Friday, October 31, 2008

News flash: most Americans WANT to redistribute the wealth

A new Gallup poll released yesterday finds that "a majority of Americans (58%) say money and wealth should be more evenly distributed among a larger percentage of the people."

And just under half (46%) "go so far as to say that the government should redistribute wealth by 'heavy taxes on the rich.'"

Gallup says it has been asking the public for over 20 years whether they think the distribution of money and wealth in this country is "fair," or whether money and wealth should be "more evenly distributed among a larger percentage of the people," and "across the nine times the question has been asked, a majority of Americans have agreed with the thought that money and wealth should be more evenly distributed."

In each of the four times Gallup has asked "Do you think our government should or should not redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich?" in recent years, "between 45% and 51% of Americans have gone so far as to agree with the fairly harsh-sounding policy of 'redistribut[ing] wealth by heavy taxes on the rich.'"

That's the real American spirit, dontcha think?

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In Working-Class Pennsylvania, Union Reps and Football Stars Make Strong Case for Obama -- and Against McCain

Originally posted on the AFL-CIO blog and the Huffington Post, and then reprinted on the Portside mailing list.

By Carl Davidson

Organized labor has set its sights on winning western Pennsylvania for Barack Obama.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney came to the Electrical Workers ([2] IBEW) Local 712 hall in Vanport on Oct. 25. He was joined by United Steelworkers ([3] USW) top officials, as well as members of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team who were scheduled to be at the afternoon rally. In between, the unions deployed more than 2,200 rank-and-file union members to knock on the doors of some 31,000 union family homes across the state in a single afternoon, an effort that will become even more earnest over the next several days.

I arrived in the morning’s gray drizzle, unlike the sunny fall days of the last month of Saturday “labor walks.” Media work was my task for the day, and I made sure a New York Times reporter quickly met all the local union officials and pro-union local candidates.

While I was getting wired on black coffee and a jelly donut, Bob Schmetzer, a local IBEW official, handed me one of his home-made fliers. “Here, whaddya think of this?” he said. “I got it off the Internet.” It was one of the now-classic pieces that expose the undercurrent of white supremacy in the campaign, using role reversal: “What if John McCain graduated at the top of his class at Harvard, and Obama came in at the bottom of his class with the record of a goof-off? What do you think Fox and the right-wing talk shows would be doing with that?” It gave a dozen more examples, using irony and good humor to make a very serious point.

“Terrific,” I told Bob, “We have to get people thinking about things like this. It arms them against the right.” He agreed, and worked the hall, pulling over one after another of his key guys, giving each of them the leaflet, going over it with them. He’s thinking ahead, educating his troops, knowing that this battle’s more than just dollars and cents.

Sweeney’s arrival was low key. Hovering nearby was a young union staff woman, Yael Foa, assigned by the AFL-CIO to work with us in Beaver County. She’s talented and tireless, but stood to the side, beaming as Sweeney greeted each union member as if he or she were family. Wearing his union jacket and cap, white hair and the trace Irish lilt in his voice, he’s soft-spoken and warm with everyone and gets the same in return. People like and respect him.

But on the platform he’s a firebrand.

You’re the reason Obama is out in front in Pennsylvania. Make no mistake; each of you here is very important. Of all the things that we do—mailings, advertisements, phone banking—there’s nothing more effective or more persuasive than what you’re doing today, a personal visit from one union brother or sister to another. Beaver County is the key to western Pennslvania, western Pennsylvania is the key to Pennsylvania—and without Pennsylvania, there’s no way McCain can win!

Sweeney closed by pushing the entire ticket, from Obama at the top to Vince Biancucci and Dennis Rousseau, both local guys with a union history, for state representatives at the base. He stressed the AFL-CIO’s core message: No more nonsense about privatizing Social Security and putting it into the stock market, he said. No more notions of taxing health care benefits—extend health care to everyone. No more nonsense about de-regulation of banking and Wall Street. They’ve made a huge mess, and we need a New Deal and a new leadership to turn things around. Obama is the most pro-labor candidate we’ve ever seen, so shift into high gear and let’s make him our president.

Now everyone was appropriately fired up as they donned “Steelworkers for Obama” T-shirts and hit the streets of nearby mill towns and the back roads in the semi-rural township hills and hollows for the next four hours.

While this is a key area, it’s only one small part of organized labor’s effort in this campaign. Aside from millions of dollars spent on print and other media pushing “Green Jobs,” health care and the right of unions to organize, both the AFL-CIO-affiliated unions and Change to Win-affiliated unions like SEIU are making a common front, working together on this election. This weekend alone, more than 250,000 union volunteers across the country are on the streets going door to door. Busloads from safe areas like New York City spend weekends in the rural Pennsylvania Poconos or working-class neighborhoods of Philadelphia. Car caravans from Chicago work the factory towns of Indiana, Kentucky and western Ohio. There’s nothing quite like seeing it in motion: “Awesome!” as Obama’s younger volunteers put it, although they’ve done some pretty awesome things themselves.

The mid-afternoon sun broke through the clouds. I returned to the union hall after joining the Beaver County Peace Links event—a weekly vigil at the court house for more than five years now, with our “Bring the Troops Home Now!” banner and “Honk for Peace!” signs.

The union parking lot was filling up for “Steel Blitz for Barack” time. Soon a bus would arrive carrying Dan Rooney, owner emeritus of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team; Edmond Nelson, former Steelers star defensive lineman; USW President Leo W. Gerard; and other union officials and players.

Outsiders might not get it, but in an area where “Steelerism” comes close to being a state religion, THIS IS A BIG DEAL. Dozens of young, mostly white kids, boys and girls, were bundled up against the wind, plastering each others’ coats, front and back, with “Union Voters for Obama” and “Steelers for Obama” stickers, clutching autograph books, waiting for their heroes.

Inside, Billy George, head of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, warmed up the packed hall. George is from the tough McDonald Heights neighborhood of nearby Aliquippa, home of defunct Jones and Laughlin Steel, once the largest steel mill in the world. He was with USW Local 1211, a powerful and militant local in its day.

“What time is it?” he yelled into the mike. “UNION TIME!” the room yelled back, no prompting needed. George predicted that the Steelers will win their division, then the Super Bowl, and then he asked, “Who will be the president to greet and open the Super Bowl?” “BARACK OBAMA!” the crowd roared.

George got serious and turned to labor history. He spoke about the fierce battles by the Steelworkers Organizing Committee in the 1930s and the historical marker that sits at the old plant gate in downtown Aliquippa. The marker recalls the 1937 U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of Aliquippa’s workers in the case that finally broke the back of reaction and allowed nationwide union organization to spread and FDR’s New Deal to accelerate.

Explained George:

Social Security came out of this. Our right to organize came out of this. These are the most important things we’ve ever won, and now McCain and the Republicans want to “privatize” it or take it back. Can you imagine if they put your Social Security in the stock market? No way, no way we’ll let them. I know everyone here agrees with me, but I want four full shifts out of each and every one of you in the next 10 days. Get this message out to your neighbors, relatives and everyone else around here that knows better, or ought to.

Next up was Leo Gerard, the Canadian-born international president of the United Steelworkers. Even with his north-of-the-border accent, he knows the exact language of this group today.

We’ve been getting the shaft, but this is our time, we’re going to turn it completely around. We’ve never had a candidate like Barack Obama.

After the thank-you’s and standard lines, Gerard asks the workers here to follow a thought experiment with him: to imagine a candidate born to wealth and privilege of the high officer class. Follow him as he fritters away his studies. Recognize and respect his service, but when he gets back, he dumps his first wife and marries into brewery millions. He goes to Congress with the goal of letting the banks run wild and voting against the unions 85 percent of the time. He’s so wealthy, he doesn’t even know how many homes he has.

Now imagine, Gerard went on, a candidate with a single mother, who works hard, but leaves him mainly with Kansas grandparents to raise him. They sacrifice everything to get him an education. He gets to Harvard, top of his class. Wall Street is offering hundreds of thousands of dollars just for sign-up bonuses, but what does he do? He decides to give something back. He works for a church group on the South Side of Chicago, with the unemployed laid-off workers, many of them steelworkers, helping them get retrained, helping them find a future.

Gerard exclaimed:

The Republicans want to talk about character! What does this tell you about it? What does this tell you about the difference between these two men? I listened to right-wing radio yesterday, making fun of Obama for going to visit his dying grandmother, the woman who gave everything to see him succeed. He set aside the time to see her while she could still hear his voice, and they mock it.

McCain and the Republicans have been running around like “Robin Hood in Reverse,” then dump all this slime on Obama and us, and we’re supposed to shut up and like it? No, take the measure of these two men. Take the measure of which one stands with family as we know it, take the measure of which one can benefit the working class that we’re part of. Obama is going to be a great president, and we’re going to put him there.

By this time there was not a dry eye in the house. The Steeler’s Dan Rooney took the mike to add his admiration of Obama. But the most powerful applause comes for linebacker Edmond Nelson, a huge man who dwarfed everyone else on the platform.

He shouted out:

I’m for Barack Obama because I hate this war in Iraq. I hate this war because of the lies told us about “Weapons of Mass Destruction” to drag us into it. I’m for Obama because I hate what’s been done to our soldiers and the people of Iraq.

His words brought the strongest applause of the afternoon.

But Nelson, an African American, closed with “I’m for Barack Obama because I want to see people who look like me get a fair shake and a decent chance in this society.” Again, powerful applause from a group that’s more than 90 percent white but knows exactly what he means.

As the autograph lines started forming, one of the AFL-CIO chiefs brought the room back to order, saying: “One last speaker, one of the most important. She’s going to tell you what to do.”

Kyra Ricci, a petite twenty-something with a terrific smile but also a “listen up now” sense of command, laid out the tasks of the final days. She had her young people with their sign-up clipboards stationed around the hall so they wouldn’t be gotten by without a commitment.

It was the perfect counterpoint to end the day. Three powerful movements are coming together here—organized labor, the African American fight for justice and a new anti-war youth insurgency. Given the sense of class-conscious solidarity and unity in the hall, it’s hard to see how McCain and the GOP can stop them. But it’s also clear that an Obama White House, in calling for partners for “change from below,” also will face forces that will not be easily deflected or denied.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

9,000 maniacs - braving rain, wind and mud to be part of something bigger

The flavor of what it's all about, from Philadelphia Daily News reporter/blogger Will Bunch:

You would have thought for a minute that Bud Selig -- on some bizarre whim -- had announced that he wanted to wrap up the World Series right into the very worst of Mother Nature's Octoberfest here in the Philadelphia area, and to prove his arbitrary nature had also decided to do so not at Citizens Bank Park but on a mud-soaked college quad 20 minutes away. It would be hard to imagine what else -- besides a Phillies world championship -- could draw so many people on a day when rain poured down in chilly sheets, as wind whipped off the Delaware River and the thermometer struggled to stay above 40.

Nobody had to be there on an ungodly day -- but here they were, 9,000 maniacs, lined up around the entire south side of the Widener University campus in Chester, rounding a corner with no end in site, all awaiting admission to a mud-soaked field with no shelter from the elements, all to hear a 25-minute speech by the Democrat who wants to be the next president of the United States. As the growing, mostly young throng sunk into mud that was more than ankle deep in spots, it was a little like Woodstock without the three days of music or the brown acid.

For a political junkie. the color of such an unusual event outweighed the words -- the eerie glow of the TV lights and the swirl of tiny leaves in their hot glow, as Obama spoke in a black windbreaker and jeans. occasionally competing with howling wind and what sounded like far-off thunder. Unintentionally, perhaps, the energy of the event was a powerful contrast with the news that John McCain and Sarah Palin had canceled an event just an hour away in Quakertown because of bad weather.

The real stars were the people, and their determination of these 9,000 to be there on such a raw and miserable day, to be a part of something bigger than themselves. ...

Some writers have called the enthusiasm for Obama a cult (like ABC's Jake Tapper, who was covering the rally) -- and the 9,000 fanatics may well find come next winter that the subject of their enthusiasm is just another politician who can't deliver all the change he has promised, especially in the face of an economic downturn that is more soaking than the rains over Delaware County.

Maybe so, but in an unforgettable October here in Philadelphia, the fact that thousands of people want so desperately to be a part of something that they think might change this country, regardless of how Obama the man turns out, is, in and of itself, something to be hopeful about, especially on a such a gray and bitter morning.

Read it all here.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Forgetting Education

In times like these, in the whirl of vital activities, we're apt to forget education. But how can we expect anyone to understand what is happening to them if they don't have any basic knowledge of such fundamentals as the class struggle and historical materialism?

Further, where are they going to learn what they need to know if CPUSA doesn't provide it? To our credit, a lot has been done. There have been some wonderful educationals organized by telephone conferences. Some of the more technically savvy activists are employing podcasting on critical subjects. Our North Texas group just had a fine "new members" class. I posted a summary on the Texas web site in the "Theory" section:

There's more we could do. No organized group should overlook the need for education. We need to explore more on-line methods, including programmed learning, web conferencing, and webinars, to meet the desperate need for understanding of this fast-changing world!

--Jim Lane in Dallas

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McCain must think Adam Smith is socialistic!

reviewing the patriotic pedigree of a progressive income tax. -Cord

by Steve Coll
The New Yorker
October 27, 2008 edition
The rise and fall of Joe the Plumber as a symbol of the American self-made man’s resistance to progressive taxation began on October 12th, outside Toledo, Ohio.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

From Manga to socialism: Japan's young go left

Japan's young turn to Communist Party as they decide capitalism has let them down

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Palin gets $150,000 new wardrobe, 'She enjoys being a girl'

FROM Politico: RNC shells out $150,000 for Palin fashion

Yeah, come on hockey/soccer/band/computer-geek moms of the world, wouldn't you like a shopping spree, hair stylist and make up artist all expenses paid? You betcha Sarah Palin did. $150,000 worth of a new "hockey mom" look. That red leather jacket? Paid for by the Republican campaign.

Wish some videoartist would do a thing of her primping with "I enjoy being a girl" in the background.

Maybe John McCain was thinking about these expenses when the "lipstick on a pig" comment came out?!? That would explain his confusion.

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Kill thy neighbor?

Kill thy neighbor?

By Joel Wendland

The 2008 presidential has officially sunk to a new low. In addition to widely reported incidents of racist attacks, a new e-mail circulated by a leading anti-choice activist in Kansas, however, has turned such threats and smears in a dangerously new direction.

With the subject line "Response to ANY Christian who is Voting for Obama," Mark S. Gietzen, a top Kansas GOP activist and the head of the Kansas Coalition for Life, based in Wichita, began circulating an e-mail message this week accusing supporters of Barack Obama of "enabling" the killing of millions.

According to Gietzen's e-mail, a vote for Obama, who supports the right of a woman to choose when to be pregnant, is "much the same as someone aiding a person who is planning to do a school shooting."

"A person doing a school shooting will likely only kill less than 1,000 persons, whereas a vote for Obama will enable him enact policies that will kill millions every year, and for years to come!" Gietzen's e-mail read.

The inflammatory e-mail further asks recipients to forward the e-mail to others "to oppose the blatant evil that an Obama presidency would bring upon our country."

The addition of two verses from the biblical book of Ezekiel at the end of the e-mail turned the message in a sinister direction. According to the verses, a "wicked man" – presumably a reference to Obama and/or his supporters – who refuses to turn "from his evil [or] from his wicked conduct, then he shall die for his sin."

While neither the addition of the verses in the e-mail nor the commentary preceding it explicitly threaten Obama or his supporters, the e-mail could provide someone with violent tendencies or mental instability the justification to do so. The verses seem to indicate that God wants evil people to die or to be killed. What higher authority than the "word of God" could possibly exist?

Responding to an e-mail asking for a clarification of whether he thought some of the recipients of the e-mail might use the verses as a justification for violence toward or harassment of Obama supporters, Gietzen wrote, "I don't think so." He added an abstract theological argument about spiritual death leading to physical death for which Obama supporters, presumably, would only have themselves to blame.

Gietzen appeared to believe that all of the recipients of the e-mail would understand the complexities of his view of the theology behind the verses, rather than interpret the verses literally.

Gietzen's Kansas Coalition for Life is well-known for harassing women seeking abortion services or family planning counseling, as well as doctors and health care providers who assist them.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

‘Just your average Joe’

‘Just your average Joe’
Joe Biden pays visit to the Ohio State University-Newark

By Jonny Lippincott

NEWARK, Ohio—Democratic vice- presidential candidate Joe Biden paid a visit to this working class town Oct. 15. Biden delivered a speech to a packed house at the Ohio State University and Central Ohio Technical College Adena Hall.

Newark, Ohio is a small community located about 40 miles east of Columbus. The town has been suffering economic hardships from foreclosed homes, loss of small businesses to layoffs from major manufacturers such as Owens Corning, Diebold and Holophane lighting solutions. Newark has also experienced massive job outsourcing due to jobs being pushed out of town and forcing many residence to commute to major cities for employment.

Thus, a visit from the self proclaimed "poorest senator" seemed like a ray of hope to a near dying community. Among the people attending the rally were everyone from the old to the young and many representatives of the working class including steelworkers, fire and policemen, medical workers, small business owners and so forth. It was with out a doubt that the majority of the crowd was young people thirsty for change from the direction our country is headed in.

The overall atmosphere of the event seemed more like a rock concert or a major sporting event then a political rally. To start things off, Ohio State Treasurer and Attorney General candidate Richard Cordray and Gov. Ted Strickland got the crowd fired up talking about how important of a role the state of Ohio will play in this most important presidential election.

When Biden began his speech, he began talking about his hometown in Delaware and the similarities to Newark. He said, "The American people feel it all over, people are sitting at their kitchen tables and having a conversation as ordinary and as profound as 'Will we have a job next month?'"

Biden also touched on the fact that America's progress will not be measured by the stock market or by the salaries of big business CEOs but by parents’ ability to tell their children everything will be fine in the end.

It seemed the people of Newark felt relieved when the labor issues of the times were mentioned and that someone is willing to solve the problem instead of cower from the true war being waged against the American people, the war of job loss, outsourcing, foreclosure, predatory lending, and the decline of small business.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Six Whoppers from the Debate

Six Whoppers from the Debate

From Campaign for American's Future

Last night, John McCain repeated conservative arguments that are completely divorced from the facts. We need to take every possible opportunity to counter these right-wing whoppers. Here’s a short summary:

Whopper: “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac caused the subprime lending situation that caused the housing market in America to collapse.”

Fact: The unregulated shadow banking system caused our financial crisis. The Federal National Mortgage Association, known as Fannie Mae, and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, known as Freddie Mac, backed relatively few subprime mortgages until the Bush Administration changed the rules in 2004, encouraging those companies to buy subprime loans late in the game. [Washington Post] Instead, it was unregulated banking companies that created the situation—years before Fannie and Freddie got involved—by encouraging mortgage companies to lend to individuals who could not afford the payments. [Dean Baker, McClatchy Newspapers]

Whopper: “Businesses in America today are paying the second highest tax rate of anywhere in the world.”

Fact: Compared to other industrialized countries, actual U.S. corporate taxes are low. According to a 2008 study by the World Bank and PricewaterhouseCoopers, the United States’ total corporate tax burden ranks 76th of over 100 countries. [World Bank] Almost all of our major trading partners and competitors—including Canada, Mexico, China, Russia, India, Japan, Germany, and France—collect more businesses taxes than we do. Our tax rate is relatively high, but the code is so riddled with loopholes that two-thirds of American corporations and foreign corporations doing business in the United States pay absolutely no federal income taxes—despite taking in $2.5 trillion in sales. [Government Accountability Office]

Whopper: “We can eliminate our dependence on foreign oil by building 45 new nuclear power plants, right away.”

Fact: Nuclear power won’t make the U.S. energy independent. At the fastest possible pace of construction, it would still take almost 40 years to build 45 new nuclear power plants. During the same period, at least that many nuclear plants will have to be retired as they become too old to operate safely. [Keystone Center] In fact, the only practical avenue to energy independence is increasing the percentage of power generated from renewable energy sources, raising fuel efficiency standards, and enacting the Apollo Alliance plan to invest in conservation, energy efficiency and clean power—and create more than 3 million new jobs. The largest short-term savings on energy will come from conservation—retrofitting buildings to be more efficient, raising fuel and appliance efficiency standards, and changing personal habits.

Whopper: “We can offshore drill now. We will reduce the cost of a barrel of oil because we show the world that we have a supply of our own.”

Fact: Offshore drilling would take 10 years to bring new oil to market, 20 years to reach peak capacity, and even then it wouldn’t lower gasoline prices. It takes years—to set up operations, dig test wells, and build a functioning oil rig—for a new well to provide oil for the market. On top of that, all of the oil-drilling ships in the world are booked for the next five years. [New York Times] So it would take 10 years before any oil is pumped out of new offshore wells, and about 20 years for those wells to reach peak capacity. Bush’s own Department of Energy reports that with new offshore drilling “any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant.” [U.S. Department of Energy]

Whopper: “ now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”

Fact: ACORN, a 38-year-old grassroots community organization, is being smeared by the right wing. ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, was founded in 1970 and is the nation’s largest grassroots organization of low- and moderate-income people, with over 400,000 member families. ACORN has done something praiseworthy: it has encouraged over 1.3 million Americans to join the democratic process by registering to vote. A few people gave ACORN registration forms with false names, and ACORN was required by law to turn those in to elections officials. But not one instance of voter fraud associated with ACORN has been proven. The Center for American Progress wrote an excellent paper debunking the claims against ACORN. [Center for American Progress]

Whopper: “The Washington, D.C. school voucher system [is a model for success—the number of vouchers offered] “I think it’s a thousand and some, and some 9,000 parents asked to be eligible for that.”

Fact: The Washington D.C. school voucher system illustrates perfectly why vouchers don’t work. Two studies from the Bush Administration’s own Department of Education found that the voucher program in Washington D.C. has had no impact on students’ academic achievement. [Department of Education 2007, 2008] And when the vouchers were first offered, so few public-school parents applied for them that the D.C. school system had to give them away to children who were already attending private schools. [Washington Post] With 90 percent of America’s students attending public schools, we need a reform agenda that provides them with great schools—not a plan to siphon off scarce public funds to give private school vouchers to a few.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Takin' it back with Barack, Jack

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Say it ain't so, Joe! You're not a plumber!!

As if we should expect any different from John McCain. He insults women with his choice of vice president. Vacuous, racist and mean Sarah Palin as the supposed all-American (white) woman.

Now he insults working class white guys with the introduction of Joe the plumber -- who is not a plumber, his name's not Joe, he is not buying a business and he's a registered Republican who advocates for a reactionary "flat tax." He was asked to go to the Obama event by the McCain campaign. In other words -- a plant from the McCain camp.

And -- he's not union, either.

Joe -- or Samuel his name is -- is as much of a representative of working class whites as Archie Bunker. And that was the point I guess.

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John McCain Just Loves George W. Bush

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fast for our Future begins

Photos and captions by Rosalio Munoz/PWW
Over 70 fasters gather to kick off the Fast for our Future hunger strike at the historic center of Los Angeles, La Placita Olvera, Oct. 15. (top)

Si Se Puede! Fasters take oath of nonviolence and justice for the rights of the undocumented workers and families. (middle)

Organizer Nathalie (fasters do not use full names and carry no ID) at the encampment. (bottom)

More info at

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Iraqi Communists: Global financial crisis is beginning of end for 'brutal chaos' of neo-liberalism

An Iraqi Communist Party leader told a packed Baghdad meeting yesterday that the global financial crisis marks the beginning of the end for the economic, social and political policies of neo-liberalism.

As reported at the Iraqi Letter blog (see blog for photos), Saleh Yassir, member of the Central Committee of the Iraqi Communist Party, presented an extensive analysis of the current global financial crisis at a meeting held on Tuesday, October 14, 2008, at the party headquarters at Andulus Square in central Baghdad.

More than 200 people packed the hall to listen to an in-depth presentation of the political economy of the crisis, its causes and repercussions, as well as its principal characteristics compared with previous crises.

Yassir concluded that the crisis marks the beginning of the end for neo-liberalism on several levels: economic, political and social. He predicted that the global financial system will not return to what it was before, but will witness significant changes in terms of an end of the brutal chaos of globalized state monopoly financial capitalism, and towards intervention by the state in controlling the financial markets of each state and on the global level.

Does the crisis mean the end of the capitalist system? Replying to this question, Yassir said "No. The end of capitalism requires waging a social struggle and requires broad class alliances that will not evolve and develop in a short time period."

A more extensive report of the meeting will be published later.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

'Time To Give the Black Guy a Chance'

Carl Davidson of Progressives for Obama reports that the 'tide is turning" in blue-collar Beaver County, Pennsylvania. This county -- along with Davidson -- made it on the front page of the NY Times a couple of months ago as a "case study" of whether working class whites would go for Obama.

His recent blog "Time to give the Black guy a chance" points to a conclusion. Great writing -- all should read:

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Steelworkers, unionists hit the streets

Labor’s muscle supports Obama campaign in Pennsylvania
By Ben Sears
PHILADELPHIA--The Obama campaign got a big welcome in neighborhoods here from one end of the city to the other Oct. 11, and the labor movement put its muscle behind the effort. Hundreds of trade unionists and their family members and supporters turned out in the city and suburbs as Senator Obama spent the day going from one rally to the next.
At a local steelworkers’ union hall in north Philadelphia, United Steel Workers President Leo Gerard spoke to a crowd of over 150 activists before they headed out for their morning door-to-door walks.
Gerard told the spirited union crowd that the “McCain straight talk express is going off a cliff” as, he pointed out, the nation saw a ninth straight month of net job losses. He continued, “We have socialism for the big banks and capitalism for the rest of us … The same people who tell us we can’t have government run health care are the ones who went with their hands out for a bail out for the big banks.”
Addressing the issue of racism directly, Gerard told the racially diverse crowd, “It’s hard to imagine that you would sacrifice the future of your country, your kids and your grandkids over the color of a man’s skin. In union halls around the country, we see people of all races and backgrounds. We are the face of America.”

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Monday, October 13, 2008

William Kristol advises McCain-Palin - again - and when is the Times going to fire him?

New York Times op ed columnist William Kristol is full of advice for the McCain campaign. A few weeks ago, he recommended that

McCain needs to liberate his running mate from the former Bush aides brought in to handle her — aides who seem to have succeeded in importing to the Palin campaign the trademark defensive crouch of the Bush White House. McCain picked Sarah Palin in part because she’s a talented politician and communicator. He needs to free her to use her political talents and to communicate in her own voice.

Kristol noted with satisfaction that
McCain recently expressed unhappiness with his staff’s handling of Palin [and] dispatched his top aides Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis to join Palin in Philadelphia. They’re supposed to liberate Palin to go on the offensive as a combative conservative ...
She should spend her time making the case for McCain and, more important, the case against Obama. As one shrewd McCain supporter told me, "Every minute she spends not telling the American people something that makes them less well disposed to Obama is a minute wasted.”

Kristol kept up this theme in his next Palin-adoring column (Oct. 6), approvingly noting that Palin
regretted allowing herself to be overly handled and constrained after the Republican convention.
This column devoted itself to the theme that Palin should be
more aggressive in helping the American people understand "who the real Barack Obama is"
- with "Wright" and "Ayers" figuring large in Kristol's prescription.

Kirstol's drooling over Palin reached its inane conclusion thusly:
I was about to thank her for the interview, but she had one more thing to say. “Only maybe I’d add just a couple more words, and that would be: ‘Take the gloves off.’
And maybe I’d add, Hockey Mom knows best.

But wait!

Today, it's all different!

In today's column, Kristol declares:

let McCain go back to what he’s been good at in the past — running as a cheerful, open and accessible candidate. Palin should follow suit.

They should now be the "happy warriors," he says.

The bad news, of course, is that right now Obama’s approval/disapproval rating is better than McCain’s. Indeed, Obama’s is a bit higher than it was a month ago. That suggests the failure of the McCain campaign’s attacks on Obama.

So drop them.


Oh - "not because they’re illegitimate" but because "they aren't working." Apparently, Kristol wants McCain-Palin to keep fomenting "doubts about Obama" but not in their own names - "McCain needs to make his case, and do so as a serious but cheerful candidate for times that need a serious but upbeat leader."

And, Kristol suggests,

At Wednesday night’s debate at Hofstra, McCain might want to volunteer a mild mea culpa about the extent to which the presidential race has degenerated into a shouting match.

Has this supposed pundit no shame?

After egging McCain-Palin on to whip a lynch mob atmosphere complete with racism and threats of violence, he's now advising McCain to hypocritically offer "a mild mea culpa" that really apologizes for nothing?

What I'm really waiting for, however, is for the New York Times to offer a strong "mea culpa" for hiring this pseudo-intellectual apologist for the far-right, paying him undoubtedly big bucks and providing valuable print space for his idiotic and viciously destructive output.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

The end of American capitalism?

That's the headline on a Washington Post article today.

Well no, it's not the end of capitalism. But as this and many other commentaries are noting, it's the end of an unbridled "free market" phase.

Joe Klein of Time magazine observes that

the public seems ready to turn to the government for protection. In a collapsing economy, government regulation ... sounds more comforting than stultifying.

The desire for more government activism is true across the board. All of a sudden, government-provided infrastructure programs — and that's what most of McCain's despised "earmarks" are — don't sound like such a waste of money ...

We're moving into a phase where the questions are going to be: what kind of government action, determined by who, and for whose benefit? That is going to be the shape of struggles for the coming period. Already, what we call the all-people's coalition that is emerging in the current presidential campaign, led so dynamically by the labor movement, is putting forward a framework for every progressive American to work on in the coming period, as a new administration and new Congress confront this situation.

No capitalism isn't dead, but the struggle is shifting to a majority movement challenging unfettered corporate greed in a new way.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bravo, Sheriff Tom Dart!

By John Bachtell

Chicago - Bravo Sheriff Tom Dart! The Cook County sheriff stood up for justice and morality by announcing he would no longer enforce evictions on behalf of global banks and the mortgage industry. “That’s not part of our job,” he says.

It’s the sheriff’s office and courts that do the dirty work of the finance corporations when they make business decisions to clear out families from an apartment or house from some faraway corporate headquarters so they can put the property on the market again.

These are the same corporations that committed massive fraud and criminality by duping many of the same homeowners into mortgages they knew buyers couldn’t pay. They made off like bandits and ought to go to prison for it.

Recently Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced a settlement with Bank of America and Countrywide Financial that would allow tens of thousands of residents to stay in their homes. The suit had been brought on behalf of Illinois and California and 9 other states.

The settlement allows for a cap on mortgage payments at 34% of income and reducing interest rates and adjusting principal so borrowers don’t lose equity under their payment plans. Interest on some of the riskiest loans could be reduced to 22.5% a year.

Dart’s action comes as foreclosures in Chicago hit a record. The October 9 Chicago Tribune reported, “In Cook County, foreclosures are expected to reach a record high of 43,000 this year, compared with 18,916 in 2006. The sheriff's office is on pace to conduct 4,500 foreclosure-related evictions, compared with less than half that number in 2006. About one-third of those are rent-paying individuals.”

One of the problems, as Dart explained it, is one-third of evictions are being carried out against families who are renting in buildings that have been foreclosed on. The families have been paying their rent on time, but never receive notices of the impending eviction. Dart says the global banks don’t care if they are throwing families with children, disabled or senior citizens out on the street.

More elected officials should join Dart and Madigan and stand up to corporate corruption, criminality and greed, including the judges who issue the evictions in the first place. A moratorium on all home foreclosures would be a good start.

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Mine workers talk race in Virginia

Go mineworkers!

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Iraq and the next president

With the widening economic crisis grabbing so much of our attention, ending our occupation of Iraq may be taking a back seat in some minds, but it will be a major, pressing issue for the next president.

Here's an under-reported development that fits very well with Barack Obama's pledge to start pulling troops out in a systematic way, with a view to ending our military role there, and with Obama's emphasis on a new foreign policy that emphasizes diplomacy rather than military force:

The Boston Globe reports today that:

Members of a team that worked to produce a framework for political reconciliation in Iraq told a congressional subcommittee yesterday that the United States must involve the international community in further peace negotiations and allow Iraqis to take the central role in the process.

Representatives of South Africa's African National Congress, veterans of both sides of the bloody Northern Ireland conflict and others with experience in difficult national reconciliation told a committee chaired by Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.) how they are working with Iraqi political leaders spanning the spectrum from Islamists and former Baathists to Communists, to move forward national reconciliation in Iraq. As with South Africa and Northern Ireland, such a process will be essential to bringing peace to Iraq. It will also be key to enabling Iraq to stand up to interference from the U.S., transnational corporations, etc.

A series of meetings involving all the Iraqi groups and the reconciliation experts over the past several months resulted in what's known as the Helsinki Agreement, signed by 37 Iraqi parties in Baghdad in July.

A useful commentary by Max Bergman of the liberal National Security Network calls attention to the significance of this process for Obama's vow that "we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in." Bergman draws the following conclusions:

1. Political reconciliation is not something that will happen over night.
2. The one thing Iraqis are united on is opposition to U.S. occupation.
3. In Iraq, political reconciliation will have to be largely self-reinforcing, as it is in Northern Ireland.

He says:
Iraqis are united in wanting us out. Maliki is driving such a hard bargain with us, because it is politically popular to oppose the U.S. presence. This matters because it potentially makes the U.S. not only a focus for potential violence from a nationalist backlash, but because reconciliation for Iraqis must be seen as a means by which to regain their sovereignty.
There is no military solution to building trust. Less violence helps, but even if people feel more secure or safe in their neighborhoods that does not mean that they will have any more trust in the intentions of their Sunni or Shia neighbors or politicians. Addressing this takes a long long long time and lots and lots of talks between political leaders and the process set up with Helsinki is an important first step. This process has to ramp up as troops begin to withdraw. Additionally, part of a withdrawal strategy has to attempt to get the countries in the region to play a constructive role in supporting political reconciliation.

The upshot, in his view?
A timetable for withdrawal is not just about moving troops out. It is also a negotiating timetable for Iraqis, as well as for Iraq's neighbors. While our military efforts decline, our diplomatic efforts will have to ramp up.

Read the two articles here and here. This is an important process to follow.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Florida is rockin' and we'll keep a knockin'

by Lawrence Albright

Florida's importance in the electoral equation was further confirmed this week as both vice presidential hopefuls made the Sunshine State a key stop on their itineraries.

In an appearance at Coachman Park in Clearwater, Governor Sarah Palin repeated her attacks on Senator Barack Obama's association with former SDS activist and Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers, stating that "[Obama] is someone who sees America as 'perfect enough' to work with a former domestic terrorist who targeted his own country."

The Obama-Ayers connection is an old non-issue. Senator Obama and Ayers live in the same Chicago neighborhood and served for a time on the board of directors for a non-profit organization. Obama has condemned Ayers' activities with the Weather Underground, which took place when Obama was all of eight years old, as reprehensible.

But by raising it in Florida, where an overwhelming majority of people are most concerned about the future of health care, Social Security, and hanging on to their homes in the face of substantial foreclosures and high insurance premiums, is an indication of how out of touch and desperate the GOP standard bearers are with the electorate.

Senator Joe Biden has scheduled several appearances in the area today.

Florida has long been considered a solid Republican state, but that assumption is no longer true as the registration of new voters over the past several months has resulted in Democratic majorities in several key counties. Inspired by the prospect of change, Obama for America committees have flourished in many communities formerly considered "safe ground" for the GOP. These committees include significant numbers of independents and disaffected Republicans. Labor walks have been very well attended throughout the state.

Nothing is being taken for granted, neighborhoods canvassed, and new voters registered for the election. The deadline for registering new voters was this past Monday, October 6th.

"I am cautiously optimistic," said one senior citizen. "McCain was for privatizing Social Security and had my money been put in one of the major investment firms I might have nothing now. Most of the people here in my senior-only community understand that. That's why we're voting for Obama."

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

After McCain said "that one," it was over

I admit John McCain started out pretty good in the debate. Wow, I thought, a town hall format really is his strong point. But after 30 minutes, I realized this whole campaign -- the debate, the presidency, everything -- is a marathon, not a sprint. McCain does not have the stamina. Barack Obama does and he clearly won this Town Hall debate. And in the process sewed up the election by any stretch of political imagination.

McCain created the momentum early on with his $350 billion taxpayer bailout of distressed homeowners. Pretty bold, I thought. (I also thought the far right is having a fit right now.) Obama was wobbly in his early response and especially specifics.

Can't remember if it was the question about "sacrifice" or before that but around that time Obama began to turn things around. And McCain -- sorry -- was just a cranky, grumpy old man. The icing on the cake was when he called Obama "that one!" (racial dynamics and all...) Like he was an object, not a human being. Ohhh. That reverberated around a million homes! How many people at their work, by their bosses or supervisors have been called "that one?" Millions. It's belittling and embarrassing. And that is what McCain promises for the American people.

On green jobs and health care Obama hit solidly the questions pitched to him. But suprisingly, he knocked it out on foreign policy -- supposedly his "weak" point. Starting with the illegal war in Iraq and McCain's support for it, Obama railed on the cost in treasure, lives and relationships around the world.

I channeled my 79 year old mom who died five years ago. She -- like my dad -- are classic Reagan Democrats. And, I concluded after the channeling, that she would vote for Obama. It's like being presented a door to the hopeful future or the horrid past. My mom was alway a pragmatist. Hopeful future? Horrid past? Hmmm the devil is known, I'll take the future she'd say.

It's obvious that working class, democratic forces must still press their agenda after Nov. 4. But won't it be different when there is an ally in the White House! This debate sealed it. Obama won -- and will win -- significantly.

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GOP accuses ACORN of relentless voter registration

ACORN office in Nevada was raided. It seems through their voter registration drives, according to one Republican spokesperson, that the organization shows "a willingness to go out and do this relentlessly." Heavens to Mergatroid! An organization that relentlessly registers people to vote! ACORN "relentlessly" works so that others actually can exercise their right to vote. OMG -- Only McCain's GOP could believe that is diabolical.

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WARNING: this is funny

This one comes from PWW editorial board member Roberta Wood, a big fan of Andy B. Aren't we all!?!

Palin blasts Obama's ties to Weather Channel

‘Palling around with meteorologists,' guv claims

By Andy Borowitz

Alaska governor Sarah Palin went on the attack today, claiming that Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama had longstanding ties to The Weather Channel.

"What does it say about our opponent that he thinks this nation's weather is so imperfect that he needs to be allied with The Weather Channel?" she asked a crowd in Tampa, Florida. "There's a fine line between hating America's weather and hating America herself."

Gov. Palin said that she learned about Sen. Obama's ties to The Weather Channel last week "when I was trying hard to read The New York Times."

"They said that Sen. Obama was hanging out with weathermen," she said. "Do we really want to elect someone who has been palling around with meteorologists?"
Gov. Palin's latest attacks came on the heels of a new poll showing that the only demographic group that still support her are morons, sometimes referred to by political insiders as "no-information voters."

"It may sound like she spouting idiocy, but there's a method to her madness," said Tracy Klugian, a Republican strategist. "She's speaking to her base."

Elsewhere, Sen. John McCain's practice session for the second presidential debate was cut short when his pants burst into flame.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

STORY LEADS --- HEY anyone interested??

OK -- Why hasn't the major media picked up on this tidbit,

"Palin associates with political party whose founder said, 'I have no use for America or her damned institutions.'"

And here is an update on Troopergate: Todd to testify!!!

Imagine if Michelle was supposed to testify in some investigation of Barack!!! What a field day the major media and the far-right would have. But here it's just a footnote.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

More on the Biden-Palin debate - a question for McCain

From Art Perlo:

The really big news in the vice presidential debate last night has been missed by virtually all of the commentators. It came early in the evening, after the moderator, Gwen Ifill, questioned the candidates about the bankruptcy law and its effect on homeowners.

Senator Biden: [Barack Obama and I agree that] we should be allowing bankruptcy courts to be able to re-adjust not just the interest rate you're paying on your mortgage to be able to stay in your home, but be able to adjust the principal that you owe... That would keep people in their homes, actually help banks by keeping it from going under. But... I believe John McCain and the governor don't support that.

Gwen Ifill:: Governor Palin, is that so?

Governor Palin: That is not so.

It sounds as if Governor Palin clearly stated that she and John McCain would support allowing bankruptcy courts to adjust mortgages in favor of struggling homeowners. If that is true, it would give substance to Palin's claim, during the debate, that McCain is “committed to of putting government back on the side of the people and get rid of the greed and corruption on Wall Street and in Washington.”

There is a simple test to see if Palin's claim has any substance. Will McCain show leadership and bipartisanship by proposing that Senators Obama and Biden join him in pushing to pass this bankruptcy legislation immediately? The proposal was killed in the Senate last April after encountering “stiff opposition from many Republicans as well as the banking and mortgage loan industries,” according to the New York Times. (April 4, 2008) But with McCain's backing, there should be no problem getting this legislation through Congress now.

The issue is certainly urgent enough. Every month's delay means another 100,000 families, or more, lose their homes.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Biden v. Palin

Hard to see how any undecided working class/ middle class voter would not be impressed by Biden, his demeanor, his knowledge on issues and politics, his focus on working family issues and ending the Iraq war, his sincerity. He scored a few zingers, exposing McCain-Palin record - "McCain's no maverick" - but did it in a nice way. By contrast, Palin repeated "talking point" slogans over and over even when they were not on the question, avoided answering questions she thought were difficult, and showed little knowledge on issues. Everything was platitudes, generalities and plastic smiles. Her enthusiasm for "drill, baby, drill" is not likely to be hugely popular.

Biden exceeded my expectations in his performance, which I thought was flawless. It may be a big boost to the Obama momentum.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Great song from PWW reader!

We just got this e-mail from an online reader and loved it! Thank you Beth, for keeping hope and humanity alive through your work and music.

Hello beloved PWW staff: From Beth Maples-Bays

I cannot tell you how much we look forward to reading PWW/Nuestro Mundo each week. I am a community activist and organize around issues of concern to women and lesbians. My mailbox is flooded with reading material of a wide variety within that context. I want you to know that the only thing my partner will read is PWW.

As an Appalachian woman, I have a rather unique perspective on the world. Sometimes I express my viewpoint in song, accompanied by my mountain dulcimer. Recently I wrote new lyrics to the anthem for the 1931 coal strike in Harlan County, Kentucky - “Which Side Are You On?” Although I am a born and bred East Tennessean, my partner’s family hails from Knox County, Kentucky. Knox County shares a border with Harlan County. My now-deceased father-in-law equivalent, Albert Bennett, was active in the UMW local there. He mined for more than 40 years.

Here are the lyrics revamped for our current situation:

An Appalachian womon’s (sic) lament
by Beth Maples-Bays

The oil man’s in the White House;
Wall Street just bit the dust.
Foreclosure on your Mama’s house
Is anything but just
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Workin’ folks are desperate To set food on the table.
It takes three checks to pay the bills, And we just lost our cable.
Wimmin folks a-strugglin’ to try And do it all.
Knowin’ there just ain’t now way They’ll ever break their fall.
Iraq War is draining
Our coffers and our souls.
Troops come home so damaged They go right on the dole.
Public schools are goin’ down.
Children just can’t learn.
GOP’s almighty buck Is harder now to earn.
Black bears are a-starvin’, Get shot when they come down.
Tourists leave pollution All over White Oak Town.
Queers ain’t seen as human, Hispanics same as dogs.
All the while, the man reaps profits Like a big ‘ol hog.
The winds of change are blowin’ All across this land.
The People reckon now’s the time We’ve got to take a stand.

If you choose to use these lyrics as a poetry submission, please note that they are my original composition. The copy that I have used to learn the tune and the original lyrics indicate they were copyrighted in 1974 by Storm King Music, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission in Source: The Liberated Woman’s Songbook, p. 70 (930. Also: (43). The words were written by Florence Reece. The music is traditional. I play it on my hourglass mountain dulcimer in the key of D.

Thank you for helping us keep hope alive,
Beth Maples-Bays

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