Portside aims to provide varied material of interest to people on the left that will help them to interpret the world, and to change it.
Re: The 2013 Inauguration and the Road Forward (Ellen Dannin)
Re: 2nd Amendment Passed to Protect Slavery? No! (Peter Marcuse, Paul Finkelman, Jean Damu, Richard Curtis)
Re: Vietnam: An Unfinished Debt (Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz)
Re: As Union Membership Declines, So Do Wages - Despite Job Growth (Michael Munk)
Re: The GOP Crackup: How Obama is Unraveling Reagan Republicanism (Norman Markowitz, Mark Binder)
• Early in his first term, Obama said if we wanted him to do things, we have to make him do it. I took that then as an important call to action for each of us to bring constant pressure on Obama if we wanted positive change.
Unfortunately, that pressure did not happen at the levels necessary to achieve our goals. There are many reasons for that failure. There was the euphoria of the moment, the hoped for magic of saying "Yes, we can", and the fears and sense of powerlessness of so many hit hard by the bad economy and the constant onslaught by the rightwing.
Now we have a chance for a do-over, and we should take it.
Obama seems to have concluded that we will not provide the pressure necessary to overcome the power of his - and our - opponents. Just after the inauguration, he launched Organizing for America and a checklist of actions the public can take to support the agenda outlined in his inauguration address. https://my.barackobama.com/page/content/pledgeproject
In other words, Obama is borrowing from all the groups that sent out email solicitations asking us to "click here to send a message to [fill in the blank]". He is trying to create a movement that will pressure him so he can bring pressure on others to do the correct thing.
He is correct that there must be a large mass movement in support of repairing our impoverished society.
But, lets show him that he should have faith that we all will apply the pressure on Obama and on all of our elected officials to create a just, flourishing, and humane society.
• If it's true that: "Some other anti-federalists wanted a federal guarantee of a right to own weapons for hunting and self-defense and even a federal right to go fishing. Madison wisely ignored these demands and emphatically did not offer an individual right to own weapons."
That would be dynamite in the present debate. Details would be great!
• Probably more details than you want
"A WELL REGULATED MILITIA": THE SECOND AMENDMENT IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE by Paul Finkelman in The Chicago-Kent Law REview, Vol. 76, No. 1
Paul Finkelman, Ph.D.
President William McKinley Distinguished Professor of Law
Albany Law School
• While I didn't read Thom Hartmann's article too closely when it first appeared I read Paul Finkleman's very closely. I've been a big fan of his for more than a decade when I first began to study the issue of Black reparations, which led obviously to the study of the impact of slavery on all the various manifestations of US life.
But I have two issues with Finkelman's piece. Number one I think he seriously underestimates the occurrences of slave revolts. Possibly primary evidence of 17th and 18th Century slave revolts no longer exists but I doubt that. About 60 years ago with the publication of Herbert Apthekers, "American Negro Slave Revolts," American academia was turned upside down with historical evidence that slave revolts were far more extensive and frequent than previously admitted. To this day more evidence of more slave revolts is revealed.
Further Finkelman's diminishment of the role of slave revolts stands in stark contrast to the vast degree to which the South was militarized, possibly one of the most militarized geographies on the planet at that time. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, 70% of the army's officer corps resigned and enlisted with the Confederacy.
One reason for the large military population in the South was that it allowed non-slave owning whites to enter the middle class because the dominant industries used slave labor and provided few employment opportunities for whites.
But this take away from the fact that all the southern states had multiple militias and armories that dominated civilian life. Consider the Alabama Military Institute and Seminary of which W.T.Sherman was the headmaster and chief theologian before the war.
Howard Zinn in Peoples History of the US writes of the plethora of southern military institutes and the defense against slave uprisings.
All these factors Finkelman ignores in his response to Hartmann.
Secondly, I think both Hartmann and Finkelman kind of miss the point of the gun control issue by focusing so pointedly on slave revolt suppression, although clearly it was a motivation, if not entirely, for the writing and passage of the Second Amendment.
What is more relevant to the current discussion is how the whole discussion around the Second Amendment was created, virtually out of whole cloth, by the right wing (NRA, gun manufacturers and white supremacy organizations) to convince the American people that each and every citizen had the right to own their own weapon.
In historical terms this is a relatively new movement whose inspirations directly can be traced to the assassination of President John Kennedy and the successes of the Civil Rights Movement.
Finkelman touched on this briefly in his comments about Justices Scalia and Thomas's written comments on gun control. But really it was Justice Kennedy, who wrote the 2008 landmark Heller decision that overturned Washington, D.C.'s ban on hand guns, who made reference no more than eleven times to Americans' historic duty to defend themselves against bears and wild Indians and thus buying into the myth that all Americans have always had guns at their side.
Previous to 2008, in the entire history of the Supreme Court it had only ruled twice on gun ownership, once in the 19th Century and once in the 20th Century and never before had the issue of personal gun ownership been raised.
Now the discussion has been framed by the NRA and the 3,000 right wing armed militia organizations that dot the US landscape and endorsed by the Supreme Court.
The logical extension of this gun nut driven dialogue is that as soon as technology permits the mass production of drones, every citizen must be allowed to have their own armed drone.
If citizens are constitutionally permitted to have assault rifles, why not a drone?
• Does this legal scholar have anything to say about why this particularly language was used and what the purpose of it might be? It is interesting that he knows the details of the history so well, but curious that with all this knowledge all he was able to do is disagree with Hartmann but not actually offer an alternative theory. One line implies the only purpose was for states to fight a civil war if they disagreed with the national government, or perhaps if a neighboring state invaded (as a son of Colorado I know we worried all the time about Kansas invading).
So his view is basically in line with the paranoid view of the NRA, that the 2nd Amendment is there so citizens can arm themselves against the state? Does he think this was reasonable, assuming he thinks it was true? And is that the only alternative theory? So either it is about slavery or it is about paranoia? Does he have anything else? This certainly implies that it was either a really bad idea because it was about protecting evil (slavery) or it is now a really bad idea because all that is left of it is paranoid delusions?
• This is a needed reminder. I do wish the author and others would not use American/America when they mean the United States. It's particularly annoying with articles on US imperialism, since assuming the whole hemisphere as the US is the essence of imperialist thinking.
• We should distinguish between unions in private vs. public employment and appreciate the difference between their employers. It's more familiar for most people to cheer for the workers confronting the 1% (a profit-hungry boss or multi-national corporation) than for employees negotiating with a non-profit public service bureaucrat for wages and benefits paid for by all taxpayers. Today, the majority (51%) of union members are public employees who appeal for support indirectly through claims on behalf of children, seniors, the poor and other objects of sympathy and exercise their power by electing officials rather than through the economic power to shut down a business or industry. As union density among private workers falls down to barely visible 6.6%, the social makeup of the union movement moves away from the "working class" to the "middle class" - the sector most privileged in today's political campaigns.
• This is a bit of wishful thinking. We have got to remember what has occurred over the last thirty years--the deregulation of wall street and banking, the reduction of the organized labor movement among private sector workers to single digits, the "packing of the judiciary" with ultrarightists who have literally sought to repeal the entire 20th century in terms of social policy and legislation. The Obama administration is the first administration to challenge these trends since they developed, and it has a record of achievement, but it has been undermined at every step and, in key areas, like a national public jobs program and a commitment to enacting pro labor legislation and serious reregulation, has taken baby steps in regard to policy
• As the pundits were talking last night, after Jindal made his "stop being the stupid party" crack, all their flaks trotted out their "being stupid" talking points all over again"
Please, GOP, please, if this is your "stop being stupid" tact, continue full tilt boogie!!