Saturday, August 06, 2005

Poems by Toge Sankichi: Hibakusha (A-bomb survivor)

Toge Sankichi was born in Japan in 1921. He started writing poems at the age of eighteen. He was twenty-four when the A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. He died at age thirty-six, a victim of leukemia resulting from the A-bomb. His first hand experience of the bomb, his passion for peace and his realistic insight into the event made him the leading Hiroshima poet in Japan.

August 6th

How could I ever forget that flash of light!
In a moment thirty thousand people ceased to be
The cries of fifty thousand killed
Through yellow smoke whirling into light
Buildings split, bridges collapsed
Crowded trams burnt as they rolled about
Hiroshima, all full of boundless heaps of embers
Soon after, skin dangling like rags
With hands on breasts
Treading upon the spilt brains
Wearing shreds of burnt cloth round their loins
There came numberless lines of the naked
all crying
Bodies on the parade ground, scattered like
jumbled stone images
Crowds in piles by the river banks
loaded upon rafts fastened to shore
Turned by and by into corpses
under the scorching sun
in the midst of flame
tossing against the evening sky
Round about the street where mother and
brother were trapped alive under the fallen house
The fire-flood shifted on
On beds of filth along the Armory floor
Heaps, God knew who they were....
Heaps of schoolgirls lying in refuse
Pot-bellied, one-eyed
with half their skin peeled off, bald
The sun shone, and nothing moved
but the buzzing flies in the metal basins
Reeking with stagnant odor
How can I forget that stillness
Prevailing over the city of three hundred thousand?
Amidst that calm
How can I forget the entreaties
Of the departed wife and child
Through their orbs of eyes
Cutting through our minds and souls?

At the First-Aid Station

Who weep although you have no ducts for tears
Who cry although you have no lips for words
Who wish to clasp
Although you have no skin to touch
Limbs twitching, oozing blood and foul secretions
Eyes all puffed-up slits of white
Tatters of underwear
Your only clothing now
Yet with no thought of shame
Ah! How fresh and lovely you all were
A flash of time ago
When you were school girls, a flash ago
Who could believe it now?
Out from the murky, quivering flames
Of burning, festering Hiroshima
You step, unrecognizable
even to yourselves
You leap and crawl, one by one
Onto this grassy plot
Wisps of hair on bronze bald heads
Into the dust of agony Why have you had to suffer this?
Why this, the cruelest of inflictions?
Was there some purpose?
You look so monstrous, but could not know
How far removed you are now from mankind
You think:
Perhaps you think
Of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters
Could even they know you now?
Of sleeping and waking, of breakfast and home
Where the flowers in the hedge scattered in a flash
And even the ashes now have gone
Thinking, thinking, you are thinking
Trapped with friends
who ceased to move, one by one
Thinking when once you were a daughter
A daughter of humanity

Friday, August 05, 2005

Baseball Beat: What The Heck Is Going On With The A's

I asked a friend out in Oakland what was going on with the A's who have vaulted nearly to the top of the AL West after their miserable start. What follows is his reply (typos and all):

Admittedly, I gave up on them just abt the time I came through KC. Thought it was impossible, given the rosater, that they could recover. & then, recover they did. & then, they did more than recover.

Starting pitching has been fabulous: Zito is pitching as well as ever; Hardin is a legitimate all-star & the other three Blanton, Haren (hasnt lost in three months) & Saarlos are going great guns.

The Bullpen is going great guns as well especially since the starters are going so far into their starts. Street, the rookie closer, appears to be ready & as good as Billy Money Ball Beane predicted. But Street wasnt expected to contribute this year. Actually it was a blessing that Doxctel is out -- tho Street might have eventually replaced him anyway.

Styrong up the middle: Kendall is an adequate receiver - cant throw many out stealing -- but appears to call a good game & can hit & is not afraid to defend the plate. Crosby at short is a legitimate up & comer (no Tejada) & Ellis plays a solid second.

Rookie Johnson at first is making significan contributions.

Outfield is very goiod : Payton was a good acquisition; Koptsay is as good as there is (except mayube for Tori Hunter) in center & Swisher, another Rookie is doing well in right.

Cell Phone to the Rescue

Armando Hernandez and Adrian Cruz were just hangin’ in Chicago’s Humbolt Park Tuesday night when the cops showed up. Those cops told the two to take off. But when they told officers it was 9:36 p.m., not 11 p.m. -- when the park closes the cops got angry, roughed them up, cuffed them and took them to the station. Once there they say they 45 minutes of verbal abuse, punches to the back and stomach, slaps to the face, and repeated whacks from a nightstick.

"I didn't want to say anything else because I didn't want to get hit no more, so I stayed quiet and put my head down after I got hit," Cruz said.

"I'm guessing he (the officer involved in the station beating) had a bad day. I'm guessing he was mad. He usually got mad when I asked him serious questions. What's the charge? What's your name? Why are you doing this? That ticked him off a lot," Hernandez said.

The police charged the men with public intoxication, though they say they were not drinking.

But wait - Hernandez's cell phone recorded some of the incident. Ooops!

WLS reports the audio on the cell phone recording is muffled and difficult to understand. But you clearly can hear an unidentified man yelling and using profanity. You can also hear noises. The two young men say the sound is the officer hitting them.

Their attorney says his clients had done nothing wrong, and police beat them for no reason. "The language that was used and the brutality that was offered, clearly there should be action," said Jeff Granich, attorney.

"Looks specifically to be one officer. Both of these men were beaten. Both of these men were handcuffed while they were beaten. I can't conceive of any situation why two men would be handcuffed and beaten on a municipal violation," the complainants' lawyer, Jeffrey Granich, said.

Granich said both men have a clean record.

NBC5 says the Chicago police are investigating the men's claims. Sources: NBC5 (Chicago), WLS, Chicago Sun Times

Australians Battle Dredging Operation

Australia’s Port Phillip Bay is set to be the scene of more dramatic protests after a court threw out a last-minute bid to stop trial dredging. The nine-week channel-deepening trial is now set to begin today in the bay's south channel off the coast of Mt Martha.

The Port of Melbourne says trade is being restricted because the channel is too shallow, and the State Government says an independent panel set up to investigate environmental concerns has recommended the trial.

The Blue Wedges Coalition, says the $32 million trial is effectively the first installment of the project. Further, the coalition says the panel recommended a very, very small scale dredge just to test the equipment of the heads. This, they say, is a far cry from what is now planned.

The Blue Wedges Coalition made the last-ditch legal challenge after trying to block the giant dredging ship Queen of the Netherlands from entering the bay. On Tuesday morning protesters came close to the vessels in an attempt to halt their operation. A flotilla of charter boats and surfers confronted the giant dredger as it entered Victoria's Port Phillip Bay to begin a controversial trial to deepen the shipping channel. They were joined by other recreational boats as well as a number of surfers who repeatedly swam across the path of the Queen of the Netherlands, just short of a 100-metre exclusion zone enforced around the dredger.

The Queen of the Netherlands also confronted a small water-borne protest as it passed under West Gate Bridge on its way into port. Four inflatable boats and up to eight surfers and kayaks faced the dredger as it moved up the Yarra River. The dredger passed within meters of several surfers before police boats shepherded away the rest of the protesters.

Meanwhile, the Times reports, the offices of Premier Steve Bracks and other senior government ministers were targeted by dredging protesters. Buckets of sand were dropped outside the offices of Bracks and four other senior ministers and the words "don't dredge our bay" were stenciled outside some of offices.

The Blue Wedges Coalition says that the dredging is moving forward at a ridiculous speed in spite of a substantial body of evidence that it ought to not happen at all. The coalition points out that an independent panel's report found the channel deepening proposal to be fundamentally flawed, and handed down 137 recommendations to be addressed before the project is further considered. Broadly these recommendations were:

• Environmental risk analysis not methodologically sound, requires further development

• Channel designs not optimized. Opportunities to reduce environmental impacts and costs not maximized

• Chosen dredge technology not best practice, environmental impacts not minimized

• No reliability could be placed on turbidity modeling

• Characterization of contaminated sediments not sufficient to assess effects of and methods of disposal of those sediments

• No clear or proven means for satisfactory performance of the proponent’s Environmental Management Plan

• Not clear as how project will be delivered to time and budget by means that do not have undue adverse environmental effects

• Direct economic benefits to Victorian would be less than the cost of the project.

• Interests of Bay users, both recreational and business, not adequately addressed

Jenny Warfe from the Blue Wedges Coalition says the project was motivated by profits and would benefit international companies to the detriment of the community and the highly diverse marine life of the bay.

Dr. Graham Harris BSc, ARCS, DIC, PhD, FTSE - CSIRO Fellow from a review of the Environmental Effects Statement (EES) made on behalf of the Association of Bayside Municipalities says, "The major impact on the Bay is going to be the effects on ecosystems, species and ecological processes arising from the suspended sediments stirred up by the dredging itself and disposal of the dredged material. In particular, there are long term unassessed risks to the National Park ecosystems at the Heads, to fish etc and to the sea grass beds in the Southern part of the Bay. These arise from smothering and light penetration reductions through plumes of sediments and the increased water turbidity. This is where there are acknowledged to be "extreme" or potentially "catastrophic" risk of long term damage to the Bay from short term dredging activities. The possibility of hysteretic effects (point of no return) is real. The EES speaks of regeneration and recovery times of up to 10 years - this may be optimistic in the case of sea grasses in the Southern part of the Bay."

The environmental group Earthcare St Kilda says it, “…has major concerns in regard to the impact of the Shipping Channel deepening proposal on the Port Phillip Bay ecology. We fear oil spills, toxic algal blooms, ships running aground, sick and dying penguins, water that is murky and unsafe for swimming and release of pollutants such as lead, Mercury and DDT. These are the very real risks of the Channel deepening project.”

The group says, “Increased turbidity will reduce light penetration in the water column thereby limiting photosynthesis. This will cause reduced primary production of phytoplankton, macroalgae and sea grasses, and therefore reduced opportunities for the Bay species that feed directly on or among them.”

Earthcare is particularly concerned, “…the decreased foraging ability for species such as penguins, which rely on good visibility to hunt successfully. If the channel deepening goes ahead and creates long-term high turbidity conditions, the St Kilda Penguin colony could be at risk of starvation.”

According to Jo Samuel King, another spokesperson for Blue Wedges, 3 million cubic meters of Yarra toxic mud containing DDT, lead, mercury and arsenic is buried in the seabed of the bay. Dredging would disturb the mud and make the bay highly dangerous to people and the environment.

There are economic and commercial worries as well.

Andrew Malouf, of the Victorian Fishing Charter Boats Association, said both the trial - at the heads and at the northern end of the bay near the port - and the proposed $580 million project would damage the dive and fishing charter industries. "This is going to have an effect all the way down the food chain - from the tourist operators to the local cafes to petrol stations to the accommodation houses," he said.

The decision by the court does not in any way mean the protesters are done. "The next major action is on Sunday at Rye pier at noon, when Blue Wedges will be attempting to stop the dredge by surrounding it with a variety of marine craft," a spokeswoman, Jo Samuel-King, says on The protesters, says the Blue Wedge coalition, will be joined by former Olympian and winner of seven World titles in wind surfing, Fiona Taylor.

The Blue Wedges Coalition is a ‘grass roots’ association. It is a diverse mix of 51 community and environmental groups around the Bay and around 200 individuals who have signed the Blue Wedges Charter. Sources: Earthcare St. Kilda, Dredge the Bay No More, Sunday Times (Australia), World Today Green Left Weekly (Australia) Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Blue Wedges Coalition, Herald Sun (Australia),

Thursday, August 04, 2005

"Race & Class in the US: The Legacy of Ted Allen" and "Initial Thoughts on the Contributions of Ted Allen"

Race & Class in the US: The Legacy of Ted Allen (Taken from the Web Site of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization)
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Monday, 02 May 2005
A Talk By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
May 2, 2005
New York City

(Ed. Note: To learn more about Ted Allen, scroll down to a second article)

Good afternoon. This is a special honor. I not only thought the world of Ted Allen, but I saw him as one of my chief mentors. One of the unusual things about speaking with Ted is that I felt that he listened to me, heard me out, respected me and my opinions, and even when there was disagreement, did not write me off. I wish that I could say that these characteristics were widespread in the Left. We will all miss Ted.

I was asked to discuss Ted's contributions on the matter of race and social control. In order to do this, let me identify what I believe to be several key elements. From there I would like to discuss their continued relevance, particularly in terms of the dynamics of the US class struggle and the future of the union movement.

Race is a social construct; it has nothing to do with biological sciences. As the National Geographic documentary "The Journey of Man" noted by way of conclusion: We are all Africans. That is, there in only one race, and that is the human race, descendants of people who originate in Southern Africa more than 60,000 years ago.

Race, as we have come to understand it, was developed on the basis of the English invasion and occupation of Ireland. The process of the suppression of the indigenous population was accompanied by the construction of the notion of race and racial inferiority. Ted, in the first volume of The Invention of the White Race, details what he concludes must be understood as the racial oppression of the Irish. This suppression of the indigenous people was accompanied by the creation of a privileged status for the colonizers.

Race was brought to the Western Hemisphere with the European invasion and applied as part of the process of the colonization. Race, then accompanied the development of capitalism, having a certain relative autonomy, but nevertheless being instrumental in its development. Race and color came to be linked in connection with the African slave trade and the suppression of the Native American. Race also served as the mortar in the building of capitalism. As such, it is not something that can be withdrawn without having a fundamental impact on capitalism.

In order to guarantee control over a rather unruly population, race -- in this case white supremacy -- existed as a dividing line, and with it the creation of a relative differential in treatment between those classified as white and those not. The differential in treatment began with the amalgamation of European immigrant groups into the category of "white." Other categories were created for non-Europeans, and some categories were transitional, with a case in point being the Irish. The differential in treatment was not insignificant: Africans could be slaves, while Europeans could not.

The racial dividing line, and particularly the failure of white liberals, progressives and radicals to challenge the system of white privilege, has served to undermine movements for social justice. Racism, then, is not simply about bad ideas, but is based on a system constructed over hundreds of years. This system reinforces, on a daily basis, the notions of superiority/inferiority, or relevance/irrelevance.

I am not going to review the polemical exchanges that took place in the 1970s around these views. Actually it seems fairly clear that Ted was overwhelmingly correct in his observations. At the same time, it is important to look at this question of race and social control not simply as a historical question, but as a question facing us in the contemporary world and the actual class struggle.

A few months ago I had a one-on-one discussion with a union leader about a host of issues. The discussion shifted to the question of race and the union movement. I suggested that visionary union leadership needed to advance an anti-racist practice both within and without the union movement. This leader looked at me and said that he was going to play Devil's Advocate. How much he was advocating for the devil versus himself I don't know. In any case, he went on to say that he could not see why he, as a white person, had an interest in an anti-racist practice, as such. He said he did not want to be told by people of color that "he would never understand..." and other such things. He said that he was not even sure what an anti-racist practice was, even though he himself was against racism.

This discussion had an emotional and intellectual impact on me. The discussion, taking place around the time that Ted died, could not have been an odder coincidence.

The US union movement is in deep trouble for a host of reasons that need not be repeated right now. Yet, there is a historic problem that runs throughout the entire history of organized labor, whether during good times or bad. The US union movement has never "gotten" the question of race. There have been unions and unionists that have gotten it, of course, but as a movement there has been an almost complete failure.

When the US union movement thinks about race, it may or may not think about such things as: Black folks, minorities and diversity, immigrants, and discrimination. In general, however, it externalizes the problem. I mean this in different ways. One, it views the problem as a problem outside of the union movement, that is, a problem that is imported from outside. Two, it is a problem for people of color, rather than race being a problem for white people. Three, if it is a problem for any white people, it is a problem for some other white people.

For a white union leader to tell me that thinking in terms of anti-racism is archaic or unhelpful shows that even among progressives there has been a failure to appreciate the depths of race and racist oppression in the USA.

The political Right understands the importance of race. It is important for them in terms of creating a united front in favor of the status quo. It is the creation of a reactionary but very real unity of "us" against "them."

I was reading something recently about the 2004 elections. It discussed this problem of white working people who have voted against their own interests. The article pointed out that central to this was the question of race. This was precisely correct.

In the AFL-CIO we developed in 1997 something called Common Sense Economics, an educational program aimed at speaking with workers about issues of class and capitalism. Some of you are probably familiar with it, and I am very proud of it. But there was a problem inherent in it that we attempted to address, but could not entirely, in part because of the ideology of the US union movement.

Common Sense Economics was premised on the need to get workers to understand their class interests and, as a result, become mobilized in a progressive direction. Now, don't get me wrong. This must be done, but in order to get any workers to understand their interests as workers -- and I don't mean only their interests as employees of a particular firm -- they must understand race.

An article from the American Political Science Review (Desmond S. King and Rogers M. Smith, "Racial Orders in American Political Development," February 2005, p.6), though discussing the ante-bellum South, had observations that are just as valuable in looking at today's situation when it comes to race. The article noted:

This white supremacist order made explicitly racial identities seem natural and vital to millions. It habituated many it privileged as "white" to think of their racial status as a primary feature of their lives... Its imposed inequalities gave many white farmers and workers as well as slaveholders a sense of economic dependency on the maintenance of racial restrictions that seemed to make their lands, jobs and wages more secure. It also generated in many a sense of racial entitlement, which most defended in religious and biological terms. It did all these things by creating politically powerful institutions in which all whites could officially share, along with public policies that advantaged whites in relation to blacks, even if some whites benefited far more than others. All of this made most whom governing institutions deemed "white" resistant to radical transformations in the white supremacist order, even those who wished to see slavery and blacks expunged from America.

The ruling circles have developed an effective approach that encourages one section of the working class, and in general a section of the oppressed, to see itself as unique and having a special relationship with those at the top. This problem plagues virtually every social movement. Examples include tax reform movements that are defeated because people at the bottom believe that some day they, too, may be at the top and so they don't want to be penalized at that time. Or, those who do not wish to see themselves as poor because to be poor means to be Black and unworthy. Somehow the poverty of whites is supposed to be superior to the poverty of Blacks and Latinos.

The issue of social control becomes even more deadly the deeper one gets. One of the interesting features of US history is that race continues to evolve. Thus, many people who today are considered white people would not have been considered white 200 years ago, or in some cases, even 100 years ago. Chicanos, on the other hand, had this bizarre experience of being classified as "white" (as opposed to "Black," for instance) as a result of provisions in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, which ended the US war with Mexico. Nevertheless, in real-world terms, they were treated much the same as African Americans in the Jim Crow South through segregation, land theft, language discrimination and a host of other forms of national oppression. This classification reversed itself a couple of times until ultimately they are simply classified as "Hispanics." These changes in classifications obviously have nothing to do with advances in the natural sciences, but instead to political conditions.

At present, as part of addressing the changing demographics of the USA, and in need of re-creating a dominant demographic bloc, we are witnessing a phenomenon which has the potential to split the political Right, but could as well have ramifications for progressives. There are moves to adopt Cubans and Mexicans/Chicanos as white people. All the makings of this can be seen in the 2000 and 2004 elections. It is very different than the opportunistic conservative initiatives to peel off some of the Black vote. This is an orchestrated effort to say that you too -- as Latinos, at least some of you -- have a place within the conservative (read: white) bloc. The political Right is far from unified on this, and most Left and progressive forces, let alone liberals, have not a clue as to how to address this potential development.

The complications, resulting from the evolution of race as a mechanism for social control, elude most of organized labor. In this sense, anti-racism is not about making white people better humans or getting a better understanding of people of color. It truly is about understanding power dynamics and struggle in the USA. And, from the standpoint of the union movement, it should be a matter of concern if we wish to develop a genuine labor movement.

So let me return to the union leader I mentioned earlier. Part of the response to him is that the US union movement has traditionally tried to build class consciousness on the basis of economic struggle. Specifically, the idea is "us" against the "boss." In some cases, this is framed more broadly, as it was in the 2004 Presidential elections. In 2004 we were presented with a damning picture of the economic policies of the Bush administration and their allies. In the case of 2004, this was -- at least according to the AFL-CIO -- supposed to trump any sympathy for Bush that the Iraq war had engendered. It did not work out that way, as you know.

Yet the union movement continues to believe that economics trumps everything else. I listen to populists like Jim Hightower give devastating analyses of the operations of the rich and powerful, and indeed they are compelling. I have seen such oration move workers, whether they are union leaders or members, or neither. But at the end of the day, this does not build class consciousness.

To paraphrase an old saying, class consciousness is not only about understanding the enemy, but it is also about knowing what to do about the enemy. In this case, it is not enough for people to understand that they are being stepped upon. It is not enough to understand that there are rich who are trying to get richer. It is not even enough to know that there are other people who are facing the same problem.

Class consciousness will emerge to the extent that workers understand the nature of the enemy and what the enemy is actually doing to play off one against the other. In this case, the question is whether white workers will understand that race is effectively self-imprisonment, with all that this entails.

Thus, to the white union leader I would suggest that labor revitalization will be forestalled in ignoring race. The history of this country has shown repeatedly that the race card can normally trump narrow economics. The race card goes to the heart of the very being of a white person. If the identity of a white person is tied into their being white, and part of the bloc dominating this country, if not the world, then economics becomes a distraction. I have been searching for this fascinating quote from Sigmund Freud which I once stumbled across where he said that a Roman plebian, no matter how oppressed, could take heart in the fact that they were a Roman citizen and therefore -- at least in their own minds -- part of ruling the world. Whiteness has accomplished the same thing in the USA, that is, providing the uniform to wear in service not only of the empire, but as well in the battle against other members of their own class.

Thank you.

Some Initial Thoughts on the Contributions of Ted Allen
By Dennis O'Neil (also from the Freedom Road Socialist Organization)
Wednesday, 19 January 2005
January 19, 2005
(slightly revised June 6, 2005)

Ted Allen, author of The Invention of the White Race and a founding father of modern white privilege theory, died today.

Friends of Ted's who know him best will doubtless put out an obituary rich in biographical detail in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here are a couple of brief thoughts on Ted's historical contribution, which is central to the political tradition that gave rise to the Freedom Road Socialist Organization among other forces on the US Left.

It is unfortunate that Ted Allen died before someone had a chance to interview him at great length for what would surely have been a doctoral dissertation and a fascinating study in intellectual history.

In brief, it would start as the story of a few younger communists in Brooklyn, who left, jumping or pushed, the increasingly revisionist CP in the 1950s. Like many who sought to keep their eyes on the goal of revolution in the US, they understood the importance of the racial divide in the US working class and worked to develop a deeper analysis of it. Two in particular, Ted Allen and Esther Kusic, building on work by earlier thinkers going back to DuBois and Lenin, articulated a theory which explained the puzzling depth and persistence of this divide and, as a result, a great deal of the history of US society and the working class here as well.

Crudely put, white privilege theory states that the presence and persistence of white supremacy as an ideology and the consequent extremely low level of class consciousness in the multi-national working class throughout US history is the product of a centuries-old, deeply entrenched system which awards privileges to white folks. Allen characterized these privileges as "poisoned," because they wind up providing the capitalist class with a divided working class in which the white section is blinded from seeing and fighting for its own true interests.

So far, so good, but then comes the really remarkable development. In the late '60s, Ted worked closely with Noel Ignatiev (then Ignatin) a younger comrade of his active in Students for a Democratic Society, the largest group in the predominantly white campus sector of the revolutionary upsurge that was sweeping the US and much of the world, with the baby boom generation as its shock troops. Together the two wrote a pamphlet entitled "White Blindspot" (including another piece entitled "Can White Workers Radicals Be Radicalized?"), which became one of dozens of pamphlets published by the SDS-affiliated Radical Education Project.

Within six months of its publication, this cheaply mimeographed piece by two little-known authors set the terms for nearly all discussion of racism and what to do about it within the most influential radical group on US campuses. The concept quickly spread throughout the broader Left and there too set the terms in a discussion that had been raging since 1965. That was the year that African American activists in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the youngest and most militant of the organizations in the Civil Rights Movement, politely asked white SNCCers to leave, and encouraged them to go back and organize among white folk.

(The rapid spread of the concept is also shown by the adaptation of the theory's insights from the beginning by the newly born Women's Liberation Movement, which derived the concept of "male privilege" and made it a cornerstone of new feminist theory.)

Its reach was so great not because it was novel or "cool" but because it explained social reality in a way that made the workings of US capitalism much clearer than anything before it. As the theory spread, it occasioned fierce debate and splits not only between advocates and opponents, but also within the ranks of those who took Allen and Ignatiev's ground-breaking work and ran with it. As SDS self-destructed in 1970, both the folks who would become the Weather Underground and many of the rival Revolutionary Youth Movement 2 forces based their analysis and programs on the implications of "white skin privilege." Folks in the Black Liberation Movement and the rising movements among Puerto Ricans, Chicanos, Asian-Americans and Native Americans had their own discussions and debates, differing on interpretation and implications, but acknowledging the validity of the central theoretical kernel.

By the mid-'70s, the Weatherfolk had, let's say, slipped from view and many other post-campus radicals had adopted a more old-school and very much by-the-books formalist Marxism-Leninism, with little room for non-canonical twists like white privilege theory. But the theory had slipped the bounds of the radical movement and become, among other things, the foundation for a significant trend in the academy. Some scholars radicalized in the '60s, like David Roediger, took the insights of Ted and his co-thinkers and started doing academic work which by the '90s had expanded to become the whole new field of "whiteness studies."

Among radicals who did not take the turn to various Marxist orthodoxies, the concept of white privilege continued to have currency and to take on new forms. By the late '80s, for instance, an understanding of and at least conversation about means of combating white, and male, privilege became common currency among a new generation of young activists like the environmentalist youth who made up groups like the Student Environmental Action Coalition, and later became a central force in the pre- and post-Seattle globalization battles. Among these forces, study tended to focus on the individual workings of privilege among white folks and the need for individuals to tackle it in their own day-to-day practice. Works like Peggy McIntosh's perceptive pamphlet "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" were used in NGOs and church groups as well as more activist formations to help people, especially white people, learn about and acknowledge the white blindspot.

And the concept of white privilege (a more common formulation than white skin privilege since the mid-'70s, though both have strengths and weaknesses) proved too useful to be driven entirely out of the communist movement for insufficient orthodoxy. In the late '70s, a group called the Proletarian Unity League (PUL) took up a double task. On one front, the PUL sought to rescue white privilege theory from some advocates whose position tended imply that any mass struggle that didn't have the fight against privilege at its center was worthless or even reinforced the system of white privilege. On the other side, they took on the orthos in the New Communist Movement who tried to suggest (confusing cause and effect in a spectacular manner) that the whole idea was a petty bourgeois scheme to split the unity of the working class.

In 1981, the PUL published a book, A House Divided: Labor and White Supremacy, which developed some influence in what was then the rapidly eroding New Communist Movement. The book provided one of the theoretical linchpins (and a guide to practical work) for the formation of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization later in the decade, and for the various mergers that have added to its ranks since. FRSO has made plans to bring out a new book on white privilege by the end of 2005.

In the meantime, the idea has become a meme (the social equivalent to a biological gene) that replicates itself and crops up in the oddest places. One of the most striking is in the writings and speeches of Bill Bradley, a US Senator from NJ in the '90s and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000. The theory of "white skin privilege" (the formulation he uses) most definitely resonates with Bradley: he lived it in a hard-to-ignore form as a privileged white star for the championship NY Knicks basketball team in the '70s , the period in which the NBA became overwhelmingly Black.

Finally, to come full circle, the continued relevance and actual usefulness of white privilege theory itself owes a great debt to Ted Allen. Working largely alone, he spent years researching and reflecting on the history of the US (and of other countries where he could make useful comparisons to other systems of social control employed by the rulers there). The product was the splendid two-volume work, The Invention of the White Race, finally published by Verso in the mid-'90s. Further advances in understanding and combating white privilege from here on out will have as a jumping-off point the new framework Ted Allen constructed in this work.

Ted Allen lived his whole life as a revolutionary, and his contribution to the struggle in this country is a massive one. Thanks to his insight and intellectual rigor, he was fortunate to have lived out at least the early stages of the old Marxist insight that ideas, when they grip the masses, become a material force.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

John Roberts Gives Indians Something To Worry About

Indian Country Today writes, “Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. has as sparse a judicial record on Indian law as on other hot-button issues, but briefs he wrote as a private lawyer in several major Native cases show a radical, possibly alarming critique of what he called the ''decidedly mixed legal legacy'' of federal Indian policy. “

The alarm comes from Roberts’ work on behalf of the State of Alaska in which he wrote the State’s brief in the 1997 U.S. Supreme Court case Venetie v. the State of Alaska. The Supreme Court agreed with Roberts’ position that most Native lands in Alaska were not part of “Indian Country.”

Many will argue that Roberts was just acting as a private attorney so nothing much should be written into his arguing such positions. However, in a 1997 interview with the Anchorage Daily News leading up the to the Venetie arguments, Roberts said that he took the case because he believed the Supreme Court would agree to hear the state's appeal, and that he believed in the state's position against Indian country in Alaska. "It's a very important case," he said, "an interesting issue."

The Venetie case made, according to Indian Country Today, “…under the shadow of North Slope oil finds and plans for a trans-Alaska pipeline, the act made a radical break in policy and transferred nearly $1 billion and 44 million acres - not to Native governments, but to Native-owned and operated business corporations. The land could be bought and sold without restriction.”

The Supreme Court case arose when the tribal government of the Gwich’in regained control of its Aboriginal land on the southern slope of the Brooks Range and asserted its sovereign power of taxation.

The News-Miner reports as a private lawyer much sought-after in Supreme Court cases, Roberts also argued against Alaska Native subsistence fishing rights in the famous Katie John v. Alaska case. He defended the state’s authority over navigable waters in the subsistence fishing case. John said the federal government had an ownership interest in the waters and thus was bound by the federal subsistence preference law to manage the waters to provide for her traditional Native fish camp on the Copper River. The 9th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the suit brought by John, an 83-year-old Ahtna Athabascan, rejecting Roberts' brief on behalf of the state.

A spokesperson for the Gwich'in Steering Committee said the Roberts nomination ''signals [the] potential for further erosion of tribal rights.'' Said steering committee representative Luci Beach, ''In two landmark cases, Roberts has argued that the rights of the state of Alaska supercede the sovereignty and subsistence rights guaranteed to Native peoples by the federal government ...This is sadly indicative of the Bush administration's disregard and contempt for basic tribal and human rights, which has also been signaled by Bush's incessant push to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) regardless of the impact to the land or the people.''

Anyway, speaking of the Gwich’in, they have joined with a number of other groups who are together calling themselves the Arctic Refuge Action in taking a "Save ANWR" message on the road. Vans emblazoned with images of polar bears and caribou are now traveling around the country, in a campaign intended to mobilize opposition to oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

"We will be carrying two messages to the people we meet," said Rebecca Brown, one of the van's two drivers. "The first is that there is still time to save the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- Congress will be voting on drilling in the fall, so now is the time to stand up for the Arctic Refuge.

"The second is that, working together, we can accomplish that goal by making our voices heard in Washington, D.C."

"There is no substitute for getting out and talking with the people who care about protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," said Shoren Brown, national director of outreach for the Alaska Coalition.

The Arctic Refuge Action coalition says it also is organizing a rally for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to be held in Washington, D.C., in September. Sources: Anchorage Daily News, News-Miner (Fairbanks, Alaska),, Indian Country Today, Arctic Refuge Action

Iran: Rallies, Hunger Strikes, Crack Downs, and Assasination

Rallies have taken place in Tehran and Paris calling for Iran to release dissident Akbar Ganji and other political prisoners.

Ganji, a journalist, has been in jail since his arrest in April of 2000. His arrest followed his participation in an academic and cultural conference held in Berlin just days before which was entitled "Iran After the Elections", at which political and social reform in Iran were publicly debated. After a trial before the Revolutionary Court in Tehran he was sentenced on January 13, 2001 to a to ten years’ imprisonment plus five years’ internal exile, four years for his attendance at the conference and six years for other charges, including "spreading propaganda against the Islamic regime", for a series of articles he had written implicating leading figures in the murders of several dissidents and intellectuals in the mid-late 90’s. That sentence was eventually reduced to six months in prison. However, new charges were filed which upped the term to six years. Ganji has been on a hunger strike since June in protest of his treatment by the authorities. On July 17, Ganji was transferred to a hospital, where he has been placed under quarantine and prevented from regular access to his family and legal representatives, the latter restriction in violation of Iranian law. Ganji now weighs just 52 kilos and is unconscious most of the time.

According to an IRNA report, more than 30 press activists staged a symbolic hunger strike from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Ganji’s support at the premises of the Journalists Guild Association. Prominent political and media figures, including Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, Ahmad Bourghani, Issa Saharkhiz, Ahmad Zeidabadi, Rajabali Mazrouei, Ali Afshari, Alireza Rajaie and Hassan Yousefi-Eshkevari, participated in the hunger strike.

Also in Tehran, a vigil headed by his wife is being held in front of the United Nations Office.

In Paris, Reporters Without Borders activists demonstrated outside the Iran Air office on the Champs Elysées. "Ganji is now on the 53rd day of a hunger strike but the Iranian authorities still refuse to release him," the press freedom organization said. "So we are all outside Iran Air to demonstrate our outrage at such contempt for human life, because it is utterly horrifying that they are letting Ganji die to punish him for expressing his views."

Meanwhile, the Iranian government has intensified its attacks on independent human rights defenders in recent days. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that last Saturday evening, “agents of the Judiciary, operating under the authority of Tehran chief prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, arrested (Abdolfattah) Soltani inside the offices of the Lawyers Association in Tehran. The next day, a Judiciary spokesman announced that Soltani was arrested for "revealing secrets relating to the case of nuclear spies." Soltani is currently being held in Evin Prison in Tehran but has yet to be brought before a judge or formally charged.

Abdolfattah Soltani is one of the lawyers representing the mother of photographer Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist who died in Iranian custody under suspicious circumstances. Kazemi died in jail in July 2003 about three weeks after being detained for taking photographs outside a Tehran prison during anti-government protests. Lawyers of her family believe she was beaten to death. Hard line Iranian authorities say Kazemi died of a stroke, but a commission appointed by Iran’s president found she died of a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage that were caused by the impact of a hard object. Iran has repeatedly rejected Canadian requests for an international forensic team to examine the body, saying its judiciary is competent enough to carry out an investigation.

The Judiciary suggests that Soltani unlawfully divulged information from clients of his who have been charged with revealing Iran's nuclear secrets. But Soltani has no access to the files in the case. Instead, Human Rights Watch said the arrest appears to be a politically motivated response by the government to Soltani's role in the Zahra Kazemi case. On July 25, Soltani stated before the court of appeals that Kazemi had been in the custody of Judiciary agents and security forces when she was murdered, and that the Judiciary's continued inaction two years after her death was a cover-up. "Soltani's arrest is an ominous sign for human rights in Iran as the new president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prepares to take office," said Hadi Ghaemi, Iran researcher for Human Rights Watch.

Also last week the Judiciary made several threats against Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi who is Soltani’s co-counsel in the above mentioned case. The Judiciary alleged, according to AlertNet, Ebadi was orchestrating the hunger strike of imprisoned journalist Akbar Ganji and that she "has suspicious ties to foreigners." HRW's Ghaemi said, “With the threats against Nobel winner Shirin Ebadi with her international stature, how can any critic feel safe in Iran?"

Now, out of nowhere, has come the news that Tehran's Deputy Prosecutor Hassan Moqaddass has been gunned down by unknown assassins. Moqaddas was the presiding judge in Akbar Ganji's case and had also convicted other dissidents who attended that Berlin conference on reform in the Islamic Republic in 2000. Judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimi Rad said Moqaddass was shot dead in his car after leaving his central Tehran office on Tuesday.

Speaking to IRNA on the sidelines of funeral service for the late judge Moqaddass, head of Tehran Justice Department Abbasali Alizadeh said Wednesday that he hoped that the outcome of investigations would be made known soon. "It is not clear what had been the motive behind the assassination (of Tehran's Deputy Prosecutor) and it is still soon to make any comment," Alizadeh said.

Masoumeh Shafiei, wife of jailed journalist Akbar Ganji, condemned the assassination of judge Hassan Moqaddas. She expressed regret over such terrorist moves, saying "Terrorism, in any form and by anyone, should be condemned as an inhumane and indecent act." She also said dialogue and peaceful means are the best way to settle the problems in all fields. Sources: Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Daily Times (Pakistan), Alert Net Reporters Without Borders, English Pen, Iran Daily, Expatica, Aljazeera, Iran Daily

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Porrajmos/The Devouring

European Romo Information Office (ERIO) has declared August 2 (today!) a day of reflection for the European public and media about the dangers of anti-Gypsyism and racism in general.

On the night of August 2, 1944, 2898 Romani men, women, and children were gassed at Auschwitz as Soviet troops neared the camp. This is the night the Roma call Porrajmos, or the Devouring.

The Nazis considered Roma to be both racially inferior and anti-social. In the summer of 1941, the Nazi command issued an order to "kill all Jews, Gypsies and mental patients." Gypsy identity, like Jewish identity, was based on a genealogical evaluation going back three generations. On December 16th that same year, Himmler issued the order to have all Roma remaining in Europe deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau for extermination. On December 24th, the order was given that "The Gypsies should be given the same treatment as the Jews." At a party meeting on September 14th, 1942, Justice Minister Otto Thierack announced that "Jews and Gypsies must be unconditionally exterminated." On August 2-3, 1944, the Nazis decided to ‘clean out’ the separate barracks that had been established for Roma in Birkenau, section B-IIe. The 3,000 Roma living in the barracks were immediately exterminated, the largest single mass murder of Roma during the Holocaust.

Not long ago the European Parliament passed a resolution on Holocaust and racism, but they made no mention of the Gypsies.

Meanwhile, Dzeno Association reports the past few weeks have seen three incidents of violence involving Roma in Bulgaria, sparking speculation among government officials that racial intolerance towards Roma is rising. While the political party EuroRoma , a prominent Bulgarian Roma political party, denounced the violence as ethnically related, the Bulgarian Ministry of the Interior denied that the incidents were related to ethnic hatred.

EuroRoma issued a statement denouncing the incidents, and expressing concern over the rising levels of racially related violence in Bulgaria. The party warned that Volen Siderov’s Attack Coalition, an extreme nationalist party that took fourth in the last elections there, is helping to intensify ethnic tensions in Bulgaria. Volen Siderov, leader of the Attack group, is a former journalist who once edited a reformist newspaper, Demokratsia. He drifted into radical nationalism, publishing books that were attacked for racism, and was expelled from his post as a commentator on a national daily newspaper. His cable television program, Ataka, has drawn protests from most human rights organizations, often on account of its crude generalizations about the Roma or Turkish communities.

Siderov makes the obscene claim that gypsies were guilty of committing "genocide against Bulgarians".

Today, dozens gathered at Auschwitz concentration camp to remember the Gypsy victims of the Holocaust 61 years after the Nazis gassed the minority's remaining gypsy inmates at the death camp. Gypsies from around Europe were joined for the wreath-laying ceremony by Polish and international dignitaries, including Israeli Ambassador to Poland David Peleg and Poland's Deputy Prime Minister Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka. The commemoration was organized by The Museum of Romany Culture in Brno, south Moravia.

A similar commemorative event was held in Lety, south Bohemia, earlier this year, where a concentration camp had been as well. Several Romany as well as non-Romany organizations called on the state to remove a pig farm constructed on the site of the camp. Government human rights commissioner Svatopluk Karasek met representatives of the farm in June, but according to Dzeno Association no decision has been made on it so far.

Writes Dzeno Association, “August 2nd, is our chance to commemorate their lives (those lost the night of the Porrajmos), and the lives of all Roma people lost to racial hatred and violence going back for centuries. It is our chance to honor them, and, once more, to promise ourselves: ‘never again.’” Sources: Dzeno Association, Romano, ERIO, Combined Jewish Philothropies

Something's Happening Here, What It Is Ain't Exaclty Clear

On Monday, several thousand music fans gathered in the Czech capital to protest a brutal police action which took place at the annual gathering known as Czechtek over the weekend. The protesters waved placards which read "Techno isn't terrorism," "Techno isn't crime," beat drums and chanted “police state” during the rally held outside the Interior Ministry building in Prague.

The police action at Czechtak was ordered by the local police chief and backed by Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan and Social Democrat Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, who both said police acted to uphold the law. The demonstrators called on both men to step down.

Bublan told Czech Radio police had no choice but to act and uphold the law. "The fact that we've so far been benevolent has caused problems, because in countries such as Germany, France or Britain, this just isn't possible. Either they have special laws on such gatherings or the local authorities don't allow them in the first place. If we allow such events to take place here, everyone would get used to the fact and I don't think that would send a positive signal. Because the law is being broken, private property is being destroyed, and the state can't just sit back and watch."

On Monday, however, right wing Czech President Vaclav Klaus said the police assault which left dozens injured was a grave mistake. He said those who ordered the attack overstepped the constitution. Klaus, who was on holiday in the Alps at the time, released this statement via his spokesman Petr Hajek. "The action of the police is hard to excuse. Especially in our country, where the sight of riot police moving in on young people automatically brings back unpleasant memories from the past. This event was very bad indeed, and bears witness to the fact that something is not right in this country."

The annual CzechTek festival, this year was held near the village of Mlynec, in West Bohemia. The authorities have let previous festivals pass mostly undisturbed, but this year, says the Prague Daily, riot police used water cannon and fired tear gas grenades to disperse the estimated 5,000 partygoers.

Eyewitnesses say Friday morning the police blocked the exits from the higway D5, causing an 8 kilometres long traffic jam. According to these eyewitnesses, the police officers were trying to stop people from exiting the highway based on their looks. At one point, around 150 people sat on the highway requesting that they be allowed to continue to the festival. Eventually, the Czech police used water-guns and heavy force to clean the blocked highway. Abandoned cars were pulled away. The police continued to block the highway exits, but thousands eluded them and made their way to the festival anyway.

On Sunday, At at about 4:30 PM the police requested that the thousands of participants leave the gathering or face the consequences. The police assault started two hours later supported by around thousand riot cops using tear gas and trying to force festival goers to leave the area. The assault was answered by throwing of various object at the police cordon and people shouting "gestapo" at the cops. The police assault ended a little after 7 PM resulting in 50 injured people both on the sides of police and the participants.

A second wave of police assault started about two hours later with the goal of pushing out the remaining people.

Tomas Lebeda, of the Prague Global Policy Institute - Glopolis said that the police took strong action against CzechTek, but when skinheads hold events, the police are not hard enough. "The social danger the skinheads and neo-Nazis represent is substantially bigger," he said.

Czech political analyst Rudolf Kucera agreed and said that the police think too long during skinhead concerts about whether the law was breached, but they acted very quickly against CzechTek.

Organizers of Monday's protest said that the police were looking for an excuse to stand against techno fans in Mlynec at any cost. They accused Bublan and police of having expediently released untrue and misleading information to damage the technoparty organizers in the eye of the public.

The protest organizers demand that the police action against CzechTek be investigated, as it violated the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms as well as the Czech Constitution. They are also asking how much of the taxpayers' money the police intervention cost.

"We have nothing to do with CzechTek's organizers. We are connected by access to the internet, tolerance of various cultural expressions and disagreement with the police operation against this event, which seemed to us absolutely inadequate," the protest organizers said in a statement released Monday.

Another protest is planned for Wednesday. Sources: Prague Daily Monitor, Prague Daily, AlertNet, ETIB24, IMC/Slovensko

Monday, August 01, 2005

Hell No We Won't Go

They’re fighting the draft in Russia. A new organization, the League to Abolish the Military Draft, has been set up by several Russian human rights groups. Its goal is a nationwide referendum on whether or not conscription should remain in that country.

The move was initiated by the Russian Radicals movement and supported by the Congress of Soldiers’ Mothers’ Committees (Russia’s largest human rights organization), the nationwide Movement For Human Rights and the Democratic Union Party.

At the new organizations founding conference Nikolai Khramov of the Russian Radical Party said for its goals to be achieved, the new movement will need 5000 members and a “party machine” capable of teamwork. Two million signatures are needed on petitions to institute a nationwide referendum. Khramov was chosen to lead the new movement

Moscow News reports, the leader of the United Civil Front movement, former world chess champion Garry Kasparov greeted the new movement in a written statement and expressed his hope that the league “would become a tool of civil society aimed against the military policy of Putin’s regime which is ineffective and essentially dangerous for the future of Russia.”

All Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27 are required to serve two years in the armed forces - three years for the navy.

Russian Minister of Defense Ivanov publicly stated in April 2004 that "conscription into military service will never be abolished in Russia". However, President Putin has announced that by the end of 2007 volunteer soldiers should make up almost half of the military, which should allow for a gradual reduction of the term of military service to one year by 2008.

Many Russian youths find ways out already.

There are several means of draft evasion. Many young men obtain false medical documents through bribery and are consequently exempt from service for health reasons. Others simply do not respond to call-up papers. According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces in 2001, approx. 30,000 young men ignore the draft summons annually. According to the Ministry of Defense, there were 21,000 draft evaders in 2004 and 25,000 in 2003. According to estimates, there are nearly 40,000 deserters at any given time in the Russian Federation.

Draft evasion is punishable by a fine, arrest for three to six months or up to two years' imprisonment. There are no detailed figures available on the criminal prosecution of draft evaders. Because of its scale, it is evidently impossible for the Russian authorities to prosecute all draft evaders.

The military and police authorities regularly conduct search operations for draft evaders and deserters. When recruitment officials fail to hand over the draft summons to draft age men they inform the police. The police then stop and detain them at home or in the streets, and hand them over to the military authorities. The majority of these conscripts are sent to military units on the same day as their detention. Sources: Report: Refusing to bear arms: a world survey of conscription and conscientious objection to military service – funded by Myrtle Solomon Memorial Fund of the Lansbury House Trust Fund, Moscow News, Pravda

"The Paul Bremer For Cuba"

Last week US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice named Caleb McCarry the US "Cuba Transition Coordinator, a new position which will function, according to AFP, to help bring about the collapse of the Castro government.

The post of "transition coordinator" that is being filled by McCarry grew out of a 2004 report on Cuba prepared by a commission headed by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell. The report outlined the steps that the United States was prepared to take to assist a "democratic Cuba" and to bring pressure to bear on the Cuban government in the meantime. The report said the United States should try to subvert the planned succession in Cuba under which power would pass from President Castro, 78, to his younger brother, Raul.

The appointment met with a cynical reply from Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, "Surely he will receive a juicy salary in his new job, but Caleb McCarry -- I assure you -- will retire without setting foot in Cuba." Roque said that McCarry had been picked to be "the Paul Bremer for Cuba," referring to the former top U.S. administrator in Iraq. "He would be the U.S. governor, to head up the process of annexing Cuba," Perez Roque said.

Such a reaction from the Cuban government can not come as any surprise.

Also, not surprisingly again, the Cuban American National Foundation, which speaks for many of Miami's more fervent exiles, lauded the appointment, saying McCarry has "a sense of personal commitment to the cause of freedom for the Cuban people."

However, what may surprise you is that the Cuban government is joined in its duniciation of the announcement by opposition leaders on the Island itself.

"Any transition in Cuba is for Cubans to define, lead, organize and coordinate," said Oswaldo Paya, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement and promoter of a petition seeking democracy in Cuba.

Other opposition groups that opposed the appointment on the same grounds were the Progressive Arch and the Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission.

"This appointment ... constitutes an attack on our national sovereignty," said Manuel Cuesta Morua, spokesman for the Progressive Arch.

Another leading dissident Elizardo Sanchez said he considered it, "a decision that is counterproductive and difficult to accept" that will worsen already bad relations between Washington and Havana.

Does it seem like it takes a lot of gall to even announce such a government position? Sources: AFP, Net For Cuba, Miami Herald, Cuba Solidarity Campaign, BBC

Boldly Going Where No One Wants To Go

Steve Vick is off and swimming…in the frigid waters of an Alaskan fjord…among sharks, whales and sea lions. What? Is the guy nuts?

Steve's swim of 92 miles is to protest a planned road from Juneau to Skagway, Alaska.

Most of the citizens in Juneau, Haines and Skagway, Alaska, have opposed the project with petitions, referendums and council votes, according to media accounts. Residents say the road will choke Juneau with tourists' recreational vehicles and intrude on a pristine old-growth forest and habitat for sea lions, bears and bald eagles. They are satisfied with the current ferry service.

Lynn Canal Conservation describes the ferry service from Juneau to Skagway as a spectacularly scenic and relaxing trip through the Lynn Canal, “a fjord that is as beautiful and pristine as any in the world.” The walls along the fjord rise from sea level to as high as 7,000 feet. The group says, “To even consider connecting Skagway to Juneau by a 65 mile road that would blast apart steep mountainous terrain to create a horizontal roadbed is nothing short of madness.”

The Juneau Road would dismantle a functioning public transportation system and permanently destroy hundreds of acres of vegetation, over half of which is old growth forest. The road would impact two steller sea lion haulouts, bisect 60 miles of brown and black bear habitat (compromising the ability of bears to move freely between coastal and alpine habitats), and negatively impact a rich and abundant marine ecosystem. And it would quadruple the number of RVs in Judneau within a year of its opening.

The route itself would cross 58 avalanche paths, making it probably the most dangerous road in North America. The road, its critics say, would cause major environmental damage to Berners Bay and the eastern shore of Lynn Canal, and would threaten a stellar sea lion haulout at Gran Point. One state official said it will require an ongoing arsenal of bomb shells being detonated for seven months of the year to prevent snow slides.

Emily Ferry, a conservationist for the Alaska Transportation Priorities Project, told the Christian Science Monitor the expense of road construction is being deliberately underestimated to win support, and many believe the actual cost will reach $1 billion because of the challenging terrain.

"Residents of the Lynn Canal are being strong-armed," Vick said in a press release. "We have consistently said we don't need or want this road and yet the state continues to push a road and undermine ferry service."

Recently, the US Environmental Protection Agency gave thumbs down to the Juneau Road blueprint, joining the majority of citizens in the towns of Skagway and Haines - communities poised to reap the “biggest benefits.”An EPA study says retaining the marine highway (ferry) rather than road-building would "most effectively avoid and minimize potential adverse environmental impacts."

"We don't want the road because we don't need it," says Jan Wrentmore, proprietor of the famous Red Onion Saloon in Skagway, which thrives on the commerce from thousands of cruise ship passengers. "We [locals] can get around fine using a high speed ferry."

Mayor Tim Bourcy of Skagway says, "I'm not sure what the drive is for having this road, but it is not coming from the people.”

The Anchorage Daily News says the reason is simple, "Governor Frank Murkowski's enthusiasm to build roads knows few bounds. He wants to build roads the way beavers want to build dams."

Odd ideas for roads and bridges seem common for Alaska reports the Christian Science Monitor. A proposed two-mile-long Knik Arm Bridge would connect Anchorage to the outpost of Pork Mackenzie - current population one but eyed as a gateway to future suburbs. Another proposed bridge, as long as the Golden Gate and higher than the Brooklyn Bridge, would connect Ketchikan with Gravina Island, home to 50 people, where the airport is located. A trip to the airport now requires a 10-minute ferry ride.

By the way it isn’t just the governor who likes to build roads. Don’t forget Cong. Dong Young of Alaska isn’t the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for nothing. He likes bringing home the pork. - even if no one wants to eat it. Alaska, population 630,000 gets $6 in subsidies for every $1 it pays to the federal treasury - making it the most heavily subsidized state in the country.

Environmentalists and hard-line fiscal conservatives alike are uniting against Congressmen Young in what they see as runaway pork-barrel spending.

Pat Williams of Montana, a former nine-term Congressman who is a senior fellow at the Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Missoula, Mont., goes as far as to call the money designated for Alaska "shameful."

"Where is the scrutiny?" Williams asks. "There isn't any because with his seniority, Don Young is untouchable.... "

Anyway, swimmer Vick says "Actually here in Haines we had a hard enough time just plowing our roads. The idea of having to spend millions of more dollars building a new one when it's hard enough maintaining our old ones is ridiculous in some ways." Sources: Lynn Canal Conservation Juneau Empire, The Lynn Swim, CBC, Chilkat Valley News (Haines, Alaska), Christian Science Monitor, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Sunday, July 31, 2005


The following is by Danny Morrison (See Bio below) and is taken from Daily Ireland:

Obviously, I welcome yesterday’s statement by the IRA. It is the single most important contribution to the peace process and it will do more to bring peace and stability to the north than anything before.

However, the onus is now on the two governments to implement the outstanding tenets of the Good Friday Agreement and it means they no longer have to kow-tow to the demands of the unionist intransigents.

There are still major concerns - nationalists living on the interfaces have concerns, worried that there will be a repeat of 1969.

In this month 36 years ago, nationalists were burned from their homes by the RUC who rampaged through the lower Falls area, followed closely behind by loyalists who set fire to, looted and wrecked nationalist homes.

While morale will be high among nationalists there is always the fear that there will be reprisals, a backlash from concerned loyalists.

In making their historic statement yesterday, the IRA has taken the moral high ground, of that there can be little doubt.

The IRA has placed the ball firmly back in the British and unionist court.

No longer can unionists accuse the IRA of organised criminality, of duplicity or of engaging in politics while orchestrating violence.

Their statement removes any excuse from the unionist camp not to sit with Sinn Féin, not to negotiate the remaining terms of the Good Friday Agreement yet to be implemented but, most of all it removes the obstacles to the peace process.

All that said, this new development represents a challenge to the republican movement and it certainly demands unwielding commitment.

At some stage, republicans are going to have to tackle the thorny issue of policing.

Somewhere down the line they will have to look at the terms of the Agreement and evaluate the role of a police force in the north which is 50 per cent nationalist.

The 1969 pogroms were started by a unionist RUC. There were no republicans in Stormont and nationalists were not represented at any level of public or political life.

Today, that obstacle too, has been removed. No longer can political parties, north or south, deny the electoral mandate of Sinn Féin and if Sinn Féin retain their mandate no party can refuse to sit in government with republicans again.

While morale is high and the mood of the entire country has been lifted by the news of an end to the IRA’s armed struggle, yesterday’s statement is an emotional time for many in Ireland who have witnessed the cost of conflict.

Since the turn of the century, through a war of independence and a civil war, from 1969 until 1994, people, nationalist and unionist, have suffered.

There is no doubt that everyone in Ireland appreciates the magnitude of the IRA’s move and the significance it will make to every life on this island.

Everyone recognises it is a major and significant breakthrough in the struggle for Irish peace.

Danny Morrison was born in Belfast in 1953. He was interned in Long Kesh in 1972 and after his release became editor of the Sinn Fein newspaper, 'Republican News', at the age of 22. In 1978 he was charged with IRA membership and conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice. He defended himself in court and was granted bail. The charges were withdrawn in February 1979.

In 1982 he was elected in Mid-Ulster to the Northern Ireland Assembly on an abstentionist ticket. He was national director of publicity for Sinn Fein from 1979 until his arrest in January 1990 in connection with the abduction of Sandy Lynch, an IRA informer, for which he was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment.

During the 1981 hunger strikes he was a spokesperson for IRA Volunteer Bobby Sands MP and later that year during a crucial debate at Sinn Fein's annual conference (the árd fheis) called for the party to embrace electoral politics, coining the phrase which was to sum up the Republican Movement's strategy of prosecuting its strategy with “an armalite in one hand and a ballot box in the other.” In December 1981 an attempt was made on his life when a loyalist gunman opened fire a number of times on Morrison and his wife but missed.

Has written several books: ‘West Belfast’ (a novel, 1989); ‘On the Back Of the Swallow’ (a novel, 1994) was written in prison and published nine months before his release; ‘The Wrong Man’ (a novel, 1997) was begun in prison and completed after his release; ‘Then The Walls Came Down’ (a part autobiography, based on his prison letters); ‘The Wrong Man’ (a play, adapted from his novel, 1999); and ‘All The Dead Voices’ (a memoir, 2002). A new book, ‘Rebel Columns’, a collection of his writings on history and current political and internatioinal affairs, will be published in August 2004.

He was released from prison in 1995 during the IRA ceasefire and though he remains a republican gave up political activism to devote himself to writing and reviewing full-time. He has written and reviewed for the ‘Irish Times’, ‘The Examiner’, ‘The Observer’, ‘The Guardian’, ‘ Washington Post’ and ‘ Boston Globe’.