Published: Wednesday 28 November 2012
“Having long enjoyed the sweet life, the end was a bit bitter, for the dearly departed’s estate had been mercilessly plundered in recent years by unscrupulous money managers.”

Born in 1930 in Schiller Park, Ill., the deceased was 82 years old at the time of passing, which ironically was the day before Thanksgiving.

Having long enjoyed the sweet life, the end was a bit bitter, for the dearly departed's estate had been mercilessly plundered in recent years by unscrupulous money managers. This left 18,500 surviving family members in dire straits. Indeed, the family contends that the octogenarian's death was not due to natural causes, but to foul play — a case of corporate murder.

This is the drama behind the sudden death of Twinkies. Fondly remembered as "the cream puff of the proletariat" (and less fondly as a sugar-and-fat bomb that delivered a toothache in one bite and a heart attack in the next), this industrial concoction of 37 ingredients became, for better or worse, an icon of American food processing.

The father of the Twinkie was James Dewar, a baker at the old Continental Baking Co. who saw the goo-filled tube cake as a way to keep the factory's confection machinery busy after strawberry shortcake season ended. Yes, the Twinkie was actually conceived as "food" for idle machines. How fitting is that?

But us humans happily swallowed this extruded marvel of comestible engineering. As a teenager, I probably downed my weight in Twinkies each year — and my long years on this Earth might well be due to the heavy dose of preservatives, artificial flavors and other chemicals baked into every one of those cellophane-wrapped two-packs that I consumed.

The Twinkie was the best-seller of Hostess Brands, a conglomerate purveyor of some 30 nutritionally challenged (but moneymaking) brand-name food products, ranging from Wonder Bread to Ho Hos. In the past year, Hostess racked up $2.5 billion in sales — yet it suffered a staggering $1.1 billion in losses. Thus, on Nov. 21, Ripplewood Holdings, the private ...

Published: Sunday 21 October 2012
According to a newly released list from the Obama campaign, a total of 758 bundlers have raised at least $180 million for the president’s re-election efforts, including scores of well-connected individuals from California, New York and Obama’s home state of Illinois.

President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign added 120 new fundraising “bundlers” during the third quarter who have brought in at least $17.5 million, including a former secretary of state and a platinum blonde pop star who has sold more than 40 million albums.

According to a newly released list from the Obama campaign, a total of 758 bundlers have raised at least $180 million for the president’s re-election efforts, including scores of well-connected individuals from California, New York and Obama’s home state of Illinois.

Notable additions to the list include Madeleine Albright, who served as secretary of state under former President Bill Clinton and has raised at least $200,000; pop singer Gwen Stefani, who raised at least $500,000; fashion designer Tom Ford, who has raised at least $500,000; and Warner Brothers CEO and Chairman Barry Meyer and his wife Wendy, who raised at least $500,000.

Other new bundlers include former U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen of Wisconsin, who raised at least $200,000; Connecticut Gov. Daniel Malloy, 

who raised at least $200,000; and former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, who raised at least $100,000 and spoke at the Democratic National Convention last month.

These funds have benefited not only the Obama campaign but also the “Obama Victory Fund” — a joint fundraising organization that funnels cash to his campaign, the Democratic National Committee and party entities in several battleground states.

Individuals may donate up to $75,800 to the Obama Victory Fund. The first $5,000 is directed to the Obama campaign while the next $30,800 goes to the DNC. The remaining funds are split between other participating party committees.

Because the Obama campaign voluntarily only discloses broad ranges of how much money its bundlers have collected, it’s ...

Published: Saturday 13 October 2012
How a few courageous workers in small-town Louisiana sparked nationwide actions demanding better wages and working conditions for those who pick, pack, stock, and sell the mega-retailer’s products.

 

In the small town of Breaux Bridge, La., Martha Uvalle and her co-workers at C.J.'s Seafood, a Walmart supplier, faced abuses many Americans imagine only take place in poorer, faraway countries: They were forced to work shifts of up to 24 hours, with no overtime pay; threatened with beatings if their breaks lasted too long; and, on at least two occasions, locked inside the facility to work. Some fell asleep at their workstations from exhaustion.

Uvalle had heard that there were organizations that defended the rights of immigrant workers like her. In 2011, someone had mentioned a group called the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA).

But, for a year, she held on to the number and didn't call. Change seemed impossible.

So when Uvalle gave the NGA's number to her feisty co-worker, Ana Rosa Diaz, it was an act of tremendous courage. Diaz then actually called the NGA to report the working conditions at C.J.'s.

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Published: Sunday 9 September 2012
The stage here was set by the militant opposition caucus that took control of the Chicago Teachers Union in 2010: the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, or CORE.

Most unions these days celebrate Labor Day with a parade. But this year, nearly 20,000 Chicago teachers and allies rallied and marched to say “Enough is enough” —  enough with educational privatization, enough with inadequate investment, enough with the blame of teachers instead of poverty, and enough with the blustering tactics of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his unelected, 1-percenter school board. A key to both the revitalization of the labor movement and the rethinking of public education in places well beyond the city itself may be found in the chants ringing out in recent days that “Chicago is a union town.” And on September 10, it is highly likely that 26,000 Chicago teachers will be on strike, making it the largest teachers’ strike in the nation since the 1989 Los Angeles teachers’ strike.

The stage here was set by the militant opposition caucus that took control of the Chicago Teachers Union in 2010: the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, or CORE. After taking control of the CTU, however, the neoliberal agenda for Chicago Public Schools continued apace. The Democratic governor and legislature passed a bill limiting the teachers’ collective bargaining rights in June 2011, and Mayor Emanuel proceeded to unilaterally extend the school day and take back the raises that they were legally obligated to receive in the contract. After this series of affronts, the membership, led by the charismatic Karen Lewis, decided that the threat of a strike was the only thing that could change the balance of power in public education.

The impending strike of Chicago teachers will set the stage for much of the future conversation about the nature of public education in the United States — and possibly even globally. At a time when the right to public education, the right to strike (especially in the public sector) and the right to dissent are actively being suppressed on a scale ...

Published: Saturday 8 September 2012
“The Democratic governor and legislature passed a bill limiting the teachers’ collective bargaining rights in June 2011, and Mayor Emanuel proceeded to unilaterally extend the school day and take back the raises that they were legally obligated to receive in the contract.”

 

Most unions these days celebrate Labor Day with a parade. But this year, nearly 20,000 Chicago teachers and allies rallied and marched to say “Enough is enough” —  enough with educational privatization, enough with inadequate investment, enough with the blame of teachers instead of poverty, and enough with the blustering tactics of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his unelected, 1-percenter school board. A key to both the revitalization of the labor movement and the rethinking of public education in places well beyond the city itself may be found in the chants ringing out in recent days that “Chicago is a union town.” And on September 10, it is highly likely that 26,000 Chicago teachers will be on strike, making it the largest teachers’ strike in the nation since the 1989 Los Angeles teachers’ strike.

The stage here was set by the militant opposition caucus that took control of the Chicago Teachers Union in 2010: the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, or CORE. After taking control of the CTU, however, the neoliberal agenda for Chicago Public Schools continued apace. The Democratic governor and legislature passed a bill limiting the teachers’ collective bargaining rights in June 2011, and Mayor Emanuel proceeded to unilaterally extend the school day and take back the raises that they were legally obligated to receive in the contract. After this series of affronts, the membership, led by the charismatic Karen Lewis, decided that the threat of a strike was the only thing that could change the balance of power in public education.

The impending strike of Chicago teachers will set the stage for much of the future conversation about the nature of public education in the United States — and possibly even globally. At a time when the right to public education, the right to strike (especially in the public sector) and the right to dissent are actively being ...

Published: Monday 27 August 2012
“Governor Quinn, who vetoed the bill on Sunday, credited Golberg with raising awareness about the implications of the proposed law, and thanked Goldberg for her work to protect the environment in Illinois.”

 

Illinois student Abby Goldberg, joined by more than 170,000 people who signed her petition on Change.org, has persuaded Governor Pat Quinn to veto SB 3442, the Plastic Bag and Film Recycling Act, a proposed law that would have prohibited communities in Illinois from enacting bans on plastic bags.

Governor Quinn, who vetoed the bill on Sunday, credited Golberg with raising awareness about the implications of the proposed law, and thanked Goldberg for her work to protect the environment in Illinois. Earlier this summer, Gov. Quinn met with Goldberg personally when the 13-year-old girl delivered her petition to the Governor in Chicago.

“I’ve learned that no matter what your age, you can make a difference,” said Goldberg after the Governor’s decision. “Governor Quinn heard a loud and clear message from more than 170,000 people that local communities should have the right to enact plastic bag bans in Illinois. I’m very proud of everyone who came together to call for a veto of this bill.”

Last Spring, Goldberg, a student at Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake, Illinois, was given the assignment in her environmental awareness class to design an environmental project. She decided to convince her village board to enact a ban on plastic bags, similar to bans in Seattle, Los Angeles and elsewhere. When Goldberg learned that a bill was moving through the state government to prevent Grayslake and other towns from enacting such a ban in their own communities, she took action.

“I couldn’t sit by quietly while big plastic tried to push this bill through my state,” said Goldberg. “I care too much about animals, our environment and our future natural ...

Published: Friday 10 August 2012
“Why was Heartland - a 'free-market' think tank most well-known for its role in peddling climate change denial - so invested in supporting Walker in the recall election?”

 

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker will keynote the Heartland Institute's 28th Anniversary Benefit Dinner this evening at Navy Pier in Chicago, IL

Walker recently won the Kochtopus-funded Americans for Prosperity George Washington Award. Now, two months after his recall election steamrolling of Democrat Tom Barrett, the climate change denying group famous for its Unabomber billboard will embrace Walker with much fanfare

Heartland, whose internal documents were published this past spring by DeSmogBlog, sings praises for Walker's union-busting agenda and his recent recall victory in promoting the event

This year’s keynote speaker, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, is the nation’s most influential and successful governor. Elected in 2010 ...

Published: Sunday 15 July 2012
Published: Sunday 17 June 2012
Published: Saturday 2 June 2012
Douglas Oberhelman earned $16.9 million in 2011, a figure that includes salary, bonuses, stock and option awards and retirement plan contributions.

 

Workers at an Illinois plant for the mega manufacturer Caterpillar have been on strike for a month after rejecting a concession-heavy contract proposed by the company. Yesterday, workers overwhelmingly rejected a second Caterpillar offer, by a vote of 504-116.

According to union officials, the contract “provided no raises, eliminated the defined benefits pension program, weakened seniority rights and required machinists to pay higher contributions for health care.” All of this, at a time when the company is making record profits. In fact, Fortune Magazine recently said the company is “crushing it” when it comes to profitability.

At the same time that it is refusing to give its workers a fair raise, the company saw fit to increase its CEOs pay by 60 percent:

The annual compensation of Caterpillar Inc.’s chairman and chief executive rose 60 percent in 2011, as the company posted a record revenue of $60.1 billion.

Douglas Oberhelman earned $16.9 million in 2011, a figure that includes salary, bonuses, stock and option awards and retirement plan contributions. Oberhelman pay increase, which was tied to the company’s performance, included a $4.9 million cash payment, an 81 percent increase from his 2010 cash award. His base salary increased to $1.4 million from $1.1 million in 2010.

“The practice of raising ...

Published: Saturday 17 March 2012
“The group expressed a desire to disclose the names of its donors before Tuesday’s primary election in the spirit of “transparency,” according to its filing with the FEC.”

Democratic U.S. House candidate Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois has said he “detests” super PACs, but his friends and family don’t appear to share that opinion.  They have provided all of the money to a super PAC called “Suburban Voters for Choice,” which has spent $17,600 on a TV ad trying to give his campaign a last-minute boost.

 

Kalikathan Krishnamoorthi, the candidate’s father, a professor at Bradley University, donated $9,000 to Suburban Voters for Choice earlier this month, according to an iWatch News review of paperwork filed voluntarily by the group to the Federal Election Commission this week.

 

The candidate’s brother, Venkatesan “Ram” Krishnamoorthi, a doctor, donated an additional $2,400, and Glen Tullman, who is identified as both a “friend of Raja” and the president of healthcare information technology Allscripts, donated $10,000.

 

The three men are the only donors to the nascent super PAC, which was formed just three weeks ago by Michael Vainisi, who served as the finance director of Krishnamoorthi’s 2010 campaign for state comptroller.  The group’s assistant treasurer, J.B. Mantz, also previously served as a senior advisor to Krishnamoorthi during that unsuccessful race.

 

The group expressed a desire to disclose the names of its donors before Tuesday’s primary election in the spirit of “transparency,” according to its filing with the FEC.  Because of the group’s late formation, it was not legally required to disclose any of its donors prior to the election.

 

“We are going beyond what election law requires to disclose our donors now ahead of time, instead of ...

Published: Thursday 8 December 2011
The sentence is more than double the prison time given to Blagojevich’s corrupt predecessor, George Ryan, and marks the fourth time since the 1970s that an Illinois governor has been sent off to prison for wrongdoing.

A contrite former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was sentenced Wednesday to 14 years in federal prison, capping one of the state's worst political scandals and humbling a controversial and defiant figure who rode into office as a champion of reform.

The sentence handed Blagojevich was the second longest ever delivered in federal court in Chicago for a public corruption case. But U.S. District Judge James Zagel made it clear that the former governor's position and the relentless history of corruption in Illinois demanded a harsh message.

"When it is the governor who goes bad, the fabric of Illinois is torn and disfigured and not easily repaired," the judge lectured Blagojevich. "You did that damage."

The sentence is more than double the prison time given to Blagojevich's corrupt predecessor, George Ryan, and marks the fourth time since the 1970s that an Illinois governor has been sent off to prison for wrongdoing.

Blagojevich, who became the first Illinois governor impeached and involuntarily removed from office, is expected to turn himself in to start serving his sentence on Feb. 16 - putting two Illinois governors in prison at the same time. Ryan is serving a 6 1/2-year prison term.

Under federal sentencing rules, Blagojevich won't be eligible for release until early 2024 when he is 67 years old.

The former governor was sentenced after making a final plea to Zagel that saw him apologize to the court but seemingly stop just short of fully admitting he had done something criminal.

"I'm here convicted of crimes. The jury decided I was guilty," said Blagojevich, leaning with both hands on the courtroom lectern in front of Zagel. "I am accepting of it. I acknowledge it and I, of course, am unbelievably sorry for it."

Blagojevich's voice sometimes halted as he attempted to keep his emotions in check. He apologized to the people of Illinois, saying he ...

Published: Tuesday 15 November 2011
New concealed weapon law in Wisconsin seen as a great victory for the NRA.

Bob Jauch has earned his “F” grade from the National Rifle Association. The Democratic Wisconsin state senator from Poplar has long fought the gun lobby’s efforts to let state residents carry concealed weapons.

In 2004 and again in 2006, Jauch voted against overriding Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s veto of a concealed carry bill. Both times, his colleagues in the Senate voted to override, in 2004 drawing this bitter reaction from Jauch: “The NRA won today.”

Both times, the Assembly fell narrowly short of mustering the requisite two-thirds vote.

This year, following the election of Republican Gov. Scott Walker and GOP majorities in both houses, concealed carry was back. Jauch voted against the bill in committee, and pushed amendments to automatically ban concealed weapons from places including the state Capitol, child care centers, churches and bars. All were defeated.

But Jauch ended up voting for the final bill anyway.

“I think the mood of the public has changed,” Jauch explained in a letter to constituents. And while he does not expect to see a reduction in crime, which is already much lower in Wisconsin than the national ...

Published: Tuesday 1 November 2011
“The Occupy movements that have swept across the country fuse the elements vital for revolt.”

Jon Friesen, 27, tall and lanky with a long, dirty-blond ponytail, a purple scarf and an old green fleece, is sitting on concrete at the edge of Zuccotti Park leading a coordination meeting, a gathering that takes place every morning with representatives of each of Occupy Wall Street’s roughly 40 working groups.

“Our conversation is about what it means to be a movement and what it means to be an organization,” he says to the circle. A heated discussion follows, including a debate over whether the movement should make specific demands.

I find him afterward on a low stone wall surrounding a flowerbed in the park. He decided to come to New York City, he said, from the West Coast for the 10th anniversary of 9/11. He found a ride on Craig’s List while staying at his brother’s home in Champaign, Ill.

“It was a television event when I was 17,” he says of the 2001 attacks. “I came here for the 10-year anniversary. I wanted to make it real to myself. I’d never been to New York. I’d never been to the East Coast.”

Once he reached New York City he connected with local street people to find “assets.” He slept in the parks and on the street. He arrived on the first day of the occupation in Zuccotti Park. He found other “traveler types” whose survival skills and political consciousness were as developed as his own.

In those first few days, he says, “it was the radicals and the self-identifying anarchists” who set up the encampment. Those who would come later, usually people with little experience in dumpster diving, sleeping on concrete or depending on a McDonald’s restroom, would turn to revolutionists like Friesen for survival. Zuccotti Park, like most Occupied sites, schooled the uninitiated.

 

“The structure and process carried out by those initial radicals,” he says with delight of the first days in the ...

Published: Wednesday 3 August 2011
"The Illinois DREAM Act attempts to alleviate that burden through scholarships that don’t cost the state government any money."

Undocumented youth in Illinois received some good news this week as Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signed the Illinois DREAM Act into law, making the state the 12th to pass legislation that will help young people without papers pay for college.

The bill provides a private scholarship fund for undocumented young people who attended high school for at least three years in Illinois, have at least one immigrant parent, and want to attend private or public universities in the state.

In an interview yesterday, Quinn said, “Illinois has to be a welcoming society here in the 21st century [for] everybody with nobody left out, and that’s really what this bill stands for.”

One of the biggest barriers to undocumented youths’ college attendance (at least, in states that haven’t banned their attendance) is the prohibitively expensive price of higher education, as most are ineligible for financial aid to help pay their way through college. The Illinois DREAM Act, like other similar bills, attempts to alleviate that burden through scholarships that don’t cost the state government any money. The issue of providing full citizenship for those youth, however, remains unresolved.

The ceremony yesterday was attended by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who indicated on the campaign trail that he would support such a bill. In a statement, the mayor plugged his new Office of New Americans, which will help immigrants to Chicago open new businesses. Emanuel has taken heat from immigrants rights groups in the past for his ...

Published: Monday 1 August 2011
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