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Tidbits - October 8, 2015 - Ethel Rosenberg Celebrated; Elizabeth Warren and #BLM; The Obama Presidency; Racist Violence - in Kansas; Syriza and its 'Left' Critics; Pope Francis; Announcements; and more...

Reader Comments: Ethel Rosenberg Celebrated in New York City; Elizabeth Warren and #BlackLivesMatter; The Obama Presidency - Afghanistan; Arne Duncan and 'Educational Reform' - Not; Racist Violence-Kansas; Syriza and its 'Left' Critics;

Tidbits - Reader Comments and Announcements - October 8, 2015,Portside

Re: Ethel Rosenberg Day of Justice in the Borough of Manhattan Declared on Sep 28, Ethel's 100th Birthday

The execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg was a major event during the early 1950's, meant to scare and confuse people into fearful silence and conformity. The charges, trial, and executions were effective tools in the drive by the U.S. gov't to stifle progressive unions, movements, and people, and to cripple dissent. This action by the Borough of Manhattan is a significant event - an apology. It brings back no lives nor undoes the damage done to the whole country. But this is a significant act which strengthens the fight against repression in the U.S.

Diane Laison
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


The Prof. Edgar H. Lehrman Memorial Foundation for Ethics, Religion, Science & the Arts, Inc. applauds the celebration & virtual exoneration of Ethel Rosenberg on the occasion of the centennial of her birth.

Since 1988, the Foundation and The Metropolitan Philharmonic Chorus have worked for a greater understanding and appreciation of often vilified creative, progressive peoples.

The cantata, "We Are Innocent," based on the letters of Julius & Ethel Rosenberg, was co-commissioned by the Foundation and the National Committee to Re-open the Rosenberg Case and had over a dozen performances between 1988 and 2003.  The orchestral premiere is here, on YouTube. The work was issued on Opus One Records and broadcast on WBAI and WQXR.

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Ethel's 75th birthday was celebrated in a concert benefit for Jewish Affairs.

Other centennials celebrated by the Foundation included those of
1) Abel Meeropol (2003), who adopted the Rosenbergs' sons
2) Marc Blitzstein (2005), whose magnum opus, the opera SACCO & VANZETTI, was written with the Rosenbergs in mind. A video of it is also on line.
3) Elie Siegmeister (2009), whose first opera was written with Abel Meeropol.
(Original Cast Records issued CDs of each of these 3 concerts.)
4) Earl Robinson, whose centennial concert at Local 802 (AFM) was co-sponsored by the National Committee to Reopen the Rosenberg Case.

On Sun. Oct. 18 at 2:30pm at Freeport Memorial Library and again on Sun. Nov. 1 at 2:30pm at Bryant Library in Roslyn the Foundation and the Metropolitan Philharmonic Chorus will present "Songs of Conscience," including works by Meeropol, Blitzstein, Siegmeister and Robinson, along with a Walt Whitman setting by Thomas Smith, former Secretary of the NCRRC. I shall be conducting from the piano.

Leonard J. Lehrman
former Co-Director, National Committee to Re-open the Rosenberg Case
Founder/Director, The Metropolitan Philharmonic Chorus


Good. That was not a judicial execution. It was murder.

Marthe Raymond
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: What Obama's Presidency Has to Tell Us

Just like Wofsy, I was captured by Obama's first book. It persuaded me to argue with radical friends that our tiny left should support his primary campaign against Clinton. When he moved right in the general election, I agreed with Cornel West that I support his election, after which "I'll become his fiercest critic". I gave Obama passes on his reactionary cabinet appointments, etc but when he first escalated the Afghan war in March I unlike Wofsy, went into opposition. He accepts too much because Obama is in fact smart and articulate but as W. admits he is the figurehead for the "executive committee of the ruling class."

Michael Munk

Re: What Arne Duncan Wrought

This thorough and well-document article expresses my deepest sorrow concerning Obama-- that his love of technocratic experiment and his favoring of a claque of upwardly mobile advisors like Duncan have dealt low-income (and say it, Black) children a terrible blow in the charter school program and the celebration of testing for accountability on the part of both poor children and, by extension, their teachers. Nothing could be more harmful for American education. I hope, but doubt, that he'll stop in his tracks in further pursuing this destructive direction. It's a great disappointment.

John Crawford


Every teacher who knows also knows that Arne Duncan was anti-teacher, anti-kid and anti-union.  Now AFT and NEA, instead of waiting, have come out and endorsed Hillary Clinton against the wishes of many of the members.  So is Arne Duncan still running the show?

Claire Carsman

Re: Bombing Hospitals All in a Day's Work

Interesting footnote: Obama gets close to tears with sorrow and indignation at nine being killed in a school massacre in the US,but the best he can do for a real  massacre of men women and children  and the burning down of a hospital in Afghanistan by US planes is to send condolences - not even apologies.

Nina Udovicki

Re: This Is Not Dixie: Racist Violence in Kansas, 1861-1927
(posting on Portside Culture)

Powerful exposure of the deliberately-created and maintained myths around racism here in good ole' USA.  As a military brat who lived in MANY small towns in the 1950s and 1960s throughout the South, Midwest, and even New England (we almost always lived in town since on-base housing was not available and went to public schools off-base) I got a real education in public schools, in public swimming pools and parks, in local "dime stores," on the bus about the day-to-day realities of white racism wherever we lived.  Sure, Little Rock, Arkansas was some different from Topeka, Kansas but NEVER did I *not* see, hear and sense the racism against blacks.  We have always and everywhere in the USA had the opportunity and responsibility to fight and struggle against racism.  Know our truth and act on it!

Leanna Noble


Sounds like a book we all should read. Thanks for the review, and for your input re: Pratt.

Mary Gould
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: Thinking About a Next System with W.E.B. Du Bois and Fannie Lou Hamer

Do you know about The Next System Project? If I knew, I forgot. Gar Alperovitz, Gus Speth and Joe Guinan -- interesting, practical visionaries are thinking about cooperatives as alternatives to our current socially and environmentally unsustainable "system" Here, via Portside, a look at past Black Coop efforts

Daniel Millstone
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


Great article focusing on African-American cooperatives.

Gary Brooks
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Elizabeth M. Fink, a Lawyer for Attica Inmates and Radicals, Dies at 70

Perhaps Portside already did this and I missed it, but if you have not already done it, please post an obituary for Liz Fink, beacon of radical lawyering who died last week.

Jonathan Bennett


I missed this maybe you did too. Elizabeth Fink died. If you don't know who she was, you should. Amongst her many accomplishments and struggles on behalf of inmates and revolutionaries was her 28 year long battle to win an eight million dollar settlement for inmates who were beaten and tortured following the Attica Prison uprising. When asked in one interview what sustained her through that long campaign, she replied, exactly as you knew she would,

    "What sustained me? My clients. I developed these unbelievable relationships very early on, and they've kept me going. Other people had kids, I had lawsuits and my clients. And you just do it. I never thought it would be 26 years. Every year it just creeps up on you, you just take it, you do what you have to do, and then you win or lose. And if you lose you figure out another way to go about it."

Randy Gould
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


read full obit story here.

Re: Could Pension Attack Provoke Another Chicago Teachers Strike?

Chicago authorities are closely following the NY example where a new Tier 6 pension was imposed by the Cuomo administration beginning in April 2012. Cuomo was able to do this virtually without a shot being fired in opposition, including by TWU Local 100, which had struck to successfully block the attempt to impose such a pension seven years before in Dec 2005. In 2005, Local 100 and the two smaller ATU transit locals successfully and single handedly stopped this move in its tracks, buying NY public sector a seven year reprieve.

However, in 2012, this new Tier 6 pension was imposed on ALL new state and city workers, setting up a division in the workforce that will take years, if not decades to undo, if ever!

This is a prime example of how such setbacks have a national effect. And, of why the example and legacy of that Dec 2005 NYC Transit strike came under such vicious and sustained attacks including,  from the current administration at Local 100 under whose tenure the new Tier 6 pension was so easily imposed.

Hopefully, Chicago teachers and others there will put up the kind of resistance we saw from NYC Transit workers in 2005 and not the feeble, failed response we saw in 2012 in NY

Roger Toussaint,
Former President TWU Local 100 (NY) 2001-2009

Re: Toys `R' Us Brings Temporary Foreign Workers to U.S. to Move Jobs Overseas
(posting on Portside Labor)

What a world capitalism brings us!

Ken Luckhardt
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: Syriza and its "Left" Critics

Syriza has proven once again that if people are told the truth, no matter how bitter it might be, people will respond positively.

Lorenzo Canizares
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


Solomon's article is Exhibit A of what's wrong with the US Left as he defends one of the most egregious sell-outs in recent times by a "Left" party.  It is Syriza and all the other "Social Europe" advocates, which deserve the quotation marks around the description "Left," not the political forces who do not believe that there is no choice but to accept neoliberalism.  Syriza and its international supporters, are either cowed or dazzled by the international banks, and have no faith in the capacity of the masses -- who in the referendum bravely signaled their willingness to fight.  The consequences of Syriza's middle-class cowardice will soon be felt, and the support which a desperate (and shrunken) electorate gave to the Greek version of the "lesser of the two evils" will melt away along with their illusions.  Unfortunately, the opportunists of the world will cling to theirs, for it is the hallmark of opportunists to be infinitely creative in coming up with rationalizations to justify their unending betrayals.

Joseph Kaye


As an early supporter of Syriza , I have some sympathy with Mark Solomon's general perspective. However, this type of support too frequently veers of into cheer leading where serious defects and mistakes are simply ignored. I don't believe that is Mark's intention but his essay has a certain defensive tone which can lead down that road. Now that the situation in Greece has seemed to stabilize, at least for the moment, although at an unfortunately dismal level, there is as much need for sharp analysis as for solidarity, particularly in progressive circles in the U.S. where the understanding of Greek reality is very weak..

I believe, on balance, it is a positive that the Greek people re-elected Syriza,  despite the very poor results that Syriza attained over the past year in battling austerity. Despite losing much of its left wing, which is a major loss, a Syriza led regime presents a much more favorable environment for the development of a mass, working class led politics then the only real present day governing alternate, a coalition of the old neo-liberal politicians whose major and conscious goal would be to repress and dismantle any authentic socialist movement. Although Syriza, having shed its most advanced militants, and shackled with the task of enforcing its recently negotiated austerity plan, can hardly play a major role in organizing such a militant mass movement, Syriza's history and the formal commitment to some kind of left principles makes for an opening for those to the left of Syriza to build such a movement, a movement that can effectively press Syriza from the left without making it's fatal compromises. The dismal performance in the last election of those to the left of Syriza demonstrates that such a movement has yet to be built. It does not now exist, in contradiction to the claims of the Greek far left and their foreign supporters.

What must be confronted in the coming period was Syriza's fatal error in entering the battle with the forces of European austerity. This error was not an ideological error although Syriza's Social-Democratic vision of a progressive Europe united under the hegemony of the French/ German ruling class is incoherent. The fatal error was tactical. They had no practical alternative to capitulation if the negotiation with their creditors, French and German finance capital, failed.  Going into negotiations with an adversary, where failure of the negotiation is unthinkable on your part, is always a loser. You don't need game theory to tell you that is such a situation the adversary has a certain winning strategy.  Namely never compromise. Once the Troika realized that the Greeks had no alternative but to negotiate a deal, the outcome was certain. Since the Troika could freeze up the Greek economy if they didn't get what they wanted, all they had to do was wait for the Greeks to fold their hand which happened and was inevitable.

If Syriza had developed even a minimally coherent alternative to remaining in the EU, and won the support of the Greek people with the understanding that they would adopt this alternative if it became necessary, then they would have had some leverage in their negotiations. It is possible that any such an alternative would have cataclysmic social consequence and was not viable. It may have been impossible to convince the majority of Greeks to support any such alternative. In that case Syriza should not have sought power on an anti-austerity program.

This is of course now water under the dam. I think a more detailed analysis of what went wrong, and what alternatives there were, would be useful for the left in the U.S. Such a summing up is essential for the left in Greece to recover its vitality and its prospects for political leadership. The deeper and more significant analysis will undoubtedly come from the Greek left, and we should understand this and defer to it. Still we in the U.S. must learn from this important experience.

Mel Rothenberg


Not to extend this unnecessarily, but I think it is worth noting that only Syriza -- certainly not Antarsya, or the KKE, or the Syriza left (what has emerged as Popular Unity) -- took precise steps to create an actual Grexit alternative.  The team around Varoufakis actually began the huge organizational and programming tasks to lay the foundations of a parallel currency, to do exactly what Mel considers it a "fatal error" of Syriza not to have done: establish the means to offset financial blackmail by the Troika.

The current moment of relative stability is precisely when the decisive battles will be waged: to build popular activism (cooperatives, solidarity networks, vigilance committees, etc.) and lay the foundations for the assault against the Greek ruling class, its tax evasion, shipping of assets abroad, and so on.  And to build international solidarity networks, especially but not exclusively in Europe.  Whoever does that -- Syriza cadre or others, within government or outside -- will be contributing to Greece's eventual transformation beyond austerity and beyond subordination to the diktat of the EU financial elite.  The principled left should support all such efforts.

That, however, is quite different from abstract and empty "critiques" and condemnations, and equally abstract and empty grand phrases about "nationalization of the banks," "nothing short of revolution," "power to the working class,"  etc.  It is not defensiveness or cheerleading to recall Lenin's views on the "itch of the revolutionary phrase."  It is quite remarkable that the Greek working people, who elected Syriza in January, provided the 62% NO vote in the July referendum, and *then* reelected Syriza in September (despite the humiliation of the third MoU), gave no support whatsoever to Popular Unity or others with their scathing rhetorical denunciations of everything Syriza did or tried to do.  Maybe they know something we don't?

David Laibman

Re: U.S. Quietly Helps Saudis Block UN Resolution on Yemen

As in the case of the US bombing of the hospital in Kunduz the US sees nothing wrong with the idea of the perpetrator investigating their own actions - at least when it comes to themselves and their allies. Anyone else attempting such a conjuring trick would be howled down as the enemies of justice.

Eamon Dyas
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: Anti-Racist Organizers Win as Seattle Council Votes to End Youth Incarceration

This is excellent news!

Vicki Gass
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: Vatican: Pope's Only 'Audience' Was With Gay Former Student - Not Kim Davis

    "Davis was not jailed for practicing her religion. She was jailed for forcing others to practice her religion,"

Like too many, I jumped to conclusions on this one. Sorry about that but like the Pope, I'm not infallible.

Carl Stilwell
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


The Vatican Clarifies: The Pope's Meeting With Kim Davis Was More of a Pity Thing
October 2, 2015

    After several days of unflattering discussion about the Cool Pope's date with arguably the least cool woman in America, the Vatican has finally stepped forward to try to salvage his reputation: yes, he did meet with her, but it was more of a pity thing and not, say, a papal endorsement of her backwards views.

    The carefully-worded statement issued by the Vatican Friday walks back the notion that the Pope met with Davis to offer support for her frankly illegal actions. Elaborating on the details of the "brief" meeting, the Vatican pointedly clarifies that the Pope only granted a "real audience" to a former student who is definitely not Kim Davis.

    The Vatican also seems to suggest Kim's so-called audience-which her lawyer immediately leaked to the press-was not requested by the pope and that he only blessed her out of the kindness of his heart.

    "His meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects."

    Does Kim Davis-a small-town county clerk who denied gays their basic human rights, got famous, and got to shake hands with the pope-care? I'm guessing nah.

[thanks to Ira Cohen for sending this to Portside Tidbits]

Re: Rewriting the Haftarah for Yom Kippur - Chicago Style

thank u Kevin Coval. powerful words.

Alice Kim
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: That Stinky Cheese Is a Result of Evolutionary Overdrive

Great article choice. DNA does evolve! And at all levels. It also recombined Hence humans today.

Glad to see you online as I know you have to be safe somewhere!

Meta Van Sickle


Increased cheese knowledge

Gonna be givin the next Camembert the side eye.

Linda Read
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: Filter Fish

A great story which underscores our need to make time for ourselves to be plain ole regular human beings. We understand our connections with each other especially with those beloved ones who loved it when they could prepare healthy nourishing food for us.

Thanks for this,

M. Glascoe

Book Talk - Word Up - FACE OUT: Household Workers Unite - New York - October 15

Word Up: Community Bookshop - Libreria Comunitaria
2113 Amsterdam Ave
New York, New York 10033

HOUSEHOLD WORKERS UNITE is a groundbreaking history of African American domestic-worker organizing. Scholar and activist Premilla Nadasen shatters countless misconceptions about an historically misunderstood workforce. Resurrecting a little-known history of domestic-worker activism from the 1950s to the 1970s, Nadasen shows how these women were not passive and powerless victims. Instead, they were innovative labor organizers who tirelessly organized on buses and streets across the United States to bring dignity and legal recognition to their occupation.

Dismissed by mainstream labor as "unorganizable," African American household workers developed unique strategies for social change and formed unprecedented alliances with activists in both the women's rights and the black freedom movements. Using storytelling as a form of activism and as means of establishing a collective identity as workers, these women proudly declared, "We refuse to be your mammies, nannies, aunties, uncles, girls, handmaidens any longer."

With compelling personal stories of the leaders and participants on the front lines, Household Workers Unite gives voice to the poor women of color whose dedicated struggle for higher wages, better working conditions, and respect on the job created a sustained political movement that endures today.

This event is cosponsored by the Barnard Center for Research on Women.

PREMILLA NADASEN is an associate professor of history at Barnard College, Columbia University, and is the author of several books, including the award-winning Welfare Warriors: The Welfare Rights Movement in the United States. A longtime scholar-activist, Nadasen works closely with domestic workers' rights organizations, for which she has written policy briefs and served as an expert academic witness. She also writes about household labor, social movements, and women's history forMs., the Progressive Media Project, and other media outlets.

Book Launch, and Signing - Society, History, and Revolutionary Vision - New York - October 20

PASSION AND PATIENCE: Society, History, and Revolutionary Vision

By David Laibman

David Laibman, Professor of Economics (Emeritus) at Brooklyn College and the Graduate School, City University of New York, will discuss his new book, Passion and Patience: Society, History, and Revolutionary Vision (International Publishers, 2015) at the Tamiment Library on October 20, 2015.

On Passion and Patience:

"Over more than two decades [Laibman's] editorials in Science & Society, which are this book's raw materials, have taken facts that we all knew and projected them against a broader canvass of human history invisible to almost everyone."
- Yanis Varoufakis (ex-Minister of Finance of Greece, 2015)

Copies of Passion and Patience will be available to purchase.  The event is co-sponsored by the Tamiment Library and the Frederick Ewen Academic Freedom Center.

Tuesday, October 20 -- , 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Tamiment Library
70 Washington Square South, 10th Floor
New York City

Light refreshments will be served
RSVP at RSVP - with guest names and title of event.

For a full list of events at Tamiment click here.

Human Rights Film Festival - Impugning Impunity: ALBA's Human Rights Documentary Film Festival - New York - October 26 - 28

Now in its fifth year, ALBA's documentary film festival creates a community-wide dialogue about justice, equality, and humanity through the presentation of documentaries on human rights issues, post-screening Q/A sessions with the film directors, and community talk-backs with human rights advocates and activists.
Festival passes with access to all the screenings, Q&As and closing reception, are available for $20. Tickets are $5 for the general public and free for students & ICNY members - AVAILABLE AT THE DOOR and ONLINE.

October 26 - October 28, 2015

Instituto Cervantes
211 E. 49th Street
New York, NY 10017

Times and film descriptions - click here

Monday -- Then Then Then; Bury Them and Keep Quiet; 100 Second Chances; Keeping Balance; Natural Life; 612 Words on Wire;
Feature: Among the Believers

Tuesday -- Stopover in Pajol;      Power and Impotence: A Drama in 3 Acts; Cast in India;
Features: Daisy and Max; In the Image; She's Beautiful When She's Angry

Wednesday -- Once Upon a Time There Was a Man; The Dictator's Hotel; Too Small to Swing a Cat; What Remains;
Features: Black Square; Time Simply Passes; Tell Spring Not To Come; Poverty, Inc.

A distinguished jury will award the best film from the Official Selection with the Harry Randall Award for Best Human Rights Documentary Feature. This award was created in memory of Harry W. Randall, Jr. (1915-2012) who served in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade as Chief Photographer of the Photographic Unit of the 15th International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War. The festival will also award a prize to the Best Documentary Short.

The members of our distinguished jury panel are cinematographer Rachel Anderson, actor, director and founder of Ambulante and Canana Films Gael García Bernal, novelist and journalist Francisco Goldman, documentary filmmaker Patricio Guzmán, and documentary filmmaker Sam Sills.

For further information, please email

SCREENING: Ghost Town- The Hebron Story- A documentary by Ellie Bernstein - Albany (NY) - October 27

Tuesday, October 27 -- 7:00pm

Proctor's GE Theatre
432 State Street
Schenectady NY

Released in 2014, Ghost Town: The Hebron Story, narrated by Martin Sheen, tells the story of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine with a focus on the city of Hebron, a microcosm of the conflict in the West Bank.

Post-screening discussion to follow with:

  • Angelica Clarke- Executive Director, Albany Social Justice Center
  • Reverend Alan Kinney - Chairperson of the Boycott Committee- United Methodist Kairos Response
  • Mia Morosoff- Jewish Voice for Peace Albany
  • Tom Ellis- Palestinian Rights Committee

Hosted by Jewish Voice for Peace- Albany

She's Beautiful When She's Angry - screening in NYC at ALBA's Human Rights Documentary Film Festival October 27

Tuesday, October 27 -- at 8:00pm

ICNY Instituto Cervantes New York
211 E 49th St
New York, New York 10017

Tickets available, click here

She's Beautiful When She's Angry
Directed by Mary Dore
Trailer - Website - Twitter - Instagram

SHE'S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE'S ANGRY resurrects the buried history of the outrageous, often brilliant women who founded the modern women's movement from 1966 to 1971. SHE'S BEAUTIFUL takes us from the founding of NOW, with ladies in hats and gloves, to the emergence of more radical factions of women's liberation; from intellectuals like Kate Millett to the street theatrics of WITCH (Women's International Conspiracy from Hell!). It does not shy away from controversies over race, sexual preference and leadership that arose in the women's movement, and brilliantly captures the spirit of the time -- thrilling, scandalous, and often hilarious.

A Just Transition to Peace. A Hope for Earth's Climate - Oakland - November 7


Don't miss Susan Schacher discuss this issue and the local work of the New Priorities Campaign and the National Priorities campaign

Saturday, November 7    2:30-4pm
Rockridge Library (wheel chair accessible)
5366 College Ave, Oakland, 94618
5 blocks south of Rockridge BART

The New Priorities Campaign brings together organizations and individuals to demand of our public officials  change of direction for the U.S. - one that prioritizes putting people back to work, restoring and fully funding essential public services, rebuilding and repairing infrastructure, funding the development of new alternative energy technologies, cleaning up and protecting the environment, developing a sustainable peace economy, reducing poverty and inequality, and generally meeting important social and other human needs.  

Susan Schacher was a community college teacher, who has participated in community and labor campaigns for education, jobs, health care, housing, and other social justice concerns. In recent years, in light of austerity cuts to social programs, increasing spending for war, and global warming, she has joined with others to seek a de-militarized and environmentally healthy society.

WILPF (Women's International League for Peace and Freedom) was formed 100 years ago to fight against war and still works for a transformed world at peace. It has long recognized the role of corporate profit in the decisions made by our government.

Sandy Thacker
510 967-9622
Wilpfeastbay and San Francisco web page