Friday, March 23, 2007


The Boise State University College Republicans hosted a lecture by former Canyon County Commissioner Robert Vasquez last night in the Student Union Building. Fliers posted around campus promoting his speech, titled “America’s Illegal Alien Invasion,” have sparked protests.

The student newspaper reports:

"The flier, a copy of which is also posted on the College Republicans Website, invites everyone to 'Celebrate Cesar Chavez Week' by coming to Vasquez’s speech, where a drawing will be held in which participants can win a free dinner by climbing through a hole in a fence.

'Climb through the hole in the fence and enter your false ID documents into the food stamp drawing!' the flier states."

College Republicans President Jonathan Sawmiller feels that although the flier is not politically correct, it is not in fact racist.

Oh really?

Representatives from 18 student and community groups gathered outside the Boise State Student Union Building to protest the language on the flier.

Several speakers said the language on the flier was “offensive,” “racist,” “malicious,” “undignified,” “hateful,” and “dangerous.”

Alicia Clements, a member of Idaho Community Action Network, told the Idaho Press while the flier distressed her, she was even more disappointed when she read that the flier said their comments were all in fun.

“Who would find this funny?” Clements asked. “Racism and prejudice is an extremely painful experience,” she said, speaking from her own life experience.

“This must be challenged. It is dangerous and could ultimately ruin our society,” Clements added.

In a letter to faculty and staff Wednesday, University President Bob Kustra expressed his opposition to the message.

“Unfortunately, a handful of students have engaged in offensive and insulting behavior, most recently with nasty and hurtful fliers announcing a political speech they are sponsoring on campus,” Kustra wrote. “I was shocked when I first heard what was on the flyer and assumed they would take immediate steps to rectify the situation. That they have refused to do so, other than to apologize to a restaurant because they like to eat there, is unconscionable.”

Kustra asked the students to remove the flyers, and to denounce the ad campaign.

The following is from the Times-News (Idaho).

Protesters rally against BSU student group's flier

BOISE, Idaho - Protesters angered by a Boise State University student group's promotional flier _ offering dinner at a Mexican restaurant to those who would "climb through the hole in the fence and enter your false ID documents into the food stamp drawing" _ turned out Thursday night for a rally and vigil.

The College Republicans' flier promoted a Thursday night speech by Robert Vasquez, a vocal critic of U.S. immigration policy who is planning to run for the U.S. Senate in 2008. The student group sponsored the Vasquez appearance, which went on as scheduled.

Neither the College Republicans nor Vasquez, a former Canyon County commissioner, said they found the flier offensive.

About 150 protesters participated in a silent vigil.

Several speakers also addressed a crowd gathered on the patio of the Student Union Building.

"As a Mexican, as an immigrant worker, I am outraged," said Araceli Munguia, a student member of Movimiento Estudiantial Chicano/a de Aztlan. "On the poster, they are making fun of me, my family and my community. We are here because the Republican students think that coming here to look for work is a joke."

Other speakers said freedom of speech comes with responsibility.

"The church is outraged and deeply offended by the racist, mean-spirited and hate-filled propaganda used to promote a dialogue on illegal immigration in our state," said Adriane Wright, representing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise and Catholic Charities of Idaho. "The students clearly crossed the line."

The university president earlier apologized for the flier.

"I apologize most sincerely to those rightly hurt and offended by this controversy," Bob Kustra wrote in a Wednesday e-mail to students, staff and faculty.

The student group refused to remove the fliers, which were distributed around campus and posted on the group's Web site, but did delete the name of the restaurant after Chapala's Mexican Restaurant threatened to sue.

Headlined "America's Illegal Alien Invasion," the flier featured a photo of Vasquez as well as examples of a resident alien card, a Texas Health and Human Services Medicaid Card, Idaho driver's license and Social Security Card.

It also contained an image of a highway caution sign that showed a couple running while dragging a young child.

"Win dinner for two at a local Mexican Restaurant! Climb through the hole in the fence and enter your false ID documents into the food stamp drawing!" the flier read.

Graciela Fonseca, president of Idaho's Hispanic Women's Organization, Mujeres Unidas de Idaho, said earlier that members of her group were outraged.

Maria Mabbutt of the Idaho Hispanic Caucus called the flier "very anti-immigrant."

Kustra's e-mail apology went beyond the public statement the school issued earlier in the week, which said the flier "shows poor taste and judgment."

"Unfortunately, a handful of students have engaged in offensive and insulting behavior, most recently with nasty and hurtful fliers," the president wrote. " ... I was shocked when I first heard what was on the flier. ... I can assure the campus community that steps have been taken to ensure accountability in the approval process for any future event advertisements."

"It's an intellectual inquisition," Jonathan Sawmiller, president of the College Republicans, responded in a statement. "The university is absolutely intolerant of diverse views, and they're trying to silence our political opinions with threats and intimidation."

Michael Esposito, assistant director of student activities, approved the flier for distribution on the campus. He was on leave due to a family emergency and not available for comment, school spokesman Frank Zang said.


SW Radio Africa, Zimbabwe reports opposition leaders Grace Kwinjeh and Sekai Holland left Harare on Thursday for South Africa to receive medical treatment. They were originally stopped from leaving on Saturday by security agents and were placed under armed guard in the hospital.

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said Kwinjeh and Holland, who were seriously injured after they were tortured while in detention recently, had to be ferried on stretcher beds from the plane when they arrived in South Africa.

The emergency evacuation of the two came after a court order was issued on Wednesday granting them permission to leave the country.

Australian consul in Zimbabwe Mark Lynch escorted the two to the airport yesterday without incident amid fears they might be forcibly prevented from leaving or even killed. Sekai Holland is an Australian citizen.

The move came about the same time that a letter from a human rights group in Zimbabwe released an open letter condemning the refusal by the government to allow the two to leave the country to receive medical care.

Holland and Kwinjeh were among dozens of activists, including MDC founding president Morgan Tsvangirai, who were arrested and beaten by police as they tried to hold a prayer rally in Harare on March 11.

The following is a letter sent to the Zimbabwe Independent from the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) written prior to the two getting out of the country.

Concern over violation of activists' health rights

THE Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) expresses grave concern over the continuing violation of the health rights of opposition party leaders, particularly Grace Kwinjeh and Sekai Holland.

Both Kwinjeh and Holland were tortured in police custody on March 11 and sustained serious injuries as follows:

Holland — multiple fractures to her left leg and left arm, severe, extensive and multiple soft tissue injuries to the back, shoulders, arms, buttocks and thighs.

Injuries she sustained were also worsened by denial of timely access to medical treatment which led to an infection of deep soft tissue in her left leg; and

Kwinjeh — a split right ear lobe, severe, extensive and multiple soft tissue injuries to the back, shoulders, arms, buttocks and thighs and a brain contusion.

The two activists were prevented from seeking further medical attention in South Africa on March 17 when they were blocked from boarding an air ambulance and forcibly taken from Harare International Airport to Harare Central police station where their travel documents were confiscated by Assistant Commissioner Mabunda of the Law and Order Section.

At the station, the ambulance was instructed to take Kwinjeh and Holland back to the Avenues Clinic where they were placed under police guard.

These activists have a right to seek medical care at institutions of their choice. ZADHR calls upon the authorities violating this right to allow these two activists to seek the medical care they have chosen.

On March 18, Nelson Chamisa, who was also tortured on March 11, was attacked at Harare International Airport, sustaining a fractured right orbit and sub-conjunctival haemorrhage (under the lining of the eye) as well as multiple lacerations on the face.

ZADHR condemns the continuing violations of health rights of Zimbabwean citizens and requests the Minister of Health and Child Welfare (David Parirenyatwa), ZiMA and other regional national medical associations to take a position on this matter and apply the influence in their capacity to put an end to these violations.


Bronx minister Reverend Indalecio Del Valle claims he was beaten last Thursday night by police after being taken into custody by mistake.

"I saw about ten police officers who drew their guns at me; they come to my car, where I was at my car; one of the police officers opened the door and grabbed my hand; and pulled me out of the car and threw me on the floor,” said Reverend Del Valle.

De Valle says he kept asking why he was pulled over.

"I was telling him, ‘I am a minister,’ he told me to shut up and on the floor he started hitting the right side of my face, and other officers started kicking me in my legs and my back,” said Del Valle. “The officer who was hitting me with his fists on my face told me I shouldn't run over a cop. I didn't know what was going on."

Bronx Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr commented, “It is baffling; it is every word you could think of that on this eve of the decision from the grand jury of Sean Bell that we have to be here and we have to make a complaint about what happened to Rev. Del Valle.”

The following is a report from NY1 News.

Local Leaders Call For Suspension Of Cops That Allegedly Beat Minister

One week after a Bronx minister claimed he was the victim of police brutality, Thursday local leaders called for the suspension of the officers who allegedly beat him.

Reverend Indalecio Del Valle says he was on his way to church last Thursday in Soundview when a police van with about ten police officers, some with guns drawn, stopped him and told him to get out of his vehicle.

He tried to explain who he was, but he claims police attacked and arrested him anyway.

After being battered and bruised he was hospitalized for his injuries and then released.

Del Valle's lawyer drew a parallel between what happened to his client and other well known cases of police violence.

"You are not going to get the stoppings of the Amadou Diallo case, or the Sean Bell case, until you start with the Reverend del Valle case,” said his attorney Michael S. Lamonsoff. “It has to stop and it must stop now."

Police admit Del Valle was mistakenly taken into custody and say they are still investigating the incident.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


It is true. I should have known better then to reprint some lengthy, lefty analysis. I've avoided that for years because I didn't want to be drawn into one of those useless and endless sectarian type arguments. But I went ahead and printed that thing yesterday, so today I want to make a very few, short and simple comments...and with any luck that'll be it...

1) Please note I said the piece was close and similar to my thinking. I did not say or mean that it exactly represented my thoughts.

2) The main thing I hoped people would focus on and get out of it was simply the notion "The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend..."

3) I think that while the author makes a big to do over not being anti-semitic, he himself in some ways falls into the trap. How is this?

A. He fails to mention what he even means by zionism and anti-zionism.

B. He fails to address the issue of Israel's right to exist or nor clearly and if he feels that Israel does not have a right to exist then the question becomes why does the left harp on just this one "settler" state and not the dozens of other settler states (i.e. Canada, U.S., most of the states of the western hemisphere, Australia, New Zealand and on and on), or the conquerer states of Europe, or the artificial states all over the world.

C. He fails to address why what amounts to one form of reactionary nationalism (zionism) is singled out from all the other reactionary nationalisms of the world.

D. He fails to address how or why one small nation state is singled out constantly as a menace to the world. He fails to address the oft implied left (and right) notion that the small state of Israel somehow is the tail that wags the dog of the superpower known as the U.S.A. Personally, I think that notion is absurd on the face of it and if you don't I would like to hear an explanation that is NOT anti-semitic.

I, myself, have little use for any of the world's nation states and certainly even less for any of their governments. However, I live in the world and I recognize that they exist (and I recognize that Israel exists as well).

I also recognize that most of the Jews who have headed for Israel didn't head there because they were zionist but rather because they were persecuted (and persecuted historically) in their "home" states.

I also recognize that none of the above justifies the many policies and actions of the state of Israel, nor does it justify any sort of Jewish racialism or Jewish racial superiority as represented by some who call themselves zionist.

By the way I do not consider myself a zionist despite the fact that I do (within the limitations I've already said) "recognize" Israel's (and other such states) so called right to exist. Again, let me make it clear, if it were up to me there were be no borders and no states, but it ain't up to me.

Finally, the simple fact that the left (and the right) spend so much time and energy on the question of Israel and talking about zionism, I find more than suspicious. I always find it odd that so much time and space is spent worrying about the alleged "vast powers" of the few million Jews who exist in the world or even the "huge danger" represented by the tiny state of Israel (except, that is, by the Palestinian people who actually are the direct victims of that tiny state's oppression and who also have the "right" to a nation state of their own throughout all the occupied territories and with a part of Jerusalem as its capital).

To me Israel is just another state - worse than some, better than some, more oppressive then some, less oppressive then some. The same goes for zionism in relation to other forms of nationalism.

Okay, that's all for my rant. And it is a rant. I did not sit around working hours on end on this thing, just threw it out there. I've been here before and I hope to not be here again.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


What follows is a lengthy analysis posted on the blog "The Sojourner Truth Organization: Notes Toward a History"

It is pretty close to my thinking and represents some of what I've been trying to do with the Oread Daily. It is in a much more detailed and analytical manner somewhat similar to what I was trying to say with the piece I published for the Oread Daily Group after 9/11 entitled
"For What It's Worth" (republished on the blog later). It carries my train of thought much further as well.

This analysis and blog site is also of interest to me because of my past "association" with the Sojourner Truth Organization (which you can learn more about at the blog site) which is cited here.

I would also recommend to you the blog site
"threewayfight" which is mentioned in the piece below.

Finally, let me again say what follows is long and more analytical then most posts you'll find in the OD. I won't hold it against you if you don't feel like wading through it.

I wouldn't mind hearing what those of you who do read this think about it. It'd be kinda cool to have some comments.

That said, here goes.

Challenges to Capitalism, Challenges for the Left: Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and the Three Way Fight

This is the text of a talk I gave this past weekend at the National Conference on Organized Resistance in Washington DC. It’s not necessarily directly relevant to my research on STO, although I do mention the debt the Three Way Fight perspective owes to some of the anti-fascist work done by STO in the late seventies and into the eighties. Regardless, I thought it would be good to post it up here in hopes of getting critical feedback. Also, for what it’s worth, I prefaced my talk with a brief attempt to position myself, saying something more or less like this: “I’m not Jewish and I’m not Muslim, and I have no real expertise in the Middle East. But I care deeply about the topics mentioned in my title, and I believe in the principle that all people should attempt to engage critically with such important issues. As a result, my talk will hopefully be brief, and we’ll have a lot of time at the end for an open discussion. I’m learning as I go here, and hopefully that will be true for everyone in this room during the next hour and a half.”


Challenges to Capitalism, Challenges for the Left:
Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and the Three Way Fight

Washington, DC March 11, 2007

This talk is about the present and the future, but I’m a historian, so I want to begin by talking briefly about the past. The recent past, mind you; specifically, that heady time just five and a half years ago, immediately before the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Until that day, the anti-capitalist movement in the global north was riding a modest wave of success, beginning with the events in Seattle in 1999 and most recently featuring the massive showing in Genoa, Italy in the summer of 2001.

Those of us who had been active in that cycle of growth were probably over-optimistic about the immediate prospects for building a strongly anti-capitalist movement out of the mish-mash that was known variously as the anti-globalization movement, the global justice movement, or by a variety of other names. Certainly we were naïve about the state of the world and of the character of the forces arrayed against us.

But 9-11 took from us one of the most important things that contributed to our limited success: momentum. The attacks of that day deflated our sails, although we mostly didn’t recognize it until a year or two later. At the same time, that year or two changed the entire context in which we operated. The reasonable pacing of (and relatively easy access to) global economic summits – Seattle, Prague, Quebec, Genoa – was replaced by a much more rapid-fire list of places that were far more difficult to reach: Kabul, Kandahar, Baghdad, Fallujah.

More fundamentally, our previous understanding of neoliberalism and globalization was challenged, and most of the former anti-globalization movement became convinced that “globalization” was suddenly less pressing than regional geo-political power struggles characterized by terms like “terrorism” or “imperialism,” or “war for oil.” Especially during the build-up to the Iraq War, many radicals came to believe that divisions within global capital, often described using the old left jargon of inter-imperialist rivalries, had over-powered the global capitalist unity that we believed had characterized the various summits at which we had protested. (As it happens, these changes seem to have been largely illusory, and the shift in leftwing perspective was shortsighted at best.)

In the aftermath, a small number of us, veterans of a range of movements and struggles, began to develop what seemed to us a somewhat novel way of thinking about the world. Expanding the insights we had gained from involvement with anti-fascist activities in the preceding decade, we started talking about a three-way fight, about a world best conceptualized by thinking not simply about us versus them, but about them, them and us.

At its core, the three way fight is a critique of authoritarianism as much as it is a response to fascism. It is also a way to understand various social movements through a sort of schematic categorization. The two sets of “them” that I mention here can roughly be taken to represent the capitalists and the fascists, and the “us” can be thought of as the anti-authoritarian revolutionary left. But the three way fight is not dogma; it requires that anyone who adopts it as a framework take the time to think through a range of questions and come to their own conclusions, whether individually or collectively. One key question is: is a given group or organization or movement revolutionary or reformist? If they are revolutionary, we can then ask, are they aiming for an authoritarian revolution or an anti-authoritarian revolution? Again, there’s no objectively correct answer to any of these questions and there’s a lot of grey area throughout, but that doesn’t let us off the hook. We still have to ask them, and we have to come up with some answers, no matter how tentative, in order to move forward.

In this framework, the global capitalist ruling class, whose movements we had tracked from summit to summit over the previous several years, could be thought of as the 800 pound gorilla in the ring, much as it was before 9-11, theories of inter-imperialist rivalry notwithstanding. The difference was in recognizing that we were not the only, nor even the most important, opposition force on the playing field. Just as the domestic fascist movement in the US had grown increasingly dangerous – and increasingly revolutionary – over the previous several decades, so too had many revolutionary movements the world over begun to appear more similar to fascism than we had previously understood. Al-Qaeda was the most prominent example in the period immediately after 9-11. As J. Sakai argued in the book Confronting Fascism: Discussion Documents for a Militant Movement, “We weren’t thinking about fascism while we watched two 757s full of people fly into the ex-World Trade Center. And maybe we still weren’t thinking of fascism when we heard about the first-ever successful attack on the Pentagon. But fascism was thinking about us.”

For much of the left, the three way fight analysis of fascism was alien and confusing. This had a lot to do with decades of common-place usage among radicals where “fascist” was merely a synonym for “very, very bad.” In developing a more sophisticated understanding of the term, we looked in part to the pioneering work done two and a half decades ago by a long-defunct and little-known revolutionary group called the Sojourner Truth Organization. STO had spent considerable time and effort in the late 1970’s and early eighties analyzing and organizing against the fascist resurgence then sweeping the US. In doing so, they highlighted the insurgent, revolutionary potential of fascism, which represented a direct danger not just to the obvious targets of fascist violence (blacks, immigrants, Jews, women, gays and lesbians, and on and on), but also to the revolutionary left, and indeed to the capitalist status quo itself. Don Hamerquist, co-author with Sakai of Confronting Fascism, had been a leading member of STO, and continues to be a source of innovative ideas for our small sub-current.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, those of us from the anti-capitalist movement who were drawn to a three way fight analysis were not the only people to make connections between revolutionary Islamic movements and the fascist tradition. A range of centrist and right-wing intellectuals and politicians have done so as well, from Christopher Hitchens to President Bush, who last summer caused a stir by using the term “Islamic fascism” repeatedly. Bush’s comments were made primarily in the context of defending the brutal devastation of Lebanon by the Israeli military, and often he was referring implicitly or explicitly to the Lebanese resistance, led by Hezbollah.

Around that same time, the blog Three Way Fight became a somewhat high profile forum for left discussion of Hezbollah, largely due to several pieces posted there by Matthew Lyons, an anti-fascist researcher and writer. Lyons maintained that Hezbollah was an essentially right-wing movement built around a theocratic version of Shiite Islam inspired by Iran’s Islamic Republic, but that it was not helpful to describe them as fascist, largely because they are not revolutionaries. He also argued strenuously that the left should condemn the Israeli attacks and critically support the Lebanese resistance, even though it was led by Hezbollah.

This approach was not only a response to knee-jerk left-wing perspectives on the Middle East (both pro-Israel and pro-Hezbollah), but also a challenge to the rest of us involved in developing the three way fight analysis. Lyons was rightly concerned with the too-easy equation many of us – myself included at times – had made between right-wing anti-imperialism and fascism. Lyons disagreed with this assessment, and with its abstentionist implications: if Hezbollah, for instance, was fascist, then no self-respecting radical could in any way support them, any more than we could support Israeli aggression. In contrast, said Lyons, leftwing revolutionaries should critically support the Lebanese resistance, even as we simultaneously challenged the right-wing character of Hezbollah’s politics.

The response to Lyons and Three Way Fight from some segments of the left was instructive: despite his specific (and repeated) rejection of the position that “we should denounce Israel and Hezbollah equally,” a number of leftists criticized Lyons and Three Way Fight for being overly critical of Hezbollah. This challenge was most forcefully articulated by Rami El-Amine, an Arab leftist and co-founder of the magazine Left Turn. In an essay entitled “Anti-Arab Racism, Islam, and the Left,” El-Amine argued that Lyons’ position exemplified the white left’s internalized islamophobia and reflected “a level of acceptance of the lies about Islamism, even by radicals.” He suggested that Lyon’s analysis of Hezbollah as essentially right wing “will one day become part of one of Hilary Clinton’s … speeches justifying a war on Lebanon and Iran.”

Putting to one side this frustrating smear, El-Amine’s essay exemplifies one important type of response to the post-9-11 world, a response that argues that the major challenge for the North American left is to overcome the internalized islamophobia we have absorbed from decades of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim politics and media coverage in the US. If we can’t accomplish this task within our own ranks, El-Amine argues, we will never be able to challenge the mainstream acceptance of this sort of racism. In his words, “Exposing and ending anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism needs to be a priority in the anti-war movement and the left in general. Doing so will not only bring more Arabs and Muslims into the movement, but also undercut the racist basis of support for the war. It will also alleviate the sense of isolation and powerlessness that so many Arabs and Muslims feel as a result of being the targets of war and racism.”

In a world that seems perpetually polarized by the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is easy (perhaps too easy) to see in El-Amine’s views a mirror of the arguments put forward by those radicals who believe that the central challenge facing the North American left is the danger posed by our unexamined, or at least under-examined, anti-Semitism. The disturbing history of anti-Semitism on the left stretches across generations, runs through competing trends, and taints to some extent almost all lineages of the left in this country, as a diverse range of radicals – both Jews and non-Jews – have documented.

In such a context, argue some leftists, the danger of uncritically supporting a movement like Hezbollah, simply because it stands in clear opposition to US imperial aims in the Middle East, is that to do so requires ignoring, dismissing, or rationalizing those aspects of Hezbollah’s politics that are not simply in opposition to the Israeli oppression of Lebanon, but are truly anti-Semitic. The end result, it is feared, will be a left that is hopelessly compromised in its principles, and thus incapable of mounting any effective challenge to a global capitalist system that exploits such inconsistencies quickly and effectively.

Some leftists, like the mostly British grouping gathered around the Euston Manifesto, go even further, arguing that the line between opposition to Israeli policy and opposition to Jewish-ness as such is increasingly blurry. Hezbollah, to stick with our example, not only opposes Israeli involvement in Lebanon, it is also anti-Zionist – it opposes the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. This can be perceived as simple anti-Zionism more or less uncomplicated by the occasional lapses of Hezbollah’s leadership into anti-Semitism, or it can be thought of as part of the long-standing history of anti-Semites world-wide attempting to cloak themselves with mantle of legitimate anti-Zionism, or it can be seen as evidence of the deep interpenetration between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

Those of us, whether Jewish or not, who strive to be non-anti-Semitic anti-Zionists have long recognized the importance of differentiating the two concepts. But the Euston Manifesto presents an example of the opposite perspective, denouncing a context where “‘Anti-Zionism’ [that’s in quotes] has now developed to a point where supposed organizations of the left are willing to entertain openly anti-Semitic speakers and to form alliances with anti-Semitic groups.” It is unclear how much traction this approach has within the US left, although I have corresponded with a handful of anarchists who have either signed the Manifesto or hold positions substantially identical on this question.

I have no interest in drawing false equivalences between these two tendencies on the left, or between the problems they describe. Both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are real problems within the North American left, but they are not “equal.” Anti-Semitism has a history going back centuries, and one of its most dangerous qualities is precisely the way in which it exploits the relative privileges granted to Jews. In this country, for instance, most Jews benefit from white skin privilege. Anti-Semitism takes these privileges and reflects them in a sort of circus fun-house mirror that makes them appear to be monstrous deformations of ill-gotten power.

This opens the door to anti-Semitic scapegoating, and plays neatly to some all-too-common forms of left analysis. For example, the anti-globalization movement’s fascination with “global financial capital” in the form of the IMF and World Bank facilitated repeated infiltrations of the movement by fascists who were upset about “the Jews” who were thought to run “the banks.” Too many anti-globalization activists accepted this logic and were ensnared by the latent anti-Semitism to which it appeals, in part because many leftists assume that there is some sort of zero-sum exchange between privilege and oppression. Anti-Semitism belies this simplistic approach, and demonstrates the need for a more dialectical understanding of how oppression works.

At the same time, however, islamophobia meshes all too well with the historic legacies of white supremacy and anti-immigrant racism that have been internalized over generations in this country. The result is a symbiotic relationship between islamophobia and other forms of racism, such that each nourishes the other in a vicious cycle of fear, hatred and disempowerment. One could even argue that islamophobia, in the North American context at least, has less to do with religion than it does with race.

In a post-September 11 world, both the frequency and the intensity of anti-Muslim bias have skyrocketed. So too, ironically, has the acceptance of such bias in black and immigrant (often latino) communities that have themselves been targeted by white supremacy. Other things being equal (which they usually aren’t), it is far more dangerous to your health, safety, freedom, and economic well-being to be Muslim than it is to be Jewish in the United States today.

Differences also exist between the two political perspectives I am describing. El-Amine and others like him, especially in the circle around Left Turn, are committed anti-capitalists and revolutionaries actively involved in anti-war and anti-racist organizing, while most of the Euston signatories are well on their way to friendly confines of liberalism and accommodation with some sort of supposedly humane capitalism. (It should be noted, however, that this situation is hardly etched in stone; the possibilities for liberal reformism exist in both camps. We should not assume that all those who are concerned with islamophobia are or will necessarily continue to be revolutionaries, nor should we assume that all those focused on anti-Semitism are or always will be reformists.)

At the same time, however, one legacy of anti-Semitism’s historic tie to the Nazis is a profound awareness within the Euston camp of the need for an anti-fascist politics, which seems lacking in the anti-war movement, and on the left more generally. This lack of awareness is especially evident in El-Amine’s attempt to tar Lyons with the specter of Hilary Clinton, as if all those who are critical of Hezbollah can be easily grouped as supporters of imperialism. In a way, this is the flip-side of the argument advanced by some Euston signatories that anti-Zionism is always “effectively” anti-Semitic.

Regardless, both problems are real, and both “camps” (to the extent they really exist outside of my rough schematic) have important truths to tell. The nineteenth century Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin famously remarked that “freedom without socialism is privilege and injustice, but socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality.” Something similar is at work here: anti-fascism without revolution (the Euston position) guarantees capitalism’s continuing misery and devastation, while revolution without anti-fascism (the Left Turn position) all but ensures that the insurgent right will ace out the insurgent left. We need both anti-fascism and revolution.

Unfortunately, this “both, and” approach is distressingly uncommon within the North American left, largely due to what could be called “bi-polarity:” that is, the dualistic and anti-dialectical tendency to reduce complex situations to two opposing, and static, sides. In mainstream culture this over-simplification is best exemplified by Bush’s oft-quoted statement that everyone is “either with us, or with the terrorists,” a claim that has been rightly ridiculed by everyone to the left of Christopher Hitchens. But no matter how dismissive we may be of Bush’s ultimatum, a lot of radical politics is built around similar false dichotomies.

Within the left, historically speaking, one major strand of bi-polarity can be traced back to the twists and turns of Stalin-era Soviet foreign policy in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Its specific applications were quite often concerned with an analysis of the rising tide of fascism in Europe. For a time, the Soviets upheld the classic definition of fascism as “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital.” That is, fascism was nothing more than a variation on western capitalism, and both were to be opposed.

A few years later, during the relatively short-lived Hitler-Stalin pact, this position was reversed: suddenly, fascism and Stalinism were allies unified in their opposition to capitalist imperialism. Once Germany and the Soviet Union had parted company (and the former had invaded the latter), the equation changed yet again: now the capitalists and the Stalinists made common cause against the total threat posed by fascist “barbarism.” This formulation resulted in the Yalta Conference, and in the end the division of Europe after World War Two. This is the stuff Orwell was mocking when he wrote about how “Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia” in the novel 1984.

Sixty years later, most of the left in North America has finally rid itself of the open trappings of Stalinism, but a surprising vestige remains within our worldview: the need to reduce every conflict to two sides, us and them. For the Euston manifesto signatories, “us” means defenders of freedom, democracy and cultural diversity, while “them” refers to the perceived opponents of these concepts – fascists, Islamic fundamentalists, and (non-state) terrorist organizations. According to this logic, even though the Western capitalist countries have problems and are in need of improvement, they are on “our” side insofar as they provide a necessary bulwark against “them.”

This sort of thinking is probably not very appealing to most of us in this room (which is a good thing), but a possibly more tempting version of the same bi-polarity can be found among the most sharp and level-headed critics of this view. People like El-Amine, who rightly decries the internalized islamophobia of “us vs. them” narratives like the one implicit in the Euston Manifesto, often argue in terms that suggest a competing “us vs. them” story line: here, “us” means anti-imperialists, opponents of capitalist globalization, and all who challenge the global hegemony of the United States, while “them” refers to, well, the imperialists, the capitalist globalizers, and those who support the global hegemony of the United States. This is the Chavez-Ahmadinejad International, and Hezbollah are prominent members.

Each version of bi-polarity contains its own blindspot: the Euston position can’t see the legitimacy, indeed the importance, of anti-Zionism, while the El-Amine position can’t see the legitimacy and importance of challenging Islamic fundamentalism. Within the framework of efforts to develop radical solutions to the various conflicts in the Middle East, a clear vision of both these concepts is essential. And for North American radicals in particular, burdened as we are with the legacy of white supremacy and its attendant obsession with categorization (of race, of ethnicity, and of types or forms of oppression), a careful analysis of islamophobia and of anti-Semitism may prove to be invaluable in overcoming the limits of our own political frameworks. As is often the case, in order to effectively present a real challenge to capital, we need to confront the challenges facing the left, in the form of our own political weaknesses.

Once we expand our horizons beyond the Middle East, the relevance of the three way fight perspective becomes even more clear: Zionism represents a particular (but definitely peculiar) example of global capitalism, while some (but definitely not all) versions of Islamic fundamentalism serve as examples of contemporary forms of fascism. (Others, it is important to note, represent competing factions of global capitalism; Iran’s ongoing friendship with Russia and China serves as an example of this alternative.) In this context, a “them, them, and us” approach seems particularly useful, partly because it better describes the reality within which we find ourselves than any of the “us vs. them” narratives I’ve discussed already, but also partly because it presents a bulwark against the further fracturing of the radical left in North America.

Now I have nothing in principle against fractures and disagreements on the left, but in some circumstances, splintering can cause more harm than good. Consider the anti-globalization movement, for instance: here was a highly heterogeneous milieu, one in which conscious anti-capitalists were a distinct minority. Anti-capitalist revolutionaries were often in the forefront of deliberate splits and fractures, both those designed to exclude fascist elements from the movement, and those intended to draw sharp political lines and create a strong anti-capitalist and revolutionary pole within the movement. This was a good thing, but our ability to function within that context, while continuously challenging the political limitations of the broader movement, was dependent upon a certain minimum level of ongoing dialogue. It is this possibility for dialogue that I fear will be lost between those revolutionaries who prioritize resistance to islamophobia and those who emphasize challenges to anti-Semitism.

To understand my fear, it is helpful to look at the decline of the German autonomist movement over the past two decades. In the 1980’s the West German autonomen were among the most vibrant, militant, and inspiring radical movements anywhere in the world. Certainly they were not without their problems, but the situation was dynamic and hopeful. Within the autonomen, several tendencies developed, including the antifas, or anti-fascists, and the anti-imps, or anti-imperialists. The anti-imps were primarily focused on support for third world liberation movements, including especially Palestinian liberation, where the antifas prioritized domestic and international organizing against the far right.

After the fall of the Berlin wall, the antifas became concerned with the rapidly rising tide of far-right activity in (the soon to be former) East Germany, and some of them began to emphasize the special responsibility to support Jewish causes that Germans carried as a result of the holocaust. This led to an opposition to German reunification, which was seen as an opening for an expansionist, even fascist, resurgence. At the same time, some antifas criticized the anti-imps for their tendency to uncritically support Palestinian struggles, even when they employed terrorist methods and used anti-Semitic rhetoric. Given the dodgy history of the post-war German left on questions of Israel/Palestine, this was probably pretty reasonable.

Around the time of the Iraq War in 2003, a minority segment of the antifas took this constellation of ideas and turned them into a principled opposition to German-ness as such, taking the name the anti-Deutsche (anti-Germans). At this point, the autonomist movement was in a shambles, partly because of changing objective conditions in the reunified Germany, but also in part because of the long-standing splits between tendencies that had less and less contact with each other.

The most extreme sectors of the anti-Deutsche drew two sets of highly questionable conclusions: first, the “special responsibility” morphed into a specific responsibility to support the State of Israel; second, the only possible geopolitical counter-weight to resurgent German expansionism was the United States. Since the US also represented the most stalwart international supporter of Israel, the internal logic was as solid as it was circular. The result is the occasional spectacle at pro-Israel demonstrations in Germany of small groups of protestors decked out black bloc style carrying US and Israeli flags. This is bi-polarity taken to absurd extremes.

It is always dangerous to draw parallels between left-wing movements in different countries, and the uniqueness of the German situation (given its history of Naziism and the holocaust) makes it all the more troublesome in this case. In addition, much of the anti-Deutsche milieu has avoided these comic extremes, while still pressing the left on issues of anti-Semitism. Further, there is no visible tendency within the US left that shows any immediate propensity toward developing in the direction taken by the anti-Deutsche.

Nonetheless, the danger of this sort of polarization is real, and must be combated if we are to develop real challenges to capitalism. One can imagine comparable movements in the North American context developing out of either camp we have discussed here today. Already, groups like the Workers’ World Party assume a consistent stance of unconditionally supporting any and all movements or governments that are seen to oppose US imperialism, from North Korea to Iran to Venezuela. Smarter revolutionaries who are sincerely concerned with the dangers of islamophobia could end up following the same logic. The opposite danger is also visible in the pro-US and pro-Israel stance taken by many Euston signatories.

So, it’s not a question of “choosing” islamophobia or anti-Semitism as the “primary” enemy. Rather, the more central questions are: can we develop and maintain a sophisticated and dynamic political analysis in a world where the pull toward simplistic dualism is sometimes overwhelming? Can we build revolutionary politics in a left that seems perpetually drawn to liberalism, to reform, to what is deemed “really possible”? Can we help strengthen the social movements in which we participate? Clarifying our politics is key to making revolution, and a three way fight analysis is an important part of that process.



The ProLibertad Freedom Campaign has designated April, "Freedom Month!!"
Every April ProLibertad organizing a series of events to commemorate the
arrests of our political prisoners. We use this month as a time to raise
awareness concerning the prisoners and of Puerto Rico's colonial reality.


Saturday March 31st-ProLibertad Community March in the Bronx (See the above

Sunday April 1st- Special mass dedicated to the Puerto Rican Political
Prisoners by La Iglesia San Romero de Las Americas/UCC at 11:30am

Friday April 6th-Militant Labor Forum event for the Puerto Rican Political
Prisoners at 6:30pm

Saturday April 7th- "Hands off Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia" (With the added
demands of "Free Puerto Rico" and "Free the Puerto Rican Political
Prisoners") at 1pm

Tuesday April 10th-ProLIbertad Event at the International Action Center at

Friday April 13th-Puerto Rico/Political Prisoner Event with Fuerza de la
Revolucion Domincana at Centro Orlando Martinez in Inwood

Tuesday April 17th-Special ProLibertad Freedom Campaign Information Session
at Hunter College at 7pm Hunter college east building center for Puerto
Rican studies 14th floor room 1441 or the solarium

Thursday April 26th-ProLibertad Student Event with Hunter College's Hostos
Puerto Rican Club at 1pm

Saturday April 28th-ProLibertad Special fund-raiser (BOMBAZO) at 7pm

Sunday April 29th-Unity Brunch on the PRican PPs with Malcolm X Grassroots
Movement at 1pm


Living conditions in southern Europe are heading down. Just one more sign of the climate changes underway throughout the world. One Greek scientist says the long term effects will include a mass migration north. He says areas of southern Europe are heading toward a desert future.

The Gulf Times reports:

The hottest winter in two centuries in Italy, below average rains in Hungary and a shortage of snow in the Greek mountains make the outlook for grain crops in southern Europe this year decidedly patchy, farming sources say.
Greece has had very little rain since November and had its driest January in about 50 years. Farmers fear for the harvest.

They planted about 20% more grain this year after a drop in 2006 and are turning to grain instead of sugar beet and cotton, General Confederation of Greek Agrarian Associations board member Charalambos Orfanidis told Reuters. Orfanidis said the maize and wheat harvests could be severely affected by the dry spell.

“The winter has been essentially dry – no rain and no snow in the mountains to allow build-up of water reserves,” he said. “The months of April and May now require regular rainfall, which is unlikely ... It looks like a bad year.”

In February, the European Environment Agency urged European governments to start planning now to cope with climate-induced water stress, and singled out southern Spain, southern Italy, Greece and Turkey as being badly exposed.

The people of Greece have awakened to the threat. Seven out of 10 Greeks are “very worried” about global warming and climate change, one of the highest rates in the European Union, according to a poll made public this month.

They aren't alone.

According to the Eurobarometer survey, concern about climate change is higher in the EU’s southernmost, and warmest, member states, with the Greeks and Maltese showing high levels of concern (68 percent), just after the Spaniards and Cypriots (70 percent).

The following comes from Planet Ark.

Spread of Desert "May Cause Mediterranean Exodus"

ATHENS - Parched land could trigger a mass exodus north from the Mediterranean if the long-term effects of climate change, construction and farming are not checked, a Greek environmental official warned on Tuesday.

Swathes of Greece are also in immediate danger of becoming permanent desert, said Professor Costas Kosmas, head of a government committee set up to battle desertification.

"Desertification is a slow-moving process and once we realise it is happening it will be too late to go back," Kosmas told Reuters in an interview.

Desertification is being fuelled by a reduction in average rainfall coupled with higher temperatures, deforestation and human activities such as farming, construction and tourism. Kosmas said long-term environmental changes meant all countries across the Mediterranean basin would eventually be affected -- and that populations would drift to cooler north European latitudes.

"Desertification means that people cannot earn a living off the land so they move. They become migrants, flocking to urban areas," he said.

"Northern European countries have accepted this, though we (in the region) need to start taking specific measures immediately because we have done little until now."

Greece, which is the committee's main focus, has been experiencing one of its worst droughts in 20 years and its landscape will change substantially within the next decade, Kosmas said.

Greece's average rainfall has fallen by about 30 percent since the mid 1970s, and last January was the driest in half a century.

"About 34 or 35 percent of the country has been highlighted by us as extreme danger areas that face desertification, with great repercussions for humans and the economy," Kosmas said.

Parts of the southern Peloponnese region, many of the Aegean islands popular with tourists, as well as northern, central Greece and the wider Athens region are at high risk.

Greece, one of the fastest growing economies in the euro zone, is experiencing a construction boom and a sharp rise in tourism that has strained natural resources.

Tens of thousands of holiday homes are being built this year alone to meet the demand from foreigners, and the construction industry has been growing by a third every year since 2000.

But Kosmas said the economic benefits could soon be outweighed by long-term environmental damage.

"The areas in danger have seen a large part of the earth disappearing, leaving maybe 30 or 40 centimetres of top layer earth. They are unfit for farming, forests will not be able to grow back, rain does not trickle down."

Story by Karolos Grohmann


This is why you give delivery folks a big tip.

Delivery workers at Saigon Grill, a Vietnamese mini-chain popular among NYU students, are striking over conditions they call abusive and wages they say are less than $2 an hour. The delivery workers have been picketing daily since Wednesday, March 7, alternating between the Saigon Grill at 90th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, and the restaurant's other location at 91 University Place.

After discovering workers' plans to unionize and file a lawsuit, Saigon Grill locked them out of both locations.

Campaign representative Tony Tsai told NYU Washington Square News Saigon Grill delivery workers, even longtime employees, have been seriously abused.

"They work in a harsh environment, and the restaurant does not care about their safety," Tsai said. "They are called 'dogs.' It's unacceptable."

According to Yu Guan Ke, an immigrant from Taiwan who has worked at Saigon Grill for more than 10 years, full time workers earn as little as $1.60 an hour and often work 6-7 days a week.

Ke told the Columbia Daily Spectator that if a worker's day off fell on a holiday or on a day with bad weather, when there are typically more delivery orders, he would be forced to work anyway. He further alleged that workers are charged fines for taking sick leave or for offenses like shutting a restaurant door too loudly.

Ke also stated if workers are robbed while delivering an order, they are made to pay for all lost orders from that day. When they delivered long-distance orders, for which customers are charged an extra fee, the restaurant owners kept the money. If workers were involved in an accident on the job, they had to pay their own medical costs. For their on-the-job meal, they were given whatever food was left over from the day.

According to a statement from Justice Will Be Served, delivery workers are charged heavy fines for late deliveries, regardless of harsh weather conditions, and are sent to unsafe areas. The statement also says that when they are robbed or injured on the job, they must cover medical costs as well as the expense of the lost orders.

"I've been robbed before - I've had someone steal my money because I was working in a dangerous area," said Yuguan Ke, who has worked there for more than 10 years. "When that happened, I went to the police, but the boss didn't care. At the end of the night, he looked at all my receipts and orders and said, 'You have to pay it anyway.'

Justice Will Be Served! (JWBS) is a campaign led by service workers in New York State who are fighting against long hours, second-class wages, stolen tips and other sweatshop conditions, and for fair wages, control over their time, and respect.

The following is from the Village Voice.

Workers Protest Outside Saigon Grill

A throng of more than 20 delivery workers is gathered outside the Saigon Grill at 93 University Place, chanting "Saigon Grill! Boycott!" and boo-ing anyone who enters the restaurant. A woman stands at the door, ushering potential diners inside to eat.

The workers have been organized for at least a week, but the protest has become more robust in the last few days. They are holding signs that say "SUPPORT DELIVERY WORKERS AGAINST SAIGON GRILL'S ILLEGAL LOCKOUT" and claiming inhumane working conditions.

They are also handing out flyers that say:

Saigon Grill Restaurant owners Simon and Michelle Nget locked out all their delivery workers because they were organizing and planned to file a lawsuit. The owners demanded workers sign an illegal contract t, stating that they have received minimum wage, even though they received less that $2 an hour. The owners told them not to come back when the delivery workers refused to lie.

The flyer goes on to say that Saigon Grill's three locations make $2 million per month, but the owners pay delivery workers as little as $1.60 an hour. In addition, the workers claim that they are charged "ridiculous fines" for sick days, slamming a door, etc., don't get breaks for meals, are verbally harassed, that the owners "disregard workers' safety in unsafe buildings", and offer no monetary support when workers were injured on the job. They say that workers who were robbed and beaten while making deliveries were forced to pay for all the missed deliveries, and that employees who spoke out were fired.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


The specific story below is not a new one even though it is just now getting some actual attention.

It was back in 2003 that Holt family members filled the pews of the Dickson County, Tennessee courtroom one Tuesday night carrying signs to publicly charge county Landfill Director Jim Lunn of allowing their well water to be contaminated and then lying to them about the quality of their water.

The family had been plagued with cancer and other illnesses and blames the health problems on contamination of their drinking water supply near the county landfill.

“The reason that we are here tonight is — we are hurt,” Sherrie Holt said back then. “We did not know that what was being dumped there would kill us. Is there a reason you didn’t tell us? Or is it that you just didn’t care? All of my uncles, with the exception of one, they’re dead.”

Holt-Orsted reported the Tennessean at that time, was diagnosed with breast cancer that year, her father, mother, aunt and a neighbor had all been diagnosed with cancer.

Holt-Orsted said the family had been told that trichloroethylene, or TCE, is the 15th deadliest chemical known to man. Barrels full of toxic industrial waste containing TCE were routinely buried at the landfill in the 1960s and ‘70s, before landfill regulations were put into place, state records show.

TCE, used widely as a metal degreaser, is suspected of causing heart and nervous system damage, birth defects and cancer, particularly of the prostate, cervix, kidneys, liver and lungs, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Small amounts can cause nausea, dizziness and skin rashes.

About a dozen members of the Holt family said they have been diagnosed with lung cancer, prostate cancer, cervical cancer, diabetes, heart disease, heart murmurs or stomach-lining disorders. Many also said they have been plagued with chronic skin rashes.

“They told us that this stuff is so toxic that someone that didn’t drink the water in our home, that just visited often and used our commode, that the vapors coming up from the commode when they flushed it, if they did this more than two months, they were just as prone to have cancer as the people that live in our home,” she said.

“Whoever in this community decided that it was okay to let us drink this water from 1988-2000, there’s a place in hell for you, if you don’t find God.”

In Dickson County, Tenn., a county that is just over 4 percent black, the landfill was sited in the middle of a poor black community.

No surprise there.

A United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice study back in 1987 looked at every zip code in the United States and identified where toxic waste, including commercial hazardous waste facilities and uncontrolled toxic waste sites, were located. It found that race was the most significant factor, even more significant than poverty. All across the U.S., toxic waste was more likely to be dumped in communities of color. The study showed that the experiences of the communities CRJ had worked with were not isolated ones, but part of a larger picture.

Robert Bullard, noted enivronmental justice activist, pointed out in an interview the other day with MSNBC the very reason he first got involved was that he found:

"...that 100 percent of all the city-owned landfills in Houston were in black neighborhoods, though blacks made up only 25 percent of the population. Three out of four of the privately owned landfills were located in predominantly black neighborhoods, and six out of eight of the city-owned incinerators. In a city that does not have zoning, it meant that these were decisions made by individuals in government."

Some apologists have tried to claim that the waste sites came first then people of color moved in because land prices were lower.

New research from the University of Michigan shows that claim to be false. That study shows that minorities were living in the areas where hazardous waste facilities decided to locate before the facilities arrived. The most basic interpretation of the findings, Paul Mohai, a professor in the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment said, is that they verify what the environmental justice movement has argued for decades, that poorer minority neighborhoods are more often chosen for hazardous waste facilities than more affluent white neighborhoods. Therefore, policies that intervene in the siting process are very important, Mohai said.

"Policies to deal with environmental injustice by managing the siting and permitting process could be a waste of time and money if the demographic changes after siting explain why the disparity occurs," Mohai said. However, based on this study, such policies are exactly what's needed.

The researchers found that racial disparities in the location of hazardous waste facilities are much greater than previous studies have shown. Furthermore, the disparities persist even when controlling for economic and sociopolitical variables, suggesting that racial targeting, housing discrimination and other factors uniquely associated with race influence the location of the nations' hazardous waste facilities.

In that MSNBC interview, Bullard was asked about the struggle in Dickson County. He replied:

"In every struggle, somebody has to step forward, just like Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King Jr. In this case, it's the Holt family: they have drawn a line in the dirt and said "no."

Every time I go there, I'm amazed at their spirits. These are fighters, from strong stock: this is a community of black people who owned land dating back over 100 years. They are resilient. But at the same time, they're sick. Harry Holt is the patriarch in the family right now, and he has cancer. His daughter, Sheila Holt-Orsted, has cancer. His son has an immune deficiency.

That's how these lawsuits play out: it's a waiting game. The people with the money can wait the longest, and the people who are sick generally can't, because at some point, sick people die. And they know that. That is the cruelty and the horrific nature of environmental racism."

The following article actually appeared in the Washington Post.

A Well of Pain
Their Water Was Poisoned by Chemicals. Was Their Treatment Poisoned by Racism?
By Lynne Duke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 20, 2007; C01

DICKSON COUNTY, Tenn. Sheila Holt-Orsted sits on the edge of a sofa in her mother's living room, digging through the large translucent plastic bins arrayed at her feet. The Holt family's fight is in there -- the contaminated water, the cancers, the allegations of racism, the lawsuit. A family's seeming devastation, documented in those bins.

Papers are everywhere, spilling onto the sofa, the floor. Holt-Orsted, 45, burrows in deep. But the document she's looking for can't be found.

"It might be in my bed," she says in a voice always verging toward laughter, and she trots off to check.

Her mom, Beatrice Holt, 61, just shakes her head.

"I'd wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning and she'd be in there writing something," Mrs. Holt says. "I worry about her, because she has breast cancer and stress is not good. I worry about her cancer coming back."

Holt-Orsted's father, Harry, had cancer too, and died of it in January at 67 after it grew in his prostate and his bones.

"The Lord was just ready for a good man. He wanted a good man and He took him," Mrs. Holt says wearily.

She has had cervical polyps. Another of her daughters, Holt-Orsted's sister, has had colon polyps. Three of Holt-Orsted's cousins have had cancer. Her aunt next door has had cancer. Her aunt across the street has had chemotherapy for a bone disease. Her uncle died of Hodgkin's disease. Her daughter, 12-year-old Jasmine, has a speech defect.

They believe trichloroethylene, or TCE, is to blame for it all. The carcinogen leaked from the county landfill, just 500 feet away, and contaminated the Holts' well water. That fact is undisputed. For years, the family drank that water, bathed in that water, cooked in that water -- and had no clue that it might harm them.

Potted plants from Mr. Holt's wake still fill the Holt living room. A stack of albums and CDs recorded by his gospel group, the Dynamic Dixie Travelers, sits on a bookshelf. "I Feel Like My Time Ain't Long" was his favorite song.

From the den, filled with cheetah and zebra figurines and velvet pictures of matadors, comes the sound of a clock that chirps birdlike every hour on the hour. And the dining table is covered with home-cooked dishes, because a group of lawyers is in town to talk about the family's predicament.

Holt-Orsted is ready with her bins, often the only passengers in her Windstar van as she drives between her home in Dale City, Va., and her mom's home on Eno Road in Dickson County.

In one, a large notebook is visible, a statement in bold black letters scrawled on its cover: "I want this country to hear my pain."

A Crusade Begins

Her husband, Corey Orsted, 38, gave her "Erin Brockovich," the 2000 Oscar-nominated movie about the busty and bodacious self-made environmental activist. The film offered some good pointers, except that Holt-Orsted, as a breast-cancer survivor, can't show off cleavage the way that Brockovich did.

"Mine's all scarred up," she says. "Looks like a railroad track."

She is not as reticent as her father. He was more private, more old-school proper, didn't want to publicly discuss his prostate cancer and his fears of how he got it.

"I think when my dad was first diagnosed, I was like, if this was me, I'd be shouting," Holt-Orsted says. And then it was her. And she started shouting.

That was back in 2003, when Holt-Orsted received her diagnosis and her crusade began. She opted to have her treatments in Tennessee, where she could rely on extra family support. Between treatments, she mustered the energy to fight those she believes responsible for her family's illnesses. She transformed her parents' home into her command center, there in the semi-rural community where she grew up, where her family's only wealth was the land.

When she wasn't throwing up from the chemo, she dragged herself to government offices to search public records. She researched environmental issues on the Web, sometimes falling asleep at her computer.

A former high school and college athlete turned bodybuilder and fitness trainer, she schooled herself in TCE, one of the most prevalent contaminants of drinking water in the country. It had been dumped at the Dickson County landfill in the 1960s and 1970s.

She reached out to environmental justice activists, including Robert Bullard, director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University. She called him so often and for so long that he finally gave in and called her back. "She sounded desperate," remembers Bullard, who is now advising the family. "She was doing this by herself."

When she heard Danny Glover would be at a Nashville walkathon, she ignored her family's advice and showed up to chase him down. She even tried to jog. But, weak from chemo the day before, her wig sliding off her head, she gave up in tears. "I was a sight," she says, able to laugh now at the memory.

Another time, at a meeting of the Dickson County Commission, she stood up and accused county officials of lying to her family about the safety of the Holt well water, warning, "Whoever in this community decided to let us drink this water, there's a place in Hell for you if you don't find God."

In January, she carried her fight to Capitol Hill, speaking at a panel on environmental racism. Her family's attorney, Matthew Colangelo of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, attended to support her. She had buried her father only days before. Her usual ebullience was gone, as she read, flatly:

"We have uncovered one of Tennessee's dirtiest little secrets: a contaminated conspiracy."

Suits Claim Racism

The Holts' lawsuits, originally filed in 2003 and 2004, name the city and county of Dickson and the state of Tennessee, and claim the family was a victim, among other things, of negligence that resulted in their cancers and other health problems.

They also named Schrader Automotive Group, the company that state and federal documents say dumped drums of TCE and other toxins at the landfill. The company's parent, Scovill Inc., now is called Saltire Industrial Inc., whose assets are in the hands of a trust approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. Alper Holdings, Saltire's owner, also is named in the suit.

But Michael Etkin, the attorney representing the trust of Saltire's assets, says, "We have yet to see evidence that whatever injuries that the Holts allege were the results of any conduct on the part of Saltire or to what extent the science supports the claim that the various injuries alleged were the result of TCE contamination."

And Don L. Weiss Jr., mayor of the city of Dickson, which originally owned the landfill, said in a statement that city officials had "handled their responsibilities properly."

The Holts also claim the state and county discriminated against them in treating them with less care than the white residents with similarly contaminated water. (The EPA was originally named in the discrimination claim but was dismissed as a defendant because of a legal error. The Holts parted ways with the attorney they had at that time.)

Cribbing Bullard's pithy description of the Holts' plight, Holt-Orsted says it's a case of the "wrong complexion for protection."

Attorneys for the county and state deny the claims in the lawsuits.

"The county considers any allegations that the Holt family members were the victims of racism to be baseless and unfounded," said county attorney Timothy V. Potter, in an e-mail.

But David England, a former Dickson county commissioner who went to high school with Holt-Orsted, believes racism has played a role in the saga. England, who is white, recalls being upbraided by an acquaintance angered at his support of the Holts.

"You're a damn fool," he recalls being told. "There's 94 percent white people in the county and 6 percent black people and you're taking sides with the blacks."

Family Responses

A battalion of angel figurines, big ones and little ones, all of them brown, guard Holt-Orsted's Dale City home. They march across her wallpaper border, keeping watch over her own small family.

They've been married 13 years, she and Corey Orsted, but the past four have been difficult, what with the upheaval of back-to-back father-daughter cancers.

Orsted, an electrician and Army veteran of Operation Desert Storm, would rather they all be together, but says, "I have to do what I have to do to support my wife."

He, too, believes the family has been discriminated against. Though he is white, he does not feel uncomfortable with his wife's talk of racism and the blame she lays at the feet of some white officials. Dickson County, population 43,156, was 4.6 percent black in the 2000 census, and Orsted does not know Dickson County well. But he knows that back in the 1990s a man in a pickup truck hollered "[epithet]-lover" at him when he saw Orsted with his black wife. So he does worry about their daughter, who has been living and going to school in Dickson since 2005.

"I don't want my daughter to hate my race or be leery of them because of these actions," Orsted says.

He calls his wife's work "awesome." When she was featured on CNN recently, he says, he felt a surge of pride to know that his family name is part of this battle.

His wife, he says, is aggressive, the kind of person who seizes the initiative.

"Anything she's done, she's been fully fledged, very focused. She makes things her mission, especially this," he says. Her mother and two sisters call Holt-Orsted obsessive, but they mean it affectionately.

This style and singular focus have angered some within her extended family who feel Holt-Orsted has taken the reins of the TCE battle too tightly.

"She caused it. I'm going to tell you right out," Lavenia Holt, the aunt who lives across Eno Road, says of the family split. That part of the Holt family is pursuing its own legal case.

Says Holt-Orsted, "I know I probably burned a lot of bridges." But that is the price she has to pay for the crusade she has chosen, she says.

"I had a minister tell me that this is a ministry for me," she says. "He said think of yourself as Moses. Do you think Moses was volunteering? You're going to have to take it this way rather than questioning why this happened to you."

Says former county commissioner England, "Sheila's been very patient in this. A lot of people look at her as a militant and an iron fist hammering all the time. But in all of us there's a time you snap.

"No doubt, she's scorched earth in relationships all over the place. . . . But I still respect her. Somebody had to carry the banner up San Juan Hill. And I don't think there's selfishness here," he says, adding sadly, "I think it's a girl and her daddy."

'Smoking Gun' Documents

When the Holt family learned in 2000 that they would be hooked up to the city of Dickson's water system because of a problem with their well water, Holt-Orsted and her family assumed it was a mere precaution. They didn't know anything about TCE. They weren't told that their well water contained 24 times the EPA's allowable limit of the toxin.

Only later, after the cancers started and after she'd begun sniffing around the subject, did Holt-Orsted connect the dots and realize the deep health trouble her family might be in. Based on TCE's toxicity and the fact that it had leaked from the landfill, the Holts filed suit.

But even then, Holt-Orsted assumed the contamination of her family's well was due to someone's carelessness or incompetence.

"In the beginning, that's what I thought," she says.

"Until I found the letters."

It happened quite by chance in late 2004, when she went to the state environment and conservation offices in Nashville and asked to see records about the landfill and the family's well water.

"They just hand you a big box of stuff," she says. "They didn't have a clue" that she was being handed fodder for her crusade.

In that box, she found letters and documents indicating that Tennessee environmental and water officials had concerns about the possibility of TCE appearing in the Holt's well water as early as 1988. The Holts' well was left untested for nine years while TCE problems in the wells of white families were tended to with haste, the records showed.

Based on those letters -- what Bullard calls the "smoking guns" -- the Holts amended their suit and added the civil rights claim of racial discrimination, which a judge split off into a separate action. (Both suits are pending.)

"Use of your well water should not result in any adverse health effects," an EPA official wrote to the Holts on Dec. 3, 1991, after one high TCE test was followed by two low ones. But a Tennessee water official questioned the EPA's conclusions, saying that the geology of the area was so prone to leaching that a low TCE test "was in no way an assurance that Mr. Holt's well water will stay below" the EPA standard.

State and federal officials agreed that the Holt well should be tested further. But for nine years, no tests were conducted.

Meanwhile, the toxin also showed up at high levels in a spring and several wells in 1993 and 1994. The white families at those sites were immediately told to stop using the water. And tests were conducted repeatedly all around the landfill -- but not at the Holt well.

Still, the Holts knew nothing. They did not know their well should have been monitored. And they did not know until many years later about the other families with TCE contamination. They never knew anything at all, until Harry Holt's daughter Sheila began poking around in dusty boxes.

A common manufacturing degreaser, TCE is "highly likely to produce cancer in humans," according to the proposed cancer guidelines contained in the EPA's 2001 draft report of its ongoing health risk assessment for TCE. TCE is associated with cancers of the kidney, liver, cervix, lymphatic system and, some say, breast. It is also associated with immune disorders, skin diseases and birth defects such as cleft palate.

Asked why the Holt well was not tested for nine years, Joe Sanders, general counsel for the state's Department of Environment and Conservation, said the state's resources were focused on the places where TCE existed at levels higher than at the Holts'.

"We're definitely not the Holts' adversaries and never have been," he said. "We tried to do what we've done based on the facts that we've had. I've seen Ms. Holt many times at different meetings. I think she's a fine lady and she sincerely believes her cause."

Background for a Funeral

A sharp winter wind whips across an oak-lined ridge, over the tombstones and graves of the old Worley Furnace Cemetery, named for James Worley, a 19th-century slave who ran his master's iron furnace nearby.

Here lie the dearly departed of the historically black Eno Road community, now a dwindling group of African Americans who owned farms amid the area's gently rolling hills.

The cemetery is just across the road from the landfill. To the east are 150 acres of property owned by the Holts for a couple of generations. To the south, on the other side of the landfill, is the vacant and crumbling building of the old Negro Coaling School where Harry Holt was a student. Also to the south is the Worley Furnace Baptist Church where the Holt family once worshipped.

During the days of Jim Crow, African Americans played baseball on that open swath of land, but by 1956, the field had become a dumping ground, according to Bullard, the environmental expert, who found a reference to a "city dump" in a property deed from the period.

The city's official dump opened on that site in 1968. On its five acres, everything from dead animals to drums of chemicals were dumped. The site bred mosquitoes, flies and rodents. It produced the worst smells imaginable -- like burning carcasses -- which the Holts describe smelling every day, not to mention the dust, smoke and ash always in the air. Until 1972, it was unregulated.

After passing into county ownership in 1977, the landfill was upgraded and expanded to 74 acres. But by 2002, the acres of land where chemicals and rotting refuse once were dumped had been capped with layers of soil and clay from which tall white pipes rise like periscopes to vent the buildup of methane gases below. And a collection system for its leached liquids was installed.

But the old landfill's undulating landscape of tall grass interspersed with those tall pipes behind a fence topped with razor wire tells the ominous tale of what lies beneath.

Today, the site takes in only construction and demolition debris. Earth movers and trucks still rumble around there, producing a racket that intrudes upon the small cemetery across the road.

It was the background noise to Harry Holt's funeral.

"They didn't have enough respect to stop," Holt-Orsted says one mid-February morning, on her first visit to her father's grave since his Jan. 13 funeral.

Tears cut a trail of makeup down her face. She folds her arms tightly across her chest, braced against the wind, against the pain. She bends down to straighten two toppled angels that mark her father's grave until his headstone arrives.

Quickly, grief overwhelms her. The sound of plaintive weeping swirls in the cold wind.

"My dad didn't deserve to be treated like garbage," she sobs, gasping for breath.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Enough is enough. How many must die before Bush and his supporters acknowledge the crimes they are committing and get US soldiers the hell out of Iraq. At that point Mr. Bush should throw himself before an international war crimes tribunal and beg for mercy.

As Democracy Now reports today:

Protests to mark the fourth anniversary of the Iraq invasion are continuing today across the country. In New York peace activists are taking part in mass civil disobedience on Wall Street. In San Francisco, activists are planning to stage a die-in at the Federal Reserve Building. On Saturday tens of thousands of protesters took part in a March on the Pentagon. Protests were also held over the weekend in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis, and scores of other cities.

As the protests take place a new study says the number of deaths in Iraq since the start of the conflict could be as high as one million.

On the fourth anniversary of the invasion by Allied troops, an Australian scientist insisted the true death toll dwarfed previous estimates.

Dr Gideon Polya said: "Using the most comprehensive and authoritative literature and UN demographic data yields an estimate of one million post-invasion excess deaths in Iraq."

In addition according to UN sources, the number of Iraqi refugees now total 3.7 million - 2.0 million outside Iraq and 1.7 million inside Iraq – and UNHCR predicts that there will be up to 2.3 million internally displaced people within Iraq by the end of this year.

Dr Gideon Polya published some 130 works in a 4 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (Taylor & Francis, New York & London, 2003). He is a Melbourne scientist and writer and is currently editing a completed book on global avoidable mortality (numerous articles on this matter can be found by a simple Google search for "Gideon Polya" and on his websites: and

The following letter fro Dr. Polya was taken from the Atlantic Free Press.

Dear Sir/Madam,

Four years after the illegal US-UK-Australian invasion of Iraq, how many Iraqis have died post-invasion?

Post-invasion Occupied Iraqi excess deaths (avoidable deaths, deaths that did not have to happen) now total ONE MILLION as of March 2007, after 4 years of war and as estimated from data from the top US medical epidemiology group in the World’s top Public Health School (the Nobel Laureate-containing Bloomberg School of Public Health) at the top US Johns Hopkins University, published peer-reviewed in the top UK medical journal The Lancet and endorsed by 27 top Australian medical experts. [1-3]

Consonant with post-invasion excess deaths in the Occupied Iraqi and Afghan Territories totalling 1.0 million and 2.4 million, respectively, the post-invasion under-5 year old infant deaths total 0.5 million and 1.9 million, respectively; the number of refugees total 3.8 million and 3.8 million, respectively; and, according to WHO, the annual per capita medical expenditures permitted by the Occupiers are $64 and $23, respectively, as compared to $2,874 (Australia), $2,389 (UK) and $5,711 (US). [4-10]

The accrual cost (i.e. the long-term committed cost) of the Bush Iraq and Afghan Wars is now $2.5 TRILLION, this estimate coming from 2001 Economics Nobel Laureate and former Chief Economist of the World Bank US Professor Stiglitz (Columbia) and Professor Linda Bilmes (Harvard), who also estimate a cost of $6.5 million for each US soldier killed. Assuming the “all men are created equal” this leads to a Reparations Bill of $ 6.5 million x 3.4 million = $22 trillion. [11 -12]

These horrendous outcomes indicate gross violation by the US Alliance of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (notably Articles 38, 55 and 56), UN Genocide Convention (specifically Article 2) as well as of the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Rights of the Child Convention. Peace is the only way but silence kills and silence is complicity. We are inescapably obliged to inform everyone about horrendous abuses of humanity. [13-16]

Yours sincerely,

Dr Gideon Polya

Melbourne, Australia

Key references:


















As many of you know the Oread Daily considers global warming to be probably THE issue which overrides all other issues. In Canada today, Greenpeace activists took on Prime Minister Stephen Harper for what they refer to as his "climate crimes."

Five Greenpeace activists were arrested this morning following an almost three-hour-long peaceful protest at the Prime Minister's official residence. They were were protesting Harper's refusal to honour Canada's legally binding global commitments on climate change under the Kyoto Protocol (which really isn't asking a hell of a lot).

"It is urgent that Mr. Harper keep Canada's legal commitment to the world
to fight global warming as part of Kyoto," said Dave Martin, Greenpeace
Canada's energy coordinator. "Global warming's impact on people and our
economy will be catastrophic. Canada is legally bound to act. Greenpeace
activists were arrested, but the real crime is the failure to fight global

Prime Minister Harper once called the Kyoto accord a "socialist scheme" designed to suck money out of rich countries, according to a letter leaked Tuesday by the Canada Liberal Party.

The letter, posted on the federal Liberal party website, was apparently written by Harper in 2002, when he was leader of the now-defunct Canadian Alliance party.

He was writing to party supporters, asking for money as he prepared to fight then-prime minister Jean Chrétien on the proposed Kyoto accord.

He writes that it's based on "tentative and contradictory scientific evidence" and it focuses on carbon dioxide, which is "essential to life."

God save us all from climate deniers like this.

The following comes from Greenpeace Canada.

Greenpeace targets Harper for climate crimes

Ottawa, Canada — Before the federal budget was presented to Parliament, Greenpeace activists today put Prime Minister Stephen Harper under house arrest for climate crimes. Early this morning, Greenpeace activists padlocked themselves to the gates of 24 Sussex Drive, preventing the Prime Minister from going to work to undermine the Kyoto Protocol. Banners branded Harper a “climate criminal”.

“The refusal of the Harper government to honour Kyoto violates Canada’s commitment to the world, and is a crime against the planet,” charged Dave Martin, Greenpeace Canada Energy Coordinator. “By abandoning Kyoto, the Harper government is undermining international efforts to curtail emissions, and exposing millions of people to the dangerous impacts of climate change.”

Prime Minister Harper has falsely called Kyoto unachievable, claiming we don’t have the technology to meet Kyoto targets. However, a recent report by Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council entitled Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable World Energy Outlook, shows that global greenhouse gas emissions can be cut in half by 2050, while providing a secure energy supply and maintaining economic development.

“Canada already has the green energy technology to build a carbon-free future – we are only lacking political will,” said Martin. “Prime Minister Harper is representing the interests of the tar sands, not the Canadian people.”

The government’s claim that meeting our Kyoto target will cause economic hardship is also false. Former World Bank chief economist Sir Nicholas Stern has said the climate change can be mitigated by spending only one per cent of global Gross Domestic Product per year. Failure to act will cost 20 times more.

“A green economy is a prosperous economy. Acting on global warming will put people to work. Delay will have huge economic and environmental costs,” Martin added.

To prevent dangerous climate change, Greenpeace has called on the Harper government to start by meeting it Kyoto commitment — a 6 per cent reduction from 1990 levels by 2012. Canada and other industrial nations must then achieve even deeper emissions reductions from 1990 levels — 30 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050.

For more information, please contact:

Dave Martin, Greenpeace Energy Coordinator, cell: 416-627-5004.
Jane Story, Greenpeace Communications, cell: 416-930-9055