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Re: The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery

This is very bad history.  The Constitution in no way threatened the slave patrol militias and abolitionists were far too few to be considered a threat when the Constitution was adopted.  Remember that slavery was not an exclusively southern institution at the time and major northern states like New York and New Jersey were still slave states.  The ideological roots of the 2nd Amendment lay elsewhere and it doesn't help the case against gun madness to make up phoney
history like this.
Stan Nadel
History Prof. U. Portland
History PhD Columbia U. 1981

♦ Re. 2nd Amendment & Slavery by Hartmann: Highly tendentious interpretation. Every state had a militia. The reason it was written into the Constitution was to avoid the need for a large professional army that could be used to impose presidential rule (read up on the English revolution of 1688). This is the little kernel of truth in the gun nuts' claim that their right to keep an arsenal in their closets is the ultimate protector of liberty. Of course, in slave states the militia could be called out to suppress unruly slaves, just as in all states it has been called out to suppress striking free workers.

The real irony in the NRA "defense of the Second Amendment" is that the second word in the second amendment is "well- regulated." The real joke is that the post-WW2 imperial presidency has command of a huge mercenary army and weapons that no neighborhood shooting club could hope to match (think drones). For NRA types the income tax and watershed protection are the very definition of federal tyranny. Imprisonment or execution without warrant or trial doesn't seem to concern them, but this should concern people whose idea of liberty goes beyond putting a fence around your yard.

The Left ought to think about the danger of tyranny too and not get bogged down in the "violence isn't health for children and other living things" kind of sentimentality. I wish every young radical would consider joining the national guard. I wish I had received military training when I was young (but, I was a sentimental pacifist then). Keeping an assault rifle in your basement won't stop a right-wing military coup, but a lot of progressive-minded people in the militia might be able to start a resistance if it ever came to that.

David Worley

♦ This is an amazing article based on astounding research which demonstrates convincingly that the Second Amendment was drafted and passed with wording designed to protect the local Southern armies keeping black people in slavery. Not only does it show how obsolete the law now is, but it also shows where it comes from and who the people are (as well as their friends and forbears) who still support it. The fight for gun control is thus a part of the fight against slavery and everything that stemmed from it - segregation, discrimination, as well as second-class citizenship for anyone but propertied white males.

Someone send this to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert?

Best wishes

Leonard J. Lehrman

Re: Liberal Groups' Plan to Remake American Politics

Unless these organizations substantially change the way they work, this initiative will go nowhere, as the antecedents cited suggest.

Possibly the SEIU/Emily's/AFL-CIO/Sierra Club GOTV effort in 2004 laid the groundwork for success in 2012, but in 2004 it failed. Kerry lost the national popular vote.

Likewise the HCAN alliance around health care reform aimed explicitly to achieve a public plan option in the framework of mooted insurance exchanges, which also were in their vision meant to be more open than current versions. HCAN utterly failed to achieve the "public option."

The HCAN experience is particularly telling, characterized as it was by an arrogance that divided progressives. HCAN insisted on "putting single payer off the table" from the beginning.

Howard Dean, himself a "public option" supporter, explained what was wrong with that approach to an audience arranged by the Democratic Party of Oregon from which single payer advocates were excluded by an overzealous staffer of Congressman Earl Blumenauer in May 2009, forcing us to demonstrate loudly outside rather than being part of a civil debate inside as we had intended.  As Dean said, if single payer had been in the debate, "public option" would have been a compromise position. Excluding us made it the furthest left position, what was compromised from, rather than to. HCAN stupidly and arrogantly bargained against itself, and in the process sold short millions of its grass-roots supporters who honestly thought "public option" was the best achievable route forward.

It also needlessly divided health reform advocates. On the ground in Oregon single payer advocates sometimes made common cause with HCAN's local allies, in actions focused on insurance companies. We could have done much more if not for the rigid opposition to us by HCAN. In the Portland local MoveOn face-to-face group, over 95% of members supported a single payer approach. National MoveOn denied permission to advertise that fact using the MoveOn name.

This kind of attitude by the large "national" (read D.C. lobbying-focused) groups reflects their penchant and preference for high-altitude, technocratic politics run by highly paid professionals. Most of the groups mentioned conduct mail-order politics and treat their nominal constituents as consumers, from whom funds are to be raised, rather than as activists to be mobilized, never mind actually persistently organized. Most either do not have members at all, or if they do, members are merely donors who have no voice in governance or strategy.

Their preferred methods of work involve spending lots of money on polling and television advertising, court-based struggles, and legislative and regulatory lobbying in Washington, D.C. It involves "branding" so that each organization develops its own funding base, and competition for those direct mail & internet dollars from political consumers, at the expense of an cohesive or coherent progressive strategy even within single issue areas, and at the expense of developing organized activist groups in local communities.

Evidently these big-dog organizations understand that their model, which has been decreasingly effective since the 1980s, is on the verge of being wiped out. It is good that they are looking to take some form of struggle out away from D.C.

But the actual ideas listed display a poverty of imagination focused on narrow, technocratically targeted campaigns, which will mobilize rather than organize, and fail to do broad movement building or persistent organizing.

That will fail again, just as Kerry lost in 2004, and HCAN failed in 2008-9.

Chris Lowe
Portland, Oregon

Re: What Obama's Gun Plan Means For Mental Health Care

Seth Freed Wessler's article "What Obama's Gun Plan Means for Mental Health Care" is a very important article that gives a much clearer picture of issues around mental health and violence that has characterized the mainstream media.

The horrible, unspeakable murders that have been committed by mentally ill persons in past months have raised public fears about the potential dangers of untreated mental illness.  Wessler is absolutely right when he indicates that only a tiny portion of mentally ill persons pose the slightest risk to public safety. These are persons with mental illness who are not receiving treatment and who are abusing substances.

The incidents in Sandy Hook, Aurora--and recent New York City Subways--are "Black Swan" or "Wild Card" incidents; they are unpredictable and rare.  While measures to improve background checks are vitally needed, they will not guarantee total safety.

However, improving our mental health treatment system with not only contribute to safety, but will correct and inhumane and broken mental health system. I use the term "broken" without reservation. For 15 years, I supervised an Adult Probation Unit in Chicago which provided links to services and case management for mentally ill offenders.  We soon learned how difficult it was for mentally ill persons to negotiate a fragmented and broken mental health system, a pitifully lacking health insurance system and a woefully inadequate safety net.

It is not a "diversion" from the topic of gun safety, to point out our egregious failure to treat mental illness. Of roughly 30,000 firearms-related fatalities, half these are suicides. Clinically, we know that 90% of these suicides are the result of untreated Depression. Suicide prevention (I have run suicide prevention programs in schools) address educating people about depression and urging better access to treatment.

There are issues in the President's proposals and in the recently-passe New York State legislation that are troubling for mental health professionals.  We are concerned about patient privacy, but there is also concern about current involuntary treatment provisions that are so narrowly defined that patients who pose a threat cannot be admitted. These issues have raised a lot of discussion in the mental health community and no consensus has arisen.

I find it sad that the only times our mental health system comes to national attention is when a tragedy occurs. These events contribute to the stigma that surrounds mental illness, but seldom provoke legislators and policy makes to provide desperately needed resources.

James H. Williams, PhD,
LCSW President, Pierce County (WA) Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI.)


Re: Barack Obama Charts an Arc of History That Bends Toward Justice

I'm surprised that John Nichols gives literally one sentence to what Obama said on climate. As a long-time climate activist, it was a big deal that Obama addressed climate with some substance immediately after speaking about health care. It was a definite step-up in his language, and there are a number of other signs that indicate that he intends to make this a top priority in his second term.

Climate isn't just "another issue." We could solve every other issue facing us and if we don't solve this one, all those other developments don't matter. Catastrophic climate change will completely and totally disrupt human society and our environment as a whole; it's already starting.

I continue to be amazed that some progressives just don't get how central this issue is to EVERYTHING ELSE we are trying to do.

Ted Glick

On Dr. King Day,  Americans celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. King and the second inauguration of our first African-American President.

In many ways President Obama reached back to the struggle of Dr. King and brought it forward to today laying out a progressive agenda firmly and determinedly with conviction and commitment.

This was and is a president committed to equal rights and a common sensical but clearly forward looking agenda asking all of us to join him in a struggle for America to take a step forward in history, to overrun those who would hold us back and fight the progress we so clearly need.

If it is true that the history of America and, indeed our species, is two steps forward and one step back but ultimately inexorably toward greater justice and freedom, yesterday's inaugural speech was President Obama saying we are taking that step forward now in his second term and into the future.

The President also laid out an agenda that will take us and the Democratic Party strongly into the future. It was again a commonsensical agenda that Americans will someday see as facing global realities--equal rights and gay rights, immigration reform, refusing to go backwards on Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, and a nod toward income and wealth fairness.

Now it is up to us to organize a real struggle against America's horrific income and wealth inequality and to lay down the foundation that can enable that organized struggle into a nation-changing movement.

In several ways, the President's speech was an acknowledgement of how difficult our ongoing struggle toward greater justice and freedom really is. When the President linked Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall he was saying we have a responsibility to continue our nation's difficult movement to the future, and he was praising our forebears in struggle.

Stewart Acuff

Re: Obama's Organizing for Action

Maintaining Obama's campaign machine is a good idea. Perhaps they can work with the newly formed Democracy Initiative.

Climate change is not the first priority of any politicians but it should be. Obama is under enormous pressure to give the go-ahead to the Keystone pipeline. This would be an enormous mistake, as it would make his few token comments about climate change seem irrelevent. The reason he should turn down the pipeline is to signify that he is serious about starting to take action to change the energy regime. That action in conjunction with a strategy to get the alternative energy sector moving is crucial. It will also create jobs - millions of green jobs! It takes some guts, some planning and some initiative but it is essential.

Laurel MacDowell

Re: NYC Bus Strike Kicks Off to Fight Privatization of Yellow Buses

For them and for the sake of all resistance, it is vital that these workers be supported in their efforts to bring home a win in this fight.

The protections they are defending came about as a result of the historic school bus strike in NYC in the late 1970's. Outside of NYC and around the country, school bus workers are at the mercy of the counties and municipalities without these protections.  For mayor Bloomberg and school chancellor Walcott this is not about NY's school children at all, and not just about money in the short run but very much about the longer term benefit from undermining union strength in NYC and having a workforce that is as close to desperate as possible which can never be good for the precious cargo these workers carry.

Roger Toussaint,
past President TWU, Local 100

Re: A Young Publisher Takes Marx Into the Mainstream

How many times does that make it?  i mean marx being taken into the mainstream. I mean in the last year alone.

Larry Rockwood

Re: Barry Bonds, Baseball and the Redemption of America

This is bull!  Barry Bonds has to share in the complicity, as does Roger Clemens, because, same as Lance Armstrong, he used illegal & artificial performance-enhancing drugs for the purpose of--not just fame, but for getting very large sums of money!  They too, just like the others Minsky lists, were motivated by good old capitalist greed.  So no, I don't regard either Bonds, Clemens or Armstrong as these "great athletes"-- they are not in the same league with Henry Aaron, whose home- run record Bonds broke, because Aaron made his mark naturally, through training, effort and discipline, not through "better living through chemistry."
George Fish
Indianapolis, IN

♦ The fact that Bonds and Clemens were not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility does not mean that they will never get in.  There is a 15 year period of eligibility, and many baseball writers NEVER vote for a player in their first year of eligibility.  Many of the true greats were not elected in their first year.  What's the rush?  What's the calamity?  There's plenty of time.
Shaurain Farber
Bronx, NY

Re: Welcome to Portside 2.0

Beautiful new presentation! Congratulations on the clarity and
accessibility of design!

John Crawford

Alexis Tsipras & Greek left party SYRIZA delegation in NYC! - Jan. 24 live tweet; Jan. 25 free public event

Later this week Alexis Tsipras and other leaders of SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left), the leading opposition party in Greece, will be in New York City for two public events: the first at Columbia University on Thursday, January 24 at 6pm, and the second at the City University of New York Graduate Center on Friday, January 25 at 7pm.
Please note that the Thursday event at Columbia requires pre-registration, and we just received this bulletin: Registration: Pre-registration is closed. Please sign-up here to be placed on the waitlist and you will be notified if additional space becomes available. Those who are unable to attend are invited to watch on the livestream here. For press registration, please email Rohan Grey.) The event will be live-tweeted by @thepublicmoney under the hashtags #mmpp and #syriza.
In any case, there is still seating room at the Friday CUNY meeting.
Don't miss the opportunity to hear from the leading mass political resistance to Europe's austerity program -- and to consider the relevance of their struggles, challenges and decisions to our own here in the United States!
In peace and solidarity,

Joanne Landy and Thomas Harrison
Co-Directors, Campaign for Peace and Democracy

♦ The Center for the Study of Culture, Technology, and Work
City University of New York


On Anti-Austerity Politics in Greece, Europe and Beyond
Friday, January 25th, 2013, 7 - 9pm

Proshansky Auditorium - CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue (near 34th Street); Manhattan, NY
Alexis Tsipras is a member of the Hellenic parliament, president of the Synaspismos political party since 2008, head of the SYRIZA parliamentary group since 2009, and Leader of the Opposition since June 2012. SYRIZA currently leads in Greek opinion polls.
This is A FREE event. ID required for entry.Check out the event Facebook page.

Women and the Civil Rights Movement: Free Online Course

Women and the Civil Rights Movement (Free Online Course) Dr. Elsa Barkley Brown

Learn about women's roles in the U.S. civil rights struggles of the 1890s to the 1990s.

Next Session: Feb 25th 2013 (12 weeks long)
Workload: 8-10 hours/week

About the Course

This course examines the U.S. civil rights movement from the vantage point of women, considering both women's involvement in the legal campaigns and political protests and the impact of civil rights struggles on women's status and identity. Taking a "long civil rights movement" perspective, we begin in the late nineteenth century and consider events, organizations, and personalities through the twentieth century.

Throughout we will consider issues which have preoccupied historians, social movement theorists, and historians alike: developing and sustaining political commitment, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of various forms of political organization, maximizing influence and securing long-range objectives.  We will also examine competing definitions of leadership; class, race, and gender dynamics within the movement; and the cultural dynamics of political organizing and social change.

In the process, we consider not only how the movement altered the status of African Americans in the U.S. but the legacy of these struggles as they changed understandings of citizenship and rights more broadly.   Our concern throughout the course will be to not only understand the historical narrative but also to see how historians work to make sense of the past.

About the Instructor(s)

Dr. Elsa Barkley Brown teaches in the Departments of History and Women's Studies at the University of Maryland College Park. She is the co-editor of the 2-volume Black Women in U.S. History: An Historical Encyclopedia and of a 2-volume textbook, Major Problems in African American History. Her articles on African American women's history have been awarded the A. Elizabeth Taylor Prize for best article in southern women's history, the Letitia Brown Memorial Publication Prize for best article in black women's history, the Martin Luther King Jr. Prize for best article in African American history, and the Anna Julia Cooper Prize for distinguished scholarship in black women's studies. She has held fellowships from the W.E.B. DuBois Institute, Harvard University, and The American Philosophical Society. A past president of the Southern Association for Women Historians, Professor Barkley Brown currently serves on the Editorial Board of  Women and U.S. Social Movements, 1600-2000.

Recommended Background

There is no prerequisite but the course will be conducted at the level expected of advanced undergraduates. Suggested Readings The course includes significant reading of primary historical documents of the civil rights movement and historians' analyses.

Course Format

Each week I will offer a series of video discussions, including an analytical overview of the week's topics and themes and shorter case studies of specific activists, organizations, events.  I will also offer video discussions of the major readings.  There will be weekly quizzes and throughout the course students will be asked to write short essays offering insights into the reading.  After a student has submitted an essay, the student will be given access to the essays written by several fellow students and be asked to read and comment on those.  The course will include an optional online forum where students may raise questions about the historical material and engage the contemporary implications of our discussions of citizenship, rights, and political organizing.  The forum will be monitored and in some cases I will reply in the forum or post a supplementary video clip for the class based on issues raised in the forum.


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