Friday, April 30, 2010

Wave of opposition builds against Arizona law » peoplesworld

Wave of opposition builds against Arizona law » peoplesworld

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Illinois communists meet, call for unity and action against economic crisis

The Communist Party of Illinois held its state convention on April 17 to assess its work and elect delegates to the CPUSA national convention May 21-23 in New York City. Below are opening remarks by state organizer John Bachtell.


In preparing these remarks, I was reflecting on the changes our country has witnessed and our accomplishments really overwhelmed me.

We’ve grown, matured and been tempered in this mighty struggle along side labor and the people's movements.

And none bigger than being participants and shapers in one of the greatest developments in our nation's history - the election of the first African American president and the defeat of the Republican majorities after 30 years of right wing domination of government.

The 2008 elections marked a turning point, the beginning of a transition period full of great potential for reform and change.

Let’s take a moment to applaud our work, and the millions who have gotten us to this point.

We meet beneath the dark storm clouds of economic crisis tearing our communities and families apart. The working class and people seethe with anger and frustration and want relief from the torrential rains.

We’re all affected by this crisis. Like our comrade from Urbana, who like so many others has been jobless for two years. He finally received his disability insurance but not before he lost his home, joining the millions who have been foreclosed on.

We have two great challenges before us.

First, to fully immerse our selves in today’s titanic battles, to build the united democratic movements against the economic crisis and inequality and defeat the apostles of hate, racism and division.

How well we build the broad democratic movement and how effectively it removes the rightwing Republican obstructionists in Congress and influences the Obama administration and Congress will determine what kind of economic and social reforms will be won.

As the great African American singer and civil rights leader Harry Belafonte said, if Obama fails, we fail.

Secondly, we’re challenged to build a modern mass 21st century CPUSA and YCL. The country needs it to help navigate this era and the path to socialism; to help assemble, bring forward and unite the class and social forces necessary to make the change.

Okay, this much is clear: the ultra right was not decisively defeated in the 2008 elections and could regain power. The reactionary sector of US monopoly capitalism that gives it sustenance is powerful and far more embedded in government than many appreciated.

Danger abounds. The Tea Party movement, aided and abetted by hate psycho radio, disrupts town hall meetings. President Obama is the target of the most viscous and vile forms of racism. Armed fascists attend presidential rallies and reactionary politicians exploit popular rage.

Some say we are putting the class struggle on hold by still targeting the ultra right as the main danger.

We ignore it at our peril. The struggle against the ultra right is also the protracted fight against the most reactionary sections of US monopoly capitalism.

We have an immediate electoral challenge in Illinois. The Republicans have declared the US Senate seat a national battleground. We must respond - defeat this threat and join the broad coalition to make sure the seat is filled by a pro-labor senator.

An election victory in 2010, including Gov. Pat Quinn, and Democratic House of Representative candidates, and where possible more pro-labor, progressive candidates, will consolidate the 2008 election victory, and open the door to the next stage of reforms.

Nationally, the elections can tear down the Republican obstructionist walls. A loss will mean higher walls and greater opposition.

This democratic movement is multi-class, ranging from an energized and progressive labor movement to sections of monopoly capital. There are many political forces and trends, including Obama. There are competing forces within the Obama administration and the Democratic Party. It’s not unified on every question and we have disagreements with the Obama administration on some issues.

But how the democratic movement handles its differences is key. There will be no reform process without the Obama administration.

The democratic movement is not the only pressure on Obama and Democrats.

After his first 100 days in office, President Obama was asked what new he had learned. He replied, “there is more than one power center in this country” and singled out Wall Street. We could add, the Pentagon and intelligence community and corporate influence in government at all levels.

Our goal is to build the mass united democratic movement, bring labor and the core forces into its leadership and put a working class stamp on the reforms. To play it role, this movement must be united. This requires waging an uncompromising struggle against racism, discrimination against women, and homophobia.

Historic health care reform victory: only the first step

To quote the always-colorful Joe Biden, the health care reform victory was a "BFD." During this fight a labor leader implored Illinois health care activists with an allegory of the Battle of Gettysburg. He recounted his visit to the battlefield where two great armies met and one left defeated. It changed the course of the war.

The battle lines were drawn. Two great armies met on the legislative battlefield and clashed for a year. One had been retreating for most of 30 years, but won a major victory in 2008 and went on the offensive. The other gave everything they had to inflict “Obama’s Waterloo.”

The democratic movement won that epic battle. It didn’t rout the enemy, but it gained new momentum and energy for the next offensive.

The result wasn’t what we wanted, and the health care corporations will benefit. But it was a big step in the right direction. After 30 years of anti-government ideology, the victory restores the role of government, enshrines the idea of universal health care and for the first time regulates health insurance corporations.

Perhaps more importantly, the victory also reenergized the movements, gave fresh optimism and momentum. Think were we would be had we lost.

The reform will have some immediate effects including in Illinois.

- Immediate access to affordable coverage for 201,233 Illinoisans currently uninsured due to pre-existing conditions

- Medicare improvements and lower-cost prescription drugs for 1.8 million Illinois seniors

- Prohibiting insurance companies from using pre-existing conditions to deny care to 3.2 million Illinois children

-570 Community Health Centers in Illinois will receive additional funding.

Terrie and I are relieved because our children will be covered under our insurance until they are 26 years old.

The Party was immersed in this struggle, although more could have been active. We had some great grassroots experiences with Organizing for America, Campaign for Better Health Care, Health Care for America Now,, in our unions, retiree associations and single payer groups.

We reported on the rallies, actions and town hall meetings in the PW.
The Campaign for Better Health Care asked if organizations that participated wanted to be listed at their celebration. We said of course. To which an organizer responded, “Absolutely - Wouldn't think of having a list without Communist Party of IL and People’s World on it! You do great work.”

Some on the left and in our Party had differences with our approach. They believed it was single payer or nothing and called for killing the bill.
But this ignored the balance of political forces and the real legislative process. Should we have aligned objectively with the fascist Tea Party and right wing? No!

Which side are we on - with the broad democratic movement in alliance and interaction with Obama, or with the mob?

Would a political defeat now make it easier to tackle immigration reform? No!

Was it the end of the fight? No!
It’s time to put those differences behind us, move on and consolidate this victory.

There are new possibilities to win single payer on the state level, further regulate insurance industry pricing, to win a public option and Medicare Buy-in. The struggle continues!

What lessons did the democratic movement learn for the next fight?
The balance of forces is still not favorable enough. Every fight going forward will be fierce.

Corporate power and the ultra right is deeply embedded in government. Undoing 30 years of right wing domination won't happen in a day.
The people's movements will need to be stronger, more united and more sustained to win greater reforms.

It’s not enough to elect. Millions must be actively engaged in the legislative process.

It’s not enough to put out advanced demands and insist everyone follow. Building winning movements requires broad unity around the demands millions are willing to fight on and advanced tactics.

A Party of action
It's no stretch to say the Party has been involved in every major class, legislative and electoral battle since our last convention.

The Party and YCL were heavily involved in the historic election campaigns in 2006 (in the 6th CD), 2007 (aldermanic elections), and 2008 where we traveled to Indiana along with half of Chicago to secure the historic win.

We were a vital part of the history making Rudy Lozano and Jesus Garcia campaigns this February that almost beat one of the most powerful Democratic Party machines in the state.

We have been part of the movements to end the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, to demilitarize the economy and change US foreign policy.

We have marched on May Day and been active in the immigrant rights movement.
We have walked strike picket lines and mobilized solidarity.
Were we to hand out some recognition awards it might go like this:

Best club coalition building experience - Oak Park club for the New New Deal Coalition and South Side club with labor-religious-community health care coalition.
Best club labor-community initiated action - Logan Square/Humboldt Park club for the EFCA action at the Bank of America.

Best club electoral experience - Bridgeport and YCL clubs for tireless work in the Rudy Lozano campaign.

Best on-line grassroots organizing experience – South Side, Rogers Park and Humboldt Park- Logan Square for their Organizing for America work.

Best trade union organizing experience – Carmen in the Resurrection Hospital campaign, Ben in the warehouse workers campaign, and Lance in the charter schoolteacher campaign.

We have so much to be proud of. We have many exciting grassroots experiences, which I hope you share today. Our work has many shortcomings, but it’s a solid basis on which to build.

We do have a ways to go in deepening a culture of action and initiative at the grassroots. We envision our neighborhood clubs as initiators of bold grassroots action, which can bring together the coalitions necessary to create change on a grassroots basis.

Our MO should always be: action, action and still more action; initiative, initiative and still more initiative.

Building a mass movement for jobs
We are called to the front lines to fight against mass joblessness and the worst budget crisis in state history. This is a long-term crisis. It is having a catastrophic affect in the African American, Latino and other nationally and racially oppressed communities and among youth. The killing of 6 and wounding of another 12 in one night of violence this week is a tragic symptom of this crisis.
There will be no solution outside of government intervention, democratization of the economy and redistribution of wealth.

On a national level, labor and the major civil rights organizations launched the Jobs for America Now Coalition and its five-point program to address the crisis.

We are part of this coalition and are helping build the broadest movement possible nationally, locally and in our neighborhoods. Our panel will share some great initiatives we have been involved with.

We can help grow the multiracial diversity, and connect it with youth, religious communities, green jobs and peace movements.

Chicago Jobs with Justice has initiated a local coalition. We can initiate neighborhood coalitions with: petitions, delegations to elected officials, demonstrations at unemployment offices and against evictions or foreclosures, community violence, helping a family in need; organizing public hearings on neighborhood joblessness, and an establishing unemployed action and assistance center.

We need to be the spark that gets things moving, the unifiers that bring people together and the best builders of coalition actions.

The Illinois state budget crisis can’t be solved without a federal bailout and taxing the rich. We support all initiatives for a progressive and fair state tax system. We have some concerns with SB 174 because it still raises taxes of many working families. Nevertheless we are part of the broad movement sweeping the state to stop the budget cuts.

We are active fighting the budget cuts to education and social services. When Mayor Daley called for an end to the Afghan war and redirecting money home, he was speaking for Mayors facing catastrophic budget cuts. It signals how much broader the anti-war movement can be if its united with the economic and budget crisis.

Changing the balance of forces isn’t just an aim nationally. It’s an aim at every level. The state legislature and Chicago is still dominated by big capital and large corporations and the Democratic machine.

The 2007 municipal election victories and Chuy Garcia’s victory and Rudy Lozano’s campaign are a step toward bringing forward a labor-led people’s coalition and independent politics and changing the balance of political and class forces.

Party and YCL building 9.0
We have another great challenge: to build a modern, 21st century Communist Party, adapt our structure and methods to new conditions, develop Marxism to embrace what is new in politics, society and mass communications technology.

We are expanding our relations, gaining respect and acceptance but everyone is troubled we’re not growing faster. It’s not a new question.

A few comrades say it’s because we’ve gone off the Marxist rails and we’re tailing Democrats or the labor movement.

We may have problems, but that’s not one of them. Our politics and strategic policy is gaining us greater respect, putting us in position to grow. If fact, the Party won’t grow by separating itself from the broad democratic movement.

Supporting partial demands doesn’t prevent us from advocating our views; strategic policy and injecting advanced solutions into the mix.

I believe large growth in the Communist Party won’t take place without a shift in how millions think. The greatest growth in the Party’s history occurred at the height of the mass people's upsurge between 1935-38. People learned from struggle.

The movements are not there yet. And so our growth will largely be incremental for a time.

Political atmosphere is essential to growth. A recent Rasmussen poll showed 20% of Americans (half among youth) think socialism is better than capitalism and another 27% aren’t sure.

Thanks largely to Republicans and the ultra right, millions are discussing socialism. This is new and exciting.

Having a higher public profile is essential to growth. If people don’t know we exist, here or in the neighborhoods, they can’t find us or join.
Relationships are essential to growth. Our goal should be to develop them a thousand fold. Relationships lead to comfort, respect and interest in our ideas.

Having an organizational structure that fits today’s realities and facilitates relationship building is essential for growth. Much of our organizational structure and practice flows from another era.

Overcoming self-red baiting and feeling the Party will isolate is essential to growth. We should be like Mack! He conducts a class on Marxism every morning at the Dunkin Donuts at Pulaski and 55th St. that has resulted in a circle of contacts and two recruits to the Party.

All of political and social life is being reshaped by the mass communications revolution. We can’t ignore it, but instead should master the revolutionary new social practice.

The Internet and social networking allows us to interact with and speak to millions, and to combine it with grassroots face-to-face organizing. It’s Lenin’s idea of building the Party around the press applied to the Internet age.
We develop relationships by getting PW articles and our ideas, in the email boxes of thousands of activists.

How many of us forward PW or PA articles to family, friends, co-workers or other activists? I suspect far too few.

How many clubs have email lists of activists? I know the Logan Square – Humboldt Park club does!

We have a district PW weekly alerts list of 125, almost as many as print subs. Let’s aim to double it by end of year including with every member and former reader. Of course, we have a much wider distribution of articles through personal email, Facebook, Twitter and other on-line social media and our District Blog, The Spirit of Haymarket. But we’re barely scratching the surface.

Finally, we’ve had a wonderful experience in the pre-convention discussion with our monthly Politics and Potluck discussions. It has become an anchor for Party life and should be a model for regular Marxist education and citywide activity. Kudos to the new District education collective! It will lead to bigger and better things. Where else in Chicago can working people learn about Marxism and the ideas of socialism?

I think our wonderful achievements and experiences provide us with a great basis for discussion and lay a solid foundation for the hard and challenging work ahead.

Chicago rally demands Wall Street reform, jobs now » peoplesworld

Chicago rally demands Wall Street reform, jobs now » peoplesworld

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Avatar angst

From US Weekly mag.

"Fans of Avatar aren't just seeing blue: They're feeling it, too. Some are claiming the James Cameron-directed fantasy, which has grossed nearly $1.4 billion to date, made them depressed because they don't live in a utopian world. CNN reports that there have been more than 1,000 posts on the "Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible" forum on a fan site. But don't reach for the Prozac just yet. Explains psychology expert Cooper Lawrence: "Movies do not cause depression. If you feel that way, you were unhappy ahead of time."

An innate human need for socialist ideals perhaps - Bill Appelhans

Friday, April 23, 2010

Just so.

A sort of CliffsNotes guide to understanding the minds of Democrats and Republicans:

Democrats and Obama said to Wall Street elites - "Unless your business model depends on bilking people, there's little to fear from these new rules." April 22, 2010

Republicans and Bush said to Wall Street elites - "This is an impressive crowd — the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base." October 19, 2000

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fidel's Retirement Home?

By Bill Appelhans

Some time back the Washington Post featured an online forum where readers could expound on subjects the paper's administrator chose. Discussions could go on for days with thousands of comments.

One day I came across one commenter who talked about a news story he read about Fidel Castro's chateau in France.

I responded with the following. I saved it, so it is word for word.

"glorenzsonn, (the commentators pen name-BA)

If I may I would like to interject something I recently came across quite a while ago.

It had to do with a hacienda in Spain that was purportedly bought by the Soviet Union to be given to Fidel Castro. But there was a problem. Because of the well known incompetence of the Soviet bureaucrats the paperwork was sent by mistake to Manuel Noriega of Panama who had just had a falling out with the US CIA and the Soviet KGB was trying to woo.

At some point Fidel Castro found out and demanded that Noriega turn over the property post haste. Noriega refused and Castro squealed to the CIA that the KGB was establishing a foothold in Panama.
End of Noriega.

Of course the Soviets weren't too pleased about losing a potential "asset" and were kind of peeved at Castro, but since Noriega was gone they cut their losses and made peace with Fidel by purchasing the chateau in France for him as a gift. But there was a problem. Before they were able to give him the paperwork the Wall was torn down and all the roads were closed while the rubble was being removed. All westbound traffic was halted. In the intervening period the Soviet Union collapsed and to this day nobody knows who took the paperwork and where the chateau was located.

Fidel, knowing that somewhere in France there is a guy living in his chateau, has been spending all the people's money hiring private detectives and lawyers in his search. This explains why the US has never been able to show pictures of Castro sunbathing in the nude on the veranda of the chateau. Something they would surely love to do to discredit him. Apparently even they have no clue to who lives there or where it is.

I would imagine Castro is getting a little desperate as he gets closer to "retirement". Wouldn't surprise me if the CIA is looking high and low for it as an inducement for Castro to leave Cuba now that he is getting on in years. Lord knows nothing else they have tried over the last 40+ years has worked!

An interesting side note to this ongoing saga is what happened to the hacienda in Spain. When Panama City was practically destroyed by the US "surgical" military operation to arrest Noriega, the paperwork for the property was taken back to the US and made a gift of to Henry Kissinger for his years of services rendered. But there was a problem. It seems there is this prosecutor in Spain who doesn't seem to be able to grasp the concept of Western-style democracy, i.e. - to get along, go along.

He has been threatening to indict Kissinger for crimes against humanity as a result of his complicity in the overthrow of the legally elected government of Salvador Allende of Chile in 1972.

Poor Henry has never even seen the place!

Finally, as I stated at the beginning, this story is one that I recently came across quite a while ago and have been trying to verify ALL OF IT. When I do I'll let you all know. In the meantime you are all free to accept all or part of it to use in any way you choose.

Best regards,

glorenzsom responded:

"APSPA1 (my pen name - BA)
Good heavens, what an incredible story. Mine was nowhere near that detailed. I haven't had time to go back, but I promise to make an effort this weekend. What I remember is that supposedly, Castro bought a villa (or whatever you wish to call it) in southern France, which at that time was being "decorated" (which I assume means prepared for his retirement) by a lady (her name was given, hope I can find it). The story was that Castro had married this lady."

This guy believed the gibberish. However I never did see another word about the subject on the forum. Go figure.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chicagoans throw cold water on privatization plan » peoplesworld

Chicagoans throw cold water on privatization plan » peoplesworld

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Strikers say, don’t do business at the Congress

By John Bachtell
Chicago – “We’re here to ask your support in our strike against the Congress Hotel. Our families have been suffering for 7 long years,” Amelia told a sympathetic receptionist at the Italian Trade Commission (ITC).

The receptionist nodded and responded that no, they weren’t using any hotel rooms at the Congress. She promised to do what she could to relay our concerns to the head of the ITC.

I joined Amelia, five other Congress strikers and Roberto, an organizer from Unite Here Local 1 as they made the rounds. They spend nearly every day traveling Chicago making their case, hoping to dissuade everyone from using the hotel. Then they end their day with another picket line at the Congress.

About 140 workers struck the Congress Hotel June 10, 2003 after the owners imposed a lower wage rate than the master agreement negotiated with hotels across the city.

As we approach the strike’s 7th anniversary, it’s become a growing disgrace for the city. The occasion will be marked by another big demonstration around the hotel.

While walking to our next appointment, the strikers told me about what they were going through. I couldn’t help admire their courage and perseverance. They are heroes of the labor movement, but like most workers, unassuming. Despite tremendous hardship, they remain upbeat and determined to win.

Last year, the strikers made over 500 visits and got $700,000 worth of business cancelled from the hotel.

On this particular day we were speaking to several trade associations participating in the upcoming PACK International Expo 2010 at McCormick Place. The expo will draw 45,000 participants to view the packaging and processing industry’s newest innovations. They book a lot of hotel rooms, including the Congress.

It’s estimated trade shows and conventions provide half of all the hotel business in the city. In addition, the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau rout a lot of people to the hotels including the Congress.

The strikers say the Bureau is thinly disguising the hotel industry’s support for the Congress. The industry average wage is $14.20 per hour while the Congress pays $8.83 per hour. By keeping business flowing to the Congress, it sets up a lower wage and benefit standard for the rest of the industry.

The hospitality industry says times are bad and is demanding concessions. In reality the big hotels are making profits, just not big enough. They’re shedding employees and making those remaining work harder.
Nasario is one of the strikers. As he puts it, “I was seven years in the Congress and now I’m seven years on strike – seven in and seven out.” Nasario gets by with part time work, cleaning one of the large office buildings downtown. Life has been very difficult.

Roberto tells me about an incident on the picket line where a pedestrian spit on one of the strikers. He shakes his head at how heartless some people can be. But most people are very supportive, he says.

At another stop two management personnel greet us. They take the info and say they also don’t use the Congress but will pass along the message. As they walk away, I over hear one tell the other, “I can’t believe it’s been seven years.”

Afterwards, we sit and have coffee. Amelia, who now works part time at McDonald’s, proudly tells me her son is following in her activist footsteps. He’s a leader of the Immigrant Youth Justice League, the group of undocumented youth who have “come out of the shadows.”

Amelia like the others refuses to give up. And she’s passing the mantle of the quest for justice to her children. With fighters like this, there’s no way they and we can lose.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Questions Surround the True Cost of Taylorville Energy Center

Overwhelming Number of Public Comments to Illinois Commerce Commission

From the Sierra Club:

Over 1100 public comments were submitted to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), most of them questioning the true cost projections of the Taylorville Energy Center (TEC), a coal gasification proposal being reviewed by the Illinois Commerce Commission. Taylorville Energy Center power plant proposes to gasify coal into synthetic natural gas, which would then be either burned to create electricity, or sold to natural gas companies. This process is extremely energy intensive and can be harmful not only to the environment, but also to the pocketbook.

In hopes of receiving subsidies from the state, Taylorville Energy Center presented its Facility Cost Report to the Illinois Commerce Commission. If the state finds the TEC costs acceptable, every utility in Illinois will be required to purchase power from this power plant.

“This project makes no sense on so many levels,” says Verena Owen, chair of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, “from the almost certain effect it will have on the local and global environment, to the increase of electricity rates, to the misguided use of state and federal tax money – it’s unacceptable.”

The TEC project has received up to $25 million from state grants, approval for $500 million in loan guarantees from the Illinois Finance Authority and approval for $2.5 billion in loan guarantees from the US Department of Energy.

“This plant is being propped up by ratepayer, state and federal taxpayer money that would be better spent on cleaner, proven energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies,” says Becki Clayborn, regional representative of Sierra Club. “Instead, the state is taking on all the investment risk of building an experimental power plant that will still emit up to 3 million tons of global warming pollution annually, while TEC is taking practically zero risk on this project. The state and ratepayers are taking almost ALL the risk.”

The Illinois Commerce Commission, once having reviewed the Facility Cost Report, will send a report to the General Assembly for consideration. The General Assembly will then determine if utilities will be required to purchase power from the Taylorville Energy Center.

The Taylorville Energy Center is also waiting for a renewed air permit from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, as well as a Final Environmental Impact Statement from the US Department of Energy.

Pension Overhaul Dedimates Benefits for Future Hires

Short-term gains will produce undeniable long-term consequences

Press release from the Ilinois Retirement Security Initiative, a project of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability

Chicago, IL (April 20, 2010) On April 14, 2010, Illinois drastically changed public employee pensions for all future new hires. Public Act 96-0889 was the largest and most substantial pension overhaul in the country. Higher retirement ages that will harm Illinois' education system and reduce public safety? Check. Reduced inflationary protection for vulnerable retirees? Check. Mandated pension holidays to continue the cycle of fiscal irresponsibility? Of course!

Proponents of the changes are claiming that this new law will reign in "Cadillac" pensions and improve the State's bond rating. However, last summer's Pension Modernization Task Force found that public employee retirement benefits in Illinois are below average, cost less than what private sector employers pay for retirement benefits, and due to insufficient revenues, the 1995 funding "ramp" is severely inadequate.

Despite years of discussion and thoughtful debate on how to maintain a fair level of pension benefits for employees, the General Assembly and Governor have enacted a law that does absolutely nothing to address Illinois' $77.8 billion unfunded pension liability.

The new law tackles the issue of an older workforce by increasing the retirement age, but this provision may have unintended consequences. Those in favor of increasing the retirement age do not believe it will affect Illinois' ability to attract and retain quality employees, but they may not be looking at the entire picture.

Specifically, proponents of increasing the retirement age may be taken aback at the normal retirement benefit provisions of other states competing for Illinois' top workers. Following the passage of P.A. 96-0889, Illinois now has the highest retirement age for teachers and public employees in the country!

Individuals will have to weigh the option to work until age 67, as educators in overcrowded poorly funded schools, or move to another state where the retirement age is younger. Future police officers and firefighters will have to weigh the option to work in a dangerous profession where injury or disability is evident, until age 60, or move to another state and retire at a much younger age.

Even more alarming, is the deliberate underfunding of the Chicago Teachers' Pension Fund. The new law underfunds the Chicago Teachers' Pension Fund by $1.2 billion over the next three years. What many do not realize is this underfunding will result in an additional $12 billion in Chicago property tax dollars being needed over the next 30 years. Ouch!

What seems to be lost among many is that each of these short-term gains will produce long-term consequences. The new reduction in the cost of living allowance for new hires will be the lesser of 3% or one-half of the Consumer Price Index for the preceding year. COLAS were implemented to provide inflationary protection for those that do not receive Social Security. Teachers, state employees, firefighters, police officers, university professionals, secretaries and groundskeepers constitute 78% of the public sector that will live on a fixed modest income.

In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, metropolitan Illinois has seen a steady increase in the cost of essentials like food, housing, healthcare, gasoline, utilities, transportation and medical care. Overall, the cost of living increased by 17.8% during the 2001-2009 periods, when real wages for most Illinois workers were declining or stagnating. The fact that a portion of the population receives a pension means that a large number of older American households avoid material hardships associated with inadequate food, shelter, and healthcare.
"Real pension reform doesn't hurt minorities," said Representative Will Davis (D-Chicago) who voted against SB 1946. "It doesn't commit them [or anyone who is living on a fixed income] to a lower quality of life."

The reality is the new reduction in COLAs for many public employees will drive up the costs for the state in providing public assistance to those that once were able to afford the rising costs associated with inflation self-sufficiency.

P.A. 96-0889 was passed under the belief that Illinois would be able to recoup between $500 million to $1 billion in projected savings. However, the basis for that claim is unsubstantiated. Before the bill was passed not a single actuarial analysis was completed to determine the approximate savings, the impact to the systems and its workers.

Any theoretical or anticipated long-term savings have to be reduced by very real long-term costs. By taking short-term anticipated savings today the state is making the same reckless gamble it previously lost. The state should not be permitted to spend the present value of any hoped for long-term savings in the current fiscal year. That type of irresponsible fiscal practice propelled the state into the situation it finds itself in today.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Chicago Teamsters Local 705 Endorses HR 676

Teamsters Local 705 of Chicago has endorsed HR 676, the national single payer health care legislation introduced by Congressman John Conyers. The local is among the largest representing over 15,000 members who work in the trucking, moving and shipping industries including United Parcel Services (UPS) in the Chicago area.

The bill is still on the table in the 111th Congress with 87 co-sponsors in addition to Congressman Conyers.

A total of 14 Teamster locals or other IBT bodies have endorsed HR 676. In addition to Local 705, they include Local 619 GCC/IBT in Louisville; Division 4 of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers BLET/IBT in Toledo; Local 4N in San Francisco; Ohio State Legislative Board BLET/IBT in Columbus, Ohio; Lithographers Local 1L in New Jersey; Local 546M in Cleveland; Local 559 in South Windsor, Connecticut; Local 31-N in Baltimore; Local 805 in Long Island City; Local 612M in West Caldwell, New Jersey; Local 767M in Kent, Washington; Local 6-505M in Maryland Heights, Missouri; and Local 206 of Portland, Oregon.

HR 676 would institute a single payer health care system by expanding a greatly improved Medicare system to everyone residing in the U. S.

HR 676 would cover every person for all necessary medical care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental, mental health, home health, physical therapy, rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision care, hearing services including hearing aids, chiropractic, durable medical equipment, palliative care, and long term care.

HR 676 ends deductibles and co-payments. HR 676 would save hundreds of billions annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs.

In the current Congress, HR 676 has 87 co-sponsors in addition to Conyers.

HR 676 has been endorsed by 581 union organizations in 49 states including 135 Central Labor Councils and Area Labor Federations and 39 state AFL-CIO's (KY, PA, CT, OH, DE, ND, WA, SC, WY, VT, FL, WI, WV, SD, NC, MO, MN, ME, AR, MD-DC, TX, IA, AZ, TN, OR, GA, OK, KS, CO, IN, AL, CA, AK, MI, MT, NE, NY, NV & MA).

For further information, a list of union endorsers, or a sample endorsement resolution, contact:

Kay Tillow
All Unions Committee For Single Payer Health Care--HR 676
c/o Nurses Professional Organization (NPO)
1169 Eastern Parkway, Suite 2218
Louisville, KY 40217
(502) 636 1551

Friday, April 9, 2010

Republican Party Excites Scientific Community

By Bill Appelhans

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proclamation declaring April Confederate History Month could lead to evidence that would further validate the theory of evolution.

As we all know, evolution is the change in the inherited traits of a population of organisms through successive generations. These changes generally lead to more complicated and more efficient forms of life, particularly in the case of human beings.

Beginning in 1981 with the election of Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party has provided evolutionary biologists a unique and novel opportunity to identify changes that have taken place in the evolution of humans since they branched off from an ancestor we have in common with the monkeys.

Scientists have discovered the social and political actions of the Republican Party during this period seem to be signposts of the evolutionary process going in reverse. In a sort of self-inflicted "reverse engineering", the Republicans are devolving.

The scientific community is looking forward with excitement to see if the process continues and, indeed, if once begun, is it reversible.

In addition to the possible insights about evolution to be learned from studying the devolution of Republican humans, scientists anticipate profound changes in their understanding of earth sciences because the concept of devolution has hitherto been thought a biological fallacy.

And for the Republican Party, will the future show that past is truly prologue?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What is the role of government?

By John Bachtell

When Barack Obama was elected president, he stressed the history-making election victory was “not the change we seek but the opportunity to make that change.” Being elected, it turns out, is only half the battle.

Once elected, officials must legislate and then it’s up to the institutions of government to implement policy.

The role of government and its ability to make a difference in people’s daily lives is not a question the progressive or democratic movement can take lightly. This question was at the heart of the health care reform battle.

Government is not a classless concept. Under capitalism, monopoly corporations dominate government policy and its institutions. U.S. capitalism has developed to such a stage that corporations and finance capital and government are fully integrated into the state. Marxists call it state-monopoly capitalism.

At the level of postal service, sanitation, water, fire, policy and emergency response - the question is not whether government or not. (Although there are battles of privatization and budget cuts.) But on issues big and small, the question is government for whom - Wall Street and multinational corporations or the people?

For 30 years the extreme right wing and Republicans have been doing every thing in their power to dismantle the part of government that addresses people’s needs, and protects them from the worst corporate exploitation and discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation.

Grover Norquist, co-author of the Republican “Contract with America” famously said, “My goal is to cut government in half in 25 years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

The Republicans carried out a strategy over the past 30 years of deliberately running up massive deficits to bankrupt government and force massive cuts in social spending and the elimination of social programs. The Tea Party movement and its “”Contract For America” is a logical extension of this.

At the same time Wall Street, and the Republican ultra right were obliterating corporate regulation and turning government into an instrument for unrestrained exploitation.

Even while the Republicans were calling for an end to big government, they were enriching the military corporations with exploding military budgets, subsidizing corporate profits, aiding outsourcing, bolstering government intrusion into privacy, wiretapping and stomping on basic constitutional rights.

We are entering a new era of potentially widespread reform, with a president who has a different attitude toward the role of government. It’s complicated because the Obama administration reflects the coalition that elected him and there are pressures from all directions - powerful sections of monopoly capital vies with a labor-led mass people’s coalition and movements to seek advantage.

Government is an arena of the class struggle. Whenever government actually serves the interests of people it is the result of bitterly fought battles. This is true at all levels, from federal government to local school councils.

The broad labor-led democratic movements will have to win power at neighborhood, city, state and federal levels to transform government to favor the multi-racial, multi-national people's interests. Those of us living in Chicago can attest to that. The election of Harold Washington as mayor initiated a brief era of unprecedented reform in city government that is being felt to this day.

One of the biggest hurdles in the health care reform fight was whether people had confidence government could administer health care. With the victory the battle now shifts to implementation.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which administers the programs, have been without an administrator since October 2006. Obama is appointing Dr. Donald Berwick, a professor of pediatrics and health care policy at Harvard medical School, renowned for his efforts to improve the quality and efficiency of health care. The health care law's implementation, plus the battle for the role of government, are issues in the fight to extend reform to the public option, Medicare buy-in or a single-payer system and so the current reform must succeed.

People are often of two minds when it comes to government. They appreciate social services and any protections from corporate exploitation, racial or gender discrimination. But people’s faith in government has eroded in the face of the constant anti-government ultra-right ideological barrage, and the actions of the state itself. A recent Pew poll found a majority agreed the government is "so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens."

Ineffective -- and repressive -- government also erodes confidence. The flood of big money into elections and lobbying, waste and corruption also turns off people. People become cynical when incompetent right wing ideologues are placed in positions of authority ruin and loot departments. The most notorious example is FEMA under “Heck-of-a-job” Brownie, who oversaw the disaster in New Orleans. And when government is repressive -- from Supreme Court decisions that take the side of corporations to political prisoners and witchhunts to police brutality and trampling on constitutional rights --those actions also erode confidence.

How seriously Pres. Obama views effectiveness of government struck me when he selected Dr. Thomas Frieden, to be the director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. As the New York Times reported, Frieden took a broom to the CDC, much to the delight of the staff.

The director appointed by Bush had established a layer of non-scientific managers. Money was siphoned off for new buildings, furniture, etc. Meanwhile the CDC was dealing with a growing public health crisis: 16,000 positions had collectively been lost at the state and local level over the past few years. Dr. Frieden has restored much of the agency’s previous organization structure, scientific management and effectiveness.

If we are to embark on an era of reform, the role of government and its ability to effectively serve the interests of the people will be at the heart of the battle.

Monday, April 5, 2010

University of Illinois - Chicago Grad Employees Set to Strike

The University of Illinois - Chicago Graduate Employees' Organization has been in negotiations with the University since April of last year and GEO members there have been working without a contract since August. At issue are tuition waivers (a traditional benefit of employment for grad employees that makes getting an advanced degree obtainable for gifted working class students) and tuition differentials (special tuition which is assessed in addition to regular tuition for students in certain programs. These differentials can change from year to year with little notice, making financial planning for a student's education exceptionally difficult). The UIC-GEO has voted 84% in favor of calling for a strike as early as April 6th if today's contract negotiations are not fruitful.

Please consider signing their petition at A show of solidarity and support from people across the country can help pressure the University to side in favor of keeping graduate education affordable to working class students.

Check the UIC-GEO's news page for the most recent updates.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Greatest Walkout Ever Known (A Passover Story)

When Egypt flourished on the Nile

And pyramids were all the style,

A guy named Pharaoh was the King

And what a big stick he did swing!

Among his varied kingly tricks

This Pharaoh manufactured bricks,

And every little while he’d say:

“Cut down upon the rate of pay!”

“Those Hebrew workers are strong and tough

And don’t work long or hard enough;

From dawn to twilight let them sweat

For more production we must get!”

His agents jumped when Pharaoh roared,

For he was Chairman of the Board,

And he had sworn, this kingly gent,

That dividends of twelve percent

On Common Stock he would declare

Each year that he was in the chair.

The brickyards went from bad to worse.

One day a man said, with a curse:

“We cannot live on, at this rate–

We need a walking delegate.”

So they elected Moses, who

Took up the burden of the Jew.

He tried to arbitrate the case

But Pharaoh laughed right in his face.

“Go chase yourself,” he said with scorn

“I made bricks here before you were born.

The way I run the yards suits me,

And I’ll be damned if I can see

Why I should listen to the kicks

Of any guy who just makes bricks.”

“All right,” said Moses, “then we’ll fight

Until you give us what is right.”

Whereas brave Moses pulled some stunts

That never have been matched, not once.

He brought on plagues of flies and blood,

Of slimy bullfrogs stred in mud,

Of cattle sickness, vermin, lice

(Which really wasn’t very nice.)

Of darkness, locusts, boils and hail

And when all these had seemed to fail

To make old Pharaoh cry, “Enough!”

He brought on something mighty tough:

The fearsome, crushing plague of death,

When all the first-born lost their breath.

That made the king capitulate

To Moses, Walking Delegate

Of Egypt’s Local Number One,

Brickmakers’ Union, which had just won

The first of all the countless scraps

Between management and Labor’s chaps.

Then Moses cried, “Go pack your tools.

If we remain here, we are fools.”

So out of Egypt’s bounds they went

For Canaan’s milk and honey bent.

And left poor Pharaoh to bemoan –

“This is the greatest walkout ever known!”

Recited at Great Labor Arts Exchange in 1981 by Ben Shouse of the Cultural Arts Committee of Cleveland. Reprinted in Talkin’ Union magazine, Dec. 1984.