Skip to main content

Tidbits - October 3, 2013

Reader Comments: Eliseo Medina and UFW; American Exceptionalism; Income Gap;Atomic Bomb Near Mishap; Walmart; Govt Shutdown; Syria & Peace movement; South Africa; Iran; Prisons for Profit graphic; Announcements - National Teach-In on Syria -Oct 8; Che Guevara Assassination - Bay Area-Oct 19; Support CUNY Students; Organizing Boot Camps-United Students Against Sweatshops; Economic Bill of Rights for the 21st Century - New York-Oct 18; Job Opening at In These Times

Join the National Day of Action for Dignity and Respect on Oct 5th by making the call to the House of Representatives to move forward on immigration reform. Use your voice to demand they bring a vote to the path to citizenship today! ,United Food and Commercial Workers International Union

Re: Eliseo Medina, Who Reshaped Labor and Immigrant Rights Movements, Retires from SEIU

Congratulations to Randy Shaw for his frank and honest assessment of Eliseo Medina's history in the UFW  and SEIU.  Had Eliseo been able to continue his work for the farmworkers, many believe that the UFW would have been successful in building a union of several hundred thousand workers  in California, Texas, and Florida.  Eliseo was mostly responsible in establishing field offices with farm worker member leadership throughout California.  With the field offices, UFW was on its way to building a democratic union.  Like the boycott and legal departments, the field office department was derailed in an internal witch hunt which went across the entire union from 1976 onward.

Nick Jones
UFW - 1966 - 1976

Re: The American Exceptionalism Sweepstakes

This is not the flag U.S. citizens should salute or support.

Margie Bernard

Re: The Cult of the Selfish

Thank you Leo for your insightful article.  I hope the many will stop being distracted by their cell phones and began the hard but doable work of organizing a civil society strong enough to challenge the corporate takeover of our government.

In Solidarity

Gary Kapanowski, Philadelphia Pa


The Cult of the Selfish is a brilliant article and needs to get the widest circulation possible - if possible even on the FOX network.

Nina Udovicki

Re: US Atomic Bomb Detonation Avoided by 'The Slightest Margin of Chance'

Ooopsie... Mind you it wasn't until Bush I that the Air Force was ordered to stop flying H-bombs over continental US...

Jack Radey
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: The Impact and Echoes of the Wal-Mart Discrimination Case

As I read about the effect of the court decision that threw out the lawsuit by women at Walmart, and the assault on pensions by financial vultures, and the climate deniers' (backed by oil money) slick quotes last week when the Working Group 1 Report came out about climate change and now watch as the Tea party again gets the Republicans to threaten to shut down the government, I realize that not only are all of these actions dramatically reducing democracy in America, but the power shift behind them is a threat to the nation, and certainly to its leadership role in the world.

All my adult life I have been waiting for America to become more progressive and I have been disappointed consistently. I think Americans think about individual rights and think in terms of families but I don't think there is much of a concept of society, that people working together create the kind of country they want to live in. Groups that have tried to do that, such as unions, have been smashed. For awhile women in the feminist movement tried to change things. The environmentalists are trying to pull people together to fight climate change but are constantly harassed by the fossil fuels industry and backward politicians.

I fear for the future of America. Despite Americans' resilience and sometimes common sense, the very rich are organized and backward and they are not just trying to do away with social programs, assaulting the public education system, but are also challenging peoples right to vote, to march, to protest, to work at decent wages and to create a better place. Their place is isolated from the rest of us and guarded by armed servants. But now they seem to want to actually take power and that is what I call fascism. So I am disappointed and think the current scene will do nothing but create extreme problems for the country, and for the majority of Americans.It may be American exceptionalism but not of a variety that benefits anyone.It certainly is global corporate capitalism at its worst. The only way to combat it is to talk frankly about what is happening and organize politically. Of course that is hard when companies can spend unlimited amounts of money. This is a real unprecedented issue concerning American democracy. how can you have a democratic society when you have corporate autocracy?

Laurel MacDowell,
Toronto, Canada

Re: As US Government Shuts Down the Poorest Set to Lose Most

None of this is an accident.  It is what the Reicht wing INTENDS to happen.

All you have to do is read Naomi Klein's THE SHOCK DOCTRINE: THE RISE OF DISASTER CAPITALISM, in case you haven't already, to understand what is happening.

Romi Elnagar

Re: Mission Accomplished? Syria, the Anti-War Movement, and the Spirit of Internationalism

The piece on Syria and Internationalism by Danny Postel (1 Oct, from Huffington, 30 Sep) needs a sharp reply.

He assumes that there is no need to give a careful analysis of the Assad government, he assumes that Assad is a tyrant responsible for the slaughter of civilians, and thus that Assad must go.

When your 'internationalism' is in line with the stated aims of your own imperialist government, a much more careful approach is needed.

Since the Second World War, all foreign interventions by the USA have been to support the interests of US corporations, often oil majors, to further the political influence of capitalist, pro-US forces and to destroy socialist or anti-imperialist governments. Do I need to make a list?

Even in the less clear examples he quotes, in the Balkans, it was foreign intervention from Germany, other powers and the US, which provoked, encouraged and supported centrifugal forces which unleashed civil wars to destroy a united Yugoslavia. The outside forces used to further imperialist interests included, not for the first time, Muslim fundamentalists. The statelets which emerged are politically weak, mostly aligned with the USA and all elements of socialism have been smashed.

In Syria, Postel writes as though there has been no outside intervention. This is either willful ignorance or he is trying to mislead us. Possibly Postel relies on information purely from the mass media in the USA, but from the history of solidarity movements with Central America, to which he refers, he should know that other sources are absolutely essential.

I am no expert on Syrian politics, but I know from reading Portside and other sources that the rebels in Syria have received and are receiving weapons, money and other aid from Qatar and Saudi Arabia principally, and also Turkey. All these countries are US allies - if the US government is not covertly helping, it is certainly not denouncing or trying to stop this aid.

Which leads to an obvious question that Postel does not stop to pose: is the civil war in Syria a truly popular uprising, with massive popular support, or is it a sectarian religious rebellion, with minority support, and only continuing with large injections of arms, money and, increasingly, fundamentalist Sunni fighters from outside?

The Assad regime is reportedly very autocratic but it is worth noting that it is now the only country in the Middle East with a nationalized oil company, with a secular government, with rights for women and, until recently, with harmonious relations between many religious groups. President Obama has said he will do everything to overthrow Assad. Has he said the same about the much worse, more repressive, tyrannical regimes of Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia? Why not?

Chile has a population of Syrian expatriates, and the TV here, not noted for being anti-imperialist, has interviewed several of them, with close contact with the country, who support Assad against the rebels. I have also seen interviews with Syrians who blame civilian casualties on the rebels, who use areas of civilian houses to fight from, and then leave after the government troops have destroyed the place to defeat the rebels.

Before rushing to support an overwhelming campaign in the mass media against a 'Tyrant', you should think carefully about the political and economic interests involved, and what the real alternative to the 'tyrant' is.

Dan Morgan,


Portside readers might be consider doing what I did, in response to an article in the New York Times (Qaeda Branch in Syria Pursues Its Own Agenda) I sent the following comments based on this article, and they were published, and other NYT readers began to comment on my submission.

I think Portside readers will find that their local papers have similar comments sections, like those in the NYT, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, etc.

    "Who is funding these Jihadists? We know Russia, China and Iran are not sending weapons and other supplies to them. Could it be allies of the U.S.? Why is the U.S. and its allies doing nothing to prevent the slaughter
    of the Syrian Christians -Orthodox, Armenians, Assyrians,- Alawite Muslims, secularists and Kurds? The only force protecting them is the Syrian Government."

Ray Markey

Re: South Africa: The Tripartite Alliance Has Sold Its Soul

Shame on Portside for uncritically publishing the rantings of a disappointed, disgruntled South African ex-communist. I say "rantings" because Raymond Suttner's interview in the white-owned corporate mouthpiece (Mail and Guardian) contains not a whit of political analysis - instead, it just attacks the leadership of the Communist Party of South Africa (150,000 membership), the ANC (1,000,000 membership), and COSATU (the major labor federation - 2,000,000 membership) as corrupt sellouts whose alliance is a hindrance to the interests of oppressed and exploited South Africans. Here are two representative quotes from this "radical" splitter:

"At this moment, for the first time one can say without any sense of exaggeration that the ANC, South African Communist Party, Cosatu alliance, insofar as it exists, has no ideological coherence or significance and provides little political leadership and direction. It may exist as a name but it no longer captures the moral fervour that led millions to place their hopes in them."

"The glue that binds survives at the leadership level, where the spoils of office have been spread to a significant number of members of the SACP leadership and a fair number of former Cosatu leaders. With the absorption of the top Cosatu leadership into the ANC's national executive committee, the relationship is consolidated by the prospect of their being offered Cabinet posts or other rewards, which are part of the largesse that the ANC in government can dispense."

If Portside wants to help educate American activists about the political struggles in South Africa, Portside should, at the least, periodically publish some of the major documents (or excerpts) and articles from the major actors in those struggles. I'm not talking about shallow rants. With regard to the South African Communist Party (especially), I'm talking about deep, well-considered, sharp, critical analyses that should be the envy of left-wing intellectuals and activists everywhere. Here's one source: The African Communist, at

Sidney Horowitz

Re: The Sparks of Rebellion

This is a rather incredible article by Chris Hedges.  It brings together Lenin, Marx, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Emma Goldman, Rosa Luxemburg, Bertolt Brecht, and George Bernard Shaw with Occupy and a few names I don't believe I know but think I probably should:  "Ry Cooder and playwrights Howard Brenton and Tarell Alvin McCraney."

In its original appearance, on truthdig, the article has elicited dozens of comments, a few of them quite interesting, on conscience, consciousness, and the Green Party.   I'd love to read further comments by you.

In solidarity

Leonard J. Lehrman


Actually, according to Hedges, he himself reported further down that research does NOT show that "violent movements fail".  Violent movements succeed 1/2 as much as non-violent movements -- that is NOT nothing.

I'm not suggesting or advocating violence. But I can't stand Hedges' sloppy thinking. The things he finds so novel most of us used to (and many still do) discuss and plan with our comrades on a daily basis. He needs to work with a group of one sort or another and actually practice what he preaches.

I can't believe all he got from Lenin and the others is this stinkin' t-shirt.

His whole argument is that we need to form coalitions to influence those in power to change things. "Nonviolent movements that succeed appeal to those within the power structure, especially the police and civil servants, who are cognizant of the corruption and decadence of the power elite and are willing to abandon them."

I guess we really need to define what we mean by "succeed".

To that end, I offer the following essay.

Mitchel Cohen

Re: Reading Obama's Iran Speech

I have been reading Ms. Phyllis Bennis's articles for quite some time and I am very grateful for her wise insights, again thanks,

Mike Liston,
Alaska, Beijing

Re: The NSA Deserves a Permanent Shutdown

Sure, let's protest and demand it cease its snooping -- or alternatively, change its focus to real security needs, e.g. food, housing, income, medical care.

But essential to progress against the snooping, if ending it is your main objective, is exposure and protest against the decades-long U.S. policies of manipulation and attempted control of politics and resources in the Mideast region, costing as it has far more than intrusion on the communications of the region's people: It has cost and continues to cost their lives.  Those policies were and are as reprehensible as what is selectively called the "terrorism" of the violent and extreme few who have plotted and attacked U.S. people, facilities and allies -- attacks which serve as reason, occasion, and excuse for the spying we protest.

Joe Maizlish,
Los Angeles

Re: Tech Boom Forcing Longtime S.F. Family Out of Home

It might be interesting to note the irony of this particular example, in that it is the influx of investors from China (PRC) who are pushing up the price of housing in the SF bay area.

In many cases, Chinese buyers come here and pay cash for housing, particularly for investment rental properties, which pushes against local buyers who usually have to go through mortgage loans and delayed closing dates.  

This has driven up local housing costs, as the cash buyers will often out bid any local buyers, and therefore push upward the resulting cost of rentals from those investment properties.

This is a more complex set of circumstances than what is portrayed in this article.

Charles Ostman
Sebastopol,  CA

Profiting off Prisoners (graphic resource)

I saw a link on your site to a Think Progress article about the prison system and wanted to suggest a follow-up for your readers:

My team is promoting this infographic that uncovers many of the problems with the prison system, specifically for-profit prison corporations like CCA and GEO group. I think this might generate some discussion from your audience.

If you decide to share, all I ask is that you credit the source. I can also send visitors to your post as a thank-you if you are interested.


Aldo Baker

National Teach-In on Syria and U.S. Policy in the Region - Oct. 8

Tuesday, Oct. 8th -
National Teach-In on Syria and
U.S. Policy in the Region

6:30 to 7:30 pm (east coast)

Live Streaming

With developments unfolding rapidly, it is still uncertain how things will play out in Syria.

A few weeks ago our nation was on the brink of yet another deadly military mistake. At the last moment, a threat of a U.S. missile attack against Syria was averted as the justifiable concern about chemical weapons moved away from a military incursion into a diplomatic process. The raging civil war has not yet stopped, but the massive outpouring of anti-war sentiment from people in every corner of the country and around the world prevented this new attack, and is helping to slow the flow of arms into Syria. Our victory was clear, but our work is far from over.

  • Will there be a negotiated resolution to the armed conflict inside Syria, or will the fighting escalate into an even broader regional war?
  • How did the peace movement in the U.S. and world-wide stop Washington from proceeding with military action in Syria, and how can we build on our success to change U.S. policy in the region?
  • What's happening now, on the ground in Syria and on the diplomatic front?
  • What is the U.S. interest in Syria and how does this connect to U.S. policy in the Middle East more generally?

These are some of the important issues that a dynamic panel of people will address in the National Teach-In on Syria. You are invited to watch the teach-in on line as we dig deeper into the issues and learn the lessons.

We are happy to join with other national groups to sponsor this live streamed panel on Tuesday, October 8th:

  • Phyllis Bennis - Director, New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies
  • Stephen Miles - Coordinator, Win Without War
  • Nick Berning - Communications Director,
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (invited) - 13th Cong. District, CA
  • moderated by Judith LeBlanc - Field Director, Peace Action

Watch this important discussion with others! This is a moment to bring people together, to take our organizing to a new level.

- Invite people to your home to watch the teach-in together.
- If you are at a school or college get a room and organize a screening.
- Ask your local library or religious institution to set up a public viewing.
- Ask you local community cable station to run the program live or taped.
- Use this teach-in as an opportunity to talk with others about how to strengthen the work of the anti-war movement.

We realize the time of this event might make it hard for some folks on the West Coast to see the broadcast, but we'll be sending out information about how you can access this event after October 8th.

This teach-in is organized and sponsored by the following groups that have been working together on Syria:
Peace Action * Win Without War * Institute for Policy Studies * CodePink * Just Foreign Policy * Progressive Democrats of America * American Friends Service Committee * Peace and Justice Resource Center * U.S. Labor Against the War * United for Peace and Justice * Friends Committee on National Legislation * Women's Action for New Directions

46th Anniversary of the Assassination of Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara - Bay Area - Oct. 19

Bi-lingual* Discussion-Forum
El Che- confronting reformists throughout history

Saturday  October 19th, 2013
6:00 Lutheran Chapel
2425 College Ave. (near Haste)
Berkeley, Calif.  94704

Information (415)285-9564

"U.S. Imperialism is guilty of aggression (against Vietnam); its crimes are immense spread throughout the world. ...And the representatives of the two largest powers of the  socialist camp (China and USRR) are maintaining a war of insults and obstacles."
(Che Guevara to the Tricontinental)

Study Collective Breaking Borders

Sign on! Statement of Support to CUNY Students Attacked and Arrested in Peaceful Protests Against Ex-Gen. David Petraeus

[If you're not a CUNY student, faculty or staff, you can forward it to your colleagues without the phrase "As graduate students and educators of CUNY" at the start of the second paragraph]

Statement of Support to CUNY Students Attacked and Arrested in Peaceful Protests Against Ex-Gen. David Petraeus On September 18, 2013, a press release issued by the Ad Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY stated: "Six students were arrested in a brutal, unprovoked police attack during a peaceful protest by the City University of New York's students and faculty against CUNY's appointment of former CIA chief ex-General David Petraeus.  Students were punched, slammed against vehicles and against the pavement by police captains and officers, after the NYPD forced them off the pavement and onto the street."

We express our outrage at the violent and unprovoked actions by the NYPD against CUNY students peacefully protesting the appointment of war criminal David Petraeus as a lecturer at the Macaulay Honors College.  We deplore the use of violence and brutal tactics against CUNY students and faculty who were protesting outside the college.  It is unacceptable for the university to allow the police to violently arrest students. We emphatically support the efforts of these CUNY students to resist the attempts by the U.S. government and the CUNY administration to turn the university into an infamous "war college" with the appointment of Petraeus.  Petraeus is responsible for countless deaths and innumerable destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan as a war commander and chief of the CIA.  Although resigning from his position as CIA director in November, Petraeus has continued his involvement in U.S. foreign policy.  Most recently Petraeus has called on Congress to back a military strike on Syria, stating "failure of Congress to approve the president's request would have serious ramifications not just in the Mideast but around the world."  His current roles as "adjunct" lecturer at CUNY and professor at USC speak to the increasing U.S. military and state security involvement within higher education.

We call on CUNY to terminate Petraeus' appointment and to ask for the charges against these students to be dropped immediately.


Email to add your signature.

Statement on line, with listing of signatures

2013 Organizing Boot Camps

United Students Against Sweatshops

Students and workers are under attack. On our campuses, we face skyrocketing tuition and fees that leave us saddled with mountains of debt after we graduate, only to enter a workforce where corporate CEOs are escalating their attacks on unions, turning good union jobs into cogs in an executive bonus-making machine.

2012 West Coast Boot Camp at the University of Southern California

We have to fight back. And we are.

From Bangladesh to Bentonville, workers and students are standing up to the robber barons who ruined our economy. When the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed this spring, it left 1,129 garment workers dead - yet another industrial homicide caused by a system dominated by corporate behemoths like Nautica, Walmart, and Gap. Meanwhile at home, escalating strikes by thousands of fast food and Walmart workers threaten to tear down a house of cards once thought invincible.

Students across the country are joining the fight, launching campaigns to demand better wages, safe workplaces, and the freedom to join unions for our campus and garment workers. We're demanding an end to campus ties with Wall Street banks like Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs that are unjustly foreclosing on our communities and funneling millions of dollars to education reform ideologues seeking to destroy our system of public education.

This year, USAS is hosting four organizing Boot Camps to share the skills and strategies we'll need to build an even stronger movement. Step up your organizing game and register for a Boot Camp near you now!

Join us, and together we'll develop the skills we need to mobilize larger numbers of students, train new young organizers, and win campaigns for immigration justice, labor rights, education affordability and access, international solidarity, and more. We'll spend two full days sharing the skills, tactics, and strategies we'll need to lead the fight against the unaccountable university administrators and the corporations and billionaires who are wrecking our economy.

During the two-day student-run and student-organized Boot Camp we will:

  • Practice concrete organizing skills, including one-on-one conversations to move our peers from apathy to action.
  • Share ideas on how to build campaigns to win concrete victories and how to escalate with creative, effective actions.
  • Build a stronger, broader, more coordinated movement, developing plans that will lead to victory.
  • Learn how to get your message out loud and clear through mainstream and alternative media.
  • Strategize high-intensity direct action tactics with activists who have coordinated major actions on our campuses or in our communities.
  • Learn how students mobilized hundreds of their peers to take direct action.

2012 Midwest Boot Camp at the University of Michigan

United Students Against Sweatshops
1150 17th Street NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036

An Economic Bill of Rights for the 21st Century A conference celebrating the 25th anniversary of the - New York - Oct. 18

Columbia University Seminar on Full Employment, Social Welfare & Equity

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18 -- 9:00 AM - 4:30 PM
(breakfast at 8:30 AM)
Columbia University Faculty House
64 Morningside Drive - Manhattan

$20 pre-registration; $25 at door (includes breakfast and lunch)
$10 low - income, unemployed, students

In 1944 Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed an Economic Bill of Rights whose guarantees included employment at living wages, housing, medical care, education and old age security. This conference, will consider FDR's proposal in light of subsequent history. Have any of those rights originally proposed been achieved? What are their inter-connections,? How does FDR's Bill of Rights need to be up-dated for the 21st Century? How can we secure these rights in the present political climate?

SPEAKERS: The Honorable John Conyers (D-MI); David Woolner, Senior Fellow and Resident Hyde Park Historian, The Roosevelt Institute; Philip Harvey, Prof. of Law and Economics, Rutgers University; William Quigley, Prof. of Law, Loyola University; Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg, Professor Emerita of Social Policy, Adelphi University; Sheila D. Collins, Professor Emerita of Political Science, William Paterson University; Helen Lachs Ginsburg, Professor Emerita of Economics, Brooklyn College, CUNY; Dean Baker, Co-Director Center for Economic and Policy Research; William Darity, Jr. , Professor of Public Policy, African and African-American Studies and Economics, Duke University; Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor and Publisher, The Nation; Gary Dorrien, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary; Michael Lighty, Director of Public Policy, California Nurses' Association/National Nurses United; Chris Policano, Director of Communications, AFSCME.

Conference WelcomeRobert Pollack, Director, Columbia University Seminars Program  
Panel Chairs: June Zaccone, Assoc. Prof. Emerita of Economics, Hofstra University; Eduardo Rosario, Executive Board, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (NYC Chapter); Chuck Bell, Programs Director, Consumers Union; Logan Martinez, Outreach Coordinator, National Jobs for All Coalition
Concluding RemarksPeter Marcuse, Prof. Emeritus of Urban Planning, Columbia University, co-editor Cities for People, Not for Profit, and Searching for the Just City.

Columbia University Seminar on Full Employment, Social Welfare & Equity, The Roosevelt Institute, The Nation, The National Jobs for All Coalition, Demos, Dollars & Sense, Workers Defense League, Modern Money Network, Greater NY Labor-Religion Coalition, The Worker Institute at Cornell, ILR School

Opening for Associate Publisher - In These Times

In These Times, a not-for-profit national monthly magazine based in Chicago, seeks a full-time associate publisher. In These Times is dedicated to advancing democracy and economic justice, informing movements for a more humane world, and providing an accessible forum for debate about the policies that shape our future.

Job description and responsibilities

Salary based on experience. Four weeks paid vacation. Employer matched 401(k). Employer-paid medical and dental benefits. Please send cover letter, resume, references and a writing sample in a single PDF, with Associate Publisher in the cover line, to Liz Novak at jobs@inthesetimes dot com. No phone calls. Applications are due by October 18. In These Times is an equal opportunity employer. People of all ethnicities and genders are encouraged to apply.

If you like this article, please sign up for Snapshot, Portside's daily summary.

(One summary e-mail a day, you can change anytime, and Portside is always free.)