Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Free George Ryan!

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for George Ryan, the ex-Governor of Illinois, who is currently in prison. Whether it was his principled opposition to the death penalty and his commutation of the death sentences of over 100 on death row or his trips to Cuba to seek trade and better relations - I'm not exactly sure.

But when I heard about U.S. District Court Rebecca Pallmeyer’s decision to keep Ryan behind bars (with the holidays upon us), well that just pissed me off. Here's an old man with a wife who's dying of cancer, and the judge can't let him out. That's just plain cruel and I don't get it. It's plain wrong.

Free George Ryan!

FBI delivers subpoenas to four more anti-war, solidarity activists as U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald Expands Witch Hunt

The FBI came unannounced to knock on doors at two apartments in Chicago this morning. FBI agent Robert Parker, under orders from U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office, delivered a subpoena to Maureen Murphy. Murphy, like several other individuals served subpoenas, is an organizer with the Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago.

This continues the repression unleashed by Fitzgerald on the anti-war movement since September 24th, when fourteen subpoenas were delivered to anti-war, labor, and solidarity activists in coordinated raids involving more than 70 federal agents. Armed FBI agents raided homes, taking computers, phones, passports, documents, notebooks, and even children’s artwork. A total of 23 subpoenas have been served to activists around the country.

Maureen Murphy said, “Along with several others, I am being summoned to appear before the Grand Jury on Tuesday, January 25th, in the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago. We are being targeted for the work we do to end U.S. funding of the Israeli occupation, ending the war in Afghanistan and ending the occupation of Iraq. What is at stake for all of us is our right to dissent and organize to change harmful US foreign policy." Ms. Murphy is also the Managing Editor of the widely-read website, The Electronic Intifada.

In addition, three women in Minneapolis - Tracy Molm, Anh Pham, and Sara Martin - are threatened with reactivated subpoenas by Fitzgerald’s office and new Grand Jury dates. Tom Burke of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression explained, “It is likely the three individuals, like all the others so far, will continue to refuse to take part in Fitzgerald’s witch hunt. Fitzgerald can then call for putting them in jail as long as he wants.”

For more information: www.stopfbi.net

Contact: Tom Burke, Committee to Stop FBI Repression, 773-844-3612

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Campaign for Better Health Care reacts to VA ruling

Today, a federal district judge in Virginia became the first judge in the country to declare one provision of the Affordable Care Act, the individual mandate, unconstitutional.

Judge Henry E. Hudson, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, owns a sizable stake of the Republican political consulting firm Campaign Solutions, Inc. Campaign Solutions’ clients from the most recent election cycle include John Boehner, Michelle Bachmann, John McCain, and many other GOP candidates who ran on the promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Ken Cuccinelli, the Virginia attorney general who filed the lawsuit that Hudson ruled in favor of today, is a Campaign Solutions client who in 2010 paid the firm $9,000 for services rendered.

Despite his ruling on the individual mandate, Judge Hudson declined a request by the plaintiff to freeze implementation of the law pending appeal - meaning that the continuing rollout of the new law will not be stopped because of this ruling.

Prior to today's Virginia federal court ruling, 14 other federal district judges rejected lawsuits charging that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. Today’s ruling bears no more authority than the other 14 court rulings by federal judges who all determined that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional or rejected the lawsuits on procedural grounds.

Statement from Jim Duffett, Executive Director, CBHC:
"Just like they did with the Civil Rights Act and the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote, the opponents of fairness will continue to try every means available to overturn federal law that has brought fairness, equally and justice to our great nation.

Just like in these historical cases, if this case even makes it to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court will rule like the other 14 federal judges have ruled. Today's ruling is more political hype than sound legal judgment."

Statement from Illinois Director of Insurance Michael McRaith:
“Americans want health insurers to cover sick people. In Illinois, where health insurers can and do deny any applicant for any reason other than "race, color, religion or national origin," families and businesses in every part of the State recognize that change is needed. The requirement that an individual have insurance requires the healthy to participate in the insured pool before turning sick, thereby making insurance prices more stable and affordable. If people were allowed to buy insurance after being diagnosed with illness, many people would wait. That delayed participation in the risk pool would drive up the cost of insurance, make coverage financially impractical for many, and destroy the private insurance market.

For these reasons, we will move forward with implementation in a professional manner designed to improve coverage options for employers and families and to enhance our private health insurance market. In short, the VA decision has no more impact on Department efforts than did the Michigan court decision supporting the mandate."

Palmer House Hilton workers strike

Palmer House Hilton workers strike

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Angela Davis condemns FBI raids

Statement by Angela Davis on the FBI raids of peace and justice activists and expected subpoenas to appear before a Grand Jury:

On September 24 the FBI raided homes of 14 activists in movements in solidarity with oppressed workers and peoples of Latin America and Israel/Palestine. I consider these raids to be an assault on democracy. While the immediate targets of the raids were activists in movements in solidarity with trade unionists and others facing violence in Colombia and the Middle East, their purpose is to disrupt the unity of progressive movements by sowing suspicion, distrust, and an aura of guilt by association. I am not too young to remember the dark days of McCarthyism in our country, and I know very well what the effect of such government reprisals can be.

The FBI seized computers, cell phones, boxes of papers and personal possessions from all 14. They served grand jury subpoenas on many of them. The FBI announced they were investigating possible “material support” to terrorist groups. But it appears that their real purpose is to disrupt the growing unity of the majority of Americans who are critical of the wars and occupations being carried out today in Iraq and Afghanistan, who oppose U. S. support for violence against trade unionists in Colombia and against Palestinians by the Israeli government in Israel, on the West Bank, and in Gaza. The only way the FBI’s actions make any sense at all is to see them as an attempt to isolate and intimidate any who would dissent from government policy or speak out against injustice. These raids violate the spirit and the letter of the Bill of Rights. They endanger the freedom of the entire U. S. population.

We learned bitter lessons from the FBI’s COINTELPRO repression in the 1960s, in which African American leaders, including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and leaders of the Black Panther Party such as Fred Hampton, were targeted for assassination. Progressive movements were targeted for disruption.

I urge President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to

* Direct the FBI to return the belongings seized.
* Dissolve the grand juries threatening an inquisition against peace and solidarity activists and movements.
* Cancel all subpoenas to appear before the grand jury in Chicago.

I would like to work with my Congressman Barbara Lee to support initiatives in Congress for the repeal of provisions of law that define solidarity with human rights abroad as “material support” for terrorism. The rights of all Americans must be preserved to peaceably assemble and petition their government to end support for repressive and militarist governments abroad, and states that commit war crimes and terrorist acts against their own or other people struggling for basic human rights.

Angela Davis, November 17, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

A communist keynotes Junior Statesmen of America

By Shelby Richardson

On November 6, 2010, the Neuqua Valley Junior Statesmen of America Mini-Convention was held at the Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Illinois. The theme of the convention was “Reforming the Democratic Foundation of America.” Over one hundred students from Naperville Central, Naperville North, Neuqua Valley, IMSA, and Arrowhead were expected. The auditorium where Aswin Sivaraman student president gave his welcoming was at near full capacity.

The convention was expertly organized. The format was that the issues of the day would be discussed in debates. There were (14) debates ranging from such topics as: should the U.S. federal government end capital punishment to, should Fox News no longer be considered a reputable news channel, but rather a source of social commentary. Judging from the debates I was fortunate enough to hear, the students were well informed and argued their positions well. It also suggest that young people are increasingly realizing that they have an important stake in understanding the issues we all face and in influencing there outcomes.

The keynote remarks to the convention were given by me on behalf of the Communist Party, USA. Its focus was on the importance of protecting and expanding democracy. Observing these young students close up helped me to understand why they would invite a communist to address their convention. Simply, they are seeking truth and are open to different points of view. This convention was an educational in more ways than one.

Keynote remarks:

Good afternoon, I thank you for allowing me to share some of my views with you today. You are the future and your decisions will be important in determining what kind of world we will live in. I view it as a privilege and encouraging that young serious thinkers as you will take for consideration the remarks of a communist.

My party, the Communist Party USA was founded in Chicago in 1919. From that beginning until today it has experienced both periods of repression and times of increasing participation by communist in mass movements and as part of coalitions. We function in coalitions as equal partners, we are judged as others in the coalitions, by our commitment to the cause and our work to achieve the goal. We ask no more.

I would also like to take this opportunity to commend you. The categorization of yourselves as young statesmen suggest to me that along with your youthful exuberance for life, you are concerned that the world be a safe engaging place were scientific and technological advances continue and our growth as human beings is ongoing.

I think you are to be applauded for your willingness to honestly examine different perspective. You have the great gift of time on your side, although you will have to fight to ensure that the gift is not yanked from you by catastrophic horror through accident or war. You will not see eye to eye on the major issues of the day, but to be able to genuinely influence outcomes through the promoting of real democracy will most likely enable you to critically assess your perspective toward reaching the goal of a better world.

Your presence here today inspires hope for me, because I believe you think you can really make a difference. That attitude alone is invaluable. I hope your commitment is lifelong because it is needed.

I have made assumptions about you, now I will say a little about myself so you can form initial assumptions about me. I work in the criminal justice system as a probation officer. I lived my formative years on the south side of Chicago attending Harlan High School. I became interested in politics in the 1960’s which was a time of great social unrest, promise and change. Out of that experience I found my way to the Communist Party, which I felt embraced change based on equality for everyone.

Since joining the Party I have never regretted it, it has broadened my perspective; I think I am a better person for it. In short I am a hard working person concerned about family, friends and country and about the world we all live in.

My profile is similar to many in the Party, yet one of the most unfortunate occurrences for too many older members and their communities is that they felt compelled not to share their political perspective. I have attended funerals of some long term members with amazing records of social service and caring, where hardly anyone knew they were communist. They feared retribution if their views were known from their own government. You would think such an atmosphere could not exist today, but there is concern: on September 24th there were raids on the homes of (14) peace and solidarity activist carried out by the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force. Personal belongings and files were confiscated from their homes. They had not been charged with any crime. Yet they have been subpoenaed to appear before a Grand Jury, for expressing their disagreement with government policy. Such harsh methods are designed to frighten people from speaking out publicly against what they see as being injustices. If they can speak to the perceived injustice they might convince you; this is what the powerful corporate, financial and military industrial complex consistently combat.

So what is it that the communist feel so deeply should be shared with you? We want you to know we strive to represent the multiracial and multinational U.S. working class. We want to unit men and women; young and old; organized and unorganized; gay and straight; native born and immigrant; urban and rural. We want African-Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Rican all other Latino Americans, Native Americans and all racial and nationally oppressed people to see the Party as welcoming and potentially a political home for them. We believe the living standards of workers and the natural environment are under constant attack due to the drive for maximum profits inherent in capitalism. Communist attempt to reverse this course, which can be achieved ultimately, we believe, with the winning of socialism by the people of this country.

Our vision of socialism is called Bill of Rights Socialism, based on our realities, our history and the finest democratic traditions. Our society would be reorganized where exploitation of human beings no longer exist; where war, racism, environmental degradation and poverty is no longer tolerated. Communist feel we have the natural resources, technological and scientific ability to accomplish this feat in the near future. Yet the powerful corporate capitalist forces driven by the quest for maximum profit block in every way the coming into being of a better world. I encourage you to read the Road to Socialism USA, the program of the Communist Party USA for a thorough discussion of what I have touched upon.

If you are anything like me this can seem overwhelming. After all the notion of bringing a better world into being is not small potatoes. I think if we work for changing for the better the areas we are engaged in, we will be doing our part in the creation of the better world.

As young people you are faced with rising tuitions for education and a lack of employment opportunities. You are confronted with issues around immigration rights, gay rights, and how to encourage youth participation in the electoral process among other issues. Your participation around any of them, in part, determines the direction and pace in which they move. Naturally, I would hope you push in a progressive direction. I read that Lindsay McCluskey president of the United States Student Association said the number one issue on young people’s mind today is jobs. I am sure she will find ways to fight for jobs for young people. I am also sure she supports the AFL-CIO (5) point program which calls for extending unemployed benefits ,rebuilding America’s schools, roads and energy systems; increasing aid to state and local governments; putting people back to work and using the excess money used to bail out Wall Street to create new jobs.

Some of you may be concerned about the state of public education in our country. I have a co-worker who went to Farragut High School on the west side of Chicago. He has two sons who attend public school in the western suburbs. They are good boys doing well in school and excel on their sport teams. However their age peers on the west side of Chicago are not doing so well. They are not reaching their potential. Much of it is due to the lack of equal funding for education. In America every child should receive a quality education which can be attained in public schools. Every student should be able to realize whatever potential they have. Adequate funding for education which includes fairly paid unionized teachers is an ongoing political challenge.

Thank you.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Where is the “change?” » peoplesworld

Where is the “change?” » peoplesworld

Whittier Parent Committee Declaration of Victory

From Whittier Elementary School parents who sat in for a library at their school.

We are here today, to announce that on our 43rd day, we are ending the sit-in here at the Whittier School Fieldhouse.

However, the letter delivered by CPS today and signed by Ron Huberman does not reflect all the agreements and concerns raised by the Whittier Parent Committee.

Some of the points of contention include:

1) The location of the library has NOT been determined or agreed upon by the Whittier Parent Committee. The parents DID NOT agree to the library being built inside of the Whittier school as the letter from CPS states.

2) We also want to note that the Whittier Parent Committee DID NOT agree to be responsible for all the repairs or other maintenance issues mentioned in the letter. During this meeting we made it clear that as the leasing agent, it is CPS's responsibility to ensure that the building is up to fire codes and safe for the children.

3) We want to make it clear that we are ONLY ending the sit-in portion of the struggle.

The Whittier Parent Committee remains in control of the fieldhouse and the programming that is currently taking place in the fieldhouse. We ARE NOT abandoning the fieldhouse nor are we ending our fight for the library. The negotiations will continue!

We want to ensure that CPS and our elected officials give us, the community, the student body, and the parents, what we deserve!! The fight continues so that we can ensure that we have a quality education for all children!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Voting “NO” on recall is vote in defense of democracy

By John Bachtell

It’s been nearly two years since then Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was impeached by the state senate on accusations of corruption and abuse of power, including allegations of trying to sell President Barack Obama’s US Senate seat.

During the impeachment proceedings none of the allegations had been proven in a court of law, although in the recently concluded trial Blagojevich was convicted on one charge, perjury to an FBI official.

Blagojevich will be the 3rd Illinois governor to go to jail for corruption.

But while the hullabaloo around removing Blagojevich has died down, one of the byproducts of the uproar is a measure on November’s ballot to amend the state constitution to allow for recall of a governor by voters.

Proponents say it’s an added check and balance. Sounds democratic, but is it really?

The proposed amendment to Section 7 of Article III sets up the following procedure: The first step would be an affidavit filed with the State Board of Elections announcing intent to seek a recall. That affidavit needs endorsements from 20 state representatives and 10 state senators — no more than half from the same political party in each group.

After the affidavit is in, there are 150 days to circulate the petition. The number of signatures must equal 15 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election — close to 520,000 signatures, based on the 2006 race — and must have names from at least 25 counties.

The recall special election would happen within 100 days of certification of the petition. If the governor is recalled, another special election would be held to elect a new governor.

Aside from the cost of recall, which according to the Secretary of State would run at least $100 million, the bigger question is the ability of powerful interests to overturn the will of the majority and depose elected officials who may come in conflict with corporate and right wing interests. They could embroil state politics in internal wrangling for years.

The best example of this is the experience in California. Remember that Democratic Gov. Gray Davis was reelected in 2002 with the broad support of labor, and the Mexican American and African American communities and women. A lot of progressive legislation was passed by the Democratic controlled California General Assembly during his tenure.

But with the state in the throws of an economic crisis, with Enron manufacturing an energy crisis after Republican Gov. Pete Wilson led the way with deregulation, Gray’s popularity flagged. Right wing and corporate interests used the crisis and resulting widespread anger to undo the progressive changes.

The Republican right wing and corporate interests launched a massively funded recall campaign in 2003, hiring signature gatherers, including from out of state. Backed by a corporate media chorus, they succeeded in what amounted to a coup and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor in a special election.

Whatever one thinks about Blagojevich’s fate, he was impeached by the state legislature because a procedure for his removal is written into the state constitution.

Voters in fact have the right of recall and they can exercise it during a regularly scheduled election every four years. That’s the proper place to settle these matters.

Under normal circumstances, recall might not be a bad idea. But these are anything but normal times. The danger to democracy, of subverting and bypassing the electoral system, despite its many flaws, has increased because of the unrestrained and unaccounted for corporate money flooding the 2010 elections as a result of the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission.

A no vote on the proposed constitutional amendment will be a vote in defense of democracy at this moment.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Poll: victory in Illinois hinges on voter turnout

A new poll by Public Policy Polling proves that voter turnout will determine the outcome of the US Senate race between Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias.

At this point the race is a toss up and the report says, "The final outcome in Illinois, perhaps more so than any other state in the country, is going to be determined by the ability of Democrats to mobilize their base in these final two weeks."

Read the article here and then get out and phone bank: http://publicpolicypolling.blogspot.com/2010/10/continuing-closeness-in-illinois.html

Cook County sheriff refuses to foreclose as housing crisis deepens

Cook County sheriff refuses to foreclose as housing crisis deepens » peoplesworld

Harold Washington: The People’s Mayor

Harold Washington: The People’s Mayor » pa

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Turnout is key to victory in targeted House races

By John Bachtell
CHICAGO-For Republicans to win a majority in the House of Representatives, they need to sweep hotly contested swing district races in several states including Illinois. There are four such races here and according to polls, all are in flux and turnout will be key to victory.

Three of the districts have incumbent Democrats running. The 11th and 14th CDs have been traditionally Republican, but with changing demographics elected Democrats in 2008. A third, the 17th CD which includes the Quad Cities area has elected Democrats for several election cycles. Democrat Rep. Phil Hare strongly backed by the labor movement.

A fourth, the 10th CD covering the suburbs north of Chicago, has been represented by Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) who has vacated the seat to run for US Senate. Democrat Dan Seals is currently leading against Tea Party endorsed Republican Bob Dold.

The GOP and reactionary groups are targeting Illinois swing districts and flooding it with cash. The 10th, 11th and 14th CDs are top priorities of Americans for Prosperity (AFP); the extremist group funded by the billionaire Koch brothers. Illinois ranks number four in total outside money coming in.

The 11th CD is a far flung district that stretches from the exurbs of Chicago west to Joliet and south to Bloomington. It has one of the highest densities of union households, but is also characterized by high unemployment and deep anxiety among voters.

Incumbent Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-IL) is a being ganged up on by the right wing nationally. She is a top target of the Republicans, AFP, Karl Rove’s sleazy American Crossroads and the anti-choice group Susan B. Anthony List. This kind of opposition means she has a tough challenge in her race against ex-McLean County Commissioner and Tea Party and Sarah Palin endorsed candidate Adam Kinzinger.

Among other things, Kinzinger supports extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, calls for capping Social Security benefits, raising the retirement age and ending cost of living adjustments. He’s also against a woman’s right to choose.
“I talk to seniors every day who are struggling to make ends meet, and cutting their benefits or raising the retirement age would simply be devastating,” Halvorson said. “The petition we launched today gives those seniors a voice and lets them tell their story of why these important benefits can’t be taken away.”
Kinzinger has attacked Halvorson for her support of the stimulus bill, the health care reform and cap and trade legislation. She has called for eliminating tax breaks that encourage corporations to move facilities overseas, citing local manufacturer Caterpillar as a case in point.

“They’re getting a tax break,” she said. “They’ll be able to write off all those expenses. This is taxpayer giveaways for moving jobs off shore.”

Kinzinger claims corporate taxes are already too high and calls for cutting them further to keep jobs here.

Observers note a definite shift in momentum in the target races. The Illinois AFL-CIO has been cranking up phone banks and canvassing across the state. Communications Director Beth Spencer says the federation has operations in 10 zones statewide including in the battleground races.

Similarly, pro-choice, environmental and consumer groups are hitting the streets.

“We have a bunch of races that if won can go a long way in determining the national outcome,” says John Gaudette, Organizing Director for Citizen Action Illinois. “People are making decisions. They are saying – here’s what I expect, here’s what I got, now how do I get more? The ideas of the extremist (Republican) candidates are pushing them away.”

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Neighborhood group focuses on Nov. 2

CHICAGO - The Nov. 2nd general elections are right around the corner and voters here in the city's southwest side, mostly Latino, Little Village neighborhood are mobilizing for a big Democratic win.

More than 100 Little Village residents at the Independent Political Organization of the 22nd Ward/Southwest side membership meeting Sept. 21 heard guest speakers Ald. Toni Preckwinkle - the Democratic nominee for Cook County Board president -- and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.

Quinn faces the GOP's state Sen. Bill Brady in the tough gubernatorial race.

"We're in the fight of our lives," Quinn told the community, highlighting another tough race: U.S. Senate seat.

Quinn urged voters to get involved and help ensure that Democrat Alexi Giannoulias gets elected and defeats the Republican candidate and the GOP's right-wing agenda in Congress and the state.

When Ald. Preckwinkle addressed the crowd she talked about the Nov. 2 election statewide and in Cook County.

"This is the kind of election where we could really make a difference, especially now when there is a lot of voter apathy," she said. "We need to touch people because Democracy is the best and most fragile element on this planet."

Longtime progressive and independent 22nd Ward Alderman Ricardo Munoz (and IPO president) moderated the meeting at La Villita Community Church.

The IPO was founded in 1983 to represent the needs and interests of working people and has since been a citywide leader in the struggle for multiracial unity, workers' rights, equal representation and political independence.

Both Preckwinkle and Quinn saluted Alderman Munoz and IPO members calling the organization "legendary" for "fighting the good fight" over the years.

To read the entire story click here: http://www.peoplesworld.org/neighborhood-group-focuses-on-nov/

Monday, August 23, 2010

Film on closure of East Chicago factory reveals Chicago's Pritzker Family at center of subsidy controversy

From Unite Here Local 1:

Chicago, IL – Tonight, over one hundred labor, community and political leaders gathered at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago for the Chicago premiere of Show us the Tax Breaks. This short film tells the story of how the Pritzker Family's Union Tank Car company gathered millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies while destroying good, family-sustaining jobs in Northwest Indiana. As the film demonstrates, Union Tank Car's actions serve as a sharp example of the problems that arise when companies are able to collect economic development subsidies without creating any new jobs.

Union Tank Car’s primary manufacturing facility in East Chicago, Indiana provided more than 600 middle-class jobs for decades before closing in May 2008. Two years earlier, the company built a new $100 million plant in Alexandria, Louisiana with the help of a package of taxpayer subsidies worth $65 million. Although state officials had expected the new plant to employ 850 workers and spur further development in central Louisiana, it now reportedly employs about 270 workers.

The film points to a deepening crisis for companies owned by the Pritzker Family, whose collective wealth is estimated to exceed $15 billion and who have become an emblematic obstacle to our nation’s recovery. Hyatt, the Chicago-based hotel company owned by the Pritzker Family, has forced thousands of hotel workers to endure staff cuts, reduced hours and excessive injury rates despite having $1.2 billion in cash and equivalents in reserve and recently cashing out over $900 million in its initial public offering.

Kelly Hounshell, who had worked at Union Tank Car's East Chicago plant for 22 years as a head burner before the plant closed, said that “I don't want to see more companies taking advantage of their workers and their communities like Union Tank Car did to us.”

“Just as Union Tank Car threw hundreds of manufacturing workers in Northwest Indiana into poverty simply because it got a better deal elsewhere, Hyatt is needlessly trying to take more away and lock workers into recession contracts even as the economy rebounds,” said UNITE HERE Local 1 President Henry Tamarin.

Last year, President Obama established a Presidential Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB) and tasked it, among other things, with tax simplification; closing tax loopholes; creating jobs, and improving the long-term prosperity of the American people. Penny Pritzker, whose family’s companies have made a fortune by collecting economic development subsidies while eliminating family-sustaining jobs, sits on the board.

UNITE HERE Local 1, Chicago’s hospitality workers union, represents over 15,000 hotel and food service workers in Chicago and casino workers in Northwest Indiana.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

bp Gulf Gusher and Coleridge

"Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink."

In 2000 British Petroleum set out on a campaign to
promote the new bp "as the choice for the environmentally-aware motorist.

The lower-case letters were chosen because focus groups said bp is friendlier than the old imperialistic BP, which reminded folks of the old "Rule Britannia! Britannia rules the waves."

Buckets of paint appeared everywhere and bp daubed all its property in green paint and advertised its annual report under the slogan 'Now We're Greener Than Ever.'" The new tag line became "bp - Beyond petroleum. Make the day a little better."

Now, in the spring of 2010, it looks like it may be time for a re-branding of the corporate image. One suited to today's realities.

It could be built around the refrain at the beginning of this post taken from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Rep. Eddie Washington - Presente!

Illinois Rep. Eddie Washington died last night of a heart attack.

This is a terrible loss to the people of Illinois. Rep. Washington was the Chairperson of the Illinois House Prison Reform Committee, and was a leader in the struggle to bring some rationality and justice to the broken Illinois Department of Corrections. He was the first African American ever elected to the Legislature from Waukegan Illinois.

Eddie impressed me personally very deeply in our work to correct the injustices of the current prison-industrial complex. He often expressed a profound and deep appreciation of the role that white supremacy plays in maintaining and extending the prison system, in which the overwhelming majority of prisoners are African-American and Latino. He recognized that when a person is imprisoned his or her entire family suffers. He was a fighter against crime and violence in the community based on principles of ending injustice in the criminal justice system and the struggle for genuine equality.

Eddie Washington will be deeply missed. We need to recommit ourselves to the principles he lived for.

Eddie Washington, Presentè!

Ted Pearson, Co-chairperson
Chicago Branch, National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Parents to Mayor Daley: use TIF money to fund schools

Chicago Public Schools Parents Group Says $275 Million in Property Taxes Targeted for Education Funding is Being Diverted to TIF Districts

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Public Schools Parents Group Raise Your Hand Coalition,
representing parents from more than 250 schools throughout the city, today hand delivered a letter to Mayor Richard M. Daley requesting a meeting to discuss funding for public school education.

Among other things, the coalition highlighted the need to reform the Tax Increment Financing system, calling it, "One of the most critical issues affecting school funding in Chicago." Raise Your Hand also pointed to a 2009 analysis conducted by Progress Illinois showed that TIF districts in Chicago are annually diverting more than $275 million in CPS property taxes away from education, roughly the amount of the remaining FY 2011 deficit. "Chicago, CPS and the more than 400,000 public school students and their families cannot afford this diversion."

With the Chicago Public Schools facing a projected budget deficit of between $232 - $325 million for the 2010-2011 school year, Raise Your Hand urged Mayor Daley to take the lead in reforming the TIF system to halt this diversion of funds.
(letter below)

Raise Your Hand is a growing coalition of Chicago public school parents and organizations associated with or advocating for public education. Our members collaborate to influence state and local officials to provide appropriate, equitable and sustained funding for public education. The coalition now includes parents representing more than 250 schools.

June 1, 2010
Mayor Richard Daley
121 North LaSalle Street
Chicago, Illinois 60602
Dear Mayor Daley:
The Steering Committee of the Raise Your Hand Coalition respectfully requests a meeting with you to discuss funding for public education in Chicago for the coming year and beyond.

In March, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Ron Huberman identified a potential $1 billion budget deficit for FY 2011. At the time, he called for action from parents and other stakeholders to help persuade legislators to support CPS’ needs. Parents responded, and since that time, The Raise Your Hand Coalition has worked tirelessly to emphatically communicate to state lawmakers that level funding for education must be maintained. Through rallies, a Springfield Lobby Day, meetings with legislators, letter-writing campaigns, and the more than 145,000 emails that have been sent to state elected officials through NoTo37.org, our voices have been heard and the gap has been narrowed significantly.

The pension reform legislation reduced the deficit by $400 million, and the legislature's expenditure plan covered at least $275 million more, and perhaps as much as $368 million. All told, legislative action has reduced the projected deficit by between 68 and 77 percent.

The question now is, what will the City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools do to cover the rest of the budget gap? We’ve heard a lot of rhetoric aimed at Springfield, but unfortunately there has not yet been much discussion of what can be done at the local level. With only one month to go before the start of the new fiscal year, it’s time to get serious about exploring potential options.

One of the most critical issues affecting school funding in Chicago is the system of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Districts. A 2009 analysis conducted by Progress Illinois showed that TIF districts in Chicago are annually diverting more than $275 million in CPS property taxes away from education, roughly the amount of the remaining FY 2011 deficit. Chicago, CPS and the more than 400,000 public school students and their families cannot afford this diversion. We urge you to take the lead in reforming the TIF system to halt this diversion of funds.

As you know, public education is one of the most important quality of life issues for families in Chicago. We have all seen too many families leave Chicago for the suburbs solely because of the lack of quality educational options in Chicago, and that trend will only increase if CPS has to make further budget cuts. It is vital for our children, as well as for the future of Chicago, that we
all stand up together to fix this problem.

Raise Your Hand is a growing coalition of Chicago public school parents and organizations associated with or advocating for public education. Our members collaborate to influence state and local officials to provide appropriate, equitable and sustained funding for public education.

The coalition now includes parents representing more than 250 schools. Please contact Amy Smolensky at 312-485-0053 with any questions or to schedule a meeting.

Raise Your Hand Coalition Steering Committee
Jeanne Atkinson, Friends of Lincoln, Lincoln School
Jonathan Goldman, LSC Chair, Drummond Montessori
Wendy Katten, Friends of Burley, Burley School
Sonia Kwon, Friends of Coonley, Coonley School
Linda Lesondak, Friends of Coonley, LSC, Coonley School
Cliff Meece, LSC, Inter-American Magnet School
Patricia O'Keefe, Friends of Alcott, Alcott School
Christina Schneider, Friends of Franklin, Franklin Fine Arts School
Amy Smolensky, Friends of Burley, Burley School
Aaron Spevacek, Nettlehorst School
Jill Wohl, Inter-American Magnet School
Schools and organizations listed for identification purposes only.
cc: Ron Huberman

Friday, May 28, 2010

More socialism, less bureaucracy!

By Cliff Colpitts

For the past two years I have attempted to get dental care here in this neck of the woods, Sheboygan, Wisconsin. It is either cash, or if you are very, very lucky charity.

I had Medicaid for a short time, but not one private dentist would see me because they all claimed that Medicaid would not pay enough - even to pull one tooth. And I phoned almost every single dentist in Sheboygan.

At this time, I have three left above the gums that must go, and six that are impacted beneath the gums. And an actual physician has told me that the next abscess I have might very well affect my heart itself.

I tried the Veterans Administration but to no avail. One of the strange aspects of the Veterans Administrations is that in terms of medical treatment the organization will treat every single aspect of your medical conditions, but not the teeth. Dental treatment must be service connected. What does that mean? Well, that means that they would be willing to give me a liver transplant at a phenomenally high cost, but not put ten teeth! So it is not a money problem, it is a bureaucracy problem that goes all the way up to Congress. Believe it or not, because of Congress, I can get a new liver but not have ten teeth pulled.

In this particular case, the inner commitment is not there because of rules and regulations from above, and because our leaders, along with our society does not have a social commitment when it comes to medicine. Our AVP video informs us that the United States is number 37 from the top on the medical care for its citizen list and we are the richest country on Earth, and we spend more on health care than any other country on Earth.

Another bureaucracy I had dealings with is the dental school at Marquette University. They have a charity line that is too long and only open once a year. And dealing with their bureaucracy is mind-boggling. You would think that they are shelling out gold.

If you want to learn about ritualistic behavior, let your teeth go and get on the charity line at Marquette University, or better yet if you are a lucky United States Veteran, try talking to a Veterans Administration dentist.

The problem is not just one bureaucracy; it is an attitude that our society has involving the concept of socialism. If our culture allowed more true socialism into our society, we would move from that infamous 37 to the top of the list.

In terms of medicine, and this is just two aspects of productivity, billions of dollars would be saved because of not losing work hours due to illness. And billions ff dollars would be saved because of easy access to preventative medical care.

If we had more socialism in our cultures, there would be less forced ritualistic behavior because the folks at most medical bureaucracies would be able to say, “Come on in and get those teeth fixed,” and not “Get lost pauper!”

Based on mathematics and an ingrained fear of something in our culture, at least one of my readers must be thinking, “That punk must be a communist.” Let me look inside my wallet and make sure. Yep, it is still there. And it is beautiful, unlike the ten rotten teeth in my mouth (I am open for debate.)

32 arrested at ICE offices, say immigration reform can’t wait

By John Bachtell
CHICAGO – Saying comprehensive immigration reform could wait no longer, 32 labor, religious, and community leaders and an elected official were arrested after blocking Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices May 25. The civil disobedience was part of a national week of action aimed getting stalled legislation moving in Congress.

The protesters, who carried sacks of money symbolizing the contributions of immigrants to the US economy, also condemned the anti-immigration law SB 1070 passed in Arizona and threats by ICE to step up immigration enforcement in Illinois.

“We can’t fix this economy as long as 12 million workers are forced to live in the shadows, without any rights and subject to exploitation,” said Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice President of Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “All workers have the same rights and responsibilities and we can only get that through comprehensive immigration reform.”

Medina blasted Republicans in the US Senate for holding up immigration reform and said they shouldn’t expect any votes from the immigrant community in November, “not even for dog catcher.”

Many of those being arrested expressed dismay over the policy of deportations of undocumented workers being carried out by the Obama Administration. If the current rate of deportations keeps up, over 400,000 people will be deported this year, more than under the Bush administration.

While the Obama administration maintains Homeland Security and ICE are targeting unscrupulous employers and those who have committed crimes, trade union leaders are saying otherwise.

Keith Kelleher is president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana, which represents workers in hospitals, nursing homes, home care agencies and childcare. He said many SEIU members were being caught up in the sweeps and background checks.

“There needs to be comprehensive immigration reform and we can’t wait any longer. That’s why I’m getting arrested. We need these deportations to stop. Everyday 1,100 families are broken up,” said Kelleher. He and others termed the federal government’s immigration strategy a failure.

“The families in my district who are being ripped apart by old and broken laws can’t wait,” said Chicago Alderman George Cardenas. “The workers can’t wait. Our economy can’t wait. You don’t throw $1.5 trillion down the drain in a recession.” Cardenas was referring to the amount of money immigrant workers will add to the US economy if reform passes.

“Legality. Rules. Passports and security on the border. Those are issues. But the real issue is people looking for a better life. God made the world for everybody. Not just for you and me and the United States,” said Father Bill Brennan, a 90 year-old Jesuit priest from Milwaukee who was arrested.

“It’s a travesty what happened in Arizona. They’re trying to divide working people and blame the downturn in the economy on immigrants when it should be blamed on Wall Street and LaSalle Street,” said Richard Berg, former president of Teamsters Local 743.

Carl Rosen, Western Regional President of the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers (UE) was arrested along with Armando Robles the President of UE Local 1110 and leader of the Republic Windows and Doors occupation in 2008. Rosen said current immigration policy of deportations was doing far more damage to the American economy than good.

“The people being arrested today are showing with their bodies the level of concern we have. No more business as usual at ICE. No more deportations,” said Rosen.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Protest swarms Chicago City Hall to stop teacher layoffs

By John Bachtell

CHICAGO- Over 4000 teachers, parents and students completely surrounded City Hall May 25 demanding no teacher layoffs and funding cuts to the city’s public schools. The crowd grew so big several streets were shut down during rush hour traffic.

“We’re here to protest the cuts and putting 37 children in a classroom. There will be no learning and teaching done,” said Mark Ochoa, Financial Secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union. “There are classrooms with 37 students – they’re called phys ed classes in gyms.”

The outpouring was the latest and biggest protest reflecting the growing anger and frustration since Chicago Public Schools chief Ron Huberman announced layoffs of 3,000 teachers to close a $600 million budget gap.

The Illinois legislature passed a budget the same day without significant help to the schools. The state is already $1 billion behind in payments to local school districts.

“They don’t care about working class people,” said Marilyn Stewart, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, referring to CPS administration and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. “They only care about money and power. And they think you don’t have any power. Do you have power?” They crowd responded with a resounding, “Yes!”

“Do you vote?” Yes, responded the crowd. “Are you pleased with Mayor Daley and the state legislature?” No the crowd said. “Will you vote in November?” Yes, they said.

Teachers and education advocates are calling on Daley to take money from the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) accounts to fund education. TIFs have accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars by siphoning off property tax monies that would have gone to public education in the first place but end up in development projects instead.

One recently displaced high school history teacher said with 35 children to a classroom little learning would take place. It only takes a year or two to damage or destroy a child’s education and students fall behind for years.

“They are cutting 275,000 teachers nationwide. The damage to this nation is inconceivable. And the money’s all going to Afghanistan,” he said bitterly.

“Less teachers means less teaching and that’s the bottom line,” said Willis Neiderfrank, one of three teachers laid off at Ariel Community Academy. Neiderfrank said this was the first time ever his school had experienced layoffs.

Teachers weren’t the only public workers protesting. They were joined by some of the 1,200 laid off city transit workers. Bus driver Courtney Walker said, “We’re here to save these kids from overcrowded classrooms and so we can get our jobs back. And in November we all will be voting!”

Another transit worker said, “Today we’re marching with the teachers so they will support us. It’s going to take federal funding to save our schools and jobs.”

A group of students from King College Prep High School attended the protest together with their parents. One student told the People’s World, “They shouldn’t do all the cuts because we won’t learn anything. It’ll be a waste of time. It’s going to take more of us supporting each other and our teachers to stop it.”

Vincent Hare, a fourth grade student at Beasley Academic Center said “There are already 34 students in my classroom. With more cuts I probably won’t learn anything.”

Students from across the city have been walking out of classes on a weekly basis to protest the teacher layoffs and elimination of junior varsity sports programs. Several hundred had attended a “study in” on May 24 at Federal Plaza.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rand Paul

Is Rand Paul a: prejudiced, b: a chauvinist, c: a racist?

First we should define these three words in context with the discussion.

Chauvinism - unreasoning devotion to ones race, sex, etc. with contempt for other races, sex, etc.

Prejudices - suspicion, intolerance, or irrational hatred of other races, sex, creeds, regions, occupations, etc.

Racism - any programs or practices of discrimination and segregation that uphold the political or economic domination of one race over another or others.

(definitions from Webster’s New world College Dictionary)

Now lets consider the question(s) at hand considering recent comments of Rand Paul.

a. Is Rand Paul a chauvinist?

He says he is not. Absent any defining “macaque” moment, the question, in and of itself, will stand answered by his denial: for now.

b. Is Rand Paul prejudiced?

He says he is not. Ditto the “macaque” statement above.

c. Is Rand Paul a racist?

Yes. He is. His statements concerning his opposition to Federal laws that protect African-Americans against "programs or practices that uphold political or economic domination of one race over another or others" brands him.

Racist Jim Crow laws and culture - "program or practice" - existed throughout the country before the passage of the Civil Rights Law. The consequences their existence amounted to the uninterrupted "economic or political" domination of African-Americans going back to the earliest days of our nation.

Racist "programs or practices", first and foremost, are sources of power and profit - "political or economic" - and those who support them have been the most ardent and consistent opponents of Federal laws that put those sources out of reach. Here is where we may revisit questions a and b above and challenge Rand Paul’s denial of chauvinism and prejudice. How else can his opposition to laws that provide relief and protection from “political or economic” super-exploitation for millions of African-American citizens be viewed?

One of the great setbacks of the discourse over equality and justice that has taken place since the passage of the Civil Rights Law is the success those who benefit from racist "programs or practices" have had in redefining racism as a prejudice and/or chauvinism. A subjective state of mind rather than one of design represented by "program or practice."

These days we hear talk of black racism, even among some who should know better, as if the African-American community as a whole is or has ever been in any position to institute any "program or practice" that would lead to any level of "political or economic domination" of the white population. It is akin to saying a round square is a geometric figure. It is a lie created to hide the truth and the facts of the consequences of racism. Consequences that do harm to all except the seekers of ever more power and profit. Those who, like Rand Paul, lurk under the mantle of respectability while planning the return of “programs or practices of discrimination and segregation that uphold the political or economic domination of one race over another or others.”

Rand Paul is a racist. We as a nation trying to move forward risk much if we shy from the challenge his ilk presents. Although the danger of what he represents is great, he can be dealt with easily. Simply toss him onto history’s trash heap of other aberrant individuals, as we pass it in November, and don’t look back!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Stand against torture rally, May 24

From the Jail Jon Burge Committee

On May 24, 2010, 8:30AM, Daley Center, the Jon Burge Committee (Coalition) will Take A Stand against Torture. Burge and his Detectives rain systematic torture upon African American and Latino men who was taken into police custody at area two and three violent crime units, from 1972 until 1993. Much as 200 men are reported to have made complaints that while at these two police stations they were beat and tortured under the command of Burge and his Detectives. Today 20 of those men remain incarcerated inside some of Illinois most worse State prisons, having to suffer while Burge and his Detective have manage greatly from their pensions as Detectives. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, while in his capacity as Cook County States Attorney, ignored and covered up claims of torture made by some of the men. Daley has repeatedly denied that he knew of claims of torture, despite evidence showing that he was informed of torture in 1982. 19 of the men have been denied or
hindered from hearing on their claims of torture. One of those men is Stanley Wrice, a Pontiac Correctional Center inmate. Wrice has medical evidence to support his claims of torture but has been repeatedly denied a hearing by Cook County Courts.

These acts of torture were motivated by racism which has been greatly down size by Cook County Courts. Burge and his Detectives is allege to have used racism toward his fellow officers and those who were tortured to repeat or sign confessions. Standing outside a newly built library Mayor Daley apologize to the torture victims and apologize that the tortures occurred, but to this day he has not lift one finger to free any of the men, but serve as the prosecutor to place them behind prison walls with long sentences ranging from 40 to the death penalty. These tortures have serve as a insult toward the African American and Latino communities, leaving criminals in society while innocent men have had to suffer from harsh prison conditions. Mark Clements, a 16 year old juvenile was taken to area three violent crime unit in June, 1981, beat and tortured to repeat a confession. He served 28 years behind prison walls. Today in his role as Administrator and
National Board of Director for the Campaign to End the Death penalty, respectfully request for Mayor Daley, all Detectives who work under Jon Burge command who are labeled as Burge Detectives, All Prosecutors who help to cover up these tortures as well as all elected officials who fail to act to correct these tortures and to free the innocent men from Illinois prisons to resign immediately. "I was only a kid, but these detectives did not care, they beat me and the courts fail me", said Mark. This is a society that fight against torture in other countries but has ignored the tortures toward it's on people.

Burge tortures have serve as a insult toward the African American and Latino people. The Jail Jon Burge Committee (Coalition) request media to conduct interviews with some of the torture victims who remain incarcerated and to cover our event on May 24th.

Jail Jon Burge Committee (Coalition)
847-276-1382-Cell Phone

Monday, May 10, 2010

Forclosure crisis hits rental buildings

From Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing

On average more than 125 multi-family buildings in Chicago went into foreclosure each week in 2009

More rental units impacted than owner-occupied units.

CHICAGO-The foreclosure crisis affected thousands more renters than homeowners in the City of Chicago in 2009, according to a report released today by the Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing (LCBH). Lenders filed foreclosure actions on 6,560 multi-family rental properties in the City of Chicago containing a total of 20,691 units. LCBH's Report estimates 3,,000 to 4,000 more rental units were impacted by foreclosure than owner-occupied units during the year.

The Report, "Chicago Apartment Building Foreclosures: Impact on Tenants" sheds light on the issues facing tenants, who continue to be the hidden and innocent victims in the ongoing foreclosure crisis. In addition, the Report identifies Chicago community areas most affected, the lenders with the largest number of foreclosure filings on apartment building, and the rental units these represent.

The in-depth Report on rental property foreclosure sis an outgrowth of LCBH's 2009 "Weekly Foreclosure Reports on Chicago Rental Housing," used by tenant advocates and neighborhood groups to identify rental properties in foreclosure early in the process so as to reach out to affected tenants.

The full report is available online at www.lcbh.org

Monday, May 3, 2010

Under Pressure: Arizona D-backs Owner Comes Out Softly Against Anti-immigrant bill

By Dave Zirin

First published at thenation.com

A month ago, very few baseball fans could have identified the name Ken Kendrick (was that the third basemen whose defense stopped Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak? No, that was Ken Keltner.) Now he is known across the land as the owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and one of the primary financial backers of the state Republican Party who passed the anti-immigrant Senate Bill 1070, which codifies racial profiling in “the Grand Canyon State”. His team has now morphed into the SB 1070 Traveling Road Show, drawing crowds of protestors to every park from Colorado to Chicago. Since the law was passed, numerous big leaguers and the Major League Players Association have also come out against the already infamous legislation. One of Kendrick’s own players, Augie Ojeda, a US citizen born in Los Angeles, backed the union’s opposition and said, “I don’t know the details, but if I leave the park after a game and I get stopped, am I supposed to have papers with me? I don’t think that’s fair….My neighbor is a policeman. I asked him what it means, and he said he had no idea. If he doesn’t know, I don’t know who would.”

Now Kendrick has emerged from the shadows to disassociate himself and his team from the bill… sort of. He had a team spokesperson release the following statement:

“Although D-backs' Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick has donated to Republican political candidates in the past, the organization has communicated to Arizona Boycott 2010 leader Tony Herrera that Kendrick personally opposes State (sic) Bill 1070.”

The team also released an even more obtuse press release, saying:

“We acknowledge the statement from Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner and share the same concerns of the impact Arizona's immigration law will have on Major League players. However, we believe the federal government should act swiftly to address the immigration issue once and for all. We certainly are well aware of the struggles our state has due to federal inaction on illegal immigration. The fallout of recent state legislation has a direct impact on many of our players, employees and fans in Arizona, not to mention our local businesses, many of which are corporate partners of ours. Unfortunately, this whole situation is sad and disappointing for all of us who are associated with the Arizona Diamondbacks. We remain hopeful that this situation can be resolved in a manner that does not cause harm to our great state."

There are several lessons to be drawn from the above comments. First and foremost, they are concessions. Without the pressure of the Arizona Boycott, the union, and the stadium protests there is no way whatsoever Kendrick releases these statements. Secondly, now is the time to actually step up the protests at the park. We should demand that Ken Kendrick himself stop hiding behind PR flaks and speak to the cameras about his opposition to SB 1070. He should declare that not one more dime from his bottomless pockets will go toward the state Republican Party until SB 1070 is overturned. He should also support the effort to have Major League Baseball remove the All Star Game from Phoenix if SB 1070 is still on the books, no matter the personal financial cost. In other words, he should put his money where his PR director’s mouth is. Until Ken Kendrick takes these, or similar, steps, all recent statements from the team should be seen for what they are: ploys to deflect and cushion the growing national anger toward his team and toward his state. If the D-backs are in your town, get there early with 50 of your closest friends and tell the fans that Arizona has earned pariah status until SB 1070 is filed into the dustbin of history.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Wave of opposition builds against Arizona law » peoplesworld

Wave of opposition builds against Arizona law » peoplesworld

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Illinois communists meet, call for unity and action against economic crisis

The Communist Party of Illinois held its state convention on April 17 to assess its work and elect delegates to the CPUSA national convention May 21-23 in New York City. Below are opening remarks by state organizer John Bachtell.


In preparing these remarks, I was reflecting on the changes our country has witnessed and our accomplishments really overwhelmed me.

We’ve grown, matured and been tempered in this mighty struggle along side labor and the people's movements.

And none bigger than being participants and shapers in one of the greatest developments in our nation's history - the election of the first African American president and the defeat of the Republican majorities after 30 years of right wing domination of government.

The 2008 elections marked a turning point, the beginning of a transition period full of great potential for reform and change.

Let’s take a moment to applaud our work, and the millions who have gotten us to this point.

We meet beneath the dark storm clouds of economic crisis tearing our communities and families apart. The working class and people seethe with anger and frustration and want relief from the torrential rains.

We’re all affected by this crisis. Like our comrade from Urbana, who like so many others has been jobless for two years. He finally received his disability insurance but not before he lost his home, joining the millions who have been foreclosed on.

We have two great challenges before us.

First, to fully immerse our selves in today’s titanic battles, to build the united democratic movements against the economic crisis and inequality and defeat the apostles of hate, racism and division.

How well we build the broad democratic movement and how effectively it removes the rightwing Republican obstructionists in Congress and influences the Obama administration and Congress will determine what kind of economic and social reforms will be won.

As the great African American singer and civil rights leader Harry Belafonte said, if Obama fails, we fail.

Secondly, we’re challenged to build a modern mass 21st century CPUSA and YCL. The country needs it to help navigate this era and the path to socialism; to help assemble, bring forward and unite the class and social forces necessary to make the change.

Okay, this much is clear: the ultra right was not decisively defeated in the 2008 elections and could regain power. The reactionary sector of US monopoly capitalism that gives it sustenance is powerful and far more embedded in government than many appreciated.

Danger abounds. The Tea Party movement, aided and abetted by hate psycho radio, disrupts town hall meetings. President Obama is the target of the most viscous and vile forms of racism. Armed fascists attend presidential rallies and reactionary politicians exploit popular rage.

Some say we are putting the class struggle on hold by still targeting the ultra right as the main danger.

We ignore it at our peril. The struggle against the ultra right is also the protracted fight against the most reactionary sections of US monopoly capitalism.

We have an immediate electoral challenge in Illinois. The Republicans have declared the US Senate seat a national battleground. We must respond - defeat this threat and join the broad coalition to make sure the seat is filled by a pro-labor senator.

An election victory in 2010, including Gov. Pat Quinn, and Democratic House of Representative candidates, and where possible more pro-labor, progressive candidates, will consolidate the 2008 election victory, and open the door to the next stage of reforms.

Nationally, the elections can tear down the Republican obstructionist walls. A loss will mean higher walls and greater opposition.

This democratic movement is multi-class, ranging from an energized and progressive labor movement to sections of monopoly capital. There are many political forces and trends, including Obama. There are competing forces within the Obama administration and the Democratic Party. It’s not unified on every question and we have disagreements with the Obama administration on some issues.

But how the democratic movement handles its differences is key. There will be no reform process without the Obama administration.

The democratic movement is not the only pressure on Obama and Democrats.

After his first 100 days in office, President Obama was asked what new he had learned. He replied, “there is more than one power center in this country” and singled out Wall Street. We could add, the Pentagon and intelligence community and corporate influence in government at all levels.

Our goal is to build the mass united democratic movement, bring labor and the core forces into its leadership and put a working class stamp on the reforms. To play it role, this movement must be united. This requires waging an uncompromising struggle against racism, discrimination against women, and homophobia.

Historic health care reform victory: only the first step

To quote the always-colorful Joe Biden, the health care reform victory was a "BFD." During this fight a labor leader implored Illinois health care activists with an allegory of the Battle of Gettysburg. He recounted his visit to the battlefield where two great armies met and one left defeated. It changed the course of the war.

The battle lines were drawn. Two great armies met on the legislative battlefield and clashed for a year. One had been retreating for most of 30 years, but won a major victory in 2008 and went on the offensive. The other gave everything they had to inflict “Obama’s Waterloo.”

The democratic movement won that epic battle. It didn’t rout the enemy, but it gained new momentum and energy for the next offensive.

The result wasn’t what we wanted, and the health care corporations will benefit. But it was a big step in the right direction. After 30 years of anti-government ideology, the victory restores the role of government, enshrines the idea of universal health care and for the first time regulates health insurance corporations.

Perhaps more importantly, the victory also reenergized the movements, gave fresh optimism and momentum. Think were we would be had we lost.

The reform will have some immediate effects including in Illinois.

- Immediate access to affordable coverage for 201,233 Illinoisans currently uninsured due to pre-existing conditions

- Medicare improvements and lower-cost prescription drugs for 1.8 million Illinois seniors

- Prohibiting insurance companies from using pre-existing conditions to deny care to 3.2 million Illinois children

-570 Community Health Centers in Illinois will receive additional funding.

Terrie and I are relieved because our children will be covered under our insurance until they are 26 years old.

The Party was immersed in this struggle, although more could have been active. We had some great grassroots experiences with Organizing for America, Campaign for Better Health Care, Health Care for America Now, Moveon.org, in our unions, retiree associations and single payer groups.

We reported on the rallies, actions and town hall meetings in the PW.
The Campaign for Better Health Care asked if organizations that participated wanted to be listed at their celebration. We said of course. To which an organizer responded, “Absolutely - Wouldn't think of having a list without Communist Party of IL and People’s World on it! You do great work.”

Some on the left and in our Party had differences with our approach. They believed it was single payer or nothing and called for killing the bill.
But this ignored the balance of political forces and the real legislative process. Should we have aligned objectively with the fascist Tea Party and right wing? No!

Which side are we on - with the broad democratic movement in alliance and interaction with Obama, or with the mob?

Would a political defeat now make it easier to tackle immigration reform? No!

Was it the end of the fight? No!
It’s time to put those differences behind us, move on and consolidate this victory.

There are new possibilities to win single payer on the state level, further regulate insurance industry pricing, to win a public option and Medicare Buy-in. The struggle continues!

What lessons did the democratic movement learn for the next fight?
The balance of forces is still not favorable enough. Every fight going forward will be fierce.

Corporate power and the ultra right is deeply embedded in government. Undoing 30 years of right wing domination won't happen in a day.
The people's movements will need to be stronger, more united and more sustained to win greater reforms.

It’s not enough to elect. Millions must be actively engaged in the legislative process.

It’s not enough to put out advanced demands and insist everyone follow. Building winning movements requires broad unity around the demands millions are willing to fight on and advanced tactics.

A Party of action
It's no stretch to say the Party has been involved in every major class, legislative and electoral battle since our last convention.

The Party and YCL were heavily involved in the historic election campaigns in 2006 (in the 6th CD), 2007 (aldermanic elections), and 2008 where we traveled to Indiana along with half of Chicago to secure the historic win.

We were a vital part of the history making Rudy Lozano and Jesus Garcia campaigns this February that almost beat one of the most powerful Democratic Party machines in the state.

We have been part of the movements to end the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, to demilitarize the economy and change US foreign policy.

We have marched on May Day and been active in the immigrant rights movement.
We have walked strike picket lines and mobilized solidarity.
Were we to hand out some recognition awards it might go like this:

Best club coalition building experience - Oak Park club for the New New Deal Coalition and South Side club with labor-religious-community health care coalition.
Best club labor-community initiated action - Logan Square/Humboldt Park club for the EFCA action at the Bank of America.

Best club electoral experience - Bridgeport and YCL clubs for tireless work in the Rudy Lozano campaign.

Best on-line grassroots organizing experience – South Side, Rogers Park and Humboldt Park- Logan Square for their Organizing for America work.

Best trade union organizing experience – Carmen in the Resurrection Hospital campaign, Ben in the warehouse workers campaign, and Lance in the charter schoolteacher campaign.

We have so much to be proud of. We have many exciting grassroots experiences, which I hope you share today. Our work has many shortcomings, but it’s a solid basis on which to build.

We do have a ways to go in deepening a culture of action and initiative at the grassroots. We envision our neighborhood clubs as initiators of bold grassroots action, which can bring together the coalitions necessary to create change on a grassroots basis.

Our MO should always be: action, action and still more action; initiative, initiative and still more initiative.

Building a mass movement for jobs
We are called to the front lines to fight against mass joblessness and the worst budget crisis in state history. This is a long-term crisis. It is having a catastrophic affect in the African American, Latino and other nationally and racially oppressed communities and among youth. The killing of 6 and wounding of another 12 in one night of violence this week is a tragic symptom of this crisis.
There will be no solution outside of government intervention, democratization of the economy and redistribution of wealth.

On a national level, labor and the major civil rights organizations launched the Jobs for America Now Coalition and its five-point program to address the crisis.

We are part of this coalition and are helping build the broadest movement possible nationally, locally and in our neighborhoods. Our panel will share some great initiatives we have been involved with.

We can help grow the multiracial diversity, and connect it with youth, religious communities, green jobs and peace movements.

Chicago Jobs with Justice has initiated a local coalition. We can initiate neighborhood coalitions with: petitions, delegations to elected officials, demonstrations at unemployment offices and against evictions or foreclosures, community violence, helping a family in need; organizing public hearings on neighborhood joblessness, and an establishing unemployed action and assistance center.

We need to be the spark that gets things moving, the unifiers that bring people together and the best builders of coalition actions.

The Illinois state budget crisis can’t be solved without a federal bailout and taxing the rich. We support all initiatives for a progressive and fair state tax system. We have some concerns with SB 174 because it still raises taxes of many working families. Nevertheless we are part of the broad movement sweeping the state to stop the budget cuts.

We are active fighting the budget cuts to education and social services. When Mayor Daley called for an end to the Afghan war and redirecting money home, he was speaking for Mayors facing catastrophic budget cuts. It signals how much broader the anti-war movement can be if its united with the economic and budget crisis.

Changing the balance of forces isn’t just an aim nationally. It’s an aim at every level. The state legislature and Chicago is still dominated by big capital and large corporations and the Democratic machine.

The 2007 municipal election victories and Chuy Garcia’s victory and Rudy Lozano’s campaign are a step toward bringing forward a labor-led people’s coalition and independent politics and changing the balance of political and class forces.

Party and YCL building 9.0
We have another great challenge: to build a modern, 21st century Communist Party, adapt our structure and methods to new conditions, develop Marxism to embrace what is new in politics, society and mass communications technology.

We are expanding our relations, gaining respect and acceptance but everyone is troubled we’re not growing faster. It’s not a new question.

A few comrades say it’s because we’ve gone off the Marxist rails and we’re tailing Democrats or the labor movement.

We may have problems, but that’s not one of them. Our politics and strategic policy is gaining us greater respect, putting us in position to grow. If fact, the Party won’t grow by separating itself from the broad democratic movement.

Supporting partial demands doesn’t prevent us from advocating our views; strategic policy and injecting advanced solutions into the mix.

I believe large growth in the Communist Party won’t take place without a shift in how millions think. The greatest growth in the Party’s history occurred at the height of the mass people's upsurge between 1935-38. People learned from struggle.

The movements are not there yet. And so our growth will largely be incremental for a time.

Political atmosphere is essential to growth. A recent Rasmussen poll showed 20% of Americans (half among youth) think socialism is better than capitalism and another 27% aren’t sure.

Thanks largely to Republicans and the ultra right, millions are discussing socialism. This is new and exciting.

Having a higher public profile is essential to growth. If people don’t know we exist, here or in the neighborhoods, they can’t find us or join.
Relationships are essential to growth. Our goal should be to develop them a thousand fold. Relationships lead to comfort, respect and interest in our ideas.

Having an organizational structure that fits today’s realities and facilitates relationship building is essential for growth. Much of our organizational structure and practice flows from another era.

Overcoming self-red baiting and feeling the Party will isolate is essential to growth. We should be like Mack! He conducts a class on Marxism every morning at the Dunkin Donuts at Pulaski and 55th St. that has resulted in a circle of contacts and two recruits to the Party.

All of political and social life is being reshaped by the mass communications revolution. We can’t ignore it, but instead should master the revolutionary new social practice.

The Internet and social networking allows us to interact with and speak to millions, and to combine it with grassroots face-to-face organizing. It’s Lenin’s idea of building the Party around the press applied to the Internet age.
We develop relationships by getting PW articles and our ideas, in the email boxes of thousands of activists.

How many of us forward PW or PA articles to family, friends, co-workers or other activists? I suspect far too few.

How many clubs have email lists of activists? I know the Logan Square – Humboldt Park club does!

We have a district PW weekly alerts list of 125, almost as many as print subs. Let’s aim to double it by end of year including with every member and former reader. Of course, we have a much wider distribution of articles through personal email, Facebook, Twitter and other on-line social media and our District Blog, The Spirit of Haymarket. But we’re barely scratching the surface.

Finally, we’ve had a wonderful experience in the pre-convention discussion with our monthly Politics and Potluck discussions. It has become an anchor for Party life and should be a model for regular Marxist education and citywide activity. Kudos to the new District education collective! It will lead to bigger and better things. Where else in Chicago can working people learn about Marxism and the ideas of socialism?

I think our wonderful achievements and experiences provide us with a great basis for discussion and lay a solid foundation for the hard and challenging work ahead.

Chicago rally demands Wall Street reform, jobs now » peoplesworld

Chicago rally demands Wall Street reform, jobs now » peoplesworld

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Avatar angst

From US Weekly mag.

"Fans of Avatar aren't just seeing blue: They're feeling it, too. Some are claiming the James Cameron-directed fantasy, which has grossed nearly $1.4 billion to date, made them depressed because they don't live in a utopian world. CNN reports that there have been more than 1,000 posts on the "Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible" forum on a fan site. But don't reach for the Prozac just yet. Explains psychology expert Cooper Lawrence: "Movies do not cause depression. If you feel that way, you were unhappy ahead of time."

An innate human need for socialist ideals perhaps - Bill Appelhans

Friday, April 23, 2010

Just so.

A sort of CliffsNotes guide to understanding the minds of Democrats and Republicans:

Democrats and Obama said to Wall Street elites - "Unless your business model depends on bilking people, there's little to fear from these new rules." April 22, 2010

Republicans and Bush said to Wall Street elites - "This is an impressive crowd — the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base." October 19, 2000

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fidel's Retirement Home?

By Bill Appelhans

Some time back the Washington Post featured an online forum where readers could expound on subjects the paper's administrator chose. Discussions could go on for days with thousands of comments.

One day I came across one commenter who talked about a news story he read about Fidel Castro's chateau in France.

I responded with the following. I saved it, so it is word for word.

"glorenzsonn, (the commentators pen name-BA)

If I may I would like to interject something I recently came across quite a while ago.

It had to do with a hacienda in Spain that was purportedly bought by the Soviet Union to be given to Fidel Castro. But there was a problem. Because of the well known incompetence of the Soviet bureaucrats the paperwork was sent by mistake to Manuel Noriega of Panama who had just had a falling out with the US CIA and the Soviet KGB was trying to woo.

At some point Fidel Castro found out and demanded that Noriega turn over the property post haste. Noriega refused and Castro squealed to the CIA that the KGB was establishing a foothold in Panama.
End of Noriega.

Of course the Soviets weren't too pleased about losing a potential "asset" and were kind of peeved at Castro, but since Noriega was gone they cut their losses and made peace with Fidel by purchasing the chateau in France for him as a gift. But there was a problem. Before they were able to give him the paperwork the Wall was torn down and all the roads were closed while the rubble was being removed. All westbound traffic was halted. In the intervening period the Soviet Union collapsed and to this day nobody knows who took the paperwork and where the chateau was located.

Fidel, knowing that somewhere in France there is a guy living in his chateau, has been spending all the people's money hiring private detectives and lawyers in his search. This explains why the US has never been able to show pictures of Castro sunbathing in the nude on the veranda of the chateau. Something they would surely love to do to discredit him. Apparently even they have no clue to who lives there or where it is.

I would imagine Castro is getting a little desperate as he gets closer to "retirement". Wouldn't surprise me if the CIA is looking high and low for it as an inducement for Castro to leave Cuba now that he is getting on in years. Lord knows nothing else they have tried over the last 40+ years has worked!

An interesting side note to this ongoing saga is what happened to the hacienda in Spain. When Panama City was practically destroyed by the US "surgical" military operation to arrest Noriega, the paperwork for the property was taken back to the US and made a gift of to Henry Kissinger for his years of services rendered. But there was a problem. It seems there is this prosecutor in Spain who doesn't seem to be able to grasp the concept of Western-style democracy, i.e. - to get along, go along.

He has been threatening to indict Kissinger for crimes against humanity as a result of his complicity in the overthrow of the legally elected government of Salvador Allende of Chile in 1972.

Poor Henry has never even seen the place!

Finally, as I stated at the beginning, this story is one that I recently came across quite a while ago and have been trying to verify ALL OF IT. When I do I'll let you all know. In the meantime you are all free to accept all or part of it to use in any way you choose.

Best regards,

glorenzsom responded:

"APSPA1 (my pen name - BA)
Good heavens, what an incredible story. Mine was nowhere near that detailed. I haven't had time to go back, but I promise to make an effort this weekend. What I remember is that supposedly, Castro bought a villa (or whatever you wish to call it) in southern France, which at that time was being "decorated" (which I assume means prepared for his retirement) by a lady (her name was given, hope I can find it). The story was that Castro had married this lady."

This guy believed the gibberish. However I never did see another word about the subject on the forum. Go figure.