Jim Perlstein (foreground) demands Grimm act on behalf of his constituents.
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)




NEW YORK — On a brisk Saturday, the first day of December, protesters rode the Staten Island Ferry — dubbed the “Peoples’ Yacht” — from Manhattan to the Island, holding a rally at Borough Hall. The purpose of the journey was to deliver a message to Representative Mike Grimm (R, NY-11): don’t push New Yorkers, many of whom are still reeling from Hurricane Sandy, over the so-called fiscal cliff — vote to end the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

Activist-teacher Teri Caliari educates her congressman.
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Teacher, activist, and Staten Islander, Teri Caliari introduced speakers including the United Federation of Teachers’ John Soldini, Jim Perlstein of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), a Sandy survivor who remains homeless, and Sara Cullinane, an activist from Make The Road who is doing relief work. The speakers were united in their demand that Congressman Michael Grimm end the Bush tax cuts and get much needed financial aid to help Islanders rebuild homes ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Attending the rally were some labor movement faithful, representing an array of unions, and progressives from several local organizations, including the Staten Island Democratic Association and MoveOn.

Richard Reichard (Staten Island Democratic Association) defends social security and medicare.
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

“We had a tremendous turnout on Saturday– nearly 100 people came out to support Staten Islanders who are demanding their representative Michael Grimm put hurricane survivors over millionaires and end the Bush tax cuts. It was just the first event of many to come,” said Olivia Leirer, Communications Director of New York Communities for Change. NYCC organized the event.


Click HERE To View Photos From The Grimm Protest





Harry Belafonte, 85-years-young.
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)


On Monday, December 10, the 1199SEIU Martin Luther King, Jr., Auditorium played host to a Left Labor Project forum featuring Angela Davis and Harry Belafonte.

Angela Davis speaking at the forum.
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The theme of the forum was “After the election, where do we go from here?”

Angela Davis said that all of the issues of concern to progressives — including reproductive rights, islamophobia, homo-and-trans-phobia, and immigrant rights — need to be redefined, and addressed, as working class issues.

Belafonte spoke about his work with SEIU — helping to build the Bread and Roses (cultural) and “Purple Gold” (youth) campaigns. Belafonte argued that the cultural aspect of working people’s struggle is vital — and too often neglected.

In a lighter moment, Belafonte said of Davis, “I’ve already written the book so I don’t need to speak about my love affair with her — she knows nothing about it.”

The pair touched on two themes often addressed by Davis’ mentor, Frankfurt School philosopher Herbert Marcuse. While Belafonte spoke about the importance of the cultural realm — Marcuse’s “aesthetic dimension” — in the struggle for progress, Davis talked about the importance of remembering prior struggles in an ahistorical time. Davis also spoke of the need to move the progressive political discussion from a defensive refutation of one-dimensional ideology to a broader vision of a just society. Given the importance of culture in shaping perception, the two speakers perspectives could be seen as bookends.

Click HERE To View Photos /Videos From The Left Labor Project Forum



Introduction: I originally intended to devote the better part of 2012 to this thought piece. But the entry of Paul Ryan into the election cycle has added some urgency. Perhaps the Democratic Party pundits are correct that Ryan’s positions on, say, Medicare and contraception are too extreme to help elect Republicans. Even if they are correct about this election cycle, we would be wrong to underestimate the importance and power of Ryan’s ideological agenda. Even in defeat, the right may take solace, if Ryan succeeds in promoting his ultra-free market agenda. If his ideas are not taken on directly, if they are temporized with, they will continue to haunt us.


It is also curious, if not ironic, that the proclaimers of individualism are better organized than the community-minded. The right does well at bringing good numbers together for a focused, discipline campaign — whether against ‘Obama-care’ or to vote in primaries; while the left functions in a much more individualistic manner — dwelling on what Freud called “the narcissism of small differences” — operating in isolated silos, hard pressed to organize a state-wide campaign, much less a national one. There is a difference between unthinking conformism and the conscious action of those struggling for authentic change in the structure of power. We can respect and support individual difference and still find ways to act collectively. This becomes possible if we think through which differences are matters of principle, which can be navigated, and which are not of immediate import.

– Howard Machtinger

Ryan’s politics, while extreme and mean-spirited, have a long pedigree in American politics and culture. His combination of extreme individualism and a sometime implicit, sometime explicit, appeal to white/male supremacy runs deep in our culture, and not only among the elite. The influence of individualist ideology on the thinking of many Americans has kept the left on the defensive throughout our history. It is at our peril if we depict Ryan as merely a right wing crazy, though he is surely that, if in a ‘nice-guy’ pose. For, as I will try to show, his politics resonate with American political traditions and with average Americans (mainly, but not only whites). The deterioration of the economy will not automatically lead to progressive action or politics. If we want our nation to become a more decent and more democratic society, we need to respond with an alternative vision of equal resonance. This will include an attractive evocation of the communal and social, an analysis of the structural, but also a recognition of parts of the individualist tradition that are not only compatible with, but essential to, progressive politics.

I propose a sober confrontation with the actual obstacles that we encounter in our day-to-day work so as to develop a more solid basis for our work. I am trying to turn my frustration with the current state of my country –and its left alternative — into an overall framework which both seriously takes account of and challenges the tenacity of American individualism. Otherwise I believe there will be a continuing disconnect between the left and its presumed constituency.

I have spent my adult life as an activist of the left, trying to convince others that fundamental change is necessary and possible, that the ‘people united can never be defeated’, and that grassroots activity not only reinvigorates democracy, but is the energy that drives substantive, progressive change. The movement in the streets helped end the devastating and inhumane war in Viet Nam. The actions of hundreds of thousands of ‘ordinary people’ ended Jim Crow. Countless women’s groups undermined patriarchy and placed the rights and status of women on the national agenda. Gay activists stood up against police harassment at Stonewall and beyond. The powers that be were forced to move because of the pressure of the grassroots. New political identities were created and innovative political forms developed. The pressure of the masses was the best — and often the only — way to make significant and positive change.

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Alice Austen House – the storm surge rose to the top step on the staircase.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)


STATEN SLAND, N.Y. — December 4, 2012. The Alice Austen House, the former home of Staten Island’s most famous photographer, now a museum, is located in the Rosebank section of the Island — and was directly in the path of Hurricane Sandy.

Alice Austen was a female photographer in a time when women stayed at home. She owned a motorcar and carried wrenches in her handbag. She lugged view cameras around, pioneering the field now known as photojournalism. Her home, known locally as “Clear Comfort,” is now a landmarked building and a museum where local photographers exhibit their work.

Debris from Hurricane Sandy in the park outside Alice Austen House.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

Alice Austen House is located on Staten Island’s eastern shore. It was this part of the Island that absorbed the full impact of Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge. Arriving at high tide, the storm surge created a wall of water that pushed debris inland and destroyed homes, property, and in some areas — lives.


Debris and seawater rose to the top step of the stairs leading to the house.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

Alice Austen House was built on a bluff. This fact saved it from destruction. The hurricane’s flood waters reached the top step of the staircase leading from the seawall to the sidewalk that ends at the porch of the historic structure.


This tree landed on the picket fence — its branches touching the roof.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

Sara Signorelli, Director of Museum Services, told NLN that the storm’s winds destroyed some decorative woodwork and damaged some shutters. In addition, two trees fell on the southern edge of the property, taking out the picket fence and destroying the garden. Branches from the larger tree, the trunk of which landed directly on top of the fence, came to rest on the roof of the historic home.


This storm damaged shutters and decorative woodwork on Clear Comfort.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

The park outside the house was filled with debris washed ashore by the hurricane but the house itself had survived, miraculously. Repairs are now underway and a large amount of debris has been removed. The rest of Staten Island continues to struggle. It may be months before power is restored — and years before the recovery is complete — but Islanders can take some comfort in the fact that one of the local treasures survived the so-called superstorm.


Click HERE To See The Video

(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

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