Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Clint Jencks Dies

Clint Jencks died on December 15, 2005. Clint was 87 and was a Professor Emeritus of Economics at San Diego State University, having retired from SDSU in 1986. Younger left activists may not know that Clint Jencks was a legendary figure from the American labor
movement and the struggles against McCarthyism.

In 1950, Clint was a leader of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers
in southwest New Mexico. He led a strike of mostly Latino zinc miners in Silver City, NM. Shortly after this strike, in the midst of the Hollywood red scare, a group of blacklisted film industry artists formed their own production company and were looking for a
story about American working people. They chose a story based on the IUMMSW strike, and used the actual participants in the strike as actors. Clint essentially played himself. Every step in the production of the film, processing, editing, etc. encountered determined opposition from the industry. It was almost impossible to find theaters that would show the film, but in 1954 "Salt of the Earth", starring Clint Jencks opened to very, very limited distribution.

Times changed. Salt of the Earth was ultimately recognized as a national treasure, and was selected by the Library of Congress as one of 100 films to be preserved for posterity. Clint went on to get his Ph.D. in economics at U.C. Berkeley. He joined the SDSU Economics Department in 1964 and played an important role in the SDSU community and in the SDSU faculty union movement for 22 years. After retirement, Clint remained a familiar figure and participant in Democartic Socialists of America and and the San Diego progressive movement.

There will be a memorial service on Jan. 8, 2006.

A DVD of "Salt of the Earth" can be ordered from the Labor Heritage Foundation.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

International Migrants Day

ICFTU OnLine (Brussels 16 December 2005): On the eve of International Migrants' Day on December 18, the ICFTU [International ConfederationofFreeTrade Unions] is drawing attention to the vulnerability of the world's 115 million migrant workers and their families and the exploitation to which they are often subjected.

Following up on the Special Action Plan on migrant workers adopted last year at its 18th Congress, the ICFTU is calling on the international community to take on the challenge of establishing an international policy framework capable of ensuring respect for migrant workers' fundamental rights and offering them decent work opportunities.

"The hostile social and political environment confronting many migrant workers, and the need for appropriate regulation of migration make it imperative for trade unions to play a more active and visible role in promoting solidarity, and in protecting the rights of migrant workers regardless of their legal status in the host country. Particular attention needs to be given to the vulnerable situation of women migrants," said ICFTU General Secretary Guy Ryder.

This same message was at the centre of an international workshop on "Defending and Promoting the Rights of Migrant Workers in the Gulf States" held in Manama (Bahrain) from 26 to 29 November 2005. The Workshop, the first of its kind in this region where over 60% of the workers are migrants,

A 2002 statement from the ICFTU adds some additional detail

The trade unions, which view migrant workers as fully-fledged workers with the same rights as others, are fighting at both national and international levels to promote and ensure the proper application of the legal instruments recognising these rights. The ICFTU, which has been campaigning for several years with human and migrants’ rights associations to obtain the ratification of the international conventions providing for equal treatment for migrant workers in terms of jobs, wages, social security and union rights (ILO Conventions 97 and 143), welcomed the signature by East Timor last week of the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, that had originally been adopted by the United Nations in 1990. Thanks to that 20th signature this legal instrument will finally come into force, thereby providing better prospects for migrant workers around the world.

Information, training, legal advice and recruitment are the main focus of the campaign by the ICFTU and its affiliates to combat the worldwide discrimination against migrant workers.

The Global Policy Forum has links to a nice collection of articles on labour rights and the international labour movement.

The Real Christmas Scandal

From the Center for American Progress

For some on the right, this Christmas season is about little more than empty political symbolism. The most important issue for people like Jerry Fallwell is ensuring the greeters at stores like Target and Lands End say "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays." Self-described "religious conservatives" in the House spent their time yesterday introducing a resolution "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected." Meanwhile, that same group of lawmakers has helped push through $50 billion in cuts for programs that provide vital assistance to the poor, including Medicare and food stamps, and passed over $90 billion in tax cuts, mostly for the wealthy. In the Bible, Christians are cautioned not to do as their leaders do, "for they do not practice what they preach." Following the teachings of Jesus, who condemned the actions of those who put public piety before care for the poor, a group of over 200 religious leaders came to Washington yesterday to protest the House budget, which they called "the real Christmas scandal." The Washington Post reports, "Outside in the frigid cold for several hours, more than 200 demonstrators sang religious and holiday songs, prayed aloud and chanted, 'Stop the cuts.'" In an act of civil disobedience, 114 religious leaders were arrested when they refused to leave the steps of the Cannon House Office Building.

THE BUDGET AS A MORAL DOCUMENT: Jim Wallis, founder of the Christian ministry group Sojourners who was arrested at the protest, noted, "The media seems to think only abortion and gay marriage are religious issues." Wallis pointed out, "Poverty is a moral issue, it's a faith issue, it's a religious issue." Wallis is not alone. Christian religious bodies that have weighed in against budget cuts to programs that serve the poor -- including the Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ -- represent more than 86 million Americans. It's a small contingent aligned with the radical right that takes a different approach. For example, "groups such as Focus on the Family say it is a matter of priorities," and its priorities are opposing abortion, opposing same-sex marriage, and seating judges who will back its position against those practices. Wallis describes this approach as "trading the lives of poor people for their agenda. They're being, and this is the worst insult, unbiblical."

CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS BY RAISING THE MINIMUM WAGE: For hardworking Americans who earn the minimum wage, "It would take almost their entire December paycheck to afford the more than $700 that the average American spends celebrating Christmas." If Congress adjourns for the holiday without acting it would be "the eighth year in a row that Congress has failed to enact even a small increase in the minimum wage." Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) notes, "By freezing it at an inadequate $5.15 and ignoring the effects of inflation, Congress has essentially given a pay cut to these workers." Hoyer asks, "How can the leadership in Congress leave Washington this week to enjoy a plentiful Christmas and a comfortable New Year knowing that their inaction has guaranteed another tough Christmas for millions of Americans?"

IF THERE IS NO PROBLEM, INVENT IT: While progressives are working to solve real issues, the right is inventing their battles. For example, Jerry Fallwell's Liberty Counsel threatened to sue a Wisconsin elementary school because it planned on singing the lyrics "Cold in the night, No one in sight" to the tune of Silent Night. Fallwell claimed this revision was part of an effort to secularize the Christmas holiday. Actually, the school was just performing a copyrighted play that contains numerous songs about Christmas, including the grand finale, an audience-led group singing of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” The play has been performed in churches around the country. Fox News gave the Liberty Counsel a platform to issue its threats. Desperate to get out of the media spotlight, the school changed its play, even though the Liberty Counsel's charges had no merit.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

US and Iraqi Opinion on the eve of the elections

On the eve of the Iraqi elections, there are new polls of US and Iraqi opinion.

Pew Poll of US Opinion on Iraq

The intensifying political debate over Iraq has not moved public opinion about the war and U.S. policy. The public remains evenly divided over withdrawing U.S. forces as well as the decision to take military action. The latest Pew survey also shows that Americans have a mixed view of conditions on the ground in Iraq:

* Fully 61% of the public believes that progress is being made in training Iraqi forces, while nearly as many (58%) see progress being achieved in establishing a democracy in Iraq. But on balance, more Americans say the U.S. is losing ground in reducing civilian casualties and preventing a civil war.

* The nearly even division in the public over whether to keep troops in Iraq obscures a more complicated set of opinions about what to do next. Most of those who say they want the troops home "as soon as possible" apparently do not mean "now." And not everyone who wants the U.S. to stay is opposed to setting a timetable for a troop withdrawal. Americans also are wary about consequences of a quick withdrawal - 58% say terrorist organizations will become stronger if the United States withdraws its forces soon.

* There is modest optimism that tomorrow's elections in Iraq will lead to a more stable situation in the country. Roughly four-in-ten
(37%) express that opinion; that is significantly greater than the percentages who said that before previous balloting in Iraq, in October and last January (29% each).

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted among 1,502 adults Dec. 7-11 shows that President Bush's approval ratings have not improved. Just
38% approve of his job performance which is little changed from November (36%). Only about three-in-ten (28%) say he has a clear plan for bringing the situation in Iraq to a successful conclusion.

The survey also finds that the new Medicare prescription drug program is drawing a mixed response. More Americans approve than disapprove of the plan (by 48%-30%), but approval is down from two years ago (55%). And when asked to describe their first impression of the program, more offer criticism than praise; seniors in particular describe the plan as confusing and costly.

Public Unmoved by Washington's Rhetoric on Iraq Modest Election Optimism, Positive Views of Iraqi Troop Training View complete report
ABC poll of Iraqi public opinion

26 percent of Iraqis say U.S. and other coalition forces should "leave now" and another 19 percent say they should go after the government chosen in this week’s election takes office; that adds to 45 percent. Roughly the other half say coalition forces should remain until security is restored (31 percent), until Iraqi security forces can operate independently (16 percent) or longer (five percent).

Average household incomes have soared by 60 percent in the last 20 months (to $263 a month), 70 percent of Iraqis rate their own economic situation positively and consumer goods are sweeping the country. In early 2004 six percent of Iraqi households had cell phones; now it’s 62 percent. Ownership of satellite dishes has nearly tripled, and many more families now own air conditioners (58 percent, up from 44 percent), cars, washing machines and kitchen appliances.

There are positive political signs as well. Three-quarters of Iraqis express confidence in the national elections being held this week, 70 percent approve of the new constitution and 70 percent – including most people in Sunni and Shiite areas alike – want Iraq to remain a unified country. Interest in politics has soared.

Preference for a democratic political structure has advanced, to 57 percent of Iraqis, while support for an Islamic state has lost ground, to 14 percent (the rest, 26 percent, chiefly in Sunni Arab areas, favor a "single strong leader.")

US Right to Invade

Shia areas 59%

Sunni 7%

The election itself looks wide open, at least from the perspective of these October-to-November interviews. Thirty-seven percent of Iraqis said they hadn’t decided which party to support (but were planning to vote). Those with a preference were scattered among a wide range of political parties.

Support for former prime minister’s Ayad Allawi’s Wifaq National Movement, or Iraqi National Accord Movement, was nine percent; the Kurdish PUK, nine percent; the Shiite-affiliated Islamic al-Dawa Party, eight percent. Parties people would "never vote for" include the now-outlawed al-Baath (nine percent) and al-Dawa (seven percent).

National leaders with the greatest trust include the current prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari (15 percent), Allawi (15 percent) and Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani (10 percent), with others in single digits. But al-Jaffari also comes up as No. 1 on the don’t-trust at-all list, at 12 percent. Such is politics.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Juan Cole vs. the loony left

An interesting comment by Juan Cole.

We have to win smart. That means giving the Iraqis their independence ASAP while acting responsibly to avert potential crises if necessary.

There are people* attacking me now because I say I think the US does have the responsibility to forestall massive hot civil war in Iraq if it can, of the sort that could leave 2.5 million people dead and 5 million displaced abroad. That is what happened in Afghanistan from 1979. The US helped destabilize it(the Soviets contributed more to the actual destabilzaiont)in the 1980s and then, under Bush senior, just walked away completely. [Many on t]he American far left never complained about what was going on in Afghanistan in the 1990s, because for them the only source of evil in the world is US imperialism, and since the US had largely left Afghanistan, all was well. No matter if hundreds of thousands of Afghans were maimed as the US turned its back. Somehow they don't complain so loudly about US-led NATO intervention in the former Yugoslavia, which certainly saved hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives. They don't actually care about Bosnians or Afghans or Iraqis, just about hating the US. The US has done horrible things. It has also done noble things. I am hoping that it finally does the noble thing in Iraq, and wins smart, for the Iraqis and for the Americans. Dean gets that. Bush doesn't.

Unfortunately, Cole doesn't have a lot of intellectual backbone if he's not attacking "Likudniks." A few complaints from commenters suffering from"free-floating anxiety" and Cole drops the looney description.

I used the phrase originally "looney left" for these quarters that wanted to paint me as some sort of war criminal for hoping to forestall genocide. The comments section has convinced me to avoid the phrase, because people who consider themselves on the left and are eager to see the US out of Iraq seem to have developed a free-floating anxiety that I might be referring to them or their position. I assure them that I was not; it is to a looney position that I was referring.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Talk to Action E-conference on religious right

This week,Talk to Action became the first national blog site to focus on the religious right -- and what to do about it. Next week, Talk to Action is partnering with Mother Jones magazine to break further new ground. We will be hosting the first -- but certainly not the last -- national e-conference on the religious right. The occasion is the publication of a special issue of the magazine which "examines the contentious debate over the role of religion in government. "It's been more than 200 years since the founders established the separation of church and state," observe the editors in introducing the package. "The assault on that principle now under way promises to alter not only our form of government but our concept of religion as well."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Interesting Poll on Kansas Politics

Survey USA has some interesting 50 state polls up. I've extracted some of the results for Kansas.
Statewide July 2005 October
The Right Direction 42% 33%
The Wrong Direction 52% 62%

Wichita Region
The Right Direction 41% 30%
The Wrong Direction 50% 65%

Eastern Kansas
The Right Direction 41% 34%
The Wrong Direction 53% 61%

The Right Direction 30% 22%
The Wrong Direction 59% 73%

The Right Direction 20% 13%
The Wrong Direction 74% 82%

The Rights Direction 66% 58%
The Wrong Direction 30% 37%

Approval Ratings for Kansas Senators October 2005
Approve Disapprove
Sam Brownback 50% 43%
Pat Roberts 51% 39%

Brownback ranks as the 77th popular Senator among his constituents.Robets as 71st

Approval Ratings for Governor Sept 2005
Kathleen Sebelius 59% 34%

GOP Convert to Challenge KS AG Phil Kline

From Daily Kos:

Paul Morrison, Johnson County's Republican district attorney for the last 16 years, is expected to announce today that he is a candidate for Kansas attorney general. 

Morrison will switch parties and run as a Democrat, according to a political source who has spoken to Morrison. Two other sources confirmed his decision [...]

The prospect of Morrison's entry into the attorney general's race caught many politicians by surprise.
Running as a Democrat was even more surprising.
"I'm trying to think of when I've heard of something like this," said Kevin Yowell, an Overland Park political consultant. "I don't know that I've ever heard of this around here. It's not uncommon for a Democrat to switch to Republican. But for an entrenched officeholder to leave the GOP to become a Democrat, I am just stunned."

Morrison's party switch is different in that he is an elected official, but there have been some prominent party switchers. Three come to mind. First, Congressman Dr. Bill Roy who represented the 2nd District,centered around Topeka) from1971-1975 and who nearly beat Bob Dole in the 1974 Senate race. Second, Governor Joan Finney, who switched parties and was elected as State Treasurer before rising to the highest office. Third, and I'm not so sure about this, but I think that George Docking also switched parties before he was elected Governor in the 1950s.

Here's Morrison's announcement speech.

And his website.

Friday, October 21, 2005


Via Harry's Place

The Iranian Ambassador, Dr Seyed Mohammed Hossein Adeli spoke at this weekend's the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s Annual Conference:

"He will be giving Iran's perspective on the current controversy around the Iranian civil nuclear power programme and will also be answering questions in a special lunchtime slot at 1.30pm on Saturday 15th."

This is odd in two ways:

1. CND's argument certainly used to be that civil nuclear programmes should be opposed because their essential function was the production of the raw materials for nuclear weapons. Indeed, they used to hold marches against them. Nowadays, so it seems, CND is not so sure. The only hint on the press release that anybody might doubt that Iran's ambitions are limited to a civil nuclear power programme is the recognition that some people might find Iran's recent conduct just a little bit controversial.

2. The second odd thing about the invitation is well expressed by the Worker-communist Party of Iran:

In July this year two gay teenagers – one under 18 at the time of arrest – were publicly hanged in the Iranian city of Mashad for having a sexual relation.

Last August 16-year-old Atefeh Rajabi was hanged in the city of Neka because she had slept with a man she was not married to.
In July 2001 31-year-old Maryam Ayoubi was stoned to death in Evin Prison in Tehran for sex outside marriage…

These are just a few examples of the unbelievably horrific atrocities going on in Iran. In Iran you are arrested, flogged, tortured and executed for being a socialist, a communist, a union organiser, a women’s rights activist, a dissident student, an atheist, a non-Muslim or just for having ‘illicit’ sex. Tens of thousands of political dissidents have been executed for simply not wanting this fascistic regime.

Today a spokesman for such a regime is to speak at the CND conference! This is an outrage! It is an insult to the people of Iran who are struggling to get rid of this brutal regime. It is a slur on the memory of the countless victims of this murderous regime.

We condemn the CND’s invitation of this human rights’ abuser to its conference.

In short, instead of demonstrating against the Ambassador of a nuclear proliferator and a serial human rights abuser, CND feted him as an honoured guest.

When protestors shouted "fascist" at the ambassador, they were expelled from the meeting. Sitting in the audience was Walter Wolfgang who became the octonegarian poster boy of the farther left when he was thrown out the Labour Party conference for heckling Tony Blair. Apparently, he had no trouble with protestors being thrown out of the CND conference or the CND playing footsie with one of the planet's most brutal regimes.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Bush Popularity Falls in Kansas and Nation

Survey USA has released its latest 50-state survey on Bush's approval ratings. In Kansas only 43 percent approve of the job Bush is doing, while 54 % disapprove. That's a 17 percentage point negtative swing since July.

There areonly six states where a majority approve of Bush. Kansas ranks 15 in its level of support for the President.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Students, Parents Protest Abortion Protest

Students protest abortion protest

Kids object to church's use of grisly poster on campuses


Sunday, the protesters were protested. For three hours, a group organized by West High School students demonstrated outside Wichita's Spirit One Christian Center. The students were expressing their displeasure about the abortion protest the church supported earlier this week at the high school.

Church members responded Sunday with a counter-demonstration. In all, about 300 people were involved, though it was difficult to tell how many were on each side.

The demonstration was sparked by a graphic picture of an aborted fetus that appeared at the abortion protests at West High School and Wichita State University last week.

(photo by Stuart Elliott)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I'm for the underdog and Gretchen, too

Gene over at Harry's Place catches an odd comment in the Washington Post's review of Gretchen Wilson's new CD, "All Jacked Up." . The Washington Post's Britt Robson refers to Wilson's song "Politically Uncorrect" as "reactionary."

Here's the lyrics.

I'm for the low man on the totem pole
And I'm for the underdog God bless his soul
And I'm for the guys still pulling third shift
And the single mom raisin' her kids
I'm for the preachers who stay on their knees
And I'm for the sinner who finally believes
And I'm for the farmer with dirt on his hands
And the soldiers who fight for this land


And I'm for the Bible and I'm for the flag
And I'm for the working man, me and ol' Hag
I'm just one of many
Who can't get no respect
Politically uncorrect

I guess my opinion is all out of style
Aw, but don't get me started cause I can get riled
And I'll make a fight for the forefathers plan
And the world already knows where I stand

Nothing wrong with the Bible, nothing wrong with the flag
Nothing wrong with the working man me & ol' Hag
We're just some of many who can't get no respect
Politically uncorrect
Politically uncorrect.

Like Gene, I don't see what makes these lyrics "reactionary." Seems to me that "preachers who stay on their knees" sounds like a dig at Falwell, Robertson, and their ilk.

Gene concludes by asking "is there a connection between a presumably well-educated and enlightened reviewer calling Wilson's song reactionary and John Kerry's loss to George W. Bush last November?" I think there just might be.

In fact, I think progressive Democrats ought to be thinking about how to appeal to the "Gretchen Wilson" voters.

Kansas Right Wing Ups the Ante

The theocratic right has been making some new pushes in Kansas in the last week. The anti-abortion Operation Save America brought their protests to Wichita high schools intimidating students and alienating parents. Not to be topped, the State Board of Education hired a new state Education Commission, who has no experience teaching or adminstering education or a large scale institution. The new Commissioner is an opponent of additional funding for schools and an advocate of vouchers.

Here's the Wichita Eagle report on the protests.

Protesters from Operation Save America gather outside West High on Thursday and plan to rally at another school today.

Abortion protesters carrying banners and signs, handing out leaflets and talking through loudspeakers greeted students at West High School on Thursday morning.

The protest riled students, parents and neighbors alike -- but it broke no laws, Wichita police said.

"They were out exercising their First Amendment rights of free speech," Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz said of Operation Save America, which is holding what it calls a "regional event" in Wichita through Saturday. "People have a right to picket and protest, and they're exercising their right."

The Eagle slammed the BOE in a Sunday Editorial

Bob Corkins is Kansas' education commissioner -- five days later, the 6-4 hiring decision by the Kansas State Board of Education still confounds.

How could someone as lacking in credentials as Corkins be chosen to replace someone as revered across the state and ideological spectrum as Commissioner Andy Tompkins?

The problem isn't with Corkins. He is a smart guy. Rather, the problem is with the state board's majority conservatives, who ended a torturous hiring process by flouting the board's own search guidelines, running off a national advisory group, and hiring somebody apparently based on ideology alone.

No education diplomas or classroom experience. No understanding of a complex state agency with 200 employees and oversight responsibility for 300 school districts, 450,000 students and $3 billion. No real grasp of the deepening demands of the federal No Child Left Behind law or the best strategies for closing the achievement gap between white and minority students. No management experience. And no business landing a $140,000-a-year job as Kansas' education czar and advocate.

Less government is a noble cause. Government needs more people who espouse and practice it. But Corkins was the wrong guy for a crucial job, and the board's decision was an insult to the state's local school boards, teachers, parents and schoolchildren, as well as to common sense.

Friday, September 30, 2005

What the Press Won't Say About GOP House Leaders

The immediate inta-GOP fallout of Tom Delay's indictment brings to mind a classic American political quote. Earl Long, brother of Huey Long, once was reported to have said that he would be elected unless someone had pictures of him in bed with a dead woman or a live boy.

Delay's original pick to take his place was California Congressman David Drier. Same say this is because Delay thought Drier was no threat to build his own empire and would turn back the reins of power to the Hammer. Drier's elevation was overturned, though the media ignored a likely major cause. Drier has been outed as a closeted Gay. (See Doug Ireland's article for details of Drier's anti-gya voting record.)

If the GOP has problems with Drier sleeping with his male chief of staff, they apparently don't have a problem with the ethically-challenged Blount sleeping with a Philip Morris lobbyist. (His wife, but not his first wife, who got dumped for the lobbyist-spouse. The media wants to cover this up, as well. Here's what the Washington Post wrote (via Talking Points Memo)

The new majority whip, who has close personal and political ties to the company, instructed congressional aides to add the tobacco provision to the bill -- then within hours of a final House vote -- even though no one else in leadership supported it or knew he was trying to squeeze it in.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

When Dylan Went Electric

Martin Scorsese's documentary ("No Direction Home") on Bob Dylan aired on PBS Monday and Tuesday evening. I missed parts of the first night as I was tempted to watch the KC Chiefs who were getting womped by Denver, but caught all of the second part. It's a masterful and intriguing film, a must for every Dylan fan. For me the climax of the film was Dylan's decision to go electric.

Norm Geras had an interesting question
The people who booed Dylan during his 1966 tour of the UK, and some of whom were seen speaking to camera - saying his new stuff was rubbish, he'd sold out, and so forth - looked to be about the age I was in 1966. That means (I deduce) that they're about my age now. So, does anyone actually know someone who booed Bob Dylan in 1966? Better still, does anyone remember being one of the booers?
The Independent did track down the chap who yelled "Judas" during Dylan's Manchester perfomrance in 1966.

We did learn something in the documentary about those who booed Dylan electric performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. This account from the site is by Peter Stone Brown.

That night at the evening concert, Dylan, in a leather jacket and white shirt with snap-tab collar, launched into "Maggie's Farm" and in the three minutes it took to play the song changed music completely. Many in the crowd didn't like what they heard – whether it was the rock and roll band or the inadequate sound system remains a topic of debate – and booed. Dylan did two more songs, the early version of "It Takes A Lot To Laugh" (titled by some "Phantom Engineer") and his current single, "Like A Rolling Stone," and walked off the stage. Called back to the stage by Peter Yarrow and performing alone, he sang "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" and "Mr. Tambourine Man."

Thirty-seven years later the controversy of what went on that night still rages with much revisionist history. Some newspaper articles claim that Alan Lomax got in a fistfight with Dylan's manager Albert Grossman over it. They did have a fistfight, but it was over Lomax's introduction to the Paul Butterfield Band, not Dylan. The most legendary story is that Pete Seeger looked for an axe to cut the sound cable. According to Seeger in an interview published in Gadfly magazine, he said to the person doing the sound, "Clean up that sound so we can understand the words," and they shouted back, "No, this is the way they want it." I said, "Goddamn it, if I had an ax, I'd cut the cable." Not all that surprising since Seeger toyed with electric guitars in the forties and there were electric guitars on the albums The Weavers recorded for Decca Records, not to mention that various other performers including Howlin' Wolf and Johnny Cash had appeared at Newport with bands. Some contemporary writers, based on tapes of the show, are claiming no one booed. However all press accounts at the time as well as people I've spoken to who were there said there was booing and shouting.

There's also an account by Robert Shelton from his bio of Dylan, No Direction Home, which backs the traditional story. On the other, Bruce Jackson, one of the directors of the Newport festival, says it ain't so.

When I watched the Tuesday episode it sure sounded like booing to me. Of course, I'd like to hear the entire tape, which is apparently available on a bootleg. Contrary to the covnentional interpretation, Dylan's vocals didn't sound all that distorted. Maybe some modern day re-mixing cleaned things up.

One thing for sure, an older Pete Seeger sounded pretty unrepentant about his negative reaction. There was an instant there when you could imagine the gentle folk singer as cultural commisar. Yes, Pete and his pals were Communists or close enough to have cheated the party out of dues if they never filled out a card.

Pete's dad and step-mother were modernist, atonal composers, until they adopted the political aesthetics of the CP which decreed the superiority of folk melodies to commercial music. Interesting that Henry Ford, America's leading capitalist, anti-Semite, and opponent of unions, was another patron of traditional song and dance.

Democratiya and Engage

Two websites worth taking a look at.

Democratiya is a

free bi-monthly online review of books. Our interests will range over war, peace, just war, and humanitarian interventionism; human rights, genocide, crimes against humanity and the responsibility to protect and rescue; the United Nations, international law and the doctrine of the international community; as well as democratisation, social and labour movements, 'global civil society', 'global social democracy', and Sennian development-as-freedom.

Democratiya believes that in a radically changed world parts of the left have backed themselves into an incoherent and negativist 'anti-imperialist' corner, losing touch with long-held democratic, egalitarian and humane values. In some quarters, the complexity of the post-cold-war world, and of US foreign policy as it has developed since 9/11, has been reduced to another 'Great Contest': 'The Resistance' (or 'Multitude') against 'Imperialism' (or 'Empire'). This world-view has ushered back in some of the worst habits of mind that dominated parts of the left in the Stalinist period: manicheanism, reductionism, apologia, denial, cynicism. Grossly simplifying tendencies of thought, not least the disastrous belief that 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' are once again leading to the abandonment of democrats, workers, women and gays who get on the wrong side of 'anti-imperialists' (who are considered 'progressive' simply because they anti-American).

Engage is the new website of the UK democratic left who overturned the AUT academic boycott of Israel.
  • Engage challenges left and liberal antisemitism in the labour movement, in our universities and in public life more generally. Antisemitism here, manifests itself mainly as anti-Zionism.
  • We are a resource for the monitoring and the critique of left and liberal antisemitism.
For fans of the Engage blog, it continues here.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Marc Cooper on the failure of the anti-war march

Marc Cooper points out that despite an estimated 200,ooo turnout at the various rallies, the anti-war movement has been a political failure. As long as the peace movement fails to stand up to the neo-Stalinists of ANSWER and fails to positively reach out to mainstream Americans, the left will, sadly, deserve to fail.

No question that there is a growing frustration and even dread about where the war in Iraq is leading – if anywhere. Or if it has been worth the bloodshed until now. And the demonstrations were a good opportunity to manifest that mounting discomfort.

That said, there are only two ways the anti-war movement can achieve its goals. Either through what the Europeans calls “extra-parliamentary” methods i.e. the disruption of business-as-usual and rendering the country ungovernable. Or through a political strategy by which there is a strategic shift in The Establishment.

Yes, yes, I’ve heard all the facile rhetoric many times before about an “inside/outside” – "suites and the streets” strategy that would combine both approaches. But in the end, it’s really one or the other. Either you overthrow the government, or you force it to change its policies.

That, in turn, means that at least a significant, if not a majority, slice of the Democratic Party has to be on board. Unfortunate, but true. That means including not only those who sign on to the 'Out Now' mantra of the current movement, but also those who have a less drastic view -- but still oppose the current course. The war issue could be “nationalized” in next November’s congressional election if that movement were broadened sufficiently. A Democratic upset in the mid-terms could force the Bush administration to change course and/or could lead to a Democratic victory and a change in war policy in ’08.

Yet, not a single top Democratic official publicly associated him or herself with Saturday’s street protests (sorry, Reps. Conyers and McKinney don't qualify as "top" officials). Not just Mister Kerry and Madame Clinton were missing. But equally AWOL were outspoken critics of the war like Howard Dean and Russ Feingold and Ted Kennedy – just to mention the better-known.

This is a bit of a chicken and egg situation, but only a bit. Much can be said about the timidity of the Democrats when it comes to staking out a position – any position—on the war. And I have not flinched from saying so, rather repeatedly.

Indeed, one of the reasons that the peace movement’s organizational logistics remain in the hands of fringe groups like ANSWER, is because they eagerly fill a gaping void left by more moderate forces. Democrats and liberals have not stepped forward – so they get trampled by the few dozen fervent comrades from the glorious Party for Socialism and Liberation, the Fundamentalist-Leninist grouplet that runs ANSWER.

There is another coalition that helps organize the peace rallies – United For Peace and Justice. Somewhat more moderate than ANSWER, UFPJ nevertheless has few and only tenuous links with mainstream political forces. At various times over the last few years UFPJ has threatened to resist getting bullied by the cultish members of ANSWER, but in the end it always capitulates in the name of “unity.” Such was the case with this past weekend activities in which ANSWER once again set the themes and the tone of the protests.

There's an odd and defeating dynamic that pervades these activist groups -- a dynamic that often leads young critical thinkers to abandon them after a short infatuation. The inner circle, the feverish full-timer activists are often members of tiny, Marxist groups, "vanguard parties" or their "mass organizations." These devoted militants dedicate all of their time, all of their energy and all of their lives to "building" these miniscule sects. Some of the more entrepreneurial among them even figure out a way to make a living out of their politics.

Their relentless, round-the-clock energy allows them to easily dominate the tedious, mind-numbing meetings and planning sessions that go into organizing large-scale protests. Who else but a humourless party-builder could survive those marathon "consensus" sessions. But God Forbid anyone should actually criticize any of them or the 'line' they impose on the demos. Anyone who dares to challenge them is immediately called out as a McCarthyite -- as if joining one of these sects offers some implied warranty of immunity from criticism. When confronted with this cheap blackmail of being branded as "red-baiters," the more reasonable liberals and "progressives" almost inevitably fold and the cycle repeats itself. And then people actually wonder why the peace movement can't attract more mainstream political support?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Descent into Anarchy

From the Coalition for Darfur:

One week ago, experts and observers warned that Darfur risked "sliding into a perpetual state of lawlessness." At a time when Khartoum and the Darfur rebels were preparing to meet in
an attempt to move the essentially non-existent peace process forward, IRIN was reporting
Banditry and continuous attacks by armed groups on humanitarian workers, Arab nomads and villages in Darfur have increased significantly over the past weeks and threaten to destabilise the fragile ceasefire in the volatile western Sudanese
The "fragile ceasefire" has never really existed and fears of "perpetual" lawlessness are misplaced considering that Darfur has been essentially lawless for more than two years.

Last week, the World Food Program reported that "security levels deteriorated in Darfur during the reporting week." This week, the WFP reported that "despite precautionary security measures, attacks on commercial and humanitarian vehicles continue in Darfur."

And as the UN was expressing its concern "about the recurrent attacks carried out by armed men and gangs in Darfur states, which target civilians and commercial vehicles hired by relief organizations," Norwegian Church Aid was reporting that "relief convoy has been raided at gunpoint by bandits in Darfur for the second time in a short period. The security situation in
Darfur shows signs of deterioration"
A growing problem is also that aid convoys are now being ambushed with increasing
regularity by bandits on horses and camels. Norwegian Church Aid
vehicles have been raided at gunpoint twice in a matter of weeks ...
The field teams who travel most often through the western and southern
parts of Darfur regularly encounter en route, and are often chased by,
heavily armed men riding on horses and camels. Since the aid operation
began just over a year ago, security has presented a great challenge
for the agencies. Yet whereas assault, exchanges of fire and attacks
on villages were previously politically motivated, much of the
violence seems now to be criminal in nature.
And the violence continues.

Just yesterday, it was reported that 40 were killed in fighting after an attack on the rebel Sudan
Liberation Movement/Army by "armed nomadic tribesmen" [aka "the Janjaweed"]. This was followed by another report that 80 government soldiers had been killed by the SLM when they capturedthe town of Sheiria in a surprise attack in retaliation for earlier government attacks on rebel-held territory.

The attack on Sheiria put at risk some 33,000 civilians who rely on humanitarian assistance after staff from three NGO's were withdrawn due to the fighting. And for good measure,
the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) "reported that the security situation in the Kalma camp housing displaced persons has further deteriorated with a large number of security incidents, including some 60 reported attacks on women over the last week alone."

All of this took place while the sixth round of peace talks were being held in Nigeria.

It has now been more than ayear since the United States declared the situation in Darfur a
"genocide" - and the security situation on the ground is now even arguably worse. While government-orchestrated attacks on civilians have diminished, mainly because "there are not manyvillages left to burn down and destroy," the rampant insecurity in all likelihood still qualifies as part of Khartoum's genocidal campaign to "deliberately [inflict] on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in

The genocide is not ending and the situation is not improving. The people of Darfur have, for all intents and purposes, been abandoned.

Two New "Must View" Websites

Chris Phelps, author of Young Sidney Hook: Marxist and Pragmatist, published by Cornell University Press in 1997 and just reissued in paperback, with a new preface, by the University of Michigan Press has a new website with sections on his writing on Hook, race, American radicalism, and The Jungle.

There's lots of interesting stuff here, though some may be behind the wall of academic privilege.

Bill Domhoff has put together an excellent companion website for the fifth edition of his classic, Who Rules America?. Highly recommended.

I'm reasonably sure I've read WRA, but its been a long time. One of those books that didn't make a move somewhere along the line.

I hope that Domhoff will do a website on his 2003 book
Changing The Powers That Be: How The Left Can Stop Losing and Win.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A Truly Bad Idea

From Harry's Place

Those clever people appointed by the government to look into how to stop some Muslim youth turning to Islamist terrorism have come up with one of their first bright ideas.

Advisers appointed by Tony Blair after the London bombings are proposing to scrap the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Day because it is regarded as offensive to Muslims.

They want to replace it with a Genocide Day that would recognise the mass murder of Muslims in Palestine, Chechnya and Bosnia as well as people of other faiths.

.....“The very name Holocaust Memorial Day sounds too exclusive to many young Muslims. It sends out the wrong signals: that the lives of one people are to be remembered more than others. It’s a grievance that extremists are able to exploit.”

Sends out the wrong signal? I wonder what kind of signal is sent out by senior Muslims comparing the dreadful policies of successive Israeli governments in the occupied territories with the systematic murder of six million Jews? There are lots of words that could describe what has happened in Palestine, genocide isn't one of them.

( Genocide the systematic killing of all the people from a national, ethnic, or religious group, or an attempt to do this)

And what message does it send that the list of 'genocides' against Muslims comprises Palestine, Chechnya and Bosnia. What about Kurdistan? What about Sudan? If we are to have the suggested 'Genocide Day' than surely we would have to remember the Armenian massacres too wouldn't we?

I'm not at all sure why Britain, sixty years after the events, took it upon itself to suddenly have its own national memorial day for the holocaust but the notion that we should scrap it because remembering the horrors of the extermination camps is offensive to Muslims is, I would like to think, truly offensive to most British Muslims.

Blogging vs. Activism

There's lot of discussion about how on-line activism and "real-world" activism are related. One thing for sure, the time that is committed to real world activism isnt' available to do blogging.

Last Sunday I attended the Wichita Labor Day event, an indoor picnic at the Machinists Hall.

Then on Monday, I drove up to Topeka to attend the Labor Day parade and rally. I got a little late start and then encountered a traffic jam, due to a national guard convoy going to the Gulf Coast, so I missed the parade, but got their in time for the rally.

Then, on to Lawrence, for their annual Ice Cream Social, some speeches and music. I took a table, got signature to protect social security, not buy school supplies at Wal-mart, and signed up people for Working America, the new community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

After the picnic, had a nice meal at the Free State brew pub.

Tuesday, I had a nice visit with an old political friend I hadn't seen in years: Benjamin Ross, who has the best single piece on the "Trotskyist" neo-conservatives in the latest Dissent. (More on this latter.) With Ben was his son Jack who is giving a paper at a conference on radical economics and the labor movement at UMKC next week. I hadn't made the connection before.

Wednesday, I went to a planning meeting for a human rights event in October.

Oh, and I posted an article on the UMKC conference and the legacy of the IWW on the Kansas Workbeat website. I also did a webpage of photos from the Labor Day events around the state. Plus wrote and send out the Kansas Workbeat update email.

So, if the blogging has been a little slow, that's why.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Boeing Machinists on Strike

Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union who work for the Boeing Company have voted 86 percent in favor of going out on strike.The strike will affect about 18,400 machinists who assemble Boeing's commercial airplanes and some key components in the Seattle area, Wichita, Kansas, and Gresham, Oregon.The machinists are the workers who assemble Boeing's commercial jetliners. The 86 percent vote was well in excess of the two-thirds margin needed to create a strike.


I'm using this from a Seattle TV station because it was the first news report I found.

A couple of quick comments.

The IAM (Machinists) has a constitutional requirement that strikes have to get a 2/3 vote. This one got 86 percent. The super majority requirment raises an interesting issue for democratic theory. On the one hand, a strike probably won't succeed if it only has a slim majority support. On the other, requiring a super majority means that the company can tailor the last, best, and final offer so as to peel off 34 percent. In recent years, a number of IAM
contract have been voted down by 70% or more but been accepted by default when they only got 64--65%.

It will be interesting to see if the almost 19,000 Boeing strikers get anywhere near the sympathy that certain circles have given to the 5,000 AMFA strikers.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Bob Dole on Social Security

Bob Dole had a column in the Wichita Eagle promoting the privatization of social security. One of the most thoroughly dishonest and disgusting pieces ever written.

Shorter Bob Dole "Look at me channel FDR, er Alf Landon. Never could keep them straight. Democrats should follow the example of the great compromise of 1983 to enact a scheme that totally effectively wipes out the solution of the commission he is so proud to have been a member of. I propose a plan to save social security which actually worsens social security solvency. And, incidentally, in small print, ADD meaures to improve social security's solvency which means massive cuts in social security fro those younger than 55. But don't tell anybody that."

Monday, August 22, 2005


I recently bought Paul Buhle's Wobblies: A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World. David Moberg gave it a nice review in In These Times.

I was intrigued by the idea of telling the story of the IWW using the tools of graphic novels. So I was looking forward to Wobblies. Now I have some doubts. The book captures the spirit of the IWW, but it may be seriously flawed as history.

I'm certainly not a labor historian, but I did catch a major howler. And I suspect that experts might find more.

In the story, "Mourn Not the Dead" by co-editor Nicole Schulman it is said that "34 members of the Kansas City IWW were kept in county jails for 2 years awaiting trial."

Actually, the IWWs were oil field workers in the Augusta and El Dorado areas near Wichita and they were held in inhumane conditions in the Sedgwick County jail. According to Earl Bruce White (in Joseph Conlin's At The Point of Production) government agents estimated that there were 2,000 wobblies in Kansas and Oklahoma in 1917.

The National Civil Liberties Bureau (forerunner of the ACLU) hired Winthrop Lane of Survey magazine to investigate Kansas's jails. When his story appeared, Judge Pollack found the jail unfit for prisoners and ordered the trial moved to Kansas City. They received harsh sentences.

And here's another problem. Schulman's text says "10 IWWs were locked inside 'a pie cut revolving drum' without windows....Most became ill. Many died of tuberculosis. Many more went insane." According to White, two of the defendants were judged insane and sent to the Kansas State Mental Health Hospital and were soon released. One defendant died of ifluenza in 1918.

The chief lawyer for the Wichita IWW defendants was Fred Moore, who later headed up the Sacco and Vanzettia defense. In this case he neglected to file a critical court document. This failure may have made him all the more willing, (eager?) to take on the case of the two Italian anarchists.

Also involved in this case, as well as other IWW cases, was Caroline Lowe, a SP activist who a few years later became staff lawyer for the UMW in southeastern Kansas.

Historian Ralph Luker notes that there are problems with an earlier Buhle book.

Recently, Ron Simon reviewed Paul Buhle and Dave Wagner's Hide in Plain Sight: The Hollywood Blacklistees in Film and Television, 1950-2002. In passing, Simon noted that the book was "often marred by historical inaccuracies." Books are often marred by inaccuracies, but the mere slap on the wrist infuriated one of Cineaste's readers.
Martin Brady" is the pseudonym of a Cineaste reader who brings the latest charges against Burle's scholarship. In a letter published in Cineaste (Summer 2004, 68-9), Brady refers to Buhle and Wagner as the "demented duo" and cites over five dozen major errors of fact. Evenhandedly, actors, authors, critics, directors, and producers are misidentified. There are errors of character, chronology, genre, and role. Buhle and Wagner reverse the roles played by Sean Connery and Richard Harris in The Molly Maguires.
Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes have challenged Buhle's history on issues related to the Communist Party in an article in The New Criterion and in a book In Denial: Historians, Communism, and Espionage.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Doug Ireland reports that

Worldwide protests have been called against the death penalty and criminalization of homophobia in Iran in the wake of the hanging of two teen boys in thIrangay_teens_4e Iranian city of Mashad. August 11 has been designated as the day for a series of coordinated demonstrations in France, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere.

Ireland also invites us get involved
The French gay coalition has also endorsed the international petition entitled "No Gays to the Scaffold" organized by the French group Ensemble contre la peine de mort (Together Against the Death Penalty.) The petition says: "I hereby assert my solidarity and my support to homosexuals and other members of sexual minorities who are being arrested, imprisoned, and even sentenced to death and executed in the world. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Mauritania, Sudan, Nigeria (northern states), Yemen, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates are the 9 countries where homosexuals risk death penalty the only motive being their homosexuality. This has to stop. Affirming and living freely one's sexual orientation is not a crime and should not have its place in the penal code. In the name of liberty and elementary human rights, valid to all women and men, I ask the international community to act with vigour so that the last countries still advocating for death penalty reform their penal code, and, in the meanwhile, commute the death penalty condemnations, and set free those arrested for the only reason them being homosexuals." There's an English-language sign-on page for the petition, so sign on by clicking here.
I've added my name. I hope you'll do the same.

Did It Matter (Darfur)

Our weekly post from the Coalition for Darfur

Over a year ago, Eugene Oregon [co-founder of the CforD] wrote a post urging the Bush administration to declare the situation in Darfur a "genocide." Since then, an estimated 400,000 people have died, Doctors Without Borders is warning that millions of lives "hang in the balance," and the International Committee of the Red Cross is warning of "chronic instability."

One year later, we have to ask if the "genocide" declaration made any difference at all.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Unite Against Terror

I've signed this statement. I hope you'll read it and consider doing the same:

Terrorist attacks against Londoners on July 7th killed at least 54 people. The suicide bombers who struck in Netanya, Israel, on July 12 ended five lives, including two 16 year old girls. And on July 13, in Iraq, suicide bombers slaughtered 24 children. We stand in solidarity with all these strangers, hand holding hand, from London to Netanya to Baghdad: communities united against terror.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Little Milton

Little Milton Campbell died on Thursday.'s bio starts with this observation

He may not be a household name, but die-hard blues fans know Little Milton as a superb all-around electric bluesman -- a soulful singer, an evocative guitarist, an accomplished songwriter, and a skillful bandleader. He's often compared to the legendary B.B. King -- as well as Bobby "Blue" Bland -- for the way his signature style combines soul, blues, and R&B, a mixture that helped make him one of the biggest-selling bluesmen of the '60s (even if he's not as well-remembered as King). As time progressed, his music grew more and more orchestrated, with strings and horns galore. He maintained a steadily active recording career all the way from his 1953 debut on Sam Phillips' legendary Sun label, with his stunning longevity including notable stints at Chess (where he found his greatest commercial success), Stax, and Malaco.

Little Milton never really crossed-over to white audiences the way B. B. King, Albert King, Buddy Guy, and John Lee Hooker did. He remained a big draw with African-American audiences.

I heard Little Milton at the last or next to last KC Blues and Jazz Festival. In addition to concerts going simulataneously at three stages, the KC festival featured a blues school--performers giving an intimate performance and talk in the afternoon inside tents. I took some pictures. I then took a couple that I liked the most and made "artistic" with Corel's PhotoPaint program. A couple of years ago when Little Milton appeared at the Cotillion in Wichita, I went and had him autograph them.

One of them is the photo above.

Every time I heard Little Milton he gave an outstanding performance. He'll be missed.

Saturday, August 06, 2005


From the Coalition for Darfur

Two weeks ago, the Center for American Progress and the Genocide Intervention Fund launched a joint initiative known as "Be A Witness" built around a petition calling on television networks to increase their coverage of the genocide in Darfur.

As "Be a Witness" noted
During June 2005, CNN, FOX News, NBC/MSNBC, ABC, and CBS ran 50 times as many stories about Michael Jackson and 12 times as many stories about Tom Cruise as they didabout the genocide in Darfur.
This week, tireless Sudan advocate Nicholas Kristof took up the call and chastised the press for its lack of Darfur coverage
If only Michael Jackson's trial had been held in Darfur. Last month, CNN, Fox News,
NBC, MSNBC, ABC and CBS collectively ran 55 times as many stories about Michael Jackson as they ran about genocide in Darfur.
Shortly thereafter, Editor and Publisher printed a piece reporting
New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof's attack on the press for underreporting the atrocities and genocide in Darfur, which ran in today's paper, has drawn the ire of some newspaper editors who said they are doing the best they can with what
they have.
In this piece, USA Today Foreign Editor James Cox offered a partial but important explanation for the dearth of coverage
Cox pointed to a two-day series USA Today ran in May on Darfur, stressing the difficulty the paper had in even getting a visa for reporter Rick Hampson to travel there. "It was excruciatingly difficult to get the permission," he said. "We had an
application that had been stalled for months."
Sudan does not want journalists freely traveling around Darfur for the sole reason that their reports are going to reveal the true nature of Khartoum's genocidal campaign.

Considering this basic fact in conjunction with the efforts currently underway to expand the African Union mission in Darfur, it might behoove all involved to consider embedding journalists with the AU just as the US did during the initial weeks of the war in Iraq.

People want information about Darfur; journalists want access to Darfur; and the UN and AU want (or at least should want) to disseminate information regarding to crisis in Darfur as widely as possible.

The US and NATO are currently providing key logistical support to the AU mission and ought to insist that any reporter who wants access to Darfur be assigned to and granted protection by an AU patrol force.

Brian Steidle served with the AU in Darfur for six months before eventually resigning his position so that he could share his photos with the world.

Steidle is a hero for doing this - but it shouldn't take personal acts of sacrifice and courage to make the world aware of the genocide in Darfur.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Prayer for the Dying

Our weekly post from the Coalition for Darfur

As Mark Leon Goldberg of the American Prospect reported back in April, the Bush administration was leaning heavily on congressional leaders and managed to stall, and probably killed, the Darfur Accountability Act.

As Goldberg explained, the bill
[E]stablishes targeted U.S. sanctions against the Sudanese regime, accelerates assistance to expand the size and mandate of the African Union mission in Darfur,expands the United Nations Mission in Sudan to include the protection of civilians in Darfur, establishes a no-fly zone over Darfur, and calls for a presidential envoy to Sudan.
Because of this pressue, the bill appears to be trapped in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Relations, presumably never to be seen again.

So what is Congress going to do now that sanctions, a no-fly zone and civilian protection are off the table? Apparently it has been reduced to "[encouraging] the people of the United States [to pray] for an end to the genocide and crimes against humanity and for lasting peace in Darfur, Sudan."

That's right, the US Congress has been reduced to calling on the American people to pray that somehow this genocide ends.

On July 1st, the US Senate quietly passed S.RES.186
A resolution affirming the importance of a national weekend of prayer for the victims of genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur, Sudan, and expressing the sense of the Senate that July 15 through July 17, 2005, should be designated as a national
weekend of prayer and reflection for the people of Darfur.
The House passed a companion resolution (H.RES.333) just yesterday.

The key portion of the resolution reads as follows

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) supports the goals and ideals of a National Weekend of Prayer and Reflection for Darfur, Sudan;

(2) encourages the people of the United States to observe that weekend by praying for an end to the genocide and crimes against humanity and for lasting peace in Darfur, Sudan; and

(3) urges all churches, synagogues, mosques, and religious institutions in the United States to consider the issue of Darfur in their activities and to observe the National Weekend of Prayer and Reflection with appropriate activities and services.

This resolution appears to be the work of the SaveDarfur Coalition, a vital organization that has done a great deal to raise awareness of the genocide - but what does it say about the level of US commitment to address this situation when Congress is unwilling to do anything beyond simply asking the American people to pray for the dying people of Darfur?

If members of Congress are truly concerned about the deaths of nearly 400,000 Darfuris, or the fates of an estimated 3 million more, they are certainly capable of doing more than quietly declaring a "National Weekend of Prayer and Reflection."

Save Darfur deserves credit for getting Congress to even do this much, but this resolution cannot absolve Congress of its pathetic failure to adequately address the situation in Darfur. If anything, it only serves to highlight the government's utter lack of concern.

Happy Birthday: Woody

Woody Guthrie was born on July 14, 1912. To celebrate his life and music, the Eighth Annual Free Woody Guthrie festival will be held in his hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma from July 14-17. Although the musicians perform for free, a truly outstanding roster of regional and national acts are lined up to perform. Okemah is 70 miles east of Oklahoma City on I-40.

During his lifetime, Woody's left-wing politics made him damn unpopular in his home state. But since 2001 a Woody tune has been the official state folk song. (Oklahoma covers all bases with an official song, an official folk song, an official country and western song, and an official children's song.) It's not one of his political songs. "Oklahoma Hills" was actually a hit on the country charts back in the 1940s performed (and co-written) by Woody's cousin, Jack Guthrie, who was as All Music notes "one of the most important and influential country singers of the mid-'40s."

Some Woody Resources:

Library of Congress bio
Searchlight tribute (the leading UK anti-fascist, anti-racist group)
Official Woody Guthrie Homepage (WG Foundation, run by Woody's family it seems)

Booking Woody If you are interested in bringing a Woody Guthrie event to your school, library, organization, the Woody Guthrie Foundation has a bunch of exciting programs available.
I'll be attending on Saturday and promise some photographs and a report.

UPDATE: Thanks to Jim Devine for catching my orignal and inexplicable substitution of the erroneous August for July when I posted this on Wednesday AM and a similar message on the LBO discussion list.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Left Reactions to 7/7

Searchlight (the leading British anti-fascist, anti-racist magazine/movement)

No to fascist terror

Thursday 7 July 2005 will be a day that no decent resident of London or the UK will forget. Less than 24 hours after we were awarded the 2012 Olympics, a decision made partly because London is such a multicultural and tolerant city, the heart of our capital has been ripped apart by four bombs.

It seems likely that the bombings were the responsibility of Islamist terrorists – religious fanatics who are nothing more than clerical fascists. They preach the politics of hatred and are indiscriminate in their targets. These cowardly bombings were an assault on innocent Londoners, Christian and Hindu, Muslim and Jew, black, brown and white going about their daily business.

Those who say they were responsible are using the language of European antisemitism when they talk of the "British Zionist Crusader government". They cite the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as their motives but they are liars. They took the decision to bomb ordinary people in the city that held the world's biggest anti-war demonstration because of their own twisted hatred for democracy and for the idea that people of all cultures and faiths can live harmoniously together.

In this they are every bit as evil as the Nazis of the British National Party (BNP), an organisation that has also spawned terrorists. We should not forget that the last lethal terror bombing in London was carried out by David Copeland, a former member of the BNP. He told police on his arrest that he hoped his actions would lead to a violent backlash and eventually a BNP government.

The politics of Islamic fundamentalism are the politics of hate and intolerance. This is the other side of the coin to the BNP and other Nazi groups.

Only last year, a leading BNP officer said a terrorist bombing in London would be good for the BNP. That is not the talk of a respectable or even a normal political party.

As a result of today's detestable outrage, innocent Asians and people of the Muslim faith will be targeted by racists, fuelled with propaganda from the likes of the BNP.

London cannot tolerate pogroms and witch-hunts. We appeal to the trade union movement – members of the RMT, ASLEF, the FBU and UNISON have been directly affected by the attacks – to call, together with London mayor Ken Livingstone, for a mass rally as soon as possible at which all Londoners can express their disgust at terrorism and solidarity with their fellow citizens under the slogan "London stands together against terrorism and hatred".

Socialist International

The Socialist International strongly condemns the indiscriminate acts of terror perpetrated today in London against innocent civilians who have become victims of criminal and cowardly terrorism.

We stand firm alongside the people of London who have reacted calmly and courageously in the face of these acts of barbarism, demonstrating that the values of freedom, tolerance and humanity shared by the citizens of London and all other cities of the world, cannot be destroyed, contrary to the designs of the criminals behind these attacks.

The Socialist International expresses its heartfelt sympathy and condolences to all those who have been touched by these terrorist acts, and its full solidarity with the city of London, the people of the United Kingdom and the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair, leader of the British Labour Party.

We reiterate today our commitment, pursued collectively by our member parties in all regions of the world, to eliminate terrorism everywhere and bring to justice all those responsible for acts of terror, strengthening peace, democracy and respect for human rights.

Fausto Bertinotti, Chair of the European Left Party

(ELP is mainly the old European Communist parties, minus most of what was the Italian Communist Party, which evolved into the Democrats of the Left)

"Once again violence is upsetting the world. Any place, any city, any country may become a stage for devastation and death. Women and men of any ethnic group, any age, any social condition are seeing their innocent lives destroyed. This is the atrocity of a barbarism. Today terrorism is upsetting London and the world. The spiral of war and terrorism is the terrifying background - both are the enemies of humanity. Last Saturday in Edinburgh a big white-clad march addressed poverty and war in peaceful and nonviolent language. Now the anti-war movement should become a key player in a worldwide mobilisation against terrorism and war. Only the people can stop this horrible violence."

Alliance for Worker's Liberty

The Alliance for Workers' Liberty condemns the bombings of the Underground and buses today (7 July) in London. The victims were a random selection from London's diverse population, many of them people on their way to work. The official toll as we make this statement is 37 dead and over 700 injured.

The al-Saha website has posted a statement in which "al-Qaeda in Europe" claims responsibility. "The time has come for the revenge [on the] crusading Zionist nation of Britain... a response to the massacres carried out by Britain in Iraq and Afghanistan... The heroic Mujahedeen carried out a blessed raid in London. Britain is now burning with fear, terror and fright..."

Such political Islamists have been terrorising and massacring socialists, trade unionists, feminists, democrats, and other people for many years in the countries where they are strongest. As socialists, we uphold the values of human life against this reactionary current.

We are against imperialism and against capitalism - but in the name of a democratic, socialist, human alternative, not in the name of a reactionary rage against the modern world.

We stand in solidarity with the victims of this sort of terrorism all across the world - and more especially with the labour and socialist movements at the front line of the struggle against political Islam, who work in the hardest conditions to mobilise the workers, the jobless, and the small farmers to stand up for their own rights and their own emancipation against both IMF-driven global capitalism and against the reactionary, anti-human ideologies that batten on the backlash against that global capitalism.

We pledge ourselves to redouble our solidarity with movements like the new trade unions and the Worker-communist Party in Iraq, the Labour Party of Pakistan, the FNPBI and other unions in Indonesia, and the Socialist Workers' Party of Algeria.

We call on the British labour movement to commit itself to solidarity with those movements.

It is the responsibility of the international labour movement to deal with the political-Islamist reactionaries, and it can only do that by developing its own independent politics, utterly hostile to all efforts by Tony Blair and his like to use the backlash against the terrorists to promote their own ends. The immediate effect of the atrocity will be to let Blair and Bush off the hook on debt, poverty, and climate change. The labour movement should resist that diversion.

We denounce any scapegoating of Muslim workers and youth, of the sort that was seen in some places after the 11 September 2001 attack in New York. We call on the labour movement to mobilise for physical defence wherever mosques or Muslim neighbourhoods are attacked by racists feeding on the backlash against the bombs.

We call on the labour movement to resist any attempt by Blair to use the backlash against the bombings to promote yet further attacks on civil liberties.

The attack came at the same time as London Underground is trying to cut station staff jobs. The Underground bosses should drop, right now, their attempt to pretend that the unions, in their defence of staffing levels, are exaggerating the tasks of safety and security on the Tube.

Political Islam is a political current; and the mass of people of Muslim religion or background are its prime victims and opponents. It is "anti-imperialist" only in a reactionary sense. Its hatred of US imperialism is no more progressive than fascists' hatred of Jewish finance-capitalists.

It has its own roots and its own logic, and cannot be dismissed as just the "bitter fruits" of evil US and British policies, any more than Nazism could be dismissed as just the "bitter fruits" of the US/ British/ French carve-up of the world after World War 1, requiring no special condemnation or opposition in its own right.

We condemn both political-Islamist terrorism and US and British imperialism. We stand in solidarity with the new labour movement and women's movement in Iraq, against both the US/ UK occupation and the political-Islamist or neo-Ba'thist "resistance" which inflicts on the people of Iraq's cities (especially, in recent months, the Shia people) the same horror inflicted on the people of London today.

Ken Livingston Labour Mayor of London

"This is not an attack against the rich and powerful. It is not an attack on the politicians, but on the common working people of London.

"We have seen that you are not afraid to take your own lives but what you did is just mass murder.

"I can tell you now that you will fail in your long-term objectives to destroy our free society."

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Ideology in on the table

From Ian Millhiser at Think Progress

Conservatives Senators are tripping over themselves to claim ideology is off limits in questioning a Supreme Court nominee. History shows that’s not true.

In 1795, President George Washington nominated Justice John Rutledge to be Chief Justice of the United States. Rutledge, a former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and current Chief Justice of South Carolina, was “well qualifed” by any standard, but Senate partisans blocked his nomination for one simple reason: ideology. Justice Rutledge opposed the Jay Treaty, a hot button issue in 1795. Because Senate Federalists couldn’t bear to see a Jay Treaty opponent on the Court, Rutledge’s nomination was rejected 14-10.

Unlike President Bush, President Washington respected the right of the Senate to reject judicial nominations. In 1789, Washington had even explained just how free the Senate was to do so: “Just as the President has a right to nominate without assigning reasons, so has the Senate a right to dissent without giving theirs.”

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Welcome: House of Labor Blog at TPM Cafe

Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo has been one of the most successful and influential blogs on the left side of the political spectrum. It's definitely on my check daily list. Recently, Marshall started another project The TPM Cafe,. The about page says

TPMCafe is a public meeting place to read about and discuss politics, culture and public life in the United States. The site hosts both blogs and public discussion areas.

I hadn't really taken a look at the cafe. It's hard enough to keep up with the blogs that I've already grown fond of or found indispensible.

Well, now that's changed. At least one blog at the Cafe is going to be on my essential's list;

The first four entries are by Nathan Newman, Jo Ann Mort, Bill Fletcher, and Hans Reimer.

I've got a feeling I'll be linking a lot to THOL.

Monday, July 04, 2005

How to Fight the Court Battle

Words of wisdom from Nathan Newman:

The trap for progressives on the nominations fight for O'Connor's successor is just to talk about abortion and other social issues. We need to split social conservatives away from their corporate allies and highlight the rightwing ECONOMIC views of potential nominees.

The Supreme Court is the interpreter of legislative statutes and they can either enforce them strongly on behalf of the rights of middle class families or they can give corporations a free pass to loot pensions, poison the environment and violate their employees rights at work.

We need to wedge the opposition base and, even if some Bush supporters cheer an anti-choice nominee, we should raise questions with them about why that nominee also screws workers in all their legal decisions and never really punish corporations for their wrongdoing.
Yes, we need to mobilize our supporters but we also need to divide the opposition. Let's remind people that only a few of the Supreme Court decisions are about hot-button social issues.

Expand the debate and divide the opposition. That has to be our gameplan.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Bluegrass Lyrics: Even More Interesting than Norm or Tim think

Norm Geras recommended an interesting post by Tim Newman close for its "close textual analysis, on a 'journey through the lyrics and origins of Appalachian bluegrass music'. " Norm even adopted a blog headline ("Six Coaches Long") from Tim's discussion of the lyric about a train which is "sixteen coaches long" which appears in several pre-bluegrass songs , including the Carter families "Worried Man Blues."

Tim has done a good job of tracking down lyrics, but he misses an important and intriguing story when he attributes "Mystery Train, " to Elvis Presley. Elvis did cut the most famous version of the song, but it was a cover of a record by Memphis bluesman Junior Parker.

A possible African-American source for the lyric is even older. According to the website of the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance

Leslie Riddle : This African-American guitarist and singer was a friend of the Carter family and was a frequent dinner guest in their home. He helped A. P. locate obscure songs, brought material from his repertoire to the A. P. Carter Family , and taught blues guitar styles to hugely influential guitarist Maybelle Carter.
As Bill Malone and Elijah Wald stress in their recent books on country (Don't Get above Your Raisin: Country Music and the Southern Working Class ) and blues (Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues) there was close interplay and interchange between white and black musicans.

And there's yet another twist in this story. While the Carter's are credited with being songcatchers who captured folk and traditional songs, some of the "folk songs" were actually the products of the Tin Pan Alleys of a generation or two previous. For instance, Wildwood Flower was "written in 1888 by Maud Irving and J.P. Weber, and popularized by the Carter Family.

And another twist, Wildwoodflower formed the musical basis for a song by Woody Guthrie, The Sinking of the Reuben James. Woody, of rourse, was close to the CPUSA and pretty much followed twists and turns of the party line.

And Tim Newman started his bluegrass lyrics post by
wondering if there can be any greater swing in sequential blog topics than that between Soviet symbols and hillbilly lyrics...

So, it seems the circle is unbroken.