Friday, July 25, 2008


Not to be outdone, China is getting into the protest zone thing for the Olympics.

Yup, they'll be setting up special protest zones far from the main sports venues, something that supporters and detractors said is meant to safely channel criticism and avoid disrupting the Games.

And keep those damn people out of sight and out of mind.

The designated protest areas will be in parts of three public parks, all several kilometres from the main Olympic stadium (see map).

"During the Olympics, in order to ensure smooth traffic flow, a nice environment and good social order, we will invite these participants to hold their demonstrations in designated places," said Liu Shaowu, security director with Beijing's Olympic organizing committee.

Isn't that nice?

Oh yeah, about 110,000 policemen, volunteers and other personnel will be on duty to ensure everyone has a pleasant experience, Liu said. Armed police with trained dogs are on round-the-clock patrol at Beijing airport right now and at the four major railway stations. Long-distance bus depots and subways are on high alert too.

This is the first time China is holding such a big sports event, Liu said. "And the huge number of people coming to China can make terrorists launch an attack."

After Monday's bus explosions in Kunming, Beijing has intensified security checks at bus stations and in public transport, he said.

Painstaking efforts have been made to strengthen community patrols, crack down on criminal activities and tighten management over dangerous goods, Liu added.

Liu, however, was unable to give any information on who will be allowed to protest, what restrictions will apply and whether Chinese citizens and foreign groups will have the same rights to demonstrate.

"For us, the protest-zone proposal is too vague," said Alexis Poulin, spokesman for Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based media freedom group.

I don't know, but have they made similar comments about the upcoming conventions in Minneapolis and Denver here in the states.

Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher at Human Rights Watch said the protest zones are a "fishbowl approach" that fails to provide any real freedom to people in China.

"It curtails the people's right to protest, since they have to do it within the boundaries that the government sets," he said in an interview yesterday.

"It's a fig leaf to conceal the fact that people aren't free to demonstrate in China. It will create the impression to foreign television audiences that demonstrations are permitted, but domestic audiences will never see it."

As is the case with the protest zones in all the western "democracies," Bequelin is forced to admit. He criticized this broader trend in creating protest zones during international events.

Hey, here in the USA we don't just use protest zones for international events. We like em for all events.

Now, these last few years, in China, especially outside of the capital, angry Chinese haven't paid all that much attention to the legal requirements for permits and the like that the Chinese government (like the US) require. Illegal protests are, in fact, quite common in China, especially in rural areas or smaller cities where peasants and laid-off workers hold demonstrations (and beyond) about issues like local corruption or illegal land seizures. The police usually do the police thing and assault protesters, even as local officials many times are forced to submit to protest demands.

And protest leaders often go to jail (as they do everywhere).

The following is from Xinhua.

Beijing protest parks wait for Games' demonstrations

The elderly were playing cards on Friday afternoon in Ritan Park while children all around them ran wild and laughed. Others were sleeping on chairs, paying no regard that the park had been designated for protests, if any, during the Olympic Games.

"The worst thing I expect is that I have to suspend my business for several weeks during the demonstrations," said Sun Xiaosheng, proprietor of a rock climbing wall. "But I believe the protests would be peaceful. It is unlikely that violent protestors would destroy the park or hurt us."

Ritan, or Temple of Heaven, about 10 km from Beijing's Tian'anmen Square, was where emperors in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties worshiped Heaven and prayed for a good harvest. It was turned into a 20-hectare park after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

China announced on Wednesday it would set up zones in three Beijing parks where demonstrators could legally stage protests during the August Games. They are Zizhuyuan Park in the city's northwest, Ritan Park in the east and World Park in the southwest.

"The move to set aside protest areas is in line with Beijing's promises to the International Olympic Committee to adhere to Olympic traditions, such as free expression outside sporting venues. It offers a new channel for the protestors to better express their opinions by attracting eyes of the tourists, reporters and officials during the Games," said Mo Yuchuan, director of Research Center for Constitutional and Administrative Law of Renmin University of China.

"The measure is also expected to help reduce the risk that unexpected demonstrations of large scale would harm the public interests," he said.

Liu Shaowu, Beijing Olympics organizing committee security director, said no demonstration of "political, religious or racial propaganda" would be permitted in Olympic sites or areas.

But managers of the parks were still waiting for detailed orders such as which parts of the parks would be set aside for public demonstrations, how large the area was, or how to prepare for the potential protests.

Authorities of Zizhuyuan Park, which is about 100 meters from the Capital Indoor Stadium, are planning to set up a task team for security and evacuation during the Games.

Hao Suliang, the park spokesman, started to learn the law on assemblies, procession and demonstrations upon his return from Shanghai to Beijing on Friday. "We would prepare well according to the law so that protestors can express their opinions," he said.

The Chinese law requires that demonstrators make requests at least five days in advance and detail the nature of the protest, the topic and number of participants.

The emergency plan on the board in the World Park's official building showed forces of all departments would be mobilized to deal with 10 kinds of incidents, including illegal demonstrations, activities of heretic sects and terrorist attacks.

But park spokesman Liu Huiming said the plan targets daily accidents and specific preparations for the protest zones and would not start until orders were received from the government.

With nearly two weeks to go before the zones are opened, the biggest worry of locals was whether their lives would be disturbed.

"If the square we dance in is designated to be a protest zone, we would have no place to run or dance," said Yang Jun who frequents Zizhuyuan Park. "Most of us are retired workers and have been used to doing sports here."

"We hope the government can ask for our opinions before making decisions where the protest zone is located. But anyway, we would cooperate with the government," he said.


The agenda for the regular meeting of the full Minneapolis City Council Friday morning included a discussion about policing and public protest.

It wasn't to be a quiet discussion.

Activists preparing for the upcoming Republican Convention disrupted the council meeting and it ground to a halt.

Police detained one member of the coalition of activists who were protesting a Minneapolis City Council resolution which removes restrictions on the use of force against protesters during the expected convention demonstrations.

Just before 9:45 a.m., Jude Ortiz, a leader of Coldsnap Legal Collective, was escorted out of the chambers shortly after he confronted Mayor R.T. Rybak.

Twin Cities Independent Media reports that at a Minneapolis City Council committee meeting July 16, a back-room deal by council members resulted in the unanimous passing of a resolution stripping away important protections for free speech and against police brutality.

Denied a public hearing of their own, a broad coalition of Twin Cities-based activists held its own public hearing at a 9am rally outside City Hall on Friday morning before the City Council meeting at 9:30.

It was after the public gathering that residents entered the City Council chamber at the beginning of their meeting and served each city council member with a statement of reprobation.

At that point Ortiz attempted to read a statement according to others activists and was taken away by police.

Coldsnap Legal Collective describes itself as a "new legal collective formed in the Twin Cities to share knowledge, raise awareness, and develop a network of legal support and solidarity for the upcoming RNC and beyond. We are an autonomous collective whose purpose is to work in solidarity with other groups or individuals in order to EDUCATE, EMPOWER, and SUPPORT the radical community."

Protests and marches are planned for every day the convention is in operation.

A local anti-war group Wednesday outlined plans for a "militant" protest outside the Xcel Energy Center on Sept. 4, the last day of the Republican National Convention.

The group — the third to announce plans for a large demonstration — has a permit for Sept. 4, but it's planning on doing more than the permit allows, possibly including civil disobedience.

"We don't have any plans for violence," Katrina Plotz, a member of the group, said when pressed on her use of the word "militant." "We want to protest in a way that's more spirited, more creative."

The group has a permit to demonstrate until 5 p.m., but organizers said they want to begin their march from the state Capitol about then and rally around the Xcel Center into the evening. She said the group will try to persuade the city to alter the hours on its permit but will take to the streets regardless, acknowledging that some members could be arrested.

"Day One is for bringing the family," said
Anti-War Committee member Misty Rowan. "Day Four is for those who are more committed and willing to take a risk."

For more see OD article "CHICAGO '68 AND THE '08 REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION" somewhere below.

The following is from KSAX in Minneapolis.

Protesters derail Mpls. Council meeting

A Minneapolis City Council meeting, addressing police rights during the Republican National Convention, was interrupted by protesters Thursday.

As Minneapolis Fire Chief Alex Jackson was about to take the floor, a man walked up to the podium and started speaking, as other protesters began shouting and waving signs.

The protesters were opposed to the council’s decision to repeal certain rules governing how police should handle protesters during the RNC.

A police officer escorted the protesters into the hallway, where they continued their message.

The city council was set to reconsider their decision on the police rules during Friday’s meeting.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Computer problems have knocked the OD out for a couple of day. We'll be back tomorrow....

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


It may not seem like a big deal to you, but to some folks who live in Hudson Falls, New York, living next door to a used auto parts and scrap metal business (pictured here) has been a nightmare.

They've been complaining about that nightmare for a LONG time to no avail.

Craig Richard is one of those who have had the scrap yard as a neighbor. He realized when he was buying his house it was across from a junkyard. Until a fence was erected, it was about all he could see from his front window as a matter of fact.

What he didn't know was that years earlier, state officials discovered the toxic gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) spreading from the site into groundwater beneath Richard's neighborhood -- just outside Hudson Falls, beyond the reach of municipal water. Richards like many of his neighbors get their water from their own private well.

Then, in 2004, a stream of runoff laced with gasoline and antifreeze flowed past Richard's house and heightened his concern.

Anyway, finally, the New York State Attorney General has heard their an election year no less.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is suing the owners of the Washington County junkyard for years of environmental damage.

Cuomo announced he is suing the owners of East Side Used Auto Parts because the company did not properly dispose of chemicals when crushing cars. Gasoline, antifreeze, freon and petroleum all seeped into the soil.

The Attorney General's Office filed its first lawsuit against East Side Auto in 2007 in an attempt to recoup state money spent on a cleanup at the junkyard. That litigation is still pending.

Since 2003 the owners have been repeatedly cited by the Department of Environmental Conservation for mishandling waste and illegally releasing harmful chemicals into the environment.

Where had the state of New York been for all those years while the junkyard which borders a residential neighborhood on three sides and a public school on the fourth made many people ill and caused untold damage to the local environment?

Be that as it may, resident Jim Quinlan is happy something is finally being done. He told WNYT, "The victory is for the residents of Harrison Avenue, because this problem has been going on for such a long time." Jim lives near the facility and has spoken out at public meeting on problems for many years. Quinlan said some residents are afraid to drink their water or open their windows.

"They had headaches and asthma problems so it just worsened as time went on," he said.

Bobby Marro denies his family-run business is storing batteries and tires improperly or that pollution from their junkyard could be making some residents sick.

"People are complaining of health problems, you know, there's nothing that we're doing that would cause any problems," said Marro.

Nah, couldn't be happening.

By the way, you still may be thinking this is just a small problem bugging a few people.

Think again.

Roughly 1.3 million New York citizens drink water from private wells they know little about and almost never test for water quality. That is about 7 percent of all New York state residents receiving minimal or no screening of the water they drink. No one in government even knows for sure the location of thousands of private wells statewide -- a substantial blind spot in the state's ability to warn people of underground water pollution.

The danger extends well beyond MTBE, a gasoline additive that dissolves in water and lingers underground. The state mandates stringent testing for dozens of contaminants in larger public water supplies, but no standards exist for private water sources.

Protection for private wells has for decades depended on a hodgepodge of local laws that vary greatly among New York's 62 counties. As a 1998 study by the state Department of Health put it: "Private wells lack the protection many public drinking water supplies enjoy.''

"You get a water main break in the city, they say boil your water,'' said Richard, of Kingsbury. "Then they say, `You have a private well? Drink whatever you want.'''

It is a serious problem that some say begins with a basic misconception.

"Somehow we've gotten this sense that people who are on private wells are living in pristine areas,'' said Paul Pontoro, chief of the water resources office for the Suffolk County Department of Health. The reality is quite often the opposite.

I have a feeling the problem doesn't just exist in the great state of New York.

Public health officials almost universally agree that everyone with a private well should test at least annually for bacteria, which can be present almost anywhere and can sicken and kill more quickly than MTBE or other toxic chemicals. Many people only test their wells for bacteria when banks require it before approving a mortgage on their home.

"Cancer is a horrendously scary thing,'' said said Andy Barber, a hydrogeochemist with engineering firm Barton & Loguidice. "Is (MTBE) a health hazard? No doubt about it. But if you have your own on-site water system, there are others, too.''

Keep that in mind my friends who enjoy living "out in the country."

The following is from TWEAN News Channel of Albany,

Neighbors react to AG's lawsuit against East Side Auto

HUDSON FALLS, N.Y. - People who live near East Side Auto Used Auto Parts in Hudson Falls are upset. They've complained about East Side saying the business contaminated the air and water by demolishing cars there that still had gas and oil inside. Now the state Attorney General's office has filed a lawsuit against the business.

Hudson Falls resident Jim Quinlan said, "Not just the residents in Kingbury, but the children who go to the Middle School just across the road should be concerned."

Quinlan says not only do people in the area deal with the noise all day, but they're concerned about possible PCB contamination from the recycling of certain metals.

Quinlan told us, "White metals are old washers and dryers, and some communities in some states don't even take them in. They have to be recycled properly. They just take them in here, and the old white metals have PCBs in them, so that's another concern."

East Side takes in scrap metal. We couldn't ask them about white metal because they did not want to talk to us. Meanwhile, other residents down the road said while they aren't too concerned, they're siding with their neighbors who are.

Local resident John Hogan said, "If my neighbors have a problem, I'll support my neighbors."

Some of the other neighbors who didn't want to talk on camera tell us sometimes the noise is so bad that their pets are too scared to go outside. Not only that, some of the people who used to live here actually moved out of town because of East Side Auto.

As for Hogan, he said he thinks the town's decision to work with the business to get it moved to another location is the best case scenario.

Hogan said, "I hear about where they're moving. It's down a ways. A lot of land. I'm sure it's hard for the guy. It's a hardship moving, and he's put a lot of money into the community here, but how much do you sacrifice for money?"


Iris Robinson MP and wife of Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, has made three horrendous statements on public morality lately. The latest to be reported: “There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children.”

The comments led to protests today (see picture).

On the 6th June she described homosexuality as an “abomination” and mental illness. During the BBC Radio Ulster interview the MP for Strangford offered to introduce gay men to a "Christian psychiatrist" who could make them heterosexual. Last Thursday she said “the government is there to uphold the morals of the scriptures.” The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has yet to make a statement distancing itself from her support for theocracy and homophobia.

If I didn't know better I'd think this women was a talk show host in the USA.

After her comments about gays back in June, Sinn Fein MLA Martina Anderson said: "I think that such an outrageous comment from Mrs Robinson calls into question her suitability as chair of the Assembly health committee." She added, "She should reflect on what she has said... of the pain and hurt she has caused across society for many, many families, for people out there trying to deal with that situation today."

I'm guessing Robinson didn't take that advice.

Also back in June UTV reported south Belfast District Policing Partnership member John O`Doherty said he formally complained to police about Robinson, claiming attacks against the gay community could follow her remarks.

He said:
"I find it amazing that one year after the comments made by Ian Paisley Junior we have similar comments being made by Iris Robinson. Elected representatives should be leaders in our communities and should condemn hate crime at every possible occasion, not be the cause of it. People like Mrs Robinson need to learn that their comments have consequences and they must abide by the law like everyone else. Incitement to hatred is a serious crime. Comments like this result can result in Homophobic attacks and to LGBT people attempting suicide."

I haven't found anything that indicates the police did anything.

Pink News reports that Rainbow Project, Northern Ireland's only health project for gay and bisexual men, said this week following the latest revelations that Robinson's hate talk was not only "beyond contempt" but will expose the gay community in Northern Ireland to continued "violence, abuse and harassment."

"To make a correlation between an informed consensual act between two adults and the horrors of abuse that are perpetrated against children is vile, cruel and hate-filled," said David McCartney of the Rainbow Project.

He added:
"For the author of such comments to then describe this sustained campaign of anti-gay propaganda as ' a loving Christian act ' defies all logic.

"Political and religious leaders have publicly condemned the blatant homophobia and spoken about the levels of crime and harassment that the gay community faces here.

"This misguided politician does not speak for Christianity, rather only for a narrow band of extremists.

"The thugs that perpetrate hate will readily lap up whatever encouragement that they can find.

"It does not take much to inspire the misguided to violence; and the hatred spouted by some will add more fuel to the fires of prejudice and bigotry. Mrs Robinson is playing with people's lives; we hope and pray that the end result is not more prejudice, blighted lives or even bloodshed."

Robinson issued a statement Monday denying that she thought gay sex was worse than paedophilia. Robinson later said: "I clearly intended to say that child abuse was worse than even homosexuality and sodomy ... At no point have I set out to suggest homosexuality was worse than child sex abuse."

Isn't that nice.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's Catholic Primate Cardinal Sean Brady decided now would be a good time to step in with some support for the lady bigot. The Cardinal who is traveling in Australia with the Pope said he "broadly agreed" with Robinson's outlook on upholding God's laws in government.

The Cardinal's support comes after most of Northern Ireland's political parties condemned her views, with some questioning her fitness to carry out her role on the Stormont health committee.

The following is from the Belfast Telegraph.

Iris Robinson's gay outburst leads to street protests, official complaints and calls to quit
By Deborah McAleese

There were calls for Iris Robinson to resign from public office last night after she was accused of waging a “crusade against the gay community”.

The Belfast Telegraph yesterday revealed the latest controversy surrounding the wife of the First Minister after she stated to a parliamentary committee that homosexuality is “viler” than child sex abuse.

A Westminster watchdog last night said that a number of complaints have been made about DUP MP Iris Robinson following her controversial comments on homosexuality, but admitted that no action can be taken.

The Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, the body that monitors MPs’ code of conduct, said that despite the complaints about the Strangford MP nothing can be done as “the commissioner’s remit does not cover an MP’s views or opinions”.

The same exemption extends to Stormont where the vice chairman of the Standards and Privileges Committee Sinn Fein MLA Willie Clarke said it is “very frustrating that at every opportunity people can abuse the code of conduct and get around it by saying it is a personal view or a religious belief.”

Yesterday the Belfast Telegraph revealed that during a Grand Committee debate at Westminster in June on the management and assessment of sex offenders Mrs Robinson stated: “There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children.”

When asked to clarify her comments last Friday she said homosexuality was “comparable” to child abuse.

“I cannot think of anything more sickening than a child being abused. It is comparable to the act of homosexuality. I think they are all comparable”, she said. As the storm over her comments grew, the First Minister’s wife made an apparent U-turn stating that the recording of the debate, published on the Hansard website, did not accurately reflect her views.

In a statement issued through the DUP Press office she added: “I clearly intended to say that child abuse was worse even than homosexuality and sodomy .... At no point have I set out to suggest homosexuality was worse than child sex abuse.”

A Hansard official last night said however that after checking audio recordings, she was satisfied the comments were reported accurately.

Members of the gay community gathered outside Belfast City Hall yesterday afternoon to protest against Mrs Robinson's comments.

One protester, Steven Colhoun, a gay Christian, said Mrs Robinson’s remarks left him fearful for his safety.

He added that he cannot understand why Mrs Robinson felt compelled to bring homosexuality into a debate about sex offenders.

“As a young gay man of 21 and a victim of religious and social homophobia as a result of her comments I am now fearful for my personal safety and for that of those like me.

“I believe that Iris Robinson should publicly apologise and I call on her to resign immediately.”

SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell said that Mrs Robinson’s comments raise “serious questions about her fitness to sit in a position of responsibility”.

UUP MLA Basil McCrea said he believes Mrs Robinson has “gone too far” and that the DUP needs to make it clear if she is speaking for the party.

Alliance Deputy Leader Naomi Long MLA said Mrs Robinson’s remarks show a “complete lack of responsibility” and added that such remarks are both inflammatory and dangerous.

Mrs Robinson told the Belfast Telegraph that when she speaks out against homosexuality she is not “hate-mongering” but is talking out of love.

“I am trying to reach out to people. I try to reach out and love them. That is what Christ teaches us. Anything I say is out of love.”


The National Theater in central Baghdad was packed with an enthusiastic audience waving the Iraqi flag and red banners, July 12. The event, organized by the Iraqi Communist Party, was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the July 14, 1958, revolution that overthrew Iraq’s reactionary monarchy (stamp commemorating the revolution pictured here).

People's Weekly World reports that in a speech to the crowd, Mohammed Jassim al-Labban, a leader of the Iraqi Communist Party, hailed the achievements of the 1958 revolution and reminded a crowd that probably didn't need reminding, of lessons of the July 14 revolution, with special emphasis on the need to uphold national unity, both political and social, and to discard all forms of sectarianism. "Political democracy, which was ignored or underestimated after the 1958 revolution, is also indispensable,” al-Labban said. “There should be no reliance on foreign powers, whether nearby or far away, because Iraq's problems can only be solved by Iraqis themselves.”

There is more to remember than that.

Two of the main goals of the 14 July revolution, which had deep roots in the Iraqi people's struggle, were liberating Iraq from foreign domination and restoring sovereignty over its vast oil wealth that was plundered by British, French and US monopolies. Nothing better summed up that stance than the decision by the revolutionary government to pull out of the Baghdad Pact, a military alliance with Britain and the United States, as well as limiting energy exploitation by foreign oil companies to 0.5 per cent of the original oil concessions they received from the pre- revolution regime and the eventual nationalization of Iraqi oil.

Al-Ahram writes Iraqis now have to fight for the same old goals. These include liberating their country and their national resources from both foreign occupiers and their divided, corrupt protégés and "stooges" who had carved Iraq into sectarian fiefdoms.

The newspaper continues:

"Obviously the deals that Iraq announced last month with three major American oil companies, including Exxon Mobil and Chevron, to develop some of its largest fields will affirm suspicions that Iraqi oil was the point of war, especially with the disclosure that US government lawyers and private-sector consultants provided template contracts and detailed suggestions on drafting contracts. With its proven 112 billion barrel oil reserve, the second largest in the world, along with roughly 220 billion barrels of probable and possible resources, Iraq's oil seems destined -- if foreign colonial powers get their way -- to be under foreign control, some 34 years after its nationalisation."

Meanwhile, both McCain and Obama support this turnover of Iraq’s rich oil resources to the same cartel of U.S., British, French and Dutch companies that had 100 percent control of the country’s petroleum from the mid-1920s until the 1958 revolution that ended Iraq’s first colonial period.

I'd like to just figure that neither of these guys understand history.

But I know better.

And so do you!

The following article comes the Socialist Worker On Line (Great Britain).

Iraq’s 1958 uprising

This month marks the 50th anniversary of a revolution in Iraq that toppled the country’s British-backed monarch. Anne Alexander writes on a revolt that inspired the Arab world

Late on the evening of 13 July 1958, the 20th Infantry Brigade of the Royal Iraqi Army broke camp at Jalawla and headed south, supposedly bound for Iraq’s border with Jordan.

For hours the convoy of 3,000 men rumbled through the sleeping towns of Diyala province. But at 2.30am they halted at Bani Said, just six miles from Baghdad. Instead of swinging west towards Jordan, the brigade headed for the heart of the Iraqi capital.

A few hours later, millions of Iraqis awoke to hear over the radio the voice of Abdul Salam Aref, a young officer, announcing the overthrow of Iraq’s Hashemite dynasty and the birth of a new “people’s republic”.

The two leading figures in the coup were Aref and Abdul Karim Qassem, activists in an underground network of “Free Officers”.

They knew they were taking a desperate gamble. Iraq’s rulers had honed their skills in repressing popular protest over many decades. Their well-trained police force had crushed waves of demonstrations in 1956, 1952 and a near-uprising in 1948.

Opposition parties – even those led by liberal social democrats and moderate nationalists – had been forced underground, while the Communist Party’s key activists filled the jails.


Even the army was kept deliberately short of ammunition to paralyse would-be mutineers. On the morning of 14 July, the men under Aref’s command set off to seize the royal palace with only two or three rounds each.

And although formal British control of Iraq had ended with independence in 1932, the interests of the ruling Hashemites were tightly meshed with those of Britain.

British managers ran Iraq’s oilfields. British bombers were stationed at Iraq’s main military airbases. The young King Faisal was a product of the British public school system.

Iraq was also the centrepiece of the Baghdad Pact, an anti-Russian alliance of Middle Eastern states that was also designed to curb the rising influence of Gamal Abdul Nasser, Egypt’s radical nationalist leader.

Yet the Iraqi monarchy proved to be rotten to the core. Only a tiny handful of Iraqis lifted a hand in its defence. Following the assault on the palace, the king, his regent and other members of the royal family were shot. Nuri al-Said, the pro-British prime minister and architect of the Baghdad Pact, was killed the following day.

The overthrow of the Iraqi monarchy created panic in Britain and the US. On hearing news of the revolution, US president Dwight Eisenhower ordered thousands of US troops to invade Lebanon to snuff out a growing rebellion against the Western-backed regime of Camille Chamoun.

At the same time thousands of British troops landed in Jordan. King Hussein of Jordan – the cousin of the Iraqi king – feared that he too would be swept away in the wave of revolt.

Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of Iraqis streamed onto the streets of Baghdad to celebrate the overthrow of the regime. They shouted defiance against Britain and the US and called for an end to colonialism. Within hours Qassem became president with Aref as vice-president.

Far from ending the revolutionary process, the Free Officers’ coup marked the beginning of a deeper crisis. The huge demonstrations which greeted the news of the July coup set the pattern for the next year.

Throughout this period the Communists and their allies dominated the streets of the major cities. As the political crisis gathered pace, signs of social revolution followed in its wake.

New laws cut rents by 20 percent. The price of bread dropped by a third. An eight-hour day was established. Labourers’ wages rose by as much as 50 percent in the first year of the new Iraqi republic.

These changes were a direct response to the growing confidence of organised workers. Although trade unions were not formally legalised until 1959, activists started reconstituting union committees and reorganising underground networks immediately after the coup.

The dominant force in the trade unions was once again the Communist Party, which won leadership of most of the legal trade unions by early 1959.


Land reform limited the power of the big landowners and organised the redistribution of thousands of acres of land to the peasants. In some regions, such as Kut and Amarah, peasants began to seize the land for themselves.

Events outside Iraq contributed to the growing sense of crisis. Nasser was locked in a bitter struggle with the Communist Party in Syria, following the establishment of the United Arab Republic (UAR), a short-lived union of Syria and Egypt, in February 1958.

Nasser was revered as a hero across the Arab world. He was someone who had defied the old colonial powers over the Suez Canal in 1956. In that period he also moved closer to Russia’s government, despite his persecution of Communists in Egypt.

As soon as the Free Officers seized power, radical nationalists including the Baath Party launched a campaign for Iraq to join Nasser’s UAR.

Qassem, however, had no desire to hand the presidency of Iraq to Nasser. The Communists also opposed the demand for total unity, arguing that joining the UAR would mean the end of Iraq’s hard-won democratic freedoms.

The Iraqi Communists organised huge demonstrations proclaiming Qassem as the “sole leader” of the Iraqi Revolution, hoping to build him up as a counterweight to Nasser.

When Qassem clashed with Aref, who supported closer relations with the UAR, the Communists threw their weight squarely behind Qassem – despite the fact that Aref called for the nationalisation of the Iraqi oil industry.

In September 1958 Qassem removed Aref from power. By November the former vice-president was on trial for his life. These tensions flared up in March 1959, when officers stationed in Mosul attempted a coup against Qassem with the support of the UAR.

The Communists played a leading role in crushing that revolt. They mobilised their biggest show of strength a few months later, when the party brought hundreds of thousands to a march to mark May Day in Baghdad.

Yet when Qassem rejected Communist demands for seats in the government, the party retreated from confrontation with the “sole leader”. Qassem seized his chance to launch a comprehensive attempt to break the party. He legalised a tiny rival faction in place of the real Communist party and mounted an attack on its leadership of trade unions.

Party publications were banned and Communist activists targeted by nationalist hit squads. Communist sympathisers in government were dropped from the cabinet one by one.

Despite a brief respite in the autumn of 1959, the party’s influence continued to ebb away. Meanwhile the Baath Party grew more confident. A young Baath activist, Saddam Hussein, took part in an attempt on Qassem’s life in 1959. Although it failed, within four years the Baathists were able to overthrow Qassem and massacre thousands of Communist activists.

Why did the Iraqi Communists come so close to power, yet still fail? A crucial role was played by Russia’s leadership. In 1959 an emissary arrived from Moscow to tell the party leadership that they could expect no help from Russia if they seized power.

Despite this pressure, a minority of the party’s political leadership still favoured breaking a policy of “‘daring for victory” – breaking with Qassem and taking power.

The problem they faced was that the Communists had made no political preparations for such a struggle throughout 1958. It had mobilised hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants under the slogans of support for Qassem, rather than behind their own class demands.

Viewed from the perspective of Iraq alone, the Communists appeared to have little choice but to maintain their alliance with Qassem and the nationalist officers. Iraq’s small working class, on its own, could not set about building a socialist society.

Wider pattern

But the crucial factor was not the absolute size of the working class. Events in Iraq were part of a much wider pattern of anti-colonial revolt and working class struggle across the Middle East.

This wider struggle did have the potential to develop into a systematic challenge to the capitalist system. And that potential existed despite the original aims of the anti-colonial movement, which focused on issues of national liberation and democracy.

Broadening the struggle in Iraq beyond the limits set by nationalism would have deepened and strengthened the mass movement.

The Communists in Iraq found out to their cost that while the revolution remained within those limits, it could neither preserve its democratic character, nor put up any effective resistance to imperialism.

Once the mass movement ebbed away, Qassem’s isolation was exposed and he was soon deposed. Now in power, the Baath Party proved far more attentive to the interests of imperialism than its predecessors, despite its rhetoric about “socialism” and “Arab unity”.

Examining the events of 1958 is not an exercise in nostalgia. All of the questions thrown up by Iraq’s revolutionary crisis are still being asked in the Middle East today.

What is the key force in the struggle against imperialism? How is the fight for national liberation related to the struggle against capitalism? How can the ordinary people of the region defeat both their own repressive rulers and the imperialist powers?

The lesson of 1958 is that both workers’ organisation and revolutionary leadership play a crucial role in turning nationalist and democratic demands into a movement that can challenge the imperialist order as a whole.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Michael Savage is a piece of shit.

Savage said on his radio show autistic children are fakers who just need a little discipline.

"In 99% of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is," Savage said last week.

"They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz."

A number of parents of autistic children took to the streets outside his studio today in protest.

"It's horrific," said Natalie Smith, the Staten Island representative for Autism United. "I mean, who would say something like that? These are children, not animals. I don't know what was going on in that guy's head."

Ed Moffitt, 75, proudly showed a picture of his 8-year-old grand-nephew, Bob.

"Bob can't speak. He never called Savage any names," Moffitt told the New York Daily News.

"We are dying to hear him say 'Mommy' or 'Daddy.' And (Savage) says that he is just acting out?" said the boy's grandfather, retired NYPD officer Bob Moffitt. "It hurts me."

WOR Radio said they couldn't be held responsible for what Savage says because he is a syndicated host broadcasting out of San Francisco.


WOR knows the hateful venom Savage spews everyday. They don't care. Not as long as they get their piece of the pie.

Meanwhile, Savage himself told CBS 2 Monday that he would not apologize.

"My comments on autism were meant to boldly awaken parents and children to the medical community's attempt to label far too many children or adults as autistic," he said in a phone interview with CBS 2.

Of course, that isn't what he said on the air.

Media Matters for America on Sunday condemned Savage for his comments.

"What Michael Savage said was foolish, mean-spirited, and hurtful," said J. Jioni Palmer, spokesman for Media Matters. "It's unfortunate he would use his radio program to make fun of and belittle these kids. Instead of ridicule and cheap shots, the children suffering from autism and asthma and their families need support and compassion."

The leader of a national coalition of disability, civil rights and social justice organizations called on Talk Radio Network to fire Savage. ADA Watch/NCDR called on Talk Radio Network to fire Michael Savage. Jim Ward, founder and president of ADA Watch and the National Coalition for Disability Rights (NCDR), stated: "As America prepares to celebrate the 18th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26th, people with disabilities, parents, family members, friends and advocates across the nation are outraged over Savage's latest attack on people with disabilities. His despicable assault on children with autism -- calling them "frauds" and "brats" -- is rightly being condemned as hateful and bigoted. But it is just the latest of Savage's numerous and painful attempts to demean and disenfranchise people with disabilities."

He added that Savage has also used his bully-pulpit to declare that:

-- High levels of asthma impacting minority children was because "the children got extra welfare if they were disabled." (July 2008)

-- The "handicapped" workers at the Phoenix Cafe would "drool" and put dung in diners food. He made up names for the food on the menu, such as "nutburger." (July 2002)

-- Members of the disability rights community are the "Wheelchair Mafia."

-- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the world's first civil rights law for people with disabilities, should be called the "Lawyers' Improvement Act."

-- His political opponents are "degenerate slime bags" with "mental disorders" and have a "virus like leukemia."

-- When he was younger, he "touched the hand of a midget [Dwarf]," it really "freaked him out" and, since that episode, he doesn't like public places. (June 2004)

-- The "autism lobby of devastated parents is just a scam to get more money."

Representatives from Autism United said they expected between 800 and 2,000 people to rally in front of Savage's San Francisco studio on Wednesday to demand an apology and his termination. They said major advertisers Home Depot and Aflac have pulled support and that several stations across the United States have agreed to stop broadcasting Savage's show (Why in the hell were Home Depot and Aflac sponsoring his shows to begin with and why are stations across America helping to spread his hate).

It's not like until now Savage has just been another right wing blather box.

But you know what is really disgusting?

The Savage Nation, his radio show, reaches at least 8.25 million listeners each week, according to Talkers Magazine, making it one of the most listened-to talk radio shows in the nation, behind only The Rush Limbaugh Show and The Sean Hannity Show.

What in the name of God is wrong with people?

The following is from Newsday.

Parents of autistic kids protest radio show host

Advocates for autistic children are protesting remarks by conservative radio host Michael Savage.

Some parents held a news conference Monday outside WOR, the New York radio station that carries Savage's San Francisco-based talk show.

Last week Savage said "99 percent" of autism cases involve "a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out." On Monday he said autism is being overused as a diagnosis.

John Gilmore, executive director of Autism United and father of a nonverbal 8-year-old boy, said Savage "needs to get another job."

A spokesman for the station says Savage's views are his own.


Visiting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem was met by protesters demanding information about the fate of Lebanese who disappeared during the Syrian occupation and whom many believe are held in Syrian prisoners. The Syria's foreign minister was visiting Beirut on Monday on a trip set to usher in a new page in relations between the two countries.

Families of the disappeared organized a protest along the road leading from the airport to the presidential palace to coincide with the Syrian minister's visit.

The protesters presented to a palace official a memo to President Michel Suleiman calling for revealing the fate of their loved ones.

Ghazi Aad, who heads a committee representing the protesters, said "we have evidence … with us here today we have ex-detainees who confirm that there are Lebanese detainees in Syrian jails."

It has been reported that many of those demonstrating were roughed up by the police.

Naharanet reports Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun on Monday urged the cabinet to assign a minister without portfolio to the task of following up the issue of Lebanese detainees in Syria.

Aoun, talking to reporters after a meeting by members of his Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, expressed "regret" for the alleged beating up of relatives of the missing citizens who were protesting..

"We cannot ignore the issue of the detainees (in Syrian jails)," he added.

Aoun also called for setting up a "DNA Bank" to help identify remains of Lebanese citizens who went missing in the past three decades.

"This tragedy should end," he said.

Aoun said the Lebanese President did bring up the issue with the visiting Syrian official.

According to SOLIDE (Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile) at a minimum 600 Lebanese have been 'missing' in Syria's prisons since the Civil War (1975-90), and about half of them should be still alive.

Ghazi Aad, founder of SOLIDE, told Der Spiegel three years ago, "...those on the left and right, Muslims and Christians, Druze and Palestinians were all equally effected." Aad believes that the Syrians were using the "disappearances" as a method to bring the Lebanese under their control. Whoever had a relative disappear would then behave themselves by conforming to the system -- so that they wouldn't jeopardise the chances of seeing their loved ones again. This is why so few cases were made public he says.

Syria has denied on several occasions having Lebanese detainees in its prisons. But in 2000, it released a number of Lebanese captives several years after their abductions from Lebanon.

The following is from the Daily Star (Lebanon).

Army breaks up protest against detainees in Syria
Demonstrators demand release of Lebanese prisoners held since civil war
By Jessica Naimeh

BEIRUT: Parents of Lebanese held in Syrian prisons went once again to the streets on Monday morning protesting against the detention in Syria of their relatives. The demonstration took an unfortunate turn of events as the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) violently forced the protesters to move away as they were trying to intercept Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem's convoy to the presidential palace in Baabda.

The protest was organized with the help of the civil society representatives, human-rights associations and local and international NGOs.

The groups have held similar demonstrations in the past, but this time, the protest was called to coincide with Moallem's visit to Lebanon.

"We, as civil society organizations, want to confirm the existence of Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons," said Ghazi Aad, founder of Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile (SOLIDE), an NGO which has longed worked to uncover the fate of Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons.

Parents and relatives of Lebanese citizens who disappeared between 1975 and 2005 gathered around 10:30 a.m. next to the presidential palace in Baabda, where Moallem was expected to arrive.

Many protestors held pictures of their detained or lost relatives as well as banners with slogans written in Arabic such as "no [diplomatic] relations before the return [of the Lebanese held in Syrian prisons]" or "not only are there [prisoners] in Israel, but in Syria as well."

As Moallem's convoy was about to reach the presidential palace, demonstrators tried to block the road and were aggressively pushed and beaten up by LAF forces. Some demonstrators suffered wounds as a result.

In a news conference after his parliamentary bloc's meeting on Monday, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun said clashes between demonstrators and the LAF "were truly unfortunate," adding that the new government would "double efforts" to uncover the fate of detainees in Syrian prisons issue as "the fate of these missing people could not be ignored."

According to a researcher with Human Rights Watch, Nadim Houri, who took part in Monday's protest, the demonstrators were "violently pushed by the LAF who used the bottoms of their rifles" to move the crowd away. He said that none of the protesters was armed, so there was "no need to resort to such kind of violence."

Houri told The Daily Star that mothers of detainees were violently pushed in the process, saying that the "LAF ought to adopt strict guidelines that ban the use of violence to disperse demonstrators."

Before the incidents occurred, head of Union for Lebanon Massoud al-Ashkar told reporters "the detainees issue was more important than the normalization of the Lebanese-Syrian diplomatic relations or the border demarcation between the two neighboring countries."

Ashkar added that Lebanon "managed to bring back home Lebanese held in Israeli prisons and that the same should be done for those who were detained in Syrian prisons." On Wednesday, five prisoners and 200 bodies were handed to Hizbullah by the Israel as part of a prisoner swap deal.

Despite the brawl with the LAF, demonstrators were able to send a seven-point letter to Sleiman who, in his inaugural speech, expressed his will to deal with the issue of the detainees. The letter called for including the prisoners' issue in the upcoming ministerial statement.

It also called on forming a national commission to look into the issue of the detainees in Syria, as well as creating a DNA database through the missing people's relatives.

It also said an international investigative commission should be created, "as a last resort," to find out the missing people's whereabouts and their fate. According to the letter, the international commission should also try those who committed these "crimes against humanity."

Echoing remarks made by Moallem during a news conference on Monday about the existence of Syrian detainees in Lebanese prisons, Houri told The Daily Star that there were actually names of Syrians who disappeared in Lebanon during the 1975-90 Civil War. "It is surprising that Syria never bothered dealing with this issue [when it was controlling the country]," he said, adding that information about Syrian detainees in Lebanese prisons can "be easily made available" as they (Lebanese prisons) were accessible to the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations.

Houri said that Syria had to give a "serious and transparent list of Lebanese and non-Lebanese detainees abducted on Lebanese soil." While the Syrian authorities have always avoided giving out information about the Lebanese prisoners, some detainees' parents said they had proof about their children's imprisonment in Syria as they were able to contact and sometimes visit them.

According to Houri, most of the detainees have never even been sentenced and if they had been, it was in an unfair trial.

Houri also said that although "some progress" is possible, the "detainees' relatives needed to see concrete actions because they have in the past received too many unrealized promises."