Thursday, December 31, 2009

Labelle's "What Can I Do For You?" is my mantra from henceforth;-) Happy New Year to all!
"Films and life are like clay, waiting for us to mold it," she said. "And when you trust your own insides and that becomes achievement, it's a kind of principle that seems to me is at work with everyone. God bless that principle. God bless that potential that we all have for making anything possible if we think we deserve it.
I deserve this."

-Shirley Maclaine's Oscar acceptance speech

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist thru any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatsoever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."
-Martha Graham to Agnes de Mille

Monday, December 21, 2009

1968 Academy Awards

Make Someone Happy

Barbra Streisand

Make someone happy,
Make just one someone happy.
Make just one heart the heart you sing to.
One smile that cheers you,
One face that lights when it nears you.
One gal you're everything to.

Fame, if you win it,
Comes and goes in a minute.
Where's the real stuff in life to cling to?
Love is the answer,
Someone to love is the answer.

Once you've found her,
Build your world around her.
Make someone happy.
Make just one someone happy
And you will be happy too

Chicago: Health Gap Widens Between Blacks, Whites

Health Study For Chicago: Health Gap Widens
Between Blacks, Whites
Problem is worse in Chicago than nationwide,
Sinai Urban Health Institute study says.
A new study finds a widening gulf in the health status
of blacks and whites in Chicago, even though
disparities between blacks and whites nationally
have remained static.
By Deborah L. Shelton
Chicago Tribune
December 18, 2009
http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/chi-chicago_health_gapdec18,0,628023.story

A widening gulf in the health status of blacks and
whites in Chicago comes even as disparities between the
two races nationally have remained relatively constant,
a new study has found.

The disparity is particularly jarring in five areas:
death from all causes, heart disease mortality, breast
cancer mortality, rates of tuberculosis and the
percentage of women who received no prenatal care during
the first trimester of pregnancy.

Nationally, the racial gap got worse from 1990 to 2005
for six of the 15 health indicators researchers studied.
However, in Chicago, disparities worsened for 11 of the
15 indicators, according to research by the Sinai Urban
Health Institute, published online Thursday in the
American Journal of Public Health.

Poverty, segregation and access to health care all
appear to play a role, researchers said. In Chicago
neighborhoods and medical offices, doctors and patients
see the same factors.

Dr. Charles Barron, medical director at Access Southwest
Family Health Center, said many of his patients struggle
to pay for health care.

"Access is definitely an issue, even at federally
qualified health centers such as Access Community Health
Network, which offers treatment on a sliding-scale
basis," he said.

Tonya Jackson, 39, of North Lawndale, takes seven
medications to treat heart failure. She is a patient at
Mount Sinai Hospital, which is widely known for its
initiatives to treat low-income and poor patients.

"Even with health insurance, a lot of medicines are very
expensive," she said. "When you're a single parent,
you're trying to pay rent, you have your child, and
you're trying to pay bills and buy food, so it's
difficult. A lot of people don't get the care they need
because they have to decide whether they want to eat
that day."

Dr. Niva Lubin-Johnson, an African-American physician,
has witnessed the disparities firsthand in her 20-year
solo practice in Chatham.

"Based on what I see," she said, "we have a greater
disease burden, and part of that comes from lifestyle,
part of it comes from income, part of it comes from
health literacy and people not understanding what they
need to do to live a healthy lifestyle."

An author of the study, institute director Steve
Whitman, previously has compared breast cancer
disparities in Chicago and New York. He said the health
of African-Americans in Chicago fares worse than blacks
elsewhere.

"The underlying issue here is racism and poverty,"
Whitman said. "In Chicago, it's exacerbated by
segregation. Black people in Chicago are forced to live
in neighborhoods where there are no stores to buy fresh
fruits and vegetables, where schools are failing, where
they don't have parks to exercise in and where they tend
to go to segregated health facilities that are poorly
funded and, in different ways, failing."

Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American
Public Health Association, cautioned about making
geographic comparisons.

"While it is important to measure an urban city like
Chicago against national numbers," Benjamin said, "the
national statistics include lots of places where some of
the challenges of racial disparity don't exist.

"When you average numbers out -- even though researchers
try statistically to correct for some of those things --
you have to be cautious."

But he agreed that racial disparities appear to be
worsening in Chicago.

"Despite Chicago's ... transit system, it still has
pockets of people where people have tremendous problems
accessing care, and that's a huge overlay," Benjamin
said. "Part of it is lack of insurance, and part of it
is access to care."

Ultimately, money might matter most when it comes to
good health, Benjamin said.

"If we were serious about doing something about
eliminating these disparities, we would pay attention to
the social determinants of health that put people in
these situations to begin with," he said. "At the end of
the day, there is very strong correlation between health
and wealth."

Sinai researchers analyzed the 15 measures using data
from city communicable disease records and Illinois
birth and death records.

The study builds on work published in 2004, believed to
be the first to examine the health of blacks and whites
in a major urban center over time and put findings in
the context of national trends.

Researchers reported that the African-American death
rate from breast cancer was 99 percent higher in Chicago
than for white women, a fivefold increase since 1990.

In 1990, blacks in Chicago were 8 percent more likely
than whites to die of heart disease.

In 2005, blacks were 24 percent more likely to die.

In 1990, black women were two times more likely to go
without prenatal care in the first trimester of
pregnancy. By 2005, they were three times more likely to
go without prenatal care.

Most of the measures showed improved health for both
blacks and whites nationally and locally, but whites'
health status improved much more, widening the gap.

If health indicators were equal, 3,200 fewer African-
Americans in Chicago would die every year, or about nine
a day, the study estimates.

Joseph M. Harrington, assistant commissioner for chronic
disease for the Chicago Department of Public Health,
agreed that the problem in Chicago is significant.

"But," he said, "what do we do about it? You can keep
talking about how bad the numbers are, but the real
question is, what do you plan to do?"

The city health department has initiated programs to
address the problem, including a federally funded
project focused on cardiovascular disease among blacks
and Hispanics living in North and South Lawndale,
Harrington said.

"These findings should provoke us to think about what
can be done, that's the call to action," Harrington
said.

"This should provoke us to do something."

_____________________________________________

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sleeping in Aunt Earnestine's Bed, Part One

One memory of my childhood that I now find hovering over me, just above my consciousness is that of sleeping in my Aunt Earnestine's bed. My aunt Earnestine had one of those tall, high backed, old-fashioned beds, the type that if you successfully climbed up into it on your first try you really needed a medal or something. There were two windows surrounding the bed, one directly behind it, where her climbing rose could be seen growing through the pane right behind the bedboard. The other was in the bottom right hand corner of the bed, letting out onto the front porch. The television sat on a separate stand at the foot of the bed. Mounds of Ebonys and Jets sat on the bottom shelf of the stand. A bookcase sat at the direct right of the bed, a buffer between the bed and the wall. There was always something that I might pluck from the shelf to hold my interest while lying in bed--the entire complete series of those children's bible stories that you always find in doctors' offices; anthologies from the Reader's Digest-always interesting reading material; and other books of varied degrees of interest. On the nightstand situated at the left side of the bed, she always kept various copies of The Daily Word, her glasses, and various other items.

In the top drawers of the chest of drawers across from her bed, one could always find sweet, crunchy peanut butter candy or whole sticks of peppermint, or lemondrops. Those drawers also contained thousands of letters, perhaps merely hundreds, but mounds of them--correspondence that she had kept with her relatives, friends, and other people going back for years. Aunt Earnestine was a renowned letter writer Among her most treasured correspondences, I believe was that she kept with our Cousin Cottye, which went on or over forty years. Also in those drawers, along with those letters, were an autographed picture of a 1950s popular do-wop group and hundreds of notebooks, papers, obituaries, photographs of various relatives, and other documents which altogether I'm sure transcribed her years as a teacher and a principal, her two master's degrees, doctoral work, years as a church steward, sunday school teacher, baker of communion bread and steadfast relative and friend. Her papers not only resided in her chest of drawers. They also claimed their own space in stacks against the back wall against one chiffarobe and again against another chiffarobe in the lower right hand corner of the room. Without fail, as one spent the night in Aunt Earnestine's bed, one could retrieve from the stack of papers that stood against the rear wall, either at her invitation, without her knowledge, or to be shared with her, oreo cookies in the blue paper package, in various states of either smoothness or crumble. Sometimes the package, you could rest very assured, had been in that corner for one or more years, however, you obligingly ate the cookies-not only because they were offered and they were good, but because it wasn't so much the age of the cookies as the sentiment behind them that was enjoyed.

To spend the night in Aunt Earnestine's bed, one was either comforted by the warmth of the mounds of quilts that she kept on the bed, winter, spring, summer or fall, or one constantly tried to fight one's way to the top of the bed to have at least your nose sticking out from under the covers so that you might breathe and not suffocate under the mounds and heaps of bedcovers.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Jennifer Hudson's Christmas Special




Oh my, how I relished and enjoyed Jhud's Christmas special this evening! Talking about nostalgia in high gear! When she went to Evergreen Plaza, I yelped! When I was little, Evergreen Plaza was the place to go! At Christmas, when everything was lit up-there wasn't a better sight anywhere. Oh Chicago, fair city! Kudos to Jennifer for taking it home!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Notes from New York

While in New York I attended a labor conference held at the Joseph. S. Murphy Institute at CUNY. The conference took place very early in the morning my first day there. The topic for the panel was Unemployment and the African American community and the two panelists who spoke were Steven Pitts from California and David Jones from New York. Mr. Pitts is an academic and Mr. Jones is the CEO of a Nonprofit. Here are some of the notes that I jotted down from the session. Mr. Pitts spoke first and spoke about a U.S. Jobs machine-an idea that I had never heard or thought of before--the idea that jobs in this country--in that classic sense of the word, are created through a "jobs machine" as opposed to some kind of organic thing. He spoke about the need for place based jobs--construction, education, hospitality, healthcare-jobs that do not move and therefore are stable. Black women are situated mostly in place-based jobs--primarily domestics and social services.

Pitts' first major question/focal point was "Whats wrong with Black folks and the progressive community?" There has always been a disconnect between the Black Community and the Social Justice community (only with the communists from the beginning of the 20th century up through the 1950s was there truly a cohesive union between the two). The New Deal was basically Affirmative Action for white folks-- the two groups excluded from the Social Security Act--domestics and sharecroppers--blatantly excluding Black folks. Mr. Pitts made it very loud and clear

YOU CANNOT HAVE RACE NEUTRAL POLICIES AND ADDRESS THE ECONOMIC CRISIS AT HAND

(My thoughts--my Aunt Johnnie was very active in the Chicago Teachers Union. My father was active in unions--disdains them-the bad rub for some Blacks with unions).

He said that the country needs to shift the discussion beyond job training -beyond individuals to a much broader picture.

Mr. Jones Asked-

why does the ruling class feel impelled to help the poor? Not because of any noble reasons--Social Control is the idea--you dont want sick immigrant workers handling food in the supermarket--make sure they have reasonable access to healthcare. You dont want a crime problem--fund schools and provide opportunities. Margaret Sanger and the early immigrants of the late 19th and early twentieth centuries.

Black Male Labor Participation. Currently there are approximately four million Black men unemployed in the United States. Rockefeller Drug laws--civil death for nonviolent offenders--they can never participate in the economy- unemployable. Not just an urban problem, but a suburban problem too.

Underpaid workers-- no sick days, no benefits, no unions, no nothing.

One million workers in New York City are working without the benefit of a High School Education.

unemployment rates for people with less than a high school education- 24.2 percent.

In NY half a trillion for transportation infrastructure. Need to create WPA camps.

Welfare reform in NY actually increased the poverty levels... tie that to the need for unionization among low wage workers.

The budget for public housing in NYC alone is 1.3 billion dollars.
Section 3 of New York housing code--give employment priority in public housing sector to public housing residents and people in the local community--this provision ignored.

Blacks and Latinos not universally welcomed into the U.S. labor market.

Unions need power-self interests.

power means the ability to cut deals--Steven Pitts.

David Jones-son of first black assemblyman in NY--friend of Shirley Chisolm.

Detroit has downsized from a population of 3000000 to 600000-all sorts of problems.

Borders are not official--they are an act of power. The nationstate is no longer needed.

Transnational corporations.

How do you engage folk?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

My Recent Trip to New York

I just returned from a lovely trip to New York on in the wee hours of Monday morning, where I spent four days in conference. While planning to make the trek to New York, I decided that one thing I wanted to do was find Chez Josephine, the restaurant dedicated to the legacy of Josephine Baker, owned and operated by two of her sons. I found the restaurant on 42nd Street in Manhattan, in the far end of the theatre district. I arrived terribly early, so was not able to eat there but did see the decor and exquisite menu offered.



God and the fates were at play that day as well as quite to my surprise, exactly right next door to Chez Josephine was the famed nightclub, The Lion, where Barbra Streisand got her start oh so many legendary years ago. Not to mention that I stayed in Brooklyn in Flatbush, where I constantly wondered how far I was from the actual birthplace of Barbra....what a lovely time!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

President Obama is steering the ship in the right direction! Right makes might- not Might makes right!
Obama is rewriting the course of America--a Progressive course!

Thoughts on President Obama's Speech on Afghanistan

I love Afghan quilts...."to seek an end to this era of war and violence"....I love President Obama because he is a conscious and beautiful spirit, good in soul and spirit....however, I don't know or think that America will be able to escape this "era of war and violence...." this war and violence is much larger than Obama...it is something in the sinews of this country that will be the destruction of it. I love that he addressed the idea of America no longer being anyone's patron...a nice blow to patriarchy. May he be wise and forthright always....

Monday, November 30, 2009




Wendy Williams wore that dress on her show today because she wants a piece of Mario Lopez....the spider going in for the kill....I'm sure not mad at her...cause I wouldn't mind some of him myself....too bad for her, he is so gay.

The Duet to Happen

Jennifer Hudson and Mary J. Blige. That would rock!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

“If I know nothing else for sure, I know that the big miracles we're waiting on are happening right in front of us, at every moment, with every breath. Open your eyes and heart and you'll begin to see them.”
— Oprah

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Message from First Lady Michelle Obama

Tomorrow, many of us will gather around the table with family and friends to give thanks over a feast of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy -- and let’s not forget pumpkin pie!

But for some in this country, the feast will not be as bountiful. In fact, it won’t be much of a feast at all. Hunger is on the rise in America -- hitting its highest levels in nearly 15 years. A recent report released by the USDA reveals that in 2008 an estimated 1.1 million children were living in households that experienced hunger multiple times over the past year.

To combat hunger this winter, we’re launching, in coordination with the Corporation for National and Community Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the United We Serve: Feed a Neighbor initiative -- a program that empowers you with all the resources you need to mobilize against the hunger crisis in your community. Learn how you can get started today:

Get Started

Barack and I are committed to doing all we can to end hunger by making food programs more accessible to eligible families. But government can only do so much -- it will take all of us working together to put an end to hunger in America.

That’s why we’ve made it easy for you to get involved at Serve.gov. Find local volunteer opportunities like delivering meals to homebound seniors, offering your professional skills at a food pantry, or planting a community garden and sharing produce with your neighbors. You can also create your own volunteer opportunity using our anti-hunger toolkit.

This holiday season let’s recommit to serving our communities and working together to feed American families. Get started giving back today.

Thank you,

Michelle

First Lady Michelle Obama
The White House
Caracas, November 23rd 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called for the formation of a “Fifth International” of left parties and social movements to confront the challenge posed by the global crisis of capitalism.

The president made the announcement during an international conference of more than fifty left organisations from thirty-one countries held in Caracas over November 19-21.

“I assume responsibility before the world. I think it is time to convene the Fifth International, and I dare to make the call, which I think is a necessity. I dare to request that we create my proposal,” Chavez said.

The head of state insisted that the conference of left parties should not be “just one more meeting,” and he invited participating organizations to create a truly new project. “This socialist encounter should be of the genuine left, willing to fight against imperialism and capitalism,” he said.

During his speech, Chavez briefly outlined the experiences of previous “internationals,” including the First International founded in 1864 by Karl Marx; the Second International founded in 1889, which collapsed in 1916 as various left parties and trade unions sided with their respective capitalist classes in the inter-imperialist conflict of the First World War; the Third International founded by Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, which Chavez said “degenerated” under Stalinism and “betrayed” struggles for socialism around the world; and the Fourth International founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938, which suffered numerous splits and no longer exists, although some small groups claim to represent its political continuity.

Chavez said that a new international would have to function “without impositions” and would have to respect diversity.

Representatives from a number of major parties in Latin America voiced their support for the proposal, including the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) of Bolivia, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) of El Salvador, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) of Nicaragua, and Alianza Pais of Ecuador.

Smaller parties from Latin America and around the world also indicated their support for the idea, including the Proposal for an Alternative Society (PAS) of Chile, New Nation Alternative (ANN) of Guatemala, and Australia’s Socialist Alliance, among others.

Sandinista leader Miguel D´Escoto said, “Capitalism has brought the human species to the precipice of extinction… we have to take control of our own destiny.”

“There is no time to lose,” D’Escoto added as he conveyed his support for the proposal of forming a fifth international. “We have to overcome the tendency of defeatism. Many times I have noted a tendency of defeatism amongst comrades of the left in relation to the tasks we face,” he continued.

Salvador Sánchez, from the FMLN, said “We are going to be important actors in the Fifth International. We cannot continue waiting – all the forces of the left. The aspiration of the peoples is to walk down a different path. We must not hesitate in forming the Fifth International. The people have pronounced themselves in favour of change and the parties of the left must be there with them.”

Other organisations, including Portugal’s Left Block, Germany’s Die Linke, and France’s Partido Gauche expressed interest in the proposal but said they would consult with their various parties. A representative of the Cuban Communist Party described the proposal as “excellent,” but as yet the party has made no formal statement.

Many communist parties, including those from Greece and Brazil, expressed strong opposition to the proposal. The Venezuelan Communist Party said it was willing to discuss the proposal but expressed strong reservations.

The Alternative Democratic Pole (PDA) from Colombia expressed its willingness to work with other left parties, but said it would “reserve” its decision to participate in an international organisation of left parties.

Valter Pomar, a representative from the Workers Party of Brazil (PT), said its priority is the Sao Paolo Forum – a forum of various Latin American left, socialist, communist, centre-left, labour, social democratic and nationalist parties launched by the PT in 1990.

A resolution was passed at the conference to form a preparatory committee to convoke a global conference of left parties in Caracas in April 2010, to discuss the formation of a new international. The resolution also allowed for other parties that remain undecided to discuss the proposal and incorporate themselves at a later date.

Chavez emphasised the importance of being inclusive and said the April conference had to go far beyond the parties and organisations that participated in last week’s conference. In particular, he said it was an error that there were no revolutionary organisations from the United States present.

The conference of left parties also passed a resolution titled the Caracas Commitment, “to reaffirm our conviction to definitively build and win Socialism of the 21st Century,” in the face of “the generalized crisis of the global capitalist system.”

“One of the epicentres of the global capitalist crisis is the economic sphere. This highlights the limitations of unbridled free markets dominated by monopolies of private property,” the resolution stated.

Also incorporated was a proposed amendment by the Australian delegation which read, “In synthesis, the crisis of capitalism cannot be reduced to a simple financial crisis, it is a structural crisis of capital that combines the economic crisis, with an ecological crisis, a food crisis and an energy crisis, which together represent a mortal threat to humanity and nature. In the face of this crisis, the movements and parties of the left see the defence of nature and the construction of an ecologically sustainable society as a fundamental axis of our struggle for a better world.”

The Caracas Commitment expressed “solidarity with the peoples of the world who have suffered and are suffering from imperialist aggression, especially the more than 50 years of the genocidal blockade against Cuba… the massacre of the Palestinian people, the illegal occupation of part of the territory of the Western Sahara, and the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, which today is expanding into Pakistan.”

The conference of left parties also denounced the decision of the Mexican government to shut down the state-owned electricity company and fire 45,000 workers, as an attempt to “intimidate” the workers and as an “offensive of imperialism,” to advance neoliberal privatisation in Central America.

In the framework of the Caracas Commitment, the left parties present agreed, among other things, to:

*

Organise a global week of mobilisation from December 12-17 in repudiation of the installation of U.S. military bases in Colombia, Panama and around the world.
*

Campaign for an “international trial against George Bush for crimes against humanity, as the person principally responsible for the genocide against the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.
*

”Commemorate 100 years since the proposal by Clara Zetkin to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, through forums, mobilizations and other activities in their respective countries.
*

Organise global solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution in the face of permanent imperialist attacks.
*

Organise global solidarity with the people of Honduras who are resisting a U.S.-backed military coup, to campaign for the restoration of the democratically elected president of Honduras, José Manuel Zelaya and to organise a global vigil on the day of the elections in Honduras, “with which they aim to legitimise the coup d´etat.”
*

Demand an “immediate and unconditional end to the criminal Yankee blockade” of Cuba and for the “immediate liberation” of the Cuban Five, referring to the five anti-terrorist activists imprisoned in the United States.
*

Accompany the Haitian people in their struggle for the return of President Jean Bertrand Aristide “who was kidnapped and removed from his post as president of Haiti by North American imperialism.”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Free Suu Kyi!

God bless Our President for advocating on behalf of Suu Kyi!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Interpreting the Healthcare Bill

Published on Monday, November 9, 2009 by The Nation
Six Smart Progressive Complaints About House Health Bill
by John Nichols
The Affordable Health Care for America Act was approved by the U.S. House Saturday night with overwhelming support from progressive Democrats who serve in the chamber and from a president who was nominated and elected with the enthusiastic support of progressive voters.
But that does not mean that informed and engaged progressives are entirely enthusiastic about the measure.
In fact, some are openly and explicitly opposed to it -- among them former Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and CPC member Eric Massa, D-New York, both of whom broke with the majority of their fellow Democrats to vote "no" when the House approved the measure by a narrow 220-215 vote Saturday.
How can this be?
Isn't this a fight between Democrats and Republicans? Between reforming liberals and tea-party conservatives?
How can there possibly be any subtlety or nuance to this debate?
Well, of course, the debate over this 1,900-page behemoth of a bill is more complicated than the easy spin of political insiders -- and media cheering sections -- would have Americans believe.
Key interest groups, such as the National Organization for Women, and key congressmen who have been long-term supporters of reform, such as single-payer backers Massa and Kucinich, argue that the bill is not the cure for what ails the U.S. health care system.
Indeed, they suggest, the bill as it is currently constructed could make a bad situation worse.
Many sincere progressives in the House, and outside of it, chose to back the bill as the best that could be gotten. Others supported it on the theory that flaws could be fixed in the Senate and in the reconciliation of the House and Senate bills.
But those repairs will only be made if activists are conscious of what ails this bill.
For that reason, even supporters of the House legislation would be wise to consider the criticisms of it by groups that advocate for the rights of women, patient advocates, unions and some of the most progressive members of the House.
Here are six smart progressive complaints about the House bill:
1. FROM CONGRESSMAN ERIC MASSA: "This Bill Will Enshrine in Law the Monopolistic Powers of the Private Health Insurance Industry"
At the highest level, this bill will enshrine in law the monopolistic powers of the private health insurance industry, period. There's really no other way to look at it. I believe the private health insurance industry is part of the problem.
This bill also, I believe, fails to address the fundamental question before the American people, and that is how do we control the costs of health care. It does not address interstate portability, as Medicare does. It does not address real medical malpractice insurance reform. It does not address the incredible waste and fraud that are currently in the system.
2. FROM THE CALIFORNIA NURSES ASSOCIATION: This Bill Fails to Control Costs
While the current bills will provide limited assistance for some, the inconvenient truth is they fall far short in effective controls on skyrocketing insurance, pharmaceutical and hospital costs, do little to stop insurance companies from denying needed medical care recommended by doctors, and provide little relief for Americans with employer-sponsored insurance worried about health security for themselves and their families.
3. FROM THE NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN: "This Bill Obliterates Women's Fundamental Right to Choose"
The House of Representatives has dealt the worst blow to women's fundamental right to self-determination in order to buy a few votes for reform of the profit-driven health insurance industry. We must protect the rights we fought for in Roe v. Wade. We cannot and will not support a health care bill that strips millions of women of their existing access to abortion.
Birth control and abortion are integral aspects of women's health care needs. Health care reform should not be a vehicle to obliterate a woman's fundamental right to choose.
The Stupak Amendment (to the House bill, which was approved and attached on Saturday) goes far beyond the abusive Hyde Amendment, which has denied federal funding of abortion since 1976. The Stupak Amendment, if incorporated into the final version of health insurance reform legislation, will:
• Prevent women receiving tax subsidies from using their own money to purchase private insurance that covers abortion;
• Prevent women participating in the public health insurance exchange, administered by private insurance companies, from using 100 percent of their own money to purchase private insurance that covers abortion;
• Prevent low-income women from accessing abortion entirely, in many cases.
NOW calls on the Senate to pass a health care bill that respects women's constitutionally protected right to abortion and calls on President Obama to refuse to sign any health care bill that restricts women's access to affordable, quality reproductive health care.
4. FROM PLANNED PARENTHOOD'S CECILE RICHARDS: This Bill Embraces Religious-Right Extremes

It is extremely unfortunate that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and anti-choice opponents were able to hijack the health care reform bill in their dedicated attempt to ban all legal abortion In the United States.
Most telling is the fact that the vast majority of members of the House who supported the Stupak/Pitts amendment in today's vote do not support HR 3962, revealing their true motive, which is to kill the health care reform bill.
These single-issue advocates simply used health care reform to advance their extreme, ideological agenda at the expense of tens of millions of women.
5. FROM CONGRESSMAN DENNIS KUCINICH,: This Bill Worries About the Health of Wall Street, Not America
We have been led to believe that we must make our health care choices only within the current structure of a predatory, for-profit insurance system which makes money not providing health care. We cannot fault the insurance companies for being what they are. But we can fault legislation in which the government incentivizes the perpetuation, indeed the strengthening, of the for-profit health insurance industry, the very source of the problem. When health insurance companies deny care or raise premiums, co-pays and deductibles they are simply trying to make a profit. That is our system.
Clearly, the insurance companies are the problem, not the solution. They are driving up the cost of health care. Because their massive bureaucracy avoids paying bills so effectively, they force hospitals and doctors to hire their own bureaucracy to fight the insurance companies to avoid getting stuck with an unfair share of the bills. The result is that since 1970, the number of physicians has increased by less than 200% while the number of administrators has increased by 3000 percent. It is no wonder that 31 cents of every health care dollar goes to administrative costs, not toward providing care. Even those with insurance are at risk. The single biggest cause of bankruptcies in the U.S. is health insurance policies that do not cover you when you get sick.
But instead of working toward the elimination of for-profit insurance, H.R. 3962 would put the government in the role of accelerating the privatization of health care. In H.R. 3962, the government is requiring at least 21 million Americans to buy private health insurance from the very industry that causes costs to be so high, which will result in at least $70 billion in new annual revenue, much of which is coming from taxpayers. This inevitably will lead to even more costs, more subsidies, and higher profits for insurance companies - a bailout under a blue cross.
By incurring only a new requirement to cover pre-existing conditions, a weakened public option, and a few other important but limited concessions, the health insurance companies are getting quite a deal. The Center for American Progress' blog, Think Progress, states, 'since the President signaled that he is backing away from the public option, health insurance stocks have been on the rise.' Similarly, healthcare stocks rallied when Senator Max Baucus introduced a bill without a public option. Bloomberg reports that Curtis Lane, a prominent health industry investor, predicted a few weeks ago that 'money will start flowing in again' to health insurance stocks after passage of the legislation. Investors.com last month reported that pharmacy benefit managers share prices are hitting all-time highs, with the only industry worry that the Administration would reverse its decision not to negotiate Medicare Part D drug prices, leaving in place a Bush Administration policy.
During the debate, when the interests of insurance companies would have been effectively challenged, that challenge was turned back. The 'robust public option' which would have offered a modicum of competition to a monopolistic industry was whittled down from an initial potential enrollment of 129 million Americans to 6 million. An amendment which would have protected the rights of states to pursue single-payer health care was stripped from the bill at the request of the Administration. Looking ahead, we cringe at the prospect of even greater favors for insurance companies.
Recent rises in unemployment indicate a widening separation between the finance economy and the real economy. The finance economy considers the health of Wall Street, rising corporate profits, and banks' hoarding of cash, much of it from taxpayers, as sign of an economic recovery. However in the real economy - in which most Americans live - the recession is not over. Rising unemployment, business failures, bankruptcies and foreclosures are still hammering Main Street.
This health care bill continues the redistribution of wealth to Wall Street at the expense of America's manufacturing and service economies which suffer from costs other countries do not have to bear, especially the cost of health care. America continues to stand out among all industrialized nations for its privatized health care system. As a result, we are less competitive in steel, automotive, aerospace and shipping while other countries subsidize their exports in these areas through socializing the cost of health care.
Notwithstanding the fate of H.R. 3962, America will someday come to recognize the broad social and economic benefits of a not-for-profit, single-payer health care system, which is good for the American people and good for America's businesses, with of course the notable exceptions being insurance and pharmaceuticals.
6. FROM "SICKO'S" DONNA SMITH: The Bill Does Not Cure What Ails Us
Passing a healthcare reform bill that does not provide me with better access to care or protection from bankruptcy and financial ruin is not what I asked you all to do. Stripping away all reference to a progressively financed, single standard of high quality healthcare for all - also known as single-payer -- is done only to more deeply ensconce the deep pocketed interests in healthcare: the private, for-profit insurance giants, the big pharmaceuticals, the medical equipment companies, the hospital corporations and all the other making huge profits as thousands die needless deaths.
Healthcare is a basic human right. Granting that right is not something to be calculated differently in swing Congressional districts, off-year election strategy or second-Presidential term planning. It is your (members of Congress') duty to me, to my fellow citizens and to your nation.
And (members of Congress) are marching away from reality when you think all the hard-working people who counted on you to make this a better healthcare system will not notice when you deliver insurance purchase mandates and a corporate bail-out that will dwarf the Wall Street trillions you've already justified.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

SAUDI WOMEN LAUNCH INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN AGAINST GUARDIANSHIP POSTED

A group of Saudi women have launched an international campaign against the kingdom’s male guardianship law, on the anniversary of a prominent protest, in which dozens of Saudi women publicly drove their cars through the country’s capital.

The campaign calls on supporters all over the world to tie a black ribbon around their wrist signifying a call for Saudi women to be given equal rights to men and an end to the male guardianship system, in which Saudi women are represented by men in all public and official spheres of life.

“We are calling on everybody, both Saudi and non-Saudi, to show their support of Saudi women,” Wajiha Al-Huwaidar, the leader of the campaign, told The Media Line. “It’s not just about the right to drive, it’s everything,” she said. “We want to have our lives back, which the male guardianship system took from us. So we are calling for everyone to wear this black ribbon and spread the word.”

A statement by campaign organizers called for women to be given “rights to marry, divorce, inherit, gain custody of children, travel, work, study, drive cars and live on an equal footing with man.”

“We, Saudi women activists, appeal to all those who support Saudi women’s rights, inside and outside the Kingdom, to participate in the campaign by wearing a black ribbon on their wrists as a symbolic and peaceful gesture of their advocacy to Saudi women’s rights,” the statement read.

Under the motto “we will not untie our ribbon until Saudi women enjoy their rights as adult citizens”, the “Black Ribbon Campaign” was launched Friday to mark the anniversary of a famous event on November 6, 1990, in which 47 Saudi women publicly drove cars through the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in a protest calling for Saudi women to be given the right to drive. The women were subsequently detained by Saudi police, had their passports confiscated, and some were fired from their jobs.

Al-Huwaidar said she expected to receive significant support for the campaign throughout the weekend.

“I am expecting many people to wear it, especially people outside Saudi Arabia,” she said. “Teenagers wear the black ribbon anyway as a fashion. Now they have a reason, so that when someone asks, they will say ‘We are supporting Saudi women.’”

“I am hoping to get famous people to wear it and a group of us will be walking around throughout the day recruiting women,” Al-Huwaidar added. “I’m trying of course to avoid the religious police because they are always around, but we are just asking for our rights.”

Saudi Arabia has seen growing social tension as the younger generation demands a liberalization of the hold the kingdom’s strict religious establishment has over the country’s laws.

JOIN THEM AND ME—WEAR A BLACK RIBBON!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Helen Keller - Why I became an IWW

An Interview, written by Barbara Bindley, New York Tribune, January 15, 1916

I asked that Miss Keller relate the steps by which she turned into the uncompromising radical she now faces the world as Helen Keller, not the sweet sentimentalist of women's magazine days.

"I was religious to start with" she began in enthusiastic acquienscence to my request. "I had thought blindness a misfortune."

"Then I was appointed on a commission to investigate the conditions of the blind. For the first time I, who had thought blindness a misfortune beyond human control, found that too much of it was traceable to wrong industrial conditions, often caused by the selfishness and greed of employers. And the social evil contributed its share. I found that poverty drove women to a life of shame that ended in blindness.

"Then I read HG Wells' Old Worlds for New, summaries of Karl Marx's philosophy and his manifestoes. It seemed as if I had been asleep and waked to a new world - a world different from the world I had lived in.

"For a time I was depressed" - her voice saddened in reminiscence- "but little by little my confidence came back and I realized that the wonder is not that conditions are so bad, but that society has advanced so far in spite of them. And now I am in the fight to change things. I may be a dreamer, but dreamers are necessary to make facts!" Her voice almost shrilled in its triumph, and her hand found and clutched my knee in vibrant emphasis.

"And you feel happier than in the beautiful make-believe world you had dreamed?" I questioned.

"Yes," she answered with firm finality in the voice which stumbles a little. "Reality, even when it is sad is better than illusions." (This from a woman for whom it would seem all earthly things are but that.) "Illusions are at the mercy of any winds that blow. Real happiness must come from within, from a fixed purpose and faith in one's fellow men - and of that I have more t+han I ever had."

"And all this had to come after you left college? Did you get none of this knowledge of life at college?"

"NO!" - an emphatic triumphant, almost terrifying denial - "college isn't the place to go for any ideas."

"I thought I was going to college to be educated," she resumed as she composed herself, and laughing more lightly, " I am an example of the education dealt out to present generations, It's a deadlock. Schools seem to love the dead past and live in it."

"But you know, don't you," I pleaded through Mrs. Macy and for her, "that the intentions of your tachers were for the best."

"But they amounted to nothing," she countered. "They did not teach me about things as they are today, or about the vital problems of the people. They taught me Greek drama and Roman history, the celebrated the achievements of war, rather than those of the heroes of peace. For instance, there were a dozen chapters on war where there were a few paragraphs about the inventors, and it is this overemphasis on the cruelties of life that breeds the wrong ideal. Education taught me that it was a finer thing to be a Napoleon than to create a new potato."

"It is my nature to fight as soon as I see wrongs to be made right. So after I read Wells and Marx and learned what I did, I joined a Socialist branch. I made up my mind to do something. And the best thing seemed to be to join a fighting party and help their propaganda. That was four years ago. I have become an industrialist since."

An industrialis?" I asked, surprised out of composure. "You don't mean an IWW - a syndicalist?"

"I became an IWW because I found out the Socialist party was too slow. It is sinking into the political bog. It is almost, if not quite, impossible for the party to keep its revolutionary character so long as it occupies a place under the government and seeks office under it. The government does not stand for the interests the Socialist party is supposed to represent."

"Socialism, however is a step in the right direction," she conceded to her dissenting hearers.

"The true task is to unite and organize all workers on an economic basis, and it is the workers themselves who must secure freedom for themselves, who must grow strong." Miss Keller continued. "Nothing can be gained by political action. That is why I became an IWW."

"What particular incident led you to become an IWW" I interrupted.

"The Lawrence strike. Why? Because I discovered that the true idea of the IWW is not only to better conditions, to get them for all people, but to get them at once."

"What are you committed to - education or revolution?"

"Revolution." She answered decisively. "We can't have education without revolution. We have tried peace education for 1900 years and it has failed. Let us try revolution and see what it will do now."

"I am not for peace at all hazards. I regret this war, but I never regretted the blood of the thousands spilled during the French Revolution. And the workers are learning how to stand alone. They are learning a lesson they will apply to their own good out in the trenches. Generals testify to the splendid initiative the workers in the trenches take. If they can do that for their masters you can be sure they will do that for themselves when they have taken matters into their own hands."

"Don't forget the workers are getting their discipline in the trenches," Miss Keller continued. "They are acquiring the will to combat."

"My cause will emerge from the trenches stronger than it ever was. Under the obvious battle waging there, there is an invisible battle for the freedom of man."

Again the advisability of printing all this here set forth. And this finally from the patience-exhausted, gentle little woman:

"I don't give a damn about semi-radicals!"

Gradually, through the talk, Helen Keller's whole being had taken on a glow, and it was in keeping with the exalted look on her face and the glory in her sightless blue eyes that she told me:

"I feel like Joan of Arc at times. My whole becomes uplifted. I, too, hear voices that say 'Come', and I will follow, no matter what the cost, no matter what the trials I am placed under. Jail, poverty, calumny - they matter not. "Truly He has said, woe unto you that permits the least of mine to suffer."

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Healthcare Reform Is Happening

The House vote on HR 3962 is scheduled to take place this Saturday at 6:00 PM. Floor discussion is scheduled to begin tomorrow at 2:00 PM. The following organizations is the current list of endorsers and following the list is the AFL CIO email action alert:

Endorsers of HR 3296 - Affordable Health Care for America Act

Advocates for Youth
AFL-CIO
AFSCME
Alliance for Children and Families
Alliance for Retired Americans
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
American Association of Nurse Anesthetists
American Association of Pastoral Counselors
American Art Therapy Association
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American College of Physicians
American College of Surgeons
American Counseling Association
American Group Psychotherapy Association
American Medical Student Association
American Mental Health Counselors Association
American Nurses Association
American Osteopathic Association
American Psychiatric Nurses Association
American Psychoanalytic Association
American Psychotherapy Association
American Public Health Association
Anxiety Disorders Association of America
Arc of the United States
Association for the Advancement of Psychology
Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Association of American Medical Colleges
Black Youth Vote
California Rural Indian Health Board (CRIHB)
Campus Progress
Center for Clinical Social Work/ABE
Center for Community Change
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Child Welfare League of America
Choice USA
Clinical Social Work Association
Clinical Social Work Guild 49, OPEIU
Consumers Union
Corporation for Supportive Housing
CWA
Demos
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Doctors for America
Easter Seals
Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action
Families USA
Family Voices
Federation of American Hospitals
Forward Montana
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Generational Alliance
Health Access California
Health Care for America NOW
Health Care for America NOW - Southern Oregon Coalition
Main Street Alliance
Mental Health America
NAACP
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Assembly on School-Based Health Care
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders-ANAD
National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC)
National Association of Mental Health Planning and Advisory Councils
National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems
National Association of Social Workers
National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors
National Breast Cancer Coalition
National Coalition of Mental Health Consumer/Survivor Organizations
National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare
National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare
National Disability Rights Network
National Education Association (NEA)
National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health
National Foundation for Mental Health
National Patient Advocate Foundation
National Spinal Cord Injury Association
Paralyzed Veterans of America
Rock the Vote
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Small Business Majority
Suicide Prevention Action Network USA, a Division of AFSP
Tourette Syndrome Association, Inc,
UAW
United Cerebral Palsy
United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society
United Neighborhood Centers of America
United Spinal Association
USAction
U.S. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association
U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG)
U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce
Virginia Organizing Project
Voto Latino
Washington Community Action Network
Witness Justice
Young Democrats of America
Young Invincibles
18 in '08





Health Care
Can’t Wait

We need your help TODAY. Call your representative in Washington in support of the House’s historic health care reform bill. Tell your representative that health care reform can’t wait and that you support H.R. 3962.

Call Now


Dear Patricia,

We have exciting news. Within days, the U.S. House will vote on H.R. 3962—the Affordable Health Care for America Act—a historic health care reform bill that includes a public health insurance option, guarantees that employers pay their fare share and doesn’t tax our benefits.

Many of us have been fighting for real health care reform for our entire lives, and this vote is going to be very close. If you've never called your representative before, now is the time. If you've called before, we need you to call again. Tell your representative the time for reform is now: Support H.R. 3962.

Click here to call your representative in Washington in support of H.R. 3962.

The House bill covers 96 percent of Americans, is entirely paid for, reduces the deficit and lets families keep the health care they have instead of facing cuts in benefits and higher costs.

When you call, you will be joining tens of thousands of activists in a nationwide action for real health care reform. Together, we’re going to barrage Congress with calls in support of health care reform that works for America’s working families by:

* Including a strong public health insurance option to break the stranglehold of insurance companies and bring down costs
* NOT taxing our health care plans.
* Guaranteeing that employers pay their fair share.

Call your representative in Washington today in support of H.R. 3962.

We’ve been fighting for years to ensure that everyone has access to quality, affordable health care.. We are so close, but we’re not there yet. The insurance companies and their lobbyists aren’t even close to giving up.

As a matter of fact, insurance companies are spending more money than ever on lobbying against reform. Just last quarter, the 13 largest insurers and the health insurance industry trade association spent more than $8 million lobbying Congress.1

Your representative needs to hear from you. Call today.

In solidarity,

Marc Laitin
AFL-CIO Online Mobilization Coordinator

P.S. Called before? Call again. No matter what you've done. Call now. Winning health care reform is going to take a relentless effort by all of us. Call today.

1 Campaign Money.

If you received this message from a friend, you can sign up for Working Families e-Activist Network.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Racial disparity: All active ethics probes focus on black lawmakers John Bresnahan John Bresnahan Tue Nov 3, 4:54 am ET The House ethics committee i

Racial disparity: All active ethics probes focus on black lawmakers
John Bresnahan John Bresnahan Tue Nov 3, 4:54 am ET

The House ethics committee is currently investigating seven African-American lawmakers — more than 15 percent of the total in the House. And an eighth black member, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), would be under investigation if the Justice Department hadn’t asked the committee to stand down.

Not a single white lawmaker is currently the subject of a full-scale ethics committee probe.

The ethics committee declined to respond to questions about the racial disparity, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus are wary of talking about it on the record. But privately, some black members are outraged — and see in the numbers a worrisome trend in the actions of ethics watchdogs on and off Capitol Hill.

“Is there concern whether someone is trying to set up [Congressional Black Caucus] members? Yeah, there is,” a black House Democrat said. “It looks as if there is somebody out there who understands what the rules [are] and sends names to the ethics committee with the goal of going after the [CBC].”

African-American politicians have long complained that they’re treated unfairly when ethical issues arise. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are still fuming over Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to oust then-Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) from the House Ways and Means Committee in 2006, and some have argued that race plays a role in the ongoing efforts to remove Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) from his chairmanship of that committee.

Last week’s actions by the House ethics committee are sure to add fuel to the fire.

The committee — which has one African-American lawmaker, Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), among its 10 members — on Thursday considered three referrals from the recently formed Office of Congressional Ethics. It dismissed a case against Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), who is white, but agreed to open full-blown investigations of California Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters and Laura Richardson, both of whom are black.

The committee was already investigating five other African-Americans. Rangel is the subject of two different probes, one involving a host of issues he has put before the committee and another involving allegations that corporate funds may have been used improperly to pay for members’ trips to the Caribbean in 2007-08. Reps. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Donald Payne (D-N.J.) and Del. Donna Christensen (D-U.S. Virgin Islands) are also included in the second of those investigations.

A document leaked to The Washington Post last week showed that nearly three dozen lawmakers have come under scrutiny this year by either the House ethics committee or the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent watchdog created in 2008 at the insistence of Pelosi. While the list contained a substantial number of white lawmakers, the ethics committee has not yet launched formal investigative subcommittees with respect to any of them — as it has with the seven African-American members.

The OCE has also been a particular target of ire for the Congressional Black Caucus. Black lawmakers, including CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), met with OCE officials earlier this year to raise their concerns. Spokesmen for Lee and the OCE both declined to comment.

A number of CBC members opposed the resolution establishing the OCE, arguing that it was the wrong response to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, which helped Democrats seize control of the House in 2006.

Setting up the OCE “was a mistake,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) told The Hill newspaper recently. “Congress has a long and rich history of overreacting to a crisis.”

Cleaver, though, now finds himself part of the four-member subcommittee that will investigate Waters, who voted against the OCE. Waters is being probed over her intervention with the Treasury Department on behalf of a minority-owned bank in which her husband served on the board and owned at least $250,000 in stock.

While she has flatly denied engaging in any unethical or improper behavior in her dealings with OneUnited, Waters was described by colleagues and Democratic aides as “livid” over the ethics committee’s decision to investigate her.

“She was hopping mad,” a Democratic lawmaker said of Waters. “She feels this is a complete miscarriage of justice.”

Another CBC member said black lawmakers are “easy targets” for ethics watchdog groups because they have less money — both personally and in their campaign accounts — to defend themselves than do their white colleagues. Campaign funds can be used to pay members’ legal bills.

“A lot of that has to do with outside watchdog groups like [Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington] that have to have a level of success to justify OCE,” the CBC member said. The good-government groups were strong backers of the OCE’s creation.

But these same groups won’t go after Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), this lawmaker claimed, “because she has plenty of money to defend herself,” and the outside groups don’t want to take a risk. The Democrat said the ethics committee would be going up against Harman’s lawyers and “going up against” the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee if they push the OCE to pressure the ethics committee to act.

Harman was allegedly recorded on a 2005 federal wiretap discussing with an Israeli operative her bid to become Intelligence Committee chairwoman. Harman has denied any wrongdoing, but an attempt by the ethics committee to get a transcript of the taped call was rebuffed by the Justice Department.

What especially galled black lawmakers was that the ethics committee voted to move forward with the Waters and Richardson probes following the OCE referrals, while Graves — who OCE also thought should be investigated by the ethics committee — saw his case dismissed.

Even worse, the ethics committee issued a 541-page document explaining why it wouldn’t look into allegations that Graves invited a witness to testify before the Small Business Committee — on which he sits — without revealing his financial ties to that witness.

“It is kind of crazy,” said an aide to one senior black Democrat. “How can it be that the ethics committee only investigates African-Americans? It doesn’t make sense.”

White lawmakers have certainly been the subject of ethics committee investigations before. Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) was admonished by the committee for his dealings with corporate lobbyists, while ex-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) was the target of an investigation over his dealings with teenage male House pages in late 2006. Foley resigned after the sex scandal was revealed.

And the document leaked to the Post last week shows that a number of white lawmakers — including senior House Appropriations Committee members John Murtha (D-Pa.), Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) and Jim Moran (D-Va.) — have drawn the attention of the committee and the OCE.

The two congressional ethics watchdogs are looking into these members’ ties to the PMA Group, a now-defunct lobbying firm that won tens of millions of dollars in earmarks from members of the Appropriations Committee. The lawmakers who arranged for the earmarks received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from PMA’s lobbying clients.

But it seems unlikely that the PMA case will become the subject of a full-blown ethics committee investigation. The Justice Department is also looking into the PMA allegations; the FBI raided PMA’s office last year, and Visclosky and his former chief of staff have been served with document subpoenas. And under ethics committee rules, the panel cannot conduct an investigation of any member or staffer already being probed by a law enforcement agency.

The nation’s only black senator, Roland Burris of Illinois, is currently under investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee. It’s not clear whether that committee is currently investigating any white members, although Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) is likely to be in its sights if the Justice Department doesn’t pre-empt a committee investigation.

Jonathan Allen contributed to this story.



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Friday, October 23, 2009

Thoughts This Week....

Watching Jane Fonda in Coming Home--a how to for returning veterans during the Vietnam war--as well as an anti-war statement and protest of ill-treatment of returning soldiers by the governement? Normalize the image of the wounded veteran-show how they can function in society....how soon did the Americans with Disabilties act follow?.... Watching Oprah's "joyrising" yesterday....Oprah...Obama...Chicago....Obama's Nobel prize...the ways in which Obama's election was not Harold Washington's... a global, progressive effort...not just represnting black folks...but progressives of every stripe. Hope.....When did the CIA start having a wing that made investments on it's behalf?...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Love Is The Answer at Number One

Everybody just better step back, because Barbra is number one;-)

Friday, October 09, 2009

Many Congratulations!



Congratulations are in order! Our President, Barack Hussein Obama, is the 2009 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize! Cheers!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

WILL THE G20 SUMMIT STABILIZE OR CHANGE HISTORIC CENTER/PERIPHERY RELATIONS?

By Harry Targ

Leaders of 20 developed and developing countries, the G20 countries, will meet on September 24-25 in Pittsburgh to continue dialogue on the global economic crisis and financial regulation. One way to think about the G20 is to see it as an emergency response to an emergency situation, not necessarily a byproduct of the long and contradictory development of the global political economy.

Most of us ordinarily would not see the connection between contemporary economic problems and the complex global history that has brought us to where we are. Most importantly, we are not likely to realize that fixing the problems of immediate concern might require addressing the long-term structural developments that have led to the crises of our own time.

Some time ago, L.S. Stavrianos wrote a large history of the global economy, Global Rift: The Third World Comes of Age. In it, the author developed a detailed discussion of the conflictful evolution of the global political economy from the dawn of commercial capitalism to the 1980s. Bringing the story up to the present would entail describing the emergence of neo-liberal globalization, the immediate “cause” of the global, largely financial crisis of our own time.

Stavrianos suggests that we can conceptualize the history of capitalism as the result of the conflict between what he calls “centers” and ‘peripheries.” Center nations have been those that
accumulated economic, political, and military power, often aided by technological advances and military prowess. Through these elements center nations gained disproportionately from interactions with most of the world’s nations and peoples. Periphery nations by virtue of their limited power, control, access to technologies, lost from their interaction with the powerful countries of the world. In a sense, much of the value of goods and services and natural resources produced by peoples in the periphery were expropriated by those in the center. The 500 year history of the global economy has been based on the expropriation of value from the periphery to the center.

During the era of commercial capitalism (1400-1770), a rising merchant class, supported by state armaments and mercenaries seeking riches, traversed the globe, trading, investing, and extracting gold and other riches wherever they could. Central to the rise of global capitalism was the trade of commodities made in Europe for African slaves. Kidnapped slaves were brought to recently conquered western hemisphere lands to cut sugar, grow tobacco, cultivate dyes, and produce other agricultural commodities. The products derived from slave labor were brought back to Europe, processed, and sold on the world market. Therefore, the slave system was basic to the development of the global capitalist economy.

As extraction of natural resources, trade, and production advanced, an era of industrial capitalism emerged. In countries such as Great Britain, the industrial revolution occurred. A factory system was created which brought masses of workers together to produce goods more cheaply. This generated more and more goods for sale on the world stage. Center nations experienced an increasing thirst for markets in and resources from the periphery for the production and sale of goods. With industrial capitalism, powerful and wealthy center countries grew and most of the rest of the world experienced arrested development.

The expansion of industrial capitalism led to monopolies, individual or small numbers of corporations controlling larger and larger shares of individual industrial sectors. In addition small numbers of corporations and banks expanded their domination of the global economy at large. During the era of monopoly capitalism, as Stavrianos called it, stretching from the 1870s until today, smaller and smaller numbers of corporations and banks controlled more and more of all production.

Three particular changes shaped the late nineteenth and twentieth century global economy. First, banks became independent and interdependent actors in economic life connected to the corporate sector. Second, corporations and banks (and thus their governments), became increasingly dependent on the export of money capital, direct foreign investment, in comparison with trade in goods and services in prior eras. The seeds of modern financial speculation were planted. Third, from the 1880s until the 1950s, powerful center countries acquired colonies such that by the time of the Spanish American (Cuban) war, 70 percent of the land mass of the world was controlled by European and North American colonial powers.

After World War II, periphery countries won their political independence but remained neo-colonial countries; that is their economies were dominated by traditional center nations. The only exceptions to this continuing center/periphery structure of dominance and subordination was that reflected in the rise of the Socialist bloc, Chinese, Cuban, and Vietnamese revolutions, and countries organizing to pursue a “non-aligned” foreign policy.

As the socialist bloc and the non-aligned movement lost their power, traditional capitalist powers, assisted by international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the General Agreements on Trade and Tariffs (later the World Trade Organization), demanded a renewed system of center/periphery relations to expand the expropriation of surplus from peripheries to centers. So-called neo-liberal policies were imposed on poor and debt-ridden countries requiring them to downsize their governments, de-regulate their economies, privatize public corporations, and shift their economies from producing goods and services for domestic use to exports.

Part of the economic crisis the G20 leaders and peoples all over the world face is the result of the expropriation of wealth from the periphery to the center (concretely from workers, farmers, and peasants), the excess accumulation of wealth in the center with decreasing capacities to use it to make greater profit, and overproduction and dramatically declining abilities of peoples of the globe to purchase what is produced. The root cause of this economic crisis, like others, results from the accumulation of enormous wealth at one pole, the center, and growing human misery at the other pole, the periphery.

Among the conclusions that can be gleaned from this brief history are the following:

-The contemporary period in global economic/military and political history is the byproduct of historic transformations in world history, from feudalism, to commercial capitalism, and then the industrial revolution, and finally the rise of a monopoly and a financially driven world system.

-Economic transformations have been intimately connected to transformations in military power (access to sea power, land armies, air war, and nuclear weapons) and technological advances.

-Human history, at least since the fifteenth century, has been shaped by the inequitable distribution of power and wealth, creating center and periphery nations and peoples.

-Periphery countries have been shaped economically, politically, and culturally by their connections to center nations.

-This global system of centers and peripheries has stimulated integration (what now is called “globalization”) which has been connected to violence, hunger, disease, and human misery.

While Stavrianos suggests that most of the world’s people have been shaped by their connection with the rich and powerful he also argues that the center/periphery relationship impacts on both actors. Peripheries always have resisted their domination. Sometimes they have achieved significant victories, other times not so much.

It will be interesting to see if voices of change at the G-20 summit can begin to restructure the global economy away from the historic center/periphery structure that has so influenced world history.




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www.heartlandradical.blogspot.com

Sotomayor Issues Challenge to a Century of Corporate Law

By JESS BRAVIN

WASHINGTON -- In her maiden Supreme Court appearance last week, Justice Sonia Sotomayor made a provocative comment that probed the foundations of corporate law.
During arguments in a campaign-finance case, the court's majority conservatives seemed persuaded that corporations have broad First Amendment rights and that recent precedents upholding limits on corporate political spending should be overruled.
But Justice Sotomayor suggested the majority might have it all wrong -- and that instead the court should reconsider the 19th century rulings that first afforded corporations the same rights flesh-and-blood people have.
Judges "created corporations as persons, gave birth to corporations as persons," she said. "There could be an argument made that that was the court's error to start with...[imbuing] a creature of state law with human characteristics."
After a confirmation process that revealed little of her legal philosophy, the remark offered an early hint of the direction Justice Sotomayor might want to take the court.
"Progressives who think that corporations already have an unduly large influence on policy in the United States have to feel reassured that this was one of [her] first questions," said Douglas Kendall, president of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center.
"I don't want to draw too much from one comment," says Todd Gaziano, director of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation. But it "doesn't give me a lot of confidence that she respects the corporate form and the type of rights that it should be afforded."
For centuries, corporations have been considered beings apart from their human owners, yet sharing with them some attributes, such as the right to make contracts and own property. Originally, corporations were a relatively rare form of organization. The government granted charters to corporations, delineating their specific functions. Their powers were presumed limited to those their charter spelled out.
"A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible," Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in an 1819 case. "It possesses only those properties which the charter of its creation confers upon it."
But as the Industrial Revolution took hold, corporations proliferated and views of their functions began to evolve.
In an 1886 tax dispute between the Southern Pacific Railroad and the state of California, the court reporter quoted Chief Justice Morrison Waite telling attorneys to skip arguments over whether the 14th Amendment's equal-protection clause applied to corporations, because "we are all of opinion that it does."
That seemingly off-hand comment reflected an "impulse to shield business activity from certain government regulation," says David Millon, a law professor at Washington and Lee University.
"A positive way to put it is that the economy is booming, American production is leading the world and the courts want to promote that," Mr. Millon says. Less charitably, "it's all about protecting corporate wealth" from taxes, regulations or other legislative initiatives.
Subsequent opinions expanded corporate rights. In 1928, the court struck down a Pennsylvania tax on transportation corporations because individual taxicab drivers were exempt. Corporations get "the same protection of equal laws that natural persons" have, Justice Pierce Butler wrote.
>From the mid-20th century, though, the court has vacillated on how far corporate rights extend. In a 1973 case before a more liberal court, Justice William O. Douglas rejected the Butler opinion as "a relic" that overstepped "the narrow confines of judicial review" by second-guessing the legislature's decision to tax corporations differently than individuals.
Today, it's "just complete confusion" over which rights corporations can claim, says Prof. William Simon of Columbia Law School.
Even conservatives sometimes have been skeptical of corporate rights. Then-Associate Justice William Rehnquist dissented in 1979 from a decision voiding Massachusetts's restriction of corporate political spending on referendums. Since corporations receive special legal and tax benefits, "it might reasonably be concluded that those properties, so beneficial in the economic sphere, pose special dangers in the political sphere," he wrote.
On today's court, the direction Justice Sotomayor suggested is unlikely to prevail. During arguments, the court's conservative justices seem to view corporate political spending as beneficial to the democratic process. "Corporations have lots of knowledge about environment, transportation issues, and you are silencing them during the election," Justice Anthony Kennedy said during arguments last week.
But Justice Sotomayor may have found a like mind in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. "A corporation, after all, is not endowed by its creator with inalienable rights," Justice Ginsburg said, evoking the Declaration of Independence.
How far Justice Sotomayor pursues the theme could become clearer when the campaign-finance decision is delivered, probably by year's end.

Activists, Big Business Converge on G20 Meet

By: Jeb Sprague
Inter Press Service
September 20, 2009

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=48514

Pittsburgh

As media and government delegates prepare for the G20
Summit to be held Sep. 24-25 in Pittsburgh, local
business and activist groups are promoting clashing
visions of days to come.

Hit hard over the last quarter of the twentieth century
with a collapsing steel industry, recession and falling
population, Pittsburgh is still a decent place to live
- often highly rated because of low housing costs.

Also see below: World Bank, NGOs Exhort G20 Not to
Forget the Poorest

On one side, Pittsburgh government and business leaders
say they have reshaped the city to connect with
globalisation as a hi-tech, financial and medical
industry hub.

On the other side, labour, community, youth and
environmental groups are fighting for green jobs and
clean energy, while calling into question how
government and corporate leaders have dealt with the
global financial crisis and urban renewal.

The host of the summit is the Pittsburgh G20
Partnership, run out of the Allegheny County Conference
on Community Development, which according to its
executive vice president is "a sort of holding company"
for the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and
other regional business groups.

The group includes many of the largest business
interests active in the area. Public affairs
coordinator, Philip Cynar, explains, "Our group is made
up of corporations involved in advanced manufacturing,
financial services, healthcare, information technology,
and energy".

Bill Flanagan, executive vice president of corporate
relations for the group, says that Pittsburgh's
business leaders have learned to operate in a
globalised world, and the G20 summit provides a prime
opportunity for further insertion into the global
market.

"We've learned capital tends to flow freely" so "we are
trying to put Pittsburgh on the map and attract global
investors," he told IPS.

Large business interests have been at the centre of
coordinating the summit. "We communicate on a daily
basis with the White House, the State Department and
the Secret Service, all in preparation for
communication operations and planning receptions at the
14 hotels where journalists and delegates will be
staying, the trappings for welcoming the world to the
region," Flanagan added.

Not far from the Regional Enterprise Tower, where
business groups promoting the summit operate, a peace
and justice coalition based out of Pittsburgh's Thomas
Merton Centre is organising for a people's march
against the G20, sending a very different message.

The umbrella coalition, including organised labour,
anti-war activists, and numerous environmentalist,
socialist, and grassroots organisations, levels steep
criticism at the G20 leaders and global capitalism,
most pointedly the effects on low-income and working-
class people by state policies meant to benefit
transnational corporations.

Melissa Minnich, communications director of the Thomas
Merton Centre, says, "The financial bailouts of the G20
governments are meant to benefit the largest
corporations. The people that end up paying are the
average citizens."

Dozens of other organisations are taking part, such as
the G-6 Billion with an inter-faith march, a march for
jobs in Pittsburgh's poor Hill district, and a people's
summit to call for economic and environmental justice.

Carl Davidson, a labour writer and organiser with the
local Beaver County Peace Links, observes that,
"Pittsburgh in particular has suffered from policies
advocated by the G20, hit hard by the job loss and
deindustrialisation in globalisation. People see these
world leaders and the global corporations they work
with as responsible."

David Hoskins, an organiser with Bail Out the People,
told IPS "We will have a march for jobs, calling for a
federal job programme like the New Deal era, on
Pittsburgh's Hill".

Pittsburgh business and government leaders, with a
successful downtown, have recast the city as a modern
centre for green-technology innovation.

But problems remain. Pennsylvania is the only state in
the U.S. without a budget. Unable to pay some of its
pensioners, the city of Pittsburgh has sold off parking
lots to raise money.

With ghost towns at the city's outskirts and many
communities suffering from environmental degradation,
local activists say development has been an
undemocratic process geared toward the beautiful
downtown.

Melissa Minnich says poor communities have lost out.
She lives near "one green space that was slated to be
worked on". However, she explains, "We were told by the
contractors that city funds were rerouted to downtown
so construction could not begin."

With rich coal deposits in the south of Pittsburgh,
dirty mining techniques remain. Longwall mining,
cutting deep horizontal shafts, has caused sinkholes,
draining one lake on the outskirts of the city, as well
as forming huge coal piles that sit idle leaking
mercury into the Monogahela River.

There are dozens of large coal-fired electric power
generators, and one nuclear power plant, all along the
Ohio River stretching down to West Virginia, supplying
electricity to much of the east coast.

David Meieran, an organiser with the Three Rivers
Climate Convergence, a Pittsburgh-based environmental
group, says "It is absurd that Pittsburgh's chamber of
commerce and corporations like the PNC-bank are saying
they are green companies now just because they are
constructing these environmentally-friendly buildings."

He adds, "They still maintain sizable holdings in coal
companies that do mountaintop removal and longwall
mining, profiting off deaths and environmental
devastation."

In 2008, according to the American Lung Association,
Pittsburgh ranked above all other U.S. cities in short-
term levels of particle pollution, "a deadly cocktail
of ash, soot, diesel exhaust, chemicals, metals and
aerosols that can spike dangerously for hours to weeks
on end".

The defence industry has a presence in Pittsburgh.
Carnegie Mellon University has a robotics institute
working closely with the U.S. Department of Defence.
Local universities are involved in healthcare research
and development tied to the private sector.

To defend the summit, Pittsburgh's mayor and city
council have amassed a force of four thousand police,
including many auxiliaries from the rural countryside.
Two thousand National Guard and an untold number of
secret service agents with hi-tech surveillance will be
present.

Diane Richard, public information officer for the
Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, explains "There are
facilities in place to afford us leeway in how many
arrests we have to make". She acknowledged other
agencies would have horseback units present.

Much of the discussion within Pittsburgh's advertiser-
radio and newspapers has focused on financial costs of
hosting the summit and the inconvenience to downtown
dwellers.

One downtown resident told IPS that a big part of the
population in the city "is as old and conservative as
Miami, Florida, and they don't want to see any spray
paint or flag burning". He expects that the Pittsburgh
police will use harsh tactics against protesters.

It is believed tens of thousands of protesters from
Pittsburgh and around the country will gather. A mass
march will start on Sep. 25, at 12:00 P.M., on the
corner of 5th and Craft near Pittsburgh's college.

Reverend Thomas E. Smith, of the local Monumental
Church, has offered his lawn and parking lots to
protesters.

He explains, "We are hosting a tent city that is
symbolic of the need for a fair and living wage, and
for a national and international workers' movement
similar to the poor peoples' campaign that Dr. Martin
Luther King was in the process of organizing prior to
being assassinated."

The G20 protesters face hurdles in getting their
message out to a wider audience. With official politics
in the United States channeled through a corporate
media and a powerful two-party monopoly, peace and
justice organizers say, the biggest challenge is just
for their message to be heard.

Important Information Concerning Democracy in Honduras.

*President Manuel Zelaya, after over eighty days in exile, has returned
to Honduras.* He reported the news in an interview with Canal 36, a
Honduran television network. Zelaya has called for the increasingly
strong resistance movement to converge at the United Nations building in
Tegucigalpa. The coup regime denies that Zelaya is in Honduras and has
repeatedly stated that Zelaya would be arrested upon return to Honduras.
*Visit the SOA Watch web site at www.SOAW.org

for updates.*

*Click here to urge your Representative to take a stand for democracy in
Honduras
.*

Monday, September 21, 2009

No Short Cuts to the Top: Lessons on Building the Progressive Majority from the Resignation of Van Jones

By Keith Joseph


Van Jones’ resignation as an environmental advisor to the Obama administration is further evidence that associations with the far Left are a political liability for Democratic Party politicians. The first thing that revolutionary democrats, socialists and communists have to figure out is how to change this fact of political life in the United States -- so that it is not a liability but a necessity for liberal and progressive politicians to have strong, active and mutually beneficial alliances with those of us firmly (and far) to the left of the Democratic Party.


Throughout Obama’s candidacy, and now during his presidency, the Right has tried to make his real and imagined associations with the Left a burden – Reverend Wright, Bill Ayers, come quickly to mind—and now Van Jones. Associating with the far left was not always political suicide for a mainstream politician.


McCarthyism’s primary objective, indeed, was not to simply attack Communists as such but to break the Progressive alliance—the coalition of Communists and Liberals that made the New Deal possible and provided support and often leadership to the developing modern Civil Rights Movement. Assassins were summoned when the alliance appeared to be re-forming in the late 1960’s around Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. Building a progressive majority is the process of rebuilding the coalition between socialists, communists, and liberals, and progressives. This is the coalition that defeated Nazism in World War 2.


Answering the proverbial question “What is to be done?” is difficult in the United States because the electoral and governing processes are mystified by the two-party-system. In a parliamentary system the party that wins the most seats in the election is obliged to build a “governing coalition” that includes other political parties. A parliamentary system is far more democratic as it allows for proportional representation. It also allows us to see the political process in clear terms. In a parliamentary system a government can “fall” if it is no longer capable of keeping together a majority of the representatives in the parliament. The parliamentarians represent definite class forces and each successive government is a different configuration of these class forces.



In the U.S. the “governing coalition” is usually formed during the electoral process and the coalition is not a multi-party coalition like in Europe—in the U.S. the coalition is actually inside the party structures. Ronald Reagan built a coalition of free marketers, and cold warriors, with racist white workers (known in the mainstream press as “Reagan Democrats”) and right-wing Christians as the ground troops. Reagan’s coalition brought the Republican Party nearly 30 years of uninterrupted rule (if it weren’t for Ross Perot taking 15% of Bush Sr.’s vote in 1992 Clinton would not have won the election. And Clinton was never able to build a stable governing majority so he was forced to adopt much of the Republican free-market agenda and his presidency was seen even by his liberal supporters as a disappointment wracked by scandals).


The Democratic Party with Obama at its helm has finally cobbled together a majority coalition. The Democratic Party’s traditional coalition includes organized labor, women, Afro-Americans, Latinos, queers, and other oppressed peoples, as well as urban professionals. Both parties have large corporate presences but after eight years of Bush, big capital got behind Obama and the Democrats.. The Republicans lacked a leader that could keep together the Regan coalition and unite right wing Christians (represented in the primaries by Huckabee), Libertarians (represented in the primary by Ron Paul), free marketers (Mitt Romney) and national security hawks (McCain and Ghouiani). But here is the problem: Although Obama and the Democrats have a governing majority, it is a precarious majority and it is certainly not a progressive majority.


The majority coalition that Obama has built includes the odious and hegemonic presence of Financial Capital –Wall St. and the Insurance industry (by “hegemonic” I mean to say that Wall St is not only present in the coalition they are in charge of it). So, for instance, while a clear majority of the U.S. population favors a “public option” if not single payer healthcare, Obama does not have a majority in his governing coalition that will support it.


Radical democrats, socialists, communists and other left- progressive forces must organize to change the balance of power in the country, to re-order Obama’s majority coalition –growing it to the Left—so we can end the subservience to the interests of financial capital and still be a majority. That is what building a progressive majority entails. Making more friends and isolating our enemies so we can drive our enemies from power.


Signs of our success at the national level would be the resignation of the investment banker Rahm Emanuel as Obama’s chief of Staff, the resignation of Tim Geithner from the Treasury, and the resignation of Ben Bernackie as chair of the Federal Reserve, etc. and their replacement with people who are not creatures of Wall St.


Obama has been flirting with the left and the liberal/left coalition for years. Unfortunately revolutionaries have not been very useful coalition partners. Unlike Martin Luther King who brought not only moral authority but a mass movement to the table, today’s revolutionaries, I am sorry to say, bring practically nothing to the table. Indeed, we are simply a liability.

So even though under certain circumstances – a very unpopular President (Bush 2) launching an unpopular war (Iraq) —we can mobilize millions for a protest those millions remain unorganized and not only “outside” of the coalition but irrelevant to it. 30 years of essentially a Republican majority has pushed us so far back on our heels that our vision has narrowed and we only know the politics of protest. In order to build the progressive majority we must criticize and abandon the politics of protest, or “protest mode” and instead make protests and demonstrations an occasional and minor tactic in a much vaster arsenal. We must recall that the question of revolution is the question of power. Power can be had by those who organize to take it and it can be used to expand organization. We must organize to take power wherever we can put our hands on it – school boards, city councils, mayors, student governments, public library boards, local democratic party organizations, Parent Teacher Associations, municipal recreation programs, unions, corporate boards, etc.


The resignation of Van Jones reveals the bankruptcy of his organizational model. It is a variation of protest mode best described as “lobby mode.” The left lobbyist thinks protest are too radical and don’t accomplish much. So instead they lobby the powerful. Instead of making “demands” on power they “ask” power and they do it politely while wearing a suit.

Instead of demanding or asking power, we must organize to take power.


I saw Van Jones speak about the U.S. prison system at the annual “Left Forum” in New York City a few years ago around the time he was transitioning from an advocate for prison reform to an advocate for the green economy. During the Q & A I asked him how we can link a program that calls for prison abolition to the real concerns of working people about crime in their neighborhoods. I spoke briefly about my own experiences organizing against police brutality in neighborhoods were drug fiends roam the streets and were “crack-heads” have taken over houses. Working class people in my experience were more interested in getting the fiends off their block then abolishing prison. So this was a real practical and theoretical problem. Van Jones, to my surprise, responded “I don’t get involved in neighborhood politics.” At the time, although I was less than impressed, I didn’t think much of it. When I learned that Van Jones had moved on from prison reform to the “green economy” and had been appointed to Obama’s administration I celebrated it as a victory. I figured having someone from the left (whatever I thought of their particular shortcomings) was a good thing. But because Jones didn’t involve himself in “neighborhood politics” he had no real base of support. Van Jones did not arrive at his position as the result of mass struggle and so he had to rely on the good will of liberals instead of the power of an organized movement.


We must learn the lesson that the resignation of Van Jones teaches—neighborhood politics are the basis of national politics. Without organized neighborhoods, organized communities, organized cities, organized workplaces we will not be able to implement any of our “minimum program” (healthcare is a case in point) much less build an organized movement struggling to overthrow the domination of capital.


The progressive majority – the coalition between revolutionaries: socialists, communists, radical democrats, progressives and liberals – must be built from the bottom up. Block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city, shop by shop, there is no short cut.


A radical democratic movement and organization is developing in New Brunswick NJ and we are building this coalition—the coalition we want nationally-- at the local level. We are in the midst of campaign to change the form of local government (changing the form of government is what revolution is about). The current government is made up of a city council elected at-large. We petitioned to place a question on November’s ballot to change the way that council people are elected. From an at-large system to a “ward” based system. In a ward system council people would be elected from each of the city’s major neighborhoods. With a ward based system working people could start to run for elected office in the city. We will have a base area and a model of the kind of politics that we need in cities across the country.


We need help. We are fighting a political machine bank-rolled at the end of the day by Johnson & Johnson the multi-national pharmaceutical firm that has its world headquarters in town. They have the power of money or dead labor on their side and we have living labor on our side. But we could definitely use financial assistance. And if you are available on election-day or the weeks before we could use your living labor too. You can donate or contact the campaign at our website: Empower Our Neighborhoods.