Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Could Clinton Carry Kansas?

Hillary's not my first or second choice for President, but a just released Survey USA poll shows her surprisingly close to the leading GOP candidates. (via Pollster blog)

Among 502 registered voters in Kansas:
Clinton 40%, Giuliani 54%
Clinton 44%, Thompson 49%
Clinton 45%, Romney 46%

2004 results were Bush 60% Kerry 39%.

My guess is that Giuliani perceived as a moderate Republican, while Thompson and Romney are seen as right-wingers. Of course, it could be just name recognition.

But if Hillary Clinton runs this close in the polls, Kansas Dems ought to be serious about challenging Senator Pat Roberts. A campaign would need to target him as a stealth extremist/obstructionist. That could begin even before a candidate is fully recruited.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sacco and Vanzetti

August 22 is the 80th anniversary of the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, Italian immigrant workers who were convicted of murder during a 1920 Boston payroll robbery. The trial was marked by prejudice and irregularities. Sacco was a shoe-maker and Vanzetti was a fish peddler and both were active in the Italian American anarchist movement. Their arrest came in the midst of the first Red Scare, that saw thousands of socialists, anarchists, and union members arrested and even deported.

The judge in the case, Webster Thayer, stated to the jury "This man, (Vanzetti) although he may not have actually committed the crime attributed to him, is nevertheless culpable, because he is the enemy of our existing institutions."

Sacco and Vanzetti were supported by a broad cross section of liberal and progrssive opinion in the U.S. and worldwide. The 1922 American Federation of Labor convention adopted a resolution describing Sacco and Vanzetti as "victims of race and national prejudice and class hatred."

Fifty years after their execution, Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation stating that Sacco and Vanzetti were tried in an atmosphere permeated by prejudice against foreigners and hostility toward unorthodox political views and that therefore any stigma of disgrace should forever be removed from their names.

A recent documentary on Sacco and Vanzetti is now available on DVD

Website on Sacco and Vanzetti and the Italian American experience

Wikipedia on Sacco and Vanzetti

The myth of Amazing Grace

A mini-essay on Amazing Grace which I posted on Everyday Citizen.

There's a good chance you'll learn something new about the famous song. I don't discuss the recent movie about William Wilberforce, which I found to be quite good, but which is less than historically accurate. Unfortunately, the critical review by Adam Hochschild from the New York Review of Books is not available free on-line. It appeared in the June 14 issue.

Wal'mart's volunteer labor in Mexico

I posted this on the group blog Everyday Citizen.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Max Roach

Max Roach, one of the giants of jazz, died today at age 83. His drumming innovations were critical to the development of the be-bop revolution, though not often credited as being on the same level as the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic innovations of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

He was also a socially conscious musician. In 1960, he recorded the landmark Freedom Now Suite.
He was also active in the civil rights movement.

I had the pleasure of hearing him live, including a very memorable benefit concert for Eldridge Cleaver, when Cleaver returned to the United States. Cleaver had abandoned the third world revolution temptation and not yet embraced nutty right-wing views. For a brief moment, his politics were sane, democratic left. Bayard Rustin organized a defense/support group and brought in many leaders in the African-American community.

Roach's performance that night was marvelous. Normally, I detest drum solos, but Roach could play the drums musically. In fact, he went from using the entire drum set, eliminating one component at a time until he was just down to the hi-hat. The way I remember it, he actually had the various drums and cymbals removed, but maybe that is memomry playing tricks.

You tube has some wonderful clips of Roach performing.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Here's a good idea: international labor rights groups blog together

The International Labor Rights Forum blog is now a joint project with two similar-mined groups: STITCH and US LEAP. It's called "Labor is not a Commodity" Looks like it will be a go to place to get news about the brutal exploitation that corporate globalization visits on workers in poor countries.

Here's descriptions of the three groups.

International Labor Rights Fund
ILRF is an advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide. ILRF serves a unique role among human rights organizations as advocates for and with working poor around the world. We believe that all workers have the right to a safe working environment where they are treated with dignity and respect, and where they can organize freely to defend and promote their rights and interests. We are committed to overcoming the problems of child labor, forced labor, and other abusive labor practices. We promote enforcement of labor rights internationally through public education and mobilization, research, litigation, legislation, and collaboration with labor, government and business groups.

Women in Central America and the U.S. face similar challenges in the workplace, especially when it comes to low wages, discrimination, insufficient childcare services and dangerous working conditions. To change these shared conditions, STITCH, founded in 1998, unites Central American and U.S. women workers to exchange strategies on how to fight for economic justice in the workplace. STITCH equips women with the essential skills through trainings and educational tools, and in the process, builds lasting relationships with women across the two regions, further empowering women in the labor movement. STITCH also ensures women's voices are heard in global debates and discussions on issues that impact them: globalization, trade agreements, immigration policy, and global labor standards.

The U.S./Labor Education in the Americas Project (U.S./LEAP) works to support the basic rights of workers in Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, and Mexico, especially those who are employed directly or indirectly by U.S. companies. Founded in 1987 as the U.S./Guatemala Labor Education Project (U.S./GLEP) by trade unionists and human rights advocates concerned about the basic rights of Guatemalan workers, US/LEAP has since expanded its work to other countries in the region.

UPDATE 8/14: Thanks to A.L. for catching that the link to the collaborative blog didn't work, it's been corrected.

Behind Enemy Lines in Garden City

The LA Times ran an interesting article earlier this week on a Republican campaign worker in Berkeley, California and a Democratic organizer in Garden City, Kansas.

For my coastal and foreign readers, that's far western and deep Republican Kansas . The famous In Cold Blood murders happened in Holcomb, just a little west of Garden City.

Jacqueline Bujanda is the Democratic organizer in Garden City. Here are some interesting 'graphs from the story.

Rural Kansas businesses are boycotted for Democratic sympathies. At one county clerk's office, workers stared dumbfounded when Bujanda introduced herself as the new Democratic regional field coordinator. "There was total silence," she recalled, "as if what I was doing was just an unheard-of thing."

Garden City (pop. 27,000) was now more than 40% Latino, a demographic shift driven by the arrival of Mexican and Central American immigrants to work in the county's meatpacking plants.

When she first began her field-

coordinating, she pursued mostly Republicans, challenging a Midwestern tradition of conservative voting handed down over generations.

One day, Bennie Creeden scowled at Bujanda's pitch. "I'm not voting for any Democrat," he said, shutting his door. Nearby, retiree George Purnell had the same response: "Democrat is a dirty word in this community."

Bujanda now thinks her best chances lie not in the area's old guard, but with the Latino newcomers. Here, she reasoned, was an untapped voter base.

Bujanda wants to enlist 1,500 new Latino voters. She knocks on doors, patiently explaining to some immigrants what a Democrat is.

Got a Bad Boss?

Working America, the AFL-CIO community affiliate, is doing some neat one line things.

In its second annual My Bad Boss Contest, Working America is looking for the worst of the worst workplace horror stories about managers who mismanage and maltreat employees and otherwise act like they are the proprietors of their own personal medieval serf estate. The winning entry—voted on by visitors to the Bad Boss site—will get a weeklong getaway—miles away from the boss.

Over 500 entries have been submitted. The first week's four winners are here.

I especially liked this submission

worst boss in America: G.W. Bush
bludnguts, Minnesota

1. He is not qualified by either training or successful experience in management. He and his friends engaged in illegal activities to get him the job.
2. He is destroying the bottom line and the general economy of the company
3. He has the company borrowing heavily-at a rate that will destroy the company's credit and lead it into bankruptcy.
4. He is mis-appropriating company assets by giving them to his friends on the board and friends who kick-back to him for company favors and contracts
5. He is spending heavily on foreign activities that have no logical connection to the well-being of the company and are causing loss of life and limb of company employees
6. He is trying to nullify the healthcare, retirement and other benefit obligations to company employees
7. There is little hope that he is able to change his policies, because he is does not read, seek the advice of experts and is not curious
8. He is a poor speaker and communicator, is not respected or trusted by heads of other companies that might do business with us; he is a poor public representative of company values and integrity
9. It is clear that he is actively working to take the company apart and sell it off to other profit-making interests.
There's also a nifty interactive quiz that asks "How Bad is Your Boss?"

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Boyda's profile in courage

Before he became President, John Kennedy wrote a famous book Profiles in Courage. It was probably the first political book I ever read. I remember being impressed that a Kansan was among those profiled. Edmund G. Ross cast the decisive vote that prevented President Andrew Johnson from being impeached. Later, when I connected JFK's go slow stance on civil rights with his selection of Ross, I wasn't so proud. Kansas deserved a better hero.

Regardless of how one feels about PiC or Ross, Kansas had a real political hero last week: Congresswoman Nancy Boyda.

Boyda voted against the FISA bill. 41 House Democrats voted for it. Boyda is among the freshmen Democrats who narrowly won election in 2006. Her seat is one of the top GOP targets for 2008 and it is a district with a military base.

The Bill, S. 1927, the Protect America Act, which authorizes the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to acquire foreign intelligence of individuals "reasonably believed" to be outside the United States without a court order.

Boyda's statement

Tonight I voted to uphold something near and dear to America - the U.S Constitution. When the President signs this bill, anyone out of the country, including Americans, can have their communications monitored with virtually no oversight. Sadly, the slippery slope of our civil liberties has given way to a mudslide.

"It's never been easy to balance our security and our liberties. Our nation has struggled with this for over 230 years. As Benjamin Franklin said, 'They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.' Tonight our freedoms took a serious blow.

"For the past several weeks, Congress and the Administration worked closely to achieve a bipartisan agreement on foreign surveillance. An agreement was reached that would have provided our nation's intelligence community with the powers it needed while safeguarding the Constitution. But Friday night, at the 11th hour, the Administration effectively eliminated oversight. "

"Over the next six months, we may hear reports of information gathered under this bill. Let me be clear - that same information could have been collected without giving up Constitutional oversight. "

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Michael Yates on Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas

Michael Yates, touring the country to promote his Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate, was here in Wichita recently and has written up his trip through Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas here.

Emergence of Paul Simon

Wichita's NPR station, KMUW, ran a two-part special on Paul Simon this week. I've never been a great Paul Simon fan so it is easy to forget just how much great music he has made.

Those who grew up with Simon and young listeners should give a listen to the wide range of his work. There's a new 2-CD, 36 song Essential Paul Simon collection that I'm adding to my wish list.