Monday, July 28, 2008

Marching for Change in "North O"

In case you are not aware, the African American community in Omaha, concentrated mainly in "North Omaha," is the third poorest black community in the nation and the poorest for black children. A full 59% of all African American kids grow up in poverty in Omaha. And, of course, this situation leads to all kinds of other social problems associated with poverty, discrimination and segregation. It is shameful, to say the least. But, some folks are trying to do something about it...

The cover story of the most recent Reader, Omaha's alternative weekly, highlights a recent march/rally in North Omaha. I was on the Steering Committee for this demonstration. The article, titled, "How a diverse group of concerned residents put on a march for change in North Omaha," is worth taking a look at.

Oliver Stone's "W" (trailer)

Here is the theatrical trailer for Oliver Stone's new film about George Dubya Bush.

Whaddyathink?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mini-Debate: Is MLK/Obama Symbolism Strained?

Recently, the NYTimes has begun posting mini-video discussions to their website. Currently, they feature a mini-debate between John McWhorter and Glen Lourey over the comparisons being tossed around regularly between Barack Obama's campaign and Martin Luther King's historic role in the African American freedom movement. It runs about 4 minutes. Check it out:

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Paul Fusco: RFK's Funeral Train

After Robert Kennedy's assassination, his body crossed the country by train. All along the way, people flocked to the tracks to pay their last respects to the fallen leader. They came in throngs, they came in groups of one, two and seven. They were white and black and brown. They were poor and middle class. They were Democrats and Republicans.

Photographer Paul Fusco was there and captured some of those who came to bid good-night to RFK. The M + B Gallery is currently showing some of Fusco's images. Here is how they introduce the exhibit:

M+B is pleased to announce the exhibition PAUL FUSCO: RFK FUNERAL TRAIN. The opening will coincide with the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. On a Saturday afternoon on June 5, 1968, Magnum photographer Paul Fusco accompanied the body of Robert F. Kennedy as it made its way from New York City to its final resting place in Arlington Cemetery, near Washington, D.C. Transported by train, the coffin was placed in the last of twenty-two cars and elevated so that it was visible through the large observation windows. However, it was what lay outside the train that interested Fusco most: the track-side mourners who--silent, curious and patient--waited to pay their respects.

"They were mostly ordinary Americans: young parents, retirees, nuns, men in suits, teenagers in shorts. Some waved happily. Others wailed in grief. Some stood quietly, hand to heart. Others snapped pictures. Some looked plainly curious. Others hoisted placards of farewell. Some brought flowers, many only themselves. Boy Scouts waved the Stars and Stripes. A woman knelt, her hands touching in prayer." (Margarett Loke, New York Times)

A uniquely profound record, RFK FUNERAL TRAIN is an oblique chronicle of the tragedy and trauma of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination. In tribute to RFK's raw empathy and his determination to make lives better across the social spectrum, hundreds of thousands of people stood patiently in the searing heat to pay their respects. It was one of those rare instance during the Civil Rights era that showed a nation coming together, when both black and white shared a respect for a leader whom they believed could have healed the country's wounds.

In vivid color, Fusco's study provides a unique exploration of a nation coming to terms with the loss of a president who never was. It presents a snapshot of a broad range of American citizens and conveys the depth of civic feeling engendered by the tragedy. With their strange blend of valediction and voyeurism, these pictures capture a decisive moment in American history, pictures in which the subject is forcibly absent. In an equally profound way, RFK FUNERAL TRAIN offers a salient and instructive contrast to the diminishing levels of affection that the public holds towards the political classes of today.

Paul Fusco was born in Leominster, Massachusetts in 1930. He received his B.F.A. in photojournalism from Ohio University and went directly to work for Look magazine as a staff photographer and traveled extensively in South East Asia, Mexico, India, Europe and Russia. In 1974 he joined Magnum Photos. His work has appeared in many domestic and international publications such as Life, Time, Newsweek, The Sunday Times and Paris Match. He has exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Newseum, New York and the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C. RFK Funeral Train was published by Umbrage Editions in 2001, with an introduction by Norman Mailer. Most recently, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York acquired six of his photographs from this series.

Here are a few for your consideration:
















Any thoughts...?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Imagine What Comes After "Green"

The folks over at World Changing have posted a very interesting piece about what it will really take to make the environmental changes necessary to stem the destructiveness of our current way of living and get to a more balanced and sustainable model of existence. The essay is interactive and the authors want your ideas!

Here is how the article begins,
The greatest opportunity of our generation: that's what could be waiting for us, after we leave "green" behind. Saving the biosphere and spreading sustainable prosperity is going to take a lot more than doing things in a more environmentally-conscious manner; it's going to demand we remake much of our material civilization.

And that's good news. It frees us up to think in really new ways, to innovate, to create, to re-invent. Our day is almost defined by the exploding number of people who have access to tools and models and ways of thinking that were previously rare or expert or unimagined. If we live in an age of stark ecological limits, we also live in an age of widespread potential innovation.

We can see on the horizon the silhouette of something incredibly hopeful and exciting: a world of people whose boundless creativity within natural limits uplifts humanity and remakes civilization to be first sustainable, even restorative. This crisis could end up being the greatest opportunity of our generation.

In this work, though, we have two enemies: time and outdated thinking.

We must go fast now. We have possibilities today that we'll lose with every passing year, and the tipping points loom ahead: beyond those, only disaster awaits...

... we also think that this is a moment when we all need many more people iterating their ideas for real change. So, as a starter for that kind of conversation, we're holding a little collaborative challenge.

The idea is simple: share, in words, images or sounds, your idea for the end of some outdated aspect of contemporary society and its replacement with a better way of doing things. Start with the phrase, "Imagine no..."

Then put a link to your entry (or the text itself) in the comments below.

The best examples we know about in two weeks will get prominent coverage here on Worldchanging, and we have some swanky prizes for the folks who do the best job...

Here are a couple of the ideas they came up with as examples:

Imagine no garbage cans. Imagine recycling everything that comes through your door. It's not a pipe dream. With a new generation of zero-waste approaches, cities are building systems where everything you buy is designed to be recycled, composted, or disassembled and reused. Instead of being thrown away, materials flow again and again through closed loops. This process saves huge amounts of resources and energy, reduces toxics and creates jobs. So next time you're taking out the trash, imagine what the world would look like without it. Imagine no garbage cans.
Imagine no warning labels. Imagine bringing nothing into your home that isn't safe for you, your children or your pets. It's not a pipe dream. With ideas like non-toxic production and green chemistry we could eliminate the use of chemicals now feared to cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive problems, and remove them from our homes and ecosystems. Scientists have already developed safe non-toxic alternatives for hundreds of once questionable products, from kitchen cleaners to baby toys. So the next time you go to the market, imagine not needing to read the fine print. Imagine no warning labels.
Imagine no smokestacks. Imagine a world where all our energy comes from clean and renewable sources like wind, solar and hydro power; and where we produce no excess greenhouse gas emissions. It's not a pipe dream. Already, countries like New Zealand, Germany and Sweden are planning ways to make their economies carbon neutral within the next few decades--and we could do it here. We could run everything from our factories to our cars on climate-friendly clean energy. So the next time you go through an industrial area, imagine breathing fresh, clean air. Imagine no smokestacks.
Imagine no air conditioners. Imagine living in a home heated only by the sun and cooled only by the breeze. It's not a pipe dream. With green building techniques and innovative design we can build houses that are warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, and that use almost no energy at all. Better still, these homes are healthier, more comfortable and less expensive. So the next time you reach for the thermostat, imagine living in a home that doesn't need one. Imagine no air conditioning.
Imagine no sidewalks. Imagine living in a compact community where people own the streets; where kids play, friends sit sipping coffee and cars move slowly when they move at all. It's not a pipe dream. In cities around the world, good design is producing vibrant, compact urban neighborhoods where streets are used as public living rooms and life without a car is made easy. So the next time you're waiting to cross a busy street, imagine a city where people, not cars, come first. Imagine no sidewalks.
Imagine no sprawl. Imagine, instead of a long drive past strip malls and subdivisions, stopping for coffee on your walk to work, or enjoying a magazine while riding light rail through neighborhoods brimming with character and activity. It's not a pipe dream. Cities around the world are creating public transit systems that are efficient, comfortable and simple to use. Smart growth policies preserve local farms and forests, while cutting both commute times and greenhouse gases. So the next time you find yourself lost in suburbia, imagine a different American Dream. Imagine no sprawl.

And there are lots more ideas at the site...

Intrigued?

Everyone should read this essay, discuss it, post some ideas. So, check it out and send the link on to five people you know...

What do you think? What comes after "green"?

Here are a few other good articles from World Changing on the environment:

• Alex Steffen and Julia Steinberger, "The Problem With Big Green"

• Alex Steffen, "Al Gore, Clean Energy and a Better Nation"

• Kathryn Cooper, "Human Ingenuity at the World Wind Energy Summit"

Here is their archive of Earth-related stories...

The revolution is NOW.

Monday, July 21, 2008

How Chicago Shaped Obama

With all the hoopla surrounding the controversial recent Obama cover of The New Yorker many missed the interesting article on the inside about Barack's time in Chicago and the way it has shaped him as a person and politician. Check it out!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Post Secrets

PostSecret is an ongoing community mail art project in which people mail their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard. The simple concept of the project, which began in 2004, was that completely anonymous people decorate a postcard and portray a secret that they had never previously revealed. No restrictions were (or are) made on the content of the secret; only that it must be completely truthful and must never have been spoken before. Entries range from admissions of sexual misconduct and criminal activity to confessions of secret desires, embarrassing habits, hopes and dreams. So far, they project has gathered and displayed more than 2,500 postsecrets...

Here are some examples:












What do you think? Got a secret you need to let out...?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy 90th Birthday Nelson Mandela!

Today is Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday. One of the greatest living freedom fighters in the world, Mandela stands as a living symbol of hope for oppressed and tyrannized people everywhere. Thank you Papa Mandela! Your life example is an inspiration to MILLIONS who are struggling for a more humane and democratic way of being... you have changed the world! We are all blessed by your continued presence here with us.

NPR has produced and posted a really good audio history of Nelson Mandela. Please check it out!

Here is another NPR piece.

Mandela's "pivotal moment."

NPR also has a slew of other excellent programs reflecting on the tenth anniversary of apartheid's demise in South Africa. Again, great stuff. Please check it out!

PRI has an interesting segment on race and reconciliation in South Africa today.

Listen to an interview on Democracy Now! related to Mandela's 90th birthday.

A 1961 news report on South Africa featuring an early interview with Mandela:


Here is the historic BBC news report of Mandela's release from prison in 1990.

A PSA of Mandela speaking of tolerance:


Mandela's 1994 Inaugural Speech:


George Bush making an ass of himself, declarinjg "Mandela's dead":


Mandela has inspired many musicians to create songs in his honor. Take a listen to a few:

Mikey Dread, "Nelson Mandela":
Nelson Mandela - Mikey Dread

Special AKA, "Nelson Mandela":
Nelson Mandela (Extended Version) - The Special AKA

New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble, "Nelson Mandela":
Nelson Mandela - New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble

Bono, the Edge, David A. Stewart, Abdel Wright, Youssou N'Dour, "Long Walk to Freedom":
24 46664 Long Walk To Freedom (con Bono y Moritz).mp3 -

Various, "Amandla":


And, of course, Nelson Mandela was not the only Freedom Fighter in South Africa. Not everyone made it through the struggle alive and we should also pause on this special birthday to remember those martyrs. To that end, here is Peter Gabriel singing his classic, "Biko," in honor of Steve Biko, who was imprisoned, tortured and murdered by the racist government of South Africa... all for advocating equality, democracy and justice for black people in his country:


What will each of us do to carry on this struggle? What will each of us do to honor the legacy of Mandela, Biko and all the other Freedom Fighters across the globe? What will YOU do?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth... is in Nebraska?

Listen up, particularly those of you living outside Nebraska who might have a tendency to look down your nose at those of us living in the heartland. Where is "the most dangerous place on earth"? Is it possible that it is outside Omaha, Nebraska?

Ok, ok. You are now saying to yourself, "What the hell is Freedom Road smoking?" Well, if you are not aware, Stratcom (Strategic Air Command) is located just outside of Omaha and it is surely a candidate for the most dangerous place on earth.

Still not following me? Read on...

On 9/11, President George W. Bush was rushed to U.S. Strategic Command’s underground headquarters outside Omaha, Nebraska for safekeeping. From that day forward, the legendary command that for over half a century had maintained America’s nuclear deterrent would never again be the same.

1. Within months of the terrorist attack of 9/11, StratCom began undergoing a drastic makeover at the hands of the Bush/Cheney Administration. From its previously ‘unthinkable’ mission of nuclear holocaust, StratCom was tasked with offensively waging the White House’s “War on Terror”. The command now fields eight missions — nuclear weapons; cyberwarfare; missile defense; global command and control; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance [ISR]; global strike; space; and combating weapons of mass destruction.

StratCom Commander Kevin Chilton: “In 2002 this command did not experience a sea-state change but a tsunami of change in the way it was organized and the missions that they were given to perform.” Former StratCom Commander James Cartwright: “When we got to 2002 we brought space. In 2003 we had a fire sale and picked up missile defense, ISR and global strike. In 2005 we picked up combating weapons of mass destruction. I’m hoping in 2008 we’ll get the world hunger piece.” [Laughter]. (www.stratcom.mil)

2. Although Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska remains the command headquarters, StratCom now boasts a network of hundreds of military bases distributed around the globe. The command’s broadened missions in computer warfare, signals intelligence and Homeland Security give it direct authority over the four services — Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force — and indirect authority over multiple agencies like the National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, CIA and FBI.

StratCom Commander Chilton: “Here in Omaha we are an operational headquarters working to enable the successful prosecution of our component commanders that are scattered throughout the country. We are called on to be the most, in my view, the most responsive combatant command in the U.S. arsenal.” (www.stratcom.mil) “The FBI and CIA are in our operations center 24/7.” Deputy Commander Jennifer Napper, StratCom’s Global Network Operations.

3. The next war the White House gets us into, be it against a so-called ‘rogue state’ like Iran or geo-political rival like China, will be planned, launched and executed from StratCom — utilizing either conventional or nuclear weapons.

Commander Chilton: “Responsible today for… time-sensitive planning to conduct global strike operations anywhere on the planet, we will remain as ready as ever in our nuclear deterrent role and global strike mission areas.” (www.stratcom.mil). Former CIA analyst Philip Giraldi: “Under instructions from Vice President Cheney’s office, STRATCOM is drawing up a contingency plan [for] a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons.” American Conservative, 8/01/05.

4. Under the Doctrine of Preemption and CONPLAN 8022-02 (Contingency Plan), StratCom is now authorized to attack anywhere on the face of the Earth within one hour on the mere perception of a threat to America’s national security — without first seeking congressional approval as required by the U.S. Constitution and the “War Powers Resolution.”

“StratCom established an interim global strike division to turn the new preemption policy into an operational reality. In December 2002, Adm. James O. Ellis Jr., then StratCom’s head, told an Omaha business group that his command had been charged with developing the capability to strike anywhere in the world within minutes of detecting a target.” William Arkin, Washington Post, (5/14/05)

5. StratCom, as an extension of the executive branch, has become an accessory in flouting both national and international law. It’s usurping Congress’s authority to declare war, conducting constitutionally suspect “warrantless wiretaps” on our citizens, developing new generations of nuclear weapons, pursuing ‘firststrike’ Star Wars missile defense systems and launching ‘vigilante-style’ preemptive attacks — like the one on Iraq.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan: “I hope we do not see another Iraq-type operation for a long time — without U.N. approval. ...I have indicated it was not in conformity with the U.N. charter from our point of view — from the charter point of view, it was illegal.” (9/15/04). Seventy percent of the weapons targeted on Iraq during the preemptive “Shock and Awe” air assault were precision-guided from space by StratCom assets.

6. StratCom’s fingerprints are everywhere nowadays, and we don’t even realize it… The threatened attack on Iran — that’s StratCom’s global strike... The proposed ‘Star Wars’ bases in Poland and the Czech Republic — that’s StratCom’s integrated missile defense… The NSA’s “warrantless wiretaps” on American citizens — that’s StratCom’s ISR mission… The current showdown with China over its space program — that’s StratCom’s space command… Developing new generations of nuclear weapons like the bunker buster ‘mininuke’ and Reliable Replacement Warhead — that’s StratCom’s strategic deterrence.

“In December 2001, the administration issued a provocative Nuclear Posture Review calling for the development of new, more usable nuclear weapons [which runs] completely counter to U.S. obligations under the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.” Union of Concerned Scientists, “Global Security.” U.N. World Court: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotia-tions leading to nuclear disarmament in all aspects under strict and effective international control.” (7/8/96)

7. Under the goals outlined in the Bush/Cheney Administration’s revised “National Space Policy,” StratCom is actively seeking the total domination of space for the U.S. and a few approved allies… because whoever controls space controls the Earth.

“President Bush has signed a new National Space Policy that rejects future arms-control agreements that might limit U.S. flexibility in space and asserts a right to deny access to space to anyone ‘hostile to U.S. interests,’” Washington Post (10/17/06). “The United States was alone in voting against the [United Nations] resolution on prevention of an arms race in outer space… The PAROS resolution was adopted by a vote of 166 in favor, one against.” Nuclear Threat Initiative, March 2007 (www.nti.org)

8. StratCom is fast becoming the “Big Brother” that George Orwell warned of in his novel 1984. It’s spying on our citizens and infringing on our civil liberties. It’s generating round-the-clock spin about threats to our national security and the need for increased military strength. And it’s consuming an ever-greater share of the budget for national defense as it pursues a strategy of permanent war. For the 21st Century, it’s like Darth Vader in the service of the Empire.

“StratCom is a laboratory for the future of warfare.” Space Foundation President Robert Walker in his opening remarks at the “Strategic Space and Defense” conference in Omaha, Nebraska (10/11/06). Billed as “the definitive global security conference, where the senior leadership of U.S. Strategic Command, component and supported commands, and the executive leadership of the national security industrial base gather,” the event is annually co-sponsored by Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.

9. The key elements of StratCom’s mission — such as global missile defense — will greatly exceed, in size and cost, many of the major military-industrial projects of the past. With the current Pentagon budget already totaling well over a half-trillion dollars annually, paying for the cost of such StratCom projects will necessarily translate into cuts in social spending and entitlements programs, like Medicare and Social Security.

“If the majority of top policymakers have longstanding ties to the companies that will benefit from the Bush Administration’s ‘war without end’ approach to foreign policy, the development of a missile defense ‘shield’ and a new generation of nuclear weapons, who will represent the public interest?” William Hartung, World Policy Institute. “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” Dwight Eisenhower (1961).

10. In the wake of 9/11, StratCom has become the most dangerous place on the face of the Earth. But this transformation has happened so fast, hardly anybody knows it, and nobody’s talking about it. And it’s high time we do.


Here is an essay on this topic written by Tim Rinne, the State Coordinator for Nebraskans for Peace.

Here is another piece Tim Rinne wrote about StratCom's role on the University of Nebraska-Omaha campus.

Here is yet another article by Rinne on StratCom and world domination.

And one last essay on StratCom's preparations for war with Iran.

Scared yet?

"Blood Done Sign My Name"

I was extremely fortunate as a graduate student to be advised by an amazing historian, Tim Tyson. Tim is a fantastic and compassionate man, a crusader for social justice, and a hell of a lot of fun. My M.A. research contributed to his first (and award-winning) book, Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power. This book revolutionized the way scholars look at Black Power and armed self-defense during the civil rights era and spurred a slew of new research, including my own work on race relations and civil rights insurgency in Milwaukee. Tim is both a rigorous academic historian as well as a beautiful and poetic writer. His books are darn good reads!

Tim's second monograph, Blood Done Sign My Name, is another gripping, award-winning page-turner, part history, part autobiography. The story focuses on the 1970 murder of an African American veteran in Oxford, North Carolina, and the fallout from this injustice. Recently, the book was optioned as a movie and it has now begun shooting. Very cool!

Here is Tim talking about the book on NPR.

Here is a brief Youtube video from the set of Blood:


Keep your ear to the ground and check out Blood Done Sign My Name when it hits a theater near you. In the meantime, pick up one of Tim's books and give it a read. You won't regret it!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Obama Pushes Back on Iraq

Recently, there has been a lot of chitter-chatter by the talking heads (and throughout the blogosphere) about Barack Obama's "move to the middle." Many progressives are concerned about the speed with which Obama has moved rightward since clinching the nomination. They cite his capitulation on the FISA fight, his moralistic rhetoric, his promise to reform, then expand, faith-based programs, and his equivocation on withdrawal from Iraq. Others, including Obama, claim this concern is overstated. Now, Obama is pushing back a bit with an Op-Ed piece in today's NYTimes...

July 14, 2008
OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
My Plan for Iraq

By BARACK OBAMA
Chicago

THE call by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for a timetable for the removal of American troops from Iraq presents an enormous opportunity. We should seize this moment to begin the phased redeployment of combat troops that I have long advocated, and that is needed for long-term success in Iraq and the security interests of the United States.

The differences on Iraq in this campaign are deep. Unlike Senator John McCain, I opposed the war in Iraq before it began, and would end it as president. I believed it was a grave mistake to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by invading a country that posed no imminent threat and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Since then, more than 4,000 Americans have died and we have spent nearly $1 trillion. Our military is overstretched. Nearly every threat we face — from Afghanistan to Al Qaeda to Iran — has grown.

In the 18 months since President Bush announced the surge, our troops have performed heroically in bringing down the level of violence. New tactics have protected the Iraqi population, and the Sunni tribes have rejected Al Qaeda — greatly weakening its effectiveness.

But the same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true. The strain on our military has grown, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and we’ve spent nearly $200 billion more in Iraq than we had budgeted. Iraq’s leaders have failed to invest tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues in rebuilding their own country, and they have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge.

The good news is that Iraq’s leaders want to take responsibility for their country by negotiating a timetable for the removal of American troops. Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. James Dubik, the American officer in charge of training Iraq’s security forces, estimates that the Iraqi Army and police will be ready to assume responsibility for security in 2009.

Only by redeploying our troops can we press the Iraqis to reach comprehensive political accommodation and achieve a successful transition to Iraqis’ taking responsibility for the security and stability of their country. Instead of seizing the moment and encouraging Iraqis to step up, the Bush administration and Senator McCain are refusing to embrace this transition — despite their previous commitments to respect the will of Iraq’s sovereign government. They call any timetable for the removal of American troops “surrender,” even though we would be turning Iraq over to a sovereign Iraqi government.

But this is not a strategy for success — it is a strategy for staying that runs contrary to the will of the Iraqi people, the American people and the security interests of the United States. That is why, on my first day in office, I would give the military a new mission: ending this war.

As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal.

In carrying out this strategy, we would inevitably need to make tactical adjustments. As I have often said, I would consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government to ensure that our troops were redeployed safely, and our interests protected. We would move them from secure areas first and volatile areas later. We would pursue a diplomatic offensive with every nation in the region on behalf of Iraq’s stability, and commit $2 billion to a new international effort to support Iraq’s refugees.

Ending the war is essential to meeting our broader strategic goals, starting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban is resurgent and Al Qaeda has a safe haven. Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, and it never has been. As Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently pointed out, we won’t have sufficient resources to finish the job in Afghanistan until we reduce our commitment to Iraq.

As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan. We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there. I would not hold our military, our resources and our foreign policy hostage to a misguided desire to maintain permanent bases in Iraq.

In this campaign, there are honest differences over Iraq, and we should discuss them with the thoroughness they deserve. Unlike Senator McCain, I would make it absolutely clear that we seek no presence in Iraq similar to our permanent bases in South Korea, and would redeploy our troops out of Iraq and focus on the broader security challenges that we face. But for far too long, those responsible for the greatest strategic blunder in the recent history of American foreign policy have ignored useful debate in favor of making false charges about flip-flops and surrender.

It’s not going to work this time. It’s time to end this war.

Barack Obama, a United States senator from Illinois, is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

So, there you have it. Has Senator Obama allayed your concerns, at least on Iraq? What do you think?

UPDATE: Barack Obama delivers a major speech today (July 15) on foreign policy. Everyone really should take the time to watch this:

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Power to the Poster!

My good pal (and brilliant graphic designer), Justin Kemerling, is a co-creator of a really great public political poster project over at The Match Factory. The project is called "Power to the Poster." The idea is to encourage people to create interesting, challenging and provocative political posters, post them to the web, and allow anyone to download, print and post these pieces of political art in their communities. Here is how Justin and his co-conspirators describe it at the site:

A graphic design democracy project.

There is a restless, hopeful movement with eyes set on new possibilities for change leading to the prosperity of the collective.

And, of course, there is the clutter-ridden madness of a constant control room information flow.

Power To The Poster is the former taken to dismantling the latter.

This website is for people to use a ready supply of well-designed, wild postings that comment on the issues of our time. These 11x17, B/W posters in PDF format are for anyone, anywhere to download, print and post. Here's how:

• Download a Poster in 11 x 17 PDF format from our downloads page.

• Open your Poster in a PDF viewer program on your computer. One such program is Adobe's Acrobat. Totally free.

• Print your Poster on any printer capable of printing at 11 x 17 inches. If you don't have a printer you can print it at just about any copy center. Also, if you can, you should always print your posters on some serious FSC recycled, chlorine free paper.

• Take your new Poster print to a high traffic area. Maybe its at your work, maybe a wall in your neighborhood, maybe a coffeehouse, maybe its your refrigerator. (Respect people's property, of course).

• Post it and watch heads turn.

• Repeat.

Here are some more great and FREE designs (click any image to enlarge):










Now, go download, print and post...

... and TELL A FRIEND ABOUT THIS GREAT PROJECT!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Water Kept from Central Ohio Black Community for Decades, Jury Finds


According to AP:

Residents of a mostly black neighborhood in rural Ohio were awarded nearly $11 million Thursday by a federal jury that found local authorities denied them public water service for decades out of racial discrimination.

Each of the 67 plaintiffs was awarded $15,000 to $300,000, depending on how long they had lived in the Coal Run neighborhood, about 5 miles east of Zanesville in Muskingum County in east-central Ohio.

The money covers both monetary losses and the residents' pain and suffering between 1956, when water lines were first laid in the area, and 2003, when Coal Run got public water.

The lawsuit was filed in 2003 after the Ohio Civil Rights Commission concluded the residents were victims of discrimination. The city, county and East Muskingum Water Authority all denied it and noted that many residents in the lightly populated county don't have public water.

Coal Run residents either paid to have wells dug, hauled water for cisterns or collected rain water so they could drink, cook and bathe.

Here is the link to the full story at CNN.com

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Mighty (Big) Nation

Uhhhh... this graphic speaks for itself. Essentially, a full 1/4 of the entire adult population of the United States can now be categorized as OBESE. Like the environment, this is a problem that is in plain view, that everyone knows about, yet most fail to take the required (dramatic) steps to change it... And the tragedy is that obesity is linked to so many other problems and maladies, on the front end as a cause and on the back end as a result.


(click to enlarge image)

Any thoughts about the heft of our fellow citizens? Any thoughts about how to change this? Is it merely a matter of "personal responsibility"? Or, is it linked to broader social issues?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Yuri Kochiyama's Revolutionary Spirit

Most USians have never heard of Yuri Kochiyama. Her story is not taught in most schools. The lessons of her experience go unlearned. That is a real shame because Kochiyama has been one of the leading social justice advocates in the United States for more than 40 years:

• In a 1965 Life magazine photograph taken moments after the assassination of Malcolm X, Yuri is the woman in thick black glasses cradling his head in her hands as his bullet-riddled body lies splayed on the floor. As a longtime resident of Harlem, Yuri, a petite Japanese-American woman and mother of six, fought for black nationalism and Black Power.

• In 1977 Kochiyama was one of thirty people who stormed the Statue of Liberty and held it for nine hours to bring attention to the struggle for Puerto Rican independence.

• In the 1980s, Kochiyama and her husband -- whom she met at a World War II internment camp -- lobbied for reparations to Japanese Americans who were imprisoned by the government during that war.

• In recent years, Kochiyama has been a passionate critic of American foreign policy, drawing links between her internment during WWII and the detainment and harassment of thousands of Middle Easterners since September 11.

A 2002 article in the East Bay Express explains, "To mainstream America, the Movement may be dead, little more than textbook photographs of protesters marching arm in arm. But to Yuri Kochiyama, the Movement is alive and well and living in the Bay Area. And one of its most emphatic voices comes not from an idealistic Berkeley student, but from an eighty-year-old who gets around with a walker."

So who is Yuri Kochiyama? What is her story?

Yuri Kochiyama was born in 1921 in San Pedro, California. As teenagers, Yuri and her two brothers lived a red-white-and-blue, oh-so-apple-pie existence. Yuri taught Sunday school, volunteered for the YWCA and Girl Scouts, attended every football game in a town where high-school sports mattered above all else, and even joined the Women's Ambulance and Defense Corps of America, which preceded the Women's Army Corps.

Religious and baseball-obsessed, Yuri grew up as Mary Yuriko Nakahara in San Pedro, a port town just south of Los Angeles. Her father had come to America by himself, later returning to Japan to find a wife. He found her teaching at the school where his father was principal. In San Pedro, Seichi Nakahara owned a fish market. He often did business with Japanese steamships and sometimes brought ship officers home for dinner.

Most of the residents of Terminal Island, located just across the bay, were Japanese immigrants, but in the town where the Nakaharas lived the population was mostly white, working-class Italian and Yugoslavian immigrants. "We Japanese kids never felt embarrassed that our parents couldn't speak perfect English, because no one's parents spoke perfect English," Yuri said.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor radically changed Yuri Kochiyama's life:

But all that changed on December 7, 1941. Yuri had just returned home from Sunday school when a knock came at the door. Three FBI agents wanted to see her father. He was sleeping, having returned just the day before from the hospital where he underwent an ulcer operation. Within minutes, though, the agents rushed him into his bathrobe and slippers and whisked him away. The Japanese were bombing Pearl Harbor.

The next day, agents returned and rifled through everything in the house. For days the family didn't know where their father was. Finally, a lawyer located him in a federal prison across the bay on Terminal Island. Yuri's mother pleaded with authorities to take him to the hospital and send him back to jail when he was better. Meanwhile, Yuri's twin brother Peter, then a student at UC Berkeley, hitchhiked home, since no one would sell him a train ticket. By December 10, both her brothers tried to sign up for military service. Peter was accepted even though his father was accused of spying.

When Seichi Nakahara was finally returned to a hospital, his bed was the only one in the ward bearing the sign "Prisoner of War." The children were allowed to visit only once. Peter came in his uniform, and his father quivered when he saw him. Unable to recognize his son, he thought that someone had come to interrogate him. A week later, on the evening of the 20th, the hospital sent Seichi home in an ambulance. Overjoyed at first, the Nakaharas soon realized he was dying.

"Because he couldn't talk, we didn't know if he could hear," Yuri said. "We waved our fingers in front of his eyes, but he didn't move."

By next morning he was dead at age sixty. The FBI called to warn that anyone attending the funeral would be under surveillance. Friends defied the five-mile travel ban placed on Japanese Americans to show up at his service. FBI agents stood at the doors.

And, of course, internment made a deep and lasting impression on Kochiyama:

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066, authorizing the military to remove people of Japanese ancestry from their homes to prison camps. Yuri considers her family lucky because they had more than a month to prepare, while some only had forty-eight hours. After being forced to live for six months in a horse stall at the Santa Anita racetrack, Yuri, her mother, and oldest brother were tagged, numbered, and loaded onto cattle trains. No one knew where they were going. The Nakaharas ended up in a concentration camp in Jerome, Arkansas. Two of Yuri's brothers joined the U.S. military during the war.

They lived in barracks, twelve to a block. The camps ran self-sufficiently. Everyone had a job. First-generation Issei women ordered cloth from the Sears-Roebuck catalogue to make curtains for the toilet stalls. Yuri continued to teach Sunday school. Many of the second-generation Nisei GIs were stationed in the south and would visit by the busloads on the weekends. The young women formed their own USO in the camp for them.


Here is Sandra Oh reading the words of Yuri Kochiyama from Howard Zinn's Voices of a People's History:


Because of her experiences during the Second World War, Kochiyama is most riled by unjust imprisonment -- whether of Movement revolutionaries, Iranians during the Iran-Contra affair, or Middle Eastern immigrants today. She tirelessly follows hundreds of cases of Americans she considers political prisoners, including Mutulu Shakur, Yu Kikumura, George Baba Eng, Bashir Hameed, Abdul Majid, Oscar Lopez Rivera, Mumia Abu Jamal, Ed Poindexter, Mondo we langa, and others. She writes regularly to many of these prisoners and publishes her own newsletter.

Here is a nice segment from Democracy Now! that features Yuri Kochiyama discussing her internment during WWII as well as the assassination of Malcolm X:


She is also featured in a documentary, titled "Freedom Fighters":


So, what makes Yuri Kochiyama unique?

First, as an Asian American, she represents a history, a set of experiences, a perspective, a community that is often ignored, or overlooked, both in the broader U.S. culture, as well as in Movement annals.

Similarly, the same could be said about the fact that Kochiyama is a female activist/organizer/leader. Although we know that women were integrally involved in all of the social movements of the 1960s-era, their contributions are often ignored altogether or overshadowed by male public leaders who hogged the limelight.

Third, Kochiyama is "unusual even among activists. While many pay lip service to the notion of diversity, few, if any, have worked for so many causes and embraced so many distinct ethnic groups. 'I don't think there are too many people you can really say were involved simultaneously in cross-cultures in a real day-to-day basis,' said family friend Nyisha Shakur, who used to make prison visits with Yuri on the East Coast. 'I don't think I know of any others.'"

Here is a good video clip on this point:


Fourth, Yuri Kochiyama's is a profound example of a "life led in struggle." She embodies "a revolutionary spirit," a total commitment to social justice.

More should know about her. Spread the word...

Monday, July 07, 2008

Costs of War

I found this little piece of video over at the Nebraskans for Peace website. Please take 1 minute and 30 seconds to watch:

David Gallo - Underwater Astonishments

More "inspired talks by the world's greatest thinkers and doers" over at TED:

A pioneer in ocean exploration, David Gallo is an enthusiastic ambassador between the sea and those of us on dry land. In this brief talk, Gallo shows jaw-dropping footage of amazing sea creatures, including a color-shifting cuttlefish, a perfectly camouflaged octopus, and a Times Square's worth of neon light displays from fish who live in the blackest depths of the ocean. Check it out:



Any thoughts?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Hell Throws Big Welcome Party for Jesse Helms

(Image Source: The Onion) (click to enlarge)

Noted racist, sexist, homophobe, Confederate-sympathizing, poor-hating, anti-communist nut job senator from North Carolina, Jesse Helms, has died. I know we are supposed to be respectful when someone dies and not speak ill of them, but I can't say I'm too busted up over this loss. In fact, I hope he is in the segregated section of Hell... you know, the section that is particularly fiery. The section set aside for particularly obnoxious and unyielding defenders of the unjust status quo. I hope he is having to do grueling, back-breaking manual labor for a whole slew of black angels. I hope he is having to wash the naked bodies of elderly black saints, scrub the floors and make food for an African American celestial choir. I hope he is under constant orders by black males angels with white angel wives. And, to cap it off, I hope he must spend all his downtime being massaged with oil by hundreds of fabulously gay men while listening to militant feminist diatribes on his ipod!

So, who was Jesse Helms? If you want to read more measured analysis, here is what the New York Times wrote.

I won't go through his whole biography, but I will note that Helms was widely known, inside and outside his party, as a mean-spirited, cantankerous, uncompromising man. He was born into an extremely racist culture in Monroe, North Carolina,Klan country near the S.C. border, the son of another obnoxious racist, Jesse Helms, Sr. In his award-winning account of Robert Williams, a Monroe civil rights leader, historian (and my academic advisor and friend!) Tim Tyson explains that it was Helms, Sr.'s racist brutality that initially brought Williams face-to-face with racial injustice. As Tyson explains, as an 11-year-old in 1936, Williams saw a white policeman, Jesse Helms, Sr. beat an African-American woman to the ground. Williams watched in terror as North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms' father hit the woman hard and "dragged her off to the nearby jailhouse, her dress up over her head, the same way that a cave man would club and drag his sexual prey." So, the apple clearly did not fall far from the tree...

Jesse Helms, Jr., was one of these sugar-sweet "southern gentlemen" who is actually a hate-filled person who liked to see other people suffer. In the grand southern tradition, Helms blocked so much legislation his colleagues called him "Senator No." And, because he was such an unrelenting jerk and general pain in the ass, the chairman of the Democratic Party once dubbed Helms the "Prince of Darkness."

Helms came to politics late, getting his start working on the 1950 campaign of Willis Smith, a campaign some called the most overtly racist campaign in the U.S. since the turn-of-the-century. Helms crafted an attack ad, which included this narration: "White people, wake up before it is too late. Do you want Negroes working beside you, your wife and your daughters, in your mills and factories? Frank Graham favors mingling of the races." Another ad featured photographs Helms himself had doctored to illustrate the allegation that Graham's wife had danced with a black man. After they won election, Helms worked for Smith in Washington before leaving to work for the segregationist presidential campaign of Sen. Richard Russell of Georgia.

In 1960, while also serving as a city council member in Raleigh, Helms rose to prominence as a tv news commentator railing against the civil rights movement, the supposedly liberal media and peace churches that were critical of American foreign policy. In the typical bluster of the racist Right from the 1950s and 1960s, Helms claimed the civil rights movement was infested by "communists" and “moral degenerates.” He called Social Security, the most popular social program in American history, “nothing more than doles and handouts.” He described Medicaid, which provides basic health care for the poor, as a “step over into the swampy field of socialized medicine.” You get the picture...

Helms claimed he wasn't racist, yet he dedicated the bulk of his life to opposing any and all forms of justice for people of color and promoted a legislative agenda that was overtly hostile to the interests of the poor and most people of color. In 1963, he wrote, "The Negro cannot count forever on the kind of restraint that's thus far left him free to clog the streets, disrupt traffic, and interfere with other men's rights." In 1983, playing on long-standing racist stereotypes of black criminality, he wrote, "Crime rates and irresponsibility among Negroes are a fact of life which must be faced." Helms often used racial cues and code words to inject his campaigns with the divisive politics of race. The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other prominent black leaders were frequent targets of Helms’ speeches and fund-raising letters. He worked in the Senate against civil rights legislation, such as extension of the Voting Rights Act, and domestic programs favored by black voters. Helms sponsored measures barring court-ordered school busing for integration, and was the leading Senate supporter of the apartheid regime of South Africa. In 1983, Helms made headlines throughout the country when he put forth sensational charges as he waged a filibuster against an effort to make King’s birthday a national holiday. Helms's biographer, Ernest Furguson wrote in 1986, “All his public life, he has done and said things offensive to blacks, and to anyone sensitive to racial nuance.” At the time Helms retired, David Broder of the Washington Post wrote, “What really sets Jesse Helms apart is that he is the last prominent unabashed white racist politician in this country — a title that one hopes will now be permanently retired... What is unique about Helms – and from my viewpoint, unforgivable – is his willingness to pick at the scab of the great wound of American history, the legacy of slavery and segregation, and to inflame racial resentment against African Americans.”

In 1990 and 1996, a black architect, Harvey Gantt, ran against Helms for the senate. Gantt had successfully desegregated Clemson University in South Carolina in 1963. South Carolina was the last state to hold out on desegregation of higher education. because Helms was such a polarizing figure, both elections became big national news. During the 1990 campaign, Gantt was polling well with a couple of weeks to go, prompting some to predict a grand upset over Helms. Yet, Helms had his own trick up his sleeve: the race card. At the last minute, the Helms campaign ran an ad featuring ominous music backing images of white hands crumpling a rejection notice for a job as an ominous narrator says "You needed that job and you were the best qualified, but they had to give it to a minority. Is that fair? Harvey Gantt says it is." The ad was a smashing success. Despite the strong polling data for Gantt, Helms ultimately won the election, prompting many to point out that whites seem to be more willing to tell pollsters that they would vote for a black candidate than to actually go out and vote for a black candidate on election day. As a result, it has become basic political practice now to assume that a black candidate against a white candidate must have at least a 5 point advantage to be considered even in the race. "The tension that [Helms] creates, the fear he creates in people, is how he's won campaigns," Gantt said several years later.

Here is the infamous Harvey Gantt "Hands" ad:


And his racism continued throughout his life. For example, in 1995, when a caller to CNN's Larry King Live show praised guest Jesse Helms for "everything you've done to help keep down the niggers," Helms' response was to salute the camera and say, "Well, thank you, I think." What makes Helms unique among his generation of hardline segregationists is that, unlike George Wallace or Strom Thurmond, he never moderated his views on race. "I can't think of many other examples of major opponents of the civil rights movement that didn't modify their view on civil rights," says William Link, a professor at the University of Florida and a Helms biographer. "He was very much a man of the times and his generation ... of North Carolina whites (who) grew up with segregation." According to Merle Black, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta, "Helms operated as though African-Americans didn't vote. He was unlike other politicians, who tried to expand their original basis of support. Helms never did that."

For good measure, here are a few of Helms' greatest rhetorical hits. Note that he hated a whole lot of people, not just black folks:

• "To rob the Negro of his reputation of thinking through a problem in his own fashion is about the same as trying to pretend that he doesn't have a natural instinct for rhythm and for singing and dancing."
-- on African Americans

• "No, I do not. And neither do the people in the armed forces. Mr. Clinton better watch out if he comes down here. He'd better have a bodyguard."
-- When asked in 1994 on CNN if he thought President Clinton was "up to the job" of serving as Commander-in-Chief

• "Let me adjust my hearing aid. It could not accommodate the decibels of the Senator from Massachusetts. I can't match him in decibels or Jezebels."
-- After Ted Kennedy made an emotional speech to let foreigners with HIV become US citizens, 1993.

• "Many support the the court's abortion decision do so by describing the constitution as a "living document" which the court must be permitted to interpret with the widest possible flexibility. But, when they say the constitution is a living document, they really mean that the constitution is dead, and that the Supreme Court as a supreme undertaker may dispose of the corpse as it pleases."
-- At the National Pro-Life PAC Banquet, Chicago Illinois, May 5, 1975

• "The New York Times and Washington Post are both infested with homosexuals themselves. Just about every person down there is a homosexual or lesbian."
-- 1995

• "If God had wanted us to use the metric system, Jesus would have had 10 apostles."

• "I was with some Vietnamese recently, and some of them were smoking two cigarettes at the same time. That's the kind of
customers we need!"
-- at a 1996 dinner promoting the tobacco industry

• "I know Mark's death was a devastating blow to you. As far as homosexuality, the Bible judges it, I do not. As for Mark, I wish he had not played Russian roulette with his sexual activity. I have sympathy for him and for you. But there is no escaping the reality of what happened."
-- Response to a conservative, Republican supporter - Patsy Clarke - in North Carolina after her son died of AIDS and she wrote Helms asking for some compassion. Clarke was horrified at herself when she realized her son had suffered alone until the very end of his life in large part because of the policies she and people like Jesse Helms had advocated.

• "The University of Negroes and Communists"
-- Reference to the University of North Carolina devised by Mr. Helms when he worked for Willis Smith's 1950 U.S. Senate campaign.

• "I've been portrayed as a caveman by some. That's not true. I'm a conservative progressive, and that means I think all men are equal, be they slants, beaners or niggers."
-- February 6, 1985

• "I've never heard once in this chamber anybody say to the homosexuals, 'stop what you're doing.' If they would stop what
they're doing there would not be one additional case of AIDS in the United State."

• "This bill attempts to make sure that President Clinton is not allowed to do by Executive Order what Congress has declined to enact in the past two congressional sessions namely, to treat homosexuals as a special class protected under various titles
of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
-- Jesse Helms, introducing an anti-gay bill in January, 1999

• "What is really at stake is whether or not America will allow the cultural high ground in this nation to sink slowly into an
abyss of slime to placate people who clearly seek or are willing to destroy the Judaic-Christian foundations of this republic."
-- Helms opposing funding for the National Endowment of the Arts

• "All I know is that D'Aubuisson is a free enterprise man and deeply religious."
-- Responding to evidence that Roberto D'Aubuisson directed Salvadoran death squads that murdered thousands of civilians.

• "Your tax dollars are being used to pay for grade-school classes that teach our children that CANNIBALISM, WIFE-SWAPPING and MURDER of infants and the elderly are acceptable behavior."
-- Fund raising mailer, 1996

• "I’m so old-fashioned I believe in horse whipping.”
-- During a debate in 1991 on an AIDS-related amendment.

• "...in the l8 years and 5 months I've been in the senate, none, none have been more capable than Dan Quayle."
-- on the former, much maligned Vice President

• "Democracy used to be a good thing, but now it has gotten into the wrong hands."

• "All Latins are volatile people. Hence, I was not surprised at the volatile reaction."
-- After Mexicans protested his visit in 1986

• "It's their deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct that is responsible for the disease."
-- Justifying his refusal to give financial support to families of AIDS victims.

• "Atheism and socialism -- or liberalism, which tends in the same direction -- are inseparable entities. When you have men
who no longer believe that God is in charge of human affairs, you have men attempting to take the place of God by means of
the Superstate."
-- on liberalism

• "Homosexuals are weak, morally sick wretches."
-- 1995 radio broadcast

• “The nation has been hypnotized by the swaying and gesturing of the watusi and the frug.”
-- WRAL Viewpoint, 1966

• "They should ask their parents if it would be all right for their son or daughter to marry a Negro."
-- In response to Duke University students holding a vigil after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, 1968

Helms had a particular hatred for gays and lesbians. Over the years, Helms regularly referred to gays and lesbians as "degenerate" and "weak, morally sick wretches." He clashed with gay activists throughout the 80s and 90s over AIDS, which he thought was a plague against gays and lesbians. He said, "If homosexuals would only stop doing what they're doing, there wouldn't be any more AIDS." In a 1988 tirade highlighting his routine opposition to AIDS research funding, Helms lashed out at the Kennedy-Hatch AIDS bill: "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy." It is this type of reprehensible, Bible-looney thinking that allowed that disease to spread unchecked for many years, costing untold numbers of lives. In 1993, when then-President Clinton sought confirmation for an openly homosexual assistant secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Helms registered his disgust. "I'm not going to put a lesbian in a position like that," he said in a newspaper interview at the time. "If you want to call me a bigot, fine."

Helms wasn't a fan of women's equality, either. Once, Helms remonstrated ten female members of the House of Representatives to "act like ladies" when they interrupted a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to demand support of a U.N. treaty against gender discrimination, and subsequently had them removed from the hearing by Capitol police. Or, another time, he equated women's right to control their own bodies with the Holocaust and the Sept. 11 terror attacks. And in a 1993 episode that mixed his infamous racism with his infamous sexism, Helms sang "Dixie" in an elevator to Carol Moseley-Braun, the first African-American woman elected to the Senate, bragging, "I'm going to make her cry. I'm going to sing Dixie until she cries."

And, finally, Helms was a fanatical anti-communist, a position that led him to support many tyrannical regimes. As FAIR has detailed, Helms offered strong, consistent, if sometimes shadowy, support for violent, anti-democratic forces abroad, from South Africa to El Salvador, yet few mainstream media outlets probed his ties to groups that would accurately be described as fascist. One exception was an editorial in the Boston Globe: "Helms' role in supporting foreign thugs such as Roberto D'Aubuisson, the cashiered Salvadoran major who ran death squads responsible for savage political murders, did lasting harm to America's good name. In South Africa, Argentina, Mozambique, Honduras, and Nicaragua, Helms cooperated with racists and fascists who have nothing in common with the ideals of American democracy." Moreover, according to Steve Clemons, "Helms, who served as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, seemed to despise globalists in general, would have loved to wreck the United Nations and other international institutions, and reified an American nativist jingoism that he helped sell with beguiling Southern charm and linguistic twang."

But, despite the brief litany of Helms' transgressions that I have posted here, the current Republicans love them some Jesse:

• According to President George W. Bush, “Jesse Helms was a kind, decent and humble man and a passionate defender of what he called ‘the Miracle of America.’ So it is fitting that this great patriot left us on the Fourth of July.”

• "It's just incredible that he would die on July 4, the same day of the Declaration of Independence and the same day that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died, and he certainly is a patriot in the mold of those great men," said former North Carolina GOP Rep. Bill Cobey, the chairman of The Jesse Helms Center in Wingate, N.C.

• "America lost a great public servant and true patriot today," White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said.

• "Today we lost a Senator whose stature in Congress had few equals. Senator Jesse Helms was a leading voice and courageous champion for the many causes he believed in," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.

• In 2005, another kook from the far Right, Jerry Falwell, said, "I've had two heroes in my life: Jesse Helms and Ronald Reagan." He said it was people like Helms who "prevented the country from going to hell in a handbasket.”

And, sadly, because he was "an architect of modern conservatism," we will be doing battle with the Helms legacy for years to come. The damage of his policy views continues to reverberate throughout our society, taking its toll on countless real live human beings each day. It is important to remember that Helms was not some fringe lunatic, but one of the most revered members of his political party. He was a key leader of the new conservative movement that emerged in the 1970s. That says something about the recent history of the Republican Party and the New Right, I'd say.

So, there you have it, my equivalent of a 21-gun salute to one of the bigger reactionary jerks our country has produced in recent times. Here's to you, Jesse. Don't let those pearly gates hit you in the butt on your way down to the basement of eternal damnation...

Friday, July 04, 2008

Two 4th of July Stories

Here are two July 4th essays by former members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Something to think about other than hot dogs, hamburgers, fireworks, flags and war...

Story #1 by Bruce Hartford

During the Vietnam War, Reber Boult and I were working with anti-war GIs at a large Marine base in Asia. Among many other endeavors, we helped them put out an underground, anti-war newspaper called the "Semper Fi." Of course, it was illegal for Marines to possess a copy of the "Fi" on base, let alone distribute it. Most of our distribution was clandestine, and the "Fi" was passed from hand to hand by Marines throughout Asia. But Reber and I did stand just outside Main Gate distributing the "Fi" to passing Marines, an action that brought back strong memories of handing out voter-registration and boycott leaflets in Selma Alabama and Grenada Mississippi.

One 4th of July, the brass decided to have a huge celebration on base and they invited the Lord High Admiral of the Pacific Fleet. We all felt that this auspicious occasion should be honored by a special edition of the "Semper Fi." On one side we reproduced the actual Declaration of Independence, on the other side we provided a modern-English translation of the few sentences in the Declaration that make it a world-historic document. And we discussed the relevance of those few sentences to the War in Vietnam and the conditions endured within the Corps by enlisted Marines. As I recall the text we preached from was:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men
are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,
Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --- That to secure
these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving
their just powers from the consent of the governed, --- That
whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish
it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation
on such principles and organizing its powers in such form,
as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and
Happiness. When a long train of abuses and usurpations,
pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to
reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it
is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide
new Guards for their future security."

Six courageous Marines take this special edition of the "Fi" on base, and openly distributed, telling people that July 4th celebrates the Declaration of Independence and perhaps folk might be interested in reading what it actually says.

Instant pandemonium and hysteria! The six are immediately hauled off to the Brig for possession and distribution of subversive literature. Then a strange thing occurs, other Marines begin asking why brothers are being busted for handing out the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July? Hello!?! An angry crowd gathers outside the Brig and there is ferment,
consternation, and disruption throughout the base. It becomes so widespread that it even makes the local evening TV news.

Reber begins planning a brilliant and aggressive defense of six GIs charged with the subversive "crime" of handing out the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July. The Marine brass sees the hand-writing on the wall, and to avoid even more embarrassment they drop the charges and discharge the six from the service. But because they knew we would contest any Dishonorable or Bad Conduct discharge, they have to give the six a good discharge with all veterans benefits. On the day that came down they were the six happiest Marines in the Western Pacific War Zone.

Story #2 by Frances Beal

"Frederick Douglass’ Legacy for Our Times" (9 July 2002)

This year’s celebration of the 4th of July marks the 150th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ presentation at the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society, What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? Douglass used the occasion to expose the full shame and treachery of slavery and in unmitigated terms castigated the nation’s pieties, in particular the cherished memories of its revolution, its principles of liberty and its moral and religious ethos. Fellow-citizens he proclaimed, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, ’may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!’ To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most s candalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world.

In all too many ways, the Douglass speech has as many lessons for us today as it did for people who despised racism and tyranny in 1852. One is reminded that the colonies suffered under the boot of the British crown, which gave rise to resisters who had not adopted the fashionable idea of this day, of the infallibility of government, and the absolute character of its acts, and who presumed to differ from the home government in respect to the wisdom and the justice of some of those burdens and restraints. They went so far in their excitement as to pronounce the measures of government unjust, unreasonable, and oppressive, and altogether such as ought not to be quietly submitted to.

As the fireworks and firecrackers explode around us this year, let us take to heart Frederick Douglass’s reminder that there was a time when to pronounce against England, and in favor of the cause of the colonies, tried men’s souls. They who did so were accounted in their day, plotters of mischief, agitators and rebels, dangerous men. To side with the right, against the wrong, with the weak against the strong, and with the oppressed against the oppressor! Here lies the merit, and the one, which, of all others, seems unfashionable in our day. The cause of liberty may be stabbed by the men who glory in the deeds of your fathers.

And so it is today in the year 2002, when those who wrap themselves so tightly in the U.S. flag in order to justify the erosion of the civil rights and civil liberties are not the ones who carry the legacy of Independence Day. In fact, Ashcroft and friends and the rest of the Bush regime are the ideological inheritors of the Tories who opposed any alteration in the social and economic relations of society, who relished the privileges of the status quo, and hated all change except silver, gold and copper change! as Douglass declared.

One has to ask then, where is the Frederick (or Frederica) Douglass of the year 2002?

Though the voice may be muted, it is there. It can be heard in cities from Cambridge to Berkeley, which have passed resolutions that call the U.S. Patriot Act a threat to the civil rights of the residents of their communities. The unlikely town of Carrboro, North Carolina is among their ranks as is Ann Arbor and Detroit, Michigan and Denver, Colorado. The California City of Fremont is considering a similar resolution this week. It can be heard among Japanese Americans who are all too cognizant of their shameful internment in concentration camps during World War II brought on by a distorted and racist implementation of national security concerns. That voice is raised in organizations like the Black Radical Congress and Black Voices for Peace and among courageous congressional representatives like Barbara Lee, Cynthia McKinney and Jesse Jackson, Jr. among others. Even some voices from the Federal bench have been raised to curb the unrelenting and unconstitutional congression al abuses of immigrants, Muslims, South Asians and Middle Easterners, and to stem the resurgence of racial profiling as a legitimate police practice.

When all is said and done, however, many of our freedoms have been seriously curtailed. In conjunction with Independence Day, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU-NC) has released a scorecard summarizing the toll of the Bush Administration’s policies on constitutional freedoms. The tally: Bush Administration, 20; Constitution, 0. The scorecard and an accompanying chronology itemize dozens of government actions that have limited constitutional freedoms since September 11th. They include the expansion of wiretapping and secret search powers under the U.S. Patriot Act; the Attorney General’s directives ordering broad questioning sweeps of young men of Middle Eastern and South Asian origin; the erosion of attorney-client privilege, media freedom and immigrants’ rights; and the dismantling of regulations governing intelligence-gathering procedures.

Freedom is a constant struggle, says a well-known gospel, and so it is today. As we celebrate the courage it took to break the chains of colonialism in the 19th Century, as well as noting the lack of grit in allowing slavery to stain this nation’s history for years to follow let us ponder these final remarks by Frederick Douglass:

Pride and patriotism, not less than gratitude, prompt you to celebrate and to hold [July 4th] in perpetual remembrance. I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ringbolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.

Frances M. Beal is a former political columnist for the San Francisco Bay View newspaper and commentator on national black politics.