Skip to main content

The MAGA storming of the Capitol is two years old. The attempted coup is still happening. The reshaping of the Republican Party as an insurrectionary force and the expansion of armed gangs aim to smash democracy. Please help us to inform, to mobilize and to inspire the forces of multi-racial, radical, inclusive democracy to defeat this threat in 2023.

Tidbits - February 20, 2014

Reader Comments - Keystone XL; Sid Caesar; Venezuela; UAW and Volkswagen; Bernie Sanders Run for President?; Chris Hedges; Nixon, Reagan and Sabotage of Peace; Healthcare; Love and Loneliness; Song for Pete Seeger; Announcements: -Remembering Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Era - New York - Feb. 22; Teleconference on 'Moving Beyond Capitalism' - Feb. 24

Tidbits - Reader Comments, Announcements - Feb. 20, 2014 ,Portside

Re: Mass Civil Disobedience Against Keystone XL

Why is it that civil responsibility is increasingly referred to as civil disobedience?    I thought we continue with the First Amendment to the Constitution: the freedom of speech and of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for the redress of grievances.  Did I miss something?

Susan Dupont

Re: Sid Caesar Obituary - American TV's Great Comedian of the 1950s

OMG, watching the video I laughed so hard I spewed my coffee all over the table and myself.  Saturday night was an absolute had to watch.  What a joy to be able to see it again.  Forget the mishegas, he was an incredible genius and possibly one of the funniest people ever.  And what a crew with Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner and Howard Morris.  Thank you Portside for giving this back.

Claire Carsman

Re: Report on Protests and Violence in Venezuela

This is a very dangerous post. First, it conceptualizes the struggle in Venezuela as being between the Maduro government and the L¢pez opposition. The long reach of the US government and the CIA don't seem to play a a role in the author's view, whereas those of us who have lived through the lead up to the overthrow of the elected Allende government in Chile can see their footprints very clearly. Second, L¢pez is not just on the right, he is an outright fascist. There are photos circulating of him speaking with the Nazi flag behind him. The reason why this opposition does not spread beyond the "middle class" is that they have nothing to offer the mass of Venezuelan people because they would roll back all of the gains made by the Bolivarian governments. How sad that Portside would publish something so shallow and of the right though it pretends to be objective.

Marian Feinberg
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Progressive portside cannot identify fascism...

Carlos Sa


Shame on you!  I thought this was a progressive site.  Is it turning out to be a wolf in sheep's clothing?

Joseph Kaye

Re: The Vote Chattanooga Volkswagen - Three Views

And there were real outside interests who poured millions into destroying these workers' chance to belong to a union.  One not mentioned here was Grover Norquist and his huge billboards declaring that if a worker voted "Yes" he would be seen as 'supporting Obama'.

The factor of hatred of our President continues to be the factor that runs our government here, cutting food stamps, firing thousands of good State workers to "save money", refusing to provide affordable health insurance for the low-income workers.  Our Governor has insulted the President twice by refusing to welcome him to Tennessee, then "proudly accepted the invitation to get to attend a State Dinner."

But he and Corker were just part of the reasons these workers were scared to better their lives, EVEN WHEN VW supported a union and workers council for them.  The UAW does have an active Union in our Spring Hill TN car manufacturing plant.  It is so sad that the GOP/TEAs have destroyed so many jobs here.  But they have approve a new gun making factory in Nashville, Berretta is bringing 130 jobs...I suppose to support the NRA take-over of our Legislature.  Yes, we are losing jobs, but the plethora of guns continues.

Mary Wilson

None of the three touches what was done in the 30's that helped unions become a force,  by neglecting to raise the issue of community engagement. OK, so the union agreed not to do house calls, but that doesn't mean they couldn't set storefronts or work from sympathetic churches talking to the community as a whole about what UAW could do for organized workers, and how union organizing could benefit the community as a whole

Lorenzo Canizares
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


Re: More Thoughts on the UAW/VW Loss

Rosemary Feurer strikes at the heart of the matter of the Chattanooga vote.  Labor and its friends often forget that in the 1930s the well-remembered victories in Akron and Flint and US Steel were punctuated by defeats elsewhere, including Hershey and Johnstown and elsewhere in PA, as well as Youngstown, East Chicago, Toledo, and many other locations. And, nonetheless, the workers kept coming.  Chin up, UAW!

James Young


Re: VW Works Council Says Will Pursue Labor Representation at U.S. Plant
(posted on Portside Labor)

About VW wanting to proceed with a workers council whereby workers' interests could be represented even without a union. The article describes it well: "Under the group's 'co-determination' policy, workers have a say over matters affecting work rules and the workplace environment while the consensual structure allows management to draw on labor support in decisions on new products and plants." Now, I have lots of experience over the years with these "team concept" or "quality improvement" schemes, which are a way for management to steal ideas from workers on the teams to speed up their own production, in return for a say in how their wages and benefits are "adjusted" to keep the plant competitive. The really sneaky part this time is that VW hopes to do this without a union involved, and that's huge.

The way labor law works now, when a union represents a workplace, it is illegal for an employer to deal directly with employees; all such discussions must be with union reps. When I negotiated the attempt by the Social Security Adm to institute the team concept (which we eventually defeated with organized rank-and-file mobilization), we, the union, had the leverage of this law, which meant that we could demand a veto over any decision about proposals from teams. In the VW case, if workers councils without a union are okayed by the NLRB, then teams comprised of workers and their managers dealing directly with productivity issues would be pressured or tricked into doing their jobs "better" (ie, faster and more profitably), with no way to put the cat back into the bag (by veto). There would be no way to stop management from implementing the changes, and the pressure would continue for workers to seek favor by coming up with even better ideas for management.

Not only is this dangerous for the VW workers, but such a revision of US labor law would take away the basic power of exclusive representation that gives unions their leverage. It would almost certainly be a fatal blow to labor as we know it. That is the really scary part, because then the pressure of competition, relocation, etc, would be applied by employers, and unions would face waves of challenging de-certification fights. Btw, Labor Notes is certainly the most experienced and expert resource for dealing with these schemes.

Warren Davis
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: Thoughts on a Bernie Sanders Run

Her, here! A bold, but critically important and potentially achievable transformational electoral proposal that could push the debate and at least the rhetoric of the Democratic Party Royalty back to its prior liberal-progressive party history that has been abandoned for a Center-Right profile in policy if not in primary campaign liberal-progressive rhetoric.
But the short and longer-term fundamental issues and questions are: Will the candidate run with a team prepared to win and to enter the governance structures of the State, to identify and consolidate a progressive citizen base-coalition and build a trend of progressive politics inside and outside the electoral area, especially the State structures and Congress, over the next 20 plus years?
In the lingering ethical and financial crisis of capitalism which has spawned deeper social consciousness and deep democratic reaction against the logic of corporate greed-self-interests and resultant deterioration of life quality among the already poor and struggling-shrinking middle class and their widening frustration with elected-official enablers, what better moment to offer and pursue an explicit long-term transformational project grounded in active citizen participation under the banner of an experienced "mainstream political" socialist candidate?
Otherwise, as we are already hearing throughout liberal, progressive, and some leftists' circles "Hillary is the only or best chance to stave off the right-wingers, to prevent a more conservative slide in the supreme Court, the lesser of bad options with a real chance to win the presidency". The song is the same although the proposed tune-carrier is of course different every eight years.
Is Bernie prepared to step in? If not him who? What do progressives and leftists need to do to stoke a program and a candidacy?

Let's run!

James Early


Bill Fletcher's views are always worth taken very seriously, so here is my critique. Fletcher argues "It only makes sense to run for the Presidency of the United States - as a progressive or leftist - if the person is both running to win and running as part of a broader electoral project. A run just to "show the colors" or make a statement is a waste of time. Running for President is both too expensive and time-consuming for that."  However, there many ways to "win" beyond just triumphing on Election Day.  While it was perfectly clear to everyone that there was only a "snowball chance in hell" of winning the election, the Jill Stein campaign for President in 2012 was not a waste of time, nor was it aimed as just "showing the colors" of the Green Party.  Rather it was an invaluable initiative in building the Green Party as well as bringing the vision of the Green New Deal (GND ) into the consciousness of millions of Americans, with the GND being an imperative objective in confronting the global threat of catastrophic climate change.

Then Fletcher goes on to say "On the other hand, if the candidate has a real mass base, is building a broad progressive front around a clear, transformational program, and sees the candidacy as one step in a multitiered process, then it might be worth going for it."  But this "On the other hand" argument is a clear recognition that "running to win" is not necessarily a criteria for a successful campaign for President.

Fletcher follows with "Contrary to the contention of some of my friends on the left, there is no contradiction between running as a socialist and running as a Democrat - with the real intention of taking office."   Neither is there a contradiction running as a socialist and as a Green, recognizing that Sanders' definition of his socialism is a capitalist social welfare state,  while a huge improvement to what we now have,  the Green Party platform calls for an even more radical challenge to real existing capitalism.

Finally, Fletcher argues that "A primary challenge is worth it, even if he just pushes the victor to the left."  Sanders running as an Independent, better seeking the Green Party nomination for President, is even more worth it, for the "other hand" argument that Fletcher makes. See Scott McLarty's piece here.

David Schwartzman
Candidate for U.S. Senator (Shadow)
DC Statehood Green Party, affiliate of the Green Party of the United States
Washington, DC

Totally agree with Bill on this thoughtful article!

Kevin Lynch

    "It only makes sense to run for the Presidency of the United States - as a progressive or leftist - if the person is both running to win and running as part of a broader electoral project. A run just to "show the colors" or make a statement is a waste of time. Running for President is both too expensive and time-consuming for that."

    "A primary challenge is worth it, even if he just pushes the victor to the left."

I guess Fletcher advises Sanders to limit himself to challenging Clinton in the Dem primaries - to push her left.

Mike Munk


Thank you, Bill Fletcher.  This is the most thoughtful and helpful piece I've seen, sounding the call for a reasonable electoral plan.

Bob Zellner

I think this is the best stated discussion on this subject. And, I am particularly glad that it HAS come from an African American. I suspect that many of the Black Congressional Caucus would support it as well. My major concern with any Socialist/left Presidential candidate, is what kind of Congressional support he/she would have. Without that kind of support and a mass base not controlled by the Democrats as Fletcher states, but by the folks who really do the work to elect such a candidate is a MUST for the President to be able to carry out any of the great and wonderful stands he/she proposes during the election process.

Phyllis Mandel
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: Our Sinister Dual State

Chris Hedges offers some profound criticism of the situation in the United States.  But he seems to have tunnel vision.  He can only see the walls and not the exit.  When there is no way out, only fools will bash their heads against the walls.  Others will wait their chance.

A more thoughtful person will try to illuminate a path toward the exit.  Simply describing in depressing detail the many ways the national security state has curtailed our freedoms does not shed much light unless it can show us where lie the openings for struggle, with chance of victory.  But it seems as though Hedges has lost all hope, as if he has entered through the gates of Hell.  We can ill afford to join him there.

Ted Pearson

The trouble with Chris Hedges' call for "removing from power those who stole our liberty and lied to us" is, as Howard Zinn often quoted I.F. Stone as having said: "Governments lie." But Assange, Manning and Snowden have certainly inspired a new dialog, as well as us, in The New Improved SUPERSPY!: The S-e-c-r-e-t Musical which opened at Medicine Show Theatre Feb. 7.  Please see Ted Merwin's article on us:

You have one more chance to see it,
Sun. Feb. 23 at 3pm, at 549 West 52nd Street.

Thanks -
Leonard J. Lehrman & Joel Shatzky

Re: The History of Surveillance and the Black Community

All the veterans of the movement should get their FBI report.  Senator Eastland was head of federal, state and local "Massive Resistance Movement" that was part of the War Against Communism.

We forget that Bobby Kennedy in the late 50's was the General Counsel of Senator Eastland's Committee and continued his relationship as US attorney General under Kennedy..  I am only now beginning to understand why my grand-uncle, CR Richardson, vice-chairman of the Republican Party in 1956 had nothing to do with me.  He at least could have given me a head's up. Even Rosa Park's husband had a Republican plum job as a local post master.

Black republicans from the South were important at national conventions of the Republican Party.  Not only were our activities monitored, but counter-actions were used on a federal, state and local level.  It was not only just King , or Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney , victims.  Not only violence-but also seduction and mystification.  For example, the massive voter education program in the South in the 60's were funded through CIA fronts through the Southern Regional Council and the Voter Education Project.  See Ramparts Magazine.

John Due, former VEP worker and attorney and Florida Counsel for CORE.

Re: Nixon Sabotaged Vietnam Talks to Ensure Vote

As I understand it, the disclosures about the Nixon campaign conducting its own foreign policy occurred in 2007 or 8. it's not terribly different in content from the 1980 Reagan efforts to ensure that Iran released no captive US embassy personnel until after Carter was defeated & Ronald took office.

Daniel Millstone
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: The GOP's Health Crisis

Increased sign-ups for insurance through ACA Exchanges is political relatively good news for the Democrats, o.k.

Obamacare is working?  No.

Signups for health insurance through the Exchanges working better, yes.  But that doesn't mean "Obamacare is working."

Today a writer based in the Oregon Center for Public Policy published estimates that even by 2019, Obamacare would leave 288,000 Oregonians without any insurance. That's better than 600,000 before the law. But it shows how the ACA comes nowhere near universal coverage. And Oregon is a state the did take up the Medicaid expansion under the ACA. The situation will be worse in the half of the states that have refused to expand Medicaid.

So Obamacare is not working to provide universal coverage.

And coverage is not care. The premise of "Obamacare is working" is that private health insurance provided through employment is working. It isn't. Coverage is getting worse and worse while becoming increasingly expensive. The ACA limits certain insurance abuses, but the insurance industry is working around the new law's provisions against individual exclusions by cherry-picking providers instead, and only including providers who serve lower risk populations in their networks, or just not offering coverage in many geographical areas at all.

In Massachusetts, RomneyCare has done nothing to reduce medical bankruptcies. ObamaCare encourages high deductible plans that both reproduce self-rationing and delay of needed care due to inability to pay, which means care is late, less effective and more expensive, rather than early, more effective and less expensive.

So Obamacare is not working to provide effective health care, either among the newly covered or the already insured.

Coverage is not care.

We need a truly universal single payer system, that includes everyone living in the U.S. one large prenatal to grave risk pool, removes ability to pay as an obstacle to care, and uses the leverage of the system to shift care delivery to health promotion, prevention and early stage treatment in delivery of care, as well as to address dysfunctions and perverse incentives in provider and hospital/clinic compensation.

Everybody In! Nobody Out!
Health care is a human right!

Chris Lowe
Portland, Oregon


"Obamacare is working."  What other choice do we have right now?

Just because Obamacare has been able to sell insurance policies due to business-as-usual and threatening fines, does not mean it is working as an adequate and cost-effective solution to our US health care crisis.

Obamacare is certainly working for the insurance industry.  Especially now that it is subsidized and enforced by the Obama administration.  The social safety net should be for real citizens, not "Citizen United" corporations.

And just because Republicans oppose Obamacare (mostly for the wrong reasons) does not mean progressives should support it with specious arguments. We must get over the idea that private insurance is necessary to our health care system.  People should get health care they need, without worrying whether provisions in their "choice" of insurance policy "cover" it.

Single-payer universal health care is the solution.  We will not get it so long as the government strengthens the hand of health insurance companies through subsidies and forced sales of often inadequate policies.

Obama earlier in his political career verbally endorsed single payer.  His supporters call Obamacare a "compromise" leading the way to single-payer. Only after we had actually achieved single payer, could we say Obamacare "worked" in that sense.  Meanwhile, if Obama really wanted to compromise rather than sell out, he would have suggested lowering the age for Medicare eligibility in progressive steps, while also fixing the moth holes (Medicare Advantage, Part D, etc.) eaten into it by the insurance industry.

Dave Ecklein

Re: Best union bookstore in the world" - Tidbits - Feb. 13

To give workers a cut, you must buy through the Local 5 site and click on its link to Powell's as per :

"Click here and 7.5% of every sale goes directly to support the workers of ILWU Local 5."

Michael Munk

Re: The Economics of Love and Loneliness

love this pic,art work on sf bay close to bridge.

Lovella Keller
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Posting on Portside's Facebook page

I read this email newsletter every week amazing union and working-class information

Talisman Pomeroy
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Song for Pete Seeger

Sing Him Home
Old Pete Seeger was our friend
Sing him home, sing him home
his music never end!
Sing him home, sing him home
2.  Pete collected and wrote songs
for fun, some to right wrongs
3.  Cared what others thought and wrote
his own wood and built a boat
4.  With his banjo ringing out
fought hate and forced it out
5.  A gentle soul, but an activist
better world Pete's endless quest
6.  There's not a movement in this land
Pete didn't lend a hand
8.  But what Pete loved most of all
when our singing filled the halls
9.  70 years singing on the line
my friends, wasn't that a time?
10.  Just one man, what a legacy!
To sing him home, sing him
a life of integrity
Sing him home, sing him home
Old Pete Seeger was our friend
Sing him home, sing him home
won't let his music end!
Sing him home, sing him home
To the Pete Seeger
song "Bring `em Home" New words by Kristin Lems c 2014

Remembering Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Era: Black History Month - Bronx - Feb. 22

  • Jazz vocalist Antoinette Montague's Freedom Songs headlines day of music, stories, film and more
  • Free event includes voter registration drive; Food and crafts from local vendors

The Bronx Music Heritage Center (BMHC) Lab will celebrate Black History Month with a free Bronx community event commemorating the Civil Rights Movement and the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer.  Attendees at the event, titled Remembering Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Era: Black History Month at the BMHC Lab, will learn about Civil Rights through jazz, storytelling, story-sharing and film, all while shopping, eating locally, and enacting their rights.

Freedom Summer, the 1964 project to register African-American voters in Mississippi, included many Bronx participants.  In that spirit, the BMHC's celebration will include voter registration in partnership with the Bronx Chapter of the National Action Network.

Events include:

  • Film Screenings - Freedom Song -- 3:00 to 4:00 PM
  • Freedom Song (2012) is a compilation of films pertaining to
  • Civil Rights, produced by Pam Sporn's students of the nearby
  • Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School (named after a noted
  • Civil Rights activist who took part in Freedom Summer).

Storytelling, Story-sharing, and Film - Digital Diaspora: Stories of the Black Experience -- 4:00 to 5:00 PM
Digital Diaspora Family Reunion (DDFR) will lead an interactive workshop in which community members are encouraged to share their family photos and stories around Civil Rights and the Black experience.  Prior to the workshop DDFR will screen the trailer to their upcoming documentary, Through A Lens Darkly, which just premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

Guests are encouraged to bring photos from family albums that represent the significance of the Black experience and Civil Rights in their lives.  Photos from all time periods are welcome but pictures from the 1950s, 60s, 70s are a plus!

Music - Antoinette Montague presents: Sweet Jazz and Blues of Inspiration: The Freedom Songs of the Civil Rights Movement -- 5:00 to 6:00 PM
Jazz vocalist Antoinette Montague celebrates Black History Month and pays tribute to the Civil Rights era with a pride of a people who helped make America beautiful - from Africa to slavery, historic Civil Rights March songs from Mahalia Jackson to Curtis Mayfield - Montague helps the "People Get Ready," with songs that continue to inspire today.  Montague, a Newark, NJ native, released her first CD, "Pretty Blues," in 2006.  She has performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, Kitano Jazz, Jazzmobile's Summer Breeze Concert Series and as curator and Mistress of Ceremonies for the tribute to Dr. Billy Taylor.

BMHC Lab| 1303 Louis Ni, Blvd, Bronx NY  

Take the 2 or 5 train to Freeman Street or the Bx19 bus

FREE admission; $5 suggested donation.

Teleconference on 'Moving Beyond Capitalism' Open to All - Feb. 24

The Socialist Education Project (SEP)
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism

presents a teleconference on "Moving Beyond Capitalism"

CCDS, and other organizations are partnering with the Center for Global Justice to put on a major international conference on the topic.  We are bringing together scholars and activists from the global North and South to dialog about practices and institutions being built in the nooks and crannies of capitalist societies that point toward a more participatory, more democratic, and more empowering alternative.

In the U.S. these include cooperatives, public banking, participatory budgeting, community based agriculture and more.  In many ways these converge with efforts under way to build alternative institutions in Cuba, Venezuela, and the Zapatista communities in Mexico.  By nurturing solidarity, they each seek to strengthen civil society, one against the corporations, the other outside of but not against the state.  It is widely believed in the US that Cuba's reforms are leading to capitalism.  Yet the remarkably similar New Economy changes lead away from capitalism and toward socialism.  In both North and South there are promising movements beyond capitalism.

These are among the conceptual bases for the Moving Beyond Capitalism theme that Cliff DuRand will discuss on the teleconference, while also highlighting some of the concrete plans for the Moving Beyond Capitalism conference, July 29 to August 5, 2014 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Whether you can go to this exciting conference this summer in San Miguel de Allende, M,xico or not--be part of the discussion on "moving beyond capitalism" on Monday, February 24, 9 pm EST. All are welcome to attend. See instructions below.

Monday February 24th, 9pm ET, 8pm CT, 7pm MT, and 6pm PT

To join the online meeting (Now from mobile devices!)
1. Go to
2. If requested, enter your name and email address.
3. If a password is required, enter the meeting password: jan123
4. Click "Join".

To view in other time zones or languages, please click the link.

To join the audio conference only -- Call-in toll number (US/Canada): 1-650-479-3208
Access code:804 351 118


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.)