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America's Future Now Day 2
By David Swanson
Yesterday's Healthcare Panel:
Here's a second-hand report. No single-payer advocate was included on the panel, but because of agitation for it all day long, Roger Hickey asked a question about it, and each panelist gave their opinion, none of which involved any criticism of single-payer on its merits. Howard Dean was reportedly best in saying that single-payer should be on the table. Hickey, confronted later about his refusal to include a supporter of single-payer was reportedly very defensive and said he could do what he wants with his conference.
The opening plenary today is on the Employee Free Choice Act. Kim Freeman, a friend whom I know from progressive PR work, and who now directs American Rights at Work, is MCing. David Bonior, Larry Cohen, Wade Henderson, and Tom Harkin are on the panel, although Harkin's not here yet.
What I've been hearing is that 1) labor may finally start sitting in the offices of Democratic senators who are blocking EFCA, 2) compromise considerations being considered include a proposal from Senator Feinstein to substitute mail-in ballots for card check, and 3) Biden's Middle Class task force is involved, despite Jared Bernstein's failure yesterday to mention EFCA.
Bonior is speaking first, predicting passage of EFCA and giving all the reasons for it. Nothing new. Everything right and important.
Now Henderson is speaking. He's happy about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the stimulus bill, and the nomination of Sotomayor, none of which has to do with EFCA. But then he discusses why the civil rights movement is involved in pushing for EFCA. He says the UAW was a founding member of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and paid for the busses for MLK's march on Washington, and now they are being wrongly villified.
(This brings to mind a discussion from yesterday with friends: Why in the world won't the civil rights groups go after the DOJ scandal, the hiring and firing of prosecutors based on whether they would prosecute "voter fraud" and engage in prosecuting the innocent to swing elections? Why isn't that at least as central as EFCA?)
Henderson says EFCA will transform the nation as nothing else will, and he predicts success in passing it.
Neither Bonior nor Henderson mentioned any specific targeting of recalcitrant senators or any possible compromises in the content of the bill.
Larry Cohen of CWA spoke next. He pointed out the isolation of the United States among democracies in its denial of the right to organize.
Harkin came in during Cohen's remarks.
Cohen told the story of a worker fired for organizing. He said the Chamber of Commerce has spent $200 million against EFCA and that the Republican senators have iron discipline: not one Republican will vote for cloture. But not one is needed, not even with the filibuster rule as it is. The Democrats have 60, including Franken.
Cohen urges us to demand of Democratic Senators that they choose the side of working people over the Chamber of Commerce. "Which Side Are You On?" Some senators will say this is not the time because of the economy, but you cannot fix the economy without EFCA: this is exactly the time!
Senator Harkin spoke next and called EFCA the civil rights battle of today. Harkin said that Obama is behind the EFCA. And the new Secretary of Labor is pro-labor: "That's change you can believe in."
Harkin said that Reid and Durbin are strongly in favor of EFCA. He also said they might make compromises, but not on (1) real freedom to choose a union, (2) workers will get a first contract at a date certain after a union is organized, and (3) meaningful penalties for repeated violations.
If senators refuse to compromise, Harklin said, "I will take the original EFCA bill to the floor and demand an up or down vote on it!"
Harkin got the first standing ovation I've seen at this conference for ending his speech on that note.
Panel on Afghanistan Occupation:
Robert Greenwald MC
Anand Gopal, reporter for Christian Science Monitor who reports from Afghanistan and got in yesterday from there
Ann Jones, author of "Kabul in Winter" who has lived in Afghanistan for four years
Roshanak Wardak, MP in Afghanistan Parliament, a doctor who got in yesterday from Afghanistan
Room not full, and usual peace activists not here. For years we protested that this conference would not acknowledge that there were wars. Now they have a panel without being pressured, and the room's not full. Of course, the conference is more lightly attended overall as well.
Gopal said more troops will not help and that Afghans do not want them, they want engineers and doctors and others with something useful to offer. He spoke very briefly.
Wardak spoke even more briefly.
Jones spoke about the fate of Afgan women. She refuted the idea that sending troops to Afghanistan is needed to keep the Taliban out of power. And she pointed out that the presence of foreign troops causes men to lock women up more tightly.
Gopal has been embedded with US troops and seen that people do not want the troops there. Kids throw candy back at them, and throw rocks too. When people talk to the troops, the Taliban kills them as spies, so people are caught between two forces.
Wardak described the Taliban as being formed by people without other options. She said that bombing villages is not a solution, but actually increases the problem.
Jones said that US aid never reaches Afghanistan but goes to US contractors. So Afghans have stopped believing the US means to help and turned to believing permanent bases is the motivation (as I believe), or believing that the destruction of Islam is the goal (as I do not believe).
Greenwald showed footage of the destruction of bombing civilian villages, and of military lies.
While this is a panel in a smaller room, not a plenary for the whole conference, it is still very much a panel made up completely of opponents of occupying Afghanistan, something for which the Campaign for America's Future should be applauded.
Gopal recommends a negotiated settlement, which would be supported by most Afghans. Gopal said the White House is right when it says there is no military solution but wrong to behave exactly as if it thought there was.
Wardak agrees and favors a multi-party government that would not be run by the Taliban.
Jones stressed how welcomed Americans were at first in Afghanistan and how much that has changed.
Meanwhile, the Democratic House and Senate have worked out a deal to fund escalation of the war with more troops.
Panel With Progressive Caucus:
A Second-Hand Report:
Rep. Donna Edwards
Rep. Raul Grijalva
Rep. Jared Polis
The first two of these members of the Progressive Caucus reportedly spoke fairly strongly about fighting for victories. Edwards reportedly spoke well on wars. On healthcare, of course, it's "public option," not single payer.
Military Spending Panel:
Rep. Barney Frank spoke first and insisted on the necessity of significant cuts in military spending, without which we have to increase deficits or cut everything else.
(As always this is absolutely right, but bizarre from Mr. Bailout.)
Frank said that Obama is taking too long to get out of Iraq. (Loud applause.) He denounced the redrawing of boundaries to get troops "out of" cities without actually moving them.
Frank in fact proposed getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan as well but was cut off by the applause.
Frank said to end Cold War weapons for which there is no enemy, and missile "defense" in Poland and Czech Republic, the F-22, offensive space weapons, etc. (What about foreign bases?) Frank said at least $100 B per year should be cut. (Closing bases would do that by itself.)
Frank said that Alan Greenspan agrees that military spending is less effective than non-military spending. (But it's still probably true.)
Frank says we could cut military spending in half and be extraordinarily secure and fund education, housing, environment, etc.
Susan Shaer from WAND spoke next.
Robert Pollin presented some figures. We could cut military spending by the 25% Frank recently proposed and still spend a higher level of GDP than we did in 2000. And military spending is the least efficient way to stimulate the economy. Cutting military spending is needed to help the economy by allowing spending in other areas that have much bigger impact, with green energy having the biggest.
Jim Arkedis claimed that arguing for other spending instead of military is not an effective frame. Could have fooled me: polls show strong majorities in favor, and Arkedis cites no polls. He wants to talk about "an effective" military in order to cater to a rightwing minority.
I asked the first question and began by asking Arkedis about polls (he did not reply) and pointing out that many of us do not want a more effective military, we want a more defensive military. Then I asked Frank about closing foreign bases, and he said he was supportive of it.
Frank took only one more question before having to leave.