Sunday, December 19, 2010

Illegal Immigration ... let he among you ...

On the occasion of the defeat of the Dream Act in the Senate, with 56 Senators including both Kerry and Scott Brown voting to end debate:
I'd like us all to consider whether, if the shoe had been on the other foot, we would have slipped across a border illegally to find work if that's what it had taken to feed our families.

And then think back on our family stories, and ask ourselves how many of our ancestors, who mostly came here legally, would have come anyway if it had been illegal.

There's no doubt our country's in a mess, and headed in the wrong direction, and there's no doubt the immigrants are a part of the mess, but do we really think that they caused it, or that the terror of midnight raids, highway checkpoints, concentration camps and kangaroo courts it would take to remove maybe ten million men women and children from our midst would really make anything better - or make it any easier for us to all come together to find solutions for taking our neighborhoods, our cities, our state and country back from the brink?

I know that's a hard sell if you're the one who's seen an immigrant take your job and then had your nose rubbed in it, or if you're the one who's been in an accident with an undocumented worker who fled the scene to avoid getting caught. But we need to remember ourselves as human beings, not monkeys in a barrel - or dogs in a fighting pit. We need to find the light in our souls that will let us imagine the shoe being on the other foot

Not because some goody two-shoes told us on Sunday we should, but because that's what we need to do. So we can all stand up for each other, and face our common problems together.

So thank you Scott Brown for a sensible and compassionate vote on the Dream Act.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Whose money is it?

In response to a torrent of attacks on anyone opposing the tax cuts on the top 2% as thieves and haters:

I'm not sure if we're talking here about politics, economics or some strange new pagan religion that worships the gods of money, power and the free market.

We have a state government that was founded in Concord in October 1774 during the Massachusetts Revolution, and a national government that was set up in Philadelphia the following year, because people were very clear that with the British-appointed colonial governments removed we needed to set our own up, right quick.

One of the first priorities was setting up a system to collect taxes to support - among other things - public infrastructure, a court system and defense against the expected British invasion to retake their lost colonies. No one objected to the setting and collecting of taxes. They weren't making a revolution to end taxation - it was always about the question "whose government is it", who does it serve and protect, who decides who pays, how it gets collected and how it gets spent. The struggle over what is a fair way to decide who will contribute how much in taxes was there from the beginning, and is not likely to go away.

Admittedly things are out of control now, but the problem is not that we have a government or that there are taxes. The problem is that we've lost control of that government, of the decisions about who pays for it and how that money gets spent. And that the ones with the most money are able to buy the influence and the media noise to get out of paying what most of us would consider their fair share.

The problem isn't "whose money is it," The problem is still "whose government is it?"

Alert your unemployed friends

Shame on our dear President for tying the unemployment extensions, the middle class tax cuts and R&D tax credits, to a shameful, budget-busting bonanza for the wealthy and the super-rich, and to a back-door attack on Social Security. But it's done - thank you Jim McGovern for leading our Massachusetts delegation and a majority of the Democrats in the House in challenging it.

This article doesn't mention the reauthorization of the unemployment extensions, retroactive to Nov. 30, a life and death issue for tens of thousands in our state.

Already an estimated 1.1 million people have had their unemployment benefits cut off, including maybe 30,000 here, and have been facing a bleak or desperate Christmas. If recent history is any indication, some of them will not have heard about this reauthorization, some may not believe it is retroactive (these reauthorizations haven't always been), and some won't know to go into the "One Stop" and re-apply for their next extension.

Some may be stopped by shame from even telling their friends and family that that they are now destitute, and some may have already started to give up and have stopped paying attention.

If you know anyone who is collecting unemployment, whether or not they have said anything to you about extensions or cutoffs, you might want to pass this information along to them.

Voter Apathy?

In response to an attack in the T&G on Neighbor to Neighbor for supposed election fraud and Clive McFarlane's column defending them:

In the District 4 City Council race last year Barbara Haller won a landslide victory with what I estimated was the votes of 5% of the adult population of the District - not counting undocumented residents, who would have made that percent even smaller. This is one side of what amounts to a failure of democracy.

Apathy? That's not the right word for it. I spoke with many of those non-voters, especially the "Obama voters", the ones who don't usually vote but who came out to vote for Obama in 2008. Many were angry, many were paying some attention to what is going on, and they were clear that they were choosing not to vote. Not because they didn't care because they didn't believe their vote made a difference or that anyone they elected could or would do anything for them. And they believed that anyone they elected would get sucked into the system and lose touch with them.

Not apathy. Boycott. They, and tens of millions like them across our land, boycott the elections every year. But what a useless kind of protest that is! When you boycott the elections, except in very rare circumstances, it just means you aren't counted and you can be ignored!

So what do we do about this? Part of the answer is ongoing grass-roots multi-issue organizing, like what N2N - and now some of our Ward Democratic Committees inspired by them - are doing.

Democracy means it's the people's government, of, by, for and about the people. Not possible? We in Worcester of all places should know better. It was here in Worcester that the people, acting together in an open, democratic way, took our government back from the British-appointed military governor in 1774 and started a revolution that changed the world. So how did we come to this sorry pass?

There is much to be said about this, but when the story is written about how we reclaimed our democracy and saved our country from ruin, the grass-roots organizers of N2N will be among its heroes. Thank you Clive for acknowledging them.

Where are the Dems

That was the complaint in a comment to a T&G article after the Senate had just approved Obama's Tax Bill "compromise". My response:


There are indeed Dems out there fighting this measure, among them Jim McGovern. - What, did you think you would get a full spectrum report here?

The stuff the Republicans and some of the talk show hosts are saying now is such outrageous nonsense that it boggles the mind, and the attacks on Obama's outrageous sellout from the right for not going far enough are predictable - and sickening.

First the issue was never ending the tax cuts for anyone. Even the House Demo plan would extend the whole tax cut for 98% of us - and extend the tax cut on their first $200,000 for the top 2% also! But you would think it was a move to crush the middle class to listen to Limbaugh!

Second, Obama's "compromise" gave the Republicans 200% of what they were asking for - by tossing in the cuts in the estate taxes that will benefit only the top 1/3 of 1%, and the cuts in the FICA tax they wanted, which would undermine Social Security and benefit mainly the higher-wage earners. The lowest-wage 50 million would actually see our taxes go up, compared to what we were getting from the stimulus bill credits we're losing.

Third the tax cuts are extended for 2 years, while the unemployment extensions are extended for 13 months! If the "official" unemployment is still at almost 10% next Christmas - and the real rate is still almost 20% - what will we have to bargain with the Republican House for another renewal of the extensions then, to keep what by then will be 6 million people from being thrown to the dogs?

Now the House Democrats, who swore they wouldn't allow a vote on the Obama-Republican plan, are talking about just taking the estate tax cuts out of their bill, to save the unemployment extensions that could have been won on a straight up or down vote without Obama's intervention!

We've been compromised and traded right into the corner. It's time for those Democrats who are really on our side to stand up to the bullies and fakirs and show some real courage and leadership!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Com to McGovern's Campaign Breakfast! Sat, 10, Coral Seafood!

10-11:30 at Coral Seafood. Come and help get the grass roots campaign to re-elect Jim off the ground.

Jim, who is on the Board of Trustees of Progressive Democrats of America, is one of the Representatives we can least afford to lose - for our District and for the working people of America. He has been a leader on ending the warsIraq and Afghanistan, on corporate responsibility and on the rights of working people. He is now one of the leaders in the fight to keep the extended unemployment benefits in place. As Vice-Chair of the Committee on Rules and Chair of the Subcommittee on Rules and the Organization of the House, he has risen to a level of influence, in the Congress, from which position he has been able to be of great service to our District.

I know many of us think that Jim is so well liked and respected in our District - and the would-be Republican challengers apparently such light-weights - that he is not in any real danger, but I think it would be a big mistake to take this race for granted.

First, this is likely to be a very bad election year for Democrats, with many disappointed and increasingly angry and desperate voters who usually support us staying home or coming out to "send a message to the Democrats" or to "throw all the bums out." I heard a lot of voters in January say that for them the election was a referendum on Obama and Patrick more than it was about Coakley or Brown. This election will I fear be the same, but more so.

Second, with blood still in the water from January, the State is going to be flooded with corporate and right-wing National Republican money, and high-powered operatives playing by the Karl Rove play-book. We had our first taste of this in the Coakley/Brown race, but most of us here in the Bay State are still quite unprepared for it.

And finally, Jim's leadership, especially on ending the wars, has made him a special target of that right wing - as evidenced by the fact that he often shows up on the hate lists of right-wing bloggers.

When we have someone this good on our issues, someone we have supported and who has stood by us for fourteen years, we have to fight to keep them. We simply can't afford to risk losing Jim -and we need to use the opportunity of this campaign to get our own neighborhoods and our own neighbors organized to turn out the vote and keep him in office.

Plus, we need to be building our neighborhood bases for battles to come.

So come on out to the Campaign Breakfast and let's start the process of organizing and doing it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Did the American Revolution begin in Worcester?

(Published in InCity Times, July 2, 2010)


The word defines who we are as a people. Whether our ancestors came across the Bering Straits 10,000 years ago or just arrived here from Ireland or Nigeria, we are the people who inherited the Revolution we celebrate every July 4. We march up and down, shoot off fireworks, listen to patriotic speeches – and sometimes - more and more often of late - we sit around the barbecue pit talking about how out of control our government has gotten, and how we need a new revolution, or are headed for one - though most of us, for all our bravado, see it as something really scary that we’re not ready for.

Our Declaration of Independence starts with the assertion of our right to make a revolution when we need to, but most of us know very little about revolutions, and our minds are full of images that scare us away if we get too close. Because “we need a revolution” connects to “peasants with pitchforks” and Minutemen with guns – and that usually stops us. Because if we think that a revolution is a war, anyone who understands what a war really is knows that we don’t want one if we can help it.

Yes, we Americans celebrate the Revolution – our own special kind of revolution. We’ve all heard Jefferson’s quote about the Tree of Liberty needing watering from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots. But the Revolution we know about, the one in our storybooks, is a strange affair. Our books tell of a revolution that was also a war, one that was started and led by wealthy Boston gentlemen and Virginia planters in powdered wigs who refused to pay their taxes, and who met in attics and back rooms and conspired to organize and lead an armed uprising,

I never understood just why average farmers and workmen cared enough about a tea tax to rise up in revolt against the most powerful empire in the world, risking death, ruin or exile. And as I read about what happened in other countries, and as I’ve watched history unfolding around the world over the years, I was always puzzled why their revolutions always seemed so different from our own.

The story of what happened in Worcester in the Summer of 1774 holds the key to that mystery. The answer is that our revolution wasn’t so different after all. It’s just that what we’ve been getting is the rich folks’ side of the story, as seen from Boston!

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Historian Ray Raphael, with the help of Worcester City Clerk David Rushford, spent some time digging around in the town and city archives of Worcester County, collecting town records and correspondence about the events of the Summer and Fall of 1774, about a revolution which reached a climax in the streets of the shire town of Worcester in the hills of rural Massachusetts on Sept. 6, 1774. This material was organized into the book “The First American Revolution, Before Lexington and Concord” (New Press, 2002). A 2-page summary, “Before Lexington: The Worcester Revolution of 1774”, is available at the City Clerk’s Office.

Raphael’s book tells a story, mostly in the words of ordinary people from letters and town meeting records, about that time, of a thoroughly democratic and non-violent revolution that came out of a summer of open discussions involving most of the people across the whole colony of Massachusetts. It is the story of a non-violent revolution that was not a conspiracy, not a tax revolt, not a war and not led by gentlemen in powdered wigs.

It tells of a revolution that was about regaining control of our local and provincial legislatures, governor and courts, after the British Parliament – controlled by the great corporations of the day such as the British East India Company – had placed Massachusetts under the direct rule of General Gates in the Spring of 1774. A revolution that was driven by ordinary people’s concerns and fears - not about taxes but about debts and foreclosures, and about who would have the power to enforce them and drive them off their land.

This Massachusetts Revolution in the late Summer and Fall of 1774 wasn’t centered in Boston. Rather it grew in the countryside, where 95% of the people lived then, and came to a head in Worcester. There, on Sept. 6, 1774, called together by the Committees of Correspondence, 4,700 mostly unarmed militia from 37 towns, assembled along Main Street in defiance of an ultimatum from General Gates and prevented the puppet government’s courts from meeting.

A week before the “Worcester Revolution”, the Committees of Correspondence had issued a declaration which stated that “The Citizens of Massachusetts are intitled to life, liberty and the means of sustenance, by the Grace of God, and without the leave of the King.” Note that they said not “pursuit of happiness”, but “means of sustenance”. This revolution was not about a lifestyle choice. It was about survival, for ordinary people.

The Worcester Revolution marked the end of British authority outside of Boston. The following month, in October 1774, delegates from across the Commonwealth assembled in Concord to organize a provisional government. Six months later, British troops marched out of Boston in a first attempt to re-conquer Massachusetts and reverse the revolution. The war we call the Revolutionary War, but which perhaps we should call the War to Defensd the Revolution, was on.


Historian Ray Raphael calls the events that unfolded in Worcester on Sept. 6, 1774 the “pivotal event in the Massachusetts Revolution”, and thus of the entire American Revolution that followed. He records that Sept. 6 was celebrated as Revolution Day in Worcester County up until about 1820. Perhaps that custom died out because it never got written into the school books, or perhaps it was because somehow it didn’t fit with the narrative of the people who had come out on top in the end.

Eight years after the publication of Raphael’s book, nine years after Rushford began distributing his pamphlet at City Hall, even most people who grew up in Worcester and have lived their entire lives here know little or nothing about this dramatic episode in our history.

When I ask people what they know about Worcester’s history they can list who was born here, but every place had someone famous who was born there.

They mention things that were invented here, but every city has something that was invented there.

They mention the fact that George Washington slept here, but every city and town east of the Appalachians can tell you about when George Washington slept there.

When I ask them why a visitor from Europe or Japan should make a side trip to see Worcester, or whether anything really important ever happened here, they generally never have an answer. Hardly anyone mentions that Worcester was where the first women’s rights convention was held, or that Worcester was where slavery was first abolished in the English-speaking world in 1781.

And hardly anyone knows that Worcester was where events that marked the start of the American Revolution – events arguably at least as important as what happened in Concord in 1775 or in Philidelphia in 1776 - took place.

So why does hardly anyone in Worcester know this history?

And why does it matter?

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Almost all regular people agree: our government isn’t listening to us, and it’s out of control. People are suffering, fear and anger are growing, and there is a great feeling of hopelessness and desperation on the land. Foreclosures are continuing to increase, entire city blocks are being emptied and boarded up, the “recovery” isn’t happening for ordinary people, the foreign wars just go on and on, and our environment is becoming a disaster.

We managed to elect new governments in Massachusetts in 2006 and Washington in 2008 on campaigns of hope and change, but that change isn’t happening.

An overwhelming majority of the people supported a Medicare for All, solution to the health care crisis, but that was never even “allowed on the table” for discussion, and now Medicare is being gutted to pay for the Insurance Reform that we got instead.

Obama came in sounding like the reincarnation of Roosevelt, but gave those same banks - whose money helped elect him - a trillion dollars of public money with no strings attached, and now we’re getting a toothless “bank reform bill” that doesn’t touch their power!

The real unemployment rate is 20% or 25%, and Congress seems unable to reauthorize emergency extensions of unemployment insurance, which will dump 2 million long-term unemployed off the rolls and onto the streets, and in any case every week tens of thousands pass beyond the emergency 99-week limit and fall through the safety net.

We voted to end the wars, but the wars go on and on. We voted for transparency a return to the rule of law, an end to torturing prisoners - but the abuses go on and only get worse. Now Obama is openly ordering “hits” on American citizens abroad, without even a judicial review!

BP cut corners, took huge risks and produced a huge environmental disaster which could destroy the entire Gulf of Mexico, and our well-meaning President of the United States is exposed as powerless to do anything about it, reduced to the humiliation of playing “chief complainer and bottle washer!”

Governor Patrick in the meantime is running for reelection on excuses for why he wasn’t able to do much, blaming the Democratic legislature (!), the public workers, and “the economy”, yet he’s continued giving away money hand over fist to the large corporations. Under his Administration 97% of all corporate requests for tax breaks have been granted, but he can’t find money for teachers, fire, police or health care workers, stimulus money is sitting un-spent and the layoffs and violated union contracts continue!

The final straw for many of us was the Citizens United case the Supreme Court recently decided, which eliminates all limits on how much money a corporation can give to political candidates!

I could go on. The list of outrages against the people and against our democracy seems endless. But the upshot is that an overwhelming majority of ordinary people have concluded that we have lost control of our government, that the situation has become intolerable, and that something dramatic has to be done to take it back.

The best word we have for that kind of change is “revolution”. What stops us is perhaps that we don’t really know what a revolution is, and that the images we have of it scare us away.


So as we celebrate Independence Day this July 4, the importance of learning about, talking about and celebrating the Worcester Revolution of 1774 is not just that it would put Worcester on the map, bring lots of tourists and give us a sense of pride and identity.

It’s also that it would give us a new sense of what is possible, a new sense of what democracy means, a new sense of the possibility the common people can reclaim our governments, our rights and our futures in a peaceful, democratic and dignified way.

Because the story of the Worcester Revolution of 1774 is a story of a time when ordinary people like ourselves, right here in Worcester, in a moment that was eerily like the present, actually did that and changed the world.

Let’s celebrate July 4 with real spirit, but let’s also plan to celebrate Revolution Day on Sept. 6, the way our forbearers used to!

Fathers Day during Hard Times

This Fathers Day comes at a very hard time to be a father, and that can be hard for everyone in the family.

For men, who see our ability to bring home a paycheck as a big part of what makes us a man, of what makes us worthy to belong to a family, not being able to provide for them can be devastating. But we are worth much more than that to our children. This is a good day for us and for our families to reflect on what we’re worth, what we bring, why we’re needed.

Times are hard, and it’s natural to feel that it’s our fault, our personal failure. The “great ones”, the ones who’ve made it and the ones who were “born on third base and think they hit a triple”, are trying to blame this disaster on us and get us blaming ourselves and on each other for it, but it’s really not our fault. When you’re struggling to survive and it’s not working, you have to keep on trying - and to do that well you have to take responsibility for the results you get. But when it’s not working no matter how hard you try because of things beyond your control, there’s nothing to be gained and everything to lose from beating yourself up, drugging yourself and taking it out on your family.

Unemployment levels are higher than at any time since the Great Depression. The De Facto Unemployment Rate (DUFR, calculated by the Center for Working Class Studies, counting the underemployed, everyone who would be working full time if they could but can’t, prisoners and military service personnel) is hovering around 30%. And that’s not Dad’s fault.

Those lucky enough to have jobs are being speeded up, pushed, jerked around and played against each other in a way that we haven’t seen in living memory, and employers are shamelessly using undocumented immigrants (“illegal aliens”) to drive down wages and break our unions. And that’s not Dad’s fault. (Nor is it the fault of the immigrants, many of whom are dads themselves, for that matter! Seriously, which of us wouldn't sneak across a border looking for work if that's what it took to feed our child or give them a good life?)

Nationally 13% of employers cut wages last year and half of them froze pay (which amounts to a pay cut.) Those who’ve lost jobs often go back to work for much lower pay, and many will never get back to where we were. And that’s not Dad’s fault.

Most of us have most of our wealth tied up in our homes, and now nearly half of all homeowners are "under water", and by the dozens every day we're losing them. It's hard to feel like much of a man when one loses the family home and has to take the kids out of their school and go looking for a place to live, and maybe Dad could have done something different; but this is a global catastrophe, and that's not Dad's fault.
For those of us who've built a business, meeting payrolls and bank payments in these times can be a nightmare, and for too many it is ending badly. It's hard to feel like much of a man when you've just lost the business that was to be your legacy to your children, and maybe Dad could have done something different; but this disaster is not Dad's fault.

to Dads need to be Dads, to be part of the family and examples to their children, no matter how hard times get. Children need the example of how a man doesn’t give up, disappear or get hateful even when things look grim. They need to see their Dad go on loving them and their mother, looking out for them and for their mother, no matter how bad things get. They need to see how a man can get really, really angry and still control himself, still not hurt them or their mother.

Being a boy in this world can be confusing even in good times, and it’s more confusing now. Boys aren’t just defective girls. They’re boys, and they grow up to be men, husbands, providers, dads. Only a man can show them how, and the one they’re watching is Dad.

Being a girl in this world can be pretty confusing too, and life gets pretty rough for a girl who doesn’t learn how to pick a good man. The men in her life as she grows up are the ones who show her what a man looks like. And the one she's watching is Dad.

Being a mother is hard in this world. Holding a family together, managing all the conflicts and relationships, helping to earn the money, keeping everyone safe and fed and doing their schoolwork, and keeping track of everyone is too much for one person. Plenty of women do it alone these days, but not many will tell you it’s a good idea. Having a partner who can step in and take charge when Mom’s at her wits ends, going crazy or needing a break is huge. Having a partner to talk things through with, make plans with, take comfort from is huge. Having a partner to get behind closed doors and let it all out with, to cry and love and be loved by, is huge. And the one she needs to be this partner is usually Dad.

And then there are some lessons to learn about life that only a family can teach, and that Dad is needed to help teach.

Lessons about sticking up for each other and looking out for each other and having each other’s backs. It’s the children who learned this from their Dads who are prepared to bring us all together to solve this crisis.

Lessons about doing whatever is needed, no matter the personal cost. Keeping your word, doing your part and coming through. The ones who learned this from Dad are more likely to be the ones you want for your battle-buddies, whatever struggles life brings you.

Lessons about how loving means sharing and giving and being of service to each other. The children who learned this from their Dads will be better prepared for working together to build a better world out of the wreckage.

So it’s really hard when Dad can’t bring home a paycheck, or when he comes home feeling angry, powerless, exhausted or insecure. None of us are perfect, and Dad’s made his share of mistakes, but he’s trying, God knows he’s trying. And he’s still needed, more than ever.

This is a good time to give him your appreciation.

And Dads, this is a good time to allow yourself to take it in.

Letter to the Delegates

(Letter to the Delegates to the Democratic Convention in Worcester, June, 2010, submitted to InCity Times)

Dear Democratic Delegates:

There’s an old saying which fits the moment: "Words butter no parsnips."

During the Special Senate Election this past January I went door to door asking my neighbors to vote for Martha Coakley – the same neighbors I had asked in December for their vote for Mike Capuano, and in October for their vote for our new Mayor, Joe O’Brien. I took my time and really listened to what they were saying, and by January the ones who hadn’t gotten sick of me were getting used to talking to me. By the morning of Jan. 19, I knew that Coakley would carry my precinct – she did, barely – but would lose the election, because so many Democrats and former Democrats were planning to vote for Scott Brown.

Then on election night I spoke to every Democratic Party officeholder, official and activist I recognized at what was supposed to be the victory party at Jose Murphy’s, and asked them why they thought this rout happened. One after another they answered “bad candidate”, “bad campaign” or both. Then I asked what the way forward was. Their answers: “better candidate” or “better campaign!” (One young officeholder answered “Organize. Organize, organize, organize!” Which turns out to be Patrick’s strategy.) When I then asked them if they thought that maybe there was something deeper going on, most simply said “no.”

But what I was hearing from my neighbors was a different story, and near the top of their list of complaints was that “the Democrats” (by which they never seemed to mean themselves) were out of touch. The responses I was getting from the insiders at Jose Murphy’s proved their point! They were indeed clueless – and still are as far as I can tell.

Voters talked more about Obama and Patrick than about Coakley. About the absurdity of a health care bill that forced them to buy insurance they can't afford, with deductibles so high they couldn’t afford to use it. About the pain of unemployment (some have been out of work for over a year) and loss of benefits, collapsing house values and their unforgotten anger over the bailouts.

They talked about voting for change - the change Patrick and Obama promised - that wasn’t happening.

Some made excuses for Brown and used Republican talking points about “illegal immigrants”, but others were up front about just wanting this election to be a wakeup call for “the Democrats”. (The State AFL/CIO’s exit poll confirmed that 47% of votes for union households had gone for Scott Brown - vs. 44% for Coakley - and that their main complaint about the health bill was that it didn’t include a public option!)

Several days later Obama proved he had totally misread their wakeup call, by announcing a freeze on new discretionary spending - which had been a Republican demand for a decade!

So what has Patrick done since then? Mostly words as far as I can see, little stuff around the edges, and more excuses. He is claiming the “economic recovery” – which my neighbors aren’t seeing and don’t believe in. (As one of them put it, she’s “waiting for the other shoe to drop” on that one.) In the meantime he signed an Ed Reform bill which is a direct and outrageous attack on the hard-won right of public workers – a foundation of the Democratic Party - to collective bargaining, and he’s been bragging about how mercifully he’s been at gutting local aid and state services, at the same time that he’s continuing to give away tens of millions to the corporations, and he’s being unaccountably slow to spend the Federal stimulus funds.

His strategy for re-election, from yesterday’s T&G: “… 21,700 community organizers by Election Day… each one … responsible for 50 people.”

My neighbors will be unimpressed.

What we need from you, dear delegates, is that you put Patrick on notice that this is the Democratic Party, not some corporate insiders club, and that you – we – expect action and results now, on jobs, housing, healthcare. And we want tax money collected from those who can still afford to pay, the wealthy and the corporations, to keep our schools, public services and fire stations open, no excuses.

In the meantime, for those of you who aren’t familiar with parsnips, they are sweet, tasty when baked and buttered, nutritious and cheap – good food for a depression. You won’t find them at Shaw’s, but Price Rite carries them.

BP Spill: Mega-disaster, or mega-crime?

(Published in InCity Times, c. 6/6/10)

Was the Hurricane Katrina disaster natural or man-made? And if man-made, was it negligence, stupidity or a crime? Most of us have thought and argued about whether people in and out of government should have faced criminal charges for deliberately failing to protect or evacuate the people of New Orleans. Hurricanes happen, but the death and destruction was arguably mostly man-made, and much of the negligence was arguably deliberate "benign neglect" in Nixon's famous phrase.

So how about the Deepwater Horizon oil "spill" now underway in the Gulf of Mexico? BP has been fibbing about the size of this mega-disaster, and their ability to stop it appears doubtful. It may already be the second largest spill in history, with no end in sight. The oil appears to be shooting from multiple vents, moving below as well as on the surface. It could well destroy all the fisheries, natural habitats and tourist industries along thousands of miles of Gulf coast, and it will probably enter the Gulf Stream, which will bring it into the New England fishing grounds within months. It’s a freakin’ calamity!

Was this disaster natural or man-made? That’s a no brainer; of course it was man-made. God didn’t drill those holes into the floor of the Gulf! Even if a hurricane or lightning strike had set it off, it would have been a man-made disaster.

We learned today that BP “upper management” was overheard saying that they were “taking shortcuts” by injecting salt water instead of drilling mud into the well before capping it. Routine negligence or stupidity? Normal corporate decision-making? Or criminal behavior?

A bigger question is why was there so little regulation of these rigs. A government inspector might have discovered in time that the manual shutdown mechanisms on this rig were out of order - one key switch was found to have had a dead battery! Where were they? It turns out that in 1999 BP filed a ludicrous environmental impact statement saying that the risks were minimal for drilling in this area, on the basis of which they were exempted from a full environmental report requirement and were allowed to be mostly self-regulating. Was this a failure of a normal system of oversight? Or could it be seen as part of a criminal conspiracy to legalize the kind of criminal behavior that led to this disaster?

And then, why were there no automatic acoustically-activated “blowout preventers” such as other nations require? They cost about $500,000 each, and it turns out that the oil industry lobbied vigorously and successfully against a requirement that they be installed on all wells. Our democracy at work? Or a criminal conspiracy between the oil corporations, the Congress and the regulators?

But wait! There's more! An even bigger issue is why are we allowing deep-sea drilling at all? Scientists have been warning for years that it is an invitation to disaster, but all our efforts to stop it have been overwhelmed by the power of corporate lobbying. Even if we are able to put strong regulations into place, even if we are able to re-impose the kind of safeguards that might have prevented this spill, there are so many of these wells, and hundreds more every year, that more disasters are bound to happen! (Not to mention that each off-shore well contributes massive amounts of oil and heavy-metal pollution over its lifetime!)

Now Obama has authorized drilling Arctic wells, wells which will be under sea ice in the winter where it would be impossible to do anything at all about a blowout until the summer thaw! And just days before this disaster Obama gave the oil industry permission for drilling off the Atlantic Coast, something which environmentalists have been fighting for a decade! Why? Is Obama so spineless that he can’t stand up to the oil interests? Is it that Congress is so addicted to oil money that Obama has no political cover for standing up to Big Oil? Or is Obama himself so beholden to corporate contributions that he has become a mere golden-tongued sock-puppet?

The biggest question, which the Gulf oil spill is rubbing our faces in, is whether our entire political and economic system become one great criminal conspiracy. And then the next question is whether we still have the power to change it. The only way to find that out is to try. Starting with no more supporting of candidates, no matter how reasonable-sounding, who take the corporations' money and do their building.

Here in Massachusetts, we are facing another mind-numbing gubernatorial campaign between multi-millionares over how to give away more tax money to the corporations while shutting down city and state services and blaming the unions or undocumented immigrants. Luckily they don’t have the ability to produce an environmental mega-disaster like the one in the Gulf, but they probably would if they could! Witness the Cape Wind project, where pandering to corporate greed has turned a great idea into a massive swindle!

We simply have to stop electing the kind of politicians who can’t tell right from wrong, who live in a world where greed is good and normal, and who place the interests of their contributors above those of the people. When they masquerade as Democrats we should hoot them off the stage!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Good Standards don't necessarily mean Good Policy

Response to "Alabama using new formula to measure dropout rate", AP wire on T&G online,
Alabama's "on-time graduation rate" is a better standard for schools to measure their success by. But the problem with benchmarks and standards is that they can distort decision-making and have unintended consequences. Measuring schools' performances honestly and working at improving them is good and necessary. The problem is that setting rigid limited goals and then trying to terrorize the teachers into meeting them doesn't really make them better.

Right now under NCLB the schools have a limited set of "capital goals" to meet, and failing to meet them can result in "capital punishment" - firing all the teachers or closing the school. Graduation rate is now one of those goals. The Alabama definition is more honest than the one we are currently using, but because it is stricter and more limited it will result in more distortion, and more decisions that are bad for the children and the schools.

Take another example of this problem. Schools are struggling to meet annual yearly progress on math and English scores, with the survival of the school and the teachers' jobs at stake. They often throw history, languages, music, shop and gym under the bus to get more time and staff focused on math and English. This ends up turning the school experience into a deadly bore for many students. Bored students make trouble, don't pay attention and skip school or class more often, so in the end putting too much time and pressure on math and English can make things worse.

The danger with adopting the Alabama graduation-rate measurement is that when inevitably some students fall a year behind - for whatever reason - then if the school's survival depends only on the "on-time graduation rate", it no longer has an incentive to get the delayed students through anyway, and it will tend to lose interest in working with those students.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Organize to Defend McGovern!

There are warning flags flying for Rep. McGovern.

◆ Brown won by an overwhelming margin in McGovern's district outside Worcester, and now the right wing money-bags, the Republicans and the Tea Baggers smell blood in the water. With the recent "Citizens United" Supreme Court decision we can expect to see a flood of national right-wing corporate money and national Republican "strategists" (a.k.a. dirty tricksters) into Massachusetts. Brown's campaign was almost certainly just a first taste of what is in store for us.

◆ My Google news and blog alert on Rep. Jim McGovern regularly turns up reasons to remind me why I strongly support him. But in recent months there has been a steady stream of blog posts, both national and local, fingering him as enemy number one and targeting him for defeat in 2010. These cite among other things his leadership role on ending the Afghan war, on immigration reform and on lifting the siege of Gaza. The number one issue on voters minds however is JOBS. McGovern has a lot to say about jobs and a lot to show, but if the Republicans can put the focus on his foreign policy positions and distract attention from jobs, they win - unless we can help the voters connect the two issues - Jobs Not Bombs, Health Care not Warfare - and help them see that ending the wars is also a jobs issue.

◆ Perhaps Deval can squeak out a win in a three-way race, perhaps not. But the thing to look at is that if Patrick is the nominee, absent a sudden economic recovery and a sudden change in his m.o., there is going to be a great outpouring of "Throw the Bums Out" voters. This will put everyone down-ticket at risk, and we will have serious work to do defending McGovern's seat - and the seats of all of our progressive state legislators. Even a Patrick squeaker in a three-way race still leaves a lot of people coming out to vote against a Democrat.

◆ The polling data on the Massachusetts Governor's race isn't encouraging on this. The Rasmussen Poll from last November highlighted that his "strongly disapprove" rating, at 37%, was more than three times higher than his "strongly approve" rating of 11%.

A Globe poll from January 11, before the Brown election, showed Patrick with 30% to Baker's 19% and Cahill's 23%, with 72% either undecided or saying they could change their minds. His un-favorability rating was 52%, 56% among the un-enrolled who make up more than half the voting population.

◆ McGovern won election the first time in 1996 with a great grass-roots organizing campaign. But in American politics today these grass roots campaigns for a particular candidate blow away like last year's grass in the wind when the election is over. Moreover, McGovern's district is substantially different now from the one in which he ran that campaign. What McGovern has gained in its place is the web of personal relationships that he's built with his constituents. But if the Republicans can stir the waters and get a high turnout, then the infrequent voters who are less likely to have interacted with him will be voting.

◆ The Democratic Party structure, seen from the perspective of electoral work, appears to be a hollow shell with almost no direct contact with the voters. My door to door work talking to neighbors convinces me that even for the most frequent Democratic voters, identification with the Party is shallow, based on sentiment, tradition and liking for particular office-holders. To the extent that the voters do identify with "the Democrats", frequent evidence that the label has little real meaning for many office-holders is dismaying.

My suggestion is that - whomever the Democratic Gubernatorial nominee is for November - we should be talking urgently about rebuilding the Democratic Party from the ground up.

We should be looking at flooding the Ward and Town Democratic Committees with volunteers (and organize Precinct Democratic Committees,) and use the Committees as a base for organizing a real grass roots campaign of neighbors talking to neighbors to spread the word and get out the vote.

This will of course only succeed if a great many of us personally commit to doing the work of going door to door to talk to our neighbors, build political relationships with them and get them to the polls. The hardest part of this is risking the disapproval of friends and neighbors, but once people get used to doing this it becomes enjoyable and intensely interesting. Beats the heck out of phone-banking!

Lt. Gov. Tim Murray's initiative in organizing the Worcester County Democratic League is a useful step in this direction, and Worcester's new mayor Joe O'Brien has given some strong indications that he may be thinking along these lines.
Finally PDA's national monthly Brown Bag Lunch initiative - taken up in CD-03 by the Worcester Chapter, Progressive Democrats of Greater Worcester (PDGW) under the leadership of Elizabeth St.John - can play an important part in organizing support for McGovern. I urge you all to read your messages from PDA about these, and participate!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Class, Caste and Math Education (long)

Consider three families living on the wages or salaries they earn, selling their labor power and forced to accept the working conditions that are imposed on them there.

One family is mostly "educated" people in "professional" jobs. These are known as professional, "white-collar" or "middle class",

One family is a family of hard-people who hold steady "regular" jobs involving more work with their hands and less "brain work". They are known as "working class" or "blue collar".

The third is of people just barely hanging on, working short-term jobs, playing loose with the law to survive sometimes in and out of jail, sometimes homeless or drifting from place to place following the work. These are the "working poor", poor or "under-class".

These differences are strongly re-enforced by employer practices, school practices, police practices, promotion of official and unofficial beliefs and doctrines, the unspoken "real rules" about what is whose place, imposed by police, prosecutors, judges and juries, and folk beliefs. These castes are further fractured by religion, ethnicity and most especially race. And they carry a heavy stigma. The poor are branded failures in life, dummies, wastrels, people who brought their own troubles on themselves by not trying hard enough, and they are blamed for society's troubles.

Objectively all three families are working class. Subjectively however they usually regard each other as different classes of people.

One of the key mechanisms for maintaining these caste divisions is the schools. And no curriculum in the schools is more used to sort people into winners and losers than mathematics.

The math that is being taught, no matter what we do to sugar-coat it, is dull, confusing and relatively pointless for most people - a towering, hoary 2300-year-old edifice of rules and procedures for constructing "the right answer" - where no normal child would see a legitimate question worth asking in the first place. A system built on a set of arbitrary axioms that in fact make no sense. Often it is claimed that math is a science, but it has far more in common with religion. It is a system resting not on observations and modeling of the properties of the real world but on authority and doctrine.

Generations of kids have been telling us that math makes no sense - and it turns out that they're right. For generations the schools have been crushing the ones who speak truth to power, and elevating the ones who submit as tomorrow's civic leaders.

The parents play a key part in how this system works to perpetuate the caste system. "Middle class" parents regard that success in math as so essential to the future success and social status of their children that they will apply any degree of pressure on their children to succeed, no matter how painful or distasteful. (Mine dropped the nuclear option on me: no love at home without better math scores!) "Working class" parents typically put enough pressure on their children to get them to get by and graduate. Their kids feel like dummies, but they muddle through. Poor parents are generally not able or willing to expend enough energy to force their children to do something which is distasteful, boring and (they admit) apparently stupid. Their kids understand best what is really going on, and get branded losers for it.

The ever-growing pressure of the math tests mandated by NCLB is part of a drive to privatize the public schools of the poor and the middle group; but it is also intensifying the struggle over which children will be able to cross over the caste divide, indeed raising this struggle into a national obsession. The goal of all children escaping from the working class is patent nonsense, but very potent. This obsession - nay, panic - has further closed off any discussion of what we really want to be achieving in a math class, squeezing out any remaining space for breaking out of the pointless pursuit of mastery of the narrow set of skills being taught.

In the current global crisis, those who have paid their dues to escape from the middle and lower castes now find the good jobs at good pay increasingly unavailable. This is causing profound disorientation, anger and bitterness among those who believe that their long hard years of jumping through hoops entitles them to something better. Such people can move toward working class consciousness, or they can move toward the false consciousness of the tea-baggers and libertarians. Their loyalty is up for grabs.

The project I am engaged in of putting mathematics on a scientific, materialist foundation thus has potentially profound social consequences, and to the extent that it contributes to a workforce where everyone possesses the tools of thought and analysis that once were the domain of the "middle class", this can contribute mightily to a coming together of all the people who work for a wage or salary. A society where all children, and eventually everyone, has higher-level thinking skills, will be a profoundly different - and for some, unsettling - place.

Education - and the schools - can be transformed. But not by any top-down reform. It has to come from and be done by the teachers, with the participation of their unions and with the support of professionals who make available expert knowledge and scientific understanding. Teachers in turn - given the power and organization to do so - will gravitate to curricula that not only produce measurable results but enlist the enthusiasm and participation of the children. It will be driven by the discovery of the possibility that math class can be exciting, engaging - and fun! And it will feed into a much greater movement to transform our society

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Joe O'Brien and Poolz

Response to Rosalie's editorial in InCity Times
Is Joe O'Brien who he says he is, or is he what his connections and alliances say he is? That may be what we are going to discover, but more likely that is up for grabs - and up to us. This first move doesn't bode well, but a lot can happen in two years.

Joe's on the inside now, where the sausage is made. The Mike O'briens and Joe Pettys have his ear, and a whole web of arguments and pressure points. We need to go on organizing, bringing issues to him forcefully with lots of his constituents behind them. We need to keep pushing him to be the Mayor he promised to be - and perhaps always wanted to be.

Our pressure will give Joe some freedom to choose who the Real Joe O'Brien is going to be - but in the end he will have to choose, and he will be making his choices under fire. Which way he chooses to jump will have a lot to do with what is really inside him.

But Joe, if you're reading this, you should know that if you choose to be mostly the insider - rather than one of us on the inside - history will leave you behind. Soon.

If however you remain the voice of the people, and truly respect, listen to and support the activist base of Worcester's democracy, your star will keep rising.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Democrat Grace Ross for Governor?

Grace Ross (who left the Green-Rainbow Party shortly after her run for Governor three years ago) posted to the BlueMassGroup blog yesterday that she is considering joining the Democratic Party and challenging Deval Patrick for Governor in the primaries in September - or possibly running as an independent.

At this point obviously she would need to line up prominent political, labor and movement leaders in the state to endorse her campaign, and would need people to put up some starter money, quickly. There are rumors that the state and national PDA are encouraging her to run.

There is a core group of activists pushing Grace to run. Part of their impetus is coming from their sense that the grass-roots activists simply won't turn out to work for Patrick this time, and that November will be a disaster, a re-run of Coakley/Brown but maybe worse. Many legislators, shocked by Coakley's loss, are worried about keeping their seats with Patrick at the head of the ticket. And, there seems to be no one else ready at this point to step forward to challenge him in the primaries.

My own sense from going door to door in three campaigns since June is that Patrick is in big trouble with the voters. I didn't initiate conversations about him, but his name kept coming up. Also, my strong sense is that many of the Party insiders don't understand this. (Which illustrates one of the many reasons why EVERY member of our Party from Governor or Senator on down needs to be going door-to-door, every election, talking to their own neighbors - the people who won't be intimidated because they saw them on TV!)

My sense also is that Grace Ross would be a serious candidate and would make a great governor.

Wrong Lesson from Brown Campaign

Posted to T&G 1/26 re article Pres offers Discretionary Spending Cap:

This is what I feared. We elected Scott Brown to the Senate to send Washington a message - and they got exactly the wrong message!

Hundreds of thousands of Democrats and Independents voted for Brown because they were so angry, because Obama hasn't kept the promises he made and has shown no stomach for really fighting for them. So what does he do? He gives up the fight and goes groveling to the Republicans begging them to help him give away the store!

Some other posters have pointed to the places where the cuts need to be made: ending three unnecessary wars and bringing home the troops we have stationed in 140 countries (what insanity!); eliminating the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy; and capping the bailouts. The "discretionary spending" Obama's talking about capping is peanuts compared to those, but it's not peanuts to the people who depend on or benefit from those programs!

And cutting Medicare and Social Security will not only cause a lot of misery, it will help to further drive the economy into the tank!

So Dear President Obama, grow a backbone while you still can!

Draw the line!

Here in Massachusetts, home of the "Massachusetts Miracle" that Obama used as a model for the Health Care Bill, people with insurance are regularly being driven to bankruptcy by the out-of-pocket costs of a health emergency. People with insurance are regularly being denied needed surgeries and help, turned away because they can't afford the deductables and co-pays, can't put enough money up front.

Last year our friend, Cindy Chapman, was unable to find a personal physician who would take her as a patient for what Medicare pays. She was obviously very ill and in incredible pain, but was literally thrown out of the UMass Med ER by the campus police when she refused to leave until she was admitted. When we finally found a physician who would take her case she was diagnosed with Stage IV Cancer within hours. She was dead within two weeks.

Cindy had worked all her life, but had fallen off the last rung of the ladder and the system abandoned her. With proper medical care this wouldn't have happened.

Voting and politics aren't working. Our health care system is a disaster, and it is literally killing people like Khoury and Chapman. The injustice and cruelty of it has become unbearable.

This is beyond something that can be dealt with by bake sales and taking up collections. Are we to hold an event at Union Station for every victim who can't raise the down payment for their wife's operation?

It's out of control. It has to stop.

The time has come for determined people to draw a line. It's time to say that medical care is a human right. Time to say that no one should be ruined or left to die because of money. It's time to say, no business as usual until you fix this.

One victim at a time. Every time.

We just finished celebrating Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s holiday. King, who led us in putting our bodies on the line to confront racism and injustice. King, who declared health care a human right.

What would King have told us to do?

Monday, January 25, 2010


Woah! There is way too much ugliness on display on this page! We need to get a grip! Many of us are hurting and scared, but this is a time to try to think clearly about how to find our way out of this mess, a time to remember we're all in this together.

Think about what you're saying when you blame the "breeders".

You were a child once - not so different from "them". You grew up protected by police and firefighters, a public sanitation department, a public health department and a water department. You probably went to publicly-funded schools and programs, got around on school and city busses, and maybe went to the city's parks, museums or swimming pools. The very air is breathable because of state and Federal regulations.

Your parents may have benefited from minimum wage laws and unions. If they borrowed or invested they were protected by all kinds of regulations, and when they shopped, by all kinds of inspectors.

Worcester is a city of immigrants. All of this was built by immigrants, who came here and had babies and raised their children here. And every immigrant group had higher birth rates at first. That was OK. People have children. They grow up - with the help of their communities.

We worked together, and as new groups arrived we drew them in and showed them the ropes and made them part of the process. There were fights and struggles, but we got over them.
And we joined together in electing governments to meet our common needs.

We never forgot that the children are our future. Not just the ones who looked and talked like us. All of them. We haven't completely forgotten yet. We all still brake for a child - any child.

Now we are in a great crisis and things are going haywire. Anyone who's not scared isn't paying attention . But we can get through this - if we just remember that we're all in it together, that we need to look out for each other - all of us - and that the children are still our future - all of them.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Obama Campaign

Originally posted in August, 2008.
We can take nothing for granted. Obama's hot and McCain's a stiff and the public is thoroughly fed up with the Republican agenda, but the campaign is going to be vicious and the vote count rigged in many places so we have to win by a landslide to win. And Bush has McCain's back and the power to force a change in the topic.

And the Media is not our friend. For example, last week Obama stated in an interview that as President he will sit down immediately and review all of Bush's executive orders, signing statements and other fiat laws and rescind any that violate the Constitution. That's important news. It was carried on Reuters and APF Wire and was widely reported in Europe. A regular reader of the London Telegraph or Moscow News or Le Monde got that story. /i/ But in the US only the Boston Globe, the Baltimore Sun and Yahoo News carried it. ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, FOX, CNN, AOL, msn, Detroit Free Press, the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, Los Angeles Times, Little Rock Democrat Gazette, Atlanta Constitution, San Francisco Chronicle, Miami Herald, St.Louis Post Dispatch, Denver Post, AP, UPI, or Bloomburg wire, to name a few, did not. Neither did the New York Times, NPR or PBS! /i/

An accident? Not! This kind of thought control is common, even routine. It is thorough, systematic and nearly invisible. It's really shocking, unbelievable, unimaginable, what the Media Barons are doing and getting away with! They are already using this to shape Obama's agenda and the agenda of the campaign. For example, on the story about rescinding Bush's laws, Obama needs the people behind him demanding that this be done. How can that happen when the people don't get the news?

To win we have to be a movement, even in Massachusetts. A people's movement cheering Obama on, raising money, demanding his agenda of the Congress and of him, and broadcasting good information through every channel we can lay our hands on.

How to get started: lets do some brainstorming.


Rules for brainstorming: just blurt out any idea you have, whether someone else has or not, without worrying about whether it is right or good or doable or impossible or whether it will look stupid or foolish,. Just get it out there and then we can talk about what will work and what we want to do and in what order things can happen.

I'll start:


Obama bumper stickers are available now from; one free, 10 for $5, 100 for $25. Imagine the effect of thousands of Obama stickers showing up on cars all over Massachusetts, now.

Standouts. Imagine standouts at intersections all across Massachusetts for Obama, starting now! Collecting info on people who want to get involved. Passing out leaflets.

Organizing ourselves: imagine obama campaign clubs in every neighborhood and town in Massachusetts! How can we make that happen? House parties? Phone calls?

What organization do we have now? How do we activate it?

Leaders: who do we have out there to coordinate things and make them happen? Whatever it is, i've seen one election cycle after another go by with nothing much happening here that I could see. We can't wait for it to just happen.

Talk to local Move.on people, who may already be in action. Who?

Organizing others: visiting and speaking at neighborhood organizations, union local meetings, conservation and other issue group meetings, talking to local leaders, asking people to get involved, reminding them what the stakes are. First ourselves, though!

Leaflets. Yes, leaflets! Anybody old enough to remember those? Snappy, simple, easy to read leaflets, on busses, trains, street corners. Hand out 500 on a ride to Boston or a couple of walkthroughs on a red line train or at a shop gate in an hour. Imagine 1000 people doing that once a month!

Spreading news via email.

Trips to swing states like New Hampshire and Maine to campaign.

OK your turn!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dred Scott 2010

This outrageous ruling reminds me of the Dred Scott decision before the Civil War - a ruling that helped set it off - that declared that "Negroes" have no rights that a "white" person is bound to respect. It is a stake in the heart of what's left of our democracy, and can't be allowed to stand.

What's next? Corporations can sue for slander? Corporations get to vote in elections? Corporations can serve on juries? If corporations are "persons" that would be logical!

We shouldn't need a constitutional amendment to make clear that corporations are not persons, but apparently we do - so let's get to work and pass one!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Brown wins,Coakley carries Worcester.

Martha Coakley was not a great candidate, and Scott Brown ran a great campaign. But this was above all a referendum on the Obama Administration - and also the Patrick Administration. And on the health care bill - that miserable giveaway to the insurance companies being foisted on us as a reform.

In a normal country, what would happen next is that Obama would accept blame for what happened. Then he would either resign or fire his cabinet, starting with Rahm Emanuel, who has been his point person on the Health Care bill, and then Geithner and Summers who have managed the disgraceful bank bailouts, and Gates who has engineered our escalation of an un-winable and unnecessary war in Afghanistan.

That isn't going to happen. Electing a right-wing Republican is not going to make anything better, because they aren't going to get the right message. The Democratic politicians in the main are not going to get the message that they need to be more democratic, and need to deliver on the change they promised.

One pol who gets it is our new Mayor Joe O'Brien. His answer: Organize, Organize, Organize! Organize a real grass roots democratic Democratic Party, from the base up, one where the members really get the final say on what it stands for, what it does, who it runs and what is expected of them after they win.

Another person who was working hard for Coakley and who gets it is Grace Ross. But does she get it enough to join the Democratic Party?

The bright spot for me is that Coakley carried Worcester - and carried my own good blue-collar precinct by 3 to 1. The activist base overcame our disappointment at the outcome of the primaries, and despite Coakley snubbing us, turned out in the last weeks to work hard for her. And the good people of Worcester turned out to vote for her in spite of her.

Thank you Worcester, birthplace of the American Revolution. In the midst of my disappointment you give me a lump of pride in my throat.

What about Pakistan? And India?

Response to a post by a Pakistani talking about the absurdity of the Pakistani arguments for supporting the US in Afghanistan:


Interesting insights and a good demonstration that the current rhetoric coming out of the Pakistani media is nonsense; but there are so many more dimensions to this situation.

On the one hand there is the matter of what strategic game the global imperialists are playing and why, and on the other hand there are the struggle of the Indian and Pakistani people with their own ruling classes - nationally and locally, politically and day-to-day.

Then there are the struggles between different factions of the Indian and Pakistani ruling classes, and the strategy of the dominant factions for regional hegemony.

Against all of this there is the struggle of the people on both sides of the border for democracy, in India the play of religions against each other in a divide and conquer strategy that always seems to draw in the specter of Pakistan, and in Pakistan the actions of the military officer corps as an apparently semi-autonomous component of the ruling class, fighting not only to keep the people down but to keep its own place in the structure, and justifying its actions by the danger from India which must always be kept alive.

Then there is the influence of the CIA and the multi-national corporations, with their agents, the political and military leaders they have turned, and the corporate leaders on both sides that they have drawn into their web. And add the budding US-Indian alliance and the continuing struggle of China to preserve or regain its special relationship with Pakistan.

And then there's the politics of The Bomb.

Finally toss into this mix the struggles of the little nations along the borderlands for autonomy or independence and the struggle over Kashmir. Like a bunch of wild cards that can turn the game unpredictably.

Now take this pot and turn up the heat on it with a global economic crisis, the US military buildup in Afghanistan and the invasion of Pakistan by flying killer robots and mercenary death squads, arousing the patriotic anger of the people, who have already had a brief, sweet taste of revolution.


What about that?

As in many parts of the world this situation has reached a point of great tension, with a lot of stored and repressed energy - like an n-dimensional chess board where only a few pawns have been taken as each player has developed their positions and strategies to the limit. What happens when the denouement begins?

That's the question you are raising. It deserves a deeper answer.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Election Eve Analysis

I have been going door to door in my immediate neighborhood canvassing for Coakley.

After campaigning for Capuano in the primaries I dropped back to get my life back together, and then left town and fell out of contact for a week. When I returned I found three emails from one (fairly progressive) democratic activist and one from about the campaign - when the Internet should have been abuzz with traffic about it. I am told that she made no outreach to the Capuano and Khazei campaigns to include them and their supporters, who have responded by sitting on their hands. For the last week however everyone has been in panic mode.

The Brown Campaign with the help of the media has been moving to turn this election into a referendum on Obama, Gov. Patrick, the Democratic Party - and most especially on the health care bill. When I warned that the Democrats would pay dearly for allowing and supporting this bill I knew I was right but didn't imagine that it would come home to roost so soon! This issue is getting a lot of traction from working people, young professionals and from some activists who should know better.

I came across clusters of young working-class men who are just plain angry and full of blame and want someone to pay; men who think they're voting for Joe Camel - who probably more closely resembles the public Scott Brown than does the one his wife knows. It's all about image and anger - and a deep substrate of racism - but the individual mandate in the health care bill is their Exhibit A for why the Democrats need to be taught a lesson.

Another concern is vote fraud. Our much-vaunted scanned card system is hackable, and nearly all of the votes are counted on Diebold or LHS Associates equipment. The latter group has been described as thuggish and devious, and openly engages in practices that could easily be turned to fraud. Most importantly, we are not dealing with the Massachusetts Republican Party now, we're dealing with the right wing of the National Republican Party, which has been pouring money and volunteers into the state and for whom fraud is a standard MO. Rules for hand counts of the ballots are sufficiently restrictive so that it is possible that even a suspicious losing candidate might not succeed in catching it. Luckily, Coakley is concerned enough to have called in a team of experts in from Florida to monitor the election.

It has been a while since there has been documented or suspected fraud here in Massachusetts, and Democratic activists whom I've spoken to have dismissed the possibility out of hand - which makes them all the more vulnerable.

My guess is that Coakley will carry my neighborhood, and perhaps Worcester. The pundits think she will win statewide despite the poll numbers. My gut is telling me something different. My gut sense is that too many people are fed up with the Democrats, and Brown will win, with or without fraud. Even if Coakley wins though, it will be a squeaker, which it shouldn't have been by all conventional calculations. There should be some interesting and frank discussions at the campaign get-together Tuesday night.

The Democratic Party is in crisis in Massachusetts, and from what I can see is unable to adapt. The people and the activist base are fed up with the corporatist and high-handed Deval Patrick Administration and it is headed for defeat by the Republicans this November, unless the activist base can put up a candidate that can beat him in the primaries in September. Time for this however is running out. In the meantime the insiders are playing their games in full confidence that they can control the outcomes within the Party, and with utter lack of concern for whether that is dooming the Party's chances in the general election.

In general the people here are losing what's left of their belief that the political system is capable of responding to their needs and opinions. This is not good - they don't have genuine leaders that they trust, and their ranks are riddled with tea-baggers who will take directions from Fox. When the next shock hits, anything can happen.

Last appeal on Coakley and Brown

Voting for Scott Brown as a protest is like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Yes, the health care bill stinks, but we're going to get a health care bill one way or the other, and the only question is how much worse will it be tilted in favor of the insurance companies. Scott Brown almost always votes the way his corporate sponsors want him to. With Martha Coakley we will at least have someone with a history of standing against the big corporations on the side of the people, who has spoken for a 'Medicare for all' solution.

If you're angry about how the good jobs are gone, angry about how you played the game of life by the rules and did everything right and you were supposed to be rewarded for it with a 'middle class' life, but now you're trapped in a lousy job (or can't even find one of those), and you want to show the world how you feel about that, voting for Scott Brown is the wrong way to do it. They'll get the wrong message!

'I drive a truck' my patootie! Brown also puts his pants on one leg at a time and maybe he even roots for the Red Sox (at least when he's in Boston). Does that make him a regular guy? He's no more 'one of us' than Bush Junior was. 'Dubya' with his Yale education, son of a President, grandson of the founder of the CIA for Criminy's sakes, and his 'good old Texas country boy' act!

Fool me once ...

I don't know what country club Scott belongs to, but I'll bet you they wouldn't even let one of us walk in the door, much less let us join - even if we had the $20,000 initiation fee!

If you have to send a protest, and just can't bring yourself to vote for another corporate Democrat, cast a blank ballot. That will be noticed. But for Goshen's sake don't cast your vote for a George Bush clone who's guaranteed to turn a deaf ear to the people when we need someone to speak for us.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


(rejected comment to T&G 1/17)

Just wanted to give y'all a heads up about why anyone would want to take a potshot at our boys, who are after all just trying to help. It will look like awful ingratitude, but there's a long and terrible history to it.

Haiti is not some faraway exotic place whose people brought ruin on themselves. We are sending troops into a country whose popularly elected government was overthrown by US troops twice in just the last twenty years! A country that was directly ruled by the US for twenty of the last hundred years, and whose brutal dictatorships - like that of Papa Doc Duvalier - were propped up by US aid and invasions, one after another.

Haiti was the richest provence of France in 1789, but most of its people were slaves. The French Revolution happened there too, and ended slavery, but Napoleon sent an army and tried to reimpose slavery on the people, after they had been free for ten years! The resulting war of independence was ferocious, and just about ruined Haiti.

When the people finally drove out the French, the slaveowners who dominated the US government, like Thomas Jefferson, reacted in fear and horror. All the nations of the world united to isolate, crush and regain control of this country, where the former slaves had dared to claim to be the equals of any person, and make an example of it. They have been punishing Haiti ever since.

The US does have a responsibility for helping Haiti to rebuild.. Equally important, we have a responsibility to let them have the democratic revolution they need and reclaim control of their own country.

We in Worcester should look at extending a helping hand to the many Haitians among us who are trying to help their loved ones, rather than send it all to outside charities and churches.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Final Brown/Coakley Debate

There have been many comments on whether Brown is a coward, because of all the many times he said "I am afraid ..." That debate misses the point.

The point is that *we*, the people, are afraid, and with good reason. Our economy is collapsing around us, the government services we depend on are collapsing and the Federal Government is pursuing a policy of wars and more wars. Interest rates and hospital rates are out of control, foreclosures and layoffs continue, hunger and homelessness are growing, and small businesses are being driven to the wall by collapsing demand and credit. Brown is just tapping into our fear, resonating with it, feeding off of it - and spreading it.

Brown and the Republicans thrive on the politics of fear, but I doubt very much if *he* is afraid. He's got it made. Win or lose, he's rich, powerful and well-connected. But I would expect he has well-paid consultants coaching him on how to say "I am afraid" convincingly.

Maybe Brown could get some tips from Glen Beck on how to cry on cue, but he won't need a coach to tell him how to laugh all the way to the inauguration if he wins - and the joke will be on us!