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Tidbits - July 17, 2014

Reader Comments - Detroit Denying Its Citizens Water; New Voices for Peace by Jews; Politics and Lies Triggered an Unintended War; UK's Largest Union Backs Boycott; Portside Readers Respond - Whither the Socialist Left; How Social Movements Can Win; Bernie Sanders; On the Waterfront and Working-Class Studies; Scotland; Common Core and Bill Gates; Equal Rights Amendment

Tidbits - Reader Comments - July 17, 2014,Portside

Re: No Water For Motown: Why Detroit Is Denying Its Citizens This Basic Human Right

This is outrageous. Threatening people's lives over $150.

This is a threat to life. People would be justified to take over the water department. This is the kind of action that justifies rebellion and revolution.

I hope the Wayne County prosecutors are preparing to prosecute the DWSD for murder and for assault for lesser harms to health that result from this atrocious policy.

We should demand that President Obama federalize the Michigan National Guard and temporarily nationalize the DWSD to restore water to people who are cut off and under threat of cutoff.

We should organize brigades of people from around the country to go take direct action until the water is restored.

What else can we do? We cannot let this go unchallenged.

Chris Lowe


Why don't they go after the big corporations who owe thousands of dollars in back bill payments?

Jeanne C Majors
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: New Voices for Peace by Jews in Gaza, and in the Jewish Daily Forward

A breath of hope...

George Kaplan
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: How Politics and Lies Triggered an Unintended War in Gaza

Here is an important account from the Israeli media about how the kidnapping of the three Israeli youth was manipulated into the assault on Gaza akin to shooting fish in a barrel.

John Roberts
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


Good ol' extremist religious ideologues!

Ron Kroeger
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


One has to be a complete idiot to believe the war was unintended - the government wanted war, it manipulated the public and it now has war.  Unintended is the biggest lie.

Richard Curtis


Good overview in the Jewish Forward. Missing, however, is any accounting of the horrible destruction wreaked upon civilians in Gaza by Netanyahu et al. or the Israeli policy of civilian "collective punishment" for an individual crime.

Especially telling is this quote, from the article (below): "The last seven years have been the most tranquil in Israel's history. Terror attacks are a fraction of the level during the nightmare intifada years -- just six deaths in all of 2013. But few notice."

Mitchel Cohen

Re: UK's Largest Union Backs Boycott of Israel

(Portside labor post)

Some good news! We need to build the same support for BDS in the US

John Jernegan
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: Portside Readers Respond - Whither the Socialist Left -- 2

I think the discussion of  "Whither the Socialist Left" is timely, and I would like to contribute just one  point.
I will focus on the issues raised by  Ethan Young in "Becoming More Than the Sum of Our Parts".

Over 20 years ago, after severing my connections with Maoism, I joined CCDS , the CP split-off,  based on their rejection of vanguardism,  and their goal aimed at regroupment of Socialists after the collapse of the SU.  I remained active in CCDS for a few years but left after I became convinced that their strategy for socialist regroupment was inadequate.  While I remain friendly with CCDS activists and sympathetic to their broad politics,  I remain convinced that they and other small socialist organizations without a mass following or even a serious strategy for obtaining such a following, can only play a peripheral role in building a mass, working class based Socialist movement. At least in the present historical conjuncture,  members of such organizations can and do play an important role as organizers of various resistance efforts to capitalist oppression but their effectiveness declines radically when it comes to taking the offensive, to projecting and organizing around the need for  a fundamentally different social order.

This gives me a somewhat different orientation then Ethan on Socialist re-groupment.  He is certainly correct that ancient and now largely irrelevant ideological differences and concerns about maintaining the existence of the their fragile groups is what keeps CCDS, CP, DSA, and Freedom Road from uniting.  However his hope is that they overcome these barriers, and that it is important that they do so seems to me misplaced. I think that the prospect of meaningful regroupment left the station twenty years ago.  There may have been a moment when non dogmatic Communists, left Social Democrats, and chastened Maoists together might carry enough weight and had the motivation to transcend each of their ideological blind spots and to regroup around a viable socialist perspective.  If it ever existed that moment is certainly gone.

What is now needed is not a regroupment of played out forces but a re-composition of a movement for Socialism in the U.S.  Such a re-composition depends on both a rising of the level of mass resistance to capitalist oppression and a focusing of that resistance around a core struggle, similar to the labor movement of the 30's, the civil rights movement of the 60's, or the anti-imperialist movement of the 60's/70's.  Such a re-composition will be led by new and younger leaders not burdened by ancient animosities and the organizational ties which bind most of us.  Us old timers can play a modest role in this process by encouraging and stimulating debate and discussion but we need to shed the illusion that somehow we are going to pull it together.

Mel Rothenberg

Re: When the Pillars Fall - How social movements can win more victories like same-sex marriage

This is well-written and suggest effective strategy for other movements.

Lee Wicks
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: Could A Socialist Senator Become A National Brand?

I wish one could, but alas not in this environment...maybe someday (fingers and toes crossed).

Michael Wafkowski
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


Bernie Sanders calls himself a socialist.  He is no more a real socialist than the average Democratic politician is a real democrat.

Although I have liked Bernie's words on domestic issues, he has always spoiled his prospective presidential portrait with his hawkish positions on foreign affairs and military funding.  And as we have seen with POTUS past, present, and probably future, soothing domestic promises seldom lead to satisfactory actions - the opposition can always be blamed.  The same is not true for sabre rattling and sharpening, international intimidation, and perpetration of perpetual conflict.  Here they deliver even on vague hints; nobody actually promises war outright.

Bernie has been a lobbyist for the Vermont weapon manufacturers, and supports the F-35 half-trillion boondoggle, offering a base for them in Vermont.  See

However, because of Bernie's domestic positions (not actions, he has not done much to back up his fine words outside of the expected pork-barreling for local votes), it may be useful to have him around to stir the pot and start some conversations about what our priorities should be in this country.  But Bernie wants butter and guns at the same time.  They cannot coexist with a foreign policy anything like what we have now.  Why don't more progressives question him on this?  Instead, as in the NPR Alisa Chang article, they give him a pass.  No politician has asked why people hate the US enough to perpetrate or support an outrage like 9/11.  A different response from us could stop the cycle of violence.  But, as they say, when your only available tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

Bernie has never asked, either.  His support of the ridiculous F-35 money pit is matched by terrible mideast positions.  Israel may or may not have been a good idea after the horrors of WW2, but it went off the track long ago.  The US is its enabler, and Bernie is a virtually uncritical supporter.

With Bernie, as with Hillary and Jeb, we are still lost in a wasteland of lesser evils.  And Bernie's honeyed domesticity may draw disenchanted Democrats back into the tent.  At least until a more pliable representative of Mammon is finally anointed as previously scheduled.  After the charade is over, we can all go home and enjoy (or otherwise) business as usual.

Bernie won't go far.  The big money will never back a populist, even an imperfect one.  Many people on the left mistrust him for other reasons.

No bucks for Bernie from me, not even a copper penny.  He can always get his 30 pieces of silver from the Burlington arms industry.

Dave Ecklein

Re: A Principle Is A Terrible Thing to Waste
(Portside Labor post)

Through their proxy, Art Pope, these same 'Kochsters' tried to donate millions to predominantly black, North Carolina Central University's law school, but to its credit, as well as an awareness of the political storm this would trigger, the school refused to accept the 'gift.'

Furaha Youngblood
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


Brooklyn College rejects gift from Koch Brothers:
Brooklyn College Defends Academic Freedom By Saying No To Koch Millions For Its Business School

June Benjamin
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: Corporate Tax Behavior So Bad Even Fortune Magazine Can't Stomach It

Time to act, Congress.

Bill Henning
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


Freeloaders so shameful even a corporate groupie thinks they're pond scum.

Insulators Union
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: 60 Years Later: On the Waterfront and Working-Class Studies

While I commend Kathy Newman for writing about this important film from a working class perspective, I cannot say that I agree with her conclusions. As a long-time historian of longshore workers, I agree with Newman that we should honor workers who stand up for themselves and acknowledge that the hiring method for longshoremen, the shape-up, was a "slave market."

But to suggest that, on behalf of the working class, we should "reclaim" this film, which accurately highlights the massive corruption of the East Coast longshore union (the real-life International Longshoremen's Association, ILA), seems questionable. Few unions have a history of corruption as long and disheartening as the ILA. That the popular and brilliant television show The Wire also took the ILA as its marker of working class organization is a sad indictment but-more importantly-distorts the reality of the American labor movement. The longshore union I currently study, the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) is among the most democratic, progressive, militant, and powerful organizations in the land; its Bay Area branch, Local 10, voluntarily integrated its ranks in the 1940s, was electing African Americans to local leadership by the 1960s, and repeatedly refused to unload cargo from South Africa to protest apartheid.

The ILWU deserves to be remembered and emulated. The ILA? Just ask the mostly-African American Longshore Workers Coalition (the ILA version of Teamsters for a Democratic Union) what it thinks of the ILA leadership! Corrupt and racist. If it's about understanding how the labor movement shot itself in the foot, then we definitely should "reclaim On the Waterfront."

Sure, Brando is brilliant in the film but I'll stick with another fictional working class hero, Joe Kenehan, played by Chris Cooper in Matewan. It saddens me that the most well-known film depiction of working class Americans is about the corrupt ILA but also that a scholar of the US working class wants me to reinterpret a film that and reclaim a filmmaker who clearly attacked unionism, implicitly suggesting that this one corrupt union represents all of them.

Peter Cole
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

I disagree with Ms.Newman.

I watched the film again last night. I did not see "the genuine progressive political commitments that led both Kazan and Schulberg to make "On the Waterfront" or get the sense that "there was an anti-Communist left, and that we were the true progressives."

Standing up to injustice by yourself is not progressive or leftist in my book. Terry never tries to organize the dock workers and his workmates stand and watch as he confronts the union boss in the final scene. Yes, it's kind of a strike, and they cheer when the union boss goes in the river, but they didn't stop the beating that might have cost Terry his life, and there is no hint of the need for organization.

And there is no sense that the main economic exploitation is from the companies, just as Kazan showed that he didn't feel the capitalist state was the main source of political oppression. This is not a leftist film. I reminds me a lot of /Stand and Deliver /- it's all about the individual who solves the main problem because of his "values". It's a liberal film - an ideological dead end.

The take-away message in this film, as in "Hoffa," is that unions are corrupt and without a class perspective, and that if the union went away life would be just fine.

Douglas Marshall
retired Steelworker



It was You Joey! - it was you Koch Brothers.! We could have been some country - if it weren't for Bush v Gore and the sham shadow government of 2000

David Capasso


I think she goes a little too far in excusing Kazan's politics, but also makes some valid points-especially challenging Lindsay Anderson's interpretation of the final scene. At a time when the formerly militant ILWU seems to have accepted scabbing and lockout at Portland area grain terminals, we need a reminder of how that union ended the shape up on the west coast while rejecting stool pigeons.

Michael Munk


In those days the East Coast waterfront union, the ILA, was run by the Mob. Maybe it still is. The honest union was the West Coast ILWU, whose leader Harry Bridges was called a Red and hounded by the government.

Per Fagereng


On The Waterfront was a fun melodrama with terrible politics, directed by a second-tier talent. If not for the Communist Party, Kazan would have ended up directing summer stock, or selling souvlaki.

Ethan Young
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: Yes Offers Best Chance for a Fairer Scotland
(Portside Labor post)

England will be fucked, without Scots votes Labour won't stand a chance, but then, New Labour is so Tory-lite that no one might notice?

Jack Radey
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: Adults With Serious Mental Illnesses Face 80% Unemployment

There are few jobs for so called 'normal' people so where are the jobs for those seen as challenged'?

Ralph Lawrence
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: Common Core and Bill Gates Myths About his "Charitable" Work

On June 12, 2014, Bill McCallum wrote supporting the Gates' foundation's involvement in the creation of Common Core math standards. At the end of his argument, he states that Gates "also spends his money on ridding the world of malaria, but nobody seems to complain about that".

Actually, the corporate media don't complain, but serious journalists have, indeed, complained. In an article criticizing the Gates' Foundation's involvement in education, "Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule our Schools" (Dissent, Winter 2011,) Joanne Barkin corrects this myth: the Gates Foundation has created much the same problem in health funding as in education reform. Take, for example, the Gates project to eradicate malaria.

On February 16, 2008, the New York Times reported on a memo that it had obtained, written by Dr. Arata Kochi, head of the World Health Organization's malaria programs, to WHO's director general. Because the Gates Foundation was funding almost everyone studying malaria, Dr. Arata complained, the cornerstone of scientific research-independent review-was falling apart.

Many of the world's leading malaria scientists are now locked up in a cartel with their own research funding being linked to those of others within the group, Dr. Kochi wrote. Because each has a vested interest to safeguard the work of the others, he wrote, getting independent reviews of research proposals is becoming increasingly difficult. Another problematic aspect of Gates' funding is reported on by journalist Greg Palast ("Bill Gates: Killing Africans for Profit and Mr. Bush's Bogus Aids Offer," Information Clearing House, July 14, 2003,).

Gates "generosity" is directly tied in to his benefiting from the importance of the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization. TRIPS gives Gates a hammerlock on computer operating systems worldwide, legally granting him a monopoly that the Robber Barons of yore could only dream of. But TRIPS, the rule that helps Gates rule, also bars African governments from buying AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis medicine at cheap market prices.

Gates is aware that these kinds of "protections" are under attack by doctors in Africa who, of course, want to get cheap drugs "to the 23 million Africans sick with the AIDS virus." So, Gates "charitably" gives a tiny fraction of his monopoly profits (the $6 billion spent by Gates' foundation is less than 2% of his net worth) to buy some drugs for a fraction of the dying. The bully billionaire's "philanthropic" organization is currently working paw-in-claw with the big pharmaceutical companies in support of the blockade on cheap drug shipments.

Gates' game is given away by the fact that his Foundation has invested $200 million in the very drug companies stopping the shipment of low-cost AIDS drugs to Africa. Gates says his plan is to reach one million people with medicine by the end of the decade. Another way to read it: he's locking in a trade system that will block the delivery of cheap medicine to over 20 million.

Further, Gates' model can be contrasted with Cuba's system of community medicine (well documented in Salud!)  which has had enormous successes in preventing and treating illness, without profit; and, Cuba's sharing their medical breakthroughs and doctors worldwide, without asking for any "structural adjustments."

Marilyn Frankenstein (along with Sam Anderson and Arthur B. Powell

Equal Rights Amendment

The deadline date for passage of the ERA ends in December this year.  House and senate Joint resolutions that eliminate the deadline date have been introduced in Congress.  There is another bill in the House that makes us start from scratch to get 38 states to ratify.  The media has done little to publicize any of this.  (Check HJR 113 and the companion SJR )

Won't you please do some publicity on this effort?  Why go back to scratch if we can eliminate the deadline date and all we need are three more states to ratify.

If women are equal under the Constitution, I wonder how the Supreme Court will view "people" like Hobby Lobby  (now that they have made organizations people) in forthcoming cases.

Please help

Alison Hughes,