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PORTSIDE  August 2011, Week 2

PORTSIDE August 2011, Week 2

Subject:

Tidbits - August 11, 2011

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Date:

Thu, 11 Aug 2011 23:51:20 -0400

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Tidbits - August 11, 2011

* Re: Burning Britain (Phil Wolfson and Kipp Dawson)
* Re: In Decrying Obama's Centrism, Drew Westen Ignores Role
  of Race (Howard Shevrin, Suzanne Crowell, George Fish and
  Cyril Robinson)
* Re: Tidbits, Reader Responses and Music - August 8, 2011
  Re: Why S.& P. Has No Business Downgrading the US -
  response to Charles (Sue Lambert)
* Feral Capitalism Hits the Streets (David Harvey)
* Egyptian and Tunisian Women Labor Leaders Discuss Role of
  Women in People's Movements (Bay Area - Aug. 18)

==========

* Re: Burning Britain

Thanks to NFEEZ AHMED for this piece that is clear and on
the mark!

Phil Wolfson MD
San Anselmo, CA

===

This is a very important article, thanks very much!

BUT the counterpunch link doesn't work. This one does:

http://nafeez.blogspot.com/2011/08/burning-britain-riot-fever-as-symptom.html

Kipp Dawson

[Moderator's Note: the following is the correct CounterPunch
URL -- http://www.counterpunch.org/nafeez08102011.html ]

==========

* Re: In Decrying Obama's Centrism, Drew Westen Ignores Role
of Race

Here is another more political view to explain Obama's
caution: I think that he has in his sights long range,
strategic considerations directed at creating a new
Democratic coalition one ironically returning to the
southern base which served Democrats so well until the
civil rights successes. Nixon, as the shrewd politician he
was, jumped in politically after the civil rights successes
to break the Democratic hold on the south and to include the
south to this day in a strong Republican coalition. Obama
demonstrated that the south has changed, with the rise of
Hispanic, Black, and northern liberals moving south to
Virginia, North Carolina, and even Indiana. By combining
his electoral success with minorities he starts every
election with about a 15% advantage. He does not need a
majority of the white vote to win- somewhere between 35-40%
would do. I suspect the powers that be in the Republican
Party know this and that's why they are devoting so much
effort in many states to legally reduce the minority vote.

These statistical changes are eloquent if silent.
Politically it means that the still white majority is losing
its hold on power, and this in particular hits the white
male. Take as an example what happens when a white male
watches TV - it seems even to this relatively unbiased
viewer that half the commentators, pundits, actors, serials
are minority people far beyond their current proportion of
the population,. This to the white male is the handwriting
on the wall. All this becomes concentrated on the issue of
affirmative action, efforts like the birther movement, the
Tea Party, and most troublesome, efforts to show that the
white male is still powerful, thus the carrying of guns and
the implicit warning- watch your step or we will lose our
cool and show you how powerful we still are. I think this
also plays a big role in the political intransigence we are
witnessing- this again demonstrates that a small group of
almost entirely whites can exercise power and bring the
political machinery to a grinding stop.

Given this superficial attempt at analysis from a different
standpoint than that of Westen, what would you expect Obama
to do? If he heeds the Left and comes out punching this is
exactly what his opponents want. Their waning power is
raised to a heightened level - they have the President
himself, presumably the most powerful person in the world,
as their opponent. And Obama loses the opportunity created
by his 2008 victory to fashion a new Democratic coalition
built on the south, the two coasts, and the Hispanic
southwest. I say that because I would anticipate that he
would lose at least another 5-10% of the white vote,
especially among white males and that would spell electoral
defeat.

Howard Shevrin

===

Race isn't the only thing Westen ignores. See
http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/93323/drew-westens-nonsense

Suzanne Crowell

[Moderator's Note:
"Westen is a figure, like George Lakoff, who arose
during the darkest moments of the Bush years to sell
liberals on an irresistible delusion. The delusion
rests on the assumption that the timidity of their
leaders is the only thing preventing their side from
enjoying total victory....
Westen's op-ed rests upon a model of American
politics in which the president in the not only the
most important figure, but his most powerful weapon
is rhetoric...
Westen locates Obama's inexplicable failure to
properly use his storytelling power in some deep-
rooted aversion to conflict. He fails to explain why
every president of the postwar era has compromised,
reversed, or endured the total failure of his
domestic agenda. "

see New Republic article for full analysis:
http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/93323/drew-westens-nonsense ]

===

In his apologia for President Obama's caving in to the
Republicans, not only on the debt ceiling bill, Tom Hayden
yet again proves the inability of the U.S. people to have a
serious discussion of race and racism--this time from the
left. Let the left finally grow up and acknowledge these
salient facts: the history of Black America is not one of
constant victimization and oppression; the successes of the
civil rights movement, which were real and palpable even as
they fell short of what was needed, produced a new
generation of Black middle-class and even upper-class
members, and opened doors previously closed tho those able
to "pass for white" in terms of outlook and credentials.
Last, horrible as racial discrimination is, it isn't the
only discrimination around--obviously discrimination against
women and gays comes to mind on the left, but there's still
plenty of overt class discrimination that exists and crosses
racial boundaries (thus severely undermining any actual
"white skin privilege"), but it's taken for granted and
doesn't upset much. Consider discrimination against the
poor and those receiving welfare in general; discrimination
against the unemployed; discrimination against college
graduates (such as myself and my co-workers here at a
particular temp job) who have the "wrong degree," or are
otherwise "overqualified," or else "under qualified;"
discrimination not only against the aged, but those on the
job market who appear over 35; and that all-too-real and
even socially-acceptable discrimination against those who
have ever seen a psychiatrist for any reason; this last
coupled with the double whammy of an openly unresponsive and
pill-pushing mental health "treatment" system in the first
place! (Ah, but "crazy"-baiting has a hoary, well-
established history on the left, as well as elsewhere.)

And on the new racial (or "post-racial") situation, it's not
just people like barack and Michelle Obama who are
products--lest we forget, products of the same social forces
that produced Barack and Michelle Obama also produced
Michael Steele, Clarence Thomas and Herman Cain. Just as
1960s and 1970s feminism produced, on the one hand, a
Hillary Clinton, and on the other, a Frances Fox Piven.

And both Black radicalism and feminism produced Angela
Davis, who said so tellingly at a conference of Black
intellectuals in 1995, and addressed these remarks to both
"the brothers in the streets, and the brothers in the
suites": "One should not automatically exonerate those who
do harm to self and others." With many ways of "doing
harm," several of which have been undertaken, and put in
place, by Obama during his Presidency.
 
George Fish
(Born of two
European-descent,
Caucasion parents,
but not "white"--which
is an attitude I deny
I have!)

===

Obama was never an "angry black man." In Chicago's Hyde
Park, he was a community organizer. He was a professor at
the U of Chicago and editor of the law review, not exactly
the formula for a political radical. A community organizer
brings people together to achieve a common objective. Obama
brings this same strategy as President but the US is not
Chicago and the Tea Party and Reps are uninterested in
compromise.Unfortunately, I doubt Obama will change this
failed policy. It is just part of his nature.

Cyril Robinson,
professor emeritus, Southern Illinois University

==========

* Re: Tidbits, Reader Responses and Music - August 8, 2011
Re: Why S.& P. Has No Business Downgrading the US

Dear Charles:
 
Did you ever stop to think for one moment what right a shaky
rating's company has in downgrading the US? You need to go
back to the government oversight meeting of the ratings
companies back in 2009 to understand and see what these
phony ratings companies have contributed to our decline.
They grade companies while accepting money from them (with
the exception of theStreet.com) so why the HELL are we
trusting these racketeers?

Sue Lambert

==========

* Feral Capitalism Hits the Streets

David Harvey

"Nihilistic and feral teenagers" the Daily Mail called them:
the crazy youths from all walks of life who raced around the
streets of London mindlessly and desperately hurling bricks,
stones and bottles at the cops while looting here and
setting bonfires there, leading the authorities on a merry
chase of catch-as-catch-can as they tweeted their way from
one strategic target to another.

The word "feral" pulled me up short. It reminded me of how
the communards in Paris in 1871were depicted as wild
animals, as hyenas, that deserved to be (and often were)
summarily executed in the name of the sanctity of private
property, morality, religion, and the family. But then the
word conjured up another association: Tony Blair attacking
the "feral media," having for so long been comfortably
lodged in the left pocket of Rupert Murdoch only later to be
substituted as Murdoch reached into his right pocket to
pluck out David Cameron.

There will of course be the usual hysterical debate between
those prone to view the riots as a matter of pure, unbridled
and inexcusable criminality, and those anxious to
contextualize events against a background of bad policing;
continuing racism and unjustified persecution of youths and
minorities; mass unemployment of the young; burgeoning
social deprivation; and a mindless politics of austerity
that has nothing to do with economics and everything to do
with the perpetuation and consolidation of personal wealth
and power. Some may even get around to condemning the
meaningless and alienating qualities of so many jobs and so
much of daily life in the midst of immense but unevenly
distributed potentiality for human flourishing.

If we are lucky, we will have commissions and reports to say
all over again what was said of Brixton and Toxteth in the
Thatcher years. I say `lucky' because the feral instincts
of the current British Prime Minister seem more attuned to
turn on the water cannons, to call in the tear gas brigade
and use the rubber bullets while pontificating unctuously
about the loss of moral compass, the decline of civility and
the sad deterioration of family values and discipline among
errant youths.

But the problem is that we live in a society where
capitalism itself has become rampantly feral. Feral
politicians cheat on their expenses, feral bankers plunder
the public purse for all its worth, CEOs, hedge fund
operators and private equity geniuses loot the world of
wealth, telephone and credit card companies load mysterious
charges on everyone's bills, shopkeepers price gouge, and,
at the drop of a hat swindlers and scam artists get to
practice three-card monte right up into the highest echelons
of the corporate and political world.

A political economy of mass dispossession, of predatory
practices to the point of daylight robbery, particularly of
the poor and the vulnerable, the unsophisticated and the
legally unprotected, has become the order of the day. Does
anyone believe it is possible to find an honest capitalist,
an honest banker, an honest politician, an honest shopkeeper
or an honest police commissioner any more? Yes, they do
exist. But only as a minority that everyone else regards as
stupid. Get smart. Get Easy Profits. Defraud and steal!
The odds of getting caught are low. And in any case there
are plenty of ways to shield personal wealth from the costs
of corporate malfeasance.

What I say may sound shocking. Most of us don't see it
because we don't want to. Certainly no politician dare say
it and the press would only print it to heap scorn upon the
sayer. But my guess is that every street rioter knows
exactly what I mean. They are only doing what everyone else
is doing, though in a different way - more blatantly and
visibly in the streets. Thatcherism unchained the feral
instincts of capitalism ( the "animal spirits" of the
entrepreneur they coyly named it) and nothing has transpired
to curb them since. Slash and burn is now openly the motto
of the ruling classes pretty much everywhere.

This is the new normal in which we live. This is what the
next grand commission of enquiry should address. Everyone,
not just the rioters, should be held to account. Feral
capitalism should be put on trial for crimes against
humanity as well as for crimes against nature.

Sadly, this is what these mindless rioters cannot see or
demand. Everything conspires to prevent us from seeing and
demanding it also. This is why political power so hastily
dons the robes of superior morality and unctuous reason so
that no one might see it as so nakedly corrupt and stupidly
irrational.

But there are various glimmers of hope and Light around the
world. The indignados movements in Spain and Greece, the
revolutionary impulses in Latin America, the peasant
movements in Asia, are all beginning to see through the vast
scam that a predatory and feral global capitalism has
unleashed upon the world. What will it take for the rest of
us to see and act upon it? How can we begin all over again?
What direction should we take? The answers are not easy.
But one thing we do know for certain: we can only get to the
right answers by asking the right questions.

[David Harvey is Distinguished Professor at the Graduate
Center of the City University of New York. His latest book
is The Enigma of Capital, and the Crises of Capitalism.]

==========

* Egyptian and Tunisian Women Labor Leaders Discuss Role of
Women in People's Movements

Thursday, August 18 ยท 7:00pm - 9:30pm

522 Valencia St. Auditorium, 3rd Floor San Francisco, CA

*The event will begin at 7:00 pm, and we will break at
8:00pm to accommodate guests and speakers who are fasting in
respect of the holy month of Ramadan.

Labor activists have been an integral part of the movements
of the "Arab Spring" in Tunisia and Egypt, helping to
organize and direct large portions of Egyptian and Tunisian
society through existing, and often new, labor unions for
democratic change. Women union members from both Egypt and
Tunisia will be in Northern California the week of August
15, 2011 to discuss their experiences in building their
movement, including: the role of labor movements in
democracy; democracy within the labor movement itself; the
hazards of labor organizing under authoritarian regimes; and
the role and struggle of women in the labor movement.

Join Magda Mohammed Ibrahim and Marwa Khalil Farghali Khalil
from the Egyptian Public Tax Authority Union; and Aida Zerai
and Nahed Ben Dahkla from Tunisian unions for a discussion
of these and other topics during this exiting time for labor
both here and the Middle East.

We invite labor organizations, unions and progressive groups
dedicated to social justice to co sponsor and attend the
event.

ENDORSED BY

Arab American Union members Council Arab Resource and
Organizing Center Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace &
Justice

SPEAKER BIOS

Aida Zerai (Tunisia) Aida Zerai is currently the Secretary
General of the union representing workers at Bacomaille
Company. She has served two terms as the Secretary General
of the textile sector in Tunis and as Deputy Secretary
General of the National Federation of Textile, Garment and
Leather Workers (NFTGLW). She has participated in various
tripartite seminars between unions in Tunisia, Morocco and
Jordan and has also facilitated programs on labor education.

Nahed Ben Dakhla (Tunisia) Nahed Ben Dakhla is a member of
the Women's Committee of the UGTT. She has participated in
trainings conducted by the Solidarity Center as well as
campaigns to increase union membership with the National
Federation of Tourism, Food Processing and Commerce Workers
(FGAT). During the revolution, Nahed participated in a
number of demonstrations organized by the UGTT and she
prides herself on being a strong defender of workers rights.

Madga Mohamed Ibrahim (Egypt) Madga Mohamed Ibrahim is the
head of the Media and Public Relations Committee for the
Sales Tax Union in Egypt. She is a founding member of the
union. She was involved in the preparation of and is the
editor of a newsletter called Free Unionist which was used
to organize workers in the Sales Tax Authority, a government
agency. She, alongside her colleagues, organized three
protests against the Sales Tax Authority defending the
rights of her coworkers and was elected to represent the
protesting workers in a delegation to negotiate with the
Ministry of Finance over their demands. She served as the
representative of the Sales Tax Union in a meeting with the
Ministry of Manpower and Migration to discuss a new trade
union law in June 2011.

Marwa Khalil Farghali Khalil (Egypt) Marwa Khalil Farghali
Khalil is the General Secretary of the Public Tax Authority
Union and the local union in Port Said. She, alongside her
colleagues, met with the Ministry of Finance to negotiate
over specific workplace issues. She participated in three
protests against the Ministry of Finance to hold it
accountable for meeting the workers' demands. In addition,
she provided evidence of corruption within the Public Tax
Authority, a government agency. Marwa supervised the
development of the public tax authority workers' newsletter
as well as wrote several articles for it. She also
negotiated medical and other benefits for her union members.

==========

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