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Tidbits - May 30, 2013

Reader Comments: Terrorism, Drones, Afghanistan, Benghazi, Obama terrorism speech, Bradley Manning, Chicago Schools, Climate Change, Letter to "The Nation" from a Young Radical, Math, Malvina Reynolds, Africa, Asia, Hope Foye, Race & Biology, Peabody Coal, Bittorrent... Announcements - Gerald Horne keynote's Chicago Human Rights Awards - Jun 15; Film Premier - Camp Kinderland "Commie Camp" - New York - Jun 28; Jerry Tucker Memorial Conference, St. Louis - Oct 11-13

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The parts I heard of it were amazing. It is SO weird to hear the President of the US talking what came very close to sense on foreign policy and its implications for our country. The last time a President did that he got shot in Dallas. The last time a presidential candidate (and expected winner) talked like that he got shot in LA. True, Obama has set a new standard for making excellent statements and carrying out awful actions. But even just saying this stuff in public brings the whole "warfare state" into question. End the War on Terror? Then what war will we have? And why have a bigger military than the rest of the world, fleets in every ocean, bases over much of the planetary land mass, nukes galore, new ships and planes coming out as soon as the price stickers can be marked up, gizmos for killing, all of it sucking up our taxes... Is he actually going to try to reverse some of this? He should live so long. So should we all...
Jack Radey
Excellent article by Carl Bloice on blowback of CIA skullduggery now obvious in many world hot spots.
John Woodford
Here is another measure of how big and extreme these closings are: The number of students affected, which I have seen listed as 38,000 or 40,000, is larger than the entire enrollment of the Portland Public School District here in Oregon. 
Chris Lowe
Portland, Oregon
I think Tom Engelhardt's analysis is right on. I suppose that oil executives if they think long-term at all, believe they are rich and privileged enough that they will survive a climate crisis even if the rest of us don't.
The issue is what do we do about this. Big oil is too powerful to confront. So the only way to make changes to the energy regime is to go around them. That means people in their families, communities, and eventually in nations will live differently. Starting with local energy projects and alternative food are the two easiest routes to reduce energy use,  support the local economy, and produce more environmentally friendly products.
Political change is also essential. The people in Congress are mostly filthy rich and they are not relating to people's everyday issues. So you have to elect lots of people who are middle class and have green ideas. Maybe that is unlikely, but there is no question that it is essential in the U.S. and Canada. In Canada recently, a federal cabinet minister actually attacked Jim Hansen of NASA, just as the Bush administration tried to muzzle him some years ago. This demonstrates how out of touch our politicians are. Hansen is a distinguished scientist and an expert on climate change and politicians should be consulting him not attacking him. Such politicians should be replaced.
As for President Obama, although I admire him and respect him, he needs to get on the climate change issue. One hopes he will cancel the Keystone Pipeline which is a small part of the energy problem. If he doesn't I think that means we are on our own when it comes to changing the energy regime as North American  governments are clearly controlled to a large extent by the fossil fuels industry and their lobbyists.
Laurel MacDowell
Thanks for publishing the article on bounded gaps. In his discussion of quantity and quality  in  "The Dialectics of Nature", Engels commented  that nothing seems to be more purely quantitative than numbers, yet many numbers have unique qualitative properties. The fields of number theory, topology, group theory and others are explorations of the qualities of numbers. It was Engels' observation that hooked me on math as a teenager. 
Dick Levins
I miss intelligence and good discourse, true bravery and radicalism... Bhaskar Sunkara's letter to "The Nation" is wonderful, except that I wish you would all stop using America for the 'nation' rather than the continents... So clearly the beginning of empire and arrogance... 
Silvia Brandon Pérez
I've been reminded it's also 50 years since Malvina Reynolds wrote "What Have They Done to the Rain?" (the same year I lived in the UK and there were "Ban the Bomb" protests daily at Oxford) and given airplay as recorded by The Searchers, as well as an incredible songbook begun by PF Sloan ("The Eve of Destruction").
The Searchers "What Have They Done to the Rain" 1964 
Listen here
Karen Bailey Gearhart
We need more here, especially with Obama "pivot" and upcoming trip to Africa.   More on new role of Japan and enhanced ties to India and recent Tokyo Summit on Africa and fallout from Libya in Sahel (see Niger and Boko Haram) and French-South African clash in CAR and UN and World Bank commitment to Congo---I could go on and on and on....... 
Gerald Horne
Pieces like Glen Greenwald's long-winded dismissal of Obama's anti-terrorism speech explain to me why a substantial faction of the Left is not yet fit to govern, or to lead majorities of Americans; why some feet  are firmly planted in mid-air. It reminds me a bit of my 21 month old granddaughter's disdain of broccoli and love of mac and cheese. Her dislike of broccoli -- even seeing it -- is so fierce, she won't even touch the mac and cheese until the broccoli is removed from her plate. 
Likewise, I have been reading Sandburg's history of Lincoln's war years and note the volumes of calumny heaped -- by not a few anti-slavery forces -- upon that President's tireless attention to dividing the secessionists, and to grasping the threads that could unravel the powerful Southern combinations and curses of both disunion and slavery. Even so, the price of victory -- otherwise highly in doubt had the border states and Northern Democrats not been neutralized from aligning with the Confederacy -- was 650,000 American lives. In hindsight, how do we judge Lincoln's choices of "moderate" forces supporting union and opposing the extension of slavery like Montgomery Blair, Edward Bates, etc, over outright abolitionists Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner in his cabinet? I reckon it was the right decision -- but is it the kind of strategic and tactical thinking that modern Left forces can embrace?
Perhaps ideological debate, like much else in nature, must also follow some bell-shaped curve of probability distribution. There must always be fringes where the perfect remains the enemy of the good; where an olive-branch on ending the war on terror -- a high risk proposition, politically, for Obama -- is rejected as an enemy conspiracy rather than seized and developed for all its worth; where Obamacare -- the only doorway to universal coverage in our national history -- is rejected by some because of its inferiority to Medicare for all.
The tendency "to make the perfect the enemy of the good", while a often a fatal weakness when putting together a sufficiently powerful political coalition to actually make change, may still have some value. Its true that "the good" must always be open to inspection. Is it really "good"? Can the "good" be made better? Valid questions. Still, the big challenge for the Left in the US is to get OUT of the bleachers and ON the field, OUT of marginalization and IN power, OUT of the far end of the bell curve of working class politics.
John Case
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In John Case's critique, I see too much self-serving hyperbole; "broccoli...fringe...only doorway...bleachers...bell curve"
Like arguing Liberalism is our fate, so shut up and join the team.
Walter Teague
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I don't want to get into an narrow debate (exciting as such things are), but my view of the Obama speech was that it reflected what should have been obvious from NY Times coverage of the drone strikes in recent weeks - there has been a heavy duty turf war between the Pentagon and the CIA, and Obama was taking the side of the Pentagon. (Which, within limits, is good - at least with the Pentagon there is a clear chain of common - the CIA has evolved to have its own military force with no one in charge, except the CIA).
Many of us remain disillusioned with Obama because in those areas where he has clear authority - such as the release of "cleared prisoners" at Guantanamo, he doesn't act.
David McReynolds 
YES, DEFINITELY.  This man has demonstrated so much courage and bravery it is significant.  Something must be done to free him.
Ron Hennig 
When you send such information re. congressional votes, you should always provide a link to a record of how all members (in this case senators) voted on the issue. Otherwise, how do we know how our own members of Congress voted?
Bob Clarke,
Chicago
It was very exciting to read about the documentary about Hope Foye.  I heard her sing "Strange Fruit" on the Polish ship, the Batory, while we were traveling to E. Germany for the World Youth Festival in 1951.  I was standing with a new friend, an African American young woman who had seen her father hanged by the Klan for getting Black people to register to vote.  It was a most moving and chilling experience, which I'll never forget.  So glad she'll be remembered. 
Libby Frank
Submission body: Thanks for this article.  Could not agree more.  My first thought on hearing Richwine's thesis was how in the world Harvard could accept this sophomoric, unoriginal, unsubstantiated tripe as a dissertation.  
Claire Carsman
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It is true, the concept of "race" is unscientific, misleading, and probably harmful: A legacy of racism in the US and Europe.  Certainly, there are distinct populations that have unique characteristics that are physically discernible. But the "race" concept is way too broad, generalized, and antiquated.
For example, the US Census uses these 16 race categories that it asks each US resident to identify with: 
White
Black, African-American, or Negro
American Indian or Alaska Native {print name of enrolled or principal tribe)
Asian Indian
Chinese
Filipino
Other Asian {print race}
Japanese
Korean
Vietnamese
Native Hawaiian
Guanimanian or Chamorro
Samoan
Other Pacific Islander {print race . . .}
Some other race {print race}
Talk about confusion, nonsense, and, dare I say it, idiocy!  The categories of "white" and "black" are particularly problematic, the origin of "white" to be found in colonial America - Virginia, I believe - when a legal distinction was needed to distinguish slaves from Africa and those from Europe.  The US Census Bureau officially considers people of Middle East or North African ancestry to be "white."The origin of the term "black" is different but it too becomes problematic in terms of drawing distinctions between US citizens and recent immigrants who may identify as West African or Nigerian or West Indian or Haitian.  After all, how can one justify a US census form that lists Vietnamese as a race but not Haitian?   
But a major problem with the category of race is the political one - how is it possible to get an accurate count of people of color, particularly people who identify as black or African-American, in school districts, congressional districts, etc?  This is a problem for which there doesn't appear to be a simple answer.  It would be useful and helpful to have further discussion on this issue. 
Marc Beallor
This is systemic cruelty at its meanest - not only because it is directed against the most vulnerable among us. Like bystanders at a beating, the rest of us are forced to watch and feel helpless to stop the rich and powerful bullies who rule our world.
Susan Rosenthal 
"Socialism is the best medicine"
Yeah, and Tennessee's TEA PARTY Governor just met with 'area coal company executives' to try and coax them to move their headquarters here to TN, and start mining operations here.  He promised low wages, little workers comp protections, few regulations that would hinder their operations, LOW taxes and of course, implying NO UNION safety and security for miners.
Peabody Coal has been raping our mountains in Appalachia for years, and now the very few benefits these workers earned are being cut, from the ones who lived to retire from these most dangerous jobs.
This is the ultimate goal, began by Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s, to destroy all unions.  Corporate owners of thousands of huge companies, like WalMart, do not care one whit about their employees.  This is why they have outsourced jobs by the millions.  Our American workers deserve our help. 
Here in Tennessee, this GOP administration has worked ever since this Governor was elected to destroy workers' rights, including workers' comp protection when they are injured on the job.  We must stand with our workers against this insidious goal to deny them decent wages and adequate safety and security on the job.  Even the University of Tennessee has brought in 'managers' whose sole project is to destroy the Union of the Campus Workers. 
We MUST stand against this evil, morally bankrupt plan to return to the 1930s.  For the retired workers in this story, they need our help now.  
Mary Wilson
You have not given me enough time to forward this information and make it possible for me to attend the protest. However,. I can at least vent my frustration at not being there by letting you know I consider Kissinger a liar, political whore and more guilty of more war crimes than any convicted war criminal to date. The Nazis convicted at Nuremberg not excepted.
The deaths for which he is responsible in Latin America alone must easily exceed one million.  
Nina Udovicki
This certainly reads like a commercial advertisement. What is it doing on Portside?
Stuart Lawrence
Gerald Horne, noted historian, to keynote Human Rights Awards on the theme: "From the Wilmington Ten to Howard Morgan - `A Luta Continua' - Free All Political Prisoners"
Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression Annual Human Rights Awards.
Saturday, June 15, 2013 5:30 pm (dinner) / 7:00 (awards).
Lutheran School of Theology, 1100 E. 55th St., Chicago IL
Keynote Speaker:
Gerald Horne, PhD.  Horne is John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston.  He is the author of more than twenty books.  His the latest, "Black Revolutionary: William Patterson and the Globalization of the African American Struggles," will be published this September, 2013, by the University of Illinois Press.
Award Recipients:
  • Jeff Baker, President of the Committee for a Better Chicago and leader in the struggle to Stop Police Crimes
  • Lisa Brock, PhD, Academic Director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan; and longtime activist for human rights
  • Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union strong advocate for fair and effective public schools
  • The People's Law Office Staff, committed fighters for rights and justice for all prisoners - including freedom for those who have been wrongfully convicted.
For information contact Mike Siviwe Elliott or Greg Malandrucco at 312-939-2750 or email.
Tickets are $65 for dinner and program; $10 for program only.
New York City premier - June 28 at Tribeca Cinemas 54 Varick St., New York, New York 10013
Hold the Date: October 11-13th In St Louis:  A Unique Conference to Honor the Legacy of Jerry Tucker and Continue His Mission
Jerry Tucker was a seminal figure in the late 20th and early 21st Century U.S. labor movement. Many of you knew him, were inspired by him and mourned his passing in October 2012.  He saw a militant and democratic labor movement as the central player in the pursuit of social and economic justice.  A brilliant strategist of creative, member-driven union campaigns against corporate power, he was an uncompromising advocate of a vision of social unionism that connected workers struggles to the broader issues of class, race, gender and power. (See: http://www.newrepublic.com/blog/alec-macgillis/111488/the-man-who-tried…)
This October 11-13, the first anniversary of Jerry's death, we will convene a conference in the St. Louis area, at the University of Missouri (UMSL).
This promises to be an unusual and inspiring gathering at a moment in history in which many of the gains that the working class has made in the past 100 years are being attacked.
Along with his family and friends, the conference will pay tribute to Jerry's life and legacy with music, video and personal testimony. And, following Joe Hill's instructions to "Don't mourn, organize!"(which Jerry would have heartily concurred with), the weekend will include workshops, plenaries and discussion to address the strategies of working class unity and struggle that he passionately fought for in his lifetime.   We hope to address the broad question which Jerry articulated so well, namely: How do we build a powerful social movement and exercise the collective might of the working class through true solidarity, accountability and democracy
As part of this conference we will take time to consider the possibility of reviving the Center for Labor Renewal that Jerry championed in his later years but has not been fully realized. (http://www.centerforlaborrenewal.org/)
If you knew and loved Jerry or worked with him on his many campaigns and projects, this conference is for you.
If you are engaged in the working class struggles for justice, inside and outside of the labor movement, and are looking for thoughtful strategic discussion and debate on the direction of our movement, this conference is for you.
If you are a young activist seeking to connect with a rich history of struggle and to share your experiences and ideas, this conference is for you.
The Conference is being sponsored by: Center for Labor Renewal, UMSL Labor Studies Certificate Program, Missouri Jobs with Justice.
Please RSVP or send comments to Don Giljum  
A conference call and speakers list will be forthcoming in early summer.
Please send this notice out widely.
NOTE: A scholarship fund in Jerry's name is being created by Missouri JwJ:  To contribute or for more information go to: Jerry Tucker Jobs with Justice Scholarship Fund at: www.mojwj.org