Archive for June, 2012

Rios Montt-Guatemalan Dictator On Trial For Genocide.

Friday, June 29th, 2012

It’s an election year. I am so detached from the political process, mostly just dealing with school, job hunting and my girlfriends. I was so enthusiastic about the Occupy movement at the beginning of the year. I was going to meetings of the general strike committee for May Day. There was some hope that the Occupy movement which had recently been evicted from most all the occupations around the country would be making a revival. As it turned out only a couple thousand people came to the May Day events and the general strike was a bust. There was no real unity with the labor movement and although the marches on May Day were fun, we were largely ineffective and unable to close the banks as we had hoped to do. There simply were not enough people.

On to more interesting news. I am watching the POV channel on cable and there is a show on about Guatemala and the genocide of the native people backed by the USA. “When the Mountains Tremble” was a film about the revolutionary struggle, of a Marxist insurgency in the early 1980’s. It rallied support in the US for campaigns to support revolutionary movements in Central America, especially after the success of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua. An attempt was made to stop the slaughter of the indigenous of Guatemala to the extent that it was known at the time. In 1999 in a Spanish court the Genocide case was made and arrest warrants were issued. Finally this year Rios Montt military ruler of Guatemala during the worst of the massacres, has finally been brought to trial in Guatemala after resigning from their Congress at age 85.

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From PRI The World

Ríos Montt on Trial for War Crimes in Guatemala
BY JOHN OTIS ⋅ JUNE 22, 2012

After seizing power in a 1982 military coup, José Efraín Ríos Montt was blunt about the coming violence. His troops were accused of slaughtering thousands of Guatemalan Indians.

“We are going to kill,” he said in this 1982 interview. “But we are not going to assassinate.”

Now, three decades later, Rios Montt is finally facing prosecution for war crimes. The trial, now under way, is expected to last at least a year.

Guatemala’s civil war between government forces and communist rebels lasted 36 years, but Ríos Montt’s 17 months in power comprised the most brutal period. A UN Truth Commission found that nearly half of the war’s human rights abuses occurred during Ríos Montt’s first year. Yet, he was never held responsible.

The war finally ended in 1996. By then Ríos Montt had been elected to the Congress, which gave him immunity from prosecution. But this past January, he finally resigned from the Congress at the age of 85, and prosecutors pounced. He is now under house arrest.

Prosecutors in a Guatemala City court, where Ríos Montt and several of his former military aides are being tried for genocide and war crimes, contend that Ríos Montt’s troops unleashed a campaign of massacres and rapes in northern Guatemala designed to eliminate the region’s Ixil Indians. Army officers accused them of harboring Marxist guerrillas.

http://www.theworld.org/2012/06/rios-montt-on-trial-for-war-crimes-in-guatemala/
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This is from Center For Justice And Accountability report

CJA is lead counsel in the Guatemala Genocide Case before the Spanish National Court (SNC). The Rigoberta Menchú Tum Foundation and others filed the original complaint in 1999, charging former head of state General Efraín Ríos Montt and other senior Guatemalan officials with terrorism, genocide, and systematic torture.

In 2006, Judge Pedraz of the SNC issued arrest warrants for the eight defendants. At first, the Guatemalan Constitutional Court (GCC) accepted the warrants and authorized extradition proceedings. However, the GCC reversed itself in 2007 and declared that the arrest warrants and extradition requests were invalid, barring Pedraz from interviewing witnesses in Guatemala.

“The Guatemala Genocide Case arises from a period in that country’s long civil war where violence against non-combatant, indigenous Mayans rose to the level of genocide. Over 200,000 Guatemalans were killed or disappeared during the 1960-1996 internal conflict. According to the UN-sponsored Commission on Historical Clarification (CEH), the Guatemalan military and paramilitaries indiscriminately targeted indigenous communities, labor leaders, students, clergy and other civilians under the theory that they formed a subversive ‘internal enemy’.

The violence peaked in 1982-1983, when counterinsurgency forces launched a systematic campaign of genocide against the Mayan people. Drawing on an historical antipathy to the indigenous peoples of Guatemala, the State justified the extermination of an estimated 440 Mayan communities by claiming that they were part of a communist plot against the government. Working methodically across the central highlands, the army and its paramilitary teams – including “civil patrols” of forcibly conscripted local men –attacked over 600 Mayan villages. Concentrating in the Quiché Department, the armed forces would cordon off a village, round up the inhabitants, separate men from women and then kill them sequentially. Those who escaped would be hunted from the air by helicopters. Extreme torture, mutilation and sexual violence became commonplace, as was violence against children. This two-year period became known as the “Silent Holocaust.” In the words of the 1999 CEH report:
“The Army’s perception of Mayan communities as natural allies of the guerrillas contributed to increasing and aggravating the human rights violations perpetrated against them, demonstrating an aggressive racist component of extreme cruelty that led to extermination en masse of defenseless Mayan communities, including children, women and the elderly, through methods whose cruelty has outraged the moral conscience of the civilized world.”

http://www.cja.org/section.php?id=83

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From Third World Traveler

US Aided and Abetted Genocide
in Guatemala

Marin Interfaith Task Force on Central America, April 1999

by George Friemoth, MITF Board

In an explosive report released on February 25 by the United Nations’ Historical Clarification Commission (CEH), the US government and several American corporations were accused of complicity in the genocide of nearly 200,000 Mayan people during Guatemala’s bloody 36-year civil war.

The final 3,600-page CEH report clearly places the blame for most of the 200,000 deaths on the “racist” policy of the Guatemalan government and holds the country’s military and paramilitary forces responsible for the actual killings, tortures and disappearances. However, it accuses the US of directly and indirectly supporting a “fratricidal confrontation” by providing sustained training, arms and financial aid. The US role peaked in the 1981-1983 period, but did not end until the peace accords were signed in 1996.

The report is based on the testimony of 9,200 people from all sides of the conflict. The three commission members had an international staff of 272 workers, who spent 18 months assembling the report and who made extensive use of declassified US documents. The CEH investigated 42,000 human rights violations, 29,000 of which resulted in deaths or disappearances. The most significant findings were:

* The Guatemalan army and its paramilitary forces (the infamous “Civil Patrols”) were responsible for 93% of the crimes. Leftist guerrillas (Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity - URNG) were blamed for three percent of the crimes; four percent were unresolved. * There were 626 massacres that were attributed to the military and its allies and described as a “strategically planned genocide against the Mayan people.” The URNG was blamed for another 32 massacres.

* The scorched earth operations, particularly in the early 1980’s, resulted in entire villages being wiped out - men, women and children. “Special brutality [was] directed against Mayan women, who were tortured, raped and murdered.” Large numbers of girls and boys were victims of extremely violent killings.

* The Guatemalan government used a relatively small Marxist insurgency (the URNG) as an excuse for the “physical annihilation” of all of its political opponents, the vast majority of them unarmed civilians. The executions and forced disappearances of Mayan leaders “were not only an attempt to destroy the social base of the guerrillas,” the report said, “but above all, to destroy the cultural values that insured cohesion and collective action in Mayan communities.”

The US Role

Commission chairman Christian Tomuschat, a respected German lawyer and human rights expert, stated that the US was responsible for much of the bloodshed. “The United States government and US private companies exercised pressure to maintain the country’s archaic and unjust socioeconomic structure.” He noted that the CIA and other US agencies “lent direct and indirect support to some illegal state operations.” The support consisted of advising, training, arming and financing the overall operation.

The commission listed the American training of the Guatemalan officer corps in counter-insurgency techniques, including torture, as a key factor “which had a significant bearing on human rights violations during the armed confrontation.” The US Army School of the Americas (SOA) in Fort Benning, Georgia, was singled out for its role.

Specifically named was Guatemalan Military Intelligence (Ml) as the primary organizer of illegal detentions, torture, forced disappearances and executions. The report noted that most Ml officers were graduates of the SOA and maintained close and frequent contact with their US counterparts. Attempting to absolve himself, Mario Merida, former chief of Ml and one-time Minister of Interior, said “It was a war between the United States and the USSR. We should never have gotten involved.” Guatemalan President Arzu and others argue that Guatemalans were merely victims of a civil war and that the country was used by the US as a surrogate Cold War battleground.

http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Human_Rights/USGenocideGuatemala.html

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The School of the Americas must be closed. It is a training ground for torturers and its history is stained with blood.

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From SOA Watch Siite

About SOA Watch

SOA Watch is an independent organization that seeks to close the US Army School of the Americas, under whatever name it is called, through vigils and fasts, demonstrations and nonviolent protest, as well as media and legislative work.

On November 16, 1989, six Jesuit priests, their co-worker and her teenage daughter were massacred in El Salvador. A U.S. Congressional Task Force reported that those responsible were trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA) at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

In 1990 SOA Watch began in a tiny apartment outside the main gate of Ft. Benning. While starting with a small group, SOA Watch quickly drew upon the knowledge and experience of many in the U.S. who had worked with the people of Latin America in the 1970’s and 80’s.

Today, the SOA Watch movement is a large, diverse, grassroots movement rooted in solidarity with the people of Latin America. The goal of SOA Watch is to close the SOA and to change U.S. foreign policy in Latin America by educating the public, lobbying Congress and participating in creative, nonviolent resistance. The Pentagon has responded to the growing movement and Congress’ near closure of the SOA with a PR campaign to give the SOA a new image. In an attempt to disassociate the school with its horrific past, the SOA was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in January of 2001.

http://soaw.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=100

Egypt Supreme Court Cancels Parliament, Military Takes Sweeping Power, Greek Election Results

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

Things don’t look so hot in Egypt. The Supreme Court, a holdover of Mubarak appointees has declared the national assembly to be unconstitutional. They did the same for a law that would make it illegal for former members of the old regime to run for office. This throws the Muslim brotherhood out the window of legitimate government unless they are able to win the presidential run off election. Chances are, this will lead to more unrest and a revolutionary situation. Question is what is the position of the US in all this?

The voting in Egypt has just ended in what has been called a lackluster turnout. Are the Egyptians disappointed with the choice? Or does it seem that the Military Council and their cronies control the results behind the scenes? It certainly looks that way. As my anarchist friends say, “if voting mattered, it would be illegal.”

As of 9 PM Pacific Time CNN is reporting that the Muslim Brotherhood is claiming that their candidate is the winner.

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From CNN

The Muslim Brotherhood claims its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, has defeated Ahmed Shafik to become Egypt’s president.

The Islamist group said that 97% of all votes had been cast, though a count on the state-run Al-Ahram news website — while showing Morsi ahead in the race — suggested that millions more votes still needed to be counted.

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From BBC

Egypt’s military ‘grants itself sweeping powers’

Turnout in the second round was reported to be low

Egypt’s ruling military has issued a declaration apparently granting itself sweeping powers, as the country awaits results of presidential elections.

The document by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scaf) reportedly says new general elections can not be held until a permanent constitution is drawn up.

It also allegedly gives the Scaf legislative control.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood says its candidate, Mohammed Mursi, has won Sunday’s presidential election.

Mr Mursi, an Islamist, is competing against Ahmed Shafiq, who served as prime minister under former President Hosni Mubarak.

Mr Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood said he was holding a 52%-48% lead over Mr Shafiq with almost all the vote counted after Sunday’s second-round run-off election.

“Mohammed Mursi is the first Egyptian president of the republic elected by the people,” said a tweet from the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

But an official at Mr Shafiq’s campaign headquarters told Reuters news agency: “I do not accept this, I will not file wrong numbers.”

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In other news, the Center-Right New Democracy won the election in Greece with 30% of the vote. They will have to form a minority government but they are keeping Greece in the EU and the euro.

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From the BBC

Egypt voters’ ‘loss of faith’

By Lyse Doucet
BBC News, Cairo

Turnout has been lower in this election that in Egypt’s other post-revolution polls

Polls have closed across Egypt, ticking another box in a troubled transition to civilian rule in a nation exhausted by the process.

For large parts of the second day of voting in the presidential run-off, polling stations were largely quiet.

Was it the soaring heat, rising disaffection or mounting anger among Egyptians who felt robbed of a real choice in having to opt for an Islamist, Mohammad Mursi, or Ahmed Shafiq, a member of the old regime?

Last week’s dissolution of the first freely elected parliament by the Supreme Constitutional Court added weight to that growing sense of “does my vote matter?”

The turnout in the constitutional referendum of March 2011, soon after the heady days of the revolution, seemed to have happened in a different country.

Maybe it did.

In less than two years, Egypt has moved from dictatorship to revolution and now a transition to an uncertain state. Many have called recent events, including the decisions of the Supreme Constitutional Court, “a soft coup”.

There’s a growing sense that Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) is reluctant to hand over its powers and privileges - although the military repeatedly denies that.

“In this runoff, some Egyptians seemed more excited by not voting, than voting ”

A polarised country awaits news of its first freely elected president. This moment was meant to be one of the achievements of the extraordinary protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak on 11 February 2011.

“This should be a happy moment,” said the veteran journalist and publisher Hisham Qassem, “but we’ve realised there’s a hard road ahead. There isn’t a fairytale ending.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-18479882

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BBC article on the consequences of the recent events in Egypt.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-18454005

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This from Foreign Policy

Top news: On Thursday, just days before a runoff presidential election, Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that Ahmed Shafik, a former prime minister under ousted President Hosni Mubarak, could compete in this weekend’s contest. The judges also dissolved the country’s first democratically elected parliament because of problems with the law governing the race.

The BBC notes that the decision “effectively puts legislative power into the hands of the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces,” and that activists are condemning Thursday’s rulings as a “‘coup’ designed to undermine the revolution, carried out by judges appointed under former President Mubarak.”

After the court’s decisions, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, who will square off against Shafik in the presidential runoff, warned that Egypt was headed for “very difficult days that might be more dangerous than the last days of Mubarak’s rule.” The Brotherhood won nearly half of the seats in parliament.

Some news about the US organizations in Egypt that were banned from the country.

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From IRI

AP: FAYZA ABOULNAGA LED THE CHARGE TO SHUT DOWN U.S. FUNDING OF DEMOCRACY GROUPS IN EGYPT
June 3, 2012
US democracy aid went to favored groups in Egypt
Associated Press
Brett J. Blackledge and Desmond Butler

WASHINGTON – Two months before Egyptian police stormed the offices of U.S.-backed democracy organizations last year, seven Egyptian employees resigned from one of the American groups to protest what they called undemocratic practices.

They complained that the U.S. group, described as nonpartisan, had excluded the country’s most popular Islamist political organization from its programs, collected sensitive religious information about Egyptians when conducting polls to send to Washington, and ordered employees to erase all computer files and turn over all records for shipment abroad months before the raids.

“Our resignation is a result of many different practices we have been witnessing that seem suspicious and unprofessional,” the Egyptian employees wrote in their Oct. 17 resignation letter.

This wasn’t the democracy that Dawlat Soulam, one of those who quit, said she had hoped to deliver to Egypt when she went to work for the International Republican Institute.

http://www.iri.org/news-events-press-center/news/ap-fayza-aboulnaga-led-charge-shut-down-us-funding-democracy-groups-eg

Quebec Student Strike Still Going Strong.

Monday, June 11th, 2012

I have just read the article below on the Quebec Student Strikes. It is written from a union perspective, with emphasis on collective bargaining and solidarity to pressure the Canadian government to not implement the fee increases for students to attend school. There is some good info about organizing that might be of use here in California with the various student unions and strike committees opposing fiscal austerity and cut backs in classes.

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From New Socialist

Red Square, Everywhere: With Quebec Student Strikers, Against Repression

Wednesday, 23 May 2012 02:29

By Xavier Lafrance and Alan Sears

The Charest government [Canadian government] has turned to repression to try to break the largest and longest student strike in Quebec history. Students had already endured heavy-handed policing, including hundreds of arrests and brutal attacks by riot cops on campuses and in the streets. The new strikebreaking legislation, Bill 78, is a brutal clampdown on the right to organize collectively and on freedom of expression. The protest plans for any demonstrations of more than 50 people must be cleared with the police in advance of any gathering, or the action will be considered illegal. Individual students, staff or faculty members who advocate the ongoing strike action risk harsh penalties, and student unions or university employees unions who organize or support ongoing strike activity will face heavy fines.

After more than three months, over 170,000 CEGEP (collège d’enseignement général et professionnel) and university students are still on strike against tuition increases and for free education. At its height, the movement mobilized over 300,000 in strike action, some for a few days and others with an unlimited mandate. Over 200,000 joined the massive demonstration on March 22. The strike was triggered by the Charest government’s plan to boost tuition fees by 75% over the next five years, which the government later changed to an 80% increase over 7 years in a so-called “offer” to students. The tuition hike is important as it normalizes the principle of user pay post-secondary education, and thus forms part of the “cultural revolution” promised by Quebec Finance Minister Raymond Bachand to destroy the idea of public services as a social right. The introduction of a flat tax of $200,00 for health services is part of the same agenda.

The strike movement has shown remarkable tenacity despite attempts by the government to drive students back to class through repression, including brutal policing, threats of losing the school year and the heavy use of injunctions to limit the right to protest on campuses. The Charest government has tried to break up the common front of student organizations, offering to negotiate with some groups while excluding others. But this has not worked.

Under pressure from a strike they could not break, the government did offer to spread the tuition increase over seven years, although at the same time bumping up the overall hike. They finally sat at a negotiating table with representatives from the student unions, along with trade union leaders and campus administrations. The resulting “offer” by the government basically committed to passing along some potential cost savings identified by a joint student-administration-government commission to students in the form of tuition reductions. The student unions asked members to vote on this, and it was overwhelmingly rejected. Education Minister Line Beauchamp then resigned, and the government shifted towards the brutal strikebreaking strategy of Bill 78.

The Quebec strike is part of a pattern of anti-austerity activism that has included the massive Chilean student mobilization and militant student movements in Britain and California, as well as uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, the Occupy movement, and anti-austerity strikes in Wisconsin and Southern Europe. There will likely be more protests, as students have every reason to be angry at tuition increases, the declining quality of education and grim job prospects upon graduation. Governments and employers are clear-cutting good jobs, slashing social programs and attacking migrant rights in the name of austerity, leaving post-secondary graduates facing debt and precariousness after an impersonal and often unsatisfactory education.

A poll published in the Globe and Mail on May 7 showed that 62% of students across Canada said they would strike against tuition increases, including over 69% in Ontario. The major obstacle to an upsurge in student activism elsewhere is not a lack of anger, but rather a lack of confidence in the idea that it is possible to fight the austerity agenda of tuition increases and major changes to education. The Quebec student movement has developed sophisticated political perspectives through a long history of mobilization that can contribute to rebuilding the confidence and capacity to fight elsewhere. There is much to learn from the model of democratic, activist student unionism that has played such an important role in galvanizing sustained militancy in Quebec.

Red Square

Active solidarity with the Quebec strike movement in the face of the Charest clampdown is crucial for student and workers struggles against austerity, as the Quebec government is targeting the right to organize collectively. This means spreading the red square everywhere. The red square is the pervasive symbol of the Quebec student movement, whether pinned to clothing or used as a graphic on signs, leaflets, culture jams or websites. It was first used during the 2005 student strike, and it cleverly plays on the idea of debt (“carrément dans la rouge” means “squarely in debt”) and militancy (red is associated with radical activism). It is not only the symbol itself that has been passed down from the last strike, but also important strategies for effective and democratic mobilization learned through the history of Quebec student activism since the 1960s. At the core of this strategic vision is the idea of democratic, activist student unionism.

The current strike is the ninth general strike in the history of Quebec’s student movement since the 1960s. They have varied in overall strength and effectiveness, and student activists have made conscious efforts to learn from these experiences of success and failure. The first of these general strikes was in 1968, and that mobilization demanded free tuition, the expansion of the francophone university system and democratic administration of educational institutions and policies. The demand for quality, accessible and democratic public education was connected to Quebecois struggles for national self-determination and French-language rights. The English-language education system in Quebec was at the time far more extensive and much better funded than the French-language system. The idea of quality, accessible French-language education was part of a broader agenda for liberation.

The student strike also drew strength from the rising wave of labour militancy sweeping Quebec in the later 1960s and early 1970s. Quebec students also consciously learned from the model of the French student movement dating back to the Charte de Grenoble in 1946, which asserts the student are intellectual workers with distinct and common material interests (for example, for quality, accessible and democratic education), who have the collective power and responsibility to fight for social justice. The commitment to student unionism modelled on workplace trade unionism represents an orientation to collective strength through organization.

Militant activism, then, has played an important role in forming the Quebec student movement, so that general membership meetings and mobilization committees are written into the bylaws of many local student unions. The demand for free education also has a long history in Quebec. Tuition was basically frozen after the 1968 strike until 1990 through a series of campaigns that included general strikes. Though there was a significant fee hike in the early 1990s, Quebec students have continued to mobilize effectively, and as a result they pay considerably less tuition than in the rest of North America. The history of this movement also means that the idea that education is a public service with an important social role and not a product for sale on the market has considerable currency in Quebec society.

In 2001, the student activists who launched ASSÉ (l’Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante) engaged with the history of the Quebec student movement to try to develop a strategic perspective for effective mobilization. Some had been active with MDE (Mouvement pour le droit à l’éducation), which had fallen apart after a failed strike mobilization in 1998. ASSÉ developed a democratic activist approach to student unionism that proved successful in the 2005 student strike and again in 2012, where ASSÉ formed a broader coalition called CLASSE.

Indeed, democratic activist unionism has had an important influence even on the more institutional and lobbyist student federations (Fédération Étudiante Universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) and Fédération Étudiante Collégiale du Québec (FECQ)). While in 2005 FEUQ and FECQ ultimately broke ranks with ASSÉto reach a deal with the government, in 2012 the student unions have stood together. The strength of the solidarity between the student unions this time is partly a response to criticism FEUQ and FECQ faced from their own members after agreeing to a separate deal in the last strike.

Democratic Activist Student Unionism

The core of democratic activist student unionism is the recognition that students, like workers, have collective interests (e.g. quality accessible public education) and a potential for collective power that needs to be organized to be effective in defending these interests. This kind of student unionism depends on finding ways of fighting collectively around immediate and local issues as well as challenging government policies. Solidarity is at the core of this collective power, both within the student movement and with other allies in social movements.

The potential collective power of students can only become a real force when students have developed capacities to analyze their situation, communicate with each other and act in concert, confident that others will also join the fight. Governments and university administrations will only really pay attention to student unions that have mobilized and knowledgeable memberships willing to take action to back up demands.

The General Membership Meeting (GMM) plays and important role in this process, as it puts transparent collective and democratic decision-making at the core of the student union. Here, students gather to debate and pass motions to establish the direction of their union. The GMM also elects and supervises delegates to Quebec-wide congresses that coordinate overall campaigns. The GMM is a rich and challenging venue, where activists must engage their fellow students, listen to counter-arguments and attempt to persuade others that mobilization is necessary and possible.

The scale of these meetings varies on different campuses. In some places, student unionism is organized around specific departments, schools or faculties, while in others it is campus-wide. ASSÉ did not invent the GMM, which is written into the constitution of many student unions as a result of the long history of militancy in the Quebec student movement. Rather, ASSÉ developed mobilizing strategies that used the democratic decision-making of the GMM as a key component of campus activism.

The mobilizing strategies use longer-term campaigns to build up to general strike votes in GMMs. Before the 2005 strike, for example, there were petitions, local weeks of action, office occupations and Quebec-wide protest actions. These campaigns identify and mobilize activists, while also providing an escalating series of protests so that people can genuinely try out more moderate approaches to pressuring the government for changes to see if they work. If the government does not respond to petitions or protests, then an eventual step is to work towards strike action.

These campaigns rely on local executive committees as well as mobilization committees in each local student union. Mobilization committees gather together activists, who learn together through reaching out to persuade fellow students to join in various actions. The mobilization committees orient radical students towards building collective power by working to convince their fellow students that activism can make a difference, rather than simply going ahead and acting on their own. The mandates of mobilization committees are developed in GMMs, so that activist layers are always connected to the collective power of the student body as a whole.

The skills of these activists get enhanced at congresses, where union executives and other campus activists gather to discuss and debate Quebec-wide actions. ASSÉ also has regular activist camps (camps de formation) where people can learn the history of the student movement, debate key political questions and develop concrete political skills.

This democratic activist student unionism has provided a firm basis for CLASSE (the broader coalition launched by ASSÉ for the 2012 strike) to work strategically with FECQ and FEUQ in the current struggle. strong orientation towards solidarity has also led the Quebec student movement to make strong links with others fighting the austerity agenda. The slogan “make the student movement into a social movement” recognizes that the struggle for quality, accessible and democratic public education is integrally linked to struggles for worker rights, against poverty, for feminism and for quality public services. Students have marched in solidarity with locked-out Alcan Rio Tinto workers and made many important connections with others fighting the Charest government. In the period between the 2005 strike and the current one, a number of labour unions had passed motions to support the idea of free education. This solidarity-oriented perspective could be enhanced by a richer and more integrated anti-racist and anti-colonialist analysis that could guide both the activism and demands of the movement for transformation of the education system. It is a hopeful sign in this direction that CLASSE recently came out with a strong statement about the centrality of anti-racism and decolonization in the struggle.

Finally, it is important to combine immediate struggles around tuition hikes with broader efforts to defend education as a public service, in part by fighting to democratize and decolonize the post-secondary system. The Quebec student movement has raised important questions about democratic oversight of post-secondary institutions and opening up the process of establishing spending priorities. Students must be full participants in discussions about effective teaching, research priorities and institutional governance, though they must be very careful not to be trapped into co-administering cutbacks or being pitted against other campus workers, whether staff or faculty. The fight against tuition increases must ultimately be a battle to transform post-secondary education, and the radical wing of the Quebec student movement has been working towards a broader agenda for change.

Xavier Lafrance was a spokesperson for ASSÉ in the 2005 strike, and is currently active with the Greater Toronto Workers Assembly and a PhD student at York University in Toronto.

Alan Sears is active with the Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly and Faculty for Palestine, and teaches at Ryerson University in Toronto.

http://newsocialist.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=630:red-square-everywhere-with-quebec-student-strikers-against-repression&catid=51:analysis&Itemid=98

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For a more rightist viewpoint this from The Star.com

Andrew Chung
Quebec Bureau

MONTREAL—In a roundup of alleged mischief-makers linked to Montreal’s long-running student strike, police on Thursday arrested the daughter of Amir Khadir, a prominent left-wing Quebec politician who was arrested two days before.

The early morning operation came on the eve of the Canadian Grand Prix weekend, an extremely lucrative tourist event for the city. Politicians and officials have been concerned about protesters who’ve promised to disrupt that event and others this summer.

Yalda Machouf-Khadir, 19, was arrested at the home of her parents in Montreal’s trendy Plateau Mont-Royal district. A sign near the door reads: “When injustice becomes the law, resistance becomes a duty.”

Armed with a warrant, police searched the Khadir’s household, along with several other residences in Montreal and Longueuil. They’re still searching for some of the 11 people targeted in the operation.

According to Machouf-Khadir’s mother, Nima Machouf, the warrant indicated police were acting on allegations of mischief, theft under $5,000, breaking and entering, and possession of break-in instrument.

Machouf-Khadir, a prominent activist in the student movement, already faces strict bail conditions related to charges for having participated in a demonstration in which the Jacques-Cartier Bridge, an important commuter link, was blocked by protesters on May 15. She had previously been fined for blocking another Montreal span, the Champlain Bridge.

Police said they were targeting those suspected of playing a role in different acts of vandalism related to the student strike, including throwing smoke bombs in the Montreal subway system on May 10, placing bags of bricks on the subway tracks in April 16, and for incidents at the offices of former education minister Line Beauchamp and the l’Université de Montréal.

The smoke bomb incident shut down the entire Métro system and caused rush-hour chaos for more than 200,000 people.

Khadir, the National Assembly member for the riding of Mercier, which includes part of the Plateau Mont-Royal, said police picked up his daughter relative to the occupation of Beauchamp’s offices in April.

He described her as “an inordinately wise” woman. “I think that my daughter always acts in the interest of the common good,” said Khadir, the sole elected member for the ultra-left party Québec solidaire. “She has a huge concern for justice.”

“Everyone is equal before the law,” he added, “and my daughter will assume her responsibilities.”

Khadir was arrested during a protest in Quebec City on Tuesday night, which had been declared illegal.

He was demonstrating against the government’s Bill 78, implemented on May 18, which sought to impose stricter rules on street protests.

On Wednesday, Khadir said it was an act of “civil disobedience” and that he was simply doing “what Martin Luther King would have done.”

Khadir has faced criticism for encouraging civil disobedience of the new law.

Student movement leaders sharply criticized the arrests and searches.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesperson for the most militant student group, the CLASSE, said it wasn’t a coincidence they happened just hours before the start of the Grand Prix.

“We can ask ourselves questions about when this is happening, at the moment of the Grand Prix,” Nadeau-Dubois ventured. “We can ask if there isn’t a preventive effect, if they weren’t looking for a dissuasive effect, at the start of a sensitive weekend.”

Police created a huge perimeter Thursday night around a west Montreal venue where the Grand Prix’s opening cocktail was taking place. They kettled about 100 protesters and arrested several people, police announced on Twitter.

The student strike has been going on since last February. Some protests have turned violent.

Several rounds of negotiations with the provincial government have failed.

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1207231–quebec-student-strike-daughter-of-politician-amir-khadir-arrested?bn=1

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Update from a socialist viewpoint.

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From World Socialist Web Site

Stop state suppression of Quebec student strike!
By the Socialist Equality Party (Canada)
11 June 2012
Having failed to break the four-month Quebec student strike with their draconian Bill 78, the provincial Liberal government and the state have intensified their campaign of repression.
Last Tuesday, Quebec City Police arrested 65 people including Amir Khadir, a provincial legislator identified with opposition to Bill 78, for the “crime” of demonstrating. On Thursday police mounted coordinated dawn raids, including on Khadir’s house, and arrested six people, among them Khadir’s 19-year-old daughter.
The ostensible aim of the raids was to apprehend strike supporters suspected of committing acts of vandalism and public mischief. Their true purpose was to bolster the government’s months-long campaign to smear the strike as violent, so as to justify its state suppression, and to discredit Amir Khadir, his Quebec Solidaire, and defiance of the anti-democratic Bill 78.
Numerous facts attest to the calculated political character of the raid on the Khadir family home. Police informed the media in advance of the impending raid on Khadir’s house, so that journalists would be on hand to report and videotape it. They constructed an amalgam bringing together numerous cases, so that they could dramatically stage eight raids at once, thereby suggesting the existence of a widespread network of “violent” student activists. Subsequently, however, police had to admit that there is no connection between many of the alleged crimes; many of those targeted for arrest did not know each; nor were they part of a common organization. Last but not least, police raided the Khadir residence, although they knew they had no need to do so to apprehend Khadir’s daughter. She was already reporting regularly to police under a court order arising from a previous strike-related charge that has yet to go to trial.
Last weekend’s Montreal Grand Prix became the occasion for a further state provocation, aimed at inculcating fear in the population and legitimizing police repression. Not only were police deployed in great numbers across much of downtown Montreal to “protect” the Grand Prix from disruption. Police targeted for arbitrary searches and questioning users of the Montreal subway system wearing the “red square,” the symbol of the student strike.
Mass arrests of peaceful protesters; arbitrary searches of suspected government opponents; police provocations aimed at depicting the opposition as violent, if not seditious; and the orchestration of frame-ups and smear campaigns against prominent government opponents—these are the methods of a police state.
This campaign of repression is being orchestrated from the highest levels of Quebec’s Liberal government. With its Bill 78, the government criminalized the student strike and made it illegal to stage a demonstration in Quebec, whatever the cause, without police permission. It was Premier Jean Charest who, distorting a stray remark from a student leader, claimed that there was a threat to the Grand Prix, declared that those behind this threat constituted a “menace” to Quebec, and vowed that the government would maintain order. And it is the government, aided and abetted by the corporate media and police provocations, that has depicted the student strike as violent. “We know what the red square means,” declared Culture Minister Christine St. Pierre last week, “it means intimidation, violence, it also means stopping people from studying.”

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/jun2012/cana-j11.shtml

Liberal?

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

My posts of late have not been as radical as they once were. In fact I would say they are hardly radical at all. Bill Clinton is more my speed right now. I saw him on one of the Financial channels and he was advocating that the tax codes be left where they are until next year. What he wants is to see continued growth, a bigger stimulus and work on the debt in a couple of years when the unemployment rate is lower.

On Bloomberg the Chinese import/export figures were better than expected but still lower than at their peak a few years ago. The big news is the $100 billion Euro bailout of the Spanish banks. Right behind is the increase in oil prices due to increased demand from China.

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Euro, Asia Shares Climb On Spain Bank Bailout; Oil Gains
By Jason Clenfield and Yoshiaki Nohara - Jun 10, 2012 5:59 PM PT

Asian stocks rose, after the first weekly gain in six, the euro rallied to a two-week high and oil advanced the most since January after Spain sought a bailout for its banks and China’s exports beat estimates.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 1.2 percent as of 9:43 a.m. in Tokyo, where the Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 2 percent. Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index increased 1.1 percent. The euro strengthened 1 percent to $1.2635. Oil for July delivery jumped as much as 2.7 percent in New York. Copper futures added 2.1 percent.
Enlarge image
The euro strengthened to as much as $1.2671, the highest since May 23. The European currency has fallen 3.5 percent in the past six months, the worst performance among the 10 developed-nation currencies tracked by Bloomberg Correlation-Weighted Indexes.

Spain asked euro-region governments over the weekend for as much as 100 billion euros ($126 billion) to help shore up its banking system, a sign Europe is tackling a crisis that has roiled markets around the world. Chinese data showed exports grew last month at more than double the pace analysts estimated while industrial output and retail sales trailed forecasts.
“The bailout will keep companies that borrow from Spanish banks from going down all together,” said Kiyoshi Ishigane, a Tokyo-based senior strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Asset Management Co., which oversees the equivalent of $70 billion. “In China, overseas demand is stronger than expected, while domestic demand continues to slow. That makes it easy to do more monetary easing.”
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index last week ended five weeks of declines, its longest weekly losing streak since June 2011. The gauge has tumbled 13 percent from this year’s high on Feb. 29 amid concern Europe’s debt crisis is worsening and signs China’s economy is slowing.
The euro strengthened to as much as $1.2671, the highest since May 23. The European currency has fallen 3.5 percent in the past six months, the worst performance among the 10 developed-nation currencies tracked by Bloomberg Correlation- Weighted Indexes.
Oil Rally
“Markets were wondering whether Spain was going to drag on for another month or two,” said Imre Speizer, a strategist in Auckland at Westpac Banking Corp. (WBC), Australia’s second-largest lender. The Spanish bailout “is evidence that policy makers are willing to act.”
Oil climbed after data from the Beijing-based General Administration of Customs showed that China, the world’s second- biggest oil consumer, increased crude imports in May as refineries raised processing rates and oil prices declined.
China’s overseas shipments climbed 15.3 percent in May from a year earlier, the customs bureau said, exceeding all 29 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. Industrial output rose by less than 10 percent for a second month and retail sales increased the least in almost six years excluding holiday-month distortions, statistics bureau reports showed June 9.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jason Clenfield in Tokyo at jclenfield@bloomberg.net; Yoshiaki Nohara in Tokyo at ynohara1@bloomberg.net

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-11/euro-asia-shares-climb-on-spain-bank-bailout-oil-gains.html

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A friend of mine sent me an article with the usual argument that Americans are dumb sheep being led by the nose into fascism. I don’t think things are that simple or that Americans are that stupid. These things are pretty obvious, we need sustained growth and demand to keep everybody working to pay off their debts. Perhaps the Chinese model is the one to follow, a strong state, with most supports for the individual reduced or removed. The government intervenes mostly on a macro level. As a general rule the elite political class there, the Communist Party, does not air its dirty laundry. Unlike the USA which is in a political gridlock, the Chinese political class seems to function. Granted there is a certain level of censorship and oppression of dissidents that in the USA is mostly limited to minority groups, speaking of which the Chinese do a pretty handy job of oppressing their minorities, the Tibetans and Uighurs but at least they did not commit genocide like the Anglo invaders of the Western Hemisphere. I guess because the Turks and Tibetans were there as long as the Chinese were, they simply lost the numbers game.

I am not sure there is a radical solution that will get us out of the current mess. Consuming less is what we are doing now simply because we have less money. Why because it is all tied up in the hands of the super rich. A result of the wealth concentration effect of capitalism. It seems that these super rich simply cannot spend on the level required to keep a modern economy sustained at the level it has been. So it would seem that the economy is readjusting to meet the demands of a very wealthy exclusive elite with the rest of us depending on big box store left overs. It would seem to be a formula for revolutionary change, but as has been said over and over like a mantra Americans have a propensity to enjoy the wealth of others, not in the Eat the Rich sense of the word but in the gee I wish I was rich too sort of vicarious enjoyment.

It is my supposition that the rich are holding out waiting for a more compliant government. The Democrats who have the opportunity to become a populist party are too attached to the political center to venture too far down that road.

Likely outcome, Obama squeaks by or we have our first Mormon President. Real change, unlikely unless there are more Americans thrown into poverty and there is an underemployed intelligentsia available to organize the discontent into a fist that can smash the ruling class. Dream on.

Election 2012 Shaping Up To Be A Tight Race

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

Why are the Democrats following such a lame policy for getting Obama re-elected? What is going on? Is there something going on with the DNC planning? Are they already accepting defeat?

The former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe on CBS talks about 27 months of job creation, claiming Obama stabilized the economy when it was going down under the Republicans. He noted the increased costs of government when Romney was governor of Massachusetts.

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Statistics from Wikipedia article below.

The combined state and local tax burden in Massachusetts increased during Romney’s governorship but still was below the national average.[3] According to an analysis by the Tax Foundation, that per capita burden was 9.8 percent in 2002 (below the national average of 10.3 percent), and 10.5 percent in 2006 (below the national average of 10.8 percent).

During Mitt Romney’s term, the state unemployment rate fell from 5.6 to 4.7 percent. Job growth increased at a 1.3 percent rate during Romney’s term, ranking Massachusetts 47th out of 50 states, which was mostly due to the slow economic growth most other states had experienced in the years prior to Romney’s time in office.

On April 12, 2006, Romney signed legislation that mandates that nearly all Massachusetts residents buy or obtain health insurance coverage or face a penalty (up to approximately $2000 for 2008 or equal to half of the lowest cost premium offered) in the form of an additional income tax assessment. The bill established a regulatory authority called the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority to implement the law and establish insurance standards. For residents below certain income thresholds and without adequate employer insurance, state subsidies were established, by using funds previously designated to compensate for the health costs of the uninsured.

During Romney’s tenure as governor, Massachusetts’ per capita funding for public higher education decreased from $158 to $137, and in national rank, per capita state expenditures changed from 48th to 47th. In July 2005, Romney proposed $200 million in funding for University of Massachusetts capital projects. The governor’s capital budget included $50 million earmarked to repair the crumbling parking garage and foundation of the UMass Boston campus. The Massachusetts legislature declined to vote on the bond bill needed to fund the projects. Romney also vetoed a retroactive pay raise for unionized employees of state and community colleges. Romney voiced his opposition to retroactive pay increases for public employees although the raises had previously been agreed to then vetoed by his predecessor.

While consistently rejected same-sex marriage, there was a rhetorical shift in other emphasis around this subject during his time as governor, culminating with Romney rarely talking about protecting gays from bias and instead characterizing himself as a conservative stalwart in the battle against same-sex marriage and in support of heterosexual families.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Governorship_of_Mitt_Romney

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That argument critiquing Romney as a tax and spend governor seems weak to me, Democrats can’t paint Republicans as being in favor of government interventions and then tout their own interventions to save the Auto Industry in the next sound bite. The whole presentation was weak. He hammered away at the 27 months of job growth, but with the most recent job figures showing job loss, it sounds hollow. But the saving of the US auto industry seems to be a plus for Obama. I still don’t see many GM or Crysler products here on the west coast.

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US Unemployment
The BLS household survey showed that the US unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage points in May 2012 to 8.2%. The unemployment rate peaked in October 2009 at 10.0% and is now 1.8 percentage points lower. From a post peak low of 8.1% in April 2012, the unemployment rate has now risen by 0.1 percentage points.

Unemployment Rate May 2012 Month/Month Year/Year
U. S. Unemployment Rate 8.2% +0.1 -0.8

US Unemployed
The number of people unemployed in the US peaked in October 2009 at 15,421,000. There are now 2,701,000 fewer people unemployed in the country. From a post peak low of 12,500,000 in April 2012, the number of unemployed has now grown again by 220,000. US employment and jobs data (including jobs lost/gained) is also available.

Unemployed Persons May 2012 Month/Month Year/Year
National 12,720,000 +220,000 -1,172,000

http://www.deptofnumbers.com/unemployment/us/

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From Noozhawk

Mark Shields: Republicans Must ‘Cowboy Up’ on Saving U.S. Auto Industry

It’s time for GOP to stop whining and to publicly acknowledge this American success story

By Mark Shields | Published on 02.25.2012

Of Margaret Thatcher’s British administration, this compliment was paid: “The government has a heroic commitment to hard-nosed pragmatism” — by which each policy was judged not on its philosophical roots, but instead by whether the intended practical results were achieved by that policy. The difference between a pragmatist, one who is driven by results, and an ideologue, the proponent of an abstract, usually dogmatic ideology, is simple: The ideologue believes what is right works, while the pragmatist believes what works is right.

Fortunately, most Americans are pragmatists. Take this question asked in 2009 and again just recently by the respected pollsters at the Pew Research Center: “The government also gave loans to General Motors and Chrysler. … Do you think that was mostly good or mostly bad for the economy?” Three years ago, by a decisive 3-to-2 margin, Americans answered Washington’s loans to the car companies had been “mostly bad” (54 percent) rather than “mostly good” (37 percent).

But in the Pew survey, completed less than two weeks ago, the evidence of General Motors’ comeback — once again the world’s largest automaker, with record 2011 net income of $9.19 billion — and Chrysler’s own fourth-quarter profit of $225 million in 2011 — the company’s first year out of the red since 2005 — had totally reversed public opinion.

Now, a healthy majority (56 percent) judges that Washington’s loans to Detroit have been “mostly good” for the economy, while just 38 percent say “mostly bad.” Note that this represents a 35 percent turnaround in public opinion in support of the federal loans in just three years.

Let us remember that the original federal assistance to the U.S. automakers was made by Republican President George W. Bush in the closing weeks of his administration. The big decision to commit $80 billion of public money to save Detroit, of course, was made by the new Democratic president, Barack Obama.

http://www.noozhawk.com/article/022512_mark_shields_saving_u.s._auto_industry/

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Based on the record Romney is a middle of the road, Eisenhower Republican when it comes to the economy, health care, and business but he seems to be a social conservative when it comes to Gay rights and education. What I suspect we will get from Romney as president is something like Reagan, a lot of rhetoric supporting right wing causes but not much action. Probably business friendly legislation but not to the degree that he would attempt to destroy what little safety net remains for citizens. I don’t think he would actively destroy national health care, but he may not do anything to help it along either. He seems to have the support of the right wing and the corporate business elite. Will he be able to beat Obama?

Below is a link to a map with electoral college expectations at this stage of the game.

http://www.270towin.com/

217 Obama
191 Romney

So far with 10 toss up states PA, OH, WI, CO, VA, NC, FL, NV, NH, IA, remaining this election is tightening up. Florida is already purging the voter roles in what seems to be a repeat of 2000 where the state is shaping up to be critical in the final ballot count.

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From Daytona Beach News-Journal

Florida won’t halt voter registration purge, setting stage for legal showdown
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS,
June 7, 2012 7:41 AM Posted in: News - Politics Tagged: Gov. Rick Scott
TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s top elections official has thrown allegations of law violations back at the federal government rather than halt the state’s efforts to identify and purge non-citizens from voter registration rolls.

The decision Wednesday by the administration of Republican Gov. Rick Scott to fight back against the administration of President Barack Obama sets the stage for a legal showdown just months before the swing stage of Florida could help determine the presidential election. The dispute has taken a sharp partisan edge as Republican elected officials have blasted the federal government, while Democrats have criticized Scott.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner in his latest response accused the U.S. Department of Homeland Security of violating federal law by refusing to give state election officials access to an immigration database for the effort that was launched at the urging of Scott.

“This hardly seems like an approach earnestly designed to protect the integrity of elections and to ensure that ‘eligible” voters have their votes counted,” Detzner wrote.

He also denied allegations by the Department of Justice that Florida’s purge violates federal anti-discrimination and voter registration laws in a letter to the agency’s voting section chief, T. Christian Herren.

Detzner’s letter is in response to one Herren sent him last week demanding an end to the state’s search for non-citizen voters. The legal adviser to Florida’s 67 county supervisors of elections then recommended they stop the effort until state and federal officials resolve their dispute.

“Fortunately, many local election administrators have indicated they will not carry out the state’s plan,” said Myrna Perez, a voting rights lawyer with the Brennan Center Center for Justice at New York University. “The opportunity for errors when conducting massive voter purges makes it imperative that purge practices be transparent, accurate, and carried out well in advance of an election.”

A U.S. Department of Justice official on Wednesday evening acknowledged the department had received but the letter but said officials were “currently reviewing the letter.”

Florida began looking for non-U.S. citizens on its voter rolls last year by comparing driver’s license information to voter registration lists. An initial search turned up as many as 182,000 registered voters who may not be U.S. citizens.

Earlier this year the state sent out an initial list of more than 2,600 names of suspected non-citizen voters to local election supervisors and asked them to verify the information and remove ineligible voters.

Supervisors, however, responded by pointing out the list had errors on it. Miami-Dade officials say they have found nearly 500 voters who were citizens and other counties they too have found citizens on the list, but a smaller number of non-citizens have been verified.

“It is absolutely insane what Gov. Scott is doing to attack Florida voters,” said U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar. “We know what he is up to, we are mad as hell, and we will not allow our voting rights to be trampled on.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, criticized the U.S. Department of Justice for telling Florida to stop its purge.

“The Department of Justice under President Obama has become so politicized that it consistently puts aiding the president’s reelection campaign ahead of upholding justice and enforcing the rule of law,” Rooney said.

Herren wrote in his letter to Detzner that the state’s procedures to identify non-U.S. citizens have not been reviewed to make sure they are not discriminatory. Florida must secure approval for changes in voting procedures because five counties are still covered by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Detzner argued the rest of the state is not covered by that requirement and that supervisors of elections in the five affected counties “are simply administering a law that the Department of Justice has duly pre-cleared.” That law outlines notification requirement and other procedures supervisors must follow before they can remove potentially ineligible voters from the rolls.

Removing voters from the rolls less than 90 days before a federal election also appears to violate the voter registration law, Herren also contended.

Detzner argued enforcing that provision in regard to non-citizens would unconstitutionally discriminate against legitimate voters by diluting their voting strength.

The secretary concluded with a list of four questions for Herren, starting with whether the Justice Department agreed Homeland Security has a legal obligation to give Florida access to its immigration database.

Detzner also asked if the department’s position is that federal law bars Florida from identifying and removing non-citizens between now and the Nov. 6 general election and, if not, what steps the state may take in that regard.

Finally, he asked if Florida cannot remove non-citizens from the rolls whether it could still identify them and remove them after the election.

http://www.news-journalonline.com/breakingnews/2012/06/florida-wont-halt-voter-registration-purge-setting-stage-for-legal-showdown.html

Another Night Dems in Trouble, Montana Fights The Good Fight.

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Girlfriend is back from the east coast. She and I are not exactly bf & gf, not by my choice but by hers. I am not sure why but it seems ok to me. I mean, she looks great but I don’t really want all the grief that comes with being obsessed. So we are attempting to be friends, friends who have sex.

I am not sure this is what I want, I would prefer if she was crazy about me, but she is not, she likes me.

Other matters, the President is in trouble. The Republicans raised something like $76 million last month and the Democrats raised $60 million. The People United decision has thrown the gates open to the corporate world to throw as much money into the elections as they want. It is unfair to the rest of us. Potentially we will have a situation where money buys every election. There is the possibility that states will be able to retain their own limits on corporate contributions. Montana has done that and it is being challenged in the Supreme Court.

Checking the internet it seems that most of the articles are written by corporate lawyers and shills for the corporate interest. I had trouble even finding anything supporting the Montana case. This getting scary. The right is winning and the left is as usual not paying attention. Obama has to rally the troops but with his record he is going to have to present a much more radical agenda for his next term. Not a left wing one but a populist agenda that includes jobs. What he needs to do is to get some corporate leaders together and knock heads. So late in the game he may not have credibility the elites figure they can just wait him out and work with a corporate friendly Republican administration next year.

From Daily Kos

FRI JUN 01, 2012 AT 09:12 PM PDT
Do corporations run people, or do people run corporations? UPDATED w/Video
byhungrycoyoteFollow

I live in Florida … one of the battleground states in the upcoming Presidential election. I am already fed up with ads from Conservative PACs that have already been running for weeks. They blare out of my television just about every time there is a commercial break. Lies! Lies! Lies! I want it to stop! I’m so sick of it and just cringe at the thought that I’m going to be subjected to this assault for another five months. Okay, we do subscribe to HBO. That may have to be my escape for the next few months.

Of course, you are well aware of the Citizens United case where the Supreme Court said:

“[W]e now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption,” wrote Justice Kennedy. “The fact that speakers [i.e., donors] may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that these officials are corrupt.”
When that ruling came down, any state that had a law against corporate spending on state elections abandoned its laws. As Rachel Maddow so eloquently explained on her show tonight, every state, except one. Montana has said “No, we want to keep our law.”
I watched the segment in amazement. Up until Citizens United, a candidate for State Senate in Montana only spent $17,000 to get elected. Can you even imagine that? Think about it. It means that somebody who wasn’t a career politician who actually wanted to represent the people of his/her community, could afford to run for elected office.

I thought those of you who missed the segment might want to read it, so I started to transcribe the fascinating history that Rachel presented. Unfortunately, I did not record the show, and I ran out of time constantly backing up the DVR, and of course, it being Friday, MSNBC is not rerunning the show tonight. I was able to transcribe to right before Rachel introduced her guest, Attorney General Steve Bullock, who is fighting for Montana’s right to keep its law. So, jump below the orange squiggly for an interesting history lesson.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/06/02/1096699/-Do-corporations-run-people-or-do-people-run-corporations

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From Politicalhotwire

22 States, DC Back Montana In Supreme Court Corporate Spending Fight
22 states have signed on… is yours one of them?

APNewsBreak: 22 states join campaign finance fight - Yahoo! News

“There is a growing bipartisan consensus that Citizens United needs to be overturned, and Montana is leading the way,” said Peter Schurman, spokesman for a group called Free Speech For People. “The Supreme Court has an opportunity to revisit Citizens United here. That is important because there is evidence everywhere that unlimited spending in our elections creates both corruption and the appearance for corruption.”

On Friday, Montana’s case was given a boost when U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-D-R.I., signed on in support. The senators argue evidence following the Citizens United decision, where millions in unregulated money has poured into presidential elections, shows that large independent expenditures can lead to corruption.

The states who filed the brief in support of Montana are New York, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

http://www.politicalhotwire.com/current-news-events/69159-22-states-dc-back-montana-supreme-court-corporate-spending-fight.html

DNC Fails In Wisconsin. Economic Sabotage By Ruling Right

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

It seems like this year is going to be a disaster for the Democrats. The president does not have the good will of the business community and they are holding out on the jobs. What is happening is that the corporate elite is sabotaging the economy. They are holding some two trillion dollars that could be invested in jobs, or increased wages. It isn’t happening because on the one hand there isn’t the demand, why no demand, because people don’t have jobs. Its the chicken and egg.

The AFL=CIO was unable to turn out the governor of Wisconsin. Despite a national effort, evidently not supported by the DNC, they were outspent by the Republicans who had access to super pac corporate money.

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These stories are anticipating the disaster that ensued in Wisconsin. Let us hope the Democrats have something in mind, a real hope that the nation isn’t going to end up in the hands of the creepy religious right.

From Firedog Lake

“Wisconsin Recall Reveals the True DNC Agenda
By: UndisciplinedPhD Wednesday May 30, 2012 5:56 pm

Visiting with my dad last week, talk turned, as it inevitably does, to politics. A retired electrician and proud member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Dad has been closely following the attack on labor in Wisconsin since the 2011 uprising. He expressed amazement at the reluctance of the DNC to offer anything more than token support of the attempt to recall our notorious Republican governor. “I just don’t understand it,” he marveled. “What can they be thinking?”

“Well,” I said, “clearly they don’t want to encourage mass mobilization against austerity measures. They plan to work with the Republicans after the national election to implement austerity – cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and so on. Remember, Obama and Boehner made a deal last July to do just that. Ironically, it was the Tea Partiers that derailed the whole thing, and not because they care about social programs. Outside money is supporting that kind of policy in Wisconsin. It’s not just an attack on collective bargaining; it’s cuts to Badgercare, education – all kinds of things.”

Dad just kind of stared for a moment; then we went onto other topics. Although he has only a high school education, he’s well-read and intelligent. He senses I’m right; he just doesn’t want to believe it. I don’t blame him. Not so many years ago, I would have reacted similarly.

It’s obvious that if the DNC were truly interested in a progressive agenda, Wisconsin would be a high priority. Massive funding from organizations such Freedomworks, Club for Growth, and ALEC, as well as from wealthy individuals such as Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who funded Newt Gringrich, Bob Perry (funder of the Swift boat ads), URL Pharma President Richard Roberts, and Christy Walton of the Wal-Mart Waltons, has poured into the state to support Governor Walker. If their dollars can buy the implementation of their neoliberal and austerity agenda in a state where hundreds of thousands marched in the snow, week after week, to strenuously protest that agenda, then they can do it anywhere. The DNC, Wasserman-Schulz, and Obama clearly understand this. They know exactly what they’re doing.

http://my.firedoglake.com/undisciplinedphd/2012/05/30/wisconsin-recall-reveals-the-true-dnc-agenda/

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This might be a bit extreme but the concept is there, the DNC did not spend to match the Republicans and the Democrats got trounced. This does not bode well for the national elections.

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From Tom In Paine

THURSDAY, MAY 31, 2012
Obama and DNC betrayal of the Wisconsin recall election.

Next week the Wisconsin recall election will be held, the result of grass roots activists getting enough signatures to force the recall election of Scott Walker because of his and the Republican controlled state legislature’s attempts at not only trying to strip teachers of their union’s negotiating rights, but also, as Republicans try to do all over the country, gut education in favor of putting a few more bucks in people’s pockets.

The election is important since it will be a gauge not only of Tea Party power, but ideology and could send a message one way or the other regarding the fall elections.

But what is not just politically stupid but asinine, is that the Democratic National Committee has put no money oe resources behind the Democratic candidate for governor. And there is only one reason why.

The president of the United States is always the titular head of his party. And generally makes the rules and decisions that affect the party. So the DNC decision NOT to financially support the Democratic challenger in the recall election is a decision that could have been made only by Barrack Obama, a decision that the people at MoveOn, Democracy for America and other progressive groups insist on ignoring in their email requests for money to support the Democrat in the recall election.

The fight in Wisconsin is about two things Obama pretends to care about — the rights of labor unions and education.

The decision to withhold money and resources in the Wisconsin election is just one more betrayal of the Democratic agendsa and their principles by Obama and the sycophants he has in place at the DNC, one more reason why, even if it sounds painful, what is best for the Democratic party in the long run is an Obama defeat in the presidential election.

Progressive groups like MoveOn,have been sending out fund raising emails asking people to chip in $5 or $10 to support an important cause the DNC and Obama wont. And instead of being outraged by the decison of the DNC and Obama not to spend any money in the Wisconsin recall when national Republican groups and PAC’s are spending all they can, they ignore the lack of support and ask Democratic voters to foot the bill and yet still have the gall ( and lousy judgement) to expect Democrats to support Obama. Probably because Obama himself has the gall to expect Democrats to support him no matter how many times he puts his thumb in their eye.

There is a good chance the people of Wisconsin will show common sense, say enough is enough and throw Walker out in spite of the lack of support from the DNC. Right now the polls show a very close election. Republican PACS are pouring resources of their own into Wisconsin and outspending Democrats by a considerable margin. Which is something to remember the next time Obama or a Democratic party mouthpeice pontificates about the need to support unions and education.

NOTE: On Sunday David Axelrod was on the Sunday talk shows answering the complaint that Obama and the DNC were staying out of the Wisconsin recall election. Axelrod claimed it wasnt true because Obama was ” 100% in Barrett’s corner”.( Gee, thanks). He also claimed the DNC was sending a lot of lawyers into Wisconsin to make sure there were was no Republican hanky panky at the polls. This is their answer to tens of millions being poured into the election by Republicans and their super PACs. The truth is the election is close and Obama has stayed away so if Barrett loses no one can use it as a symbol of Obama’s political decline. So as usual Obama puts his own political fortunes ahead of what matters while displaying the same political cowardice that has marked his entire political career.

http://tominpaine.blogspot.com/2012/05/obama-and-dnc-betrayal-of-wisconsin.html

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My own thoughts are that the Dems knew the chances of winning in Wisconsin were slim and tried to discourage the AFL-CIO from this campaign. But the recall had already started and emotions were so high among union activists that they thought that this would be a good way to generate enthusiasm for the cause of labor and help prepare for the national election. This may have backfired and demoralized the troops. Certainly the DNC should have committed more resources once they saw what was on the line. Union activists, union phone banks, and street walkers are the core of support on the ground for the Democratic party. Obama might be trying to develop a new grass roots cadre of support but its not there yet and there is no guarantee that this will still be there if Obama loses the election. Obama needs all the friends he can find and labor is a key component.

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From Forbes

5/21/2012 @ 2:07PM |2,890 views
Obama And DNC Wisconsin Strategy Dangerous To Re-election Effort

By many accounts, the Democratic National Committee and the Obama re-election campaign were never big fans of the effort in Wisconsin to recall Governor Scott Walker.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal :

Top Democrats now say that when labor groups first raised the specter of a recall, the party’s officials urged their allies in Wisconsin to reconsider. “We told them it was a bad, bad, bad idea,” one Democratic official said. A union official said both the Democratic National Committee and the Obama campaign expressed reservations. “I don’t know that anyone was enthusiastic about it over there,” the union official said.

Now, with Walker leading in the polls as he heads into the home stretch of the campaign—and sitting on a dramatic financial advantage over challenger Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett—the fears expressed early on by national democrats may be coming home to roost. The most recent Marquette Law School Poll ,while placing Walker ahead in his race by six percent, also shows a dead heat between President Obama and Governor Romney—despite Obama having held a four point lead in the poll taken one month earlier.

While the concerns on the part of the national Democratic Party power elite may turn out to have been warranted, their unwillingness to come through with some badly needed cash for the Wisconsin effort—money that would help the Wisconsin Democratic Party buy some additional media in the final days or enhance the ground game that may be their only chance to pull off the win—is putting a sour taste in the mouths of Wisconsin democrats, a taste that could easily turn to apathy and anger should things go against Badger State democrats on recall election day.

In a presidential election year that promises to produce a razor thin result in November, apathy and anger on the part of the base—particularly in an important electoral state like Wisconsin—is not going to be helpful to the President.

Making the situation potentially more explosive is the inability of Wisconsin democrats and local labor organizations to entice the President to make an appearance in the state to drum up support for Mayor Barrett and to motivate the anti-Walker vote during the waning days of the campaign. The reluctance on the part of the Obama campaign to send in the one man who could make the most significant difference in voter turnout, inevitably brings to mind last year’s disappointment when the President chose not to come to Wisconsin in support of the pubic employee unions at the height of the battle over Scott Walker’s anti-collective bargaining effort.

For those who may not remember, it was during a 2007 speech when candidate Obama, appearing in Spartanburg, South Carolina, said –

And understand this: If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I will put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I’ll walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States of America. Because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner.

Yet, when the moment came to put on those comfortable shoes and join in support of Wisconsin workers, the president decided to stick with his spit-shined wing tops— which remained firmly planted on the White House grounds.

Certainly, it is not difficult to understand the political calculation behind the campaign’s decision to keep the president away from Wisconsin.

The RNC has made it clear that they are ‘all in’ when it comes to the Wisconsin recall and has further suggested that a Walker victory might cause them to consider pouring more assets into the state for the presidential election in the belief that this once safe state for Obama could now be up for grabs. Should the President make an appearance, and the recall fails, the GOP would certainly make the most of the spin opportunity such a circumstance would present.

However, there are times where showing up is more important than the victory itself. As the president said in his 2007 speech, the people who stand with you need to know that you are prepared to stand with them.

While it remains to be seen whether or not the hard work done by Wisconsin democrats, independents and their union allies will bear fruit on June 5th, there is no disputing that their effort has been nothing short of Herculean. Should things go against those who would like to see a change in the Wisconsin statehouse, the disappointment and let-down of such a loss will weigh heavily on the shoulders of those who worked so hard but came up short—the very same shoulders the President will need to rely upon in his own race. After all, the last thing Obama needs is hundreds of thousands of disappointed Wisconsin democrats and union members feeling that things might just have turned out differently if only Barack Obama had come to their aid when it was most needed.

I was critical of the President when he failed to join his Wisconsin supporters back in February of 2011 and I continue to feel that this was one of the more disappointing moments of the President’s first term. I would very much like to see the President balance the books on that lapse by showing up for his supporters in Wisconsin now—even if his appearance turns out to be not quite enough to make the difference in the recall effort.

The same goes for the Democratic National Committee.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2012/05/21/obama-and-dnc-wisconsin-strategy-dangerous-to-re-election-effort/

California Schools Threatened, Change Seems Unlikely.

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

I have been concerned about the status of our schools in California. I am voting in favor of the tax increases to preserve the quality of education in California. It would be a shame for the system to become simply the playground for the elite youth of wealthy families from around the world. The education system is one of the few paths for advancement in this society. With unions falling out of any position of influence, they are no longer paths for the working classes to become more affluent. The country has become a mixture of of a kleptocracy for the elites and a meritocracy for the rest of us. If you are smart and play by the rules, you may have an opportunity, assuming you have enough access to resources and education to benefit. There is no longer any attempt to redistribute wealth, except for the elderly who have social security and the seriously disabled like myself. We are expected to get by on starvation pensions from the government. Medicare is the one benefit that really helps. Even then many medications are beyond reach.

This is why it is important to preserve the schools. It would be nice to have unions too, but at least access to quality education for all is essential to giving all talented persons access to advancement through academic excellence. Its not much, but it is better than no access at all.

Certainly we need to reduce priority for defense and homeland security and prisons and turn to giving emphasis on social needs and education. But even with a liberal Democrat in office that seems not to be happening. We have a president who is more interested in placating the Republican opposition than pushing an agenda that helps the average American. As a result he will probably be replaced by a Republican president and we had better hope that this Republican is more moderate than he is playing.

The left is as usual splintered and ineffectual. The anarchist youth, which has now become the major activist left around the world, is now being targeted by the FBI with sting operations to make Anarchists fearful and eventually ineffectual. Already the best anarchists can do is minor disruptions at major events like Group of 8 gatherings and IMF meetings. They are much more effective in Europe and Canada than in the USA, mostly because of the intense security apparatus and a media that is totally controlled by corporate interests. Democracy Now and Pacifica excepted.

Not much to look forward to, the Occupy movement is a minor distraction, the General Strike was a joke. Hispanics in the Amnesty movement seem to be the biggest left wing force in America at this time. Labor is becoming more militant as they have less and less to lose, but it seems to be too late for organized labor in the USA.

It is fairly clear what is needed, social revolution, but it is also fairly clear that unless there is some catalyst for change, nothing will happen and things will drift along with the capitalists and their cronies in Washington calling the tune.

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NYTimes

California Cuts Threaten the Status of Universities

By JENNIFER MEDINA

Published: June 1, 2012

LOS ANGELES — Class sizes have increased, courses have been cut and tuition has been raised — repeatedly. Fewer colleges are offering summer classes. Administrators rely increasingly on higher tuition from out-of-staters. And there are signs it could get worse: If a tax increase proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown is not approved this year, officials say they will be forced to consider draconian cuts like eliminating entire schools or programs.

For generations, the University of California system — home to such globally renowned institutions as Berkeley and U.C.L.A. — has been widely recognized as perhaps the best example of what public universities could be. Along with the California State University system and the state’s vast number of community colleges, higher education options here have long been the envy of other states.

But after years, and even decades, of budget cutbacks from the state, that reputation is under increasing threat. University leaders, who had responded typically to earlier budget cuts with assurances that their institutions were still in top form, now are sounding the alarm. In trying to rally support, they openly worry that their schools do not offer the same quality of education as a decade ago.

“I’d be lying if I said what we offer students hasn’t been changed and that there hasn’t been a degradation of the learning environment,” said Timothy White, the chancellor of the University of California, Riverside, which has had record growth in recent years. Last year, plans to open a medical school on the campus were shelved after state budget cuts.

While there are more students than ever, the number of academic advisers has dropped to 300, from 500 a few years ago, for more than 18,000 undergraduates. Courses that used to require four writing assignments now demand half that because professors have fewer assistants to help them with grading papers, something other campuses have implemented as well.

While no one is arguing that cutting higher education spending is a good thing, some say that the state budget crisis makes it necessary — and may provide an opportunity for needed changes.

Chancellor White and others say the concerns about the budget cuts are beyond academic. For generations, the universities have been economic engines for the state, graduating hundreds of thousands of students each year. At every level, the universities are receiving more applicants than ever. But without more state money, colleges are struggling to find room for eligible students.

Nathan Brostrom, executive vice president of business operations for the University of California, said the system was now in the middle of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. In the last year, the state has cut $750 million from the system’s budget. This year, for the first time, the system receives more money from tuition than from state aid — but that only makes up for roughly a quarter of the cuts from the state. Over all, the budget is the same as it was in 2007, when there were 75,000 fewer students enrolled.

In recent years, many campuses have made a more concerted effort to recruit out-of-state students, who pay more in tuition. But some have criticized the practice, and last month one state lawmaker introduced legislation to cap the number of out-of-state students.

The University of California system is made up of 10 campuses, including Berkeley and U.C.L.A., both ranked by U.S. News in the top 25 of all national universities, public or private. The California State University system, with lower tuition and easier admission requirements, is even larger, with 23 campuses and roughly 425,000 students.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/02/us/california-cuts-threaten-the-status-of-universities.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120602

Syrian Mess, Libya Today, USA And Israel Cooperate In Cyber War On Iran

Friday, June 1st, 2012

I have deliberately avoided the whole Syrian situation. After seeing what happened in Libya, I can see that country did not particularly benefit from overthrowing Gaddafi. It turned into a mess that the media has quietly swept under the rug. Nobody hears about Libya anymore. So I will look up a bit about Libya and I found something from Reuters, an article about Latin American states worried about a Libyan style outcome in Syria if the west keeps pushing for regime change. There is more, but essentially my opinion is that the Syrian situation is complex, there are abuses, but it is very unclear which side is right. Why, if the western media is so sure that the rebels are right, then do they not get confirmed reports? Where are the brave reporters who will expose the abuses of the Syrian government. We get lots of cell phone footage that is claimed to support the views of the rebels, but we see nothing that is verifiable even with UN monitors. People are being killed, but I am not convinced that this rebel group is offering the Syrian people an option that is any better than what they have. Perhaps one group will replace another, in a see-saw sort of eye for an eye type of justice that seems to be the case in Libya. The Russians may be simply exercising good common sense. Certainly the opposition should at least become an effective force and not simply a debating society. This is no socialist insurrection, it is a hodge-podge of ethnic minorities and political groups, without a common agenda. They are no more legitimate than the Libyan council was and is.

Besides that there is this report about cyber warfare against Iran. As one commentator noted, whats good for the goose is good for the gander. Just as American use of torture, lowered the worlds standards of appropriate behavior regarding the treatment of prisoners, American behavior in attacking other countries in undeclared wars with cyber technology, opens the door for others to act in the same manner against the USA.

From Reuters

Latin American leftists fear Libya-style endgame in Syria

By Andrew Cawthorne
CARACAS | Fri Jun 1, 2012 1:17pm EDT
(Reuters) - A bloc of left-wing Latin American governments accused Western nations on Friday of planning to intervene in Syria as they did in Libya and praised President Bashar al-Assad’s government despite widespread global condemnation.

The driving force behind the bloc, known as the ALBA group, is Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a virulent critic of the United States who has been vocal in his support for Assad.

“We are worried that the same process of interference that foreign powers applied in Libya will be repeated,” the eight-nation group said in a statement released at U.N. negotiations over Syria in Geneva and also sent to media in Venezuela.

Western-led air strikes last year helped bring an end to Muammar Gaddafi’s rule in Libya.

But there has been no such international consensus for armed intervention in Syria despite 14 months of violence including last week’s massacre of more than 100 civilians, many of them children. The government and rebels blamed each other.

“We value the Syrian government’s steps in attending to the legitimate demands of those who have protested peacefully … and the program of reforms carried out, as well as its willingness to implement the peace plan of (mediator) Kofi Annan,” the ALBA statement added in praise that contrasted with a chorus of disgust against Assad elsewhere round the world.

The bloc was opposing a resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva condemning Syria for the massacre in Houla.

“The resolution reflects the desires to interfere in Syria’s internal affairs, without contributing to dialogue nor to the search for peace,” the statement said.

Founded by Chavez and Cuba’s former leader Fidel Castro in 2004, the ALBA bloc did, however, condemn the Houla massacre and call on all sides in the Syria conflict to cease violence.

Critics of Chavez, who is seeking re-election in October despite battling cancer, say his support of Syria - like his past backing for Gaddafi - show his own dictatorial tendencies.

OPEC member Venezuela has been sending diesel to Syria despite Western sanctions on the Assad government.

“Once again, we see the name of our country next to the most abject dictatorships in the world, and how our oil helps in the repression of our Syrian brothers,” Venezuela’s opposition Democratic Unity coalition said in a statement.

Though Venezuela and Cuba are the loudest voices in ALBA, it also includes Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador and the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and St. Vincente and the Grenadines, with a combined population of 75 million people.

(Editing by Eduardo Garcia and Vicki Allen)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/01/us-syria-crisis-latinamerica-idUSBRE85013H20120601

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From Al Aram Weekly

Libya: the ongoing disaster

NATO’s destruction of Libya as an independent regional power has paved the way for the military re-conquest of Africa,writes Dan Glazebrook*
The scale of the ongoing tragedy visited on Libya by NATO and its allies is becoming horribly clearer with each passing day. Estimates of those killed so far vary, but 50,000 seems to be a low estimate. Indeed, the British Ministry of Defence was boasting that the onslaught had killed 35,000 as early as last May, and this number is constantly growing, as the destruction of Libyan state forces by the British, French and American blitzkrieg has left the country in a state of total anarchy.

Having nothing to unite them other than their former willingness to act as NATO’s foot soldiers, Libya’s former “rebels” are now turning on each other. 147 people were killed in in-fighting in southern Libya in a single week earlier this year, and in recent weeks government buildings including the prime ministerial compound have come under fire from rebels demanding cash payment for their services.

$1.4 billion has already been paid out, demonstrating that it was the forces of NATO colonialism, and not former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who were reliant on “mercenaries”. However, these payments were suspended last month due to widespread nepotism. Corruption is becoming endemic in Libya, with a further $2.5 billion in oil revenues that was supposed to have been transferred to the national treasury remaining unaccounted for.

Libya’s resources are now being jointly plundered by the oil multinationals and a handful of chosen families from among the country’s new elites: this is a case of a classic neo-colonial stitch-up. The use of these resources for giant infrastructure projects such as the Great Manmade River project, and the massive raising of living standards over the past four decades that came about as a result — Libyan life expectancy rose from 51 to 77 after Gaddafi came to power in 1969 — sadly look to have become things of the past.

However, woe betide anyone who mentions that now. It was decided long ago that no supporters of Gaddafi would be allowed to stand in the upcoming Libyan elections, but recent changes have gone even further. Law 37, passed by the NATO-imposed Libyan government last month, has created a new crime of “glorifying” the former government or its leader, subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Would this include a passing comment that things were better under Gaddafi? The law is deliberately vague enough to be open to interpretation. It is also a recipe for institutionalised political persecution.

Even more indicative of the contempt for the rule of law amongst the members of the new government — a government, remember, which has yet to receive any semblance of popular mandate and whose only power base remains foreign armed forces — is Law 38. This guarantees immunity from prosecution for anyone who committed crimes aimed at “promoting or protecting the revolution”.

As a result, those responsible for the ethnic cleansing of the town of Tawergha — such as the self-proclaimed “brigade for the purging of black skins” — can continue hunting down refugees in the full knowledge that they have the new law on their side. Those responsible for the massacres in the town of Sirte and elsewhere also have nothing to fear. Those involved in the widespread torture of detainees can continue to do so without any repercussions — so long as their torture is aimed at “protecting the revolution” — i.e. maintaining the NATO-Libyan Transitional National Council dictatorship.

This is the reality of the new Libya: civil war, squandered resources, and societal collapse, where voicing a preference for the days when Libya was prosperous and at peace is a crime, but lynching and torture are not only permitted, but also encouraged.

Nor has the disaster remained a national one. Libya’s destabilisation has already spread to Mali, prompting a coup, and huge numbers of refugees, especially amongst Libya’s large black migrant population, have fled to neighbouring countries in a desperate attempt to escape both aerial destruction and lynch mob rampage, putting pressure on resources and stoking tensions elsewhere. Many Libyan fighters, their work done in Libya, have now been shipped to Syria to spread their sectarian violence there also.

Most worrying for the African continent, however, is the forward march of AFRICOM — the US military’s African command — in the wake of the aggression against Libya. It is no coincidence that barely a month after the fall of Tripoli, and in the same month that Gaddafi was murdered in October 2011, the US announced it was sending troops to no fewer than four more African countries — the Central African Republic, Uganda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. AFRICOM has now announced the unprecedented number of 14 major joint military exercises in African countries for 2012. The military re-conquest of Africa is rolling steadily on.

None of this would have been possible when Gaddafi was still in power. As founder of the African Union, its biggest donor, and its one-time elected chairman, Gaddafi wielded major influence on the continent. It was partly thanks to him that the US was forced to establish AFRICOM’s HQ in Stuttgart in Germany when it was established in February 2008, rather than in Africa itself, as Gaddafi offered cash and investment to African governments that rejected US requests for bases.

Libya under Gaddafi’s leadership made an estimated $150 billion of investments in Africa, and the Libyan proposal, backed with £30 billion in cash, for an African Union Development Bank would have seriously reduced African financial dependence on the West. In short, Gaddafi’s Libya was the single biggest obstacle to AFRICOM penetration of the continent.

Now that Gaddafi has gone, AFRICOM is stepping up its work. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan showed the West that wars in which its own citizens get killed are not popular. AFRICOM is designed to ensure that in the coming colonial wars against Africa, it will be Africans who do the fighting and dying, not westerners. The forces of the African Union are to become integrated into AFRICOM under a US-led chain of command. Gaddafi would never have allowed this, which is why he had to go.

If you want a vision of Africa under AFRICOM tutelage, look no further than Libya, NATO’s model of an African state. This has now been condemned to decades of violence and trauma and has been made incapable either of providing for its people, or of contributing to regional or continental independence. This new military colonialism should not be given another inch of African support.

* The writer is a political analyst.

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2012/1100/re1.htm

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From RT News

US ready to act on Syria outside UN?

Published: 31 May, 2012, 08:24

The US has hinted at taking actions against the Syrian regime bypassing the authority of the UN Security Council. This comes as pressure is piling up on Damascus following massacre in Houla that claimed over 100 lives.
US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice has said that if the council does not take swift action to pressure Syrian authorities to end 14-month crackdown on the anti-government uprising, the Security Council members may have no choice but to consider acting outside the UN.
“Members of the international community are left with the option only of having to consider whether they are prepared to take actions outside of the Annan plan and the authority of this council,” Rice said on Wednesday after the 15-member council met in a closed door session to discuss last week’s massacre.
The United Nations is conducting its own investigation of who exactly is responsible for the bloodshed in the town of Houla. However the US and its allies seem to have come to their own conclusion, saying that the Assad government is solely responsible for the violence.
Rice did not specify what “actions” she meant. However the US and European countries had earlier imposed their own sanction on Syria outside the UN. So there are fears that her words could mean the threat of military action.
The US envoy said the worst but most probable scenario in Syria is a failure of Annan’s peace plan and a spreading conflict that could create a major crisis not only in Syria but also in the entire region.
“The Syrian government has made commitments. It has blatantly violated those commitments, and, I think it’s quite clear, as we have said for many weeks if they continue to do so there should be consequences,” Rice said.
Meanwhile, Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar Jaafari has stated Wednesday that the massacre in the town of Houla was carried out by “professional terrorists” who were seeking to ignite a sectarian conflict in the country.
“Many Syrian innocents got killed because of this misbehavior of these outsiders. The Syrian people need one clear-cut message that the international community, if there is an international community, is there to help settling the conflict in Syria,” he said referring to last Friday’s violence.
Russia’s envoy tot the UN Vitaly Churkin stated that both the authorities and opposition leaders should understand that the current situation in Syria is unacceptable.
Kosovo pattern in Syria?
Susan Rice’s comment became a disturbing reminder of what happened in 1999 when the US and NATO intervened in the former Yugoslavia without a UN Security Council mandate.
“The precedent is already there – we’ve mentioned Kosovo. It’s exactly what happened – you had an allegation of a massacre, which was the village of Racak; you had a UN decree that was severely bullied by the US ambassador who was leading the observation mission on the ground; you had claims that it was brutal unprovoked massacre of innocent civilians by government troops. Serbia was blamed, presented with the ultimatum and then bombed,” historian and author Nebojsa Malic told RT.
“We have the same pattern repeating itself in Syria.”
Blogger Rick Rozoff believes that the US has warned Russia and China that it will push forward military action no matter what.
“Ambassador Rice is basically telling Russia and China and other members of the Security Council that if they do not go along with Western plans for more stringent sanctions and other actions against Syria, the US and its NATO allies reserve a right to act outside the Security Council as they did with Yugoslavia 13 years ago and launch military actions against Syria,” Rozoff told RT.

http://www.rt.com/news/us-sanctions-syria-un-649/

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From Middle East Online

Libya’s Future: National Consensus, Justice and Fairness are Key to Libya’s Stability and Democratic Transition

The debate for federalism or constitutional decentralization was not allowed to mature, as both anti-federalists and pro-federalists emptied the debate from any meaningful arguments that really matter to Libyans and matter for a better future for Libya, says Mohamed Eljarh.

Middle East Online

With Libya’s first general post-revolution elections looming, political debate in the country is even more diverse with multi-variable complex issues to be outlined and solved in a manner by which all parties involved are somewhat happy. Many in Libya count on the upcoming elections to solve most if not all of the underlying issues of 42 years of oppressive dictatorship, and 9 months of armed conflict.

During his rule, Gaddafi ensured that government institutions are weak with wide spread corruption, and a culture of favouritism, nepotism and intentional marginalization. There is also some sense of mistrust between the different factions, cities and regions in the new Libya, and this mistrust stems from historical fissures, as well as, tensions that arose during Gaddafi’s rule and most recently during the armed revolution to oust Gaddafi’s regime.

The sense of mistrust within the different factions, cities, ethnicities and regions in Libya has been evident in the occurrence of bloody armed clashes in different parts of the country. In Al-Kufra town in the south east of Libya clashes erupted between Arab tribes and Tabu tribes that led to deaths and injuries of hundreds. There have also been clashes in western Libya between the towns of Jmail/Ragdalin and Zuwara, and some considered these to be clashes between Gaddafi loyalists and pro-revolution fighters, some other claimed that the clashes had some ethnic background to them.

Another important debate that stems from mistrust and historical fissures is whether Libya should opt for federalism as a governing system or not. The on-going issue of federalism in Libya resulted in the formation of the Barga Regional Council when around three thousands of tribal and political leaders met in Benghazi in March to announce the formation of their regional council and asking for the activation of Libya’s 1951 constitution, which they called the legitimate constitution for the country with the appropriate changes made to it. Their calls for federalism have been faced with mobilization of the public and media against the calls for federalism by the central government in Tripoli.

The debate for federalism in Libya has been prevented from maturing and taking the appropriate path, so that Libyans are well informed about the goods and evils of federalism. Instead, the Barga Council leaders chose to announce their council unilaterally in a move that led to fears that the country is heading toward breaking up and partition. The pro-federalism camp have since dismissed all these allegations and said that the unity of Libya isn’t up for questioning and insisted that Libya is a united country with one president, one army, one constitution and one foreign ministry. However, they called for greater autonomy in running the internal affairs of their region with less control from the central government in Tripoli.

Furthermore, the pro-federalism camp has been calling for the 200 National Assembly seats to be distributed equally between the three old provinces, Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan. Again their calls have been refused and not even considered by the NTC that draw up the law by which the seats were allocated as 109 seats for Tripolitania, 60 for Cyrenaica and 31 for Fezzan.

This formation doesn’t give any one single region the majority to pass a law on its own, but only Tripolitania would have the power to veto any law with 54.5% share of the votes.

The debate for federalism or constitutional decentralization was not allowed to mature, as both anti-federalists and pro-federalists emptied the debate from any meaningful arguments that really matter to Libyans and matter for a better future for Libya. Pro-federalists are being accused by anti-federalists of trying to break up the country and control the oil rich region of Cyrenaica, a claim that is strongly denied by the pro-federalists. Also, anti-federalists are being accused of attempts to marginalize other regions in Libya, and continue the exhausting centralization of the country’s affairs and all its wealth in one region.

http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=52606

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From Al Jazeera TV
6/1/12

The NYTimes report on operation Olympic Games, code name for Israeli-US hacking of Iranian computers to take out Iranian centrifuges, has been publicly admitted to being a reality according to Al Jazeera. President Obama approved the plan to destroy Iranian infrastructure. The Trojan “Flame” was discovered in Iran. It is probably going to be a problem for all of us, but it was developed by the US or Israel according to Al Jazeera.

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From CTOlist.com

Private Sector Implications of Operation Olympic Games
June 1, 2012 By admin

The New York Times revealed today what many experts had already asserted regarding the United States role in the Stuxnet attack.

While speculation of U.S. involvement complicated international relations on cyber conflict, an acknowledgement of U.S. involvement in a forum such as the New York Times heralds in a brave new world of cyber conflict.

Targeting of critical infrastructure during conventional conflict has been the status quo for decades, with cyber attack legitimized in a traditional conflict context emerging over the past 15 years. What changes with the Stuxnet revelation is the targeting of critical infrastructure as a component of international strategic objectives.

Operation Olympic Games formally acknowledges, through actual offensive state sponsored action, that critical infrastructure is a legitimate target for cyber attack during times of peace.

If the United States includes critical infrastructure as a legitimate target of attack, can we not assume that other nations can target our infrastructure if it meets their criteria or strategic objectives? Is this not Unrestricted Warfare manifesting itself not within China policy, but U.S. policy?

Private infrastructure owners have just been put on notice that overt state sponsored attacks are the new reality. Who will be targeting you?

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From the NYTimes

Obama Order Sped Up Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran
By DAVID E. SANGER
Published: June 1, 2012 344 Comments
WASHINGTON — From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program.

Mr. Obama decided to accelerate the attacks — begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games — even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran’s Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet. Computer security experts who began studying the worm, which had been developed by the United States and Israel, gave it a name: Stuxnet.

At a tense meeting in the White House Situation Room within days of the worm’s “escape,” Mr. Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency at the time, Leon E. Panetta, considered whether America’s most ambitious attempt to slow the progress of Iran’s nuclear efforts had been fatally compromised.

“Should we shut this thing down?” Mr. Obama asked, according to members of the president’s national security team who were in the room.

Told it was unclear how much the Iranians knew about the code, and offered evidence that it was still causing havoc, Mr. Obama decided that the cyberattacks should proceed. In the following weeks, the Natanz plant was hit by a newer version of the computer worm, and then another after that. The last of that series of attacks, a few weeks after Stuxnet was detected around the world, temporarily took out nearly 1,000 of the 5,000 centrifuges Iran had spinning at the time to purify uranium.

This account of the American and Israeli effort to undermine the Iranian nuclear program is based on interviews over the past 18 months with current and former American, European and Israeli officials involved in the program, as well as a range of outside experts. None would allow their names to be used because the effort remains highly classified, and parts of it continue to this day.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/01/world/middleeast/obama-ordered-wave-of-cyberattacks-against-iran.html?_r=3&pagewanted=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

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I think that the USA needs to participate as one of several players in the UN, and admit that it is operating out of its vested interests. There is no superior nation. If anything, the UN should be superior to any nation. As long as the USA insists that is is superior to the rest of the world, the rest of the world will have an excuse to not cooperate in the United Nations, the USA will always be an example of a nation that thinks it is above the laws on international relations.


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