Saturday, August 31, 2013

Congresswoman Lee Pens Syria Letter To White House, Calls For Congressional Debate

Friday, 30 August 2013

Written by  Rep Barbara Lee | Press Release

Congresswoman Lee Pens Syria Letter To White House Calls For Congressional Debate

Washington, D.C.— Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee was joined by 53 Members of Congress on a letter to President Obama condemning the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria and calling for full congressional debate an appropriate response.

The letter comes on the heels of rumors surrounding a military strike in Syria.

The letter reads, in part: “While we understand that as Commander in Chief you have a constitutional obligation to protect our national interests from direct attack, Congress has the constitutional obligation and power to approve military force, even if the United States or its direct interests (such as its embassies) have not been attacked or threatened with an attack. As such, we strongly urge you to seek an affirmative decision of Congress prior to committing any U.S. military engagement to this complex crisis.

“We must learn the lessons of the past. Lessons from Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and others,” said Congresswoman Lee. “We must recognize that what happens in Syria does not stay in Syria; the implications for the region are dire.”

The letter further calls for U.N. inspectors to complete their assessments of the existence of the use of chemical weapons, as well as denounces the human rights violations taking place.

“This letter is calling for a specific action: debate. Congress has a vital role this in this process and constitutional power that must be respected,” said Congresswoman Lee. “The American people are demanding this debate before we commit our military, our money, or our forces to Syria.”

A full list of signers and a pdf of the letter can be found here.


Follow Barbara Lee on Facebook and Twitter at @RepBarbaraLee. To learn more, visit

Congresswoman Lee is a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, the Steering and Policy Committee, is a Senior Democratic Whip, as well as the Whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus(CPC), where she serves as the Co-Chair of the CPC Peace and Security Task Force. She was the only Member of both chambers to vote against the Authorization for Use of Military Force in 2001.

Final list of Members (54):

Barbara Lee, Mike Honda, Lois Capps, Zoe Lofgren, John Lewis, Jackie Speier, Raúl Grijalva, Robin Kelly, Beto O’Rourke, Michael H. Michaud, Mark Pocan, Peter A. DeFazio, Peter Welch, Chellie Pingree, Nydia M. Velázquez, Sam Farr, Stephen F. Lynch, Lloyd Doggett, Janice Hahn, Jared Huffman, Tulsi Gabbard, Emanuel Cleaver, Rush Holt, Jim McDermott, Sheila Jackson Lee, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Suzanne Bonamici, José E. Serrano, George Miller, Donna F. Edwards, Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, Steve Cohen, Marcy Kaptur, Danny K. Davis, Alcee L. Hastings, James P. McGovern, Judy Chu, Marcia L. Fudge, Alan S. Lowenthal, Charles B. Rangel, Bobby L. Rush, Carolyn B. Maloney, Janice Schakowsky, Donna M. Christensen, David Loebsack, Henry A. Waxman, Diana DeGette, Yvette D. Clarke, Richard M. Nolan, Keith Ellison, Niki Tsongas, Eleanor Holmes Norton, John A. Yarmuth, Julia Brownley


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Movement Envy: Chicago Looks at North Carolina

Protesters rally during "Moral Monday" demonstrations at Halifax Mall near the General Assembly in Raleigh, N.C., in July. More than 1,000 people have been arrested while protesting against policies being enacted by the North Carolina General Assembly. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

By Susan Klonsky

I admit it. We have a great movement here in Chicago, but still, I'm jealous of Mondays in North Carolina.

Reviving the spirit and moral compass of the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s, protest has become the Monday Lifestyle in NC.  People  put their Monday evening rallies on the calendar. “Mon. 5:30 pm:  Sit in, get arrested @ State Capitol.” It’s becoming sort of normal.

For the past 4 months in Raleigh, every Monday  is Moral Monday. Late in the day, as people get off work, they surround the Statehouse with rings of protesters. Mass arrests are scheduled, followed on Thursdays by well-organized press conferences by those arrested.  Every Monday the protests get larger—now exceeding 15,000 in Raleigh, with big rallies throughout the state. The movement is multiracial and has spread well beyond North Carolina’s capital out to the mountainous west of the state, to small towns and tiny hamlets.

Reverend Dr. William Barber

The leader of this movement is a Disciples of Christ minister, the Reverend Dr. William Barber III.  I had the pleasure of meeting Rev. Barber earlier this week. He is the latest in a bloodline of activist pastors who have fought racial segregation and its ugly siblings, poverty and violence, for generations. Rev. Barber, a giant of an orator, is the state chairman of the North Carolina NAACP. With the NAACP as its nucleus,  the Moral Monday Movement is an expansive coalition embracing an impressive number of organizations in all fields, labor unions, religious congregations, professional societies, and even fraternities and sororities. And they are on a roll.

“We’ve got a strategy. We never expected this thing to take off as it has. But we had to sit down and say, ‘where are we going with this?’” Barber explains. “We started off with one rally, and now we’re at the point of having 13 mass rallies in all 13 Congressional districts across the state. We’ve even had one of the county Republican party chairs renounce his own party,” as the result of the backward legislation the GOP has rammed through the North Carolina Legislature.

The Moral Monday folks have put their heads together and done the math. They’ve cooked up a plan for retaking the Democratic majority in the North Carolina Legislature and the state’s Congressional delegation. To accomplish these objectives will require a massive voter registration effort designed to boost the percentages of African American registered voters as well as a one-percent shift of white voters away from Republican candidates.

More than 1,000 arrests for civil disobedience.

The plan involves mass participation in voter education and mobilization. Unions and professional societies will play a big part, by having their members trained to register voters (and to deal with the new and exceptionally stringent, obstructive regulations about voter identification). “If each of us does 50 registrations, we can make our goal of 45,000 new voters,” Barber explains. “That’s why we must start now. It’s totally attainable.”

I asked Rev. Barber if he feels they can keep these Monday events going indefinitely. He explained that they are building for a few major events this winter. In particular, in December when the remaining major cutbacks to Medicaid in the state kick in, and again in January, he expects an uptick in mass protest against the attacks upon public education, social and health services, including reproductive rights, and state aid to the poor and unemployed.

Last month, Barber told us, the movement spread to some of the whitest, most heavily Republican parts of the state, where the Tea Party had until recently held sway. Now that people are beginning to experience the impact of budget slashing including removal of protections for teachers and other public employees, the picture is changing. “We were invited to speak up in rural Mitchell County, way up in the mountains,” Barber said, “and we found ourselves at a church way up there, in the evening, with at least a thousand people—an all white crowd—waiting for us.”

It used to be  Klu Klux country up there, and Reverend Barber admits he was somewhat apprehensive about what kind of reception he might receive.  He was greeted by the assembled joining together to sing Blessed be the tie that binds/Our hearts in Christian love.  “They were  fired up for Moral Monday.”

What brought them out, at least in part, Barber observed, was the attacks upon teachers. “They have 17 or 18 percent unemployment up there. And the schools are some of the biggest employers in these counties, and now they are having to lay off school personnel because of the state budget cuts to education. Plus, there is no more tenure or job security at all for them. A man got up at that meeting and declared, ‘When they hurt education, they really hurt us mountain people.’”

Moral Monday has lots of religious participants. But it is not a religious movement. “For me, this is a fight to uphold our deepest Constitutional, Biblical and faith values,” says Barber. It is many things to many people. At public meetings throughout the state, people testify to their worries, anger and intention to be part of the fight in North Carolina.

The issues draw them together:

Voting rights, health care, education, jobs and poverty. The movement stands in defense of  LGBT rights including marriage equality. How does Moral Monday deal with religion and religious differences? “We are tired of the Christian Right which is so wrong trying to dominate the moral high ground,” Barber explains. “We challenge them:  Are you really ready for a moral debate? Are you ready to defend what you have done?  Of course they don’t want to debate. It most certainly is a moral issue. Cutting people off from health care, from their jobs, taking food off their tables. They have no integrity and they hide from debate.”

The budget slashing and violations of basic civil rights are shaped by the ALEC agenda--the same ALEC which we protested less than 2 weeks ago in Chicago. The same ALEC which designed Florida’s murderous “Stand Your Ground” law.  These people are extremists, Barber emphasizes. Their policies are dangerous. And people are beginning to see them for what they are.

At the core of the Moral Mondays movement is a strong principle of anti-racism. It is impressive to witness this principle beginning to penetrate a broad swath of the population, as people come together to win back the rights that have been violated and denied.

Yes, we have a great movement here in Chicago, but I’m still a little jealous.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pedagogy for the Oppressed: Why Study Groups Matter, and Not Just for the Young

8 Reasons Young Americans Don't Fight Back: How the US Crushed Youth Resistance

By Bruce E. Levine

Progressive America Rising via

July 31, 2011 - Traditionally, young people have energized democratic movements. So it is a major coup for the ruling elite to have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance to domination.  

Young Americans—even more so than older Americans—appear to have acquiesced to the idea that the corporatocracy can completely screw them and that they are helpless to do anything about it. A 2010 Gallup poll asked Americans “Do you think the Social Security system will be able to pay you a benefit when you retire?” Among 18- to 34-years-olds, 76 percent of them said no. Yet despite their lack of confidence in the availability of Social Security for them, few have demanded it be shored up by more fairly payroll-taxing the wealthy; most appear resigned to having more money deducted from their paychecks for Social Security, even though they don’t believe it will be around to benefit them. 

How exactly has American society subdued young Americans?

1. Student-Loan Debt. Large debt—and the fear it creates—is a pacifying force. There was no tuition at the City University of New York when I attended one of its colleges in the 1970s, a time when tuition at many U.S. public universities was so affordable that it was easy to get a B.A. and even a graduate degree without accruing any student-loan debt. While those days are gone in the United States, public universities continue to be free in the Arab world and are either free or with very low fees in many countries throughout the world. The millions of young Iranians who risked getting shot to protest their disputed 2009 presidential election, the millions of young Egyptians who risked their lives earlier this year to eliminate Mubarak, and the millions of young Americans who demonstrated against the Vietnam War all had in common the absence of pacifying huge student-loan debt.

Today in the United States, two-thirds of graduating seniors at four-year colleges have student-loan debt, including over 62 percent of public university graduates. While average undergraduate debt is close to $25,000, I increasingly talk to college graduates with closer to $100,000 in student-loan debt. During the time in one’s life when it should be easiest to resist authority because one does not yet have family responsibilities, many young people worry about the cost of bucking authority, losing their job, and being unable to pay an ever-increasing debt. In a vicious cycle, student debt has a subduing effect on activism, and political passivity makes it more likely that students will accept such debt as a natural part of life.

2. Psychopathologizing and Medicating Noncompliance. In 1955, Erich Fromm, the then widely respected anti-authoritarian leftist psychoanalyst, wrote, “Today the function of psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis threatens to become the tool in the manipulation of man.” Fromm died in 1980, the same year that an increasingly authoritarian America elected Ronald Reagan president, and an increasingly authoritarian American Psychiatric Association added to their diagnostic bible (then the DSM-III) disruptive mental disorders for children and teenagers such as the increasingly popular “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD). The official symptoms of ODD include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules,” “often argues with adults,” and “often deliberately does things to annoy other people.”

Many of America’s greatest activists including Saul Alinsky (1909–1972), the legendary organizer and author of Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals, would today certainly be diagnosed with ODD and other disruptive disorders. Recalling his childhood, Alinsky said, “I never thought of walking on the grass until I saw a sign saying ‘Keep off the grass.’ Then I would stomp all over it.” Heavily tranquilizing antipsychotic drugs (e.g. Zyprexa and Risperdal) are now the highest grossing class of medication in the United States ($16 billion in 2010); a major reason for this, according to theJournal of the American Medical Association in 2010, is that many children receiving antipsychotic drugs have nonpsychotic diagnoses such as ODD or some other disruptive disorder (this especially true of Medicaid-covered pediatric patients).


Monday, August 19, 2013

The Burdens of Working-Class Youth

 Finance Capital Vs. the New Generation

The Burdens of Working-Class Youth 1
Tim Foley for The Chronicle
By Jennifer M. Silva
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Brandon, a 34-year-old black man from Richmond, Va., labels himself "a cautionary tale." Growing up in the shadow of a university where both his parents worked in maintenance, he was told from an early age that education was the path to the "land of milk and honey." An eager and hard-working student, Brandon earned a spot at a private university in the Southeast—finally, his childhood dream of building spaceships seemed to be coming true. He shrugged off his nervousness about borrowing tens of thousands of dollars in loans, joking: "Hey, if I owe you five dollars, that's my problem, but if I owe you $50,000, that's your problem."
But his light-hearted banter belies the long train of obstacles and uncertainties that have followed him at every turn. Unable to pass calculus or physics, Brandon switched his major from engineering to criminal justice. He applied to several police departments upon graduation, but he didn't land a job.
With "two dreams deferred," Brandon took a job at a women's-clothing chain, hoping it would be temporary. Eleven years later, he's still there, unloading, steaming, pressing, and pricing garments on the night shift. When his loans came out of deferment, he couldn't afford the monthly payments and decided to get a master's degree in psychology—partly to increase his chances of getting a good job, and partly, he admitted, to put his loans back in deferment. He finally earned a master's degree, paid for with more loans from "that mean lady, Sallie Mae."
So far, Brandon has not found a job that will pay him enough to cover his monthly loan and living expenses, and since the clothing company recently cut overtime and bonuses, he is worried. He keeps the loans in deferment by continually consolidating—a strategy that he said cost him $5,000 a year in interest. Taking stock of his life, Brandon is angry: "I feel like I was sold fake goods. I did everything I was told to do, and I stayed out of trouble and went to college. Where is the land of milk and honey? I feel like they lied. I thought I would have choices. That sheet of paper cost so much and does me no good. Sure, schools can't guarantee success, but come on—they could do better to help kids out."
Brandon, like many blue-collar millennials, is stuck on a journey to adulthood with no end in sight. His own parents, who had just high-school degrees, were married, steadily employed at the college, and homeowners well before they reached his age. But working-class kids today are growing up in a world where taken-for-granted pathways to adulthood are quickly eroding. Since the 1970s, stable blue-collar jobs have rapidly disappeared, taking family wages, pensions, and employer-subsidized health insurance along with them. Unlike their parents and grandparents, who followed a well-worn path from school to the assembly line—and from courtship to marriage to childbearing—men and women today live at home longer, spend more time in school, change jobs more frequently, and start families later.
Working-class men and women have come to see their relationship with college as a broken social contract.
The answer to the time-honored question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"—or, more aptly, "What can you be when you grow up?"—is in flux. And as working-class families have grown more fragile, and communities, churches, and neighborhoods less close, men and women find themselves on their own when it comes to piecing together an adult life amid the isolation, uncertainty, and insecurity of 21st-century American life.
I spent two years interviewing 100 working-class 20- and 30-somethings in Lowell, Mass., and Richmond. I spoke with African-Americans and whites, men and women, documenting the myriad obstacles that stand in their way. Caught in a merciless job market and lacking the social support, skills, and knowledge necessary for success, these young adults are relinquishing the hope for a better future that is at the core of the American Dream.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

America’s Descent Into Madness

America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.

    – John le Carré

By Henry A. Giroux
Progressive America Rising via Counterpunch

August 13, 2013 - The stories it now tells are filled with cruelty, deceit, lies, and legitimate all manner of corruption and mayhem.  The mainstream media spins stories that are largely racist, violent, and irresponsible —stories that celebrate power and demonize victims, all the while camouflaging its pedagogical influence under the cheap veneer of entertainment.

Unethical grammars of violence now offer the only currency with any enduring value for mediating relationships, addressing problems, and offering instant pleasure. A predatory culture celebrates a narcissistic hyper-individualism that radiates a near sociopathic lack of interest in or compassion and responsibility for others. Anti-public intellectuals dominate the screen and aural cultures urging us to shop more, indulge more, and make a virtue out of the pursuit of personal gain, all the while promoting a depoliticizing culture of consumerism.

Undermining life-affirming social solidarities and any viable notion of the public good, right-wing politicians trade in forms of idiocy and superstition that mesmerize the illiterate and render the thoughtful cynical and disengaged.   Military forces armed with the latest weapons from Afghanistan play out their hyper-militarized fantasies on the home front by forming robo SWAT teams who willfully beat youthful protesters and raid neighborhood poker games.  Congressional lobbyists for the big corporations and defense contractors create conditions in which war zones abroad can be recreated at home in order to provide endless consumer products, such as high tech weapons and surveillance tools for gated communities and for prisons alike.

The issue of who gets to define the future, own the nation’s wealth, shape the reach of state resources, control of the global flows of goods and humans, and invest in institutions that educate an engaged and socially responsible citizens has become largely invisible.  And yet these are precisely these issues that offer up new categories for defining how matters of representations, education, economic justice, and politics are to be defined and fought over. The stories told by corporate liars and crooks do serious harm to the body politic, and the damage they cause together with the idiocy they reinforce are becoming more apparent as America descends into authoritarianism, accompanied by the pervasive fear and paranoia that sustains it.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Vote Rush Holt: Don't Give Wall Street Banksters Another Senate Seat

Defend Social Security! Only a Few Days To Go Before The New Jersey Primary  

This week Blue America and Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) sent a joint letter to all our members asking them to support Rush Holt for the open New Jersey Senate seat.

The August 13 primary has 4 Democrats vying for the nomination-- Rush Holt and Frank Pallone, both progressive congressmen, General Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, a kind of boss-affiliated garden variety Democrat, and the Wall Street candidate, Newark Mayor Cory Booker. The special election itself will be held October 16. Digby penned the letter:

    Last April, just three months before he passed away, the ailing liberal lion Senator Frank Lautenberg issues a strong statement in opposition to proposed cuts to Social Security. He said: "We can't afford to further balance our books on the backs of middle-class families and seniors. The proposed cuts to Social Security benefits are a major problem that would hurt countless Americans.”

    Sadly, the man considered to be the front runner to succeed him, Newark mayor and media darling Cory Booker, isn't willing to hold that line. He said just this week that he'd consider raising the retirement age for younger people, a patented Republican dodge and a sure sign that he cannot be trusted to protect the Democratic Party's greatest achievement.

    But there is someone in the race who will protect Social Security and his name is Congressman Rush Holt.

    Holt not only opposes all cuts to our most important social insurance program, he is a co-sponsor of the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act, which would expand Social Security benefits not cut them. Where Mayor Booker has said that he has "not formed an opinion" on a carbon tax, something which 41 Democratic Senators have already voted for, Rush Holt is card carrying scientist who strongly supports it.

    Where Mayor Booker thinks calling for repeal of the Patriot Act is "irresponsible", Rush Holt sponsored a bill in the House just this week to do just that. He said: "The executive branch’s groundless mass surveillance of Americans has turned our conception of liberty on its head. My legislation would restore the proper constitutional balance and ensure our people are treated as citizens first, not suspects.”

    Where Mayor Booker considers Wall Street a strong friend and ally, Rush Holt... doesn't.

    The last thing we need in the US Senate is another Wall Street friendly centrist with a propensity for government secrecy and a willingness to cut our most important social insurance programs. There are plenty of those already.

    In the upcoming primary, New Jersey can choose an establishment celebrity who plays a progressive on TV or it can choose a real progressive. We strongly believe the choice for progressives in this race is obvious and urge you support Congressman Rush Holt for US Senate. Please donate what you can and spread the word among your friends and acquaintances in New Jersey.

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