August 31, 2011

Portland's Labor Day Picnic

Monday, September 5th, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Oaks Amusement Park, 7805 SE Oaks Park Way, Portland, OR. Northwest Oregon Labor Council's Labor Day Picnic. This is a great opportunity to share and meet rank and file union members. Portland JWJ will also be present with a table, if you want to help with it call JWJ at 503 236-5573

August 30, 2011

A Meaningful Win On The PEBB Health Engagement Model (HEM)

This is our fourth article on the Health Engagement Model (HEM). Please scroll down to see what else we have run. The following was taken from a letter from SEIU Local 503 President Linda Burgin which came out earlier today.

I am pleased to report back that the Board voted unanimously to cut the HEM opt-out surcharge from $30 to $20 for covered individuals and from $45 to $35 for couples. PEBB staff and board members committed strongly that personal medical information gathered through HEM will not be held by PEBB, but only by health care providers and health plans, two groups that already have access to this information. PEBB also committed to compliance with HIPAA and other federal and state laws governing privacy of medical information. Finally, PEBB agreed to a transparent evaluation process in the spring of 2012. As part of this effort, our central bargaining team negotiated the establishment of a joint committee to ensure that there is a comprehensive process for members to provide input and feedback to PEBB in the spring of 2012 regarding their concerns about HEM and suggested changes.

The majority of us support the goals of keeping costs down and promoting healthful behavior through incentives and even some disincentives (such as by taxing cigarettes). But we must ensure that these good intentions take shape in good policy, which is why we will continue to work closely with our member leaders, union staff, and PEBB representatives to push for whatever changes we deem necessary to fully protect our membership.

I encourage you to continue to communicate with PEBB on these and other health care-related issues. PEBB can be reached by phone at 503-373-1102 or online at http://oregon.gov/DAS/PEBB/index.shtml.

Go here to read the entire statement.

Millions Make Change

From Sam Webb:

Which brings me to the present. Following the recent debt agreement between the president and the Republicans, progressive and left voices were critical of the administration. Many felt that it gave up too much and got little in return.

There is truth here, but I'm not sure if that is main lesson that should be drawn from this deal.

For me what stands out is the inadequate mobilization of the American people in this struggle. To be sure, the seniors movement left its imprint on the process in so far as entitlement programs were not touched for the time being. But that shouldn't obscure the larger reality that too many Americans were onlookers, waiting to see what would happen behind closed doors in the nation's capital.


For more go here.

Labor Day Celebration In Salem

For the second time in over 25 years the Marion-Polk-Yamhill Counties Central Labor Council is hosting a Labor Day Picnic for union members and their families at Riverfront Park in Salem. Plus this year we are opening up the event to allied organizations (friends of labor). The CLC is planning on great food, political guest speakers and an afternoon of celebrating labor.

Menu: Brisket, Pulled Pork, Chicken, BBQ Baked Beans, Coleslaw, Chips and Water/Soda!

Cost: Bring a minimum of 2 food items per person for the local food bank and an optional donation to defray costs.

We will be at the North Meadow (A)

Date:Monday, September 5, 2011
Time:11:30 to 2:30
Location:Salem Riverfront Park
200 Water Street NE
Salem, Or

Contact:Richard Swyers
Email:rswyers@afscme2067.org
Phone:Judy Sugnet at 503-362-7057 or Labor Day Picnic Chair Richard Swyers at 503-932-7059 or your union local for more info

It’s complicated: President Obama and mass movement building

From Sam Webb:

A few on the left say that the absence of a mass movement on the scale of the 1930s and 1960s stems from the fact that millions of Americans still believe the president is an agent of progressive change.

What follows from this theory is the role of left and progressive people is to ruthlessly unmask the politics and progressive pretentions of the president, which in turn will melt away people's illusions in him and trigger a mass upsurge throughout the country.

But is this the case?

I don't think so. And I will tell you why.

The building of a mass movement on the scale of the 1930s or 1960s is a complicated process. A wide-angle lens is needed to capture its many sides.

Before we lay responsibility for the inadequate scale of today's movement on the shoulders of the president, we have to factor in the impact of three decades of right-wing ideological onslaught.

Read more here.

Calendar Of Protests As Actions Sweep Oregon---Build Jobs With Justice!

August Hot List action:

Wednesday, August 31, 7:00 pm. Meet at US Grant Park on the corner of NE 33rd Av. and NE US Grant Place * Portland, OR. Candlelight vigil against the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. The Colombia FTA could be voted on as early as this September, but Portland Congressman Earl Blumenauer is still undecided. The Colombia FTA not only threatens U.S. jobs, but is with a country that is by far the deadliest in the world in which to be a union member. For more info, call ORFTC at 503-736-9777

Upcoming JwJ Committee Meetings:
Monday, September 12th, 5:30pm, Steering Committee 6025 E. Burnside (For September we moved the date due to Labor Day, meetings are usually the first Monday of every month)
Wednesday, September 14th, 5:30pm, Economic Crisis Committee 6025 E. Burnside

Upcoming Actions:
Wednesday, August 31st, 6:00 to 8:00 pm. at SEIU Local 49, 3536 SE 26th Ave, Portland, OR 97202, “Week of Labor Rights National Campaign” presents: Wage Theft and Sexual Harassment in the Workplace with special guest, William R. Tamayo, Regional Attorney for the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, San Francisco.

Thursday, September 1, 5-6:30pm Carousel Park near NE 7th MAX Station in Portland, Lets tell Earl Blumenauer to keep up the fight for JOBS NOT CUTS. For more information cotact Maureen Crawford 503-816-5311.

Other events:

Monday, September 5th, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Oaks Amusement Park, 7805 SE Oaks Park Way, Portland. Oregon Northwest Oregon Labor Council's Labor Day Picnic. This is a great opportunity to share and meet rank and file union members. Portland JWJ will also be present with a table, if you want to help with it call JWJ at 503 236-5573.

The struggle continues!!!, 45,000 Verizon workers are fighting for a fair contract and to preserve the middle class and the American Dream in the Northeast. If wealthy corporations like Verizon continue to outsource jobs and hold down worker wages, there is no hope for an economic recovery. This is why our fight is your fight and why your support is so important. Join us as we support workers by leafleting at Verizon Wireless stores to get our message out: Stand with Workers, Not Rich CEOs. Please email Mary at marywinzig@hotmail.com or call Jobs with Justice to schedule a shift.

Saturday, September 24th from 7pm, Sixth Annual JwJ and Voz Solidarity Salsa Party to midnight, at the SEIU 503 Dance Hall, 6401 SE Foster Rd. Call JWJ at 503 236-5573 to Buy tickets and become a sponsor!!

August 29, 2011

Obama Goes All Out For Dirty Banker Deal

Reprinted from Rolling Stone magazine.

Obama administration siding with banks over distressed homeowners? This is one of the most despicable things the Obama administration has done yet.

Oregon's Atty General, John Kroger, promotes himself as a fighter against dirty banking practices. Why, then, have we heard nothing out of Kroger's office as his colleague, New York Atty Gen'l Eric Schneiderman, comes under attack for taking on the banks?

Please call the Attorney General and ask why: 503-378-4400


Obama Goes All Out For Dirty Banker Deal by Matt Taibbi

A power play is underway in the foreclosure arena, according to the New York Times.

On the one side is Eric Schneiderman, the New York Attorney General, who is conducting his own investigation into the era of securitizations – the practice of chopping up assets like mortgages and converting them into saleable securities – that led up to the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

On the other side is the Obama administration, the banks, and all the other state attorneys general.

This second camp has cooked up a deal that would allow the banks to walk away with just a seriously discounted fine from a generation of fraud that led to millions of people losing their homes.

The idea behind this federally-guided “settlement” is to concentrate and centralize all the legal exposure accrued by this generation of grotesque banker corruption in one place, put one single price tag on it that everyone can live with, and then stuff the details into a titanium canister before shooting it into deep space.

This is all about protecting the banks from future enforcement actions on both the civil and criminal sides. The plan is to provide year-after-year, repeat-offending banks like Bank of America with cost certainty, so that they know exactly how much they’ll have to pay in fines (trust me, it will end up being a tiny fraction of what they made off the fraudulent practices) and will also get to know for sure that there are no more criminal investigations in the pipeline.

This deal will also submarine efforts by both defrauded investors in MBS and unfairly foreclosed-upon homeowners and borrowers to obtain any kind of relief in the civil court system. The AGs initially talked about $20 billion as a settlement number, money that would “toward loan modifications and possibly counseling for homeowners,” as Gretchen Morgenson reported the other day.

The banks, however, apparently “balked” at paying that sum, and no doubt it will end up being a lesser amount when the deal is finally done.

To give you an indication of how absurdly small a number even $20 billion is relative to the sums of money the banks made unloading worthless crap subprime assets on foreigners, pension funds and other unsuspecting suckers around the world, consider this: in 2008 alone, the state pension fund of Florida, all by itself, lost more than three times that amount ($62 billion) thanks in significant part to investments in these deadly MBS.

So this deal being cooked up is the ultimate Papal indulgence. By the time that $20 billion (if it even ends up being that high) gets divvied up between all the major players, the broadest and most destructive fraud scheme in American history, one that makes the S&L crisis look like a cheap liquor store holdup, will be safely reduced to a single painful but eminently survivable one-time line item for all the major perpetrators.

But Schneiderman, who earlier this year launched an investigation into the securitization practices of Goldman, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and other companies, is screwing up this whole arrangement. Until he lies down, the banks don’t have a deal. They need the certainty of having all 50 states and the federal government on board, or else it’s not worth paying anybody off. To quote the immortal Tony Montana, “How do I know you’re the last cop I’m gonna have to grease?” They need all the dirty cops on board, or else the whole enterprise is FUBAR.

In addition to the global settlement, Schneiderman is also blocking an individual $8.5 billion settlement for Countrywide investors. He has sued to stop that deal, claiming it could “compromise investors’ claims in exchange for a payment representing a fraction of the losses.”

If Schneiderman thinks $8.5 billion is an insufficient, fractional payoff just for defrauded Countrywide investors, then you can imagine how bad a $20 billion settlement for the entire industry would be for the victims.

In that particular Countrywide settlement deal, it looks like Bank of New York Mellon, the New York Fed, Pimco and other players negotiated on behalf of defrauded investors. They told the Times they were happy with the deal, but investors outside the talks told Gretchen they weren’t happy with the settlement.

Schneiderman apparently listened to those voices instead of the Mellon-Fed-BofA crowd, which infuriated the insiders who struck the actual deal. In a remarkable quote given to the Times, Kathryn Wylde, the Fed board member who ostensibly represents the public, said the following about Schneiderman:

It is of concern to the industry that instead of trying to facilitate resolving these issues, you seem to be throwing a wrench into it. Wall Street is our Main Street — love ’em or hate ’em. They are important and we have to make sure we are doing everything we can to support them unless they are doing something indefensible.

This, again, is coming not from a Bank of America attorney, but from the person on the Fed board who is supposedly representing the public!

This quote leads one to wonder just what Wylde would consider “indefensible,” given that stealing is pretty much the worst thing that a bank can do — and these banks just finished the longest and most orgiastic campaign of stealing in the history of money. Is Wylde waiting for Goldman and Citi to blow up a skyscraper? Dump dioxin into an orphanage? It’s really an incredible quote.

The banks are going to claim that all they’re guilty of is bad paperwork. But while the banks are indeed being investigated for "paperwork" offenses like mass tax evasion (by failing to pay fees associated with mortgage registrations and deed transfers) and mass perjury (a la the “robo-signing” practices), their real crime, the one Schneiderman is interested in, is even more serious.

The issue goes beyond fraudulent paperwork to an intentional, far-reaching theft scheme designed to take junk subprime loans and disguise them as AAA-rated investments. The banks lent money to corrupt companies like Countrywide, who made masses of bad loans and immediately sold them back to the banks.

The banks in turn hid the crappiness of these loans via certain poorly-understood nuances in the securitization process – this is almost certainly where Scheniderman’s investigators are doing their digging – before hawking the resultant securities as AAA-rated gold to fools in places like the Florida state pension fund.

They did this for years, systematically, working hand in hand in a wink-nudge arrangement with clearly criminal enterprises like Countrywide and New Century. The victims were millions of investors worldwide (like the pensioners who saw their funds drop in value) and hundreds of thousands of individual homeowners, who were often sold trick loans and hustled into foreclosure when unexpected rate hikes kicked in.

In a larger sense, even the (often irresponsible) people who simply bought more house than they could afford were victims of this scam. That's because in many of these cases, credit simply would not have been available to those people had the banks not first discovered a way to raise vast sums of money dumping crap loans on an unsuspecting market.

In other words: if Bank of America hadn’t found a way to sell worthless subprime loans as AAA paper to the Chinese and the Scandavians in May, you can be sure that it wouldn’t be going back to Countrywide in June to lend out more money for more subprime loans.

And Countrywide, in turn, wouldn’t then have been sending masses of reps out into the ghettoes to offer juicy home loans to undocumented immigrants and refis to confused old ladies on social security.

This is as bad as white-collar crime gets. But to Wylde, it doesn’t rise to the level of being “indefensible.” Until they do something worse than this, we apparently should support the banks, and make sure they don’t have to pay more than a fraction of what they made off of this kind of crime.

What is most amazing about Wylde’s quote is the clear implication that even a law enforcement official like Schneiderman should view it as his job to “do everything we can to support” Wall Street. That would be astonishing interpretation of what a prosecutor's duties are, were it not for the fact that 49 other Attorneys General apparently agree with her.

In Schneiderman we have at least one honest investigator who doesn’t agree, which is to his great credit. But everyone else is on Wylde’s side now. The Times story claims that HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and various Justice Department officials have been leaning on the New York AG to cave, which tells you that reining in this last rogue cop is now an urgent priority for Barack Obama.

Why? My theory is that the Obama administration is trying to secure its 2012 campaign war chest with this settlement deal. If Barry can make this foreclosure thing go away for the banks, you can bet he’ll win the contributions battle against the Republicans next summer.

Which is good for him, I guess. But it seems to me that it might be time to wonder if is this the most disappointing president we’ve ever had.

Gov. Scott Walker and the Milwaukee (WI) Teachers Education Association

Scott Walker Comes to Riverwest
by CHRISTOPHER FONS

At 11:40AM on Friday August 26 Fratney Street seemed as unremarkable as ever as I walked north towards the Art Bar on Burleigh Street in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood. The only thing out of the ordinary was the line of school buses blocking the view of Messmer Prep and a well made-up Suit handing out water to the few passers by. What proceeded to unfold over the next 3 hours exemplified to me the strengths of Riverwest. This day we lived our ideals as Scotty Walker came to the neighborhood.

The Governor came to Milwaukee to showcase how the public can subsidize private and religious schools: the much ballyhooed Milwaukee School Voucher Program, the nation’s largest which has recently been expanded to Racine and will now not solely be given to low income households. Voucher plans, the brain child of right wing economist Milton Friedman, give parents public monies to spend at private schools in an effort to create more competition in the education “marketplace”. Friedman and his follower Walker worship all that is the “free market” and see the plan as a way to liberate education from pesky things like school boards (political democracy), unions (economic democracy) and well paid teachers and staff with their fancy “Cadillac health plans” and exotic pensions.

Riverwesterners in the hundreds greeted Scott Walker with the most combative and festive demonstration I have seen since the beginning of resistance to Walker’s plan to bust unions, slash education, cut transportation budgets and reduce funding for the poor and elderly. It’s no mistake that militancy was high as Walker entered what could arguably be the most progressive neighborhood in the state. Riverwest has a long bohemian tradition and during the large protests in Madison a group of local workers and students actually walked the 90 miles to Madison from the neighborhood.

... See the rest and especially the last paragraph at

http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/08/29/scott-walker-comes-to-riverwest/

SEIU Local 503 & PEBB'S Health Engagement Model

SEIU Local 503 President Linda Burgin took a strong stand questioning the Health Engagement Model (HEM) at Friday's PEBB meeting. Here are some of her remarks:

I am here because I have been a state employee for almost 28 years and a statewide officer of this union for 7 years, and I can’t think of an issue that has generated so much member outrage as the latest PEBB proposals and policy changes being put in place to bring health care costs down…Literally thousands of emails and phone calls…verbal abuse at meetings…I know many of you have shared my angst over the past few months!

We have numerous concerns about the changes that PEBB is undertaking. I understand, as do our members, the need to address rising health care costs. For years now, state workers have sacrificed wage increases and even have taken furloughs to maintain health care benefits. We know, first hand the impact of the spiraling cost of health care. I am proud of the work our union has done to help make health care more affordable not only for ourselves, but for everyone. In Oregon, we worked hard to get the Oregon Healthy Kids legislation passed, and won a grant to help sign up kids for health insurance. We have been instrumental in creating the prescription drug bulk purchasing pool, and have been active proponents of the Governor’s health care transformation initiative. Nationally we helped lead the way to the passage of the Affordable Heath Care Act. Our commitment to improving access to affordable, quality health care has not changed. However, I want to make it clear that our members have VERY SERIOUS CONCERNS over the Health Engagement Model, as it is currently being proposed. Over the last few weeks we have surveyed thousands of SEIU PEBB members and I’d like to share some of those results with you today.

The most prevalent non-economic concern we are hearing about relates to confidentiality and civil rights. 78% of respondents indicated they are either very concerned or concerned about who will have access to their health information. Concerns include:

a. That the health information that is provided via HEM not be used to deny them coverage in the future;

b. That they do not have to submit to treatments that they do not wish to pursue;

c. That there are sufficient safeguards to ensure that their employer does not have access to their medical information; and

d. That they are not required to go to the doctor more often than they and their doctor determine is appropriate.

Many members have expressed concern over being discriminated against due to their health conditions and questioned the legality of the Health Engagement Model. These privacy, confidentiality and civil rights concerns could easily be addressed and must be addressed, either here today or through subsequent action.


Overall, our members are most concerned by the amount of money that it takes to opt out of HEM with 85% of respondents expressing concern over the opt-out charge. We recognize that while the PEBB Board was exploring options around implementation, you did not know there would also be a premium share. But, as we now know, members will be paying 5% of their health care premiums. The additional cost to opt out of HEM (or to have your partner or spouse opt out) combined with other surcharges, fees and deductibles will be staggering! The cost savings to PEBB must be balanced with affordability for PEBB members and, given that we now are facing a monthly premium share, the financial impact of any opt-out is much greater and should be revisited. Preferably, this program would be set up as with an incentive if you opt in, rather than a penalty if you opt out. In my experience as a Mom and a Granny, as a lead worker and as a union president, I always get much better results by rewarding good behavior than by punishing or penalizing bad behavior.

Another common concern we are hearing about is the use of waist circumference. Would it be possible to use a body mass index instead? Or maybe a hybrid of the two measurements could be used?

We also would like to learn more about PEBB’s plan to evaluate and assess the effectiveness of HEM and its impact on both costs and member health. We have negotiated a letter of agreement with DAS to provide us input in an evaluation process, however, it seems appropriate that PEBB would also have a plan in place to evaluate the program. Does PEBB have an evaluation plan?

And finally, over the last four or five months the PEBB Board has been exploring and evaluating significant changes to our health care – both the plan design as well as the Health Engagement Model. We are very disappointed in the level of communications from PEBB to members. We have heard very little directly from PEBB about the changes that are being made, and there has been little to no solicitation of direct input from PEBB members into these decisions.

Changes of this magnitude require involvement of ALL stakeholders. We would have expected to hear more directly from PEBB through surveys, newsletters, emails and mailings. While PEBB Board meetings are open to the public and public comment is always an option, hearings or information sessions open to members would have gone a long way in making this a better process. We urge you to take communications with members seriously, and step up the information sharing through the various mediums.

This is not the way PEBB has behaved in the past. A few years ago, I brought a group of parents with autistic children here to testify about the need for PEBB to cover some of the medically approved treatment plans for autism…and the PEBB Board voted to do so!

(For an earlier report go here.)

August 27, 2011

What else is going on in Syria?

Possible, likely?, backstories on uprisings in Syria.

Russia building naval base in Tartus:

http://en.rian.ru/russia/20100802/160041427.html

Iran building naval base and/or ground/air base in Latakia:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/8699077/Iran-agrees-to-fund-Syrian-military-base.html

http://globetribune.info/2011/03/02/iran-building-naval-base-in-syria/


August 26, 2011

SEIU Local 503 Members At DAS Approve New Union Contract

State worker members of Service Employees International Union Local 503 have voted to ratify their collective bargaining agreement with the State of Oregon for 2011-2013.

The tentative collective bargaining agreement for 2011-2013 has been ratified by the union members working under the Department of Administrative Services (DAS). Other key union contracts remain open for negotiation and the issues surrounding them unresolved. Key among those contracts is the one covering higher education state workers. SEIU Local 503 members cast over 7300 ballots; 77% of those voting approved the agreement, or at least did not see a strike as possible at this point. The contract covers about 19,000 state agency workers.The union elections committee, as always made up of volunteer retirees, conducted the ballot count fairly and honestly.

A union statement after the vote underlined the fact that this is not a contract that anyone in labor is thrilled with. However, a strong majority of voting union members agreed that this was the best agreement possible in the current environment and accepted it. The debate surrounding the contract, much of it public and some of it acrimonious, helped in the long run to clarify the issues and educate union members. This was alluded to in SEIU Local 503 press releases---a fresh departure from business-as-usual that many other union officials engage in too often.

Passage of the main state worker contract paves the way to protests planned for next week across Oregon for jobs and for other working class issues. And it paves the way for a possible strike in higher ed, advances next winter in other contracts which will remain open and for a stronger playing field for labor in the 2012 elections. The vote took place as labor action across the US increased and then contracted and as public workers in several areas---Wisconsin, Ohio, New York and Connecticut---stepped up and took leadership, resulting in a new situation nationally and winning some gains. Attention has also shifted to supporting a militant strategy for Verizon workers who are now back at work after their strong strike.

The vote also took place as PEBB began to talk publicly about the HEM. Opposition to the HEM seems widespread, if not quite centered, and it will be helpful and necessary for unions to work more closely with one another---and more in the spirit of genuine progressive politics---to find a real solution to the healthcare crisis. That solution is certainly not HEM. Many workers were no doubt confused about the relationship between their union contract vote and HEM.

It has been said elsewhere on this blog that Local 503 did not prep early enough for striking. Perhaps. On the other hand, many state workers are deliberative by work culture and the idea of striking is new or frightening to many who have been hired after 1997. The union needed to bring these workers along slowly and carefully, integrating them into the process, and still needs to develop new forms of organization at the base which help workers to understand and participate in running their struggle and directing their union.

Opposition to the proposed contract crossed the political spectrum, but in the main came from members who did not have the birds-eye view of the process members need in order to run and direct their union. In an earlier piece I characterized this opposition as almost instinctively right-wing because it was, in the main, reactive and refused to look at the broader political landscape. In fact, my criticism was essentially wrong and should have noted that this is frequently the case in working class struggles and that opposition can often be healthy, even when it is crude and instinctive, if it leads to the kind of self-organization of workers typified by progressive reform movements (like Teamsters for a Democratic Union).

The union’s challenge now is to win in the contract fights underway, push forward the planned protests and keep people mobilized and build new rank and file leadership. The rank and file members must face the challenge of growing their union and building a progressive political base that can win at the legislature and nationally in 2012.

Marches & Protests Planned Across Oregon

For three days across the state next week, SEIU 503 members are joining allies in 14 other progressive groups to make our voices heard to remind our representatives that America needs good jobs — not corporate tax breaks & budget cuts — to Rebuild the Dream.

Members in the Portland metro area will have two chances to make our case.

http://weareoregon.org/lit/JobsNotCuts_Portland.pdf

Wednesday evening (Aug 31) we’ll have a Sing Out for Good Jobs from 5:00-6:30 at Carousel Park near the Northeast Seventh Avenue MAX stop.

And the evening before there will be a bus to a candlelight vigil in Hood River in the Columbia Gorge. Meet at Parkrose High School in the parking lot by the library at 5:30. Bus leaves at 6. Box dinner provided. Call or email Elizabeth Lehr at lehre@seiu503.org or 503.408.4090 x426 to reserve a seat on the bus.

For more information please contact Matt Swanson 503-235-5071 matt.swanson@seiuoregon.orgor Maureen Crawford 503-816-5311 crawfordm@seiu503.org.

http://weareoregon.org/lit/JobsNotCuts_HoodRiver.pdf

We hope to see you there and bring family and friends!

March and Rally for Jobs in Salem on Wednesday

For three days across the state next week SEIU 503 members are joining allies in 14 other progressive groups to make our voices heard to remind our representatives that America needs good jobs — not corporate tax breaks & budget cuts — to Rebuild the Dream.

Our turn comes Wednesday (Aug. 31) noon - 1:00pm in a march and rally in Salem. We’ll gather at the corner of Chemeketa and Winter.

We hope to see you there and bring family and friends!

For more information, please contact Matt Swanson 503-235-5071 matt.swanson@seiuoregon.org or Maureen Crawford 503-816-5311 crawfordm@seiu503.org.

Why Music Needs To Get Political Again By Billy Bragg

How ironic that The Clash should be on the cover of the NME in the week that London was burning, that their faces should be staring out from the shelves as newsagents were ransacked and robbed by looters intent on anarchy in the UK. Touching too, that the picture should be from very early in their career--Joe with curly blond hair--for The Clash were formed in the wake of a London riot: the disturbances that broke out at the end of the Notting Hill Carnival of 1976.

At the time, the press reported it as the mindless violence of black youth intent on causing trouble; now we look back and recognise that it was the stirrings of what became our multicultural society - the moment when the first generation of black Britons declared that these streets belonged to them too.

Read more here.

August 24, 2011

JACK LAYTON - 1950-2011: WHAT A LOSS FOR CANADA AND THE UNITED STATES

Jack Layton



Jack was the energetic head of Canada's labor party, the New Democratic Party (NDP). The first time I heard of him was when he spoke at the NDP's big victory last May. By attracting members of the Liberal Party (read U.S. Democrats) and wooing the leftist Quebec Nationalists he created the "Orange Wave" the biggest victory in the history of the NDP. He disdained the whimpering from the Liberal Party about splitting their votes by blasting their reluctance to take on the Conservatives and their reactionary ideas.

Such a party and such a leader is needed in the U.S. today. When I heard him and his fighting spirit I was hopeful that he could help inspire us here south of the border. But his second fight with cancer was not successful and his loss is a loss for the Working Class of Canada.

I am sure my view from south of the border is not the most astute analysis so I read the statement of the NDP's Socialist Caucus. Oh, did I say they have a Socialist Caucus? Yes. It speaks of his optimism, energy and passion. Also that he heeded the call of the anti-war movement to demand "Canada Out Of Afghanistan Now". It continues, "While his policies often didn't go as far as we wished, Layton earned the respect of Socialists by campaigning steadfastly to form an NDP Government - which he came closer to accomplishing than any other of his predecessors. His last major speech was a stirring defense of Postal Workers. Layton won Quebec not only with his charm and charisma, but by affirming Quebec's right to decide its own future..The best tribute we can pay to Jack is to win the struggles to which he was committed."
His final words to Canada are worth reading at the NDP web site: http://www.ndp.ca

The truth about Libya

Thanks to Knud Larson of Corvallis CCDS for forwarding this.

The Truth About the Situation in Libya
Cutting through the government propaganda and media lies

August 22, 2011

By Brian Becker, National Coordinator, ANSWER Coalition

Libya is a small country of just over 6 million people but it possesses the largest oil reserves in all of Africa. The oil produced there is especially coveted because of its particularly high quality.

The Air Force of the United States along with Britain and France has carried out 7,459 bombing attacks since March 19. Britain, France and the United States sent special operation ground forces and commando units to direct the military operations of the so-called rebel fighters – it is a NATO- led army in the field.

The troops may be disaffected Libyans but the operation is under the control and direction of NATO commanders and western commando units who serve as “advisors.” Their new weapons and billions in funds come from the U.S. and other NATO powers that froze and seized Libya’s assets in Western banks. Their only military successes outside of Benghazi, in the far east of the country, have been exclusively based on the coordinated air and ground operations of the imperialist NATO military forces.

See the rest of the article at

http://www.answercoalition.org/national/news/truth-about-situation-libya.html

August 21, 2011

Willamette Reds Endorses Move To Amend

Earlier today, Willamette Reds endorsed the "Move To Amend" (MTA) project.

MTA is leading a grass-roots effort which would amend the US Constitution in order to bar corporate citizenship. The immediate precursor was last year's Citizens United case where the US Supreme Court ruled that any laws limiting political campaign donations were de facto violations of guaranteed free speech.

The Supreme Court's decision first of all stated that money is freedom of speech by essentially making a speech a commodity. That is, "freedom of speech" means you can buy as much free speech as you want.

Secondly, the Citizens United case strongly affirmed roughly 150 years of case law which grants corporations a citizenship status with all the rights - but few of the responsibilities - granted to actual person type citizens.

The problem with corporate citizenship is the creation of super citizens who are able to marshal incredible levels of wealth -- and bend and twist all levels of government in the direction of the corporate agenda, regardless of public opinion or popular support.

In practical terms, this means the political process has been turned into a commodity, with politicians dependent on big money contributions and corporate support for increasingly expensive campaigns with increasingly less relevance. Government has become big business.

As socialists, we understand government is always the government of the class in power. Nothing demonstrates this concept as well as the history of the United States where a more or less democratically oriented republic has transformed into a political oligarchy where democratic mechanisms are systematically manipulated by a very narrow band of very wealthy people.

To remove corporations from the political process would once again restore government to popular control and popular consent.

Further, to kick the corporations out of politics would be in itself a revolutionary act fully as important to the development of democracy as universal suffrage and the abolition of slavery.

Please visit http://movetoamend.org/ to learn more, sign the petition....

August 20, 2011

WHO'S EXPLOITED, AND DOES IT MATTER?

From the People's Voice:

Here's a question to ask the people you work with: are you exploited at this job?


Probably the answers will vary, depending on pay and benefit levels, working conditions, whether the workplace is unionised, even the attitudes of the boss and management.

Since we live in a capitalist society, the popular understanding of "exploitation" is based largely on interpretation of these factors. If workers receive well below the average pay in a particular occupation or economic sector, if working conditions are abysmal, if the job is non-union and the boss is a slave-driver, people are more likely to say "yes", these workers are being exploited. On the flip side, if the pay is "decent", if conditions are bearable and the employer treats workers like human beings, the answer is often "no", they aren't being exploited.

This is no idle philosophical debate. Deciding whether or not particular groups of workers are exploited can have a direct impact on public perception of the need to raise the minimum wage, strengthen labour standards protections, or allow greater ability to conduct union organizing campaigns.

The "exploitation" question has many practical implications. For example, the debate around prostitution and the sex trade industry is, on one level, a discussion about whether certain occupations are by their very nature "exploitive" while others are not. Debates about foreign investments - made by corporations taking over Canadian assets, or by Canadian-based monopolies expanding in other countries - often raise issues about whether such companies are exploiting their workforces.

The question of exploitation reflects our basic understanding of the nature of society and social change. Do some workers suffer from exploitation, but not others? If so, we could begin to eliminate exploitation by legislating better labour standards, increasing wages, and compelling employers to treat their workers in a humane fashion. The adoption of such measures would show that capitalism itself is not necessarily an exploiting system. There would be no pressing need to replace capitalism with another system based on social ownership and working class political power.

But is this the reality? Are some fortunate workers free from the curse of exploitation?

Read more here.

Cindy Sheehan To Speak In Newport

Date: 2011-08-22
Event Time: 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Location: Atonement Lutheran Church
2315 N COAST HWY
NEWPORT, OR, 97365-1710
Downstairs Fellowship Hall

Organization: Coastal Progressives of Lincoln and South Tillamook Counties
More Info: http://www.revcoms.wordpress.com

Lincoln County will welcome Gold Star Mother Cindy Sheehan to Newport on Monday, August 22, accompanied by Oregon Squadron 13 Veterans for Justice with their Peace and Justice bus. Their Newport visit is part of a "Revolutionary Communities Road Trip," touring the west coast with stops through Oregon and California to showcase and film community activism at the grassroots community level.

Come for the "Welcoming Community" potluck dinner at 6 p.m., in the downstairs Fellowship Hall of Atonement Lutheran Church, 2315 N. Coast Highway in Newport (just north of the PUD building). Presentations by local community peace and justice groups will follow at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The Immigration Information Response Team is hosting the Revolutionary Communities stop here, co-sponsored by Interfaith Community Peace and Justice, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and the Oceana Family Literacy Center. The presentations will also feature films of Peace Villages in Newport and Lincoln City and drumming by Oceana students.

Sheehan, the mother of Casey Sheehan, a soldier killed in the war on Iraq, is a dedicated anti-war advocate who camped out for months during two consecutive years in front of the vacation "ranch" of former President G.W. Bush in Texas, seeking his answer as to what her son had died for. The answer never came. In 2008 Sheehan ran for the US Congress against Nancy Pelosi. Her message for us about Recreating Revolutionary Communities will wrap up the presentations.

For more information, visit www.revcoms.wordpress.com or call 541 563 3615

The only way that we can win the ultimate overthrow of a system that cares about everything for profit and nothing for the lives of people, is to support each other, learn from each other, mourn with each other, and celebrate with each other.
-- from Cindy Sheehan’s Soap Box

Susana Baca

Susana Baca gets my great admiration today. She is the Afro-Peruvian singer who was recently appointed as Minister of Culture in Peru. She is the first Afro-Peruvian member of a Peruvian cabinet and the first musician to hold such a position.

It gets even better.

Her latest album is called "Afrodiaspora" and she is on a promotional tour. She gave a brief interview to The New York Times in which she mentioned in passing her time in Cuba and her sharing with musicians there. She pointedly did not use the interview to attack Cuba. She also mentioned having to leave New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina.

Go here for more info on this people's artist.

Back In The USSR--Part Two

The other day I blogged about the demise of the Soviet Union. It was not my best post, but it captured my recounting of a historical moment and my feelings about that moment.

In The New York Times today there is also an article on the "failed attempt to preserve the Soviet Union" which also marks the last-ditch moment when Communists attempted to save the USSR from misleadership and dissolution.

Even The Times could not find anyone to say that things are better now or that Russia and the other republics which once made up the USSR are democracies or likely to become democracies in the foreseeable future.

Thank you Reagen, Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Putin. 

Labor Is Back In The News

Labor is back in the news, which is another way of saying that the class struggle is heating up. Think of the bumpersticker that says "They only call it class war when we fight back."

Solidarity with the striking Verizon workers has been so strong, and the strike so effective, that the company has done a turnaround. The two striking Verizon unions issued the following statement today:

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
Communications Workers of America

CWA, IBEW Reach Agreement on Bargaining with Verizon;
Members to Return to Work Tuesday, August 23

 
Following is a statement by the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers:
For release 1 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011


Washington, D.C. – Members of CWA and IBEW at Verizon Communications will return to work on Tuesday, Aug. 23, at which time the contract will be back in force for an indefinite period.

We have reached agreement with Verizon on how bargaining will proceed and how it will be restructured. The major issues remain to be discussed, but overall, issues now are focused and narrowed.

We appreciate the unity of our members and the support of so many in the greater community. Now we will focus on bargaining fairly and moving forward.

CWA and IBEW represent 45,000 workers at Verizon covered by this contract from Virginia to New England.


Meanwhile, international students employed as J-1 workers at a Hershey chocolate packing plant in Pennsylvania have won strong support for their walkout and protests. The students applied for work in the U.S. and came here with the expectations that they would have a summer of educational opportunities and adventures. It has indeed been an adventure for them, but of a different sort than either they or the contractors who hired them anticipated.

The students have been working on fast-paced production lines on a 24/7 operation packing Reese's, Kit-Kat and other candies. Last Thursday they held a rally and demonstration in Hershey, Pa. and won immediate support from townspeople. The AFL-CIO, its local affiliates and SEIU also came to their aid. Turkish students marched in a group and chanted in Turkish as they marched. One student spokesperson who has appeared in the press is from China. It's important to note and remember that these students are not taking "American union jobs." Jobs with Justice has done a great job of publicizing  the struggle and making it national news.


Overall, labor and its progressive allies won in Wisconsin this week and public worker unions and their allies are taking a strong and principled stand in Ohio in the on-going fight with the Republican-led administration there. This has hardly made national news. Connecticut state workers passed a concessionary contract this week, but that contract was accepted grudgingly and in the spirit of living to fight another day and on a second-time-around vote. Acceptance of this contract comes after New York state workers also accepted concessions. In both cases the contradictions which both separate and unite labor and the Democrats have been heightened.

These struggles come at exactly the right moment. They help to set the stage for the 2012 political fight that we need.  

August 18, 2011

Back In The USSR

This week marks 20 years since the so-called 1991 “Soviet coup d'état attempt.” It was at that point that heroic Communists, many in the Soviet Union’s government, attempted to wrest control from USSR president Gorbachev. There was much popular opposition to the so-called “reform program” and the new union program which essentially caved to nationalists and threw other regions and republics overboard. Gorbachev eventually won the day and Yeltsin used the event to posture and eventually become a short-lived hero of western interests who favored the destruction of the USSR and a weakened Russia.

The following list comes from our friends at Northstar Compass. We can use it to guage the success of anti-communism in the ex-USSR.

Here Is Where Putin and Medvedev's Capitalist Russia Stands In the World

• 1st place in the Import of cars from China
• 62nd place in the technological development, somewhere in between
Costa Rica and Pakistan
• 72nd place in state expenditure per person.
• 127th place in health-longevity of the population.
• 134th place in the longevity of men.
• 1st place in suicides amongst older generation.
• 1st place in abandoned children by the parents.
• 1st place in divorces and in the children born out of wedlock.
• 1st place in the consumption of alcohol beverages.
• 1st place in Europe in deaths due to alcohol and smoking.
• 1st place in aircraft catastrophic accidents – according to
International Association of Air Traffic.
• 1st place in the world in the growth of new multi-millionaires.
• 2nd place in the world in the manufacture and export of illegal
drugs – just after China.
• 2nd place in Europe in suicides -just after Lithuania.
• 2nd place in the world – next to Serbia – in immigrants leaving
the country for the Western countries.
• 2nd place for people jailed – USA is in first place.
• 3rd place in the world in the spreading of pornography.

Secure Communities Debate Between Sheriff Adrian Garcia & Immigrant Advocate Chris Newman

August 15, 2011

A Time Long, Long Ago

When I was a kid, the Great Depression was still a recent memory for lots of people. The scars were still there; many of the adults in my life had come of age during the 1930s. The stories they told us kids were so dire that many of us were deeply scared.

"Will it happen again?" we asked.

"No, its over, such a thing can never happen again." these adults told us.

And of course, the adults would tell us why such a Great Depression could never happen again. They'd talk about the laws passed in the 1930s which regulated financial institutions so that banks could not fail. The adults would tell us about how the unions wouldn't let another Great Depression occur and they'd tell us about the New Deal and how important Social Security and Unemployment Insurance were in protecting vulnerable workers.

Of course, we being kids, lots of the reason's why another Great Depression couldn't happen were lost on us; just plain too complicated. But we were reassured. It could never happen again and for us, that was enough.

This was the late 1960s. Nobody imagined that 30 years later banks and financial institutions would be deregulated with the excuse that regulation was inhibiting economic growth. Likewise, nobody could have imagined the de-industrialization of the 1980s and the onslaught against unions, and nobody could possibly have imagined the overwhelming power and wealth achieved by the rich and corporations at the beginning of the 21st century.

It must have been when I was in the 8th grade, this being in 1968, when my junior high school invited the mayor of Waukegan, IL to come and speak about the Great Depression. This guy was a working class guy of Italian descent.

He told us about the brutality of the work place and how the speed-up at the cement plant where he worked broke the health and spirit of so many workers.

He talked about what it felt like to go to school hungry and how many educations were cut short because the kids needed to work to support their families.

And he told us too about the hope that came forth as unions contested the power of the owners, and the hope that came through the government and its New Deal programs.

I can't imagine this same guy - this mayor of a small city- being invited into a school to deliver the talk he did 40 odd years ago. In our current times, a talk such as his would have been far too controversial and far too left wing for our current times.

During America's golden age of capitalism - the 1950s and 1960s - we were constantly bombarded with messages telling us about the superiority of capitalism. Pointing to the prosperity of the times, we were constantly being told how we all lived a better life than anybody else in the world.

According to the capitalism of the times, our free enterprise system brought forth the greatest standard of living ever seen on the planet earth. "Free enterprise" was the term of the times. The term "capitalism" was avoided as it brought to mind all those bad memories from the 1930s.

The American capitalism of those times was deeply threatened by memory of its own Great Depression and the socialism of the Soviet Union. Thank god for the Soviet Union; it was the threat of socialism which kept American capitalism on the defensive and which forced capitalism into a sort of mass prosperity mode where it had to justify itself in terms of a social good.

We received worlds of detailed pamphlets with graphs demonstrating how much a bar of soap cost a Soviet worker versus an American worker, how much a car would cost in the Soviet Union versus the price of a car in America, the costs of food and clothing, and so on and so forth. And those of us who were influenced by the best of those times would needle our teachers about why Black people were left out of the prosperity and why America was up to its neck in a war against poor peasants in southeast Asia.

In the words of IWW songster, story teller and agitator, Utah Phillips, "The most radical thing in America is a long memory". So, I remember...





August 12, 2011

Support AFSCME Members TODAY, Picket Schrader's Fundraiser And Oppose Colombia FTA!

·Friday, August 12th AFSCME Local 1766. Rainbow Adult Living Rally 11am to 4pm - Hard working people, low pay; employer trying to eliminate just cause for firing from next contract; Meet on sidewalk in front of Rainbow Headquarters at 16432 SE Stark in Portland.

·Thursday, August 18th, at 5pm. Picket at Schrader's fundraiser asking him to opose the Corea FTA. Meet at Brentwood City Park on the corner of SE Duke and SE 60th in Portland.

·Wednesday, August 31st, Candlelight anti Free Trade vigil at 7pm: Asking Blumenauer to oppose the Colombia FTA. Meet at the US Grant Park on the corner of NE 33rd Av. and NE US Grant Place in Portland.

Help UAW members at Legal Aid, Support Verizon Workers And Build Jobs With Justice!

Help UAW members at Legal Aid

Saturday August 13th 9:30 am, Standard Insurance Center 900 SW 5th

Oregon Law Center and Legal Aid Society of Oregon workers need our support. These non-profit law firms have big budget problems and want to lay off workers rather than sharing the pain through management layoffs or furloughs.

The Board meets on Saturday at 10 am. Come out to help these brothers and sisters!

For more information about this campaign, see below.

Verizon struggle continues!

If you can commit to a regular picket shift at a Verizon Wireless store, please call Portland JwJ at 503-236-5573 or email margaret@jwjpdx.org. The key to helping 45,000 Verizon workers on the east coast win their strike against corporate greed and vicious takebacks from a highly profitable company is all of our work picketing Verizon stores. We are working with CWA to organize regular shifts every day, every hour that the stores are open. Let us know that you would like to take a Tuesday 10 to noon shift, for example--whatever works in your schedule! Thanks so much!

More information about Legal Aid and Oregon Law Center: The two entities are nonprofit law firms providing free legal services to low income Oregonians in employment (with a strong farmworker program), landlord-tenant, homelessness, civil rights, public benefits and other civil legal matters. Together they have 28 offices around the state; together we are the main providers of these services. They receive funding from the Oregon Law Foundation, Oregon court filing fees, private donations to the Campaign for Equal Justice, attorney fees from opposing parties and various grants. OLC does not receive any federal funding; LASO does.

While management repeatedly assured us during the committee meetings that it would consider all cost-cutting suggestions, "share the pain" with the bargaining unit, consider restructuring, and consider the year-by-year approach to dealing with the budget crisis, but has done none of these things.

The unions believe there is a significant budget-crisis and is willing to accept extensive cuts (especially furloughs), but management refuses to consider any significant cost-saving measure other than layoffs of union members. Besides loss of our jobs, layoffs would cripple our ability to deliver client services to the state's most vulnerable populations. This seems unnecessary and wrong to us.

The Board of Directors meets August 13 to consider management's and the unions' cost-cutting proposals. Because of the anticipated attendance of many union members at the meetings, they have been moved to larger meeting rooms at the Standard Insurance Center located at 900 SW 5th, Portland, Oregon. The building is located between 4th and 5th and Taylor and Salmon. The meeting starts at 10am, and Board members start drifting in about 9:30.

August 11, 2011

“Is Obama a Socialist?”

As an event of Willamette University's U Think program, an audience of a hundred or so gathered at Brown's Towne pub earlier this week to hear Professor William Smaldone examine the question whether Barack Obama is a socialist.

Professor Smaldone, a socialist scholar, concluded that Obama is not a socialist. He demonstrated his conclusion with evidence, historical fact and analysis.

The gist of the the talk consisted of a broad historical overview of the socialist movement in the USA and Europe from the publishing of Marx and Engel's Communist Manifesto through the end of the Cold War.

The talk explained the various developments of the movement from its beginnings in the 19th and early 20th centuries as a broad social democratic movement, through the split off of the Communist movement following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and the end of World War I.

The presentation also included a discussion of the post World War II socialist-led governments in western Europe with an emphasis on policies and practices aimed at regulating and "taming" the capitalist beast rather than abolishing it.

After establishing some of the essentials in understanding what socialism is, Prof. Smaldone then began an analysis of the policies of the Obama Presidency through socialist eyes.

Here, I'm not going to reproduce the talk and will just mention the absurdity of a "socialist" Obama in light of $700 billion spent to bail out the banks in 2008/09 with no strings attached; a health care law passed in the service of the health insurance and hospital industries and to the detriment of the population; and a debt and deficit policy that is willing to sacrifice people in the interests of maintaining a comfortable and wealthy upper class.

Finally, we get the question of how the extreme right wing can prevail with labeling Obama a socialist. Here Prof. Smaldone made reference to the damage done to the socialist movement in the USA by the Red Scare of the 1920s through the post WWII McCarthy period, including the purge of socialists and leftists from the unions and the use of the Reds label to denigrate the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.

Lastly, according to Prof. Smaldone, the American right wing, corporate media and the corporate lobby have always been willing to use the Big Lie in reference to socialism. Here, the Big Lie is best summed up by Nazi Propaganda Minister, Josef Goebbels who said, "If you repeat a lie long enough, even the people who know it's a lie will start believing it."

And from there, the questions and comments. Judging by the questions asked, the audience members were politically intelligent but not well versed in socialist history, principles, economics, or policies.

The U Think talks begin at 6:30 p.m. at Brown’s Towne Lounge with sessions each second Tuesday of the month through April 2012. The series will feature topics from the sciences and humanities.

If you ask me, what we have here is a modern version of the 19th century American Chautauqua - when Americans thought an education in the ways of the world might be worth something.

Portland Summer Concert & Noche de Cultura

Friday, August 26 at 7:00pm
Location: Village Ballroom (off MLK)

2nd Annual Salem-Area Labor Day Picnic

Monday, September 5 at 11:30am
Location: Salem Riverfront Park

August 8, 2011

Discussion in Salem: Is Obama a Socialist??

Willamette University's U Think series will explore the meanings of various political ideologies, such as socialism and Marxism, by considering policies implemented by the Obama administration in historical context.

Willamette history professor Bill Smaldone will deliver the talk at Brown's Towne Lounge Aug. 9 at 6:30 p.m. This event is free, and the venue is open to adults 21 and over.

Smaldone is the author of "Confronting Hitler: German Social Democrats in Defense of the Weimar Republic, 1929-1933," and he is currently writing a textbook on socialism.

Willamette U Think features professors in an informal environment. Presentations are geared for the public, and no background knowledge is needed. A question and answer session will follow the talk.

Brown's Towne Lounge is in the heart of downtown Salem at 189 Liberty St. NE, between Court and State Streets. Tables fill quickly, so arrive early to enjoy food and drink specials before the discussion.

Time for a New National Party

It's time for a new national political party.

What kind of a party? You might ask.

First, such a party needs to be a mass party. Such a party should be comfortable to anyone from Keynesian capitalist to socialist and communist. Such a party needs to include the unions, progressive community organization, sustainability and environmental activists, and most importantly must have strong roots among African Americans and Latinos.

Such a party should not aim for overall ideological unity. On the other hand, it needs to develop a base platform and needs to stick to such a platform with courage, tenacity and imagination.

What such a platform should include:

Such a party needs to reject austerity in all forms. This means that in its practical work such a party will need to develop an economic model that focuses on quality of life rather than growth and profit. The over all economic focus must also include an environmental analysis and a long term view towards a society which is economically renewable.

Second, such a party needs to be committed to real democracy. As such, such a party needs to be 100% committed to breaking the political power of the corporations and the wealthy. At its most basic level, this means abolishing corporate citizen hood. Such a commitment would also mean 100% publicly funded campaigns and elections, and the inclusion of all candidates running for a given office (rather than the two parties who are demonstrably able to prove that they can buy the votes necessary to win).

Third, such a party needs to reject empire. Empire is diametrically opposite of a democratic society. Empire automatically includes systematic inequality in wealth, an overweening concern with power, and an ethics which thrives on the notion that it is perfectly natural for the strong to dominate vulnerable and weak. Such by-products of empire are incompatible with democratic values... And they cost way too much.

Why Now?

Although we hold periodic elections, it is clear that the vast majority of voices do not matter within the current political establishment.

Millions are calling for a jobs program, yet a meaningful jobs program is nowhere on the national political agenda. The vast majority of people are calling for taxes to be increased on the wealthy in order that current minimal services be maintained. Instead, those minimal services are being systematically gutted by both political parties while the wealthy and their corporations are once again guaranteed a free ride. The great majority of us were opposed to imperial adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, but look what we got?

There is absolutely no indication at all that the current state of affairs within the American political system has any possibility of self correction. The question thus becomes:

1. Is democracy and a civil society worth having?

2. If democracy and a civil society are worth it, who's going to fight for it? If not us, who? If not now, when?


SEIU 503 AND BASIC RIGHTS OREGON JOIN TOGETHER IN HISTORIC PILOT PROJECT: "MARRIAGE EQUALITY IS A UNION ISSUE"

In the past BRO and SEIU 503 have worked together to fight back anti-gay initiatives and anti-union initiatives. But this new project is different. Instead of being on defense we are on offense. And instead of the Lavender Caucus (SEIU LGBT advocacy group) pushing the way, now we also have the support of SEIU 503 and the International Union backing this project like any other union organizing campaign. Phase one is to reach out to SEIU members who support Marriage Equality and talk about why this is a union issue. In addition BRO is committed to pumping up its huge volunteer base to support labor rights issues. From my perspective the difference this time, with this project is that it involves the rank and file union members and the volunteer base of BRO which moves this project from organizational endorsements of each others issues to becoming a deeper, stronger, long term activist base.

The first stage is to start with four Regional Meetings with interested SEIU members which will include reports from the BRO Staff who are working on this project, the history of the SEIU Lavender Caucus and discussions about why Marriage Equality is a union issue.




Ready to Rumble for Jobs, Not War and More Weapons?

By Judith Le Blanc
CommonDreams

Something is missing in the swirl of news reporting on the debt ceiling deal struck on August 2 by the Congress and the President for close to $1 trillion in cuts in discretionary programs over the next decade.

Will the 56% of discretionary spending that goes to the Pentagon take a hit in the name of deficit reduction?

The short answer is not necessarily, not unless we are ready to rumble.

Even the Senate Armed Services Committee leaders Sens. Carl Levin and John McCain have no idea what the deal does to the Pentagon budget.

The cruel irony is the debt ceiling deal exempts spending on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, even though war costs are one of the biggest factors driving up the national debt by over a trillion dollars.

Caps have been set for "security and non security" spending. The cuts will follow. The security category lumps together the Pentagon with the State Department, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security and nuclear weapons
systems.

Right now cuts to the Pentagon budget are not guaranteed. It is threat. Without a grassroots rumble the ax won't fall on the Pentagon or weapons of mass destruction, it will land on veteran's benefits or diplomatic efforts.

It's a fight, not a discussion.

Go here for more.

August 6, 2011

Standard & Poor's Dictates Austerity to USA

Yesterday the United States was confronted by a power far greater then itself, far more powerful than the Federal government, with greater authority than "we the people", accountable to no one and beholden only to themselves and their brother institutions such as JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and a small handful of other super large banks.

Who am I talking about? None other than the three big rating agencies, Standard & Poor's, Fitch and Moody's.

Make no mistake about it, in downgrading the United States' AAA rating, Standard & Poor's has made managing the national debt significantly more costly, which in turn is meant force US economic policy in the direction of a hard austerity policy.

It doesn't matter that the US is healthily solvent.

It doesn't matter that the USA defaulting due to an inability to pay the debt is about as likely as dinosaurs re-populating the Earth.

Indeed, nothing really matters, there is no counter argument because these agencies need explain their actions to no one.

Looking at Europe, it is Standard & Poor's and the other rating agencies who are running things in Greece, Spain, Ireland, and Portugal. It is these rating agencies and their brother banks who have manufactured the crises around national debt and who are dictating the draconian austerity policy responses. When Moody's, Standard & Poor's, and Fitch speak, presidents, parliaments, prime ministers and legislatures listen, and take notes.

It should be remembered too that it was these same three rating agencies were the same agencies who certified all of those CDS's (credit default swaps) as solid and good investments right up to the 2008 financial collapse. Not being stupid, these three rating agencies certified these credit default swaps as solid, largely in their own interests and their buddies selling the bad debt. But jeez, all of this doesn't matter. After all, big capital is never accountable.

So, take note. This is how our free enterprise "democracies" work.

August 5, 2011

Hitting the Streets

I'm thinking the debt ceiling deal is turning out to be a watershed moment. The deal was so bad, the effects so destructive, and the surrender on the part of the Democrats - and especially President Obama - so cynical and cowardly that millions within the working class and broad left are no longer willing to forgive.

The operant word these days seems to be betrayal and I'm hearing this word the most from rank and file Democrats.

The watershed is not the betrayal. Instead, the watershed seems to be a growing attitude that politics as usual is corrupt and dysfunctional beyond hope and that it might be up to the working class? middle class? citizenry? to "hit the street" on the issues that matter to us in the lower 98% of the national food chain.

Lucy Longtale told me that "into the streets" was cited by three people in a meeting of 25 at Representative Schrader's office last week. None of these were radical - just taxpaying voters totally fed up.

Personally, I'm all for Into the Streets. At the same time, I know damned well that we are weak and have very little idea as to what hitting the street means and how to do it.

A case in point is the recent AFSCME and SEIU contract settlements with the State of Oregon. The leadership displayed in these negotiations was basically pathetic. AFSCME broke ranks after agreeing to joint bargaining with SEIU, and its reassurances to the State that there really wasn't any strike threat were gross violations of every principle of union power and solidarity.

Likewise, SEIU didn't open discussions with members on the strike question until after the contract expired, with impasse looming. In these days and given the climate of the times I can't understand why the strike question wasn't a hot topic of discussion from day 1. Here I detect a severe lack of imagination and class principle...

But before we go on and hang it all on the leaderships, let's look at the rank and file:

In spite of an active "vote no" campaign, most members have stated implicitly or explicitly that they are not willing to fight back on even the most draconian cuts. In surveys, according to the Vote No campaign website, 62% of those responding stated they would not strike over major health care cuts. It's up to the union's membership to back their bargaining team. There's nothing easier than bargaining a contract when members are militantly supportive. There's nothing more impossible than bargaining a good contract when the bargaining team has both hands tied behind their backs.

Douglas County Move On American Dream Meeting

Left: Douglas County Move On members

I saw a You-Tube video of a Douglas County, Oregon American Dream meeting last month. In a public park setting this group's discussion was interrupted by a bunch of Tea Party yahoos shouting insults.

The problem was that the Move On folks just... Moved on... They abandoned their discussion, gave the park to the yahoos, and once again we demonstrated that all of us - from President Obama down to local activists - are best at surrendering.

There was a right to meet in this park and in surrendering the space, the right was surrendered too.

Frankly, the hit the street sentiment is based on the faith of emotional spontaneity. Great things can begin with spontaneous action, but spontaneous action alone cannot build a movement. To progress we must begin to take some responsibility for what we do and think. We had best define our values and then figure out how to put them in action.

Back to Basics

There is currently a big struggle brewing. This is the August 6th expiration of the CWA and IBEW contracts with Verizon. This struggle involves 45,000 union members faced with draconian cuts (abolition of pensions, gutting the health insurance, elimination of job security, etc.) from a corporation that is making large profits. The Verizon CEO has received over $80M in compensation.

A lot is at stake. Winning this strike is crucial; losing this strike would be a disaster. To lose this strike would be to admit that we are unable to have any effect at all on the corporate juggernaut.

So, hitting the street? Let's do it in an organized and effective way...

How can we help the Verizon workers?

Boycotts and consumer pressure helps a lot. Personally, I'm ready to go down to the local Verizon store and hassle them about my account. If 10 of us decided to do that together we'd tie the store up for hours... Get the idea?

Debt deal is bad for America

Sam Webb

The debt deal is a bad deal for the American people and the economy.

In addition to cuts of nearly $1 trillion over 10 years in discretionary spending, a committee of 12 – six Democrats and six Republicans – will cut another $2 trillion in spending, including, in all probability, “entitlement” programs.

If they can’t reach agreement, cuts will be across the board.

At the same time, tax hikes on the rich were pulled from the agenda, leaving the haves untouched and the have-nots feeling all of the pain.

The only concessions of the right wing were to include military spending in the budget cutting calculus, keep its hand off Social Security for now, and relent on its insistence that the debt ceiling limit be renewed next year,.

The settlement makes one ask: where is the “balance” and “shared sacrifice” here, which are problematic notions to begin with?

Debt politics, however, won’t go into the woodwork. Without a struggle by left and progressives, they will dominate U.S. politics for the foreseeable future. In fact, almost immediately the commission of six Democrats and six Republicans will convene to begin a new round of talks, which the mass media, if they follow past practice, will feature at the top of their news.

The debt talks and deal set aside democratic procedures and principles. The American people should have been a part of any negotiations that were considering such draconian cuts in social programs, but were in effect bystanders, waiting for the worst to possibly happen. No one in his or her right mind could consider this a highpoint in the democratic life of our country

Driving this entire process was right-wing extremism. Building on the momentum gained from the 2010 elections, it framed and steered the negotiations as well as recklessly employed the threat of default.

In doing so it brought the country and the world to the brink of catastrophe.

The Obama administration had a hand in the outcome for sure. It takes “two to tango;” it deserves criticism, but the lion’s share of responsibility for the deal lies with the Republican Party. It held the country hostage. And if given a chance will do it again.

The Tea Party was a factor in the debt deal, but it would be a mistake to think that it alone was in the driver’s seat. Other sections of the right wing, long embedded in the main reactionary groupings of transnational capital, were major players. The Tea Party gathers a lot of publicity, but it is still only a current, albeit a dangerous one, within the right and the Republican Party.

The president boxed himself into a corner, not because he is a bad negotiator, but because he and his aides made the calculus on the heels of 2010 elections that his appeal to independent voters, and thus his reelection, depends on his credentials as a “responsible fiscal manager.”

This calculation, however, could come back to bite him next year if the debt deal induces a deterioration in, or even a stabilization of, economic conditions.

Paul Krugman reminds us that President Roosevelt pursued this course of action in 1937 to disastrous results. Let’s hope that President Obama fares better. Years from now economists will wonder what prompted the elected officials to pursue deflationary policies when the economy was contracting.

The debt negotiations and package caused divisions in both parties, but more so in the Democratic Party. The House vote was split evenly down the middle – 95 to 95. The vote clearly demonstrates that support from liberals and progressives can’t be taken for granted either now or next year. It has to be earned by the administration through progressive governance.

The outcome of these negotiations doesn’t change the strategic policy of decisively defeating the right in next year’s elections, but it will make the job more difficult. There is both unease and anger among good people – and I’m not solely talking about people on the left – with the track record of the Obama administration. The hope engendered by the president’s election in 2008 has turned into disappointment for many people.

This has to be acknowledged, but at the same time, it also has to be said that the president inherited the worse economic crisis since the Great Depression, and the Republicans have blocked this administration at nearly every turn, even when the Democrats had majorities in both houses of Congress by use of the Senate filibuster. For the president they have made the country, for all practical purposes, ungovernable.

Moreover, what we are seeing now from right-wing extremism, as bad as it is, is nonetheless only a small down payment of what it would do if it regains control of every branch of government in the 2012 elections.

If this sounds like I am trying to scare the pants off you, you’re right. There is a tendency to underestimate the danger of right-wing extremism and the consequences of such an underestimation can only be potentially disastrous both now and next year.

While the right danger cannot be underestimated, it shouldn’t be equated with fascism. Fascism has a very particular meaning, and thus an authoritarian government that restricts democratic rights is not necessarily fascistic.

But are such distinctions, you might be thinking, of any importance from the standpoint of the political struggle? The answer is that they are. Access to democratic space, even if restricted, makes all the difference in the world.

Finally, the outcome of the debt talks reflects in no small measure the limited imprint of the progressive and left movements on the political process. Do we have anywhere near the power and influence of the right? The answer is obvious, but that can change, but only with a sound strategy, flexible tactics, and long persistent work at the grassroots.

August 4, 2011

Disaster Politics

Why Obama Played the Tea Party Game
Disaster Politics

By FELICE PACE

As pundits and the American People digest the Debt-Budget Deal many have concluded that the White House miscalculated or simply blew it. John Stewart and others suggested that the President could have avoided the entire scenario by simply conditioning renewal of the Bush tax cuts on raising the debt ceiling. Others say the White House should have demanded a clean debt ceiling bill. Either of those explanations requires assuming that the Obama White House is naïve or stupid or both.

Don’t believe it. President Obama and his advisors were playing a different game. They decided they could use a debt crisis created by Republicans to push through cuts to Social Security and Medicare in a manner that would provide the President with plausible deniability. In other words, Obama could claim “They made me do it!” while achieving what his Wall Street backers want – maintaining Global Capital’s police force on the backs of working folks, the middle class and the poor.

...

Global Capital needs the empire but it does not want to pay for it. Wealthy Americans also refuse to bear the burden. That necessitates transferring the cost of empire to US workers, the poor and middle class. Obama is committed to maintaining the empire and its police force – the US Military.

More at http://counterpunch.org/pace08042011.html


How Can We Create a Nuclear-Free World? Rally in Portland On Sunday

How Can We Create a Nuclear-Free World? Not Another Hiroshima, Nagasaki,
or Fukushima.

Sunday, August 7, 2011, 1:00-4:00 pm (speakersfrom 2:00-3:00 pm)

Japanese American Historical Plaza (Portland Waterfront at NW Naito Parkway & Couch Street)

Join Oregon PSR and our partner organizations* for a commemoration of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the current nuclear disaster at Fukushima, with an opportunity for you to get involved in
creating a nuclear-free future.

Popular local bands The Slants and Portland Taiko will perform, noted peace activist Kathy Kelly will speak, and, as part of the 2011 Convention of Veterans For Peace , the vets will march from the Peace
Memorial Park (at the north end of the Eastbank Esplanade, just above
the Steel Bridge) to join us.

Activity booths include:
* Family-friendly crafts such as making origami cranes and peace books
* Photo exhibit on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
* Opportunities to take action for nuclear abolition and peace
* Information about supporting alternatives to nuclear power

Speakers include:
* Dr. Hideko Tamura Snider, Hiroshima survivor and author of One Sunny Day
* Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence
* Erica Maranowski, recent Jefferson H.S. graduate and winner of the 2011 Oregon PSR Greenfield Peace Writing Contest
* Gene Ruyle, member of the East Bay Chapter of Veterans for Peace, Oakland, CA
*Sean Egusa, recently returned from disaster relief efforts in Japan
* Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon
* Rev. David Komeji of the Nichiren Buddhist Temple

*Alliance for Democracy, American Friends Service Committee, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Dharma Rain Zen Center, First Unitarian Peace Action Committee, Greenpeace, Hanford Challenge, KBOO Radio, Living Earth, Metanoia Peace Community, Multnomah Meeting of Friends Peace & Social Concerns Committee, Oregon Hiroshima Club, Oregon Interfaith Power and Light, a project of Ecumenical Ministries,Peace & Justice Works Iraq Affinity Group, Portland Japanese American Citizens League, Portland Japanese Garden, Portland Peaceful Response Coalition, Sierra Club, SGI-Buddhists, Veterans for Peace Chapter 72, Women's International League for Peace & Freedom, War Resisters League and others.

Invite your friends and family, and plan to join us on the Portland waterfront on August 7!

August 2, 2011

Communists On The Debt Ceiling Debate

From the Communist Party:

After being subjected to a long, ugly hostage-taking drama in the nation's capital, millions of Americans woke up this morning relieved to hear that the United States of America may actually avert a politically-manufactured default disaster with a new White House/Congress debt ceiling deal.

But the relief may be short-lived for many Americans. The deal's slashing of vital government programs are a dagger in the back of an economy already slipping back toward recession, and will mean mass unemployment continued, homes foreclosed, schools and clinics closed, potholes unfilled.

Any sigh of relief will be tempered with disgust and anger at these cuts, at what is seen as the dysfunction of our government, and the failure to address adequately the main problem affecting the U.S. economy: lack of jobs. Disgust towards government is exactly what the tea party wants.

Instead of focusing on job creation like they pledged in the run-up to the 2010 elections, the tea party/Republicans, backed by the corporate media and far-right corporate supporters, have conducted an all-out attack on working people and government "of, by and for the people." They have insisted on job-killing cuts in education, research, transportation, public safety and every program that supports our nation's infrastructure or helps working people.

The Republicans have instead accelerated the transfer of wealth from the working class and people to the billionaires, banks and CEOs. How? By attacking government spending including on Pell grants, Medicare and Medicaid — and even the most popular and deficit-free program in America: Social Security.

The debt ceiling crisis is the latest in a series of hostage crisis, as tea party Republicans threaten economic sabotage by refusing to allow necessary government functions that are essential to people's welfare and the entire economy.

They do not really care about the deficit or the vast majority of people in our country. They will not be satisfied until all restraint has been lifted on corporate greed, and government has been reduced to a protector of the rich and an instrument for them to loot what public wealth remains.

(These are similar to Big Capital's global policies of "austerity" unfolding now in Greece and Europe.)

The deal struck by the White House and Congress still has to be voted on, and anything could happen, including its defeat in the House. But whatever the outcome, this crisis has shown the Republicans are willing to sabotage the entire economy in their effort to discredit the Obama presidency, retake the White House in 2012, and impose their extreme, anti-working-class agenda.

Part of the hostage-taking by Republicans was their absolute refusal to agree to increasing revenues — i.e., cutting tax loopholes for billionaires, oil corporations and corporate jet owners.

One may be legitimately angry, as we are, at ground ceded by the president and Democrats, but to equate them with the Republicans, or, worse still, to ignore the role of the Republicans and focus only on the Democrats distorts the real political dynamics of the current situation, and is not a truthful reflection of politics today. It demobilizes and divides the broadest possible coalition necessary to fight the cuts.

This deal may tissue paper over the political crisis, but deep spending cuts will impact millions of households, renew budget crises faced by every state and local government, and threaten a new downward economic spiral.

It was of vital importance that the American people, in the eleventh hour, spoke out strongly -- at the urging of the president as well as of many unions and progressive organizations -- calling their members of Congress. Many organizations urged their constituents to tell Congress hands off Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tax the rich and invest in job creation to reduce deficits.

This eleventh hour rally seemed to have taken some of the worst anti-people measures off the table. Plus, the bloated military budget is on the table for cuts.

In the meantime, just as the American people began to understand and act in this crisis, it must continue to shift the debate back to where it must be: focused on jobs. To fund investments in jobs — including public infrastructure, education, green energy — and guaranteeing that working-class Americans, seniors, the disabled, children and the most vulnerable are able to live a decent life, a key ingredient is increasing government revenues — by taxing the billionaires.

The Peoples Budget, proposed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tackles America's real economic problems. It taxes the rich, ends the war, eliminates the deficit and, most important, creates jobs by rebuilding America.

That's what this debate has to pivot towards in order to defeat the hostage-takers in 2012.

Communist Party USA
235 W 23rd St | New York, NY 10011
cpusa@cpusa.org | www.cpusa.org

The People's Response--Rally TODAY In Portland At 5:00 PM

I hope that this rally will focus more on local elected representatives and challenging them then on what appears below. That said, I believe that this is a positive sign.

ALERT ! ALERT! ALERT ! ALERT! ALERT ! ALERT! ALERT ! ALERT!
The People's Response

WHEN: Tuesday, August 2nd, 5 -6 PM
WHERE: Pioneer Courthouse Square, SW 6th between Morrison and Yamhill
President Obama surrendered to the Tea Party Republicans and has again joined the corporate attack on the American people.
US House of Representatives passed the Obama negotiated national debt ceiling bill in a 269-161 vote with 95 Democratic party member Yes votes.
Now the bill is in the hands of the US Senate with an expected vote on Tuesday.

We must respond!
We cannot be silent!

The People did not create the budget deficit. We did not create the financial meltdown. We did not benefit from either. Yet we are being made to pay and pay and pay.

No increases in taxes on the wealthy, no closing of tax loopholes, just cuts in domestic spending!

We must say, “BASTA! ENOUGH!”

RALLY to oppose the Republican-Democratic party deal that only benefits the super-wealthy and their corporate masters.
RALLY to oppose imposing more cuts on students, workers, the elderly, those seeking school loans, those who are unemployeed, those in medical need.
RALLY to say Yes to job creation, Yes to maintaining the jobs we have, Yes to clean energy alternatives, Yes to full funding of government services at all levels.
Rally to say Yes to the Middle Class.

The People's Way of ending this crises is to
_end the wars
_tax the rich
_close the loopholes
_end the capital gains tax preference
_fair trade, not more “free” trade agreements
_enact a financial services tax on short term investments
_single payer "Medicare for All" healthcare
WHEN: Tuesday, August 2nd, 5 -6 PM
WHERE: Pioneer Courthouse Square, SW 6th between Morrison and Yamhill

BRING
_your signs
_your voices
_your pots and pans to make noise

Note: This is a People's gathering. It is not “permitted.” David e. Delk | 503.232.5495 | Alliance for Democracy | www.afd-pdx.org