July 30, 2010

Jobs, labor and WPA's living legacy

OAKLAND, Calif. - With official unemployment standing at 9.5 percent nationally and at 12.3 percent in California - and far higher in many hard-hit communities - interest is growing in the history and legacy of Depression-era New Deal programs like the Works Progress Administration.

See slideshow of Northern California New Deal Projects here.

At its biennial convention earlier this month, the California Labor Federation passed a resolution calling on the AFL-CIO and "all of organized labor" to fight for a WPA-type program "fully funded by the government," providing "socially-useful" work paying union wages and benefits. The resolution points out that the WPA and related government programs were "a response to a tremendous mass movement" throughout the U.S. It urges support for the Oct. 2 march for jobs in Washington, D.C. backed by the NAACP, AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union and a broad range of organizations and individuals.

The San Francisco Labor Council passed a similar resolution earlier this year, endorsing the April 2010 national commemoration of the WPA's 75th anniversary in Washington, D.C. and calling for "enactment of a similar bold sweeping jobs program today."

And at its national convention last September, the AFL-CIO passed a resolution urging "a Works Progress Administration-style jobs program to rebuild America's manufacturing sector and put 7 million Americans back to work immediately."

The country's largest employer during the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration put more than 8.5 million people to work on projects ranging from public buildings to infrastructure to schools, hospitals and parks - to say nothing of murals, plays, music and literature - from 1935 to 1943.
The San Francisco Bay Area's month-long LaborFest has featured several programs celebrating different aspects of the work of the WPA and related New Deal government agencies including the Public Works Administration (PWA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

Along with celebrations of the WPA's cultural legacy, tours led by participants in California's Living New Deal Project have highlighted public buildings and other facilities that continue in active use today, some seven decades after they were constructed.

Among many such public structures detailed on the project's website, livingnewdeal.berkeley.edu:

* The Alameda County Superior Court building, in downtown Oakland, was built by the Public Works Administration. Today it houses the Registrar of Voters as well as the court and related government offices.
* Several buildings on the Berkeley High School campus. The shop and science buildings were built by the WPA. The Little Theater was a PWA project. Bas reliefs were created under the Federal Art Project. Berkeley High School, with over 3,000 students, is the city's only high school, and is one of the largest high schools in northern California.
* Berkeley's City Hall, the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center, was originally built for the Farm Credit Association. The six-story building is now Berkeley's city hall.
* The Casting Pools and Anglers' Lodge in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park were built by the WPA. The complex has hosted several national casting tournaments over the years.
* A number of facilities at the Port of Oakland, including wharfs, berthing spaces, railroad tracks and warehouses, were built with participation of the WPA, PWA and other federal agencies.
* The Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge was a PWA project; the High Street and Park Street Bridges connecting Oakland with the city of Alameda were built with WPA and PWA participation.
* San Francisco's Sunshine School, a PWA project, was originally a school for physically challenged children. It has been a continuation high school and now houses the Family Developmental center, part of the city's Family Services Agency.

With such a living heritage from projects that flourished seven decades ago, imagine the effect a new, massive WPA-type program could have throughout the 21st century!

July 29, 2010

MARIELA IN GOOD SPIRITS DURING INTERVIEW

MARIELA CASTRO IS INTERVIEWED BY DER SPEIGAL - GOOD JOB!

Mariela Castro, daughter of the Cuban president, talks about economic reforms and human rights in her country, her relationship with her family and Cuba's sexual revolution.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Castro, you are the proponent of a modern policy on AIDS and sexuality, the sort of policy one is more likely to see in the Western democracies. Is this a harbinger of reforms and overdue liberalization in Cuba?

Mariela Castro: That could possibly be the case.

SPIEGEL: Why is it taking such an endlessly long time? Even the president, your father, openly admits that the situation, in agriculture, for example, is worse than ever before. He has sharply criticized the inefficiency of government-owned operations. In other words, reforms are critical to Cuba's survival.

Castro: Our people stand behind the Cuban form of socialism, but now it should be better than before. We are sufficiently self-critical to know this, and to know that our people want more flexibility and liberality. How this can happen is now the subject of discussion in many committees. It's a slow process, but something is moving.

SPIEGEL: There isn't much evidence of that.

Castro: And yet it moves, as Galileo once said. But we have to be careful. Cuba is a country that has always had enemies and is now under pressure from powerful groups in the United States seeking to dominate our country economically.

SPIEGEL: Many members of the opposition have lost patience. In February, imprisoned dissident Orlando Zapata died after an 85-day hunger strike, with which he sought to obtain the release of other political prisoners. The governments of the United States and the European Union have sharply criticized Havana's behavior.

Castro: There was no political background to this strike. Zapata wanted to achieve personal privileges in prison: a telephone, a TV set and a kitchen. Of course, no one wanted him to die, but people abroad, in Miami, encouraged him to continue and to stick with his campaign until the end. He was used for a media campaign against Cuba.

SPIEGEL: You're simplifying the issue. Even renowned Cuban artists often campaign against restrictions on free thought. The popular singer-songwriter Pablo Milanés, for example, recently made an appeal to the regime when he said: "You discuss and fight ideas, but you don't lock them up."

Castro: No one is punished for free speech in Cuba. If free and inconvenient thoughts were a crime in our country, I would have been a good candidate for prison, with my advocacy for sexual self-determination. Those people are in prison because they are mercenaries paid by Washington.

SPIEGEL: If they were all truly guilty of treason, you couldn't simply release them this easily. The first of 52 political prisoners have just been released.

Castro: This isn't the first time that mercenaries and terrorists have been allowed to emigrate after political talks. It shows that Cuba is always willing to engage in reasonable conversations. But we make our own decisions.

SPIEGEL: Cuba's government is alone in the world with its view that these are mercenaries and terrorists. Without reforms, how do you intend to stop the exodus of young, well-educated Cubans?

Castro: Cuba is a poor country. Most of the Cubans who leave only do so if they can find better economic conditions elsewhere. That's why we need changes. We have to offer incentives to keep people here. We have to create more attractive policies for young people, so that it also makes economic sense for them to stay. We need growth and a better quality of life for everyone.

SPIEGEL: Most of all, you need more freedom: more and better mobile phones, and unlimited and affordable use of the Internet and new media, for example.

Castro: Cubans are curious, no less than people elsewhere in the world. We want to try everything, but we also want to decide for ourselves on what is good for our country and what isn't.

SPIEGEL: Why is Cuba so bold when it comes to the rights of homosexuals, of all people? After all, your uncle, the revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, claimed that a homosexual lacked the "strength of character of a revolutionary."

Castro: The successful fight for equal rights by the women's movement has opened the door to fight offensively against other prejudices in our society. It's like a new revolution, which Fidel also had to recognize.

SPIEGEL: Is there a personal reason why you campaign for the rights of gays and lesbians in particular?

Castro: For me, sexual identity and orientation is a human right, which should also be accepted by the United Nations. Of course, innovations in this area provoke contradictions, especially in a society like ours, which has so many revolutionary processes.

SPIEGEL: Cuba's revolutionaries always liked seeing themselves in the role of lady-killers and truly macho men. Were they homophobic?

Castro: No more than others in other societies of the day in Europe and America. The ideals of our revolution were very progressive on some fronts but not on others.

SPIEGEL: For many decades, homosexuals in Cuba were sent to reeducation camps. Even today, the police still conduct raids at popular gay hangouts. Haven't the reforms taken hold yet?

Castro: The police don't always proceed with completely legal methods. That's why we still have so much work ahead of us, which includes educating the police.

SPIEGEL: Do you owe the success of your work to your family name?

Castro: I don't know. Of course, there has been and still is resistance in the party, as well as opposition within the population and on the part of some churches. And sometimes it's the name Castro that provokes opposition.

SPIEGEL: Why did you withdraw a bill to legalize same-sex life partnerships for men and women? Did it go too far for your father?

Castro: No, he understood it and supported it. But there are people in his environment and in some governing bodies of the church who cannot understand it. We continue to fight. Where there are people there are sexual differences and homosexuality, even in the Communist Party. The opponents must recognize that our policy also benefits many party members by allowing them to have political careers.

SPIEGEL: Do you discuss politics with your father Raul?

Castro: We had more time to talk about politics before my father became president. He supported me in my work at the time, but now it's become much more difficult. He was right to say: this is your fight, and you have to win it on your own.

SPIEGEL: How is your uncle? Is he still involved in politics?

Castro: I haven't seen Fidel since he fell ill. But my father tells me that he is now much better. There have also been foreign visitors who have met with him since then.

SPIEGEL: The party newspaper, Granma, regularly publishes his controversial "reflections." He recently predicted the premature end of the football World Cup, because he expected a war to break out against Iran.

Castro: He still has a lot of energy. He writes a lot and, if he had his way, would still be changing the world. But he is less and less involved in everyday politics. There are others who do that now.

SPIEGEL: At 79, your father Raul isn't exactly the youngest, either. Could you imagine being his political successor one day?

Castro: No, I have played my role in politics, both professionally and as a citizen. My parents even prevented me from being nominated for other political tasks, because politics is also emotionally stressful. I suppose they wanted to protect me.

SPIEGEL: What will Cuba look like after the Castro era?

Castro: I hope that the economic, financial and trade blockade against Cuba will be lifted, so that the economy can grow and wages can rise. But I also hope that we will not compromise our independence and become weak, and that we will never betray our ideals of equality and social justice. This is what our parents fought for, and we owe it to them.

Interview conducted by Manfred Ertel. Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan



July 27, 2010

Corvallis Manor Workers Step Up And Move Forward

Workers at the Corvallis Manor nursing home joined SEIU today. Leading the effort were Charlie Davis, Stephanie Busch, Rachel Hillard, Nicole Holaday and Beth Parish. SEIU Local 503 external organizers worked very hard on the long campaign and an elected official was on hand to help with the card count.

Corvallis Manor workers mainly gave two key reasons for organizing. The nursing home census has been low--a constant source of worry and irritation to nursing home workers--and so workers reporting to work have been sent home for “lack of work” without a fair process in place to help them. In addition, Corvallis workers saw workers at union homes owned by the same company (Pinnacle Health Care) get a larger raise than they did last year.

Nursing homes in the Willamette Valley generally employ workers who move through the homes, rely on one another for job leads and support and share common cultures and outlooks. This union campaign also used the workers desire to form lasting relationships with one another and with their union to move towards this great victory.

July 24, 2010

DEMOCRATIC LEADER WAFFLES AGAIN ON WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION



Transcript of Nancy Pelosi's appearance at Netroots Nation

by: Pam Spaulding

Sat Jul 24, 2010 at 16:02:30 PM EDT


Photo: Todd A. Heywood/MichiganMessenger.com

Many thanks to Karen Ocamb at LGBT POV for this, so you can see verbatim how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refuses to answer a direct question about a vote on ENDA, and puts the responsibility on the community to educate the trans-ignorant members of Congress.

Wait - don't we have organizations inside the Beltway for that? WTH have they been doing all this time? They are the ones with access, not us.

Moderator Cheryl Contee:

A recent poll indicates that a majority of Americans support the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act – ENDA. ENDA now has 198 co-sponsors. While you and President Obama have both been strong advocates for ENDA’s passing, the bill is stuck in committee and promises of passage haven’t been kept. @Dr.TJulianWeiss on Twitter, MCC on JackandJillpolitics and Perfect Stormer on Daily Kos all want to know will we see passage of ENDA anytime soon?

Speaker Nancy Pelosi

: (she does some thank yous and recognitions first). ENDA has been something that has been part of my being (?) since I went to the Congress. And then some years later, around 16 years ago, we finally had legislation that we could rally around. This is an absolute priority, not only for me personally, but for our House Democratic Caucus.

Under the leadership of George Miller (D-CA), the chairman of the Education and Labor Committee which has primary jurisdiction, we have been working very hard to try to iron out some of the – to have some clarity of language that could dispel some opposition. This is something that has to be done. It’s so long overdue. It’s almost embarrassing to have to have to pass a bill to end discrimination in the workplace.

I am happy, though, that it fits comfortably on the path we set ourselves on. We said we were going to do hate crimes – fully inclusive hate crimes – and we did pass that legislation as Rachel said [during a video], the Matthew Shepard legislation. We’re very proud of that – that it was fully inclusive.

And then next on my agenda was ENDA but there was support to take up Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and we’re very proud that we passed that in the House. I might say that I would have hoped that there would have been a moratorium on any discharges from the military (applause) until it was resolved (? applause makes it hard to hear end).

But I do think that my the time 2010 comes to an end, so does Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. And at the same time, we are holding….I need your help to get the biggest possible vote on ENDA.

All of these issues took time. You know when we started hate crimes – you know that was when I first came to Congress 23 years ago. It wasn’t an issue of “fully inclusive.” Gay, lesbians, bisexuals – but then transgender became an issue and the challenge became greater. Same thing with ENDA.

But we’re against discrimination – against anybody and everybody and our bill will be fully inclusive (applause).

I can’t give you a time. But I can tell you that it is a priority and it had been our hope to do it this year. We have to finish Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and hopefully we can do both this year.

Moderator:

Who’s blocking the passage of ENDA and whom should the netroots target?

Pelosi:

Well, I think I would target in a positive way (audience rumbles) – this is America – show your appreciation for those who are with you, with us – encourage them to be not only a vote but a leader on the issue – persuader, the peer pressure that is there. Because I don’t think – I think that some of the opposition comes from those perhaps in the work, um – in the business community who may not understand the – how this can be practically accomplished. We think it can. I think that should be the least of it, when we’re talking about ending discrimination in our country.

So my advice would be just – let’s get the drum beat going, get everybody as enthused as they have been. We won by 40 votes on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Forty votes! That is a very big – we hardly won anything by four votes, much less 40 votes (laughter) in the (? can’t make it out).

(Shout from GetEqual’s Robin McGehee: “Move on ENDA now!”)

Moderator:

Hey – I’m going to release the crackin (?), alright, so please don’t’ shout out questions from the audience.

Pelosi:

No, but it is – your impatience is justified. Let’s make it productive so that we can all work together and strengthen each other as – to get this passed as soon as possible. Very important. (Applause)

Moderator:

Thank you.

Moderator:

Thank you, Speaker.

Pelosi: I love ENDA. I feel a little pride of being there at the start of all that. Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin and now Jared Polis, who is going to be here, I understand this weekend – have been an important part of all this.

Pam Spaulding :: Transcript of Nancy Pelosi's appearance at Netroots Nation

She is definitely feeling the pressure..I love that "Stay Positive" - I guess Civil Disobedience does not feel positive for her - Oh, well


July 22, 2010

Hazel Glen Manufactured Home Park In Independence

Kids shoot hoops or try skateboarding on the flat street pavement. Mexican music carries from one trailer to another. Someone is frying something delicious. Parents are returning from long days in the fields, working construction or the lowest paying jobs in nursing homes. A neighbor's car with a dead battery has been parked in front of my place for a week. Three women push strollers around the park, talking happily to one another. Someone is watering roses. Someone else is putting in a new door and a window frame. Three men sit in the shade on plastic chairs and carve a watermelon. Small dogs bark and cats yowl.

A woman goes door to door, small children in tow, selling tamales. A station wagon pulls through the park with pastries in the back and stops every thirty feet or so for the kids lucky enough to have a dollar. Someone breaks the park rules and works on his car. A woman sits on the curb, reading intently. When a child cries parents come running. The boys shooting hoops show off to the girls while wary parents watch from porches and porch steps. A few men gather at a car to talk quietly.

The temperature drops as a breeze picks up. Doors close and the park grows quiet.

In seven hours the first pick-ups will cough to life as workers head off to the fields and construction sites.

SOMOS TODOS ARIZONA

SOMOS TODOS ARIZONA

RALLY AND PHOTO-SHOOT AGAINST SB 1070

National Day of Action
JULY 29
5-7 pm @ Holladay Park

Corner of NE Holladay & 13th Ave, Portland, Oregon

...

LET’S TAKE ACTION TOGETHER! On July 29th lets join together in a national day of action against Arizona Law SB1070! Many states are considering legislation similar to Arizona's SB 1070. The law, which says that police officers must detain anyone who may appear to be illegal, is scheduled to go into effect on Wed, July 28th. With many other states considering similar laws, it's crucial that we stand in solidarity with the people of Arizona and with all immigrants everywhere! Police and ICE (Immigration and Custom Enforcement) Collaboration Must Stop Now!

On July 29th we will gather at 5pm for materials, signs, and activist orientation. Together we will spread the word and get others to send the message to Arizona that No One Is Illegal! Let's send our message to the governor’s office.

For more information call Eliana at 503-703-1407

July 19, 2010

"9500 Liberty" Is Showing In Salem

9500 LIBERTY
High Street Cinema
445 High Street SE
Salem, OR
(503) 378-7676
Mon. 7/19 – Thu. 7/22 6:30

9500 LIBERTY is directed by Coffee Party founders Annabel Park and Eric Byler. During the film's national tour, Byler and Park have been meeting with Coffee Party members around the country, rallying around the film's non-partisan, participatory democracy message.

After a 10-month culture war that included a bitterly contentious election, the government of Prince William County, VA, implemented a law requiring police to check the immigration status of those they had "probable cause" to believe were undocumented immigrants in March 2008. Despite a climate of fear and racial tension, ordinary citizens banded together to ask lawmakers to repeal of the controversial "probable cause" mandate. With an inventive combination of Internet and grassroots advocacy, Republicans and Democrats, stay-at-home moms, and religious leaders presented the Board of Supervisors with evidence of the law's unexpectedly negative economic impact, and warning of the costly law suits that would soon become a heavy burden for taxpayers. Both Arizona's S.B. 1070 and the Virginia county's short-lived "probable cause" mandate were originally drafted by the same anti-immigration lobbying firm in Washington DC. When the provision was repealed in Virginia, the law found a new home in Arizona.

Law enforcement leaders in Arizona and around the country have pointed to 9500 LIBERTY as an effective summation of the alarming economic and public safety impacts of laws like S.B. 1070. 9500 LIBERTY was recently presented at the Police Executives Research Forum convention in Philadelphia, PA, and at the Major County Sheriffs' Association convention in Anaheim, CA.

Harkins Theatres, which is based in Phoenix, rushed 9500 LIBERTY into an "emergency theatrical release" when S.B. 1070 was signed in April. The film opened a week after the bill was signed, and earned more than $30,000 in box office. The success in Phoenix led to theatrical engagements around the country.

Critics Applaud 9500 LIBERTY:

"A few years before Arizona passed its new immigration law, a similar law was passed and then repealed in Virginia's Prince William County. The documentary “9500 Liberty” tells the fascinating story of how that happened, and possibly foretells what lies ahead for Arizona. In Virginia, the law was eventually overturned by a combination of middle-class whites, Republican office holders, the police chief, Latinos and economic reality."
Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times

“This engrossing documentary traces ugly repercussions
in northern Virginia when a resolution is passed requiring cops to
question anyone they have ‘probable cause’ to suspect of being an illegal alien.”
Dennis Harvey, Variety

“There are certain films in certain times that make it exceedingly difficult to shut out the world around you. 9500 Liberty is one of them."
Bill, Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic

"With an uplifting turn of events and some extraordinary acts of conscience,
9500 Liberty is as dramatically charged as any fiction movie. And ultimately, it’s as powerful a booster of the democratic process as anything Frank Capra ever imprinted into our collective memory."
Desson Thomson, The Wrap

"9500 Liberty is a well made, engaging example of the documentary form, a film in which compelling storytelling transcends politics."
Slackerwood.com

Ismail Besikçi Is Being Tried Once More

From The Armenian Weekly:

The following is a statement issued by the Ankara Freedom of Thought Initiative (AFTI) in support of Ismail Besikci, recently accused of ‘PKK propaganda’ by the attorney general in Istanbul, Turkey, for words he wrote in an article. AFTI organized an academic conference on the Armenian Genocide and reparations in Ankara on April 24-25. Besikci, a prominent writer, was one of the participants.

***

Ismail Besikçi Is Being Tried Once More …
Enough! Edi Bese! Ya Basta!

Each and every part of the regime seems to have sworn to plague the life of the Kurds and defenders of the brotherhood of peoples on the basis of equality and freedom, after the fiasco of the “democratization” attempts of the party in power, the Party of Justice and Development.

The banning of the Kurdish party, the Party of Democratic Society; the broadcasted imprisonment of the elected local representatives of the Kurds; cases against Kurdish elementary school students on charges of “adherence to terrorist organization”; the implacable persecution of Kurdish magazines and papers; the spreading of a mentality that treats each and every Kurd as a “potential terrorist,” are all alarming signs which signify that the country is headed towards a new—and more grave, we fear, than those lived before—hell.

And these signs show that the target is not the PKK (as claimed on every occasion by those who govern), but the rights of Kurds to exist as they are: Kurds. The last of these signs is the charge brought by the attorney general of Istanbul against Dr. Ismail Besikci for “PKK propaganda” following the publication of his article entitled, “The rights of the nations to self-determination and the Kurds,” in the “Association of Contemporary Lawyers.”

The attorney general of Istanbul claimed that “Ismail Hoca” (as he is popularly known within progressive circles) was “propagating the PKK cause” when he wrote: “The Kurds have been fighting for freedom, for a free land for the last 200 years; and they are paying the price… Syria, Iran, and Turkey are dominating over the Kurds with an iron hand… The states that dominate over the Kurds were always able to unite their political, ideological, diplomatic, and military powers against them. It is obvious that this common control does not create justice but is a constant violation of it. In these conditions, resistance against oppression is a legitimate right…”

The absurdity of accusing someone who has openly criticized the leadership of the PKK of “PKK propaganda” aside, the fact that such a case has been opened demonstrates the threat against the freedom and expression of thought in Turkey. What the attorney general demands to be penalized is not “PKK propaganda” but the freedom of thought and expression; and this demonstrates clearly, once again, how willing the ruling class is to violate the limited frame of rights and liberties it has agreed to accept.

We, the signers of this petition, are certain that it is not possible to lock up the brilliant mind and pen of Dr. Besikci. He already has spent 17 years of his life in prison, and will willingly venture another 17, for the sake of telling what he holds to be the truth.

Our rebellion is against the calcified reflexes of this regime, whose immediate reaction is to imprison those who do not agree with its dogmas, those divergent voices. Against the unceasing recounting of the same horror by the rulers, while “prisoners of conscience” have reached the fifth generation in this country. Against the incompetent despotism of the non-discussion of every alternative proposition on the accumulated problems of this country.

For this reason, we announce that we proudly espouse each and every word, each and every sentence, of Dr. Besikci’s, for which he is being tried, and that we will be with him and with the barrister Zeycan Balci Simsek, the editor of the magazine, for their first hearing scheduled for 9:10 a.m. on July 28, at the 11th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, and throughout all subsequent hearings.

Signed,

The Ankara Initiative for the Freedom of Thought

Fikret Baskaya, Sibel Ozbudun, Temel Demirer, Sait Cetinoglu, Mahmut Konuk, Mustafa Kahya, Fatime Akalin, Pinar Omeroglu, Serdar Koçman, Ragip Zarakolu, Attila Tuygan, Ayse Gunaysu, Cemil Gundogan, Faruk Arhan, Altan Açikdilli, Bawer Cakir, Necati Abay, Leman Yurtsever, Baskin Oran, Recep Marasli, Emrah Cilasun, Ulvi Bacioglu, Mehmet Ozer.

OSHA Launches New Whistleblower Protection Site

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that workers who blow the whistle on safety violations and other unlawful practices “play an important role in assuring compliance with federal laws.”

But, say workplace safety advocates, too many times workers don’t speak up about safety and health problems on the job because they fear retaliation from their employers, even though it’s illegal.


OSHA now has a new website specifically dedicated to its whistleblower protection program, www.whistleblowers.gov. The site is designed to provide workers, employers and the public with easily accessible information about the 18 federal whistleblower protection statutes that OSHA currently administers. OSHA chief David Michaels says:

OSHA doesn’t work unless workers feel secure in exercising their rights. This Web page is part of OSHA’s promise to stand by those workers who have the courage to come forward when they know their employer is cutting corners on safety and health.

Read more here.

From An Interview With Steve McGiffen

New Left Project: What achievements do the Dutch Socialist Party have to their name? And what threats do you think they face in the foreseeable future?

McGiffen: Their greatest achievement is to have become a serious force in Dutch politics at a difficult time for the left in Europe. Their leadership of the referendum which defeated the European Constitution was astonishing. I was actually present at an early planning meeting for this campaign and everyone was talking about how great it would be if we could get a good vote, that a 40% no in such a core country would be one in the eye for 'Brussels' and its attempts to undermine our democratic and social achievements. Then, after listening to this for a while, one man banged on the table and said, 'Nee, hoor! Wij gaan winnen!' - "No, listen here, we're going to win!". And it galvanized the meeting and made me think the ruling elite had a bit more on their hands than they had bargained for, which certainly turned out to be the case Another achievement might be seen as a bit of a mixed blessing, but is surely a good thing overall. Politicians on all sides in the Netherlands began, as a result of the SP's success, to see that television appearances weren't enough. They revitalised their youth movements and the social side of their activities. The SP is a social organisation as well as a political party, and other parties have learnt from this. They use the full range of technologies and to good effect. Their website has been voted the best political website in the country more than once and their campaign videos have won awards from the advertising industry! You can also, and I have to say this reflects the relatively democratic nature of the Dutch political system, point to numerous small achievements in terms of laws they been able to influence for the good, privatisations programmes slowed or diluted, deportations halted, and so on. The Labour Party has to look over its left shoulder all the time. As for dangers, well, if the poor poll showing - the reasons for which are many and complicated but really do not reflect any incompetence or poor decision-making by the party itself – are followed by a similar result in the election they will have to deal with defeat, something of which they have almost no experience. The danger will be demoralisation within the party and the loss of the mystique of constant success to those outside of it. The longer-term threat is the danger that confronts all left parties which try to engage in parliamentary politics, which in my view you absolutely have to do – and that is the danger that you will become a social democratic party. For me that's less about policies, which are fleeting things which must respond to events, than about organisation. As soon as you begin to prioritise parliamentary work, as soon as you start to wonder if militancy is costing you votes and to care that it might well do so, you are on the rocky road to social democracy.

Read more here.

Republicans Kiss the Rich; Diss the Jobless by Leo Gerard

A brutal competition pits worker against worker continually now in this country. Five unemployed people vie with each other for each available job. It's like a cruel game of musical chairs, with five desperate competitors for one seat.

Workers who've lost cars to repossession and homes to foreclosure run around frantically trying to get that one job. When the music stops, four disheartened, still-unemployed people move to other viscous cycles of five struggling to win one available job.

Republicans watching this blame the 14.6 million unemployed Americans for the inadequate number of chairs. They've called the unemployed lazy and refused to extend unemployment compensation. Meanwhile, the GOP is demanding an extension of Bush's tax cuts for the rich.

Read more here.

July 16, 2010

"I mean, who cares if it's a racist apartheid state that terrorizes and aggressively dislocates indigenous inhabitants -- this place has the sweetest

From Electronic Intifada:

As a young person with a nondescript sexual identity, I always found myself on the sidelines around issues of homo-nationalism; Pride Toronto's decision to ban the term "Israeli Apartheid" from its festivities for 2010 has served as an important reminder as to why this has been my case, and why I fail to ascribe to any label of "gay," "queer," "lesbian," "bi-" or what-have-you.

Racism, as we should all know, is as prevalent in any gay community as it is elsewhere in the great west. This became clear to me in my earliest days of venturing out into gay clubs and villages as an adolescent, where familiar racist mentalities were unapologetically adorned, and novel terms like "curry queen" were introduced to my vocabulary. I felt it almost instantly -- that exclusion and invisibility that was familiar, but more heartbreaking coming from another "other." My wee little brown body hid behind my white girlfriend as she fit seamlessly with the community, and I desperately searched for some semblance to me -- my history, my culture, my experience. Little did I find, in those early days, but some bizarre colonial patriarchal portrayals of older rich white men and their kept younger "boys" of Color -- and though some might quite aptly assume based on this depiction, that I'm some "old timer," I should point out now that I was born in the '80s. At best, amongst the women I would see a white-dread unabashedly adoring her "Nubian Queen," holding her up on a pedestal of ethno-exotification to keep her own dreads intact stronger than any market beeswax could guarantee. This was the case ten years ago, and sadly, it still rings true today, though I'll happily admit that I have noticed some progress on these fronts in the "community," and there are more and more exceptions to the old rules, but exceptions they still are. A fringe community, albeit somewhat segregated, of Queer People of Color offers at least some alternative to gay-normativity.

Read more here.

July 14, 2010

Right Wing Plays Race Card

Oh boy!

This morning's headlines are full of the NAACP resolution opposing the Tea Party. "Obama plays Race Card" says one headline. FOX and the right wing "foaming at the mouth" club are having a field day

But wait!

Obama had nothing to do with the NAACP resolution, not a thing, nada! Obama is President of the United States, not the NAACP. Maybe the linkage of the resolution to Obama is because Obama is a black man. This would really beg the question of exactly who is playing the race card?

On the side however, the NAACP is right on target as far as the Tea Party movement goes. The Tea Party is permeated with a deep semi-conscious racism (I say semi-conscious because the racist attitudes are so embedded in the Tea Party outlook that they are not recognized for what they are). You can see this with the Tea Party's anti-immigrant hate rhetoric, its demonization of the poor and unemployed, and you can see the racism big-time by just reading the signs at a Tea Party rally.

For what it is worth, I've heard the N-word used more in the last six months than I have in the preceding 20 years; I'm not exaggerating. The Tea Party has raised racist attitudes to the mainstream of the political dialogue

July 13, 2010

Picket OPB On July 26!

Monday, July 26, 5:30pm
Informational picket at Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland

OPB management has proposed bad takebacks on retirement benefits, pay, and layoffs in union contract negotiations with workers employed at OPB. Come rally with OPB workers who are members of SEIU 503 at 7140 SW Macadam at 5:30 PM.

The New CAUSA Newsletter Is Out

CAUSA's summer newsletter is out and has the kind of good and useful articles the newsletters and the organization are getting known for. Go here to read it.

July 12, 2010

Tales of the psychosocial: "mental and behavioral issues" at work

From New Unionism:

There is a growing realisation in the health and safety industry that the game has changed. It used to be about back strain and blood-on-the-factory-floor. Today, we need to be looking for empty boxes of prozac and beta blockers as well. In fact in most developed countries stress has now replaced back injury as the primary cause of workplace absence. The ILO acknowledged that in March this year when, for the first time, they included “mental and behavioural disorders” among the list of diseases caused by work.(1) This year, the theme of their World Day for Health and Safety at Work was “new and emerging risks”.(2)

The ILO is not alone in having found a clear link between the way we work and the rise of depression, fatigue, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, burnout and hypertension. If it’s not quite a consensus, that’s mainly because the fallout from admitting it openly could be so enormous. With this would come questions of duty and responsibility, and then of liability.

Read more here.

July 11, 2010

POLITICS AND SPORT IN CATALONIA

AP Photo
1.5 million people gathered in Northeastern Barcelona on Saturday to demand greater regional autonomy for Catalonia

It was probably unfortunate that Spain's highest court chose the Friday before the World Cup Final to make its ruling forbidding this prosperous region with a revolutionary history from calling itself the Nation Of Catalonia.

There are some who believe all the focus on Spain and the World Cup may have prompted the large turnout. Some soccer fans had been displaying the Spanish flag instead of the beloved Catalonian flag. This may have prompted discussions within families and neighborhoods of their proud history. it was noted the number of young children in strollers wearing the flag of Catalonia at the demonstration in Barcelona yesterday. One demonstrator was quoted as saying he hoped the Dutch win 300 to 0. While this was undoubtedly a minority opinion it illustrates the emotion behind their struggle for autonomy. The demonstration was called by 1400 organizations, including political parties, trade unions as well as cultural organizations. It received extensive television coverage in Spain showing the huge crowd waving yellow and red Catalan national flags, chanting and carrying banners with one slogan, "We Are A Nation".

Prior to 1936 Catalonia was an autonomous state with its own culture and language. By 1939 Catalonia was crushed by Franco's army and Catalan patriotism was brutally repressed.

From 1939 to 1975 Catalonians were forbidden to speak or write in their own language. It was illegal to publish books in Catalan. Merce Rodoreda is considered one of the best modern Catalan writers. She remembers in 1939 seeing Catalan books being burned in the streets and Catalan newspapers were banned. There were signs on buildings "No Ladres, Habla El Idioma Del Imperio Espanol" (Don't Bark, Speak The Language Of The Spanish Empire). Rodoreda saw her entire culture being crushed and she found herself, along with many refugees, in Paris - and then fleeing south before Hitler's invading armies. She wrote about that time, "I couldn't have written a novel if they had beaten it out of me. I was too disconnected from everything. In general literature made me feel like vomiting." But in 1957 she did start writing again. But she refused to return to Spain until Franco was dead - 1975.

It was announced at the demonstration yesterday that since the Court had ruled that they can now begin collecting signatures for a popular referendum on the Catalan Nation.
Spain won the World Cup.

July 8, 2010

Our Patriotism?

"Marxism-Leninism has always insisted upon combining proletarian internationalism with the patriotism of the people of each country. Each Communist Party must educate its members and the people in a spirit of internationalism, because the true national interests of all peoples call for friendly co-operation among nations. On the other hand, each Communist Party must represent the legitimate national interests and sentiments of its own people. Communists have always been true patriots, and they understand that it is only when they correctly represent the interests and sentiments of their nation can they really enjoy the trust and love of the broad mass of their own people, effectively educate them in internationalism and harmonize the national sentiments and interests of the peoples of different countries."

So spoke an editorial in Renmin Ribao(People's Daily)in 1956.

July 4 has passed. It seemed that the parades and excitement were muted this year, that smaller-than-usual fireworks displays took the place of speech-making, that it was hard to muster enthusiasm while wars and economic crises and ecological destruction continue on. The local right-wing inexplicably cancelled their July 4 rally at the State Capitol.

Still, July 4 cannot pass without a reflection on patriotism. In the US the right-wing has long laid claim to all that is patriotic. With the re-emergence of liberal or left-leaning populism and progressiveism the right's ownership of patriotic sentiment has been challenged to the point that its recent efforts to recreate McCarthyism and move the US backwards 50 or 60 years has largely stalled. We are witnessing and taking part in a real political struggle for ownership of what is left of the American Dream.

It seems to me that neither the right nor the left can legitimately claim ownership of patriotic sentiment and that we need to put these matters in better order. Sentiment might logically flow from ownership of the American Dream, or it might not. Scratch the right-wing rhetoric and you find only sentiment and cynicism. There is no established belief or ideology on the right which holds that "average" people can actually and directly govern ourselves peacefully. Moreover, their America forever promises what it cannot deliver by definition: a society divided by race, gender, class and circumstance cannot at the same time be a springboard for full equality before the law or prosperity or progress. The very relative and shifting nature of these terms betrays their lack of real foundations in society.

For our part on the left, it is indeed difficult to envision a US patriotism free of jingoism, well thought out and inclusive of all. We are generally alienated from our own revolutionary traditions in the US because our two revolutions---the American revolution and the Civil Warand Reconstruction---went only so far and no further and because we have not been able to maintain those revolutionary traditions very well. Some of us tend to look at the US as a forced amalgam of several captive nations or region which, if given the chance, might well choose self-determination or even independence. The Chicano Nation, Native Americans and African Americans fall into this category or schema. For us, then, defining the US is problematic. If we cannot easily define the US by its borders, what then specifically do we attach ourselves to in a patriotic way?

At one time we may have seen this as a problem of the left not being properly rooted in the American experience and being unable to communicate a message in distinctly American terms. Those problems have not entirely disappeared, but it must also be remarked that American society has devolved to the point that finding an "American experience" and one distinctly American social or political idiom is difficult or impossible now. We are one group of many and taking leadership in a fractured and wounded society is proving as difficult for us as it is for any other political formation present in the US. Organizing, struggle and leadership flow from engagement and trust as much as they flow from the maturing of contradictions within society. I argue that engagement and trust are lacking across society.

The left should be finding our base in the class struggle and speaking from there, making the contradictions which create that struggle the real American experience. For a number of complicated reasons we are unable to do this at present.

I do not want to repeat the mistakes or the dogma of the social democrats who proclaimed in the 1960s that "we should launder and not burn" the American flag. That said, I do not accept anti-patriotism as an article of faith on the left. Most Americans are probably indifferent to our national symbols at this point, as they are to most of the political and social options before them, but sentiment and prejudice can flare quickly from the past and engulf society. Moreover, we still live with the effects of the suppression of Radical Reconstructionism after the Civil War and we cannot progress as a nation or as a left without taking this up and carrying forward the struggle against slavery and its effects and for self-determination for African Americans and other oppressed national minorities.

Our challenge is to invent a new social life with the working class and oppressed of our country---a culture of stability, solidarity and engagement at the very base of capitalist society--and guide this forward to a revolutionary end. Is that a patriotic task? Not at present. Could it become a patriotic task? Certainly.

July 7, 2010

Rick Nagin--Progressive challenge: defeat GOP in November elections

Defeating the Republicans in November must be the top priority for all progressives. The pundits tell us incessantly that Democrats will lose seats and possibly control of Congress because usually (but not always) this is what happens to the party in power in midterm elections. The Republicans hope this narrative will help demoralize Democratic voters, but their main message is that President Obama and the Democrats are responsible for the unrelenting economic crisis.

Read more here.

Dockworkers at Indian port boycott Israeli ships

From Palestine Note:

6 Jul 2010 9:59 AM
Dockworkers at Indian port boycott Israeli ships

New York - Dockworkers at the major Indian port of Cochin are refusing to unload Israeli cargo in protest of Israel's siege of the Gaza Strip.

A view of the Shipyard at Cochin [Suniltg - Wikimedia Commons]

According to the Indian communist publication People's Democracy, "The boycott began on June 17 on receipt of information that cargo unloaded at Colombo Port [Sri Lanka] from Israeli ship m/v Zim Livorno 16 was bound to arrive at Cochin Port in a feeder vessel."

"On June 23, trade unions held a joint protest rally in Cochin Port near the office of Zim Integrated Shipping Services (India) Pvt Ltd -- the Israeli shipping line," the report added. At the demonstration, labor leaders denounced Israel's attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May which left nine people dead.

Representatives of several trade unions--including those aligned with both left and right wing parties -- joined the demonstration.

The port of Cochin, in the state of Kerala, is one of the biggest ports in India.

The Chochin dockworkers join workers at ports in Sweden, South Africa, and other countries who have refused to unload Israeli cargo. Calls for boycotts against Israel intensified in the wake of the flotilla raid.

On June 20th, dockworkers in Oakland, California, refused to unload an Israeli cargo ship after protesters picketed at the dock.

Gaza Update In Eugene July 22

ACTION NAME: Update Gaza

DATES: July 22, 2010

TIME: 7:00 pm

ORGANIZATION: Al-Nakba Awareness Project

MORE INFO: www.al-nakba-history.com

DESCRIPTION: Please join us for a report on the present situation in Gaza: the political and humanitarian crisis and hopes for the future.

Gerri Haynes is past president and board member of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility and past National PSR board member and treasurer. Since 1993, she has organized and led delegations to the Middle East: Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. She visits Palestine at least once a year. As a nurse and Palliative Care Consultant with a specialty in Grief and Bereavement, she is on the affiliate clinical faculty of the University of Washington School of Nursing and has taught classes in Iraq, Palestine and Israel. Most recently, in May, 2010, Gerri and her husband, physician Bob Haynes led a medical delegation to serve in Gaza.

Thursday, July 22, 7 PM,
Harris Hall, 8th & Oak St,
Eugene, Oregon 97401

Free, donations gratefully accepted.

Sponsored by the Al-Nakba Awareness Project
Advocating freedom, justice & equality in the Holy Land.

Portland Red Guide Walking Tour

International Longshore & Warehouse Union Local 5 (Powell's Books) is hosting a "Portland Red Guide" early evening walking tour downtown on Sunday July 11 based on Michael Munk's great book.

A limited number of non-members are welcome as long as space is available. Sign up (first come, first served) via email to shop steward Chris Phillips at phillipsccw@gmail.com .

Local 5 is asking a for a $3 donation to its strike fund, and tourers will get more from the experience if they first review the relevant sites in the book.

The tour begins at 6 PM at the PGE Park Tri Met station (Red Guide p. 27), includes the destroyed Murnane Memorial on the waterfront and ends about 7:30 at the former Harbor Club (pp 215 & 233), now Paddy's Bar & Grill, 65 SW Yamhill..

Visit Michael's website at www.michaelmunk.com.

July 2, 2010

People's World Comment Encapsulates the Marxist-Leninist Critique of CPUSA Leadership

The following was posted by Emile Schepers to the People's World site as a comment on this piece by Chairman Sam Webb. I think it sums up the differences that Marxist-Leninists have with the current CPUSA leadership, while highlighting the fact that these differences are not as intractable as some in the leadership seem to think.


1. I can't agree that the task of pushing the Democratic Party to the left has to wait until the ultra-right has shriveled up like the Wicked Witch of the West. That would be a long, long wait. Even under socialism, the ultra-right is likely to survive for a considerable time, and periodically flare up and do harm. Consider the case of Hungary: Recently the world was shocked by a big electoral advance for the JOBBIK party. This party has revived the demands of the old feudal nobility and its hangers on who are angry at the loss of their estates in Slovakia and Rumania AT THE END OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR! The tendency ran Hungary in the pre-war years, then went completely underground during FORTY YEARS of socialism, and now here it is again.

2. I agree with Sam Webb that the crucial thing is the grassroots coalition, and also that it is advancing at the base, but I have to note that it is not only the ultra-right and the GOP who work to weaken that coalition, but right trending sections of the Democratic Party also.
Not all Democratic politicians are crazy about the fact that their party's victory in 2008 was due to such an extent on millions of African-Americans, Latinos, poor workers and yough turning out to vote in unprecedented numbers. The Blue Dogs and others at one level were glad to get that vote, but also see in this a threat to themselves, i.e. to their control of the Democratic Party and the resources, power and patronage it controls.

3. I was politically active in Chicago inner city communities from 1969 through November 2004. I never missed an election and was often involved as a poll watcher, canvasser or part of a candidate's team of advisors--never was a candidate though. During that time, one of the main dynamics was the effort of the more conservative Democrats, affiliated with the Cook County "Machine", to SUPPRESS VOTER TURNOUT by African Americans, Latinos and other sectors they thought might not support them massively. This was motivated partly by racism, but much more by the very reasonable fear that if African Americans and other oppressed sectors really became empowered, they would make demands which would interfere with the cozy relationships the leaders of the city had with various financial and industrial corporations; relationships that were so corrupt and anti-people that Chicago journalist Mike Royko said that the city's Latin motto should be changed from "Urbs in Horto" (City in a Garden) to "Ubi est Mea?" (Where's mine?). So the "machine" Democratic leadership (not the Republicans, who are as common in Chicago as wooly mammonths) would fiddle with voter registration, schedule elections for dates in which it is likely to snow or sleet, and sometimes simply harrass people to keep down the vote.

4. The tendency of the right wing elements in the Democratic Party to turn away from the core elements of the working class and its allies -- the unions, the minorities, the social movements etc -- is of long standing and is directly related to the links it has to international monopoly capital as well as major economic actors in our own cities, regions etc. They are not merely ideologically backward, they are working to undo what we are trying hardest to do. And it is very harmful to our current efforts, because if it is successful its result will be a tamping down of participation in November 2010 of precisely those voters who made the difference in 2008. When someone like Cong. Heath Schuler (D-NC) goes out of his way to be the main sponsor of viciously anti-immigrant legislation, or when Blanche Lincoln takes anti-labor positions, this can't be ignored or swept under the rug. These elements, we must recognize, are also present in the administration, though they are not the whole story. Some of these elements wouldn't be brokenhearted if the Democratic Party were to lose its majority in Congress; their frame of reference is their own local political and economic base and they are willing to cut deals with the GOP if necessary to keep that going.

5. If the Democratic right succeeds, it breaks up the mass coalition which is the MAIN thing right now. If minorities, immigrants, youth, poor people, people harmed by the BP oil spill in the Gulf, etc etc. think that they are not only being attacked by Republicans, but also sandbagged by Democrats, the result will be demobilization, discouragement and disunity. And when right wing Democrats do these things, we absolutely can't cover up for them, or we harm our own prestige and ability to have influence. So when Blue Dogs bite, we HAVE TO HIT BACK with criticisms, agitation and if possible help for their opponents in the primaries etc. That has to go on AT THE SAME TIME as our fight against the ultra-right. That's the dialectical approach.

6. As for socialism, remember that Lenin tells us that revolutionary change comes when two things happen: The subordinated class can no longer tolerate the way they have been ruled, and the ruling class can no longer rule in the old way. I don't think that time is upon us. But should it happen that the ruling class faces a crisis before such time that the working class is ready to move, the danger of fascism, an overt and violent seizure of power by the ultra right, arises. So we have to keep organizing, agitating and defending the class base of the movement.

OREGON REPRESENTATIVE VOTES "NO" TO LIFTING CUBA'S TRAVEL BAN

Wednesday there was an historic vote in the Congressional Agriculture Committee. HR4645 the "Travel Restriction Reform And Export Enhancement Act" was passed by 24 votes to 20, putting us one step closer to ending the Cuba Travel Ban this year. Getting this bill out of Committee mark up is a big step. Oregonians should know that Rep. Kurt Schrader voted "NO". All polling shows that Americans and particularly Oregonians believe that the Cuba Travel Ban is a violation of our constitutional right to travel.

If he can't stand up for our constitutional right to travel what will he stand up for...? His only stated reason for his vote was that his Grandparents left Cuba 40 years ago. He should not travel to Cuba if he doesn't want to..but he should not try to prevent all Americans from exercising their fundamental rights.

Please call or visit his office in Salem or in Washington D.C. to express your disgust at this vote. They are hoping for a floor vote before November.

Washington DC Office
1419 Longworth Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-5711
Fax: (202) 225-5699

Salem District Office
494 State Street, Suite 210
Salem, OR 97301
Phone: (503) 588-9100
Fax: (503) 588-5517
Toll Free: 1-877-301-Kurt (5878)

July 1, 2010

Coos Bay North Bend Water Board Workers Advance

Coos Bay North Bend Water Board workers have a new tentative union contract agreement. Below are the highlights of the 3 year agreement reached earlier this week for this small government unit. It is remarkable because of the tough times public workers are facing.

Economics
8.5% COLA over the next 3 years.
$75.00/yr Boot allowance
Protected retirement benefits for existing members
Mitigated impact of management-imposed tier 2 retirement for new hires and increased employer contribution to the new plan

Other advances
Expansion of sick leave language
30 minutes paid time for new employee orientation
Expansion of grievance language.
Labor Management committee