Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Why we need the REO

Comment to the Telegram article, 6/20/12


The underlying issues here - for the people - are jobs and money.   Who gets the jobs?  How much do they pay?  What are the standards for safety, conditions, benefits?  What are the benefits for the community from them?  Will they provide opportunities for young people to learn a trade?  Will the work get done right the first time?

And where do the paychecks get spent?

While this law does not have a hire-local requirement - many other cities do, typically that 51% of the workers reside in the city - but the requirements of strict adherence to local standards and participation in an apprenticeship program make it unlikely that a contractor from - say - New Bedford, using workers who get bussed in daily from New Bedford, will be able to underbid local contractors.

This is important not just for the jobs, benefits for the workers and conditions, opportunities for our young folk.  It's also about the "multiplier effect": keeping the money in circulation locally, which generates more local jobs - as many as one additional job created for each local person working on the site - as the money circulates around in Worcester.

Jobs - and maintaining local standards for pay, training and conditions - is a huge issue.  The Governor is bragging about how the official Mass. "Unemployment Rate" is down to 6%. The reality is that it is much higher. Many categories of unemployed worker are excluded from this count, and the official rate is only going down because people are giving up looking. There's a lot of misery and desperation out here.

At a time like this, if the government steps out of the way, what we will get is a dog-eat-dog scramble for the available jobs, a downward spiral of wages and conditions, collapsing revenues and failures for local businesses.  We can't let that happen.

The new REO ordinance represents the efforts of an alliance of local community and labor organizations to defend our local standards and economy and block that downward spiral.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Imminent war danger; Time to Act

The fat's almost in the fire, and time is very short.  
RUSSIA CHALLENGES US-NATO: Russia prepares army for Syrian deployment
by Clara Weiss


Are we able to come together to demand an end the provocations and threats around Syria, the promotion and arming by the US of a "rebel" army that includes Al Qaida, and the growing threats of direct US, German and Turkish intervention?
After Libya we can have no illusions that the events in Syria represent the US (or Turkey, or Saudi Arabia) supporting the Syrian people or the Arab Spring - or that we can rely on the Obama Administration to be a restraining influence.  This conflict is potentially a trigger for World War III, perhaps imminently, and if not, and if the assault on Syria goes forward, it is clearly it is a slide toward making world war inevitable.  

Russia moving troops into Syria would a gamble and a dare, given that Syria is for them, militarily, an exposed and easily-cut off salient.  Making that move would be a measure of their desperation, not unlike the Cuban missile crisis.  At a moment when the US ruling class is more desperate, due to its virtually insolvent financial system, yet is militarily, technologically and geographically even more dominant than it was vs. the USSR in 1962, the danger of war is extreme.

So, does the US still have a relevant peace movement?  If so, it's time to stand up and be counted!  We're our last best hope for survival.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Charter Schools, SOKA - Comment on Clive's Column

Charter school performances get a free pass
Clive McFarlane


My comment:

One of the dreams that drives (or is used by) the Charter School movement is to set up a school for the children of regular folk that will produce the outcomes you get from an elite private school like Worcester Academy. And one of its core beliefs is that if people with enough understanding and insight - superior minds with strong wills and daring visions - could just get full control of a school and get everyone working together under their direction at realizing their vision, that dream could be realized. 

The failure of the Spirit of Knowledge Academy (SOKA) is very telling. I have not been watching from the inside, but I met and talked with Julia Sigalovsky before the school was founded, several times. She has a brilliant mind and a deep understanding of science. She had obviously thought deeply about education and about the lessons from her previous experiences as an educator. And she brought to the project the strength of will, the vision and determination that should have made it a success - if indeed the success of such a project was really in the cards. 

SOKA was a great experiment, a test of the Great Leader model of school reform. The fact that SOKA has been such a miserable failure as measured by test results of student achievements should be seriously sobering to all supporters of the Charter School movement. 
I don't know what else went on at SOKA, how this game played out, whether the details can be interpreted as the working out of the failure of this model. But all across the country charter schools are failing, and with Sigalovsky, SOKA had a better chance than most. 

What should we do with this failed experiment? The proverbial camel's nose is already in the tent. Vested interests - who never saw this as an experiment but as an investment opportunity and a chance to advance an ideological position or political agenda - are no doubt intent on preserving and expanding it. 

Time to pull the plug, now. No good money after bad. Shut it down and move on. 

Wisconsin Vote Fraud?

Vote fraud in Wisconsin should be a hot topic of discussion.  Yet nearly everyone is tossing around and analyzing the official election results from Wisconsin as though they reflect how people actually voted.  Yet there is significant evidence and recent precedent that they don't, plus a challenge from a highly credible source is in play.

Thom Hartmann raising the alert:

Emergency — please read — serious Wisconsin vote hack issue—-please-read-—-serious-wisconsin-vote-hack-issue

A serious challenge apparently was raised and is in play:
Recall Election Fraud in Wisconsin? You Betcha!
June 7, 2012

Last September, 2011, [Wisconsin election integrity investigator John] Washburn discovered that Command Central had offered to replace the Optech Scanner for two DRE screen models.     [Washburn charged] Command Central’s DRE offer violated “the statutes issued by the GAB (Government Accountability Board     On January 13, 2010 [?] Washburn emailed the GAB about this situation. When he did not receive an answer, he submitted and Open Records request to the GAB with no reply.  On May 4th, he turned the case over to Dane County Attorney, and on May 14th, he kicked it up to the Department of Justice.” 

Manipulating the Exit Polls:

Wisconsin Recall: The adjusted Final Exit Poll was forced to match an unlikely recorded vote. by Richard Charnin, June 6

The Atlantic, explaining it away:

What Was the Problem With the Wisconsin Exit Polls?

JUN 7 2012,
Leaked early exit data briefly gave Democrats hope they'd won the recall Tuesday night. How could a survey of the real electorate be so far off?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wisconsin Recall Fails

Comment to T&G article on recall election:

Labor and the Democratic Party in Wisconsin have been severely damaged, vastly outspent by an alliance of out-of-state billionaires and the Republican National Committee. The Democratic National Committee and Obama abandoned the Wisconsin Democrats - in spite of their nominating a Centrist Democrat who didn't campaign as a populist. Another state has been moved into the "red" column as it loses its public sector unions, the last stronghold of Organized Labor, the mass base of the Democratic Party as we knew it.

Scores of labor organizers and leaders in Wisconsin will lose their jobs. The halls in which movements met and organized will close. Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers are losing jobs or seeing wages and benefits slashed. The wages and conditions of everyone who works for a paycheck in Wisconsin is coming under intense pressure. Fear becomes a daily fact of life, on the job and across the kitchen table.

What should the AFL-CIO leadership have done but mobilize members, friends and allies for the recall campaign? What else really could they have done? What could Occupy have done but join them? They had to try, and by God, try they did, magnificently. Last stands have to be fought. But the way forward now is different from what it was a month ago, and not just in Wisconsin.

We did not start this war. It is being forced on us, whether we resist or not. Everything our grandparents' generations won during the New Deal, the Fair Deal and the New Frontier is being relentlessly stripped away, in Congress and state by state. Our wages, our benefits, our security, our rights and human dignity - and our illusions - are being trashed, our democracy put up for auction to the highest bidder.

Wisconsin may seem far from Massachusetts, but politically it's right next door. The flood of money that swamped democracy there will not stop at Stockbridge. We're on their agenda. 

I posted the following Comment to the online edition of the T&G following the article 

Speaking in Worcester, Boston Fed Reserve chief backs more stimulus

My comment:

So even the head of the Boston Fed admits the economy is still in a deep slump with trouble ahead.  His solution?  More "Operation Twist", which amounts to a giveaway to the banks.

On Friday Massachusetts loses 13 weeks of Federal Emergency Extension of Unemployment Insurance.  Congress in its wisdom raised the threshold for state unemployment rate when it would "trigger off" from 6% to 7%.  In December, unless Congress writes a new bill, all the Extensions will end and UI will be back to normal: 26 weeks. 

But the Mass rate has been dropping, down to 6.3% in April.  So why the worry?  What's Mr. Rosengren worried about?

How about this: the official U3 "unemployment rate", like the official "cost of living index", is a lie, and everyone that cares to think about it knows it.  While U3 keeps dropping, the "Participation Rate", the proportion of the working age population that is either actively looking for work or working, is also dropping steadily.  

It's time to get serious about what's going on.  The "Great Recession" ended three years ago, they say, but for regular people there is no recovery.  Those who are working are living in fear, working longer and harder for less. 

Real unemployment, counting everyone who would be working in a really good economy, is at Great Depression levels!, putting Government statistics together differently, comes up with a figure of 22.5% and rising!  And this doesn't count the millions who are seeking shelter by collecting for disabilities!  Yet by keeping the conversation about the "Official Rate" and not admitting that we're in a real Depression, the elite have been able to take real job creation off the table, and slash emergency help for the people.

Now the European debacle is pushing the economy toward another cliff, but the safety net for regular folk is badly damaged!

The people need spending power now, or there will be no recovery.  We need jobs or income now! Congress, Obama and Patrick need to get serious about it!