Archive for the ‘Books’ category

Know More Than “They” Want Us To Know

February 17, 2014

We only know what “They” want us to know.

Six major media corporations – Columbia Broadcasting Companies (CBS), Disney, National Broadcasting Company-Universal, News Corporation, Time-Warner, and get educatedViacom – control 90% of what America listens to, reads, and watches.

Two hundred and thirty-two media executives control what 277 million Americans read, watch, and listen to.

That is what goes into our brains via morning talk shows, “who is your baby’s daddy” shock and repulse spectacles, the evening news, prime time television dance and musical competitions, police dramas, sit-coms, and weight loss face-off shows. That is what “informs” and “entertains” us.

For the most part, the news is biased and the shows are inane. Intended to shape and distract us. To keep our minds stupefied and off of things such as corporate dominated government, economic inequality, job loss, poverty, and perpetual war.

“That’s why they call it ‘programming'”, someone has written.

So, it is critical that we seek other sources for our news and information if we are going to be informed, well-educated, and prepared for meaningful engagement in today’s real life world. And, there are many alternative sources that we can turn to for different perspectives on and analyses of current events and the socio-economic-political issues that affect each of us and our families every day.

The blogs, news, and organization sites that are linked in the right-hand column are some of those resources.

Let’s get educated and know more than “They” want us to know.

Get informed and educated and involved in the world around you. That’s when we will begin to see positive, Progressive change in our communities.

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“‘Educate yourselves because we’ll need all your intelligence. Agitate because we’ll need all your enthusiasm. Organize yourselves because we’ll need all your strength.”

~ Antonio Gramsci ~

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Immigration And The Right To Stay Home

January 24, 2014

With eleven to twelve million undocumented immigrants in the United States, immigration and comprehensive immigration reform is a major socio-economic-political issue confronting America.

The American people feel uncomfortable about how to personally relate to undocumented immigrants. Congress debates proposed immigration reform bills. Questions are raised about whether or not we have an obligation to care for, educate, and provide necessary services to undocumented immigrants in their moments of need.

David Bacon, labor organizer, immigrant rights advocate, and photo-journalist, has written an excellent book that addresses the reasons why people have to migrate and the inequality and exploitation they face when they do. Bacon is particularly concerned about the people and workers in and from Mexico. right to stay home

The book is entitled The Right To Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Immigration. It has been published by Beacon Press (2013).

I have begun reading The Right To Stay At Home and have just finished the first chapter, From Perote to Tar Hill. In this chapter, Bacon shares about farmers and family members from Veracruz, Mexico who have lost their homes, farms, and jobs and have migrated to find work in the Smithfield Foods meatpacking factory in Tar Hill, North Carolina. The chapter also contains information about the North American Free Trade Agreement and immigration enforcement in the United States.

Here are several quotes from the first chapter that speak about NAFTA’s force and impact on governments and people and its benefit to international corporations:

“The centrality of foreign investment in the Mexican economy creates a climate where transnational corporations with large investments can exercise coercive power over government agencies at all levels.”

“The penetration of capital led to the destruction of the traditional economy, especially in agriculture, and produced a huge labor reserve in Mexico. People had no alternative but to migrate. The system helps corporations make profit, which is relocated to the United States. And it produces displaced people, who are needed by the US economy.” (Juan Sandoval, National Institute of Anthropology and History, Mexico City)

” … rather than a free-trade agreement, NAFTA can be described as … a mechanism for the provision of cheap labor. Since NAFTA came into force, the migrant factory has exported {millions of} Mexicans to the United States.”

” … US immigration policy is largely shaped by the desire of US employers for labor …. ”

” … can’t people have a choice between immigration and staying home in healthy communities in their countries of origin? Or must displacement and migration be geared to supplying labor …. “

The North American Free Trade Agreement has been good for international corporations and the advancement of a global neo-liberal agenda, but bad for the people of Mexico.

Educate Thyself

December 31, 2013

Some time ago I mentioned in a post that I am trying to educate myself about labor, progressive political-economic, and social movement issues. Some of the issues that I am interested in, concerned about, and want to learn more about include immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship, community organizing, the campaign for a living wage, the growing income inequality gap, the right to belong to and form unions, working class and working poor issues, and worker rights. The primary resources for my self-education are progressive books and material I find on the web.

I am in the process of building a Progressive reading library. The books in the picture are those that comprise my library, thus far. BooksI do not have many, and I admit that I have not read them all, but I am slowly making my way through them. I am currently reading The Future Of Our Schools – Teacher Unions and Social Justice by Dr. Loir Weiner.

There are several websites on which I find excellent articles that contribute to my self-education about Progressive issues. I typically download, print out, and take those articles with me to work each  day and read them as I have the opportunity. Some of the sites that I depend on for good material are Dissent, Dollars & Sense, Labor Notes, Truthout, United Steel Workers, and the Working-Class Perspectives blog. I do visit and benefit from other websites; many of those can be found on the right side-bar of my blog.

I would note that when time and schedule permits, I try to listen to Democracy Now! and Free Speech Radio News broadcasts for an alternative perspective on news and issues.

The reason that I am sharing this post with you is because I believe it is important to be well-informed about and involved in what is happening in the political, economic, and social world around us. If I am going to be truly informed about the critical labor, political-economic, and social issues that confront America, I must know more than what a corporate-dominated media serves up each evening on the world news. That’s why I choose to read books and articles and listen to radio broadcasts that are unashamedly Progressive in perspective and content.

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 “‘Educate yourselves because we’ll need all your intelligence. Agitate because we’ll need all your enthusiasm. Organize yourselves because we’ll need all your strength.”

(Antonio Gramsci)

The Right To Stay Home

December 9, 2013

In my last post, I shared about a book I was looking forward to purchasing and reading through. The book is The Future Of Our Schools – Teacher Unions And Social Justice by Dr. Lois Weiner. I would note that I ordered this book last week and received it in the mail on Friday.

There is a second book that I have been wanting to read. That book is The Right To Stay Home – How US Policy Drives Mexican right to stay homeMigration by David Bacon. I have wanted to read it because immigration and immigration reform is a major issue in the United States that must addressed and dealt with. There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the States. They are often made the scapegoat for many of America’s ills. They are accused of everything from taking American’s jobs to taking advantage of and draining our social services and tax dollars.

In The Right To Stay Home, David Bacon, noted journalist, photographer, and union activist, addresses immigration, especially from Mexico, and writes that United States’ foreign policy and our free-trade agreements with Mexico are largely responsible for the impoverishment and migration of many Mexicans to the United States.

This overview of the book is found on the inside of the book’s dust jacket:

“People across Mexico are being forced into migration, and while 11 percent of that country’s population lives north of the US border, the decision to migrate is rarely voluntary. Free trade agreements and economic policies that exacerbate and reinforce extreme wealth disparities make it impossible for Mexicans to make a living at home. And yet when they migrate to the United States, they must grapple with criminalization, low wages, and exploitation.

In The Right to Stay Home, journalist David Bacon tells the story of the growing resistance of Mexican communities. Bacon shows how immigrant communities are fighting back—envisioning a world in which migration isn’t forced by poverty or environmental destruction and people are guaranteed the ‘right to stay home.’ This richly detailed and comprehensive portrait of immigration reveals how the interconnected web of labor, migration, and the global economy unites farmers, migrant workers, and union organizers across borders.”

I am very concerned about the men, women, and families who have been displaced from their homes in Mexico and other Central American nations because of the economic policies of the United States and free trade agreements we have entered into with our Central American neighbors.

I believe The Right To Stay Home will make me more knowledgeable of US economic and trade policies and their role in and impact on Mexican immigration to the United States for work and the improvement of their lives. But I do now want to just be more knowledgeable of these matters, I want to be better equipped to serve as a voice and advocate for the rights and welfare of these undocumented working men and women.

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See my post, Immigration Reform: Facts Vs. Myths.

Teachers, Unions, And Social Justice

December 2, 2013

I’m not a teacher but I work for a local independent school district. Our district is not unionized but I support labor unions and would join a teacher’s union if I had the opportunity. And, I am concerned about social justice issues, especially worker’s rights, immigration reform, and living wages for working men and women.

I have recently learned of a book that addresses the issues of democracy in the classroom, teacher’s unions, and how teachers united Future of schoolsin unions and collectives can positively impact and make a difference in social justice causes, both inside and outside of the classroom. The book is The Future Of Our Schools – Teachers Unions and Social Justice. It was written by Dr. Lois Weiner, an educator, union organizer, and social justice activist. Weiner teaches at New Jersey City University.

Dr. Weiner had written and published an article in the New Politics magazine entitled “Should We ‘Play Nice’ With the NEA and AFT?“.  I read the article and emailed Dr.  Weiner, expressed my appreciation for the piece, and asked her some questions that pertained to union membership and my work at a local high school. Dr. Weiner was very gracious, replied to my email, and answered the questions I had posed to her.

In her reply, Dr. Weiner mentioned The Future Of Our Schools and suggested that it would be a good book to be read by teachers who are interested in forming a teacher’s union or collective and becoming involved in social justice campaigns.

It is my intention to purchase Dr. Weiner’s book, read it, and then seek out teachers who would be interested in reading through and discussing it, collectively, with a view toward the possibility of forming a teacher’s collective in our area or even forming a local that would affiliate with an established teacher’s union. The purpose of the collective would be to bring before local school and district administrators, and the general public, local school district and social justice issues that need to be addressed.

There is one teacher at the high school where I work who is a member of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) that I will approach about being a part of a reading group. I am under the impression that she became a member of AFT primarily for the legal coverage that membership provides rather than out of any commitment to rank-and-file, union-political-social movement purposes and activity. The teacher has shared with me that there are other teachers in our district and the one in our “twin city” who are members of AFT. I would like to contact those folks, and a history teacher at my school who has mentioned that he often refers students to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, and  invite them to be a part of the reading group.

I look forward to acquiring and reading The Future Of Our Schools by Dr. Lois Weiner. I believe it will be a very encouraging and informative book as I seek to become more involved in the issues of our local school district, rank-and-file teacher unionism, and the social justice issues of worker’s rights, immigration reform, and a living wage for working men and women at a grassroots, community level.

Eugene V. Debs: Quotes For Workingmen

November 6, 2013

Eugene Victor Debs – railroad fireman, union organizer, socialist, and presidential candidate – was born on November 5, ev debs6in 1855. Yesterday would have been his 158th birthday. He died on October 20, 1926.

For some reason, I have always been intrigued by Debs. Perhaps it has been because he was a leader in the American Labor Movement and its development in the late 1800s. It may be because of his role in the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World union and the Socialist Party of the United States. Or, it may simply be the fact that he was a simple working man who was an advocate for the rights of other working men and women.

Whatever the reason, Eugene V. Debs, is a hero of mine.

cross2I read the classic biography of Eugene Debs, The Bending Cross by Ray Ginger, about  ten years ago to learn more the man. It was a great book. I also read Debs’ speeches and articles that I am able to find on the web. These speeches and articles give me insight into who the man was as well as give me a great look into the history of labor in America, and I enjoy that. They are also inspiring and motivating.

Therefore, in honor of Eugene V. Debs this evening, I would like to share a few quotes from two Deb’s articles that were published in the Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine in 1890. The magazine, which Debs edited, was the official organ of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen union.  Debs eventually left the Brotherhood and helped form the American Railway Union in Chicago in 1893.

The first two quotes are from an article entitled “The Common Laborer.” It was published in the Firemen’s Magazine in April 1890.

As Debs begins this article, he makes a qualifying statement. He writes that “We use the term ‘common laborer’ in no derogatory sense.” This term is innocently used to refer to working men and women and is meant to say that no worker or labor can be thought of or called “common.” All workers and labor have value.

“We make no apology for asserting that the welfare of the country centers in the one fact of doing absolute justice in all matters relating to fair wages for work, by which we mean such wages as shall make the home of the American workingman exempt from the ceaseless peril of mendicancy.”

” … when wages fall below securing such requirements the American idea is to organize for the purpose of attaining them. It is clear, therefore, that the American idea is the betterment of the American workingman regardless of trade.”

The next set of quotes are from an article that was attributed to Debs. The article is “What Can We Do for Working People?” and was published in April 1890.

Debs begins this article by saying that “In one form or another certain persons are continually asking, ‘What can we do, or What can be done for working people?'” He answers this question by sharing how different groups or classes of people might answer the question:

  • Slave owners of old would have said they had a responsibility given to them by Providence to care for their “human chattel” by keeping them fed, clothed, housed, and at work.
  • Philanthropists would say that their responsibility would be to provide free soup and baths to working people and enact “more stringent laws against idleness and tramping, together with more improved machinery in penitentiaries.”
  • Another group of people, probably the business class, would tell working men and women that “unless they consent to abandon their labor organizations, absolve themselves from all obligations to such organizations, so far as they are concerned that shall have no work at all.”

In response, Debs says that the real question is, “What can workingmen do for themselves?”

“The answer is ready. They can do all things required, if they are independent, self-respecting, self-reliant men.”

“Workingmen can organize. Workingmen can combine, federate, unify, cooperate, harmonize, act in concert. This done, workingmen could control governmental affairs…. By acting together they could overthrow monopolies and trusts.”

“Workingmen are in the majority. They have the most votes. In this God favored land, where the ballot is all powerful, peaceful revolutions can be achieved. Wrongs can be crushed – sent to their native hell, and the right can be enthroned by workingmen acting together, pulling together.”

“What can workingmen do for themselves? They can teach capitalists that they do not want and will not accept their guardianships; that they are capable of self-management, and that they simply want fair pay for an honest day’s work, and this done, ‘honors are easy’.”

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Eugene Debs lived and labored for the rights of working men and women over one hundred years ago. Time has passed and many things have changed since he was involved in the burgeoning American Labor Movement.

But one thing has not changed. We are still fighting for decent living wages for working men and women and their families, safe working conditions on the job, health and retirement benefits, and the right to form unions. And, we are still fighting against a plutocratic class that would suppress labor, and in so doing, create and maintain a part-time, low-come “labor market”; suppress the voting rights of women, minorities, and the poor; institute austerity programs that endanger children, the poor, the elderly, and the infirmed; and increase their wealth at the expense of the working and middle classes.

Eugene V. Debs was a one-of-a-kind of a man during his time. We need  men and women like him today.

The Working Poor – Quotes, Pt.2

November 25, 2011

In May of 2010, I wrote a post that consisted of quotes taken from the book, The Working Poor – Invisible in America, by David Shipler. I have long had the intention of sharing more quotes from the book that struck my attention as I was reading it.  Below are some of those thoughts and quotes.

From the chapter entitled, “Importing the Third World” ….

“Luxury is produced by humble hands. … For a paltry wage, albeit one far greater than at home, they (immigrants) feed and clothe and comfort the Americans they wish to emulate.” (p.77)

“Fine sentiments do not stand firm against economic imperatives of running a business.” (p.85)

Shipler, writing of the people who live in “the ethnic enclaves that serve America’s economy,”

” … they are imprisoned in an archipelago of scattered zones of cheap labor that promote the country’s interests. They are not Americans, but they are an essential part of America.” (p.91)

In the chapter,”Harvest Of Shame,” Shipler writes about America’s White, Black, Hispanic, legal, and illegal farm workers and the deplorable conditions in which they labor and struggle to survive.

“You can hardly go through a day, much less observe a holiday, without the fruit of their labor in your life.” (p.97)

At this point, I want to stop and encourage you to support the United Farmer Workers (www.ufw.org), the labor union that was founded by Caesar Chavez to protect the rights of the men and women, boys and girls who pick the food that you and I eat every day.

More quotes to come.