Monday, August 29, 2005

Peter Rachleff -- labor history professor at Macalester College in St. Paul and a leader of the progressive wing of the Minnesota labor movement-- wrote the following statement of solidarity with Northwest workers who are on strike. Please sign and encourage others to sign. Reply to Peter at


As union leaders and activists, we want to make it clear that we stand against the behavior of Northwest Airlines management and with the workers of Northwest Airlines and their unions as they seek economic justice.

For too many years, the management of Northwest Airlines -- and other U.S. corporations -- has demanded that workers give more hours, more effort, and more of their lives to their jobs while receiving reduced compensation, less security, and less respect. At the same time, management has taken home fat compensation packages, stock options, bonuses, and golden parachutes.

NWA management is now in the midst of spending, by their own admission, more than $100 million to bust the mechanics' union. They are recuiting hastily trained scabs and employing the infamous union-busting Vance Security company to intimidate the hard-working men and women who have given decades of their lives to Northwest.

NWA management has demanded that mechanics allow the contracting-out of the 53% of their work that remains since management already contracted out 38% of it. Fewer than one-fourth of the mechanics employed in 2000 will continue to have jobs. For those who remain, management demands a 26% wage cut and the emptying of their underfunded defined-benefit pensions into 401K plans tied to the stock market.

NWA management has demanded that flight attendants undergo a 40% cut in their overall compensation. They are seeking similar cuts from other workers and, if they are able to force the mechanics and the flight attendants to accept these cuts, these other workers -- pilots, baggage handlers, ticket agents, clerical workers, and others -- will have little base from which to resist. The flying public will also have many reasons to question the safety of NWA flights.

NWA management's behavior is all too familiar. It mirrors the actions of Hormel, the Detroit newspapers, Caterpillar, Staley, Delphi Auto Parts, Enron, and United Airlines. It also sets the stage for other corporate employers to demand that their workers and unions allow expanded outsourcing of work, accept slashed wages and benefits, and give up the pensions that they have sacrificed for over many years.

This must stop. These actions by NWA management, combined with their abuse of the trust of Minnesota citizens, tax-payers, and state government, make them a suitable poster child for the labor movement's renewed efforts to educate, organize, and mobilize all Americans -- native-born and immigrant, blue collar and white collar, manufacturing and service, women and men, union members and non-union members.

All of us need to say "NO!" to this kind of behavior. NO to union-busting! NO to corporate greed! NO to a race to the bottom of the economic ladder!We union leaders and activists stand against Northwest Airlines' behavior and we stand with Northwest's workers and their unions in their struggle for economic justice.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Happily, Pat Robertson's crazy demand that the U.S. murder Hugo Chavez has-- much to my suprise-- actually gotten the attention it deserves. It is all over the papers and has been the focus of quite a lot of debate on TV talk shows, talk radio and in the blogosphere. Granted, the corporate media continue to ignore the Bush administration's repeated and illegal efforts to destabilize the Venezuelan government (including, of course, its backing for the failed 2002 coup which breifly ousted Chavez from power). But at least they seem appropriately outraged at the open suggestion that the U.S. state should just start killing foreign leaders they don't like. Yeah!

Even more encouraging, the American Library Association Council just endorsed a strongly worded resolution calling for the immediate withdrawl of American troops in Iraq. Here's the text:

Resolution on the Connection Between the Iraq War and Libraries

WHEREAS, The justifications for the invasion of Iraq have proven to be
completely unfounded; and

WHEREAS, The war already has taken the lives of more than 100,000 Iraqis
and more than 1700 U.S. soldiers; and

WHEREAS, These numbers will continue to mount as long as the U.S.
remains in Iraq; and

WHEREAS, During the current occupation, many of Iraq's cultural
treasures, including libraries, archives, manuscripts, and artifacts,
have been destroyed, lost, or stolen; and

WHEREAS, As long as U.S. forces remain in Iraq, the inevitable
escalation of fighting threatens further destruction of Iraq's cultural
heritage; and

WHEREAS, The U.S. is spending billions of dollars every month for the
occupation; and

WHEREAS, Even a small fraction of these resources would be more than
sufficient for rebuilding and greatly enhancing the libraries and
educational institutions of both Iraq and the U.S.; now, therefore, be

RESOLVED, That the American Library Association calls for the withdrawal
from Iraq of all U.S. military forces, and the return of full
sovereignty to the people of Iraq; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That the American Library Association urges the United States
government to subsequently shift its budgetary priorities from the
occupation of Iraq to improved support for vital domestic programs,
including United States libraries; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That the American Library Association calls upon the United
States government to provide material assistance through the United
Nations for the reconstruction of Iraq, including its museums,
libraries, schools, and other cultural resources; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That this resolution be sent to all members of Congress, the
Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the President of the
United States, and the press.

Adopted by the Council of the American Library Association

Wednesday, June 29, 2005
In Chicago, Illinois


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Who Would Jesus Assassinate? (WWJA)

The contempt of the American religious right for democracy has been evident to rational observers for quite some time and exhibits clear parallels with the authoritarian passions of the Islamic fundamentalists they supposedly abhor. That Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson-- longtime freind and business associate of bloodthirsty Zairian dictator Mobuto Sese Seko -- has called for the assasination of Hugo Chavez, the democratically elected President of Venezuala, is thus hardly surpising. What is shocking, though, is that other than AP, few news organizations have seen fit to report on his comments.

Pat Robertson calls for assassination of Hugo Chavez
By Gene Puskar, AP

VIRGINIA BEACH (AP) - Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson called on
Monday for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez,
calling him a "terrific danger" to the United States.

Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition of America and a former
sidential candidate, said on "The 700 Club" it was the United States'
duty to stop Chavez from making Venezuela a "launching pad for communist
infiltration and Muslim extremism."

Chavez has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of President
Bush, accusing the United States of conspiring to topple his government
and possibly backing plots to assassinate him. U.S. officials have
called the accusations ridiculous.

"You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he
thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to
go ahead and do it," Robertson said. "It's a whole lot cheaper than
starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

Electronic pages and a message to a Robertson spokeswoman were not
immediately returned Monday evening.

Venezuela is the fifth largest oil exporter and a major supplier of oil
to the United States. The CIA estimates that U.S. markets absorb almost
59% of Venezuela's total exports.

Venezuela's government has demanded in the past that the United States
crack down on Cuban and Venezuelan "terrorists" in Florida who they say
are conspiring against Chavez.

Robertson accused the United States of failing to act when Chavez was
briefly overthrown in 2002.

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that
we exercise that ability," Robertson said.

"We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know,
strong-arm dictator," he continued. "It's a whole lot easier to have
some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material
may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

That the military and the U.S. government is attempting to suppress further evidence of the torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib is perhaps understandable. What is surprising, though, is that they are arguing that releasing the photos would violate the prisoner's rights under the Geneva Conventions. This is a tacit admission that the people detained by U.S. troops in Iraq are, in fact, prisoners of war. And that , in turn, could provide more fuel for the human rights law suits against Rumsfeild and Co.

RIGHTS:New Abuse Photos Could Spark Riots, US General Warns
William Fisher

NEW YORK, Aug 16 (IPS) - Civil libertarians and the Pentagon appear headed for yet another trainwreck in the ongoing dispute over the so-called second batch of photos from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. In response to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and a number of medical and veterans groups demanding release of 87 new videos and photographs depicting detainee abuse at the now infamous prison, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, said the release would result in ”riots, violence and attacks by insurgents.”

In court papers filed to contest the lawsuit, Gen. Myers said he consulted with Gen. John P. Abizaid, head of the United States Central Command, and Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the commander of the U.S. forces in Iraq. Both officers also opposed the release, Gen. Myers said.

He believes the release of the photos would ”incite public opinion in the Muslim world and put the lives of American soldiers and officials at risk,” according to documents unsealed in federal court in New York. ”The situation on the ground in Iraq is dynamic and dangerous,” Myers added, with 70 insurgent attacks daily. He also said there was evidence that the Taliban was gaining ground because of popular discontent in Afghanistan.

Gen. Myers cited the violence that erupted in some Muslim countries in May after Newsweek published an item, which it later retracted, saying that a Koran had been thrown in a toilet in the United States detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He also said the images could fuel terrorist disinformation campaigns.

"It is probable that Al Qaeda and other groups will seize upon these images and videos as grist for their propaganda mill, which will result in, besides violent attacks, increased terrorist recruitment, continued financial support and exacerbation of tensions between Iraqi and Afghani populaces and U.S. and coalition forces,” he said.

The 87 ”new” photos and four videotapes taken at Abu Ghraib were among those turned over to Army investigators last year by Specialist Joseph M. Darby, a reservist who was posted at the prison.

In legal papers unsealed last week, the ACLU and its allied groups urged the court to order the release of photographs and videos, and also asked the court to reject the government's attempt to file some of its legal arguments in secret. It said that until the first photos of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib were made public in April 2004, the government had consistently denied that any wrongdoing had taken place, despite news reports to the contrary. Since then, the ACLU has obtained, through a court order, more than 60,000 pages of government documents regarding torture and abuse of detainees.

At a court hearing on Monday, the judge said he generally ruled in favour of public disclosure and ordered the government to reveal some redacted parts of its argument for blocking the release of pictures and videotapes. U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said his rulings pertained to arguments by Gen. Myers. ”By and large, I ruled in favour of public disclosure,” he said.

The judge said he believes photographs ”are the best evidence the public can have of what occurred” at the prison. He scheduled arguments on the question of whether the photographs and videos should be released for Aug. 30, saying a speedy decision is important so the public's right to know isn't compromised.

The ACLU has also called for an independent counsel with subpoena power to investigate the torture scandal, including the role of senior policymakers, and has filed a separate lawsuit to hold Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and high-ranking military officers accountable. Reed Brody, head of international programmes for Human Rights Watch (HRW), told IPS, ”The problem is not the photos but the policy of abuse. The release of the first photos last year led us to the revelations that senior U.S. officials had secretly sidelined the Geneva Conventions, re-defined 'torture', and approved illegal coercive interrogation methods.”

”The release of new photos showing crimes perpetrated on detainees could create new impetus to expose and prosecute those ultimately responsible and hopefully prevent these practices from being repeated.” Michael Ratner, president of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, noted that, ”The administration's response to the release of the photos is to kill the messenger, rather then to investigate and prosecute the real culprits: Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld, Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales, Generals Miller and Sanchez, and others.”

He agreed that ”the photos will be upsetting to anyone who cares about humane treatment and particularly to those in the Muslim world, but the photos reflect the reality of the type of treatment detainees were subjected to.”

”Rather than suppress the best evidence of widespread torture of Muslim detainees, the Administration ought to launch a fully independent investigation and ought to see that an independent prosecutor is appointed,” Ratner told IPS. He added, ”Ensuring accountability for the torture conspiracy is the best way of demonstrating to the Muslim world that this outrage has come to an end and will not be repeated.”

The government initially objected to the release of the images on the grounds that it would violate the Geneva Conventions rights of the detainees depicted in the images. That concern was addressed by court order on Jun. 1 directing the government to redact any personally identifying characteristics from the images. The ACLU did not object to those redactions.

The ACLU said the government has repeatedly taken the position that the detainees themselves cannot rely on the Geneva Conventions in legal proceedings to challenge their mistreatment by U.S. personnel. In a court declaration, former U.S. Army Colonel Michael E. Pheneger, a retired military intelligence expert, responded to the government's ”cause-and-effect” argument that release of the images would spark violence abroad.

”Our enemies seek to prevent the United States from achieving its objectives in the Middle East,” he said. ”They do not need specific provocations to justify their actions.” Attacks by insurgents ”will continue regardless of whether the photos and tapes are released,” he added.
The case arose from a lawsuit filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by the ACLU, the Centre for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. (END/2005)

Friday, August 05, 2005

Finally, Bob Novak gets kicked off the air and is accurately labeled "inexcusable and unacceptable" by CNN. Maybe there really is a God...

CNN Suspends Novak After He Walks Off Set

The Associated Press
Friday, August 5, 2005; 12:42 AM

NEW YORK -- CNN suspended commentator Robert Novak indefinitely after he swore and walked off the set Thursday during a debate with Democratic operative James Carville.

The live exchange during CNN's "Inside Politics" came during a discussion of Florida's Senate campaign. CNN correspondent Ed Henry noted when it was over that he had been about to ask Novak about his role in the investigation of the leak of a CIA officer's identity.

A CNN spokeswoman, Edie Emery, called Novak's behavior "inexcusable and unacceptable." Novak apologized to CNN, and CNN was apologizing to viewers, she said.

"We've asked Mr. Novak to take some time off," she said.

A telephone message at Novak's office was not immediately returned Thursday.

Carville and Novak were both trying to speak while they were handicapping the GOP candidacy of Katherine Harris. Novak said the opposition of the Republican establishment in Florida might not be fatal for her.

"Let me just finish, James, please," Novak continued. "I know you hate to hear me, but you have to."

Carville, addressing the camera, said: "He's got to show these right wingers that he's got a backbone, you know. It's why the Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching you. Show 'em that you're tough."

"Well, I think that's bull---- and I hate that," Novak replied. "Just let it go."

As moderator Henry stepped in to ask Carville a question, Novak walked off the set.

Only two weeks ago, CNN executives defended their decision to keep Novak on the air during the ongoing probe into the revelation of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity. In a July 2003 newspaper column, Novak identified Plame, the wife of administration critic and former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, as a CIA operative.

Wilson has said the leak of his wife's name was an attempt by the administration to discredit him. Two other reporters connected to the case openly fought the revelation of their sources, and Judith Miller of The New York Times has been jailed for refusing to cooperate with prosecutors.

Novak has repeatedly refused to comment about his role in the federal investigation.

After Novak walked off on Thursday, Henry said that Novak had been told before the segment that he was going to be asked on air about the CIA case.

"I'm hoping that we will be able to ask him about that in the future," Henry said.

Novak has been a longtime contributor to CNN, taking the conservative point of view during the just-canceled "Crossfire" show.

© 2005 The Associated Press

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

David Horowitz's Battlefield Academia

Sixties lefty turned right wing activist, provocateur, and GOP
political consultant is leading a McCarthy-like charge on college
campuses across the country

Bill Berkowitz - WorkingForChange

07.14.05 - A specter is again haunting U.S. colleges and universities.

At the beginning of the Cold War in the early 1950s, Joseph McCarthy,
the infamous Republican Senator from Wisconsin, stalked the political
landscape hurling reckless charges that hordes of Communists had
infiltrated the U.S. government before, during and after World War II.

Sen. McCarthy and his band of self-proclaimed patriots also trained
their guns on the creative community -- writers, directors and actors
working in Hollywood and on Broadway -- as well as public school
teachers and academics on college campuses across the country.

The hysteria these men stirred up through largely unsubstantiated
charges caused thousands of people to lose their jobs. Some committed

Flash forward 50 years: David Horowitz, the 1960s left-wing radical
turned right-wing activist/provocateur and Republican political
consultant, has picked up McCarthy's baton. Disguised as an attempt
to broaden free speech on campus, Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights
-- which aims to stifle the speech of liberal academics -- has been
making the rounds of state houses and college campuses during the
past year or so.

In Florida, State Representative Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) has
introduced an Academic Freedom Bill of Rights after he "attended a
conservative conference in St. Louis last summer where Horowitz spoke
about academic freedom," the St. Petersburg Times reported.

Baxley's legislation, which in late March passed out of the House
Choice and Innovation Committee by an 8-to-2 vote (the only two
Democrats on the committee voted against it), was a broad assault on
academic freedom.

In addition to guaranteeing that students would "not be punished for
professing beliefs with which their professors disagree," the bill
would have advised professors "to teach alternative 'serious academic
theories' that may disagree with their personal views."

"Some professors say, 'Evolution is a fact. I don't want to hear
about Intelligent Design (a creationist theory), and if you don't
like it, there's the door,'" Baxley maintained.

According to a legislative staff analysis of the bill, students who
felt their views were disrespected in the classroom or thought they
were singled out for "public ridicule" by their professors would have
the right to sue them and the university.

"Despite the state Senate's decision not to consider Baxley's bill, I
have heard that he hasn't given up and may reintroduce the House bill
next session," Susan Greenbaum, the president of the Faculty Senate
at the University of South Florida, told IPS.

"Baxley also appealed directly to the state's university presidents
to implement his proposals administratively. As chair of the
Education Council and as a member of the Education Appropriations
Committee, a very important House committee, Baxley certainly has
their attention."

"The real test," Greenbaum pointed out, "will come in whether there
is an escalation in student grievances at Florida universities, and
what happens to those complaints. However, what seems to be lacking
in this whole issue is real student dissatisfaction. They have
garnered almost no action among students on these campuses; David
Horowitz presented a pitiful array of dubious anecdotes when he
testified in Tallahassee."

In addition to Florida, legislators in 13 other states have
introduced some type of "Academic Freedom" legislation. California
and Maine are considering "an academic bill of rights [containing] an
eight-point credo designed to increase political diversity in the

In early June, the Christian Science Monitor reported that "four
state universities in Colorado... [had] adopted the principles under
legislative pressure in 2004."

In Minnesota, right-wing state senator Michelle Bachman, a vocal
opponent of gay rights, introduced two bills modeled on Horowitz's
complaints, one targeted at state colleges and universities and one
at state high schools.

Horowitz, who operates a number of projects -- including the online
magazine -- out of the well-funded offices of his
Los Angeles, California-based Center for the Study of Popular
Culture, set up Students for Academic Freedom in 2003 to do the grunt
work. Since then, the Washington-based outfit has been making headway
on college campuses across the nation.

Students for Academic Freedom is not only involved with lobbying
state legislatures; on some campuses, they and similarly minded
groups have launched an all-out assault on liberal professors, using
classic McCarthyite tactics.

At Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) in Santa Rosa, California, the
struggle over academic freedom took a particularly ugly turn earlier
this year. Conservative students, supporting a California version of
a Student Bill of Rights, issued "leaflets quoting Section 51530 of
the [California] Education Code," and then "anonymously posted [them]
on the doors of ten faculty members" at the College, veteran
journalist David Bacon reported.

The leaflet quoted the code:

"No teacher... shall advocate or teach communism with the intent to
indoctrinate, inculcate in the mind of any pupil a preference for
communism." Such "advocacy," the statute says, means teaching "for
the purpose of undermining patriotism for, and the belief in, the
government of the United States and of this state."

Claiming responsibility for the action, SRJC Republicans issued a
press release stating that they "did this because we believe certain
instructors at SRJC are in violation of California state law."

At the same time, a news release with the headline "Operation 'Red
Scare,'" appeared on the website of California College Republicans.
In McCarthyite cant, the organization's chair, Michael Davidson, told
reporter John Gorenfeld "a lot of the college professors are
leftovers from the Seventies -- and Communist sympathizers."

Meanwhile, in Florida, Horowitz's local partner, Rep. Dennis Baxley,
appears to see himself as a modern-day Daniel fighting the lions of
liberal academia. During the debate over his legislation, Baxley
claimed he was called a McCarthyist by "leftist critics [who]
ridicule me for daring to stand up for students and faculty."

Then, similar to a tactic used by Sen. Joseph McCarthy himself,
Baxley claimed that he "had a list of students who were discriminated
against by professors," but, the St. Petersburg Times reported, he
"refused to reveal names because he felt they would be persecuted."

Horowitz's efforts at campuses across the country, and Rep. Baxley's
work in Florida "represents an inversion of the original intent of
academic freedom, which is to protect the right of professors to
express controversial ideas without fear of retaliation," Susan
Greenbaum maintains.

"This protection is designed to shield free inquiry and encourage
innovation. It enables the creation of new knowledge and secures the
basis to challenge old ideas," she continued.

"In Baxley's bill -- which is really the Horowitz bill -- students
are customers, whose tastes and prejudices must be accommodated.
Professors are likened to vendors who must take care not to offend or
disturb those who have come to purchase their wares."

"It's like the Wal-Mart model: Maybe they can import holographic
images of professors made in China, attractive classroom automatons
who can be programmed to present marketable and politically
acceptable material," she said dryly.

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]