September 30, 2011
They are planning a demonstration on Wednesday. Mobilizing for the upcoming action is the United Federation Of Teachers, 32BJ SEIU, 1199 SEIU (the largest Union Local in the country), Workers United, Transport Workers Union 100. Very often these Unions lend their names to progressive actions but the actual numbers who show up are few because the Unions doesn't promote it and get the word out to the rank and file. Wednesday may be very different.
In the announcement of their action they made it clear to all those who have been involved with the actions for the last couple of weeks, that they are not coming to control anything, they are coming to add to it. As they said, "It is the right fight, at the right time and we want to be a part of it". Let's hope the power of the Union is exhibited to the younger generation in a massive outpouring in New York City on Wednesday!!
I agree with some of Ethnicguy's conclusions, disagree or would differently nuance some of the other conclusions, but mostly Ethnicguy's post lead me to some further thinking.
I'd like to start with Ethnicguy's 3rd from last paragraph:
".... In any event, absent from this discussion is any truly independent role for labor in politics. A break with the Democrats under these conditions could mean an opportunistic move to the right by segments of the labor movement. And under those conditions, it seems to me, it is important for people on the left to work to hold the line against opportunism in the labor movement. Now is not the time to talk about elections-based third parties (except in states with fusion voting) or to pose too much criticism or aim too much fire at the Obama administration. Rather, now is the time to direct the criticism and attack the right directly from within the labor movement."
Opportunism in the labor movement?
Let's face it -- for most of its history the American labor movement has rested comfortably on a foundation of opportunism. Opportunism is what American labor is about. "Punish your friends and reward your enemies" is the basic operational mantra and only core principle of American labor.
This principle was recently re-stated by an anonymous union president who said, "better to be at the table and receive nothing than not to be at the table at all." It never occurs to such union leaders that organized workers could run the kitchen; such thoughts would interfere with the main goal of rubbing shoulders with American capital's mighty and powerful.
With a few very important historical exceptions, American labor has stood only for its institutional survival and narrow prosperity. It has eschewed any notion of representing the American working class and its strategies have relied proudly on collaborating with capital in the narrow interests of furthering the goals of individual unions, their leaders and members -- regardless of the consequences.
Unfortunately, it is this opportunistic mindset that seems to be governing labor's intensification of its political program. Key will be the same reliance on rewarding friends and punishing enemies. And the results will inevitably include backing a couple Republican candidates by a few unions. This intensification will also result in backing lots of the same candidates as before with unions stepping out to do home visits to the unrepresented 90% of American workers, all aimed at securing labor's invitation to the proverbial table yet again delivering nothing to American workers.
That the above is what is likely to come out of labor's intensified political program is virtually guaranteed by labor's refusal to adopt an independent political agenda. And practically speaking, without an independent agenda it will be very hard for labor to have the kind of electoral impact it wants.
Here the problem is simply that the American political process has lost all credibility for working folk, for obvious reasons.
Obama and lightening up on the criticism
I disagree with Ethnicguy regarding the need to circumscribe criticism of the Democrats and the Obama Administration. Labor and all of us need to keep the critical focus on the Democrats. The way I figure it, Obama's recent tendency to push back against the Republicans is almost exclusively due to the criticisms he has received from the progressive end of the political spectrum.
Theoretically, criticism aimed at the Obama Administration and Democratic policy could help move the Democrats toward some kind of relevancy for working people as November 2012 approaches.
Interestingly, labor is not where a lot of this progressive criticism has come from. This is because labor has no principles, agenda, or anything of substance to say to working people. To my mind, labor needs to ratchet up its criticism of the Democrats -- not with threats of bolting the party or staying home on election day -- but with concrete and substantive analysis. This should include meaningful alternatives and options.
At this point in time, a meaningful third party is pure fantasy. The broad progressive left, including labor, has no analysis or agenda on which to build a third party. A third party dedicated to nothing more than punishing Obama and the Democrats might feel good emotionally but the effect would most likely be to deliver the nation to an extremely authoritarian right wing.
Avoiding Movement Building
American labor is a movement without a mission. Traditional union functions have been abandoned. The abandonment of these functions began when American unions did little more than watch and whine as their guts were carved out through the de-industrialization of the 1980s. Through this period, shop floors were abandoned and strikes -- that primary tool of organized workers -- were as rare as hen's teeth -- in spite of a number of opportunities where an effective strike could have won the day.
The results of this trend within labor has been the loss of any large scale impact on working class economics and the absence of unions in the day-to-day life of working people.
Labor's fixation on the political as the highest priority during the last three decades, and the way in which labor sees its political role, is the obvious consequence of its failure to be a labor movement. The emphasis on the political is not so much due to the potential gains for working people in the political arena as much as something for international union leaders to do in order to justify their otherwise irrelevant existences.
Where I'm going with all of this
The aim of progressives -- and labor progressives in particular -- is to build a movement. "Movement" means collective action, based on solidarity, with certain self-developed goals to be achieved. I see none of this in labor's current political discussion.
Likewise, the broad progressive spectrum in America needs to give up on its demand for the perfect messiah type leader and instead move on its principles through collective action.
10 Years in Afghanistan: End the Wars-Bring Our $$ Home
RALLY, MARCH AND FORUM TO MARK ANNIVERSARY OF 2001 AFGHAN INVASION
Event to tie the economy to America's ongoing wars
Rally at 1 PM in Shemanski Park (South Park Blocks at Salmon St), and a march at 1:30 PM will bring participants to the First Unitarian Church for a 2:30 PM forum.
Speakers at the rally and forum will address these topics:
--Self Determination for the Middle East?--End Militarism?--Money for Jobs and Health Care?--Protect Human and Civil Rights
The forum speakers will be PSU sociology professor Veronica Dujon, Lewis and Clark College economics professor Martin Hart-Landsberg, and executive director of the national Bill of Rights Defense Committee Shahid Buttar.
October 15 has also been picked as a day of national action by the United National Antiwar campaign (http://nepajac.org/oct15page1.htm).
Cosponsors of the Portland event include Peace and Justice Works Iraq Affinity Group, Portland Peaceful Response Coalition, the Peace Action Committee of the First Unitarian Church, Alliance for Democracy-Portland Chapter, Metanoia Peace Community, East Timor Action Network/Portland, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, International Socialist Organization , Portland Jobs with Justice, KBOO Community Radio 90.7 FM (media cosponsor), Women's International League for Peace and Freedom-Portland, Tikkun Olam committee of P'nai Or, Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights (AUPHR), Augustana Lutheran Church, and Portland Area Rethinking Schools.
Endorsers include Recruiter Watch PDX, Little Light of Mine Friends Worship Group, Jewish Voice for Peace-Portland, Freedom Socialist Party, Women in Black-Portland, Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER), Portland Alliance (media endorser), No War Drum Corps, Oregon Wildlife Federation, and Back 2 the WALL.
For more information or for your organization to get involved, contact Peace and Justice Works at 503-236-3065.
TaborSpace 5441 SE Belmont, Portland
Washington and Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility Health Delegation to Gaza
On October 18, health-care workers from WA and OR will be going to Gaza. Maxine Fookson, Nurse Practitioner from Portland, will be a member of this group.
We invite you to a fundraiser to purchase health care supplies requested by Gaza health centers.
~Delicious Middle Eastern food
~Socialize with friends
~Learn about health issues in Gaza
Please join us and spread the word... Maxine Fookson and Ned Rosch firstname.lastname@example.org
Tax deductible donations to buy medicine and supplies for this trip may be made by sending a check to:
Oregon PSR (Physicians for Social Responsibility)
812 SW Washington Street, Suite 1050
Portland, Oregon 97205
write "Gaza" on memo line.
September 29, 2011
Union members at Jeld-Wen sites across Australia remain in dispute with their employer after more than three weeks of protests and stalled negotiations including a period in which they were locked out of their workplace.
Building on the ongoing web based campaign against Jeld-Wen here , at the BWI Regional Conference, in Seoul on September 21, 2011, affiliates throughout the region expressed their solidarity to CFMEU members during their struggle. In addition, individual unions, such as KAHUTINDO from Indonesia, directly expressed their support for the union’s cause.
Jeld-Wen, a multinational company from the USA, has continued to offer a cut in the workers’ real-wages during negotiations, even going so far as to insult union members by submitting a revised wage offer, increasing their previous offer by $1.70 AU per week - half the cost of a cup of coffee in Australia.
Jeld-Wen must begin engaging in good-faith bargaining with the union and listen to the needs of their loyal and dedicated workers.
BWI will continue to monitor the situation.
September 28, 2011
Civic Circle - downtown Longview, WA by the Post Office
Thursday, Sept. 29th, 5:30pm
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 21 in Longview, Washington is waging a heroic battle to stop international conglomerate EGT Development from breaking a longstanding master agreement the ILWU has at the Port of Longview's publicly subsidized grain terminal.
As of Monday, about 135 longshore workers and supporters have been detained and/or arrested, including International Pres. Robert McEllrath and Local 21 President Dan Coffman. On Sat. Sept., 24 the ILWU organized informational picketing to protest police violence against ILWU members and the ILWU Ladies Auxillary who have been brutalized by the police while trying to stop grain shipments and stand up for their jobs and livelihoods against EGT's unionbusting.
Now we have the opportunity to show that all of us in the Northwest stand 100 percent with the ILWU Local 21! We hope this is the first of many Labor/community support rallies defending everyone's rights to organize on the job.
Please also help spread the word about the solidarity night -- tell your friends, unions, family and co-workers and community groups! Let's send EGT a loud message that unionbusters are not welcome in Washington State!
September 27, 2011
The situation just got more complex, or as complex as it's been in my lifetime. The New York Times is reporting:
But the ruling (Citizens United) also changed the rules for unions, effectively ending a prohibition on outreach to nonunion households. Now, unions can use their formidable numbers to reach out to sympathetic nonunion voters by knocking on doors, calling them at home and trying to get them to polling places. They can also create their own Super PACs to underwrite bigger voter identification and get-out-the-vote operations than ever before.
As part of this overhaul, Richard L. Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., has said organized labor will be more independent of the Democratic Party, sitting out races where unions are disappointed with the Democratic candidate's positions on issues important to them and
occasionally financing primary challengers to Democratic incumbents.
The unions said they even intended to back a few Republicans they judge to have been generally supportive of their agenda, like Representative Steven C. LaTourette of Ohio.
Mr. Trumka said unions were tired of Democratic politicians taking them for granted after labor shoveled millions of dollars into Democratic campaigns. In distancing themselves, at least a bit, from the Democrats, unions are becoming part of a trend in which newly empowered outside groups build what are essentially party structures of their own-in this case, to somewhat offset the money flowing into conservative groups that are doing the same thing.
So it would seem from this report that labor leaders are prepared to break from the Democrats and move to the right as a sign of political independence. And not only that, but there is some obvious sense in those circles that labor can compete with corporate spending and win or influence elections. Further complicating the issue is the apparent cave to the Citizens United decision by some labor leaders, which splits some labor forces from allies in the progressive community just as the Move To Amend movement begins to grow. Some of us have noted these trends in labor over the past two election cycles and raised the issue with other leftists with no good results.
The article goes on to say:
Labor leaders complain that after unions spent more than $200 million to help elect President Obama and Congressional Democrats in 2008, the Democrats did not deliver on labor's priorities, including a stimulus
plan large enough to reinvigorate the economy and legislation that would make it far easier to unionize workers, central to labor's hopes of reversing its decline.
In an interview, Mr. Trumka said the A.F.L.-C.I.O. would initially inject $10 million into its still unnamed Super PAC - far less than the $100 million that some conservative Super PACs have - in large part to build a year-round political structure for labor.
"The way we used to do politics is we'd set up a structure six months before the election, and after Election Day we'd dismantle it," Mr. Trumka said. "Now we're going to have a full-time campaign, and that campaign will be able to move, hopefully, from electoral politics to issue advocacy and accountability," meaning holding union-backed lawmakers accountable.
Unions are recasting how they do politics after labor leaders reluctantly recognized their political predicament: as union membership has shrunk in recent years, it has become harder for unions - perhaps the Democrats' most powerful ally - to elect the candidates they support.
Michael A. Podhorzer, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s political director, said the need for a new strategy became evident last November. He said that even though unions conducted a huge campaign operation in Ohio, the labor-backed candidate for governor, Ted Strickland, a Democrat, lost to the Republican, John R. Kasich.
"It became apparent that even in races where union members voted overwhelmingly in support of a pro-worker candidate, we could still lose," Mr. Podhorzer said. "President Trumka asked, `How do we get programs that win elections and not just put up a good fight?' "
Before the Citizens United ruling, unions were banned from using dues money to reach out to nonmembers in political campaigns, but now unions plan to campaign among the 89 percent of Americans who do not belong to unions. Union officials have long complained that when their foot soldiers knocked on doors in, say, Milwaukee or Columbus, Ohio, they wasted huge amounts of time because they could visit only union members' homes and often had to skip 90 percent of the houses. Now they can knock on every door on a block.
Many Democrats wish that money would go directly to party building or individual campaigns. Moreover, many national Democrats fear that labor will focus on state and local races - at the expense of presidential, Senate and House races - to help assure union survival after Republicans in Wisconsin and Ohio enacted legislation sharply limiting the power of public-sector unions.
The comments about Milwaukee and Columbus are clearly wrong, but the article does highlight a way that the most progressive unions and union locals have been doing politics for some time now. In any event, absent from this discussion is any truly independent role for labor in politics. A break with the Democrats under these conditions could mean an opportunistic move to the right by segments of the labor movement. And under those conditions, it seems to me, it is important for people on the left to work to hold the line against opportunism in the labor movement. Now is not the time to talk about elections-based third parties (except in states with fusion voting) or to pose too much criticism or aim too much fire at the Obama administration. Rather, now is the time to direct the criticism and attack the right directly from within the labor movement.
We are past the point of labor having a comfortable spot in any national administration and the role or title of "loyal opposition" does not fit. This much is openly acknowledged by most labor leaders. What is unclear and up for debate is what position exactly that puts labor in and what the social base labor has to draw on is at this point.
Those forces on the left who have continued to call for an immediate break by labor from the Democrats now need to think through the full equation. We see that a break from the Democrats is not necessarily a move to the left, or even a step towards real political independence. Break from the Democrats---and do what exactly? Moreover, these forces need to declare what they will do in 2012. Will they sit out the election, run a progressive candidate and split the left and the working class or will they vote for Obama after all?
September 26, 2011
September 25, 2011
But all of this is not enough; nowhere near enough to even make a dent as the big picture points increasingly towards global economic collapse.
Obama's recent moves towards combating Republican bully behavior and challenging the Republican "race to the bottom" agenda is good politics. As economic policy, however, Obama's recent policy changes are flawed in aim as well as being too little too late.
Off course and as usual, Obama gave way too much away. So, at the same time the White House announced that raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires is a key priority, the White House also announced that the other half of Obama's $3 - 4 trillion deficit reduction plan will come primarily from Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid cuts.
As such, the White House is doing nothing more than robbing Peter to pay Paul. Cutting entitlement programs, or as I would prefer to call them, universal social benefits, will only add to the national economic structural problem, which is too much wealth at the top and a rapidly decreasing standard of living for everyone else. At the same time too, Obama's jobs program is just too small to have a more than a percent or two effect on unemployment.
The Big Picture
The global economy is about one thing and one thing only; maximum exploitation of resources and populations for maximum profits. Everything else that might be said about the global economy, "world prosperity", "global development", all that stuff is nothing more than window dressing and spin.
The name of the game in the last 30 years of world economic development has been to find the cheapest labor and cheapest resources wherever they might exist, organize these global resources within a global "just in time" production cycle, and the resulting tremendous profits go to the biggest players.
The problem is this global economy is breaking down; indeed, it has been breaking down since 2008 and has been on borrowed time for a least the last decade.
Here's the structural economic mess that is now:
All the world's resources have been organized towards enriching the traditional First World. All of the growth that has happened in China and most of Asia, all of that Free Trade treaty mania is about producing products to be sold in the First World. And to all of those who have organized this global economy go the massive profits.
The First World can no longer afford the goods the global economy makes. Capitalist enterprises -- with their mentality aimed at maximizing all profitable possibilities without regard to effects and costs -- has also shifted living standards downward for most First World citizens.
Global capitalism has evolved over the last 30 years within the context of falling wages, excessive profit extraction (cost shifting benefits, loss of benefits, prohibitively expensive credit, etc.), and over-all rising costs of essentials for those living in North America and Europe.
It is thus no surprise that the last 30 years of global economic history is characterized by galloping income inequality with wealth massively flowing to the top while poverty rates rise for the working classes and poor. (I get a kick out of the right wing's insistence that we call the rich "job creators". The real story is the rich did lots of serious "job destruction" as it moved production from the First World to the Developing World, with real "job creation" being at lower rates of pay and brutal working conditions.)
It was probably a decade or more ago when the First World tipped the balance and passed the point where it could no longer afford the global economy it had created.
This tip in the balance was masked by easily available credit -- although at exorbitant prices -- and it has been this credit which fueled the illusory prosperity of the first decade of the 21st century here in North America and in Europe.
Over the last few months it has become apparent that developing exporter nations are starting to feel the effects of the lack of consumption in the First World. China has reported dropping productive activity during the summer of 2011. India likewise is experiencing a drop in its export oriented industries and services.
And again, capitalist Europe in the form of the European Union is on the verge of collapse, this imminent collapse being the result of the European banking system's over-investment in the project of making Europe one big coordinated market (what the European Union really is) and in European banks' over-participation in the US housing bubble.
Facing Global Collapse
The popular term here in the USA is "double dip recession". Given what's really happening, calling the impending collapse a "double dip recession" is like calling World War II a series of border skirmishes.
With a globally interlocked economy, a crisis at the top of the economic food chain means a crisis for just about everyone on the planet.
As I think about President Obama's recent directional changes I can't help but to look at these changes within the context of global disaster. It's good politics for 2012, but really, we're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
September 24, 2011
Mr. President of the General Assembly of the United Nations,
September 23, 2011
|Peace Walk and Fair 2011 with Cindy and Craig Corrie|
|Join us! Open to all. No charge!|
Peace Walk and Fair 2011
Sunday, September 25
McMinnville Cooperative Ministries
544 NE 2nd Street
3:00 Walk for Peace
Bring your signs, and meet in the Great Room of the newer building at McMinnville Cooperative Ministries! As we sing together a few peace songs, we'll be energized for our walk!
We'll then amble slowly as a group for approximately one mile through the downtown area of McMinnville and along Baker and Adams Streets. For people who prefer less walking, we recommend standing at visible street corners where signs can be held up for motorists to see.
Come early -- about 3:45 -- for a little extra music! Child care is provided.
We'll begin our program at 4:00 PM. This year our keynote speakers are Craig and Cindy Corrie.
5:15 Peace FAIR begins
More than twelve different organizations will display information regarding their peace and justice activities. You will have the opportunity to talk with an individual who represents this organization. Share stories, find out how you can participate, increase your network, or buy an book, t-shirt, or item that supports these efforts.
5:45 Soup & Bread Supper
Share a simple meal with new friends and neighbors. This time together has been an enjoyable and valuable time to share our visions and interests.
Baskets at the table are available for you to make a donation to cover food costs if you wish, but you are our guest, so please don't feel obligated.
by William M. Adler
Bloomsbury USA. 435 pp. $30
Joe Hill was the legendary singer and songwriter of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, or the Wobblies), the largest and most successful of the revolutionary syndicalist movements in the USA. He was convicted of a shooting murder in Salt Lake City in 1914 and was executed in 1915. The primary proof of his guilt rested upon a bullet wound he received the same night as a grocer and his son were murdered in Salt Lake.
In between his arrest and murder by the state an international solidarity movement formed in his defense which gathered diverse forces and pressed for either exoneration and freedom or commutation. Much of the music, poetry and artwork we associate with Hill today was done while he was incarcerated and awaiting execution, but not all of it. He left behind an impressive collection of what would become known as "labor songs" and "protest songs" in later years--indeed, he was known for this during his short lifetime--which the IWW published and popularized. The labor movement was in those days in many regions a singing movement and the IWW used this to good effect. An enduring legend has grown up around Hill that holds strong to this day.
Hill insisted upon his innocence but never publicly provided a narrative that might have freed him. He claimed to have been shot in a fight over a woman but never identified the woman or the shooter. He insisted on a fair trial, which he was clearly denied, and did not take the stand in his defense during his trial. Adler's book makes the claim that the author can name the woman and the shooter, thereby proving Hill's innocence, prove who did kill the two people Hill was thought to have killed and dissemble the prosecution's case against him.
It is a relatively easy matter to establish that Hill's trial was unfair and that the judge, prosecutor and jury were biased against him for political reasons. The author does this quite well and without turning his book into a legal brief. There is some repetition and hand-wringing as he makes his case, but Adler is on solid ground as he takes apart the prosecution's case against Hill point by point.
Adler is less convincing when he attempts to provide a counter-narrative to the one developed by the prosecution. There is a strong hint of who the woman was Hill fought over and who shot Hill. There is even much evidence provided which points at who did shoot the two people Hill was wrongly accused of shooting. However, in the end, we have nothing quite fully convincing. We accept Hill's innocence on faith or not, a faith buttressed by Adler's reasonable arguments and suppositions and the terrible travesty of justice that was Hill's trial--but belief in Hill's innocence or guilt remains a matter of faith.
Adler's book, like Anthony Lucas' great book Big Trouble, will introduce many people to the IWW and the labor movement, the field of labor history, the use of the courts against militant labor and the idea that people can protest injustices en masse internationally. Adler's book is well researched, thoughtful and carries in it some obvious and understandable biases which favor Hill and the IWW. It unearths much new information and puts together facts and arguments we have long known about in a new or novel way. This is not the first work to deal at length with Hill or his legal case, but it is by far the best. This book deserves to be read and shared and debated.
My problems with the book are centered on Adler's reliance on the historical work Melvin Dubofsky did on the IWW a generation ago. Much of Dubofsky's work has ether been discredited or superseded by social historians who have provided a better view of the IWW and its history. Neither Dubofsky nor Adler have told us convincingly why the IWW was unable to establish lasting local unions, or even a movement, which survived the strikes they organized. Adler also falls short on dissembling the myth of Joe Hill and Hill's effect on popular culture. He lets an anti-Semitic remark Hill made after the San Francisco earthquake go without question and we do not learn from this book how, or if, Hill ever folded into the mainstream of American working class culture. (In fact, American labor historians have yet to answer the question of what an American worker is.) Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who shared in the leadership of Hill's defense and solidarity work, deserves more room in the text than she got. Adler also lets a supposed quote from Sacco and Vanzetti stand--a quote they did not say or offer. Some of this points to sloppy scholarship and some of it points to accepting the dogmas of one liberal school of US labor history.
Still and all, this is a good book. Read it.
On the day "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was finally abolished the Marines have bravely marched to the shore. Actually all branches of the service were invited to the Tulsa Equality Center and only the Marines showed up. Of course they say they are the best branch of the service so they want to be first in recruiting this new group of Marines.
There were not a flood of applicants. After 4 hours they only talked to three, all lesbians.
The first was already in the Oklahoma National Guard and wondering if there were openings for Behavior Health Officers. She was told "no".
The second had scars on her upper arm from cutting herself in high school. He told her it was a certain medical disqualification but kindly said he would make some calls for her.
The third was an overweight high school dropout. He gently told her to come back when she has a diploma and gets in shape.
The Marines were undaunted by the number ("we usually sign up only one out of 10"). Sargent Henry, an Iraq Veteran, added that the bad economy is a motivation but often it is the same as always: "They want to be a Marine to blow stuff up."
September 21, 2011
Cooper was born in Valley Head, West Virginia and came out of a tradition of mountain singing which is frequently confused with bluegrass. She came from a religious and musical family and from a background in which religion was immediate, up close and personal. Her family appeared in a 1938 music festival organized by Eleanor Roosevelt. She also appeared for many years on the radio station WWVA in Wheeling, where the tri-state coal fields intersect. It's worth pausing and considering what life might be like if we had a government which sponsored people's and folk music and local radio stations which filled the airwaves with that music.
Cooper's career and musical development spanned a period of time which is worth thinking about. The Grand Ole Opry recruited musicians like Cooper--people "from the roots" and out of the working class--and then stylized their music and created something new. This became a part of postwar American mass culture and came to define "country music" as a new category quite separate from people's music, folk music and the blues. This did not happen without cultural struggle and without contradiction, of course. People hung on to their traditional musics despite cultural and political pressures and not every aspiring star fit into the Grand Ole Opry mold. And even the Grand Ole Opry had to concede some space to these musicians. In the 1970s and 1980s some of the more popular and wealthier musicians who had been rejected by the Opry began to be known as "outlaws" and they became successful again precisely because the Grand Ole Opry and the recording industry monopoly had rejected them earlier. The "outlaws" were eventually absorbed by that industry.
There are strong parallels here with what happened to punk rock and ethic musics, of course.
Cooper's music was complex because it reflected the complexities of life in Appalachia, America's "inner colony." Wilma Lee Cooper proudly claimed to be "traditional" and "country." We should study what those terms mean and better understand how culture is being constantly transformed in the US.
Some of Wilma Lee Cooper's best work can be found here.
September 20, 2011
September 19, 2011
Dilek Koc is a Turkish-born singer of rembetika, the blues music generally associated with the refugees forced to leave Turkey in the disastrous population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923. Rembetika has been generally associated with the tavern, the prison and hashish smokers. Rembetika never really goes away, although it has been alternately repressed and commercialized. There is nothing inherently political about rembetika, but it speaks especially to the displaced and marginalized. It had a brief intersection with the youth and "new ethnic" cultures of the 1970s and 1980s when the film Rembetiko was made and the group Annabouboula was briefly popular. It is a kind of "world music" that most world music fans overlook and which many Greek record stores either refuse to stock or place in the back bins. Rembetika, the Sephardic music of the popular Yasmin Levy and certain klezmer derivations have much in common. Roza Eskenazi was one of the great rembetissas who made this mixture and these influences happen. She has been compared to Bessie Smith--a comparison which will not be made with Koc but which bears some consideration.
Rembetika records were also produced in the United States. I think that they spoke mainly to lonely male immigrants and to people who were for one reason or another excluded from the mainstream of Greek-American culture. A specific rembetika subculture did indeed exist here and that needs to be remembered. Greek-American coffeehouses and mutual aid societies divided over political and cultural questions and often did so dramatically. It took Americanization, forced assimilation, McCarthyism and the passing of time to kill that subculture. Rounder Records did us a great favor by reissuing and translating records that the Greek-American establishment marginalized and sought to overcome.
I am excited about Dilek Koc because her music and its popularity in Greece, where she currently lives, comes at a time when Greek and Turkish nationalists particularly wish to rewrite the past to suit their separate and competing agendas and while popular unrest in both countries grows. I believe that rembetika is one means, one cultural expression, which can interest and unite people--it can be rediscovered, reworked and express "globalization from below" in the way that Manu Chao and other artists do. Woody Guthrie asked that we remember him as a man who told us what we already knew and Antonio Gramsci developed the theory of "organic intellectuals" and rembetika expresses this, or can express this, as it develops. Koc may be one of those organic intellectuals in the making.
Koc recently gave an interview to the right-wing Turkish newspaper Zaman in which she expressed her humanism and her thoughtful approach to her music. She emphasized in that interview the existence of a shared history between Greek and Turkish peoples. She also spoke somewhat candidly about how the Greek economic crisis has affected her. She uses the word "solidarity" at one point in her interview and she clearly rejects the star system. I cannot think of a current and popular American singer who publicly takes such an approach to her music and her career. Her music is beautiful and is worth looking for.
Young musicians in Turkey and Greece will need to go to their shared underground histories and rediscover the languages and the songs which once united the poorest of the poor and those who were forced to emigrate. It's not that Turkey and Greece lack revolutionary musicians, or that Koc and rembetika will fill some existing void, but that history is a tool and a weapon when used correctly and that it is the past and the present which births the future through struggle. We have more control over history and how it is interpreted than we realize and we will be oppressed so long as we see ourselves as history's servants rather than its masters. The fatalism of rembetika can and should be rejected, but the form, rebellion and history of this music can and should be used to create something new and radical. Koc helps that project even if she does so unwittingly.
Many young Americans with no ties to the Balkans or Turkey or the Arab and African countries are discovering the pleasures of relaxing with a narghile. The New York Times recently ran a front-page article warning against this and states are cracking down on "hookah bars." The popularity of smoking a narghile or hookah seems to be growing at the same time as more local bands in places like Portland show an interest in Balkan or Balkan-fusion music. What are missing from the "narghile scene" are the consciousness that this cultural shift indicates and a music which expresses this consciousness. I hope that as these young people adapt new cultural forms and ways of socializing they will look into rembetika music and find Dilen Koc. Without this consciousness and this music something is missing from the experience. Rembetika was, after all, one of the original narghile musics.
See a video of Koc and the mainstream Glykeria here.
Marxist-Leninists think about morality a bit differently than other progressives. Like any good Stalinist, I have presented the three major points of departure in list form below, for brevity and clarity. Note that they apply to political conditions in the US specifically.
1. There is no absolute morality. Morality flows from historical conditions, not the other way around. Two million or so years ago, stoning was socially progressive, since it allowed a group of physically weaker humans to overcome a single stronger human, opening up the possibility of a social order different than "strongest rules". Two thousand millennia later, stoning is a brutish practice opposed by progressive humanity. Morality is the endpoint, not the beginning.
2. Our job is not to tell people what is important in life. Individual values also come primarily from social and historical conditions. Our task is to alter those conditions via revolution and winning state power. We cannot expect anyone to accept one set of values while objective conditions favor a different set of values, and no one can expect that the vast majority will or should adopt her or his values under any conditions. We are about material conditions, not subjective views.
3. "Right living" is a religious concept and has no place in a political movement in a religiously heterogeneous society. The idea of right living is not always cited explicitly, but it often permeates many discussions; the stated aim of its adherents is to promote a lifestyle more in harmony with "nature", "social justice" or even personal health and well-being. However, the collection of habits and living arrangements that is collectively referred to as lifestyle also flows from objective conditions, and so engaging in lifestyle based propaganda and organizing amounts at best to putting the cart before the horse. At worst, it leads to cultural chauvinism that considers adherents of a particular lifestyle morally and/or spiritually superior. Our ultimate goal is not to teach people how to "live correctly," as a religious disciple might, but to achieve economic democracy under which the working class decides for itself how it wants to live.
September 16, 2011
We invite you to attend our conference ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE: RACE, CLASS AND POWER to learn about the Environmental justice inequalities and injustices that are experienced in our workplace environments and in our communities, and what we can do to respond as a community. We will discuss why it is a matter of fundamental human rights and justice, and not simply an environmental issue. The environmental justice movement is a response to societal racism and classism that affects us all.
Professor Veronica Dujon is a dynamic and powerful speaker. She will be providing a framework on why particular groups have been exposed to more pollutants and environmental hazards, and how communities can respond.
PLACES ARE LIMITED. PLEASE REGISTER EARLY!
Conference is from 9am – 2pm in the Portland SEIU Local 503 office, doors will open at 8 AM.
REGISTRATION DEADLINE, 5 P.M., FRIDAY,OCTOBER 7TH 2011
REGISTER AT: http://seiu503.seiu.org/page/signup/environmental-justice
We hope that you’ll join us.
- Theodora Ko Thompson, Co-Chair, Civil and Human Rights Committee
- Carmen Morales-Mayoral, Co-Chair, Civil and Human Rights Committee
Event Time: 7:30 pm
Location: Willamette University, Hudson Hall
900 STATE ST
SALEM, OR, 97301-3922
In the Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center, east of Smith Auditorium.
Organization: Oregon PeaceWorks
More Info: http://www.oregonpeaceworks.org
Description: CONTACT: CHARLES WALLACE (503) 370-6213
PETER BERGEL 503-371-8002
PEACE LECTURER WILL BE FAMED PALESTINIAN JOURNALIST
Rami Khouri will deliver Salem’s annual Peace Lecture on October 19th at 7:30 p.m. at Willamette University’s Hudson Hall in the Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center. As this year’s Peace Lecturer, Khouri becomes the 22nd speaker in a series which has featured such luminaries as Daniel Ellsberg, Philip Berrigan, Helen Caldicott, Jonathan Schell, Dolores Huerta and many others. The lecture is free and open to the public. His topic is “The Arab Spring: Revolution or Evolution?”
Khouri is a Palestinian-Jordanian and a U.S. citizen whose family resides in Beirut, Amman and Nazareth. He is the director of the Issam Fares Institute of Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut as well as editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper.
Each year the Peace Lecture committee also selects Salem’s Peacemaker of the Year. This year the Peace Mosaic Project, which mobilized some 600 area residents to create a peace mosaic on Salem’s YMCA building, will be honored at the lecture.
Khouri has been a visiting scholar at Stanford University and was the recipient of the 2006 Pax Christi International Peace Award for his efforts to bring peace and reconciliation to the Middle East.
He is a frequent commentator on Middle Eastern affairs on National Public Radio and PBS TV, particularly Jim Lehrer’s News Hour.
“Rami Khouri is an ideal person to inform Western audiences about what’s happening on the ground in the Middle East and about the deeper meaning of the ‘Arab Spring,’” noted Peace Lecture committee member Fariborz Pakseresht. “His lecture will explore the interplay between nonviolence and violence in the area this year.”
Khouri holds BA and MS degrees in political science and mass communications from Syracuse University. He held top editor positions for two Middle Eastern newspapers for ten years and his articles have appeared in the Financial Times, the Boston Globe and the Washington Post. He has also held fellowship positions at Syracuse’s Maxwell School, Harvard Divinity School and Harvard’s Kennedy School.
For more information about the Salem Peace Lecture, please contact Willamette University Chaplain Charlie Wallace at (503) 370-6213.
Event Time: 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Location: St.Stephen's Episcopal Church
410 SW 9TH ST
NEWPORT, OR, 97365-4725
Upstairs meeting room
Organization: Coastal Progressives of Lincoln and South Tillamook Counties
More Info: http://NIOT.org
Description: As part of the programs planned locally for International Peace Week, the Immigration Information Response Team of Coastal Progressives is hosting a free screening and public discussion of a new PBS documentary, Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness, at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, SW 9th and Hurbert in Newport, on Tuesday, September 20 at 7 p.m..
Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness tells the story of residents of a Long Island village as they come together to take action after a local immigrant is killed in a hate crime attack by seven teenagers. The film provides a blueprint for addressing the underlying causes of the violence, working to heal divisions and taking steps to ensure everyone will be safe and respected.
The film screening will be followed by a discussion about what local residents can do to help keep Lincoln County an inclusive and Welcoming Community for all its residents.
The screening in Newport is also part of the Not In Our Town National Week of Action, September 18-24. During the Week of Action, communities across the country will use the film to find ways to prevent hate crimes and anti-immigrant violence. Public media stations, along with national partners, including faith-based organizations, the Department of Justice Community-Oriented Policing Services Office, National League of Cities, National Hispanic Media Coalition, and Welcoming America, will also use the film to initiate dialogue about intolerance in their communities.
Spanish-language subtitles will be provided. For more information about the event, please contact Jorge Hernandez at Centro de Ayuda, 541 265 6216. For more information about Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness, including the film trailer, visit NIOT.org.
-Saturday, September 17, 11:00 US Day of Rage, Portland Action of people coming out “raging against the machine” in Pioneer Square, down town Portland: One citizen, One dollar, One vote.
-Monday, September 19, 6:30pm, Crossing the Border to Cananea film, at Musicians’ Union Hall (325 NE 20th Ave. Portland). Come to learn about the long struggle of the Mexican copper miners. Organized by LERC and PCASC, Sept 19, 6:30
-Friday, September 23, 7pm, “Short films to inspire action” night. At SEIU 503 building (6401 SE Foster Rd.). Move beyond Fossil Fuels and demand solutions to the climate crisis.
-Saturday, September 24, 11:45 to 3:pm, Moving Planet Portland A Climate Action Fest at Memorial Coliseum Commons. Come celebrate the idea of environmental justice and, in particular, to look at ways we can put the brakes on climate change by eliminating our reliance on fossil fuels. Fun activities and great speakers.
- Dignity in Schools Campaign National Week of Action on School Pushout, information actions to let people know about the reality behind the drop-out crisis and demand support for school policies that protect and promote the human rights of students. From October 1st to 8th, 2011 info on www.dignityinschools.org
-Right to Survive Oct. 10th National day of the homeless, action in Downtown Portland. More info to come