Friday, February 03, 2006
Elections are to take place in Haiti on February 7th. In the poor shantytown known as Cité Soleil, home to several hundred thousand, the people are in the streets even today demanding a polling station. The area, north of Port-au-Prince is a stronghold of supportes of former President Aristide. Someone would rather these folks not vote. I wonder why? I wonder who?
The following is from the Haiti Action Committee web site.
Kevin Pina interviews the most-wanted man in Haiti: Amaral Duclona
HIP - Port au Prince, Haiti — Amaral Duclona is Haiti's most wanted man.
That is, the most wanted by the U.S.-installed de facto government. His name flashes across television screens throughout the capital each night along with those of twelve other men accused as "bandits" in the sprawling seaside slum of Cité Soleil.
Amaral is in fact the leader of the anti-coup and anti-occupation resistance in Cité Soleil. He has taken up the mantle of his fallen friend and comrade, Emmanuel "Dread" Wilmer, who was gunned down by U.N. troops last July.
The U.S.-installed government and Haiti's elite now charge Amaral with killing Canadian police officer Mark Bourque in Cité Soleil last December. He vehemently denies the accusation.
Cité Soleil is home to over 300,000 Haitians who live in abject poverty. Children play among mountains of garbage and open sewage canals. Most are malnourished, as their parents, unable to find work amidst 80% unemployment, try desperately to keep their families alive.
Cité Soleil is also a bastion of support for ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In his first successful bid for the presidency in 1990, Aristide announced his candidacy in this shantytown. Following the violent military coup against Aristide on Sep. 30, 1991, Cité Soleil took the brunt of violence meted out by Gen. Raoul Cédras' military dictatorship. During that three year coup, the Haitian army in league with the CIA-funded paramilitary death squad known as the Front for Advancement and Progress in Haiti (FRAPH) slaughtered thousands and burned down whole neighborhoods in the slum.
After President Aristide was ousted a second time on Feb. 29, 2004, Haitian police and paramilitary units made armed forays into Cité Soleil while occupying U.S. Marines did nothing to intervene. But soon, young men formed community self-defense brigades which began shooting it out with the police and paramilitaries, effectively driving them from the slum.
Even before the deployment of the U.N. Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH), Cité Soleil and other neighborhoods like Bel Air and Solino became launch pads for massive demonstrations demanding Aristide's return. The Haitian police's brutal SWAT teams bloodily repressed these protests, while MINUSTAH forces stood by.
The massive demonstrations belied mainstream press reports that Aristide had lost popular support and embarrassed the Washington-parachuted government of Prime Minister Gérard Latortue and the MINUSTAH. The U.N. force's stated purpose was to restore stability and democracy to Haiti. But Haiti's poor majority increasingly saw them as an army of foreign occupation bent on propping up a client government and crushing their movement.
As gun battles intensified between Lavalas' armed followers and the Haitian police, the MINUSTAH intervened to crush opposition in Bel Air and to contain Cité Soleil. Large cargo containers and concrete barriers were placed on all of Cité Soleil's major entrances, isolating the shantytown from the rest of the capital. U.N. troops searched men, women and children entering and leaving the neighborhood.
At the same time, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) began pacification programs designed to win the hearts and minds of Cité Soleil residents and undermine their resistance.
In Bel Air, the U.N. troops crushed and bought off the armed anti-coup groups while setting up military posts throughout the hillside neighborhood. Meanwhile, the UN and USAID began sponsoring so-called community development projects, concerts and soccer matches.
The only "community development" organization first allowed into Cité Soleil was working hand-in-hand with USAID. Yele Haiti was founded by the famous Haitian hip-hop musician, Wyclef Jean. He asked residents of Cité Soleil to accept the occupation and let go of demands for Aristide's return. His call fell on deaf ears.
One of those most critical of Wyclef Jean's USAID-backed efforts was a young man raised in Lafanmi Selavi, an orphanage for street children founded by Father Aristide in 1986. Emmanuel "Dread" Wilmer led an armed force of about 150 young men in Cité Soleil determined to resist incursions by the Haitian police and what he called "the foreign occupiers." The elite-owned Haitian press, the U.S.-installed government, and MINUSTAH all condemned Wilmer as a "bandit" and "gang leader" without any political ideals. Some 400 MINUSTAH troops killed him along with four of his lieutenants in a bloody pre-dawn raid on July 6, 2005. The UN troops also killed untold dozens of unarmed residents in the attack.
In the months since Wilmer's death, Cité Soleil residents have complained of coming under constant fire by the MINUSTAH's 1500-man Jordanian force which surrounds the shantytown. The U.N. troops indiscriminately fire on the population, residents say, in an effort to terrorize and cow the community. Heavily armed Jordanian and Brazilian units escort work crews which put up posters exhorting the population to stop "associating with criminals." Nonetheless, MINUSTAH has recently admitted that the so-called "armed gangs" enjoy the support of the majority of Cité Soleil's population.
Cité Soleil has also become a large base of support for presidential candidate Rene Garcia Preval. Aristide's first prime minister in 1991 before the coup, Préval went on to be elected president from 1996 to 2001. He now commands a large lead in the polls just a week before Feb. 7 elections. Haiti's electoral council announced last week that there will be no polling stations in Cité Soleil. Residents will have to walk miles to cast their votes. Cité Soleil's armed groups have announced that they will accompany those who want to vote to the polls.
Haiti Information Project founding editor Kevin Pina recently spent two days in Cité Soleil and managed to negotiate this exclusive interview with Amaral Duclona about the current situation in Haiti.
Kevin Pina interviews the most-wanted man in Haiti: Amaral Duclona
KP: Amaral, let's start by letting people know who you are and where you come from.
AD: My name is Amaral Duclona.
I wasn't born in Cite Soleil, but I was born on a road close to Cite Soleil named Chancerel. I was born on October 20, 1979. I am currently 27 years old.
I went to school in Cite Soleil, and I went to school in downtown Port au Prince.
KP: So describe the general situation as you see it in Cite Soleil today.
AD: Today we find ourselves in a situation where Cite Soleil is full of misery.
Where they say people are killing each other in Cite Soleil. Supposedly, we are all "bandits" or "gangs."
But it is actually this misery I speak of that is destroying the people of Cite Soleil.
Today we are working with the population of Cite Soleil, to see how we can help them get out from underneath the misery that they are in. We have no problem working with the local community and we invite the international community to help us get out of this misery.
KP: But what about those who accuse you of violence? Those who say there is no role for people like you to play in helping Cite Soleil?
AD: There is a well-defined sector working for the bourgeoisie inside of Cite Soleil that doesn't want poor people to get out from underneath their predicament. It comes from the base of a real gangster who said he was Lavalas but betrayed the cause and started accepting bribes from Apaid and Boulos.
And we can understand that and now how they turn this around on us.
When Dessalines was fighting, they did not understand the fight of Jean-Jacques Dessalines.
When Toussaint Louverture was fighting, they didn't understand him. And when, by the same token, Charlemagne Peralte, they didn't understand the fight of Peralte and the U.S. marines killed more than 50,000 people who were known as Cacos opposing the American occupation of Haiti.
After many years, they came to see that Peralte, was a man of the struggle, was a man among militants, who was defending the Haitian population. For that reason the U.S. marines killed him.
It is for that reason that today, us, we are struggling, but this for a people who are in misery.
KP: The U.N. and the U.S.-installed government portray you and Dread Wilmer as unintelligent thugs and gangsters. That you are devoid of any political agenda and are merely common criminals. How do you respond to them?
AD: Today, they say that Dread Wilme and I are "criminals" without any intelligence.
And everyone must think that the death of Dread Wilme was something that would bring peace to the country.
We proved to them that Dread Wilme was never ever a bandit, never a criminal, the same way as me, I was never a bandit, I was never a criminal.
We are political militants who are struggling to defend our rights, and to defend the rights of everyone and especially the people of Cite Soleil.
In this country, in the country of Haiti, everyone who is struggling to defend their rights, they always demonize them through name-calling. They call them "criminals," they call them "assassins." Just as they did to Dread and they are doing against me and other Cite Soleil militants today.
But if we were in the interests of the bourgeoisie sector, with MINUSTAH, if that were the case, then we would be cast as "good people," we would be the "best people" for them. It's total hypocrisy and propaganda to justify the slaughter.
We are not fighting for the interests of the U.N. and the sector of the bourgeoisie they are propping up. We put the misery of the Haitian people foremost in our interests and struggle for them. It is for that reason that they treat us as criminals and assassins and are trying to destroy us.
Criminals cannot survive in Cite Soleil because an already abused people will not accept more abuse. If we are able to survive today it is because the population in Cite Soleil supports us because they know we are defending their interests. If they are calling us "poor criminals" then fine, because we are in misery, so they are right but we are not criminals. What is criminal is that the U.N. works with the very same sector of our society that created this misery in Cite Soleil in the first place. If they define opposing this crime as banditry, then we ask them to really look at Haitian history. Didn't the U.S. marines call Charlemagne Peralte and the Cacos "bandits" because they opposed the foreign occupation of Haitian soil? We, in Cite Soleil, who are fighting are trying to change the conditions of the people in Cite Soleil.
KP: What impact does the memory of the slaughter committed against the people of Cite Soleil by the military following the 1991 coup against Aristide serve today? Has it had an impact and does it reflect in your struggle today?
AD: The massacres of the military, the ex-military, the Haitian army, that were committed against Cite Soleil. That had a large impact. Because there were many people that died or lost their families.
There are many people, who have never seen justice for the acts perpetrated by military. And today people see what MINUSTAH is perpetrating as a similar thing. People are being shot and killed everyday for no reason other than to inspire terror in the population. To force them to accept the kidnapping of their president
It is for that reason that we are always demonstrating to demand justice for the people of Cite Soleil. It is only here today that people can demonstrate for Aristide's return without being killed by the police. Instead the terror of the police has been replaced by the terror of indiscriminant firing by the U.N. troops. And yet we still continue to demonstrate. It is this they fear the most.
KP: What about the Haitian elite and the role you say they have played in keeping the people of Cite Soleil in misery?
AD: Where there is Dr. Reginald Boulos today? He is now the president of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce and yet it was he who killed close to 25 children in Cite Soleil. He made money by distributing a cough syrup that was called "Ephemil." Was he never brought to justice for the deaths of those children? No, instead he is being rewarded for his role in overthrowing our democratically elected president. This is not justice.
It is for that reason that we are demonstrating like this and accompanying the population in their search for justice and a way out of misery. And again, the bourgeoisie and MINUSTAH will label anyone who defends the interests of the people as common assassins and criminals.
And we say, we are not assassins, we are not criminals. We are political militants, who are defending the rights of the population of Cite Soleil, the rights for all of the Haitian people who are suffering in misery today.
And it is for that reason that we are struggling, but we will never be criminals, never, ever.
KP: What about July 6, 2005 when U.N. forces killed Dread Wilmer and the accusations that unarmed civilians were killed as well?
The U.N. does deny it ever happened but MINUSTAH committed that genocide inside of Cite Soleil. It is a crime worse than the Haitian army did inside Cite Soleil [after the coup of 1991 and 2004]. Now MINUSTAH blames Lavalas militants...that Lavalas militants killed people who were happy that Dread was killed or who were informants against the people's interests. That's nonsense!! We would never do that because Lavalas depends upon the people, depends upon the population. If the U.N. cannot control Cite Soleil today it is because the majority still believe in the ideals of the Lavalas struggle and that means the poor have as many rights as the bourgeoisie.
They make the incredible claim that there were people inside Cite Soleil who celebrated the death of comrade Dread Wilme. I don't believe that such people exist in Cite Soleil and it was a fabrication to cover up the slaughter by U.N. forces on July 6. Just walk around and ask anyone here and they will recite for you the good works that Dread Wilme always did on behalf of the poor in Cite Soleil.
I worked closely together with Dread, me, Amaral. We worked together to help keep the people of Cite Soleil alive.
But with the complicity of MINUSTAH along with the bourgeoisie sector, they were able to kill Dread Wilme. They were able to kill close to 60 people in Cite Soleil when they assassinated him and four other militants.
We always keep Dread Wilme alive in our memory. It is for that reason that the population accompanied us, to the point where we succeeded in inaugurating Dread Wilme Boulevard. The community worked together to dedicate a street in his name. Everyone in Cite Soleil contributed to this effort.
KP: But they continue to say Wilmer was an assassin and a criminal.
AD: If Dread were a criminal, if he was an assassin, the population would never, never, ever, have held such a beautiful funeral in his memory in Cite Soleil. His funeral reflected his life and his sacrifice. And when we look at the funeral of Dread Wilme...we saw it was an extraordinary thing [referring to the huge droves of people who attended]. It was in this same spirit of sacrifice for the interests of the poor that Dread was commemorated by renaming the street of Bwa Neuf as Boulevard Dread Wilmer. A criminal in Cite Soleil would never have been bestowed with such glory. We will continue our struggle in his memory and the U.N. nor the bourgeoisie can ever take that experience away from the Haitian people.
KP: What about the upcoming elections? Do you support them?
AD: Yes, we support them if the Haitian people support them. They will try to blame us for any violence that happens but the truth is we want this nightmare to be over. The only way to do that is through these elections. Now, Latortue and his government and the movement to oust Aristide have put many of their family members and cronies in more than 12,000 civil service jobs throughout Haiti. These were jobs that were given to poor people to give them a chance to rise above poverty under Aristide. They were fired after the coup. Those who replaced them are afraid of losing those jobs while the wealthy elite and those who participated in the kidnapping of Aristide have their own reasons to create violence to destabilize the election process. We say clearly that the people of Haiti should be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not to vote and participate in these elections. We will accompany and help to protect those who wish to vote. The repression must stop and we must turn the page on this nightmare and hell for the poor in Haiti.
KP: Thank you Amaral.
AD: You're welcome.
Mexico Solidarity Network Presents:
International Women's Day Tour to Demand Justice for the Women of Juarez and Chihuahua!
March 1 - 15, 2006
Veronica Leyva, a former maquiladora worker and long-time activist from Ciudad Juarez, will speak on the struggle to end femicides and stop labor injustices in this growing border town just across from El Paso, TX. A representative from the Mexico Solidarity Network will also discuss the larger context in which these crimes occur, and the neoliberal economic policies touted by our government that have helped create this alarming situation along the border.
For more than a decade, the cities of Chihuahua and Juarez have been killing fields for young women, the site of now almost 450 unsolved femicides. Despite the horrific nature of these crimes, authorities at all levels exhibit indifference, and there is strong evidence that some officials may even be involved. Impunity and corruption has permitted these criminals, whoever they are, to continue committing these acts, knowing full well there will be no consequences.
A significant number of victims worked in the maquiladora sector - sweatshops that produce for export, with 90% produced destined for the United States. The maquiladoras employ mainly young women, at poverty level wages. In combination with lax environmental regulations and low tariffs under the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the maquiladoras are amassing tremendous wealth at the community’s expense. Yet despite this crime wave directed against women, maquiladoras offer almost no protection for their workers. High profile government campaigns such as Ponte Vista (Be Aware), a self defense program, and supplying women with whistles are band-aid strategies, carried out mainly for public relations purposes without offering real protection for these women.
Activists fighting gender violence highlight the impact of neoliberal economic policies, drug trafficking, militarization, and the evolving maquiladora sector to draw comparisons with similar struggles in other parts of Mexico, Guatemala, and throughout the world. Despite the efforts of state and federal authorities to keep them quiet, the families of victims continue to make small advances in their struggle for justice. Often families suffer threats and defamation by government officials for making one simple demand: STOP THE FEMICIDE!
This tour will:
Promote solidarity with the families of the femicide victims and their struggle to stop these atrocities.
Discuss the grassroots efforts to pressure the Mexican government into ending the epidemic of gender violence in Juarez and Chihuahua, and punish those who are responsible.
Encourage the creation of a bi-national committee including activists
and community leaders from Mexico and the US to address gender violence.
Discuss how these cases of gender violence do not occur in isolation, but rather within the context of the neoliberal economic model that dehumanizes and devalues women in exchange for higher profit margins.
Increase awareness and support for both House Resolution 466 and Senate Resolution 392, Sense of the Congress Resolutions that would officially condemn the femicides in Ciudad Juarez.
For more information contact us in our Washington, DC office at (202) 544-9355, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
Though you wouldn't know here in the states, the on going effort for human rights and democracy continues in Nepal. The Nepal News reports on activities which took place around the globe yesterday.
Pro-democracy demos in Hong Kong, Sydney, Brussels and London
Reports say expatriate Nepalis and friends of Nepal organized demonstrations in various cities around the world calling for restoration of peace and democracy in Nepal.
In Hong Kong, hundreds of people from various walks of life gathered at Kowloon Park gate on Wednesday (Feb. 1) and marched towards the Royal Nepalese consulate in Hong Kong. They carried placards, banners and posters denouncing what they called “autocratic regime” in Nepal and chanted slogans calling for restoration of democracy and human rights in Nepal.
At the premises of Nepal Consulate, leaders from various organisations in Hong Kong including Asian Migrant Coordinating body, Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants, Coalition for Migrant Right, and local student leaders expressed their solidarity towards the on-going people's democratic movement in Nepal.
Addressing the rally, Li Chock Yuen -- a veteran leader of Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Union and member of Legislative Council of Hong Kong-- said that all people across the world should be united to fight for democracy and human rights. Mr. Bruce Van Vhooris from Asian Human Rights Commission and Apo Leung from Asian Monitor and Research Centre said Nepali people were not alone in their fight for peace and democracy.
The rally was organized jointly by Far East Overseas Nepalese Association (FEONA Hong Kong), Asian Student Association (ASA) and Hong Kong Support Group for people's movement in Nepal.
In Sydney, hundreds of people took part in a rally and demonstration at Wynyard Park on Wednesday calling for restoration of peace, human rights and democracy in Nepal. The rally was organized by Nepalese Forum for Human Rights and People’s Democracy (NEHURIPD), Australia.
Addressing the rally, president of the Forum Ramesh Pandey and member Dhruba Subedi said expat Nepalis and friends of Nepal stood together in Nepali people’s fight for democracy.
In Brussels, members of Nepali diaspora and European civil society groups took part in a demonstration in front of the European Union headquarters calling for restoration of peace, democracy and human rights in Nepal. At the end of the demo, a declaration was read aloud and handed over to James Moran, acting director for Asia, European Commission.
Earlier in the day, a high-level panel discussion was held in Brussels involving senior EU officials on the Nepal situation. Presenting a report on behalf of Nepali civil society, president of NGO Federation of Nepal, Dr. Arjun Karki, called upon the international community including the EU to extend their support and cooperation for the cause of restoration of democracy and human rights in Nepal.
Rights groups, Forum-Asia and Asian Centre for Human Rights also presented their joint report on Nepal during the programme.
These and other demons in various cities coincided with the completion of the first year of the direct rule of King Gyanendra in Nepal.
Similarly, Nepalis based in the UK organized a demonstration in front of the Royal Nepalese embassy in London Wednesday calling for restoration of peace and democracy in Nepal.
They have no shame in the Bush Administration. This is once again on display as the Bushies continue their drive to destroy our national parks. And as with everything else they do, they don't want you or anyone else to know what they are up to. The following is a press release from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
For Immediate Release: Thursday, February 2, 2006
Contact: Chas Offutt (202) 265-7337
LAWSUIT TO FIND INDUSTRY IMPETUS BEHIND PARK POLICY REWRITE
Group Seeks Lobbying Letters and Other Communications with Bush Officials
Washington, DC — The U.S. Department of Interior is refusing to turn over industry lobbying efforts leading up to a Bush administration proposed rewrite of National Park Service policies to favor commercial uses over preservation of park resources, according to a lawsuit filed in federal district court today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The PEER suit, filed under the Freedom of Information Act, notes that Interior officials have stalled record requests for four months and have not cited any reason to withhold copies of its exchanges with industry lobbyists.
This past August, Paul Hoffman, a former Dick Cheney aide occupying a top Interior Department slot overseeing the Park Service, circulated a total make-over of all the Management Policies governing the national park system. The Hoffman draft set off a furor, as it appeared to give dirt bikes, off-highway vehicles, and jet skis wide access to scores of national parks and seashores. Mining, grazing, helicopter tours, cell-phone towers and even rock concerts, would all have been encouraged, as park superintendents would have to show there would be permanent resource damage in order to block any requested use.
Hoffman claimed that he was trying to make park policies less “anti-enjoyment.” In a September speech to a recreation industry group, Hoffman said he “received a clear message from many constituencies” that a revision of the National Park Service’s Management Policies was necessary because of their “evident bias in favor of preservation of the park system over human use and enjoyment.”
“Which constituencies sent Paul Hoffman the clear message that national parks should no longer be so protective of nature?” asked PEER General Counsel Richard Condit who filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. “We are simply trying to determine which lobbyists are really behind the new Bush administration park policies.”
Opposition was so widespread to Hoffman’s original draft that the Bush administration withdrew it but by October it unveiled a new version that was immediately dubbed “Hoffman-lite” in that it omitted some of the more egregious aspects of the earlier draft but the drift was the same. The Interior Department claimed its new version had the input of one hundred Park Service managers but was unable to identify a single one in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from media.
This new version of the Park Service Management Policy rewrite is subject to public comment until February 18th (the original December deadline that was extended at Congressional request). The proposed changes tell managers they must balance nature against an array of commercial, recreational and social uses. Critics charge that in scores of subtle wording changes, natural resource protections would be weakened, but never strengthened –
Rules prohibiting industrial air pollution from beclouding park vistas would be unenforceable;
Millions of acres of potential wilderness in park backcountry could be carved with trails, roads and other developments;
Values such as “peace and tranquility” and protection of “natural soundscapes” are jettisoned to allow proliferation of cell phone towers and greater snowmobile and other motorized access.
“We know that Hoffman and his political patron, Vice-President Cheney, both have penchants for closed- door meetings with industry lawyers and lobbyists to set administration policy,” Condit added. “By law, the public has a right to know what business is conducted in its name, in this case, who Hoffman and his staff met with and what was said.”
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Stew Albert was one of those guys who made the 60's the sixties. He wrote the following on January 28th, just two days before taking off for points unknown.
Draining fast food
Gotcha going nowhere
It's still the sea around us
So award tells me
Don't move it tonight
I prefer it clean
Day in the Life: My politics have not changed.
Stew was the answer to all those who claimed "we" all became something else as we grew "older."
In fact, of course, Stew simply never became "older." He grew, but not older.
Stew Albert was all about life. Death itself could not take that from him.
I met Stew a couple of times years ago and I corresponded with him off and on over the past few years. He'd send ideas to me for the OD from time to time...and comments about this and that.
Stew died January 30, 2003 at 3:20 a.m, age 66. Peacefully, in his sleep, surrounded by Judy, Jessica and his many friends. Funeral services this Wednesday, Feb. 1 at Havurah Shalom in Portland.
Judy writes, "Stew will be buried tomorrow in Jones Pioneer Vmetery in Portland. He will be wrapped in a tallis (Jewish prayer shaw), holding a stuffed flower from the Haight and wearing his kick-ass Frye boots and our wedding ring."
This little personal story tells you something about Stew. Three years ago I lamented in the Oread Daily about the "end" of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Stew understood my grief, as it were. He sent me the following poem (which I printed at the time) in hopes that it would help me and other Buffy "followers" feel a little better.
POWER TO THE SISTERS
by Stew Albert
Buffy stopped slaying vampires last night.
She had quite a run
on a show that broke rules.
Her closest sidekick
a Jewish lesbian witch
who didn't let her tastes
You never knew what you were going to see
one week the show was silent
everyone lost the gift of speech
and mime ruled.
And then it might be
an all singing
And Buffy's tastes in men
ran from vampires to vampires
with a soldier of misfortune
How would the series end
in an age
when the Empire is striking back
and violent greed is its oily energy
It ended in happy benevolence.
a heroic vampire and a fun demon died
but original evil got its ass kicked
Buffy's slaying power
her world winning potential
to women of all ages.
A ton of light and hope is bequeathed
to our hapless existence.
Best of all
Buffy didn't die.
when last seen
she had a big smile on her face.
she hasn't' smiled that way
Buffy doesn't have to slay vampires anymore
it's nothing special
your kid sister can do it.
For lots more Stew and lots more of Stew's times go to Stew Albert's Yippie! Reading Room.
I'm printing below something "Counterpunch" wrote following his departure from this existance.
Revolutionary for the Hell of It
The Good Life of Stew Albert
By JEFFREY ST. CLAIR
As one of the creative directors of the Yippies, Stew Albert helped to script the 60s. Stew's life is a joyous rebuttal to the slurs of mean-spirited bigots such as David Horowitz and Newt Gingrich that the 60s counterculture unleashed a moral rot at core of American society.
Of course, Stew was the true moralist. And the prime moral virtue was to live honestly. He had seen his own government spy on him and his family for no justifiable cause, politicians betray their constituents, cops beat and gas demonstrators on the streets of Chicago, university presidents summon National Guard troops onto campuses to abuse and kill students, and generals repeatedly lie about the war in Vietnam, where 54,000 young Americans and 2 million Vietnamese died.
The Yippies thrived on the exposure of moral hypocrisy. Their creative mischief made radical politics fun. The Yippies proved to be more effective than the dour pronouncements of Tom Hayden or the trustfund bombers in the Weather Underground.
The Yippies didn't need George Lakoff to tell them how to "reframe" an issue. They learned from the Situationists as well as vaudeville acts and Borscht Belt comedy routines, from the Marx cousins, Karl and Groucho. And because of that their legacy lives in Earth First and Greenpeace. The chaotic carnival of protest that overswept the streets of Seattle during the WTO meetings owed much to the Yippie brain trust of Albert, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin.
Stew outlived his colleagues in mayhem, Rubin and Hoffman, by 20 years, spending most of that time in Portland. But he didn't retreat from the world. Unlike the repulsive Gingrich, who divorced his wife while she was on a hospital bed being treated for cancer, Stew and his wife Judy lived together for 40 years. Their's was the fullest of unions, as lovers, political partners, parents of their beautiful and brilliant daughter Jessica, political partners and citizens in Tom Paine's full-fleshed sense of the word.
Stew was Jewish and his encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish history and holy texts rivaled any Talmudic scholar. But Stew was never soft on the Israeli government. He opposed its seizure of the Occupied Territories and savage treatment of the Palestinian people.
Although he and Judy had been treated cruelly by the US government, Stew genuinely loved America: its people, its landscapes, its zaniness. He viewed the nation as an ongoing work-in-progress, a work that social activists could helped to write.
Shortly after CounterPunch went online, Stew began sending us batches of poems every Friday. We were delighted to run them. The poems were topical, wry and wildly popular with the dedicated readers of our "Poets Basement". Most of Stew's poems were political, though towards the end he began writing more and more about the cruel twist of fate he was confronting with his medical treatment, where he was being pricked with needles and drugs every day in a battle to suppress a disease that is most often acquired through the use of needles and drugs. My favorites though were his casual observances of the mercurial weather here in Oregon, where the sky can display a thousand shades of gray. They are funny and vivid poems that remind me of Frank O'Hara's lunch poems.
You can catch a glimpse of Stew and Judy in the Hollywood film about Abbie Hoffman, Steal This Movie. But to get the real story of his life you need to pick up a copy (it would be hard to shoplift one since so few bookstores carry it) of his memoir Who the Hell is Stew Albert? The title is courtesy of Howard Stern, no less. It's more than an account of Stew's life, it's one of the best chronicles of the 60s and the ongoing cultural and political fallout from that strange, creative decade.
I don't think Stew ever told me how he contracted Hep C. I got a call from him a couple of years ago inviting me to a party at his house the week before he was going to start the cruel regimen of chemotherapy for a long run of months. Hep C is a nasty and remorseless disease that ungratefully targets the most altruistic among us. Nurses are particularly vulnerable to this neglected disease.
Then came good news. The disease had been beaten into remission. That spring he and Judy went on a roadtrip across the southwest to celebrate his triumph over the Reaper. Before they left, Stew asked me if there were any places they should visit. I jotted down some of my favorite desert haunts: Marble Canyon, the Vermilion Cliffs, Arches, Zion, the Coral Pink sand dunes.
He came back animated by the surreal landscape. We also talked about the places that he and Judy stopped to eat along the way. We discussed the secret pleasures of Basque cuisine that can only be sampled in dusty dives on the lonely backroads of Nevada and Idaho, places where a lot of liberals would never dare to venture. Stew loved food. Not just the taste, but the alchemy of the kitchen, the smells, textures and secret methods of making meals. I went to three or four parties as Stew and Judy's house. Each was a festival of food, with enough dishes to have sated Fellini. Of course, chemo kills the palate and Hep C often imposes a bland and restricted diet on its victims. Getting well meant being able to enjoy those simple but essential pleasures.
So 2005 was a good year. Then around Christmastime Stew told me that the disease had come roaring back, this time as Stage 4 liver cancer for which there was only palliative treatment and the comfort of family and friends. Stew described the excruciating pain he was in toward the end. But he never whined about it. Never sounded bitter, though he had every right to be. Never wished the fatal affliction on his enemies, as much as they have deserved his fate.
At 66, Stew wasn't about change the tenor of his life and let such thoughts eclipse his optimistic spirit, his utopian vision, his humaneness. A few hours before he died, Stew declared: "My politics haven't changed."
Stew Albert engaged the world head on, as if there was no other possible way to live.
There he was again. The Smirker in Chief babbling on and on about who knows what. We watched college basketball instead, only occasionaly looking to see if he was still there. Below you will find an analysis of the speech by the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy. If you are in the mood, take a look see.
DMI on the 2006 State of the Union
In his 2006 State of the Union address, President Bush spoke optimistically about the state of the United States economy. While to some fortunate Americans, this pronouncement may ring true, such is not the case for our squeezed middle-class who are finding it harder and harder to hold onto the staples of the American Dream: stable jobs, the promise of a secure retirement after a lifetime of hard work, access to affordable health care and the ability to put your children through college while also taking care of your elderly parents. By refusing to acknowledge the fundamental squeeze that has left one in six middle-class Americans without health insurance, record numbers applying for bankruptcy, and a significant percentage dipping into retirement security to send their children to college, the President makes it impossible to talk about the comprehensive solutions required to restore faith in the American Dream.
The President’s address was a speech around the margins. It contained a proposal to expand math and science education without addressing the fundamental under-funding of our nations’ public school systems and the skyrocketing cost of higher education, another to create Health Savings Accounts without addressing the true costs of our enormously expensive and inefficient private health care system, and yet another to create a guest worker program for immigrants without acknowledging the impact of the institutionalization of a second-tier workforce has on middle-class workers. We agree that the State of the American Dream is strong; it is, in fact, what unites us. Unfortunately, so is the shared sense of vulnerability and economic insecurity that went unaddressed by the 2006 State of the Union address. Though his speech lasted over an hour, the deafening silence on the struggles of the middle class and those working so hard to enter it may very well be its defining moment.
President Bush: Health care should be consumer-driven.
"We will strengthen Health Savings Accounts by making sure individuals and small business employees can buy insurance with the same advantages that people working for big businesses now get.”
DMI: Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) do nothing to address the fundamental problems of our enormously expensive and inefficient private health care system; HSAs just push risk and costs from businesses and the government on to America's squeezed middle class and exacerbate existing strains in the health care system.
Health Savings Accounts defy the central principle of insurance - which is to spread risk so that no insured individual is left with overwhelming costs or without access to needed care.
Any health care savings that do arise from HSAs are the result of providing less health care —including skimping on needed care.
Consumers spending too much on unneeded health care is not the main problem with the U.S. health care system. Instead, we should try to reduce the costs that have nothing to do with providing medical services.
HSAs are more effective as tax shelters for the very wealthy than opportunities for middle-class Americans to access quality health care.
DMI: Association Health Plans (AHPs) will harm the middle class — raising the cost of health care for small businesses and increasing the number of uninsured Americans — if they are exempt from state insurance laws that prohibit insurance companies from only insuring the healthiest consumers.
Exempting AHPs from state regulations increases average health care costs for small businesses and reduces the number of workers with health insurance. State laws prevent insurance plans from cherry-picking only the healthiest people for insurance coverage, allowing businesses with relatively healthy employees to join for less money, while charging higher rates to those with older and sicker workers. Such cherry-picking would destabilize the health care marketplace: state-regulated health care plans would see their healthy workers siphoned off to the AHPs, leaving them with a disproportionate number of older and sicker employees who are more expensive to cover. As a result, an estimated 4 out of 5 small businesses would see their premiums increase under unregulated AHPs. Small businesses should be able to band together to get a better deal on health insurance without this harmful disaggregating of risk that will ultimately rebound to make health care less accessible and more expensive for many middle-class Americans and small businesses.
Number of Americans who do not have health insurance: 45 million
Proportion of middle-class households lack health insurance: one in six
Percentage of small businesses that did not offer health insurance to employees in 2004: 37%
Proportion of small business employees that would see their premiums increase if AHPs became common: 4 out of 5
Average estimated increase in health care premiums for small employers with state-regulated coverage under AHP legislation: 23%
President Bush: Capping damages from lawsuits will lower the cost of health care.
“Because lawsuits are driving many good doctors out of practice…I ask the Congress to pass medical liability reform this year.”
DMI: Capping damages would do little to decrease health care costs, but would let hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and medical device manufacturers get away with cutting corners on patient safety and would hinder injured patients from getting justice.
Medical malpractice reform is not the solution to the lack of affordable healthcare for working Americans. Restricting the amount of money an individual can seek for medical malpractice or other health care-related wrongdoing would hinder many people in the middle class’ ability to hold unscrupulous companies accountable for selling unsafe products, ripping off consumers, polluting the environment and employing unfair labor practices. Capping malpractice awards would limit people’s access to justice and be less effective in deterring wrongdoing. The President’s claim to make healthcare more accessible and affordable by limiting malpractice liability is invalid and its only outcome is limiting citizens’—particularly low-income citizens’— access to the civil justice system.
Percentage of the nation’s health care expenditures that are attributable to malpractice: 2.0%
Estimated number of patients who die in hospitals each year due to medial malpractice: 98,000
Total worldwide sales of Vioxx from the time it was introduced in 1999, when manufacturers allegedly already knew it had potentially fatal unreported side-effects, to the time it was removed from the market in 2004: $11.8 billion
Number of deaths attributed to a defective cardiac pacemaker sold by Guidant Corp. despite the company’s allegedly knowing that the device was faulty: 7
President Bush: America is meeting its health care responsibilities to senior citizens.
“Keeping America competitive requires affordable health care. Our government has a responsibility to provide health care for the elderly, and we are meeting that responsibility.”
DMI: If the new prescription drug benefit Plan D is any indication, federally funded health care is not reaching most of the people it’s designed to help. With its complicated and incomplete coverage, Plan D eschews efficient solutions, like allowing the government to negotiate for lower drug prices, that would provide straight-forward savings to seniors in favor of a large government subsidy to the already hugely profitable pharmaceutical industry.
Now one month old, Plan D—the new prescription drug benefit that directs federal funds to 260 private companies—has already hit hard times. Greatly under-funded by Congress, the confusion surrounding the benefit’s launch forced the states to step in, paying medical bills where the federal government failed to. What's more, only 5% of the nation's 21 million seniors who qualify for this benefit have signed up for it, and most of them were people who had already been receiving a prescription drug benefit or low-income people who were automatically enrolled by the government. Little progress has been made to extend prescription drug coverage to the currently uncovered seniors who were promised improved pharmaceutical access by Plan D.
Medicare should be a source of security for the middle class elderly. Plan D instead injects uncertainty and complexity. Many seniors have to sort through forty or fifty coverage options and select from among plans with a wide range of monthly premiums and deductible options. By forcing the elderly and their adult children—who often care for both their parents and their small children—to make complicated decisions about finances and health care, Plan D requires a substantial investment of time and energy for a relatively small discount on prescription drugs.
In the next ten years, $720 billion in government funds will subsidize Plan D's private companies, but because of confusion and unresolved gaps in coverage, significant prescription drug costs will continue to fall onto middle-class families.
If the government were to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies to get the lowest prices for seniors, as the U.S. Veteran’s Administration already does, prices would be lower, confusion would be minimized, and the middle class would receive a truly significant prescription drug benefit.
Percentage of seniors who say they will enroll in a plan, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey: 20%
Percentage of seniors who say they won't enroll in a plan: 37%
Percentage of seniors who are confused and do not know what to do about Plan D: 43%
Estimated federal subsidy over ten years to the pharmaceutical industry under the Plan D program: $720 billion
President Bush: Proposes the “American Competitiveness Initiative” aimed at, among other things, providing America’s children with a better education in math and science.
Recruit 70,000 new math and science teachers capable of teaching advance placement courses
Encourage 30,000 private sector math and science professionals to teach in the schools
“We need to encourage children to take more math and science, and to make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations. We made a good start in the early grades with the No Child Left Behind Act, which is raising standards and lifting test scores across our country.”
DMI: President Bush’s mention of his proposal to increase the number of advanced math and science teachers under the American Competitiveness Initiative in the same breath as he lauds his No Child Left Behind program is apt because the programs share two important commonalities. First, both programs contain proposals that, as least in theory, could help strengthen public education in America. Second, both programs, if not fully funded, are destined to fail and, in so doing, undercut the quality of the free public educations middle class families rely upon.
While the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) remains a controversial measure, even the law’s critics agree that it is mostly likely to succeed in increasing the quality of public education if it is well funded by the federal government. Proposals to strengthen the teaching of math and science are only valuable if they are fully funded, otherwise they are merely another unfunded mandate to be absorbed by states and localities across the nation. Such unfunded mandates force states and localities to raise property taxes on the middle class to finance the education programs required by the law. It is troublesome that President Bush is looking to adopt a new education program that will increase the budgetary requirements of public schools when he has yet to pay for his first round of “improvements” under NCLB.
Even if President Bush were to provide the funding to hire 70,000 more advanced math and science teachers, an important question would remain: Where will those new teachers come from? Under the Bush administration, the federal government’s significant reduction in funding to the states has drained state coffers and forced states to dramatically increase tuition at public colleges and universities (including community colleges) which have made them far less accessible to the middle class.
If the federal government continues its refusal to help make college affordable for middle class Americans, our nation will fail to produce an adequate supply of advanced teachers to meet the mandates of the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative program.
Decrease in funding for elementary and secondary education programs in Congress’ proposed fiscal 2006 budget, compared to 2005: $1.2 billion
Estimated proportion of U.S. schools that lack the resources to implement NCLB standards: 50%
Percentage of U.S. students who attend public school: 85%, totaling 41.6 million
Number of states that say they do not have sufficient staff to carry out the administrative duties mandated by NCLB: 37
Percentage of voters who say the federal government should spend more on the nation’s schools: 67
Percentage of education funding that comes from the federal government: 10%
The Economy & Budget
President Bush: The economy is strong and improving.
“Our economy is healthy and vigorous… In the last two and a half years, America has created 4.6 million new jobs, more than Japan and the European Union combined. Even in the face of higher energy prices and natural disasters, the American people have turned in an economic performance that is the envy of the world.”
DMI: The middle class has seen few of the benefits of economic growth, instead experiencing stagnation a decline in wages, sluggish job creation, weakened retirement security, and the rising cost of education and health care.
The president’s rosy economic picture does not reflect the economic reality of middle-class Americans. These days, corporate profits are growing and CEOs are picking up bigger paychecks. But ordinary Americans aren’t celebrating. Battling inflation and stagnant wages, the same middle-class paychecks bring home fewer daily necessities than they used to. As the national deficit continues to grow, more and more Americans are filing for bankruptcy. The costs of health care and of putting a kid through college continue to go up. And with the housing bubble threatening to burst, middle-class Americans who only managed to buy a house or find a job because of this industry’s growth will be hit hard. For the 7.5 million Americans unemployed and 45 million Americans uninsured, it’s hard to see much cause for celebration at all.
The President’s economic policies have done little to address these issues. This middle-class squeeze reflects harsher constraints on accessing the American Dream: While middle-class Americans aspire to build up equity in their homes, send their children to college and save for a secure retirement, even hardworking families with good jobs are finding it harder to meet these goals and get ahead.
Economic growth has been slower than the President’s own predictions.
Job creation has been slow compared to previous economic recoveries, and employers like Kraft and General Motors that offered well-paying middle-class jobs have just announced tens of thousands of lay-offs
Growing inequality in the United States, stagnating wages, record deficits, and a private pension system on the brink of insolvency are hardly the envy of the world.
Increase in the number of Americans living in poverty between 2003 and 2004: 1.1 million
Increase in the number of hungry households since 1999: 43%
Change in typical weekly earnings, adjusted for inflation, from December 2004 to December 2005: -0.4%
Increase in the cost of health care premiums in 2005: 9.2%
Increase since 2000 in the cost of premiums for family health care coverage: 73%
Increase in tuition and fees at the average public four-year college over the past year: 7.1%
President Bush: Tax cuts have produced economic growth. Congress should make tax cuts permanent.
“Our economy grows when Americans have more of their own money to spend, save, and invest. In the last five years, the tax relief you passed has left $880 billion in the hands of American workers, investors, small businesses, and families, and they have used it to help produce more than four years of uninterrupted economic growth. Yet the tax relief is set to expire in the next few years.”
DMI: President Bush’s tax cuts have not significantly contributed to economic growth.
Economic growth has been slower than in previous periods of economic recovery when extensive tax cuts were not in place.
The tax cut on investment income deprives the public sector of the revenue needed to fund college aid, Medicare, unemployment benefits, and other programs the middle class relies on. Meanwhile, most of the revenue raised comes from the wealthiest people who can most afford to pay.
Reduction in government revenue since 2001 due to the President's tax cuts: $870 billion
Total estimated deficit over the next ten years if President Bush’s tax cuts are extended: $4 trillion
Percentage of the President’s 2003 tax cuts that went to the top 1% income earners: 40 percent
Percentage of the American people who will get the majority of benefits from cuts in dividend and capital gains taxes: 0.2%
Percentage of benefits from these tax cuts that will go to households making more than $200,000: 75%
Percentage of all stock-market holdings held by the bottom 80% of Americans: 10.7%
Lowest annual salary of the majority of stock holders in this country: $100,000
President Bush: Reduce the budget deficit through spending cuts in non-defense programs.
“Every year of my presidency, we've reduced the growth of non-security discretionary spending, and last year you passed bills that cut this spending. This year my budget will cut it again, and reduce or eliminate more than 140 programs that are performing poorly or not fulfilling essential priorities. By passing these reforms, we will save the American taxpayer another $14 billion next year, and stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009.”
DMI: President Bush has operated with an unprecedented level of fiscal irresponsibility while preaching austerity to a squeezed middle class. Now the Administration plans to economize by slashing public support for programs that enable low-income Americans to work their way into the middle class.
Every year since President Bush took office 2001, the government has run a deficit, which in 2005 was the largest in American history. Despite the increasing deficits, President Bush repeatedly opted to cut taxes while increasing the amount the government is allowed to go into debt, ultimately weakening the dollar’s worth. Over time, a weak dollar increases consumer prices, making a middle class standard of living increasingly difficult to afford, especially when wages do not increase at the same rate—pushing the middle class to bear the burden of government’s fiscal irresponsibility.
At the same time that the Bush Administration has recklessly cut taxes with no concern for the growing public debt, the President has encouraged and approved legislation and administrative policies that punish middle-class and aspiring middle-class families that are struggling to live within their means.
Now the President announces that the budget should be balanced by cutting public programs that enable low-income people to work their way into the middle class. The President expressed his approval for a 2006 House budget that would:
Size of the 2005 budget deficit: $319 billion
Number of times the federal debt limit has been raised in the past four years: 4
Total increase in the federal debt since President Bush took office: $2.502 trillion
Average middle class family's estimated share of the national debt in 2004: $ 107,000
Percentage of personal bankruptcies that can be traced back to a serious illness or other medical cause: 54.5%
Percentage of debtors who went without food before declaring bankruptcy: 19.4%
Number of children who would lose childcare subsidies under the 2006 House budget President Bush expressed support for: 300,000
Amount to be cut from adult educational programs in the 2006 budget: $370 million.
President Bush: The U.S. needs to increase border security to prevent undocumented immigrants from entering the country and create a Guest Worker program without amnesty.
“Keeping America competitive requires an immigration system that upholds our laws, reflects our values, and serves the interests of our economy. Our nation needs orderly and secure borders. To meet this goal, we must have stronger immigration enforcement and border protection. And we must have a rational, humane guest worker program that rejects amnesty, allows temporary jobs for people who seek them legally, and reduces smuggling and crime at the border.”
DMI: Guest workers programs threaten to institutionalize an underclass of workers with no labor protections, dragging the rest of American workers with them.
President Bush's guest worker programs would institutionalize a two-tiered labor market, undermining middle-class wages and working conditions and restricting access to the American Dream. It's not that all guest worker programs are bad; it's that the President's proposal does little to strengthen workplace rights for immigrants and a great deal to undermine them. And when immigrants lack rights in the workplace, labor standards are driven down, and all working people have less opportunity to enter or remain part of the middle class. On the plus side, those immigrant workers who participate in the guest worker would have legal status in this country, and their working conditions would thus be more open to enforcement of U.S. wage and hour laws, workplace safety standards and other labor regulations. By moving workers and workplaces out of the shadows, immigrants' rights in the workplace could be enhanced to some degree. However, this benefit is far outweighed by the fact that the President's proposal would put excessive power into the hands of employers, undermining the rights of immigrant workers and thus the strength of the middle class. And with the lack of opportunities for temporary workers to attain permanent status, Bush's plan threatens to create a program in which interchangeable workers shuttle in and out of the country with little incentive to improve their working conditions and little opportunity to establish themselves economically or to advance in the workplace. The President's guest worker programs won't make much real progress; As long as a cheaper and more compliant pool of immigrant labor is available, employers will be less willing to hire U.S.-born workers if they demand better wages and working conditions, and therefore less likely to support those aspiring to a middle-class quality of life.
A sound and successful immigration policy needs to do more for workers than what's suggested in the President's proposals. Eliminating the second-class labor market in this two-tiered system, allowing foreign and U.S.-born workers to compete on an even playing field with equal labor rights and making sure that employers cannot use deportation as a coercive tool in the labor market would strengthen the existing middle class and give both immigrants and U.S.-born workers trying to join the middle class a leg up.
Percentage of the national workforce that undocumented workers constitute: 5%
Total number of immigrants living and working in the United States: 36 million
Number of undocumented immigrants living and working in the United States: 10 million
Percent of the nation’s purchasing power represented by Hispanic and Asian-American consumer markets, to which immigration is a major contributor: 12%
President Bush: Set up a commission to evaluate the impact of baby boomers on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
“By 2030, spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid alone will be almost 60 percent of the entire federal budget. And that will present future Congresses with impossible choices -- staggering tax increases, immense deficits or deep cuts in every category of spending…So tonight, I ask you to join me in creating a commission to examine the full impact of baby boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.”
DMI: The right to a dignified retirement is at the cornerstone of what it means to be middle class in America. First through his Social Security privatization scheme, and then through the administration’s silence on the impending pension crisis, the Bush administration has left the middle class to fend for themselves, using their retirement security as an experiment in market-based denial. A commission to examine the impact of baby boom retirees on entitlements will be useless if it exists solely to justify ideologically-driven privatization ventures that Americans have rejected because they break the fundamental promise of the American Dream.
78 million baby boomers are poised to retire in the next two decades, with an unprecedented 20 percent of the U.S. population expected to be 65 or older by 2030. At the same time, Americans are living longer than ever before.
With a lower number of working-age people for each retiree, these demographics will further strain the nation’s already stressed Social Security and Medicare systems.
2005’s failed attempt to remake Social Security as a system of private accounts with a declining public contribution highlighted an ideological divide between the majority of Americans intent on maintaining a degree of publicly-guaranteed retirement security and those intent on introducing new elements of individual risk into America’s largest social insurance program.
At the same time, private employers are accelerating the trend toward greater individual risk, with even large profitable companies like Verizon and IBM increasingly shifting from traditional defined benefit pension plans (in which individual benefit levels are guaranteed and the employer bears the risk of a market downturn) to defined contribution plans like 401(k)s (where there is no individual guarantee about the amount of retirement income that will available), even though individuals may lack the time and information to manage their 401(k)s and make wise investment decisions.
With a decreasing ratio of working employees to pensioners and soaring insurance costs, a growing number of employers have under-funded their pension plans, raising fears that they will ultimately need to be a bailed out by the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. which already has a deficit of $22.8 billion. Meanwhile, companies and their stakeholders are concerned that legislation to require full funding of pensions and more clearly disclosure of pension liabilities to investors will be so costly as to cause mass layoffs.
The federal, state, and local governments face similar strains in financing public employee retirement benefits.
More than half of today’ workers lack employer-sponsored retirement plans.
American’s historically low rate of personal savings— fewer than ten percent of eligible workers contribute the maximum to their 401(k) and about 25 percent contribute nothing. While financial advisors recommend setting aside ten to twelve percent of wages for retirement, middle income Americans are juggling debt, buying a home, sending their children to college, and dealing with unexpected medical costs, making this unrealistic for many.
Retirement security is not only relevant to the elderly and those about to retire: guaranteed retirement security frees families to invest resources in their children rather than supporting their parents.
The administration’s silence on the pension crisis is as damaging to the hopes of the current and aspiring middle class as last year’s failed privatization scheme. The only way that retirement security will continue to be integral to the definition of the American Dream is if the administration tackles the problem directly and offers real solutions that speak to the reality of most American’s lives.
DMI on the 2006 State of the Union was compiled by the staff of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy: Andrea Batista Schlesinger, LeeAnn Fletcher, Elana Levin, Martin Marinos, Sarah Solon, and Amy Traub, with help from Chad Marlow and Christina Daigneault from The Public Advocacy Group.
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Take me out to the ballgame.
By the way there is an interesting look at Cuban baseball in the last issue of ESPN magazine.
Fidel confirms that Cuba is to participate in the Baseball World Classic
BY ANNE-MARIE GARCIA—Special for Granma International—
PRESIDENT Fidel Castro has confirmed Cuba’s participation in the Baseball World Classic scheduled for March.
“We shall be at the Baseball Classic to fight square and fair,” said Fidel during a dialogue with the press beside the José Martí Anti-imperialist Tribunal facing the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.
The U.S. Treasury Department recently granted the travel licenses for the Cuban team.
Last December the U.S. government turned down the licenses. “They put their foot in it, all the world rebelled; if we are there it is because many people protested against that ridiculous rejection,” he commented.
After the initial refusal by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) based on the Treasury Department control regulations of Cuban assets, the island gave up any money that could be earned in the Classic.
MONEY FOR THE VICTIMS OF KATRINA
“The Cuban Baseball Federation is disposed to give the money due it in terms of its participation in the Classic to those affected by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans,” stated the letter signed by Carlos Rodríguez, president of the institution, on December 14.
The World Classic takes place from March 3 to 20 in Japan, Puerto Rico and the United States. In Group C, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Panama and Holland are to measure up in the first round in San Juan, from March 7.
The Cuban president, a great aficionado of sports and of baseball – a discipline that he practiced – in particular, affirmed that the Cuban side is “going to fight fair and square, to win or lose fighting there, despite the fact that they have stolen some good baseball players from us, those that they have offered millions of dollars.”
“We have demonstrated quality in world tournaments,” Fidel emphasized.
Since the entry of baseball into the Olympic program, the island’s team has won three gold medals – in 1992, 1996 and 2004 – as well as taking the World Cup organized by the International Baseball Federation.
The Cuban president also recalled “the confrontations with the Major League baseball players, who even came here.”
In 1999, Cuba shared the honors with the Baltimore Orioles: the Cubans lost 3-2 at home and won 12-6 as visitors.
Meanwhile Israel Roldán, president of the Puerto Rican Federation of this discipline, stated that Cuba and Puerto Rico are the favorites in the first round of the Classic.
The Puerto Rican leader also affirmed that everything is ready for the participation of the Cuban side.
Roldán commented that it will be an “extremely difficult” tournament for the 16 teams taking part. In addition to the C group, China, Korea, Japan and Taipei will face each other in Group A; Canada, the United States, Mexico and South Africa in Group B; and in D: Australia, Italy, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.
The Puerto Rican stated that holding the Classic would repair “the error” of eliminating baseball from the Olympic program.
In the meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from February 5 through 10 in Turin, there will be a vote for baseball’s return to the program.
“One of the proposals being sought with the integration of the Classic is that all the Olympic committees of the world can see the importance, organization and acceptation of baseball so that it can once more enter the Olympic movement,” said Roldán.
In the Classic the IOC rules are to be applied in terms of anti-doping controls. “That was one of the points negotiated with the Major Leagues and they agreed,” Roldán stated.
Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people want to return home and help rebuild their city. But they can't. They have no place to stay. There is no room at the inn for the Katrina Diaspora. How quickly the nation forgets?
The first article below is from the Times Picaune. The second is from Coastal Post News.
Jackson: Housing key to 'right of return'
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
By Bruce Nolan - New Orleans Times Picayune
The Rev. Jesse Jackson and a coalition of public officials again demanded Monday that New Orleans area workers displaced by Hurricane Katrina get preferential access to local reconstruction jobs and temporary housing so they can return home and help rebuild the region.
New Orleans will rebound, Jackson said. "The question is who will populate it when it comes back? . . . It's not right for displaced persons not to have priority on contracts to rebuild their neighborhoods."
Jackson and local officials, including state Reps. Cedric Richmond and Charmaine Marchand, D-New Orleans, state Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, and local NAACP leader Danatus King, were broadly critical of the federally managed relief effort and the reconstruction effort that has followed.
Their criticisms Monday, a day after Jackson announced the group's public initiative to advocate for displaced residents, centered on the lack of reconstruction jobs and housing for former New Orleanians. But they also questioned the smaller relative share of federal rebuilding money Louisiana has received compared with Mississippi.
In a news conference at the site of the now famous levee breach on the Industrial Canal, they also criticized the state's plan to hold an April 22 election for New Orleans mayor and City Council, among other public offices, while tens of thousands of voters remain scattered across the South.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has released to the secretary of state's office addresses of local voters displaced to other states. But pending approval from Attorney General Charles Foti, it has not shared those constituent addresses with state legislators. With a special legislative session in the offing, "we can't get in touch with constituents and ask them their opinions on the matter," Richmond said.
Jackson and others summed up their complaints under the umbrella call for a "right of return," by which they seemed to mean, at minimum, packages of federal economic relief and preferential policies that all displaced residents across the Gulf South could use to return to their storm-damaged communities.
"The right to return is hollow without a plan for transportation and a place to stay," Jackson said.
Jackson said federal authorities should open the Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse and the Naval Support Activity in Algiers as temporary housing centers. He said England Air Force Base in Alexandria should also be used as a housing site.
He said the government must end "no-bid" storm relief contracts to major companies such as the Shaw Group and CH2M Hill for preparing trailer sites.
Jackson said the area is filling with workers from Latin America and Eastern Europe. He declined to criticize them for taking jobs. Instead, he said, they are being "trafficked in, working for very low wages, in insecure and unsecured arrangements, facing environmental hazards."
King said a reconstruction plan proposed by the Bring New Orleans Back Commission robs homeowners of their right to return by requiring damaged neighborhoods to demonstrate that they can achieve a critical mass of citizens.
Under the plan, which has not been officially ratified by Mayor Ray Nagin, property owners in communities that fall short of some density standard -- the plan suggests 50 percent of pre-Katrina population -- would be bought out voluntarily or compelled to sell. Their neighborhoods would most likely be converted to open land, under the proposal.
"They've flipped the script," King said of the commission's proposal. "They put the burden on the homeowners to prove that they have a right to return."
The group again said it plans a large march across the Crescent City Connection on April 1 in support of its agenda. People trying to escape the city's post-Katrina chaos sought to cross the bridge on Aug. 31, but were turned back by Gretna police, in a move that has generated protest, lawsuits and an investigation by Attorney General Charles Foti. Gretna officials have said their city had no facilities to accept the evacuees.
The April march would be the second on the bridge. Activists from New Orleans and throughout the country marched across the bridge Nov. 7 to protest the Gretna police action.
Jackson on Sunday announced that as part of the new campaign, his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition has opened an office in New Orleans. This is his second effort to reshape the course of post-Katrina reconstruction. In October he announced his organization had organized a caravan of five buses bearing displaced New Orleanians back into the city to find work. Only 14 of the nearly 200 riders were New Orleanians and most riders soon returned to their homes.
Fighting the Theft of New Orleans
By Black Commentator Publishers Glen Ford and Peter Gamble
"I don't think it's right that you take our properties. Over my dead body. I didn't die with Katrina." - Lower 9th Ward resident Caroline Parker.
"Joe Canizaro, I don't know you, but I hate you. I'm going to suit up like I'm going to Iraq and fight this." - New Orleans East resident Harvey Bender, referring to the author of the city commission's "rebuilding" plan.
The overwhelmingly Black New Orleans diaspora is returning in large numbers to resist relentless efforts to bully and bulldoze them out of the city's future. "Struggle on the ground has intensified enormously. A number of groups are in motion, moving against the mayor's commission," said Mtangulizi Sanyika, spokesman for the African American Leadership Project (AALP). "Increasing numbers of people are coming back into the city. You can feel the political rhythm."
Mayor Ray Nagin's commission has presented residents of flood-battered, mostly African American neighborhoods with a Catch-22, carefully crafted to preclude New Orleans from ever again becoming the more than two-thirds Black city it was before Hurricane Katrina breached the levees. Authored by Nagin crony, real estate development mogul and George Bush fundraiser Joseph Canizaro, the plan would impose a four-month moratorium on building in devastated neighborhoods like the lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans East. During that period, the neighborhoods would be required to come up with a plan to show how they would become "viable" by reaching an undefined "critical mass" of residents.
But the moratorium, itself, discourages people from rebuilding their neighborhoods - just as it is intended to do - thus creating a fait accompli: residents will be hard pressed to prove that a "critical mass" of habitation can be achieved.
"It's circular reasoning," said the AALP's Sanyika. They talk about "some level of neighborhood viability, but no one knows what that means. What constitutes viable plans? What kinds of neighborhoods are viable? Everywhere you turn people are trying to rebuild, but there is this constraint."
The commission is empowered only to make recommendations, but with the help of corporate media, pretends their plan is set in stone. "They keep pushing their recommendations as though they are the gospel truth," said Sanyika, who along with tens of thousands of other evacuees has been dispersed to Houston, five hours away. "There is confusion as to all of these recommendations, issued as if they are policy. The Times-Picayune contributes to that confusion. None of this is a given."
Activists believe the way to play this situation is for residents to forge ahead on their own. "Trying to figure out the logic of that illogical proposal is a wasted effort - all you're going to do is wind up going in circles," said Sanyika. He emphasizes that the commission's recommendations are not binding on anyone - certainly not on the majority Black city council, which claims authority in city planning matters. They're not buying the nonsense. "The city council has rejected it. Nagin says 'ignore it.' I think it's dead in the water," said Sanyika.
The city council has attempted to block Nagin's collaboration with corporate developers - a hallmark of his tenure - voting to give itself authority over where to place FEMA trailers. (Only about 5,000 of a projected 25,000 trailers arrived, say community activists.) Nagin vetoed the bill, but the council overrode him. The council has also endorsed equitable development of neighborhoods, rather than shrinking the city. "We [the African American Leadership Project] are developing a resolution to that effect," said Sanyika. Odds are that it will pass - but the question is, who wields power in post-Katrina New Orleans, where only one-third of the city's previous population of nearly half a million has returned?
It is in this context that one must view Mayor Nagin's statement to a mostly Black crowd gathered at City Hall for a Martin Luther King Day march, on Monday: "I don't care what people will say - uptown, or wherever they are. At the end of the day, this city will be chocolateÉ. This city will be a majority African American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans."
Ray Nagin is probably the most disoriented person in the country, these days - the fruit of his own venality, sleeziness, and opportunism. A corporate executive, sports entrepreneur and nominal Democrat, he contributed to the Bush campaign in 2000 (Democrats dubbed him "Ray Reagan") and endorsed a Republican candidate for governor in 2003 (see BC November 20, 2003). Now he doesn't have a clue as to where the power lies or where his base is centered. "Nagin is playing a game, trying to have it both ways," says the AALP's Sanyika - but his options are shrinking as fast as the city envisioned by his buddy, Joe Canizaro, with whom he habitually worked hand in hand, but whom he now tells Blacks to "ignore."
Who's in charge in New Orleans?
Canizaro is clearly the center of gravity on the "mayor's" commission which, although integrated, is essentially a corporate concoction. The commission's slogan, "Bring New Orleans Back," is a euphemism for bringing the city "back" to the days before Black rule by erecting multiple barriers to the return of Black residents. Of course, even when Black mayors hold titular office in New Orleans, Canizaro's crowd runs the show. His bio, posted on the commission's website, shows Canizaro to be the major domo of the city's real estate, development, banking, and pro-business political machinations. Canizaro is also a Trustee and former Chairman of the Urban Land Institute, the planning outfit that is determined to turn Black neighborhoods into swamp.
Since shortly after New Years, the commission has been feverishly working to appear to be an empowered governmental entity, tasking subcommittees to present reports and recommendations several days a week on Government Effectiveness, Education, Health and Social Services, Culture, and Infrastructure. What Black New Orleans had been waiting for was presentation of the Urban Planning Committee Final Report, Wednesday, January 11. An overflow crowd at the Sheraton Hotel hissed Mayor Nagin and booed the hated Canizaro. Others cursed and vowed that they would be exiled only over their dead bodies.
"Four Months to Decide" read the headline of the Times-Picayune, on the day of the official unveiling of the commission's recommendations, a blueprint for the displacement of hundreds of thousands. In the packed hotel spaces, residents alternated between rage and deep anxiety at the ultimatum. "I don't think four or five months is close to enough time given all we would need to do," said Robyn Braggs. "Families with school-age children won't be able to even return to do the work necessary until this summer."
Cities with 25,000 or more displaced New Orleans residents include Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Memphis, and Baton Rouge. Others are scattered to the four winds. Their children will be enrolled in far-flung schools until the June deadline.
Former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, currently president of the National Urban League, called the commission's scheme a "massive red-lining plan wrapped around a giant land grab." With the situation so uncertain, and time so short, homeowners will have difficulty settling with their insurance companies in time. Said Morial:
"It's cruel to bar people from rebuilding. Telling people they can't rebuild for four months is tantamount to saying they can't ever come back. It's telling people who have lost almost everything that we're going to take the last vestige of what they own."
And what about renters, who made up well over half of residents? Such people have no place in George Bush's "ownership society" - especially if they are Black. Bush put his smirking stamp of approval on the corporate plan during an oblivious visit to New Orleans, last week. "It may be hard for you to see, but from when I first came here to today, New Orleans is reminding me of the city I used to visit."
Apparently, the president doesn't read newspapers because he is blind - except to the cravings of his class. Bush's Gulf Opportunity Zone Act provides billions in tax dodges for (big) business, while the threatened permanent depopulation of Black New Orleans would eliminate the possibility of return for the nearly 8,000 (small) Black businesses that served the neighborhoods.
Self-styled Black capitalists take note: this is the nature of the beast. Bush fronts for a class for which Katrina is not a catastrophe, but an opportunity. They believe devoutly in "creative chaos" - the often violent destruction of the old, so that new profits can be squeezed from the rubble. Through their Catch-22 ultimatums, they are deliberately inflicting additional "creative chaos" on the displaced people of New Orleans. The fact that the victims are mostly Black, makes it all the easier. Or so they assume.
Grassroots community groups, along with platoons of non-native volunteers, are refusing to acquiesce to the greatest attempted urban theft in American history. At a conference organized by Mtangulizi Sanyika's African American Leadership Project and affiliated organizations, progressive urban planners explored ways to make the new New Orleans a better place for the people who live there, rather than for ravenous corporations and new populations. The experts included Dr. Ed Blakely, of the University of Sydney, Australia; MIT's Dr. Phil Thompson, housing aide to former New York Mayor David Dinkins; and Abdul Rasheed, who helped rebuild the flood ravaged Black town of Princeville, North Carolina after a hurricane in the Nineties.
The coalition also held a Town Hall meeting attended by leaders of 15 national organizations, including Dr. Ron Daniel's Institute of the Black World, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and movers and shakers from the Progressive Baptist Convention and the National Baptist Convention USA. National co-sponsors included the Hip Hop Caucus, Black Voices for Peace, the Black Family Summit of the Millions More Movement, and the National Black Environmental Justice Network (NBEJN).
(Dr. Robert Bullard, of the NBEJN-affiliated Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark-Atlanta University, has published the grim but very useful report: "A Twenty-Point Plan to Destroy Black New Orleans.")
Neighborhood groups are mobilizing to confront the racist/corporate onslaught. "Every other day some major event is happening," said Sanyika. Various groups held marches during MLK weekend, carrying signs such as "We're Back," "Stop Displacement," and "Rebuild With People."
On February 7th, a National Mobilization of progressive forces will descend on the U.S. Capitol in Washington to pressure Congress to halt the juggernaut of expulsion and give substance to the people's Right to Return. Although there are literally thousands of large and small Katrina-related projects operating throughout the nation, many of the New Orleans organizers are handicapped by the fact of their own displacement. A great moral and political challenge presents itself to Black and progressive America: Will they rise to the occasion in the face of a real, imminent, well-defined crisis - as opposed to the general conditions addressed by the Million Man and Millions More rallies? February 7th will be a test of Black political resolve and cohesion. And there will be many more.
Meanwhile, New Orleans in some ways resembles a poignant scene from bygone wars, when lists of the dead were published on public walls. The "Red Danger List" is posted in local papers, designating properties that are "in imminent danger of collapse" and, therefore, subject to demolition without the consent of the owners. To date, over 5,000 buildings have been red tagged.
The "Flood Map" is a kind of municipal schematic of a cemetery, delineating the parts of the city that will be caused to die. Residents on the wrong side of the lines will be unable to get flood insurance, which certainly means no meaningful investment can occur in those areas. The map was last published in 1984, and is now being updated.
You can be sure that Black folks are not in charge of the mapping.
Katrina has shown us many things. One, is the hollowness of the purely electoral Black strategy (and its cousin, lobbying) that followed the shutdown of mass movements after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a great irony that, while we rant at FEMA's inability (or unwillingness) to respond to the Katrina crisis, Black America finds itself desperately searching for the "people power" tools to effectively counter the post-Katrina aggression.
The citizens of New Orleans are paying the cost for the mistakes of the late Sixties and early Seventies, when aspiring electoral and corporate officeholders convinced Black folks that mass movements were no longer necessary. Progress would trickle down from the newly acquired heights. Popular political capital could be wisely invested in the few, the upwardly mobile.
What we got was chicken-with-his-head-cut-off Ray Nagin and his many counterparts in plush offices across Black America. We must invent Black Power all over again, under changed conditions. New Orleans in its present state is the worst possible place to start - but that's where we're at.
BC Publishers Glen Ford and Peter Gamble are writing a book to be titled, Barack Obama and the Crisis in Black Leadership.
Mtangulizi Sanyika, of the African American Leadership Project, can be contacted at Wazuri@aol.com.
The first article below is taken from the San Francisco Bay View, an African American newspaper in the Bay area. The second is from Op-Ed News.com.
Defamation of Indians on trial
by William Reed
A blockbuster Washington, D.C., scandal will produce racial epithets aplenty. Jack Abramoff and an associate currently face charges of conspiracy and fraud, allegedly having lied about assets to secure financing to purchase a fleet of gambling boats. Evidence in Abramoff’s case illustrates the American establishment’s continual condolence of discrimination and will produce congressional corruption and criminal cases against up to 20 lawmakers and staff members.
Annals of Washington politicians contain many grubby chapters of unscrupulous behavior toward Native Americans. But in terms of sheer greed and exploitation, few can match the tale of Jack Abramoff’s and Michael Scanlon’s milking of half a dozen Indian tribes newly enriched by gambling revenues. Tribes were bilked of vast sums to protect the casino gambling operations that are their financial lifeline – in return they got called scandalous names and empty promises of access to corridors of government power.
In late 2001, Abramoff and associates backed a grassroots lobbying campaign that led to closure of the Tigua Casino in El Paso. Then they contacted the tribe and offered to use their influence on Capitol Hill to get the same casino reopened. All the while they were in that business, they heaped scorn on the Indians, referring to tribal officials as “morons,” “troglodytes” and “idiots.”
For months, prosecutors in the nation’s capital focused on whether Abramoff defrauded his Indian tribe clients of millions of dollars and used improper influence on members of Congress. The lone Native American in the Senate, Ben Nighthorse Campbell from Colorado, told Scanlon, “For 400 years, people have been cheating Indians in this country, so you’re not the first. It’s just a shame, in this enlightened day, that you’ve added a new dimension to a shameful legacy.”
The American deception will be to call Abramoff a “jerk,” contending “racist” doesn’t accurately characterize his remark. They’ll just say there’s no evidence that he actually believes Native Americans are “troglodytes” or “monkeys” or that their race is inferior or his race is superior.
Sadly, some Blacks will acquiesce and join into such deceptive debates. The reality is that bigotry, racial discrimination and economic exploitation still exist for Native Americans – big time. Racism permeates the country for African Americans, but we’re in the back of the bus when in comes to Native Americans.
The reality is, the North American continent is comprised of ghetto and reservation systems. Native Americans have been asking for justice since initial contact with whites. Their population prior to European contact was greater than 12 million. Four centuries later, their numbers have dropped to 237,000.
The U.S. has broken every single treaty it made with its natives. Discovery of gold in California in 1848 prompted American migration and expansion into the West. The greed of Americans for money and land was rejuvenated with the Homestead Act of 1862.
Recently a movement among Indians is helping them regain their cultural identity and see things through the lens of their own culture. Also, gaming has emerged as a major catalyst for Native Americans’ community development. After decades of poverty and high unemployment, gaming provides sources of employment and governmental revenues and a promising enterprise for tribes to achieve self-sufficiency.
The Indians thought Congress was there to help. In a five-year span, ending in early 2004, Indian tribes represented by Abramoff contributed millions of dollars in casino income to congressional campaigns, often routing the money through political action committees for conservative members of Congress who opposed gambling. If we allow it to degrade to just a debate over words, that will allow too many Americans, Black and white, to pardon establishment bilking of the Indians.
Economic power is a combination of wealth, income, status and occupation, access to education and health care, connections and geographic and social mobility. These in turn translate into political power, organization and access to media, business and government. A great deal of the damage done by racism is done through the economic system. It’s time for people of color to pay attention, see how we’re too often denied or relieved of economic power in discriminatory ways.
William Reed is president of Black Press International (www.BlackPressInternational.com). Email him at email@example.com.
Anti-Native American Media Bias
By Stephen Crockett
The reporting on the Abramoff lobbying corruption scandals by the mainstream corporate dominated media has demonstrated an anti-Native American bias. This anti-Native American media bias has been effectively exploited by Republicans to paint Democratic lawmakers as being an equal partner in the Republican culture of corruption partially revealed by the Abramoff operation.
First of all, the Native American tribes were victims of Republican exploitation. Abramhoff was a major Republican operative. He headed the national College Republicans early in his political career and stayed connected at the highest levels of national Republican politics from that point until now. Jack Abramoff was a frequent guest at the Bush White House. His personal donations were huge and Republicans received the money. He was hardly on speaking terms with the Democratic political establishment.
The Native American tribes were being threatened by Republican politicians in DC and in the various state governments with taxes and laws aimed at their newly organized gambling facilities. Republicans were looking to balance state budgets and offset the deficits created by the tax breaks they had given large corporations by taxing the profits of the Native American businesses. In some cases, the Republicans involved seemed to be acting to protect large corporations already engaged in gambling from the new upstart Native American competitors.
When the Bush Republicans took control of the White House after the disputed 2000 Presidential Election, Native American tribes had real reasons to worry about the future of their businesses. After the 2002 Congressional Elections, Republicans were in full control. Jack Abramoff was able to exploit the situation to his personal benefit and to the benefit of mostly Republican officeholders. Abramoff robbed the tribes blind with the active help of other Republican politicians and officeholders. Money for direct government actions seemed to be part of the normal operating procedure among this Republican cabal. Democratic officeholders did not engage in such blatantly illegal behavior.
Native American tribes had traditionally supported mostly Democrats. They continued some donations to Democrats. Democrats had been friendly to the interests of the tribes to a much larger degree than the Republicans. Political donations by Native Americans are not inherently dirty. Only the racism of the mainstream media can explain why these donations are being portrayed as corrupt by the media.
Institutional racism by newspapers, cable, TV, radio and Internet journalists has combined with institutional laziness to falsely color the story. What is essentially is a republican scandal has been colored as bi-partisan. More importantly, Native Americans have been largely frozen out of playing an important role in national politics. They have been denied the use of their new wealth to influence political campaigns because politicians they support are unable to accept donations from them without being falsely tarred by the media with an unsupported taint of corruption.
Large corporations like Enron could act illegally and give huge amounts of their illegal profits to Bush and his Republican allies without those politicians being directly connected to corruption by the media. The Native American tribes were not engaged in crimes. They were victims of crimes. The criminals were all highly placed Republican political figures. The Democrats were just friends of the victims and hopefully will remain friends of the Native American tribes.
I am of mixed pioneer and Cherokee blood. I am a Democratic activist. The Abramoff rip-offs personally offend me. The racism of the mainstream corporate dominated media toward Native American political involvement is worse.
Written by Stephen Crockett (co-host, Democratic Talk Radio http://www.democratictalkradio.com ). Mail: P.O. Box 283, Earleville, MD 21919. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org .