Special election

The situation in Illinois with Governor Rod Blagojevich is a perfect example of why governors should not have the right to appoint people to fill the terms of politicians who leave office. If Miss America can’t fulfill her duties then the person who came in second takes over. If the winner of the Tour de France flunks a drug test then whoever came in second becomes the winner. Why is it different in politics?

I personally don’t think that the person who comes in second should take office. I believe that another election should take place so that the people get another chance to vote for their favorite candidate, or they can run for the office themselves. Politicians shouldn’t have the right to appoint people to elective office.

Chuck Mann,
Greensboro NC


Your editorial “First YouTube president” was excellent in pointing out how Obama is using YouTube in talking to the people to mobilize them in support of a “people’s legislative agenda.”

It would be a service to your readers and to the furthering of this agenda if you would inform them about how to send Obama their opinions about issues and solutions. It is very easy to do this by going to change.gov which will access Obama’s place on the net. There one will find a different talk by Obama every week, but better yet, there is space to inform him of your views on issues.

If enough of us do this it will help him know that he has public support for progressive programs. Change is a two-way street and we must do our part.

Barry Freeman
Chapel Hill NC
Editor’s note: Good point. Go to: .

A specter is haunting Cleveland

A Case Western Reserve University foreclosure study may be of use to you and your comrades (blog.case.edu/msass/2008/12/09/20081209_beyond_reo_final.pdf). Speculative real estate sharks and financial parasites are buying property at sheriff’s auctions in northeast Ohio at rock-bottom prices. I am sure this same study would generally pertain to other cities, too. The study is easy to read and has useful diagrams.

Some neighborhoods in Cleveland I have recently been through while looking for a job look like some kind of “ground zero.” Yesterday in the deeply depressed areas off E. 55th and Grand Ave., I saw an excavator demolishing an abandoned home that had burned. Out in the street were three men with grocery store shopping carts ready to salvage electrical wiring and copper from the site. Two metal and wire salvage companies are within half a mile of this residential work site.

Recently the State of Ohio has taken to running a TV ad that says, “Don’t let your tombstone say: ‘I died stealing copper from an empty dwelling.’” The precious metal from catalytic converters in cars goes for about $40 locally; one person at my old job didn’t know theirs had been stolen from their car until the car failed an Environmental Protection Agency test required for license renewal.

The sunrise in this dark period is rising with Chicago’s sit down strikers, though.

Jay Rothermel
Cleveland OH

Economic situation

We are in a recession and unemployment is rising. A quarter of a million workers lost their jobs in November. Third quarter reports are bringing lots of bad news.

One bit of news that may get lost in all the panic is the report that productivity is rising. The news media is reporting productivity and recession as two separate issues. But they aren’t. Productivity means fewer workers are producing greater output (in relative terms).

Business firms are organizing to make workers more productive so they can operate with fewer workers in order to maintain (something approximating) the current rate of exploitation.

The contradiction is that, while this behavior is rational at the firm level, the system-level result is that demand will continue to fall and firms will increasingly fail to realize surplus value as profit. In other words, the rate of profit will decrease across the system.

Rising productivity is always treated as good news by the corporate media and business economists. But, as you can see, it depends on which social class you’re in. Rising productivity is not always good for workers, especially in recessionary periods. The capitalists have the resources to ride out the crisis. Working people will suffer and are suffering.

There are two basic solutions to the problem. The first preserves capitalism. The state provides jobs for unemployed workers. This strategy is financed by deficit spending. The goal is to stimulate demand so firms can realize surplus value as profit and, hopefully, kick off an expansionary phase. This solution has the virtue of not having to focus so much on “freeing up” the “private” financial system (which involves transfer of taxpayer dollars to the financial corporations that helped create the mess we’re in). This is a temporary fix that may give capitalism a few more years and will help working people during the present crisis.

The second replaces capitalism with socialism by putting the economy in the hands of the worker. Here, a national bank is established, significant business firms are nationalized, and productive assets are in effect redistributed to labor so that surpluses benefit the people who produce them rather than the classes that don’t. This way, the benefits of rising productivity are enjoyed by all. The second solution is unlikely given current political realities.

But I fear the first solution won’t happen, either. So far, the emphasis has been placed on freeing up credit markets rather than shoring up the foundation of the economy, i.e. infrastructure and industry. Washington could learn a lot from history here, but so far it seems reluctant to act in a bold manner. Its reluctance tells us a lot about the power of finance capital in the present age.

Andrew Austin
Green Bay WI


Have you heard of them? I have – just now. And once I heard about them, I had to do something.

The Shministim – all about ages 16, 17, 18 and in the 12th grade – are a new breed of conscientious objectors in Israel and right now they are taking a stand. They believe in a better, more peaceful future for themselves and for Israelis and Palestinians, and they are refusing to join the Israeli army. They’re in jail, holding strong against immense pressure from family, friends and the Israeli government. They need our support and they need it today.

The Shministim have asked Jewish Voice for Peace to reach out to people like us to let the Israeli government know we are watching, and that we support their courage. They’re hoping to receive hundreds of thousands of postcards to be delivered to the Israeli Minister of Defense on Dec. 18, when they will hold a massive rally and press conference. They’re hoping to stand strong on the steps of this majestic building – and on the steps of history – representing not only the thousands of refuseniks who came before them, not only the many young people to whom they are an example of a better world, but also to represent us. They have asked you, me, and every person who strives for peace to be on those steps with them, on that day. I will be there.

Will you join me? It’s simple. Sign a letter. Click here:

Betty Smith
New York NY

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