PROGRESSIVE NEWS OF INTEREST 6/29/01, Part II

Jack A. Smith jacdon at earthlink.net
Thu Jun 28 16:09:29 MDT 2001


[ Part II ]

BUSH'S TRIP TO EUROPE WAS A TOTAL FLOP: President George Bush went to
Europe in mid-June to convince Washington's closest allies in the
industrialized world that his policies do not constitute unilateral
expressions of big-power hubris and a penchant for global economic,
military and political domination.  No wonder his five-day,
five-nation journey was a veritable fiasco.

A number of difficulties have beset relations between the world's only
superpower and several of its major European cohorts, Russia and Japan
over the last several years.  The actions of the Bush administration
since it took office in January, however, have generated the greatest
tensions of the post-Cold War period among these allies, emanating
from such decisions as the thrust toward constructing a national
missile defense network (NMD) at the expense of the sacrosanct ABM
Treaty and rejection of the Kyoto Protocol limiting greenhouse gases.
One measure of Europe's discomfort was the May 3 rejection of
U.S. membership in the UN Human Rights Commission, a calculated blow
to White House prestige.

Bush's journey was intended to mitigate European distrust and fear of
Washington's world leadership--a malaise that goes beyond the usual
intra-capitalist rivalries.  It failed for lack of substance.
Demonstrations against a plethora of U.S. policies took place
throughout Bush's visit.  Key European leaders staged their own
protests, using diplomatic language, virtually every time Bush
finished speaking.  Indeed, just before the president arrived to
address a European Union conference in Sweden, Prime Minister Goran
Persson sought to mollify protesters by telling them the E.U. deserves
their support because "It's one of the few institutions we can develop
as a balance to U.S. world domination."

(According to a Pew Research Center poll released June 22, the
majority of the American people took little notice of the presidential
journey.  The European jaunt did nothing to enhance President Bush's
popularity rating, which the poll reported had declined to 50% at the
time of the meeting, a drop of six points since April.)

The stage was set for rejection of Bush's overtures a few days before
his trip when NATO defense ministers expressed deep skepticism about
the NMD.  Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had been sent to Brussels
to convince them that the 1972 anti-ballistic-missile treaty "stands
in the way of a 21st century approach to deterrence"--a notion which
appalls most of Europe.

Bush himself was directly confronted with Europe's doubts about the
necessity or effectiveness of NMD--and the grave consequences of
scrapping the ABM Treaty--at a meeting of the Atlantic Alliance
leaders June 13.  Opposition to the missile shield concept followed
him through the rest of his trip, culminating in his meeting with
Russian President Vladimir Putin June 16.

Perhaps the most intense conflict took place over global warming, when
the U.S. president attended a meeting with the leaders of the European
Union in Goteborg, Sweden, June 14. The allies strongly rejected
Bush's argument that the treaty "goals were not realistic" and were
not "well balanced" because they "didn't include developing nations."
The Kyoto accord stipulated that developed countries, by far the worst
offenders, take the lead in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases
that cause global warming.

Thoroughly compromising the president's premise was the startling news
the same day that China--a developing nation not obliged to reach the
goals set by Kyoto--had reduced carbon dioxide emissions in the last
several years by 17% while expanding its gross domestic product by
36%.  U.S. emissions increased during that period.  (A Beijing
government spokesperson said June 24 that "China strongly opposes any
attempt to abandon the Kyoto Protocol" and would "work untiringly" for
its early enforcement.)

The European Union leaders, who were about to discuss among themselves
the controversial matter of expanding beyond 15 member states, also
evidenced displeasure when Bush took the occasion to publicly instruct
them that "Europe ought to include nations beyond the current scope of
E.U. and NATO."  This provoked E.U. foreign affairs commissioner Chris
Patten to deadpan, "The United States is not a member of the European
Union."

In Poland, where Bush appears to have found his only support of the
trip, the president stressed that "my government believes NATO should
expand" all the way to the Russian border.  When Bush met with Putin
the next day, the Russian leader told the press, "Look, this [NATO] is
a military organization. It's moving towards our border. Why?"  Putin
said later that Moscow would break the 1993 agreement with Washington
to refrain from adding multiple warheads to its missile force if the
U.S.  unilaterally decided to abrogate the ABM Treaty. Following his
conference with Bush, Putin telephoned Chinese President Jiang Zemin
to brief him on the meeting, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman
announced June 19, probably to Washington's consternation, adding,
"The telephone conversation demonstrates the close and friendly
relationship between the two countries."  Jiang plans a state visit to
Moscow in July.

Despite serious differences, all parties to the presidential meetings
engaged in diplomatic expressions of good feeling and none mentioned
aloud what the New York Times described as several of Bush's
"erroneous, unclear or unwelcome characterizations."  The U.S., as the
most powerful national security state in world history, is not to be
trifled with, of course, and allied discontent may dissipate in
response to token offerings.  But at this point, away from the
conference tables and TV cameras, it is obvious that Europe seeks to
transform itself over time into a credible counterbalance to
Washington's increasingly unilateral assertion of power and projection
of military prowess, while Russia and China are closing ranks quite
publicly to buffer themselves from any further U.S. adventures in
imperial manipulation.

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N.Y. STATE UNIONS GET MARCHING ORDERS: A major drive to build the
union movement in New York State is about to get underway, according
to the AFL-CIO.  The purpose is to create a model for growth that
other states can follow.  "I wanted New York in the first wave because
this is the historic wellspring of the American labor movement,"
commented federation president John Sweeney at a meeting in New York
City June 9 to announce the plan, known as the New Alliance, which had
earlier been approved by state labor leaders.  Recognizing that the
state's 2 million member union movement is far from reaching its
potential, the plan calls for recruiting 130,000 new members a year as
the state's part in a national goal of organizing a million more
workers annually.  The New Alliance also seeks to encourage the
state's unions to engage in considerably more political activism,
especially around elections.  In addition, efforts will be made to
increase the participation of minority members to local union boards,
and to reorganize some two dozen relatively small upstate regional
labor councils into five large councils.  Such councils, which include
all the constituent unions in a given area, exist in Saugerties
(Ulster), Poughkeepsie (Dutchess) and Newburgh (Orange).

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GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Over a decade since the USSR disbanded, the
Russian Itar-Tass news agency reported recently that "two-thirds of
Russians still look fondly on Vladimir Lenin," the leader of the 1917
Bolshevik revolution. The agency said that a survey conducted by the
independent research center ROMIR at the time of the communist
leader's 131st birthday April 22 "showed that 66.7% of 2,000 people
questioned regarded Lenin's role in Russian history positively." Some
29% said his role was completely positive, and 37.7% judged it as
"rather positive."

Most Americans don't realize that a majority of people in the USSR
voted in a democratic election to retain the Soviet Union not too long
before Boris Yeltsin disbanded the union.  Despite the fact that the
Yeltsin regime, at the behest of its U.S. advisers, quickly privatized
most of the Soviet state-owned industry at bargain basement prices
(the so-called Russian Mafia bought up much of it) and terminated or
reduced the country's extensive social services network, the
now-capitalist Moscow government retained state subsidized low-cost
housing and basic foods in urban areas in order to prevent widespread
homelessness, hunger and serious opposition.  In addition, the
government still has yet to privatize up to 98% of Russian land which
is owned by the state--much of it in the possession of
collective/cooperative farms, which continue to work the land (farmers
resist suggestions to transform jointly-held agricultural land into
individual plots).  On June 15, the Russian Duma (parliament) passed a
bill that would permit the sale of nonagricultural land for the first
time since the days of the Tsar.  The Communist and Agrarian Party
deputies, who have similar views and represent over a quarter of the
delegates, walked out in protest before the vote.  In a rather
bizarre, though telling, footnote to Russia's continuing
disintegration, it was just reported that the Ford Foundation has
donated $200,000 to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
"for a research project on the development of the middle-class in
Russia."

--------

REFUSENIKS: Although it doesn't get much publicity in the U.S., there
is a brave movement within Israel protesting the government's
treatment of the Palestinians.  In addition, a number of young Israeli
men have expressed reluctance to serve in the army because of its role
in killing several hundred Palestinians for throwing rocks. So far,
over 200 Israeli soldiers have conscientiously refused to participate
in suppressing the uprising.  Eleven of the so-called "refuseniks"
have been sentenced to jail terms.  One of them, reserve Sgt. Ishai
Rozen-Zvi, was jailed in mid-June for refusal to serve in the occupied
territories. He declared: "I cannot take part in imposing a siege on
hundreds of thousands of men, women and children; in starving entire
villages; preventing them from going to their daily work, to medical
treatment or selling their wares, and laying them hostage to political
decisions. The siege of towns, like bombardment from helicopters, does
not put an end to terrorism. They are a sop to Israeli public opinion
and the demand to 'Let the Israeli Defense Forces triumph.'"
--------

RAND URGES MORE U.S. ACTION IN COLOMBIA: A Rand Corp. study on
Colombia for the Air Force, made public June 8, called on the U.S. to
increase its military support for the Bogata government's
counterinsurgency war against the FARC-EP (Armed Forces of
Colombia-People's Army) and the ELN (National Liberation Army). Rand
has been a major think-tank advisor to the Pentagon and White House
for several decades, and its recommendations often translate into
government policy.  Washington already supplied Bogata with $1.3
billion toward Plan Colombia within the last year, a U.S.-initiated
effort allegedly to conduct a "war on drugs" but primarily intended to
fight the guerrilla forces. According to UPI, "Rand recommended the
United States dramatically increase its support for Colombia and the
military along the lines of what the Reagan administration launched
during the 1980s in El Salvador--transforming the military from a
defensive force into mobile units that can root out guerrillas in
strategic areas."  The El Salvador model, of course, came replete with
a major increase in human rights abuses and death squad activity that
created a national nightmare for the people.  In addition, reported
AFP, Rand urged Washington to strengthen "ineffectual government
institutions," which suggests more direct intervention in Colombian
affairs.

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COMPARE YOUR HEALTHCARE: Do you wonder whether your healthcare
provider is giving you the services and treatments you deserve? The
AFL-CIO offers a free online service called Compare Your Care to "make
smart choices and get better care from your doctor," and "access
healthcare information from medical experts."  Its at this website:
http://www.compareyourcare-aflcio.net.  Note that at the bottom of the
question "Which union are you a member of?" is a provision for saying
you are not currently a union member if that's the case.  You may find
the information useful.

--------

PREEMPTIVE NUCLEAR WAR: A new book published in the UK by Professor
Richard Aldrich of Nottingham University in England titled, "The
Hidden Hand," reports that British intelligence warned in 1951 that
U.S.  military leaders were planning a "preventive" nuclear attack
against the USSR to take place a year later. The book quotes
Vice-Admiral Eric Longley-Cook, director of British Naval Intelligence
at the time, as having written in a secret report that "Many people in
America have made up their minds that war with Russia is inevitable
and there is a strong tendency in military circles to 'fix' the zero
date for war. It is doubtful whether, in a year's time, the U.S. will
be able to control the Frankenstein monster which they are
creating. There is a definite risk of the U.S.A. becoming involved in
a preventative war against Russia, however firmly their NATO allies
object." The more adventurous Pentagon generals and admirals never got
their preventive war, mainly because it became clear the U.S. might be
destroyed even if it struck first, but war-minded leaders continued
arguing for an attack deep into the 1960s.  (See Aug. 5 in the
calendar below to connect this report to President Truman's nuclear
bombing of Hiroshima.)

--------

ESTATE TAX CUT HURTS STATES: Guess who is going to pay for part of the
revenue lost resulting from the Bush administration's abolition of the
estate tax in order to benefit the wealthy?  You, as a state taxpayer.
The federal government will simply make up for the missing revenue by
cutting social services for the poor, but the states, too, are going
to lose money because their own inheritance and estate taxes are
contingent on the federal tax.  All told, the probable loss to states
in the next decade will range from $50 billion to $100 billion, or
about 1.5% of state tax revenues.  According to the New York Times
June 21, the states will in effect subsidize about 25% of the estate
tax cut.  In 1999, New York State took in over a billion dollars in
state estate tax revenues, nearly 3% of Albany's receipts.

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QUOTES (issue #46):

One of the most outstanding characteristics of the period in which we
live is the extraordinary increase in economic inequality in the
United States.  As the new Congressional Budget Office report and
other indicators suggest (see "Haves and Have Nots" above) the last 20
years have resulted in a huge gap between the riotously wealthy and
the rest of the population, a happenstance during which the Republican
and Democratic parties stood by mutely with arms folded, except for
impulsively extending their hands to receive pay-offs ("campaign
contributions") from the recipients of this wealth.  Following are a
few quotes about inequality from expert observers, none of whom could
remotely qualify as being a political radical:

Louis Brandeis (1856-1941), known as the "people's attorney" for his
legal work on behalf of workers, was named to the U.S. Supreme Court
in 1916 and served until 1939, specializing in protecting free speech
rights.  Shortly before he died, he said: "We can either have
democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in
the hands of a few, but we can't have both.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), the English economist whose theories
on large-scale government intervention to bail out faltering economies
helped U.S. capitalism survive the Great Depression, possessed an
intimate understanding of the system's shortcomings, noting in 1936:
"The outstanding faults of the economic society in which we live are
its failure to provide for full employment and its arbitrary and
inequitable distribution of wealth and incomes."

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908- ), the famous Harvard liberal economist,
author ("The Great Crash," and "The Affluent Society," among other
works), and Kennedy administration ambassador to India, believed that
society would better prosper if a government's social goals were
conceived to be superior to the economic goals of business and
industry.  He wrote of the United States: "Something that could well
be afforded is a basic income for all people, enough to keep all
people out of poverty. We talk a great deal about freedom. Nothing so
denies a person freedom as a total absence of money. This is one of
the most repressive things that there is."

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), the product of great wealth and
privilege, came to understand during the Depression that in order to
save the economic system and stave off rebellion it was necessary for
government to create jobs, purchasing power and a modicum of security
for working people.  In his second inaugural address in 1937, while
economic hard times still prevailed, he said: "The test of our
progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have
much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

John Sweeney (1934- ), the president of the Service Employees
International Union, headed labor's victorious "New Voice" reform
slate which won the 1995 AFL-CIO leadership elections, elevating him
to the presidency of the then moribund union federation.  He said at
the time: "I think it is a national crisis to have the income
disparity we have in this country. It is wider than in any other
industrialized nation in the world. There must be a national policy to
address the widening gap between wages of workers and the enormous
incomes of the wealthy. I think the greedy corporate owners have to be
confronted with the fact that they are ignoring their most powerful
resource--their workers."

(end)





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