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New Ground 34

May - June, 1994


  • Anti-gay San Jose Council Member Recalled from OutNOW!
  • Midland, TX Rallies for Justice
  • Clearcut: a Video Review By Jim Madigan
  • The State of the Post Office by Barry Romo
  • Eco-Socialist Review Nominated for Award


    by Bill Dixon

    It might have been just another sunny Saturday in New York but for the hundred or so socialist youth who descended upon the Mexican Consulate, proclaiming solidarity with the Chiapas rebellion and demanding free and fair process for Mexico's upcoming federal elections. Of course, the place was closed, and in any case, it was more than adequately guarded by several dozen of New York's finest. No matter. The demonstration, loud if lawful, brought a grand climax to the DSA Youth Section's annual winter conference, the fifteenth such gathering of students and others from across the US brought together for a weekend of socialist strategizing.

    With a particular focus on NAFTA, a broad theme of socialist internationalism ran through the three days of panels and workshops. The slogan: Economic Justice Everywhere! Nevertheless, the forces of anti-capitalist militancy still emerged in all of their manifest plurality. The Conference also addressed health care legislation, national economic policy, generational politics, and multicultural and identity movements. Workshops included community organizing, campus labor support, and gay/lesbian/bisexual politics (where that brilliant YS perennial Dot Benz presided with her usual aplomb).

    DSA Honorary Chair Barbara Ehrenreich opened up a frank and free-ranging discussion over the future of socialism. Basic issues of social change - culture, economics, political agency - were given a fresh look in hopes of bringing new light to the prospects for a revitalized Left. The conversation went from the legacy of Marxism to the future of feminism. It began an exciting exchange which would last throughout the weekend.

    Bogdan Denitch (also a DSA Honorary Chair) closed the conference with a call to the revered socialist tradition of ruthless criticism. Denitch urged that socialists recognize the few advantages that come with their marginality: the Left today has little to lose by insisting on the full possibilities of democratic citizenship. If nothing else, we are relatively unburdened by the demands of pragmatism. For this, said Denitch, socialists enjoy a powerful if not always popular place within the movements shaping our collective future.

    Held in no less an appropriate venue than Manhattan's Norman Thomas High School, the Conference enjoyed a turnout notably higher than previous years'. A fair mix of college, graduate students, and non-students arrived from as far off as California, with a decent showing from states in between. All were immortalized by a film crew working on a documentary about "The Internationale," the ancient European socialist anthem. In a bizarre episode worth its own Walter Benjamin essay, the director had the crowd rehearsing the revolutionary hymn at least three or four times. But no one seemed to mind. "Also," he said before the final cut, "if more of you could put your fist in the air... It looks so great when you do that."

    Anti-gay San Jose Council Member Recalled

    from OutNOW!

    Voters in the Evergreen district of San Jose, California, made history on Tuesday, April 12, when they recalled - for the first time ever - a member of their city council.

    Kathy Cole, who in 1993 made statements that many considered to be anti-gay and racist, appears to have been soundly voted out of office in a special recall election. With 28 out of 29 precincts reporting, a total of 5,296 votes have been cast in favor of the recall, while only 3,665 votes were for keeping Cole in office.

    Cole, who is African-American, angered many in 1993 when she spoke at a black empowerment workshop and complained about how other groups allegedly received preferential treatment at City Hall. She referred to Latinos as "pit bulls," slanted her eyes in reference to Asians. Speaking about deals from City Hall, she said, "If you (sic) black and gay, you might get something out of the deal. Other than that, you are not important."

    Cole also voiced her objection to domestic partner benefits for city employees. Her anti-recall campaign targeted the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee, a gay political group, and co-founder Wiggsy Sivertsen as indicative of the "special interests" who wanted her out of office.

    The Cole campaign also faced negative publicity during the final weeks of the recall campaign. It was revealed that Cole had accepted illegal contributions to her 1992 campaign; she promptly refunded the excesses. Last week, a builders' group was found to have improperly laundered contributions to the anti-recall; however, the Cole campaign was not directly implicated in these acts. And finally, on election day, a letter purporting to be written by three San Jose police officers and which supported Cole, was reportedly distributed through the district; at least one of the officers came forth and announced that he neither wrote, saw, or approved of the letter. The city attorney's office is currently investigating the matter.

    In a concession speech, Cole staff member Manny Sandoval said, "She has a lot of faith and a lot of respect for the people of Evergreen."

    Once the election results are certified - which could take up to two weeks - the San Jose city council will then appoint a successor to fill the remaining two and a half years of Cole's term. Mayor Susan Hammer says that the council plans to conduct interviews and public meetings in the Evergreen district to help them select a replacement.

    Copyright ©1994 OutNOW!

    Midland, TX Rallies for Justice

    Downloaded from Internet

    A diverse crowd - which included gays, lesbians, African-Americans, and Hispanics - rallied together downtown Saturday (April 9, Midland, TX)) to express their anger at the criminal justice system and demand reform. The gathering at Centennial Plaza - which police estimated at more than 200 - was prompted by outrage over a 12-year prison sentence given to the murderer of a homosexual and evolved into an overall protest of the justice system.

    People held signs that included "Justice for All," in English and Spanish, "Stop Hate Crimes," and "Amarillo Queers are here, Stop Hatred." Adjacent to the Midland County Courthouse, speakers called for better laws, stiffer punishments, higher bail bonds and equality to minority victims. "That's not a justice system across the street but an injustice system," said Jerry Hon of Odessa.

    Hon's companion, 48-year-old Tommy Musick, was fatally shot four times in the back of the head April 14, 1993. The murderer, 18-year-old Ramsey Harrell, was sentenced by a jury in February to 12 years in prison for the crime.

    Rev. Billy Charles Cawley of the Prodigal Ministries Community Church in Odessa said key evidence - a confession of a codefendent yet to be tried - was not legally permissible but clearly indicated a robbery and murder intent.

    Hon and Cawley organized the event. Plans for the rally were recently expanded to include the plight of family and friends of the two women recently murdered in separate incidents.

    Angela Belcher, 21, was fatally shot outside a Midland nightclub in November and Catalina Chavez Mireles, 18, was fatally shot three times at her parents home in December. Suspects in both crimes have yet to be tried.

    Ms. Belcher's father, Tony Belcher, criticized the low bond - $15,000 - set on the murder suspect, 20-year-old Sherry Henderson. He compared that to the $150,000 bond for a man recently arrested on charges of burglarizing "richy homes."

    "What they're telling me is we base more value on property than life," he said.

    Belcher said he fears the possibility of a light sentence and reminded the crowd of Musick being shot in the head four times and the murderer's subsequent punishment.

    "Our daughter was shot only once in the heart. Who knows what the verdict will be?" he said.

    "We refuse to accept another Tommy Musick verdict," he said. The crowd stood and cheered.

    Jose Chavez, father of Ms. Mireles, also denounced the $50,000 bond set on the man accused of gunning down his daughter.

    "The man who killed our daughter is already out on the streets. I want to know if this is the justice we should have," he said. The suspect, the victim's husband, Rogelio Mireles, recently rid himself of an electronic monitor and his whereabouts are unknown.

    Others who spoke out about the criminal justice system included representatives from the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

    People from several gay/lesbian groups from across the state turned out for the rally as well.

    Dianne Hardy-Garcia, executive director of the Austin-based Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas, categorized Musick's murder as one in another series of hate crimes across the state.

    "I want to tell you this is a pattern in Texas, a pattern we cannot be silent about," she sadly.

    Ms. Hardy-Garcia criticized Harrell's defense - that he was temporarily insane because of an alleged pass Musick made at the co-defendent, 19-year-old Michael Thomas.

    "We know all you have to do to get off murdering a fag in Texas is allege he made a pass at you," Ms. Hardy-Garcia said.

    "They used gay to get away and we can't let them do it," said Kathy Rhodes, who described herself as a heterosexual mother from Odessa.

    Another speaker, Ed Bulland of Dallas, said Harrell should have been taken out behind the courthouse and shot in the back of the head. Ms. Hardy-Garcia denounced such extremes.

    The rally, which lasted about two hours, ended peacefully. Police said they had received anonymous calls about a counter protest but no such opposition occurred.

    Clearcut: a Video Review

    By Jim Madigan

    Directed by: Richard Bugajski; Cast: Ron Lea, Graham Greene, Michael Hogan, Floyd Red Crow Westerman; Academy Entertainment: Distributed by Northern Arts Entertainment, Inc., Canada.

    Films can, depending on their intent, entertain, amuse, thrill, or even titillate, but rarely do they enlighten - Clearcut is a wonderful exception.

    The film takes place on an unspecified Canadian Indian Reservation. Corporate logging interests have just won a court case allowing them access to thousands of acres of virgin forest which they intend to "clearcut."

    The film's main protagonist is Peter Maguire (Ron Lea), the tribe's young, white and progressive lawyer, who has not only lost the court battle but also his faith. Maguire's opposite number is Bud Ricketts (Michael Hogan), the mill owner, who is a self-described "filthy industrialist." I know what you're thinking - pretty standard stuff: young white lawyer defends noble native peoples against corporate slug and good ultimately triumphs. Not in this film.

    Into the political landscape steps Arthur (Graham Greene), an avenging native phantom, who sees both Ricketts and Maguire as the enemy. Throughout the bulk of the film Arthur forces both men, but particularly the well intentioned but spiritually blind Maguire, to see themselves for who they really are.

    For Maguire and Ricketts it's a violent and mind-numbing journey of self-discovery with Arthur as teacher, captor and trickster-god. For Arthur it is a calculated leap into the void, a journey of self-sacrifice rather than self-discovery, born of anger, frustration and his intense love for his people and mother earth.

    Clearcut is one the most honest, intelligent and provocative films I've seen in years. It's a film about true commitment verses dilettantism, about the illusionary "house of mirrors" we call the court system verses the reality of nature and native peoples and, most importantly, it's about perspective; from the vantage point of the world's native people's all of us caught in the western techno-materialist grip are the enemy. Clearcut is the film Dances with Wolves should have been. Do yourself a favor and rent it.

    Note: This film is not intended for small children. There is strong language and scenes of graphic violence. Also, if you care to comment on this review or wish to write a review of your own, send it to Chicago DSA in care of New Ground.

    The State of the Post Office

    by Barry Romo

    I've worked at the U.S. Postal Service for more than 17 years as a mail handler. I've also been a steward, chief steward, and editor of the union branch newsletter.

    Answering the question, "Why is mail service so bad?" is easy: management.

    For starters, the Postal Service has been run by Republicans. Yes, those great businessmen (and I do mean men) have been making the decisions for 12 long years. The Board of Governors, The Postmaster General are Republicans. These appointees of Reagan and Bush have been setting policy and making priorities. Delivery and customer service have not been among them.

    Quite frankly, it is not surprising that the Postmaster General's response to poor delivery was, "It'll take five years to correct." We've recognized that kind of arrogance in poor work conditions for years. In fact, Postmaster General Marvin Runyon's nick name is "Carvin Marvin" for specializing in personnel cuts. Despite the fact that the Post Office ties together rural and remote America with urban America, few among management want it to retain first class service. I don't know if they've intentionally sabotaged service, but it looks that way from here.

    The Post Office cannot be in competition with other private "businesses". That's why copy machines in the Postal lobbies cost twenty-five cents instead of a nickle: so as not to be in competition with Kinko's, for instance.

    All mail is flown by private carrier (i.e., United, American Airlines). The mail is turned over to the airlines who load it into their cargo bays. Of course, if they have plenty of passengers with lots of luggage, guess which waits for the next (or the next) flight out?

    Most industrial countries pay twice the twenty-nine cents for first class service and the service reflects that. But you can't have it both ways: cheap and prompt. Mail service is labor intensive. More than twice the mail is now being delivered with substantially fewer employees.

    There is more than a little racism in the criticisms of the Post Office. First, who gets listened to? Do you really believe service is worse in the lake front condos than in Cabrini Green? Second, who gets blamed? Quite frankly, the faces of carriers have changed from white males to a rainbow of both sexes.

    It's not to say that there are no slackers, alcoholics or drug addicts working in the Post Office. I have worked on the railroad, made Oldsmobile dashboards, cut meat, washed cars and been in the Army. Its about the same- maybe less- in the Post Office.

    Eco-Socialist Review Nominated for Award

    Eco-Socialist Review, the national journal of DSA's Ecology and Socialism Commission, has been nominated for the Utne Reader's Alternative Press Award in the Special Interest category. Among the 14 publications nominated were such major publications as Earth Island Journal, Urban Ecologist, Tricycle, Disability Rag, Social Policy and Left Business Observer. A more bourgeois publication might suggest this is pretty heavy competition, but we prefer to think of it as distinguished company.

    Eco-Socialist Review is published by Chicago DSA. Subscriptions are $10 per year. Individual copies are $2.00. Subscriptions and copies are available through the Chicago DSA office, 1608 N. Milwaukee, Room 403, Chicago, IL 60647. Make checks payable to Chicago DSA.


    By Bruce Bentley

    On April 9th 600-700 people attended the Staley Workers' Solidarity March for Social and Economic Justice in Decatur, IL. The march brought together Decatur labor, clergy and African American groups to support the locked-out Allied Industrial Workers and commemorate the 26th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's support of labor in Memphis where he was assassinated. Naturally the local media stated that there were only 300 people in attendance. According to the Staley workers, the march has created a needed injection of inspiration, solidarity and hope in their struggle as well as establishing solidarity with the African-American and clerical communities. A major solidarity march and demonstration is planned for June 25 in Decatur.


    By Bruce Bently

    Three officer positions are due for election at the June 18th Membership Meeting A description of the responsibility of each office follows, from its minimal responsibility to a maximum visionary scale. The latter is only a suggestion; being a volunteer organization, each office on the Executive Committee is in large part what the individual wishes to make of it.

    Secretary: Two year term

    Minimum: take minutes at Executive Committee Meetings and Membership Meetings and Conventions. Type, file and mail minutes to key list. Approximate time required is 5-6 hours a month. Maximum: correspondence/networking with progressive/left organizations.

    Treasurer: Two year term

    Minimum: maintain checking account, pay bills, provide monthly Treasurer's report to EC and an annual fiscal budget. Approximate time required is 4-5 hours a month. Maximum: fundraising, accounting in detail.

    Female Co-Chair: Two year term

    Minimum: preside over membership and EC meetings. Approximate time required is 2-3 hours. Maximum: spokesperson and liaison for CDSA with other organizations and public events.

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