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New Ground 82

May - June, 2002

Contents

  • Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner 2002 by Gene Birmingham
  • May Day 2002 by Harold Taggart
  • It's Premeditated Murder by Tom Broderick
  • "It's Still the Economy, Stupid!" by Ron Baiman
  • A20 Eyewitness by Harold Taggart
  • Other News compiled by Robert Roman
    Midwest YDS Conference
    Workers' Rights Board Hearing
    April 20th
    May 13 Bush Protest
    Fast Track
    Rolling Thunder
    New Book

  • Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner 2002

    by Gene Birmingham

    A spirit of optimism and enthusiasm marked the 44th Annual Debs Thomas Harrington Dinner at the Holiday Inn, Mart Plaza on May 10. Using the theme, "Defending Labor Rights, Human Rights and Civil Liberties", one speaker after another gave honest expression to the obstacles faced by the labor movement and the Left in general, but concluded on a note of hope for the future. Reverend Calvin Morris, Executive Director of the Community Renewal Society, and Master of Ceremonies for the occasion, told the approximately 340 diners that he sensed real "energy" in the gathered crowd. It could be felt in presentations by the honorees, as well as those who introduced them.

    Labor attorney and honoree Barbara Hillman was introduced by Carl Shier, who reviewed the fine contributions she has made during 36 years as a labor lawyer. Ms. Hillman recalled that she was one of only four women in her law class. "No male union member would accept her," she was told at the beginning of her career. Today women and people of color hold positions of power and influence in the cause of labor. She is a senior partner in the law firm that hired her 36 years ago.

    After pointing out labor's mistake of fighting with itself in past decades, a fragmentation which led to bad judges and bad labor laws, Hillman sounded optimistic because unions are more unified, the needs of all workers are seen to be the same and those needs are being articulated. Recent campaigns to organize workers are further reason for hope.

    Frank Llewellyn, National Director of DSA, gave socialist expression to contemporary issues. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting desperate, the cost of just getting by is going up, and welfare reform is shrinking case loads while failing to get people out of poverty. His case was strengthened by finding expression of these problems in the mainstream press. Major socialist emphases are health care for all, labor law reform and progressive taxation.

    In her introduction of Tom Balanoff, Roberta Lynch reminded the gathering that the days of labor's depending on a bargaining table alone for its cause are past because labor laws are not enforced, and bad laws have been passed. Today's situation calls for fighting for workers' needs. A main task of labor is to confront global capitalism. Organizing more members is a must, in order to have a stronger presence in the political arena, and to hold elected politicians accountable for their promises. Women, people of color and immigrants are the new face of labor, in need of being organized. If labor is to continue as a force for workers. It is people like those at the dinner, she said, who can make the difference.

    Tom Balanoff, president of SEIU Local 1, accepted his award with optimism based on observing workers' willingness to take risks and stand up for their rights, including undocumented workers. He challenged labor leaders to engage in building more leaders, a need for each new generation.

    Featured speaker Professor Doug Cassel of Northwestern University turned to his hero, Eugene V. Debs, for inspiration, as he focused on the theme of the evening. Debs would embrace the cause of human rights with the same spirit that energized him in the Pullman strike of 1894, and his opposition to U.S. participation in World War I, both of which led to time in jail. His gaining a million votes in his run for president while in jail in 1920 forced President Harding to grant amnesty to him and other protestors.

    Human rights are a combination of individual dignity and communal solidarity, said Cassel. The United States recognizes civil liberties and political rights, but not the economic, social and cultural rights accepted by most of the world's democracies. They include the right to employment, or social security if employment is not available; the right to adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care and family support; and universal education, the latter accepted by the U.S. All of these rights are interrelated and interdependent.

    The threat to civil liberties is seen in the round up of 1,300 people since September 11, held without benefit of lawyer or appearance before a judge to be charged with something. Even their locations have been withheld. None have been charged with terrorism. We would do well to face this and similar issues in the spirit of Eugene Debs, who never surrendered to his defeats, and thereby ultimately made a difference.

    Was the optimism of the speakers and gathered progressives warranted, or only whistling past the cemetery? The rightness of the case for rights and liberties does not require debating that point. Hope for the future lies in following those who, like Debs, have made significant differences in the past, even though their times looked hopeless. It is a fight, but it remains possible to make a difference.


    May Day 2002

    by Harold Taggart

    May Day 2002 activities in Chicago were, for the most part, an experiment that deviated from the practices of the past two years. The objective was to take the march through a working class community rather than make the historical march up Michigan Avenue. Few privileged people on Michigan Avenue have an interest in the causes of equality, democracy, justice, redistribution of the wealth, a living wage, equal opportunity, shorter workday, peace and an end to police brutality, harassment and oppression. The knee-jerk response of the average shopper found on Michigan Avenue is: "Get a job."

    Another experiment was to hold the parade on the weekend rather than on May Day, which fell on Wednesday this year. The Chicago chapter of Direct Action Network planned a march for Sunday, April 28, as part of a week of activities for the Midwest region. The Chicago May Day Coalition initially planned to march up Michigan Avenue. as usual but also on the weekend so working people could participate. The May Day Coalition opted for Saturday, May 4th, the anniversary of the Haymarket incident. Two parades seemed to be counterproductive, so April 28 became the compromise date.

    The plan called for a march from Little Village through North Lawndale to Pilsen. On the day of the march, the police, not present initially, appeared in force and rerouted the march at one point, claiming it was interfering with bus traffic. Consequently, the march arrived at Harrison Park, the destination point, one hour early.

    Although members of the Direct Action Network and others worked hard to produce all the accessories needed for the theme "Carnival Against Capitalism: Another World Is Possible," participation from the region and communities was disappointing. To emphasize the Midwest appeal, Direct Action Network altered part of the theme to "Another Midwest is possible." They also employed catchy slogans such as "We work, but Capitalism doesn't." "Another world is possible" was the theme of protests in New York City in February, 2002, against the World Economic Forum. The theme is the refutation of Globalization advocates who claim "There is no alternative" (or TINA) to Capitalism. The sincerity of the TINA advocates is questionable since they seem determined to expend any amount of money and lives and to break any international law to stop anyone from trying alternative economic systems.

    The Direct Action Network devised three noble and functional goals closely resembling the old Wobbly (Industrial Workers of the World) tactics and strategies:

  • to build ties amongst activists in the Midwest with the long-term goal of establishing a radical network in the region;
  • to learn about regional flashpoint struggles, what's burning in our communities whether it's police brutality in Cincinnati or family farm defense in Wisconsin and how to support each other;
  • to connect the anti-Globalization movement to local struggles and local struggles to the anti- Globalization movement.
  • Enterprising artists made elaborate cardboard cutouts of the faces of the eight May Day Martyrs. Stilt-walkers, elevated bicycles, puppets, drummers, coffins and various placards and banners provided the carnival atmosphere, rhythms and information but failed to entice members of the communities to join in.

    There are several possible explanations for the lack of participation. The weather was dreary, cold and misty. Usually the parks that were the assembly and termination points are busy with people. They were empty that day. Fear of Homeland Security agents or their proxies photographing participants was a valid concern especially in a minority community. An anti-Capitalist theme does not appeal to many who were nurtured on the sophisticated indoctrination programs of the Capitalist system. Outreach might not have been as extensive as it could have been. It's the least popular committee. Also, outreach might have been too ambitious a project since it extended to most of the Midwest Region. Debriefing sessions revealed that communications broke down at several points.

    In addition to the march, two weeks of events were scheduled. Activities began on April 20 with a protest against Earth Day, which has been co-opted by the corporations that made an Earth Day celebration necessary in the first place.

    On April 26, a critical mass bike ride through the Chicago Loop kicked off a weekend full of activities. About 400 cyclists participated. On April 27, workshops at the University of Illinois under the theme "From Local to Global: the Midwest on fire," addressed major economic, social, educational and cultural problems and generated a timeline of actions to address those problems. One idea was to change the name of Balbo St. (named after one of Mussolini's generals) to Haymarket Martyrs St.

    On May 1st, actions began early in the morning at City Hall. The biggest issues were the plight of the homeless and exploitation of Day Laborers. The homeless got another kick in the teeth but the Day Laborers got some commitment to curtail exploitation and abuse by Day Labor service firms.

    May Day ended with an evening of artists and entertainment at the HotHouse in the Loop. Attendance was near the capacity of 150. An event-filled evening of poets, labor and folk song singers and bands provided five hours of fun and entertainment. Warren Leming's one-act Cabaret play, Cold Chicago: A Haymarket Fable highlighted the evening. Warren directed the play and participated as a guitarist and narrator.

    May Day and the underlying events that took place in Chicago in 1886-87 remind us that the government and businessmen are more than willing to suspend the Constitution when they feel their interests are threatened. They did it in 1886 and on numerous occasions since such as the Palmer Raids, McCarthyism and 2000 elections, and are in the process of doing it again. In their opinion, the Constitution is a tool to keep the ordinary folks in their place while protecting the property of the advantaged.

    Those who know history are aware of the patterns and become vigilant. Unfortunately, very few Americans know much about history. A major goal of May Day is to inform Americans of their history including the shameful episodes. A recent study by the National Assessment of Educational Progress sampled 29,600 students and found that only one in five pupils in the 4th to 8th grade has more than a basic knowledge of U.S. history. As they progress through school, they become twice as dumb. Only one in 10 high school seniors has more than a basic knowledge of U.S. history. The students are not to blame. The captains of industry decided decades ago that the ideal assembly line worker was a man who is "dumb as an ox." Our schools are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing. You can't have a few wealthy, privileged nobles without multitudes of ignorant peasants.


    It's Premeditated Murder

    by Thomas J. Broderick

    Premeditated murder as practiced by the state under the term capital punishment is nothing more than a system of cruel subjugation and torture. The principal targets are the poor and people of color. In Illinois, over 69% of the condemned population are people of color. One hundred percent of the condemned women in Illinois are of color. This punishment is offered up as justice to the family and friends of murder victims and to those who view these crimes from sensational news reports or fictionalized crime entertainment.

    Justice has never been part of this equation. What we get is revenge and spectacle. Justice would have to start long before any particular murder is committed. A loving and caring home life engenders justice. Education, work that pays a living wage, good healthcare and housing speak to the idea of justice. These basic human needs are denied to people in the United States and across the planet.

    When a murder is carried out, the family and friends of the victim(s) have their lives ripped apart. Yet our capital punishment system offers these very victims the opportunity to create more victims just like them: the family and friends of the accused. And it offers this in the name of Justice. That's one sick system. Grief counseling and help in putting together a new future is what would help, not enticement for revenge, not help in building a prosecutor's future.

    The ritualistic killing of a killer, even when there is no doubt of guilt, revives no dead. It turns back no clock. It allows prosecutors and police departments to beat their chests and claim effectiveness in a battle against crime in the arena of headline and sound bite: the sentence of death as marketing tool.

    Recently Governor Ryan's commission to fix the problems associated with the death penalty here in Illinois provided over 80 recommendations and still concluded that even with enactment of all of them, there would be no way to guarantee that an innocent person would not be executed. Many of these recommendations are good and should be used throughout the prosecutorial process of all crimes (don't rely on jail house snitches as witnesses, videotape all confessions), but they don't abolish the death penalty and they would be costly.

    Currently, under our death system, it is more expensive to legally kill a condemned prisoner than it is to put them away for life without possibility of parole. With more and more sophisticated research tools being used, the opportunity to correctly identify the guilty as well as the innocent, years after prosecution of crimes, still only lets us release a living wrongfully convicted person. We can't restore their life any more than we can restore a wrongfully executed person to life.

    Initially there was praise for the commission's work. Then the prosecutorial gang and their political pals began to weigh in on the side of pragmatism. The burden it would place on the police and the prosecuting attorneys would be too great. The cost of implementing the reforms would be prohibitive. Let's not forget there is a budget crisis. There is talk from many of our elected officials or candidates for office about maybe enacting some of the reforms ("the ones that make sense") but not all of them, or even half of them. This commission was established to find ways to reform the death penalty system in Illinois, not do away with it. Even enacting all 85 recommendations, the commission admitted, would not guarantee absolute justice.

    Justice is not about cost. Justice is not about worrying that the police or the prosecuting attorneys have to work within a fair system that might make them work harder. Justice is not about finding or making a convenient fit to a crime that needs to be solved. Justice is not about adding to the prestige of a prosecutor or a police officer. Justice is about making sure that anybody charged with a crime or anybody victimized by a crime is treated as a human being with real rights and real problems. Justice, in this context, is about protecting society from real threats and actually helping the victims of crime, regardless of race or class.

    Even under the current unjust system, a death penalty case drains away resources from county budgets at a huge rate. What do these communities suffer when a death case is tried in their jurisdiction? Previously allocated funds have to come from somewhere. If they come from the law enforcement budget, what gets cut: Manpower? Community outreach programs? Equipment? Training? If it doesn't come from their budget, and is perhaps spread around, then maybe education, health and social services, infrastructure, community development programs, among others, share in the kill cost. What is the benefit here? What do we gain?

    Cost analyses of death penalty cases are not readily available, however a comprehensive study in North Carolina concluded that the death penalty costs North Carolina $2.16 million per execution over the cost of a life without parole case. Now, under no circumstance do I care about the dollar cost analysis of the death penalty, however, in Illinois, with a budgetary problem, this argument could be meaningful. Most people I know believe it is cheaper to kill than to house for life. Of course, these same people believe it is more expedient to house for life in a penal institution than to provide adequate education or job training throughout life.

    So what do we do now? Governor Ryan's moratorium, a wonderful thing, is nothing more than the Governor's whim. He could change his mind at any moment. The next elected Governor, and both the Democratic and Republican candidates have stated that they support capital punishment, could revoke the moratorium. The State Legislature can put an end to the death penalty in Illinois. House Bill 576 (sponsored by A. Turner, D-9; W. Delgado, D-3; K. Yarbrough, D-7; B. Currie, D-25 and W. Younge, D-114, the only downstate Representative) calls for the abolishment of the death penalty in Illinois.

    We need to put pressure on our State Representatives. The Bloomington /Normal Group 202 of Amnesty International has sent letters and supporting materials to all of the members of the House Judiciary Committee II regarding the economics of the death penalty. The Illinois budget is going to be the focus of the Legislature. As twisted as it may seem, we need to hammer home the economics of the death penalty to our representatives, if they are not clear abolitionists. If you want good information on the economics of death, contact Robert Schultz at the Chicago Office of Amnesty International, by phone 312 435 6396 or by e-mail at rschultz@aiusa.org and tell him you want the Katherine Baicker report on The Budgetary Repercussions of Capital Convictions or Richard Dieter's report on death penalty costs.

    There are three hearings scheduled by the Illinois Legislature on the commission's report. These are moving targets. As I write this, there are two scheduled in Chicago and one scheduled in Springfield. They are supposed to be the last three Thursdays in June (the 13th, the 20th and the 27th). Exactly when and where as well as public input is yet to be finalized. As this information becomes known, we will post it on the Chicago DSA website: www.chicagodsa.org.

    When Governor Ryan announced the moratorium, it stunned everybody. He has stuck to his beliefs. He has been appropriately praised. There is talk of his being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his enactment of the moratorium.

    We need to accept the fact that there is a big problem with the Illinois budget. Any Governor (Republican or Democrat) will look for the easiest ways to fix the problem. These will include attempts to cut state services, attempts to fire state workers (union labor), and attempts to cut the "pork" from areas that don't impact the Governor or his friends.

    As a fellow abolitionist from Carbondale, Illinois, put it recently, "He's going after social services. That's going to make people mad. If we keep hanging on to his name, he's going to bring us down. We need to step away from him. That's all I have to say about it."

    Well I say: Thank you, Governor Ryan, for the moratorium. Thank you for the commission. Please commute the sentences of all of the condemned who request commutation and know that balancing the Illinois budget by cutting services and attacking labor is not acceptable. You have been a surprise: the moratorium, your trip to Cuba. But let there be a fiscal problem and you are just another pol. Sorry, it's been good to know you, but I'm with the abolitionist from Carbondale.


    "It's Still the Economy, Stupid!"

    by Ron Baiman

    We are here today to serve notice to our elected officials that the "war on terror" and massive tax giveaways to the rich do not justify cutbacks in social spending. We are here to protest a fraudulent definition of "security" that lets children go hungry, pushes families out into the street, and denies access to medical care for the ill.

    A recent Economic Policy Institute (EPI) study shows that over half of African American and Hispanic families with children under 12 do not make enough to meet basic (absolutely no frills) needs. Nearly 37 million Americans, almost one in three working families with young children, went without some basic necessities such as food, shelter, or medical care in 1999 near the peak of the economic boom.

    In Illinois about one in four people in families with young children (about 651,000 persons) have a family income below the basic family budget. About 15% of these families "missed meals due to lack of funds" and 14% were unable to access necessary medical care. Families that moved from welfare to work experienced greater hardships than families that stayed on welfare. More than 400,000 families in Illinois pay over half of their income on housing. In the U.S. 15 million families qualify for federal housing assistance, but due to inadequate funding only 4.5 million families receive it. About 44 million Americans have no health insurance.

     

    Unemployment and Economic Hardship Are Likely to Increase

    There has been a lot of talk about economic recovery, but there has been no economic recovery for working people. In fact since, according to a just released National Bureau of Economic Research study, the top 1% of taxpayers have took home 94% of the growth in total income from 1973 to 1998, workers never had "a recovery" even at the height of the economic expansion. The same study points to social policy, especially tax policy as being at least as important as (independent) economic forces in causing the growth in inequality.

    Moreover, there is no guarantee that even this "technical recovery" will continue. As a recent press report (New York Times 3/23/02) notes, it has been dependent on an unforeseen and unlegislated sharp rise in federal spending (a 10.1% increase in 2001 fourth quarter compared to an average increase of 3.2% over the last three years) and on a equally unexpected increase in consumer spending of 6.0% in 2001 fourth quarter compared to an already very high average of 4.3% growth over the last three years (calculated from Department of Commerce 2/28/02 data).

    And though some of the increase in federal spending was related to September 11 and the "war on terrorism", most of it was on other things: highways and school construction, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, and municipal projects. Much of this spending will not continue to increase without specific congressional authorization or outlays from state budgets. This underscores the need for urgent increases in federal social spending. This is what has kept the economy from shrinking further. In addition to being based on grossly misguided priorities, the Bush proposed social spending cuts risk either driving the economy back into (technical) recession and certainly will not help to push economic growth beyond the current anemic "jobless recovery" level.

    Similarly, rising consumer spending that has been dependent on a rising household debt burden as households paid 14.3% of their income to service their debts in the fourth quarter of 2001 (the highest rate since 1986 according to EPI 4/3/02 economic snapshot) cannot continue indefinitely without corresponding increases in household income.

    But a Bureau of Labor Statistics report on April 5, 2002 indicates a 2.8% annualized growth rate of hourly wages in 2002 first quarter which is a point lower than that of 2001 fourth quarter continuing the trend of slower wage growth since mid 2001. Current increases in energy prices which are likely to increase inflation from its current very low levels may act to further constrain consumer spending.

    As New York Times articles of 2/22/02 and 3/23/02 point out this is a very weak reed upon which to base a recovery. If business investment or net exports (the other two major components of the economy) don't stage a major turnaround from their current double digit rates of decline (-23.3% and -12.2% respectively in 2001 fourth quarter), this "recovery" will not last or will not be strong enough to provide needed future employment and income. This kind of "jobless recovery" would be similar to what happened in the early 90s.

     

    Local Economic Conditions Have Greatly Deteriorated

    From December 2000 to December 2001 Illinois unemployment has increased 1.2% from 4.7% to 5.9% and the Chicago unemployment rate has increased by 1.5% from 4.3% to 5.8%.

    The Center for Urban Economic Development estimates indicate that the unemployment rate in the Chicago metro area has increased to levels not seen since the end of 1996. Basically all of the gains of the last five years of expansion have been wiped out.

    The adjusted (for "discouraged workers", "involuntary part-time workers", and "voluntary part-time unemployed") unemployment rate increased by about 2.3% from about 5.8% to about 7.8% (these numbers are less reliable estimates than the official figures of the Bureau of Labor Statistics) ­ again wiping out all the gains since the end of 1996.

    From September 11, 2001 to Dec. 31, 2001 an estimated 48,000 workers in Illinois exhausted their unemployment benefits. In the first half of 2002 another 97,900 are projected to exhaust benefits averaging about 3,770 workers a week (Center of Budget and Policy Priorities 2/19/02).

    The Center for Urban Economic Development estimates that from the beginning of 1999 to the end of 2001, 77,467 workers lost their jobs due to plant closings. The largest closings have been in general merchandise stores, wholesale trade, and manufacturing.

     

    The Bush Budget

    The Bush budget will further exacerbate these social and economic ills by misdirecting spending toward unnecessary military programs and regressive tax cuts to benefit the rich.

    The most striking waste in the budget is the 11% real increase ($46 billion) in military expenditure including:

  • $7.8 billion for a national missile defense that is likely to reduce security by increasing tension with Russia and China;
  • $15.6 billion on nuclear weapons which would be useless against terrorist attacks;
  • Billions of dollars more on weapons redundant (three kinds of jet fighter programs), too heavy (M-1 tank), or too hazardous (Osprey V-22) for present and future security threats.
  • The Bush budget does nothing to repeal the $1.35 trillion tax cut, which when fully phased in will provide over 80% of its benefits to the top 20% of taxpayers (41.4% to the top 1%). This tax cut reduced federal revenues by about $57.7 billion in 2001.

    At the same time the "Compassionate Conservative" President proposes real cuts in domestic programs:

    1) Amid recession Bush proposes to cut job training and dislocation programs. Federal funding of the "workforce investment act" which supports dislocated worker employment and training activities would be cut by 12.5% or $5.1 million in real terms. Another part of the act which supports adult employment and training activities would be cut by 6.5% or $3 million in real terms.

    2) Bush's $ 300 million cut in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) would result in a 20% or $ 19.3 million real cut in LIHEAP funds for Illinois. According to the Bush administration, LIHEAP provides heating and cooling services to 4.3 million households each year, one-third of which include elderly people and one-half of which include children under age 18. With this proposal Bush is breaking a promise made during the Presidential Debates in Boston. In this 10/3/00 debate Bush said:

    "First and foremost, we have got to make sure we fully fund LIHEAP, which is a way to help low-income folks, particularly here in the East, to pay for their high fuel bills."

    3) llinois will lose 28% or $ 235.9 million in real terms in federal highway planning and construction funding resulting in the loss of 9,911 jobs. At the same time the Bush administration would slightly cut FY2003 funding for mass transit in real terms. Mass transit funding would be 23% and almost $ 1 billion in real terms below what it was in FY2001 before Bush took over.

    4) Illinois would lose $16.8 million in Community Block Grant Development Funding as a result of Bush's cuts. CBGD funds support affordable housing and other services, and economic growth, in Illinois communities.

    5) Key health programs such as the community access program which works with providers to merge federal and local health services such as the Children's Health Insurance Program and Community Health centers to better benefit the uninsured and the underinsured, would be slashed. Health Providers in Cook, Sangamon and Macoupin counties, and Rockford, have received almost $3 million to provide access to care for the uninsured under this program.

    6) Bush has proposed the smallest increase in education funding in seven years. He would provide no funds to address the estimated $ 127 billion dollar school modernization needs, a $ 50 million ($2 million in Illinois) cut in "Even Start" funding which provides tutoring and literacy training for low-income students and their parents. He would also completely eliminate the $67 million LEAP program for State College Scholarship funding ($ 3.6 million in Illinois).

    7) The Bush budget would also impose freezes (or real cuts) in: the $2.85 billion "Teacher Quality" initiative which helps states and school districts reduce class sizes and better recruit and train teachers, the $ 1 billion after-school lunch program (frozen for the second year in a row), and the $665 Bilingual Education program.

    8) Bush would cut $500 million from COPs (community policing) funding and eliminate $ 565 million in federal funding for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP).

    9) Bush would eliminate federal funding for "Round II Empowerment Zones", including East St. Louis, Illinois, one of the 15 very depressed communities in the nation which were to be targeted by the program. $150 million was requested by Clinton, and by Bush in his first budget. This was reduced by Congress to $45 million in FY2002. Bush proposes to eliminate the program in FY2003.

    10) The Illinois share of the state revolving fund for clean water would be cut by 13.4% or $ 8.5 million in real terms.

     

    References

    1) National Priorities Project at: www.nationalpriorities.org

    2) The Democratic National Committee at: www.democrats.org/pdfs/budget2002/il.pdf

    3) February 6, 2002 Democratic Staff Memorandum to Democratic Members of the Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and International Relations regarding a hearing on "The Standard Procurement System: Can the DOD Procurement Process be Standardized?" This was obtained from Congresswomen Schakowsky's office.

     

    A somewhat truncated version of this article was presented as testimony at the April 6, 2002, Workers' Rights Board hearing on Illinois and the Federal Budget Crisis.


    A20 Eyewitness

    by Harold Taggart

    Michael Moore's latest book, Stupid White Men, was scheduled for release in October 2001. Then came the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings. George W. Bush's popularity sky rocketed led by the incessant martial drum beats of a highly partial media. Bush, of course, was the subject of Moore's first chapter. Moore's publishers assured him the book wouldn't sell the 50,000 copies already printed. They wanted him to buy those copies and make major revisions to the book. Moore refused. Librarians, smelling a censorship rat, came to his aid and the book was released without revision. It quickly rose to the top of Amazon.com's best seller list and soon after reached the top of the New York Times list. It has gone through more than a dozen printings.

    The establishment also was out of touch regarding the extent of American jingoism for Bush's proposed perpetual wars and racist, authoritarian policies to pursue them. The return of McCarthyism was not palatable to everyone. Thus it came as a major surprise when one hundred thousand people trekked to Washington DC for a weekend of protests beginning on April 20. In San Francisco, a solidarity march drew an estimated 35,000 participants. Any public display of lack of solidarity with the Bush administration's emergency policies would provide aid and comfort to the enemy, establishment spokesmen warned. It would be treason, they suggested.

    Unfortunately, the contempt for solidarity carried over to the protest. ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) is an action arm of the International Action Center. Several months ago ANSWER had scheduled a protest for April 27 stressing opposition to war and racism. Seeing the futility of protests two weekends in a row, it rescheduled for the 20th and, some say, with its preponderance of resources attempted to take control of the entire protest.

    The other major coalition was D.C.'s: United We March for Peace and Justice. The name is a variation on the jingoistic United We Stand slogan. It assembled south of the Washington Monument.

    The direct action groups, Mobilization for Global Justice, gathered at 18th and H Streets to protest the International Monetary Fund/World Bank semi-annual meetings scheduled for April 20-21.

    Palestinian groups used the opportunity to stress their cause. Although the Palestinians and other Muslim sympathizers were the last to join, their issues became the primary and unifying issues. The Muslim groups bused thousands of people of all ages to D.C. Twenty-one buses drove in from Detroit. The Chicago area Muslim community sent 155 people on a chartered plane, about 200 more on four buses and numerous others in vans. With their major actions taking place on the 20th and 22nd, a variety of transportation modes were necessary.

    Unlike the April 16, 2000 protests, only a handful of arrests were made. D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey commended the protest leaders for maintaining control this time. Chief Ramsey was a little less than candid. In fact, it was the police that was more civilized this time. In the 2000 protests against Globalization, the police ran over protesters feet with motorcycles, rammed their legs with bicycles, raided the convergence center and stole puppets and signs that had taken weeks to make and had absorbed scarce money. They made mass preemptive arrests and peppered the protest groups with agents provocateurs. There were several reports of these agents attempting to provoke activists into violent acts. Police also searched for leaders, or those who appeared to be leaders, and arrested them on trumped up charges. They suspended the Constitution.

    This time, march permits were granted without the need for a court to remind authorities that there is a Bill of Rights guaranteeing some freedoms. Initially, the permit requested by Mobilization for Global Justice was denied on the basis that the route went past offices of major corporations such as Citigroup, Monsanto and Occidental Petroleum, according to Washington Post reports.

    With Seattle, Philadelphia, Genoa and other sites of past violent confrontations in mind, the city did take precautions. They "sanitized" the protest areas of newspaper boxes, trash cans, benches, bike racks and anything else that could be used for destructive purposes. Those precautions and cooperative actions certainly were less costly than the $10 million cost to suppress freedom of expression in 1999 in Seattle.

    This time, police were less visible than they are on an ordinary day in D.C. Pockets of police cars could be seen in secluded areas. Unseen were thousands of riot-geared cops, park police, federal police and police and sheriff's deputies from surrounding Virginia and Maryland communities.

    The only incident I witnessed was a confrontation with the Patriots Rally for America counter rally. It consisted of about six-dozen people and was staged across Constitution Avenue from the Ellipse. Featured speakers there were old cold-warriors like Bob Dornan (affectionately known as B-1 Bob for his proclivity to spend taxpayer's money on any Defense Department boondoggle.) Nothing more than loud arguments took place. It appeared that the primary police strategy this time was to protect one group from the other i.e. do the job they are paid to do.

    Logistics called for a multi-pronged march to converge at Pennsylvania Av. East of the White House in mid-afternoon. The Ellipse group, about two-thirds of the protesters, was directly south of the White House. South of them, across Constitution Avenue, was the tiny counter-rally group. Below it, was the United We March group consisting mostly of students. Other actions took place at the International Monetary Fund - World Bank buildings a couple blocks west of the White House and, finally, on Connecticut Avenue where many embassies are located. The result was two major bottlenecks. From the convergence point, the combined groups marched east on Pennsylvania Av. to 3rd Street located East of the Capitol Building. There, musicians and speakers resumed entertainment and edification for the marchers.

    Fewer protesters were around on Sunday and Monday. Part of the reason was that Ariel Sharon postponed his scheduled visit to Washington and spoke on Monday to a pro-Israel lobbying group conference via television. Also, the IMF/WB Spring meetings are less important than those held in the Fall. Organizers decided to postpone major protests against those predatory institutions until the Fall meeting when they can become the major focus.

    The gathering on the Ellipse was a model of different groups working harmoniously. Jews, Arabs, Koreans and numerous other ethnic groups bumped shoulders without any animosity or conflict. Could it be that without ambitious politicians, brutal governments and predatory businesses acting as catalysts, we would have a much more peaceful world?


    Other News

    Compiled by Bob Roman

     

    Midwest YDS Conference

    The Young Democratic Socialists held a "Midwest Regional" conference at the University of Chicago on April 6 and 7. The label "Midwest" was more of an aspiration than a description as most of the two dozen or so attendees were from the Chicago area. The meager turn out was unfortunate as the content of the conference was actually quite good. Promotion for the conference was hampered by an intervening spring break and a collegiate tendency toward the last minute.

    Barbara Ehrenreich provided the keynote address to the conference on the evening of April 6. This was much better attended, drawing a heavily Hyde Park audience to the auditorium of the Oriental Institute. Though "keynote address" is not an accurate description of the event, really. The event used the format of a television talk show interview, with YDS organizer Erin Kaiser playing the role of host. The two discussed various aspects of Barbara Ehrenreich's latest book, Nickel and Dimed. Then Erin Kaiser circulated through the audience with a microphone to take questions from the audience. Most of the questions came from YDS members and were generally pretty astute.

    As part of the follow up to Ehrenreich's book, the Institute for Policy Studies has started a web site, nickelanddimed.net. The site content is a bit sparse at this point, with a few letters from readers recounting their work experience, some links to other resources, an opportunity to buy the book, and Ms. Ehrenreich's speaking schedule.

     

    Workers' Rights Board Hearing

    Barbara Ehrenreich was among several DSA members on the panel hearing testimony at the Chicago Jobs with Justice Workers' Rights Board hearing on "Illinois Confronts the Federal Budget Crisis" held on the afternoon of April 6. The event was reasonably well attended. It featured testimony on "Workers' Rights in the Current Economy", "Health Care and Benefits", "Social Services, Education and Housing", and the "New Global Economy".

    There are three things worth noting about the hearing. First, the testimony was terrific: an excellent blend of technical expertise and life experience. One came away from the hearing with a real appreciation for the dimensions of the problem. Second, the structure of the event is rather odd, as most of the panel consisted of people who are not in any position to do anything about the problems described. In a symbolic way, I suppose, it's appropriate as these are problems we must resolve, not leaving them to what passes for elected political leadership. (Alderman Ricardo Munoz and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky were on the panel hearing testimony, it should be noted.) Yet it does leave one wondering what the goals of the hearing were. Third, it shouldn't be a surprise, but there was no press coverage.

     

    April 20th

    Demonstrations around meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have become a fact of life for these institutions. This April's meetings also brought protests around the "War on Terrorism", our involvement in the ongoing civil war in Colombia, the Middle East, and possibly a few other issues as well. There's been a fair amount written about the divisions among the organizers of the demonstrations, particularly between ANSWER (which had originally planned a demonstration for a week later) and United We March. Even to the extent these quarrels represent genuine political and philosophical disagreements (and they do), the quarrels are far more important to the leadership than they are to the people who march. Likewise, the farther away from Washington, the less relevant the divisions.

    DSA and YDS are part of the National Student and Youth Peace Coalition, which means that we supported the "United We March" demonstration. As a practical matter, in Chicago, this was not a particularly meaningful distinction as much of the transportation for both groups was arranged through the Eighth Day Center for Justice. Chicago DSA arranged for a half dozen bus travel scholarships, contributed to the Washington "United We March", and helped with travel expenses for a team of street medics. With the Local's support, the University of Chicago YDS rented a van for a delegation of a half dozen or so. Once in Washington, they linked up with several other YDS chapters and marched together.

     

    May 13 Bush Protest

    Chicago DSA was among a motley crew of organizations that gathered to "Give Bush a Message" when he came to Chicago to raise several millions of dollars for Republican politicians. Only several hundred people attended a lively demonstration in the park just north of the Sheridan Hotel on North Water Street. About the only press was Chicago public radio, WBEZ, which had a succinct account in its local news. There was a good buffet of speakers at the lunch hour rally. My personal favorites were Reverend Calvin Morris and Bernice Bild. Reverend Morris pulled together an extemporaneous sermon on Bush and justice. When he began, it wasn't at all certain he would fly, but he did. Ms. Bild has that rare talent of making a policy wonk speech accessible and entertaining.

     

    Fast Track

    By the time you read this, the Fast Track trade negotiating authority will have passed out of the U.S. Senate. Lobbyists against the bill are professionally optimistic that once the House and Senate conferees negotiate a compromise between the respective versions of the bill, it will be defeated in the House. After all, they argue, it passed in the House with only one vote and that was when many conservative opponents of the Fast Track felt it their patriotic duty to vote for it. Even if this is only professional optimism, it's time to start writing your representatives again. In Illinois, all the Democrats voted against the Fast Track; all the Republicans voted for it. If your representative voted against the Fast Track, thank them, but regardless of how they voted, urge them to vote against the final bill.

     

    Rolling Thunder

    The New Left, before it descended into Leninist hallucinations, posed a real question: how can we make the left understandable in American terms? The latest attempt at answering this question has been to dust off yet another 19th century ideology, populism. Jim Hightower's contribution to this effort has been the "Rolling Thunder Down Home Democracy Tour", a cross between a chautauqua, medicine show, and carnival. The event in Austin apparently went very well. It will be coming to Chicago on Saturday, June 15, at Union Park on Chicago's near west side. Just how well an ideology that reflected the political economy of rural America of more than a century ago will do in a 21st century America that is predominantly urban and suburban is anybody's guess, but this event promises to be quite the thing. For more information, go to http://www.rollingthundertour.org or call Darci Andresen at 312.738.6123.

     

    New Book

    Leland Stauber has come out with a new book regarding market socialism, Land Ownership and the Social System. The book may be ordered on the web at http://www.atlasbooks.com/marktplc/00706.htm or by calling 800.247.6553.


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