Progressive Calendar 04.21.10
From: David Shove (
Date: Wed, 21 Apr 2010 15:25:20 -0700 (PDT)
            P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   04.21.10

1. Union democracy 4.21 6pm
2. White people/f  4.21 7pm
3. Food, Inc./TV   4.21 9pm

4. William J Astore - American kleptocracy: naked theft

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From: Andy Hamerlinck <iamandy [at]>
From:    "Leah Lindeman" <uniondemocracymn [at]>
Subject: Union democracy 4.21 6pm

Fundraiser and Social Hour for National Union of Healthcare Workers Please
join us to meet and hear SAL ROSELLI, Interim President, National Union of
Healthcare Workers
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
6:00 PM
Minneapolis United Labor Center
Room 215, 312 Central Avenue Southeast, Minneapolis, MN
Parking behind the building

Learn more about this historic struggle for democracy in the American
labor movement.

NUHW is the new California union that was born after SEIU imposed a
disastrous trusteeship on SEIU-United Healthcare Workers-West, its third
largest affiliate, in late January 2009. Since then, NUHW has shown the
makings of a principled and powerful, vibrant and democratic workers'
movement. Over 100,000 caregivers have stood up to fight for union
democracy by filing petitions for elections! This inspiring achievement
tells a powerful story about the kinds of organizing victories that are
possible when a union is run by and for its members. All friends of union
democracy and reform are urged to attend for a lively and informative
discussion. And, please join us in providing critical financial support
for this important workers' movement.

Mayday Books
Joe Callahan, ATU Local 1005
Gillian Furst, Retired member, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Ethical Practices Committee
Cherrene Horazuk, Chief Steward, AFSCME Local 3800
Erik Jensen, Steward, Teamsters Local 320
Mick Kelly, Member, Teamsters Local 320
David Larson, Professor of Law
Leah Lindeman, Former SEIU Organizer
Doug McGilp, Retired Steward, Teamsters Local 1145
Greg Poferl, Retired National Business Agent for American Postal Workers
Union and Associate Member Education Minnesota
Dave Riehle, Chairman Emeritus of UTU Local 650, Labor Historian
Jack Stuart, Professor, Minneapolis Community and Technical College
Phyllis Walker, President, AFSCME Local 3800
*Organizations listed for identification purposes only

If you cannot come to this event, but want to contribute to this important
struggle, you can donate on-line at or send
a check to: Fund for Union Democracy, 465 California St., Ste 1600, San
Francisco, CA 94104. Contributions to the Fund are not tax deductible. All
contributors shall remain anonymous. The Fund does not accept
contributions from healthcare employers.

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From: UMN Human Rights Center <humanrts [at]>
Subject: White people/f 4.21 7pm

April 21, 2010 - American Indian Cultural House Film Series: Qallunaat:
Why White People are Funny.
Time: Doors Open at 6:30pm Film at 7:00pm.  Cost: Free and open to the
Location: Bell Auditorium 10 Church Street SE Minneapolis, MN 55455

Synopsis: What's so funny about white people, otherwise known as Qallunaat
to the Inuit? Well, among other curious behaviours, Qallunaat
ritualistically greet each other with inane salutations, repress natural
bodily functions, complain a lot about being cold and seem to want to
dominate the world.

This documentary is a collaboration between filmmaker Mark Sandiford and
Inuit writer and satirist Zebedee Nungak. Zebedee is CEO and head
researcher of the mythical Qallunaat Studies Institute (QSI). According to
Nungak, "Qallunaat ought to be the object of some kind of study by other
cultures. The more I thought about the way they have studied us over the
years it occurred to me, why don't we study them?";

In its use of archival clips, Why White People Are Funny pokes as much fun
at the illustrious history of NFB documentaries as it does at society in
the south. Of course, well before the NFB came into existence, and at
least as early as the classic 1922 feature "Nanook of the North,"; white
society has been fascinated with native subjects, studying them as exotic
specimens, documenting their cultural and social behaviours. That tendency
to frame a world of Eskimo "others"; dominated both film Why White People
Are Funny brings the documentary form to an unexpected place. Those who
were holding the mirror up to Inuit culture finally have it turned back on
themselves. The result is not always pretty, but it sure is amusing. From
the Inuit point of view, visitors from the south are nothing less than
"accidents waiting to happen.";

Why White People Are Funny is a humbling portrait of what it must feel
like to be the object of the white man's gaze. Fresh and original, this
documentary has that rare ability to educate with wit.

2007, 150 min 59 s

The American Indian Cultural House will be hosting a film series March 24
and April 21. The purpose of the series is to raise public awareness and
celebrate the works of American Indian and First Nation films and videos
that break and/or challenge racial stereotypes. The development of this
series is intended to provide leadership opportunities to students who
participate in the American Indian Cultural House. Students learn what
goes into organizing community events and build collaborations with
departments and other student organizations.

--------3 of 4--------

From: Christine Frank <christinefrank [at]>
Subject: Food, Inc./TV 4.21 9pm




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American Kleptocracy: How Fears of Socialism and Fascism Hide Naked Theft
by William J. Astore
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Common Dreams

Kleptocracy -- now, there's a word I was taught to associate with corrupt
and exploitative governments that steal ruthlessly and relentlessly from
the people.  It's a word, in fact, that's usually applied to flawed or
failed governments in Africa, Latin America, or the nether regions of
Asia.  Such governments are typically led by autocratic strong men who
shower themselves and their cronies with all the fruits of extracted
wealth, whether stolen from the people or squeezed from their country's
natural resources.  It's not a word you're likely to see associated with a
mature republic like the United States led by disinterested public
servants and regulated by more-or-less transparent principles and

In fact, when Americans today wish to critique or condemn their
government, the typical epithets used are "socialism" or "fascism."  When
my conservative friends are upset, they send me emails with links to
material about "ObamaCare" and the like.  These generally warn of a future
socialist takeover of the private realm by an intrusive, power-hungry
government.  When my progressive friends are upset, they send me emails
with links pointing to an incipient fascist takeover of our public and
private realms, led by that same intrusive, power-hungry government (and,
I admit it, I'm hardly innocent when it comes to such "what if"

What if, however, instead of looking at where our government might be
headed, we took a closer look at where we are -- at the power-brokers who
run or influence our government, at those who are profiting and prospering
from it?  These are, after all, the "winners" in our American world in
terms of the power they wield and the wealth they acquire.  And shouldn't
we be looking as well at those Americans who are losing -- their jobs,
their money, their homes, their healthcare, their access to a better way
of life -- and asking why?

If we were to take an honest look at America's blasted landscape of
"losers" and the far shinier, spiffier world of "winners," we'd have to
admit that it wasn't signs of onrushing socialism or fascism that stood
out, but of staggeringly self-aggrandizing greed and theft right in the
here and now.  We'd notice our public coffers being emptied to benefit
major corporations and financial institutions working in close alliance
with, and passing on remarkable sums of money to, the representatives of
"the people."  We'd see, in a word, kleptocracy on a scale to dazzle.  We
would suddenly see an almost magical disappearing act being performed,
largely without comment, right before our eyes.

          Of Red Herrings and Missing Pallets of Money

Think of socialism and fascism as the red herrings of this moment or, if
you're an old time movie fan, as Hitchcockian MacGuffins  -- in other
words, riveting distractions.  Conservatives and tea partiers fear
invasive government regulation and excessive taxation, while railing
against government takeovers -- even as corporate lobbyists write our
public healthcare bills to favor private interests.  Similarly,
progressives rail against an emergent proto-fascist corps of private
guns-for-hire, warrantless wiretapping, and the potential
government-approved assassination of U.S. citizens, all sanctioned by a
perpetual, and apparently open-ended, state of war.

Yet, if this is socialism, why are private health insurers the
government's go-to guys for healthcare coverage?  If this is fascism, why
haven't the secret police rounded up tea partiers and progressive critics
as well and sent them to the lager or the gulag?

Consider this: America is not now, nor has it often been, a hotbed of
political radicalism.  We have no substantial socialist or workers' party.
(Unless you're deluded, please don't count the corporate-friendly
"Democrat" party here.)  We have no substantial fascist party.  (Unless
you're deluded, please don't count the cartoonish "tea partiers" here;
these predominantly white, graying, and fairly affluent Americans seem
most worried that the jackbooted thugs will be coming for them.)

What drives America today is, in fact, business -- just as was true in the
days of Calvin Coolidge.  But it's not the fair-minded "free enterprise"
system touted in those freshly revised Texas guidelines for American
history textbooks; rather, it's a rigged system of crony capitalism that
increasingly ends in what, if we were looking at some other country, we
would recognize as an unabashed kleptocracy.

Recall, if you care to, those pallets stacked with hundreds of millions of
dollars that the Bush administration sent to Iraq and which, Houdini-like,
simply disappeared.  Think of the ever-rising cost of our wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, now in excess of a trillion dollars, and just whose pockets
are full, thanks to them.

If you want to know the true state of our government and where it's
heading, follow the money (if you can) and remain vigilant: our
kleptocratic Houdinis are hard at work, seeking to make yet more money
vanish from your pockets -- and reappear in theirs.

 From Each According to His Gullibility -- To Each According to His Greed

Never has the old adage my father used to repeat to me -- "the rich get
richer and the poor poorer" -- seemed fresher or truer.  If you want
confirmation of just where we are today, for instance, consider this
passage from a recent piece by Tony Judt:

In 2005, 21.2 percent of U.S. national income accrued to just 1 percent of
earners.  Contrast 1968, when the CEO of General Motors took home, in pay
and benefits, about sixty-six times the amount paid to a typical GM
worker.  Today the CEO of Wal-Mart earns nine hundred times the wages of
his average employee.  Indeed, the wealth of the Wal-Mart founder's family
in 2005 was estimated at about the same ($90 billion) as that of the
bottom 40 percent of the U.S. population: 120 million people.

Wealth concentration is only one aspect of our increasingly kleptocratic
system.  War profiteering by corporations (however well disguised as
heartfelt support for our heroic warfighters) is another.  Meanwhile,
retired senior military officers typically line up to cash in on the
kleptocratic equivalent of welfare, peddling their "expertise" in return
for impressive corporate and Pentagon payouts that supplement their
six-figure pensions.  Even that putative champion of the Carhartt-wearing
common folk, Sarah Palin, pocketed a cool $12 million last year without
putting the slightest dent in her populist bona fides.

Based on such stories, now legion, perhaps we should rewrite George
Orwell's famous tagline from Animal Farm as: All animals are equal, but a
few are so much more equal than others.

And who are those "more equal" citizens?  Certainly, major corporations,
which now enjoy a kind of political citizenship and the largesse of a
federal government eager to rescue them from their financial mistakes,
especially when they're judged "too big to fail."  In raiding the U.S.
Treasury, big banks and investment firms, shamelessly ready to jack up
executive pay and bonuses even after accepting billions in taxpayer-funded
bailouts, arguably outgun militarized multinationals in the conquest of
the public realm and the extraction of our wealth for their benefit.

Such kleptocratic outfits are, of course, abetted by thousands of
lobbyists and by politicians who thrive off corporate campaign
contributions.  Indeed, many of our more prominent public servants have
proved expert at spinning through the revolving door into the private
sector.  Even ex-politicians who prefer to be seen as sympathetic to the
little guy like former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt eagerly cash

      I'm Shocked, Shocked, to Find Profiteering Going on Here

An old Roman maxim enjoins us to "let justice be done, though the heavens
fall."  Within our kleptocracy, the prevailing attitude is an insouciant
"We'll get ours, though the heavens fall."  This mindset marks the decline
of our polity.  A spirit of shared sacrifice, dismissed as hopelessly
naive, has been replaced by a form of tribalized privatization in which
insiders find ways to profit no matter what.

Is it any surprise then that, in seeking to export our form of government
to Iraq and Afghanistan, we've produced not two model democracies, but two
emerging kleptocracies, fueled respectively by oil and opium?

When we confront corruption in Iraq or Afghanistan, are we not like the
police chief in the classic movie Casablanca who is shocked, shocked to
find gambling going on at Rick's Caf, even as he accepts his winnings?

Why then do we bother to feign shock when Iraqi and Afghan elites, a tiny
minority, seek to enrich themselves at the expense of the majority?

Shouldn't we be flattered?  Imitation, after all, is the sincerest form of
flattery.  Isn't it?

Copyright 2010 William J. Astore
William J. Astore is a TomDispatch regular; he teaches History at the
Pennsylvania College of Technology and served in the Air Force for 20
years, retiring as a lieutenant colonel.  He may be reached at
wjastore [at]


   - David Shove             shove001 [at]
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