Political Underpinnings of Film Noir

broe-film_noir

Randy Shaw: Since film noir was rediscovered in the 1960’s, there have been many books analyzing the genre. One could understandably ask what Dennis Broe’s new work, Film Noir, American Workers, and Postwar Hollywood could possibly add to the subject. The answer is: quite a bit.

Oscar Ceremony Shows Hollywood’s Rightward, Militaristic Shift

Hurt Lockher director Katherine Bigelow, Barbra Striesand

Randy Shaw: While conservatives love bashing “Hollywood liberals,” Sunday night’s Oscar telecast showed how little this description applies. From Kathryn Bigelow’s promoting George W. Bush’s argument that the U.S. invaded Iraq to protect Americans, to the disproportionate acclaim given to films exalting the military, to the exclusion of Michael Moore’sCapitalism, A Love Story from the documentary nominees, Hollywood now largely avoids any hint of progressive social analysis.

Education Activists Need Strategy Beyond Marches

School crunch

Randy Shaw: Activists can use mass action to pressure legislators and the Governor to redirect excessive spending on prisons and other wasteful programs to education, but there is no chance this year of getting enough Republicans to win the necessary two-thirds legislative votes.

Bet on Barbara Boxer in November

barbara boxer

Randy Shaw: The media always promotes Republicans like Campbell or John McCain who are reactionary and corporate-owned on most issues but have a few stands that are common to Democrats. This makes them “mavericks,” and allegedly shows they can appeal to Democrats.

On Curling, U.S.-Canada Relations, and Tiger Woods

tiger simpsons

Randy Shaw: The worldwide recession deepens, the impacts of climate change worsen, and health care costs continue to skyrocket — yet people are primarily discussing other matters. Chief among them is why curling is an Olympic sport, since it is the on-ice equivalent of bocce or shuffleboard, two games that do not require much athletic talent.

Defying Progressives, Obama Revives Nuclear Power

Nuclear-Power

Randy Shaw: Many progressives are so excited that Obama is not Sarah Palin that they accept any small step as a great leap forward. The irony is that many of these progressives saw a night and day difference between Obama and Clinton in the primaries, yet now accept policies from Obama that are virtually identical — if not more conservative — than those we feared from a President Hilary Clinton.

Media Ignoring Labor Union Successes

Sally Field in "Norma Rae"

Randy Shaw: The absence of labor reporters is a symptom of a larger media trend that now sees union activism and elections as deserved only of local coverage, while corporate news wins national attention. So the New York Times reports on Disney’s public relations event in Orlando, Florida is reported by, while UNITE HERE’s far more newsworthy event at Disneyland gets only local press.

Searching for Authenticity in Urban Neighborhoods

Weegee's (Usher Fellig) "Kiss"

Randy Shaw: While many talk about gentrification, few books portray it as vividly as Zukin. She makes New York City’s diverse neighborhoods truly come alive, and her book should interest all those who care about the future of urban America

Obama Era Sees Decline of Organizing

Clockwise from top: UNITE-HERE protests Hyatt; Immigration Rally in 2006; ACORN protests Wachovia; HCAN rally

Randy Shaw: As the midterm elections approach, progressives face a critical choice: either spend resources now on funding organizers who can win real change in 2010, or invest in the November elections to set the stage for 2011. The choice should be clear.

Beyoncé’s Soulless Starbucking of Music Industry

beyonce grammys

Randy Shaw: Beyoncé has been a great star since childhood, and has gotten to the top through hard work, dedication, good looks and a powerful singing voice. But she seems to have gone through a corporate homogenization machine that has deprived her of real passion, real soul, and of the ability to express true feelings and emotions in her songs.

Obama Revives the Dukakis Presidency

Michael Dukakis

Randy Shaw: President Obama aspires to change the way politics is played, saying he is tired of questions masquerading as talking points, and of “tactics” substituting for the best policies. Like Dukakis, he wants the two parties to engage in national policy debates, where the best ideas prevail. Unfortunately, that’s not how politics works in the United States, and Obama’s misguided idealism is costing his base dearly.

Democrats Return to Slumber after Massachusetts Wake Up Call

Harry-and-Nancy

Randy Shaw: Consider the Democrats top concerns. Health care? “We’ll get to it sometime.” Comprehensive immigration reform? “It’s still a priority.” EFCA? Off the political radar screen. Climate Change? “We don’t have the votes.” The Budget? Freeze all domestic spending but education and research but protect defense.

Americans and the European Way

europes promise

Randy Shaw: As someone who thinks Hill’s work could convince the uncommitted and deserves the widest possible audience, I wish he had directly confronted — through interviews, for example — those who oppose the policies that work in Europe but are still not in place in the United States. For example, it would have been helpful for Republican and Democratic Party political leaders to explain why our nation follows the lead of Papua New Guinea in still not offering paid maternity leave.

Why I’m Skipping Obama’s State of the Union

Obama One Year Later

Randy Shaw: Speechmaker Obama’s efforts to sell that economic plan to a Democratic base reeling from rising unemployment and stretched pocketbooks may even exceed his mighty oratory skills, and could leave President Obama’s base wondering what happened to the candidate they elected.

Despite Obama, “Yes We Can” Spirit Survives

meridien rally

Randy Shaw: In the Beltway, the Obama Administration frustrated key constituency groups and organizations by failing to push for transformative change. In the world where most people live and work, activists were not deterred by Obama’s inaction and instead seized upon the “Si Se Puede” spirit to build successful campaigns for justice.

Blaming the Left

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana)

Randy Shaw: The Democratic Party is facing a voter revolt because it once again allowed its corporate wing to set its agenda. And while the media blames the left Obama and the Democrats either implement a progressive agenda and shape the midterm elections around populist themes, or face further electoral “upsets” in November.

Tea Baggers Repackaging America’s Right Wing

Marco Rubio and Jesse Helms

Randy Shaw: If anyone still doubts that politics is all about branding, the rise of the “teabagger” closes the case. Here we have a group of overwhelmingly white anti-tax crusaders with a long history of political backing for right-wing causes suddenly re-branded by the media as populist crusaders for the common good.

Defining Progressive Victories in 2010

Climate Candle

To help avoid the “defining downward” of progressive goals on the key issues of 2010, I thought it would be helpful to assess what would constitute activist victories and whether progressives should cheer measures short of what they are now backing.

Holding Obama Accountable

Obama-Magician

Randy Shaw: pecifically, activists must employ what I describe in The Activist’s Handbook as the “fear and loathing” approach that has long proved necessary to get most politicians to do the right thing. Activists must make Obama fear the political repercussions of not backing progressive positions, even to the extent that the President comes to “loathe” those creating such pressures.

2009: Labor’s Missed Opportunity

sjhsrally

With the Democratic Party needing union money and volunteers for the November 2010 elections, it will have to start delivering for labor soon. This means that Congress will enact some changes in union election rules, though expedited elections rather than card check appears to be where the debate is headed.

Obama Ignores Community Organizing Lessons

yes-we-can

When Barack Obama backed a Senate health reform plan that differed radically from prior proposals, he ignored the lessons he learned as a young organizer on Chicago’s South Side. Obama once knew that it’s wrong to bypass the community’s agenda to strike a backroom deal, regardless of its superior terms. Obama also understood that failing to consult with the community disempowers the base, and discourages people from participating in future organizing campaigns.

Obama’s Right Turn

Obama-Army

When President Barack Obama took office, many activists and organizations saw their role as mobilizing the public support necessary to enable him to implement progressive change. After Obama’s September health care speech this strategy appeared to be working, but the President has since ignored the progressive base and taken a sharp turn to the right.

Activists Giving Obama a Pass

Obama2bush

Obama still has time to deliver for his base. But this will require activists and constituency groups to ramp up public demands for such a course, rather than thinking they are helping the progressive cause by making excuses for a president whose inspirational words about social transformation have not been matched by actions.

The Speech Obama Should Give Tonight

If the health care outcome shows that the U.S. Senate will not allow progressive change even with a 60-vote Democratic caucus, then what argument can the Obama team make to infrequent voters in 2010? If electing Obama and strong Democratic congressional majorities in 2008 did not bring real Change, why even bother voting?

New York Times: “American Workers Are Overpaid”

Maze

If recent resistance by IBEW and UNITE HERE members are any indication, the Times’ BreakingNews folks and corporate America have a long way to go before convincing workers that it is they, rather than their high-paid, amply-bonused bosses, whose compensation should be downsized.

SEIU Wages War on Progressives

Former SEIU President Andy Stern

The increasing willingness of other unions to openly back NUHW is most ominous for SEIU. It means that SEIU’s efforts to frame NUHW as a “rogue” labor organization guilty of “raiding” other unions has failed, and that the labor movement now sees NUHW as health care workers’ leading voice for democracy.

Health Care Debate Triggers Mass Confusion

Palin_obamacare

The media gives false credibility to claims by insurance company-owned politicians that their real motivation is fiscal prudence. No matter that the prospect of large budget deficits never deterred these politicians from supporting wars of choice or deficit-creating tax breaks for the rich.

Despise the Initiative Process? New York City Shows Why Progressives Need It

Yankee-Stadium

New York City provides a case study of a large, ethnically diverse, California-like entity where citizen ballot measures are not an option. The result? A profoundly undemocratic city where large real estate developers call the shots.

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