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Tidbits - March 21, 2013

Readers Comments on CBC Alternative Budget; Social Security; NY Police Arrest Quotas; Iraq War Ten Years After - Declassified Documents Released; Union Dues Check-Off?; Open Letter to Tony Kushner; Music video against gun violence; Wither the Socialist Left?; James O'Keefe and the Acorn Deception; Unions and Co-ops; Obamacare's Other Benefit; Dolores Huerta in the California Hall of Fame; Neoliberalism & Working Class Resistance in Greece - March 22 forum in New York;...

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http://bytesdaily.blogspot.com/,
 
The "Pro Growth, Pro People, Pro America" budget plan proposed by the Congressional Black Caucus contains some very important proposals that if adopted would go a long way to improve the US fiscal crisis.
 
What I don't understand is why there are two alternative budgets on the table--"The CBC Alternative Budget for Fiscal Year 2014" and the "Back to Work" budget of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. It would seem that the two have much in common and both have the same goal:  solve the fiscal crisis not on the backs of the poor and middle class, but through revenue enhancement from the rich and their institutions:  Wall Street and the big banks.
 
By having two different plans, the liberals and progressives in Congress seem to be working at cross purposes.  Those of us around the nation as a whole have to divide our energies and resources.  It would seem to be much more efficient if the two caucuses, who have many of the same members, could have pooled their efforts to produce one unified document that we on Main Street could rally around and work to pass.
 
David Gurowsky
 
 
 
This is a very strong and well-documented statement of all the ways that our middle year generation is falling behind, and also indirectly illustrates the way the 1% foment intergenerational conflict to mask their depradations on all of our well-being. Cheers for Robert Kuttner!
 
Paula Doress-Worters 
 
 
 
 
Daily updates on the current Floyd v. City of New York trial challenging the constitutionality of the NYPD's stop-and-frisk program. The case is being brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, and CCR is doing a daily update of what happened at the trial. It is here: . We publish around 7pm, give or take a few minutes. 
 
Dorothee Benz,
communications director,
Center for Constitutional Rights
 
    ====
 
Dear portside, keep up the great work in informing the public about illegal and unconstitutional activities by the police and others.  
 
fraternally yours, 
 
john mulvey
 
 
 
Great article on those criminals who led us into the horrendous iraqui war.
 
Roger
 
 
 
 
Declassified Documents Show Failed Intelligence, Policy Ad Hockery, Propaganda-Driven Decisionmaking
 
National Security Archive Publishes "Essential" Primary Sources on Operation Iraqi Freedom
 
National Security Archive Briefing Book No. 418
 
Posted -- March 19, 2013
 
Edited by Joyce Battle and Malcolm Byrne
 
For more information contact:
Joyce Battle or Malcolm Byrne -- 202/994-7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu
 
Washington, D.C., March 19, 2013 -- The U.S. invasion of Iraq turned out to be a textbook case of flawed assumptions, wrong-headed intelligence, propaganda manipulation, and administrative ad hockery, according to the National Security Archive's briefing book of declassified documents posted today to mark the 10th anniversary of the war.
 
The Archive's documentary primer includes the famous Downing Street memo ("intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy"), the POLO STEP PowerPoint invasion plans (assuming out of existence any possible insurgency), an FBI interview with Saddam Hussein in captivity (he said he lied about weapons of mass destruction to keep Iran guessing and deterred), and the infamous National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (wrong in its findings, but with every noted dissent turning out to be accurate).
 
"These dozen documents provide essential reading for anyone trying to understand the Iraq war," remarked Joyce Battle, Archive senior analyst who is compiling a definitive reference collection of declassified documents on the Iraq War. "At a moment when the public is debating the costs and consequences of the U.S. invasion, these primary sources refresh the memory and ground the discussion with contemporary evidence."
 
Check out today's posting at the National Security Archive website
 
Find us on Facebook
 
Unredacted, the Archive blog
 
 
 
Sam seems to conflate "Right-to=Work" with dues checkoff.  They are not the same thing.  RtW can (and does in US RtW states)  exist with checkoff.
 
The dues checkoff requires a worker to sign a form authorizing the employer to act as a conduit from the worker's paycheck to the union. In this it is not different than a payroll tax deduction which is transmitted to the government. Similarly workers may authorize deductions from their wages for savings accounts, for insurance premiums, for contributions to a political fund, etc. The issue is not the checkoff per se, it is whether or not it is voluntary.
 
I am in agreement with Sam's concern about the way the dues issue is handled and the way the union relates to its members. Forty plus years ago I had organized a faculty union among the professors employed by the state of Pennsylvania on 14 college and university campuses. I opposed a legislative initiative for "agency fee", a requirement that ALL workers covered by (and, presumably, benefiting from) a collective bargaining agreement pay a fee (usually slightly less than full dues) for the representation the union provides them.
 
We had achieved 85% voluntary dues paying membership. I felt that this army of "volunteers" (In the sense that A.J. Muste used the term) was a stronger fighting force than would be one of "draftees". My views, as expressed in the presentation (below) to AAUP were the product of my experiences representing a union in southern RtW states.
 
Martin Morand
 
see a related post that I just posted on the Portside Facebook page:  UNION SECURITITY or INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS: The Case For and Against Agency Fee. This was part of the American Association of University Professors for Collective Bargaining: Summer Institute: Leadership Training (June 29-July 1, 1979)
 
 
 
The war the US waged in Vietnam will forever haunt us its citizens. Then at least soldiers faced the civilians, including women and children, that they slaughtered. Today, we do this via 'clean-hand' drones. And, if perchance, my government deemed these words of mine as aiding and abetting the 'enemy' then they could easily target my little cottage in the hills of Donegal Ireland.
 
Margie Bernard
 
 
 
Awesome take on the losers who will continue to lose...and nary a whisper about immigration reform, the hatred of women contained in each and every campaign speech during the 2012 election, nor their desire, per Mitt's 47% fiasco, to disregard the REAL American people that they do not work for, but only against.
 
Mary Wilson
 
 
 
 
a music video by ALAN MAGEE
 
[thanks to one of our readers in Maine for sending this to Portside.]
 
 
 
I suggest everyone write their own proposal on left unity.
 
This is hardly Mark's first effort at seeking unity. The fact that he is doing so should be commended by all, and I hope all  follow his example.
 
That said, I do not agree with what I will call Mark's "socialist  realism" formulation for uniting self described "socialists", including the Communist party. I do not oppose such unity --- but  think agreement on both "socialism" and "realism" highly unlikely to meet the demands of the battle.  Nonetheless, I thank him for including the CP in his list of "socialist realists", as it gives hope that indeed a range of unity is possible on a substantial section of the socialist left. ("Socialist Realism"  sounds a bit like the Stalin trend in art :)). I thank Mark also for saying out loud many thoughts that have sometimes remained in silence, including among Party members..
 
My own view -- one that I think is consistent with Marx's understanding of, and best writing about, classes and capitalism -- says this about socialism: socialism begins economically with the expansion of public goods, entitlements (rights) and services. It begins politically with the rise of organized working class forces as the only "disinterested" -- in the Enlightenment sense -- class.  A socialist society begins when it is led by the working class, or where the working class is at least full partner in leadership. Socialism reaches its foreseeable destiny when public goods are dominant, but the state begins to shrink. The latter would be evidence class conflicts requiring the threat of state violence are subsiding, and technology supporting a decentralization of governance advances alongside a steady empowerment, and increased responsibility for self government.
 
This is a social - democratic vision. It does not reject revolution in principle, but it is optimistic about the strategy and tactics of reform as long as economic growth and positive technological and productivity development is possible through existing and evolving democratic institutions.
 
But many support another view, that socialism is synonymous with annihilating capitalism in virtually every form; that only a policy of plotting a revolution, and afterwards suppressing the enemy class, is properly called a socialist path or political line; that reforms are primarily opportunities to expose the hopelessness of reforming capitalism; that actually attempting to govern under capitalism would be an inherently "opportunistic" sin.
 
Right or wrong, the collapse such "command socialism" in the USSR and retreat of almost all other socialist countries to a socialist market --- i.e. mixed --- economies, has largely marginalized this view. It was tried. It was not sustainable.
 
Further, even before the collapse, when these concepts had a lot more potential credibility than afterwards, I never found much support for them among the electronic and machine and plastic workers I represented as a union rep, and even less among the software workers in the Internet startups I worked with. So there's no real role for such "socialism" in the leadership of organizations and coalitions uniting the left and center of the working class movement.
 
I think the answer to both popular AND left unity is in the politics of the left-center of the working class movement, which I distinguish from broader questions of unity for now. "Working class movement" means all struggles for equity, equality, social progress, and peace. Assume, hypothetically for a moment, that there was a political party embracing the left and center of that movement. What are its politics? What must it unite on? What must people agree to disagree on? How big is it? What are its values? What is its Program?
 
I am not sure this political party is called socialist, even though one of its foundations, I am sure, must be a rollback of corporate power in many areas of economic and political life. (It is not sustainable to protect "too big to fail or prosecute" enterprises as self regulated private corporations, who can also spend unlimited sums on politics, anonymously). Still, lengthy and futile debates attempting to reconcile irreconcilable "socialist" trends is a distraction that I fear neither time nor fate will allow.
 
I am at least half-convinced that a largely new vocabulary is needed to re-define the class issues and challenges that this coalition must address, and draw millions into its path. The key here is democracy and empowerment for working people, and the human values needed to guide them, and us, in making decisions that always strive to advance the whole movement, and thus the whole people, forward.
 
I will write more on this, especially the "values" part, which I submit must have a uniquely American voice, but universal resonance. but these are my initial thoughts.
 
John Case
 
 
 
Let me see if I understand this post.  He made up a wholly untrue scene, the victim acted property by calling the authorities.  She's out of a job and he's out of a civil settlement.
 
Has anyone checked the laws of illegal recordings in the state?  It seems to me the laws against recording someone without their permission to be later used on an electronic medium might be a violation of federal wiretap laws, or a violation of F.C.C. regulations.  Has any lawyer or law student checked on this?  What about  R.I.C.O. as a pattern?
 
Just a suggestion.
 
I'm not sure whom I have more contempt for, the person who set this up, or the President whose backbone turned to Jello.
 
Cordially,
J. David Reno
 
    ====
 
Who can help but grieve deeply over Bertha Lewis's dramatic and moving account of James O'Keefe's monstrous plot that brought an end to one of the most effective and worthy organizations that graced our nation's political, social and economic life during a period when its efforts were so greatly needed by the American people?  The ACORN frame-up takes its place alongside Tom Mooney, the Scottsboro youths and Sacco and Vanzetti on the honor roll of victims of criminal deception that has soiled our nation's history.  I had the privilege of serving in the ranks of union leadership during the period when people in the labor and progressive movements knew they had a valuable friend and ally in ACORN and when Bertha Lewis's name bore and merited a badge of honor.
 
We can at least take comfort in the knowledge that when the history of that period is definitively written, O'lKeefe and those who gave him aid and comfort will be consigned to the dust heap of dishonor and Bertha Lewis and her colleagues will enjoy the recognition they so deeply deserve.
 
Henry Foner, Retired President
Fur, Leather & Machine Workers' Union
 
 
 
The main cause for today's weak unions is the Cold War and McCarthyism! After ousting (cleansing) radicals and militants the unions adopted a "make no waves" policy. So our Country had a lobotomy as far as its union history and has never recovered.
 
Aaron Libson
 
 
(posted on Portside Labor)
 
I am so glad the USW has taken this initiative to build co-op businesses and that it is in touch with Mondragon. Three aspects are important: 1. people are being reminded that they can make things 2. it is a fairer model with more equality in the workplace 3. in building local businesses goods are not traveling so far and therefore less energy is being used, which is good for the environment.
 
Such companies can also strengthen local communities because people are working together to ensure jobs and their standard of living.
 
I think the local alternative food movement is a model - it offers quality goods (in this case organic food), and encourages consumers to support local farmers. The same principles can apply to these co-op businesses. They can also apply to local small retail businesses that support local artists and artisans.
 
This model will not work in every economic sector but it will work in some and it offers an alternative commercial structure to the huge multinational corporations that debase all standards - workers' and products - and primarily benefit the grossly overpaid CEOs.
 
It is a great initiative coming at the right time. We need alternative models.
 
Laurel MacDowell
Toronto, Canada
 
 
 
Selling private health insurance will not strengthen democracy
 
Nelson Lichtenstein ("Obamacare's other benefit," L.A. Times, March 19) is correct to hint at the potential for human liberation that universal, free access to necessary health care would bring to the United States, especially in view of the declining standard of living for the great majority of our population.
 
But his effort to spin the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the corporate-backed enrollment of millions of people in private insurance plans as a liberating blow for democracy is an impossible stretch.
 
In this new, post-ACA era, inadequate access to care, uninsurance, underinsurance, medical bankruptcy and state-by-state rationing of care for the poor will remain the order of the day.
 
Enrollment in Medicaid and/or a costly, insufficient private insurance policy will not prove liberating for the American people, let alone for those who gain such inadequate "coverage."
 
The present acceleration of hideous inequalities, long a hallmark of our unjust health system, will further erode, not restore, democracy in the United States.
 
Health system planning in the U.S. is increasingly based upon maximizing corporate profits, consolidating financial control, and otherwise enhancing corporate interests. It is based less and less upon individual and community health needs.
 
Despite its modest benefits, the ACA does not resolve these problems. In many ways it exacerbates them.
 
Yet Lichtenstein waxes enthusiastic about the potential for the ACA's state health insurance exchanges, the instruments through which the government aims to compel the uninsured to purchase private health insurance, to contribute to a new flowering of civic involvement and democracy.
 
He does this even as he acknowledges that the "stakeholders" in the drive to expand private insurance and Medicaid are the big insurers, private hospitals and Big Pharma.
 
On top of this Lichtenstein invokes the great progressive reform movements of the last 100 years - the battle for women's suffrage, the fight for jobs and justice during the Great Depression, the struggle for Civil Rights, and the movement to save the environment - as the inspiration for . enlisting people in exchanges where they can buy what will certainly be shoddy private health insurance.
 
"Because signing up for Obamacare will be complicated," he envisions a campaign modeled on an army of H&R Block tax preparers! This notion of "Obamacare civic activism" is not only wrongheaded as historical analogy -- it is shockingly disrespectful of the creative self-action and self-sacrifice of so many, including those who gave their lives for the causes he cites.
 
When it comes to health care needs in the United States, we must keep our eye on the prize. The fact remains that nothing short of a public, national single-payer health program will be able to control costs, guarantee access to all, improve the quality of care and protect the vulnerable.
 
Yes, the movement that wins health care for all will need to draw lessons from the great social movements of the past. Yes, real health reform will give new impetus to our nation's democracy. Peddling private health insurance policies to the working poor will not get us there.
 
Andrew D. Coates, MD
President of Physicians for a National Health Program (pnhp.org
 
 
 
Induction was March 20, 2013
 
Dolores Huerta  will be inducted into the California Hall of Fame (2013) for her labor and community leadership. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
 
Huerta has contributed to movements for union rights and  social justice since the founding along with Cesar Chaves, Philip Vera Cruz  and others of the United Farm Workers (UFW) union and she continues through her current work in supporting union democracy, civic engagement and empowerment of women and youth in disadvantaged communities. The creation of the UFW changed the nature of labor organizing in the Southwest and contributed significantly to the growth of Latino politics in the U.S. In her frequent public engagements at college, universities and high schools she presents  a Latina feminist perspective to civil rights and immigration issues. Dolores continues active as a supporter on union picket lines and union struggles throughout the state.
 
Achievements:
 
A staunch advocate for women's rights and reproductive freedom, Huerta is a founding board member of the Feminist Majority Foundation and serves on the board of Ms. Magazine and she is an Honorary Chair of  DSA ( along with Cornel West). She frequently speaks at universities and organizational forums on issues of unions, social justice and public policy. Dolores continues working to develop community leaders and advocating for the working poor, immigrants, women and youth as President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
 
Some of her prior awards. * Presidential Medal of Freedom * U. S. Department of Labor Hall of Honor * Smithsonian Institution - James Smithson Award * National Women's Hall of Fame * American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award * The Eugene V. Debs Foundation Outstanding American Award * The Ellis Island Medal of Freedom Award * Icons of the American Civil Rights Movement Award
 
When is the 7th Annual California Hall of Fame?
 
The 7th Annual California Hall of Fame induction ceremony took place on March 20, 2013, at The California Museum, located at 1020 O Street in Sacramento. 
 
The 7th Annual California Hall of Fame exhibition will open on March 21, 2013 at The California Museum, located at 1020 O Street in Sacramento.
 
For more on Dolores Huerta's activism see Mexican American Digital History
 
Submitted by Duane Campbell
Chair. Sacramento Local.  DSA.
 
 
 
 
This Friday, March 22nd at 6pm the Campaign for Peace and Democracy, SYRIZA-New York, and NYU's Radical Film and Lecture Series will co-sponsor a discussion on "Neoliberalism and Working Class Resistance in Greece" with Lefteris Kretsos, Senior Lecturer at the University of Greenwich in London. The meeting will be held at New York University, Tisch Hall, 40 W. 4th Street, Room LC11 (between Washington Square East and Mercer St. in Manhattan).
 
Light refreshments will be served. RSVP's (via the Facebook event page) are welcome though not required. The room is wheelchair accessible by elevator. Please bring photo i.d. for admission.
 
In this discussion important questions will be addressed: Was Greece more heavily regulated than many other European Union member states before the crisis? Has labor law caused the Greek sovereign debt crisis? Why have deregulation and welfare state decline turned unions and voters more radical? Are austerity policies still winning? Can the meteoric rise of SYRIZA result in radical political and institutional changes in Greece and Europe?
 
Dr. Kretsos argues that before 2009 Greece was not more heavily regulated than many other European Union member states and therefore labor laws can not in any sense be said to have caused the sovereign debt crisis. Nevertheless, austerity policies are still being imposed, but perhaps not for long. The popularity of Syriza among working people and the gradual decline of social democratic unionism at the expense of a stronger grassroots trade union movement with high mobilization and organization capacities indicate the definite collapse of the old political order in the country. SYRIZA proposes the fundamental, innovative, deep reaching changes and reconstruction that Greece needs. For SYRIZA, a central issue in this reconstruction is protecting the work force state, earnings and benefits and defending its dignity.
 
Prof. Lefteris Kretsos is a Senior Lecturer of Industrial Relations at the University of Greenwich in London. His research is focused on the rising trends and patterns of precarious employment in Greece and Europe, especially among young workers. He is currently editing a book on Radical Unionism in Europe.
 
For further information contact syriza.nyc@gmail.com or cpd@igc.org.
 
Joanne Landy and Thomas Harrison
Co-Directors, CPD
 
 
 
Saturday, June 8th. 7:30pm
Pace University's Schimmel Auditorium
1 Pace Plaza, New York City, NY
 
Writing in a recent issue of Counterpunch Michael D. Yates says, "Oliver Stone's Showtime series, Untold History of the United States, is the most radical mainstream television I have ever watched."
 
Join Oliver Stone, co-writer Peter Kuznick, Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Donna Murch in a discussion of the 10-part series and the political challenges it raises today.
 
Left Forum 2013, June 7-9 Pace University,  
1 Pace Plaza New York, NY
 
Early registration discounts are available for a limited time (e.g., students $10) -- register here!
 
Help out before the conference. 
 
To submit a panel: how to submit a panel