28 June, 2007

Friday June 29, 2007

Solidarity Announcements

Justice For Janitors @ UMass Boston


This information will go out soon on the Boston SDS list serv, but for heads up:

So there is going to be a teach-in/solidarity meeting for the UMB
janitors on Saturday, July 7th at 12 pm at the SEIU labor union office
located at 26 West St in downtown Boston (by the Park Street stop).
There will be at least one UMB janitor sharing his/her story, and
student activists from various Boston colleges, some SEIU organizers
and hopefully as many professors/staff that we can turn out. At this
teach in, we will be discussing plans for a street action (most likely
a march) that will take place Thursday July 12th at 4 pm (location
TBA). We NEED students for the teach-in/march to support janitors!

Would you/someone/more than one person from UMB/student groups be
able to make the teach in and/or the march? I ask because for the
march to be feasible, turn out is highly important. So far there are
about 25 UMB janitors who can make it and we're looking to turn out at
least 25 community members/UMB staff and students, so knowing would be
helpful.

It would be great to have some UMB students at the teach in to further
discuss this too...so hopefully this info. is far enough in advance
for you to make it? Feel free to call me with questions, etc. or just
email me and let me know if you can make the events. We're relying
HEAVILY on whatever support we can get from UMB students :)

Assembling Peace V


A benefit for the Greater Boston Stop the Wars Coaltion on Friday July 13th at Spontaneous Celebrations 45 Danforth St, Jamaica Plain, MA (near Orange Line Stony Brook Station). www.stopthewars.org

Appearing live in concert:

The Gary Backstrom Band

Jimmy Ryan

The Grass Gypsys

Andrew Alexander

Nicolas Despo

Mike Petrucci & Victor McSurley (of Blue Man Group)

Dreamers Wanted

...and more!

$10 (no one turned away for lack of funds) 21+ Cash bar, raffle, anti-war social, literature from anti-war groups available.


Chris, Jeff, and Dave Read the Papers

The Boston Globe
Harvard building project stirs fear
Arboretum neighbors dread open space loss


By April Yee, Globe Correspondent | June 27, 2007

ROSLINDALE -- Harvard's plan to build a 45,000-square-foot research facility next to the Arnold Arboretum has nearby residents dreading the disappearance of open space, and a handful hope they can stonewall, if not stop, the powerful university.

"It's sort of us against Harvard," said Frank O'Brien, whose grandparents bought a house next to the arboretum 70 years ago and who lives in a house on the same street. "Just because Harvard can do something doesn't mean it should do something."

Harvard wants to build a two-story brick-and-glass building to house the arboretum's administration and research at the base of a hill near the corner of Centre and Weld streets, on a 14.2-acre lot the university bought in 1922.

In the four years since Harvard announced its plans, residents have joined a city-appointed task force and thronged public meetings. The latest was Monday night, when more than 50 residents voiced their distress to a Harvard representative and to staff from the mayor's office.

While the plan is a small slice of Harvard's expansion into residential areas, residents who have closely watched the university's ongoing push into Allston say they are wary of the university's designs on land around the arboretum.

Councilor John Tobin echoed those concerns Monday night.

"Harvard's a tough customer, been there a long time and good at what they do," Tobin said in an interview at the meeting at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Roslindale. "You've seen them run roughshod over some of the communities in the city, and they're not going to do that here."

Harvard's director of community relations told residents nothing else would be built on the lot through 2882, the final year of Harvard's lease on the arboretum's 265 acres, which it negotiated with Boston in 1882.

"We have just, as a private property owner, placed a restriction on the use of our property for 875 years," Harvard's director of community relations, Kevin McCluskey, said in an interview yesterday. "Anyone who's unimpressed by that really needs to look more carefully at the situation."

But some residents doubt that Harvard will keep the promise, focusing on a clause in the university's master plan that would allow the Legislature's two houses to modify the restriction by a two-thirds vote.

Some neighbors believe that Harvard can finagle just such a political miracle, however unlikely.

The arboretum glitters on the Emerald Necklace, a 7-mile string of parks laid out before the turn of the century by architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The city maintains security and utilities; Harvard oversees the collections.

Harvard hopes to submit its final plan by August to the Boston Redevelopment Authority. If approved, the plan moves on to the zoning commission.

Yesterday afternoon, O'Brien hand-delivered a letter addressed to Harvard's president-elect, Drew Gilpin Faust, raising his "serious unresolved questions" and "grave misgiving" about building near the arboretum, private land that residents consider their backyard where they walk their dogs and where teenagers gather. He signed the letter: "Very Truly Yours, Weld Hill Woodlands Task Force."

That task force is only weeks old, and O'Brien is its only member, so far.

He grew up on Mendum Street, next to the arboretum. His grandfather walked the paths until the day he died, and in 1963 his parents bought the house where he lives today. O'Brien thinks that because Harvard is a tax-exempt nonprofit, it is obligated to uphold an informal covenant with the community.

"Harvard is not a private equity firm with an English Department attached to it," said O'Brien, 49, a landscape planner. "Harvard is not Donald Trump."

Harvard has reawakened distrust in residents like O'Brien, some of whom can remember when the city sold a public park adjoining the lot in question to an organization now called Hebrew SeniorLife, in the 1950s. O'Brien said his parents circulated a petition while living in a nearby apartment and, with the backing of concerned neighbors, offered to outbid the buyers. Their efforts failed.

After the sale, the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center was built in the park's place and opened in 1963. Now, residents fear that Harvard will not stop at constructing the research facility and will expand into other parts of its privately owned land.

After Monday night's meeting, grade-school teacher Lisa Evans drove home on Weld Street, facing Harvard's lot. She walked around the corner of the stone wall separating Harvard's land from the street, arriving at a chain-link side gate.

She hiked up a gravel path to the chest-high grass. "This is what a wonderful neighbor Harvard is," said Evans, 37.

When she was considering moving from Jamaica Plain in 2003, she heard of Harvard's plans to construct the facility.

Evans got the real estate agent to knock off "a big chunk of change," she said, then moved there anyway.

April Yee can be reached at ayee@globe.com.


Published on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 by Huffington Post
To Tavis Smiley: Ask Clinton, Obama and Edwards Why They Oppose Single Payer Health Insurance
by Miles Mogulescu

As moderator of Thursday’s Democratic Presidential debate, here’s a follow-up question: Do you think your plan is better than Medicare-For-All, or do you fear being attacked as an extremist by Republicans, big insurance, and big pharma and so propose a less effective plan as more politically pragmatic?

The leading Democratic candidates–Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama– criticize America’s broken health care system and call for fundamental change with great rhetorical flair. But when it comes to proposing the most effective plan for change–Medicare-For All– they don’t show an audacity of hope. They show a paucity of courage.

Obama’s rhetoric can soar: “The times has come for universal health care in America…Plans that tinker and halfway measures belong to yesterday…[It’s] wrong when businesses have to layoff one employee because they can’t afford the health care of another. Wrong when a parent cannot take a sick child to the doctor because they cannot afford the bill that comes with it. Wrong when 46 million Americans have no health care at all. In a country that spends more on health care than any other nation on Earth, it’s just wrong.” Or, as John Edwards proclaims, “We put more money into health care than any country in the industrialized world and we get one of the worst products out in the other end.”

Obama, Edwards and Clinton are great at denouncing the problem. But they are timid when suggesting the solution. As with Hillary Clinton’s failed 1993 health care plan, out of fear of being accused by opponents of advocating socialized medicine, Obama’s and Edward’s plans try to piece together a patchwork of employer plans, private insurance, new government regulations, subsidies and tax credits which is over-complicated, only goes part way towards solving the problem, and in Obama’s case does not even guarantee universal coverage. Of course as in 1993, such caution will not keep Republicans and their corporate lobbyist cronies from attacking these plans. The day after Obama announced his plan, Rudolph Guliani denounced it as “socialized medicine.”

Hillary’s 1993 plan and Obama’s and Edward’s 2007 plans all try to build reform on top of the twin pillars of the current flawed American health care system–private insurance and employer-provided benefits–while attempting to fill in the cracks. The problem is that these twin pillars are rotting from their foundations and any reform built on them is likely to collapse.

The first pillar of the system–private insurance–is an inherently flawed means of providing health care. First, the incentive of a private insurance company is to find ways to deny needed care–the less care provided for the same premiums, the higher the profits and the bigger the salaries and bonuses of their top executives. So private health insurance companies pay huge staffs to review claims and deny coverage. Michael Moore’s “Sicko” shows horrifying examples of people who actually have health insurance coverage but suffer from lack of care because insurance companies wrongly denied their claim, and presents eloquent testimony from former insurance company employees about how they were promoted and award bonuses for finding ways to reject coverage.

Second, private health insurance involves a colossal waste of money. Nearly 1/3 of private health insurance premiums go to administrative costs of underwriting (i.e. turning down insurance applications from consumers who might actually need to use their insurance), claims processing (i.e. denying as many claims as possible), marketing and advertising, plus shareholder profits and multi-million dollar executive salaries and bonuses. By contrast, Medicare’s administrative run approximately 2-3% of costs. At the same time, to deal with numerous different insurance companies and their varying claims procedures, doctors and hospitals have to employ large staffs, not to provide care, but just to process insurance claims. Approximately 20% of doctor’s income goes to the overhead of processing insurance. It has been estimated that approximately $350 billion a year of health care dollars goes to administrative costs. Saving most of these costs alone could pay to insure the tens of millions of uninsured Americans in a Medicare–For-All system.

Moreover, the second pillar of the system–employer-provided health insurance–is collapsing. No less a businessman than the chairman of Ford Motor Company stated that employee health costs are “the biggest issue on our plate that we can’t solve. Health care is out of control. It’s a system that’s broke.”

Every year, fewer and fewer employers offer health insurance. Increasingly, most labor/ management disputes are less about wages and working conditions than about health care coverage, as American companies struggle to remain competitive in the world market by reducing benefits, raising deductibles, and increasing employee’s share of premiums. Average health care costs run 7-10% of wages, putting a tremendous burden on American companies who must complete with companies from almost all the other capitalist democracies where health care is provided by the government, not to mention emerging economies like Taiwan which instituted single payer health care a decade ago.

The Big Three automakers issued an incredible statement recently that “The [Canadian] public health-care system reduces total labor costs for automobile manufacturing firms, compared to the cost of equivalent private insurance services purchased by U.S. based automakers; these health insurance savings can amount to several dollars per hour of labor worked. Publicly-funded health care thus accounts for a significant portion of Canada’s overall labor cost advantage in auto assembly, versus the U.S., which in turn has been a significant factor in maintaining and attracting new auto investment to Canada. Recently, Toyota cited the savings in health care costs as the primary reason for deciding to open a new auto plant in Canada rather than the U.S.

The societal costs of a health care system built on private insurance and employer-paid premiums is 49 million uninsured and an equal number of underinsured, rightful insurance claims going unpaid, $350 billion dollars a year in wasted costs, a reduction in America’s economic competitiveness, and the loss of American jobs. Yet this is the rotten system on which Obama, Edwards and Clinton want to build their reforms. As one blog stated, Obama’s plan “offers just enough federal bureaucracy for the GOP to caricature, just enough private insurance involvement to annoy liberals and just enough confusion to keep everyone else from knowing just what to think.” In other words, in 2007, political timidity is no more a guarantee of success than it was in 1993.

The type of hybrid private/public health care patchwork health reform proposed by Obama, Edwards, and Clinton is a vast, untried social experiment which has never been proven to work anywhere in the world. The type of health care program that works–a single payer government run service–has already proven itself in virtually every other capitalist democracy. The US spends twice as much per capita on health care as Britain, France or Canada, yet America ranks only 39th in the world in the health of our people. Life expectancy is shorter and infant mortality higher in the US than in most other wealthy countries.

If the leading Democratic Presidential contenders think that by avoiding proposals for a single payer system they will somehow neutralize the opposition to reform and make their proposals more appealing, they are kidding themselves. It didn’t work for Hillary in 1993 and it won’t work now. It only makes their proposals more complicated and harder to explain to voters. Besides its inherent virtues, a single payer healthcare system is easy to explain–Just like social security (and Medicare of those over 65), every American is automatically enrolled and covered by insurance and every American can choose his or her own doctor. Short, simple and sweet.

Moreover, polls show that Americans are ready to accept single payer health insurance. A recent poll by the Pubic Policy Institute of California found that “by a two-to-one margin, most prefer ‘a universal health insurance program in which everyone is covered under a program like Medicare that is run by the government and financed by the taxpayers’ nationally to ‘the current health insurance system in the United States, in which most people get their health insurance from private employers, but some people have no insurance’ The preference here is a descriptor of what is known as ’single payer.’”

If the Democrats win the Presidency and increase their control of Congress in 2008, there will be one chance to reform health care in America. Whatever system is then put in place, there will likely not be another chance at fundamental reform for another thirty years. Obama’s, Edward’s and Clinton’s timid half-way measures are as likely to be attacked by Republicans, big pharma and the insurance industry as a Medicare-For-All. Why not do it right the first time?

Miles Mogulescu is an entertainment attorney and social justice advocate.

Americans Are Leaning Left, New Poll Finds
By ADAM NAGOURNEY and MEGAN THEE
Published: June 27, 2007

Young Americans are more likely than the general public to favor a government-run universal health care insurance system, an open-door policy on immigration and the legalization of gay marriage, according to a New York Times/CBS News/MTV poll. The poll also found that they are more likely to say the war in Iraq is heading to a successful conclusion.
Where Young Americans’ Views DifferGraphic
Where Young Americans’ Views Differ
Polling Young AmericansVideo
Polling Young Americans
Related
How the Poll Was Conducted (June 27, 2007)
Complete Poll Results (pdf)
New York Times Poll Index
The State of the Youth Nation (mtv.com)

The poll offers a snapshot of a group whose energy and idealism have always been as alluring to politicians as its scattered focus and shifting interests have been frustrating. It found that substantially more Americans ages 17 to 29 than four years ago are paying attention to the presidential race. But they appeared to be really familiar with only two of the candidates, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, both Democrats.

They have continued a long-term drift away from the Republican Party. And although they are just as worried as the general population about the outlook for the country and think their generation is likely to be worse off than that of their parents, they retain a belief that their votes can make a difference, the poll found.

More than half of Americans ages 17 to 29 — 54 percent — say they intend to vote for a Democrat for president in 2008. They share with the public at large a negative view of President Bush, who has a 28 percent approval rating with this group, and of the Republican Party. They hold a markedly more positive view of Democrats than they do of Republicans.

Among this age group, Mr. Bush’s job approval rating after the attacks of Sept. 11 was more than 80 percent. Over the course of the next three years, it drifted downward leading into the presidential election of 2004, when 4 of 10 young Americans said they approved how Mr. Bush was handling his job.

At a time when Democrats have made gains after years in which Republicans have dominated Washington, young Americans appear to lean slightly more to the left than the general population: 28 percent described themselves as liberal, compared with 20 percent of the nation at large. And 27 percent called themselves conservative, compared with 32 percent of the general public.

Forty-four percent said they believed that same-sex couples should be permitted to get married, compared with 28 percent of the public at large. They are more likely than their elders to support the legalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The findings on gay marriage were reminiscent of an exit poll on Election Day 2004: 41 percent of 18-to-29-year-old voters said gay couples should be permitted to legally marry, according to the exit poll.

In the current poll, 62 percent said they would support a universal, government-sponsored national health care insurance program; 47 percent of the general public holds that view. And 30 percent said that “Americans should always welcome new immigrants,” while 24 percent of the general public holds that view.

Their views on abortion mirror those of the public at large: 24 percent said it should not be permitted at all, while 38 percent said it should be made available but with greater restrictions. Thirty-seven percent said it should be generally available.

In one potential sign of shifting attitudes, respondents, by overwhelming margins, said they believed that the nation was prepared to elect as president a woman, a black person or someone who admitted to having used marijuana. But they said that they did not believe Americans would elect someone who had used cocaine or someone who was a Mormon.

Mr. Obama has suggested that he used cocaine as a young man. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a candidate for the Republican nomination, is a Mormon.

By a 52 to 36 majority, young Americans say that Democrats, rather than Republicans, come closer to sharing their moral values, while 58 percent said they had a favorable view of the Democratic Party, and 38 percent said they had a favorable view of Republicans.

Asked if they were enthusiastic about any of the candidates running for president, 18 percent named Mr. Obama, of Illinois, and 17 percent named Mrs. Clinton, of New York. Those two were followed by Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Republican, who was named by just 4 percent of the respondents.

The survey also found that 42 percent of young Americans thought it was likely or very likely that the nation would reinstate a military draft over the next few years — and two-thirds said they thought the Republican Party was more likely to do so. And 87 percent of respondents said they opposed a draft.

But when it came to the war, young Americans were more optimistic about the outcome than was the population as whole. Fifty-one percent said the United States was very or somewhat likely to succeed in Iraq, compared with 45 percent among all adults. Contrary to conventional wisdom, younger Americans have historically been more likely than the population as a whole to be supportive of what a president is doing in a time of war, as they were in Korea and Vietnam, polls have shown.

The nationwide telephone poll — a joint effort by The New York Times, CBS News and MTV — was conducted from June 15 to June 23. It involved 659 adults ages 17 to 29. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points for all respondents.

The Times/CBS News/MTV Poll suggests that younger Americans are conflicted in their view of the country. Many have a bleak view about their own future and the direction the country is heading: 70 percent said the country was on the wrong track, while 48 percent said they feared that their generation would be worse off than their parents’. But the survey also found that this generation of Americans is not cynical: 77 percent said they thought the votes of their generation would have a great bearing on who became the next president.

By any measure, the poll suggests that young Americans are anything but apathetic about the presidential election. Fifty-eight percent said they were paying attention to the campaign. By contrast, at this point in the 2004 presidential campaign, 35 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds said they were paying a lot or some attention to the campaign.

Over the last half century, the youth vote has more often than not gone with the Democratic candidate for president, though with some notable exceptions. In 1984, Ronald Reagan won his second term as president by capturing 59 percent of the youth vote, according to exit polls, and the first President George Bush won in 1988 with 52 percent of that vote. This age group, however, has supported Democratic presidential candidates in every election since.

The percentage of young voters who identified themselves as Republican grew steadily during the Reagan administration, and reached a high of 37 percent in 1989. That number has declined ever since, and is now at 25 percent.

“I think the Democratic Party is now realizing how big an impact my generation has, and they’re trying to cater to that in some way,” Ashley Robinson, 21, a Democrat from Minnesota, said in an interview after she participated in the poll. “But the traditional Republican Party is still trying to get older votes, which doesn’t make sense because there are so many more voters my age. It would be sensible to cater to us.”

That a significant number of respondents said they were enthusiastic about just two of the candidates — Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton — to a certain extent reflects that both candidates have been the subject of a huge amount of national attention and have presented the country with historic candidacies. Mr. Obama would be the first black president and Mrs. Clinton the first woman. Other candidates could begin drawing attention from this group as the campaign takes a higher platform.

More important, though, at least for Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama is the impression this group has of them. In the poll, 43 percent of respondents said they held an unfavorable view of Mrs. Clinton, a number that reflects the tide of resistance she faces nationwide. By contrast, only 19 percent said they had an unfavorable view of Mr. Obama.

Marjorie Connelly, Marina Stefan and Dalia Sussman contributed reporting.

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