Wednesday, December 22, 2010

FBI Subpoenas Four More Anti-War Activists in Chicago

The FBI came unannounced to knock on doors at two apartments in Chicago this morning. FBI agent Robert Parker, under orders from U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office, delivered a subpoena to Maureen Murphy. Murphy, like several other individuals served subpoenas, is an organizer with the Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago.

This continues the repression unleashed by Fitzgerald on the anti-war movement since September 24th, when fourteen subpoenas were delivered to anti-war, labor, and solidarity activists in coordinated raids involving more than 70 federal agents. Armed FBI agents raided homes, taking computers, phones, passports, documents, notebooks, and even children’s artwork. A total of 23 subpoenas have been served to activists around the country.

Maureen Murphy said, “Along with several others, I am being summoned to appear before the Grand Jury on Tuesday, January 25th, in the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago. We are being targeted for the work we do to end U.S. funding of the Israeli occupation, ending the war in Afghanistan and ending the occupation of Iraq. What is at stake for all of us is our right to dissent and organize to change harmful US foreign policy." Ms. Murphy is also the Managing Editor of the widely-read website, The Electronic Intifada.

In addition, three women in Minneapolis - Tracy Molm, Anh Pham, and Sara Martin - are threatened with reactivated subpoenas by Fitzgerald’s office and new Grand Jury dates. Tom Burke of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression explained, “It is likely the three individuals, like all the others so far, will continue to refuse to take part in Fitzgerald’s witch hunt. Fitzgerald can then call for putting them in jail as long as he wants.”

For more information:

Contact: Tom Burke, Committee to Stop FBI Repression, 773-844-3612

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Friday, December 10, 2010

An Open Letter to the Left Establishment

This letter is a call for active support of protest to Michael Moore, Norman Solomon, Katrina van den Heuvel, Michael Eric Dyson, Barbara Ehrenreich, Thomas Frank, Tom Hayden, Bill Fletcher Jr., Jesse Jackson Jr., and other high profile progressive supporters of the Obama electoral campaign.

With the Obama administration beginning its third year, it is by now painfully obvious that the predictions of even the most sober Obama supporters were overly optimistic. Rather than an ally, the administration has shown itself to be an implacable enemy of reform.

It has advanced repeated assaults on the New Deal safety net (including the previously sacrosanct Social Security trust fund), jettisoned any hope for substantive health care reform, attacked civil rights and environmental protections, and expanded a massive bailout further enriching an already bloated financial services and insurance industry. It has continued the occupation of Iraq and expanded the war in Afghanistan as well as our government’s covert and overt wars in South Asia and around the globe.

Along the way, the Obama administration, which referred to its left detractors as “f***ing retarded” individuals that required “drug testing,” stepped up the prosecution of federal war crime whistleblowers, and unleashed the FBI on those protesting the escalation of an insane war.

Obama’s recent announcement of a federal worker pay freeze is cynical, mean-spirited “deficit-reduction theater”. Slashing Bush’s plutocratic tax cuts would have made a much more significant contribution to deficit reduction but all signs are that the “progressive” president will cave to Republican demands for the preservation of George W. Bush’s tax breaks for the wealthy Few. Instead Obama’s tax cut plan would raise taxes for the poorest people in our country.

The election of Obama has not galvanized protest movements. To the contrary, it has depressed and undermined them, with the White House playing an active role in the discouragement and suppression of dissent – with disastrous consequences. The almost complete absence of protest from the left has emboldened the most right-wing elements inside and outside of the Obama administration to pursue and act on an ever more extreme agenda.

We are writing to you because you are well-known writers, bloggers and filmmakers with access to a range of old and new media, and you have in your power the capacity to help reignite the movement which brought millions onto the streets in February of 2003 but which has withered ever since. There are many thousands of progressives who follow your work closely and are waiting for a cue from you and others to act. We are asking you to commit yourself to actively supporting the protests of Obama administration policies which are now beginning to materialize.

In this connection we would like to mention a specific protest: the civil disobedience action being planned by Veterans for Peace involving Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Joel Kovel, Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern, several armed service veterans and others to take place in front of the White House on Dec. 16th.

Should you commit yourselves to backing this action and others sure to materialize in weeks and months ahead, what would otherwise be regarded as an emotional outburst of the “fringe left” will have a better chance of being seen as expressing the will of a substantial majority not only of the left, but of the American public at large. We believe that your support will help create the climate for larger and increasingly disruptive expressions of dissent – a development that is sorely needed and long overdue.

We hope that we can count on you to exercise the leadership that is required of all of us in these desperate times.

Best Regards,

Sen. James Abourezk
Michael Albert
Rocky Anderson
Jared Ball
Russel Banks
Thomas Bias
Noam Chomsky
Bruce Dixon
Frank Dorrel
Gidon Eshel
Jamilla El-Shafei
Okla Elliott
Norman Finkelstein
Glen Ford
Joshua Frank
Margaret Flowers M.D.
John Gerassi
Henry Giroux
Matt Gonzalez
Kevin Alexander Gray
Judd Greenstein
DeeDee Halleck
John Halle
Chris Hedges
Doug Henwood
Edward S. Herman
Dahr Jamail
Louis Kampf
Allison Kilkenny
Jamie Kilstein
Joel Kovel
Mark Kurlansky
Peter Linebaugh
Scott McLarty
Cynthia McKinney
Dede Miller
Russell Mokhiber
Bobby Muller
Christian Parenti
Michael Perelman
Peter Phillips
Louis Proyect
Ted Rall
Michael Ratner
Cindy Sheehan
Chris Spannos
Paul Street
Sunil Sharma
Jeffrey St. Clair
Len Weinglass
Cornel West
Sherry Wolf
Michael Yates
Mickey Z
Kevin Zeese

Please sign the Open Letter to the Left Establishment.
God Bless the youth of England and God Bless Bernie Sanders....
The military is one of the last bastions of patriarchy...and is exemplary of patriarchy falling apart at the seams.... You have Bradley Manning, a disgruntled, homosexual soldier maligned in the military with DADT and other discriminations and fed up with the acrimony involved in U.S. foreign policy who decided to leak classified information for the world to know....the U.S. military is also loosing in Afghanistan and is stretched and pulled to the max....Oh Rome?...

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Story of Thanksgiving

Most of us associate the holiday with happy Pilgrims and Indians sitting down to a big feast. And that did happen - once.

The story began in 1614 when a band of English explorers sailed home to England with a ship full of Patuxet Indians bound for slavery. They left behind smallpox which virtually wiped out those who had escaped. By the time the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts Bay they found only one living Patuxet Indian, a man named Squanto who had survived slavery in England and knew their language. He taught them to grow corn and to fish, and negotiated a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Nation. At the end of their first year, the Pilgrims held a great feast honoring Squanto and the Wampanoags.

But as word spread in England about the paradise to be found in the new world, religious zealots called Puritans began arriving by the boat load. Finding no fences around the land, they considered it to be in the public domain. Joined by other British settlers, they seized land, capturing strong young Natives for slaves and killing the rest. But the Pequot Nation had not agreed to the peace treaty Squanto had negotiated and they fought back. The Pequot War was one of the bloodiest Indian wars ever fought.

In 1637 near present day Groton, Connecticut, over 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe had gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival which is our Thanksgiving celebration. In the predawn hours the sleeping Indians were surrounded by English and Dutch mercenaries who ordered them to come outside. Those who came out were shot or clubbed to death while the terrified women and children who huddled inside the longhouse were burned alive. The next day the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared "A Day Of Thanksgiving" because 700 unarmed men, women and children had been murdered.

Cheered by their "victory", the brave colonists and their Indian allies attacked village after village. Women and children over 14 were sold into slavery while the rest were murdered. Boats loaded with a many as 500 slaves regularly left the ports of New England. Bounties were paid for Indian scalps to encourage as many deaths as possible.

Following an especially successful raid against the Pequot in what is now Stamford, Connecticut, the churches announced a second day of "thanksgiving" to celebrate victory over the heathen savages. During the feasting, the hacked off heads of Natives were kicked through the streets like soccer balls. Even the friendly Wampanoag did not escape the madness. Their chief was beheaded, and his head impaled on a pole in Plymouth, Massachusetts -- where it remained on display for 24 years.

The killings became more and more frenzied, with days of thanksgiving feasts being held after each successful massacre. George Washington finally suggested that only one day of Thanksgiving per year be set aside instead of celebrating each and every massacre. Later Abraham Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving Day to be a legal national holiday during the Civil War -- on the same day he ordered troops to march against the starving Sioux in Minnesota.

This story doesn't have quite the same fuzzy feelings associated with it as the one where the Indians and Pilgrims are all sitting down together at the big feast. But we need to learn our true history so it won't ever be repeated. Next Thanksgiving, when you gather with your loved ones to Thank God for all your blessings, think about those people who only wanted to live their lives and raise their families. They, also took time out to say "thank you" to Creator for all their blessings.

Our Thanks to Hill & Holler Column by Susan Bates

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I've seen The Blindside about five times now. I must say I very much like it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Three cheers for my cousin, Betty Deramus, whose latest book, Freedom By Any Means, was tagged as a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Free the Scott Sisters

The tragic case of the Scott sisters
By Monica Moorehead
Published Apr 29, 2010 8:21 PM

Anyone who still believes that the U.S. is the most democratic and just country in the world has only to examine the shocking case of the Scott sisters to be disabused of that erroneous notion. While this case is becoming more and more well-known by word of mouth, mainly on the Internet, the 16-year-old case has never received the national and international media attention that it so richly deserves. The facts of the case will explain the reason why.
Gladys Scott

Gladys Scott

Who are the Scott sisters?

Jamie and Gladys Scott are African-American sisters who lived in the small town of Forest, Miss., when they were arrested on Dec. 24, 1993, on a charge of armed robbery of two Black men. The amount involved in the robbery was $11 and nobody was injured. In October 1994, both sisters were found guilty and received double-life sentences. They are not eligible for parole until they spend at least 20 years in prison.

Their sentence is very reminiscent of the life sentence, without the possibility of parole, given to the martyred Black Panther and Soledad Brothers prisoner, George Jackson, in the early 1960s. Jackson was convicted of stealing $70.
Jamie Scott

Jamie Scott

Three teenagers, who eventually admitted that they had committed the robbery, recanted the false testimony they gave during the Scott sisters’ trial. These teenagers stated before the judge and jury that they were forced by local authorities to implicate the sisters, with the promise of a lenient sentence. Even the robbery victims said that the sisters had nothing to do with the robbery. Neither Jamie nor Gladys had a prior record before this outrageous conviction and life sentence.

At the time of their arrest, conviction and sentencing, Gladys was 19 years old and pregnant with her second child; Jamie was a 22-year-old with three young children. Their children are being raised by Jamie and Gladys’ mother, Elaine Rasco. Despite having to move to Florida due to years of emotional stress, Ms. Rasco remains active in fighting for her daughters’ freedom.

The state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have refused to hear the Scotts’ appeals. Since being in prison, Jamie has developed almost complete kidney failure due to poor diet and inhumane prison medical care. She is receiving irregular dialysis treatments and has gone into shock numerous times. If it were not for the pressure and local attention that community, legal and political activists have put on the prison authorities, Jamie Scott could have easily died.

How to get involved

There is a growing grassroots movement to broaden awareness around the Scott sisters’ case, including a letter-writing campaign demanding that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder release them. The campaign also includes getting petitions signed and getting press releases sent to local, state and national press on the case.

The Scott sisters’ case has put another human face on the constant racist repression that is woven within the very fabric of U.S. capitalist society. In an Aug. 19 article, Jamie Scott wrote: “The injustices that have occurred are patterns within this county and their police departments. This type of injustice and exploitation has been done to many African Americans who have lived in this county for many years. They have been very successful in destroying many lives.”

Jamie continued: “This is a time we show Americans what really occurs in most small towns in the state of Mississippi. We are convinced that once this chain of events is exposed and unraveled, the events that occurred, the lives that have been destroyed, the pain and suffering the citizens of Scott County have endured; everyone will be utterly amazed, astonished and compelled to assist us in our plight for freedom.”

Go to to read Jamie’s entire article, find out more information about the case and get involved.
Articles copyright 1995-2010 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

This is Important Information From the Southern Center for Human Rights

Debtors' Prisons

Contrary to what many people may believe, there are debtors' prisons throughout the United States where people are imprisoned because they are too poor to pay fines and fees.

The United States Supreme Court in Bearden v. Georgia, 461 U.S. 660 (1983), held that courts cannot imprison a person for failure to pay a criminal fine unless the failure to pay was “willful.” However, this constitutional commandment is often ignored.

Courts impose substantial fines as punishment for petty crimes as well as more serious ones. Besides the fines, the courts are assessing more and more fees to help meet the costs of the ever-increasing size of the criminal justice system: fees for ankle braclets for monitoring; fees for anger management classes; for drug tests, for crime victims’ funds, for crime laboratories, for court clerks, for legal representation, for various retirement funds, and for private probation companies that do nothing more than collect a check once a month.

People who cannot afford the total amount assessed may be allowed to pay in monthly installments, but in many jurisdictions those payments must be accompanied by fees to a private probation company that collects them. A typical fee is $40 per month. People who lose their jobs or encounter unexpeced family hardships and are unable to maintain payments may be jailed without any inquiry into their ability to pay or the willfulness of their failure to pay.

There are more fees for those in jails or prisons. There are high costs for telephone calls. Fees are charged fees for medical services. A new trend is “room and board” fees in prisons and jails. Ora Lee Hurley spent nearly a year at the Georgia Department of Corrections, Atlanta Diversion Center due to her inability to pay a $705 fine from a 15-year-old drug conviction because she was charged for staying there. A court had ordered Ms. Hurley imprisoned until her fine was paid. While held at the Diversion Center, Ms. Hurley was employed full-time at a restaurant which sent her paycheck directly to the Department of Corrections. Although Ms. Hurley never missed a day of work and earned over $7,000, the Department took nearly every penny of her earnings. Left with only $23 per month to buy food, toiletries, and pay her fine, Ms. Hurley was being confined in perpetuity. She was released only after the Center filed a habeas petition on her behalf. For a copy of the habeas petition, click here. To view the Atlanta Journal Constitution article click here.

The Center Ends Jail Fees for Pre-Trial Detainees

In some cases, jails have even charged people room and board fees for people detained on charges but not convicted of any crime. For seventeen years, the Clinch County Jail in Homerville charged those in its custody a daily room and board fee. Even though Georgia law did not authorize – and in fact prohibited – such charges, the Clinch County Sheriff charged inmates $18 per day. Many people were too poor to pay the fees upon their release. The Sheriff and his deputies required them to sign notes promising to pay the fees in installments, or return to jail. On several occasions, the Sheriff charged people thousands of dollars, failing to return the money even when criminal charges were dismissed. A lawsuit filed by the Center, ultimately settled, required the Sheriff to return the illegal fees. For a copy of the Complaint, click here. For a copy of the Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment, click here. For a copy of newspaper articles related to the case, click here. To hear a report by National Public Radio on Clinch County Jails, click here.

The Center ends Debtors' Prison in Gulfport, Mississippi

The Municipal Court in Gulfport, Mississippi was one such court. In an effort to crack down on people who owed misdemeanor fines, the City of Gulfport employed a fine collection task force. The task force trolled through predominately African-American neighborhoods, rounding up
people who had outstanding court fines. After arresting and jailing them, the City of Gulfport processed these people through a court proceeding at which no defense attorney was present or even offered. Many people were jailed for months after hearings lasting just seconds. While the City collected money, it also packed the jail with hundreds of people who couldn’t pay, including people who were sick, physically disabled, and/or limited by mental disabilities. SCHR filed suit to stop these illegal practices. For a copy of the Complaint, Tclick here. For related news coverage, click here.

Other financial distortions

Debtors prisons are but one example of financial incentives that have a distorting effect on the criminal justice system. Criminal justice policies - how many prison beds to build, whether to arrest someone or cite them, what sentences to impose - should be primarily concerned with making us more safe. But the profit motive is increasingly distorting the system.

Many counties throughout the South, for example, are committing scarce dollars to building larger jails in anticipation of securing a lucrative contract with the federal government to house detainees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the United States Marshals Service or even prisoners from other counties or other states. As another example, the design of work release programs - something that should be focused on developing skills and reducing recidivism - is often driven primarily by an interest in collecting as much moneyas possible from the prison er-workers. The privatization of probation, imprisonment, and other parts of the criminal justice system create incentives for expanding the criminalization of poor people.

Financial distrortions in the criminal justice system include the practice of funding government slush funds by adding to someone's sentence. By making it more difficult for people to take care of their basic needs, these additional financial obligations compromise rather than improve public safety.

Southern Center for Human Rights | 83 Poplar St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30303 | p.404.688.1202 | f.404.688.9440

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

An Essay I am Working On

The old sage beggar addressed it when he called out to the gawking public, “what are you looking at?! Act you ain’t never seen this before!” As Nina and Bulworth appear as a couple in the film Bulworth. J.A. Rogers addressed it in his Sex and Race series, making particular commentary on the compulsion of German women to lose their panties whenever Africans came into town with the P.T. Barnum Circus. Interracial mixing is a wild and radical growth that is native to American soil whose roots run very deep into the American fabric. Its very existence challenges the stalwart conservatism that runs rampant in America today. This vegetation stands testament to the integrity of the American fabric; it shadders the myth of white supremacy and exposes to all the connections that the handlers of America have failed to draw time and time again as a means of maintaining their dominance in a social order beneficial to them. These connections are seen when America lifts the folds of her skirts. Ann Soetoero was not the first white woman to introduce children into the America with footholds inside disparate cultures. Ann Soeteoro, the mother of Barack Obama, fits inside a huge legacy, the trajectory of which continues into the present day as new multiracial alliances are formed, legitimately and illegitimately, and as new casts are molded from the melting pot and served into the American populace. Most folks are aware that the people known today as Afro-Americans have ties to the white male American establishment that run as deep as blood and legacy. The point that must be underscored however, that which must be pointed out, is that the legacy of the illegitimate slave begotten by the master is not the only narrative woven into America’s racial past. There is a legacy of white women having children for men of color, such as my great-great-great grandmother, Caroline Roper. The daughter of a white Methodist minister, she bore seven children for a mulatto slave and bore two more completely white in the decade before the Civil War. During Reconstruction there was a resurgence of white female cohabitation with Black men, particularly in the south where the landscape was devastated, Black men possessed a new found power, and white women were left with few economic resources as their husbands, fathers, and brothers either were killed or mutilated in the Civil War. In the colonial era, racial mixing was such a common practice that laws were passed against it with severe penalties for both the white women who bore biracial children and for the children themselves. Usually, the women were forced into indentured servitude, given a certain number of years to work off their debt and the child was sold completely into bondage. Such cases were found well up until the resolution of the Civil War. These children, and the families created and disavowed within the American social fabric, planted radical and potent seeds within the United States, particularly as such racial mixing included revolts and rebellions and other contestations of white supremacy. The very existence of this biracial population shredded the legitimacy of whiteness and was a threat to the white male power structure. The element of this biracial phenomenon that was grounded in the poor, working class, and enslaved populations of this country made this even more of a threat. This called for even stricter policing of racial boundaries, drawing of racial lines, and stronger penalties for racial mixing. When you add in such information as Noel Ignatiev’s conclusion that the majority of white people who exist as such in the United States today are racially mixed and don’t fit neatly inside the defined lines of white supremacy, the entire foundation for America’s hidden racial habit is nullified, with severe implications for American imperialism, American exceptionalism, and much of the American way of life as defined by this nations fathers over the past two hundred and fifty years. Today, we are compelled to carry out this revolution in the way we think and exist in this country that was begun by our forefathers who clung together across boundaries of race, class, and sex to see a new harmony filled with equality and dignity for all overtake the world.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Why Conservative Christians So Often Fail the Common Good? via the Huffington Post

Simple answer: because they are going to bust hell wide open. However, read the article.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

By Pat Fry

With the threat of grand jury subpoenas served within the next couple of days on anti-war activists in Minneapolis and Chicago, a standing room-only national meeting the Committee to Stop FBI Repression (CSFR) was held Saturday evening, November 6, at St. Mark’s Church in the lower east side of Manhattan.

Several of the targeted activists spoke to more than 200 people about their ordeal on September 24th when the FBI staged coordinated raids on the homes and offices of 14 activists in Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan. Everything from computers, mailing lists and books to children’s drawings were confiscated. Thirteen of those targeted – all of whom have been active in movements critical of U.S. foreign policy in Colombia and the Middle East – were served with subpoenas ordering them to appear before a grand jury in Chicago. After all refused to comply, citing their right to remain silent, the government withdrew the subpoenas. Last week, however, the Justice Department announced that it intends to enforce the subpoenas on three of the activists and will require their appearance before a grand jury.

Bruce Nestor, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and lead attorney representing the subpoenaed activists, said that it is expected that three will be subpoenaed sometime this week. None have been arrested or charged with any crime. Failure to comply with a grand jury subpoena can lead to imprisonment, loss of jobs, and homes.

The federal law that was cited in the search warrants prohibit, “providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorists organizations.” The law was first passed under the Clinton Administration in 1996 and further expanded with the Patriot Act under the Bush Administration to include provisions to prosecute for speech if it is deemed to be coordinated with a designated foreign terrorist organization. According to Nestor, “what you run the risk of is that even if you state your own independent views about U.S. foreign policy, but those views somehow reflect a group that the U.S. has designated as a terrorist organization, you can be accused of coordinating your views and face, if not prosecution, at least investigation, search warrants, or being summoned to a grand jury to talk about your political allies and who your political friends are.”

In June, the Supreme Court rejected a free speech challenge to the law brought by humanitarian aid groups that said its provisions would lead to prosecutions for talking about non-violence to groups designated by the U.S. to be terrorists.

Ten of the fourteen who were raided by the FBI are members and leaders of trade unions. Several union bodies have responded by passing resolutions condemning the FBI raids, including the American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 5 in Minnesota, the Duluth Central Labor Body, and the San Francisco AFL-CIO. At the Saturday meeting a member of the Central Labor Council of the Detroit AFL-CIO reported that a resolution introduced before a well attended meeting last week was adopted unanimously.

Religious organizations are also responding to condemn the raids including the American Friends Service Committee of Chicago, the Chicago Faith Coalition Middle East Policy, Fellowship of Reconciliation, First Chicago Church of the Brethren, and Witness for Peace – Great Lakes Region.

Members of the Illinois State Legislature are circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter opposing the FBI actions, which has thus far garnered signatures from a third of the legislators, it was reported on Saturday. A similar Dear Colleague Letter in the U.S. Congress is under discussion with Congressional delegations in Illinois and Minnesota.

The New York chapter of the National Lawyers Guild is training lawyers and legal workers for defense work in the case. A petition soon to be circulated among academics was announced at the meeting.

Numerous peace, international solidarity and socialist political organizations were represented at Saturday’s meeting, mainly from Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, and New York. Hundreds of statements condemning the raids and the grand jury subpoenas can be viewed on the web site:

Local committees have been formed in several cities and a speakers’ bureau has been organized. All AFL-CIO central labor councils in the country have been sent mailings about the case.

A large banner hanging in the front of the room Saturday listed three key demands: Stop FBI Repression, Stop the Grand Jury, Return Our Stuff. On a side wall, the names of dozens of mainly Middle Eastern Americans jailed as “Victims of Preemptive Prosecution” were listed, identified with organizations such as the Holy Land Foundation. The daughter of one of the founders of the charitable Holy Land Foundation serving a 65 year sentence under the repressive law spoke at the meeting about the case. She said Palestinians and Arabs have been the main targets thus far of the law but now it has been expanded to others, and a movement is being organized. Jimmy Carter himself could be prosecuted under this law,” she said.

The meeting concluded with adoption of an organizational structure and a National Coordinating Committee of the “Committee Against FBI Repression." The committee will meet via telephone conference every two weeks or as needed. Organizations and local groups that are working on the issue are invited to participate with a representative. A national office has been set up in the Twin Cities.

Over $12,000 was raised in a fundraising pitch at the meeting. The NY CCDS contributed $100. The immediate need is for protests when the grand jury subpoenas are handed down sometime this week. Some 62 protests have already been organized in front of FBI offices around the country and one in front of the U.S. embassy in Vancouver CANADA. end

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A Desperate Mother Whose Welfare Benefits Had Been Cut Seeks to End Her Life and Those of Her Children

There is a grave injustice inherent in this story,indicative of what is the very worst and is the most intolerable in the state of Alabama and within the larger United States. Give this woman assistance!
I believe that you're great, that there's something magnificent about you. Regardless of what has happened to you in your life, regardless of how young or how old you think you might be, the moment you begin to think properly, there's something that is within you, there's power within you, that's greater than the world. It will begin to emerge. It will take over your life. It will feed you. It will clothe you. It will guide you, protect you, sustain your very existence, if you let it. Now, that is what I know for sure. - Michael Beckwith

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Global Plans to Replace the Dollar


Chris Hedges, “The American Empire Is Bankrupt,” Truthdig, June 15, 2009,

Michael Hudson, “De-Dollarization: Dismantling America’s Financial-Military Empire: The Yekaterinburg Turning Point,” Global Research, June 13, 2009,

Fred Weir, “Iran and Russia Nip at US Global Dominance” Christian Science Monitor, June 16, 2009,

Lyubov Pronina, “Medvedev Shows Off Sample Coin of New ‘World Currency’ at G-8,” Bloomberg, July 10, 2009, &sid=aeFVNYQpByU4.

Edmund Conway, “UN Wants New Global Currency to Replace Dollar,” Telegraph (UK), September 7, 2009,

Jose Arturo Cardenas, “Latin American Leftists Tackle Dollar with New Currency,” Agence France-Presse, October 16, 2009, ALeqM5jisHEg79Cz8uRtYfZR6WK4JmWsIg.

Student Researchers:

Nicole Fletcher (Sonoma State University)

Krystal Alexander (Indian River State College)

Bridgette Grillo (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluators:

Ronald Lopez (Sonoma State University)

Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)

Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)

Nations have reached their limit in subsidizing the United States’ military adventures. During meetings in June 2009 in Yekaterinburg, Russia, world leaders such as China’s President Hu Jintao, Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev, and other top officials of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation took the first formal step to replace the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. The United States was denied admission to the meetings. If the world leaders succeed, the dollar will dramatically plummet in value; the cost of imports, including oil, will skyrocket; and interest rates will climb.

Foreigners see the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) as Washington surrogates in a financial system backed by US military bases and aircraft carriers encircling the globe. But this military domination is a vestige of an American empire no longer able to rule by economic strength. US military power is muscle-bound, based more on atomic weaponry and long-distance air strikes than on ground operations, which have become too politically unpopular to mount on any large scale.

As Chris Hedges wrote in June 2009, “The architects of this new global exchange realize that if they break the dollar they also break America’s military domination. US military spending cannot be sustained without this cycle of heavy borrowing. The official US defense budget for fiscal year 2008 was $623 billion. The next closest national military budget was China’s, at $65 billion, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.”

To fund the permanent war economy, the US has been flooding the world with dollars. The foreign recipients turn the dollars over to their central banks for local currency. The central banks then have a problem. If a central bank does not spend the money in the United States, then the exchange rate against the dollar increases, penalizing exporters. This has allowed the US to print money without restraint, to buy imports and foreign companies, to fund military expansion, and to ensure that foreign nations like China continue to buy American treasury bonds.

In July 2009, President Medvedev illustrated his call for a supranational currency to replace the dollar by pulling from his pocket a sample coin of a “united future world currency.” The coin, which bears the words “Unity in Diversity,” was minted in Belgium and presented to the heads of G8 delegations.

In September 2009, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development proposed creating a new artificial currency that would replace the dollar as reserve currency. The UN wants to redesign the Bretton Woods system of international exchange. Formation of this currency would be the largest monetary overhaul since World War II. China is involved in deals with Brazil and Malaysia to denominate their trade in China’s yuan, while Russia promises to begin trading in the ruble and local currencies.

Additionally, nine Latin American countries have agreed on the creation of a regional currency, the sucre, aimed at scaling back the use of the US dollar. The countries, members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), a leftist bloc conceived by Venezuela’s President Hugo Ch├ívez, met in Bolivia where they vowed to press ahead with a new currency for intraregional trade. The sucre would be rolled out beginning in 2010 in a nonpaper form. ALBA’s member states are Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda.

The cycle supporting a permanent US war economy appears to be almost over. Once the dollar cannot flood central banks and no one buys US treasury bonds, the American global military empire collapses. The impact on daily living for the US population could be severe.

Our authors predict that in addition to increased costs, states and cities will see their pension funds drained. The government will be forced to sell off infrastructure, including roads and transport, to private corporations. People will be increasingly charged for privatized utilities that were once regulated and subsidized. Commercial and private real estate will be worth less than half its current value. The negative equity that already plagues 25 percent of American homes will expand to include nearly all property owners. It will be difficult to borrow and impossible to sell real estate unless we accept massive losses. There will be block after block of empty stores and boarded-up houses. Foreclosures will be epidemic. There will be long lines at soup kitchens and many, many homeless.

Update by Michael Hudson

Foreign countries are presently seeking to create an international monetary system in which central bank savings do not fund the United States’ military deficit. At present, foreign “dollar holdings” take the form of US treasury bonds, used to finance the (largely military) US domestic budget deficit, a deficit that is largely due to military spending.

Russia, China, India, and Brazil have taken the lead in seeking an alternative system. But almost no information about such a system was available in the US or even the European press, except for a shorter version of my “De-Dollarization” article that I published as an op-ed in the Financial Times of London.

Discussions about creating an alternative monetary system have not been public. I was invited to China to discuss my views with officials there and to lecture at three universities, and was subsequently asked to write up my proposals for Premier Wen Jiabao, pending another visit just prior to this year’s meetings between China, Russia, India, and Brazil, with Iran attending with visitor status. All of this signals that other countries are seeking an alternative. Now that the euro has collapsed, there’s currently little alternative to the dollar as a reserve currency. This implies that there is no national currency that is a stable store of value for international savings.

Meanwhile, US money managers are leading the flight from the dollar to Brazil, China, and other “emerging market” countries. As matters stand, these countries are selling their resources and companies for free—as the dollars being spent to buy them end up in their central banks, to be recycled into US treasury bonds, or to be used to purchase euro debt that is plunging in international value.

The result of this conundrum is the pressure to end the postwar era of “free capital movements” and to introduce capital controls.

There has been almost no press discussion of my story or indeed of the issue itself. US and European media have successfully ignored the proposal of an alternative to the existing state of affairs.

Update by Fred Weir

This story illustrates one aspect of post–Soviet Russia’s search for a place in the US-led global order—a position that would reflect that country’s own distinct geopolitical interests and how it differs from the West in terms of history, culture, and level of economic development. Russia inherited from the former Soviet Union close relations with many countries that the US regards as “rogue states,” including Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela. There continues to be a lot of official, public sympathy for those countries and their opposition to the US global system, even though Moscow no longer has any grand sense of anti-Western ideology or even any practical goal of mobilizing toward an “alliance” that would serve Russia’s ends.

Under the George W. Bush administration, Moscow felt itself under pressure from what it viewed as Western encroachments into the post-Soviet space, what Russians term the “near abroad.” This took the form of “colored revolutions,” or what the Western media referred to as “pro-democracy uprisings” in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, which removed corrupt but Moscow-friendly regimes and brought to power much more outspoken and active pro-Western ones. The Kremlin, rightly or wrongly, interpreted these upheavals as US-sponsored and orchestrated attempts to reengineer the political loyalties of neighboring states with which Russia has deep historical ties. Two of those new leaders, Georgia’s Mikheil Saakashvili and Ukraine’s Viktor Yushchenko, sought to put their countries on a fast track to membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a prospect that Russia viewed with alarm bordering on panic. Another Bush-era initiative that engendered deep hostility in Moscow was a plan to station strategic antimissile interceptors in neighboring Poland, with associated radars in the Czech Republic. Russian military experts argued these deployments were the beginning of a strategic process that might eventually undermine Russia’s own aging, Soviet-era nuclear deterrent, which is the main priority of Russia’s national defense.

In response to these perceived threats, Russia seemed to sometimes go out of its way to cultivate relationships with other countries that were at odds with the US, which is the subject of this story. The Russians also held war games with the Venezuelan navy in the Caribbean, resumed cold war–era nuclear bomber patrols along the North American coast, and talked about revitalizing former Soviet air bases in Cuba.

In the past year, with substantially changed foreign policy priorities brought in by President Barack Obama, Moscow’s attitude has relaxed somewhat. Obama shelved the controversial plan to station antimissile weapons in Poland, and implicitly removed from the agenda any question of inducting Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. The so-called Obama “reset” of relations between Moscow and Washington seems to be improving prospects for cooperation, even on such thorny issues as Iran, though it may be too early to draw any firm conclusions.

See below for further references to articles I have written on this topic.

Stories on Russia’s overtures to Cuba and Venezuela:

Stories on Russia’s relations with Iran:

Stories on US–Russian relations:

Friday, October 22, 2010

What Muslims Wear

A.R. Rahman, Oscar Winning Composer for Slumdog Millionaire

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Founder of Pakistan

Sania Mirza, Tennis Player

Andre Carson, Congressman

Mos Def, Rapper

Iman, International Supermodel

Muhammad Ali

Rasheed Wallace, Athlete

For More See Link Above

Thursday, October 21, 2010

NPR Fires Juan Williams

The age where bigotry can simply walk through the mainstream is over. I am glad they made an example of him.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Saturday, October 16, 2010
Harry Targ

I became a radical in the 1960s. I kept putting off being active until the late 60s but I slowly involved myself in the anti-war movement. When I started teaching around this time I noticed that many students became instant radicals; 19 year-old- kids going from lack of political awareness to militancy in a matter of weeks.

The Southern movement was inspiring; young people and their elders were transforming the system of Jim Crow. College campuses were bursting with energy, demanding “student rights” and “relevant” courses. Then the anti-war mobilizations grew bigger and bigger. Each massive mobilization in D.C., in New York, in Chicago, in San Francisco challenged organizers to produce larger and larger crowds and for a time the crowds did get bigger.

Many of us began to see the achievement of peace and justice as just around the corner. We were on the verge of building a new world, not unlike the world of altruism and love envisioned by Che` Guevara.

But then everything seemed to fall apart. The New Left split. African Americans sought to build their own movements. Women and gays began to argue that human liberation should be for them as well.

Nixon was elected. Vietnamization did not end the war but shifted the U.S. role from ground to massive air strikes across all of Vietnam. The Xmas bombing destroyed virtually all of North and South Vietnam. Black Panthers were targeted for assassination by the federal government and local authorities. Students were murdered at Kent State and Jackson State.

The youthful energy, the visions of socialism dissipated. Particularly the young became disillusioned. I remember one student telling me in the early 70s: “I tried the political thing and it didn’t work.”

The seeming victories of the 60s and 70s were followed by the brutal Reagan “low intensity” conflicts of the 80s: leading to death and destruction in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Angola, Ethiopia, Cambodia, and Afghanistan. And Reagan trumpeted the shift from welfare state capitalism to neoliberal globalization: privatization, de-regulation, and shifting all human activities from the public sector to the market. Then the last large-scale check on the globalization of capitalism and imperialism, the Soviet Union, collapsed.

This brief history reflects my own intellectual immaturity. Along with hundreds of thousands of others I was caught up in the emotion of the times. Not informed about the subtleties and complexities of history, I assumed that the path to victory, the path to peace and justice, would be smooth and linear. I did not expect major setbacks. I assumed that once we demonstrated our passion, our ability to mobilize large numbers of people, then the job was done.

But as I read Marx, involved myself in the labor movement and Central American solidarity, I began to realize that history does not work in simple and linear ways. Struggle must continue. Those who oppose us will continue to defend their privileges and their position. Patience is as critical to our work as is passion. And, these lessons of history are more likely to be understood by workers, by marginalized peoples, by most of the citizens of the globe who may not have been the beneficiaries of the short-term victories of social movements.

I also thought more about the lessons embedded in the music of my youth and the deep philosophical meaning of the simple verses of the songs of folk singers such as Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger and the Weavers.

I remember Woody’s son Arlo Guthrie describing his own connection to the progressive folk music tradition:

“One of the great things that I learned from both my mother and my dad and from some of these folks here is that this kind of wanting to make the world a better place is not something that started with the Weavers….they recognized and continued a tradition that’s probably been going on for as long as people have been around. And that is a wonderful thing for a young person to discover; he or she is not the beginning of a thing but somewhere in the middle of a long line of people who are concerned about making the world a better place to be.

It gives you the ability to not get so anxiety-prone over what’s going on from moment to moment but to take a little longer look and know that you don’t have to finish a job within the span of a lifetime. All you have to do is link up to the future. That’s the job of being a human. It’s to make the connection to the future and hold on to the connection to the past”(album notes from HARP, Redwood Records).

In addition, I would often think about Pete Seeger singing in “Quite Early Morning” that it is “darkest before the dawn.”

Some say that humankind won't long endure
But what makes them so doggone sure?
I know that you who hear my singing
Could make those freedom bells go ringing
I know that you who hear my singing
Could make those freedom bells go ringing

And so keep on while we live
Until we have no, no more to give
And when these fingers can strum no longer
Hand the old banjo to young ones stronger
And when these fingers can strum no longer
Hand the old banjo to young ones stronger

So though it's darkest before the dawn
These thoughts keep us moving on
Through all this world of joy and sorrow
We still can have singing tomorrows
Through all this world of joy and sorrow
We still can have singing tomorrows
[ Quite Early Morning lyrics on ]

So let’s get back to work

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Interview With Jess Sundin

On the morning of September 26, 2010, the FBI raided Jess Sundin's home in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The FBI ransacked her home in order to search for possible connections between her activism and alleged terrorist organizations in Columbia and Palestine. Similar raids were carried out at the same time in the homes of other activists in both Minneapolis and Chicago. All of the targeted activists did work around issues of peace and justice in Palestine and Columbia. After the invasion of their homes, Sundin and the other targeted activists were subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in Chicago. They stood accused of "giving material aid to foreign terrorist organizations." The actions of the FBI have sparked outrage throughout progressive circles and have resulted in thousands of people across the country expressing their solidarity with the targeted activists and calling for the Obama administration to adhere to the restraints of the U.S. Constitution. A few days ago, I contacted Jess Sundin and asked if I could interview her for JuliusSpeaks. Conducting this interview by email, the following is what transpired.

1. Where are you located and what is your occupation?

I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I have been a clerical worker at the University of Minnesota for eleven years.

2. How long have you been an activist?

I became active in high school, protesting the 1991 Gulf War. It’s been nearly 20 years, all of my adult life.

3. Tell us about the organizations you are involved with? What are the issues you work around?

I am most active with the Anti-War Committee, which I helped found in 1998. I have also done work around economic justice, especially with my Union, AFSCME 3800. I’m a lesbian mom, and have participated in local actions to defend the rights of families like mine. My anti-war activism is most focused around Iraq and Afghanistan, but I also have worked in solidarity with Colombia and Palestine, two places where U.S. military aid has funded repressive regimes which violently target their own people.

4. Before the FBI raid on your house, did you have any inclination that you were under surveillance?


5. Would you agree that the raid on your home along with other incidents that have occurred since the passage of the Patriot Act signal that COINTELPRO has been legalized and is officially sanctioned?

I don’t know whether a new, formal and secret program like COINTELPRO has been reestablished, but I share the concern that these actions signal that the so-called war on terror has been turned on activists here at home. The early sign of this was the repression of Arab and Muslim communities, or here in Minneapolis, the Somali community. The coordinated raids on homes and office in Minneapolis and Chicago, the grand jury subpeonas for all those raided, and several others, including in Michigan, and FBI attempts to question others from North Carolina to California, all of this was a massive undertaking, and was certainly approved at the highest levels of government. This operation shows a blatant disregard for our constitutional rights to speak and associate freely, to voice opposition to government policies, and to support humanitarian causes abroad. All of this should be a concern for anyone actively working for progressive social change.

6. Explain what happened when the FBI came to your home.

At 7am, I woke to the sound of a bang at my door. My partner and daughter were already awake. By the time I joined them downstairs, 7 federal agents were beginning to go through all of our belongings. They showed a search warrant authorizing them to search and sieze anything related to my anti-war organizing or international travel, which might be evidence of “material support to foreign terrorist organizations.” We were told that we were not being detained, but were not allowed to make or receive phonecalls. We demanded the right to make one call to an attorney, and we stayed at our house to have some sense of what they were doing to our home.

Agents spent the next five hours going through every room of my home. They went through my daughter’s toys, the personal archives of my grandfather who died earlier this year, everything. They left my home with several crates full of papers, books, CDs, computers, my cell phone, photographs, notes and paper files, financial records and checkbooks, my passport… and they gave me no indication of when my property might be returned.

Before they left, they gave both myself and my partner subpeonas to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago.

7. How do you plan to fight against these violations of your constitutional rights?

Our greatest defense is a broad, public campaign to denounce the FBI repression, and call off the grand jury. Each of us caught up in this investigation is well-known in our communities, and we’ve received an outpouring of support. Before the FBI left my home, supporters had already started to gather on my front lawn. Later that afternoon, a hundred people joined myself and others raided for a press conference in front of my home. That evening, more than 200 people gathered at a nearby church where we began making plans to protest these actions, and support the folks called before the grand jury. Activists in Chicago had the same kind of support.

The following week, protests were organzied at more than 60 FBI offices and federal buildings around the country. Thousands of calls have been made on our behalf, to President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. We’ve received more than 100 statements of solidarity from organizations – from Minnesota’s statewide AFSCME council, to an indigenous community in Colombia. These demonstrations and messages give us a lot of strength, while putting pressure on those with the power to call off the FBI and the grand jury.

While we will continue to speak publicly in our own defense, and also continue our very public work opposing US wars and militarism abroad, we will not speak to a secret grand jury. We also appreciate that several of our friends and associates have not cooperated when the FBI has come to their homes or workplaces to ask about us. (More about this on a later question.)

8. What have been the ramifications of these raids on your life? Have there been threats to your employment or have any other civil or criminal actions been threatened?

The most difficult personal impact has been on my role as a parent. As I explain later, there is a very real possibility that investigation could result in both myself and my partner being imprisoned for our political work. We have made arrangements and signed legal papers authorizing someone else to look after our daughter if we are jailed. That decision, and talking to her about it, are the hardest things we’ve ever had to do. I cannot imagine being separated from her, and I hate that a 6-year old has to worry that she may lose her mothers this way.

I am currently on a medical leave from my job, though several of us are University of Minnesota employees. The University’s central administration, when asked to comment on our case, said that while they have no comment now, in the case of an indictment, they would look at this again. Some of our folks are teachers, and while not out of work, certainly face more scrutiny every day at work.

The stress of this situation, and the huge commitment of time and energy that we’ve made to defend ourselves, creates a great deal of stress. As someone with chronic health problems, all of this is taking a heavy personal toll.

9. What has been the community response there in Minneapolis to these raids?

As I mentioned before, we have had a huge outpouring of support. Even the local news stations, were shocked. When first reporting on the raids, they pointed out that Minnesotans know us. We are outspoken community activists, doing our anti-war and social justice work in the most-public ways, never believing there was anything to hide. Parents and teachers from my daughter’s school have gone out of their way to extend their support to us. As much as people want to believe that the government wouldn’t attack us just for speaking our minds, this case has called all of that into question for our co-workers, neighbors, friends and families.

10. What are the charges that have been filed against you?

No charges have been filed against any of us. Isn’t it incredible that you can have your home searched, your property seized, and be ordered to testify in court, when there’s no charge against you? The grand jury process happens in secret, and neither the FBI nor the prosecutor have indicated who they hope to catch on this fishing expedition.

11. I've heard that you don't plan to cooperate with this subpoena. What do you plan to do as a course of action?

We have a team of attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild helping us through this process. All 14 of those subpeonaed have, through our attorneys, informed the prosecutor that we will exercise our 5th amendment right not to testify. So far none of us has been offered immunity, and instead the prosecutor has left us on hold. (Immunity is a legal procedure where you are compelled to testify, in exchange for a promise that what you say cannot be used against you. It does not necessarily mean that you will not be prosecuted based on the testimony of others. If you still refuse to testify, you can be held in contempt and sent to jail.)

Of course this is just a guess, but I believe they are waiting for the FBI to finish going through all the things they took from our homes, and attempting to interview anyone else that might help them make a case against someone. After that, I believe that all 14 of us could be indicted, or called before the grand jury again, and forced to choose between testifying and jail time. Some people believe that will happen after the November elections, but we really have no way of knowing – it could be weeks, months or even years.

It is our hope that public pressure will force them to shut down this grand jury with no indictments. We believe that none of us has done anything wrong, and that all of our activities should have the protection of constitutional and international law.

12. How do you think this period compares to the 1960s and 1970s and the harassment of such groups as the Black Panthers? Do you see your situation as comparable to progressives in that era and what they experienced?

As you might imagine, I’ve been reading a lot about that period in our history. Not only the case of the Panthers, but in Minnesota, I think of the American Indian Movement that was targeted, and our Chicago friends remember the campaign against the Puerto Rican independence movement. Clyde Bellecourt, an AIM leader, spoke at the first demonstration we had in Minneapolis. He told us that we are today’s Indians. There’s some wisdom in that, though I don’t want to be misunderstood as saying that our situation is equivalent. It is not.

Our leaders have not been assassinated, or framed up on murder charges. Not one bullet has been fired on us, and of course, for now, none of us has been imprisoned, or forced to live in exile. For now, our case is on a much smaller scale, though we are certainly the targets of the same forces that terrorized the liberation movements of the 60s and 70s, as well as white progressives, socialists or communists of that era, before and since. We are humbled, as we stand on the shoulders of giants. And we have a great deal to learn.

I believe our situation is a test – not only for the forces of repression, but also for progressive forces. For them, they want to see how far the public will let them go, how far they can stretch existing laws, to sweep away resistance to US wars. For us, we have to stand up to this, and prove that people will not be silenced by the scare tactics. Instead, this will make us stand up twice as strong, twice as loud, and 100% determined to defend our democratic rights. I believe that they have over stepped their authority, and that we can unite with enough strength to push them back. We have to.

13. Do you think the United States now has a repressive government?

Well, if I didn’t before, I certainly do now!

Of course, as an anti-war activist, I have witnessed the violence carried out by our government in other countries, I’ve opposed our government’s support of the worlds most-repressive regimes. With bedfellows like Colombia and Israel, the U.S. cannot be understood as a government that embraces democratic values. Of course, we are taught from a very young age that we do have democratic rights, including the right to dissent. And so, most Americans believe in democracy. Many believe that our government guarantees that. I believe that our government acts mainly in the interests of the rich and powerful, and when democracy poses a risk to the powerful, then repression is a tool they will use without hesitation.

14. Any other comments you'd like to make?

Thank you for your interest in our case. While this situation is something I would never have wished for, I welcome the opportunity it gives us. It is important that we stand up to defend the people whose homes were raided, the 14 who’ve been subpeonaed and the several who’ve been harassed by the FBI in relation to this case. But not just those of us directly touched by this witch hunt, we must stand to defend all of us, and defend space for political opposition, our rights to speak freely, to travel and associate with whoever we wish, our right to extend our solidarity to political movements of people just like ourselves, struggling for progressive social change in other countries. We welcome any venue where we can speak about our case (invite us!), messages of support and solidarity, and financial support to help us pay for our defense. People who want to get more involved can follow our case on-line at

In solidarity,

Jess Sundin

Monday, October 04, 2010


While Sheriff Scott Franklin of Jena, Louisiana says he is trying to rid his jurisdiction of drugs, critics say he has a vendetta against the town's black community for the local civil rights protests that won freedom for six black high school students who had been charged with attempted murder for a schoolyard brawl in 2009.

As reported in Race-Talk on July 9, 2009, over 150 officers from 10 agencies met and mobilized "Operation Third Option" with the goal of fighting drugs. Despite the fact that Sheriff Franklin spent massive resources for an investigation that lasted nearly two years, officers have yet to seize any contraband. Working with District Attorney Reed Walters, Sheriff Franklin has been seeking maximum penalties for minor offenses in a town that is 85% white with only 300 black residents. Thus far, their efforts have almost exclusively targeted African Americans.

Catrina Wallace, the sister of Robert Bailey, one of the "Jena Six," was a leader in the initiative to free the accused youth and organized protests and meetings for months. She and her children were awakened with guns pointed to their heads and were held on a $150,000 cash-only bond although officers found no drugs or contraband in her home. Furthermore, despite a lack of evidence, her car was also taken by police and never returned.

Samuel Howard was sleeping nude when police raided his home at 5:00 a.m. and tasered him three times. They took him out of his house to a baseball field while he was still nude, where he spent another hour without any clothes, standing among other arrestees. Howard said "The sheriff knows me. We went to school together. He knows I'm not a violent person." Howard's home was badly burned during the raid as a result of flares that police used inside.

Many of Jena's black residents claim that the DA, Sheriff, and editor of the local newspaper want revenge against black people who stood up and fought against unjust charges. The owner, editor, and publisher of the Jena Times, the town's only newspaper, is Sammy Franklin, father of Sheriff Franklin. A white-owned store near the courthouse sells T-shirts commemorating "Operation Third Option" with a design of a person behind bars. Black residents of Jena say that an earlier version of the shirt featured a monkey.

Marcus Jones, father of one of the Jena Six, has called for a federal investigation of the Sheriff's department and District Attorney's office. He said "This is racially motivated. It's revenge. Wouldn't none of this be going on if justice had been done the way it was supposed to have been."

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Attempted Coup in Ecuador Fails, But Threat Remains
by Mark Weisbrot

In June of last year, when the Honduran military overthrew the social democratic government of Manuel Zelaya, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador took it personally. "We have intelligence reports that say that after Zelaya, I'm next," said Correa.

Yesterday it turned out to be true. Some analysts are still insisting that what happened was just a police protest over possible benefit cuts that got out of hand. But to anyone who watched the prolonged, pitched gun battle on TV last night, when the armed forces finally rescued President Correa from the hospital where he was trapped by the police, this did not look like a protest. It was an attempt to overthrow the government.

The coordinated actions in various cities, the takeover of Quito's airport by a section of the armed forces -- all of this indicated a planned coup attempt. And although it failed, at various points during the day it was not so clear what the outcome would be.

The government pointed a finger at former president and army Colonel Lucio Gutierrez, and he was on television yesterday calling for the ouster of Correa. He accused the president of everything from supporting the FARC (the guerrilla group fighting Colombia's government) to wrecking the economy.

The coup might have had a chance if Correa were not so popular. Despite his enemies in high places, the president's approval rating was 67 percent in Quito a couple of weeks ago. His government has doubled spending on health care, significantly increased other social spending, and successfully defaulted on $3.2 billion of foreign debt that was found to be illegitimately contracted. Ecuador managed to squeak through 2009 without a recession and is projected to grow about 2.5 percent this year. Correa, an economist, has had to use heterodox and creative methods to keep the economy growing in the face of external shocks because the country does not have its own currency. It adopted the dollar in 2000, which means that it can do little in the way of monetary policy and has no control over its exchange rate.

Correa had warned that he might try to temporarily dissolve the Congress in order to break an impasse in the legislature, something that he has the right to request under the new constitution -- it would have to be approved by the Constitutional Court. This probably gave the pro-coup forces something they saw as a pretext. It is reminiscent of the coup in Honduras, when Zelaya's support for a non-binding referendum on a constituent assembly was falsely reported by the media -- both Honduran and international -- as a bid to extend his presidency.

Media manipulation has a big role in Ecuador too, with most of the media controlled by right-wing interests opposed to the government. This has helped build a base of people -- analogous to those who get all of their information from Fox News in the United States, but proportionately larger -- who believe that Correa is a dictator trying to turn his country into a communist Cuba.

The U.S. State Department issued a two-sentence statement from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton late yesterday afternoon that urged "all Ecuadoreans to come together and to work within the framework of Ecuador's democratic institutions to reach a rapid and peaceful restoration of order." Unlike the White House statement in response to the Honduran coup last year, it also expressed "full support" for the elected president. This is an improvement; although it is unlikely that it reflects a change in Washington's policy towards Latin America.

The Obama Administration did everything it could to support the coup government in Honduras last year, and in fact is still trying to convince the South American governments -- including Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, and the collective organization of UNASUR -- to recognize the government there. South America refuses to recognize the Lobo government because it was elected under a dictatorship that did not allow for a free or fair contest. The rest of the hemisphere also wants some guarantees that would stop the killing of journalists and political activists there, which has continued and even become worse under the "elected" government.

As the South American governments feared, Washington's support for the coup government in Honduras over the last year has encouraged and increased the likelihood of right-wing coups against democratic left governments in the region. This attempt in Ecuador has failed, but there will likely be more threats in the months and years ahead.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan. He has written numerous research papers on economic policy, especially on Latin America and international economic policy. He is also co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: The Phony Crisis (University of Chicago Press, 2000) and president of Just Foreign Policy. This article was first published in the Guardianon 1 October 2010 and republished by CEPR under a Creative Commons license. Comments (0) | Print
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Sunday, September 12, 2010

1 in 7 in the U.S. Lives in Poverty

The Huffington Post is reporting on the expected government report on poverty in America. In 2009, one in seven lived in poverty. The rate of poverty is expected to rise this year to fifteen percent. Read the article above.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Politics of Hitting on Straight Men

One thing I find absolutely intriguing is the response I recieve whenever I take the notion to hit on a straight male. The responses range from a flattered "I'm not interested" to flaming red hostility, but overlaid over all of that is a belief that straight men some how must be, should be, and are exempt from being hit on by gay men. I don't buy this coda and have broken it so many times its not even standing anymore really. As I think back though, I have had some interesting experiences in this regard. Once, in Indiana, I was sitting on a bench outside of the hotel on campus waiting for a cab and I hit on this boy, a very cute half Arab, half Black boy who worked on campus. To my advances he quickly responded "isn't that illegal?!!" I was like, vs. Texas was a few years ago..and even still...and then of course there are the instances where the advances are accepted, however interestingly they fit into the context of a certain poem by Nikki Giovanni....

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Changes in Music: From the End of the Jazz Era

After reading Billie Holiday's biography and thinking about the life and career of artists such as Nina Simone, I began to think about the social and political changes in music that took place mid20tth Century. The jazz era, of which Billie Holiday was a part of, was a transitional era, but was definitely an era in which singers, specifically female singers, were to stand on stage, look pretty and sing hetero-normative syrupy songs about love, unrequited love, and how much they needed men for white men in business suits. Change number one with Billie Holiday-"Strangefruit" introduced a new kind of polemic into the mix with the first protest song sung by a female singer and introduced into popular music. Change number two-consider Nina Simone who was soo loved at the beginning of her career because sang prettily and made coquettish gestures (if still, very much aware and still carrying a sting) towards the white male, capitalist patriarchal system. The 1950s and the early 60s were still a time of romance and dainty had Nancy Wilson asking "Guess Who I Saw Today?" and Diahann Carroll humming about the hypnotic qualities of a Sleeping Bee lying in the palm of your hand....but came 1963 and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and you saw Nina Simone sit down at her piano at Carnegie Hall and tell her white patrons exactly where they were going,why they were going there and railing her damnation of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama. I think that, perhaps more than any other moment, signaled the end of the Jazz era and the rushing in of radical and angry music makers, both male and female, lashing out at the power structure and leading the way towards revolution and change throughout society. It also signaled the liberation of the songstress/coquette who stood still with little movement to look pretty and sing songs for men in business suits...many lashed out at this-including Abbey Lincoln who spoke of her disdain for the art form and how she, a farm girl from Michigan didn't fit into such a "pretty, feminine" world as was created by the masters of the Jazz era. The late sixties forward signaled movement....and liberation..and a new mode, method, and message, for the female singer especially.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Crossing the Line
Laura Tillman
The Nation
August 26, 2010

Brownsville, Texas

Diana, a slight, 30-year-old office manager wearing a
smart blouse and pencil skirt, has a tired note in her
voice. In the privacy of her office, she has spent the
afternoon discussing an event in her life that she
previously never recounted to anyone. She is talking
about her abortion. Or maybe her miscarriage. She's glad
she never has to know which.

A single mother of two boys, Diana was unemployed and in
the hospital when she began to suspect she was pregnant.
It was December 2006, and she had missed her period for
two months. Her doctor conducted a urine test, which
came back negative, but when Diana still hadn't gotten
her period in January, she started to panic. She knew it
wasn't the right time for another baby. She wasn't
working and had been suffering severe symptoms of
brittle diabetes, a rare form of diabetes that requires
frequent hospital visits and brings bouts of depression.
She felt unstable and wasn't able to afford her
medications. "I thought, If I am pregnant, I want to
take something to not be pregnant," she says.

For most women in the United States, this would mean a
trip to a doctor or abortion clinic. But where Diana
lives, in Brownsville, Texas, just north of the border,
Mexican pharmacies are only a few miles away. Items said
to be abortifacients-including pills, teas and shots-are
well-known to be cheap and accessible just across the
bridge. Misoprostol, a pill that makes up half of the
two-drug combination prescribed for medical abortions in
the United States, is easy to purchase over the counter
in Mexico because of its effectiveness in treating
ulcers. When used alone and taken correctly, it will
produce a miscarriage between 80 and 85 percent of the

Meanwhile, the closest abortion clinic, in Harlingen, is
some thirty miles away. That might not sound like much,
but without a car it is difficult to make the trip
discreetly. This was one of several reasons Diana didn't
want to go to the clinic. It was also prohibitively
expensive: potentially more than $900, because she was
already a few months into her pregnancy. Also, she was
scared that the doctor wouldn't want to operate because
of her diabetes. Finally, Diana had been there once
before to escort a friend. The whole time she'd felt
like she was being judged by the strangers around her;
she imagined their eyes on her as she sat waiting.

Widespread opposition to abortion in the Rio Grande
Valley may not be obvious at first: it is not discussed
in polite conversation. But spend a little time here and
the bumper stickers that cry out from cars, the messages
that dot billboards on the expressway and the rhetoric
inside many churches resoundingly confirm an
antiabortion message. There are accessible clinics, and
the procedure is legal. But within many women's homes,
their communities, their churches and their minds, a
trip to the abortion clinic amounts to a damnable
transgression. In fact, abortion is so stigmatized, many
women don't even realize it is legal. Terri Lievanos,
who worked for years as an education coordinator for
Planned Parenthood of Brownsville, says that this is
true even among women born in the United States: "They
come in here and say, 'Wait a second, abortion is
legal?' They've only heard it discussed in a negative

For Diana, who was born in Mexico and raised in a deeply
Catholic household, the prospect of being seen at a
clinic was more emotionally taxing than the risk of
taking a mystery drug and enduring the consequences at
home by herself. A friend told her that he knew where to
buy an abortion pill-most likely Misoprostol, although
Diana says she doesn't know its name or what he paid-and
drove across the border to pick it up for her. Diana
took the drugs, two pills over two days, with no medical
guidance. Nothing happened for nearly two weeks. Then
she began to bleed. The intense bleeding lasted four
days, and she had severe cramps. On the fourth day she
began to have painful contractions. A small sac dropped
into her toilet. "It wasn't moving, so I flushed it. I
didn't know what to do. I was scared that if I looked at
it, I'd be traumatized for life." Diana called her
mother and her sister the next day and told them she'd
had a miscarriage. She didn't mention the pills. They
urged her to go to the hospital. "The doctor looked at
me, and I was fine," Diana says. "I told them it was a
miscarriage. I didn't tell [them] about the pills."

She doesn't tell people she had an abortion, she says,
because she never went to a clinic. "When people ask me
if I had a miscarriage, I'll tell them yes," Diana says.
"I didn't actually go get the abortion. I don't know if
it's the pill that actually caused the abortion." As far
as Diana is concerned, it's possible the miscarriage was
caused by the drugs. It's also possible that it wasn't.

Diana is one of many women along the US-Mexico border
who appear to be seeking out drugs like Misoprostol as
an alternative to an abortion clinic. Whether this
represents a broader trend is difficult to say, given
the lack of data and the underground nature of self-
induced abortions. But it is hardly a new phenomenon.
Even before abortion politics roiled the debate over
healthcare reform and the 2009 murder of Dr. George
Tiller, many women in the Rio Grande Valley were looking
to have abortions in private, in order to escape the
scrutiny of their neighbors and the fear of being
attacked publicly. It is far easier to be able to say
"miscarriage" in a city like Brownsville than it is to
admit to an abortion. To protect herself, Diana asked
that only her first name be used in this article.

Dr. Lester Minto works at the abortion clinic in
Harlingen, a nondescript, out-of-the-way building. He
says that some clients first find out about the facility
when they are taken there by church groups to protest.
"I wear a bulletproof vest to work," Minto says. "If the
patient sees me that way, how does the patient feel?"

Minto estimates that some 20 percent of his patients
have tried Misoprostol before coming to him. "That tells
me there are many more who are using it who don't need
to come to me." Finances are a major factor. "It's
something you can try for a small amount of money," he
says. In Texas, abortion care is not covered by Medicaid
except in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment-
and even in those cases the costs are reimbursed less
than half the time. This means that a woman like Diana,
without private insurance, could pay anywhere from $450
to more than $900, compared with $87 to $167 for a
bottle of Misoprostol in a Mexican pharmacy. "But deeper
than that," he adds, echoing Diana's sentiments, "I am
the abortionist. They come to me for an abortion. If I
don't touch them, maybe it wasn't really an abortion."

At Whole Woman's Health, an abortion clinic in nearby
McAllen, executive director Andrea Ferrigno tries to
provide an antidote to the antichoice billboards and
fake cemetery erected by antiabortion activists just
beyond the clinic's property. She papers the walls with
inspirational quotes, displays stacks of pamphlets about
courageous women in history and plays movies on a TV up
front to help clients relax. But she knows that even
with these measures, some women will still be undone by
social pressure. "Women are intimidated; they're
stressed," says Ferrigno. "We need to be protected, but
we also want to be visible. I want women to walk out of
here with their heads held high." This is an uphill
battle. "What we're dealing with now is thirty-five
years of women being very publicly shamed by antichoice
protesters," says Gloria Feldt, former president of
Planned Parenthood. "Underground abortion is one of the

Diana moved to Brownsville at 4, but her parents
maintained strong ties to their home country. They never
discussed sex with her. "It was implied that you
wouldn't have sex until marriage," she says. "It was
still a taboo subject." Jackie Christensen, a
Brownsville teacher who taught high school health
classes for more than two decades, says this is typical.
"I would always start the class by asking if the
students had ever talked with their parents about sex,"
she says. "I'd be lucky if one or two raised their
hands." It wasn't until Planned Parenthood came to
Diana's high school to give a presentation about sex and
contraception that Diana became informed on the subject.
These days, Planned Parenthood is no longer permitted to
make such presentations in the district, and
contraception is prohibited in the classroom.
Christensen says she tried to fill in the gaps for her
students but that many health teachers felt too
uncomfortable. "A lot of health teachers didn't want to
teach that topic," she says. "They wouldn't go into
detail." Stories of underground abortions were so common
that she took to warning against them during health
class. "I'd tell my students, 'If you do things your own
way, there could be damage to the uterus,'" she says.

The familiar history of botched abortions has made
Misoprostol increasingly popular among women seeking out
a less dangerous private alternative to abortion,
particularly in places where abortion is illegal. The
Planned Parenthood in Brownsville reports visits by
women who have used syringes, taken cocktails of
prescription drugs, douched with battery acid and beaten
themselves in the abdomen to attempt abortion. "These
pills are beginning to revolutionize abortion around the
world, especially in poor countries," New York Times
columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote this summer, noting
that the drug would be difficult to ban because of its
other uses, which include stopping postpartum
hemorrhages. Rebecca Gomperts, founder of the
organization Women on Waves, which provides reproductive
health services around the world, agrees. "It creates
autonomy," she says. "The fact that [women] can just
take a medication is huge, because they don't have to
depend on someone else doing something to their bodies."

Gomperts believes that using Misoprostol can actually be
preferable to going to a clinic, particularly if a woman
has access to information on how to use it correctly,
knows how long she has been pregnant and can get medical
help if something goes wrong. Still, there are
significant risks: if used incorrectly, Misoprostol can
cause the uterus to rupture and bring about internal
bleeding. "In one of the most extreme cases, the girl
took over a hundred pills," Dr. Minto, of the Harlingen
clinic, says. "It's amazing that she survived." Diana,
too, was lucky. She now knows that taking the pills that
far into her pregnancy was dangerous. She could have
caused her child to have birth defects, had the drug not
worked and had she carried to term. Or the pills could
have caused her to hemorrhage or prevented her from
having children in the future. That, she says, scares

A number of recent studies looking at self-induced
abortions in the United States suggest that women across
the country continue to seek out alternatives to clinics
that are embattled, increasingly costly and
geographically inaccessible. Dr. Dan Grossman, of Ibis
Reproductive Health, whose research on the topic has
focused on various US cities as well as the Rio Grande
Valley, says the group of women attempting self-induced
abortion is fairly diverse. An ongoing study by the
Guttmacher Institute corroborates this: 79 percent of
women who tried self-induced abortion were from the
United States, and that number was spread across twenty

"I think our findings suggest that there are still
significant barriers to abortion care in the United
States," Grossman says. "Those include the high cost of
abortion care-and in most states Medicaid cannot be used
to cover abortion care." Low-income women feel these
barriers more acutely. Three-fourths of women who have
an abortion say that, like Diana, they cannot afford a
child, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Forty-two
percent of women having abortions are below the federal
poverty line.

Brownsville, located in one of the poorest counties in
the country, illustrates this economic divide. Driving
through one of the new subdivisions, you could easily
assume the city is middle-class. The adobe and brick
homes look alike, with tall palm trees punctuating the
wide lawns. Lakes where ibises, anhingas and ducks dive
for food provide a scenic backdrop for the city's
wealthier families. But Brownsville's poor neighborhoods
resemble those across the snaking Rio Grande and the
eighteen-foot border fence along its northern bank.
Houses here are cobbled together from cheap wood and
scrap metal, dogs run wild and the smell of sewage wafts
through the streets. There is no medical school or law
school for hundreds of miles, and while many soldiers in
the military come from this area, there's no veterans'
hospital either. As in many poor areas in the United
States, health services are often acquired at the
emergency room, with little preventive medicine being
sought. Here, women don't often have a consistent
relationship with a physician they trust. Instead, care
is delivered at times of emergency. In such an
environment, a mission like Ferrigno's at Whole Woman's
Health remains incredibly challenging. Without better
healthcare education, affordable coverage and
information for women about their reproductive rights,
risky, self-induced abortions will continue. A drug like
Misoprostol may be proving to be a safer alternative,
but it is no substitute for reproductive care that
happens out in the open, with the expertise of a medical

For her part, Diana understands this. Now that time has
passed, she has reflected on her experience. She knows
she took a risk and admits she would have had regrets
had things turned out differently. But when asked what
she would tell another woman who is seeking an abortion
and weighing her options, Diana takes a moment to reply.
"Logically, you should go to a clinic," she says. "If
you have the money, you should. It's safer. But the
whole thing of being in a clinic like that is, it
traumatizes people too. Really, the more private thing
and the more convenient thing to do would be to just
take the pill."


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