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

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Dave Osler on Cuba

Dave Osler is a British leftist who is spending the summer in a language and education program in Cuba. Dave's to my left on a number of questions, but he often has interesting and provocative things to say. I wondered what he was going to write on Cuba and here's the answer.

If you stay in one of the five star hotels, Cuban is a fabulous place for a holiday. Sit down by that swimming pool and bask in the Caribbean sunshine as you light up a cigar from beyond the wilder shores of Freudian symbolism and knock back cocktails blended from the finest rum in the world. And if itÂ’s nightlife you want, thereÂ’s hot jazz and salsa clubs that stay open until four AM.

But for most ordinary Cubans, life is pretty damn tough. I saw that for myself this summer, when I spent four weeks in an ordinary home in Havana. Even such basic foodstuffs as rice are rationed. Water supplies are sporadic, and power cuts regular occurrences. The housing stock is badly run down. Many everyday items are simply unobtainable.

Yes, of course the US blockade and the economic effects of the collapse of the USSR are part - although by no means all - of the explanation. But there is no getting away from the conclusion that Cuban society is deeply polarised as a consequence.

Beyond a layer of older people who lived through the revolution in the late fifties, there are few strong supporters of the government. The younger a person is - and the darker the colour of their skin - the more likely they are to be hostile.
Read the rest here.

Especially pay attention to his conclusion
For the democratic left, then, the conclusions are clear. We should start from the position of opposing the US blockade on basic democratic grounds. Ironically from WashingtonÂ’s viewpoint, it could actually be holding back the development of an indigenous Cuban democratic opposition.

But at the same time, we need to stress that a democratic opening is essential if Cuba is to avoid the build up of discontent on the scale of 1980s Eastern Europe, and the eventual introduction of a particularly savage brand of neoliberal capitalism.
I would only add that I understand from an NPR broadcast from the time of Fidel's health crisis, that one of the most problematical parts of the blockade legislation is that it requires even a post -Castro Cuba to commit to fully pay all claims for nationalized property before trade can be resumed. This is a particularly onerous and stupid policy.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day

David Sirota

Bashing organized labor is a Republican pathology, to the point where unions are referenced with terms reserved for military targets. In his 1996 article, headlined "GOP Readies for War With Big Labor," conservative columnist Robert Novak cheered the creation of a "GOP committee task force on the labor movement" that would pursue a "major assault" on unions. As one Republican lawmaker told Novak, GOP leaders champion an "anti-union attitude that appeals to the mentality of hillbillies at revival meetings."

The hostility, while disgusting, is unsurprising. Unions wield power for workers, meaning they present an obstacle to Republican corporate donors, who want to put profit-making over other societal priorities.

Labor Day Executive Excess Report from United for a Fair Economy.

Jewish Labor Committee on Jewish values, the immigrant experience, and social justice in a consumer culture.

Workplace Fairness has a new report on The Good, the Bad, and Walmart

five developments that give us hope that working people will be able to reclaim some of the rights, status, and dignity they enjoyed in previous generations, and also be able to lead the way in solving some of our nation's most pressing workplace challenges. Of course, we can't forget the heartbreak of Hurricane Katrina and the Sago Mine Disaster, or ignore the increasing inequality between the haves and have-nots. And then there's Wal-Mart, in its own category, and it's not pretty.

Some of the good news included:
  • Immigrant rights were brought to the forefront of the American social consciousness in the past year, as the country witnessed the mobilization of immigrant groups in a dramatic and unprecedented show of solidarity.
  • When Congress refused to act, a growing number of states—with prodding from labor unions and community groups—took the initiative to raise their minimum wages.
  • Courts dealt with the white collar criminals and their corporate fraud that made headlines earlier in the decade, ushering in an era of greater accountability for corporate executives.
Less positive developments included.
  • While airlines and automobiles have long been considered the industries in which labor was strongest, these industries are now where labor seems most embattled, largely because of the companies' staggering financial losses.
  • As technology progresses, it becomes easier and easier for employers to pry into their employees' personal lives, making employees' concerns about privacy even more important.

Wal-Mart made headlines this past year at an unprecedented rate, but all too often, those headlines revolved around Wal-Mart's infamous employment practices.
There's lots of interesting stuff on the AFL-CIO blog including
Nathan Newman "The Brilliance of Labor" highlights innovative organizing and political strategies being used by American unions.

Bill Onasch, webmaster for the KC Labor website, has essays by Ed Bruno, Peter Rachleff
and Chris Townsend. During the coming week, Bill will be posting his comments daily on the critical issues facing the labor movement. Check them out here.

Joshua Rosenau, KU grad student in ecology and blogger at the always informative and entertaining Thoughts from Kansas, writes about his grandfather who rose to become secretary-treasurer of New York Typographical Union, Local 6 and his confrontation with Congressman Dick Nixon over Taft-Hartley.

James Green in the Boston Globe on "The Rise of the Immigrants" concludes that "immigrant worker centers have become a foundation for an emerging immigrant workers' rights movement, and they could be a building block for a new, multifaceted American labor movement.Such voluntary worker associations were, in fact, the forerunners of the first unions that formed a century ago, long before employees won the right to organize, strike, and bargain collectively. The Workmen's Circle, for example...."

J-spot, the blog of the Jewish Fund for Justice, jumps off from Green's column and suggests that "If Jews want to help today’s immigrants recreate our success, perhaps we should be investing in the modern day equivalent of the Workmen’s Circle."

Latest Rasmussen poll on Kansas Gov race

Rasmussen released its latest poll on the Kansas governor's race on Friday. It doesn't show much change.

Now that Republican State Senator Jim Barnett has won the August 1 primary, Governor Kathleen Sebelius leads her challenger 48% to 37%, a drop from seventeen percentage points to eleven.

The Governor's support has yet to rise much above 50% in any case. But the decline reflects the closer competition we often see in a final campaign stretch and have been seeing in races around the country.

Sebelius's current lead is comparable to what we saw in April, when her support was at 49%. A Democrat in a Republican-leaning state, the incumbent continues to enjoy high favorables and job ratings, with 35% viewing her "very favorably," only 11% "very unfavorably." Thirty-two percent (32%) "strongly approve" of her performance as Governor.

Barnett is viewed very favorably by only 19%, and although fewer (9%) see him very unfavorably than see the Governor that way, he's still an unknown to 18%. By contrast, only 3% are "not sure" what to think of the Governor (and only 1% abstain from assessing her performance).

Friday, September 01, 2006

Three Polls Find Workers Sensing Deep Pessimism

Steve Greenhouse, New York Times August 31, 2006

Three new opinion polls released yesterday found deep pessimism among American workers, with most saying that wages were not keeping pace with inflation and that workers were worse off in many ways than a generation ago.

The Pew Research Center found in a survey of 2,003 adults completed last month that an overwhelming majority said workers had less job security and faced more on-the-job stress than 20 or 30 years ago.

The nonpartisan Pew center, said, “The public thinks that workers were better off a generation ago than they are now on every key dimension of worker life —be it wages, benefits, retirement plans, on-the-job stress, the loyalty they are shown by employers or the need to regularly upgrade work skills.”

In a poll of 803 registered voters commissioned by the A.F.L.-C.I.O. , Peter D.Hart Research found that 55 percent said their incomes were not keeping up withinflation, 33 percent said their incomes were keeping even and 9 percent said their incomes were outpacing inflation.

“The split is not helping American workers,” he said. “But we are working very closely with many of the disaffiliated unions.”

A poll of 800 nonsupervisory workers released yesterday by Lake Research Partners found that 51 percent said the next generation would be worse off economically, 27 percent said the next generation would fare about the same and 18 percent said it would be better off.

The poll, for Change to Win, the coalition of unions that left the A.F.L.-C.I.O., found that 63 percent of respondents said the economy was on the wrong track and 28 percent said it was going in the right direction.

“These results tell us that five years into an economic recovery workingfamilies are feeling battered and are losing hope for the future,” said Anna Burger, chairwoman of Change to Win.

The Pew survey found that 69 percent said there was more on-the-job stress than a decade ago, 62 percent said there was less job security and 59 percent said Americans had to worker harder to earn decent livings. Thirteen percent said they did not have to work as hard, and 26 percent said they work about the same.

One factor increasing anxiety is the corporate trend to send job overseas. The Pew poll found that 31 percent of respondents said it would be possible for their employer to hire someone outside the country for their job. Seventy-seven percent said outsourcing jobs to other countries hurt American workers, while 13 percent said it helped.