November 17, 2010

ARRESTED ON MONDAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE, INVITED TO MEET WITH WHITE HOUSE LIASON ON THURSDAY

GetEqual - McGehee to WH
Robin McGehee created the activist group "Get Equal" after the March For Equality in Washington D.C. last year. People that were tired of the strategy of the Human Rights Campaign which concentrated on traditional lobbying, resulting in nothing for the LGBT Community. This Lesbian Mom who had never been an activist created a grass roots organization which has created a variety of tactics to pressure the Obama administration to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell and pass the Employment Non Discrimination Act. She spearheaded actions that confronted President Obama when he spoke at Democratic Fundraisers, Civil disobedience actions at the White House fence and creative lobbying of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.
And now a White House representative wants to meet with her. There are rumors that the President is finally getting involved with moving repeal forward. In addition he probably doesn't want heckling during his entire 2012 re-election campaign. Of course repealing DADT is a start but how ironic if there is non discrimination in the military workplace but ENDA hasn't been passed to end workplace discrimination in every workplace in all 50 states. I am sure they will get an earful at their meeting in the morning.

Oregon Human Rights Groups Criticize Governor Kulongoski for Ignoring Israel's Human Rights Violations

Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights (AUPHR)

For Immediate Release

Date: November 16, 2010

Contact: Peter Miller
Organization: Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights
Cell: 503/358-7475
Email: pmiller@auphr.org
Organizations Endorsing this Release:

* Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, Portland, www.auphr.org
* Lutherans for Justice in the Holy Land - A Ministry of Central Lutheran Church, Portland, http://www.centralportland.org/ljhl
* Portland Peaceful Response Coalition. Portland, http://www.pprc-news.org
* Corvallis-Albany Friends of Middle East Peace
* Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, Portland State University


Oregon Human Rights Groups Criticize Governor Kulongoski for Ignoring Israel's Human Rights Violations

(Portland, Ore.) Americans United For Palestinian Human Rights (AUPHR) and other Oregon groups expressed dismay over Governor Kulongoski's signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation for business development between the State of Oregon and the State of Israel. "Israel is committing serious human rights violations and racial discrimination on a daily basis against the Palestinian civilian population, both inside Israel and inside the occupied territories," said Peter Miller, President of AUPHR, "This agreement makes all Oregonians complicit in helping to sustain and normalize Israel's occupation and discriminatory practices."

In response, AUPHR has released a new report summarizing the Moral Implications of Doing Business With Israel available on the web at:
http://www.auphr.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4715&Itemid=44 and as a pdf at:
http://www.auphr.org/docs/MoralImplications.pdf

Israel has a long history of discriminating against its own Palestinian Arab citizens in housing, access to state resources, and jobs and this summer demolished an entire village of its indigenous Bedouin population. There are over twenty laws in Israel that privilege Jews over non-Jews. A recent Israeli report shows that, even though Palestinians represent 20% of the population, there is "massive under-representation of Arab citizens across most of the public sector, including in government companies and ministries, where the percentage of Arab staff typically falls below two percent of employees." A recent survey found that "83 percent of Israeli businesses in the main professions admitted being opposed to hiring Arab graduates."

In addition, Israel is rapidly expanding its illegal settlements on Palestinian lands in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It is recognized around the world that a viable Palestinian state requires that Israel stop expanding Jewish settlements. The British Foreign Secretary recently warned Israel that the window of opportunity for a two-state solution to the Palestine Israel conflict is closing because of Israel's ongoing settlement activity. Why is the State of Oregon involving itself in a country that flouts international law with impunity, defies our President, and actively destroys the chances for peace?

Given these very serious concerns and the damage the State of Oregon will do to the human rights of Palestinians by ignoring Israel's abuses, AUPHR asks that the State of Oregon withdraw support for doing business with Israel. "We do not want Oregon to be complicit in serious international violations of human rights and human dignity," said Peter Miller. Should the State of Oregon continue to do business with Israel, the following considerations must be brought to the forefront before it does business with any Israeli company or government entity:


* Is the Israeli organization involved in doing business with or supporting, building, or expanding any of Israel's illegal settlements built on Palestinian lands in violation of International law?
* Does the Israeli organization support Israel's military occupation and domination over Palestinians through development of products or services that enable Israel's human rights violations?
* Does the Israeli organization take advantage of resources, like water or land, which are taken from Palestinians in order to produce products and services?
* Are Israeli citizens who are not Jewish given full rights and opportunities within the Israeli organization? Can a Palestinian citizen of Israel advance into leadership positions within the organization? Are they given the same job opportunities? Are they hired in representative numbers? Do they have the same rights and pay?

Unfortunately, Governor Kulongoski has a history of publicly touting his support Israel and for the right-wing Israel lobby organization the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), saying "support for AIPAC is an article of faith for both political parties. This is as it should be . . ." This new business venture is apparently his attempt to leave a legacy at the expense of Oregon's moral standing.

The response of the governor's office did not attempt to address or even mention the concerns presented.

"We can only hope that Oregon's new governor is more sensitive to the real needs of Oregonians and understands that Oregonians do not want to be forced to support human-rights violations in countries like Israel, " remarked Peter Miller.

Sources:

NEWS RELEASE: Governor Kulongoski Signs Business Development Agreement with Israel,Governor Kulongoski, 27 October 2010

http://www.auphr.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4703&Itemid=44

Rampant employment discrimination against Palestinian workers in Israel, Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, 21 May 2010
http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article11280.shtml

Israel's discrimination against its Arab citizens, Sawsan Ramahi, June 2010,
http://www.middleeastmonitor.org.uk/resources/briefing-papers/1230-israels-discrimination-aga

Window of opportunity for two-state solution closing, Hague warns Israel, Harriet Sherwood November 4, 2010,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/04/william-hague-two-state-solution-israel

UN envoy: Settlements major obstacle to Palestinian state, JPOST Staff,
22 November 2010, http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=192441

Remarks by Governor Ted Kulongoski, AIPAC Oregon Community Dinner 2006, April 30, 2006, http://www.oregon.gov/Gov/speech/speech_043006.shtml

Dennis Kucinich gets it

In an interview with L’Humanité just before the US elections this month, Kucinich was asked: "What is your view of what is presently happening in France, the defense of retirement at 60?"

Kucinich's reply:

People are right to fight cut-backs in their social gains. You know, there exists a parallel debate in the United States. After this conversation I must go to an interview for a national television network, the subject being the reform envisaged for the Social Security program. A debate is launched, in the name of budgetary rigor, to raise the retirement age to 70, and to make cuts in the pensions. This makes no economic sense. On the contrary, we should lower the retirement age. To create jobs for the young, and to have young retired people available for training programs, and for other useful parallel social activities.

Some demand, with loud cries, together with Wall Street, that social security be privatized. Some years ago Bush tried to do this. Most fortunately, he was put in the position of failing. But just imagine what would have happened if he had succeeded. After the disaster of the wars and the financial crash, the peoples’ pensions would have evaporated completely. Today they will often have lost a portion of their savings because the stock market bets made with the money placed in their complementary retirement policies have turned rotten. But if social security had been privatized they would have lost everything.

Read the rest here.

November 7, 2010

Historic monastery says "NO GRACIAS" to the Pope

All the way up the mountain to the Benedictine Monastery called Montserrat in Catalonia were banners saying, "No Thanks" to the visit of the Pope. Including one on the monastery itself. The visit was considered an encouragement to the right wing and conservatives.

Many feel that the visit is an affront at a time when severity measures are being implemented against the people. In addition the money spent in preparation for the visit of a Pope who reflects a reactionary ideology. Montserrat was historically a bastion for the Catalan people against the forces of fascism in Spain. It is officially a park run by the Catalonian government as well as a monastery.

November 6, 2010

THOUGHTS FROM A STRIKE LEADER IN FRANCE

"One of the key elements of the current movement against the retirement reform is the unity of the trade unions which has so far survived. The trade union leadership thus seems to the general population, like an opposition to the government and Sarkozy.

The survival of this unity is explained by the fact that the government remains adamant about the heart of their reform and refuses to negotiate with union leaders. It also is because of the continued intensity of the mobilizations and the depth of the discontent. This makes it difficult for any trade union leader to break away in the coming months.

But there are strategic differences behind closed doors. Not all trade union leaders are demanding repeal of the retirement reform bill. Some are only asking for new negotiations to amend the bill. While the trade union leaders all organize and support continuing mobilizations and days of action they have refused to go all the way to a social confrontation with this government. Also they have made cautious responses while the most combative workers, such as refinery workers, were being attacked. Our very right to strike is being challenged"
Excerpt from: "French Trade Unions: Going Along to Get Along?" By Sandra Demarq, member of the Executive Committee of the NPA (New Anti-Capitalist Party) October 27, 2010

November 2, 2010

After The Election---By William K. Tabb

[These remarks were prepared for the North Atlantic Left Dialogue, Berlin, November 22-23. See http://www.left-dialogue.org/]

The discussion of electoral politics needs to be positioned in the context of the continuing economic crisis, the decades long stagnation of working class real income, growing insecurity with regard to a future which Americans feel is less likely to contain the American Dream future for themselves and their children. Global shifts make the prospects of most workers in the territorial United States bleak even as US-based transnationals and international financiers look to so-called emerging markets for new opportunities.

While the more individualist fractions of capital have always fought the Welfare State, trade unions, and funded politicians advocating small government and laissez faire policies, transnational capital no longer needing a liberal-labor alliance has abandoned commitment to Keynesianism, sees slow growth, and redistribution of the burden of government as a key issue and abandons reformist efforts at any costly modernization of the American state, taking an approach driven by the financialization of American capitalism, pressure for short term maximization of share holder value, and joins in the attack on pensions and healthcare spending as means to reduce the federal debt driven higher in recent years by regressive tax cuts, costs of imperialist militarism, and the financial crisis

With this context obscured by misdirection (guns, gays, and other culture war wedge issues) and now (Big Government, out of control spending, Muslim terrorists and other take back our country issues) the Democrats not wanting to be seen as unpatriotic or anti-business, give away class issues which could win votes (like not extending Bush tax cuts for the top two percent of wealthy Americans) and do the same in the matter of the country's needs for financial reform which would cut the megabanks who have been rescued by the taxpayers and now return to their obscene profiteering ways through social control of investment priorities. They dare not given the need to finance election campaigns under the existing system of money driven democracy

Having compromised to get what they could in these areas they allow the Republicans to distort what is positive in what they have done. The far right does not hesitate to defeat RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) in Republican primaries. The Democrats recruit and fund DINOs in conservative districts achieving 60 votes in the Senate but not having a majority on most anything that matters but getting the blame for achieving too little of the progressive goals they were elected to achieve. The future of progressive politics, youth and minority voters were not drawn to vote in 2010. With twenty percent of Americans un- or underemployed Obama talk of Recovery Summer, heading in the right direction etc. rang hollow. Gridlock will push the Dems further to the center in the next two years hoping the Tea Party right will overstep and the country will return to the Democratic Party for 2010

If the job situation remains bleak, the economy stagnates, and economic insecurity grows, the Fox News Right will grow more threatening and there will be no Left to the left of a John Stewart let us be reasonable and have a respectful discussion in which we agree to disagree politely. Obama will continue to be called a socialist (and far worse) so that his reasonable ideas for change can be ignored. Explaining that the Tea Party is being manipulated by the rich and corporate interests which do not want social regulation or to pay taxes like the Koch brothers will not make a dent in the ability of the Right to mobilize dissatisfaction from a leave me alone,give me the mythical past back legion.

Building and (rebuilding) independent movements of the Left (left of the left-center of the Democratic Party) is the necessary task. What socialists have to contribute is making the connections between issues and the system of capitalism in a language which can be heard by the broader movement as not the same old pitch. It is about a public philosophy which builds and demands solidarity and exposes the class interests served by the ideology of individualism. Free choice as an individual is not possible when what we want is a different sort of society. The critique form the Left needs to be a more accessible explanation of what capitalism has done to the country and its working people, that government is a terrain of struggle just as the workplace is and that we do not need less government or more government but a democratic government which does not bow to capital which finances the show and limits our choices to ones we do not want by saying what we want is unrealistic or socialism. If what we want is socialist and people agree that those things are good let us just agree to define socialism as what working people need and want for themselves and their country.

The discussion of Obama and the Democrats needs to change from is he a sellout? versus we told you he was a capitalist flack misleading voters, to critical support. Support for the president and progressive Democrats when they support things we like and criticism when they favor measures we do not like making it clear at elections we will vote against the extreme right and the party of no which is the attack the working class vehicle of the most vicious sectors of capital. In primaries progressives should vote for principled candidates supporting left ideas and explanations of the system. There are a number of these folks and there will be more. Unlike some on the left I cannot see a successful Third Party effort in the contemporary situation and do not see sellout Democrats as the main enemy. We see what even mildly serious effort to bring capital under some control even to
preserve the system does to the flow of campaign contributions from Wall Street, energy companies and the rest. It is the system stupid. It is the economy, the economic mess, because of the system (stupid). This is not an American thing. Matters are little different in France (the Socialist Party?), the U.K. (a Labour Party?) or Germany (the SDP is social democrat?) The unwillingness to confront global capital and lack of a better explanation turns fearful voters against easy targets, immigrants, terrorists.

The Left of the Obama administration will have to cope with what should be seen as the sellout of Social Security and Medicare in the name of fiscal responsibility. The crisis had generated fear and anger, a setting in which a powerful effort was being made to cut entitlement programs. In the United States while people overwhelmingly supported Social Security as it existed and even the popular Ronald Reagan had been unable to finesse its privatization (nor had George W. Bush), the conventional wisdom was that it was a pot of money which could be raided to pay down the federal debt. As one member of the bipartisan commission on debt reduction said, it was where the money was. The co-chair of the commission appointed by President Obama, former Senator Alan Simpson, has now famously described Social Security as "like a milk cow with 310 million tits," according to an email he sent to the executive director of National Older Women's League making clear his views. He was chosen by a White House which saw Social Security as the likeliest source of the sort of large savings needed to bring projected annual deficits to sustainable levels. It looked to the commission to give Washington cover to cut Social
Security and Medicare instead of alternatives such as weaning corporations ”banks, insurance companies, war contractors”off the federal teat, as Matthew Skomarovsky so accurately writes.

In order to do this a number of issues were widely misrepresented. The aging of America should not be confused with an inability of Social Security, modestly adjusted, to provide for America's retirees. By official count it will run surpluses for the next three decades and needs little adjustment to stay robust for the next three-quarters of a century, based on official estimates. The 2010 Social Security Trustees Report projections it would be possible to not raise the tax until 2020 and between then and 2040 raise the rate by a little under a percent and a half (which would take up only twelve percent of the projected wage growth over that period) leaving our children over forty percent better after the Social Security tax increase than we are, as Dean Baker's calculations show. The relevant bottom line is that Social Security Fund currently and for some decades will have a large surplus. It is invested in US treasury bonds. As it needs to draw these funds it is accused of draining resources from taxpayers. Social Security monies in government bonds being paid to recipients is no different than if Japanese or Saudi Arabian bond holders ask for their money by selling their treasury bonds. Potential retirees did not give the money to the treasury but lent it like the Saudis, Japanese and American investors. They are not draining resources.

If money for Social Security needs to be raised more progressive payroll taxes are possible. The limits to which wages are taxed could be raised from its current $106,000 or, in keeping with the concerns of this book, a financial speculation tax could be implemented. Schemes have been proposed which would not inhibit non-speculative investment and could raise as much as one percent of GDP, $145 billion a year, or twice the projected shortfall in Social Security to pay benefits. (A more modest tax on stock trades in England brings in 0.3 percent of that country's GDP.) While reducing retirement benefits is spoken of in terms of making the difficult choices,” the real difficult choice would be to make Wall Street which has benefited from the rescue from the crisis it created and has grown so wealthy at the expense of America's workers pay.

As Emmanuel Saez reports, after decades of stability in the post-war period, the share of income going to the top ten percent of earners increased dramatically and has regained its pre-war level. He finds the top earnings decile share in 2007 was equal to about half of total income (49.7 percent), a proportion higher than any other year since 1917 and surpassing 1928, the peak of stock market bubble which led to the Great Depression. Between 1993 and 2008 the top one percent incomes received slightly more than half of overall income growth. In the economic expansion of 2002-2007, the top one percent captured two thirds of income growth. These very rich people are heavily stock option receiving top corporate executives and top earners at
hedge fund and private equity and investment banks. Returns from financial investments add more wealth and income to those at the top because the rich disproportionately own financial assets. It is not surprising that there is a close correlation over these decades to the growth of financial assets and rising income for the top one percent. The increase in income polarization also results from the decrease in solid working class jobs which have been destroyed in the era of financialization. The top one tenth of one percent of Americans receive more income than 120 million of their fellow citizens, or half the US population. Looking at the data it is difficult to disagree with William Lazonick that any government policy agenda that seeks to recreate the middle class in the United States needs to begin with an attack on the financialized corporation.

Capitalist democracy is a system in which money power prevents working class issues central to the lives of people to be discussed realistically. Doing that is our job. Voting to prevent a hard right takeover is necessary even as an independent Left needs both its own identity and to be part of a broader struggle for economic democracy breaking down the walls in thinking between politics and economics which serve capital. Working people have to defend the entitlements they have won in the past and demand more government attention to the needs of the twenty million un- and underemployed and growing numbers of the poor including devastating numbers of children who face the harshest future in an economy which puts bankers and transnational capitalists first and hopes for some crumbs to drop down to the rest of us. Over the next two years leading to the 2012 presidential election both parties have reason to make voters forget that it is the system, stupid. It is the job of the progressive Left to interpret events and politics in ways that make clear just how much needs to change. It is change we really need and as the stagnant real wages of the last thirty years morphs into more strident demands for more working class concessions just how this system works is important for us all to understand and talk about.

*These remarks were prepared for the North Atlantic Left Dialogue, Berlin, November 22-23.

Living Wage Needed at Ithaca College! And in Oregon!

As a long time resident of Ithaca NY and a former employee in higher education, I am profoundly aware of the poverty in that area. I struggled with my own rural poverty in Ithaca while raising two children on my own.

The local activist community has the support of a local credit union which calculates the hourly wage needed to live with basic necessities and a modicum of dignity. That figure for 2010 is $11.11.

Enter Sodexho on the scene. Ithaca College has a contract with Sodexho for food service on the campus. Not surprisingly, Sodexho does not pay a living wage. Ithaca College claims it is not responsible.

Please sign the petition and give these people a hand up. And while we're at it, how about a discussion of "living wage" right here in Oregon?

For More information on the living wage and how it is figured.

November 1, 2010

Wages in America -- Most of us are Have-Nots


There are 150,917,735 wage earners in this country for 2009.   That said, 24,315,992 of them earned less than $5000.    50% earned less than $26,261 in 2009.    There are only 0.794% of wage earners who get more than $250,000 per year and only 1.266% of American salaries are over $200,000. 


















David Cay Johnston, the well known tax journalist, found some scary wage data.
Every 34th wage earner in America in 2008 went all of 2009 without earning a single dollar, new data from the Social Security Administration show. Total wages, median wages, and average wages all declined, but at the very top, salaries grew more than fivefold.
The graph below shows the average wage per bracket and the percentage of wage earners in that bracket. 


















The above graph is from this data, wage statistics for 2009. I asked Mr. Johnston for the data he used and he sent me this link. Interesting how this level of breakdown is only available from the social security administration, and not easy to find at that! 

Did you know over 16% of Americans didn't even make $5000 dollars last year and in fact this group averaged $2016 for an entire year? 

Here is the latest quarterly data on wage and salary accruals, from the Q3 2010 GDP release. But this aggregate data does not show the wage breakdown, so as Mr. Johnston notes, the fact most of America is poor goes right by the press and bloggers. 















Below is a graph of the average wage index over time, not adjusted for inflation. Notice it's also misleading because it averages in those uber-rich salaries. Still, it's down 0.97% for the year and $40,934.93 is your average yearly salary in America. We're Poor in other words.  


















The story the numbers tell is one of a strengthening economic base with income growing fastest at the bottom until, in 1981, we made an abrupt change in tax and economic policy. Since then the base has fared poorly while huge economic gains piled up at the very top, along with much lower tax burdens.
What is a median? That is where 50% of the total workers earn less than that number and 50% earn more. The median is different from an average, which just sums up all of the wages earned and divides by the total. But that total includes the uber-rich, which skews the average wage way, way up! Since the United States has high income inequality, it's important to look at the median. What this says is 50% of Americans are living on $26,261 or less. That's poor people! That's less than $505 a week before taxes! 

 


















Below is the cumulative average. Notice the 50% line, it's $26,261!   90% of all Americans earn less than $80,000 per year, 99% earn less than $200,000.  Think about a house payment for a $200,000 home, medical bills, retirement and higher education.   I'd say the middle class isn't being destroyed, it's already been destroyed from this data.





















What about the uber-rich? A very scary fact according to Johnston:
The number of Americans making $50 million or more, the top income category in the data, fell from 131 in 2008 to 74 last year. But that’s only part of the story.
The average wage in this top category increased from $91.2 million in 2008 to an astonishing $518.8 million in 2009. That’s nearly $10 million in weekly pay!
So, 74 people had a 500% salary increase during 2009. Right. Bottom line America is poor and most statistics don't show that. Johnston also notes this all started happening with the Reagan tax cuts, proof positive supply side economics is trickle upon the middle class and you know what kind of trickle we're talkin' about.
In this era, the incomes of the vast majority have barely grown while incomes at the top have soared. Reaganism has trimmed the base of the income ladder while placing a much heavier weight on the top.
Here is Johnston's article which has more alarm bells statistics.