Sunday, December 31, 2006

Food insecurity in Latino community

Increasing access to healthier food and to federal nutrition assistance programs could help stem growing food insecurity in the Latino community, where nearly one in five people (19.6%) have limited or no access to nutritious food each year, according to a new report released on December 20 by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S. The report is Sin Provecho: Latinos and Food Insecurity, and the executive summary can be downloaded from here.

“Lack of access to resources is forcing far too many Latino families into choices no one should have to make, such as between having a roof over their heads or putting food on the table. A lack of affordable, nutritious food also has devastating health consequences, such as increasing hunger and obesity, affecting not only the Latino community but the well-being of our entire nation,” stated Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO.

Among the report’s findings:

  • Healthy foods may be out of reach for many low-income and Latino communities. One study found that predominantly Hispanic communities had 38% less fresh fruit and vegetable retailers than areas with smaller Hispanic populations.
  • Many eligible Latinos are not participating in food assistance programs. Data suggest that more than three million eligible Hispanics are not participating in the Food Stamp Program. Lack of culturally- and linguistically-appropriate information and confusion about eligibility rules are common reasons why Latinos are not participating at higher levels.
  • Many Latino legal immigrants and U.S. citizens are restricted or deterred from accessing food stamps. Numerous legal immigrants are barred from participating in the Food Stamp Program. Furthermore, due to fear and confusion about program restrictions, U.S. citizen children with immigrant parents are far less likely than U.S. citizen children with a citizen parent to participate in the Food Stamp Program.

Saddam Execution

David Hirst has a good obit of Saddam Hussein in The Guardian

The Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who was executed this morning at the age of 69, may not yield many general biographies - he was personally too uninteresting for that - but he will be a case study for political scientists for years to come. For he was the model of a certain type of developing world despot, who was, for over three decades, as successful in his main ambition, which was taking and keeping total power, as he was destructive in exercising it.

Yet at the same time, he was commonplace and derivative. Stalin was his exemplar. The likeness came from more than conscious emulation: he already resembled him in origin, temperament and method. Like him, he was unique less in kind than in degree, in the extraordinary extent to which, if the more squalid forms of human villainy are the sine qua non of the successful tyrant, he embodied them. Like Stalin, too, he had little of the flair or colour of other 20th-century despots, little mental brilliance, less charisma, no redeeming passion or messianic fervour; he was only exceptional in the magnitude of his thuggery, the brutality, opportunism and cunning of the otherwise dull, grey apparatchik.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Misusing Jesus

Christian Century, a leading Protestant magazine has a very interesting article "Misusing Jesus How the church divorces Jesus from Judaism" by Amy-Jill Levine is a Jewish New Testament scholar who teaches at Vanderbilt Divinity School.
...when Christian congregants, ministers and professors do acknowledge that Jesus was Jewish, they often provide no content for the label. The claim that "Jesus was a Jew" may be historically true, but it is not central to the teaching of the church.

The problem is more than one of silence. In the popular Christian imagination, Jesus still remains defined, incorrectly and unfortunately, as "against" the Law, or at least against how it was understood at the time; as "against" the Temple as an institution and not simply against its first-century leadership; as "against" the people Israel but in favor of the gentiles. Jesus becomes the rebel who, unlike every other Jew, practices social justice. He is the only one to speak with women; he is the only one who teaches nonviolent responses to oppression; he is the only one who cares about the "poor and the marginalized" (that phrase has become a litany in some Christian circles). Judaism becomes in such discourse a negative foil: whatever Jesus stands for, Judaism isn't it; whatever Jesus is against, Judaism epitomizes the category.

This divorcing of Jesus from Judaism does a disservice to each textually, theologically, historically and ethically.

Levine critiques not only the sub rosa anti-Semitism that appears in the Palestinian theologian Naim Ateek of the Sabeel Center, but also in feminist and liberation theologians, and even more surprisingly in such mainstream Christian institutions as
he World Council of Churches press in Geneva; Fortress Press, which is connected to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America; and the Catholic (Maryknoll) Orbis Books.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Eric Lee on the Edwards campaign

Eric Lee, visionary international labor activist and creator of the invaluable LabourStart website, has entry on his blog about the John Edwards campaign for President. After recommending that unions emulate Edwards use of the internet as an organizing tool, Eric discusses the importance of the Edwards campaign for American unions and the democratic left..

..a running thread in everything I have written for some years now is the question of whether the trade union movement has a future or not. You might be asking yourself what this has to do with the Edwards campaign. The answer is: plenty.

Edwards did not come out of the trade union movement; he made his millions (and they were millions) as a lawyer. He may have had working-class roots, but they appear to be behind him now. And yet in recent years, especially since his defeat in the 2004 elections (when he first ran for the Democratic nomination, and then as John Kerry's vice presidential candidate), he has made a sharp turn toward the unions.

This has been in evidence for some time now, and a quick glance at his activities over the last year or so show that he's been in the thick of the fight against poverty, and helped get several states to enact higher minimum wages than the stingy Republican administration in Washington.

This is great stuff, and combined with his constant appearances at union events and expressions of support for union causes, he did two things this week that cement the bond between John Edwards and the trade union movement.

First, in his two-minute online video, placed on YouTube (where else?), standing in front of a ruined New Orleans house, he spoke about all the great work that's been done – this was at the very end – to organize workers into unions. It was a brief reference, but it was a clear mention of Edwards' strong belief in the positive role of trade unions.

And it gets better. Today, the campaign named its manager, the man who is leading the effort to get Edwards into the White House. That man is David Bonior, a name I've certainly come across as he's also the Chair of a group called American Rights at Work -- an organization that's been around since 2003 promoting its vision of the US as “a nation where the freedom of workers to organize unions and bargain collectively with employers is guaranteed and promoted.”

If this stuff sounds mild to Europeans and others, it sounds positively radical to Americans. The percentage of American workers organized into unions has been plummeting for decades, and is below 10% in the private sector.

Studies have shown that a majority of workers in the US would join unions if they could, but they don't because of a well-grounded fear that they could lose their jobs if they do.

Every day, people get sacked by their employers for trying to join unions. There has long been a corporate reign of terror in the workplace and ever since I've been politically active (this goes back some time) unions have called for changes to the country's laws to make it easier to join unions.

So now we have a presidential campaign boosting a candidate who is the most pro-labour politician in America today, run by a labour studies professor (I'm not making this up) who until yesterday was running a workers' rights organization. This is the kind of politics we haven't seen in America for more than a generation.

It bears comparison to the nearly successful 1934 California gubernatorial campaign by Upton Sinclair, a socialist running as a Democrat, under the slogan “End Poverty in California”. It reminds one of the campaigns of the Socialist Party in its heyday, when Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas could get close to a million votes.

And on a personal level, I'm reminded of a Presidential campaign that was discussed, and then abandoned, by Michael Harrington back in 1978-9. Harrington proposed then to launch is campaign from the ruins of the South Bronx – something echoed by Edwards' decision today to launch his own campaign from still-devastated New Orleans.

None of this means that Edwards is a socialist – far from it. But I mention this to point out that there is a radical tradition in American politics, closely linked to the unions (Debs, of course, was a great railway union leader before becoming a politician). Edwards may well fit into this tradition.

The problem with that tradition is that it never came close to winning the Presidency. That may be about to change.

Today, polls in the state of Iowa, the first battleground state in the long series of Democratic Party primaries and caucuses, show Edwards in the lead – ahead of Hillary Clinton and all the others.

Edwards is running on an explicitly pro-union message, unashamed of his connections to the labour movement in his country. And he's doing so with the kind of website that every union and campaigning organization should aspire to have.

That's why his campaign interests me so much, and why I intend to do what I can to learn about it, report on it, and participate in it.

Raise Less Corn: an old slogan reborn

One of the slogans of the 19th century Populist movement was "raise less corn and more hell." It has now been reborn in an op-ed and book by George Pyle, a former editorial page editor for the Salina Journal.

From the op-ed

The USDA's own summary of the issues facing American agriculture --"Strengthening the Foundation for Future Growth in U.S. Agriculture" -- still views farming as an industrial process needing to ramp up production and increase exports.

It's a blueprint for yet another round of taxpayer subsidies that push farmers to max out their production using all the fertilizer and pesticides they can afford.

The government dropped nearly $144 billion on farm subsidies between 1995 and 2004, according to calculations by the Environmental Working Group. The bulk of that money went to an ever-shrinking number of giant companies and cooperatives.

The resulting cut-rate price of corn further encourages feedlot fattening of cattle, hogs and poultry rather than the more natural grazing. The nitrogen-heavy runoff from those massive feeding operations, combined with all the fertilizer that flows from wheat and corn fields in the Plains and upper Midwest, endangers municipal water supplies and once-teeming sea life downstream in the Gulf of Mexico.

Soil conservation is always a part of farm legislation, but a small part. In Kansas, for example, federal farm payments over the decade ending in 2004 totaled $6.2 billion for production subsidies and $1 billion for conservation. When budget hawks start looking for savings, it is the conservation plans, not the subsidies, that are on the chopping block.

And from the books description
farmers are promised a better future if they play ball with the corporations, but caught between the brutal new market and antiquated government support systems, they are forced to grow too much of the wrong crops — crops that will be fed to animals who cannot tolerate them, shipped as dubious "aid" to struggling countries, drive the farmer's take-home pay ever downward, and make us all fatter.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gallup poll of Cubans

There have been only two independent polls of Cubans since 1994. The results of a recent poll by Gallup were released just before Christmas and reported in the Miami Herald. Some interesting results

Results from the recent Gallup Poll of Cuba, conducted with 1,000 residents of Havana and Santiago portray a populace that is profoundly unhappy with its lack of personal freedom. However, the data also suggest that any changes are likely to take place within the existing political system.

When asked about the country's current leadership, urban Cubans were split fairly evenly: 47% said they approve, while 40% disapproved, and 13% did not offer a response.

Strangest Christmas Newspaper Story: Allen Ginsberg in Wichita

One of the strangest newspaper articles to appear on a Christmas must be Becky Tanner's piece on Allen Ginsberg in Monday Wichita Eagle. It's an interesting article, part of series of vingettes on Kansas history, but it just strikes me as weird for it to appear on December 25.

It seems the beat poet visited Wichita in 1966 and wrote one of his most famous poems here.

Here's the beginning:

"Thy sins are forgiven, Wichita!

Thy lonesomeness annulled, O Kansas dear!

as the western Twang prophesied

thru banjo, when lone cowboy walked the railroad track past an empty station toward the sun sinking giant-bulbed orange down the box canyon --

Music strung over his back

and empty handed singing on this planet earth

I'm a lonely Dog, O Mother!"

--Allen Ginsberg,

Wichita Vortex Sutra

Wichita was once hip with the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Beat Generation and counterculture pioneer.

A homosexual. Known to use illegal drugs. An anti-war activist.

The raw language of his poems shocked and repulsed Bible Belt America.

He came to Wichita in 1966 and wrote one of his most famous and critically acclaimed works, "Wichita Vortex Sutra," in opposition to the Vietnam War.

He read his works at Moody's Skid Row Beanery at 627 E. Douglas and Wichita State University and, when interviewed by The Wichita Eagle, told a reporter: "The city imposes a dark night on the soul of its youth."
Also check out,
Around this time, I was a junior high school student in Nashville, Tennessee and a family friend took me to a lecture series at Vanderbilt University over a period of a week or two. It has pretty heady stuff--Martin Luther King, Jr., Stockely Carmichael. and Allen Ginsberg. It all made a big impression. Monday's article made me wonder if Ginsberg might have read "Wichita Vortex Sutra" at Vanderbilt. I would have liked to think that I would have remembered a Kansas connection since that was where I grew up and went to school through the sixth grade and returned there for high school, but maybe not.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Iranian election setback for Ahmadinejad

A good round-up from Doug Ireland, despite some funky formatting.

An article on the increased cultural repression prior to the election from, a German site on dialogue with Islamic societies.

A slightly different, and less encoraging analysis from Jonathon Edelstein who warns that the electoral defeat of Ahmadinejad should not be viewed as an overwhelming popular rejection.

What does seem to be apparent from the election is a de facto "stop Ahmedinejad" alliance between the conservatives and the reformists. Khamenei continued to use the Guardians to reject many reformist candidates, but he recognized that he needed the votes of the pro-reform electorate, so he proved willing to allow them somewhat more political space than in 2004. This resulted in a modest reformist comeback on some of the larger municipal councils, as well as female trade unionist Soheila Jelodarzadeh's victory among working-class Tehran voters in the Majlis by-election.

This alliance is possibly aimed at securing Ahmedinejad's defeat for re-election in 2009, as well as ensuring that Khamenei is replaced by a like-minded successor (who in all likelihood will be Rafsanjani). As such, it might last at least through the medium term. But whatever the pragmatic accommodations that Khamenei and the reformists have reached, they must be viewed in light of the steady ratcheting-closed of Iranian political space that has occurred since 2001. As Pepe Escobar puts it in the Asia Times, Iran is steadily evolving from a schizophrenic, quasi-democratic theocracy into a clerical autocracy" run by Khamenei and his cronies, and the future looks like one in which electoral politics will matter even less than they do now.

Anita O'Day

Anita O'Day, the legendary jazz singer, died around Thanksgiving. I thought most of the obituaries I read and heard were rather cliched and not terribly well-informed. I don't recall a mention of her recording of "Let Me Off Uptown" with the Gene Krupa Band. This fantastic song featured a duet with the African American trumpeter Roy Eldridge. In 1941 it must have been a spectacularly daring, social convention challenging song.

Anita: Hey Joe
Roy: What d'ya mean Joe, My name's Roy
Anita: Well come here Roy and get groovy
You bin uptown?
Roy: No I ain't bin uptown but I've bin around
Anita: You mean to say you ain't bin uptown?
Roy: no I ain't bin uptown, what's uptown?

Anita: If it's pleasure you're about
And you feel like steppin' out
All you've got to shout is
Let me off uptown

If it's rhythm that you feel
Then it's nothing to conceal
Oh, you've got to spiel it
Let me off uptown

Rib joints, juke joints, hep joints
Where could a fella go to top it

If you want to pitch a ball
And you can't afford a hall
All you've got to call is
Let me off uptown
Roy: Anita, oh Anita, say I feel somethin'
Anita: Whatcha feel Roy? The heat?
Roy: No it must be that uptown rhythm
I feel like blowin'
Anita: Well blow Roy, blow.

(Roy's trumpet to finish)
There's video of the Krupa band performing this, but I couldn't find it on youtube. There is this video of "Thanks for the Boogie Ride" which also features O'Day and Eldridge.

A friend, a little older and originally from the West Coast, had emailed me about O'Day's passing. I got to thinking that O'Day played a larger role in his musical universe than mine because of a pre-rock/post aesthetic gulf. Most jazz fans who came to the music from 60's rock came for the instrumental giants starting with Coltrane and Davis and working back to Paker and Gillespie and beyond. We may have picked up on some vocalists, but we rarely became "fans." (Billie Holiday, being an exception, but as much for her tragic narrative as for her music). At least that's my impression.

David Hadju, music critic for the New Republic, has written a very perceptive article on O'Day which brings out another reason that O'Day was not fully appreciated.

O'Day did her greatest, most enduring, and most influential work while she was stoned out of her mind. More to the point, the music was not merely made possible by drugs; it was music of the drug experience, an expression of what it meant for its singer to be high. It remains potent, music of euphoria and abandon, and the fact that it derives its potency not simply from human gifts but from the submission of those gifts to narcotics is the treachery, the exhilarating and harrowing glory, of Anita O'Day's music.

Boredom was the one thing that was intolerable to O'Day. Her music was the manifesto of her devotion to kicks at all cost. Ecstatic, indulgent, risky, excessive, and volatile, it was drug music, improvised in a state of simulated euphoria and imagined immunity. To make such music was an act of fearlessness, though not of bravery. O'Day, pickled by dope, knew no fear; but it was Ella Fitzgerald, lucid as she willed impossible scat lines into being, who was brave.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Support Goodyear Strikers

Nearly 16,000 Goodyear employees, including over 1000 in Topeka, are facing the holidays without paychecks. For two and a half months, the United Steelworkers (USW) members have been on strike in a brutal fight for job security and a fair deal on retiree health care. They are sacrificing and fighting the fight for good jobs for all of us—and they need our support.

Please take these two steps for them:

Make a generous donation to support striking Goodyear workers and make their holidays a little happier. One hundred percent of your donation will go to the Goodyear workers and their families. Click here to donate.

Tell Goodyear to respect workers and keep its promises. Sign the petition.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Hype and Hope about murder

Jill Leovy,a reporter for the LA Times, has a very intresting article in SALON--"Don't Believe the Hype about murder." She examines the extraordinarily high murde rates affecting young black males, but says that much of the conventional wisdom about gangs, teenage mothers, etc. making the problem much worse thanin the past is just plaing wrong.

The real story of black male homicide is that the historic disproportion between black and white death rates is shrinking, and it has been -- albeit unevenly -- for a long time.

The disproportion between white and black death rates reaches back deep into American history. Historians Roger Lane and Eric Monkkonen, for example, both found markedly higher homicide rates among blacks in analyzing data from 19th century American cities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Preventon began keeping statistics for blacks as a separate group only in 1950. The agency's count shows that homicide death rates for black men then were 28 percent higher than in 2003 and 12 times the white male rate. Spikes in these rates came in the early 1970s, around 1980, and again in the recession years of the early 1990s. Each spike was roughly as high as the last. But running through these spikes is a gradual long-term trend of lower rates and racial convergence.

This suggests we need to take another look at the widespread assumptions that urban violence is the byproduct of modern street gangs, single-parent black families, crack cocaine and the proliferation of handguns. These things matter. But so do deeper and more enduring factors. The reality is that blacks in 1976 were almost twice as likely to die from homicide as blacks in 2004, and the disparity between black and white rates was 20 percent higher than today.

She concludes with this observation:
History suggests that we should be wary of any claims about some unprecedented spiral into nihilism in the inner city, since such claims are perennial. History suggests that it is worth asking questions different from the ones we have been asking, and that we should take the longer view.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Photographic Reminder

The KC Star on Sunday December 10 had an article about the local branch of the national archives. It included what my friend Fred Whitehead called a "stunning photograph" which was accompanied by this caption.

Tarred and feathered: Amid the charged political climate of World War I, John Meintz, a German-American who lived in Minnesota, had joined an agrarian organization that some officials deemed disloyal. A mob attacked him, but he wore his marks of scorn long enough to have them photographed.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Labor Activist's Killers Must Be Found

[From an email from US LEAP]

The 2004 murder of US trade unionist Gilberto Soto has yet to be solved. He was killed in El Salvador, where authorities have yet to adequately pursue his case and bring his murderers to justice. Please read this action alert about his case, from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters:

Labor Activist’s Killers Must be Found

On November 5, 2004, Teamsters Port Division Representative Gilberto Soto was assassinated in Usulutan, El Salvador. Soto, an American citizen, had returned to his native country to meet with Central American trade union leaders and port drivers, and to document worker rights violations.

The murder remains unsolved.

In a gruesome echo of the Salvadoran government’s response to the death squad assassinations of the 1980s, the Salvadoran Interior Minister labeled Soto’s death a “common crime” within days of his murder—and before the government had launched any investigation.

One Salvadoran official took the assassination seriously and sprang into action: Beatrice de Carrillo, the ombudsman and director of the official Salvadoran Human Rights Office. Though her office is mandated by the Salvadoran constitution, the police refused to give her access to the investigation files or the officers conducting the investigation. She predicted that the government would soon make an arrest, call the murder a “crime of passion” and then after the media attention faded, ultimately drop the case.

That’s exactly what happened. Within a week the government of El Salvador arrested Soto’s mother-in-law, claiming that she hoped to collect the Teamsters’ million-dollar life insurance policy. In fact, Soto’s policy was for only $50,000 and his children were the beneficiaries, not his wife. Fourteen months later, Soto’s mother-in-law was acquitted. The government has continued to obstruct, frustrate and harass Dr. de Carrillo. She has also received death threats because of her ongoing search for the truth.

On November 15, 2006, the International Labor Organization (ILO) issued a report that demanding that the Salvadoran government reopen the case file on Soto’s murder.

The Teamsters union has joined with labor leaders in El Salvador to demand that the true killers be brought to justice. If we allow this murder to go unsolved, labor and human rights leaders will never be safe in El Salvador. Tell Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Ambassador to the United States from El Salvador Rene Leon to demand that the Salvadoran government reopen the investigation into the Gilberto Soto murder and protect and the work of
the Salvadoran Human Rights Ombudsman.

Check out the Teamsters website for more information and the sign the petition

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Jay McShann, Jazz Giant, Passes

Jay McShann, a giant of jazz, passed away on December 7 at the age of 90. McShann led the last great Kansas City big band in the 1930s and early 1940s. It was with McShann that Charlie Parker cut his earlier records. (Here's a CD of early Bird with McShann that I would like to hear.) McShann's band featured the blues vocals of Walter Brown, but it was a very important band. Check out this collection of his early 1940s sides. The All Music Guide says " last of the great Kansas City swing big bands." I've read that the McShann band was far more adventurous than what was captured on disc. It is also said that the trunk carrying McShann's arrangements was lost and never recovered when he was drafted into WWII.

After the war when big band swing was out of style, McShann regrouped with a jump swing band. There are number of fine cuts by his groups on the Mercuary Blues and Rhythm Story the Southwest and West Coast.

In 1969 McShann was rediscovered and often featuring violinist Claude Williams, he toured constantly, recorded frequently, and appeared at many jazz festivals, being active into the mid-'90s.

Of his more recent recordings, I recommend Last of the Blue Devils, Man from Muskogee, and Still Jumpin' the Blues--recorded when he was 83.

I had the pleasure of hearing McShann live several times in Wichita and Kansas City.

90 Years of McShann (KC Star)

Slideshow with some McShann music--very nice!!!

KC Star story on Clint Eastwood, McShann, and Pinetop Perkins.

"I grew up listening to a record of `Hot Biscuits' by Jay McShann," Clint Eastwood said. "That and a beer was as good as it got when I was a kid."
The official Jay McShann website
NPR Jazz Profile with sound segments both interviews and music
McShann was featured, along with other KC swing giants in the 1979 documentary Last of the Blue Devils, watch an excerpt here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

New Look

I've decided to try a new look for my blog when I upgraded to the new beta version of Blogger. Unfortunately, this meant losing some of the formatting. Specifically, my list of links and Kansas blogs are gone. But just temporarily. I'll add them back. Maybe bit by bit.

Brownback is running

Well, it's almost official, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback is running for President, or actually running for running for President. He's formed an exploratory committeee.

Jeff Sharlet, author of the devestating Rolling Stone profile of Brownback ("God's Senator"), suggest in the Revealer that "Brownback is running not so much for president, I suspect, as for the leadership of the conservative branch of the G.O.P."

I wonder whether Brownback's quixotic Presidential bid will be so embarrassing that it will severely damage his 2010 Senate re-election campaign and result in Kansas electing its first Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1932.

In the latest Survey USA poll he only has 53% approval from Kansans as Senator. He only has $600,000 in his Senate campaign fund which will be transferred to the Presidential campaign. (Brownback did marry into the Staufer family which owned the Topeka newspaper and broadcasting stations so he can probably self-finance to some degree).

In 2010 there just might a Democratic candidate of stature to take him on. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius will be at the end of her second term. Congressman Dennis Moore from Kansas City/Johnson County is now solidly entrenched having won with over 60 percent. Hopefully, Congresswoman Nancy Boyda (Topeka) will be completing her second term. Attorney General Paul Morrison and Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson, who converted to the Dems after having served as GOP state chair not too long ago would also be possibilities.

BTW, in 1996 Brownback's campaign did some nasty push polling against Democratic challenger Jill Docking, who had married into the famous Democratic family. Voters were asked if it would make a difference if they knew she was from an East Coast Jewish family, etc.

That and massive secret dollars from the ultra-right wing Koch family were keys to his election.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Bill Roy on the Election

Bill Roy is retired physician and former member of Congress. He narrowly lost to Bob Dole in a Senate race in 1974. Here is his Nov. 25 column in the Topeka Capital Journal.

Election also was about religion and its place
The election results in Kansas have been getting a lot of national attention, because many traditional Republicans joined Democrats and independents in rejecting Republican religionist candidates. An aberration, or a bellwether election?

Nearly three of five Kansans voted against lay preacher Phill Kline for attorney general because he scared hell out of them with his brand of evangelical Christianity. And Nancy Boyda upset Congressman Jim Ryun, who after 10 years was best known for reading his Bible on the House floor and placing the Good Book beside his guest book.

Surely by now, even casual political observers recognize the Kansas Republican Party -- and the national party -- are totally submissive to evangelicals such as Kline. Even the GOP's never-competitive gubernatorial candidate figured he needed religionist Sen. Susan Wagle on his ticket.

Did Democrats also narrowly win nationally because of voters' belated rejection of America's religious party?

Kevin Phillips, one-time Republican strategist and longtime political historian and strategist, puts it well: "Now that the GOP has been transformed by the rise of the South, the trauma of terrorism and George W. Bush's conviction that God wanted him to be president, a deeper conclusion can be drawn: The Republican Party has become the first religious party in U.S. history."

The less polemical John C. Danforth, an ordained Episcopal priest and former three-term U.S. senator from Missouri, also recognizes the Republican Party is beyond doubt a religious party.

Danforth laments in his recently published book, "Faith and Politics": "But this is not a coalition of traditional Republicans and Christian Right in the nature of a merger of equals. This is the takeover of the Republican Party by the Christian right."

Danforth found, "That is the significance of the Terry Schiavo case. It was the total victory of Christian conservative activism over broadly shared Republican principles, a victory won with no resistance from traditional Republicans."

Kline and Danforth are two greatly different people, but both, at least at one time were pillars of the winning religionist party.

Kline is representative of the true believers who would meld Christianityand America's government. They would govern by their interpretation of the words of the Bible, just as Muslims govern by the Shari'ah, civil law from the Koran.

In contrast, Danforth is a devout Christian who believes in the separation of church and state, writing that "to call this a Christian country is to say non-Christians are of some lesser order, not full-fledged citizens of one nation."

Danforth also explains: "The idea God speaks to one group more than to others, or that one group uniquely represents the will of God, makes it impossible to give outsiders the sense that they too are welcome participants in the life of our country."

But Danforth also danced to the tune of the Religious Right when running for office. And he tells how he rationalized it. He opposed abortion by opposing Roe v. Wade on constitutional grounds.

Danforth confesses, "In my closest campaign, the 1982 race for re-election to the Senate, support of pro-life people who voted for me mainly because of my opposition to abortion was the difference between winning and losing."

Will recent election defeats strengthen, rather than weaken the place of Christian conservatives in the Republican Party? Will Republicans decide they lost because they were soft on religiosity and become more submissive to America's 40 million evangelicals who also make up about 40 percent of their vote?

Or, will Republicans look at their losses nearly everywhere outside the South and conclude they lost because voters fear the earthly policies of end-day Christians who anticipate Christ's imminent return and the Rapture? And become again a secular party.

As Phillips explains in his book, an "American Theocracy" bodes ill for our nation and the world. Depending on where we go from here, 2006 may be the most important election in decades.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Janitors March for Justice in KC

Justice For Janitors – Kansas City

March For Justice

Saturday, November 18th

3:00 PM

J.C Nichols Fountain, PLAZA

Kansas City SEIU members have been locked in negotiations with BG Service Solutions, the largest cleaning contractor in the city, since September. Most janitors who work for BG currently make $6.90/hour or less, and cannot afford the present health care plans for their families. In addition, BG never gives raises to the vast majority of their employees, although they raise rates they charge building owners every year. KC janitors have had enough and are negotiating for a better contract, with higher salaries and real raises, and a health care plan which provides for the families as well as the employees.

BG already pays significantly more to its employees in other cities, such as Denver and Minneapolis. In these places, SEIU members have affordable health care. Yet BG has rejected out of hand the union's financial and health care proposals. BG has also refused to share employee information with the union, for which we have filed federal charges. The message of BG at the bargaining table has been quite clear – their vision of the future of the cleaning industry in Kansas City is a part-time workforce, with no benefits, making $6.50 an hour (Missouri's new minimum wage).

As Kansas City janitors struggle to make a decent living, they need the support of the community. On Saturday, we will again march from the JC Nichols fountain through the Plaza to an important BG-serviced building to protest the conditions of KC SEIU members.

Join SEIU members in saying Enough is Enough! Kansas City will not support poverty wages paid by BG and other contractors in the city. The community at large should not have to pay for our members going to the emergency room – the only health care plan they really have available. These companies need to own up to the health care crisis they are forcing upon the city by refusing to look for more affordable solutions.

For more information, please contact Justin McBride for more information at 816-529-8680 or or visit us on-line at

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Monday, October 30, 2006

My Stupid score

The Stupid Quiz said I am "Totally Smart!" How stupid are you? Click here to find out!

Rasmussen Poll shows big Sebelius lead

The latest Rasmussen Reports poll show a Gov. Sebelius with a 19 point lead, up from 1 9 point lead in their September poll.

Incumbent Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has opened up her biggest lead to date in Kansas’ gubernatorial election. The latest Rasmussen Reports election survey shows Sebelius leading Republican challenger Jim Barnett 56% to 37%. The governor’s lead was 11 points in our August survey. The last time she reached the 50% realm was July.

Throughout the campaign, Barnett has been in an uphill battle against a very popular incumbent. Overall, 69% of voters approve of Sebelius’ job performance; more than one-third (37%) say they “strongly approve.”

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Boyda making a race of it

Josh at Thoughts from Kansas

the non-partisan and widely respected National Journal has expanded its rankings of competitive House races from 50 to 60, and Nancy Boyda's challenge in the Kansas 2nd comes in at 59. This is in part a response to an independent poll from Cooper & Secrest showing the race as a statistical tie (45-41, within the margin of error), and evidence from national polling that shows the field of competitive races expanding dramatically. MyDD recently moved this race from "others to watch" to "likely Republican," and the campaign tells me they expect to win 52 to 48. They have good reason to think that.

Tim McGraw a lefty

The stereotype of country musicians , the Dixie Chicks notwithstanding, is that they are right-wing. Time magazine has a interview with country megastar Tim McGraw who says he's a lety.

Q: You've said that you might like to run for Governor of Tennessee--or maybe Senator. Is that still the plan?

A: One of these days, if the opportunity's there, that's something I'd love to do. It's a high calling to serve the community, and if you can do it, I think you should.

Q: The country-music world seems pretty conservative and Republican, but you've bucked that trend.

A: It's innate in me to be a Democrat--a true Southern populist kind of Democrat. There's not a lot of those anymore. I'm not saying I'm right or wrong. That's just the way I feel. The issues that matter to me are the social safety nets for people, health care, middle-class concerns. We need to take care of the middle class and the poor in our country. The chasm is getting larger between haves and have-nots, and that's something we need to close down a little bit.

It should also be noted that even Toby Keith has made a point of saying that he's a Democrat.

Survey USA new poll on Kansas races

Survey USA has released the results of its poll on statewide races in Kansas. They show Sebelius maintaining a solid lead over Barnett, but with the race tightening a little. Barnett has closed from 20 points behind in September to 13 points behind in October. There looks to be a big swing in the Attorney General's race. If the poll is accurate, challenger Paul Morrison has moved from a three point deficit to a 13 percent lead.

The three other races feature incumbent Republicans who are seen as moderates.


Sebelius (D) 55% Bartnettt 42%

Attorney General

Morrison (D) 56% Kline 43%

Secretary of State

Haley (D) 32% Thornburg (R) 62%


Wilson (D) 37% Jenkins (R) 60%

Insurance Commissioner

Sharp (D) 32% Praeger (R) 59%

The margin of error is =/- 4.1%.

Sebelius is down slightly from 58-38 in the September poll. Morrison is up from 48-51.

Friday, October 13, 2006

American Prospect Pays Attention to Kansas-2

American Prospect's Midterm Madness blog gives some attention to the possibility of an upset in Kansas's 2nd Congressional District.

KS 2: RYUN ON THE RUN? Kansas Democrat Nancy Boyda has released the results of an internal poll for the second time in as many months. September's poll showed Boyda with a single-digit lead over her 2nd Disctrict foe, Republican incumbent Jim Ryun. At the time, the poll seemed too timely, coming closely on the heels of a Kansas Star story that claimed her campaign was foundering. But Boyda's most recent poll also shows her in a competitive race, trailing Ryun 42.6 to 40 percent.

Admittedly, both polls were Democratic-funded and Ryun's lead is possibly a few points more than Boyda reports. On the other hand, Ryun refuses to release any of his internal polls, typically a signal that a campaign is concerned with its data. Add that to an upcoming fundraising visit by Vice President Dick Cheney, and things in Kansas may be grimmer for the GOP than Ryun's staff is willing to admit.

In a TPMCafe quote, the National Journal's Chuck Todd mentions that a Boyda upset is possible: "It's the type of race that in a wave environment could go."

In any case, Kansas' 2nd District race is illustrating the pressure put on the Republican party by nationwide unhappiness with GOP rule, even in the reddest of regions.

--Jay Stevens

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Robert Reich "From the Heartland"

Robert Reich recently made a speaking tour through Texas, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Pennsylvania--far from his old home of Massachusetts and his new home in California.

He had some interesting observations:

1. First, everything you’ve heard about the deep dissatisfaction with Congress and the Bush administration is true. Iraq and the economy are on everyone’s minds, and just about everyone I met was determined to “throw the rascals out.” I don’t recall this level of hostility since Richard Nixon occupied the White House – and, surprisingly, I heard a lot of it from people who described themselves as Republicans.

2. Not a single Democrat expressed enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy. Most were afraid she’d lose. Many were upset with her drift to the right. Lots said they "just don’t like her.” Almost all wanted Gore to run instead. Among the Democratic left, I also heard a lot of talk about Russ Feingold. John McCain’s name came up over and over, among Democrats and Republicans. Most Democrats said they admire him, a surprising number said they’d vote for him over Hillary. Most were unaware of how conservative McCain is, and how hawkish.

3. The “culture wars” seem to have died down. Almost everyone said the divisive issues of abortion and gay marriage had become less salient in their states and communities. The religious right is still very much alive and I had a number of conversations with people who described themselves as “right-wing Christians,” but their attention has switched to issues like immigration. Immigration is a big deal in the Heartland, but Republicans are all over the place on it, and so are Democrats.

4. I’ve never heard so much discussion about widening inequality. It’s a theme I’ve been talking about for years now, without much response. But for some reason, now – perhaps we’ve reached a sort of tipping point on the subject, where the public is starting to take notice and become concerned – it’s now a big deal. There’s lots of worry about the nation “coming apart,” about “anyone falling into poverty,” and about “rich people running the country.” Again, I heard this from self-described Republicans as well as Democrats.

5. The other salient issue is health care. Everyone’s upset about it. The middle class is suffering sticker shock, as employers continue to shift health care costs on to employees. No one has heard any politician from either party give a clear and simple account of what’s wrong and what should be done. Almost everyone I talked with predicted this would be the major domestic policy issue in 2008.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A busy week

By no means a typical week, but not totally out of the ordinary.


I attended a talk by Ron Walters on Wichita --and national--civil rights leader Chester I. Lewis. Walters, a leading political scientist, has also been an activist. He was President of the NAACP youth branch in Wichita when they launched the first sit-in of the modern civil rights movement at a downtown Wichita drugstore.
Here's Walters looking at the exhibit on Lewis at the Wichita Historical Museum.


Phone calls. web research, writing articles through the day. Sent out email for Tuesday's IAM rally for a fair contract and an email on the minimum wage. Southside Democrat's Club in the evening.


Dropped by the Learjet workers rally at the Broadview hotel. Took some photos and posted them and a story (from LL 639) on the Kansas Workbeat website.


I arranged to take a long lunch and attended an interesting lunch talk at Interfaith Ministries by Paul Sherry of Let Justice Roll on building movements to increase the minimum wage. I'll have a photo or two from the event later.

Later in the evening, I drove over to Friends University for a concert by Bobby Watson, who performed with a variety of student ensembles. Not political, you say. I say, bread and roses.


The monthly meeting of the Wichita/Hutchinson Labor Federation was a little different this month. We held it at the Labor Temple in Hutchinson. It was the first time I've been inside the building. It's a nice bit of history and ought to be used more often.

Unfortunately, the change in locale meant I couldn't catch any of Joe Jencks' concert at one of the local Friends churches. Joe, who was recommended by my friend Aaron Fowler, is on the board of the "traveling musicians local"--AFM 1000.


I'll be attendiing an event to launch a "Helmets to Hardhats" program in Kansas. This is an effort to hook up returning vets into the building and construction trades. A very good initiative from the unions.

Remembering Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor long-time Wichita jazz DJ died on Saturday. His "Taylor Made Jazz" program was broadcast from 1988 until 2001 on KMUW FM-89. Dan had a real enthusiasm for jazz and a vast knowledge of the music. Here's the obituary from the Wichita Eagle.

A memorial service for will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Jackson Mortuary Chapel, 1125 E. 13th St.

If you are one of those who believe in mystical coincidences, I note that the same day (Wednesday) that the Eagle published Dan's obituary, jazz alto great Bobby Watson was playing a free artist-in-residence gig at Friends University and that the title of Watson's 1992 big band CD was "Tailor Made."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Rest of the Story about Rev, Terry Fox resignation

When conservative Pastor Terry Fox resigned suddenly in early August from his pulpit at Immanuel Baptist Church, I wrote that there was probably more to the story than had come out. Wichita Eagle columnist Mark McCormick shared my skepticism. Now we know that there indeed was something more to the story.Joe Rodriguez reported in the Wichita Eagle .

The Rev. Terry Fox's use of church funds to support his radio program was a factor in his resignation as senior pastor, according to a statement issued this week by Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita.

The statement, issued by Don James, chairman of the deacons, also said testimony from many witnesses "reflected negatively on the Scriptural qualifications expected of a pastor." It also said Fox threatened to sue "individuals who might say anything negatively" about him.

The statement was presented to the congregation Sunday and is the first official comment from the church about what it says led to Fox's resignation Aug. 6.

Fox, who now leads the new Summit Church in Park City, said Wednesday that he did not threaten to sue anyone when he met with church officials.

"What I said to them is as people are talking and rumors and allegations are made, anyone in America has a right to be protected," he said, "including Baptist preachers."

He also denied that he did anything wrong with church mission funds.

The Immanuel statement says that a "careful examination of the church's financial records revealed reallocation of cooperate [sic] program funds. A portion of the reallocation was used for a radio program -- not affiliated with the church."

Cooperative program funds typically are donations used to support missions and ministries in the congregation and elsewhere.

Fox and the Rev. Joe Wright are hosts of a weekly radio show, "Answering the Call," which airs from 7 to 9 p.m. Sundays on KNSS, 1330-AM, and on Sirius satellite radio.

The statement did not say how much money was reallocated, nor whether the church would pursue legal action.

In response to a request Wednesday by The Wichita Eagle for additional comment, the church faxed a three-sentence statement saying it wanted to keep such matters private and would not comment further.

Fox acknowledged he did use mission funds for the "Answering the Call" radio show but said he had the authority to do so as senior pastor. He did not know how much he spent, but said it was not "a sizable amount."

He also said other church leaders knew of his use of the money and did not question him about it or indicate that it was a problem. Fox said he considered the radio program to be mission work for the church.

"I absolutely saw 'Answering the Call' as a tremendous way to give a biblical view and to share the Gospel," he said.

Rodriguez doesn't dig very deep. He's a self-proclaimed Christian conservative who sees nothing wrong with Attorney General Phill Kline's church-based politics. Rodriguez should have pointed out that the radio program is heavily political and openly endorsed candidates. He should ask what whether Fox's expenditure of church funds for his political radio show has endangered the Immanuel's tax-exempt status. He should also take a look at whether Fox lied to his radio station and his radio audience. He should ask Fox's co-host Rev. Joe Wright whether Wright was aware that Fox was spending church money for their radio show. I've listened to parts of the Fox-Wright show and I am pretty sure that I recall statements that no church funds were spent on the program.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Former Kansas GOP Chair Endorses Morrison for AG

KC Buzz blog reports

Former state GOP chair Dennis Jones announced his endorsement today for attorney general.

He didn't go with the Republican.

In another example of the political shifting going on in Kansas this year, Jones backed Democrat Paul Morrison. One factor, Jones said in an interview, is what he views as Kline's "unbridled political ambition."

"As a lawyer, I think it's important that the office of attorney general command the respect and protect the integrity of the profession of practicing law," Jones said. "I just don't believe the incumbent attorney general has demonstrated that he has a grasp of what the attorney general is supposed to do."

Jones, the Kearny County attorney, was state GOP chair from 2003-2005. More in tomorrow's Star.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Joe Glazer "Labor's Trobadour" Dies

Joe Glazer died on September 19 at the age of 88. He was known as "labor's trobadour." Over the years Joe Glazer wrote over 100 labor and protest songs. He performed at union conventions, rallies and on picketlines, too numerous to mention. He sang at the historic merger of the AFL and CIO; he sang at Walter Reuther's funeral. He was the first to record "We Will (Shall) Overcome." He wrote some great anti-Stalinist songs.

"In 1950 Glazer made his first album, 'Eight New Songs for Labor,' for the C.I.O. It included We Will Overcome, the previously unrecorded labor version of the old hymn. During a Southern C.I.0. drive, Glazer taught the song to country singer Texas Bill Strength, who cut his own version on a custom pressing that later was picked up by 4-Star Records." [Strength was on the staff of the CIO which syndicated his transcriptions on 120 radio stations.] With a change in verbs, it became the song of the modern civil rights movement.
In 1952, Glazer and Bill Friedland responded to the "torturous twists and turns of the Communist Party line during the past thirty years" with Ballads for Sectarians.' A biting, satirical album it was one of the few folks recordings to emerge from the non-Communist left.
All but one song from Ballads is on the Bear Family collection, Songs for Political Action. Here are the songs included:
  • Old Bolshevik Cong
  • The Cloakmaker's Union
  • Land of the Daily Worker
  • Our Line's Been Changed Again
  • Unite for Unity
  • Bill Bailey (the Ultimate Sectarian)
  • The Last International (Joe Glazer)
The missing song is an anti-Stalin parody called "Little Joe the Rustler" written by Joe Glazer.

Those songs and some others performed by Glazer and Sovietologist Abram Brumberg can be found on a CD My Darling Party Line: Irreverent Songs, Ballads,and Airs available through Smithsonian Folkways.

Glazer founded Collector Records in 1970 to distribute his own recordings of labor songs and those of other younger and newer performers that he had met through his work. Many of these artists he met through the Labor Heritage Foundation, which he founded in 1978, and its yearly Great Labor Arts Exchange. He had been frustrated that his early recordings were for labels that had either gone out business or dropped the titles. Having his own label gave him control and guaranteed the music would be preserved.

The Collector Records catalogue is now available through Smithsonian Folkways. Many of his CD's can also be ordered through Labor Heritage

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sebelius' political DNA

A very nice profile of the father of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius: John Gilligan.

Boyda internal poll shows lead over Ryun

The Lawrence Journal World reported last Friday

Democrat Nancy Boyda ... released an internal campaign poll that shows she is leading incumbent Republican Jim Ryun in the race to represent the 2nd congressional district, which includes west Lawrence.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the race is on,” Boyda said at a news conference. “David is beating Goliath. Grassroots democracy is beating big money.”

At the conclusion of the news conference, a Ryun campaign official handed out a statement criticizing Boyda.

“This is a desperate attempt to revive a fading campaign,” said Ryun’s spokesman Jeffrey Black.

The poll showed 42.5 percent favored Boyda; 41.2 percent favored Ryun and 16.2 percent were undecided. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 4.6 percent.

The poll was conducted Monday and surveyed 456 likely voters that were randomly selected from a voter registration file list from the 2nd congressional district. Poll officials said the sample represented the political makeup of the district.

Boyda said the only reason she was revealing the data was that on Thursday a front page story in the Kansas City Star downplayed her chances against Ryun because she was receiving little attention from the national Democratic Party in Washington, D.C.

Boyda said it has always been her strategy to run independent of the national party.

“When I go to Congress, I want to represent the people of Kansas, not the Washington Beltway crowd,” she said.

Josh Rosenau comments on the story seem about right to me

What's almost more interesting is Ryun's response. If his internal polling put him well out of Boyda's reach, that's all he'd say. He'd release a poll that put him up by the 15 points he won by last time, and put this to bed. Instead the Ryun people just point to a hit piece they planted in the Star a few days ago. Yes, Boyda is running an outside the Beltway campaign. She was saying that in the winter. It isn't news, and it isn't surprising. Kansas is pretty far from DC, and apparently from Jim Ryun. Boyda didn't ask for DCCC help, nor for backing from the big PACs. She's running a grassroots campaign, and that's praiseworthy.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Kansas Religious Group Loses Tax Exemption

Catholics for Free Choice reports that right-to-life religious group active in Wichita has lost its tax exemption.

On September 11, 2006, the IRS announced that it had revoked the nonprofit 501(c)(3) status of Youth Ministries, Inc., which did business as Operation Rescue West (ORW). While the IRS does not provide information on the circumstances that lead to revocations of any group’s tax-exempt status, a CFFC complaint filed in 2004 provided information on ORW’s electoral activities during the Boston Democratic Party convention that we considered to be violations of IRS regulations.

Our complaint referred to a full-page ad placed by the antichoice group on July 15, 2004, in the Wanderer, an ultra-conservative national Catholic weekly. In the ad, ORW called on readers to make what it said was a “tax-deductible donation to help pay the bills and affect the outcome of the election” and called for readers to give a tax-deductible donation to help “defeat [John Kerry] in November and enable President Bush to appoint a pro-life Supreme Court Justice to finally overturn Roe v. Wade.” In making its case, Operation Rescue West cited the statements of several cardinals and bishops who had attacked Catholic politicians for their support of a woman’s right to choose and invited the support of readers as they are “going into the middle of a war in Boston.” [Emphasis in original.] ORW said that the money raised would be spent in Boston during the Democratic Party convention, where it planned to distribute antiabortion, anti-Kerry materials and display highly visible ads on trucks at key sites.

This egregious violation of US tax laws was perhaps the most visible and vicious by various tax-exempt organizations opposed to abortion rights and, by extension, candidates who support these rights during the 2004 election season.

The national Talk-To-Action weblog disccuses the case and has nice things to say about a Wichita group of young abortion rights activists that helped bring down ORW. They're known as the "Maggot Punks", but based on my interactions with them, they are pretty nice people.

With Phil Kline basing his campaign on evangelical churches, there could be many more churches and religious organizations losing their tax exemption in the future. The Wichita Eagle and other observers seems to be taking the line that Kline's actios are unseemly and inappropriate, but not illegal. I'm not so sure. More on that later.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

World Bank Promotes Elimination of worker protection

From the International Confederatio of Free Trade Unions

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions strongly criticized the new edition of the World Bank's highest-circulation publication, Doing Business, for including recommendations that governments should do away with labour market regulations and emulate those countries that have almost no worker protection rules of any kind and are not members of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The 2007 edition of Doing Business, prepared by the Bank's private sector development department, has declared the Marshall Islands to be the world's "Best Performer" for its almost total absence of labour regulation, displacing last year's champion, Palau. Both Marshall
Islands and Palau have in common that they are tiny Pacific island nations that have no labour code and are not members of the ILO. The World Bank's online Doing Business database explains that it has given top ranking for labour market regulations to these countries because,
among other exemplary features, both allow workers to be forced to work up to 24 hours per day and up to seven days per week and require no vacations or advance notice for dismissal.

Not being among the 179 member countries of the ILO, Marshall Islands and Palau are among the handful of countries not obliged to abide by the core labour standards (elimination of forced labour, child labour and iscrimination, and respect for freedom of association and right to
collective bargaining) as required of ILO members.

In light of the fact that World Bank presidents have expressed support for the core labour standards as being consistent with the Bank's development mission, the general secretary of ICFTU, Guy Ryder, finds it ironic that the World Bank's most highly-promoted annual publication holds up countries that offer almost no protection for their workers as "Best Performers" for their labour standards. One division of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, even stipulates that it will not lend to firms that do not apply the core labour standards.

Ryder stated: "The World Bank should get its message straight. If the Bank truly believes that the ILO's core labour standards are good for development, it can't turn around and praise countries that don't join the ILO and don't respect the core standards as the world's 'Best
Performer' for their labour standards. The Bank should remove the mandate of labour market regulation from the department that prepares Doing Business and stop using Doing Business as the basis for its labour market reform proposals."

Ryder noted that earlier editions of Doing Business have been used in World Bank and IMF country-level strategy documents to force countries to do away with various kinds of workers' protection. For example, a recent World Bank Economic Memorandum to Colombia demanded that the government make hiring and firing decisions more flexible in order to improve its Doing Business indicators, even though it is uncertain whether this will have a positive economic impact. These demands have furthermore been made a condition for World Bank loans to Colombia.

In South Africa, the IMF recommended in a recent policy report that the government improve its Doing Business indicators by "streamlining" its hiring and dismissal procedures. The changes would have required doing away with affirmative action rules that post-apartheid governments put in place in order to correct the legacy of several decades of racial discrimination. (These and several other cases of the IMF and World Bank's use of Doing Business to remove workers' protection are described in a detailed analysis prepared by the ICFTU:

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Bob Dylan: loving the thief

Seems like just about every critic and hundreds of thousands of fans love Bob Dylan's Modern Times.

It's Bob's first number one album in thirty years--and a rare in that it debuted at #1.

For me, it's even a rarer event. I'm pretty sure it's the first album I bought when it was number one since the Beatles white album or the Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers. It might even the first number one album I've bought period since then.

It's a fine album, but there's something that really bothers me. Dylan takes composer's credit for "Rollin' and Tumblin'" which everyone knows is a Muddy Waters tune (though he may have taken it from an earlier bluesman) and "Someday Baby" which is not as closely identified with one bluesman, but which goes back to at least Ray Charles in the early 1950s. (Sleeply John Estes is said to be the original author.)

Dylan wrote some original lyrics to both those tunes, but surely he has enough dough and fame and could afford to share the credit.

Dylan borrowed the title of one of his recent CDs from historian Eric Lott's book Love and Theft which discussed the popular appropriation of black culture in the pre-civil war period. That CD had its own problems of attribution.

Albuquerque disc jockey Scott Warmuth that a number of songs contained words that were heavily inspired by the 19th century American poet Henry Timrod, with several lines directly quoting his work. Timrod was known as the "poet laureate of the confederacy."

Monday, September 11, 2006

Wha'ts Wrong with 9/11 conspiracy theories

There's lots in every media about the fifth anniversary of 9/11 not only today, but in the last week or so. What has caught my attention are a number of fine articles and resources debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories. Some of these go into detail refuting the extraordinary claims of the so-called 9/11 truth movement, and if you need that sort of thing check them out. I'm going to cite some of the interesting things said about the political and psychological function of the conspiracy theories.

Phil Molé "9/11 Conspiracy Theories: The 9/11 Truth Movement in Perspective" e-skeptic

Another reason for the appeal of 9/11 conspiracies is that they are easy to understand. As previously mentioned, most Americans did not know or care to know much about the Middle East until the events of 9/11 forced them to take notice. (The brilliant satirical newspaper The Onion poked fun at this fact with its article “Area Man Acts Like He’s Been Interested In Afghanistan All Along”).41 The great advantage of the 9/11 Truth Movement’s theories is that they don’t require you to know anything about the Middle East, or for that matter, to know anything significant about world history or politics. This points to another benefit of conspiracy theories — they are oddly comforting. Chaotic, threatening events are difficult to comprehend, and the steps we might take to protect ourselves are unclear. With conspiracy theory that focuses on a single human cause, the terrible randomness of life assumes an understandable order.
Debunking the 9/11 Movement Infoshop (anarchists)
The 9/11 movement also discredits activists and associates us with conspiracy whackjobs and religious nuts. Our views are not well-represented in mainstream discourse, so we cannot afford to associate with people who have a flimsy grasp on reality.
Scott McLemee, "All Plots Move Deathward" Inside Higher Education
The conspiratorial mentality or “paranoid style” — for which important events in public life are best understood as the product of hidden, malevolent forces controlling history — is strongly prone to assuming a scholarly form. As Hofstadter puts it: “One should not be misled by the fantastic conclusions that are so characteristic of this political style into imagining that it is not, so to speak, argued out along factual lines. The very fantastic character of its conclusions leads to heroic strivings for ‘evidence’ to prove that the unbelievable is the only thing that can be believed.”

The charge that conspiratorial thinking is incoherent simply will not hold up. “It is nothing if not coherent,” writes [Richard] Hofstadter. The conspiratorial understanding of history is actually “far more coherent than the real world, since it leaves no room for mistakes, failures, or ambiguities. It is, if not wholly rational, at least intensely rationalistic....”
John Prados "9/11 Conspiracies and Cons"
The theories largely postulate that the Bush White House either made 9/11 happen, or this president knew all about what impended and let 9/11 happen. Neither is likely in my view.

There is no doubt that the events of 9/11 flowed from an immense chain of actions in many places by a host of actors. Orchestrating all this activity implies a level of skill that just does not track with the Bush administration’s demonstrated incompetence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israeli-Palestinian matters, or on selling democracy in the Middle East, detention and torture, domestic wiretapping, actually finding Osama bin Laden and on so much else. What the Bushies were good at was at capitalizing on the 9/11 tragedy to push their domestic and foreign policy agendas.

At the same time, it is not necessary for there to have been a Bush 9/11 plot to explain the extreme deceitfulness of the administration afterwards. Obviously there was a ton of blame to avoid and a political vulnerability that President Bush wants to evade at all costs.

Websites Critical of 9/11

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Minuteman Movement comes to Kansas

Christina Woods reports in Wednesday's Wichita Eagle on the formation of a Minuteman chapter in Overland Park which apparently has intentions of going statewide. She writes

A retired police officer is recruiting Kansas residents to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border or to stay closer to home to identify and report illegal immigrants to federal authorities.

Ed Hayes is recruiting Kansans to join the state's first chapter of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, based in Overland Park.

Area Hispanics say they're concerned that the group will discriminate against legal and American-born residents, but Hayes says they shouldn't be.

"We will not accept bigots, racists of any kind, any members of extremist groups or anybody with a criminal background into our group," said Hayes, who began organizing the group in June.

In fact, the Minuteman movement and its leaders have been deeply intertwined with the racist, far right almost from their very inception. Nor do they have a track record of excluding people with criminal records.
  • Chris Simcox, co-founder of the Minuteman Project and a top national anti-immigration leader, was arrested in 2003 by federal park rangers for carrying a weapon illegally while tracking border-crossers on federal parkland.
  • When Minuteman co-founder Jim Gilchrist ran for Congress in a 2005 special election, he ran as an American Independent Party (AIP) candidate. The AIP was created to support the 1968 campaign of arch-segregationist George Wallace. AIP was founded by William K. Shearer, who also served on the National Executive Committee of the white supremacist Populist Party in the 1980s.
  • Neo-Nazis volunteered for [Minuteman co-founder] Jim Gilchrist's recent congressional campaign and distributed racist propaganda at Gilchrist rallies with the full knowledge of the Minuteman Project co-founder and his campaign managers, according to a former Gilchrist campaign volunteer whose account is supported by photographs, video footage and postings on the white supremacist Web site Stormfront.

    "They were basically allowing Skinheads and white nationalists to work the phone banks and do IT [computer work] and distribute National Alliance fliers targeting non-whites," Cliff May, a dance instructor in Orange County, Calif., told the Intelligence Report. "When I told Mary [Gilchrist's finance manager] and Eldon [Gilchrist's grassroots coordinator] that I didn't want to work for a campaign that was tainted by white supremacy in any way, they told me not to cause a stir."When I kept bringing it up, they kicked me out."

    --The Intelligence Report (Spring 2006) the Southern Poverty Law Center report
  • Early this year, white supremacist and neo-Nazi Web sites began openly recruiting for the Minuteman Project. In response, Gilchrist and Simcox proclaimed that neo-Nazi Skinheads and race warriors from organizations such as the National Alliance and Aryan Nations were specifically banned from participating. Pressured by journalists to explain exactly how they planned to keep these undesirables out, the two organizers said they were working with the FBI to carefully check the backgrounds of all potential Minuteman volunteers, only to have the FBI completely deny this was the case.

    Gilchrist and Simcox further claimed to the media prior to April 1 that the only volunteers who would be allowed to carry firearms would be those who had a concealed-carry handgun permit from their home states, an indication that they had passed at least a cursory background investigation. In fact, virtually no one was checked for permits.

--Intelligence Report Summer 2005

  • While most of the Minuteman volunteers were not organized racists, at least one member of Aryan Nations infiltrated the effort, and Johnny and Michael said they were two of six members of the Phoenix chapter of the National Alliance who signed up as Minuteman Volunteers. They said the other four had arrived separately in two-man teams in order to cover more ground and be less conspicuous. They said the Alliance members came out to support the Minuteman Project, but also to recruit new members
--Intelligence Report Summer 2005

  • In a torturous interview with labor reporter John Earl, Gilchrist revealed just how racialized his own view are, even while in the process of denying the he or the Minutemen are motivated by racism. When Earl calls Gilchrist to account for the Confederate flag present at a Minuteman rally, pictures of which are posted to the organizational website, Gilchrist first tries to deny it, then disclaims all knowledge, and finally agrees that it will be taken down. The photos, however, remain as of this date (August 14, 2005) on the website and there is no way to “take down” the presence of this symbol of white supremacy from the April 2, 2005 rallies that kicked off the Arizona project in the towns of Naco and Douglas.
    --Center for New Community, Building Democracy Initiative Shell Games: The “Minutemen” and Vigilante Anti-Immigrant Politics, p.8
  • Bill Parmley as leader of the Goliad, Texas Minuteman affiliate, as well as from his position as President of the newly forming Texas chapter as a whole is a case in point. In his resignation, Parmley cited racism in the ranks and a lack of organizational discipline as his prime reasons for quitting.
    --Edward Hegstrom, “Head of Texas Minutemen Quits, Cites Racism in Group,” Houston Chronicle (July 28, 2005), p. B1.
  • National Alliance pamphlets were distributed in Tombstone and this predominantly Hispanic community just two days before the Minuteman Project got going [in summer 2005]. "Non-Whites are turning America into a Third World slum," they read. "They come for welfare or to take our jobs. Let's send them home now."

    Many other white supremacists had promised to attend, including members of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations, but it was difficult to know if they showed up.

    One well-known extremist did appear. Armored in a flak jacket and packing a .38-caliber snub-nosed revolver, Joe McCutchen joined other volunteers patrolling the barbed wire fence separating the United States and Mexico near Bisbee, Ariz.

    McCutchen is the recently appointed chairman of Protect Arkansas Now, a group seeking to pass legislation that would deny public benefits to undocumented workers in that state. More to the point, he was identified by the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens as a member in 2001 — a charge he denies, though he admits that he did give a speech that year to the group that has described blacks as "a retrograde species of humanity." As recently as summer 2003, McCutchen wrote anti-Semitic letters to his hometown newspaper in Fort Smith, Ark.

--Intelligence Project, "Nazis, Racists Join Border Project"

I don't know Mr. Hayes. For all I know he may not be a racist. But he is recruiting people to an organization with a sorry record of cooperation and alliance with racist and extremist groups.

[Here's another report on the Minuteman Project in Kansas and Missouri from Kansas City television station KMBC. Like Woods in the Eagle, it doesn't subject the Minuteman claim to be non-racist to the critical analysis it deserves. It even gives contact information.]

Reporters writing on deadline often don't have time to do extensive research--and sometimes their editors don't want them to dig too deep. Hopefully, if the Minuteman Project, the Eagle, KMBC, and others will do more in depth reporting.

Some background on the Minuteman Project and the New Nativism
Max Blumenthal "Vigilante injustice"

Susy Buchanan & David Holthouse "Locked and Loaded"

Suzy Buchanon and David Holthouse, "Minuteman leader has troubled past"

Center for New Community, Building Democracy Initiative Shell Games: The “Minutemen” and Vigilante Anti-Immigrant Politics