The Public Square

WILL - The Public Square - October 17, 2008

Yael Taylor on Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners

I am Yael Taylor, a volunteer at UC Books to Prisoners, and I want to tell you about our organization and our book sale coming this weekend, October 17 - 19 at the downtown Urbana Post office, Independent Media Center, 202 S. Broadway, Urbana, Illinois.

UC Books to Prisoners provides free books to inmates in Illinois prisons, as well as a lending library at the two Champaign County jails. As of 1994, all prisons throughout the our state of Illinois have been under budget restraints and cuts. This has affected all the educational programs and the libraries in prison. The maximum security prisons do not allow friends and family to send used books to inmates. So our organization is sometimes the sole source of reading material for prisoners. As of today, October 17, 2008, we have sent 28,030 books to 4,379 different inmates in our four years of operation, solely with volunteers. We think you will agree with us that education through reading is a good thing for prisoners returning to our communities from prison or jail.

In order to ship the donated books to the prisoners, we have a book sale twice a year. It is called "Pages for Pennies" because you can buy any hardback for $1 and paperbacks for 50 cents. Please stop by and see for yourself at the Urbana post office, 202 S. Broadway, on Friday, October 17, from 4-8pm, on Saturday, 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM or Sunday from 11 - 1PM. Please come to our Books to Prisoners' book sale, October 17, 18 or 19.

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WILL - The Public Square - October 10, 2008

Juan Alvarez on how the two major parties hide the rest of the presidential candidates

I want to point out the complete disregard that the U.S. news media and the two major parties have for democracy, for the third party and independent candidates for president, and for their supporters.

Over 45% of the voting age population in the U.S does not vote. Could this be due to the fact that they don't identify themselves with either one of the two major parties but they are unaware of the existence of the other candidates? If more than half of these people voted for one of the other candidates, he/she could win because currently the two major parties win with less than 25% of the possible votes.

I am not here to convince people to vote for third-party and independent candidates. I am here to ask you to demand that all voices be heard so that everyone can make an informed decision, whichever that may be. Demand that the media cover all six candidates. Demand that the debates include all six candidates.

Consider the recent bailout. Were there Congressional hearings with economic experts from all sides? The hearings involved only the current administration's members. Don't you think a better solution could have come from a broader discussion? Don't you think there needs to be a broader discussion of the issues in the electoral arena as well?

Naomi Klein talks about the 'shock doctrine' as a means by which capitalism uses a crisis to coerce people into supporting policies that will be in their detriment because they are in shock. The initial support for war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, and the FISA law are clear examples. I think this can be extended to the Democratic party tactics which use the shock of a Republican administration to coerce the supporters of third-party and independent candidates into voting for the lesser of two evils instead of supporting candidates that would truly benefit their well-being.

Some rationalize this decision with arguments like 'things would be worse under the Republican candidate', or 'this election is too important to have the Democratic candidate loose it because votes were taken away from him by the other candidates'.

The notion of 'taking away' votes assumes that the candidate owns or is automatically entitled to these votes and hence others take them away from him. This entitlement is further supported by the fact that the two major party candidates do not campaign on all 50 states, only on the so called 'swing' states and those states where they can raise a lot of money. The votes in the remaining states are taken for granted because they feel entitled to them and will go their way no matter what.

There is a big difference between the liberal and conservative groups. Conservative groups get what they want from the Republicans, while Democrats get what they want from the liberal groups. Conservatives threatened not to vote for McCain and forced him to shift further right and even choose Palin. What did the liberals get for supporting Obama, who has even voted against their interests? They hope to get some crumbs from Obama I guess.

What do you want your vote to do for you? Support you or betray you?

Be informed and don't fall for the Democratic party's shock tactics. You've got Ralph Nader as an independent candidate, Cynthia McKinney for the Green Party, Bob Barr for the Libertarian Party, and Chuck Baldwin for the Constitution Party. Visit the candidates' websites and compare their positions on the issues.

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WILL - The Public Square - October 03, 2008

Barbara Kessel on the privatization of war, emergencies and everyday life

My name is Barbara Kessel. I am a member of A.W.A.R.E. (The Anti-War Anti-Racism Effort), the Socialist Forum and Jobs with Justice.

My concern today is privatization, the selling of government functions to private, profit-making, interests.

There are three huge problems with such privatizations: 1) Costs increase ? since the private company needs to make a profit 2) the service previously provided to the public goes only to those who can afford them - e.g. residents of the County Nursing Home 3) the accountability disappears.

We can see this in the wars we are waging in the Middle East, where military contractors are paid at least five times that of a U.S. soldier for doing the same work. Still, the money for their services comes from federal government contracts which is our taxes. If our military pays $36 for a six-pack of Coca Cola because it is provided by Halliburton under federal government contracts, how and to whom does one complain? Protective gear, such as helmets, goggles and vests, are provided at great expense by military contractors, but they did not make enough so that many soldiers had to purchase their own "from home," sent over by relatives. When Blackwater, the largest private military contractor, massacres civilians, as they did a year ago in Nisour Square, Baghdad, they are not accountable since they cannot be prosecuted under Iraqi law, under U.S. Military law, or in American courts. Costs go up, service goes down and accountability disappears.

As our health care system has become ever more private, with public hospitals disappearing, the mounting health costs are stunning. Less people can afford health care, even in emergencies, and the only way to challenge these costs is now through legal threats and lawsuits. People here in Champaign County know that if the county Nursing Home is privatized, it will cost more and serve less people.

To learn more about how all this works and what we might do about it, come to hear historian Dan Kenney. He will give two talks, next Friday, October 10 entitled "Privatization: Outsourcing our Sovereignty and your Rights". The first talk will be noon to 2P.M. in 123 English Building on the UI Campus, sponsored by the History Discussion Group. Dan Kenney will also be speaking Friday, October 10, at 7:00 PM at the Urbana City Hall Auditorium, 400 S. Vine Street. That talk is co-sponsored by A.W.A.R.E., the Socialist Forum, Jobs with Justice, and the I.W.W.

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