Friday, March 27, 2009

Triangle Fire and Rose Schneiderman's Speech

One of the greatest industrial tragedies in U.S. history occurred on March 25, 1911, when 146 workers, mostly young immigrant women, died in a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist company in New York City. The victims had been trapped by blocked exit doors and faulty fire escapes. The aftermath of the catastrophe brought grief and recriminations. Protest rallies and memorial meetings were held throughout the city. During one meeting at the Metropolitan Opera House, tension broke out between the working-class Lower East Siders who filled the galleries (and saw class solidarity as the ultimate solution to the problems of industrial safety) and the middle- and upper-class women in the boxes who sought reforms like creation of a bureau of fire prevention. The meeting would have broken up in disorder if not for a stirring speech by Rose Schneiderman, a Polish-born former hat worker who had once led a strike at the Triangle factory. Although she barely spoke above a whisper, Schneiderman held the audience spellbound.

I would be a traitor to those poor burned bodies, if I were to come here to talk good fellowship. We have tried you good people of the public—and we have found you wanting.

The old Inquisition had its rack and its thumbscrews and its instruments of torture with iron teeth. We know what these things are today: the iron teeth are our necessities, the thumbscrews are the high-powered and swift machinery close to which we must work, and the rack is here in the firetrap structures that will destroy us the minute they catch fire.

This is not the first time girls have been burned alive in this city. Every week I must learn of the untimely death of one of my sister workers. Every year thousands of us are maimed. The life of men and women is so cheap and property is so sacred! There are so many of us for one job, it matters little if 140-odd are burned to death.

We have tried you, citizens! We are trying you now and you have a couple of dollars for the sorrowing mothers and brothers and sisters by way of a charity gift. But every time the workers come out in the only way they know to protest against conditions which are unbearable, the strong hand of the law is allowed to press down heavily upon us.

Public officials have only words of warning for us—warning that we must be intensely orderly and must be intensely peaceable, and they have the workhouse just back of all their warnings. The strong hand of the law beats us back when we rise—back into the conditions that make life unbearable.

I can’t talk fellowship to you who are gathered here. Too much blood has been spilled. I know from experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. And the only way is through a strong working-class movement.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

March Madness and My Brackets

Some people fill out massive numbers of brackets and then, I guess, toot the horn of their best guess.

I did two, the most I've ever done.

First round at KAKE-TV 22/32 (68%) high nationally had 30 of 32, high in the KAKE was 28/32. The KAKE brackets are done round by round. For the second round, you get to pick from all the first round wiiners. You're not shut out by first round losers.

Local 349 out of 641 44%
National 42,194 out of 80,042 44%


23-9 1884738 our of 5+ million 59.30%

I picked Oklahoma to win everything, which wasn't a good pick according to Sports Daily and the other national broadcasters I've heard. I'm not an OU fan, unlike some friends. My thinking was this: Blake Griffin is the best player in the country. Sometimes that is enough. There was a little bit of Big-12 homer in that pick as well.

I have KU getting to the Sweet Sixteen, but then losing to Michigan State. That's a head not a heart pick.

By the way, I fall at about the 50% percentile between bracketologist and "I like their uniforms/mascots/nickname."

Monday, March 16, 2009

New Poll from Iraq

The BBC has released a new poll of Iraqis. This is an interesting, and encouraging, result showing a dramatic l increase in support for democracy and a decline in support for an Islamic state or a strong man.

Read the story here or download a PDF of the poll here.

The poll, it should be added, doesn't provide support for supporters of the war.

But war opponents should move beyond anti-war slogans and reflexes and really support the democratic trends and developments in Iraq.

State Treasure Dennis McKinney on the February Cash Flow Crisis

I should have put this up yesterday evening. The Eagle's WeBlog posted about McKinney's views on this today.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Extreme Todd: Obama, Sebelius, SCHIP are all socialists

Interviewed this week on KCFN 91.1 FM, Kansas Congressman Todd Tiahrt seems to say that Obamma has appointed Gov. Sebelius to be HHS Secretary because Obama has put the country on a "path to socialism." Tiahrt's Exhibit No.1? Sebelius supported S-CHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

Tiahrt's opponent for the 2010 GOP nomination, Jerry Moran, also voted for SCHIP.

Will Extreme Todd denounce Moran as a "closet socialist"?

Will Extreme Todd denounce those other notorious Kansas socialists like the AARP, PTA, Kansas Hosital Association, Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger?

Rep. Paul Davis: Update of Working Kansans' Agenda

Kansas House Democratic Leader Paul Davis updated the Labor Caucus on the Working Kansans Agenda during the 2009 Washington Days gathering in Topeka.

For more on the agenda, see here and here.

Secretary of Labor Jim Garner on Getting Benefit of Stimulus Program

Kansas Secretary of Labor Jim Garner addresses the Labor Caucus on the state Democratic Party during Washington Days on February 28, 2009. He addressed the need to take full advantage of the potential benefits of the Obama stimulus program.

Garner strongly advocated that the state can gain $68 million for the state's unemployment fund by modernizing the state's system for determining eligibility for unemployment. Kansas does not currenlty count the most recent quarter of earnings to decide if a unemployed worker can get unemployment.

Garner also said is it long overdue to increase the pitiful $250,000 limit for worker's compensation and the disgraceful $2.65 an hour Kansas minimum wage.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I'm extremely progressive

The Center for American Progress has an interesting interactive quiz. Answer 40 questions and it tells you how progressive (or reactionary, I guess) you are. You can compare yourself to various categories.

I'm more "progressive" than "liberal Democrats" (247.1) who are more progressive than "progressives."

How progressive are you?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ann Coulter Defends White Supremacist Group

SPLC on Coulter

In her latest foaming-mouth tome — Guilty: Liberal “Victims” and Their Assault on America, released on Jan. 6 — Coulter spends the better part of three pages defending a group called the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), which The New York Times had described as a “thinly veiled white supremacist organization.” Coulter begs to differ. The CCC, Coulter opines, is “a conservative group” that has unfairly been branded as racist “because some of the directors of the CCC had, decades earlier, been leaders of a segregationist group.” “There is no evidence on its Web page that the modern incarnation of the CCC supports segregation,” she says. “Apart from some aggressive reporting on black-on-white crimes — the very crimes that are aggressively hidden by the establishment media — there is little on the CCC website suggesting” that the group is racist. Indeed, its main failing is “containing members who had belonged to a segregationist group thirty years earlier.”

Coulter could hardly be more wrong. And even if she can’t find time to read beyond a page of the CCC’s website, she really ought to know — after all, the organization where she frequently speaks, the Conservative Political Action Committee, has publicly banned the CCC from its annual gathering because it is racist. Also in the late 1990s, Jim Nicholson, then-chairman of the Republican National Committee, asked GOP members to stay away from the CCC because of its “racist and nationalist views.”

How could conservative Republicans be inspired to say such ugly things? Let us count the ways.

The CCC’s columnists have written that black people are “a retrograde species of humanity,” and that non-white immigration is turning the U.S. population into a “slimy brown mass of glop.” Its website has run photographic comparisons of pop singer Michael Jackson and a chimpanzee. It opposes “forced integration” and decries racial intermarriage. It has lambasted black people as “genetically inferior,” complained about “Jewish power brokers,” called gay people “perverted sodomites,” and even named the late Lester Maddox, the baseball bat-wielding, arch-segregationist former governor of Georgia, “Patriot of the Century.”

One day, the CCC ran photos on its home page of accused Beltway snipers John Muhammad and John Malvo, 9/11 conspirator Zacharias Moussaoui and accused shoe-bomber Richard Reed. “Notice a Pattern Here?” asked a caption underneath the four photos. “Is the face of death black after all?” On another occasion, its website featured a photo of Daniel Pearl, the “Jewish Wall Street Journal reporter” who had just been decapitated by Islamic terrorists. In the photo, Pearl was shown with his “mixed-race wife, Marianne.” The headline above the couple’s picture was stunning even for the CCC: “Death by Multiculturalism?” The CCC Arkansas chapter ran an essay waxing nostalgic for the days “when racial separation was the norm.”

But to Ann Coulter, there is “no evidence” on its website that the CCC “supports segregation.” Mostly, she says, the group — which was formed from the debris of the White Citizens Councils that Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall once called “the uptown Klan” — is about “a strong national defense, the right to keep and bear arms, the traditional family, and an ‘America First’ trade policy.” Indeed, she says, The New York Times and other critics of the CCC are simply liberals “who have no principles.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Muslim Friends of Genocide

What is the connectin between Arabs and Muslims, on the one hand, and Terrrorism on the other was the ostensible subject of a meeting at Wichita Stat Monday evening? My busy schedule prevented me from attending, so only a few quick observations and a recent news story.

Stereotyping all Muslims or all Arabs as terrorists is wrong and should be resolutely opposed. Repressing people because of their religioius views is wrong--whether it is Muslims who are being repressed or Muslims who are being repressed.

The reality is that there is a powerful, transnational movement in the Arab and Islamic worlds that is profoundly anti-democratic, imperialist, and, openly genocidal in its aims.

Via Mick Hartley

A delegation of senior Middle Eastern leaders has travelled to Sudan to express international support for Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, who is accused of war crimes in Darfur.

Officials from Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah joined Syria's parliament speaker and the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group for talks with al-Bashir in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, on Friday.

The visit comes days after the International Criminal Court at The Hague issued a warrant for al-Bashir's arrest on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan's western Darfur region.

Ali Larijani, Iran's parliament speaker and a member of the international delegation in Khartoum on Friday, said the ICC arrest warrant is an "insult directed at Muslims".

Not that any of them ever expressed any concern for the Muslims killed or raped in Darfur - or those thrown off their land and forced to live in camps, maintained by humanitarian groups funded almost entirely by the West. Or their fate if the aid agencies threatened by al-Bashir are forced to leave.

Though fellow Muslims aren't Bashir's only friends:

The UN Security Council, at its first meeting since the arrest warrant was issued, failed on Saturday to agree on a statement asking Sudan to reverse the decision to expel the aid agencies.

The key powers at the UN Security Council - Russia, China, France, the US and Britain - met to discuss a statement which called on Sudan to reverse the expulsions.

But diplomats say China, which buys Sudan's oil and sells it weapons, objected.

A delegation from the African Union and the Arab League is due to ask the Security Council to suspend the war crimes case against Sudan's president.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

International Women's Day

March 8 is International Women's Day. Here are four items which might be of interest.

New Report Shows Global Gender Pay Gap Bigger Than Previously Thought

A new report released by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) for March 8, International Women’s Day, has revealed that the pay gap between men and women worldwide may be much higher than official government figures. The report, “Gender (in)Equality in the Labour Market“, is based on survey results of some 300,000 women and men in 20 countries. It puts the global pay gap at up to 22%, rather than the 16.5% figure taken from official government figures and released by the ITUC on March 8 last year.

AFL-CIO Calls for Global Charter for Working Women’s Rights

The AFL-CIO Executive Council, at its recent Winter meeting, took several actions related to International Women’s Day. It called for establishment of a global charter guaranteeing the rights of working women around the globe.

Click here to read the global charter statement and here for the statement on working women’s rights in a global economy. For a new report on the inequality faced by working women around the world, click here.
The Origins of International Women's Day

International Women's Day has been observed since in the early 1900's, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.

Great unrest and critical debate was occurring amongst women. Women's oppression and inequality was spurring women to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change. Then in 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.

In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman's Day (NWD) was observed across the United States on 28 February. Women continued to celebrate NWD on the last Sunday of February until 1913.

In 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named a Clara Zetkin (Leader of the 'Women's Office' for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women's Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day - a Women's Day - to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women's clubs, and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament, greeted Zetkin's suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women's Day was the result.

Following the decision agreed at Copenhagen in 1911, International Women's Day (IWD) was honoured the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March. More than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women's rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination. However less than a week later on 25 March, the tragic 'Triangle Fire' in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working women, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. This disastrous event drew significant attention to working conditions and labour legislation in the United States that became a focus of subsequent International Women's Day events. 1911 also saw women's 'Bread and Roses' campaign.

On the eve of World War I campaigning for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. In 1913 following discussions, International Women's Day was transferred to 8 March and this day has remained the global date for International Wommen's Day ever since. In 1914 further women across Europe held rallies to campaign against the war and to express women's solidarity.

On the last Sunday of February, Russian women began a strike for "bread and peace" in response to the death over 2 million Russian soldiers in war. Opposed by political leaders the women continued to strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. The date the women's strike commenced was Sunday 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia. This day on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere was 8 March.

1918 - 1999
Since its birth in the socialist movement, International Women's Day has grown to become a global day of recognition and celebration across developed and developing countries alike. For decades, IWD has grown from strength to strength annually. For many years the United Nations has held an annual IWD conference to coordinate international efforts for women's rights and participation in social, political and economic processes. 1975 was designated as 'International Women's Year' by the United Nations. Women's organisations and governments around the world have also observed IWD annually on 8 March by holding large-scale events that honour women's advancement and while diligently reminding of the continued vigilance and action required to ensure that women's equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life.

Women In Labor History Timeline

To honor International Working Women’s Day March 8, New York State United Teachers released a women in labor history timeline.
The timeline includes:
The first society of working women, the Daughters of Liberty, is organized as an auxiliary of the Sons of Liberty, a workingman's association.
Women workers strike for the first time, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. 102 women workers strike in support of brother weavers protesting the simultaneous reduction in wages and extension of the workday.
The first union for women only formed: The United Tailoresses of New York.
The National Consumers League is formed with Florence Kelley as its president. The League organizes women to use their power as consumers to push for better working conditions and protective law for women workers.
Mary Harris "Mother" Jones leads a protest march of mill children, many of who were victims of industrial accidents, from Philadelphia to New York.
November 14, at the AFL convention in Boston, women unionists unite to form the National Women's Trade Union League and elect Mary Morton Kehew president and Jane Addams vice-president. The National Women's Trade Union League is established to advocate for improved wages and working conditions for women.
"Uprising of the 20,000" female shirtwaist workers in New York State strike against sweatshop conditions

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

the real issue in international trade--it's not protectionism

Maybe it was just the sound-byte the media picked, but British PM Gordon Brown was off-target when he warned against protectionism. Europeans like to castigate Americans for (American) protectionism, but they often like to practice Eruopen protectionism.

In the present international crisis, the real issue is unequal Keynesianism. There needs to be a coordinated and vigorous expansion by every country.

Here's a good explanation from Ezra Klein

Following on the Gordon Brown post, a reader e-mails a link to the Brooking Institution's comparison of various international stimuli. They warn:

In an integrated world economy, the effectiveness of stimulus is contingent on how coordinated it is across countries. If the sizes of the stimulus packages (relative to domestic GDP) are very different across countries or if the effects of some countries’ stimulus packages are backloaded, then there could be “leakage” of stimulus from countries that act early and forcefully...large frontloaded stimulus packages that are coordinated internationally could not only be more effective directly but also boost consumer and corporate confidence.[...]

In 2010, the U.S. accounts for over 60 percent of planned stimulus. China and Germany are the next largest contributors with China contributing 15 percent of G-20 stimulus and Germany contributing 11 percent. The U.S. stimulus package amounts to 2.9 percent of 2008 GDP, China’s 2.3 percent, and Germany’s 2.0 percent....Some countries like China and the U.S. have responded forcefully, with impressive packages. But the execution, both in terms of size and speed, leaves much to be desired in some of the G-20 countries.

In other words; We're doing a lot. China is doing a lot. Everyone else isn't. In practice, that means that they will reap some of the rewards of our stimulus spending in the form of increased demand for their exports, but we won't reap many rewards from their stimulus spending. And overall, the global economy will be slower than it needs to be, which means national economies will be slower than they need to be (if Caterpillar's international sales sag, they'll cut U.S. jobs).

Also, that picture atop this post? The one that doesn't look like anything? Click on it. It's an an awesome table comparing G-20 stimulus packages.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Sirota: Too Big To Fail

If It's "Too Big to Fail," Then It's Too Big to Be Private

By David Sirota
Campaign for America's Future, 3/3/09

I appeared yesterday at the top of Neil Cavuto's Fox News show to discuss the potential for financial industry nationalization. You can watch the clip here:

I tried to use the opportunity to float a fairly simple - and old-fashioned - concept that has been almost entirely missing from the media/political debate: If something is "too big to fail," then it's too big to be in private hands.

The term "too big to fail" is a euphemism for any institution that is so important to the entire nation's most basic well being, that society cannot let that institution fail. This is why one of the foundational principles of civilized society has always been nationalization - ie. government control - of the institutions that are "too big to fail": institutions like the military, whose failure would mean a basic loss of national security; law enforcement, whose failure would mean a basic loss of civil order; and infrastructure construction, whose failure would mean the crumbling of commerce. The government, as the most powerful representative of society as a whole, runs these institutions/services because they are too important to be allowed to fail.

Unfortunately, as of hard-right and center-right ideologues have ran our government for three decades, they gutted the basic laws and enforcement mechanisms (financial regulations, anti-trust prosecutions, etc.) that prevented a myriad of financial institutions from becoming "too big to fail."

The American Insurance Group is the best example of this - a company that, as the New York Times notes, essentially based its business on a risky scheme to sell insurance to other corporations against colossal housing market failure.

To read the full article, go to:

Washington Days Photos

It was one ofthe better Washington Days, I've been to. Very good Labor Caucus meeting, thanks to the leaderhip of Pat Lehman.

Why Castro Sucks, Reason #1,169

This happened in August but I only learned about a couple of days ago. When the mis-named Pastors for Peace come through your town on their propaganda tour for a dictator, represser of labor rights, presecutor of gays, enemy of democracy, I suggest you organize a punk rock concert for Gorki Aguila.

From The Daily Telegraph

Cuban rocker Gorki Aguila on trial for 'social dangerousness'

A Cuban punk rocker is being charged with "social dangerousness" because his songs denounce the communist government.

Gorki Aguila, lead singer of Porno para Ricardo, has been in police custody since Monday.

He is due to appear at the Playa municipal court in western Havana charged with subverting "communist morality."

Should he be convicted, he faces up to four years in prison for openly defying the revolution and poking fun at Fidel Castro and his brother Raul, who became Cuba's president in February.

Police arrested 39-year-old Aguila at his home where he was putting the finishing touches to a new album which was provisionally called Geriatric Central Committee, a reference to the ageing Castro regime.

His arrest has sparked protests from artists and human rights groups with supporters due to assemble at Havana's Malecon promenade to protest.

The government often applies the "social dangerousness" charge in cases of public drunkenness or as a way to keep large groups of unemployed Cubans - or those simply skipping work - from congregating on city streets during business hours.

Porna para Ricardo, formed 10 years ago, are banned from official airwaves, and make up part of an underground music movement.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, an illegal but tolerated group, said in a statement: "Gorki Aguila has not committed any specific crime as defined by the current criminal code."

The rock star has asked for "diplomatic observers" to attend the trial but refused legal help from US-based Cuban American National Foundation.

Ciro Diaz, the band's guitarist, said: "These kind of trials are very biased. It's difficult for someone to be absolved.

"A lawyer can do very little because there's no evidence of criminal activity presented, only what the police say."

Fortunately, Gorki was found innocent of the most serious charges.