In the Belly of the Beast: 6/15/11: Race and 2012: What Too Few Progressives are Prepared to Discuss

INDEX (full text of stories follow Democracy Now headlines)


“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”





Why the Republican War on Workers’ Rights Undermines the American Economy

from Robert Reich

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The battle has resumed in Wisconsin. The state supreme court has allowed Governor Scott Walker to strip bargaining rights from state workers.

Meanwhile, governors and legislators in New Hampshire and Missouri are attacking private unions, seeking to make the states so-called “open shop” where workers can get all the benefits of being union members without paying union dues. Needless to say this ploy undermines the capacity of unions to do much of anything. Other Republican governors and legislatures are following suit.

Republicans in Congress are taking aim at the National Labor Relations Board, which issued a relatively minor proposed rule change allowing workers to vote on whether to unionize soon after a union has been proposed, rather than allowing employers to delay the vote for years. Many employers have used the delaying tactics to retaliate against workers who try to organize, and intimidate others into rejecting a union.

This war on workers’ rights is an assault on the middle class, and it is undermining the American economy.

The American economy can’t get out of neutral until American workers have more money in their pockets to buy what they produce. And unions are the best way to give them the bargaining power to get better pay.

For three decades after World War II – I call it the “Great Prosperity” – wages rose in tandem with productivity. Americans shared the gains of growth, and had enough money to buy what they produced.

That’s largely due to the role of labor unions. In 1955, over a third of American workers in the private sector were unionized. Today, fewer than 7 percent are.

With the decline of unions came the stagnation of American wages. More and more of the total income and wealth of America has gone to the very top. Middle-class purchasing power depended on mothers going into paid work, everyone working longer hours, and, finally, the middle class going deep into debt, using their homes as collateral.

But now all these coping mechanisms are exhausted — and we’re living with the consequence.

Some say the Great Prosperity was an anomaly. America’s major competitors lay in ruins. We had the world to ourselves. According to this view, there’s no going back.

But this view is wrong. If you want to see the same basic bargain we had then, take a look at Germany now.

Germany is growing much faster than the United States. Its unemployment rate is now only 6.1 percent (we’re now at 9.1 percent).

What’s Germany’s secret? In sharp contrast to the decades of stagnant wages in America, real average hourly pay has risen almost 30 percent there since 1985. Germany has been investing substantially in education and infrastructure.

How did German workers do it? A big part of the story is German labor unions are still powerful enough to insist that German workers get their fair share of the economy’s gains.

That’s why pay at the top in Germany hasn’t risen any faster than pay in the middle. As David Leonhardt reported in the New York Times recently, the top 1 percent of German households earns about 11 percent of all income – a percent that hasn’t changed in four decades.

Contrast this with the United States, where the top 1 percent went from getting 9 percent of total income in the late 1970s to more than 20 percent today.

The only way back toward sustained growth and prosperity in the United States is to remake the basic bargain linking pay to productivity. This would give the American middle class the purchasing power they need to keep the economy going.

Part of the answer is, as in Germany, stronger labor unions — unions strong enough to demand a fair share of the gains from productivity growth.

The current Republican assault on workers’ rights continues a thirty-year war on American workers’ wages. That long-term war has finally taken its toll on the American economy.

It’s time to fight back.

Long-Awaited Memoir by Robert Jay Lifton, Key ‘Witness,’ Arrives — With Lessons for Today

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

Robert Jay Lifton has been a witness, in the broadest, most profound, meaning of that word to many of the most traumatic events or movements of the past century: Nazism, Hiroshima, the Vietnam war and veterans, political and religious cults, torture and brainwashing,  nuclear weapons and first-strike, the Armenian genocide, the Iraq war, and so much more. He’s written dozens of books—and several articles for The Nation—but has not written a memoir, but now his book [1], Witness to an Extreme Century, has just been published by The Free Press.

It’s an excellent and important work, and remarkably easy to read despite the often grim subject matter.  It has already received a hard-to-get rave from Kirkus Reviews, which hailed it as “a call for a moral awakening by a deeply compassionate chronicler of our times.”    Witness is also a kind of love story, as Lifton chronicles the adventures he shared with his late wife Betty Jean Lifton.

Here’s an excellent NPR take [2] on the book with write-up, audio and excerpt.  Lifton was also the subject of a film [3] released last year, Robert Jay Lifton: Nazi Doctors.

I can’t claim to be unbiased on this subject.  I’ve known Robert for three decades, worked for a couple of years at his research center in New York, attended numerous games at Shea Stadium between his Dodgers (he hails from Brooklyn) and my Mets, and co-authored two books with him, Hiroshima in America and Who Owns Death? (on capital punishment), and many articles.

Lifton remains fully engaged in current issues. For example, here’s a piece [4] he recently wrote  for the IHT and New York Times on Hiroshima and Fukushima, and he has a new op-ed set to be published this week.. Lifton may have coined the term “psychic numbing,” but his own sensitivity and capacity for empathy remains undiminished.


Janeane Garofalo as “Katherine Harris” discusses Michele Bachmann’s run for the White House

Way too much fun, and way too smart. Sam Seder playing straight man (think George Burns) to Janeane Garofalo’s version of “Katherine Harris,” the former Palin-Bachmann look-alike and failed senatorial candidate from Florida.

In this edition, “Katherine Harris” is now on board the Bachmann Express. It’s delightful. Enjoy!

Rep. Giffords released from hospital, will do outpatient rehab

Here’s some good news:

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who shot in the head in January was released today from a Houston hospital, officials said.

“Congresswoman Giffords has shown clear, continuous improvement from the moment she arrived at TIRR five months ago,” said Dr. Gerard Francisco, the hospital’s chief medical officer in a news release. “We are very excited that she has reached the next phase of her rehabilitation and can begin outpatient treatment. We have no doubt that she will continue to make significant strides in her recovery.”

The Arizona congresswoman is expected to soon start outpatient therapy.

As an improvisatory satirist, Janeane is on top of her game. I hope there are more segments like this one. (And if you’re so inclined, the Majority Report could use your help. Thanks.)

What Americans are reading:

This is the number one best-seller in the US:  “HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent. (Thomas Nelson.) A father recounts his 3-year-old son’s encounter with Jesus and the angels during an appendectomy.”   

“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

Race and 2012: What Too Few Progressives are Prepared to Discuss

By Bill Fletcher

Bill Fletcher’s ZSpace Page

In the context of the criticisms that many of us have of the Obama administration for what it has not accomplished, for its advance of a corporate agenda and for the unacceptable compromises it has made with the Republicans, there is something that I have seen few progressives address.  To borrow from a comment offered by television commentator Tavis Smiley, the 2012 elections are likely to be the most racist that most of have seen in our life-times.  Given this, what are the implications?

It has been striking that many progressives, particularly those who have not only written off President Obama but also written off all of those who offered critical support to the Obama campaign in 2008, have said so little about race, racism, and the discourse of right-wing populism in the context of the upcoming elections.

We have witnessed the first Black president of the United States questioned about his citizenship and birthplace, yet I have seen precious little from many friends on the left side of the aisle (particularly those so critical of Obama) responding to this. If you put your ear to the ground, however, you hear the murmurings of Black Americans furious that Obama was put in a place where he had to file a petition in order to obtain his Hawaii birth certificate. The murmurings do not stop there. When Donald Trump and other opportunists started asking questions about how it was that Obama got into Columbia University and Harvard Law School (i.e., was he REALLY qualified to have gotten into those schools), for most of us enough was enough.  Because this was no longer about Obama and it had very little to do with criticisms of Obama and his policies.

The white nationalist backlash is using Obama as the target but they are attempting to create a white united front to, in their minds, take back the United States. Part of this agenda means delegitimizing the democratically elected President, but it also goes towards tampering with election laws and voting processes in state after state.

In case you have not noticed, in many states where there is a Republican majority in control, efforts are underway to restrict voting, whether by further limiting ex-felons from voting, to eliminating same-day voter registration, to the demand for picture identifications at the time of voting, to the shortening of periods of early voting.  The objective is to reduce the potential anti-Republican electorate. This is being done by demagogically and inaccurately crowing about alleged voter fraud. But this happens through the Right racializing alleged voter fraud. In other words, as opposed to a discussion about real voter theft, e.g., the Republican theft of the 2000 election, the right-wing uses black and brown characters as the way of convincing segments of the white populace that something needs to be done otherwise these colored peoples will be taking over.

The racist attacks on Obama, then, fuse with the larger right-wing narrative:  the United States of America is being lost to white people. This has been the core of the Birther message, but it has also been the core of the attacks that contributed to the collapse of ACORN, as well as the blitzkrieg effort of the Right to overturn voting rights. In its more extreme version it is the core of the message that comes out of the fascist and semi-fascist movements among white nationalists such as the sovereign Citizens (the subject of a segment of the May 15thepisode of 60 Minutes).

What we are witnessing is disturbingly similar to the period of the overthrow of Reconstruction and the building of the Jim Crow segregationist system in the South. Appealing to fears among whites, and in a frantic effort to destabilize any efforts at unity between the black and white poor in the South at the end of the 19th century, white Southern elites moved an agenda of voter disenfranchisement, hiding behind various coded concerns, such as the literacy of the electorate. African Americans were completely disenfranchised and, quite ironically, so were many poor whites.

Despite our knowledge of history and awareness of the antics of white right-wing populism, few progressives are discussing the implications of any of this for the 2012 elections. The implications, it would seem to me, are quite profound, and range from what does this mean about HOW to criticize the Obama administration, to how to ensure that the elections are not outright stolen by the white Right.

Just to be clear before some of my critics start yelling that “…Fletcher is covering for Obama…”, this column is about racial politics in the U.S. The particular flashpoint happens to be Obama but what is at stake, as I have attempted to elaborate, is far more than the political future of a corporate liberal president. Silence on the part of progressives in the face of this situation, despite our own legitimate criticisms of Obama, misses the larger picture. Yes, we must criticize Obama; yes, we must push this administration; yes, we must protest any retrograde domestic or foreign policies. But, at the end of the day, we need to be discussing how this is done in the context of fighting a white, right-wing populism that is arguing that Obama is an alien and that he [and the changing demographics of the USA] represents the end of the white ‘American  Dream.’  We should have no illusions that the Republican candidate for the Presidency, irrespective of who gets it, will center their campaign on anything but this one, critical message.

I think that it is time to talk about strategy and tactics in the fight for power and against the Right, and not only about matters of policy. Politics is dirty, but it is also very complicated, that is, if one exists in the real world rather than in one’s own playpen.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is an editorial board member of, Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of Solidarity Divided.

From: Z Net – The Spirit Of Resistance Lives

[Update] Right-wing bringing racism back

from PA Editors Blog by Political Affairs

In a recent article titled “What Too Few Progressives are Prepared to Discuss,” Bill Fletcher convincingly argued that a “white nationalist” right-wing populism lies at the heart of the Republican Party’s electoral strategy. The “right-wing uses black and brown characters as the way of convincing segments of the white populace that something needs to be done, otherwise these colored peoples will be taking over,” he wrote.

Given this, one notes how Republicans, their media, and their right-wing front groups have moved into full campaign mode as  racist statements, imagery, and stories surface dominate public discourse.

Usually this is done in code, where terms like “hard working Americans” or “middle America” are clearly exclusively used to refer to whites as heroic protagonists while people of color serve as models of all that is wrong.

Some recent examples, however, show some right-wingers trying to blow the lid off of coded proprietary white supremacist racism.

It began in mid-May, with Newt Gingrich’s reference to President Obama as a “food stamp president” who wants to turn the country into a version of Detroit – not the auto industry capital but rather the majority African American city troubled by generational economic decline. As Joan Walsh notes in her reading of Gingrich’s comments, the former House Speaker who was ousted for corruption, deliberately chose those words not because they detailed an honest critique of policy but because they were laden with deliberate racial messages understood by the political constituency whose support he needs in order to become president.

More recently, Fox Business host Eric Bolling into a tirade against President Obama laced with racist stereotypes. Commenting on a White House visit by Gabonese President Ali Bongo, who also happens to chair the UN National Security Council at the moment, Bolling said, “So what’s with all the hoods in the hizzy?,” going on to say, “It’s not the first time he’s had a hoodlum in the hizzouse,” a reference to a recent poetry reading at the White House in which respected hip hop artist Common participated.

Clearly, Bolling’s intention wasn’t to crticize President Obama for a relationship with a head of state with a troubling human rights record. Bollign could care less about human rights. The issue never torubled him enough to criticize the serious human rights problems of George W. Bush, nor did he ever express concern about Bush’s many troubling relationships with heads of state with seriously flawed human rights records, oh, for example, Gadhafi.

No, Bolling’s point – like Gingrich – was to do exactly what Fletcher sees as the common right-wing populist practice: too make the point as often as possible that people of color are taking over and white people should be afraid.

Hard on the heels of Bolling’s rant was a racist attack ad by right-wing political action committee Turn Right USA against Democrat Janice Hahn, a candidate for the special congressional election in California’s 36th district. The attack ad contains images of African American men pretending to be gang members, waving guns over offensive rap lyrics with Hahn’s head super-imposed on an image of a woman pole dancing. The video also contains images of a Communist Party USA symbol.

Again the aim isn’t so much about criticizing any specific policy. Apparently, as a Los Angeles council member, Hahn supported a gang intervention program that successfully helped young people avoide that life, and which has been cited for helping to reduce L.A.’s violent crime rate. Surely Turn Right USA isn’t pro-violent crime? (Though its funders are probably opponents of gun control laws aimed and reducing gun crimes. So who knows.)

The goal of such a baltantly racist ad is to provide an impression that Hahn sides with racial minorities who are imposing “gangster” values on white poeole.

Turn Right USA is a shady front group that hides the details about its donors, but one thing it admits to is its belief in the Glenn Beck-promoted conspiracy that billionaire George Soros is behind just about every left-wing initiative from communism to health reform and climate change policies. That particular conspiracy theory suggests the group’s affiliation with the Birchers and wingnuts at World Net Daily, which get a lot of play on various Fox News programs.

It is evident that this election will again be about race and white supremacy, as Fletcher suggested. It demands a strong response from the anti-racist majority in both organizing activism against racist hate speech promoted by the right and in mobilizing for the elections over the next seventeen months.


The Planned Parenthood Action Fund released this statement about the Turn Right USA video:

The Planned Parenthood Action Fund demands that Craig Huey [Hahn’s opponent, ed.] condemn this outrageous, racist, sexist web ad attacking his opponent, Janice Hahn.

This web ad is far out of bounds and promotes offensive language and imagery that has no place in today’s political dialogue.  It is derogatory and simply unacceptable.

If Huey does not condemn this ad, then the voters in California will know that Huey would rather place ugly and crude politics ahead of women’s health and rights.

GOP ad calls female Dem congressional hopefuly “bitch” and “ho”

Even by Republican standards, this is bad.

Oh yeah, the ad is also racist and seems to suggest, at the end, that the woman should be assassinated.

I’m sure the Tea Party Republican she’s running against will say “gosh, I don’t know anything about it.”  Too late.  Imagine if a Democrat had run an ad calling a Republican woman a bitch and a whore, then suggested she be killed.  The RNC would be running ads nationwide.

Hating Muslim: a proud political agenda in the US

Can you imagine if this was about Jewish people? Can you imagine the condemnations and international outrage?  “Mr. Bush may have prosecuted the war on terror to excess, but he always reminded the country that it was not at war with Islam. This batch of Republicans has dispensed with such niceties. Herman Cain repeated his earlier statement that he would not be comfortable with a Muslim in his cabinet. Some, he explained, “are trying to kill us.”  None of the other candidates took him to task for this. Mitt Romney, a Mormon who has himself been the subject of religious slurs, at least mentioned the nation’s founding principle of religious tolerance and respect but missed an opportunity to include Muslims. Newt Gingrich tumbled over the historical cliff with the idea, announcing some kind of loyalty oath to serve in his administration, similar to that used in dealing with Nazis and Communists. At least no one brandished a list of known Muslims serving in Mr. Obama’s State Department.”  (thanks Redouane)

Black Republican drops GOP over racist attack on Obama

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

It’s interesting to note that he’s not exactly moving over to the Democrats. From the SacBee:

The latest incident in a string of tawdry, race-based actions was the promotion of a racist cartoon by elected Orange County Republican Party Central Committee member Marilyn Davenport. The cartoon depicted President Barack Obama and his parents as chimpanzees, while simultaneously implying that the president is not a legitimate American, but rather an African-born interloper.

While the Orange County GOP chairman and a number of other committee members were quick to condemn the image and Davenport, what’s disturbing is the incredible number of people who continue to defend Davenport’s actions as well as the cartoon itself.

Had this been an isolated event, it could be set aside as a mere aberration. However, when placed in the context of similar offenses by the same self-identified tea party-conservative Republicans, there emerges a disturbing pattern of extreme intolerance.

What does any of this have to do with public policy or conservative values? Here is a man who excelled academically at the finest schools in the world, has a wonderful in-tact family, worked hard and rose to become president of the United States. Yet in spite of his accomplishments, the president is still labeled an illegitimate, socialist, African witch doctor and has his face superimposed on a chimpanzee.

If this can be done to a black man who is the leader of the free world, how long will it be before fellow Republicans insert my face on a chimpanzee?

Activists protest FBI raids in FARC-PFLP case

from World War 4 Report blogs by Bill Weinberg

We noted last year the FBI raids on activists in the midwest over their alleged ties to the PFLP and the FARC. We’ve also noted the hardline proclivities of federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, whose harsh “anti-terrorist” measures have bottlenecked free speech before. Now, this story from the Washington Post of June 13 connects the dots. We are not privy to the details, but it certainly doesn’t sound good…

read more


DISPOSABLE Ep. 5: New Boss, Same As the Old Boss

from Ted Rall’s Rallblog by Ted Rall

The brilliant David Essman and I have just completed Episode 5 of our “Disposable” series of animated editorial cartoons.

This time: Sarah cashes in on her Indecent Proposal. Voices by Stephanie McMillan and Matt Bors.



This entry was posted in African American, Background & Analysis, Civil Liberties, Corporations, Corruption, Events, Human Rights, Obama, Racism, US Economy, US Electoral Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

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