Independent grassroots organization of progressives, liberals and moderates promoting an activist democratic agenda in the state of Illinois.

Citizen Action Illinois - Annual Dinner

Citizen Action-Illinois had its Annual Dinner yesterday evening. The emphasis, not surprisingly, was on health care reform. The situation for hotel workers also got attention.

Award-winner this year was Gov. Pat Quinn who arrived late due to his attendance at a service in the suburbs honoring an Illinois veteran killed in Afghanistan.

Rightwing Populism is a Contradiction in Terms

I love the need of David Brooks and others to portray the teabaggers as "populist" and anti-big-government when there was absolutely no invasion of our civil rights during the Bush Administration -- from imprisonment without trial to warrantless wiretaps -- that these people had problems with.

But if someone like Brooks is going to call these people populists, at the very least, you'd think he'd be under an obligation to show how their beliefs help working people and if he can't show that, then who exactly their beliefs do help.

I mean, we can get a group together for liberal causes that matches up pretty well, economically speaking -- so how are they not populist?

And if we go beyond income levels, what then distinguishes someone -- anyone -- as 'populist'?

It might help to look at what the original Populists actually advocated. If you do, you'll see that much of their platform (e.g. the "Omaha Platform", 1892) required a huge expansion of government power, greater worker and labor rights, and a mighty shot across the bow of Corporate America.

There's nothing, absolutely nothing, in the current teabagger's agenda with its crazy mix of anti-statism (Dems in power), subservience (GOP in power) and knee-jerk devotion to laissez-faire that a real populist from back-in-the-day would recognize as his own.

In fact, the only similarity is something Brooks (who titled his piece, "No, It’s Not About Race") specifically won't admit to, namely, a predilection towards anti-immigrant bias bordering in some cases on racism.

But if we focus on the more positive aspects of the populist movement, it's hard not to conclude that this attempt to appropriate its name for purposes completely antithetical to everything it actually stood for is both a-historical and extremely cynical.

It's nothing but an effort to give rightwing groups a legitimacy -- or in other words, 'working class creds' -- that nothing in the agenda or activities of these groups would suggest.

You can understand why someone would want to do this -- who wants to appear, at least openly, as an apologist for wealth and power? -- but it's not something rational people ought to treat with any degree of respect.

The Limits of Term-Limits

Term limits are such a bad idea. They undermine and weaken government by enforcing a constant turnover of public officials, leaving as permanent fixtures only the lobbyists and special interests.

But don't believe me. Prof. Eric Lane who led a task force that restructured NYC government in 1990 had this to say on WNYC last night ('hour two'):

Eric Lane (42:40): I think the City Council has worked out very well relative to what it was before. I think that the complaint about too many hacks out for their own good has lot to do with term limits which we did not put into the Charter.*

But the term limits have sort of forced people that want to stay in government to spend a lot of their time running for office and thinking of themselves individually as opposed to thinking about the Council itself institutionally. And I think that’s gravely weakened the Council.

He felt so strongly about the issue that he came back to it after a couple of minutes:

Eric Lane (45:48) I want to come back to this point -- the limiting terms in this case. What it’s done is to make everybody start to think about what’s the next office they’re going to run for and who they’re going to compete against. And that does not help the joint action that good legislatures need.

*Note: term limits were passed by referendum a few years later thanks to a campaign funded by rightwing billionaire Ron Lauder.

Yawn, the Teabaggers

What I can't understand is why these teabagging activities are news. I mean, just because Obama won the election didn't mean the loyal (cough, cough) opposition suddenly ceased to exist.

The fact that they're still around and that you can collect a bunch of them together thanks to their nationwide propaganda network is no big deal. They're always going to be against anything the Democrats do but they're also in the minority -- so not only is their reaction predictable but it's irrelevant as well.

Attempting to attribute any broader social significance to their activities is the sign of a charlatan (or someone from the MSM).

Wall Street and Wal-Mart

From Harold Meyerson's review of two books on Wal-Mart:

For the past year, Americans have focused, and understandably so, on the ways in which Wall Street has misshaped the American economy, how finance has grown large over the past 20 years as manufacturing has shrunk. But the rise of finance is just half the story; it takes the rise of retail to complete the tale. Both Wall Street and Wal-Mart played a central role in the deindustrialization of the United States: 40,000 U.S factories were closed between 2001, when China was admitted to the World Trade Organization, and 2007, during which years Wal-Mart's Chinese imports tripled in value from $9 billion to $27 billion.

"40,000 U.S factories" -- wow, talk about national calamity.

Ted Kennedy's Farewell Letter to Obama

Ted Kennedy's letter to Obama:

May 12, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

I wanted to write a few final words to you to express my gratitude for your repeated personal kindnesses to me – and one last time, to salute your leadership in giving our country back its future and its truth.

On a personal level, you and Michelle reached out to Vicki, to our family and me in so many different ways. You helped to make these difficult months a happy time in my life.

Petitions for the Public Option

Progressive Change Committee Petition:

Petition text: "We worked so hard for real change. President Obama, please demand a strong public health insurance option in your speech to Congress. Letting the insurance companies win would not be change we can believe in."

Sign the petition here...

MoveOn Petition:

Petition text: "President Obama, we're counting on you to fight for bold change on health care--including a strong public health insurance option. It's the key to breaking the stranglehold that private insurers have over our health care system."

Sign the petition here...

GOP Relegates Itself to Irrelavance on Health Care Reform

Frankly, since the GOP has run away from the negotiating table on health care reform, it really doesn't matter what they think. Not. One. Bit.

Health care reform is going to pass no matter how hysterical they become. They've relegated themselves to irrelevance.

MoveOn Vigil For Health Care - Grant Park

Picture taken right at the start while the sun was still up.

GOP Confidence in GOV. - What Happened?

So the head of the RNC is going around bad-mouthing government. You got supporters running around with 'tree of liberty' tee-shirts and others talking about the perils of government access to online medical records.

It's hard then to explain their earlier confidence when government was detaining people without trial and bugging their phones without warrants. No problem there.

So my question is, what happened?

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