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Tidbits - June 6, 2013

Reader Comments: Alice Walker Open Letter to Alicia Keys; Mideast; Israel; Palestine; Turkey; Bradley Manning; Electoral Strategy; Working Class, Racism; Trade Unions; Labor Movement; North Carolina Civil Rights Today; Fluoridation; Chinese Investment in the U.S.; Announcements - Left Forum, June 7 - 9; Iraqi Workers After the War - new video; Ruby Dee Documentary - June 26; Commie Camp - new film on Camp Kinderland - additional show - June 29

Dear Ms Walker (of "Silver Rights") and Mr. Waters,  I am responding to both of your letters to Alicia Keys,  I don't overwhelmingly disagree with their view of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.  My son and daughter in law are U.S. citizens who have made aliyah to Israel and are firm supporters of Benjamin Netanyahu's policies that include continued expansion of the settlements into land that should be governed by the Palestinians.   I have engaged in numerous debates with my son (less so with my daughter in law) in which I have said it would be better for all sides if Israel pulled the settlements out of the West Bank and simply maintained a security presence to reduce the risk of the kind of violence brought into the pre-green line Israel by Palestinian suicide bombers.
So, what is my concern with your letters.  It is this.  You make no effort to tell the reader - in this case - Ms. Keys what you support or truly object to in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.  Is your position that Israel should stop making life miserable for Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza (which is another story).  That is one thing and one which many people, including many Israelis,  might support.  For example, the 6 former Shin Beit directors favor a new relationship with the Palestinians.  Many Israelis, particularly those who are more secular, not emigrants from the U.S. or Russia, many of whom were provided with cheap land in the West Bank  would like to see the settlements and settlement policy ended.  If this is what you are saying and seeking with the proposed boycott , so far so good.
However, I know that many in the boycott movement are trying to delegitimize Israel all together and that is incredibly dangerous and a misread of history and common sense.  There are no more than 7 million Jews who call Israel home and, given the world's (including the U.S. response to repeated pogroms and eventual policies of extermination of Jews in Europe, the Jewish demand and fight for a homeland had moral legitimacy.  Further, "indigenous" as used in Ms. Walker's letter is problematic at best and simply factually incorrect at worst . Even after the roman expulsion of Jews from "Palestina" in 70 A.D., remnants always remained.  And for more than 1850 years, a central part of Jewish liturgy was the desire and hope to return to that land.  Palestinians, while a majority in the area that is Israel, for that period were for most of it an occupied territory under the control of the Ottoman Empire and did not consider themselves a separate nation from a large pan-Arab movement.  Their fight against Jews returning in numbers to Turkish Occupied Palestine and then the post WW I Mandate was that of Arabs, not Palestinians.  And, when Jews returned in ever increasing numbers beginning in the early 20th century and then in huge numbers after the UN grant of Statehood in 1947 )a significant number from Arab and Muslim nations where they were either kicked out or a persecuted minority), the Palestinians reacted as part of a larger Arab community and not in terms of a separate independent Palestine.  After all, why didn't the Palestinians revolt against Egypt for controlling/ruling/governing the Gaza strip between 1947 and 1967 and against Jordan for ruling, governing and controlling the West Bank in the same period when there were as many restrictions on their movement and independence, if not more, than there is today when Israel has governing authority over the West Bank.  I'm sure, if one wants to throw around the term "apartheid" against Israel today, it could equally have been used against Egypt and Jordan in those 20 years.  However, there were few complaints then leveled against the Palestinians' "brothers" and "sisters" in Jordan and Egypt for refusing to integrate the Palestinians stuck in refugee camps into their economies.
So, Ms. Walker and Mr. Waters, are you in favor of a Palestinian children and grandchildren of those who left pre-1967 Israel being allowed to return to their parents' and grand-parents' residences or their equivalent?  Are you then suggesting that these "returned" Palestinians be given the same rights of participation in the Israeli body politic as those, including Palestinians who stayed in Israel in 1947.  Have you given some thought to what that would do to the demographics of Israel?  Do you really think Jews, who would soon become a minority in that arrangement, would fare well.  Look at what is happening in Syria (and has happened and continues to happen in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan) between various "tribal" religious factions - Shiite against Sunni, Alawhite against Sunni, Christian against Sunni and Shiite, Kurds against Shiites and others.  Most of this violence is directed between different Islamic sects and tribes.  Can you imagine the horror that would descend upon Jews in Israel if a Muslim majority were to gain power.  What reasonable leader governing Israel or those in the larger Israeli body politic would or should permit this to happen.  I saw some of this in Jerusalem in 2001 when 1 week after I was sitting at the Moment Caf, with my grandson, it was blown to the ground by a Palestinian suicide bomb (and bomber) who is now lionized in many homes in the west Bank.  So, while the Wall looks ugly, checkpoints also ugly and young and often ignorant Israeli teens and 20 year olds are inflicting real and more often psychological wounds on average Palestinians, in part that is a function of the random violence that was happening all too often in pre-1967 Israel into the mid 2000's.
If you, Mr. Walker and Mr. Waters, address where you stand in the broader picture (the end game), your pleas to Ms. Keys should be ignored by her and all artists.  Israel's history is not South Africa - the comparison is odious.  I look forward to your response to this critique.
Christopher T. Hexter
St. Louis, MO
What I don't understand about the Palestinian people is why wait for permission to be independent? Perhaps it is the Prisoner's Dilemma or the Stockholm Syndrome, or a bit of both. If they want to be independent then they have to declare their independence and act accordingly. Asking for permission to be independent from the USA and Israel, the two nations that are enslaving you, is no way to be independent. If the people of Gaza and the West Bank can't get their act together, then the only real solution is a three state solution with Gaza and the West Bank each declaring themselves independent with the hope of joining under a federation later.
I say this to the people of Gaza and the West Bank: Declare your independence then act independently by (1) writing your constitution, (2) holding elections, (3) forming your government, (4) sending out diplomats to seek recognition from other nations. Don't ask and don't wait for the USA or Israel to give you permission. They have no intention of doing so.
Gregory Wonderwheel
Finally I agree with something Nader has proposed.  The problem with inviting Jewish leaders, active or retired, to come before our Congress to talk peace is that the ignorant, the neocons, the 'religious right', and the billionaires all would gain nothing from those who want LASTING PEACE in Israel to tell their side to our lame brain Congress...
This is a great idea, even if the President likes this approach.  We know Israel has nukes, a HUGE multi-billion dollar military complex George W Bush built for them, to protect them and their illegal 'settlements' from the pitiful rockets and rocks thrown over the border. And Bibi is just itching to attack Iran with those nukes, developed and paid for by America.
So John Kerry would have to get past the gatekeepers here and in Israel.  I do not see that happening.  Do you?
Mary Wilson
This is one of the most beautiful and morally impressive articles I've read in quite a while, particularly as it includes references to the prophetic imperative, the warning of the Cain-Abel story, the historic significance of nude protest (a theme of my opera HANNAH - see, my favorite quote from one of my favorite people - Howard Zinn, and the importance of whistle-blowing, speaking truth to power, and respect for Good Samaritans, and life.
Thank you, Ray McGovern, and thank you, Portside.
Leonard J. Lehrman
It is not very informative to just pass on BBC reporting. they are not neutral at all. On this matter of  'isolated middle class' for example-- they neglect the distress on the Syrian border and the  negative  reputation of Mr. Erdogan's ability to keep turkey from being pulled into the  war being pursued by the  GB, USA and others . The distress is not that of engineers who can't rent a flat--- but by  villages who can't  be safe from  proxy wars.  It neglects the long standing love affaire that the Erdogan government has had with USA, and the  unpleasant truth that both GB and USA would rather see religious theocrats than democrats not only in turkey but in Syria and elsewhere..
Rachel deAragon
Query:  Why does the 'white' working class lean towards conservatism but the sector of the working class not defined as 'white' does not act similarly?  
Gerald Horne
While I appreciate Daniel Gross's praise for the Wobblies and their solidarity, it was a movement that failed. It was suppressed by the state and it relied too heavily on spontaneity. Its ideals, political culture and ability to communicate through dedicated organizers and wonderful posters, songs and poems remain inspirational. However, you will need a tougher more organized movement to deal with multinational corporations and an anti-labour government. The movement against Walmart at the moment is interesting and different but something has to sustain it. Working around the NLRB is necessary given its lack of support for labour, but then there still has to be a demand for recognition, bargaining rights, and the right to strike without fear of repression or being permanently replaced on the job. That means changes to the law.
Idealism and spontaneity and militancy are all fine, but they are not enough to meet the political realities of the 21st century and the power of business. The USW today is a good model for a union. It is professional and progressive and tough. It is involved in trying to create genuine international unions and is also looking at alternative models of business from co-ops, to worker run industries etc.It is also trying to work with environmentalists for green jobs. But in the U.S. you also need more people to think, as they have been brainwashed against unions by right wing politicians and media. So a lot of grassroots education needs to take place.
Laurel MacDowell
(posted on Labor Portside)
I spent 30 years as a union staff representative.  I was an organizer, local president, district council president, an International Trustee, etc.
For 30 years I saw incompetence upon incompetence.  The Peter Principle governs organized labor.
There is no plan at the national level - there is no training at the local levels - the most important job of organizer is filled by just out of college "kids" who have never worked in the trade or the "loyalist" who is the biggest mouth on the job.
The so-called Labor Academics don't have a clue as to what is going on because they sit on the few "Labor Education" Committees with the very people who are the problem.
If you understand what is going on and work for a union and suggest things might be approached a little differently the iron law of labor unions goes into play....KILL THE MESSENGER!!!  Criticism means "disloyalty to the big ego in the front office.
I could tell you stories.....
Bill Johnston
The NAACP continuance's of it's daily protest against North Carolina GOP-led Government concerning their agenda to cut program and services that will benefit the poor and black people of NC. Over 150 citizen got arrested on Monday, 3 June 2013. The NAACP promise to continue this protest until the GOP see that they are serious and sit down and discuss the issues with them.
Ernest Adams
There is reason to hope as these acts of local resistance spread across the nation.
David McReynolds
FYI, here's something from a clearly left of center publisher:
Rick Kissell
The author of "Score one for the anti-flouridation cranks in Portland" attempts to provide some rationale for the "cranks" of the anti fluoridation movement.  He argues their right to be wrong and compares various pts.  But this author fails to realize that the very institutions of public health and all policy in the United States are tainted and at risk of losing all legitimacy.  How can the community be expected to accept the science they are presented with?  We, the cranks of the public, have seen a history of "science for the public health" sanctioned by our govt. and scientific institutions for years.  From Thalidomide to GMO's we are told, "trust us - we know what's best"  The FDA says yes!  Is there good science going on?  Does the FDA get it right sometimes?  Yes, but mostly they do what industry tells them.  The science community does not get to sit on it's high horse and demand that the public trust them.  You've got to earn our trust.  Purge your universities and your laboratories of corporate profit & get out of the bed of industry and maybe then you can speak to us of good science and good public policy.  Public interest scientists should not be doing studies for big pharma but instead Occupy the FDA and CDC and then come talk to us cranks.
Stephanie Jennings
San Diego, CA 
as a retired bio-chemist I must inform you that you have got it ass backwards - the original study supporting the benefits of fluoridation was flawed
mary anne rushlau 
One of the main arguments against fluoridation is not scientific but ethical - the issue of treatment without consent. Mike Lindberg, a widely-respected former city councilman, opposed the measure because he has a disease that restricts the water he drinks. As the article states, third paragraph from the bottom, there are several targeted ways to get fluoride. My own dentist hands out fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash.
Another point was raised by Joe Uris, a progressive talk show host on KBOO radio. According to Uris, fluoridation is not used in Europe and dental health has not been affected. I have not seen this point disputed.
Per Fagereng
One constantly reads scare stories about China's effect on the US economy.
In spite of its recent growth, Chinese investment in the US is still minuscule.  According to the latest assessment available from the US Department of Commerce (June 2011), China was not even among the top eight nations in FDI (Foreign Direct Investment).  Switzerland leads, with UK and Japan following.
Nobody writes panic stories about Switzerland these days.  But I know of one such panic for fun - a pointed 1920s anti-war musical by the Gershwins ("Strike Up The Band"), where cheese manufacturers tried to drum up a war against Switzerland.  This early gem was remade much later with most of its teeth pulled out.  So here we may have history repeating itself, first as farce, and then as a real threat.  Talk about standing Marx on his head!
Dave Ecklein
Conference Program: The complete conference schedule and conference guide is now online as a pdf - here. It can be downloaded and printed or stored on your smart phone, tablet, laptop or desktop. 
Register at the Door: Starting at 2:00 pm on Friday, June 7th, and 8:00 am on Saturday & Sunday, June 8th &  9th. See Registration Info Here
Pace University's Schimmel Auditorium
1 Pace Plaza, New York City, NY
Sunday, June 9th, 2:00 - 2:55 pm
(part of the Left Forum)
Eirini (Rena) Dourou was elected Member of the Hellenic Parliament with SYRIZA in May 2012. She had been an active participant in the Greek student movement and joined the Youth of Synaspismos in 1995. Today, she is plenary member of the Political Secretariat of Synaspismos, in charge of the European policy issues, the issues of the European Left Party and the International Relations. She is the author of The enjoyment of nationalism (Athens, 2007, Post-Midnight Editions) and has contributed into numerous collective publications.She is member of the Parliamentary Committees: Standing Committee on National Defense and Foreign Affairs and Committee on European Affairs. She is member of the Committee for the Women's Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean Union. She has been appointed Alternate Secretary-General of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy.
Michael Spourdalakis, Professor of Political Science at Athens University is also a founding member of Syriza. One of leading authors on Greek party politics over the past three decades, he is the author of Left Strategy in the Greek Cauldron in the Socialist Register 2013. Power and Capitalist Accumulation and State Crisis and Popular Power (New Left Review).
Leo Panitch (moderator) is Professor of Political Science at York University, Canada, and an editor of The Socialist Register. He is a Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy and Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science, York University and the recent co-author of The Making of Global Capitalism.
Here's the link to a new 6-minute video I've made with Jonathan Levin from interviews we did with Iraqi workers at a conference in Basra, Iraq late last year.
The situation for Iraqi workers continues to be extremely difficult, and strikingly similar to issues working people face in the U.S.  Please keep informed, and extend what solidarity you can to Iraqi working people (updates will be available at
Please share this video with all who might be interested.
Michael Zweig
Director, Center for Study of Working Class Life
Department of Economics
State University of New York
Stony Brook, NY 11794-4384
Documentary Screening and Panel Discussion
7pm - 9pm 
Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis Documentary by Muta'Ali
Ruby Dee and the late Ossie Davis tell the story of their lives for the first time in feature documentary form.
Bethel Gospel Assembly
2-26 East 120th Street
For more information:
Sponsored by AARP
Visionfest has added another screening! Buy tickets here before they sell out! Film premiere is sold out! BUT we've added another screening. Buy your tickets now, before it's too late!
buy tickets at - Domani Vision Film Society -- You will see it under Saturday PROGRAM 06-B -- 5:30pm -- TC 2
To watch a trailer of the film, click here