New Ground 114
September - October, 2007
114.1 - 10.02.2007
0. DSA News
Fall Out Against the War
Greater Oak Park DSA
Send In the Clowns. . . Don't Bother;
And the Winner Is. . .
Wal-Mart's Giant Sucking Sound
2. Upcoming Events of Interest
New Ground 114.2 - 10.16.2007
0. DSA News
2008 Debs Thomas Harrington Dinner
October 27 Volunteers
Cook County Emergency
2. Democratic Socialism
Capitalism v Socialism
3. Upcoming Events of Interest
114.3 - 11.01.2007
0. DSA News
Kingdoom Days of Action
Fall, 2007, "Democratic Left"
October 27 March for Peace
Movement for a Democratic Society
More "Free" Trade
Locals 6 and 2293 On Strike
2. Upcoming Events of Interest
114.4 - 11.12.2007
0. DSA News
Wins of Change?
2. Democratic Socialism
3. Upcoming Events of Interest
on the Leaves and Blood at the Root.
by Tom Broderick
Just over four years ago, Oak Park resident,
Catherine McAvinchey was brutally murdered. She returned to her
apartment and surprised a burglar, who had already been through
other apartments in the building.
Rodney Adkins was arrested for burglary
by the Forest Park Police a few days later. They noticed similarities
between the Forest Park crime scene and the one in Oak Park and
contacted the Oak Park Police. Mr. Adkins quickly confessed to
the murder. Four years later, after an unremarkable and seemingly
fair trial, he has been sentenced to death.
Mr. Adkins has spent most of his adult
life behind bars for multiple burglaries and non-violent drug-related
crimes. There is no history of violence in Mr. Adkins' criminal
record. In fact his many years in prison are also free from confrontation.
When he burgled Ms. McAvinchey's apartment
building, Rodney had no weapon. After Catherine entered her apartment,
Rodney jumped on her, breaking her back. He took a kitchen knife
and slit her throat. Mr. Adkins is accountable, but execution
is the wrong sentence.
Mr. Adkins was charged with a capital
offense because he murdered Ms. McAvinchey during the commission
of a felony (the burglary). This is known as an eligibility factor.
Illinois has 21 eligibility factors that can make a defendant
face death, an unusually large number.
Eligibility factors are exploited by
prosecutors in plea-bargaining, which is how most criminal cases
are settled. In potential capital cases, a prosecutor threatens
death and a suspect gives up something to stay alive. The use
of eligibility factors is arbitrary and justice can't be arbitrary.
Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
notwithstanding, as a culture, we are moving away from the death
penalty. Former Governor George Ryan appointed a Blue Ribbon
Panel to look at problems with capital punishment in Illinois.
After two years, the Panel made more than 80 recommendations
for reform. Even so, they declared if all recommendations were
implemented, the system could not be trusted.
Our State Legislature responded by enacting
a scant few. One they ignored was that the number of eligibility
factors be reduced to five clear factors. Felony murder, where
the arbitrariness of the system is most pronounced, should not
be one of them. But, thanks to our lightweight Legislature, we
still have those 21 factors.
Mr. Adkins was most likely charged with
felony murder to coerce him into confessing to several unsolved
burglaries in the Western suburbs. If he would have confessed
to these, he could have been prosecuted for them, as well as
the murder, and been sent to prison for the rest of his life.
Mr. Adkins refused to help the prosecutors close the cases, so
they dug in their heels and sought death. Given that the McAvinchey
victim impact study did not ask for the death penalty, life without
possibility of parole should have been sufficient. But the prosecution
had an agenda.
Two days after Adkins was sentenced
to die, Juan Luna got life in prison without possibility of parole.
He had been found guilty of seven murders in the well-publicized
"Brown's Chicken Massacre." In this case, Mr. Luna
was convicted of going armed, to a Brown's Chicken restaurant,
and committing robbery and multiple murders. People eating and
working at the restaurant were herded into a storage locker and
murdered, one after another. When I mentioned the arbitrary nature
of our capital punishment system, the discrepancy in these two
cases and sentences is iconic.
Mr. Adkins' defense counsel, Preston
Jones, referred to his client as a "pathetic crackhead thief."
Rodney was raised by a mentally ill, single mother. He dropped
out of school in the seventh grade and became a drug addict.
He has been jailed for more than twenty years of his adult life.
If there had been mental health support
for him and his mom, how would his life have been different?
If there had been educational intervention, how would his life
have been different? If he had been able to learn a trade and
gotten an education in prison, how would his life have been different?
If our society believed in, and worked for social justice, how
much better would all of our lives be?
Why is the goal of our criminal justice
system not about keeping people in society as functioning humans?
Why do we focus on internment and punishment, the more severe,
the better? In his closing argument, Prosecutor Alan Lynn felt
comfortable saying "There's a special place for Rodney Adkins.
It's called death row." Death row must be abolished. It
is not beneficial. Its just part of a cycle where we respond
to one violent act with another.
There are all kinds of statistics that
make this an issue that we should care deeply about. When the
victim is white, a death sentence is sought far more often than
when the victim is a person of color. The racial make-up of death
row in the United States: African-Americans 41.7%; Hispanics
10.7% Whites 45.3% Other 2.3%. Executions, since 1976 based on
only inter-racial murders: White defendants executed for murdering
Black victims 15; Black defendants executed for murdering
White victims 220.
As I write this, I hear Billie Holiday's
Strange Fruit: "Southern trees bear strange fruit;
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root; Black bodies swinging
in the southern breeze; Strange fruit hanging from the poplar
The legacy of lynching has simply become
the province of our judicial system: States' rights. Sound familiar?
The right to decide that a human being is not fit to live cannot
be left to a judicial, or political system deformed over issues
of race and class. Justice can't exist in this environment. We
have to stop the State from killing.
In 1968, Robert Kennedy said: "Whenever
any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily
whether it is done in the name of the law or in defiance
of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion,
in an attack of violence or in response to violence . . . the
whole nation is degraded."
It is horrific as much as degrading.
Executions are carried out in our names because we allow them.
Our military industrial complex wages war because it creates
the material and ability to do so. It exists to wage war, and
it wages war to justify and enrich itself. Our criminal justice
system operates the same way. Look at our prison/prisoner growth.
According to a recent P.O.V. program
"Prison Town USA" in the 1990s, a new prison opened
in rural America every 15 days. The Bureau of Justice Statistics
for 2005 indicate that there were nearly 2.2 million people incarcerated
in our prisons and jails. This is part of a 33-year continuous
rise in the number of people in prisons and jails in the U.S.A.
Meanwhile, our crime rate has been falling for more than a decade.
With an incarceration rate of 737 per
100,000 residents we are at the head of the pack when it comes
to putting people behind bars. Russia, which once gave close
competition has dropped to 611 per 100,000. This puts them distinctly
in second place. Further comparison between the United States
and other industrial nations, figured at the per 100,00 rate:
Australia, 126; Canada, 107; England/Wales, 148; France, 85 and
Capital punishment may seem like an
issue of little import to most of us. But it is. Historically,
look at the Haymarket Martyrs, Sacco and Vanzetti, the Scottsboro
Boys. Government officials spent a great deal of energy to snuff
lives in these cases with no thought for justice.
These are celebrity cases. Most people
face execution under mundane circumstances, without any stated
political agenda. But dehumanizing and demonizing to exterminate
is still the State's approach. Few people on death row are heroes,
but every one of them is a victim. Guilty or not.
Just as history is written by "winners,"
criminality is defined and prosecuted by those with the power
to do so. Rodney Adkins is sentenced to death for one violent
murder. Juan Luna is sentenced to life without possibility of
parole for murdering seven people. O. J. Simpson can afford to
pay to play the system for a circus. Henry Kissinger must simply
take care in planning trips abroad so as to avoid being indicted
for war crimes and mass murder.
I want to thank four members of the
West Suburban Committee Against Capital Punishment. They helped
with this article, but more important, in pursuit of abolition,
between them, they attended every one of Rodney Adkins' court
dates: Sandra Shimon, Charlaine McAnany, Patrick McAnany and
For further information on the abolition
movement, consider the following organizations and their websites.
Locally, there is the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death
. Nationally there is the Death Penalty Information Center, http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org
. Internationally, there is Hands Off Cain, based in Rome, Italy,
Editor's Note: Abolishing the death
penalty is also a project of the Socialist International. See
Summer School 2007
by David Duhalde
The 2007 Socialist Summer School was
held at Local 1199 SEIU Martin Luther King, Jr. Labor Center
in New York City, August 10-12, 2007. This was the most promising
and exciting gathering in my four years as a member of the Young
Democratic Socialists. There was triple the attendance at this
year's conference compared to our previous gatherings. The demographics
reflected the growth and vibrancy of YDS. In addition to the
genuinely multi-class, multi-racial milieu, chapter leaders came
from as far away as Nevada and Colorado with delegations from
red states such as Texas and Kansas.
Friday night featured a group discussion
about YDS's participation in the United States Social Forum and
the importance of building social movements. The weekend's emphasis
was on internal socialist education and transforming our ideals
into productive activism. YDS placed special attention on creating
a program that gave all participants a solid foundation in democratic
socialist perspectives. Workshops focused on our views of the
Iraq War, Labor, electoral politics, gender issues, and race.
All attendees were required to attend an interactive workshop
on democratic socialism so they could become "tribunes for
socialism." Each workshop also had a concluding discussion
on how to take our values and put them into action. This excellent
balance of praxis set the foundation for our members' sophisticated
One of the most positive elements of
the new YDS membership is our sense of unity. YDS chapters no
longer want to be a loose collection of socialist clubs. We seek
to coordinate national actions to give weight to our work. The
continuation of our National Immigrant Rights Project and the
adoption of a Student Debt campaign emphasizes our work to be
the socialist voice in coalition politics. At this convention,
YDS voted to create a Coalitions Coordinator position to emphasize
the importance of us being a working partner in student and youth
politics. Chapter members already have been planning actions
with the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition and for the
Student Labor Week of Action.
This unity also translated into the
collective responsibility to make our organization better. The
new YDS is placing special emphasis on building a group that
people of color, working-class, women, and queer communities
want to join. Anti-racism and Feminist Issues Committees have
been reestablished, each with a specific project to create visibility
for their work. The new Coordinating Committee, with a respective
50% representation of women, people of color, and working-class
members, shall continuously support the efforts of productive
anti-oppression work within YDS.
YDS cadre appreciate not only our new
activist home, but also that the need for a socialist project
such as YDS's. From the Pink Tide in Latin America to our own
domestic backlash against the neoliberal agenda, there is an
important role for democratic socialists in politics today. A
revived YDS will continue the tradition of being the voice for
the left of the possible; in the streets, on campuses, and in
Editor's Note: David Duhalde is the
National Organizer for YDS. This article originally appeared
in The Activist; see http://www.theactivist.org
compiled by Bob Roman
Bill Davis died on September 4. He was
an officer the International Association of Machinists Local
701 and the National Coordinator of Vietnam Veterans Against
the War. He was one of those larger than life personalities who
inspire and motivate. His absence is a major loss to the Chicago
left and to the anti-war movement in general.
For more information about Bill Davis,
see the Vietnam Veterans Against the War web site: http://www.vvaw.org.
Matthew Shepard March
The 9th Annual Matthew Shepard March
for Lesbian, Gay, Bi, and Trans Freedom will take place 8 PM
on Saturday, October 6, from the corner of Halsted and Roscoe
in Chicago. The keynote speaker will be Nikolai Alexeyev, Russia's
leading organizer for LGBT rights. Chicago DSA has endorsed this
While homosexuality was finally decriminalized
in Russia in 1993, the country's economic and political crisis
has fed an increased clamp down on democratic freedoms that are
affecting all of the country's minority groups, including gays
and lesbians. As with the early years of lesbian and gay rights
organizing in the United States, Alexeyev and his colleagues
have had to risk violent reprisals simply in order to establish
the basic right of LGBT people to assemble in Russia.
At 7 PM on Wednesday, October 3, there
will also be a solidarity reception at the Gerber-Hart Library,
1127 W. Granville in Chicago to raise funds for the Organizational
Committee of Moscow Pride. For more information, go to http://www.gayliberation.net
or call 773.209.1187.
Housekeeping staff at Resurrection's
West Suburban Medical Center have fighting what they feel to
be discriminatory practices on the part of management there.
The situation seems to have improved, temporarily at least, but
no thanks to the Oak Park Community Relations Commission, a village
entity created to address such issues. The complaining employees
were warmly received by the Commission in January and assured
of action. Eight months later, the Commission has done nothing
except to decide that it really does not have the power to investigate
these charges. In the meantime, organizing continues and Resurrection
has been losing innings before the NLRB.
The Oak Park / Austin Health Alliance,
formed to enforce a Community Benefits Agreement and to support
Resurrection employees, is asking folks to save the evening of
Monday, October 22, for the second annual Community / Labor Celebration
Dinner where Pastor Dwight Bailey and the housekeeping employees
at West Suburban Medical Center will be honored. Details should
be posted by October at http://www.opctj.org
, or you can call the South Austin Coalition at 773.287.4570.
Greater Oak Park DSA is a member of the Alliance.
October 27 Against the War
As noted in New
Ground 113, United for Peace and Justice is planning
regional demonstrations against the war on October 27. In the
Midwest, the organizing center is Chicagoans
Against War and Injustice . Carl Davidson's Networking for
Democracy is lending its office as an organizing resource, and
Alynne Romo is serving as staff.
At this point, the plan for October
27 is to have a large rally in Union Park then march through
the Loop to a concluding rally in Grant Park. Further details
will be available at the organizing coalition's web site: http://oct27chicago.org ,
or you can call the office at 773.384.5799; they can use volunteer
help at the office as well.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers'
(CIW) latest target to be persuaded to pay tomato pickers an
extra one cent per pound. It's convenient, therefore, that both
CIW and Burger King are headquartered in Florida, as that has
made it easy for CIW and friends to show up frequently on corporate's
/ Farmworker Alliance (SFA), an organization allied with
CIW, just concluded a Labor Day weekend "Encuentro,"
where plans were made for "2 months of education, consciousness-raising,
and action to bring Burger King to the table". Chicago DSA
contributed $100 toward the Encuentro.
The two months will culminate with a
November 30th march on the Burger King headquarters in Miami,
Florida, to coincide with Burger King's shareholder meeting.
CIW and SFA are hoping to bring activists from all across the
country to participate. For more information, go to http://www.ciw-online.org
In other campaign news, the US Conference
of Catholic Bishops, in its annual Labor Day statement, highlighted
the CIW and the Campaign for Fair Food as a "Sign of Hope"
in an otherwise difficult year for our nation's workers, calling
the CIW "an example of how courage, sacrifice, and a passion
for justice can make a difference."
We refuse all responsibility for weight
gained after you read this item.
The Eugene V. Debs Foundation, custodians
of the Debs' family home and now museum in Terre Haute, Indiana,
will present its 2007 Debs Award to DSA honorary co-chair Barbara
Ehrenreich. The awards banquet will be held on Saturday, October
6, in Terre Haute. Tickets are $30. For more information, call
Charles King at 812.237.3443 or go to http://www.eugenevdebs.com
The National Alliance Against Racist
and Political Repression's Human Rights Awards Dinner will be
on Saturday, October 13, at the Lutheran School of Theology,
1100 E. 55th St, Chicago. The keynote speaker will be Cynthia
McKinney. Howard and Rosalind Morgan, Gloria Johnson-Ester, Virginia
Clements, Dr. Connie Mennella, and Mary Muse will be recipients
of the Alliance's Human Rights Award. Tickets are $50. For information,
call the Alliance's office at 312.939.2750 or go to http://www.naarpr.org
The 22nd annual Mother Jones Dinner,
sponsored by the Mother Jones Foundation, will be held on Sunday,
October 14, at the University of Illinois Springfield Public
Affairs Center in Springfield, Illinois. The program is "An
Evening with Utah Phillips". Tickets are $25. For more information,
call Jack Dyer at 217.691.4185.
The American Civil Liberties Union of
Illinois' Bill of Rights Celebration will be done on Saturday,
October 20, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago Crystal Ballroom, 151
E. Wacker Dr, Chicago. The keynote speaker will the Congresswoman
Jan Schakowsky. The Dinner will honor Richard A. Prins, Chris
Britt, and Dave Weiman. It's a formal affair, though black tie
is optional. For more information, call Marcia Liss at 312.201.9740x303
or go to http://www.aclu-il.org/brc/
The Illinois Labor History Society,
among other things custodian of the Haymarket Martyrs monument,
is holding its 2007 awards dinner on Friday, November 2, at the
Double Tree Hotel, 1909 Spring Road, in Oak Brook. They will
be honoring Reg Weaver, National Education Association President,
and the late Ella Flagg Young, the Association's first woman
President. Weaver and Young will be inducted into the Society's
"Union Hall of Honor". Tickets are $75. For more information,
call the Society office at 312.663.4107 or go to http://www.kentlaw.edu/ilhs
Your Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights Defense Coalition
(BORDC) will be releasing a 26 minute video, FBI Unbound:
How National Security Letters Violate Our Privacy, on October
26. The BORDC is encouraging public showings, broadcasts on public
access cable TV, and house parties. Watch the trailer and find
supporting materials, including a discussion guide, flyers, a
transcript, a copy of the National Security Letter issued to
Library Connection, and information on how to order a DVD at
BORDC is also in the process of developing
a Human Rights Abuse Database to be unveiled later this year.
Journalists, civil liberties activists, and others will be able
to search the database for stories of innocent victims of the
"war on terror". For more information, go to http://www.bordc.org
National Coop Month
Since 1930, October has been National
Cooperative Month. This year seems a bit less robust than 2006,
but you can find out more by going to the official web site:
. The site includes information about cooperative history, values,
and a database of coops that you can use to find coops in your