Saturday, October 31, 2009

Obama’s banker-friendly financial overhaul

From World Socialist Web Site
31 October 2009

In the wake of a financial meltdown that precipitated the deepest recession since the 1930s, the Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders are working to institute regulatory changes that avoid any serious constraints on Wall Street banks and financial institutions.

The so-called legislative process itself is a mockery of democracy. An army of financial industry lobbyists is at work wining and dining key legislators, whose elections were funded by millions in campaign contributions from banks, insurance companies, hedge funds, etc. Wall Street lawyers are helping draft the details of regulatory bills in closed-door meetings, while Obama and his top economic advisers—many of whom are former investment bankers and all of whom are longstanding proponents of bank deregulation—confer with the CEOs of the most powerful firms.

The guiding premise of the enterprise is that the capitalist “free market” must at all costs be safeguarded, along with the personal fortunes of the financial oligarchy. Flowing from this, the informing notion behind the proposed changes is to allow the banks to return to business as usual, recouping their gambling losses at the expense of this and future generations of working people, while setting in place mechanisms for the government to more effectively manage the next financial debacle.

On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testified before the Financial Services Committee of the House of Representatives in support of a bill jointly sponsored by the White House and committee Chairman Barney Frank (Democrat of Massachusetts). The bill would give the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board so-called “resolution authority” to order the seizure of a major financial firm whose failure would destabilize the financial system.

The idea is to prevent the type of panic that accompanied the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September of 2008. Geithner, Frank and the White House are selling the bill as a boon to taxpayers. It is supposedly an alternative to the multibillion-dollar bailouts at taxpayer expense that followed last year’s crash.

In fact, the proposal would give the executive branch and the Fed unlimited powers, without the need for congressional consent, to allocate taxpayer money to prevent the failure of a major commercial or investment bank, insurance firm (such as AIG) or other financial company by placing the firm in receivership. Supposedly, the seized firm’s shareholders and unsecured creditors would take large losses, the firm’s top management would be sacked, and the firm’s assets would be sold off to investors.

The cost of the rescue, according to the bill, would be repaid through fees levied on other banks with more than $10 billion in assets (around 120 banks). However, these fees would be assessed over an indefinite period, while the taxpayers would pay the bill upfront.

One provision of the bill which has garnered little comment either by its official proponents or the media would give the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, with the consent of the treasury secretary and the Fed, the power to “extend credit or guarantee obligations … to prevent financial instability during times of severe economic distress.”

This amounts to a blank check to use public funds to bail out Wall Street. What is actually being proposed is the replacement of the ad hoc bailouts that characterized the past year with an institutionalized mechanism for looting the public purse for the benefit of the financial aristocracy.

Little wonder that Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, has broadly endorsed the administration’s bank “reform.” He told a conference in New York this week that “we need a resolution mechanism so that the system isn’t destroyed.” Dimon knows full well that such a law will expand the profits of the big banks by making their borrowing costs cheaper, far outstripping any fees they might be required to pay in the event of a government seizure of a major firm.

There are those within the financial and political establishment who are warning that the administration’s policies are enhancing the power of the biggest banks and making an even greater financial disaster all but inevitable. Asked by CNN on October 21 whether the administration’s regulatory changes will avert another financial meltdown, Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general of the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TAPR), said:

“I think actually what’s changed is in the other direction. These banks that were too big to fail are now bigger. Government has sponsored and supported several mergers that made them larger… The idea that the government is not going to let these banks fail, which was implicit a year ago, is now explicit.

“So, if anything, not only has there not been any meaningful regulatory reform to make it less likely, in a lot of ways, the government has made such problems more likely. Potentially, we could be in more danger now than we were a year ago.”

Paul Volcker, the former Fed chairman who heads Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, is evidently alarmed. He has been publicly calling for the reinstatement of the legal wall between commercial banking and investment banking that was a cornerstone of the Depression-era bank reforms instituted by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Under the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, commercial banks—which take deposits from ordinary consumers—were banned from owning and trading risky securities, the very practice that brought the biggest banks to the brink of collapse in 2008.

This would mean breaking up such behemoths as JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Volcker has no support within the Obama administration. Wall Street is adamantly opposed to such a reform, as are Obama’s top economic advisers. The director of the White House’s National Economic Council, Lawrence Summers, pushed through the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999 when he was treasury secretary in the Clinton administration.

Daniel Tarullo, a Fed governor appointed by Obama, last week dismissed Volcker’s proposal as “more of a provocative idea than a proposal.”

As for the claims that the public will not be forced to pay for the government “resolution” of major financial firms facing collapse, their worth can be judged by looking at the other major planks of the administration’s financial regulatory plan.

Frank’s Financial Services Committee this month passed a bill on derivatives—the unregulated $592 trillion market in complex and murky financial contracts that led to the collapse of AIG—which exempts from government oversight a huge portion of such deals, including so-called “customized” credit default swaps and derivatives contracts of non-financial companies. It also places the management of “standard” derivatives in the hands of privately owned clearinghouses closely aligned to the big Wall Street banks.

The Consumer Financial Protection Agency bill passed by Frank’s committee, nominally establishing a new agency to police consumer lending fraud and abuse, exempts 98 percent of the nation’s banks as well as car dealerships from oversight, and allows the federal government to override state consumer protection laws that are tougher than federal regulations.

All of these loopholes were inserted at the behest of bank lobbyists.

Then there are the sham bank pay restraints announced last week by Obama’s “pay czar,” Kenneth Feinberg. Not only do these rules apply only to the 25 highest-paid executives and employees of seven companies still holding TARP money, including just two banks, they apply only for November and December of this year. And the limits in cash salaries and bonuses imposed by Feinberg are to be largely offset by stock issued to the affected multimillionaires.

The Wall Street Journal published an analysis Wednesday showing that Feinberg actually increased the base salaries of 89 of the 136 people under his remit, raising their average regular salaries to $438,000, an average increase of 14 percent. At Citigroup, which is 34 percent owned by the US government, Feinberg agreed to more than double salaries for 13 of the 21 employees, upping them by an average of $202,000.

Barry Grey

The author also recommends:

US House panel approves pro-Wall Street derivatives bill
[19 October 2009]

Obama’s bank regulation plan: A free pass for Wall Street
[18 June 2009]

Thursday, October 29, 2009

US Chamber Shuts off and Websites of Hundreds of Other Activist Groups

From Infoshop

October 27, 2009

Hundreds of activist organizations had their internet service turned off last night after the US Chamber of Commerce strong-armed an upstream provider, Hurricane Electric, to pull the plug on The Yes Men and May First / People Link, a 400-member-strong organization with a strong commitment to protecting free speech.

"This is a blow against free speech, and it demostrates in gory detail the full hypocrisy of the Chamber," said Andy Bichlbaum of The Yes Men. "The only freedom they care about is the economic freedom of large corporations to operate free of the hassles of science, reality, and democracy."

After suffering embarrassment at the hands of the Yes Men on Monday, the Chamber immediately threatened legal action, then followed through Thursday by sending a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice to Hurricane Electric Internet Services. In the DMCA notice, the Chamber claimed that the parody Chamber website operated by The Yes Men constituted copyright infringement, and demanded that the site be shut down immediately and that the creator's service be canceled.

But the Yes Men are not served directly by Hurricane Electric, but by May First / People Link. And when Hurricane Electric shut down the fake Chamber of Commerce site (now relocated), they also took down the websites of 400 other organizations.

May First / People Link fought back. They immediately "mirrored" the site, and then quickly negotiated with Hurricane Electric to restore service to their other members.

"The DMCA attacks the critically important right we have to effectively comment and criticize institutions and companies," said May First/People Link Co-Director Alfredo Lopez. "It's an undemocratic, backwards law, a perfect example of how the government shouldn't intrude on our lives. But the Chamber was perfectly happy to use it to stomp on the Yes Men's rights to free spech, and the rights of hundreds of other organizations to operate on the web."

The 400 May First / People Link members weren't the only victims of the Chamber's action on Thursday. Today is the start of the national release of the Yes Men's new film, The Yes Men Fix the World. The film is being released in a number of independent theaters - who, not being part of a chain, are heavily dependent on the Yes Men website for selling tickets to the film. The Chamber's actions thus impinge on the ability of these small businesses to turn a profit.

"The Chamber claims to represent 3 million businesses of every size, yet their actions undermined a fair number of small businesses," said Mike Bonanno of the Yes Men. "The Chamber is clearly much less interested in actual freedom, economic or otherwise, than in the license of their largest members to operate free from the scientific consensus." (The Chamber has opposed or refused to endorse a climate bill, the absurdity of which the Yes Men's Monday action was designed to highlight.)

This isn't the first time a Yes Men site has found itself targeted by a DMCA complaint brought by a large corporation. The Yes Men have in the past received DMCA notices from Exxon, Dow Chemical, DeBeers, and the New York Times. In each case, the the Yes Men (represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation) refused to comply, and prevailed. Even the George W. Bush campaign sent a complaint to try to interrupt service to, in 2000, resulting in extensive ridicule that culminated in Bush's mind-boggling gaffe that "There ought to be limits to freedom."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Crashing the bankers' party

From Socialist Worker

Lee Sustar and Rigoberto Gogol look at the protests in Chicago against the banks that are making big profits thanks to trillions in taxpayer money while workers suffer the effects of the crisis.

IN AN angry and spirited demonstration, more than 2,000 people from labor, community and faith organizations protested outside the annual meeting of the American Bankers Association October 27 to vent their fury at the banks' inflated profits and bloated bonuses while workers lose their jobs and homes in record numbers.

Denise Dixon, executive director of the Illinois group Action Now, captured the mood when she recounted the devastation of home foreclosures in Chicago and across the U.S.--among the more than 4 million total expected between 2008 and 2012:

The banks must be held accountable for the destruction they have caused in our communities. Every 13 seconds, another home goes into foreclosure. Urban areas across the country that are already beaten down by high unemployment rates, violence, health concerns and substandard education systems stand in the eye of the storm of the foreclosures. This storm leaves in its wake so much destruction it makes Hurricane Katrina seem like a spring shower.

The protest, dubbed the Showdown in Chicago, was called by the National People's Coalition (NPC), a network of grassroots community groups, religious organizations and unions. Anchoring the effort was the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which was represented by several top officials, including union President Andy Stern. New AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was a featured speaker--a noteworthy development, given the tension between the AFL-CIO and the SEIU's breakaway Change to Win union federation.

Trumka, the former leader of the United Mine Workers of America, gave one of his trademark fiery speeches:

The bankers have turned the American economy into their own private casino. Gambling away our financial future with our money. Bringing us to the brink of a second Great Depression, and then sticking out a hand for taxpayers to bail them out. And bankers, let me tell you, we didn't put you back in business so you could pay billions of dollars in bonuses to the suits. Those bonuses have to go, and mortgage relief has to come our way.

Anna Burger, chair of Change to Win, roused the crowd with a series of questions, asking if the banks had renegotiated sub-prime loans, loaned money to small business or financed the creation of jobs--and got the same answer each time: "No." She led the crowd in one of the most popular chants of the day: "Enough is enough!"

A few rank-and-file labor activists were also featured, including Armando Robles, president of United Electrical (UE) workers Local 1110, the union that carried out the successful factory occupation at Republic Windows & Doors in Chicago that forced Bank of America to make good on workers' severance package. Robles said was proud that his co-workers fought back. "Everybody has to do it, no matter what," he said. "For dignity, for respect, for our families--for the working class."

Also speaking was another UE local president, Keith Scribner, who represents workers fighting to force Wells Fargo to pay up for workers' severance pay at the now closed Quad City Die Casting. The banks "got $330 billion in taxpayer bailouts and backstops, and they're using our money to fight reforms that would protect us in the future," Scribner said, before presenting cutout effigies of leading Wall Street bankers with pink slips and leading the crowd in the chant of "You're fired."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE DEMANDS that the speakers put forward on Congress--stopping foreclosures, creating a new consumer finance protection agency with real teeth, passing financial reform legislation that bars speculative risk-taking--are urgently needed.

Yet the call for next steps in this fight was limited. For his part, Trumka urged those in attendance to call their representatives and senators in Congress. And while SEIU Illinois State Council President Tom Balanoff declared that that the event would mark the beginning of a national movement, details weren't forthcoming.

SEIU President Andy Stern, who stood on stage during the event, but didn't speak, said that his union backed the protest because "we've got a country that's upside down" in its priorities. "We need to do like we did at Republic Windows, and what we did to Ken Lewis," he said, referring to the successful pressure campaign to oust Lewis as CEO of Bank of America.

The protest was a capstone to three days of meetings organized by the NPC, which mobilized activists from 20 states to organize a counter-event to the bankers' convention. The events began October 25 with a meeting of 500 people at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, a few blocks away from where the bankers met. The keynote speaker was Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who blasted payday lenders and corrupt practices by some banks. Durbin did not, however, criticize bankers in general.

In stark contrast were the stories from participants in the People's Commission--people who were pushed to the wall by home foreclosures and forced to fight back, and in the process became leaders of their communities in the struggle for shelter. For example, Rosario Frisse talked of the many homes she and other activists have been able to save by holding direct actions against Bank of America.

With stories like these still on their mind, activists protested a few hours later outside the American Bankers Association ball--which, incredibly enough, had a "Roaring Twenties" theme.

The second day of the "Showdown" attracted some 600 people. It began with a teach-in and session with Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chair Sheila Bair, who called on the audience to support Barack Obama's call for a new agency to protect consumers.

But what suited the activists' mood better was what came next: a march on the Chicago headquarters of Goldman Sachs. The marchers went to deliver a message demanding that Goldman's $23 billion bonus pool be donated to the efforts to stop foreclosures in the coming year--and demonstrators occupied the building's lobby for 30 minutes to underline their point.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE LIVELY final march and rally outside the bankers' convention deserves to be repeated, but on a much larger scale. What's needed is a mass march on Wall Street to turn up the heat on the banks, or a large-scale protest in Washington to shake up Congress and the financial lobbyists--and the White House, which has put bankers at the head of the line in the worst economic slump since the Great Depression.

A decade ago, the then-unified AFL-CIO mobilized tens of thousands of union members to protest the World Trade Organization in Seattle to protest the impact of corporate globalization. Today's recession--in part the result of the same pro-business policies protested in Seattle--has been incalculably more devastating to working people. The unions should mobilize on at least as large a scale in response.

Certainly, labor leaders aren't keen to cross Obama on economic policy or much else. They prefer to play an inside game in Washington, and target banks rather than their enablers like Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, White House economic adviser Larry Summers and Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke.

Nevertheless, by organizing a protest against the banks, the National People's Coalition and its backers in the unions have put down an important marker.

So far, the media has focused almost entirely on "populist anger" from the right--in the form of the "tea party" protests. The Showdown in Chicago highlighted the potential for labor, progressives and the left to take the initiative, and put forward a pro-worker agenda.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thousands protest bailout bonuses at Chicago bank meeting

From Raw Story


Thousands of protesters chanted "the banks got bailed out we got sold out" as they marched through the streets of Chicago on their way to a meeting of US bankers Tuesday.

Carrying signs proclaiming "Hold Wall Street accountable" and "Foreclosures ruin communities," they demanded an end to massive bonuses for the bankers who they say helped bring on the financial crisis and credit crunch which dragged the United States into the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

Organized by a coalition of union and community organizations, the protesters called on the bankers to stop lobbying against financial reform and to invest the trillions they received in government bailouts to stem the tide of foreclosures and invest in businesses which will help kickstart the economy.

"We love our country when you work hard and you're able to take care of your family," Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union's Illinois office told the crowd gathered near a meeting of the American Bankers Association.

"The people (at the bankers' meeting) are people who love their company more than our country... Who love their bonuses more than our country."

Organizers said the American Bankers Association and six top banks have spent 35 million dollars fighting financial reforms after accepting 17.8 trillion dollars in taxpayer bailouts and backstops.

Franklin D. Roosevelt “The Economic Bill of Rights”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

“The Economic Bill of Rights”

Excerpt from 11 January 1944 message to Congress on the State of the Union

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.

source: The Public Papers & Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt (Samuel Rosenman, ed.), Vol XIII (NY: Harper, 1950), 40-42

Monday, October 26, 2009

Massive protests rock Guatemala

From Worker's World

Published Oct 25, 2009 10:43 PM
By Daoud Brown Guatemala City

Oct. 13—In massive national protests, tens of thousands of campesinos, union workers, students and Indigenous people blocked roads and bridges on Oct. 12—El Día de la Raza—effectively paralyzing many parts of the country including this capital city of 3 million.

The mainly Indigenous protestors, holding oversized red flags, hit the streets in Huahuatenango, Quiché, San Marcos and at least 10 other cities in the countryside—some reportedly carrying machetes, sticks, paving stones and slingshots—and halted traffic on the main roads to the Caribbean and Pacific coasts and the Inter-American Highway. Blockades snarled traffic on most routes into the capital.

They are demanding that certain mining concessions, a cement factory and a hydroelectric plant that they believe will destroy their environment with toxic waste be shut down; that land reform including access to scarce arable land be enacted; that pure water springs be protected from contamination; that the jailing, persecution and violence directed against farm worker leaders be halted; that four campesino political prisoners be released; and that the use of private security guards and armed paramilitaries to assassinate and persecute Indigenous and campesino leaders be investigated.

Daniel Pascual, leader of the National Indigenous & Campesino Coordinadora (CONIC), told the newspaper Diario de Centro América that the protests “were called to exert pressure on the government to live up to their commitments” earlier agreed to but ignored. (Oct. 13)

The Oct. 12 actions were exactly 90 days after a march of 10,000 Indigenous and campesinos from San Juan Sacatepéquez to the capital on July 14, when President Álvaro Colom met with protest leaders. “In this country, if we were not doing this, no one would listen to us,” said Pascual. “There is no justice. The judges are corrupt. Campesinos are murdered. People are dying of hunger and no one says anything. Only by taking this road can we get a hearing.”

The marches and blockades got under way before dawn at 4 a.m. Oct. 12 and lasted long into the night, when thousands gathered in the capital around the Casa Presidencial. Fifteen protesters held a six-hour sit-in and hunger strike there and vowed to continue until President Colom agreed to meet with them on their demands—which he did, just before midnight. After hours of intense negotiations, the government also agreed there would be no reprisals against protesters.

One 19-year-old marcher was killed by gunfire during the tumultuous day, in what campesino leaders described as an assassination aimed at organizations of the rural poor. Two others were wounded in the attack. Business leaders said the protests had resulted in big financial losses to industry and commerce.

Students from San Carlos National University commandeered five buses to block traffic in the south of the capital for six hours. In Chimaltenango, farm workers demanded cancellation of the debt owed by 70 rural communities to the Fondo Nacional de Tierras (Land Fund). In Quiché, campesinos from the Farm Workers Unity Committee (CUC) threatened to put down their tools if the government did not act quickly on their demands. The huge plaza around the National Palace was jammed with buses that had ferried thousands from the countryside. Colorful hand-lettered banners told local stories of the daily struggle of workers and farmers against the bosses and landowners.

Facing the plaza was a giant portrait of Jacobo Arbenz, elected Guatemala’s president by a landslide in 1950. The popular Arbenz presided over real land reform, expanded democratic and labor rights, and the expropriation of land from the powerful United Fruit Company—until he was overthrown in a 1954 coup with the help of the United Fruit Company and the CIA. Graffiti covered the walls in the crowded working-class quarter called Zona 1: “No more militarism,” “For the disappeared—

Memory, Truth, Justice,” “No to capitalism,” “Urban resistance” and “Guatemala desperate—For work, for land, for food.” Venezuela chose the day to announce emergency donations of yucca products to alleviate the food crisis in Guatemala. The Day of Dignity and Resistance of the Indigenous Peoples, or El Día de la Raza, was also celebrated on Oct. 12 in Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile, as well as in Guatemala where Indigenous people are more than 60 percent of the population.

Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Saturday At The Riverside Ca. Anti-Nazi Demo

This report came via the Yippies List on Yahoo

Gary wrote:

It was way too early to be fighting Nazis, 10 Am in Riverside, it was already hot when I got there and at least a thousand demonstrators were protesting the rally of about a dozen Nazis. At the peak they had about 27 Nazis and their friends show up. That is a pretty big crowd for the Nazis but we had at least 2000 protestors by the time I left around noon. It was too hot, 98 by the temp gauge in my car when I left and the day was still getting warmed up.

Lots of members of the Brown Berets were there, at least as many of them as Nazis. I was surprised to see them. I didn't know that group was still around. They even had brown uniforms and Berets, they reminded me of one of those girl scout groups, what were they called? The Brownies. There were a bunch of people in orange caps and tee shirts that called themselves monitors and they had conveniently made up a bunch of placards that mostly said things like "nobody is Illegal". Someone was there passing out the "Anti Racist Action" paper and I saw a banner with their logo on it. Some Anarchists had come all the way from Reading, CA a long ways away, over 600 miles just to protest some real live Nazis.

The Socialist Workers Party had set up a table and I picked up a book of theirs and a subscription to the Militant. We spoke about the rise of interest in Socialism in America and debated whether the Russian Revolution was premature or simply unlucky because of the failure of the German and Hungarian revolts after world war one. It is always fun to get into that discussion. We agreed that Americans were still in shock but hopefully they would get pissed off at the way capitalism is using our tax dollars to bail out their failed system of wealth accumulation. I emphasized that capitalism was once a force for progress in the world but now it had outlived its usefulness. The member of the Socialist Workers Party noted that capitalism was doing what it did best war and exploitation.

Someone who had friends who had gone to Palestine and Gaza last summer for the investigation of the abuses of power by the Israeli government and I spoke for a few minutes. He was part Mexican and part Lebanese. We agreed that the solution in Israel would be a single state solution. We agreed that the USA should not support Israel and I rolled out the idea of Turkey returning to the area as the negotiating power for a return to a depoliticized Palestine where Jews, Arabs and Christians could live together as they had before the 20th century and the British stirring up trouble in that region. I did not exactly propose a return to Ottoman control, but perhaps a UN-Turkish mandate would do the trick.

I had a brief chat with a gentleman who said Christianity was paganism. I am not sure what he believed in except he said you can't just believe the Bible and he said that Christianity was just paganism dressed up. I noted that the emperor Constantine wanted to use Christianity to bolster his rule of the Roman Empire. I also threw at him the words of Philip K. Dick that it was really about 70 Ad and most of history was a delusion. He said whatever year it is it is no longer the Roman Empire, I am not so sure about that. I think the Emperor has simply put on new clothes.

I spoke with an Anarchist from Victorville who is in the WSA Workers Solidarity Alliance and he complained about being out of work. I told him I would keep an eye out. I also met his buddy from Paris, CA, and he gave me a Workers Solidarity pamphlet and we spoke about the WSA conference in Detroit going on now. I noted that I had stopped calling myself an Anarchist when the Primitivist faction seemed to have taken over in the early 00's and he noted that most people now were more workerist oriented. I told him that I was more in agreement with the WSA and I had met Tom and some of the others who formed the WSA back in the early 80's. I also told him that I was friends with John Zerzan and that I understood his critique but I though the radical primitivist wing of the anarchist movement had gone too far in its survivalist critique. I asked him if he had been around for any of the debates in the 90's when anarchists really became involved with the Earth Firsters and the whole debate over Deep Ecology. He said he was too young.

We then talked about how big the Anarchist Book fair had been last winter and I noted that almost no one was still around from the early 90's in the LA anarchist scene except a very few like Anarchy Jay. I said we needed to attract working people and the interests of workers or the Anarchist movement would always be a sign of youthful enthusiasm at least here in the USA.

I had mentioned my desire to see a new bookstore open to the Victorville comrade but he said he was too poor to even think about it. I told him how I had sold my anarchist book collection to the Peace and Freedom guy from San Bernardino and he said yeah that the Peace and Freedom Party was trying to recruit anarchists.

I spoke with one of the monitors in the orange hats and asked him what he thought about the demo and he said it wasn't peaceful enough. I told him that for a demonstration against the Nazis it was pretty peaceful. Nobody was throwing rocks and it was right next to railroad tracks where there were plenty of rocks. In fact it was a strange place for a rally in an empty lot. Those Nazis must have been sweating with their black uniforms and biker helmets on in the sun there with no shade. Too bad for them. They had about two hundred of Riverside's police force, a contingent of Riverside County Sheriffs Dept and some unidentified military looking guys in fatigues. They needed the protection. Otherwise the mostly Hispanic crowd would have massacred them.

I was told the Peace and Freedom Party organized the protest. I saw some of them and members of the Inland Empire Atheists. The ANSWER people whose announcement notified me of the event showed up late, just as I was getting ready to leave. I can only take so much sun and heat and shouting at Nazis. Nobody was ready to kick their butts today and by noon there were too many cops there to bother trying. All told it was a rather enjoyable morning socializing among the politically aware classes of southern Californians. I came away feeling inspired and that is pretty good in this day and age.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Yes Men Mess with the Conservative Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber of Commerce like the AFA and Concerned Citizen Councils (KKK) is basically an ultra right wing fascist organization that aims at exploiting workers to benefit the rich elite business owners.


Stand Up to Anti-Immigrant Fascists
Protest Against Neo-Nazis/KKK

This Saturday, October 24, 10 am
Corner of Indiana Ave. & Madison St., Riverside, CA 92504
Park on south end of nearby Villegas Park
Map and directions

In Riverside, racist Nazi forces from the misnamed "National Socialist Movement" have been organizing rallies to attack and harass the immigrant community. Earlier this month, the Nazis were driven away by a successful counter-demonstration of hundreds. But the racists are attempting to come back stronger on Oct. 24. The ANSWER Coalition and its member group the Party for Socialism and Liberation are joining with community allies in the Inland Empire to stand united with our immigrant sisters and brothers and drive out the Nazis once again.

With a significant rise in activity from right-wing and fascist forces in the past several months--promoted by coporate media outlets like FOX News and Lou Dobbs on CNN--it is essential to build a resistance and stand up to racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant, and anti-gay assaults. Join us this Saturday as we continue to fight against bigotry and build the struggle for equality. Be there with hundreds to denounce racist hate.

Riverside anti-Nazi rally sponsors include: Riverside County Peace and Freedom Party Central Committee, Moreno Valley Parents Association, Mount San Antonio College Students for Immigrant Rights, Mount San Antonio College I.S.O., Mount San Antonio College IDEAS, MEChA de U.C.R., MEChA de R.C.C.-Moreno Valley, Laborers International Union of North America Local 777, Aztlan Brown Berets, Colectivo Tonantzin, Comite Pro-Democracia en Mexico, Fernando Pedraza Day Laborer Coalition, Democrats of Greater Riverside, ANSWER Coalition, Party for Socialism and Liberation, Students Fight Back, March Forward!, Riverside Area Peace and Justice Action, Moreno Valley Democratic Club, United Democrats of Moreno Valley, California Peace and Freedom Party State Central Committee; Socialist Party USA, California Chapter; Inland Valley Friends Meeting, Social Justice Committee of the Universalist Unitarian Church of Riverside, Unity Fellowship Church, Riverside; Islamic Center of Riverside, Council on
American-Islamic Relations LA, Western Inland Empire Coalition Against Hate, Inland Communities Fellowship of Reconciliation, Inland Empire Rapid Response Network, Mensch Foundation International, Redlands PFLAG, Riverside Latino Voter Project, People for Immigrant Rights, San Bernardino Community Services Center, Riverside County Democratic Party Central Committee, Riverside County Libertarian Party Central Committee, Riverside County Green Party Council, San Bernardino County Peace and Freedom Party Central Committee,Pomona Economic Opportunity Center, Mexican Political Association, CODEPINK Redlands, Inland Empire Do Peace & Nonviolence Alliance (IEDOPN), U.S. Department of Peace Campaign; Riverside Community College Student Alliance for Education, Save Our Chinatown Committee, National Day Laborer Organizing Project (Southern California), Institute of Popular Education of Southern California, Friends Across the Line, Riverside Community Arts Association, Riverside City Human
Relations Commission and others.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Grayson: Fox News is the ‘enemy of America’

From Raw Story

By David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Thursday, October 22nd, 2009 -- 10:42 am
Since the Obama administration began accusing Fox News of being "a wing of the Republican Party," the war of words has intensified.

The latest counterattack from Fox's defenders is the claim that the White House is putting Fox on a Nixon-like enemies list, a list which Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) describes as also including the insurance companies and the US Chamber of Commerce.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), however, believes that an enemies list is exactly where Fox belongs.

"Fox News and their Republican collaborators are the enemy of America," Grayson told MSNBC's Ed Schultz on Wednesday. "They're the enemy of anybody who cares about health care in this country, the enemy of anybody who cares about educating their children, the enemy of anybody who wants energy independence or anything good for this country. And certainly the enemy of peace, there's no doubt about that. They are the enemy."

Grayson thinks that the White House is doing exactly the right thing in going after Fox, because "what you do with a bully is you confront the bully and the bully backs down."

"That's a good description of Fox News," Grayson explained. "People come on the air, they insult them as they did me. ... Why would anybody think that Fox News is some sort of valid news organization?"

Grayson did not go any easier on the Republican Party than on Fox. "The Republicans operate simply by vilifying their enemies and nothing else," he told Schultz. "All they do is try to distract people from issues of health care, issues of jobs, issues of energy independence. They've got nothing. ... The Party of No is well on its way to becoming the party of nobody."

Liberal sites like Daily Kos have been predictably enthusiastic about Grayson's remarks, while conservative bloggers have just as predictably attacked him as "off his meds." In a post mockingly titled, "Alan Grayson: Fox News, GOP are the enemies of America, peace, puppies," Allahpundit described Grayson as a "grandstanding idiot" who's "relishing his role as the left's new golden boy / attack dog."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

3 arrested in anti-BNP protests at BBC

Three people have been arrested as anti-fascist protesters demonstrating against BNP leader Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time broke through a security cordon outside the BBC Television Centre in London.

The Metropolitan Police said there had been three arrests, two for violent disorder and the third person wanted on a warrant.

A London Ambulance Service spokesman said three people were treated and discharged for minor injuries during the protest at Television Centre.


Up to 1,000 people have clashed with police outside BBC headquarters in London.

Traffic outside the television centre in west London ground to a halt as campaigners demonstrated against Mr Griffin's presence on the panel for this evening's broadcast.

Earlier, 25 anti-fascist activists broke through police lines and briefly made it into the BBC building ahead of the far-right politician's arrival.

Speaking after entering the building, Mr Griffin said of the protestors: "I was rather expecting that. The Labour Party financed groups from all over the country bringing a mob down here today. It was always going to be a fairly big event.'

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown defended the BBC move, saying Mr Griffin going on the show would be 'a good opportunity to expose what they are about.'

Recording for the Question Time programme has now begun.

Mr Griffin entered the studio to muted applause where he is sharing the platform with Justice Secretary Jack Straw, Tory peer Baroness Warsi, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne and writer Bonnie Greer.

The BNP has faced criticism for calling for an end to all immigration to Britain. It does not allow non-white members, although that is set to change after a recent court ruling

Demonstrators outside the television centre were said to be saying 'We're black, white, Asian and Jew, BBC shame on you', and 'we won't let Nick Griffin through'.

In Belfast, around 100 anti-racism protestors have gathered outside the BBC on Ormeau Avenue.

Up to 15 youths, holding a union jack flag, have positioned themselves on a small traffic island opposite the protesters.

There are also reports of a smaller protest in Derry.

Spirit of Harper’s Ferry raid lives

I was born in Ticonderoga and grew up in that region. John Brown is buried in that region where he had a farm that was used to assist African Americans escaping the horrors of slavery.

In the 1950s I watched the growth of the Civil Rights Movement and learned about the great American hero John Brown whose only offense was his belief in freedom and human dignity for all.

There has been far too much pandering to those who white wash the role of the South in their War of Treason in the Defense of Slavery.

The history of heroes like John Brown have been pushed from the school rooms.

The best history book regarding the history of this country is without doubt Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States 1492 to Present.

It is shameful that only the left is willing to remember the real fight for the freedom and equality that were the ideals of the American Revolution and make that revolution a work in process rather than a static compartmentalized event.

From Worker's World
150 years later
By Shelley Ettinger
Published Oct 21, 2009 4:12 PM

For the masses of workers and oppressed people in this country—those whose days are consumed with trying to survive and feed their families, keep a roof over their heads and get some kind of minimal health care or education—for the majority, that is, who grab their news in quick gulps on TV or radio, Web sites or tabloid newspapers, Oct. 16 was just another day.

John Brown

John Brown

They never heard a word about its import. That’s not surprising, but it is a damn shame, for Oct. 16 is one of the most important dates in U.S. history. And this year was the 150th anniversary of the vitally significant event that happened on that date.

That event is the raid on the U.S. Army arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Va. This military assault by an armed, well-trained, united band of Black and white militants was intended to be the opening battle in what would then develop into a widespread guerrilla war that would topple the system of chattel slavery.

The troop had written, hashed out and agreed upon a revised, improved Constitution guaranteeing race and sex equality. It was to be a new charter for the new country they envisioned rising out of the ashes of the old one that had been built on the backs of enslaved Africans and wholesale theft of Indigenous lands. With this Constitution in hand, with a pledge to succeed or die, with almost unimaginable courage, 23 people went to Harper’s Ferry on Oct. 16, 1859, to take on the slaveocracy.

Their leader was John Brown. He was known as “Captain Brown” or “Old Osawatomie” because of his heroic exploits three years earlier, in 1856 in Kansas, where he and his troops waged a series of victorious battles that proved decisive in bringing Kansas into the Union as a free rather than a slave state. Brown’s tactical brilliance; his unwavering spirit and optimism even in the face of the death of one of his sons and disabling of another; an utter absence of the racism that tainted most of the prominent white abolitionists; and, above all, his bone-deep commitment to the cause to which he devoted his entire life—all this led the group that assembled to plan and carry out the raid on Harper’s Ferry to determine that Brown must lead the charge.

The group was unprecedented in every way. It was made up of Black and white together, just as the farming community Brown had founded and led during the preceding years in North Elba, N.Y., was made up of Black and white families—the first such integrated community in U.S. history. Among the Harper’s Ferry squad, decisions were made > democratically, not handed down hierarchically. Black and white combatants took part equally in every way.

The plan of attack was crafted based on Brown’s long years of study of the tactics of Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey and other enslaved African-American leaders of U.S. slave revolts; of the Seminole nation that had resisted domination by colonial settlers; of the Maroons of the South and of Jamaica and Surinam, escaped slaves who fought the settler state forces in daring raids from bases in the hills and mountains; and of Toussaint L’Ouverture, one of the great liberators of Haiti.

In Brown’s view, there were several African-American members of the Harper’s Ferry troop any one of whom ought to take the leadership post for the action. However, the group overruled him, arguing that because of his experience in Kansas and his proven military prowess, it was Brown who must captain their squad.

And so this small band of warriors moved in. They were self-trained. They carried a minimal cache of smuggled weapons. The idea was to seize the arsenal, distribute its contents to the nearby population of enslaved laborers, join with them to liberate the region, establish a base of operations in the woods which would swiftly expand to many bases as ever more freed slaves joined up, and wage full-scale war until the abomination of slavery was defeated for good and the new liberationist Constitution was instituted.

John Brown’s real legacy

The initial steps of the plan went well. Brown and his troop had the element of surprise on their side. They easily overwhelmed the arsenal’s defenses, took hostages and occupied the site. After these early achievements, however, there was a series of setbacks. The government, initially caught off guard, was able to rally. Ultimately, through sheer strength of numbers and with all the armed might of the state behind it, the Army—under the command of none other than Robert E. Lee, who only a few short months later would take the helm of the secessionist Confederate forces—beat back the brave band of anti-racist heroes.

Commentary from bourgeois historians and military analysts fixes on various faults in the planning and execution of the raid on Harper’s Ferry to explain why it did not succeed. Most of it blames Brown, tagging him as some variation of insane, a crazed terrorist or the like. This slander against one of the towering figures in the history of the struggle against racism is clearly politically motivated. Even now, 150 years later, racism is so integral, so crucial to the capitalist enterprise, that it is vital to portray the willingness of this white warrior to give his life in the effort to end it as sheer madness.

A truer image of Brown can be gleaned from the words of Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois and Malcolm X, all of whom praised him. Or from his comrade and collaborator, the great Harriet Tubman, who years later said he had been her “dearest friend.”

Factual inaccuracies also riddle the standard version. African-American journalist and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal offers an example in his essay “The Neglected Voices from Harper’s Ferry” in a recent edition of “A Voice from Harper’s Ferry” by Osborne P. Anderson. Anderson was the only Black participant in the assault on the arsenal who escaped and survived; so his account, Abu-Jamal points out, ought to be regarded as definitive. Anderson’s account contradicts those who claim that, before they arrived at Harper’s Ferry, the troop’s attempts to rally support among slaves on nearby plantations were unsuccessful. On the contrary, Abu-Jamal points out, “Anderson was in a perfect position to speak to the issue of slave betrayal. Instead, he sees none. He found the slaves supportive and overjoyed by the revolt, and counts them among the first to fall during the armed conflict. He was among the contingent that visited the plantations, where he found ‘the greatest enthusiasm.’ ” Abu-Jamal continues, “Of the 17 revolutionaries who died at Harper’s Ferry, nine were Black men!” This number includes not only those who had trained and arrived together, but several who must have joined the troop when it swept through the plantations along the route. In all, “The majority of men who died at the Ferry were Black men; the majority of Black men who fought and died (five of nine) were slaves fighting for their freedom!”

Seven other freedom fighters, including John Brown, were captured. All were hanged before the end of the year. Worldwide outrage and mourning followed.

From Haiti to France to Cuba to Canada, in Detroit, Boston, Chicago and many other U.S. cities, bells tolled, orators spoke, and thou sands upon thousands rallied, marched and cried out in fury at the injustice.

In his jail cell, just before he was led to the gallows on Dec. 2, 1859, the great soldier for human liberation wrote these last words: “I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.” Indeed, the Civil War began just a year and a half later in April 1861.

As Union troops marched into battle, they sang the newly penned “Battle Hymn of the Republic” with its famous opening words: “John Brown’s body lies a-moldering in its grave but his spirit marches on.” The war had really begun on Oct. 16, 1859. That was the day of the first battle, when a small troop of Black and white guerrilla fighters took up arms against the slave state.

By any honest measure, the raid on Harper’s Ferry was a success. It was a clarion call for freedom, and it echoes down the years.

Read Ettinger’s 2006 “Legacy of John Brown” article in WW at

Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.


October 19th, 2009

October 11, 2009

Movement for a Democratic Society Constitution 2009

(This constitution is adapted from the sds constitution 1962-67)

Preamble: Movement for a Democratic Society is a global association of people on the left. It seeks to create a sustained community of educational and political concern and actions: one bringing together liberals and radicals, activists and scholars, students, faculty and workers in all trades. It maintains a vision of a democratic society, where at all levels the people have control of the decisions which affect them and the resources on which they are dependent. It seeks a relevance through the continual focus on realities and on the programs necessary to effect change at the most basic levels of economic, political, and social organization. It feels the urgency to put forth a radical, democratic program counter-posed to authoritarian movements.

Article I: Name

The name of the organization shall be Movement for a Democratic Society (sometimes referred to herein as: MDS).

Article II: Membership

Section 1.

Membership is open to all people who share the commitment of the organization to democracy as a means and as a social goal.

Section 2.

Movement for a Democratic Society is an organization of democrats. We are civil libertarian in our treatment of those with whom we disagree, but clear in our opposition to any totalitarian principle as a basis for government or social organization. Advocates or apologists for such a principle are not eligible for membership.

Section 3. Dues

There shall be a membership fee of one dollar, supplemented by periodic dues, the amount and period of which shall be determined by the Council of Representatives.

Section 4. Associates

Individuals who do not wish to join the Movement for a Democratic Society, but who share the major concerns of the organization, may become associates, with rights and responsibilities as determined by the MDS Working Committee.

Article III: Chapters and Affiliates

Section I.

Any group of five or more members may apply to the MDS Working Committee for a charter as a chapter.

A chapter may be geographical in a specific community, or non-local, focused on a particular project.

Section 2.

A chapter may be chartered at any meeting of the Council of Representatives. It must be considered for chartering at the first meeting of the Council of Representatives after it has submitted a membership list, a constitution or statement of principles, and notification of its elected Council of Representatives “chapter representative” to the Council. In the period between submission of the required information to the Council of Representatives and the next Council of Representatives’ meeting, the chapter may be given a provisional charter at the discretion of the MDS Working Committee.

Section 3.

Chapters are expected to operate within the broad terms of policy set by the Movement for a Democratic Society Convention and the Council of Representatives. Points of conflict should be referred to the Council of Representatives and a procedure established to make the issue public to the organization. In matters judged to be detrimental to the interests of the organization, the Council of Representatives shall have the power to dissociate the organization from whatever activity that has been brought into question. The matter shall be finally resolved by the Council of Representatives in meeting or referendum.

Section 4. Associated Groups

Independent groups can affiliate as associates of MDS by vote of their membership and designation of a liaison representative to sit on the Council of Representatives with consultative vote. The representative shall be a member of Movement for a Democratic Society. Such association is provisional until the approval of the Council of Representatives.

The form of the relationship shall be worked out in each case between the associated group and the Council of Representatives.

Section 5. Fraternal, Sororal and Sibling Organizations

Organizations whose programs and purposes are consistent with the broad aims and principles of Movement for a Democratic Society can be invited by the Council of Representatives to be Fraternal, Sororal or Sibling with the Movement for a Democratic Society and have a Fraternal, Sororal or Sibling vote on the Council of Representatives. Such organizations shall appoint a liaison representative who shall be a member of Movement for a Democratic Society.

Section 6.

Movement for a Democratic Society welcomes the opportunity to cooperate with other individuals and organizations in jointly sponsoring specific action, programs and joint stands on specific issues. The Council of Representatives shall be empowered to determine specific cooperative activity.

Article IV: Regions

Section 1.

All or some of the chapters and/or members in a given geographical area may constitute themselves a region of Movement for a Democratic Society. New regions shall submit their constitutions and be recognized provisionally by the MDS Working Committee, pending the next regular Council of Representatives meeting. All disputes over regional boundaries shall be resolved by the Council of Representatives.

Section 2.

Regions of Movement for a Democratic Society shall hold at least one membership convention each year and may establish regional councils as deemed necessary. Regional programs, staff, and offices shall be governed by decisions arrived at by a democratically constituted regional council.

Section 3.

While fundamentally responsible to their regional constituency, regions are expected to operate within the broad terms of policy set by the Movement for a Democratic Society Convention and Council of Representatives. Any points of conflict shall be finally resolved by the Council of Representatives.

Section 4.

If one-third of the duly chartered chapters in the geographical area of a region so petition, the Council of Representatives shall immediately consider whether to declare the regional organization defunct and to prohibit it from speaking or acting on behalf of Movement for a Democratic Society.

Article V: Convention

Section 1.

The Movement for a Democratic Society shall meet in convention at least annually, at a time fixed by the Council of Representatives, with at least three months prior notice being given to all members.

Section 2.

The Convention shall serve to debate major issues and orientation of the organization, to set program mandates to the MDS Working Committee, and to elect MDS Working Committee members. The Convention shall be the policy-making body.

Section 3. Representation.

Chapters shall elect Convention Spokespersons on the basis of one Spokesperson for every five MDS members in the chapter. Each Spokesperson will have as many votes as they have individual proxies from their chapter members who are not attending the Convention. Individual MDS members shall have the right to attend the Convention with one vote each. Delegates from associated and sibling groups shall be elected by a procedure determined by the Council of Representatives. The MDS Working Committee shall draft Convention rules, accreditation procedures, and other requirements, and determine the place.

Article VI: Council of Representatives

Section 1.

The Council of Representatives shall be composed of (1) two representatives elected from each chapter with five to twenty-five members, and one additional representative for each additional twenty-five members or fraction thereof, in that chapter; (2) the elected members of the MDS Working Committee (without vote); (3) elected liaison representatives from associated groups (with consultative voice); (4) liaison representatives from Fraternal, Sororal and Sibling organizations (with consultative voice); and (5) Movement for a Democratic Society staff, if any (without vote).

In all cases, Council of Representatives’ members and liaison representatives must be members of Movement for a Democratic Society. (No more than three members can serve concurrently as MDS Working Committee Members.)

Section 2.

The Council of Representatives shall be the policy making and program body of the organization between conventions. It shall determine policy in the form of resolutions on specific issues within the broad orientation of the organization; determine program priorities and action undertaken by the organization consonant with the orientation and mandates set by the convention; advise the MDS Working Committee on financial matters; establish ad hoc committees, designate representatives, if any, to other boards; charter chapters, associated groups, and sibling organizations.

Section 4. Term Lengths

The Council of Representatives members, except those Secretariat members and others elected by the convention, shall serve for one (1) year with no more than two (2) consecutive terms (unless there is an exception requested by the chapter).

Section 3.

The Council of Representatives shall meet at least every 2 months either in person or through cyberspace or telephone. A quorum shall be 40 percent of the voting members. Chapter and liaison representatives may be represented by a designated alternate authorized by the chapter or liaison group.

Section 4. The Council of Representatives shall establish by-laws governing due process in case of grievances, transparency, open communication, recall procedures, accountability and other matters of internal democracy.

Article VII: The Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS) Working Committee

Section 1.

The MDS Working Committee shall be composed of two or more people from each secretariat, elected by the convention plus such other individuals as the convention may elect. If an MDS Working Committee member elected by the convention is unable to serve for a period, the Council of Representatives may select an alternate from among the chapter representatives on the Council. No more than three members from one chapter or associated group can serve concurrently on the MDS Working Committee.

Section 2.

The MDS Working Committee shall have formal address and office(s) at a place(s) determined by the Convention.

Section 3 The MDS Working Committee shall meet, via phone, internet web-cam and or in person, at least bi-weekly.

The MDS Working Committee shall compile and distribute to the membership a biweekly working group report, including pending questions and questions for consideration.

Section 4.

The MDS Working Committee members must have been members of the Movement for a Democratic Society at least two months prior to elections.

Section 5.

The MDS Working Committee is the day to day spokes vehicle of Movement for a Democratic Society. It shall be responsible for carrying out organizational policy and shall convene the Council of Representatives.

Section 6.

The MDS Working Committee shall have day to day responsibility for the implementation of programs approved by the Convention or Council of Representatives.

Section 7.

A representative of the MDS Working Committee shall not attend congresses, accept money, or establish formal relationships with organizations without the approval of the convention, the Council of Representatives, or, between Council of Representative meetings, the MDS Working Committee.

Article VIII Secretariats

Section 1.

The Movement for a Democratic Society shall have 5 secretariats, each with at least 2 secretaries, elected by the convention, and volunteer members as each may recruit. The voting members of the working committee are those elected by the convention or their alternates. The secretariats are expected to function as work collectives with shared leadership.

Section 2. Membership Secretariat: shall be responsible for list maintenance of chapter and at large members, membership recruitment, dues and finances, and maintaining the MDS web site and list serves.

Section 3. The Education Secretariat shall have the primary responsibility for the functioning of the internal membership education program, public education and publications.

Section 4. The Actions Secretariat: shall be responsible for helping support local chapter and regional actions and to coordinate actions and campaigns, as determined by the Convention and Council of Representatives.

Section 5. The Inter-Organization Relations Secretariat: shall have primary responsibility for liaison with Associated Groups, Fraternal, Sororal and Sibling Organizations, and other organizations, and for informing the membership about these groups.

Section 6. Media Secretariat: shall be responsible for “press releases,” relations with all media, and the place to which requests for organization statements are referred.

Article IX: Parliamentary Authority

In all cases not covered by this Constitution, How to Hold A good Meeting, Rusty’s Rules of Order, shall be the authority governing Movement for a Democratic Society business; except that on page 12, under the heading of “Making a Main Motion,” a motion may be amended either by agreement of the maker and the second, or by a motion to amend, with a second and a vote; and a proposed and seconded amendment may also be amended by the body, by a second and a vote, in accord with section 33 of Robert’s Rules of Order.

Article X: Policy and Discipline

Section 1.

Any member of the organization may be expelled or relieved of duties by a two-thirds vote of Council of Representatives. Due process shall be followed in all cases, according to by-laws approved by the Council of Representatives.

Section 2.

Any three chapters, or one-third of the Council of Representatives can initiate a Movement for a Democratic Society organization-wide referendum on any question.

Section 3.

All material sent out in the name of the organization shall have the approval of a majority of the Council of Representatives and shall have been submitted to all of the MDS Working Committee members.

Article XI: Amendments

This constitution may be amended by one of three procedures:

a. by a two-thirds vote of the Convention in session on amendments introduced at the Convention, in which case the amendment will take effect at the following Convention;

b. by a two-thirds vote of the Convention in session on amendments introduced by distribution to the membership at least a month before the Convention, in which case the amendment will take effect immediately upon adoption;

c. by a two-thirds vote of the membership in referendum in which case the amendment will take effect immediately upon adoption

Monday, October 19, 2009

Health rip-off

From Worker's World
Published Oct 18, 2009 10:37 PM

The U.S. remains one of only two developed countries in the world today that do not provide health insurance for all their residents. More than 45,000 deaths in the U.S. each year are due to lack of health insurance. Now the insurance industry giants are doing everything in their power to prevent any genuine health care reform.

The health care plan proposed by President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party has been watered down by so many concessions to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries and to right-wing Republicans that, in addition to being completely inadequate, it will actually result in a transfer of money from the working class to the health care industry.

The plan revealed by Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus would mandate the purchase of health insurance without any control over premiums, while taking seven years to reduce the number of uninsured individuals to 17 million. Currently an estimated 50 million people are uninsured in the U.S. and an additional 25 million underinsured.

The Baucus plan delivers what the insurance industry really wants—a captive market. Should the bill pass in its present form, those who stand to gain the most are the insurance companies and pharmaceuticals. The huge profits these companies rake in guarantee that the cost of health care in the U.S. remains by far the highest in the world.

In addition, the plan leaves millions of undocumented workers specifically excluded from whatever health care provisions are finally decided on, a racist maneuver that is harmful to everyone.

The health insurance industry has spent millions of these ill-gained dollars making sure things go their way. Congressional disclosures reveal that health care firms and their lobbyists spent at the phenomenal rate of $1.4 million a day from January to March of this year and continued to pour in more during the second quarter—all to guarantee that health care “reform” would be to their benefit.

Six U.S. senators, including leading members of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over health care reform, received more than a million dollars each from the industry. Baucus alone received more than $3 million. Sen. Arlen Specter, who first supported health care reform and then opposed it, received more than $4 million.

Joe Wilson, the racist South Carolina representative who gained notoriety for his disruption of President Obama’s Sept. 9 speech to Congress, has pocketed hundreds of thousands in insurance and health industry contributions.

Millions more went to finance health industry public relations campaigns. The lobbying group America’s Health Insurance Plans, which represents 1,300 member companies, sent thousands of its employees to town-hall meetings on health care reform. Insurance industry contributions helped fuel the “grassroots” front groups that disrupted these meetings.

There is a lot at stake for the major insurance companies. The top five—United Health Group, WellPoint, Aetna, Humana and Cigna—raked in profits averaging more than $1.56 billion in 2008. The CEOs of these companies got salaries and benefits ranging from $3 million to $24 million in 2008. It should be clear that they will stand in the way of any reform that threatens their loot. After all, under capitalism it is profits, not providing health care, which really drive the industry.

For any real health care reform under a U.S. capitalist administration, organized labor and health care advocates have to stand up to the industry. They can’t rely on the Democratic Party, not even the “liberal” Democrats in the House of Representatives.

A resolution supporting single-payer health care was passed at the AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh in September. To make this a reality, the unions need to activate their members with at least as much intensity as they have devoted to supporting capitalist political candidates.

Rather than looking to congressional Democrats, organized labor needs to support the efforts of genuine grassroots organizations like Healthcare-NOW! and other single-payer advocacy groups that are directly challenging the health care industry as they fight for universal coverage under H.R. 676.

“Medicare for all” is an appropriate demand for this period and the right thing to fight for now, but in the long term only socialism can provide for workers’ health care needs.

Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Texas residents protest drilling

From Socialist Worker

Candice Bernd and Will Wooten report from Denton, Texas, on the battle of residents to stop natural gas drilling planned for their own backyard.

WHEN THE Denton City Council considered granting a special-use permit on July 21 to Fort Worth-based Range Resources to drill for natural gas on the Rayzor Ranch property--a site directly across from a neighborhood community, a hospital, a retirement center and a park--the council touched off a long campaign of community dissent.

The gas wells, which would expose the community to 90 decibels of drilling noise, light pollution, environmental damage, air-quality problems and the possibility of earthquakes, would also lower neighbors' property values, as the slant drilling would permanently damage their homes' foundations.

The local animal and plant life as well as underground aquifers would be threatened, and the roads around the area would suffer, too--from the tons of water that would have to be trucked in by 18-wheelers to keep the wells running.

After learning about the plan to drill, Brett Darr, a local Denton resident and engineer for Peterbilt, took action. He informed his neighbors, who in turn, informed the city council about their complaints. The city council, unsure and surprised by the sudden rise in questions about the drilling, decided to table the issue and delay the vote. City Council member Dalton Gregory called for the issue not to be tabled, saying he was ready to vote against the permit.

Dallas-based Allegiance Development--the surface rights owner, which plans to put in a Wal-Mart and Sam's Club on the site in a deal with Range Resources, which owns the mineral rights of the property--insisted on the most inconvenient drilling site for residents. The company had the choice of drilling on four different parts of the property, the others farther away from the residential area.

Darr began to petition the neighborhood when Denton International Socialist Organization (ISO) member Andrew Teeter, who lives in the threatened neighborhood, learned about the problem and began organizing around the issue. Teeter called a neighborhood meeting to begin planning a rally at McKenna Park, across the street from the proposed drilling site.

"The problem is not only this gas well; it's an ongoing trend of city leaders favoring corporations over its citizens," said Teeter. Neighborhood groups and the ISO organized a rally held at McKenna Park, which was attended by almost 150 people, including City Councilwoman Charlye Heggins, residents of the neighborhood, local activists, students from the University of North Texas and plenty of media.

The story aired on the local news affiliate CBS 11, and there were stories in the Denton Record Chronicle, the city's local newspaper, and the North Texas Daily, the student newspaper of the University of North Texas, as well as the Dallas Observer.

On August 4, the City Council again tabled the issue in order to give Range Resources and Allegiance Development time to negotiate over the drilling. This also gave activists more time to organize.

Denton ISO members began regularly showing up to council meetings with other community members and speaking out against the wells. They signed up to speak about unrelated city council agenda items in order to talk about the issue because the city council continued tabling the vote from August 18 through the month of September, not allowing the public to address the topic.

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FINALLY, ON October 6, the council took the issue off the table. Mayor Mark Burroughs explained that Range Resources and Allegiance Development had finished negotiations, and the site could not be moved. With the council chamber at full capacity, citizens came prepared with scientific evidence on the health dangers of drilling and examples of other Texas towns that allowed drilling and experienced explosions, fires and earthquakes among other accidents.

Residents pressured their representatives to vote against the permit, speaking to the council's fear of litigation by reminding the council that Range Resources is already being sued by the city for $400,000 in unpaid royalties on another project. "Range Resources is like a used car salesman, they could tell you anything," said resident Jake Hendricks.

In addition to Darr's petition, which was signed by almost 200 neighborhood residents, another petition was presented to the council by a doctor from a nearby hospital, Charles Wahlert, who collected signatures from 100 of his colleagues. "About three years ago, we were denied a request from the city to build a doctor's office in the area because it would 'ruin the neighborhood,' and now you're letting this industry in to do much worse," Wahlert said.

Every citizen who spoke was in opposition to the drilling. The only person who spoke in favor was David Poole, a lawyer representing Range Resources. After finishing the public hearing, city council members expressed their frustration with Texas drilling laws, as a pre-emptive plea before the final vote.

Council member Chris Watts went so far as to say the vote was like the two corporations had put a "gun to his head," with the threat of legal action against the city if it denied the permit. Council member Pete Kamp told activists that they would have the council's backing if the issue was taken to the state level.

The council voted 6-to-1 to allow Range Resources the permit, with council member Heggins as the lone opposition. Gregory, who was initially opposed to the permit, said that he had been too quick in making that decision and changed his vote in favor of the drilling.

Still, the community's discourse and activism achieved 21 different conditions imposed by the city regulating how Range Resources operates on the site. These include heavy sound barriers, protective enclosures, atmospheric monitoring and specific terms about what roads the trucks may use, among many others.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Capitalists Murder Yet Another American Business

In the new American economy where private equity firms buy and then loot businesses in transfer of wealth from the creators to the robber barons the killing of Stella D'Oro may seem like just another day of class warfare and robbing the workers of a few more dollars to satisfy the greed of the rich elite but we are becoming wise to their tricks.

Time for us to fight back. Time to storm the Winter Palace and reclaim our birth right.

There is no capital without workers.

We are people not human resources!

From Worker's World:

As Brynwood Partners closses Stella D’Oro

Saddened workers march out with raised fists

Published Oct 15, 2009 8:34 PM

Stella D’Oro, owned by the vulture private equity company Brynwood Partners, closed its Bronx, N.Y., biscuit plant and fired 136 workers. Management refused to pay the full amount of severance and other benefits to the workers although their union contract spells it out explicitly. Many of the workers have over 30 years of service.

After the workers had spent a full day baking cookies on Oct. 8, the boss called them in at 3 p.m. and said in so many words, “That’s it—you’re out.” For 15 minutes the workers chanted inside the plant, “The workers united will never be defeated!”

After cleaning out their lockers, groups of workers emerged from the plant to a crowd that cheered them for their heroic long struggle. Some went straight home, but many stayed right in front of the plant with supporters. Periodically chants would erupt.

The workers were sad, but also angry and defiant—and they showed it. The very next day at a rally at the plant more than 50 workers attended, vowing to continue their fight for their benefits.

Brynwood only succeeded in closing the plant because the capitalist government is complicit in ignoring its consistent violations. Months earlier, the National Labor Relations Board issued an order to the company “to bargain in good faith” and “make whole the unit employees [recompense] for any loss of earnings and other benefits suffered as a result of unlawful unilateral implementation.” (

This NLRB decision followed a bitter 11-month-long strike of Local 50 of the Bakery Workers union, overwhelmingly composed of Latinas and Latinos. According to its own rules, the NLRB could have issued an injunction against the sale and closing of the plant.

Brynwood has always admitted it has no interest in running a bakery. Its management brags how they buy a company, suck the blood of the workers and the company’s assets, and then sell it. Giant investors such as Goldman Sachs profit from this too. It’s the workers and community that lose.

According to Local 50 President Joyce Alston, Brynwood even turned down four offers to sell the plant to companies that wanted to keep it operating in the Bronx.

This company and many others get huge tax abatements from New York City. These abatements are voted on not by the City Council or residents but by boards the mayor and governor appoint—boards usually dominated by investment bankers and real estate developers. Brynwood got millions in tax abatements under the Industrial and Commercial Tax Abatement Program for new machinery in the Stella D’Oro plant.

Queens City Council member Tony Avela called a City Hall press conference to pressure billionaire Brynwood supporter Mayor Michael Bloomberg to demand that the money be repaid and that the machinery be seized by the city.

Jose Rivera, state assemblyperson from the Bronx, charged, “Frankel comes from Morgan Stanley. He was appointed by you. He’s got the power, Michael Bloomberg. Keep that in mind. We’re not going to let those machines from the Bronx go anywhere. We are going to put up a human chain.”

Local 50 President Joyce Alston said of her members, “They have shown the courage that has awakened the labor movement.” In all of her 30 years of union experience, she said, she had never seen the kind of arrogance displayed by Brynwood in their negotiations.

Stella D’Oro workers, the presidents and officials of nine unions, the Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition and other coalitions involved in mass struggles addressed the press conference.

Faye Kellerman of Local 375 said, “Thank you so much to the workers of Stella D’Oro. You set our path. It’s never ever too late. A hurt to one is a hurt to all of us. When we fight, we win. What a shame. Taking food out of folks’ mouths for how long? And then when they came back, ‘We’re moving’?

“What a shame. And then they’re going to steal my equipment on top of that. What a shame! When we fight, we win! Who’s got the power?” The crowd shouted in unison, “We got the power.” “What kind of power?” Again the crowd responded, “Workers’ power!”

After the last speaker, the news came in—the plant was closing. City Council member Avela angrily said, “How disgraceful it is that Mike Bloomberg and the city of New York are allowing this to happen without showing even the littlest concern for the workers. The mayor of the city of New York has a fiduciary responsibility to protect city property. We bought those machines. We have to call upon Mike Bloomberg to stop this now. Shame on him if he doesn’t do it immediately.”

The crowd responded with chants of “Shame! Shame!”

Worker spokesperson and strike leader Mike Filippou called upon everyone to go directly to the Stella D’Oro factory at 237th Street and Broadway to stand in solidarity with the workers when the doors were locked down.

At the rally on Oct. 9 one thing was very clear: these workers are not ending the struggle until every penny that’s owed them is paid. “Whose machinery? Our machinery!” rang out again and again. The machinery, which belongs to these workers and the community, has been sold to the new company, Lance Foods, to be shipped to Ohio.

Juan Thillet, a Stella D’Oro worker, said at the rally, “This is not over. They think they won but they have made enemies out of us and we will go on to fight here and for workers everywhere in this country.”

Eilenfeldt is the NYSUT AFL-CIO Cooper Union delegate to the New York City Central Labor Council and a member of the Bail Out the People Movement.

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