Journal Of Ordinary Thought: Winter 2011 Writing On Food


CONTACT: Hollen Reischer/ Assistant Director, Neighborhood Writing Alliance/ Editor, Journal Ordinary Thought

773-684-2742 /

The Neighborhood Writing Alliance is proud to present

“I Always Like Plenty of Napkins”

Winter 2011 Journal of Ordinary Thought

NWA Writers on Food


CHICAGO—The Neighborhood Writing Alliance (NWA) announces “I Always Like Plenty of Napkins,” the Winter 2011 issue of the Journal of Ordinary Thought. This food-themed issue features prose and poetry from Albany Park, Uptown, Chicago Lawn, Bronzeville, the Near West Side, Humboldt Park, and St. Leonard’s House. Photographs of Chicago’s food culture, taken by DePaul University students under the guidance of professor and photographer Jason Reblando, accompany the writing.

The beautiful 96-page journal features:

an introduction by Lisa Yun Lee, Director of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum;

photographs of Chicago’s food scene taken by

DePaul University students taught by professor and photographer Jason Reblando;

and writing by over 60 NWA writers.

Read prose and poetry about food justice issues, food memories, and food culture:

  • “Too many fat kids going to

Too many burger joints, taco joints, pizza joints, fried fish joints, BBQ joints

Too many McDonald’s, Burger Kings, White Castles, Taco Bells…”

Christelle Evans

Hall Branch Library, Thursday Writing Group

  • “Years later, I remember sitting on the side of the bed when he was in a wheelchair, as together we ate Archway cookies, cheese, and Pepsi on ice.”

Jeanette Moton

Hall Branch Library, Monday Writing Group

  • “But a true Greek salad, a true horiatiki, is not of the Food Industrial Complex; it is of the village. In Greece, open-air markets are still alive and well. Every town has local growers who gather on the weekends to sell fresh produce to their neighbors.”

Stavroula Harissis

Albany Park Branch Library

NWA writers will present their work on Tuesday, March 15 from 6-8 p.m.

at the Jane Addams Hull House Museum Residents’ Dining Hall (800 S. Halsted).

Admission is free, and complimentary copies of “I Always Like Plenty of Napkins” will be available.

This location is handicap accessible.

The Neighborhood Writing Alliance is a Chicago-based not-for-profit that runs writing workshops for adults in low-income Chicago neighborhoods and publishes pieces from those workshops in its quarterly, award-winning publication, the Journal of Ordinary Thought. NWA presents the writers and their work in 25–30 events and readings each year. NWA workshops are free and open to adults of all levels of writing experience.


All 146 Victims Of Triangle Fire Now Identified: Centennial Commemoration

[In less than a month, the centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire will be commemorated, with an extensive series of programs in New York and others in major cities around the country, including Los Angeles and Chicago (see the Triangle Remembered site for a national calendar of events and more details).  146 young workers died in that tragedy, dubbed “The Fire That Changed America” by David von Drehle in his book on the history and effect of that inferno.  The Chicago Labor & Arts Festival is involved in the commemoration of that event in Chicago, looking backward to the early days of the 20th century and the trade union and labor movement that emerged from those flames;  but also looking forward to the prospects for workers today.  This New York Times article brings to a close the long search to identify all the victims of that event. — Lew Rosenbaum]

100 Years Later, the Roll of the Dead in a Factory Fire Is Complete

From left, Max Florin, Fannie Rosen, Dora Evans and Josephine Cammarata were among the final six unidentified victims of the Triangle Waist Company factory fire of 1911, which killed 146 and influenced building codes, labor laws and politics in the years that followed. 

Published: February 20, 2011

In the Cemetery of the Evergreens on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, there is a haunting stone monument to the garment workers who died in the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire of 1911 but were never identified. It contains the bas-relief figure of a kneeling woman, her head bowed, seemingly mourning not only the deaths, but also the fact that those buried below were so badly charred that relatives could not recognize them.

Yana Paskova for The New York Times:  Michael Hirsch, an amateur genealogist and historian, helped attach names to the six “unknowns.”
Yana Paskova for The New York Times:  Michael Hirsch at Calvary Cemetery in Queens. Victims of the 1911 Triangle shirtwaist factory fire are buried there.

Almost a century after the fire, the five women and one man, all buried in coffins under the Evergreens monument, remained unknown to the public at large, though relatives and descendants knew that a loved one had never returned from the burning blouse factory.

Now those six have been identified, largely through the persistence of a researcher, Michael Hirsch, who became obsessed with learning all he could about the victims after he discovered that one of those killed, Lizzie Adler, a 24-year-old greenhorn from Romania, had lived on his block in the East Village.

And so, for the first time, at the centennial commemoration of the fire on March 25 outside the building in Greenwich Village where the Triangle Waist Company occupied the eighth, ninth and 10th floors, the names of all 146 dead will finally be read.

The fire was a wrenching event in New York’s history, one that had a profound influence on building codes, labor laws, politics and the beginning of the New Deal two decades later.

Among the most anguishing aspects was the memory of the more than 50 young immigrant women and men who were forced to leap from the high floors to escape the inferno. However, many of the 146 victims — 129 women and 17 men — burned to death in the loft building, at Washington Place and Greene Street, and had no telltale jewelry or clothing to help identify them.

The day the six unidentified victims were buried was the culmination of the city’s outpouring of grief; hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers turned out in a driving rain for a symbolic funeral procession sponsored by labor unions and other organizations, while hundreds of thousands more watched from the sidewalks.

A century later, names and even circumstances have finally been attached to those “unknowns.”

“We consider his list to be the best ever produced on the question,” said Curtis Lyons, director of the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives at Cornell University, which holds one of the most thorough repositories about the Triangle fire.

Workers United, the garment workers’ union, and David Von Drehle, who wrote “Triangle: The Fire That Changed America,” a 2003 history of the fire, said they also regarded Mr. Hirsch’s list as the most authoritative.

Descendants of those who perished, like a great-granddaughter of one 33-year-old victim, Maria Lauletti, were heartened by the news, though no one interviewed had yet made a decision whether to exhume bodies from the Evergreens cemetery and attempt a DNA match.

“It means that there’s recognition that she actually died in the fire,” said Mary Ann Lauletti Hacker, 57, of Fountain Hills, Ariz. “To me, that’s a finality. She positively can be part of the record of those who died.”

No New York City agencies and no newspapers at the time produced a complete list of the dead, Mr. Hirsch said. The most thorough list — 140 names — was compiled by Mr. Von Drehle when he wrote his book, and that was largely based on names plucked from accounts in four contemporary newspapers.

The obscurity of their names is evidence of the times, when lives were lived quietly and people were forced by economic and familial circumstances to swiftly move on from tragedies — with no Facebook or reality television cameras to record their every step and thought.

Mr. Hirsch, 50, an amateur genealogist and historian who was hired as a co-producer of the coming HBO documentary “Triangle: Remembering the Fire,” undertook an exhaustive search lasting more than four years. He returned to the microfilms of mainstream daily newspapers overlooked by researchers before him and to ethnic publications that he asked to have translated, like the Yiddish-language Jewish Daily Forward and Il Giornale Italiano. He estimates that he consulted 32 different newspapers.

He looked for articles about people who, in the weeks after the fire, claimed that their relatives were still missing. He then matched what he discovered with census records, death and burial certificates, marriage licenses, and reports kept by unions and charities about funeral and “relief” payments made to the families of the dead. Lastly, he sought out the descendants of three of the unidentified to confirm that the names he found were still mourned as Triangle victims.

“I’m passionate about the history of this neighborhood,” Mr. Hirsch said of the combined Lower East Side and East Village, where most of the workers had lived. “From my window, I can see the stairs that Lizzie Adler had probably walked down to go to the factory the day of the fire.”

Typical of his illuminating morsels was an article in the Forward asking if anyone had seen Max Florin, a 23-year-old immigrant from Russia and one of the six unidentified victims. “We believe that he survived the fire, but from great fear and being upset he went mad and is wandering the streets,” the article said, in Mr. Hirsch’s rough paraphrasing. “He is of average height and was wearing a black suit.”

Mr. Hirsch began his quest modestly by trying to confirm existing lists. He found that they contained misspelled names, names of those who had actually survived and of those who had not worked at the factory. He was not surprised, given the bureaucratic fumbling and hurried journalism that often follows tumultuous disasters.

He also learned that a name of one identified victim had been omitted. He found an article bypassed by earlier compilers in The New York Times from March 31, 1911, about someone named Jacob Dashefsky, who had come forward six days after the fire to say that his sister Bessie, 25, a Russian immigrant, had not returned home. Her body was identified through dental records and barely missed being buried at the funeral for the unidentified on April 5, 1911. That finding convinced him that there were others who had been omitted for similar reasons.

Mr. Hirsch visited the graves of each of the known victims, who had been buried in 16 cemeteries, to further ensure a comprehensive list. At Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens, he came across what he called “my Rosetta Stone.”

He was looking for the monument for Isabella Tortorelli, 17, but instead found a family monument whose Italian inscription spoke of “due sorelle” — two sisters — who perished in the fire. Mr. Hirsch had never seen the name of Isabella’s older sister, Maria Giuseppa Lauletti, on any list before. He checked with the Calvary office and was told that her body was not in the grave.

He located her granddaughter, Mrs. Hacker, in Arizona, who told him that the family had never been able to single out Ms. Lauletti’s body among the unidentified bodies, suggesting that she was probably buried at Evergreens. She also informed him that Ms. Lauletti had been an immigrant from Sicily and the mother of five children, four of whom were put in an orphanage after the fire.

On his own, Mr. Hirsch found a 1912 report by the Red Cross that sought to protect the anonymity of the families receiving cash payments but whose details matched that of Ms. Lauletti. It also revealed that the mother of “Number 85,” as Ms. Lauletti had been identified, was “almost crazed with grief” and “did nothing but moan and weep for weeks.”

A version of this article appeared in print on February 21, 2011, on page A13 of the New York edition.

Further resources of related materials on this blog:

Lew Rosenbaum on the centennial of Triangle (Aug. 10, 2010)

Book release on Triangle in New York, March 3

Walking Through A River Of Fire:  100 Years of Triangle Poetry edited by Julia Stein, intro by Jack Hirschman, published by CC Marimbo is now available (order here for $12.00)

Julia Stein compiled a bibliography of Triangle related poetry, literature and literary criticism.

One of the worst, unpunished industrial homicide in American history:  Anthony Prince writes about Triangle in The People’s Tribune

How Rahm Won And The Future Of Chicago

Next Week’s Topic in Public Square’s Cafe Society Discussions Focuses on the Chicago Mayoral race

Café Society will be meeting at the Valois (1518 East 53rd St, Chicago) from 7-8 pm and at Panera Bread (1126 E Walnut St, Carbondale) from 7:30-8:30 pm on Thursday, March 3 or have your own discussions using our Cafe Society DIY Toolkit

Rahm and Chicago

From “The role race played in Emanuel’s victory” by Angela Caputo

“For months, speculation has run high over how voters from communities of color would swing with Mayor Richard M. Daley sitting out the first mayoral election in more than two decades. Would a black consensus candidate peel away enough votes to push front runners Rahm Emanuel and Gery Chico into a runoff? Would Latinos finally flex their political muscle at the ballot box? In the end, voters from both black and Latino wards threw more support behind the candidate that most resembled Daley — Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel — than any other candidate in the race, a Chicago Reporter analysis of preliminary election returns found.”

Questions for Consideration

How important were race-based voting blocks in this recent mayoral election? What is your vision for Chicago with Emanuel slated to be the next mayor? Why do you think most Chicago voters (more than 800,000 Chicagoans) stayed home rather than going to the polls? What can we do to better engage and mobilize the public for local elections? How will or won’t Emanuel’s mayorship mirror the statewide and national influence of the Daley administration?

Want to learn more?

Rahm Emanuel Wins
Rahm Won, But who has the Vision we Need?
More than 800,000 Chicagoans took a pass on this year’s historic election
Chicago, We’ve Only Just Begun
Chicago Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel Sweeps On Low Turnout

Café Society SCHEDULE

1st Thursdays

  • 7-8 p.m., Valois, 1518 E 53rd St, Chicago
  • 7:30-8:30 p.m., Panera Bread, 1126 E Walnut St, Carbondale

2nd Fridays

  • 5-6 p.m., Ron’s Barber Shop, 6058 W North Ave, Chicago

3rd Wednesdays

  • 1:00-2:00 p.m., Chicago Cultural Center’s Randolph Street Café, 77 E Randolph St,Chicago

4th Week

  • Roving Cafe Society, Location, date, and time to be announced.

If you need a sign interpreter or require other arrangements to fully participate, please call 312.422.5580. For parking locations near the facility, please visit Chicago Parking

Who Says Art And Politics Don’t Mix? Tom Morello & The Battle of Madison


Tom Morello performs at the Capitol in Madison, WI.
Photograph by Narayan Mahon for
By Tom Morello
February 25, 2011 5:25 PM ET

I’ve played hundreds of protests. I’ve marched on dozens of picket lines. I’ve strummed my guitar at innumerable demonstrations. I’ve been arrested more times than I’m willing to put in print in support of striking workers. But I thought now is the time to take a break. I have a 16-month-old son crawling around on the floor and another baby boy about to be born any day now, so I decided to curtail the traveling, the protesting, the rocking.

And then I turned on the news. For days I had been following the exciting events in Cairo and across the Middle East. But when I turned on the television and saw 100,000 people marching through the streets of MADISON, WISCONSIN to protest an anti-union bill put forward by some schmuck named Governor Walker it caught my attention. I turned to my wife and said, “Honey, our boys are gonna grow up to be union men.” She sighed and replied, “The Nightwatchman is needed. You should go.”

And so The Nightwatchman went.

A nice lady at the airport looked at my guitar and politely asked, “Why are you going to Madison, young man?” I replied, “Because they’re making history in Madison, ma’am. And I don’t want to miss it.”

So I flew to Chicago with Wayne Kramer (of the legendary MC5) only to find that all the flights to Madison had been cancelled due to a big winter storm. But neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor dark of night can keep The Nightwatchman from his appointed task. My good friend and fellow musician from Libertyville, Illinois, Ike Reilly, picked us up at the airport and together with our small crew of rabble-rousers we began the precarious journey up I-90 through the storm. Cars and trucks were piled up in the ditch along the roadside, but with fortitude and constant reminders from elder statesman Wayne Kramer that “We’re in no hurry here. Slow down, brother,” we made it safely to Madison.

Upon arrival, we linked up with the Boston band Street Dogs and Tim McIlrath from Rise Against, all sturdy union supporters. We had a great meeting with representatives of the AFL-CIO to make plans for the following day. They have been one of the unions spearheading these historic protests but I sensed that they were somewhat nervous about me staying “on message.” Perhaps they had read stories about riots at Rage Against the Machine shows, or maybe because I was decked out head-to-toe in my Industrial Workers of the World gear. Anyway, I was eager to get to the Capitol building and into the action.

The Capitol building in Madison has been occupied by students and workers for more than ten days now. But at 11 PM the doors are locked, and if you’re in, you’re in, and if you’re out, you’re out. We were out. And so one of the protesters on the inside claimed that I was his intern in order to slip me through security. Once inside, I was amazed at what I saw: the building was packed with a cross section of the people of Madison, all demanding justice. There were students, teachers, firefighters, policemen, veterans, nurses, old hippies and young rebels in every corner and corridor of the building. There was a festive spirit in the air and a determined feeling that they were indeed making history. On my way out, I was actually “bro-ing down” with some cops…AT A PROTEST. Quite new for me. The police were union men themselves, and wholly supportive of the protesters, and I thought, “This is a strange and new, exciting day indeed when the police are delivering bratwurst to the students occupying the State Capitol and high-fiving The Nightwatchman.”

The Apostate: A New Yorker Exposé Of The Church Of Scientology

The Apostate
Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology.
by Lawrence Wright February 14, 2011

On August 19, 2009, Tommy Davis, the chief spokesperson for the Church of Scientology International, received a letter from the film director and screenwriter Paul Haggis. “For ten months now I have been writing to ask you to make a public statement denouncing the actions of the Church of Scientology of San Diego,” Haggis wrote. Before the 2008 elections, a staff member at Scientology’s San Diego church had signed its name to an online petition supporting Proposition 8, which asserted that the State of California should sanction marriage only “between a man and a woman.” The proposition passed. As Haggis saw it, the San Diego church’s “public sponsorship of Proposition 8, which succeeded in taking away the civil rights of gay and lesbian citizens of California—rights that were granted them by the Supreme Court of our state—is a stain on the integrity of our organization and a stain on us personally. Our public association with that hate-filled legislation shames us.” Haggis wrote, “Silence is consent, Tommy. I refuse to consent.” He concluded, “I hereby resign my membership in the Church of Scientology.”
Haggis was prominent in both Scientology and Hollywood, two communities that often converge. Although he is less famous than certain other Scientologists, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, he had been in the organization for nearly thirty-five years. Haggis wrote the screenplay for “Million Dollar Baby,”. . . Click here to read more[

[The New Yorker article is huge;  if you want a “Cliff’s Notes” version, try this “What You Need to Know” article. — LR]

How Uprisings In Egypt And Tunisia Fit In With Global Capitalism

[This perceptive analysis places the Middle Eastern uprisings in the context of a global economic crisis, a global shift in productive forces, and the attempts of global capital to protect private, corporate property.  — Lew Rosenbaum]

From the Editors: Middle East Upheaval Signals New Era
Rally,Comrades Jan/Feb/March 2011 (forthcoming)

Global capitalism in the age of electronics and the attendant neoliberal policies have created a huge and widening gap between wealth and poverty across the world. Repression of all opposition to neocolonial states whose political systems serve global capitalism has for decades succeeded in maintaining the status quo.

The current crisis of global capitalism – a consequence of the transformation from production based on electro-mechanics to one based on electronics – is threatening the capitalist relations of production based on the exploitation of wage labor. The capitalists in the advanced countries are squeezing their own workers in an effort to escape the crisis. However, the devastation brought about by neoliberal policies on workers in the neocolonies has been much more severe.

The social revolutions that have recently occurred in Latin American countries (e.g Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador) are a consequence of this world economic transformation that is taking place before our eyes. The Tunisian and Egyptian upheavals that overthrew two vicious dictators who were allied with global capitalism and neoliberal policies through the U.S. imperial project, are but the two most recent examples of the same process.

The main features of the Latin American political transformation are rather clear. They are anti-imperialist, but not anti-capitalist. These are nationalist regimes that are trying to solve economic, social, and political contradictions within global capitalism.

The participation of all sectors of society in the Tunisian and Egyptian upheavals indicates the nationalist character of those upheavals. They also have a pan-Arab nationalist character that has no counterpart in the Latin American examples (i.e., no Pan-Latin American character to the extent of the Pan-Arab). This is critical, especially as the upheavals spread to other parts of the Arab world.

This stage of the revolutionary process is different from the previous stage where colonies fought against direct colonialism under the leadership of the national bourgeoisie. The revolutions against direct colonialism fitted the needs of global capital so long as a national bourgeoisie dependent on neo-imperialism led them.

Even though this stage of the revolutionary process has begun as all-class nationalism, it cannot be sustained under conditions of crisis in global capitalism caused by the epoch-making transformations in production.

The outstanding feature of the struggle today is that there is no longer two paths. No matter the ideological veneers – that struggle must turn against private property and for some form of communist reconstruction.

This is the reason we see the idea presented by the ruling class that what is needed is to get rid of the dictators and corruption and everything will be all right. This is the reason why the “liberal” wing of the national bourgeoisie suddenly appears on the stage in every neocolony.

An entire new epoch is emerging. Today, the bellies are the determining factor. The polarization of wealth and poverty is creating tensions that have inevitably broken the chain at its weakest links (e.g. Tunisia and Egypt).

Given all the general factors – liberation with capitalism simply won’t work as a base for social liberation. Since there is no going back, the emerging of class interests will compel the process to move to the next stage – direct struggle against private property in the form of nationalization (the reversal of privatization) and ultimately, the distribution of the social product according to need, regardless of ability to pay for the necessities of life.

Humanity is living through dangerous times. It is a time when revolutionaries fully expect the capitalists to fight to the death for the survival of private property in one form or another. The danger lies in that revolutionary parties over the past half-century (with few exceptions) have been devastated. They have been physically liquidated or made peace with the class enemy. They have been replaced by “civil society” organizations who advocate peaceful change within the system while vehemently opposing a communist resolution to the crisis that humanity is facing. That solution is the public ownership of the means of production and distribution according to need.

The proletariat, the large mass of humanity, is facing a vicious enemy with no organization and program that is capable of carrying the revolutionary process to its conclusion. What is required of revolutionaries is to determine the line of march and build organizations capable of seeing that revolutionary process reaches its ultimate conclusion.

For the first time an objective communist class is forming to become the foundation for a communist political movement. Globalization creates this new class everywhere. Global unity is the condition of its national emancipation. The League extends its hand of comradeship around the globe.

Here are a few selections from Rally, Comrades! that give perspective on the world events unfolding today.

For more information on Rally Comrades! or the League of Revolutionaries for a New America, click here:

Rahm Emanuel (Voldemort?) Elected Mayor of Chicago

[Looking to local Chicago news to tell us about the election?  Hey try London instead.  The Guardian gives at least a context within which the campaign was fought — bankrupt cities and rapidly expanding poverty.  Look to Indymedia to paint Rahm in the darkest hues possible: Voldemort has arisen from Azkhaban.  — Lew Rosenbaum]

Rahm Emanuel elected mayor of Chicago

Emanuel, the former aide to Barack Obama, needed to win the race by 50% or more to avoid a run-off election which he has done easily, overwhelming five rivals to take the helm of the third-largest US city

Video Of/About Wisconsin Demonstrations Against Scott Walker

There is no order to these videos.  More will be added as people send them to me or as I glean them from the web. Most recent added are at bottom of each section (Video and Text)

Video Links Solidarity video from Madison Todd Alan Price in Madison Todd Alan Price in Madison Young trade unionists in Maryland I am a teacher Noam Chomsky on Democracy Now Rachel Maddow – Poke A Badger In The Eye TRNN: Class Struggle in Wisconsin. Paul Jay interviews AFL-CIO leader Cheesehead rally, NYC 2/18/2011 Impromptu b-boying in the rotunda State Senator Lena Taylor: Teachers are in the house!  2/15/2011 Firefighters at the capitol — bagpipers!/jobswithjustice Jobs With Justice site follows the activities closely with video, photo and text Matt Wisniewski’s excellent video beautifully captures the mood.  He sets up shots from the rallies of 2/15-2/17 to a background of Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion (Lies)” The ED show (NY) calls on Democrats to have backbone, support workers (interesting clip of Ted Kennedy) The ED show from Madison Feb. 18 focuses on concessions made by workers, applauded by Democrats, and rejected by Scott Walker Matt Rothschild (The Progressive Magazine) talks with TRNN about the history of progressivism in Wisconsin and the current battle) Posted by Michael Shallal, Cabbies support the Madison demonstrators Rep. Gordon Hintz chews out his colleagues for trying to force the “Repair Bill” through Matthew Wisnewski’s part 2, Feb. 18 and 19, set to “The Cave” by Mumford and Sons Straightforward explanation about the situation surrounding the Wisconsin demos and the “Budget Repair Bill.” This is the first video by this 22 year old.  Hope to see a lot more Rachel Maddow drops some valuable Wisconsin and workers history to put things into perspective (then goes into her analysis, that this is all intended to give Republicans local and then national dominance in electoral politics): Todd Alan Price interviews, along with Luciano on camera (about one hour) Police officer testifies about the peaceful protests, Limbaugh and Fox News distortions Todd Alan Price for The Nation TRNN examines how cutbacks in public services/public workers is a phony solution Paul Jay (TRNN) proposes that Wisconsin’s billionaires should make some sacrifices too . . . In this video from New York’s Ed Notes, Ed Schultz conducts interviews at a protest rally in front of Fox News HQ.  The video ends with a brillian satirical speech, imploring the crowd to pity the poor, suffering billionaires. Whoops!  Cutting benefits may actually COST money . . . Substance News video of the Feb. 26 solidarity with Wisconsin demo.  Background: Utah Phillips sings Solidarity Forever TRNN sums up the struggle after the rally March 5, 2011 Two Weeks In Madison, a tribute video which is very effective Wisconsin Senate passes anti-collective bargaining bill  March 9, 2011

Music Pete Seeger and a “Solidarity Forever” video montage Tom Morello sings “World Wide Rebel Songs” and brings greetings from Cairo to Madison Tom Morello sings to a rally on the state Capitol Utah Phillips backs this video up with an especially sonorous Solidarity Forever Wayne Kramer is joined by Tom Morello and a bunch of others for jamming Kick Out The Jams

And Text and Non Video: Wisconsin Wave AAUP comments posted  on this blog Ohio threatens public workers Sherry Linkon & John Russo testimony re Ohio Matt Rothschild on Wisconsin wars Truthout: Wisconsinites rally 45 Best signs at the Capitol Capital Times: Walker’s budget aids cronies Walker rejects unions concessions Tracy Fuller, Exec. Director of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association regrets/repudiates endorsement of Scott Walker Dave Zirin calls on Green Bay Packer quarterback and shop steward, Aaron Rodgers to take a stand in Wisconsin Russ Feingold rallies workers in Madison Wisconsin uprising spreads to Indiana and beyond Walker’s statement shows the bill is not intended to solve the “economic crisis in Wisconsin” SEIU Local 721:  All eyes are on Wisconsin 12 things you need to know about the Wisconsin uprising (Alternet)!/album. Brett Jelinek’s extraordinary photo album of the rally Saturday, Feb. 19 From Cairo to Madison, Free Pizza!  Culinary solidarity in action West Virginia public workers rally in support of Wisconsin workers and to win rights for themselves This German source for news about labor in the US has a section on Wisconsin.  This blog is sourced there as well as other info. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder won’t pick fights with unions Indiana Democrat legislators follow the lead of their Wisconsin colleagues AFL-CIO reports that Indiana Republicans withdrew right=to=work legislation Iowans rally to support Wisconsin demonstrations NYT reports on battles in other states, catching Wisconsin fever Egyptian unions support Wisconsin protesters Rose Ann De Moro on refusing to make benefits concessions Garth Liebhaber’s photos in Madison highlight members of the Chicago Teachers Union Saturday, Feb 26 will be the last day demonstrators will be allowed to occupy the capitol building in Wisconsin — unless officials heed the advice of the police. Tom Morello, Madison, Frostbite and Freedom Missouri considering “right to work” Taxpayers Contribute Nothing To Public Employee Pensions Bill Glahn interviews Wayne Kramer of the MC5, archival story from The Big O with relevance for today Poet Brenda Cardenas reports from the scene and reflects on personal and political history This link is a restricted one and requires that you are “friends” with Lew Rosenbaum on facebook.   Nick Lampert, Aaron Hughes and Dan Wang appeal from Wisconsin. Anti collective bargaining passed by Wisconsin Senate

Waist Deep In The Big Muddy. . .How We Can Save 100 Billion Bux

[Pete Seeger, about 45 years ago, wrote a lyric: “Waist deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool says to push on.” (click the link for a youtube performance). Tom Engelhardt writes a reprise in his Tomgram:]

Tomgram: Engelhardt, Waist Deep in the Washington Quagmire
Posted by Tom Engelhardt at 10:02am, February 17, 2011.

Cutting $100 Billion?… Easy
If Only Washington Had a Brain

By Tom Engelhardt

Here’s the latest news from Congress, in case you’ve been in Afghanistan for the last couple of weeks.  A debate about slashing the federal budget is now upon us, while fears of a possible government shutdown as spring approaches are on the rise.  The Republican leadership of the House of Representatives originally picked $40 billion as its target figure for cuts to the as-yet-not-enacted 2011 budget. That was the gauntlet it threw down to the Obama administration, only to find its own proposal slashed to bits by the freshman class of that body’s conservative majority.

They insisted on adhering to a Republican Pledge to America vow to cut $100 billion from the budget.  With that figure back on the table, Democrats are gasping, while pundits are predicting widespread pain in the land, including the possible loss of at least 70,000 jobs “as government aid to cops, teachers, and research is slashed.”

In the meantime, the Obama administration has hustled its own entry in the cut-and-burn sweepstakes into place, leaving Democrats again gasping.  Its plan calls for ending or trimming more than 200 federal programs next year.  It also reportedly offers cuts adding up to $1.1 trillion over a decade and puts in place a “five-year freeze on domestic programs [that] would reduce spending in that category to the lowest level, measured against the economy, since President Dwight D. Eisenhower left office in 1961.”

It all sounds daunting, and the muttering is only beginning about “entitlement” programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — that have yet to be touched.

Which reminds me: Didn’t I mention Afghanistan?

If so, how fortunate, because there’s a perfectly obvious path toward that Republican goal of $100 billion.  If we were to embark on it, there would be even more cuts to follow and — believe it or not — they wouldn’t be all that painful, provided we did one small thing: change our thinking about making war.

After all, according to the Pentagon, the cost of the Afghan War in 2012 will be almost $300 million a day or, for all 365 of them, $107.3 billion.  Like anything having to do with American war-fighting, however, such figures regularly turn out to be undercounts.  Other estimates for our yearly war costs there go as high as $120-$160 billion.

And let’s face it, it’s a war worth ending fast.  Almost a decade after the Bush administration invaded Afghanistan, the U.S. military is still fruitlessly engaged in possibly the stupidest frontier war in our history, thousands of miles from home in the backlands of the planet.  It’s just the sort of dumb conflict that has, historically, tended to drive declining imperial powers around the bend, just the sort — in the very same country — that helped do in the Soviet Union.  And though news from that war remains remarkably grim, were we by some miracle to win, for hundreds of billions of dollars we would have gained tenuous control over the fifth poorest, second most corrupt, and premier narco-state on the planet.  Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, would undoubtedly still be happily ensconced in the Pakistani tribal border areas with a range of superbly failed states available elsewhere for exploitation.

There’s genuine money to be slashed simply by bringing the troops home, but okay, I hear you.  You live in Washington and you can’t bear to give up that war, lock, stock, and barrel.

I understand.  Really, I do.  So let’s just pretend that we’re part of that “moderate” and beleaguered House leadership and really only want to go after $40 billion in the 2011 federal budget.

In that case, here’s an idea! We’ve been training the Afghan military and police forces for almost a decade now, dumping an estimated $29-billion-plus into the endeavor, only to find that, unlike the Taliban, our Afghans generally prefer not to fight and love to desert.  What if the Obama administration were simply to stop the training program?  What if we weren’t to spend the $11.6 billion slated for this year, or the up-to-$12.8 billion being discussed for next year, or the $6 billion or more annually thereafter to create a security force of nearly 400,000 Afghans that we’ll have to pay for into eternity, since the Afghan government is essentially broke?

What if, instead, we went cold turkey on our obsession with training Afghans?  For one thing, you’d promptly wipe out more than a quarter of that $40 billion the House leadership wants cut and many more billions for years to come.  (And that doesn’t even take into account all the saveable American dollars going down the tubes in Afghanistan — a recent report from the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction suggested it adds up to $12 billion for the Afghan Army alone — in graft, corruption, and pure incompetence.)

Think about it this way: Are we actually safer if we get rid of police, firefighters, and teachers here in the U.S., while essentially hiring hordes of police and military personnel to secure Afghanistan?  I suspect you know how most Americans would answer that question.  [This article does not end here: to read more click this link]

Borders Closes 5 Chicago Stores

[As someone whose livelihood was put in jeopardy by the “bookstore wars,” the battle between the big box bookstores that hit Chicago in the early 80’s, I have reason to cast a jaundiced eye at the bankruptcy of Borders.  Those of us who speculated about the challenge of the superstores at that time had a greater respect for Borders than for Barnes & Noble.  There was a reason for that.  Borders started as an independent.  They were renowned for their wide selection of books.  We also hated their methods as they began to expand: sort of a franchise operation, all claiming to be independent of each other, so that Borders the original could claim a distributor’s discount to their franchised stores.  When Barnes & Noble decided to go into the superstore business (it is amusing that their official history claims they invented the superstore), they did so with such a capital investment, such a rush, that Borders was left far behind despite their head start.
In Chicago, they claimed control of the market first with their flagship store on Michigan Avenue.  While Barnes & Noble pursued a suburban strategy, they surrendered Chicago dominance to their competitor.  For a time Barnes & Noble sought space on Michigan Avenue, in Streeterville, in the plagued development of Block 37, ultimately to settle for a college store in conjunction with DePaul on State Street.  They pursued a college store strategy securing the locations at Loyola, Northwestern and University of Chicago before the downtown DePaul store.  And as the two behemoths slugged it out, they both foundered, like heavyweights too topheavy to make it through 15 rounds, exhausted in the battle.  In August, 2010 Barnes & Noble put itself up for sale and languished for lack of a buyer.  Various rumors surfaced that the two chains would merge, that Barnes & Noble would go into chapter 11 along with Borders, rumors that are still out there.  A bankruptcy index last week speculated that, despite strong holiday sales the look for Barnes & Noble is not great.  Others speculate that the closing of 30% of Borders stores will aid Amazon and Barnes & Noble.    Looking at the statistics, while Borders has over 600 stores (before the closings), Barnes & Noble has more than 1300 (if you include both the college and retail divisions).  Should Chapter 11 hit Barnes & Noble, the shock wave of closings would be extraordinary.
There will be 6,000 unemployed Borders workers on the streets as their stores close. That is something none of us should gloat over, regardless of our personal experience with the chain bookstores.  Something similar could happen with Barnes & Noble.   It’s true that in the past 10 years the chains have become worse than ever.  Walking into a Barnes & Noble is like walking into a tomb for books, despite the  number of book cases.  Amazon, the “Kindle” and on-line bookselling has something to do with it: the underlying story is the electronicization, the digitization of the industry which makes a bricks and mortar strategy incomprehensible on the scale of the superstores. The other question that anyone ought to consider:  after years of an economic battle which decimated the independent book industry, the loss of 30% of the chain stores will leave a “bricks and mortar” void that takes a strategic view to overcome.  — Lew Rosenbaum]
Borders Group Inc filed for bankruptcy protection and said it would close about one-third of its bookstores, including about half of its Chicago area stores. 

According to Chicago Breaking Business, “five of eight stores in Chicago will close, including the one at North Avenue and Halsted Street, as well as those in Lincoln Park, Uptown, Lincoln Village and Beverly. The Hyde Park store is in the process of closing and will shut its doors on March 7. This means the only Borders superstore left in the city will be in the Loop.

Borders stores in Evanston, Mount Prospect, Deerfield, Bolingbrook, St. Charles, Crystal Lake, McHenry, DeKalb and Matteson are also slated for closure. Outside of Illinois, locations in Merrillville, Ind., and Fox Point, Wis., will be closing.”

All 200 closings will be superstores, and about 6,000 jobs will be affected, the company said. It has the option of closing up to 275 in all, according to court documents. It said the stores it wants to close lose a combined $2 million a week. The closings will start by Saturday. The company said it will honor gift cards.

From WBBM news:  The following Borders Bookstores will be closing:

• 2817 N. Clark St., Chicago
• 755 W. North Ave., Chicago
• 4718 N. Broadway, Chicago
• 2210 W. 95th St., Chicago
• 6103 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
• 1700 Maple Ave., Evanston
• 7100 W. Forest Preserve Dr., Norridge
• 909 N. Elmhurst Rd., Mount Prospect
• 4824 W. 211th St., Matteson
• 49 S. Waukegan Rd. , Deerfield
• 3539 E. Main St., St. Charles
• 161 N. Webber Rd., Bolingbroook
• 221 Richmond Rd., McHenry
• 600 Northwest Highway, Crystal Lake
• 2704 Southlake Mall, Merrillville, Ind.