by Bob Roman
Senator Baucus may have hoped to create an unstoppable momentum
to quickly pass the Fast Track
trade negotiating authority when he moved to pass it out of the
Senate's Finance Committee almost immediately after it arrived
from the House of Representatives. But the United States is cursed
and blessed with a libertarian approach to legislative decisions;
passage of almost anything requires some degree of consensus,
most particularly in the U.S. Senate where debate can be unlimited.
This means speedy legislation is the exception not the rule. Another
reason for the delay is some uncertainty that the votes are there
to pass the Fast Track. Finally, the legislation has essentially
been stuck in traffic behind other controversial legislation,
such as Campaign Finance Reform and "Economic Stimulus".
While supporters had hoped to have a vote late February, certainly
by early March, now a decision is expected sometime shortly after
the Senate returns from its Easter recess on April 8.
It is at this point that things become ugly or interesting,
depending upon your point of view. Far be it that a Beltway naif
such as I should attempt to explain the intricacies of Senate
rules; they are impenetrable to me as to most civilians. But the
bill will be open to amendments, and the bill's managing Senators
will bundle the Fast Track with other trade legislation, most
particularly with the reauthorization of Trade Adjustment Assistance.
Trade Adjustment Assistance is a program that was originally
passed to assist workers made jobless by their employment being
exported to Canada or Mexico as a result of NAFTA. The Senate
is proposing some fairly significant improvements to this program,
including expanded COBRA (health insurance) and wage insurance
as well as expanding benefits to "secondary" victims
of plant closings.
In one sense, this is an example of "genius" of the
U.S. legislative system: the way in which it attempts to make
legislation a "win-win" game of compromise. An instructive
example was the last time Congress passed an increase in the minimum
wage. The original bill,
as proposed by the AFL-CIO, was a fairly class conscious bit of
legislation with only two provisions: an increase in the minimum
wage and the removal of a tax loop-hole that allowed corporations
to pay their executives extravagantly and deduct that money from
the corporation's taxable income. By the time Congress was done
with the minimum wage legislation, it contained an increase in
the minimum wage and a nice menu of tax breaks for business. In
essence, Congress passed the minimum wage by assuring the business
community that Uncle Sam would pay for it. (That's mostly you
and me, not business, incidentally!)
In part, this is what the Senate managers of the Fast Track
are attempting to do with the Fast Track: something for you
and something for you. Are we all happy yet? And in part,
it's also an ugly and evil game of chicken. The Trade Adjustment
Assistance is not an extravagant program even in its proposed
upgrade, but it makes a consequential difference in the lives
of working men and women and in our communities. Senators Daschle,
Baucus and Grassley are telling us: the Fast Track passes, or
If this were only a case of dividing up the pie, as it was
with the minimum wage, it would simply be another instance of
sausage making. But far more is at stake here. The trade negotiations
that the Fast Track legislation concerns determine far more than
an immediate division of some economic pie. They are intimately
concerned with the basic rules that determine how trade is conducted,
the authority of the state to intervene in the conduct of trade
(including conditions of employment, consumer and environmental
regulation, etc.), and most importantly the ability of labor and
other social movements to organize effectively.
Opponents of the Fast Track will attempt to amend the bill
to include their own instructions to the U.S. trade negotiators:
provisions to protect anti-dumping legislation, restrict intellectual
"property" rights especially in connection with pharmaceuticals,
protection against restrictionÇ8involving labor rights,
environmental legislation, consumer legislation, etc. This is
partly to salvage something in the event that the Fast Track passes
and partly to poison the legislation so the business community
will turn against it. It's not clear that either strategy will
work, simply because U.S. trade negotiators have a history of
listening to instructions they want to hear and using the others
as expendable negotiating points. In that context, it hardly matters
what the Fast Track legislation contains.
This issue of New Ground should reach you while the
Senate is in recess: a most excellent time to write or call the
home offices of Senator Richard Durbin and Senator Peter Fitzgerald.
The AFL-CIO maintains a web site from which you can fax your
Senator. It includes a suggested text, which you can alter to
your taste. Go to http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/fasttrack3.
Washington Office: 332 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg., Washington,
DC 20510, Voice- (202)224-2152, TTY- (202)224-8180, Fax- (202)228-0400;
Chicago Office: Kluczynski Bldg. 38th Fl., 230 South Dearborn,
Chicago, IL 60604, Voice: (312) 353-4952 Fax (312)353-0150
Washington Office: 555 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington,
DC 20510, (202) 224-2854; Chicago Office, 230 S. Dearborn #3900,
Chicago, IL 60604, (312) 886-3506
by Harold Taggart
May Day is a window into the soul of America. The view is disturbing.
What lurks there is very alarming. Beneath the veneer of democracy,
justice and civil rights lays oligarchy, injustice, discrimination
As we prepare to celebrate May Day 2002, Enron dominates the
news. Due to the chicanery and irresponsibility of Enron executives,
Enron employees watched helplessly as their life's savings evaporated.
The company's executives, who were responsible for bankrupting
the 7th largest corporation in the U.S., lined their pockets with
millions of dollars. To them the employees deserved no more consideration
than insects do.
In 1886, wealthy businessmen led by Marshall Field viewed working
class people as nothing more than insects to exploit then stomp
underfoot. That year marked a concerted nationwide demanded by
working people and their supporters for a decent wage and secure
life for themselves and their families. The businessmen of 1886
placed no more value on the life of a working person than did
Kenneth Lay, Chief Executive Officer of Enron or his predecessor
In 1886 and 2001, and most years in between, the government
responded primarily to the wishes of the business community. In
America, dollars have more votes than the demos have. The 1972
Supreme Court ruling Buckley v Valeo insured that dollars
would dominate elections when the court ruled that money is free
In May of 1886, hundreds of thousands of workers across the
U.S. marched and agitated for better working conditions and pay.
At the core of their demands was the eight-hour workday. On May
1st, 85,000 workers, their families and supporters marched up
Michigan Avenue in Chicago to stress their demands. The police,
with the blessing and support of a large segment of the business
community, were prepared to gun them down like rats at the first
misstep. Miraculously, the day ended without an incident.
On May 4th, workers held a rally at Haymarket Square to criticize
police brutality particularly at the McCormick Reaper plant on
May 3rd and to plan how to respond. As the assembly broke up,
the police, who had been ordered to return to their station, instead
marched on those remaining and began harassing them. A bomb exploded
in the police ranks and mayhem ensued. Marshall Field and other
businessmen immediately seized the opportunity to get rid of the
leaders of the protests and demanded they be hanged from the lampposts.
Law enforcement officials at every level obediently responded
to the demands of Marshall Field. Police, prosecutors, politicians
and judges ignored all Constitutional rights and carried out the
directives of Field and his cohorts. The events of the first week
of May 1886 revealed that in the U.S. the Constitution is suspended
when the privileged class feels threatened.
In 2000, Jeff Skilling, then CEO of Enron, was among the 20
highest paid executives in the U.S. His salary and bonus for that
year totaled$6.5 million. In other words, he did the work of 185
people. His long-term compensation was estimated by Business
Week Magazine (April 16,2001) to be $66 million. To be worth
a compensation package that exorbitant, his qualifications should
include genius in the field's of business management, accounting,
mathematics, petrochemical science, finance and personnel management
and the ability to walk on water. However, during testimony before
Congress, Skilling seemed to have little of no skills. Could that
mean he can't walk on water either?
What were Skilling's qualifications? American executives are
paid about 16 times more than their Japanese and German counterparts.
One Japanese minister remarked that American executives must be
the laziest people in the world. They demand exorbitant salaries
then must be paid huge bonuses to get them to work. Perhaps the
qualification that commands such high compensation and distinguishes
U.S. CEOs from their counterparts elsewhere in the industrialized
world is the willingness to jettison one's conscience and treat
employees like dirt.
Skilling and Kenneth Lay were willing to strip their employees
of their life's savings. Field was willing to strip workers of
Kangaroo courts quickly convicted eight leaders of Chicago's
eight-hour day movement. Only one had been present when the bomb
was thrown, and he was speaking. Five of the eight were condemned
to be hanged. On what became known as Black Friday, November 11,
1887, four were hanged. The fifth had died in his cell under questionable
The May Day martyrs are famous around the world representing
the sacrifice, suffering and death they were willing to endure
to gain decent lives and rights for all working people. Businessmen
predicted economic disaster if they cut work hours and raised
the pay of their employees. They were dead wrong. In fact the
business community became more prosperous.
With the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the apartheid
government in South Africa, only two nations remain that do not
celebrate May Day as the international workers' day: Canada and
the U.S. The U.S. government and business community want to forget
their shameful role in creating May Day. We want to remember it
and those behind it.
History leaves little doubt that the privileged class has contempt
for the Constitution and the other institutions of a civilized
nation. The purpose of the Constitution in the minds of people
like Skilling, Lay and Field is to control "the little people"
to borrow Leona Helmsly's term for the unwealthy. Unfortunately,
many ordinary people hold the same beliefs. The privileged class's
near total control of the media produces a misinformed citizenry
that often oppose their own best interests. In 1886, the business-owned
media subjected the people to a bombardment of misinformation
about anarchists and pandemonium in the streets. Most were convinced
that the Haymarket Martyrs should face the ultimate punishment.
The roots of rights, freedom, justice and equality are very
shallow among most Americans. One of the consequences is that
we must wage the same battles again and again. We are fighting
the PATRIOT Act today. We fought McCarthyism during the 1950s
and have fought similar battles throughout our history.
Those who see through the hypocrisy, see through the window
to the rotten core, owe a debt to the May Day Martyrs and need
to do everything possible to realize their dreams. There is much
The celebration of May Day 2002 in Chicago will include events
from April 20 through May 4. The theme is Carnival Against
Capitalism: Another World Is Possible.
On Sunday, April 28, the main parade will begin at 10am in
Douglas Park at Sacramento and Roosevelt Rd. It will wind through
Little Village and Pilsen to Harrison Park. Everyone is invited
to participate and encouraged to bring some carnival item such
as a street act, musical instrument, puppet, costume, banner or
sign. Stilt-walkers and puppeteers already have pledged to participate.
Radical drummers and cheerleaders will be there.
Wednesday, May 1st will include an evening at the HotHouse
at 31 E Balbo. A panel will begin the evening at 7:00 p.m. when
experts will discuss the effect of power concentrated in the hands
of a few economic robber barons on the lives of average people.
The cabaret play Cold Chicago: A Haymarket Fable by Warren
Leming will be presented at 8:00. Beginning at 9:30, bands playing
resistance music will provide entertainment into the night.
There are events planned for every day from April 26 through
May 4th.For details, go to http://www.chicagosocialistparty.com/mayday/
or visit the Chicago
DSA Web site, http://www.chicagodsa.org/page9.html or call
The wars follow the most advantageous oil pipeline routes,
said Michael McConnell of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).
The most convenient route after Afghanistan from the abundant
Caspian Sea Basin oil reserves is Iran, he added.
McConnell addressed over 100 people at the kickoff caucus of
the Conference on Justice and Global Security held at St. Scholastica
Academy on Chicago's north side. Almost every problem is approached
as a war, he added. There is the war on poverty, the war on drugs,
the war on crime etc. The word has become so cliché that
the nation doesn't question its use under questionable circumstances
when thousands of innocent lives are at stake.
Chicago Peace Response organized the conference. Peace Response
is a coalition of progressive groups led by the American Friends
Service Committee. As can be expected from an AFSC-organized project,
the conference was nearly flawless. Although the attendance met
and slightly surpassed the estimated number of participants, the
number should have been higher.
McConnell criticized the waste of money on the military when
so many people are living in poverty. He believes we are at a
crossroads in history and the next few months will determine the
course of the world for the next 50 years.
The remaining panelists cited personal experiences related
to the 11th of September and enhanced security. Eva Rupp, who
works for the Commerce department in Washington DC, described
the terror and chaos that swept the nation's capital and her personal
tragedy knowing that her step-sister could be on one of the planes.
The most mysterious reaction in D.C. was the absence of vehicle
traffic, she said. Everyone walked. Rumors were rampant that another
20 planes were unaccounted for. People stopped periodically to
listen to the latest news reports blaring from nearby residences
About three hours later, Eva received the news that her half-sister
was on Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania. At first she was
angry and baffled. She traveled to Afghanistan in an effort to
understand what had happened. There she encountered even greater
horrors. Four tiny children in one family were so traumatized
by U.S. bombing they could not speak. They mumbled and blathered.
Trauma was common even among adults. Everyone had a story of family
members killed or mutilated by the bombing. The Afghan people
were just as baffled about being targets as Eva was. Their only
guilt was the soil they walked on, they protested. Most were happy
that the Taliban was gone.
Gene Stoltzfus, of Christian Peacemaker Teams, was a member
of a team that visited Afghanistan after the U.S. bombing died
down. Afghanis wanted to know where the American peace movement
had been the past 23 years. Over those years about 50% of all
structures had been demolished. U.S bombing killed an estimated
2,500 people in just four of 30 Afghan provinces. Those were the
most populated provinces. A problem never mentioned was the huge
boulders showered down on people and buildings when U.S. bombs
blew out entire sections of mountains.
Lucrecia Mejia, a Chicago resident, described how the lives
of people like her have been turned upside down. Latinos are afraid
to fly, not because of terrorist hijackings, but because of stepped
up security measures that will be directed disproportionately
toward them. Their dreams of amnesty for undocumented workers
are shattered now, she complained.
Laila Farah gave a novel presentation. Farah was born in Lebanon
but left with her family after bombing by Israeli then Americans
destroyed most of her native village. She is now an American citizen,
Ph.D. and Assistant Professor in the Women's Studies Program at
DePaul University. She presented a performance art piece titled
"Stars and Stripes" which described a recent experience
she had with Swiss customs agents when returning to the U.S. from
Lebanon. Swiss agents attributed detention and repeated body searches
to U.S. anti-terrorism laws passed in 1996 and the PATRIOT Act
passed at the end of 2001. The name of the presentation came from
the markings on the passenger manifest. A few passengers had asterisks
by their names. Arabs names had asterisks and yellow lines. "You
are either with life or you are against it," she said, paraphrasing
Bush's ultimatum to everyone in the world to join his war.
The second day of the conference was devoted to deeper analysis
of global justice and security and the relationship between the
wars abroad and the wars at home. The morning panel stressed the
theme that imperialism has always been a U.S. policy and September
11th had given it added momentum. U.S. conquests are acknowledged
and glorified in the Marine hymn "From the Halls of Montezuma
to the shores of Tripoli," said Bal Pinguel. Bal Pinguel,
a Filipino member of the AFSC, discussed his imprisonment in the
Philippines where he was sentenced under one of Ferdinand Marcos'
Military Tribunals. He mentioned his parent nation's suffering
under U.S. imperialism. Immediately after the Spanish American
war, the U.S. killed half of a million Filipinos and indirectly
caused the deaths of over one million more. Back then, the U.S.
called its aggression pacification. Immediately after WW II, the
U.S. killed an additional half million Filipinos. This time it
was labeled anti-Communism.
The panelists discussed the hypocrisy of U.S. policy. Other
nations contributed far more to the creation, growth and nurturing
of the Taliban and Al Qaeda than did Afghanistan. Dr. Mugabe Stovall
of the University of Illinois, Chicago Campus, said the street
name of heroin in Chicago is Karachi because that's the source
of most of it. Several experts discussed the dilution of freedom
at home such as greater police powers, reversed burden-of-proof
now put on the accused and gang loitering laws. Somehow, in the
twisted minds of our leaders, reduction of freedom at home is
necessary for the fight for our freedom abroad.
Melinda Powers of the National Lawyers Guild stressed how the
U.S. places different values on people. Afghanis are worth up
to $1,000 based on the payments made to families of "collateral
damage" victims. The family of an executive who was a victim
of the World Trade Center attack will receive an average of $1,000,000.
Medea Benjamin, founder of Global Exchange, was the keynote
speaker of the afternoon. Like many of the speakers that weekend,
she had visited Afghanistan after the U.S. attack on its people.
RAWA, the Revolutionary Afghan Women's Association, said they
wanted rid of the Taliban, but not the way the U.S. was doing
it. They absolutely did not want the Mujahadeem back in power.
Reporters told her that their editors had forbidden them to
write stories about deaths and injuries of innocent people. Her
group scheduled a news conference when it returned to the U.S.
because they had witnessed and heard many things that were not
known in the U.S. No one came to the press conference. No talk
shows would have them as guests, not even Bill O'Reilly or Politically
Incorrect. One reporter who got an interview with Mohammed Omar
was fired. Only Al-Jazeera would air their reports. There is an
incredible media cover-up, Medea complained.
Bombing is done from high altitudes. The accuracy is less and
there are an estimated 75% more civilian casualties. Cluster bombs
are composed of 202 bomblets. The bomblets are full of shards
of steel and shrapnel and are intended to indiscriminately maim
and terrorize. An estimated 30% don't explode. They are like time
bombs or mines that detonate later usually when some curious child
picks them u or plays with them. The United Nations defines them
as terrorist weapons.
Alexander Cockburn was the featured speaker at the benefit
dinner on Saturday. Cockburn is a bi-weekly contributor to The
Nation magazine and co-editor of the newsletter Counterpunch.
Cockburn believes oil is overemphasized as the reason for U.S.
involvement in Mideast wars. He also gives little credibility
to conspiracy theories that the U.S. was involved in perpetrating
the 11th of September attacks. The hatred for America is primarily
due to the disparity of wealth, he believes. There also is a basis
for the hatred in remarks such as that made by former Secretary
of State Madeleine Albright. Albright said during a TV interview
that the deaths of nearly one-half million children in Iraq as
the result of a U.S.backed embargo was worth it.
People in the Third World are better informed than believed,
Cockburn claimed. People in the U.S. are more misinformed than
they believe. Consequently, U.S. citizens are not equipped in
many cases to make decisions necessary for the operation of a
truly democratic nation. Corporate control of the media is responsible
for the U.S.'s information problem.
Cockburn acknowledged that there were many warning signs of
the 11th of September attacks. The failure to stop them was due
to information overload, he claims. Clues pointed to September
11th and to several other days. With all the intelligence gathering
systems in operation such as Carnivore used by the FBI, and Echelon,
a spy tool of National Security Agency, it's impossible to process
and interface everything.
The final day of the conference was devoted to dialogue and
focus groups commissioned to provide a plan for the direction
peace groups should take. The session began with a stirring talk
by the Reverend Calvin Morris of the Community Renewal Society.
The war on terror is a big lie, Rev. Morris shouted. The war
is an assault on anyone not fortunate enough to be born into the
privileged class. The war on terror is just a continuation of
war as usual, he concluded.
Participants in the breakout groups reached unanimity on several
issues. The media are the propaganda arm of the corporations.
They obstruct and divert the effort to acquire the information
necessary to make informed decisions. Corporations operate in
the interest of profits not of the nation and the people. The
government works for corporate interests.
There was not consensus on the current war. Many believed some
degree of retaliation was necessary to preserve U.S. security
even if that meant casualties among innocent people.
The report backs had nine recommendations. (a) Education (b)
Reform the media so that dependable information will be provided.
(c) Create a resources center for activist actions and community
education. (d) Rent a billboard to publicize progressive issues.
(e) Hold monthly vigils. (f) Communications to Congress. (g) Form
a coalition and umbrella group. (h) Support protests. (i) Reach
out to international groups.
by Tom Broderick
Abolition of and not reform of the death penalty was the message
of death sentence 2002, a conference held at the Lincoln
Park Campus of DePaul University in Chicago on Saturday, March
9th and at nearby St. Josaphat Church on March 10th. The conference
was attended by about 400 anti-death penalty activists, primarily
from Illinois. Over 130 Organizational Sponsors were printed on
the Sponsors list and Chicago DSA was among them.
The issues of race, class, official indifference and official
injustice were the subjects of nearly every speaker. Jane Bohman,
Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition Against the Death
Penalty (the organizers of the conference), in her welcoming speech
dealt with the thirteen men exonerated after years on Illinois'
death row. She spoke of police misconduct, the torture of suspects
by Chicago police, the use of jailhouse snitches by prosecutors
and the fact that 70% of the people on death row in Illinois are
people of color.
Dean Mezey, the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
at DePaul (another sponsor), during his welcoming speech remarked
that the focus of St. Vincent DePaul was on the spiritually and
materially deprived and the majority of those on death row come
from a materially deprived background.
Former IL State Representative Coy Pugh reported that Illinois
has a higher percentage of people of color on death row than another
state. Urging us to push the Illinois Legislature toward abolition,
Pugh noted "We have come a long way in the struggle, but
if you ask any inmate on death row, we have not come far enough."
Linking today's abolitionists against the death penalty to
those of the nineteenth century fighting slavery, U.S. Senator
Russ Feingold (D-WI) said "Those who fought against slavery
fought for justice and allowed President Lincoln the space to
sign the Emancipation Proclamation . . . This movement is a continuation
of the struggle against slavery." Senator Feingold, the morning's
principal speaker, called Governor Ryan's decision to impose a
moratorium against the death penalty, here in Illinois, a catalyst
for the nation. According to Sen. Feingold, conservatives like
Pat Robertson have embraced the moratorium until a thorough review
of the death penalty has been conducted. He faulted the U.S. Supreme
Court for not providing leadership on the issue, but says "the
tide may be turning as Justices O'Connor and Ginsburg have voiced
concerns over the fairness of the death penalty." Senator
Feingold, pointing out that in the United States, to live or die
is color and class related, urged us to abolish the death penalty
in Illinois and then take the message to the nation.
The afternoon provided the opportunity to attend two workshops
and connect with other activists. Some of the workshops were:
Why the death penalty cannot be reformed; Faith Communities
Perspective; Domestic Repression, Police Brutality and the Death
Penalty and Building Grassroots Activisim. The only
complaint I heard (and share) is that we were limited to only
two workshops. Everyone I spoke with said the quality of the workshops
The first one I attended was presented by two Amnesty International
Death Penalty Coordinators, Robert Schultz of the Midwest Region
and Mike Halperin of Texas. A.I.'s position on the death penalty
comes primarily from two points in the United Nations Universal
Declaration of Human Rights: (1) All people have a guarantee to
a right to life and (2) All people have a right to be free from
torture. Halperin said the term "capital punishment is a
vague and sanitary expression that doesn't come close to revealing
the truth of the situation. The death penalty is a process to
exterminate human beings. It is physical and psychological torture
that culminates in extermination. It is cruel, inhuman and degrading."
"The whole world is watching Illinois" according
to Halperin. Illinois is the only state in the union with a moratorium
on the death penalty and people on both sides of the abolition
issue, at home and abroad, are waiting to see what Governor Ryan's
commission reports and what the Governor then does.
Whatever the report, the Governor cannot put an end to the
imposition of the death sentence in Illinois. This task falls
to the Illinois legislature. Robert Schultz discussed three bills
pending before the Illinois General Assembly. The first calls
for abolition of the Death Penalty. It is House Bill 576, sponsored
by A. Turner, D-9; W. Delgado, D-3; K. Yarbrough, D-7; B. Currie,
D-25; L. McKeon, D-34 and W. Younge, D-114. We need to write and
call Illinois Representatives and demand they support this bill.
Abolition in Illinois could start a national momentum. The second
is House Bill 3743, sponsored by Rep. M. Flowers, D-21. This is
a fall back bill that would enact a moratorium through the Illinois
House and would need support only if the current or next Governor
rescinded the moratorium. The final bill is House Bill 5788, sponsored
by Rep. J. Brosnahan, D-36. This bill calls for banning the execution
of the mentally retarded. The law was originally passed in 1989
only to be vetoed by then Governor Edgar. There is no bill pending
that deals with the execution of juveniles. Apparently the United
States and Somalia are the only two member states of the United
Nations not to sign the International Rights of Children, which
would prohibit the execution of juveniles. Interesting company.
The second workshop I attended was Innocent men sentenced
to death, presented by Jane Bohman. It featured three men
wrongfully sentenced to death and later exonerated: Gary Gauger,
Darby Tillis and Steve Smith. Each of these men had a horrific
personal story. Police and prosecutorial misconduct were featured
in all three cases. Judicial misconduct was featured in two of
them. All three were apparently convenient as suspects and cooperated
in the police investigations. Even though police and prosecutorial
misconduct landed them in death row and ultimately aided in their
exoneration, the officials involved in the misconduct have not
been punished and in many cases have been promoted.
A quote from each man: Gary Gauger: "Politicians run on
their records of convictions, not on rehabilitations." Darby
Tillis: "If I go down the street and steal a potato to feed
me and my momma, I'm a thug. Well I say if Bush and Daley send
people to death row, they are thugs for personal and political
gain." Steve Smith: "Prison officials know they have
innocent people on death row, but for them it's a job."
The workshops were followed by the best $10.00 dinner I think
I've ever had. This was a time for socializing, entertainment
and more speeches. We were introduced to Jennifer Bishop and Renny
Cushing from Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation. This
is a national group of the family members of both homicide and
state killing victims who speak out against the death penalty.
They oppose the death penalty in all cases and seek reconciliation
through community outreach.
Mike Farrell, actor, director and President of California Death
Penalty Focus was the principal speaker at dinner. He spoke of
his involvement in human rights issues from El Salvador to Rwanda
to death row in the United States, linking them all. He spoke
of us all as "downwinders", referring to the people
downwind of a nuclear blast. The blast may not kill us, but it
affects us. He spoke of hope: "As the hope of the uneducated,
the rabble, became the trade union movement, the hope of this
abolitionist movement will lead to the end of the death penalty.
Hope is believing in spite of the evidence and then watching the
Also speaking during the dinner was Larry Marshall, Legal Director
of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, Northwestern University
School of Law. He has been responsible in the overturning of several
death sentences in Illinois. He mentioned the six Illinois Gubernatorial
candidates and their support of the death penalty. "All recognize
it was broken. One says it has been fixed and the other five say
it can be fixed." Marshall says the "stakes are high;
we must make sure the reforms are not passed, that the death penalty
is abolished." "Twenty-five years experience with the
new and improved death penalty shows it is not arbitrary. It is
racist, especially when blacks kill whites." "It allows
for the execution of juveniles, the mentally retarded and most
certainly the innocent." Marshall says that some people on
death row are afraid of the death penalty being abolished. Some
who claim innocence say they are afraid that if they receive life
in prison without possibility for parole, they will be forgotten.
"We will not forget them . . . they will not be the victims
in our political struggle to abolish the death penalty."
Sunday at St. Josaphat Church was an interfaith service with
music and prayers throughout. The two major events were the presentation
of the first Cunningham - Carey award to Governor George Ryan
(for imposing the moratorium) and a talk by Sister Helen Prejean,
author of Dead Man Walking.
Governor Ryan told us that he imposed the moratorium because
it was the only thing he could do. He had lost faith in the criminal
justice system in Illinois. Although he supports the death penalty,
he does not believe the system in Illinois is working. Since Illinois
implemented the death penalty in 1976, thirteen men have been
exonerated and twelve have been put to death. "Those odds
are like flipping a coin." Stating that he used to be a pharmacist,
Governor Ryan said "I would not be allowed to continue my
practice if I dispensed the right medication about half the time."
He continued "It makes me angry to think that the justice
system I believed in came so close to executing an innocent man.
I can't imagine how Mr. [Anthony] Porter felt about ordering his
last meal and awaiting death while knowing his innocence."
"More than two thirds of the death row inmates in Illinois
are African American . . . Many did not get a trial by a jury
of their peers . . . Is this justice? I don't think so . . . Time
and time again, we nearly strapped an innocent person to a gurney
to have lethal poison injected into their veins for a crime they
didn't commit . . . Ninety-nine percent accuracy won't do here
. . . The government can come in with the backing of the state
treasury, the federal treasury to take on anyone they want . .
.We have to have a system of fairness and compassion . . . a system
where those accused of a capital crime . . . have adequate and
trained representation." We must get away from a system where
the police believe the "win/loss record is more important
than getting the right person behind bars." So spoke Governor
Sister Helen Prejean continued the injustice theme. She said
her journey started while working with the poor. She noticed that
African American people struggling in poor neighborhoods didn't
get attention from the city. But if drugs moved into a white neighborhood,
action was prompt. "If you are poor and don't have access
to competent lawyers, you are out of luck." Referring to
the talk by Governor Ryan, Sister Prejean said "How precious
conscience is in a politician." She asked "when we impose
the death penalty, are we healing victims' families or are we
creating more victims' families. A great question to end the conference
on. A great question to ask our friends, neighbors and legislators.
compiled by Bob Roman
The Young Democratic Socialists are planning a Midwest regional
conference for Saturday and Sunday, April 6 and 7, on the University
of Chicago Campus in Chicago. As New Ground goes to press,
the details are still in the rough draft stage, but the keynote
speaker at the event will be Barbara Ehrenreich. There is a conference
fee of $15 to $30 (sliding scale) which includes three meals,
and yes, geezers are welcome.
The details of the conference schedule will change, but a general
outline looks like this.
9:30am- opening / registration / breakfast - socialism talk
11am- issue workshops
1pm- luncheon address on Universal Health Care
2:30pm- campaign workshops
4:30pm- Panel Discussion & Regional Planning Session (A20)
8pm- Barbara Ehrenriech keynote
10:00am- Training: Midwest Academy
1:30pm- lunch / wrap up
For housing, carpool and schedule information, call 773.834.6525
or email email@example.com.
For more up to date information or to register on line, go to
During the Bush and Gingrich years, Chicago's Coalition for
New Priorities was one of the centers of resistance to the conservative
agenda. It was part of a loose national network of organizations
devoted to changing the U.S. national spending from military to
domestic priorities through both education and action. When the
Coalition ran into organizational difficulties, Jobs with Justice
had just really taken off as an organization in Chicago. The Coalition
took the opportunity to find a home with Chicago
Jobs with Justice as the Committee for New Priorities. The
Committee spent the next several years largely holding monthly
forums. These were often quite good, but like many left endeavors,
they were haunted by that nagging feeling of talking to one's
Dubya's coup de court and the aftermath of September 11 was
the ton of straw on the camel's back, to mangle a cliché.
The Committee has raised money for staff, hired Dana Sevakis,
changed its name to Action for New Priorities (still a part of
Chicago Jobs with Justice), and formulated a plan of action for
the next few months.
The first public event organized by Action for New Priorities
is synergistic with another Chicago Jobs with Justice project:
a meeting of the Chicago Workers' Rights Board on the subject
of "Illinois Confronts the Federal Budget Crisis". Workers
Rights' Boards have been established by Jobs with Justice in many
cities around the country. They provide a public forum for workers
and community members facing violations of their legal and human
rights. The boards are comprised of religious and community leaders
as well as politicians and academics who provide a moral and ethical
voice to the struggles of working people.
Illinois Confronts the Federal Budge Crisis: A Speakout
for Fairness and Justice in the Economy will be held on Saturday,
April 6, 1 PM to 4 PM at IBEW Local 134's Boyle Auditorium, 600
W. Washington in Chicago. The event has been endorsed by over
40 labor, immigrant, religious, welfare and social justice organizations,
including Chicago DSA.
This is just the first step for Action for New Priorities.
For more information about the event and about Action for New
Priorities, contact Ms. Dana Sevakis at 312.738.6209.
The STITCH women's delegation combines excellent Spanish instruction
with an in-depth look at the economic situation facing women workers
in Guatemala. We will spend five mornings learning Spanish with
one-on-one instruction at the well-respected school La Union in
the colonial town of Antigua Guatemala. In the afternoons, we
will talk with the women battling conditions in the booming apparel-for-export
(or maquila) industry nearby. Participants will engage in candid
conversations with pioneer organizers and sweatshop workers about
the effects of globalization on their daily lives and their efforts
to empower themselves.
In the final days of the delegation, we will meet with other
workers affected by free trade policies: agricultural workers.
We will travel to the western highlands to learn about the feminization
of agricultural labor and the challenges workers face in fighting
for just conditions. Participants will enjoy the area's lush mountain
terrain and rich Mayan culture while gaining a deeper understanding
of globalization's impacts on Guatemalan women, their families,
and their communities.
This delegation is open to women only. The cost of the delegation
is $800 and includes housing, all meals, language instruction,
and domestic travel. Participants must pay their own way to Guatemala
City and cover incidental costs such as snacks and tips. Alternative
arrangements can be made for women who are interested in the delegation
but do not want to participate in the language school. Scholarships
are available. Please email Liz O'Connor for an application at
Find out more about STITCH at www.STITCHonline.org.
To reserve your space in the delegation, please send $75 by
April 20 to Hannah Frisch at 4933 S. Dorchester, Chicago, IL 60615.
Full fee is due by May 1, 2002.
The date for Chicago DSA's annual "Membership Convention"
in June has not yet been set, but it's not too early to start
thinking about getting involved in Chicago DSA in a leadership
way. The offices up for election in June will be the female Co-Chair,
the Treasurer, and the Political Education Officer. These are
two year terms. Because Chicago DSA has no paid staff, the officers
substitute for staff, making their role somewhat different than
many other Boards. The female Co-Chair position is vacant, but
if you are interested, feel free to contact the incumbents (see
the New Ground masthead on page 2) or call the Chicago
DSA office at 773.384.0327 or plan to attend one of the monthly
Executive Committee meetings which are held every second Tuesday,
7 PM, at the Chicago DSA office.
Shortly before the DSA convention last November I attended
a meeting of the Boston chapter and urged our delegates to raise
the question of moving the national headquarters to Chicago. That
should be enough to prove my admiration for Chicago DSA. No need
to add my affection and esteem for Carl Shier, which goes back
more than 25 years.
I was therefore somewhat saddened to read in New
Ground (#78, "The Assault on Reproductive Rights:
It's All About Control") an article by Libby Frank stating,
with much heat, that people like me are "right-wingers"
who are "hell-bent on forcing their beliefs on the rest of
the country". Why? Because we believe that human life begins
at conception. And, of course, human life does begin at conception.
Where else could it begin? Well, actually, some respected embryologists
hold that it begins about 14 days after conception, but I'm afraid
that would not give Comrade Frank much comfort.
However, I am unfair to Comrade Frank's article. She is more
concerned with right-wingers who brandish this scientific fact
of human life in order to get legislation passed to outlaw abortion,
even in the earliest stages of the embryo's development.
I would certainly not go that far. All I, and most other pro-life
socialists and Democrats, have been pushing for is passage of
a federal ban on late-term abortions, except where performed to
save the life of the mother. Such bills passed Congress twice
and were twice vetoed by Bill Clinton. One of them won the votes
of 77 Democrats in the House. David Bonior, then minority whip
and one of the finest men ever to sit in the House, one of those
77, told me once that about 40 of them were consistently pro-life.
Which means that about 37 were Democrats who were ordinarily prochoice
but who switched to pro-life at that point in pregnancy when there
could be no doubt that the fetus had become a fully formed human
being. To kill it would be at least homicide, if not murder.
Sadly, Comrade Frank is not interested in such distinctions.
It does not seem to concern her that there is a steady stream
of pro-life Democrats leaving the party over this issue. It will
be most instructive to see how Bonior, the man who led the fight
against the nefarious Newt Gingrich, fares in his campaign for
governor of Michigan. The AFL-CIO, with the exception of Jimmy
Hoffa, Jr., is backing him. Will folks like Libby Frank make it
possible for Jimmy's candidate to defeat Bonior? I hope not.
John C. Cort
Editor's note: Chicago DSA has not been much for taking
formal positions on issues, prefering action as a form of speech.
With regard to abortion, Chicago DSA was a member organization
of the Illinois Pro-Choice Alliance. I expect we would be members
now if the Alliance were still a going concern. On the other hand,
while electoral politics is not one of Chicago DSA's strong points,
we have endorsed a few "pro-life" candidates when they
were otherwise progressive, and I expect we would do so again.