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Starry Messenger

Profile Information

Name: Decline to State
Gender: Female
Hometown: Bay Area, CA
Home country: USA
Current location: Left Coast
Member since: Sat Apr 9, 2005, 08:01 PM
Number of posts: 28,413

About Me

Artist, high school teacher and "hard-liner" (yet to be defined).

Journal Archives


I thought this highlighted some positive developments in working class solidarity. The ending is a little more pessimistic than I think is warranted, but I thought folks might be interested in this here. I wish I could post more than four paras, check it out when you have a moment.



The ROC is a labor group. But it’s not a union. It represents a new face of the U.S. labor movement—an often-ignored, little-understood array of groups organizing workers without the union label. As unions face declining membership these workers’ groups—like the mostly union-free job sectors they organize—are on the rise, particularly in New York. Because of their efforts, more restaurant workers in the city get paid sick days, domestic workers receive overtime pay, and taxi drivers will soon have health insurance.

Twenty years ago, when Rutgers labor professor Janice Fine first set out to count the nonunion groups that were organizing and mobilizing workers, she found just five in the entire country. Today, her tally stands at 214. These groups organize farmworkers and fashion models. They go by names like “workers’ centers” and “workers’ alliances.” Some are rooted in the immigrant-rights movement as much as the labor movement. Lacking the ability to engage in collective bargaining or enforce union contracts, these alternative labor groups rely on an overlapping set of other tactics to reform their industries. The ROC teaches workers their rights and also restaurant skills; advises and publicizes model employers; and helps organize protests like the ones at Capital Grille, making customers aware of what goes on behind the dining room. The ROC also lobbies state and local lawmakers for reforms and helps workers take legal action when all else fails.


There’s another reason for the rise of alt-labor: For an increasing number of U.S. workers, unions are not even an option. Labor law denies union rights to increasingly significant sectors of the workforce, including so-called independent contractors and domestic workers, whose numbers are expected to double as baby boomers enter elder care. In 1989, the United States had twice as many manufacturing jobs as service-sector jobs; now the numbers are nearly equal. But many corners of the service sector are virtually union-free—even where, as in restaurants, workers have the right to organize.

At first, traditional unions dismissed alt-labor efforts. Now many have come to recognize workers’ groups for what they are: part of the labor movement. The AFL-CIO and its local unions and labor councils have increasingly been funding, collaborating with, and rallying beside their alt-labor counterparts. The country’s other major labor federation, Change to Win, and its affiliates have also been supporting and partnering with alt-labor groups. Those efforts burst into the headlines with strikes by Wal-Mart employees and fast-food workers last fall. “Workers’ centers are movements in search of institutions,” says Ana Avendaño, who directs immigration and community policy for the AFL-CIO. “And our unions are often institutions in search of movements.”


Posted by Starry Messenger | Wed Feb 6, 2013, 07:13 PM (13 replies)

CPUSA leader turns up the volume on labor’s future

(This is a bit of a self-plug too, since I'm the author. )



A key to understanding this time of transition, Marshall said, is to look at the phases that labor struggles have gone through in U.S. history. Just as Eugene Debs took labor to a qualitatively different form by organizing the railroad workers, and William Z. Foster in his turn transformed labor unions with the formation of the T.U.E.L. and the T.U.U.L., eventually bringing the force of industrial unionism to the C.I.O., likewise labor is now looking toward a new form, which Marshall refers to as "big-picture unionism."

In beginning to talk about a changing phase for labor, it is necessary to look at the weakened position of labor, as part of its objective conditions. Offshoring, automation and other changes in manufacturing have put traditional industrial unions at a disadvantage in pursuing tried-and-true methods of bringing improvements to the lives of rank-and-file workers. The old ways of applying pressure to monopoly's profit-seeking have diminished in effectiveness, while the bread-and-butter issues that union members face have hardly diminished.

In "big-picture unionism" the issues that each union faces need to be seen in the context of a global system. Unions must, meanwhile, also look at how forming coalitions with other affected groups outside of their membership can bring wins not only for labor, but also for the local communities affected by the vagaries of capitalism.

This local vs. global approach has the advantage of accumulating force both horizontally and vertically: horizontally along the net of communities that live alongside the union and struggle alongside union families and also vertically along the length of the production supply chain.


Posted by Starry Messenger | Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:24 PM (3 replies)

History of the Communist Party of the United States by William Z. Foster (1952)


Excerpt from Chapter One: Early American Class Struggles (1793-1848)



The American Revolution of 1776, which Lenin called one of the "great, really liberating, really revolutionary wars,"1 began the history of the modern capitalist United States. It was fought by a coalition of merchants, planters, small farmers, and white and Negro toilers. It was led chiefly by the merchant capitalists, with the democratic masses doing the decisive fighting. The Revolution, by establishing American national independence, shattered the restrictions placed upon the colonial productive forces by England; it freed the national market and opened the way for a speedy growth of trade and industry; it at least partially broke down the feudal system of land tenure; and it brought limited political rights to the small farmers and also to the workers, who were mostly artisans, but it did not destroy Negro chattel slavery. And for the embattled Indian peoples the Revolution produced only a still more vigorous effort to strip them of their lands and to destroy them.

The Revolution also had far-reaching international repercussions. It helped inspire the people of France to get rid of their feudal tyrants; it stimulated the peoples of Latin America to free themselves from the yoke of Spain and Portugal; and it was an energizing force in the world wherever the bourgeoisie, supported by the democratic masses, were fighting against feudalism. The Revolution was helped to success by the assistance given the rebelling colonies by France, Spain, and Holland, as well as by revolutionary struggles taking place currently in Ireland and England.

The Revolution was fought under the broad generalizations of the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, which called for national independence and freedom for all men. It declared the right of revolution and the dominance of the secular over the religious in government. But these principles meant very different things to the several classes that carried through the Revolution. To the merchants they signified their rise to dominant power and an unrestricted opportunity to exploit the rest of the population. To the planters they implied the continuation and extension of their slave system. To the farmers they meant free access to the broad public lands. To the workers they promised universal suffrage, more democratic liberties, and a greater share in the wealth of the new land. And to the oppressed Negroes they brought a new hope of freedom from the misery and sufferings of chattel bondage.

The Constitution, as originally formulated in 1787, and as adopted in the face of powerful opposition, consisted primarily of the rules and relationships agreed upon by the ruling class for the management of the society which they controlled. The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments of the Constitution, providing for freedom of speech, press, and assembly, religious liberty, trial by jury, and other popular democratic liberties, was written into the Constitution in 1791 under heavy mass pressure.2

Great as were the accomplishments of the Revolution, it nevertheless left unsolved many bourgeois-democratic tasks. These unfinished tasks constituted a serious hindrance to the nation's fullest development. The struggle to solve these questions in a progressive direction made up the main content of United States history for the next three-quarters of a century. Among the more basic of these tasks, were the abolition of slavery, the opening up of the broad western lands to settlement, and the deepening and extension of the democratic rights of the people. The main post-revolutionary fight of the toiling masses, in the face of fierce reactionary opposition, was aimed chiefly at preserving and extending their democratic rights won in the Revolution.


Posted by Starry Messenger | Wed Jan 23, 2013, 12:45 PM (4 replies)

California drops to 49th in school spending in annual Ed Week report



California tumbled two more spots, to 49th in the nation in per-pupil spending, in Education Week’s latest annual Quality Counts report, released last week. The ranking, which includes Washington, D.C., and the 50 states, covers spending in 2010 and thus doesn’t include the impact of higher taxes that voters approved in passing Proposition 30 in November.

California’s per-student spending of $8,482 was $3,342 – 28 percent – below the national average of $11,824. Only Nevada ($8,419) and Utah ($7,042) spent less. Another Western state, Wyoming – $18,814 per student – led the nation in spending. The gap between California and the nation grew $344 per student in 2010, as California’s per-student spending dropped $185 from the year before as a result of a massive state budget deficit, while spending nationally grew $159. Last year, California ranked 47th out of 51; two years ago, before the impact of the recession, it was 43rd.

Education Week’s often-cited annual ranking factors in regional costs of living. (There are also significant regional cost disparities within California.) By comparison, according to the most recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau, covering 2009-10, California spent $9,375 per student, ranking 35th in the nation and only $1,240 below the national average of $10,615.

California also ranked low – tied for fifth-worst – in another Education Week measure, the percentage of state and local taxable resources spent on K-12 education. California, along with Oregon, Louisiana and Tennessee, spent 2.9 percent, compared with 4.4 percent nationally. Vermont was at the top, spending 5.8 of resources on education; Delaware (2.4 percent) was at the bottom.

Posted by Starry Messenger | Tue Jan 15, 2013, 07:55 PM (21 replies)

Eight Are Charged With Chilean Singer’s 1973 Murder After Military Coup (Victor Jara)


SANTIAGO, Chile — Eight retired army officers were charged on Friday with the murder of a popular songwriter and theater director, Víctor Jara, who was tortured and killed days after the 1973 military coup in a stadium that had been turned into a detention center.

Judge Miguel Vásquez charged two of the former officers, Pedro Barrientos and Hugo Sánchez, with committing the murder and six others as accomplices. Mr. Sánchez, a lieutenant colonel, was second in command at the stadium. Mr. Barrientos, a lieutenant from a Tejas Verdes army unit, currently lives in Deltona, a city southwest of Daytona Beach, Fla., and was interrogated by the F.B.I. earlier this year at the request of a Chilean court. Attempts to reach Mr. Barrientos for comment were unsuccessful; his two listed telephone numbers had been disconnected.

Judge Vásquez issued an international arrest warrant against Mr. Barrientos through Interpol Santiago and ordered the arrest of the other seven, who were in Chile. Those charged as accomplices are Roberto Souper, Raúl Jofré, Edwin Dimter, Nelson Hasse, Luis Bethke and Jorge Smith.

Víctor Jara, then 40, was a member of the Communist Party and a leading folk singer in the late 1960s and early ’70s. A day after the American-supported Sept. 11 coup that ousted the socialist president, Salvador Allende, Mr. Jara was arrested by the military at the Santiago Technical University, where he was a professor and researcher, along with hundreds of students, teachers and staff members.

Posted by Starry Messenger | Sat Dec 29, 2012, 04:56 PM (8 replies)

Time to repeal Taft-Hartley


It is one of those ironies of history that on December 10, 1948 the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that December 10th of each year is celebrated as "International Human Rights Day." Article 23 of that document says, among other things that "everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests."


During the Great Depression the labor movement, often led by communists and other militants, achieved great breakthroughs. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the National Labor Relations Act, also known as the Wagner Act (often called labor's Magna Carta), which ensured unions the right to organize and bargain collectively. Workers in every state undertook heroic struggles to gain a voice in determining the conditions of their employment. Millions of workers joined unions and won many hard-fought strikes.

The capitalists and their political minions did not sit idly by; they did not want their power and control over the workers diminished. After World War II, at a time when the percentage of workers with union cards reached an all-time high and militancy was on the rise, the right-wing in Congress struck back. Both houses passed the Taft-Hartley Act, and though President Harry S. Truman vetoed the bill, Congress over-rode the veto. The law's provisions struck right at the heart of labor unions.


Therefore, we can conclude that the Taft-Hartley Act is an outdated relic of the Cold War. Its provisions restrict the rights of unions and weaken them in their relations with the employers. Congress should repeal the law and replace it with legislation that guarantees organized workers the right to reinstate the closed or union shop through collective bargaining in any state. It would go a long way toward strengthening the labor movement. Such a goal should be a part of any fightback by workers against the ultra-right and its drive for unfettered power.

Posted by Starry Messenger | Wed Dec 26, 2012, 12:42 PM (18 replies)

Starry's private school story--

An anecdote, so take it for what it's worth.

I spent the first three years of school in a public school that I loved, and then our family moved to another suburb across the county. The other public schools were high quality there too, but my dad had a client that went to an exclusive private Catholic school and it was decided that I would go there.

There began 6 years of bullying and meanness. The other families in the school were upper middle class, while my family was just middle middle. We all knew this, since the kids were aware of their family status and often compared notes, houses, cars, vacations. I was not darling, was nerdy and was soon isolated and teased.

The academics were mostly packets of assignments that you were expected to complete independently. For a self-starter who had begun in this system, I'm sure it worked great. As someone who had never been on that kind of program, it was a nightmare since I could never get organized or keep track of time. Also, the school had started cursive writing and pen writing a year previous, so I was made to feel stupid and was kept in every recess and lunch to practice. I wasn't allowed to turn in any homework until I mastered this, so I was nearly flunked out from the get go.

As a result I started to hate school and learning, and felt even more isolated and would just read books and not do my homework, which was copious. One teacher would call me dumb in the class and announce my (low) grades when my attention drifted.

Only one teacher in eighth grade finally started treating me like a human being and is probably the reason I'm not living in squat somewhere.

The first year of high school was the cherry on top--all girls and toney as fuck. If your parents didn't drive you up in a Caddy or better, you were considered a second-class citizen. In PE, one girl made it her mission to line-drive softballs right to my head, to express her opinion of my shitty skills as a catcher, since I'd never managed to master sports either. This went on every day while the teacher made no effort to intervene.

I had a group of three bullies who would shanghai me in the hallways, lurk by my locker, and planted fake drugs in my locker to try to get me in trouble. My mom made numerous trips to the principal to try to get some help--finally the principal just said that if I was unhappy, I should leave. Expelling three girls would cost them three tuitions, but my leaving would just cost them one. She actually said this.

I transferred to public school for the second year of high school and instantly made friends, some of whom are still dear friends today. I got involved in art, doing make-up for theater, and became editor of the literary journal by Senior year. I still had dry heaves every day before school for a year from the stress of ninth grade, but by the end of Junior year I finally got over that. I even joined a Rocky Horror cast with another school friend and made tons of new friends there too.

Now I teach at the public high school I went to, and still love the memories of the teachers there who helped me join the human race. Mr. H who stayed through many lunches to help me matte work for my college portfolio, Mr. P who helped me do extra credit to pass Chemistry and get into a State School, Ms. R who taught us to write college level papers using the rubric of Syracuse University, and so many more. The teachers who are there now are still awesome people who love and care for the students and work very hard to actually make sure no one gets left behind, even in an era of magically shrinking budgets.

One persons story. Thank you for reading.

Posted by Starry Messenger | Mon Dec 10, 2012, 03:08 PM (20 replies)

Paul Krugman rediscovers Marxism--what's next? Fire? The wheel?


Rise of the Robots


Robots mean that labor costs don’t matter much, so you might as well locate in advanced countries with large markets and good infrastructure (which may soon not include us, but that’s another issue). On the other hand, it’s not good news for workers!

This is an old concern in economics; it’s “capital-biased technological change”, which tends to shift the distribution of income away from workers to the owners of capital.


But the college premium hasn’t risen for a while. What has happened, on the other hand, is a notable shift in income away from labor:


I think our eyes have been averted from the capital/labor dimension of inequality, for several reasons. It didn’t seem crucial back in the 1990s, and not enough people (me included!) have looked up to notice that things have changed. It has echoes of old-fashioned Marxism — which shouldn’t be a reason to ignore facts, but too often is. And it has really uncomfortable implications.

Gee, you think?
Posted by Starry Messenger | Sun Dec 9, 2012, 12:39 PM (79 replies)

Rise of the Robots

Or, Paul Krugman rediscovers fire and Marxism.



Robots mean that labor costs don’t matter much, so you might as well locate in advanced countries with large markets and good infrastructure (which may soon not include us, but that’s another issue). On the other hand, it’s not good news for workers!

This is an old concern in economics; it’s “capital-biased technological change”, which tends to shift the distribution of income away from workers to the owners of capital.

Twenty years ago, when I was writing about globalization and inequality, capital bias didn’t look like a big issue; the major changes in income distribution had been among workers (when you include hedge fund managers and CEOs among the workers), rather than between labor and capital. So the academic literature focused almost exclusively on “skill bias”, supposedly explaining the rising college premium.


I think our eyes have been averted from the capital/labor dimension of inequality, for several reasons. It didn’t seem crucial back in the 1990s, and not enough people (me included!) have looked up to notice that things have changed. It has echoes of old-fashioned Marxism — which shouldn’t be a reason to ignore facts, but too often is. And it has really uncomfortable implications.

But I think we’d better start paying attention to those implications.

Posted by Starry Messenger | Sat Dec 8, 2012, 03:42 PM (11 replies)

Christina Hoff Sommers, MRA enabler and Radical Anti-Feminist in group tied to ALEC

In light of our current crop of "guests" out and about in greater DU, I thought I would google some of these same repetitive memes that anti-feminists write. It looks like a great deal of them have a main source, Christina Hoff Sommers--she's a self-proclaimed Libertarian, a Resident Scholar of AEI (American Enterprise Institute, a very right-wing think tank), and her themes may look familiar to people who have travelled in recent threads.

This will be a working research thread and I hope people will add more to highlight the sources of her anti-feminist and anti-progressive web, and also add debunking material.

"Sommers explicitly identifies herself as a "libertarian." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy categorizes Sommers' equity feminist views as classical liberal or libertarian and socially conservative. Sommers has criticized how "conservative scholars have effectively been marginalized, silenced, and rendered invisible on most campuses." In an article for the text book, Moral Soundings, Sommers makes the case for moral conservation and traditional values."


"Christina Hoff Sommers, a former philosophy professor who taught ethics, is probably best known for her critique of late-twentieth-century feminism. She is also known for her extensive writings, among them Who Stole Feminism? (Touchstone Books, 1995) and The War Against Boys (Touchstone Books, 2001). Her textbook, Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life, a bestseller in college ethics, is currently in its eighth edition. She recently edited The Science on Women and Science (AEI Press, 2009) and is preparing a second edition of The War Against Boys."

AEI has ties to ALEC: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=American_Enterprise_Institute

Sommers thesis: Feminism is anti-male student and education is biased toward girl students.


The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men
Christina Hoff Sommers (Author)

Sommers thesis: The wage-gap is a myth

Wage Gap Myth Exposed -- By Feminists

Sommers thesis: Sexual violence against women is overstated

How the CDC is overstating sexual violence in the U.S.

Sommers' views touted by racist and anti-feminist mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik:


{He also quotes female anti-feminist Christina Hoff Sommers (pg. 339), an author and MRA whose book has been recommended reading for me from numerous MRAs I’ve interacted with.The fact that she is positively referred to by a mass murderer didn’t seem to bother them much}.

Posted by Starry Messenger | Mon Dec 3, 2012, 10:18 PM (33 replies)
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