Net Briefs – July-August 2009
On June 6 the International Alliance for Inhabitants ([email protected]) sent an alert regarding the humanitarian crisis in the Peruvian Amazon as a result of the June 5 incident when a contingent of armed military police, accompanied by Armed Forces special personnel, opened fire on about 1,000 indigenous settlers who were protesting in Bagua, northeast Peru. The protestors were demanding the repeal of a series of laws passed by the executive to dispossess them of their land, in favor of multinational companies seeking to appropriate the Amazon rainforest.
IAI is calling "out to people of good will, social organizations, civil society institutions, and local and regional democratic governments to undertake an international campaign of solidarity against the genocide of the Peruvian Amazonian population."
Confused about Iranian Election Results?
Mike Hoyt ([email protected]) makes note of a June 16 Columbia Journalism article titled "Parsing Iran’s Election Results: Reporters analyze allegations of election fraud in Iran" by Kathy Gilsinan who references a Washington Post column by Glenn Kessler and Jon Cohen. They point out that there were few independent polls taken before the election and no exit polls afterward, making it extremely difficult to assess the accuracy of the vote counts announced by the government. A telephone poll co-sponsored by Terror Free Tomorrow and the New America Foundation, conducted May 11-20, showed Ahmadinejad with a 2 to 1 lead over Mousavi, but 52 percent of those surveyed either had no opinion or refused to answer, making many analysts wary of the results.
The Terror Free Tomorrow folks argued that the poll they conducted was perfectly consistent with Ahmedinejad’s victory and asserted that "the election results in Iran may reflect the will of the Iranian people." Juan Cole emphatically disagreed, arguing that the writers presented a misleading picture of their own data. The important point, according to the article, is that 60 percent of the 27 percent who said they were undecided favored political reform…. That is, supporters of the challenger’s principles may not quite have committed to him at that point, but were likely leaning to him on the basis of his platform. They were 16 percent of the sample. This finding suggests that in mid-May, Mousavi may have actually had 30 percent support. If Ahmadinejad got all of the other 11 percent among undecideds, the race would have stood at 45 percent to 30 percent.
The independent teranbureau.com, considered one of the best sources of Iranian election coverage, also crunched some numbers and found an almost constant linear relationship between Mousavi’s and Ahmadinejad’s share of the vote, district by district. Writer Muhammad Sahimi argued that this kind of relationship would be highly unlikely in any election—but especially in Iran, where different electoral districts have vastly varying ethnic makeups.
Laura Secor, blogging for the New Yorker (www.newyorker.com), offers her own "swift gut reaction" based on her reporting from Iran during three elections: "I was in Iran for the 2005 presidential election, the 2006 election for the Assembly of Experts and city councils, and the 2008 parliamentary elections. Nowhere did I see any kind of balloting other than old-fashioned paper. The results were tabulated by hand and, therefore, never released less than 24 hours after the polls closed. But this time, the regime’s television station called Ahmadenijad the winner at 1:30 AM Saturday morning, only 90 minutes after the last polls closed and the proportions had barely changed when the official announcement came nine-and-half hours later. How, exactly, did the government manage to tabulate the results so quickly?"
I[email protected] sent this tidbit, noting that the BBC had again been caught engaging in mass public deception, this time by using photographs of pro-Ahmadinejad rallies in Iran and claiming they represented anti-government protests in favor of Hossein Mousavi. An image used by the LA Times on the front page of its website showed Iranian President Ahmadinejad waving to a crowd of supporters at a public event. In a story covering the election protests, the BBC News website used a shot of the same scene, but with Ahmadinejad cut out of the frame. The caption under the photograph read, "Supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi again defied a ban on protests."
The BBC photograph is clearly a shot of the same pro-Ahmadinejad rally featured in the LA Times, yet the caption erroneously claims it represents anti-Ahmadinejad protesters.
Karen Lee Wald ([email protected]) forwarded this James Petras editorial from globalresearch.ca, June 18: "Iranian Elections: The ‘Stolen Elections’ Hoax." According to Petras, Western leaders rejected the results because they "knew" that their reformist candidate [Mousavi] could not lose. For months they published daily interviews, editorials, and reports from the field "detailing" the failures of Ahmadinejad’s administration. They cited the support from clerics, former officials, merchants in the bazaar, and above all women and young urbanites fluent in English, to prove that Mousavi was headed for a landslide victory. A victory for Mousavi was described as a victory for the "voices of moderation," at least the White House’s version of that vacuous cliché. Prominent liberal academics deduced the vote count was fraudulent because the opposition candidate, Mousavi, lost in his own ethnic enclave among the Azeris. Other academics claimed that the "youth vote"—based on their interviews with upper and middle-class university students from the neighborhoods of Northern Tehran—were overwhelmingly for the "reformist" candidate.
What is astonishing about the West’s universal condemnation of the electoral outcome as fraudulent is that not a single shred of evidence in either written or observational form has been presented either before or a week after the vote count.
The great majority of voters for the incumbent probably felt that national security interests, the integrity of the country, and the social welfare system, with all of its faults and excesses, could be better defended and improved with Ahmadinejad than with upper-class technocrats supported by Western-oriented privileged youth who prize individual lifestyles over community values and solidarity.
Anti-imperialist Camp ([email protected]) writes that the overwhelming victory of Ahmadinejad in the elections was positive because the president-elect stood for confrontation with the U.S.-led new order for the "Near East." Even the Western media had to admit that it was the poor who strongly support the president. Allegations of corruption promptly gained him the epithet "populist" in the West—an indirect admission that he enjoyed broad support from below. This does not mean that "we overlook the deep-seated problems of Iran and its regime. The lack of democratic and cultural freedoms also means oppression of national and religious minorities. Ahmadinejad has nothing to offer to deviate from the capitalist path of (under)development on the fringes of the global economic regime of free trade. In addition there is the dreadful game his regime plays in Iraq where Teheran has been supporting the U.S.-led occupation and the creation of a paradoxical U.S.-Iranian joint ‘protectorate’."
On June 10 the Blair-Bedford Central Labor Council in Altoona, Pennsylvania sent word (unionsforsinglepayerHR676.org) that it had endorsed HR 676, the single-payer health-care legislation introduced by Congressperson John Conyers (D-MI). The Blair-Bedford Labor Council was the 128th central labor council to endorse HR 676.
HR 676 would institute a single payer health care system by expanding a greatly improved Medicare system to everyone residing in the U.S. HR 676 would cover every person for all necessary medical care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental, mental health, home health, physical therapy, rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision care, hearing services including hearing aids, chiropractic, durable medical equipment, and palliative and long-term care. HR 676 ends deductibles and co-payments. In the current Congress, HR 676 has 78 co-sponsors in addition to Conyers. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced SB 703, a single payer bill in the Senate.
HR 676 has been endorsed by 523 union organizations in 49 states including 128 Central Labor Councils and Area Labor Federations and 39 state AFL-CIO’s (KY, PA, CT, OH, DE, ND, WA, SC, WY, VT, FL, WI, WV, SD, NC, MO, MN, ME, AR, MD-DC, TX, IA, AZ, TN, OR, GA, OK, KS, CO, IN, AL, CA, AK, MI, MT, NE, NY, NV & MA).
Free Ezra Nawi
On June 11 we got an email message from salsa.democracyinaction.org, endorsed by Naomi Klein, Neve Gordon, Noam Chomsky, and thousands of others urging people to pressure Israel not to jail Ezra Nawi, one of Israel’s most courageous human rights activists. His crime? He tried to stop a military bulldozer from destroying the homes of Palestinian Bedouins in the South Hebron region. Nawi, a Jewish Israeli of Iraqi descent, is a threat to the settlers and the Israeli government because he has brought international attention to efforts to illegally remove Palestinians from the Hebron region. He will be sentenced in July.
From Rich Wenzel ([email protected]) on June 9 came word of two important court rulings: (1) the U.S. District Court in New York ruled that Shell Oil must pay $15 million dollars to the families of 6 people, including the national poet in Nigeria, for being implicated in their hanging deaths. No jail time, just a fine for killing six people who opposed Shell Oil and the killer contamination of the ground and water in Nigeria that Shell is responsible for. Does anyone really believe that $15 million means anything to a company that netted $100 billion in profit last year? (2) The Supreme Court ruled in a five to four decision that a West Virginia State Supreme Court judge should have recused himself from a decision he made in a case involving Massey Coal, the largest coal company in West Virginia. The state judge got elected after receiving $3 million in campaign contributions from Massey. Right after being elected, the judge immediately reversed a $50 million judgment against Massey Coal for polluting the state’s waters with mercury and other deadly toxins. That reversal was challenged and made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. How could dissenting Justices Scalia, Roberts, Alito, and Thomas find no problem with those campaign contributions and the state judge’s reversal of a solid criminal case against Massey? Next, just for giggles, let’s see how much attention is given to these two decisions in our corporate-controlled media.
European Election Results Suggest a Drift Rightward
On June 8, euobserver.com sent news that across Europe, the "far right was on the march," claiming increased numbers of seats in ten different member states. In Austria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, and the UK the far right made moderate to significant advances. However, the far right saw sharp declines in Belgium and France, and were completely wiped out in Poland.
"The far right growth is a really bad sign and this is clearly linked to the economic crash," Gerry Gable, the editor of Searchlight, a long-standing anti-fascist monthly magazine out of the UK, where the British National Party elected its first-ever MEP. The Netherlands led the way with four seats for the anti-immigrant and anti-Islam Freedom Party of Geert Wilders, the producer of the notorious Muslim-baiting film Fitna. And Austria’s far right won a clean 18 percent.
Hungary returned three MEPs from the Movement for the Better Hungary, or Jobbik, on some 15 percent of the vote. The group is the founder of the Hungarian Guard, a paramilitary outfit whose uniforms recall Nazi youth organizations. In Denmark, the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party, which rejects the far right label, gained an extra seat, up from one. Finland delivered its first hard-right deputy from the Perussuomalaiset, or True Finns, a nationalist and staunchly anti-EU group.
Greece’s Popular Orthodox Rally, or LAOS grouping, led by right-wing journalist Georgios Karatzaferis, doubled its representation from one to two MEPs, with around 7 percent of the vote. Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League also doubled its representation, from four to eight MEPs. However, the fate of the far right in Italy is difficult to measure, as the two other hard-right parties, the self-styled post-fascist National Alliance of Gianfanco Fini, and the neo-fascist Social Alternative of Alessandra Mussolini, merged with Forza Italia in Silvio Berlusconi’s the People of Freedom Party earlier this year.
The No Dal Molin movement emailed news of their break-in at a U.S. military base construction site (afterdowningstreet.org). Activists reached the fence along the river, cut it, climbed up a hill of rubble and gravel on the north side of the airfield, and planted the eight-meter-high flag, a symbol of dignity and independence from military slavery and imposition. A hundred people participated. Presidio Permanente invited everyone to return to the Vicenza plant on July 4 when thousands of NoDalMolin flags will decorate the area where the U.S. military intends to build a new outpost of war. July 4 was chosen not only to comment on Independence Day in the United States, but to note that a few days later the G8 would begin in L’Aquila and the new U.S. President would arrive in Italy for the first time. Vicenza will host the first Italian demonstration directed to President Obama, who speaks of peace, democracy, and environmental protection, while his Army wants to impose a new and devastating war base on Vicenza.
According to www.CultureChange.org (June 8) last November, residents of Eureka and Arcata passed a ballot initiative known as the Youth Protection Act. The measure bars the U.S. government from trying to enlist youths under the age of 18 in any branch of the U.S. armed forces. (In Arcata, it passed by 73 percent margin and in Eureka, by 57 percent.)
After the laws went into effect, the Justice Department filed a suit seeking to overturn them. The Justice Department’s civil action says the initiatives are invalid because they conflict with federal law. Both towns are refusing to cave. They’ve hired lawyers, filed counter-claims challenging the federal government’s action on grounds that the Convention on the Right of the Child, a treaty the U.S. has signed and which is the "supreme law of the land," specifically says that the United States will not recruit under the age of 17.
Victory v. Starbucks
Starbucks Workers Union (starbucksunion.org) reports (June 1) that the Starbucks Coffee Co. settled a complaint from the National Labor Relations Board over charges of violating workers’ rights—the sixth such settlement in three years for the ailing coffee giant. The case comes as a new website (www.stopstarbucks.com) and video calling on CEO Howard Schultz to respect workers’ right to join a labor union spread like wildfire across the Internet. The new media initiative, from Robert Greenwald’s "Brave New Films," has already been viewed over 60,000 times with a related petition garnering almost 15,000 signatures.
Pursuant to the settlement which stems from charges filed by the IWW Starbucks Workers Union, the corporation must cease engaging in illegal measures, including threatening to call security to interfere with protected activity, prohibiting workers from discussing the union, and expelling union sympathizers from company stores.
The IWW Starbucks Workers Union is an organization of over 300 current and former employees at the world’s largest coffee chain united for secure work hours, a living wage, and respect on the job.
Truthout.org reports a victory for Lt. Ehren Watada, when the Justice Department decided it would drop attempts to retry the officer for his refusal to deploy to Iraq. Watada’s lawyer, James Lobsenz, believes the decision was a case of legal realism. "They were going to have a really difficult time explaining why double jeopardy wasn’t violated," said Lobsenz in reference to Watada’s first court martial, which ended in mistrial, Watada faces two remaining charges stemming from his public statements on the illegal and immoral nature of the Iraq war. The fate of Watada’s continued legal limbo is currently in the hands of Fort Lewis officials who will decide how to proceed with the charges of "conduct unbecoming an officer."
Lobsenz says he is hopeful that "the Army will decide not to resuscitate the other two charges" as Lobsenz has argued that Watada’s First Amendment rights give reason for the remaining charges to be dropped against Watada whose public stand in protest of the U.S. military has been the strongest of its kind to this date.
Leonard Peltier Health Alert
An alert sent on June 19 (action [email protected]) contained the following message from Leonard Peliter’s niece: "Leonard may have suffered a heart attack. He had a hard time breathing. He was in his cell and had an ache in his chest. He was scared he was having a heart attack. He raised his hands, breathed slowly, and finally felt better." We need to call the prison and ask them to get Leonard to the hospital in Rochester (MN) as soon as possible for a check up. Make reference to Leonard Peltier #89637-132. Call Warden Scott Dodrill at 570-523-1251; fax: 570-522-7745; email: lew/[email protected]."
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