The argument over gun control is not, as some want to frame it, primarily partisan, let alone a battle between those opposed to violence and those OK with it. It's as much a geographic and cultural divide as anything else. Understanding the different perspectives stemming from the very different homicide rates in very different areas is key to overcoming simplistic sloganeering or unfounded assumptions, and is critical to basing policy on evidence. Consider Chicago and Iowa, for starters.
Should the City of Chicago deny Chick-Fil-A zoning relief because of the political opinions of its chief executive, Dan Cathy--and the political spending of the corporate parent?
Courtesy of Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a bit of an internecine row broke out amongst liberals in trying to answer this question. Immediately after the news was announced, I poked fun at the idea of using state power to punish businesses for their political activities, suggesting city officials were being a bit selective in singling out Chick-Fil-A. After all, Boeing, which was in the running to manufacture killer drones, not only is headquartered here, but is feted by the administration and receives tax incentives.
Things escalated after Adam Serwer, Kevin Drum, Glenn Greenwald and others published articles criticizing Alderman Moreno and Mayor Emanuel for setting a dangerous precedent, denying a business regulatory relief to which they would otherwise be entitled because of the political opinions and activities of its chief executive. Count me among those who think the City of Chicago has no business considering the unrelated political activities of applicants for land use relief when making a decision. This comes with several caveats and excursuses.
One threshold issue: Mayor Emanuel did not say he would deny Chick-Fil-A (and can I just take a moment to tell you how grating it is to type "Chick-Fil-A" over and over again?) any zoning relief, only that he opposed their entry into Chicago personally, in principle, because of the politics they embody. Granted, he was treading on thin ice given his rocky relationship with the Chicago Cubs and the staunchly conservative patriarch of the Ricketts family that owns them -- but expressing his displeasure at their business practices and expressing his opinion as to whether they would be welcome or not -- even encouraging a boycott -- is his own prerogative and in fact his free speech right; arguably, what he was elected to do.
"Socialist" is the dirtiest insult in American politics.
So when I arrived at a hotel lobby last Thursday night to see what a conference that had the audacity to call itself "Socialism 2012" looked and sounded like, I wasn't sure what to expect. Was anyone actively involved in political and social struggles relevant to the average person going to be there? Or was this just going to be parade of faux-revolutionaries wearing t-shirts with pictures and quotes from radical icons, patting themselves on the back for their own self-righteousness? And more importantly, would anything happening over the next four days actually have an impact in the Chicagoland area (much less the world)?
Sure enough, I immediately found groups of 20-somethings in the hallways hawking t-shirts with sales pitches like "Get your Egyptian revolutionary socialist t-shirts here! Straight from Tahrir Square! $20!" But as the weekend progressed, I found much more than I ever could have expected.
The failure of Tom Barrett to beat Scott Walker in Tuesday's recall election was probably about a lot of things. For social historians of this era, though, it will be this: a miscalculation of epic proportions, an error that defines the post-Citizens United era.
The public rage after Governor Walker instituted his de facto recission of public workers' collective bargaining rights was palpable and widespread. It was by no means universal, but it brought together lots of people who felt targeted, misled, and who saw the legislation as an existential threat to their economic security and well-being. Wisconsin's public sector after all is storied--Wisconsin passed the country's first public worker collective bargaining law--and public sector workers in that state came from all partisan stripes and economic classes.
The direct action that resulted, occupation of the capitol building, was a reasonable response. The decision to turn all of that activist energy into an election campaign was fatally misguided.
I argued, on the heels of the Citizens United decision, that the left could finally admit that elections are not a feasible method of obtaining particularly economic goals, and that it should begin exploring alternative, direct action methods; particularly, occupations, work stoppages, and boycotts:
When civic leaders like Mayor Emanuel, his billionaire backers on the World Business Council, or the Commercial Club, talk about making Chicago a "global city," they don't quite mean making it a shining beacon to the world's reformers struggling to make the world a better, more egalitarian place; they mean they want to make it attractive to the already wealthy and powerful. They want to showcase it as a potential playground for those who can enjoy its luxuries; in a piece for Huffington Post, Tammy Webber quotes Richard Longworth from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs:
"We ought to be known for something more than the old stockyards, smog or Al Capone, but we aren't," said Richard Longworth, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. "People are surprised when they visit, and that's why" Mayor Rahm Emanuel wanted the summit.
"We have to stop being a surprise," Longworth added.
When you do that, you create a stark relief between those who enjoy the recreation and those who can't pay the price of admission.
The litany of protests planned for the NATO Summit reflect this. If Chicago is to be a locus for convening the powerful, the powerless are going to want to confront them. Activists and reformers from all over the world are targeting the NATO Summit for what it represents: war as a priority, even while a devastating recession has thrown tens of millions of families into the dread of economic insecurity.
Today, Code Pink is marching on President Obama's reelection headquarters to protest "endless war" in Afghanistan and the killing of innocent families with remote-controlled drone attacks. On Saturday, the Mental Health Movement is planning to protest in Mayor Emanuel's neighborhood against the closure of six mental health clinics at the same time the Mayor and his business supporters are raising tens of millions of dollars to provide refreshments and entertainment for some of the most powerful people on Earth.
In turn, the city has a choice; are we going to treat activists and protesters as criminals-in-waiting and militarize our public safety (and expand our already troubling surveillance state) to the same degree that we become more and more global a city? Or accept that with global money come global problems and preserve Chicago's historical place as a center of intellectual and organizational freedom?
The introduction of equipment like the Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD, is not a good sign. Excellent at dispersing people because of the intense pain and sometimes long-term damage it causes, LRADs win the approbation of police forces because they appear harmless, even while causing real damage--in the words of some experts, a form of "acoustic assault."
Just as the city has been thrown into turmoil for its residents--street closures leading to business closures, traffic snarls making it difficult for people to move around, and intense security cordons that are discouraging residents from moving through areas of the city they'd otherwise enjoy on a weekend.
As we become more of that type of "global city," with more permanent institutions meant for the global elite, will a sanitized corridor controlled and maintained by militarized police empowered with new surveillance tools itself become institutionalized? In other words, is this the first of occasional nuisances, or the trial run for the long-term "globalization" of a portion of our city meant to create a comfortable space for the global elite at the expense of local desires, wishes, and needs?
It needn't be. Insofar as hosting events does indeed bring needed money into the city, that's a good thing; and protests and activists are integral to reminding the city's leadership why we need that money: to promote economic security for all of us and remember our priorities.
A global city is one that provides an example to the world, not a warning.
Governor Quinn, who cut a concession deal with AFSCME shortly before getting their endorsement, has since the election turned around and decided that due to budgetary reasons, the union's members should not get the raises specified in their contract.
It seems to me that in many ways, going back on a union contract with a union that endorsed you and worked hard to get you elected in a close election would be worse than having a governor who you knew was going after you from the start.
Suffice to say, AFSCME does not seem real happy about all this and I got to talk to AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Henry Bayer about Governor Quinn's move and next steps.
Sometimes a potential campaign at Arise Chicago reaches legal obstacles, an evasive employer, or incomplete evidence.
Alfredo and Rev. Marich
And sometimes, it all comes together Hannibal Smith from the A-Team style. Arise Chicago’s latest action to improve conditions of work in the carwash industry on Monday, February 28th was one of those moments when it all came together. Car wash worker Alfredo led a delegation of allies, including IBEW Local 134 member and Arise volunteer Denise Sebo, Ted Sautter and two brothers from the United Steel Workers, two Arise Chicago Worker Center members and staff to Four Seasons Carwash at 5900 W. Addison in Chicago. Alfredo joined the Worker Center because he was owed two weeks’ worth of wages and decided to take action.
After the “A – Team” leafleted and spoke to both workers and customers, the owner came, angrily demanding we move to the sidewalk, attempting to intimidate union allies taking pictures, and attempting to negotiate only with Adam, Worker Center Director. And then he caved, but not before attempting one last hail mary, that was quickly deflected by legal advisory board member Amy Epton and Rev. Claire Marich of Downers Grove, who is rapidly becoming the Mother Jones of carwash workers in Chicago. Rev. Marich states, "The work you do at Arise is so important and I am pleased to be a small part of it. It uses my chaplain skills of reading people in crisis situation, so I am beginning to understand it as a really exciting extension of my ministry." Alfredo says, “Bosses can’t abuse their workers.” He wishes for other workers to overcome fear to act and believes that his experience shows that. ”Si se puede.”
It couldn’t have worked out better. A worker taking action for justice. Religious allies. Worker members of Arise Chicago. Allies from the legal community. Union members.
Miguel Del Valle is being considered the progressive candidate for a variety of reasons. His record of independence from so-called "Machine politics" is considerably free of the spots found in those of Emanuel and Chico in particular; no organizational or professional ties to Mayor Daley. His policy positions on schools and teachers, the environment, and housing position him to the left of the field. While these positions are more liberal, they are also not controversial; meaning that, generally speaking, they are probably not significantly to the left of the average Chicagoan.
But there's something deeper in Del Valle's politics that may warm the cockles of a progressive's heart while simultaneously causing the city's power players, including its media organizations, to tremble with febrile dreams.
Based on his public statements about the relationship of the Mayor to the City Council, Del Valle appears to believe that conflict compels collaboration which leads to stronger results. In other words, by formally decentralizing power so that no one party or institution can simply act-and-make-so, they will be forced to negotiate one with the other on terms equitable to each, and thereby the best feasible solution will emerge.
The Chicago Teachers Union passed a resolution yesterday condemning the FBI raids on activist group in Chicago and Minneapolis, calling the recent federal grand jury subpoenas on activists a "witch hunt." (See the full text of the resolution after the jump.)
In the fall, FBI agents raided six homes in Minneapolis and two in Chicago, issuing subpoenas to eight people to appear in front of a federal grand jury in Chicago. The search warrants for the raids cites a federal law that prohibits "providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations," according to Democracy Now; the bureau claims they are looking for ties to terrorist groups in Palestine and Colombia.
In further proof that 2011 is not an analogue of 1983 or 1987, but in some ways bears closer resemblance to 1979, City Clerk and former state senator Miguel Del Valle has garnered the endorsement of two political organizations with strong independent/reformer roots, especially in the critical lakefront wards, namely the Independent Voters of Illinois (IVI-IPO) and the Northside chapter of Democracy for America ("DFA"). After winning the official backing of IVI-IPO's board last week, Del Valle was endorsed handily by the lakefront DFA group last night, with only Carol Moseley Braun, who appeared and spoke before the group earlier in the evening, showing any other support.
Despite a strong national push by immigrant rights groups for immigration reform in recent months, a bill seems unlikely before the year is over. As that reality sinks in, much of the movement has focused on fighting SB1070, the strict new immigration law in Arizona, as they ponder their next move. But the young members of the Immigrant Youth Justice League, based in Chicago, aren't pontificating. They've been arrested at sit-ins across the country, including one at multiple senators' offices in Washington, D.C., late last month. Of the 21 arrested at that action, all were undocumented, and almost half were from Chicago.
The participants, along with other IYJL members, staged a high-profile demonstration in March, marching behind a banner proclaiming their bold rallying cry, "Undocumented and Unafraid." As the rally ended in Daley Plaza, eight students introduced themselves by giving their names and stating their undocumented status.
Photo by Pepe Lozano. Undocumented youth out themselves as undocumented in Daley Plaza on March 10.
The hotel and restaurant workers' union UNITE HERE will be taking to the streets tomorrow, planning a massive civil disobedience in conjunction with other locals from around the country to pressure the Hyatt Hotels to budge on their contract negotiations.
Workers from Local 1, the Chicago branch of the union, and community supporters will be sitting down in traffic at Michigan and Wacker near the Hyatt Hotels corporation's national headquarters at the height of rush hour to protest what they say is unfair treatment of workers in the recession. They will join workers in Vancouver, Honolulu, San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Clara, Miami, Pittsburgh, Long Beach, Indianapolis, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Toronto, Monterey, Boston and Sacramento.
Hotel workers in Chicago have been without a contract since August, 2009, and recent relations have been tense--particularly at the Hyatt. In May, workers at the Hyatt Regency Chicago on Wacker walked off the job in protest of what they say was unfair treatment, including increased workloads and denial of access to union staff by management.
En route to the U.S. Social Forum, several hundred young activists from Atlanta, Texas, New Mexico, and elsewhere stopped in Chicago yesterday for a protest, march, and concert before leaving today for Detroit.
Activists from New Mexico, Texas, and Atlanta, among other places, rolled into the Chi last night for their last stop before heading to the forum, a massive grassroots leftist gathering that takes place every three years. They joined a protest organized by Southside Together Organizing for Power and other community groups against the closing of South Side mental health clinics. Their stay in Chicago ended at Epiphany Episcopal Church, where the energy leading up to the forum was palpable.
Maybe it was the policy postures of Clinton era--I don't know--but for some reason, this mythology that all social problems can be solved through the awesome force of "markets" and a business ethos has been wholly absorbed by liberals, particularly big city liberals. We can all agree that capitalism has created an awesome amount of wealth and raised the quality of life for many people. Isn't that enough? Do we have to admit the profit motive and corporate governance to every area of human relations? Does it mean corporate CEOs know the solutions to all our problems? Must we be thankful, rather than terrified, that JP Morgan Chase is trying to underwrite our schools?
The littlelocalkerfuffle over the failure of Chicago's pilot teacher merit pay program is another example of petty liberals assuming "seriousness" by just accepting that a corporate approach can solve social problems if only properly designed. Can't it be that some things aren't like profit-seeking entities, and therefore those models can't be transposed onto them? Isn't it possible that some things we as a society want are going to be expensive, big, and not anything like, say, Wal-Mart?
The fact is, Chicago's merit pay experiment failed not because of some illicit design flaw, but because pay for performance for teachers is fundamentally flawed, from its head to its toes. It's nothing new. It's been tried since the 18th Century--yes, the 18th Century--and has failed fairly consistently. In fact as cited in that report, the sole serviceable model--the one in Denver--is even low-rated by its supporters in that school system, who admit that lots of other expensive things are required for even modest improvements.
The international workers holiday May Day used to be celebrated pretty much everywhere in the world except the U.S--an irony, given that the day commemorates the Haymarket Massacre that took place here in Chicago in 1886. In 2006, the immigrant rights movement resurrected the holiday in its country of origin, and thousands flood the streets in cities and small towns across the country every May 1.
Yesterday's marches come at a time when the national immigration debate is heating up. Arizona's recent harsh anti-immigration bill SB 1070 propelled larger crowds than usual into the streets around the country on Saturday. In Chicago, the bill has led to a protest at Wrigley Field urging a boycott of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the state of Arizona as a whole; at a civil disobedience for immigration reform at a detention center in Broadview, activists chanted "Illinois is not Arizona!" as they were arrested. Yesterday, Chicago Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Congress's strongest proponent of comprehensive immigration reform, was arrested with 34 others in Washington, D.C., at another civil disobedience in front of the White House.
At today's march, SB 1070 was mentioned frequently, as some of the photos below show.
A group of 24 Chicago religious and community leaders were arrested as they blocked a bus carrying immigrants on their way to deportation from a detention center in Broadview this morning.
A crowd of about 150 held a vigil near the center's entrance that began last night. Labor, community, and religious groups repeatedly denounced the deportations carried out behind them, Arizona's tough new immigration bill SB 1070, and what they described as President Obama's inaction on immigration reform.
A new tenant has moved in to a street level office space on Irving Park. Driving past the office past dark, you can see a neon sign in the window that reads "IWW." On closer inspection a number of fliers and posters are tapped up to the windows, letting passer-by's know about upcoming rallies and benefit concerts. The Industrial Workers of the World have returned to Chicago, where under the leadership of a new General Secretary Treasurer, they hope to revitalize their organization and the labor movement.
The Industrial Workers of the World, or as they are often called, the Wobblies, were founded in 1905 in Chicago. The first industrial union, they allowed women, minorities, immigrants, skilled and unskilled workers to join. The IWW was always radical, calling for a society where "from each according to their ability and to each according to their need," was a reality.
The Wobblies led successful fights in the early 20th century, organizing seamstresses and lumberjacks and leading free speech fights throughout the country. However in the Red Scare of 1919, the wobblies became a target. Many members were deported, jailed or intimidated by the FBI. For decades the IWW was a shadow of its former self. The radicalism of the 1960's gave the group some life, but since then the IWW has remained a small group which many claimed resembled a labor history club more than a real union. That most members didn't even have contracts with their employers, but were individual dues paying members, didn't help.
However in the last decade the wobblies have watched their membership rolls increase. The 1999 protests in Seattle against the World Trade Organization seem to have awakened a generation of young people to labor issues and the war in Iraq seems to have radicalized them.
Workers at Pete's Fresh Market claim their employer continues to harass workers involved in a union organizing drive, accusing management of spying on organizers and students at a meeting at UIC last week.
Last month, GB covered the fight between Pete's owners and pro-union workers in which former and current employees are alleging unfair labor practices, sexual harassment, and national origin discrimination, claiming multiple employees have been fired for trying to organize a union with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 881. Pete's denies all the claims.
Representatives from the union and and supportive community organizations gathered in front of the Southwest Side Pete's at 43rd and Pulaski today and alleged that Pete's management spied on a meeting of the Mexican Students de Aztlan (MESA) at UIC with union organizers, videotaping their meeting without their consent in order to know what the union was up to.
Norman Finkelstein was once a popular professor at DePaul University. He was on the tenure track and was publishing books critical of the occupation of Palestine and the use of the Holocaust to silence critics of Israel's human rights record.
Arne Duncan is a disaster. His model for school improvement (e.g., "privatize it") is a failure, as even former staunch supporters of charter-focused reform like Diane Ravitch are realizing:
If this plan is enacted as proposed, it will eventually become just as toxic as NCLB. Only we won't know it for another five years or so after the evidence of devastated schools and communities has accumulated.
It's not too late, Secretary Duncan, turn back and offer a helping hand, not a death sentence. Send help, not a firing squad.
Now a story is gurgling in the local press about former Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan's involvement in clouting kids into better schools. Duncan hasn't responded to the report, as I could find, but the evidence is fairly damning that Duncan exploited the discretionary powers of magnet and selective-enrollment school principals to admit kids outside of the usual channels. (Consider this psychic fuel in our on-going quest to have Arne Duncan justify his existence).
Eugene Cherry from Iraq Veterans Against the War Speaks at Chicago's Anti-War Rally.
Every year around March 20th, I attend an anti-war rally. On March 17, 2010 over a thousand people rallied at Federal Plaza and marched on Michigan Ave. It came as President Obama is intensifying the war in Afghanistan. The protesters seemed to be mocking Mayor Daley's challenge, "Where are the anti-war people? They disappeared! They stopped marching!" No, we never did stop marching, even as Daley has continued to antagonize us.
It was March 20, 2003, seven years ago, that shock and awe began and our country invaded and began to occupy Iraq, the second largest source of oil in the world, a country with a civilization that dates back to before the bible was written. I was arrested that day at a protest, like 900 Chicagoans, and many more around the country were.
It was a scary time. Less than two years since 9/11, and it felt like the whole country was against the anti-war protesters. I had nightmares that I was thrown in Guantanamo Bay. Today, the majority of the country is against war in Iraq and most of the country has it's doubts about the war in Afghanistan.
I asked a friend if he was going to attend this year. He would rather apartment hunt. He asked me what difference going to the rally would make. Would it end the war? Would it stop the bloodshed? After we had such massive anti-war rallies before the invasion and those failed to stop it, what difference would this one rally seven years later, 95,000 dead Iraqis later, make?
On March 9, the same day that activists rallied in Washington DC to demand health care reform by making 'citizens arrests' of insurance company CEO's, a forum at the University of Illinois in Chicago School of Medicine showed the debates in the Left about whether or not the bills being proposed and voted on by Congress are worth being called reform.
While it was not billed as a debate, opinions about the bill came out. The big issue seems to be whether or not the health care bills in Congress would be an incremental step towards a universal single payer system (medicare for all), or simply a bailout for insurance companies.
Dr. Scheiner is one of the few doctors in the Chicago area who still does house visits and is a member of Physicians for a National Health Program. Scheiner simply stated, "I last saw [Obama] last 2 ½ years ago. Since that time, over a hundred thousand Americans have died due to lack of health insurance."
Dr. Schiener was deeply critical of the right wing and the present health care system, "one of the things you hear Republicans saying, 'you don't want government between you and your patient.' Medicare has never interfered with me... you can't get around the insurance companies. They're sitting in my room, the insurance representative is there telling me what tests I can get, what doctors I can send them to, what prescriptions I can give."
On Friday, March 12, Amy Goodman, the host of Democracy Now!, spoke at DePaul University. She was one of the best speeches I have seen in a long time. She covered a range of topics; from the history of colonialism in Haiti, where she encouraged solidarity over charity; to the anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie and her parents civil suit against the Israeli military, to former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld's home which was the same home that abolitionist Fredrick Douglas and other slaves were beaten in.
Goodman spoke about the late historian Howard Zinn and how as a teacher at the historically Black Spellman College, he incited students to become active in the civil rights movement. His reward was to be kicked out of the school. However, 42 years later Zinn was asked to return to Spellman, where he gave a commencement speech and received an honorary degree.
Goodman then pointed out that, "Times do change. I hope time changes for DePaul too. I hope it takes less than 42 years for Norm Finkelstein to be invited back," which garnered applause. Goodman described Finkelstein's research as important. Finkelstein was a professor at DePaul who was denied tenure, after he raised controversy over Israel's human rights record in the occupied territories of Gaza.
On February 16, 2010, about 150 people attended a rally outside the Chicago offices of the death panel Aetna. While Aetna claims to be a health insurance company, the statistics tells a different and morbid tale.
The rally was organized by Health Care for America Now!, a project of Citizen Action Illinois, to publicize their report "Health Insurers Break Profit Records as 2.7 Million Americans lose coverage." The report publicized that the combined profit of the top 5 health insurance companies was up 56% to $12.2 billion in 2009. The companies were able to make such a sickening profit by literally allowing their paying customers to become sick. They dumped paying customers who became a liability, and denied coverage to those who apply. This ended up growing the number of people on public assistance and those without any coverage. The report claims that "people without health insurance coverage are more likely to delay care, to get less care, and to die when they fall ill."
The report cites one study which claims that 52 million Americans will be without coverage in 2010. That is 1/6th of the United States, with no realistic way to afford health care.
On Jan. 22, William Kuntsler: Disturbing the Universe, a documentary about the legendary left-wing lawyer, premiered to a sold out crowd at the Siskel Film Center in Chicago. Directed by William Kuntsler's daughters Emily and Sarah Kuntsler, the film looks at the life and cases of one of America's most controversial lawyers.
William Kuntsler fathered Sarah and Emily late in life, and when he died, they were still young, so the movie became a way for them to know their father in a more adult way. It became a way for them to shed the simple childlike images of their father, and come to know him in a complex way.
The sold out Chicago premiere was hosted by the Next Gen, the young lawyers group of the Chicago chapter of the radical National Lawyers Guild. The theater was filled with activists, lawyers and law students. The amazing thing about the showing was how many people in the crowd had met or knew William Kuntsler.
National Lawyers Guild Next Gen members Sarah Gelsomino and Robert Luderman at the Chicago premiere of Disturbing the Universe.
Hey there. I was thinking, you know what are powerful things? Words. Glenn Greenwald recently wrote a piece chastising those who "blindly" follow the president. Specifically, he criticizes those who are threatening to "leave the Left" due to the amount of "beating up" the President receives from critics on the Left like Greenwald and David Sirota. Greenwald compares personality-based affection devoid of a policy basis for Obama to the sort of identity-politics adoration Sarah Palin receives from a segment of the right wing. One of the comments on Greenwald's piece read in part,
Oh no, how dare Virgil not hold the One True Correct View of Obama, which is that he is no better than Bush! How dare she form opinions based on what she has read (in the blogosphere) and what she has seen (of Obama)? I suppose that just makes her an unthinking Obamabot, doesn't it?
Get used to this, because it's going to happen a lot. There are a lot of liberals out there who, even if they are disappointed with some of Obama's policies (see, for instance, Joan Walsh), don't think he deserves to be treated like a punching bag.
This guy knows that President Obama is the president right?