Thursday, November 03, 2005

Indymedia roundup

On November 8, the voters of New York City will elect a new mayor. Incumbent Republican Michael Bloomberg is being challenged by Democrat Fernando Ferrer. Also on the ballot are a half dozen minor party candidates, including Thomas Ognibene of the Conservative Party and Tony Gronowicz of the Green Party. By the time the race is over, Bloomberg, a billionaire media mogul, will have spent more than $100 million from his personal fortune, shattering all spending records for any elected office in the United States other than president. Ferrer, a veteran politician from one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, is running a shoestring campaign in which he has been outspent by Bloomberg by an astounding 17-to-1.
Bloomberg's television and radio commercials have blanketed the airwaves for months in more than a half-dozen languages, so it should come as no surprise that public opinion polls show the mayor with a commanding lead.
A Ferrer victory would make him the first Latino mayor in New York history, and coming on the heels of Antonio Villaraigosa's successful run for mayor of Los Angeles earlier this year it would signal that the nation's exploding Latino population has begun to redefine and realign political power in urban America.
Throughout this long campaign, however, many progressive and liberal activists in the city, even in the African American and Latino communities, have sat on the sidelines or shown little enthusiasm for the Democratic challenger. Those progressives -- in an echo of Bloomberg's own campaign -- claim that Ferrer is a lackluster candidate and political hack. They view the current mayor as a political moderate who is a Republican in name only, who is more conciliatory to the city's Black, Brown and poor communities than his predecessor Rudy Giuliani, and thus they regard Bloomberg's re-election as acceptable, and largely inevitable, outcome. Most of the city's organized labor leaders have backed the Republican mayor, except for a handful of the most militant unions, such as the transit workers, the huge Local 1199, and the Professional Staff Congress, which are doggedly fighting to elect Ferrer.
To a large number of progressives there is no fundamental difference between Ferrer and Bloomberg.
That viewpoint, in my opinion, is profoundly mistaken.
I believe the New York mayoral race of 2005 -- a contest to control a government that employs some 300,000 workers and dispenses an annual budget of more than $50 billion -- is a pivotal battle for the city's workers and its middle class, for the nation's 40 million Latinos and for the future of all urban America.
Many well-meaning progressives, unfortunately, have yet to grasp the stakes in this race, and that failure is rooted in two persistent weaknesses of the progressive movement.
1. Class and racial divisions among progressives themselves;
2. Lack of any rigorous analysis of the economic and political forces that are rapidly
transforming everyday life in metropolitan America to the point that the the poor, racial minorities and sections of the working class are being systematically driven out of the central cities.
I do not say these things lightly.
As a journalist who has chronicled big city politics in this country for decades, as a Puerto Rican with long experience in movements for racial and ethnic equality, and as a labor activist who has consistently fought to revive the American trade union movement, I learned long ago that outward appearances are often deceiving, that the surface manifestations of any political process often mask powerful currents swirling below.
Yet I have been amazed at the virtual absence of dispassionate and comprehensive analysis about this election; an analysis grounded in facts, one that places the conflict in the context of broader historical patterns, that consistently asks: what is in the best interest of working people and the marginalized or oppressed groups of New York City? Once you begin to look at the mayoral race from that deeper perspective, you begin to realize that there have been few times in recent memory when an urban electorate faced such a clear class choice -- in the personalities of the candidates, their stands on the issues, and the forces they represent.

Jonah e-mails to note Juan Gonzalez's "Where Have All The Fighters Gone? An Analysis of New York City Mayoral Race of 2005" (NYC Indymedia). Thursday nights, indymedia roundup. And to listen, watch or read a transcript of more on this topic, refer to Amy Goodman's interview with Juan Gonzalez from Democracy Now! entitled "Where Have All the Fighters Gone? Juan Gonzalez Analyzes the New York City Mayoral Race."

Maria e-mails to note Steven T. Jones and Tim Redmond's "Party down: The GOP is in free fall, and it's time to take the country back" (San Francisco Bay Guardian News):

BASEBALL METAPHORS CAN be taken way too far. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald demonstrated that during the press conference he held on the criminal indictment of I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide. In a long and drawn-out analogy involving a pitcher and a hit batter, Fitzgerald likened himself to an umpire who had "dust thrown in his eyes," claiming Libby's lies had made it hard for him to determine who should be indicted for the vengeful outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent.
So we hate to even mention that particular sport again. But prominent media critic Robert McChesney offered us a way of describing the prospects of the indictment that seems to capture this moment in history rather well. It addresses the question of whether the political system and mainstream media will seize on the information in Fitzgerald's 22-page indictment to finally hold the Bush administration responsible for the deliberate lies that got this country into the quagmire in Iraq.
"This is a slow fastball right over the heart of the plate," he said.
McChesney's latest book, coauthored with John Nichols, is called Tragedy and Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy. It's an insightful diagnosis of why the news media helped the Bush administration trick the country into going to war.
And McChesney isn't hopeful that journalists have their eyes on the ball, particularly after watching the media miss similar opportunities to show the people how they'd been lied to, including Richard Clarke's insider revelations of ulterior motives for invading Iraq, the Downing Street Memo's proof that biased intelligence on Iraq was being fabricated, and the fact that no weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq.
"They've had plenty of opportunities to hit it out of the park," McChesney told us.
And once again this past week, we've seen an awful lot of newspapers and broadcast outlets swinging at air.
• • •
Let's be clear about what's in this indictment, something Fitzgerald couldn't say for legal reasons but that should be clear to journalists with open eyes and minds. The document cites sworn testimony that Libby, Cheney, "a senior official in the White House ['Official A']" – who recent press revelations indicate is almost certainly Karl Rove – and at least four other administration officials actively conspired to out Plame as an undercover CIA agent.
That conspiracy was born of a desire to discredit and punish her husband, Joseph Wilson, for exposing President George W. Bush as knowingly lying about Iraq's efforts to obtain nuclear materials during his 2003 State of the Union speech.

Liang e-mails to note Quincey Jonez's "Campus Antiwar Network UC-Berkeley 2-Day Conference" (SF Indymedia):

On Saturday and Sunday (October 22 – 23) The University of California Berkeley hosted a two-day conference titled "On the Frontlines: Opinions for Youth in Times of War", which was co-sponsored by the Campus Antiwar Network and Military Out of Our Schools -- Bay Area. The scheduled activities for Saturday included workshop sessions, morning and afternoon plenary meetings as well as a Youth Concert. After arriving on campus, persons registered with the Conference and were given a schedule of events to attend during the course of the day’s events. One session titled "How to Counter Military Recruitment in High Schools" focused on a basic introduction about how the military recruits in public high schools, as well as strategies for counter recruitment given by several high school student activists. They described their attempts, successes and failures in mobilizing / educating their communities to resist temptations that the military promises new recruits. Kevin Ramirez of the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (CCCO) outlined the 5 methods used by the military to recruit high school students on campus and how to combat them:
• The ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery), a.k.a Military Eligibility Test, measures military occupation specialty or, which branch of the armed services the student is most applicable in. For the most part, this test is not explained to students before they take it, but is generally defined as a "career exploration program". Ramirez explained that a student can check Option 8 on the test, which will not send the student’s results to recruiters. He also said that students can refuse to take the test outright; but overall, more education about this test needs to get out to teachers, parents and students.
• JRTOC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Core) programs are nationwide, numbering over 3500 units. These programs bring students into the daily life of officers; learning tactics and military protocol. Local communities need to be opposed to these programs and learn as much about them as possible.
• The No Child Left Behind Act, specifically Section 9528 rule which forces schools to give student contact information to military recruiters or risk losing federal funding.. Since school funding is directly effected in regard to their compliance with the NCLB program, checking the "Opt Out" option can restrict a student's results from going to recruiters.
• Armed Services Recruiting Tables (Tabling) takes place in high schools and colleges nationwide. These Tabling groups are frequent and cover most campuses; the primary way to counter Tabling is to find out when they are coming to school. Setting up a counter-protest on those specific dates is the most potent way to combat Tabling. Equal Action Laws are required by law to provide students with facts on both sides of the issues.
• Recruit Support Battalions (RSBs) are new-wave techniques used by recruiters to provide hands-on activities to high school students. Some examples are portable rock-climbing walls and adventure vans, a.k.a. War Simulators that demonstrate how to use a M1 assault rifle. Again, the main way to counter these activities is to find out when and where these RSBs will be con campus.
After the CCCO presentation, high school students told their own stories about combating recruiters at their respective schools. One student from Rochester NY, Jerry, described how he and a group of students handed out flyers on campus and asked other kids how they felt about recruiter efforts at their school. They efforts were fairly successful because by teaching students about the "Opt-In / Opt-Out" policy in the No Child Left Behind Act, many students decided to "Opt-Out" of the program once they heard the truths behind the lies.
Another student, junior Rico Chenyek from Berkeley High School, described his own efforts. He organized a Social Action Committee which focused on social justice by having teach-ins on campus, educating the student body about the lies and truths of army recruiters. Once word-of-mouth spread, the turn outs became so large that his school scheduled a daylong event which included a graphic slideshow of the horrors of War.
Ruby Butler from the Youth Empowerment School described efforts to educate young people about military recruitment by creating a Jeopardy style game that included categories: Drafting & Conscientious Objectors, Recruitment Ploys, and Money for Soldiers. By dividing the group into two teams, the children were able to interact with each other when answering questions posed to them. This type of game was played at YMCAs and schools in Oakland.

Pru's items for Sunday were waiting for tonight but she found two things she'd rather highlight.
From The Socialist Worker, Charlie Kimber's "David Blunkett's resignation and arrogance of the Blair set:"

The resignation of work and pensions secretary David Blunkett is a further sign of the decay of the Blair regime. Almost daily there is a sense that this rotten government is being run from an embattled bunker where all but the most faithful have departed and even the previously loyal acolytes have slunk away or engaged in self-destructive behaviour.
It is the Iraq war which, above all else, has sunk Blair. As the wound of the war refuses to heal, his government becomes more bizarrely out of touch over everything.
Blunkett embodies the arrogance of the Blair set. He revelled in his reputation for standing with the police and harrying asylum seekers. Most recently he declared that the benefit system was "crackers" and that incapacity claimants should stop watching daytime television.
If one event sums-up his attitude it was in 2002 when 80 Asians in Bradford were convicted for daring to defend their community from Nazi-inspired attacks. Then home secretary Blunkett described those jailed as "maniacs" who should stop "whining" about their sentences and attacked the "bleeding heart liberals" who questioned the length of the prison terms.
Just like Peter Mandelson's demise in British politics, Blunkett's fall is an indication of the way New Labour ministers have fallen in love with the lifestyles of the rich. It is nothing new for Labour leaders to crawl to the wealthy and beg invitations to their parties and their villas.
But New Labour has taken this to a new height. An openly pro-business party can brazenly consort with those who used to be regarded as the party's enemies.
Blunkett, with his relationship with the publisher of right-wing magazine The Spectator and his honorary membership of Annabel's club, fell in with a rich set. But to live like then he needed far more than his ministerial salary of £130,347, and it was disaster when he was reduced to a backbencher on just £57,500.
Within weeks of being forced to resign from the cabinet he picked up a slew of jobs, consultancies and after-dinner speaking engagements which together paid £70,000.
His first employer, Indepen, tells privatised utility firms how to deal with government regulators. Blunkett was paid over £15,000 for seminars on "his perspective on government and how government works".
Then just before the election, he was hired by DNA Structures Ltd, a firm that trades as DNA Bioscience and markets paternity test kits. He bought 12 shares in the firm for £15,000 which, according to some financial experts, would have been worth £500,000 if the company had won the contracts which enabled it to be floated as a public company.
He didn’t even bother to follow the code which says he should declare such jobs, with their potential conflict of interest.
Now his failures have caught up with him. The end of the Blair regime cannot come soon enough.
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Pru also notes Anindya Bhattacharyya's "Guilty men are in the White House: Warmongers trapped by Iraq lies" (The Socialist Worker):

George Bush's tower of lies over Iraq is threatening to come crashing down around his ears.
A senior White House official -- Lewis "Scooter" Libby -- was indicted on five counts on Friday of last week by a US special investigator.
Libby was a key architect of the war in Iraq and, as the New York Times wrote last week, "had the exalted position of being a full member of president Bush's inner circle, holding three pivotal jobs at once -- assistant to the president, chief of staff to the vice president and Dick Cheney's national security adviser".
He now faces charges of perjury, obstruction and making false statements -- which could land him in jail for 30 years.
The fall of Libby was the heaviest of a series of blows that rocked the White House. On Tuesday of last week, two and a half years after the invasion of Iraq began, it was announced that the total number of US troops killed in Iraq had reached the 2,000 mark. The 2,000th GI fell in Vietnam in 1965, six years after the first two Americans were killed in a guerrilla attack.
Libby’s indictment stems from the lies spread by the Bush administration — with Tony Blair’s connivance -- in the run up to the invasion of Iraq. He used forged documents to claim Saddam Hussein was attempting to buy nuclear material from Niger, and then conspired to destroy those who revealed his lies.
The US media is speculating over whether the scandal will spread to implicate Karl Rove, Bush's right hand man, and even the president himself.
And polls now show that 54 percent of Americans believe Bush was wrong to invade Iraq -- up from 24 percent in March 2003.
Meanwhile the White House is desperately trying to rescue Bush's reputation.
That's what is behind his cronies' attempts to distract attention by recycling discredited allegations against George Galloway.
But with Bush in trouble, campaigners are stepping up the pressure to get the troops out of Iraq.
sign up for INTERNATIONAL PEACE CONFERENCESaturday 10 December, 10amWith delegates from Iraq & USRoyal Horticultural Hall80 Vincent Square,
London SW1for more info go to
For more on anti-war campaigning go to 'Let's keep fighting to get our boys home'
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