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New Ground 133

November - December, 2010

Contents

Green Results
Lobbying Against the Dealth Penalty

New Ground 133.1 -- 11.30.2010

0. DSA News

Democratic Left
Socialist International

1. Politics

Defend Social Security!
Death Penalty Update
National Day of Action Against Wage Theft
The Democrats and Social Classes
More Victories in Immokalee

2. Ars Politica

Damn the Disc Jockeys (and Other Comedians): Resistance Is Newsworthy

3. Democratic Socialism

Ideology Über Alles
For All The People

4. Upcoming Events of Interest

New Ground 133.2 -- 12.15.2010

0. DSA News

Join DSA

1. Politics

An Old Style Filibuster
But Is It Organizing?
Wage Theft
Death Penalty

2. Democratic Socialism

Eugene V. Debs

3. Upcoming Events of Interest

New Ground 133.3 -- 12.31.2010

0. DSA News

Talkin' Socialism

1. Politics

The Shattered American Dream
The Last Days of the General Assembly by Bob Roman

2. Democratic Socialism

Rethinking the New Left
The New Feminism

3. Upcoming Events of Interest


It's (still) the Economy, Stupid

by Bill Barclay

I thought about titling this piece "In a democracy voters (and non voters) get the government they deserve" or "Money doesn't talk, it swears." There is room for both interpretations of the 2010 midterms. But I'm not going to discuss money in the midterms, and I don't really know if people get the government they deserve. I am also not going to discuss the role of the Tea Party, partly from lack of space and partly because, except for the three senate victories (Paul in Kentucky and Rubio in Florida and maybe Jim DeMint in South Carolina) and four losses (O'Donnell in Connecticut, Angle in Nevada, Fiorina in California and probably Miller in Alaska), I have not seen sufficient information. I am certain however, that the hash this administration made of economic recovery and economic policy more generally, ably abetted by the Republicans, is central to the outcome of the midterms. There will be much written and debated about this election in the weeks to come, but as a way to help start that discussion, I want to talk about (i) the changed nature of the electorate in 2010 vs. 2008; (ii) who won and lost among Democratic house members; and (iii) what fights are ahead for which socialists and other progressives should be preparing.

 

The Electorate The much talked about enthusiasm gap turned out to be real. Compared to the 2008 presidential elections, the electorate in 2010 was whiter, older, more affluent and, obviously, more conservative.

Some examples of the difference: in 2008 the youth vote was 18% of the total vote and went heavily for Obama; in 2010 the youth vote as only 11% of the total vote. At the other end of the age spectrum, seniors were 16.7% of the voters in 2008 but 22% in 2010 with almost 60% of seniors voting for Republican candidates in the latter year. Minority voters were 26% of the total in 2008 and only 22% in 2010, with African Americans declining from 13% to 10%. Levels of minority support for Democratic candidates were little changed over 2008. For example, Hispanics voted 65% to 33% for Democratic House members compared to 65% to 31% for Obama in 2008. However, white voters were 74% of the total in 2008 and 78% in 2010. Republicans won 60% of the white vote in 2010 House races (56% in Senate races), up from 54% in 2008 for McCain. Union households cast 21% of total votes in 2008 and only 17% in 2010.

In all of these cases the turnout increases were among groups that favored McCain in 2008 and the turnout decreases among groups that voted for Obama. Unlike some commentators, I don't believe that the problem was the lack of support among liberals and progressives more generally. Many progressive organizations and individuals were very active in the weeks prior to the election and, except in a few instances, progressive activists do not account for enough of the electorate to explain the outcome.

The problem is the failure of the Obama administration to understand the extent of economic misery and anxiety and to develop an effective policy response. It is important to keep in mind that economic anxiety is as much or more important politically than actual economic suffering. The number of unemployed (many) or the number of people facing or already the victims of foreclosure (also many) is large. However, the number of people who are worried that they might become numbered among these two categories is even larger. For example, in Illinois, exit polls showed that 50% of the voters were afraid that they or a close relative might lose their home. And the response to anxiety was, as is often the case, to lash out at those who appear responsible and to seek answers in the verities of the past: cost cutting, deficit reduction, etc.

 

Democratic Winners and Losers I am focusing on the House for two reasons. First, the House is where progressive legislation was proposed and, usually passed. For example, the House version of the health reform bill had a public option; the House version of the financial reform bill was much stronger than the version ultimately passed -- the list goes on. The Senate is where progressive legislation went to die. Second, of course, the House is the body where control shifted, and shifted dramatically, to the Republicans with a swing in numbers greater than any time since at least the 1950s (probably since 1948).

While it is too early to have a complete picture of who retained their seat and who lost theirs, there is a quick take that is interesting. Going into the election there were 78 House members of the Progressive Caucus and 54 members of the Blue Dog Coalition . Without those 54 Blue Dog seats, the Democrats would have had only 201 house members, less than a majority.

After the results of the midterms, there remain only 25 to 27 members of the Blue Dog group and 74 members of the Progressive Caucus. The Caucus did lose one very prominent House member, Alan Grayson, as well as one Illinois Representative, Phil Hare. The Blue Dogs represent about 40% of the Democratic House members who lost. The exact portion is still to be determined due to counting in close races.

Let me be clear: I don't conclude from the foregoing that if the Blue Dogs had run as progressives many more of them would have won. A large number of them are from districts where the registered population is more Republican, particularly when compared to most of the districts represented by members of the Progressive Caucus. There are exceptions, however. For example, Blue Dog Jane Harmon won with 66% of the vote. She could in all likelihood win her California district with a more progressive politics than her tepid support for Obama's agenda.

I do think these results suggest two points, however. First, the Blue Dog strategy doesn't work. It does not have the political appeal to mobilize potential progressive voters and is not conservative enough to draw significant numbers of Republican voters, particularly as politics polarizes. Second, I think that a progressive politics would have helped many other Democrats who lost.

One other interesting point on who won and who lost: Democrats did well on the "Left Coast," especially in California. All 14 of the Progressive Caucus members from California were reelected, mostly by large margins. In addition, California voters refused to let money buy either the governorship or Boxer's Senate seat and also defeated a heavily corporate funded effort to roll back the state's aggressive cap on green house emissions. In exit polls, a majority of California voters agreed with the statement that it is "better to have an insider who knows how to get things done" than an outsider who "wants to shake things up." Perhaps people do learn from experience, after all. Oregon reelected its two members of the Progressive Caucus; however in Washington Jim McDermott lost.

 

The Fights Ahead The most important fight has already begun. What do the results of the 2010 midterms mean? The new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, is already arguing that it is a mandate to repeal the heath care legislation passed in 2009 and to reverse many of the regulations put in place in the Frank-Dodd financial legislation -- and to reconsider entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare. Perhaps the latter will be a wake up call to the seniors who supported his party? Richard Trumka has articulated what may be a better interpretation: the midterms were about jobs. Exit polls of voters do not support Boehner's interpretation: in a forced three choice survey, about 40% of voters wanted deficit reduction, a similar 40% wanted spending for jobs and only 17% wanted tax cuts. (ABC exit polls). Voters were also evenly split between those who want to repeal the health care legislation and those who want to keep it or strengthen it. In all polls, a strong majority said the economy is their major concern.

Some analysts have argued that Republicans will not pursue the agenda of the Tea Party activists because these conflict with or are irrelevant to the goals of their corporate funders. While this may be the case, I think it more likely that the pressure of Tea Party ressentiment will drive a much more confrontational politics.

The first battles will be over extension of unemployment benefits that run out at the end of November. Close behind will be the big economic fight over the Bush era tax cuts. Finally, the commission studying federal deficits and debts will report in mid-December and, despite concerns about retaining their senior voters, I think that there is too much momentum from the right for the Republicans not to believe that this is the chance in a generation to cut / privatize / eliminate Social Security. And, of course, not far down the road is the question of funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau headed by that noted radical, Elizabeth Warren.

These are all fights that socialists and other progressives must join, and not just from a defensive perspective (although we will need that as well). On jobs, Rep. John Conyers has a good piece of legislation to be reintroduced after the first of the year (currently HR 5204); Elizabeth Warren has already said she wants to work with and support the 50 -- yes, all 50 -- state Attorney Generals who are developing investigations into mortgage lending practices. We can help this process by escalating the anti-foreclosure work already underway. There are models to follow such as Boston's City Life, and there are other possibilities such as using the Illinois law that allows community residents to take over, rehabilitate and resell abandoned properties.

I could go on but the point is clear. The struggle for economic justice, for control over the US economy so that it is redirected to serve the needs of us all rather than the whims of the few, is only in the beginning stages.


One Nation?

by Bob Roman

This isn't about what happened at the October 2nd One Nation Working Together rally in DC. For that, see " (Chicago) DSA at 10.2.2010" by Bill Barclay and Peg Strobel in New Ground 132.2 ). This is about before and after.

Organizing for the rally got off to a late start here in Chicago, not until late August, though Chicago DSA had been among those arguing for a national jobs program for over a year at that point. Chicago DSA was one of several groups intimately involved in putting together support for the rally in Chicago. At early organizing meeting called by the New New Deal project, Tom Broderick represented Chicago DSA, but about a fifth of the other participants at the meeting were also Chicago DSA members. Chicago DSA provided a $500 contribution to subsidize bus transportation for folks with low income. We solicited participation with an insert accompanying New Ground 132 as well as with email "blasts." We set up a web page to allow people to pay for seats on the bus with credit cards. This motley, anarchic crew of organizations that included Chicago DSA ultimately filled more than 2 of the 15 or so busses that ended up leaving Chicago for the demonstration.

While the rally was intended, in part, to be an opportunity to protest the Obama administration's Republican approach to the economy, a major part of the rally's reason to be was as a GOTV exercise aimed at Democratic constituencies. One Nation was diligent and creative in doing this. But given the mild support among liberal "net-roots" before and after, and the conservative blog red-baiting and counter-spinning that was running two or three dozen posts a day for some weeks (there's not that much original writing but many repostings), one has to ask just which side of the political spectrum was actually mobilized by this rally? I don't know if there is any way of judging this, except that the election results will tend to speak louder than any other facts. This will also color any discussion of keeping One Nation going after the election.


Jobs for All

by Ron Baiman

On a Friday afternoon the day before the great October 2nd "One Nation Working Together" Rally, a group of about 80 economists, activists, union folk, and other assorted politicos assembled at Howard University in Washington, DC, for a conference on "Jobs and the Future of the US Economy: Possibilities and Limits." See the Chicago Political Economy Group (CPEG) web site for program. The conference represented an effort to bring together all of the major supporters of a large-scale federal jobs program so as to forge a joint campaign. The conference achieved its objective of bringing representatives of: CPEG, EPI, NJFAC, CFEPS, CEPA, CAP, USSEN, and PERI, as well as Representative John Conyers and staff together to talk about the need for a large scale jobs program.

Participants in the morning session were able to outline the contours of large scale jobs programs, talk about the success in other countries of work sharing and cooperatives, and highlight the long-term jobless future that the US is likely to face without massive federal action. The conference papers are being written up and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Review of Black Political Economy. A PowerPoint file based my presentation is now up on the CPEG web site.

A key point that all participants agreed on is that the US certainly has the resources to implement a large scale jobs program, i.e. this can easily be paid for through a financial transactions tax and other means, and that without a large scale federal jobs program it is not clear what will get us out of the current economic trajectory of stagnant or very slow growth, and increasing unemployment. In other words, in the absence of an economic "miracle" that defies all current trends, the private sector will not revive the US economy. We are hoping to lunch a national mobilization for a large-scale federal jobs program based on the Conyers Jobs Bill. What is fundamentally lacking is political will, not material resources.


Funding Illinois' Future

by Ron Baiman

On Friday October 29, the Center for Budget and Tax Accountability releases a major "Funding Our Future" report analyzing existing Illinois state budget proposals and suggesting reforms. The key points of the report are:

a) Illinois is a low spending (43rd in state General Fund spending as a share of GDP) and low tax (44th in total state and local taxes as a share of state income) both in 2008, the latest year for which these data are available;

b) Illinois has been cutting spending on the four key services (Health, Education, Human Services, and Public Safety) that make up over 90% of its General Fund Budget for over a decade; and

c) Under the existing revenue structure is running an FY 2010 $ 9.47 Billion (38%) deficit in its General Fund that will lead to a minimal deficit of $ 12.78 Billion in FY 2011 and if current trends continue either a $ 44 Billion or $ 54 Billion deficit by the end of the next decade depending on whether one is "optimistic" or pessimistic about future state revenue growth.

The data show without a shred of doubt that Illinois fundamental budget problem is lack of taxing not profligate spending. If Illinois taxed at the same rate as share of its income as Indiana, it would receive more than $ 11 Billion in additional General Fund revenue. Illinois has lower taxes as a share of its income than any of our neighboring states except Missouri. The report analyses and shows the inadequacy of, or harmful regressivity and jobs loss from, every major budget proposal hitherto put forth in Illinois, and proposes an alternative.


Other News

compiled by Bob Roman

Green Results

According to the not quite complete tabulations available at press time, DSA member George Milkowski received about 5.6% of the vote in his campaign to represent the 13th District of the Cook County Board. The incumbent, Democrat Larry Suffredin, received about two-thirds of the total. With one exception, the Green Party candidates for the County Board did better in Republican districts than in Democratic districts in Cook County. November 2nd was not a particularly good day for the Green Party in Illinois . Outside of some local districts, the party did not receive enough votes to maintain "official" party status.

Early returns show at least 15 Green Party candidates winning elections across the nation, mostly in local non-partisan races, though Ben Chipman was elected to the Maine legislature. Greens also won official party status in Texas, Michigan, and Massachusetts.

Lobbying Against the Death Penalty

The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is organizing two lobby days during the Illinois General Assembly's fall "veto session." On Tuesday, November 16, busses will leave from Chicago and Glen Ellyn for an 11 AM rally at the Lincoln statue in front of the Capitol, followed by a canvass of legislators. On Monday, November 29, it will be a "People of Faith" lobby day, with busses likewise leaving from Chicago and Glen Ellyn. The Coalition is asking for a nominal $15 contribution for a seat on the bus. For more information, go to www.icadp.org or call 312.673.3816.


New Ground #133.1

11.30.2010

Contents

0. DSA News

Democratic Left
Socialist International

1. Politics

Defend Social Security!
Death Penalty Update
National Day of Action Against Wage Theft
The Democrats and Social Classes
More Victories in Immokalee

2. Ars Politica

Damn the Disc Jockeys (and Other Comedians): Resistance Is Newsworthy

3. Democratic Socialism

Ideology Über Alles
For All The People

4. Upcoming Events of Interest



DSA News

Democratic Left
The Fall, 2010, issue of Democratic Left is on the web. This issue includes coverage of DSA's participation in the One Nation demonstration in DC, the NPC's statement on the November election, and the need for a social and economic bill of rights. If Europe can have a Social Charter, why can't we? CLICK HERE.

Socialist International
The Socialist International Commission for a Sustainable World Society met in Mexico City November 26 and 27 in advance of the UN's climate change convention in Cancún. For news of the meeting, including the statement issued as a consequence, CLICK HERE.

On 15-16 November, the second Council of the Socialist International of 2010 took place in Paris with the participation of over 400 delegates from all regions of the world, who were warmly welcomed by the Socialist Party of France (PS). The meeting, held at the headquarters of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, brought together representatives of 115 political parties and organisations. Penny Schantz and Stephan Peter represented DSA. For more news about the meeting, CLICK HERE.

 



Politics

Defend Social Security!
As Reagan most notably said: "There you go again." Ripping off the elderly, the disabled, the poor, and working families to stuff the pockets of the already wealthy. November 30 is a National Call Congress day to urge your congressman to strengthen Social Security, not cut it. If you missed it, or if you're just too shy, CLICK HERE for an online petition to sign. If you're into social networking, there are tools to take it to Facebook and Twitter.

Ten good reasons why the Fiscal Commission Co-Chair's Social Security proposal should be DEAD ON ARRIVAL.

Also on the Commission, Representative Jan Schakowsky, however, demonstrates that it is possible to balance the budget and not do it on the backs of the less well off. Her scheme is HERE and Daniel Marans' summary of it is HERE.

Outside the Commission, Demos, Economic Policy Institute, and The Century Foundation have produced a budget blueprint for economic recovery and fiscal responsibility. The blueprint prioritizes a strong economic recovery because widespread job creation and robust economic growth are essential to successful deficit reduction. More information is HERE and HERE.

And for a nostalgic look at an earlier attack on Social Security, CLICK HERE.

Death Penalty Update
SB 3539 started out as legislation to set standards for probation officers and probation services. It passed the Senate, but was amended in the Illinois House by Representative Karen Yarbrough to abolish the death penalty, effective July 1, 2011, instead. Left over money in the Capital Litigation Fund will be redirected to support services for victims' families and the training of law enforcement personnel. At "press time," the bill had passed out of committee and could be up for a vote at any time during the next few days. It's not too late to call or email your representative!

National Day of Action Against Wage Theft
Here in Chicago, DSA-er Tom Broderick was among the three dozen or so folks who helped a car wash attendant win a portion of the back wages owed to him. You can read about it HERE and HERE and more generally HERE.

The Democrats and Social Classes
At the Center for Working Class Studies, Jack Metzgar writes:

"It's more than a little frustrating trying to follow Democrats' analysis of social classes in this country.  Most of the time now, there are only two classes ­ the rich (very precisely defined as those with at least $250,000 in annual family income) and the middle class, which includes everybody else.  But in the analysis of elections a "working class" shows up, one which is invariably "white" and, it seems, predominantly male.

"Most Democrats, and especially the more progressive ones, know that moving the white working class away from its decades-long lopsided loyalty to the Republican Party is crucial to achieving a long-term governing majority.  But instead of appealing to this demographic electoral block directly, it seeks to lump them in with what Dems think is a universally beloved "middle class."  This is a tactical mistake, as in many working-class precincts calling somebody "middle class" is meant as a put down and an insult ­ somebody who doesn't live "real life," lacks common sense, and yet thinks they're "all better."  Believe me, I've been on the front end of this insult, sometimes deservedly so."

READ MORE.

More Victories in Immokalee
On Thursday November 16, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange signed an agreement to extend the CIW's Fair Food principles ­ including a strict code of conduct, a cooperative complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a worker-to-worker education process ­ to over 90% of the Florida tomato industry. The producer coop had been a staunch opponent of the CIW, threatening to fine its members should they come to an agreement with CIW, so this is highly satisfying news. Go to the CIW web site for more information.


Ars Politica

Damn the Disc Jockeys (and Other Comedians): Resistance Is Newsworthy

"It's pretty much accepted by serious media scholars that, while U.S. journalists may self-identify as 'liberal,' their product increasingly favors a military-industrial complex status quo. Critical media scholarship is on the wane, partly due to a stacking of the U.S. journalism academy with those lacking major-market journalism experience, advanced degrees in mass media and any notion that the parameters of debate must be wide in a self-regulating democracy."

To read the rest of Lisa Barr's wide-ranging critique of our post-journalism era, CLICK HERE.

Lisa Barr describes herself as "a diasporic U.S. journalist of the Fairness Doctrine era." She teaches journalism, mass media law and critical media theory wherever it pays the best. Her "Hegemonic Seam" blogspot explores the "passageways through corporate/state ideology," informed by Antonio Gramsci's media hegemony theory.



Democratic Socialism

Ideology Über Alles
"Overall, 92% of respondents chose Sweden as their ideal wealth distribution, an overwhelming preference that was prevalent in every demographic group, including the rich and self-identified Republicans." So why aren't we all socialists? The Young Democratic Socialists' Chris Maisano ponders the question HERE.

For All The People
It is the cooperation of working people that has brought the best of the United States to life. Cooperatives have played a vital role throughout the American saga, starting in its formative years. A staggering 120 million Americans belong to cooperatives today--yet the existence of such a movement, and its dramatic and stirring story, remain all but ignored by most historians. For All the People by poet, woodworker, and coop organizer John Curl seeks to reclaim this history.While National Coop Month was back in October and this book was published over a year ago, check out these interviews of John Curl by digital cinematographer Jai Jai Noire:



Upcoming Events of Interest

Events listed here are not necessarily endorsed by Chicago DSA but should be of interest to DSA members, friends and other lefties. For other events, go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/page9.html.

Wednesday, December 1, 7 PM to 9 PM
Miercoles Chicago Otra video-discusiones
1921 S. Blue Island Ave, Chicago
Showing and discussion of films by documentary filmmaker Raymundo Gleyzer. More Information.

Thursday, December 2, Noon
Mark Kirk: No Millionaire Bail Out!
CBS News, Washington & Dearborn, Chicago
Part of a nation-wide outbreak of rallies planned by MoveOn.org to protest continuation of the Bush tax-cuts. More Information.

Friday, December 3, Noon
Action for Jobs and Benefits
State of Illinois Building, Randolph & Clark, Chicago
Join Chicago Jobs with Justice in protesting the non-extension of unemployment insurance and the need for jobs. More information.

Thursday, December 9, 6 PM to 9 PM
Resourced
Art In These Times, 2040 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
The inaugural openning of a new art gallery in the In These Times office. More Information.

Friday, December 10, 3 PM to 5 PM
Getting Organized: New Strategies for Tough Times
Roosevelt University Gage Gallery, 18 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago
Panel discussion with Kim Bobo (IWJ), Jose Oliva (ROC), Lou Weeks ( UNITE HERE), Robert Bruno (UofI Labor Education). Chicago Center for Working Class Studies.

Friday, December 10, 6:30 PM
In Celebration of Shel Trapp
Cornerstone Center Leslie Hall, 1111 N. Wells, Chicago
A public meeting to celebrate the life of the late Shel Trapp. RSVP 312.243.3035 or email by December 3.

Saturday, December 11, 12:30 PM
CDSA Executive Committee
CDSA Office, 1608 N. Milwaukee Room 403, Chicago
All DSA members are welcome to attend.


New Ground #133.2

12.15.2010

Contents

0. DSA News

Join DSA

1. Politics

An Old Style Filibuster
But Is It Organizing?
Wage Theft
Death Penalty

2. Democratic Socialism

Eugene V. Debs

3. Upcoming Events of Interest



DSA News

Join DSA
Even though membership in DSA has the annoying quality of being pretty much what you make of it, being a member is important. At a minimum, it supports the national infrastructure that makes Chicago DSA possible. And if you're already a member, this is a good time to pay your dues. You can do it online if you Click Here.

But if money is a problem, Chicago DSA will accept any amount and pay the balance as our way of supporting the national organization. You can't do this online. Click Here to download the form to send us via the good old socialistic U.S. Postal Service. This is also a good way for folks who just don't like dealing with money online to pay their dues.



Politics

An Old Style Filibuster
Back in the 19th Century, of course, a filibuster was privatized imperialism. But come the 20th Century, it became merely an outraged U.S. Senator holding the business of the Senate hostage by speaking on and on. In the 21st Century, a Senator can essentially veto much legislation by simply threatening a filibuster. If the votes for ending debate are not there, the opponents win. When Obama's bad deal with the Republicans on extending the tax cuts came up for consideration, possibly because the votes for closure were indeed there, Senator Bernie Sanders, with help from Senators Sherrod Brown and Mary Landrieu, did his filibuster in the old style: he spoke. For over eight hours. As Lindsay Beyerstein at In These Times notes, this has made Senator Sanders something of a hero on the left. Mark Engler offers this perspective ("Neither delicious bread nor groaning hunger improves a shit sandwich.") at Dissent, while Harold Meyerson bemoans "the paucity of hope" at the Washington Post.

What did Senator Sanders say? Michael Baker recommends this video summary from the Daily Kos. You can get the whole speech (video or text) from Senator Sanders' web site here.

The fight now moves to the House of Representatives, where, if the whole deal can't be sunk then at least more of the Estate Tax might be salvaged. Gary Bass of OMB Watch explains what is at stake here. United for a Fair Economy has a resource page here and provides its own indictment here.

This is the time to call your Representative. The Capitol switchboard number is 202.224.3121.

But Is It Organizing?
At Talking Union, Bob Roman writes:

Union density, the percentage of workers who are a member of a union, has declined since about the middle of the 20th century from around 36% to something like 12% today. Unlike then, most of today's members are in public sector unions. The slight increase in 2009 over 2008, 12.4% from 12.3%, represents something of a dead cat bounce, even in the context of the Great Recession. So when the Chicago Center for Working Class Studies (CCWCS) announced a panel discussion on "Getting Organized: New Strategies for Tough Times" that featured Kim Bobo (Executive Director, Interfaith Worker Justice), Jose Oliva (National Policy Coordinator of the Restaurant Opportunity Center), and Lou Weeks (Director of Organizing, UNITE HERE Local 1) -- why, it was something of a must see. Held on Friday, December 10, at Roosevelt University's Gage Gallery, the discussion took place amid a photo exhibition that narrated tales of despair and loss. How appropriate, but then, maybe not.

Read More.

Wage Theft
Michael Baker recomments this special report from Crain's Chicago Business on the scope of the problem in the Chicago area. Click Here.

Death Penalty
The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty will be holding its 2011 national conference in Chicago on January 13 through 16, possibly on the theory that it will be a cold day in Chicago when the death penalty is abolished. The organizers expect some 500 leaders and activists to attend the conference. The registration deadline is December 17. Click Here for information.


 

Democratic Socialism

Eugene V. Debs
According to the Debs Foundation, "A new documentary film on Debs and socialism in America is being produced by Yale Strom of San Diego State University. Filming at the Debs Museum took place this summer, and the documentary is slated for release in 2012." The foundation, incidentally, has changed its URL and revised its web site: Click Here.



Upcoming Events of Interest

Events listed here are not necessarily endorsed by Chicago DSA but should be of interest to DSA members, friends and other lefties. For other events, go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/page9.html.

Friday, December 17, 6:30 PM to 10 PM
International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers
Jane Addams Hull House Museum, 800 S. Halsted, Chicago
Auspices Sex Workers Outreach Project Chicago. For more information.


New Ground #133.3

12.31.2010

Happy New Year!!

maybe

Contents

0. DSA News

Talkin' Socialism

1. Politics

The Shattered American Dream
The Last Days of the General Assembly by Bob Roman

2. Democratic Socialism

Rethinking the New Left
The New Feminism

3. Upcoming Events of Interest



DSA News

Talkin' Socialism
is Chicago DSA's new monthly "podcast" on socialism and left politics, podcast being a fancy way of saying these are audio files posted on the web that you can listen to, if you wish, on your iPod or on your computer. The program is hosted and produced by Michael Baker.

Episode 1 -- If This Is a Recovery, Where Are the Jobs?
Recorded 12.11.2010: Economists Ron Baiman and Bill Barclay discuss the financial-economic crisis, a financial transaction tax, and a jobs bill proposed by Representative John Conyers. 31 minutes, click one of these (same program, different format): MP3 (29Mb) or Ogg Vorbis (21Mb).



Politics

The Shattered American Dream
Rutgers University's Heldrich Center has been following unemployed workers to investigate their re-entry to employment, how many are continuing to be unemployed, and the consequences of the experience. The latest results document a "dramatic erosion in the quality of life for millions of Americans. Their financial reserves are exhausted, their job prospects nil, their family relations stressed, and their belief in government's ability to help them is negligible. They feel hopeless and powerless, unable to see their way out of the Great Recession that has claimed 8.5 million jobs. The survey shows that only one-quarter of those first interviewed in August 2009 have found full-time jobs some 15 months later. And most of those who have become reemployed have taken jobs they did not really want for less pay. Moreover, the recession has wreaked havoc on the retirement plans of older workers." The full report is HERE and a press release summary is HERE.

The Last Days of the General Assembly
by Bob Roman
The lame duck 96th General Assembly of the State of Illinois continues next year, right up to the swearing in of the new General Assembly on January 12.

The good news is that there is still a good chance for repeal of the death penalty. The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is having one last lobby day in Springfield on January 4. It's probably too late to get on the bus, but it's not too late to call your state Senator and Representative. It's time you said hello, anyway, right?

Because there may be some drama associated with these last few days of the 96th General Assembly. There is still the unresolved fiscal mess that is affecting social services the most. But some of the nastier stuff pending is being promoted by Democratic legislators, mostly from the suburbs. Rich Miller of Capitol Fax had an interesting commentary about it HERE. There are essentially three other major issues.

One is Workers' Compensation, the insurance program that compensates workers who are injured on the job. Senate President Cullerton and House Speaker Madigan have appointed a special committee on reforming the law, an act that by itself makes the labor movement queasy as such legislation, in the past, has generally been negotiated by the labor and business communities. The committee has been entertaining proposals from the business community that would basically screw those injured on the job. The Illinois Federation of Labor has a good summary HERE, for AFSCME's summary, click HERE.

At the beginning of December, House Speaker Madigan created a special committee on Education Reform with a mandate to formulate proposals for consideration before the end of the 96th session on January 12. The committee is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. While no legislation has been formally introduced, the committee has held hearings and appears to be considering legislation along the lines proposed by Bill Gate's Stand for Children. It doesn't hurt that Stand for Children made some $600,000 in campaign contributions to General Assembly candidates this fall, though Madigan would accuse me of being overly cynical if I suggested that this committee was as much an attempt to shake down even more money as it is an attempt to reform education. It has both the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Education Association seriously irritated; the Stand for Children legislation proposes some misguided (at least) measures toward teacher accountability but, more to the point, it makes strikes essentially impractical and illegal. If the Stand for Children legislation is passed, it will likely be the first step in making collective bargaining a myth for all public workers. More information can be found at the Chicago Teachers Union and Illinois Federation of Labor. The Illinois Federation of Teachers includes some testimony given at the committee hearing, including a statement by old DSA friend Gil Cornfield of Cornfield & Feldman. As of today, the next hearing scheduled for January 3 has been cancelled, but this could change.

It's not enough that Colorado's experience with a Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) has been a disaster, but Democrat Keith Farnham (Elgin) has been promoting such a measure for Illinois all year. Who could object to a "bill of rights?" But this proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution would limit expenditures by the State of Illinois to the previous year's, adjusted by changes in the average per capita personal income. The Governor, with the concurrance of the Comptroller and Treasurer, can declare a fiscal emergency, but even then additional expenditures require a super majority in both houses. You can see that this is the old, tired conservative attempt to resolve a structural fiscal problem by making it impossible to govern: Welcome to Hotel California.

The current vehicle for this amendment is HJRCA61, and lobbyists for labor are taking it seriously. See, for example, AFSCME Council 31. The current resolution has no co-sponsors, but the original vehicle introduced by Farnham gathered some dozen co-sponsors including Single-Payer diva Mary Flowers. Farnham is also on the Education Reform Committee, as his neighbor and TABOR past co-sponsor Democrat Linda Chapa LaVia. The resolution requires a super majority (3/5) in both houses to pass, and then it would need to be approved by 3/5 of the voters in the 2012 General Election.

Farnham, incidentally, was endorsed by the Illinois Federation of Labor, but both the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Education Association took a pass on his contest, though West Suburban Teachers gave a modest $500 to his campaign, and there were a dozen or so other labor PAC contributions of a similar amount or somewhat more. He also received $50,000 from Stand for Children's Illinois PAC, as well as considerable money from Speaker Madigan. (Also some money from the pro-choice Personal PAC.) One wonders if consideration of TABOR is Farnham's price for carrying "Education Reform" water for Madigan.

The $50,000 received by Farnham's campaign was about average for Stand for Children. The smallest contribution was $10,000 to Democrat Daniel Biss of Evanston. The largest single donation went to Republican Ryan Scott Higgins of Schaumburg, $175,000, who none the less lost his campaign. The other member of the Education Reform Committee who received Stand for Children money was Democrat Jehan Gordon of Peoria, who also received $50,000.


Democratic Socialism

Rethinking the New Left
Platypus got its start down around the University of Chicago some years back. Since then, it's expanded to a small, North American group, still slightly wacky but often interesting. On November 9, 2010, Platypus hosted the public forum, "Rethinking the New Left," moderated by Spencer A. Leonard. The panel consisted of Osha Neumann, a former member of the New York anarchist group in the 1960s, Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers; Mark Rudd, former member and national secretary of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and later a member of the Weather Underground; Tim Wohlforth, founder and national secretary of the Young Socialist Alliance in 1959; and Alan Spector, a full-time organizer for SDS for more than five years in the 1960s. Wohlforth is a DSA member these days, and Mark Rudd ought to be if he isn't. The panel discussion turns out to be far more interesting than a rehash of history because the panelists also get into what they believe today. You can read it HERE.

The New Feminism
The November - December issue of Canadian Dimension is devoted to "The New Feminism," and some of the content is online HERE.



Upcoming Events of Interest

Events listed here are not necessarily endorsed by Chicago DSA but should be of interest to DSA members, friends and other lefties. For other events, go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/page9.html.

Sunday, January 2, 9 PM - Midnight
"They Live!"
UE Hall, 37 S. Ashland Ave, Chicago
The IWW's monthly free movie and party. Donation requested.

Saturday, January 8, 12:30 PM
CDSA Executive Committee Meeting
CDSA Office, 1608 N. Milwaukee, Room 403, Chicago
All DSA members are welcome!

Wednesday, January 12, 5:30 PM to 8 PM
We Still Owe Haiti: A Community Tribute to Resilience
Chicago Freedom School, 719 S. State St, Ste 300, Chicago
On the one year earthquake anniversary, with over a billion dollars "donated" to Haiti and 1.5 million Haitians displaced, where are we NOW?

Friday, January 14, 8:00 AM
Students Subpoena Fitzgerald!
Federal Plaza, 219 S. Dearborn, Chicago
Join Wright College SDS, UIC SDS, Columbia Art Activists, and others as they deliver their own subpoena to US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who is currently heading this witch hunt, for his violations of civil liberties! More Information.

Saturday, January 15, 1 PM to 6 PM
Four Pathways Through Chaos: The Slow-Motion Crisis of Global Capital
Mess Hall, 6932 N. Glenwood, Chicago
Brian Holmes' introduction to several complementary theories of the present, each of which seeks to make sense of daily life after the financial meltdown of 2008 and the on-going "jobless recovery."

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