Monday, November 29, 2010

Hands Off the DPRK, No More War!

US Troops Using Blimp to Practice Airborne Jumps in Korea

Keeping Perspective on North Korea

By Matthew Rothschild
Beaver County Peace Links
via The Progressive - Nov 27, 2010

When the current Korean crisis emerged, I immediately contacted the wisest person I know on the subject. His name is Gene Matthews, and he spent decades in South Korea as a missionary who was active in the pro-democracy movement there.

He's a contributor to a great new book called "More Than Witnesses: How a Small Group of Missionaries Aided Korea's Democratic Revolution."

Here's what he has to say about the current standoff.

"North Korea has always felt threatened by joint military exercises of the U.S. and South Korea, and has always protested against them," he says. "This time, North Korea stated that the exercises were taking place in North Korean territory and that if shots were fired during the exercise they would retaliate. Shots were fired (not at the North, it should be pointed out but out toward the ocean) and the North retaliated."

What's saddest about this standoff, he says, is that it shows how far relations have slid in the last fifteen years.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

How ‘Whiteness’ Dehumanizes Everyone

Rediscovering 'The Souls of White Folk'

90 years later in the era of the Tea Party

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Progressive America Rising

“But what on earth is whiteness that one should so desire it?”  Then always, somehow, some way, silently but clearly, I am given to understand that whiteness is the ownership of the earth forever and ever, Amen!

—W.E.B. Dubois, from “The Souls of White Folk”

I am not sure what led me back to it.  I had read W.E.B. Dubois’s The Souls of White Folk (originally published in Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil, 1920) years ago.  At the time I was moved by this often ignored essay but simply filed it away in the recesses of my memory.

Yet I returned to it.  I had been thinking about right-wing populism and white nationalism in the USA and at some point I found myself Googling this piece.  There were three things that immediately struck me:  (1) by coincidence, it was published exactly 90 years ago, (2) it read, in many respects, as if it had been written yesterday, and (3) it was both passionate and poetic in its style, but equally biting in its critique of white supremacy and imperialism.

“The Souls of White Folk” was an essay written in the aftermath of World War I and the despicable Versailles Treaty of 1919 which formally ended the war.  Mainstream historians often focus on the mean-spirited punishment that the Allied Powers brought upon Germany, thereby laying the foundation for World War II.  Little attention is given, however, to the hypocritical attitude of the Allied Powers with respect to the colonial world, the ‘darker races,’ to borrow from the title of Vijay Prashad’s excellent book.  Representatives of the colonial world (including from Black America) gathered in Versailles to ascertain whether the Allied Powers (USA, Britain, France, Italy) would be true to their commitment to support the right of national self-determination.  The future leader of the Vietnamese Revolution, Ho Chi Minh, was one such person who made the trek to Versailles, hoping that Vietnam, and the rest of Indochina, would secure self-determination.

Instead of receiving justice, the colored peoples of the world were ignored.  The former colonies of Germany were either handed over outright to other colonial powers or they were placed into a League of Nations trusteeship, but in neither case were they able to secure independence.  Dubois observed this first hand, having attended the Versailles conference.  He subsequently helped to convene a Pan African Congress in order to address the fact that the African world had been so overlooked.

“The Souls of White Folk” takes as its starting point an analysis of the origins of World War I.  Rather than accepting the established notion that it was a war for democracy and self-determination, Dubois embraces the assessment that it was an imperialist war focused on the objective of gaining greater portions of the colonial world for this or that imperialist power.  This was an analysis advanced by Russia’s V.I. Lenin at the start of World War I and for much of the Left it has subsequently become a basic truism.

“The Souls of White Folk” would be a powerful document if it simply stopped there, but Dubois goes further and in doing so makes this document one that cannot be read simply as an historical piece, but one that remains critically important today.  Dubois turns to the question of race and, in fact, white privilege, and demonstrates the linkages between race and imperialism.  Dubois notes, for example:  “Behold little Belgium and her pitiable plight, but has the world forgotten Congo?”  For those not up on their World War I history (and no criticism is implied), much was made of the German subjugation of Belgium.  Yet Dubois asks about the Congo, and this is not simply a throw-away line.  Belgium, through King Leopold, controlled the Congo during which time it put to death ten to twelve million people.  Dubois, of course, could not know what was soon to be facing European Jews and the annihilation of six million of them at the hands of the Nazis (who in 1920 were just getting organized), but that Holocaust received international attention, whereas the holocaust inflicted on the Congolese people was all but ignored at the time that it happened, in the aftermath of World War I, and, indeed, in the aftermath of World War II.  For Dubois, imperialism was not racially blind.

Dubois situates the matter of race directly with modern imperialism.  He makes the point that the degrading of this or that part of humanity has been with us for thousands of years, but that it is with the rise of modern Europe that we see the rise of what he terms “the eternal world-wide mark of meanness,--color!”

Race (or racist oppression) becomes a process of dehumanizing the targets of colonial oppression, turning them into something less than men and women and thereby making it easier to overlook their suffering.  This is what was powerful in his example of Belgium.  It was not that Dubois was ignoring the suffering of the people of Belgium. Rather he was focusing on the fact that the so-called civilized world could so easily ignore the suffering and murder of so many millions of people in the Congo and elsewhere, people who happened to be black, brown, yellow and red.

There is another piece to race that Dubois suggests, i.e., that it also dehumanizes so-called whites.  Over the years this concept has gained greater scholarly attention, though for the ‘darker races’ of the world it was a piece of common sense.  We grew up with our parents suggesting “…in order to keep someone in the sewer you have to stay there with them…” and other such aphorisms.

As part of his critique of imperialism and racism, Dubois holds a mirror to the USA and says, much as Dr. M. L. King would say slightly more than forty years later:  “It is curious to see America, the United States, looking on herself, first, as a sort of natural peacemaker, then as a moral protagonist in this terrible time.  No nation is less fitted for this role.”  In reading this I found myself thinking about the role of the USA in the talks between the Israeli government and the Palestine National Authority, claiming to be the honest broker while ignoring Israel’s further aggression, most recently in the form of the expansion of the illegal settlements.  But it is more fundamental than that:  the actions of the Israelis represent a replication of those taken by US settlers as they expanded West, taking lands from the Native Americans and the Mexicans.

“The Souls of White Folk” riveted me because of its continued relevance.  At a moment, in the aftermath of the November 2010 elections and the victories (albeit complicated) by the political Right, I found myself thinking about the ‘souls’ that inhabit so many white folk in the USA, souls that have been shaped by a perception of their own alleged superiority and infallibility as white Americans in comparison to the entirety of humanity.  These souls, however, resemble ghouls rather than angels as they haunt not only the victims of centuries of white supremacist terror, but also haunt the owners themselves, disfiguring them and, as Dubois so poetically puts it, rendering them less than human. Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president ofTransAfrica Forum and co-author of, Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice (University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA.


Monday, November 15, 2010

‘Jobs Not War’ Is the Progressive Caucus Priority


Progressive Caucus

Co-Chair Vows Dems

Democrats Won't Roll

Over to the GOP

In an exclusive interview, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), co-chair of the Progressive House Caucus, talks with New American Media Political Analyst and Huffington Post Contributor Earl Ofari Hutchinson about the group's strategy in the new, Republican-controlled House. The interview was conducted by New America Media.

Many are not familiar with the Progressive House Caucus. How big is it?

LW: We had 83 members before the election. It is bicameral, with House and Senate members. It's by far the largest caucus in Congress. We lost four members this election. But we also gained a couple of new members. We will not have less than 80 members in the next Congress. The Blue Dog Democrats lost almost two-thirds of their members.

What are the major issues that the Caucus will press Congress and the Obama Administration on?

LW: It is clear that we represent the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. So, the first item is jobs. We have to have a robust jobs bill. One that we should have had when President Obama first took office and his popularity was at its height. He had a big majority in the House and Senate. We would have doubled the amount of money allocated for the jobs bill that came out of the House, which the Senate cut to shreds. The other priority is combating the notion that the timetable for ending the Afghanistan War is 2014. The war is killing our budget, killing our people, and killing our relations with our allies.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Instant Runoff Shows Its Stuff: Progressive Victory in Oakland

Jean Quan Wins Oakland Mayoral Race

In major upset, winner will be Oakland's first female and first Asian-American mayor

By Zusha Elinson

Progressive America Rising via

Nov 14, 2010 - In an enormous upset, Jean Quan won the race to be Oakland’s next mayor.

The hard-working but less-than-exciting City Council member defeated former state Sen. Don Perata and his costly campaign to win over Oakland’s voters. In the final tally released Wednesday at 6 p.m., Quan captured 50.98 percent of the vote, while Perata received 49.02 percent — a difference of 2,058 votes — in the city’s first experience with ranked-choice voting.

Quan becomes the first woman and first Asian-American to serve as mayor of Oakland, succeeding Ron Dellums, who opted not to run for re-election.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Marilyn Katz: Assessing 2008-2010, Developing a Frame for 2012

What We Lost After We Won in 2008

An anti-war activist explains what the Democratic establishment fails to understand.

By Marilyn Katz   
Progressive America Rising
via In These Times, Nov 10, 2010

On a sleepy Sunday in September 2002, I was awakened by a call from Bettylu Saltzman, a longtime progressive activist and fundraiser in Chicago, who, disturbed by a dinner conversation the night before, asked, "What are we going to do about this war that Bush is going to lead us into in Iraq?" Awakened also from nearly a decade-long slumber in which there were no mass demonstrations, we realized that if we didn't do something, it was more than likely that no one would. Gleaning names from our phone books, we called together a small meeting of about 15 people from various former alliances--Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI), Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Harold Washington coalition.

It was only a year after the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York, and the repression in the country was palpable. John Poindexter, director of the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness project, was rumored to be compiling a list of subversives. It was a scary time--and even among these long-tested activists, there was apprehension: What would be the repercussions of our acts? One year after 9/11, would people really speak out? What if no one came?

Drawing on lessons from my activist past, I argued that we had to take a public stand. The first demonstrations during the '60s drew only 50 people before there were 1 million; and the one thing I knew for sure was that if we did not claim the public space for dissent now, there would no longer be any space for dissent later. Even if we had to stand alone, we had to stand.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Setting Aside Despair: Time for the Left to Get Serious About Itself

Van Jones: We Must Prepare for Battle

By Adele M. Stan
Progressive America Rising via AlterNet, Nov. 9, 2010

In a darkened space bedecked with impressionistic portraits of the progressive movement's great heroes, Van Jones -- community organizer, environmental activist and erstwhile presidential adviser -- steps onto a tiny stage that has just been warmed up by two local teenage poets and graced by Amy Goodman, the voice of Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!" The audience is filled with Washington activists, including the comedian and civil rights leader Dick Gregory, CodePink founder Medea Benjamin and Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president of the Hip-Hop Caucus.

The room is packed, and a line snakes along the sidewalk outside Busboys and Poets, a restaurant designed as a gathering place for progressives, even as the event begins.

In a passionate speech focused mainly on the costs and horrors of America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Goodman sets the stage for Jones' talk by imploring activists to organize. While a portrait of Rosa Parks by Anna Rose Soevik glimmers behind her, Goodman debunks the mythology surrounding the woman whose refusal to give up her seat on a bus sparked the civil rights movement. "Yes, she was a tired seamstress," Goodman says, "but Rosa Parks was an organizer."

It's the evening after the big Rally to Restore Sanity hosted by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and an odd mixture of exhilaration and anxiety fills the room -- the thrill of having been part of a gathering of like-minded people who flooded the National Mall in a repudiation of the harsh rhetoric of the Tea Party and cable news media, and anxiety about the Republican tide about to come crashing into the nation's capital in the midterm elections.

Jones has taken the temperature; he knows the score. But he's not about to let anybody off the hook.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Youth Vote: Now to Turn More of Them Out


Youth Vote Against GOP

Tsunami by 19 Points

By Billy Wimsatt

Progressive America Rising

via Huffington Post

Nov. 3, 2010 - National exit polls of more than 17,000 voters show a remarkable trend: Adults age 18-29 voted against the Republican Tsunami by 16 points (56-40). Younger adults age 18-24 were even more progressive, voting against Republicans by 19 points (58-39). The exit polls, conducted by Edison Research in association with AP and CNN found that:

    * 18-29-year-olds voted for Democrats over Republicans by 16 points (56-40) with 4% responding: "Other/No answer"
    * 18-24-year-olds voted for Democrats over Republicans by 19 points (58-39) with 3% responding: "Other/No answer"

These are remarkable numbers for a couple of reasons. First, the sample size of the poll was 17,506 respondents, chosen based on scientifically-randomized methodology, so the numbers are likely to be fairly robust.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tea Party Organizing Tactics, But from the Left

Learning from the Tea Party

By Ted Glick

Ted Glick's ZSpace Page

Nov. 1, 2010

“Ultimately, many of the sentiments expressed by the tea-baggers are deeply dishonest, deeply un-American. We need to keep them in their rightful place as a distinct, if sometimes loud, sometimes dangerous, political minority. We will do that to the extent that we out-organize them at the grassroots, engage in creative and significant mass action, and pressure the federal government to pass genuinely progressive legislation. That’s the way we’ll keep down the supporters of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.”

This is how I concluded a Future Hope column on September 12th of last year reporting on the first major demonstration of what has become the Tea Party. I spent several hours at this 2009 demonstration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., listening to the speakers, checking out the signs and feeling the crowd vibes. My overall assessment was that although the politics were very different, their action had a lot of similarities to the massive peace and justice demonstrations our side organized during the early years of the George W. Bush administration. These demonstrations, many of them much bigger than the one organized by the Tea Party, took place from 2002-2006, when the rightist-led Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. Being out of power, we back then and the tea baggers in 2009 both felt the need to demonstrate in the streets.


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