Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cesar Chavez, a tribute

César Chávez: "Presente"
By Duane E. Campbell

The spirit of Cesar Chavez lives on in the struggle for union rights and justice in the fields of California. Along with Dolores Huerta, Philip Vera Cruz, and others, César created the United Farm Workers (UFW) the first successful union of farm workers in U.S. history. There had been more than ten prior attempts to build a farm workers union.
The United Cannery and Packinghouse Workers (UCAPAWA) organized in the 1930's, the National Farm Workers Union (NFW) led by Ernesto Galarza tried to organize Farm workers in the 40's and 50's. In 1959, the AFL-CIO tried to organize again with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC). AWOC had several weaknesses, including a top down leadership selected by AFL-CIO leaders, not by farm workers, and a strategy of working cooperatively with labor contractors. AWOC continued the prior efforts of Ernesto Galarza and the NFW in struggling against "braceros" or guest workers, contract workers imported from Mexico, from breaking strikes. A renewed "guest worker" bill is presently before Congress.
Each of the prior attempts to organize farm worker unions were destroyed by racism and corporate power. Chávez chose to build a union that incorporated the strategies of social movements and allied itself with the churches, students, and organized labor. The successful creation of the UFW changed the nature of labor organizing in the Southwest and contributed significantly to the birth of Latino politics in the U.S.
Today, under the leadership of UFW president Arturo Rodriguez, over 28,000 farm workers enjoy benefits on the job. They are incorporated into California's educational, health and civic communities. The UFW has shown the AFL-CIO that immigrants can and must be organized. In 2002 we won significant victories in the legislature and numerous elections.
César Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Philip Vera Cruz, and others deliberately created a multiracial organization, Mexican, Mexican American, Filipino, African-American, Dominican, Puerto Rican and Arab workers, among others, have been part of the UFW. This cross racial organizing was necessary in order to combat the prior divisions and exploitations of workers based upon race and language. Dividing the workers on racial and language lines always left the corporations the winners.
In the 60's Chávez became the pre-eminent civil rights leader for the Mexican and Chicano workers, helping with local union struggles throughout the nation. He worked tirelessly to make people aware of the struggles of farm workers for better pay and safer working conditions. It is a testament to Cesar Chavez's skills and courage that the UFW even survived. They were opposed by major interests in corporate agriculture including the Bruce Church and Gallo Corporations as well as the leadership of the Republican Party then led by Ronald Reagan. Workers were fired, beaten, threatened and even killed in pursuit of union benefits . Non union farm workers today continue to live on sub-poverty wages while producing the abundant crops in the richest valley, in the richest state in the richest nation in the world.
In response to corporate power, Cesar developed new strategies, such as the boycott, based upon his personal commitment to non-violence in the tradition of Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. César Chavez died in his sleep on April 23, 1993 near Yuma, Arizona.
Today Mexican, Mexican American and Puerto Rican union leadership is common in our major cities and in several industries. For myself and others, the UFW was a school for organizing. Hundreds of activists in labor and community organizations owe their skills to UFW training and experience. Along with improved working conditions, salaries, and benefits, training this cadre of organizers remains a major legacy of the UFW.
César taught us that all organizations have problems, that all organizations are imperfect. But, if you wait for the perfect organization, nothing gets done. Building popular organizations builds people's power, and democracy.
In creating the UFW Chavez organized thousands into a union and inspired millions. Children in school study his life. Many curriculum packages stress his emphasis on service to others. The service side of Cesar’s work was certainly inspiring.
The organizing side changed the Southwest and organized labor. In a 1988 campaign and fast Cesar focused attention on the many dangerous problems of pesticides used in the fields. Artists have captured his image in hundreds of ways. Schools, parks, and highways have been named for him. Establishing Cesar Chavez holiday in California and other states has increased knowledge of his contributions.
The movement led by Cesar created a union and reduced the oppression of farm workers. Many people, descendents of earlier generations of farm workers, learned to take a stand for justice. We learned to not accept poor jobs, poor pay, unsafe working conditions as natural or inevitable. Rather, these are social creations which can be changed through organizing for economic and political power. Dolores Huerta continues her important education and organizing work throughout the nation.
Now, thousands of new immigrants harvest the crops and only a small percent are in unions. The new generations of immigrants and migrant labor hardly know Chavez’ name nor his contributions. Yet, in other regions immigrants are being organized into unions such as Justice for Janitors, by activists who learned their organizing skills working with the UFW. And, Latino political leaders often made their first commitments on a UFW picket line.
Again, that generation is passing. A new generation of political activists, mostly within the Democratic Party, have emerged since the Chavez generations. (Hispanic Republicans seldom see Chavez as a hero figure). In the 2006 massive immigrant rights movements, several new organizing practices emerged. A new, significant Latino union and political base has been created.
Chavez' legacy to popular struggles, to Chicano/Mexicano self determination and to unions for the immigrant workers is beyond measure. He is present in all of our work. I plan to march on March March 29,2008 in memory of Cesar Chavez' contributions building a more democratic society for working people. You can find our more about this remarkable leader at

Duane Campbell is a Professor of Bilingual/Multicultural Education at Calif. State University-Sacramento and the author of Choosing Democracy; a practical guide to multicultural education. (Merrill/Pren Hall.2004)

This year's march. Sat. March 29,2008. Begin at 10 AM. 2425 Northgate Blvd. , Sacramento
March to Cesar Chavez Plaza. 7th. and I streets.
For information: 916- 296-3465. Sponsored by Labor Committee LA. The Central Labor Council and hundreds more.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Real Rev. Wright: The Footage Fox and the Other Networks Won't Show [VIDEO]

The Real Rev. Wright: The Footage Fox and the Other Networks Won't Show [VIDEO]

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Partisan Politics Kills Effort to Close Yacht Tax Loophole

by Assemblymember Dave Jones

I recently saw an advertisement for a yacht that looked really nice. The yacht’s name said it all. "No Worries" was a true beauty, at 44 feet long with all the amenities. But the $300,000 boat isn’t in the family budget.

Nor is it for most Californians. Especially not for many of the state’s working families, who struggle to pay for essentials like rent, food, utilities, and child care.

The California Budget Project estimates that for family of four it takes $72,343 per year to meet basic expenses. California has about two million working families that make less than half that income.

While ordinary Californians are struggling to make ends meet, those rich enough to buy a yacht like the one I saw in the ad avoid paying taxes by taking advantage of a huge tax loophole.

The yacht tax loophole works like this. If you buy a yacht and take delivery out of state and keep it out of state for 90 days before bringing it back to California, you can escape paying sales or use tax on the purchase. Just sail southward and choose one of the many "90-day yacht clubs" available in Ensenada, Mexico, then stash the boat there.

When you and I buy something at a local store, we pay a sales tax. But if you are rich enough to buy a yacht, you can escape the same rules that apply to everyone else. This is a tax loophole big enough to sail a yacht through. The same loophole applies to airplanes and RV’s. Take delivery out of state, and remain out of state for 90 days and avoid paying a California tax. Collectively these loopholes cost the state about $26 million a year in avoided taxes.

Earlier this year I introduced legislation to eliminate this "sloophole." My proposal to eliminate the yacht tax became a part of the Assembly Democrats package of budget solutions to respond to the current year budget deficit.

These budget solutions included cuts to important programs, like education, health care and funding for our courts. While these mid-year cuts are painful, they are also necessary to bring our budget into balance. Taken together, these budget solutions reduce next year’s budget deficit by $7 billion dollars, which represents roughly half our projected deficit.

Included within the package of budget bills that the Assembly voted on was a bill to eliminate the yacht tax loophole.
With a $16 billion ($16,000,000,000) state budget deficit, you would think that everyone could agree that the time has come to close the notorious "Yacht Tax Loophole." Governor Schwarzenegger certainly agrees. His budget proposal closes the yacht tax loophole.

There should have been bi-partisan support in the Assembly to close this egregious loophole. Sadly, Republican Assembly members voted once again last month to allow California’s yacht purchasers to avoid paying taxes.

Incredibly, not one single Republican Assemblymember voted to support eliminating the loophole when it came up for a final vote. It failed passage as a result. Thurston Howell III would have been proud.

Assembly Republicans justified their refusal to close this special interest tax loophole by arguing that it would hurt the economy to collect taxes from yacht purchasers. This is simply not the case. The loophole was closed for a time earlier this decade. The non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, in reviewing the impact of closing the loophole earlier this decade, found no harm to the economy.

Assembly Republican leaders also argued that the tax loophole was small in amount. I don’t know about you, but $26 million annually is a lot of money to me.

It is simply unconscionable to protect rich yacht purchasers while the rest of us are expected to pay taxes on goods we purchase. It is even more outrageous to vote against closing special interest tax loopholes at the same time cuts are being made to education, health and other programs that help ordinary Californians. We should immediately close the yacht tax loophole for good. The Thurston Howells of the world will do just fine without the tax loophole.

Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) represents the 9th Assembly District in the California Legislature.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

U.N. Panel Finds Two-Tier Society

Published on Wednesday, March 12, 2008 by Inter Press Service
by Haider Rizvi

UNITED NATIONS - The United States government is drawing fire from international legal experts for its treatment of American Indians, Blacks, Latinos and other racial minorities.

The U.S. is failing to meet international standards on racial equality, according to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) based in Geneva, Switzerland.
Last Friday, after considering the U.S. government’s written and oral testimony, the 18-member committee said it has found “stark racial disparities” in the U.S. institutions, including its criminal justice system.

The CERD is responsible for monitoring global compliance with the 1969 Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, an international treaty that has been ratified by the United States.

In concluding the CERD report on U.S. record, the panel of experts called for the George W. Bush administration to take effective actions to end racist practices against minorities in the areas of criminal justice, housing, healthcare and education.

This is the second time in less than two years that the U.S. government has been found to be falling short of its treaty obligations. In March 2006, The CERD had harshly criticised the U.S. for violating Native Americans’ land rights.

Taking note of racial discrimination against indigenous communities, the Committee said it wants the U.S. to provide information about what it has done to promote the culture and traditions of American Indian, Alaska Native and indigenous Hawaiian peoples. It also urged the U.S. to apply the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The CERD also voiced strong concerns regarding environmental racism and the environmental degradation of indigenous areas of spiritual and cultural significance, without regard to whether they are on “recognised” reservation lands.

The Committee recommended to the U.S. that it consult with indigenous representatives, “chosen in accordance with their own procedures — to ensure that activities carried out in areas of spiritual and cultural significance do not have a negative impact on the enjoyment of their rights under the Convention”.

In its 13-page ruling, the U.N. body also raised serious questions about the death penalty and in the sentencing of minors to life without parole, which it linked to racial disparities between whites and blacks.

In their testimony, Bush administration officials held that the treaty obligations do not apply to laws or practices that are race-neutral on their face but discriminatory in effect. The Committee outright rejected that claim, noting that the treaty prohibits racial discrimination in all forms, including practices and legislation that may not be discriminatory in purpose, but in effect.
The CERD panel also objected to the indefinite detention of non-citizens at Guantanamo prison and urged the U.S. to guarantee “enemy combatants” judicial review.

The panel said the U.S. needs to implement training programmes for law enforcement officials, teachers and social workers in order to raise their awareness about the treaty and the obligations the U.S. is required to uphold as a signatory.

Human rights defenders who watched the CERD proceeding closely said they were pleased with its observations and recommendations.

“The U.N. is telling the U.S. that it needs to deal with an ugly aspect of its criminal justice system,” said Alison Parker of Human Rights Watch, which has been monitoring discriminatory practices in the United States for years.

In a statement, Parker hailed the U.N. panel for rejecting the U.S. government’s claim that more black children get life without parole because they commit more crimes and held that the U.N. criticism of the justice system was fair.

“Once again, the Bush administration has been told by a major human rights body that it is not above the law,” said Parker in of the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo prison.

Other rights activists also held similar views about the outcome of the CERD hearings in Geneva.
“[It has] exposed to the world the extent to which racial discrimination has been normalised and effectively made permissible in many areas of American life,” said Ajamu Baraka of the Human Rights Network, an umbrella group representing more than 250 rights advocacy organisations.
As part of its recommendations, the Committee has asked the U.S. government to consider the establishment of an independent human rights body that could help eliminate widespread racial disparities.

Lenny Foster, Diné (Navajo) and representative of the Native America Prisoners Rights Coalition, was a member of the indigenous delegation to the CERD. He observed during the examination that the United States was “in denial”.

“Spiritual wellness and spiritual healing is paramount to the very survival of the indigenous nations,” he said. “There are efforts to prohibit and impede the spiritual access. Corporations cannot be allowed to prohibit access and to destroy and pollute and desecrate the sacred lands.”
Bill Larsen of the Western Shoshone Defence Project delegation also testified before the Committee, making a strong case concerning environmental racism and the deadly pollution caused by mining on their ancestral lands.

In March 2006, the Western Shoshone leaders had received a favourable response from the Committee to its complaint about the U.S. exploitation of their sacred lands. The U.S. is obligated “to freeze, desist and stop further harmful activities on their lands”, but failed to take any action.
Indigenous leaders said they welcomed the Committee’s decision to ask the U.S. to submit its report on compliance within one.year.

“It is important that all Native Peoples within the U.S. know that they have rights that are recognized by international law even if the United States refuses to recognise them or act upon them,” said Alberto Saldamando, one of the indigenous delegates attending the Geneva meeting.
“Now it is not just us,” he continued, “but the international community that has recognised that indigenous peoples within the United States are subject to racism on many levels and has called for effective steps by the U.S. to remedy this situation.”

© 2008 Inter Press Service

Friday, March 7, 2008

Playing By Clinton Rules

New York Times, March 7, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist


Barack Obama had a theory. It was that the voters are tired of the partisan paralysis of the past 20 years. The theory was that if Obama could inspire a grass-roots movement with a new kind of leadership, he could ride it to the White House and end gridlock in Washington.

Obama has built his entire campaign on this theory. He’s run against negativity and cheap-shot campaigning. He’s claimed that there’s an “awakening” in this country — people “hungry for a different kind of politics.”

This message has made him the front-runner. It has brought millions of new voters into politics. It has given him grounds to fend off attacks. In debate after debate, he has accused Hillary Clinton and others of practicing the old kind of politics. When he was under assault in South Carolina, he rose above the barrage and made the Clintons look sleazy.

Yet at different times during this election, he’s been told to get off the white horse and start fighting. In the current issue of Time magazine, Michael Duffy and Nancy Gibbs report on a meeting that took place in Chicago last Labor Day. All of Obama’s experienced advisers told him: “You gotta get down, get dirty, get tough.”

Obama refused. He argued that if he did that, the entire basis for his campaign would evaporate. “If I gotta kneecap her,” he said, “I’m not gonna go there.”

Now, the Obama campaign is facing another test. There are a few ways to interpret the losses in Texas and Ohio. One is demographic. He didn’t carry the groups he often has trouble with — white women, Latinos, the less educated. The other is tactical. Clinton attacked him, and the attacks worked.

The consultants, needless to say, gravitate toward the tactical interpretation. And once again the cry has gone up for Obama to get tough. This advice gets wrapped in metaphors. Obama has to start “throwing punches” or “taking the gloves off.”

Beneath the euphemisms, what the advice really means is that Obama has to start accusing Clinton of things.

This time, Obama, whose competitive juices are flowing, has apparently accepted the advice. The Obama campaign is now making a big issue of Hillary Clinton’s tax returns and dropping hints about donations to President Clinton’s library and her secret White House papers. It’s willing to launch an ethics assault. “If Senator Clinton wants to take the debate to various places, we’ll join that debate,” the Obama strategist David Axelrod told reporters the other day.

These attacks are supposed to show that Obama can’t be pushed around. But, of course, what it really suggests is that Obama’s big theory is bankrupt. You can’t really win with the new style of politics. Sooner or later, you have to play by the conventional rules.

The Obama people seem to have persuaded themselves they can go on the attack, but in the right way. They can be tough and keep their virginity, too. But there are more than five long months between now and the convention.

Unless they consciously reject conventional politics, the accusations will build on each other. The BlackBerries will buzz. The passions will rise. The Obama forces will see hints of Clinton corruption all around, and they’ll accuse and accuse again. The war will begin to take control, and once you’re halfway through you can’t suddenly surrender because it’s become too rough.

And the Clinton people will draw them every step of the way. Clinton can’t compete on personality, but a knife fight is her only real hope of victory. She has nothing to lose because she never promised to purify America. Her campaign doesn’t depend on the enthusiasm of upper-middle-class goo-goos. On Thursday, a Clinton aide likened Obama to Ken Starr just to badger them on.

As the trench warfare stretches on through the spring, the excitement of Obama-mania will seem like a distant, childish mirage. People will wonder if Obama ever believed any of that stuff himself. And even if he goes on to win the nomination, he won’t represent anything new. He’ll just be a one-term senator running for president.

In short, a candidate should never betray the core theory of his campaign, or head down a road that leads to that betrayal. Barack Obama doesn’t have an impressive record of experience or a unique policy profile. New politics is all he’s got. He loses that, and he loses everything. Every day that he looks conventional is a bad day for him.

Besides, the real softness of the campaign is not that Obama is a wimp. It’s that he has never explained how this new politics would actually produce bread-and-butter benefits to people in places like Youngstown and Altoona.

If he can’t explain that, he’s going to lose at some point anyway.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Si Se Puede: Obama and MAPA

I tried to upload the video, but it will not work. I recommend this site. Yes, it is a donation site. But, you can watch the video without donating. Well worth the visit.
Duane Campbell

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Dem Contest Shows America's Transformation

Published on Tuesday, March 4, 2008 by the Chicago Sun-Times
by Jesse Jackson

The competition between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is fierce: rallies, ads, speeches, phone calls, get-out-the-vote operations. Four states hang in the balance today — Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont — and perhaps the Democratic presidential nomination itself. One of these — an African-American man or a woman — will lead the Democratic Party into the election this fall.

It was only 43 years ago — March 7, 1965 — that the famous march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., took place. The peaceful demonstrators were marching for that most basic right — the right to vote. They were met by a sheriff’s posse armed with dogs, fire hoses and clubs. The horror of that day appalled a nation and helped move the Voting Rights Act through Congress. The civil rights movement helped to galvanize the women’s movement. The Vietnam War — and the protests against it — helped young people get the vote. Surely if they were old enough to serve, they were old enough to vote on those who would send them to war.

Now only four decades later, America is transformed. An African American and a woman compete for the presidency. Women turn out in large numbers — more than 55 percent of the primary voters. Young people — the new “millennium generation” — flood to the polls. African-American participation is up; Latino participation is up. The Democratic Party is alive, attracting independent voters, mobilizing activists and volunteers, raising small contributions in record amounts.

The Supreme Court outlawed segregation in 1954, but we always knew it would take a long time for the culture to catch up to the law. Now, students at the University of Arkansas root for their team. It doesn’t matter what the skin color of the players are. Workplaces are more integrated. Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and others transcend racial divides. On many campuses, we see the rainbow. We’ve come a long way.

No doubt we still have a long way to go. Our school system is more segregated by race now than it was in the 1960s. Our senselessly discriminatory criminal justice system condemns too many nonviolent people to years in jail. African-Americans and Latinos are still often the last hired, the first fired and the most actively targeted by predatory lenders in the housing debacle.

Yet things have changed, dramatically for the better. White men and women find themselves supporting Obama for president. Women find themselves excited by Clinton’s historic candidacy. Young people are roused and intent on remaking the world. They surely are the most diverse generation, and the most comfortable with that diversity.

Barack Obama’s candidacy is not the cause of that transformation, but it is an expression of it, and a conduit of it. His most powerful argument to Americans is that he can bring us together, across bitter partisan divides, across the arguments of the past, to take our government back and make it work for common purpose. It is a powerful argument, powerfully made. And that millions would find it compelling that an African-American leader could bring us together is clearly a measure of how far we have come.

The Rev. Martin Luther King’s dream is not yet realized. He knew the hardest challenge was economic justice — challenging the nation to lift the poor, to empower working people, to create equal opportunity and a decent society. Were he here, he would be raising the bar, challenging us to do better. But he would also be very proud; 43 years later, it is clear, the movement he led has helped give birth to a new and better America.

–Jesse Jackson
© Copyright 2008 Digital Chicago, Inc.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Will Durston Be Able to Beat Dan Lungren

Will Bill Durston Be Able to Beat Dan Lungren in California CD 3?

Parallels with McNerney win over Pombo Seen, but will it be enough?

By Randy Bayne
The Bayne of Blog's California Notes

Democrats in the 3rd Congressional District pinned their hopes on an emergency room physician in 2006 and lost. This year they are once again hoping that Dr. Bill Durston can win this one time Republican haven, and with news of the shrinking lead in Republican registration numbers in the district, many are taking that optimism to a new level.

Their optimism began with what they saw as a similarity between the history of Jerry McNerney's campaign in the 11th CD, and Durston's campaign in the 3rd. The numbers are similar, and the progress identical. Both lost their first time out, registration numbers became more favorable, and McNerney won his second try. is it possible, they wonder, for Durston to win this go round?
Republican voter registration in California is on the decline, but nowhere is the effect more pronounced than in the Sacramento region's 3rd Congressional District.

Incumbent Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, now has the slimmest registration edge of any Republican-held congressional district in the state.
The optimism is not completely unfounded. Durston, has learned valuable lessons from his first run. Though initially reluctant to face the rigors of another campaign, he has come out much stronger, grown his base of support, and become a much better fundraiser. Durston has grown as a candidate.

Is it enough? Time and time again it has been pointed out that Durston is on the right side of the issues. He supports universal health care, wants to end the occupation in Iraq, is in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act, promotes renewable energy, and supports "clean money" campaigns. Sometimes though, Durston's anti-Lungren message seems louder than his pro-Durston message.

With registration numbers moving in Durston's favor, perhaps it is time to tone down the anti-Lungren talk and ramp up the pro-Durston message. Lungren won't lose because voters liken him to John Doolittle or Richard Pombo. Durston will find it difficult to win if he is simply seen as the anti-Lungren. A Durston message that focuses on who he is and what he will do may be just the ticket to take advantage of shifting registration numbers.

Randy Bayne is Chair of the Amador County Democratic Party. This article originally appeared in The Bayne of Blogs and is published with the permission of the author.

Posted on March 03, 2008