November 2010, Week 4


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Sat, 27 Nov 2010 12:53:43 -0500
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Tidbits - November 27, 2010

* State of Working America Preview: Poor Children
  (Economic Policy Institute (EPI))
* Statement against FBI and grand jury repression 
  (Angela Davis)
* Re: The Two Most Essential, Abhorrent, Intolerable Lies Of
  George W. Bush's Memoir (Michael Smith)
* Re: "Forward" Op-Eds by Four Palestinian-Americans (The
  Jewish Daily Forward)
* Re: The Origin of America's Intellectual Vacuum (Paul 
* The Medium is the Message - a response to
  'Misunderestimating Sarah Palin' (John Le Brocq)
* Re: The Power of the President (Peter Belmont)
* Bolivia's army declares itself 'socialist' (Daniel 
* Re: Action on Social Security -- Defend Medicare Too!
  (Chris Lowe)
* Re: Why My Center-Left Friends are Wrong - a reply (Bill 
  Barclay, Chicago Political Economy Group)
* Re: Bits &  Bytes - A Portside Thanksgiving Roundup - a 
  correction (Nan Rubin)
* "A Conversation with Jack O'Dell and Bill Fletcher, Jr., - 
  New York City


* State of Working America Preview: Poor Children

Economic Policy Institute (EPI)
Research and Ideas for Shared Prosperity

November 23, 2010


[[Note: All references to graphs and tables can be found in
the original document:
http://www.epi.org/economic_snapshots/entry/state_of_working_america_preview_poor_children/ ]

More than one in five children under age 18, and almost one
in four children under age six, were living in poverty in
2009. The Figure, from EPI's forthcoming State of Working
America Web site, shows how poverty rates for different age
groups have changed in recent decades. Widespread job loss
during the latest recession, along with reduced hours and
slow wage growth, have all contributed to higher rates of

Individuals are officially considered poor when their family
income falls below the poverty threshold.  The 2009 poverty
threshold throughout most of the United States was an annual
income of $14,570 for a family of two and $22,050 for a
family of four (thresholds are higher in Alaska and Hawaii).
The comparatively low poverty rate among the over-65
population is largely attributable to Social Security, which
lifts millions of seniors out of poverty.


* Statement against FBI and grand jury repression 

By Angela Davis 
Nov 18, 2010

On September 24 the FBI raided homes of 14 activists in
movements in solidarity with oppressed workers and peoples
of Latin America and Israel/Palestine. I consider these
raids to be an assault on democracy. While the immediate
targets of the raids were activists in movements in
solidarity with trade unionists and others facing violence
in Colombia and the Middle East, their purpose is to disrupt
the unity of progressive movements by sowing suspicion,
distrust, and an aura of guilt by association. I am not too
young to remember the dark days of McCarthyism in our
country, and I know very well what the effect of such
government reprisals can be.

The FBI seized computers, cell phones, boxes of papers and
personal possessions from all 14. They served grand jury
subpoenas on many of them. The FBI announced they were
investigating possible "material support" to terrorist
groups. But it appears that their real purpose is to disrupt
the growing unity of the majority of Americans who are
critical of the wars and occupations being carried out today
in Iraq and Afghanistan, who oppose U. S. support for
violence against trade unionists in Colombia and against
Palestinians by the Israeli government in Israel, on the
West Bank, and in Gaza. The only way the FBI's actions make
any sense at all is to see them as an attempt to isolate and
intimidate any who would dissent from government policy or
speak out against injustice. These raids violate the spirit
and the letter of the Bill of Rights. They endanger the
freedom of the entire U. S. population.

We learned bitter lessons from the FBI's COINTELPRO
repression in the 1960s, in which African American leaders,
including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and
leaders of the Black Panther Party such as Fred Hampton,
were targeted for assassination. Progressive movements were
targeted for disruption.

I urge President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to

* Direct the FBI to return the belongings seized.

* Dissolve the grand juries threatening an inquisition
against peace and solidarity activists and movements.

* Cancel all subpoenas to appear before the grand jury in

I would like to work with my Congressman Barbara Lee to
support initiatives in Congress for the repeal of provisions
of law that define solidarity with human rights abroad as
"material support" for terrorism. The rights of all
Americans must be preserved to peaceably assemble and
petition their government to end support for repressive and
militarist governments abroad, and states that commit war
crimes and terrorist acts against their own or other people
struggling for basic human rights.

[Angela Y. Davis is the author of many books, her most
recent are: Abolition Democracy, Are Prisons Obsolete? and a
new critical edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick
Douglass, An American Slave.]

distributed by:

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110



* Re: The Two Most Essential, Abhorrent, Intolerable Lies Of
George W. Bush's Memoir

this is ridiculous.  the usa was not the "global champion of
human rights" before bush.  only the dimmest of liberal wits
could think this.


michael smith


* Re: "Forward" Op-Eds by Four Palestinian-Americans (The
Jewish Daily Forward)

Thank you for including the Pogrebin dialogue in the Forward

A regular reader in China


* Re: The Origin of America's Intellectual Vacuum

Inspirational stuff

Paul Doran


* The Medium is the Message - a response to
'Misunderestimating Sarah Palin'

The Medium is the Message.

Beginning with a quote from Melissa Harris-Perry's article
in The Nation, which is itself a quote from Jennifer
Pozner's book 'Reality Bites Back', I want to go on to
briefly discuss an approach I'm taking towards mitigating
the corporate hi-jacking of mass entertainment.

The article quoted Pozner reminding us that media are "as
much a dissemination mechanism for ideological persuasion
as...a means of entertainment;" they are "our most common
agent of socialization, shaping and informing our collective
ideas about people, politics and public policy."

As the heading suggests, I want to reiterate the power of
persuasion that lies in the world surrounding the production
of entertainment, a world which defines the hidden message
in the medium of production, a world that is epitomised by
the hollywood dream.  So long as mass media is tied to this
world, regardless of any ideas expressed in the
entertainment, the underlying persuasion will always be
'hooray for hollywood'.  If we want to change this message,
we need to change the medium through which it's delivered.

I'd like to draw the attention of the readers of Portside to
a Crowd Funding appeal that's designed to create popular
entertainment with no desire nor aspiration to chase the
hollywood dream.  The appeal is designed to protect the
message in the entertainment narrative by addressing the
message in the medium of production.

To briefly quote from the proposal, 'we want the message of
the medium (of production) to be the power of community (not
the power of privilege)'.

For more information please visit:
John Le Brocq
Writer - Director
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* Re: The Power of the President

A president has two choices as to his participation in the
politics of legislation. He can limit his intervention to
use of the veto and the "bully pulpit" or he can attempt to
be a manager of legislation.

The Constitution imagines the first choice only. It is a
choice that frees the president from the control of lobbies
and "big-money".

A president likewise has two choices as to his conduct of
foreign policy, war, and the administration of the laws (his
principle Constitutional duties). He can keep the
possibility of re-election (his own or his party's) in mind
at all times, or he can step aside from the politics of re-

The latter is a choice that frees the president from the
control of lobbies and "big-money". If he desires re-
election, but desires to be free of the control of "big-
money" during his time in office, he can limit his fund-
raising to small contributions, as Howard Dean showed.

When the Constitution built-in its three-way balance of
power, it did not imagine the overwhelming power that the
lobbies and "big-money" folks would acquire.

The nation would do far better if the president were free of

Consider the vise-like grip of the "big-money" which has for
20 years frustrated presidential attempts to use the USA's
power to resolve the problem of Israel/Palestine.

It is 20 years since the Madrid conference, and despite Oslo
and Road-Map and other interim agreements, there has been no
discernible progress toward a "just and lasting peace" with
two (real) states, side-by-side and at peace. None. And this
despite the world's general agreement that a return to the
1948-1966 armistice lines (the "Green Line") would be just
and lasting. The PLO agreed to this in 1988. The Arab League
has bought on. Israel alone (and the USA) refuses: it
refuses because of the power of the pro-hardline-Israel

If the president wishes to make progress there, he must
abandon all activities which make him hostage to lobbies. He
may then act in the UNSC, withholding the US veto on
resolutions seeking to require Israel to conduct the
occupation legally or to end it. He may only withhold that
veto, however, if he himself is not subject to the "veto"
that the lobbies and "big-money" -- directly and via
Congress -- would impose on him.

A difficult choice, but not an impossible one. The
Constitution imagined the president as definer of USA's
foreign policy. He should fill the role that the
Constitution set forth for him.

Peter Belmont


* Bolivia's army declares itself 'socialist'
November 18, 2010


The commanding general of Bolivia's army has declared the
Andean nation's forces "socialist," "anti-capitalist," and
"anti-imperialist," positions that were immediately echoed
by President Evo Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous

Gen. Antonio Cueto made the statements Sunday at a ceremony
marking the army's 200th anniversary. Cueto said Bolivia's
2009 constitution allows the army to "emerge as a socialist,
communitarian institution," according to the EFE news agency
(links in Spanish).

"We declare ourselves anti-imperialist because in Bolivia
there can exist no external power imposing itself," Cueto
said. "We also declare ourselves anti-capitalist because
this system is destroying Mother Earth."

Morales, who attended the ceremony using crutches because of
recent knee surgery, agreed, saying, "History proves that
the army was born with an anti-imperialist position because
it's been combating the European empire since 1810." (Link
in Spanish.)

Cueto also said Bolivia would never allow a foreign military
to establish bases within its territory, making an indirect
reference to a stalled plan in Colombia to allow the U.S.
armed forces to use bases there. Cueto's words drew
criticism and rebuke from former military leaders, reported
La Razon, a daily in Bolivia (link in Spanish). One former
commander and current opposition senator said the general
was taking a partisan position, and therefore was in
violation of the Constitution.

The chief of Bolivia's national police, meanwhile, said this
week that his agency would remain "apolitical," EFE

Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City


* Re: Action on Social Security -- Defend Medicare Too!

Dean Baker's continued cogent defense of Social Security and
analysis of the fear politics being manipulated to try to
gut the program remain welcome.

However, Baker whether intentionally or not joins the large
group of organizations who are focusing on the threat to
Social Security and not paying enough attention to the
threat to Medicare, nor raising loud enough voices to defend

This sets up the possibility of a phony "compromise" in
which Social Security gets protected while Medicare becomes
a sacrificial lamb.

We need all progressives and liberals and people of good
will to fight just as hard for "Hands Off Medicare!" as for
"Hands Off Social Security!"


It may be a coincidence, or may be due to some deeper aspect
of liberal politics about the continuing health care system
crisis, which has not been resolved by PPACA, but the large
grouping of organizations that has come together to defend
Social Security and doesn't mention Medicare greatly
resembles the liberal groupings around HCAN.  That was the
alliance which tried unsuccessfully to promote a public plan
option within the essentially "Massachusetts Model" health
care reform, while at best ignoring and at worst actively
trying to marginalize and suppress discussion of national
health insurance in a single payer model.

The argument then was that Improved Medicare for All single
payer, as it was called in the Conyers/Kucinich HR 676 bill,
was "politically unrealistic."  Whatever our differences
over whether that was a self-fulfilling prevention of
possibilities in forming a political will -- recent polling
suggests that of the roughly 70% of Americans unhappy with
the PPACA reform, 40% dislike it because it doesn't go far
enough -- defense and strengthening of Medicare *is* both
politically realistic and politically necessary.

In fact it forms part of the defense of Social Security,
because we need to re-advance the principle of social
insurance and collective mutual responsibility for basic
health and well-being of elders and the disabled.  Let
Medicare go down and Social Security will follow.

Fortunately an increasing number of progressive and liberal
groups are understanding the need to refuse the destruction
of either Social Security or Medicare.  That includes groups
like single payer advocates Healthcare-NOW! and Progressive
Democrats of America, as well as some elder advocacy groups.

But defense of Medicare needs to expand more widely to
include the entire Strengthen Social Security coalition (
http://www.strengthensocialsecurity.org )and the large
organizational resources it commands.

One good sign is that parts of organized labor are making
the connection. For instance, the Washington State Labor
Council executive board has passed a resolution against cuts
to either program and urged affiliate unions to communicate
this position to that state's congressional delegation.

The resolution in itself makes worthy reading, particularly
in connecting the threatened cuts to the wider economic and
employment crisis, and in refusing to accept phony
"compromise" that pits one set of social human rights
against another:

Chris Lowe

[resolution quotes below:   ]

Resolution Requesting that Our Congressional Representatives
& Senators Vote Against the Entire Deficit Commission
Recommendation Package if it Includes Any Cuts to Social
Security or Medicare

WHEREAS, Social Security and Medicare are currently being
threatened with significant cuts by the National Commission
on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which is stacked with
appointees who have indicated that they support significant
cuts to these programs; and

WHEREAS this commission is expected to put out a set of
recommendations in early December, 2010 which will be
subject to an up or down vote by a lame duck Congress; and

WHEREAS the following proposals affecting Social Security
and Medicare which are reportedly under discussion are

1. Any attempt to privatize Social Security, in whole or in

2. Any recommendation to raise eligibility ages for Social
Security or Medicare

3. Any recommendation involving means-testing Social
Security or Medicare

4. Any recommendation of benefit cuts for current and future
Social Security or Medicare beneficiaries; and

WHEREAS, the loss of family wage jobs, the increase in long-
term unemployment and the loss of significant retirement
savings has had a severe impact on Washingtonians across all
age brackets making Social Security and Medicare more
critical than ever; therefore

BE IT RESOLVED that [name of organization] request our
Congressional Representatives and Senators to take any and
all steps available to prevent a floor vote on the National
Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform
recommendations if any unacceptable proposal is included in
the package; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that [name of organization] request
our Congressional Representatives and Senators to vote
against any package of recommendations from the National
Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform if any
unacceptable proposal (as defined in this Resolution) is
included in the package.



* Re: Why My Center-Left Friends are Wrong - reply

I have not met anyone on the center-left who wants to make a
deal on Social Security.  Everyone wants to fight - and win
- this one.   And we often see it as the first step in
defeating the right's agenda.

Bill Barclay
Chicago Political Economy Group (www.cpegonline.org)


* Re: Bits &  Bytes - A Portside Thanksgiving Roundup

Ethan Young also contributed to this list!!!
please add his name!

Nan Rubin


* "A Conversation with Jack O'Dell (via webcast) and Bill
Fletcher, Jr., Moderated by Nikhil Pal Singh"

3 PM, Sunday, December 5, 2010

At the Brecht Forum, 451 West Street (between Bank and
Bethune), New York, NY 10014

Jack O'Dell is a legendary strategist and organizer, whose
career spans the National Maritime Union in the 1940s, the
underground left in the South in the 1950s, the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference and Freedomways in the
1960s, and the Rainbow/PUSH campaigns of the 1970s and 80s.
Earlier this year, many of his key essays from the past
half-century were brought together in Climbin' Jacob's
Ladder:  The Black Freedom Movement Writings of Jack O'Dell.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, international and
labor activist and writer.  He is a Senior Scholar with the
Institute for Policy Studies and the immediate past
president of TransAfrica Forum.  He is the co-author with
Fernando Gasparin of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in
Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice.

Nikhil Singh, a professor at New York University and author
of Black Is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for
Democracy, edited and wrote the introduction to Climbin'
Jacob's Ladder.
Sliding scale: $6/$10/$15

Register at http://brechtforum.org/upcoming



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