianne Moore that stereotypes West Virginians as inbreeds.

The horror thriller "Shelter" is recruiting extras with unusual physical features for a scene in a West Virginia "holler," according to the statement from Donna Belajac Casting of Pittsburgh.

The casting call said the film is looking for extras who are extraordinarily tall or short, those with unusual body shapes and unusual facial features, especially eyes, and even people with physical abnormalities as long as they have normal mobility.

"It's clear that they have no real understanding of who the people of West Virginia are," Manchin said. "And that's not only unfortunate, but in this case offensive. Certainly it doesn't sound like a movie worth watching."

The casting call also advertises for a 9- to 12-year-old white girl with an "other-worldly look ... could be an albino or something along those lines - she's someone who is visually different and therefore has a closer contact to the gods and to magic. 'Regular-looking' children should not attend this open call."

Shooting for those scenes is scheduled to start Sunday in the Pittsburgh area.

Casting agency director Donna Belajac didn't immediately return a telephone message Tuesday.

The casting call prompted a seething response from Cecil E. Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers union.

"Why must it be automatically assumed by the surgically enhanced 'beautiful people' who populate Hollywood that those who live in the hills and hollows of places like West Virginia are all afflicted with physical abnormalities?" Roberts said.

"For the producers of this movie to issue such a blatantly insulting and demeaning casting call is not just a slap in the face to tens of thousands of West Virginians, but to millions of Americans who may not fit the 'norm' of Hollywood beauty," Roberts said.

The entertainment industry has long used negative Appalachian stereotypes, including 1972's "Deliverance," a story about a group of men whose river-rafting trip goes horribly wrong.

Hollywood attempts at stereotypes haven't always been successful, though.

CBS hoped to remake the 1960s "Beverly Hillbillies" into a reality show in 2002, but tabled the idea after negative public reaction, including a protest by mine workers from West Virginia and Kentucky at CBS' parent company, Viacom.

In 2004, after an outcry from Appalachian residents, NBC scuttled a proposed rural-to-riches reality show "The High Life" that would have followed an Appalachian family's adjustments to a ritzy lifestyle in Beverly Hills. NBC cited "creative reasons," not the protests, as the reason the show wasn't pursued.

"It harkens back to a dark time in our nation's history when flimflam artists roamed the country making a quick buck with traveling 'freak' shows, displaying human beings who may have different bodily characteristics, in darkened cages," Roberts said. "I believe our society has progressed past that point - maybe not in Hollywood, but it has in other, more enlightened parts of America."


The government of Venezuela is today blaming an anarchist group for a bombing which left one man dead at the offices of major business group. The same group police say is behind a series of other bombings this month.

The bombings were originally attributed to ‘foreign agitators’ in the pay of the CIA.

A report at quptes Lope Mendoza, second vice president of Fedecamaras (the latest target) who...indicated that the detonation caused, "great destruction in the north facade of the building."

According to Globovision, pamphlets were found in the area signed by "Frente Guerrillero Venceremos" with messages against the leadership of the business group. Globovision also said that the deceased person carried a honorary inspector's card, from the Metropolitan Police.

This same guerrilla organization is attributed with placing an explosive in front of the administrative offices of the National Assembly, on the corner of Pajaritos, which occurred in the early hours of February 18. They have also been identified as responsible for the explosive placed at the Vatican Embassy on February 15, which caused minor damage. The detonation of a statue of George Washington, in El Paraíso on February 13 is also attributed to them.

The organization affirms in their pamphlets that they are for "the rescue of the Bolivarian process", the government of President Hugo Chavez has energetically repudiated the detonations.

Issue #52 of El Libertario gives some perspective to an anarchist point of view on the situation in Venezuela. In an article entitled "Against (B)oligarchy, demagogy and corruption" it states:

Nine years is more than enough to know that there's nothing to be hoped for from the messianic leadership incarnated in Hugo Chávez and the previous four decades tell us something similar about the partisan bureaucracies that today form the opposition, so the real dilemma is whether we'll keep on riding the deadly electoral wagon that only brings us to these failed destinations or whether we'll all together build another alternative, harmonizing the individual with the collective, with conscious participation that does not delegate but trusts in our abilities, with horizontal organization, without authoritarian impositions of any kind, joining our demands with the capacity to solve them that exists in our collectives. This road will bring us the possibility of a positive and profound transformation in Venezuela.

The following is from the Kansas City Star.

Venezuela bombing: 'anarchists' blamed
The Associated Press

Venezuela's justice minister on Monday blamed "anarchists" for an explosion that killed one man at the offices of Venezuela's leading business chamber, and he vowed to capture those responsible.

"We know who they are and we know the game they want to play," Justice Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin told reporters. "We're going to capture them."

The blast near the entrance of the Fedecamaras business chamber headquarters in Caracas killed a 44-year-old man suspected of trying to plant the bomb and shattered windows early Sunday.

Rodriguez said the man was found with an expired card identifying him as an "honorary" police inspector but that he was not an active police officer.

Sunday's explosion was the fifth reported this month in the Venezuelan capital. In several of them, authorities found scattered pamphlets linking the bombings to a group identified as "Venceremos of the United Center-Left."

Rodriguez blamed a "small group of anarchists who are looking for political interests."

"We know who they are by first and last name," he said.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Don't ask me but in Baltimore I guess they've got a problem with dirt bikes. Police though know what to do...arrest seven year olds.

Baltimore police arrested a 7-year-old boy, handcuffed him, and then hauled him off to the station house where the mother claims they took his mug shot and fingerprints.

The youngster's offense? Sitting on a dirt bike on a public sidewalk.

"They scared me," Gerard Mungo Jr., age 7 (pictured here), told The Baltimore Examiner before breaking down in tears.

"They locked me up on the bench with one hand," he said.

Gerard's family members say the bike wasn't even running at the time, reports CBS station WJZ-TV. "They yanked me off the dirt bike," Gerard said.

With all the crime in the world, one would think that Baltimore cops had more to do then take on the children of the city.

Now a seven year old roaring down the street on a dirt bike I would agree would be a problem, but come on coppers couldn't this "situation" have been handled differently?

Dirt bike riding is illegal in the city and action had to be taken, I guess. But then is sitting on one riding one (Confession: when I was a little boy I used to sit in my family's 52 Chrysler and play like I was driving, but I was never busted for it...of course, I happen to be white unlike Gerard).

I will admit I do wonder exactly why a father bought his son a dirt bike in the first place.

Is there no common sense anymore?

Might not the cops have simply explained to the little fellow the dangers presented by an underage child riding on the road, take him home and talk to his parents?

Well the local NAACP rode in (not on dirt bikes I hope) to the rescue. Branch president Marvin “Doc” Cheatham told a crowd protesting the bust, “This has to be the issue that’ll wake us up. They’re at our children. Four men justified doing what they did. There’s a culture of white supremacy in the police department. It’s plain and simple that we’re saying we’re gonna pull the covers from over it, we’re gonna call it like it is, and if it starts from Hamm on down, you’re gonna have to go.” (I don't know who Hamm is, but he's got to go).

The police were not to be out done by the NAACP, however. After that rally they arrested the boy’s mother for "hindering an arrest." (Confession: I did get arrested for that once myself). Mom described her capture like this, “… the officer said ‘well who’s the mother of the seven-year-old?’ That’s when they pointed me out, and then he went outside and told the other officer, ‘Guess who we got inside: the mother of the seven-year-old little boy that was arrested for riding the dirt bike.’ That’s when he came in and he asked me to have a seat, so when I went to go pull up a chair he grabbed me by the back of my jacket and slammed me down in the chair, and told me that I’m under arrest, [that] I coming with him for hindering,” she said.

Oh, and by the way in case you wondered where Baltimore city dirt bike owners go to ride their contraptions legally - out of the city and into Baltimore County where it's legal.

"The kids in the city don't have nowhere to ride so they come down here," said Baltimore County resident Herb Warwick. "We've called the police on them numerous times but they can't catch them. It's very annoying when you hear these things buzzing up and down the road in the dark."

And you know what? I just discovered all this took place LAST March.

Can't say the OD isn't on top of things.

City wants dirt bikes ‘immobilized’

Baltimore dirt bike owners may be forced to lock up their vehicles, or face seizures by police.

A bill to be introduced at tonight’s City Council meeting would require residents who own dirt bikes and unregistered motorcycles — illegal to operate but not own in the city— to “immobilize” them.

The bill, sponsored by the Dixon administration, would make it illegal not to have either an ignition lock or wheel clamp on dirt bikes to prevent the vehicle from being ridden.

The measure would allow police to seize any of the vehicles not properly secured, Dixon spokesman Sterling Clifford said.

“The bill will require them to be immobile while they are in the city. It gives us another tool for addressing dirt bikes,” he said.

The bill also would prevent owners from repurchasing seized dirt bikes, a restriction sponsors said was necessary to keep drug dealers from buying the bikes back.

“What typically happens when the police seize these bikes [particularly from drug runners] is that the people who forfeited the bikes show up at auction and just buy it right back. This law outlaws that practice,” said Shaun Adamec, spokesman for City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who also supports the bill.

Dirt bikes have been a source of controversy in Baltimore, with police and city leaders labeling them as hazards operated by reckless teens.

Last year, 7-year-old Gerard Mungo Jr. was arrested for allegedly sitting on a dirt bike. The arrest embroiled the police department in controversy and raised questions about the legality of sitting on a dirt bike with the ignition off. Gerard was released without being charged.

In the wake of the controversy, City Councilman Jack Young, D-District 12, proposed building a city-owned dirt bike park, a proposal the administration rebuffed.

“I think in order for us to control all this illegal riding, we need to be stricter,” Young said. “I support the idea.”


As reported by the Northwest Hip Hop Congress on the night of February 14th, 2008 at The Evergreen State College, the Olympia chapter of The Hip Hop Congress, with the support of over 40 student and community organizations, put on the most successful student-organized hip hop event in the history of Student Activities at The Evergreen State College. The event, which took place in the largest capacity space on campus, was the premier event for the Hip Hop Congress since the Evergreen chapter was formed in the spring of 2007. Following the concert by Dead Prez, violence broke out between various responding police agencies and event participants. One police vehicle was overturned and destroyed.

The police are obviously pissed about the whole thing. Thurston County Sheriff Dan Kimball said, “People are going to come knocking, and people are going to jail, sooner rather than later.”

Police say the incident started when an Evergreen police officer handcuffed a man after a fight between two audience members and security volunteers at a concert featuring hip-hop group Dead Prez.

That is not exactly how everyone sees it (check out statement below which was released last Friday by the local SDS chapter).

According to the Tacoma News Tribune witnesses have said that several concertgoers surrounded the Evergreen patrol car, chanting “Let him go!” The clash escalated as audience members saw the incident as they left the building and police arrived.

The Evergreen State College will pay for the damaged police vehicle.

Of course this is the internet age so a pair of videos posted on YouTube by the Evergreen State College student union details the action.

It is of some importance to note as did some of the local media that relations between police and young people in the area are none to great since November's war protests at the Port of Olympia.
During those demonstrations, Olympia police in riot gear used pepper spray and batons to remove protesters who were blocking the movement of military equipment returning from Iraq to Fort Lewis.

"I think after the port, we showed signs of strain in the relationship between students and campus police," said Art Costantino, Evergreen's vice president for student affairs.

The Olympian notes Olympia police made 61 arrests during the port protests Nov. 8-15. Evergreen President Les Purce acknowledged in a column he wrote for The Olympian in November that many of the protesters were from his school.

Evergreen economics professor Peter Bohmer, who was active in November's protests, told the Olympian the hip-hop duo that performed the night of the riots, Dead Prez, includes lyrics in its work that are critical of capitalism, racism, economic inequality and U.S. intervention abroad. That attracts an audience of people who share those sentiments and likely participated in the port protests, Bohmer said.

Bohmer said other factors have contributed to the worsening relations between students and Evergreen police, including the school's decision to arm police officers in the late 1990s. "On both sides, suspicion and distrust of each other grew," he said.

Charles Loosen, 25, a member of Evergreen's student union, pointed out that in the wake of what happened at the concert, students will have different attitudes toward the area's law enforcement agencies, which, as seen on one of the videos posted by the student union on YouTube, reacted differently toward concertgoers.

"It was the Olympia Police Department that was pepper-spraying students," he said.

The following statement was taken from A-Infos News.

US, Olympia SDS Statement on Police Racism and Violence on February 14th
Date Fri, 22 Feb 2008 09:09:58 +0200

The Olympia chapter of Students for a Democratic Society condemns the racist
arrest that occurred after the Dead Prez show on February 14th. The police are
an occupying force that brings violence and enforces racism in our community,
and they demonstrated both of these traits during the incident. The violence
after the concert was not initiated by the performers or the crowd, but rather
by the police. This is a concrete result of a history of interactions between
our communities and the police. In accordance with our mission statement,
Olympia SDS supports all people who resist racist, sexist and fundamentally
oppressive police. This statement does not mean that all members of SDS agree
with all tactics used, but we agree that the police were the initiators of the
violence and had previously demonstrated racism that evening.

Olympia SDS urges complete non-cooperation with police investigations. We call for the removal of police from The Evergreen State College as they enforce
racism and violence in our community.


This would be a Lawson File article if this were happening in the United States.

In Sofia, Bulgaria just like anywhere USA residents would like to think there environment was livable. They'd like to think their government would be interested in their health. They would like to think that major area industries cared about them.

That doesn't seem to be the case so they have taken to the streets of Sofia in protest.

The Kremikovtzi steel works currently the scene of a major labor battle is now also the target of environmental groups. The environmentalists and the workers are not necessarily in agreement on the issues.

The steel mill, until now owned by India’s Ispat (which has upset workers by refusing to infuse needed capital into the plant, while at the same time refusing to sell it off to interested buyers), is traditionally blamed for most of the smog layer that covers the Bulgarian capital.

Even the European Union has taken note of the situation there and in a January 17 letter announced it had decided to open yet another infringement proceeding against Bulgaria for failing to bring its biggest steel plant Kremikovtzi up to EU environmental standards.

The new infringement procedure comes in response to the complaint that Sofia mayor Boyko Borissov lodged with the European Union’s directorate general for environment in the summer last year about the high level of pollution from the Kremikovtzi steel mill in the suburbs of the city. “Our only wish is that Kremikovtzi cleans up its act. Should it fail to meet the environment requirements, it should be shut down,” mayor Borissov commented.

The mayor has repeatedly complained that the gross violation of the acceptable levels of pollution is systemic and has not abated despite the constant fines imposed on the steel mill. In particular, the amount of fine particles exceeds the maximum allowed by EU environmental and health standards by between three and six times daily.

Meanwhile, on January 31 a vast number of Kremikovtzi workers gathered at the square in front of Sofia's St Alexander Nevski cathedral to protest against the current management of the troubled steel mill.

Lyudmil Pavlov, chairman of the trade union at Kremikovtzi, claimed the management owed employees 11 million leva in unpaid wages since December 2007, with corresponding food stamps and other social payments also delayed.

The protesters held posters with slogans reading “Pramod Mittal does not create, but steals and destroys”, “Stop to the Kremikovtzi catastrophe”, “Stanishev, if you do not remove Pramod, we will remove you”, “The mayor is lying. Kremikovtzi is not the biggest Sofia polluter”, among others.

Vassil Yanachkov, of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB), asked the Prosecutor's Office to investigate owner Pramod Mittal's doings, Focus news agency reported. “We won't let Mittal play around with the fate of so many people,” he said.

The protesters took their rally to the Economy and Energy Ministry building, where an estimated 4000 people demanded a meeting with Economy and Energy Minister Petar Dimitrov before 10am.

Dimitrov agreed to see CITUB vice president Valentin Nikiforov, KT Podkrepa trade union president Konstantin Trenchev, along with other representatives of the two labour unions and of the Kremikovtzi workers.

He reiterated the Cabinet's commitment to keep Bulgaria's biggest steelworks working, even though Mittal refused to sell the mill, but was also unwilling to pump more funds into its operations. Dimitrov also said the Public Internal Financial Control Agency (PIFCA) should probe Kremikovzti's records to determine the steel mill's financial health.

Trade unions have accused the managers of Kremikovtzi of stripping assets worth 50 million euro over the past several weeks, including land and equipment that is of key importance for the continued operation of the steelworks,

Workers protests have continued.

The following is from the Sofia Echo.

Bulgarian “greens” want Kremikovtzi shut down

Bulgaria’s “green” politicians have lent their voices on February 25 to the calls to shut down Kremikovtzi steel works in the outskirts of Sofia.

Green Bulgaria, Green Party and the Green Alliance all participated in the “Kremikovtzi – the environmental consequences for the region” round table discussion at the Sofia Press club.

Scientific research regarding the impact of the steel mill on the environment should top the agenda, with the protests of the plant’s employees taking a back seat, Vassil Yotov from the Green Alliance said, opening the discussions.

“The electrical furnace works with scrap, there are no chimneys and everything goes out of the windows,” Yotov said. He added that some of Kremikovtzi’s furnaces worked during the night and on weekends, further boosting the steel mill’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Kremikovtzi’s equipment was outdated and no amount of upgrading and modernisation would make up for that, he argued. “The 320 million leva (earmarked for environmental programs) would hardly be enough to cover the costs,” he said.

The winds in the area spread the dust particles and pollution from Kremikovtzi all the way to Vitosha and Plana Mountains, causing allergies and lung diseases in Sofia and even some of its surrounding villages.

“The situation with the stored refuse bales and the pollution of the underground waters is another question and bordering on crime,” he said.

Although harmful emissions exceeded the accepted levels by more than 100 times in some cases, Yotov claimed, there was no real monitoring of pollution, causing various diseases, especially in children and teenagers throughout the region

He also lambasted the steel mill’s management for prolonging the agony of the company by selling of some of its assets, including its tailing pond, sold to Ukrainian businessman Konstantin Zhevago, who last month was in talks to buy Kremikovtzi.

Zhevago is actively extracting metals from the pond, while Kremikovtzi operated at a profit by ignoring payments to suppliers such as state railways BDZ and gas company Bulgargaz, as well as running late on paying wages.

The status quo was encouraged by the low pollution fine levied by the Government. Running at a monthly profit of 12 million euro, the 12 000 euro was petty change, according to Green Bulgaria chairman Boris Kassikov. “Any manager can pay such fine and put it in the company’s account,” he said.

The only way to deal with the situation was to fine the company once or twice and then, if no improvement was evident, it had to be shut down, as it would have been done in any other European country. He added that the mill’s management offered no guarantees that Kremikovtzi would stop polluting, even if the steelworks implemented its 232 million leva environmental plan.

Kremikovtzi had to be shut down, with the Government providing the funds to retrain its employees, Nikolai Mitev from Green Bulgaria said.

“Over the past 20 years Kremikovtzi has only been used for siphoning off money and stealing,” he said, dismissing the claims of Economy and Energy Minister Petar Dimitrov that Kremikovtzi was responsible for two per cent of Bulgaria’s gross domestic product.

“Even if true, this money cannot compensate for the damage to people’s health,” Mitev said. The lifespan of all residents of Kremikovzi or nearby Yana village, decreased by six months for each year living in the steel mill’s shadow, he added.

But he also criticised the plans to redevelop the area, advocated by realtors and Sofia city hall.

“The idea to build a new city with business parks here borders on abusing the trust of local people, because it would take more than 50-60 years to re-cultivate the area and make it liveable again,” Mitev said.

Valentina Kostova from the Green Party echoed his words, saying that anywhere else in Europe the environment and the quality of life were more important than the money that has been invested.

The construction of a business park on the premises of Kremikovtzi place could not take place before the area was re-cultivated, she added. “The Government has to stop justifying itself with (Indian owner Pramod) Mittal,” Kostova said.

But she stopped short of advocating the outright shutdown of the mill, saying some of its production processes were not as harmful for the environment and could continue with the appropriate safeguards in place.

“We propose that the politicians, at this time, overcome the pressure by the business and take into consideration elementary human logic – close down all harmful production cycles and leave the less detrimental ones,” Kostova said.

Meanwhile, more than 1000 Kremikovtzi employees gathered in front of the still mill’s main administrative building on the morning of February 25 to protest against new delays in the payment of their wages. They shouted “Salaries!” and booed new chief executive Guntupalli Jagannadham, who demanded the sacking of trade union activists that asked for a 25 per cent salary increase in 2008.