French lesson: ‘It’s not over’ : By Tony Murphy : Published Mar 21, 2011 9:19 PM
Once Gov. Scott Walker signed anti-union Act 10 on March 10, the media treated the battle in Wisconsin as over.
“Republican tactic ends stalemate in Wisconsin” blared the front page of the New York Times on March 11.
Yet the next day, the largest-yet March in Madison protested the dismantling of collective bargaining.
The dynamic, inspiring movement against Walker’s union-busting bill is alive and well — and not going away. Its spreading to Ohio, Indiana and other states is much needed, and will be like oxygen for the labor movement.
Hanging in the balance is the question of whether the struggle in Wisconsin itself is really over.
Of course, the corporate media would have us think it is.
However, Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette has refused Walker’s request to publish the new law before the state’s customary ten-day waiting period. “It’s been rushed enough,” La Follette said. (La Crosse Tribune, March 11)
Can a law be reversed after it’s been passed? Yes. This has happened in recent history — in France in 2006.
Take a lesson from France in 2006
On March 31 of that year, President Jacques Chirac signed a bill, known as the CPE, which allowed bosses to fire workers under age 26 for no reason or with no explanation.
At that point, protests and one-day general strikes against the CPE had already closed universities, blocked railways and
rocked France for weeks.
Students and unions took passage of the law as a sign to ratchet up the street struggle. Another national strike was called for April 4.
Unions estimated the strike’s turnout at 3 million. Creative and militant tactics included electricity workers sabotaging the power supply at the Montpellier Town Hall and the Polygone shopping center. Electricity was cut for at least half an hour.
Chirac and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin kept explaining that they were pushing the CPE against the will of the people for honorable reasons. They kept on saying that right up until April 10 when the demonstrations forced them to reverse course — and announce that they were scrapping the law for good.
Like Walker, Villepin was not held back by legality. The Financial Times reported that he “rammed reform through parliament as if he were leading a charge of the Imperial Guard.” (April 5, 2006)
The French movement’s defeat of the CPE speaks volumes about how to proceed with the struggle in Wisconsin. While the Wisconsin’ South Central Labor Federation voted to endorse a general strike, Democrats and many unions are pushing a recall campaign against Walker and other Republicans. This is now widely advanced as the next step in the struggle, along with ballot-box vengeance.
Whatever is done with legal and electoral tactics, the real strength of this movement is in the streets. The protesters themselves have shown again and again that their impulse is to return to the streets in Madison and elsewhere. Some 4,000 people confronted Walker on March 13 when he attended a Republican fundraiser in Howard, Wis.
The movement still has great momentum. And the defeat of the anti-worker CPE in France is an object lesson pointing the way for the struggle: The workers’ greatest power is in the streets.
Nick Danforth - March 25, 2011 2:00 pm
A number of developments—from Wikileaks to the democratic upheaval in the Middle East—have prompted articles debating Turkey’s newly active, “neo-Ottomanist” foreign policy. Indeed, in recent years Turkey has been particularly quick to build political and economic ties with formerly hostile neighbors. American critics of this policy love to call it “neo-Ottoman,” as do some Turkish advocates. Say what you will about the Ottoman Empire or Turkey’s foreign policy, the metaphor makes no sense. As it is currently used, “neo-Ottomanism” implicitly links political Islam and Ottoman nostalgia to some vaguely defined anti-American, anti-European, pro-Muslim, or generally Middle East–oriented foreign policy. In doing so, the term misrepresents history in order to misunderstand the present. Let’s take a quick country-by-country look at Turkey’s foreign policy and see just how familiar it would be to the Sultans.
Iran – Turkey’s rapprochement with Iran strikes many as the most frightening manifestation of the neo-Ottoman spirit. Iran, of course, was never part of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans, despite their admiration for Persian poetry, still managed to fight quite a bit with the Safavid Empire. Not surprisingly, when Turkish politicians visit Tehran today, it’s the several centuries after things calmed down that they prefer to talk about.
Syria – Leaders from Turkey’s governing party the AKP get grief for being neo-Ottoman or Islamist when they meet with Syrian president Bashar Assad, and then again when they meet with representatives of Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, the relationship between the Assad family and the Muslim Brotherhood is a particularly bloody one. Bashar Assad, whose father massacred tens of thousands of Brotherhood members along with fellow residents of the city of Hama in 1982, may be a nasty dictator, but he is certainly not an Islamist.
Iraq – After forming a High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council and abolishing visa requirements, Turkey conducted $6 billion worth of trade with Iraq in 2010. Sultan Suleiman the Great did not institute a free-trade zone with Iraq in 1534; he conquered it. When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, no one in Turkey or America compared George W. Bush with Sultan Suleiman or accused the United States of having a neo-Ottoman foreign policy (though Iraqis may well have). Indeed, conflating economic ties with political rule would sound almost offensive in other contexts. When Germany invests in France or Eastern Europe, nobody calls it “neo-Nazism.”
The Balkans – In a world before oil, the Balkans were always more of a cultural and economic hub for the Ottomans than the Middle East. Turkish companies are now investing in once vibrant Ottoman cities like Skopje, Bitolas, and Mostar. If ever there was a place for using “neo-Ottoman” in a purely economic sense, this would be it. But why would anyone talk about Macedonia when they could be talking about somewhere with oil like…
Libya – So far, it seems most commentators have correctly identified in Turkey’s resistance to Western intervention in Libya the timeless and universal value of putting profits first. But Libya’s instability offers a perfect opportunity for a real neo-Ottoman coup. In the sixteenth century, the Ottoman pirate Barbarossa took advantage of internal power struggles among quarrelsome Maghrebi rulers to seize control of the North African coast and then run it as a pirate haven. If this is Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan’s end-game, Qaddafi seems to be the only one worried. In an interview with a French newspaper, the Libyan leader warned the world that if the rebels win, the Mediterranean will return to an era when “Barbarossa, pirates, and Ottomans” held Western ships for ransom.
Israel – This one is tricky. As Turks are eager to tell you, the Ottomans really treated Jews pretty well, at least by the standards of the times. When the Spanish monarchy drove the Jews out of Spain, the Ottomans welcomed them. For centuries, Jews lived throughout the Ottoman Empire, practicing their religion and continuing to speak a version of Spanish. Then in the 1930s, the super-secular government of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk began pressuring them to speak Turkish and adopt Turkish names. In the 1940s, Turkey went after their money with a special confiscatory tax. So a genuinely neo-Ottoman approach to Israel might look a lot better than one based on the ugly anti-Semitism that is widespread among secular and religious Turks today.
Greece – After several centuries of living in relative harmony, things ended badly between the Ottomans and the Greeks. Turkey’s relations with Greece are better now than at any point since the two countries almost went to war over Cyprus in 1974. If ever there was a triumph of pragmatism over history, this is it.
Western Europe – Ataturk famously tried to Westernize Turkey and leave the Islamic, Eastern, and Ottoman past behind. He never actually used the phrase “Westernize” himself, preferring to speak of his desire to make Turkey modern. Nonetheless, everyone knew this meant being modern like France, Britain, or Germany. Ataturk’s vigorously “pro-Western” domestic policies—which famously included banning the fez and switching written Turkish from Arabic to Latin letters—never led to a “pro-Western” foreign policy, as many would like to believe. As an Ottoman general, Ataturk did not go to Gallipoli to discuss his admiration for European culture with invading British officers. After the First World War, he used weapons provided by the newly formed Soviet Union to fend off the French, British, Greek, and Italian forces trying to occupy Anatolia.
In doing so he set the stage for his signature policy of non-intervention, neutrality, and good relations with as many neighbors as possible. Which brings up…
Russia – The immediacy of the Soviet threat after the Second World War forced Turkey to abandon its policy of neutrality and seek safety in NATO. At a time when “Eastern” meant Communist, not “Muslim,” this made Turkey as Western as it needed to be. At this point, an anti-Soviet policy was perfectly Ottoman; it was Russia after all who had helped bring down the Empire in the nineteenth century. As worried as the United States might be now about Turkey making nice with Russia, this is about as far from neo-Ottoman as a policy could get. In fact, during the early years of the Cold War, the United States encouraged Turkey to embrace its Ottoman heritage by leading the Arab world in a defensive alliance against Communism.
The EU – Is joining the EU neo-Ottoman? Well, if you think the Ottomans were European, then yes. Otherwise, no. The Ottomans ruled much of Europe in their time. For advocates of EU accession, this shows how European they were. For opponents, it makes them the eternal enemy. Austrian nationalists imagine that if Turkey joins the EU, Turks will at long last slip through the gates into Vienna. Meanwhile, anti-EU Turkish nationalists insist that in incorporating Turkey, the Europeans will finally realize their dream of retaking Constantinople for Christendom. History just doesn’t offer that many analogies for an economic union of post-industrial democracies that have been partially successful in instituting a common currency but not in transforming into a political federation.
Given Turkey’s location, its foreign policy will always involve former Ottoman lands. To date, Turkey’s approach to this neighborhood has been nuanced and pragmatic. There may be good reason to worry that it is also unrealistic, hypocritical, or bad for American interests. But there is no reason to confuse these legitimate criticisms by sticking a fez on them.
NYT By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS : Published: March 25, 2011
MADRID (AP) — A human rights group has filed suit in a European court on behalf of a Spanish judge who won international fame by indicting foreign dictators but who was indicted himself on charges that he exceeded his authority by investigating Spanish Civil War atrocities, the group said on Friday.
The group, Interights, which is based in London, filed the suit Thursday with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, on behalf of Judge Baltasar Garzón, who is internationally famous for cases in which he indicted, among others, the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and Osama bin Laden.
But he was suspended last May by a judicial oversight board after he lost an appeal seeking to dismiss his indictment by Spain’s Supreme Court. The indictment charged that he knowingly violated his jurisdiction by beginning a politically sensitive investigation in October 2008 into the execution or disappearance of more than 100,000 civilians at the hands of supporters of Gen. Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War or in the early years of the Franco dictatorship.
Until Judge Garzón’s investigations, there had been no official inquiry into such atrocities, which were covered by an amnesty granted by Spain’s Parliament in 1977, as the country moved toward reconciliation two years after Franco’s death.
Judge Garzón has denied any wrongdoing, but he was forced to abandon the investigation within a month and hand over to local authorities the task of exhuming unidentified bodies from mass graves. The suit against him was filed by a fringe far-right political group, Manos Limpias, or Clean Hands.
In its suit filed with the European court, Interights reiterates the judge’s argument that these were crimes against humanity and that a case body of international law says such crimes have no statute of limitations and cannot be covered by amnesty, according to a spokeswoman for the group, Sarah Harrington.
The suit also argues that Judge Garzón should not be punished just because of the way he has interpreted laws.
“Judges should not be punished for reasoned interpretation of the law,” Ms. Harrington said. “We see this as a threat to the independence of the judiciary. The potential chilling effect on other judges when they come to determine legally or politically controversial cases is obvious, and a serious threat to the rule of law.”
No date has been set for a trial because Judge Garzón’s legal team has challenged the impartiality of most of the seven judges who would oversee his trial. He has taken a temporary job at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The civil war case has been held up because, Ms. Harrington said, the Strasbourg court will probably take at least a year to issue a ruling, which would be binding for Spain.
Most of us generally think of the U.S. as a country that has made significant strides in combating racism, even if it still has a long way to go. Israelis and their supporters sometimes try to downplay Israeli racism by comparing it to the unfortunate phenomenon of American racism. But as shown by the aftermath of the recent murders of five family members in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, any suggestion of a rough equivalence is obscene.
First, let us go back a generation and recall the 1989 murder in Boston of Carol Stuart, a pregnant lawyer. She and her husband Charles were shot in their car as they returned from childbirth class; Carol died and Charles was seriously wounded in the abdomen. Charles told police that a black gunman with a raspy voice had entered the car in a hijacking attempt and shot them both. The Boston Police reacted fiercely by targeting virtually the entire African-American male population of the Mission Hill neighborhood where the crime occurred. Men and youths were stopped, frisked, searched, interrogated, some even stripped naked on the street.
The police apparently intended to wreak such havoc that eventually someone who knew something would crack and provide a lead on the killer. To that end, they were “successful,” inducing a tip and arresting a known robber named William Bennett as the murderer. Charles Stuart then picked Bennett out of a lineup. If that were the end of the Stuart saga, it would have been outrageous. Only those who worship at the altar of police authority could justify the brutalization of an entire community in response to a crime, however horrible, committed by an individual. The racist overtones of the police response were unmistakable as well.
It would have been inconceivable for the police to commit such mayhem against any white community if Stuart had identified a Caucasian as the assailant. As it turns out, the story took an expected and dramatic turn a few months later when Stuart’s brother told the authorities that Charles had murdered his wife and fabricated the black gunman with the raspy voice. Charles committed suicide before the police closed in.
Fast forward 20 years to Itamar and the nearby Palestinian village of Awarta. In the wake of the grisly discovery of the five bodies, the Israelis, assuming the perpetrator to be a Palestinian from Awarta, launched a retaliatory/investigative response on the village that could best be described as the Boston Police on supersized steroids. The Israeli Defense Forces immediately arrested 20 “suspects” and eventually detained hundreds, holding dozens in jail for at least several days. International activists reported that the IDF took over about 30 homes for their own housing, either expelling the residents or forcing them to crowd into one room.
They arbitrarily searched and vandalized hundreds of homes, including defecating on beds, and physically attacked numerous villagers. The Jewish settlers themselves sought revenge, hurling stones at random Palestinians. Even PM Netanyahu got into the act, announcing the construction of 500 new housing units for settlers as payback for the crime, as if the entire Palestinian community were responsible. Of course, the fact that all of the settlements are considered illegal by every country on Earth except one never even entered the discussion.
The Boston Police received some much-deserved flak from the public when the dust settled on the Stuart tragedy. It would be nice, but probably unduly optimistic, to think that such heavy-handed tactics could not be repeated today in the U.S. But the orgy of collective punishment unleashed by the IDF, the settlers, and the government went light-years beyond what the Boston Police dared to impose in Mission Hill. Can anyone imagine the police rounding up dozens of innocent blacks, occupying dozens of apartments housing black families, allowing white vigilantes to stone African-American residents? Can anyone imagine Boston’s mayor unveiling a housing plan that targeted the entire African-American community as payback for a black-on-white crime?
It now appears that the initial presumption that the murders in Itamar were committed by Palestinian(s) may also be incorrect, but regardless of how that plays out, the responses of Israel’s settlers, army and government have demonstrated that millions of Palestinians are subject to ruthless and arbitrary treatment at the hands of Israelis - private citizens, army, and government alike - who presume to exercise unchallenged authority over them. The U.S. surely has not resolved its own racial disparities, but at least such brazen public displays of foul racism here would be unthinkable. The Israelis don’t even bother with a fig leaf. How long will Israel continue to enjoy the near-unanimous support of U.S. lawmakers, which requires willful blindness to a system of ethnic superiority that we are proud to have abandoned decades ago?
Vt. House Passes Single-Payer Health Care Bill
HBGary Faces Congressional Probe
Greg Masters : March 24, 2011
A subcommittee consisting of 19 members of the U.S. Congress is seeking to launch an investigation into the activities of security firm HBGary Federal following revelations that the company, together with two other security firms, Berico Technologies and Palantir Technologies, may have conspired to sabotage opponents.
In a letter sent to four members of the House of Representatives, the Congressional subcommittee said HBGary and its partners "planned a 'dirty-tricks' campaign that included possible illegal actions against citizens engaged in free speech."
Because HBGary Federal has contracts with the U.S. military and intelligence agencies, the Congressional probe is looking into suspicions that the company may have used tools paid for by U.S. tax dollars to launch private attacks on citizens and groups who foot the bill. They request to see the company's contracts with the U.S. military and the National Security Agency (NSA).
"We are deeply concerned by evidence that intelligence contractors may have engaged in a criminal conspiracy to target American citizens on behalf of powerful corporate interests," Congressman Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) said in a statement posted on his website. Johnson penned the letter and serves on the House Armed Services and Judiciary Committees. "We believe a full Congressional investigation is warranted to determine whether laws were broken and whether existing laws are sufficient to protect Americans from high-tech dirty tricks."
The trouble began last month when HBGary Federal CEO Aaron Barr went public with his research into the hacker group Anonymous. Subsequently, the group claimed that HBGary Federal was preparing to sell a document containing the identities of several Anonymous members to the FBI. The hacker group then defaced the HBGary website, posting a taunting letter on it, and also stealing at least 50,000 emails belonging to the firm and posting them to torrent sites.
In those HBGary emails, the company is seen proposing a plan to law firm Hunton & Williams to discredit whistleblower website WikiLeaks. It was later revealed that other plans called for similar attacks against foes of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, including watchdog group U.S. Chamber Watch, the union-based Change to Win, think tank Center for American Progress, the Service Employees International Union and other organizations.
Specifically, the HBGary plan called for obtaining information on WikiLeaks sources by launching cyberattacks against the site's servers. It also planned to discredit the organization by planting phony documents on the site and then calling into question its legitimacy. It also sought to intimidate Glenn Greenwald, a reporter for investigative news website Salon, who has been a vocal champion of WikiLeaks.
HBGary Federal CEO Aaron Barr resigned on Feb. 28 following these initial disclosures.
According to the lawmakers, these activities might be illegal, violating mail and fraud, forgery and computer fraud statutes.
The lawmakers are seeking answers to whether the government contractors violated any federal laws, whether there are adequate laws in place to protect American citizens from intrusive and/or unethical electronic surveillance tactics, and whether government resources were inappropriately used to target American citizens.
In their request for an investigation, the lawmakers cite the need for "free and open debate, discussion and criticism as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution." And this pertains to internet activities as well, the lawmakers said, claiming no citizen should be the target of "illegal and insidious electronic attack any more than peaceful protestors should be the victims of intimidation or physical violence."
In an interview on Thursday with Foreclosureblues, Rep. Johnson stated he has requested documents from the Department of Defense, the director of national intelligence and the Justice Department.
Whether the Congressional probe into the activities of security firm HBGary lead to prosecutions or follow a trail to nowhere, it is too soon to tell. But, Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS institute, believes its chances are slim.
"Since the Democrats cannot call hearings in the House because they are in the minority, I don't think this one will move forward," he told SCMagazineUS.com on Friday.