Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oct. 28 (Tonight): Protest Dow Chemical

From Merle Ratner:

Today (Wednesday) October 28, 6:30-8:00 pm

Milk Studios
450 West 15th St
(bt 9th and 10th Aves)

Dow Chemical has the unmitigated gall to be sponsoring an event about impact of and solutions to the global water crisis (see below)! There is indeed a global water crisis that needs to be addressed, but Dow is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Join Agent Orange & Bhopal activists to protest Dow’s lies and complicity!

Demand compensation for Vietnamese Agent Orange victims and cleanup of the toxic hot spots

Demand cleanup and compensation for the victims in Bhopal

Dow’s attempt to portray itself as responsible corporation is a lie since Dow refuses to compensate the victims of Agent Orange and clean up the toxic, dioxin-laden water and land in Vietnam resulting from its manufacture of Agent Orange used against the Vietnamese people during the U.S. war, and refuses to clean up and provide safe water to the people of Bhopal to whom it is responsible for the aftermath of a terrible chemical spill.
For the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign,

Oct. 28 (Tonight): Mobilization Against the War in Afghanistan

October 28, 7 pm

An Evening of Mobilization Against the War in Afghanistan

15th St Friends Meeting House (15 Rutherford Place)

Malalai Joya, the outspoken female politician and member of the Afghan parliament,
and American combat veterans from the conflict in Afghanistan,
will discuss the reality of the war, its consequences for the Afghan people and the effects on our troops.

Sponsored by The Nation Institute, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Mark Kurlansky (author of Non-Violence: The History of a Dangerous Idea) and Veteran war correspondent and Institute Fellow Chris Hedges, (author of War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning)
At a time when our military commanders concede that we are rapidly losing ground to the Taliban insurgents, it is vital that we recognize the consequences of the war and the dangerous direction it could take if we permit further military escalation.

The event is free and open to the public.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oct 24:International Day of climate action

Saturday, October 24, 11 am - 12 noon

The Cathedral of St. John

the Divine invites the community to take a stand ethically, aesthetically, and spiritually. Come hear, see, and reflect upon the important issue of climate change — in the midst of our daily lives.

350 rings. Between 11 am and 12 noon, the Cathedral’s iconic bells will be rung in a sequence signifying 350. (see below for significance of 350)

Across the world on Saturday, October 24, people will engage in local “climate actions” in a massive coordinated global campaign to draw world leaders’ attention to the gravity of climate change. The burning of fossil fuels—literally, the burning of the earth—is the major cause of this problem.

Information will be available through a booth staffed by the Congregation of St. Savior.

At 11:30 am, as the bells are tolling, those who are gathered on the steps of the Cathedral will be photographed and the photo will be uploaded as one of the international climate actions.

The Cathedral supports the 350 campaign, an international effort led by environmentalist Bill McKibben and a dedicated team of volunteers ( On Oct. 24 there will be actions at iconic places around the world—from the Great Barrier Reef to the Rockies to our community—in a united effort to send a clear message to world leaders: the solutions to climate change must be equitable, they must be grounded in science, and they must meet the scale of the crisis.

The number 350 derives from scientific observation that 350 parts per million of atmospheric carbon is the level at which life as we know it on this planet can continue without disastrous effects (including, e.g., flooding and changes in weather patterns, which tend to affect the poor most drastically, and which are increasingly expected right here in New York City).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Contact your state Senator to move the Marriage Equality Act.

The Human Rights Campaign is asking that we contact our State Senator, even if you are certain that your Senator will vote for marriage equality (as are we) it's always good to give them support for doing the right thing.

The New York state senate will soon have an opportunity to vote on marriage equality. I just contacted my New York state senator and Senator John Sampson through the Human Rights Campaign.

They've made it quick and easy to send a personalized message to legislators. Now, more than ever, our senators need to hear from you and other New Yorkers who support marriage equality.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

10/15: Vigil: Say NO to War in Afghanistan!

Thurs. Oct. 15, 4:30-6:00 pm

Vigil: Say NO to War in Afghanistan!

Brooklyn Boro Hall
Joralemon Street (bt Court & Boerum Place)

Bring the Troops Home Now--From Iraq & Afghanistan!

This October marks the 8th anniversary of the launch of the U.S.-led "War on Terror" in Afghanistan, already expanded into Pakistan. As a result, we are LESS safe, and TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS poorer. Defending it as a "war of necessity". the Obama administration is considering a major escalation of the violence. Last week Congress voted in for the 2010 Defense Appropriation including $128.2 billion to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through September 2010 (total military budget is $625.8 billion.) ALL Brooklyn reps and Senators Gillibrand and Schumer voted in favor .
Although many have raised "concerns" about US policy in Afghanistan, our elected represenatives have now authorized funding for another year of war. SPEAK OUT NOW to change our country's direction!

Sponsor: Brooklyn For Peace
Co-sponsors: Fort Greene Peace, Bay Ridge Interfaith Coalition, CODEPINK, South Asia Solidarity Initiative, Raging Grannies, United for Peace & Justice

10/15: Rally to support single payer health care

Tomorrow (Thurs. 10/15), activists in 9 cities across the country will participate in civil disobedience at health insurance companies. In New York City,

10am - Legal support rally for Patients, Not Profits
UnitedHealth Group (UHG),
ONE PENN PLAZA (facing 34th St)

UHG is the largest insurance company in America. Last year it collected $75 billion in premiums, and spent $11 million on lobbying and campaign contributions. Scores of testimonials have been shared about UHG's abusive practices against patients resulting in denials and deaths. Join us to shame UHG, and support those who are putting their bodies on the line to demand Medicare for All.

Join in a legal rally to stand up for our right to health care.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

30 GOP Senators Vote to Defend Gang Rape

Our niece Kate Williams posted the following on FaceBook and I think this info should be spread as widely as possible, whenever we think that the Republicans have reached the lowest possible point in the political sewer they manage to surprise us once again. Here's what they have done now:
it is stunning that 30 Republican members of the United States Senate would vote to protect a corporation, in this case Halliburton/KBR, over a woman who was gang raped.
The story is very simple. In 2005 a woman was gang raped by her Halliburton/KBR co-workers. Sen Al Franken introduced an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill simply asserting that a corporation that covers up sexual assault (or refuses to allow its employees to take a case of sexual assault to court) cannot receive federal funds. (see video below, if you are seeing this on FaceBook go to)

The 30 Republicans (all men) argued that this was to great an intrusion into the private sector. Here are the names of the 30 culprits: Here are those who vote to protect a corporation over a victim of rape:

Alexander (R-TN)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Gregg (R-NH)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Kyl (R-AZ)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

Health Insurers may have shot themselves in the foot

Although their actions shouldn't have come as a shock to anyone at this point in the game the health insurance industry may have (if you'll pardon the expression) shot itself in the foot on Monday. By releasing an obviously biased report from PriceWaterhouseCoopers that the typical family premium in 2019 could cost $4,000 more than projected, if the current House and Senate bills pass, they may have inadvertently provided the best reason for reinvigorating the almost dormant public option.
While dismissing the report's findings as typical of an industry that seeks to protect its profits [above all else], the New York Democrat [Anthony Weiner] also made a fairly salient point. The analysis basically assumes that insurers will raise their rates because the finance committee won't make the pool of consumers more desirable for them. All of which lays out the logical case for providing consumers with a cheap and available alternative, set up and administered by the federal government. (Read more at:
There are obviously two reasons for this stupidity, either they're desperate and know that this time something will pass or their rapaciousness knows no bounds or both. Now we'll see if the Democrats have (to quote a Hillary Clinton supporter in the last campaign) the testicular fortitude to actually pass even an emasculated bill.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Oct. 14: Book party:Slavoj Žižek: First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

Wednesday, October 14, 7:00 pm


Slavoj Žižek - First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

Cooper Union, Great Hall
7 East 7th Street, NYC

Co-sponsor: Verso Books

The Left Forum: Debating Capitalist Power in the Age of Obama: Strategies for a U.S. Left

The Left Forum debate is only four days away.

Left Forum presents

Thursday, October 15, 7:30 p.m.

Debating Capitalists' Power in the Age of Obama: Strategies for a U.S. Left.

Debaters: Cindy Milstein, Stanley Aronowitz and Tom Hayden.

Moderator: Esther Armah (host, WBAI's "Wake Up Call")

Questions posed by a panel including David Harvey (author of Limits to Capital);
Maria Svart (union organizer and chair of the NYC local of Democratic Socialists of America, DSA); and
Josh MacPhee (artist, curator, activist, and part of the political art cooperative
Audience questions will be taken.

It's a spacious venue, hosted by the Community Church of New York
40 East 35th Street - New York - NY - 10016
Tel: 212.683.4988 -

[Directions: take the 6 to 33rd St. (at Park Ave.); B/D/F/R/Q/N/W to 34th St. (Herald Square)]


Friday, October 09, 2009

Obama Peace Prize: October surprise?

When I heard the news this morning that President Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize, I thought that I must still be asleep and having a very strange dream. But when I soon realized that I was awake I thought it couldn't be April 1st yet and I knew I hadn't heard anything about The Onion taking over the news copywriting for a day. Finally I realized that this was real. Fairly soon I heard the right wing nutty response (much like the same people's response to Chicago losing the Olympics). This is what the RNC's Mike Steele had to say:
The real question Americans are asking is, 'What has President Obama actually accomplished?' It is unfortunate that the president's star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights. One thing is certain - President Obama won't be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action.
Actually the American people are really asking: "Why have the Republicans stood in the way of President Obama doing anything?" Hardly surprisingly an extreme version of this came from the massively off-kilter Rush Limbaugh:
This fully exposes the illusion that is Barack Obama. And with this 'award' the elites of the world are urging Obama, THE MAN OF PEACE, to not do the surge in Afghanistan, not take action against Iran and its nuclear program and to basically continue his intentions to emasculate the United States. They love a weakened, neutered U.S, and this is their way of promoting that concept. I think God has a great sense of humor, too.
I'm not sure how god got into this, but Limbaugh's fascination with "emasculation" and being "neutered" makes one wonder about his private life. As the day progressed the right-wing lie machine created its latest. They claimed that the award was decided on about a week after Obama took office. Actually he ws nominated last November, with about 350 other people. The award was decided on quite recently. But that didn't keep the right from spreading their latest version of "death panels."

At first, my reaction mirrored some of this criticism, particularly: What has he done? And how can he be awarded a Peace Prize while he commands an occupation of Iraq, contemplates escalating the devastation of Afghanistan and can't even bring himself to criticize the Israeli murder of innocents in Gaza. But as I thought more about it I began to think the award might be a good thing. I'm almost certain it won't move Obama from his determination to save capitalism from itself. But in the eyes of most sane people (unlike those quoted above) it might press forward the struggle against a nuclear world, attempts to prevent us from destroying our environment and ourselves and abandon the idea that war (no matter how profitable it is) is the only answer to world problems. The Nobel Peace Prize has often been awarded to encourage good behavior rather than as a reward for success. I don't usually predict the future but it will be interesting to see what effect it has. In the short term it's fun to laugh at the right-wing obsessive anti-Obama response

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Today is the 8th anniversary of our invasion & occupation of Afghanistan

Today is the 8th anniversary of our invasion of Afghanistan -

U.S. participation in previous wars:

Revolutionary War 6 yrs., 9 Mos.
Civil War 4 yrs.
Korean War 3 yrs., 1 Mo.
WWI 1 yr., 7 Mos.
WWII 3 yrs., 8 Mos.
Iraq 6 Yrs., 7 Mos. (obviously it's still continuing)

Only Vietnam lasted longer (8 Yrs., 5 Mos.) and you know who won that one.

Right wing: A reversal of evolution?

According to the NYT today (10/7), a University of Oregon research team answered No to the question of whether or not evolution can be reversed. There is, however, a possible counter example which might indicate that reverse evolution is possible: The modern Conservative movement and its Republican Party.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

How to achieve bi-partisanship: buy some Democrats, put a hit out on some Republicans

Watching the travesty that passed for the Senate Finance Committee meeting last week (9/29) was like watching a bunch of thieves at the public trough. The behavior of the five Democrats who voted against the public option is totally understandable once you realize how well they're getting paid by the healthcare industries. Here's what they've gotten:
Max Baucus got $7,734,102, Blanche Lincoln received $4,190,592, Ken Conrad took in $3,287,891, Bill Nelson was given $2,414,895 and Tom Carper accepted $1,592,380 from health industry interests.

If money is the reason these five Democrats rejected the public option, then it only took a little over 19 million dollars over 20 years to buy the five votes the health insurance industry needed to kill any meaningful reform to their industry.

19 million dollars is nothing compared to the profits the insurance industry will make if a public option is defeated. They got a great deal for that 19 million. The American people? Not so much (from
This clearly explains the continuation of the ineptitude of the Democrats regarding healthcare reform. From the President on down to the Senate drones like Baucus they have constantly taken every bargaining chip they possessed off the table. First the president dropped any attempt to go for single payer, because he believed he couldn't get it through - never mind trying before giving up.

In March, the president explained at a town meeting why he abandoned single payer:
The problem is, is that we have what's called a legacy, a set of institutions that aren't that easily transformed. Let me just see a show of hands: How many people here have health insurance through your employer? Okay, so the majority of Americans, sort of -- partly for historical accident. I won't go into -- FDR had imposed wage controls during war time in World War II. People were -- companies were trying to figure out how to attract workers. And they said, well, maybe we'll provide health care as a benefit.

And so what evolved in America was an employer-based system. It may not be the best system if we were designing it from scratch. But that's what everybody is accustomed to. That's what everybody is used to. It works for a lot of Americans. And so I don't think the best way to fix our health care system is to suddenly completely scrap what everybody is accustomed to and the vast majority of people already have. Rather, what I think we should do is to build on the system that we have and fill some of these gaps. (from: The L.A. Times)
Yesterday the well paid Max Baucus explained why he was taking the public option off the table:
My job is to put together a bill that will become law. In a sentence, that means my job is to put together a bill that gets 60 votes. I can count. No one has been able to show me how we can count up to 60 votes with a public option in the bill.
It's easy to see the basic fallacy in this argument. Obama could have befgun with single payer and bargained it away to get something else (public option?). But if you give it away before you start, you can't use it to bargain. The same is obviously true of Baucus' argument. He can try to get 60 votes with a public option in the bill, but he might endanger his healthcare insurance company money if by accident he succeeds. If he can't get 60 votes with the public option in the bill, he can always bargain it away. With his strategy, he's a loser but he satisfies his healthcare insurance patrons.

So the connection between the Democrats who oppose a public option and their patrons is clear. But the other side of the story is how the Republicans enforce such absolute discipline over its party votes. Yesterday ALL Republicans on the committee voted against the public option. I don't think it's ever been possible in any organization (not the church, not the military) to enforce that kind of discipline, except for one: The mob. I don't really think that the Republicans have any of Olympia Snow's family in a garage ready to enforce discipline. But in politics defeat is like death. So all the GOP powers-that-be have to do is to threaten any possible rebels with a healthcare insurance company backed more right-wing opponent in their primary. The opponent doesn't even have to unseat them, but the money spent on the primary, won't be there for the general election.

Ergo! no change. Buy the necessary Democrats and scare the hell out of any wavering Republicans.