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Tidbits - October 17, 2013

Reader Comments- Mexico teachers; Social Security; Israel; Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap; McDonald's; Grad Student unions; Jobs; Unemployment; Announcements- NYC - Full Employment and the Right to a Job: (Oct 18); Film showing - Anne Braden-Southern Patriot(Oct 24); D.C - Government Surveillance in Communities of Color; So.Calif - Government Spying, Immigrant Detention Policies(Nov 12); Louis E. Burnham Award Welcomes Applicants Today in History-Salt of the Earth

Reader Comments,

Re: Teachers, Education Reform, and Mexico's Left

I think it was a mistake for Portside to post this article.  It is a wholesale attack on Mexican teachers at a time when they're fighting for their lives, and on the Mexican left in general.  It is full of inaccuracies and snide smears -- talking about the left there, which is larger than ours and has made greater sacrifices, as though they just sit in cafes in rich Mexico City neighborhoods, and as though teachers are corrupt and self-serving.  But the worst part is its collapse into the neoliberal attack and stereotypes, much of which has been organized from the U.S.

The Mexican left, with whom we're trying to build solidarity, is going to wonder why Portside is circulating such an attack on it.  Mexican solidarity activists here in the U.S. will wonder the same thing.

David Bacon

Re: Are Our Parents Stealing from Our Kids? No, They're Not

Baby Boomers just retiring were born in 1946. Since they turned 18 in 1964, it means they've been paying into Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid through payroll taxes for almost 50 years, long before the "younger generation" was born.
Yet, when it comes time to collect on pre-paid benefits for baby Boomers, the US Government suddenly "discovers" that the money might not be there.
What gives?
Elliot Markson
Born in 1942. Too old to be a Boomer

Re: The Desert of Israeli Democracy

In writing this line: "This is not a particularly humane system, to be sure, but it is one that all within the spectrum of Zionist opinion, from the Kahanist right to the J Street left, necessarily support." Blumenthal reveals that his identity as a polemicist trumps that of the journalist. As if it's not enough to describe the reality of Israeli actions, he is forced to go that one extra step and herd 'the J Street left' into the same compound as the most violent extremists.

It's a patently false claim that does more to illustrate his own extremism than that of Israeli or Jewish liberals. Weak though they may be, they have clearly and consistently come out against Israel's treatment of African refugees and against the Prawer Plan to dispossess Bedouins in the Negev.

It's as if Blumenthal would rather we stop trying to change Israeli government policies and instead pelt the liberals with vegetables. What a terrible service to the victims of Israeli policies, who need all the help they can get - even if it comes from individual supporters of J Street.

Charles Lenchner

Re: Death of General Vo Nguyen Giap (Tidbits - Oct. 10)

Hollis Stewart and I are currently living and working in Vietnam and are deeply moved by the country's people's responses to the death of Vo Nguyen Giap.  The next two days of National Mourning have been preceded with many showings of respect and love for "The General," not only for the brilliant strategic and political leadership he gave to Vietnam but for his humbleness, sense of humor and commitment to community and building a strong future for the people of Vietnam.  As soon as students and faculty here at Ton Duc Thang University in HCMC realize how much Hollis and I admire and respect General Giap, they quickly share their own feelings and stories.  Tomorrow there will be countless memorials and events across Vietnam as people gather to mourn his death and celebrate his life.  At our campus there will be such a gathering which we will be honored to attend.  

I ask that all of us whether we remember the organizing and street demonstrations of the 1960s and 1970s or not, make time this week-end to reflect on all the history and life experiences that we share with the people of Vietnam.  The issues of economic justice and fair trade, protecting natural resources and the environment, labor rights in the face of global neoliberalism, education and heath care, the on-going criminal tragedy of Agent Orange which now affects at least 1,000,000 Vietnamese adults and children, building a path to socialism, strengthening people's organizations and a Communist Party, peace and stability -- we are united in our wishes for freedom, independence and happiness (quoting the Vietnam Constitution).  We have much to learn from the people of Vietnam and much to share, especially as workers and trade unionists.  Vietnam is a heroic country with many working class heroes.  

Let's mourn the great Vo Nguyen Giap and commit ourselves to stand with and work with Vietnam as its people continue to build their great country.

Leanna Noble

Recent paens to Giap correctly state his prowess as a military leader and hero of Viet self-determination.

But, as democratic socialists, shouldn't our assessment include the 58,000 US GIs who were killed, in part, as a result of Giap's effortsDoes it not seem a bit ghoulish and anti-American to take such an unbalanced view?

If we are democratic socialists, should we continue to praise and promote Communist regimes?  Do we really think we can convince working people that we are genuine and authentic democrats?

Sure, there are positive features in Cuba, China and Vietnam - but there are also positive features in, say, Denmark or Germany.  

Some of us have never really analyzed the Soviet experience, and what it meant to our vision. In  my view, this has hampered and hindered our ability to  project a really democratic and socialist vision.  

Jim Williams
Tacoma, WA

Re: McDonald's Worker Arrested After Telling Company President She Can't Afford Shoes

a damn good reason to makes your burgers at home - and fight, politically, for a higher minimum wage. Maybe picket your local McDonalds?

David McReynolds

Re: Could Grad Students Regain Union Rights? Some Hopeful Signs
(posted on Labor Portside)

NYU, ¡sí se puede!

Ben Cokelet
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: How Many Jobless People Last Month? Who Knows

   "Millions of our friends, relatives and neighbors are living precarious lives of want and insecurity due to unemployment or underemployment."

No argument here.  The so-called "unemployment" numbers are fake, just about everyone out there in the real world knows this.  

Precarious is exactly the correct description, as this describes my circumstance perfectly, and most the people I know personally are living the same life of uncertainty.I don't bother with reading the latest labor dept. and economic statistics of the moment, as such is basically meaningless.  I "read" what I can see with my own eyes.

Fortunately, I do currently have a job, though it's nothing even remotely approaching the life and career I once had.  That vanished with the bankruptcy and foreclosure I survived through in 2008 - 2009, when I was in my late 50s.

Now that I'm past 60, just getting by is the primary focus of daily life.  Every day I can wake up, see sunlight, and can actually go to a job is a relatively good day, for I am all too aware of the fact that there are many who do not have even this much.

What amazes me is that the architects of the largest Ponzi scheme in human history, the banksters on Wall St and their paid for political whores in Wash DC, have yet to serve a single day in prison, or even pay a cent for the destruction of an entire economic system, and the misery such has perpetrated upon the population of this country.

At some point, this entire house of cards will collapse in on itself.  To what end is difficult to speculate, but there is more to come.

My sense is that this is only the beginning edge of a larger emergent phenomena . . . but that's just my "unqualified" opinion.

Sebastopol,  CA

Re: The Moral Life of Babies

Great article.

Linda Farris Kurtz
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

question for readers

Does anyone remember this song from my childhood: A Lonesome Train on a Lonely Track, Seven Horses Painted Black? I retrieved the lyrics from an archive but does anyone know if there is a recording out there?

Claire Carsman

[Moderator's answer: The Lonesome Train
A Musical Legend text by Millard Lampell / Music by Earl Robinson

The Lonesome Train Contata Sung by Burl Ives: Part 1 This recording was originally made on 78 rpm records in 1944. It was later reissued as an LP and now appears to be unavailable. The record from which this was taken has some damaged grooves and a few skips occur. The cantata is based on the funeral train of Abraham Lincoln.]

Dean Baker in NYC on October 18 - Full Employment and the Right to a Job: What Does it Mean? How Do We Get There?

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. The conference, "An Economic Bill of Rights for the 21st Century," will consider FDR's proposal in light of subsequent history. Have any of those rights originally proposed been achieved? What are their interconnections? How does FDR's Bill of Rights need to be updated for the 21st Century? How can we secure these rights in the present political climate?

Join CEPR Co-Director Dean Baker as he takes part in a panel on "Full Employment and the Right to a Job."

For more information, visit the conference website.

Panel Participants:

  • Dean Baker, CEPR Co-Director
  • Helen Lachs Ginsburg, Professor Emerita of Economics, Brooklyn College, CUNY
  • William Darity, Jr. Professor of Public Policy, African and African-American Studies and Economics, Duke University

Friday, October 18, 2013
11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Columbia University
Faculty House
64 Morningside Drive
New York, NY 10027

Please register for this event here.
This event is $10-25 and includes breakfast and lunch (for the full-day conference).

Support Ft. Edward UE members this Friday, October 18th -- please forward


Union members at the General Electric plant in Fort Edward, NY will be joined by members of other area labor unions, elected officials, and community members in a rally in front of the plant on Friday, October 18, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. The union - Local 332 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) - is fighting GE's plan to close the capacitor plant and move production to Florida.

WHAT:      Union protest at GE Fort Edward against plant closing
WHEN:     Friday, October 18, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.
WHERE:  GE Plant, 381 Broadway, Ft. Edward 12828
VISUALS: Large crowd, picket signs, public and union officials

"Closing our plant will hurt 200 families of GE employees and many more families in our community," said Local 332 President Scott Gates. "It will have a devastating effect on small businesses in our area, costing many more people their jobs, reducing local services, harming a lot of people." But Gates said GE has an even larger obligation because of the environmental damage it has caused. "It would be a gross injustice to all the people of our region and of New York State, for GE to take away these jobs and leave us nothing but polluted land and a poisoned river. GE owes us much more. At a minimum, GE has an obligation to keep these jobs here."

Over 30 years, from the 1940s to the 1970s, GE dumped approximately 1.3 million pounds of highly-toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson River from Ft. Edward. GE tried for years to evade responsibility for this disaster. A multi-year dredging project to remove GE's PCBs from the river continues today, as do harmful impacts on the environment and human health. New York's State Health Department continues to advise against eating fish from the Hudson. The river from Hudson Falls to Lower Manhattan is the EPA's largest Superfund site, requiring long-term cleanup of contamination.

As required by the national contract between UE and GE, the company on September 18 gave the union one year's notice of its intent to close Ft. Edward. The union and the company are now engaged in "decision bargaining" over the closing, as required by the union contract.  "We will fight this with whatever it takes to keep these jobs here," said Scott Gates.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact Scott Gates at 518-496-8608 or UE Northeast Region President Peter Knowlton at 774-264-0110.

Chris Townsend
Washington Office
United Electrical Workers Union (UE)

Film showing - Anne Braden: Southern Patriot - New York - Oct. 24

Thursday, October 24 -- 6:00 pm

Location: Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center, 310 West 43rd St., Manhattan.

We will be showing the extraordinary film Anne Braden: Southern Patriot.

This is a 77 minute, 2012 film made by Anne Lewis & Mimi Pickering.

It is a first person documentary about the extraordinary life of this civil rights leader. Braden was hailed as a white southerner who was "eloquent and prophetic" by Martin Luther King, Jr in his 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail. Ostracized as a "red," she fought for an inclusive movement community and mentored three generations of social justice activists.

The film will be followed by discussion of the meaning of her struggles for us today. We hope to have an activist who worked with Anne Braden in the south participating.

RSVP by return e-mail.

Metro NY CCDS Coordinating Committee

Enemies of the State: Government Surveillance in Communities of Color - Washington, DC - Oct. 24

The Center for Media Justice and Free Press invite you to attend "Enemies of the State: Government Surveillance in Communities of Color"  -- a panel discussion which explores the ways that local and federal spying operations work to stifle leaders within the movement for social and racial justice.  

Today, more people are learning what many of us have already known, that U.S. agencies have carried on multiple secret domestic surveillance programs- with the aid of companies like Verizon, Facebook and Google.  Unfortunately, this is nothing new.  Today's NSA revelations only build on the FBI's Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), which was used during the 1960s and 1970s to monitor telephone conversations and track mail of black, Latino, and Indigenous leaders.

Though the platforms have changed, the goal remains the same: destabilize and dismantle movements for political and economic rights.  

Join us for this important discussion moderated by Morgan State University Professor Dr. Jared Ball. Panelists include:

  • Dhoruba Bin-Wahad-former political prisoner and Black Panther Party leader
  • Seema Sadanandan- director of the ACLU-DC affiliate
  • Adwoa Masozi-communications specialist and media activist of the Bill of Rights Defense League,
  • Fahd Ahmed- the legal and policy director of Desis Rising Up and Moving
  • Alfredo Lopez- founder of May First/ People Link and leader in Puerto Rico Student Movement

Thursday, October 24th, 2013
5:30-7:00 pm (ET)

Bus Boys and Poets at 14th and V (Langston Room)
2021 14th Street NW, Washington D.C.

RSVP Now (Space is limited)

Government Spying, Immigrant Detention Policies Threaten Every American's Civil Liberties - Southern California - Nov. 12

Challenging America's Surveillance and Detention State

Government Spying, Immigrant Detention Policies Threaten Every American's Civil Liberties

ACLU-SC Pasadena-Foothills Chapter Public Forum

November 12, 7 to 9 p.m.

Neighborhood Church
301 N. Orange Grove Blvd

Do you ever wonder if Big Brother has arrived in earnest?

Think about it. Haven't we learned that the National Security Agency has been collecting data on every American's phone call; that the National Defense Authorization Act lets government lock up anyone - including Americans - virtually without limitation; and that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detention centers hold thousands of undocumented immigrants virtually without rights or protections.

At the ACLU-SoCal Pasadena/Foothills Chapter's November forum, two experts - Matthew Kellegrew from the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) and Ahilan Arulanantham, the ACLU-SoCal's Senior Staff Attorney on the ACLU Immigrant Rights Project - will discuss the history of these government-sponsored intrusions into basic civil liberties and outline steps taken to combat them.

After the 9-11 attacks, America's government quickly became intensely security conscious, but that effort "has been contorted into a complex, multi-agency surveillance apparatus whose attention has been turned against the American people and away from the Bill of Rights," reports Kellegrew.

As part of these security measures, the NDAA permits indefinite detentions, including for Americans. The NDAA is "particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield," according to ACLU sources.

Similarly, efforts to deal with America's seemingly intractable immigration problems have also shredded Constitutional protections, involving great expense to taxpayers and unconscionable treatment of detainees. "It costs tens of thousands of dollars per detainee, per year to imprison people in immigration detention facilities," says Arulanantham. "The vast majority of those being detained have no criminal records, pose no risk of flight and yet drain resources from an already strapped federal government."

On one brighter note, Governor Jerry Brown's recently signed AB 351, which challenges the NDAA by banning state participation in federal programs that involve indefinite detention.

The event is free and open to the public. For more info, contact Sharon Kyle, Communications Chair, ACLU-SC Pasadena/Foothills Chapter, aclupasadena@yahoo or 213.434.4643

Louis E. Burnham Award Welcomes Applicants

The Louis E. Burnham Award is granted each year to an individual whose work reflects the interests and values of Louis Burnham's life. Those interests included:

  • racial justice in urban areas and the U.S. South
  • human rights
  • socially engaged journalism
  • African-American politics
  • youth leadership

Commemorating Burnham's lifelong engagement with progressive causes, the award recognizes the work of journalists, social justice activists and scholars who have amply demonstrated their commitment to racial justice and the advancement of the African-American community. The Award consists of a grant of $5,000 to be used to support the work of the recipient.

The Louis E. Burnham Fund is proud of the work of previous  award recipients, including Erik McDuffie, Jaribu Hill, Osagie Obasagie, Monifa Bandele, LaTosha Brown, Kai Barrow, Alvin Sykes, Alfonzo White, Sendolo Diaminah, Denise Perry and Kazembe Balagun. Please help us spread the word to worthy candidates. Thank you.

Interested applicants should send a resume, a two-page statement of interest and two letters of recommendation to:

The statement of interest should address how the applicant's work manifests the interests and values noted above and how the award will be used to advance that work.    Applications should be received by November 30, 2013.

At the end of the award year, the recipient will be expected to provide the Louis E. Burnham Award Fund Committee with a brief written summary of the purposes to which the grant was put.

Contributions to the Fund are deeply appreciated and may be mailed to:
     Louis E. Burnham Award Fund
     189 Maple Street
     Brooklyn, New York 11225


Today in History -- Salt of the Earth - New Mexico mine strike starts

                   Salt of the Earth movie poster
                   Kenneth Burt's Blog

On October 17, 1950, in the Grant County town of Hanover, New Mexico, workers at the Empire Zinc mine finished their shifts, formed a picket line, and began a fifteen-month strike. Represented by Local 890 of the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers (Mine-Mill), the miners, overwhelmingly Mexican American, had voted to strike after reaching an impasse with the company over "collar-to-collar" pay (rather than paying only for the time workers spent at their individual work places inside the mine), lack of paid holidays, and the high number of job classifications (which allowed the company to reserve the lowest-paying jobs for Mexican Americans the "Mexican wage").

Read more at Organization of American Historians

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