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Archive for May 2009

Florida House Republican Leader Hosts Anti-Islam Event

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On Monday April 27th, the Florida Security Council and the International Free Press Society hosted a “Free Speech Summit” in a Delray Beach synagogue. The event was assembled to highlight the anti-Islamic views of Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who was the featured speaker at the summit. Wilders is the subject of criminal prosecution by the Dutch government for his controversial statements about Islam, such as equating the Koran to Mein Kampf. The court of appeals in Amsterdam has judged that some of these statements may amount to inciting hatred towards Muslims; the act of inciting hatred is illegal under Dutch law. Furthermore, Wilders was barred from entering Great Britain, as a spokesman from the Home Office made clear, “The Government opposes extremism in all forms. It will stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country.”

In his introduction to the Free Speech Summit Wilders refers to Islam as a threat to Europe stating that Islam is , “… endangering our history, our freedom, our prosperity and our culture”. He goes on to state that “Islam is not a religion. Islam is a totalitarian political ideologue. Islam [sic] heart lies at the Quran, and the Quran is a book that calls for hatred, that calls for violence, for murder, for terrorism, for war, and submission…We should also stop pretending that Islam is a religion…the right to religious freedom should not apply to Islam”.

Also present was state representative of district 87 and leader of the Republican party in the Florida house, Adam Hasner. Hasner is also listed as a sponsor of the summit. From all observation this is not Hasner’s first sign of involvement with blatantly anti-Islamic elements. In 2007, he hosted a showing of “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West”, for state legislators.

He has also attempted to block Florida Muslim Capital Day, sponsored by Council on American-Islamic Relations. In an e-mail he sent to several Jewish lobbyists he attempted to organize opposition to the event saying, “By now, I can’t imagine you haven’t heard about this upcoming lobbying day for Muslims in Tallahassee…Do you all intend to be part of an information campaign in opposition to it?” He has since claimed that this attempt to block the assembly was not part of an action against Muslims, but rather against the organizing group’s leader stating that the, “well-documented ties that this group’s leader has to organizations that are affiliated with terrorist groups such as Hamas”. Hasner has also gone as far as to leave the floor of the legislature during the first prayer given by an Imam, only to return as soon as the prayer ended.

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Written by jackofspades83

May 26, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Orlando May Day March Highlights Immigration Trends

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Orlando, Fl. – Over 100 immigrants, workers, and students gathered on lake Eola in downtown Orlando this May Day to call for changes in United States immigration policy. The focus of the march was to call for an expedited, easier path towards citizenship and to protest what the marchers considered to be discriminatory and harsh measures being taken by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division. Under the hot Floridan sun, the assembled crowd were treated to a host of speakers assembled by organizers from the Farmworker Association of Florida, who spoke to the assembly in a combination of English, Spanish, and Creole.

The speakers ranged from religious figures, union members, immigrants, to community members. Some of the speakers present were farmworker leader Tirso Moreno of the Farmworker Association of Florida, Bishop Thomas Wenski of the Orlando Catholic Diocese, John Barriales of Orlando Peace and Justice, Joyce Hamilton Henry of the Central Florida ACLU, Bill Smiley of the Lake County Chamber of Commerce, and Victor Torres of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. Topics ranged from the strong desire of immigrant peoples to become an acknowledged and respected part of American society, to the aggressive actions of ICE a branch of the department of Homeland Security formed under former President George W. Bush. Speakers reinforced concerns being echoed nationwide about that department’s indiscriminate arrests based on discriminatory assessments made by officers, workplace raids conducted without warrants, indefinite detention, and extralegal exportation.

An other topic discussed by the speakers was that of a piece of legislation currently being debated in the US legislature known as the DREAM act. The DREAM act would allow a path to citizenship to an estimated 65,000 students who were brought to the US as children, in exchange for two years of higher education or military service. A young lady identified to the crowd as Elizabeth, a potential candidate for such a program, spoke of the hardships she inherits from being brought to the USA, being unable to work while having to pay twice the tuition compared to other Florida residents. She reminded the assembled crowd that, “…we were raised here, we are Americans.”

The march was short and peaceful, around Lake Eola with virtually no interference from law enforcement or counter-protesters, the latter of which was represented by a single sign baring individual who left before the march began. Although a large crowd by the standard of Orlando area activists, it was no comparison to the May Day march three years ago in 2006. Amidst that period of anti-immigrant hysteria, the same organizers were able to galvanize well over 25,000 marchers into the streets, shutting down downtown Orlando for the duration of the event.

Such a grand difference in turnout can be explained by the dramatic change in the executive and legislative branches of US government and in the ever deepening economic recession. The high water mark of the immigration debate of 2006, and a major factor in generating the historic response of the immigrant community, was then House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner proposed legislation that among other provisions would have made undocumented immigration a felony and those assisting undocumented immigrants a subject of prosecution. It is difficult to imagine similar legislation having the same potential for passing in the current legislative climate.

While immigration remains a hot-button issue, there are signs that the fervor over immigration may be dying down. In addition to the change in the makeup of the federal government, the worsening economy has taken a particularly hard toll on undocumented immigrants. The collapse of the housing market and the attendant construction sector has harmed this segment of American society far more harshly than the documented population. According to a recent report from Pew Hispanic Center, (a project of the Pew Research Center) from 2006-2007 the income of non-documented households fell by 7.3%, where as the average for Americans was a decline of 1.3%.

It is difficult to determine at this point the exact drop off in undocumented immigration resulting from the heavy blow to the construction industry, but all indications are that immigration has decreased substantially in recent years as a direct result. The focus being moved away from immigration may turn out to be a blessing to the marchers and their supporters, as their reforms face less impassioned defense from anti-immigration elements no longer galvanized by record high immigration. What is certain is that the future efforts towards reform by those who attended the rally will not be easy task.

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Originally published in the People’s Weekly World.

Written by jackofspades83

May 22, 2009 at 3:05 pm

Employee Free Choice Act Facing Legislative Resistance

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With a newly democratic congress and executive, the future is looking brighter for leftist and center-left reforms. However, unlike the united front of the Republican majority a scant few years ago, the Democratic majority is no “rubber stamp” legislature. Even the priorities of one of the greatest proponents of Democratic politicians, that of organized labor, are not guaranteed to pass.

Case in point is the Employee Free Choice Act. This piece of legislation is the at the forefront of labor’s efforts, and has been introduced into congressional debate early this March. The act has the potential for greatly increasing the ranks of American unions after thirty years of merciless attacks by business and government agencies meant to aid working people attempting to organize unions.

The Employee Free Choice Act is composed of three coordinated provisions. First, and most controversial, is the “card check” provision. Considered by labor and management to be the most important piece of the bill, the card check provision would allow a union to be formed in a work place if a 50% + 1 majority of workers sign cards stating that they wish to join a union. If the workers decide on the union via the card check, the union is recognized and can immediately go about negotiating a contract.

Business interests have spent millions of dollars attempting to convince legislators that the provision destroys worker’s access to a secret ballot election. Although this argument does not take into account several means of secret ballot access that would remain if EFCA passed, such as a decertification election (outlined in the National Labor Relations Act Section 9(e)), it has proven effective in swaying conservative democrats into opposing the legislation.

Card check is considered vital to labor, since one of the most powerful means of busting unions is in the implementation of the time between the call for a secret election to the actual election. During this time management mobilizes its many advantages, such as the ability to threaten pay reductions and outsourcing, a monopoly over worker’s time on the job, the ability to have one-on-one sessions pressuring workers against unionizing, and many other tactics that they couldn’t implement in a card-check election. With the card check provision, workers could organize without management having time to stop them or even notice their efforts. This frightens management and its allies, and they are doing whatever they can to prevent it.

The other two provisions are mandatory contract arbitration and stricter monetary penalties for breaking labor law. The mandatory contract arbitration states that if after 120 days management and labor are still in disagreement on a contract, the National Labor Relations Board will send a mediator to force an agreement between the two groups. This is considered necessary by labor, since another effective means of defeating organized workers is to simply decline to negotiate a contract. While not as controversial as the card check provision, it is also been used as an effective means of turning legislators against the Employee Free Choice Act.

Upon introduction to the senate the bill seemed to have a relatively clear path to passage. With 40 co-sponsors and an additional 4 democrats signaling support, it was believed that the vote would go down by party lines, with a mixture of support from Democrats ranging from a “yea” vote to a vote for cloture. To pass the bill would need at least 51 to vote “yea”, and an additional 10 to vote for cloture, otherwise the Republican minority and its allies could effectively kill the vote via filibustering (or the unending debate on an issue making it impossible to vote on).

It was initially believed that with Al Franken winning in Minnesota, would stand at 59 to 40 for cloture. Arlen Specter (R-PA) was the only Republican in support of EFCA, and had voted for an earlier version of the bill, would have cast the deciding vote killing the possibility of a filibuster and allowing the bill to pass. Since the introduction of the bill, Specter has since changed his stance towards both voting against the bill and against cloture as well. However, since he will now run as a democrat, he will not want to anger labor. This puts him in a precarious position, and will only increase the already pressure cooker level of lobbying he has had to face from both sides of this issue.

More disturbingly for proponents of the bill is the defection of moderate Democrats including Blanche Lincoln (D-A) who has openly signaled her opposition to the bill. Other moderate democrats have indicated that they want to see some modification of the bill, almost always focusing on the removal of the card check provision. Some of these conservative Democrats include Mark Pryor (D-AR), Mark Warner (D-VA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jim Webb (D-VA), and Ben Nelson (D-NE). While the bill still has a possibility of passing, there is a high probability that it will be in a reformed version, most likely changing or removing card check.

Recently Thomas Frank of the Wall Street Journal pointed out the composition of the opposition to EFCA in his article entitled EMPLOYEE FREE CHOICE IS DEAD…conservative Democrats killed it (I disagree with his title, but his points are valid!) : “[M]aybe it’s just the money. Consider the lineup of lobbyists that retail giant Wal-Mart has assembled to make its case against EFCA. According to lobbying disclosure forms filed with the House and Senate we find that Wal-Mart’s lobbyists include Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti (which employs former presidential candidate John Kerry’s liaison to Congress during the 2004 campaign), a former legislative director for Rahm Emanuel, and a former assistant to Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln.

Wal-Mart has also secured, according lobbying disclosure forms filed with Congress, the services of Tony Podesta, of the Podesta Group, one of the hottest lobby shops in Democratic D.C. Mr. Podesta is joined in pushing Wal-Mart’s views on EFCA by a former assistant to Democrat Mark Pryor, the other senator from Arkansas. [FS note: The firm was co-founded with John Podesta, a lead Obama advisor, although he’s no longer listed on the group’s manifest.]

The real standout on Wal-Mart’s labor-issues roster, though, is D+P Creative Strategies, which wears its liberalism as proudly as last week’s tax protestors did their three-cornered hats. According to its Web site, D+P “highlights partnership, shared benefits, and a commitment to advancing social justice goals.” The disclosure form for its Wal-Mart EFCA activities lists a former assistant to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. The bio of its principal, Ingrid Duran, who is also listed as a Wal-Mart lobbyist, declares that the firm’s mission is “to increase the role of corporate, legislative and philanthropic efforts in addressing the concerns of Latinos, women, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) communities.”

The future for EFCA is far from over though, and the decision about EFCA is bound to be made within the coming weeks. Business interests have poured millions in defeating this bill, and organized labor has done its best to fight back. For the unions to attain any sort of victory from this battle it will have to marshal community support. The conservative democrats are the key focus, and only a concerted effort of letter writing and phone calls made on behalf of EFCA will allow the bill any means of their support.

Written by jackofspades83

May 20, 2009 at 11:56 am

Since When Did We All Become Middle Class?

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-Brother Jack

It must be a good thing to be middle class, everybody seems to have their back. Wait I take that back, because everybody also seems to also be oppressing them. If you’re middle class you’re both the friend and foe of both the Republican and Democratic parties, because the other one apparently wants to eat your children. Uh, what doe middle class mean again?

Lets look it up in Jack’s Compendium of American Politicalisms and Assorted Patriotic Prognostications (in state of publishing limbo). Middle Class – Noun – The middle class is everybody that is not poor or rich. Since class does not exist in America, unlike in the barbarian wastes of Canada/Mexico (see rest of world), everybody is middle class. The middle class own small businesses or at least have a “really good idea” about setting up one. The middle class lives in apartments, houses, or are in a state of “extended camping” (see foreclosures). Terrorists want to kill the American middle class because they love freedom. You are middle class (see you – put down the dictionary retard, find a mirror).

So roughly 95% of the country, from a conservative estimate, is “middle class”. Virtually everyone in the US that doesn’t live under a bridge or in a mansion, when asked about economic standing will almost unfailingly respond with middle class. To our political ruling class this is an incredible advantage. It gives them the coveted ability to speak to all of us, without speaking to anyone at all.

It also allows a way for Americans, not just politicians, to deny that economic class plays a major role in our society. Americans have since the time of Tocqueville’s critic of our early democracy, have wanted to believe that we are the coveted classless society. That if you work hard and persevere you too can grab the American dream. The vast majority of Americans seem to believe that they are entrepreneurs destined to commercial success. We all are small businessmen/women, the other great abstraction of modern American politics, is likewise used to deny anything resembling class conflict.

The sanctification of the middle class is a compromise we make with politicians. We let them use an obviously meaningless word to obscure their political agendas and personal ambitions. In return, they kiss our collective asses and we don’t have to admit that not everyone is cut out to own a fortune 500 company by virtue of enough elbow grease. More importantly we don’t have to admit to anyone that maybe we aren’t destined for success and glory.

This is where our pride shows itself to be a fatal weakness. Our inability to admit that we are more than likely not going to set the world on fire with our brilliance leads to policies that hurt most of us. We have to admit to ourselves not that we are failures, but that statistically and logically, most of us have to be just normal. Some of us, by the cruelty of indifferent fate, are literally born to fail. When we assume that we are a meritocracy born of a majority class of winners, we spawn polices that ignore the normal and punish those unlucky to be born with deformity or poverty.

We also have to admit that economic class is not representative of self worth. Some very rich people are special in “oh my, isn’t he special” kind of way. Remember that our last president was somehow floated from failed oil company to failed oil company to the White House and was almost assassinated by a salted pretzel. On the other side of the coin, some very brilliant people toil away with the rest of us. There is a good chance you know not only someone that was a better president than our previous example, but someone who could probably be rich if they wanted to be. They just don’t apply themselves because they’re lazy or don’t care for fame and fortune or just plain unlucky, or some combination thereof.

Furthermore, worth is measured not simply in ability, but in intention. Yeah, its an obvious point, but it seems lost in the discussion on American economics. Free market capitalism doesn’t serve the inept, no matter how noble they may be. Under the “free market” ideology peddled in our country these people are dirt, provided they weren’t lucky enough to be born to a wealthy enough to support them for their entire lives. The myth of the middle class would have you believe that even though some people are untalented, unskilled and poor, they too will succeed if they try hard enough. It ignores the fact that this doesn’t happen, and we ignore this because we want it to be true. In the end, our lies about our own status fuel a system that if we were more conscious of, we would detest.

Part of being a good person, either in terms of morality or mental health, is one who is willing to challenge unconscious assumptions by bringing them to their conscious mind. The biggest moral failures of our political system are laid bare by the light of conscious criticism. All that is necessary is that we face these failures and test our political theories by not allowing them to be abstractions.

The middle class doesn’t exist. What we often mean is the term we used to use, before it became politically untouchable by those opposed by what it started to represent. That term my friends is working class. If you work for a living, whether its pushing a broom or a pencil, whether your pay is by the hour or year, you are part of this class. If anything this shows not the divisiveness that those who raise middle class banner claim it does, it shows unity. If you work for a living, you deserve a wage that can be lived upon. Yeah, people should be rewarded for accomplishment, but not at the expense of the rest of us.

So when someone asks you where you are on the economic ladder, tell them that you are part of the working class. That is if you work for a living!

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Originally published in Dynamic, the publication of the Young Communist League USA.


Written by jackofspades83

May 19, 2009 at 5:23 pm