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Give Us Something to Fight For

August 12th, 2011

(This was written in 2011, but it remains relevant today.)

The President has got to come out with a huge infrastructure program, regardless whether it upsets the feathers of Mitch or Crybaby or anyone else. We’re in a frightening crisis, and he wants to keep the conversation focused on the right’s agenda?

The Man has got to give us something to fight for, something to believe in.

The situation is much too dire and cries out for a strong response (read Tom Friedman , Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman).

Saying, ‘We must defeat the Republicans,’ is no answer.

The Nation did not elect a slogan; we elected a man we believed would deliver us from this hell hole the right put us in. Yes, it was much worse than anyone (well, anyone not connected to the rich and famous) knew.

But that 3am telephone call requires giving orders on the spot, now; not after a trumped up, deficit ‘Super Committee’ — conceived to take apart what FDR and JFK and LBJ put together — fights it out.

The Nation needs hope. We need our leader to put out a ‘do this now!’ jobs plan and tell the other side: ‘Go ahead, screw Joe the Plumber, if you want. I — and those who elected me — want to save him and his job and the livelihoods of millions of his brothers and sisters who are drowning.’

Place that on the table, Mr. President and tell them this is your line in the sand. The country, as well as those who worked for and believed in you, hunger for your leadership.

You must give everyone — ‘the one’s we’ve been waiting for’ — a program to save this nation, if you want anyone to be Fired-Up again.

The Rich Don’t Pay Their Fair Share for Social Security

February 28th, 2011

The rich on the right are surely laughing.

They’ve managed to whip up a media frenzy of rabid attacks against public employees — who are our firefighters, street sweepers, teachers, police officers, librarians and garbage collectors.

Through their friends the Koch brothers and their buddies at Fox, the rich on the right are using expensive TV ads — and their own pontificating pundits and politicians — to create an anti-union firestorm.

With some success, the rich on the right in Wisconsin tempted working-class wage earners to attack their own brother and sister workers in public jobs. And now, in Michigan, they’ve taken aim at all jobs.

“All unions are evil. Let workers have the ‘right to work’ without paying their dues, even though the union is made up of your fellow workers, even though the union negotiated for the increase in your paycheck.”

‘Why, those union workers get pensions! They get health benefits! They made us put in safer lighting.”

But what about the rich-on-the-right? Who watched out for them, when they were sinking and had no union? Who came to their aid, when they were going under (and taking us with them)?

We did. And, instead of being grateful, they gave themselves bonuses with our money.

To keep us distracted from their profits at our expense, the rich-on-the-right also bring up the dreaded specter of the baby boomers — most of whom are working people — who have the audacity to retire, placing an enormous ‘burden’ on the rest of us, and threatening Social Security!

‘Why, you folks should invest that money in our banks, in our investment products,’ they say. ‘Make Social Security private and we’ll take good care of your money,’ they say.

Well, you say. Maybe they have a point.

Do they?

Want to know, truly, how to keep our Social Security solvent?

Take away the Social Security tax exemption for the rich.

What? They get an exemption from the Social Security tax?

Indeed they do.

All persons making more than $106,800 pay no Social Security tax for their income above $106,800.

Why don’t most folks know this?

Because wealthy, tax-hating people — like the Koch brothers — use the media to get us to fight against one another.

Imagine what would happen, if everybody started paying the Social Security tax on all the money they make each year.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, removing the post-$106,800 exemption means Social Security would remain solvent for the next 75 years.

Think of it — You pay 4.2 percent, taken out of each paycheck, for Social Security.

But for those making more than $106,800? They feel they shouldn’t be bothered.

Uncle Sam has given them this big tax exemption; and they don’t even have a union. They have lobbyists.

Doesn’t seem fair, does it?

And as the rich on the right keep up their attacks on working people, and use their huge bank accounts to foment working-class fratricide (e.g. Wisconsin), they continue to stiff-arm the cameras away from their own privileges.

Hey, Congress! End this Social Security tax privilege for the rich! Make them pay their fair share for Social Security!

No exemptions after the $106,800.

You can bet that, when the rich retire, they cash their Social Security checks. But they don’t want you to know that you paid more to backup their Social Security check than they did.

Tell Congress to end this unfair break for the rich; make them pay their share; no exemptions for income above $106,800.

The Constitution says we are all equal under the law. Then we sure ought to be equal under the Social Security tax.

Working America demands it.

Capitol Operator: 202-224-3121

It’s just on the street where you live . . .

December 10th, 2010

Recently U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, while being interviewed on the PBS NewsHour, used a phrase that easily rolls off the tongue and is almost seen as a ‘given’, when we speak of children struggling to keep up in our public schools.

The phrase? “Disadvantaged communities.”

I believe we must address, openly and honestly, the question, “Why do we have ‘disadvantaged communities’ in which, most often, African- and Latino- American families live in crowded and unhealthy surroundings, in one distinct part of nearly every town in this nation?”

The answer, of course, is obvious: real estate firms and their employees, together with influential persons in communities, have succeeded in blocking off populations they prefer not to have around them.

Violation of the law – the Fair Housing Act of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 – which mandates ‘open housing,’ is ignored, with little fear of enforcement or retribution.

No person would choose to live in substandard housing in unkempt and neglected areas of cities and towns; yet enclaves of those whom the majority prefers not to see — people of color — continue to exist.

I think one of the keys to better education for everyone is the aggressive enforcement of our open and fair housing laws, along with the equal opportunity for genuine access to all jobs.

I have seen a 50 year-old Virginia deed with phrasing similar to ‘this property may not be sold to non-Caucasians.’

One of my family members once received a call from a Tallahassee real estate agent, who said, “I know I’m not supposed to ask this, but are there any black people in your neighborhood”!

And a former neighbor is alleged to have apologized to others, who lived near her, for renting her home to an African-American mother, and saying, “I had no choice,” because of the law.

In my 42 years as a renter and home owner, I have never heard of any similar incident, perhaps because people know of my position on civil and human rights. Or perhaps because it just doesn’t happen that often.

If all of our children are to receive the best possible education, their families must be able to live in any neighborhood of their choosing — in subsidized housing in those neighborhoods, if necessary — and protected from any and all unjust and racist challenges conjured by the forces of hate.

Real estate operators can’t just slap an FHA ‘equal sign’ on their stationery and front window, and think they need do nothing else to be within the law.

But as long as they flaunt the law, and until the law is openly and vigorously enforced, we will continue to see ‘disadvantaged areas,’ shaking our sad heads, in nearly every jurisdiction in this nation.

I believe proactive fair housing enforcement may be the best solution to lead to better schools and quality education for all children.

The Birth of Butterfly — Off to Mexico!

September 19th, 2010

The chrysalis the boys gave us had turned black this morning and we thought he had died. Suddenly, Mary Ann screamed, ‘Nick, he’s out!’

There he was, a big gorgeous monarch butterfly, crawling along the twig to which his chrysalis — still …attached to the twig — hung shriveled and tiny next to this beautiful creature.

We watched as he slowly locked his legs into place and remained very still for a half hour or so, wings folded together.

Then, he began to open his wings. So, we took the peanut butter jar in which he was living (minus peanut butter) outside; removed the lid and slowly placed the jar on the ground, between some plants along the little brown fence.

He opened and closed his wings a few times… very, very slowly.

Then he quickly crawled out of the jar. We watched, like expectant parents, as he continued to open and close, open and close, for maybe 15 minutes.

Mary Ann had to leave, so I said I would ‘butterfly-sit’ … but as Mary Ann began to turn around just beyond the house, he just as suddenly flew!

He flew up toward the utility pole on front of the house, made a sharp left turn, as he flew higher, and disappeared behind the blond brick house next door.

Off to Mexico.

We’re going to plant milkweed in the spot where we’d placed the jar and hope one of his descendants will pay us a visit next year. Or, perhaps he will go to the spot where he’d been born, at the Cohen household in Gainesville.

What an exciting and magical afternoon!

Koran Book Burner Has A Cousin - Nazi Book Burning 1933

September 8th, 2010

From the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum –

Book burning has a long and dark history; and perhaps the most famous of these events, the burning of books under the Nazi regime on May 10, 1933, had a precedent in nineteenth century Germany.

In 1817, German student associations (Burschenschaften) chose the 300th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses to hold a festival at the Wartburg, a castle in Thuringia where Luther had sought sanctuary after his excommunication.

The students, demonstrating for a unified country — Germany was then a patchwork of states — burned anti-national and reactionary texts and literature which the students viewed as “Un-German.”
Holocaust Museum

View the 1933 book burning.

This Florida ‘pastor’ intends to burn a sacred book just as Hitler’s followers burned the books of “degenerate” authors. See any connection, pastor?

“Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me.” Matthew 25:40

How Goldman Secretly Bet on the U.S. Housing Crash

June 2nd, 2010

By Greg Gordon - McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — In 2006 and 2007, Goldman Sachs Group peddled more than $40 billion in securities backed by at least 200,000 risky home mortgages, but never told the buyers it was secretly betting that a sharp drop in U.S. housing prices would send the value of those securities plummeting. Read more

These ‘businessmen’ and others of their ilk stole one trillion dollars from us and our government. Along with BP in the Gulf, they must be ordered to return the money and make whole those who have lost everything. And then the CEOs must be charged as criminals, and, once convicted, and sent to jail.

If an inner city kid selling crack can get half a lifetime in prison, shouldn’t these ‘white collar’ guys — who sold out the people of the United States of America — serve half of their lives in adjoining cells?

‘Wall Street’s Allegiance Isn’t to America; Wall Street’s Allegiance Is to Wall Street’

April 20th, 2010

Who would ever say such a thing? Well, it came from the lips of one who knows Wall Street via public broadcasting before the 2008 crash. I’ve been waiting for someone to voice the tale in print with similar candor.

It finally appeared April 20 in this column by Roger Lowenstein in the The New York Times.

In his column — “Gambling With the Economy” — Lowenstein makes note of the SEC charges against Goldman Sachs, and says those charges “go to the heart of how Wall Street has strayed from its intended mission.”

Lowenstein writes:

“Wall Street’s purpose, you will recall, is to raise money for industry: to finance steel mills and technology companies and, yes, even mortgages. But the collateralized debt obligations involved in the Goldman trades, like billions of dollars of similar trades sponsored by most every Wall Street firm, raised nothing for nobody. In essence, they were simply a side bet — like those in a casino — that allowed speculators to increase society’s mortgage wager without financing a single house.”

Finally, someone stands up to say, ‘These profits are not made by investing in our country and its manufacturing might; no, they come from bets that are made with the knowledge that the game is fixed and the bettor will win.’

The profits come from Wall Street’s churning of our money — ’suckers’ money — that Wall Street uses to make bets that this or that ‘financial instrument’ will fail. And when the instrument fails, they rake in the dough.

There are no ‘industrials’ in the Wall Street Industrial Average. It’s all based simply on churning money that goes back and forth between the big guys, who use their fixed game to rob from people’s retirement funds and savings.

Read Lowenstein and then call your Congress representatives and call your members of the U.S. Senate via the Capitol operator (two-zero-two, two-two-four, three-one, two-one).

Tell them to pass financial reform, because we’re sick of being used, and the country needs investment, not gambling.

The Pope, the Church, the Story

April 3rd, 2010

The public radio program, This American Life, contains, in it’s April 3, 2010, episode, the story of a priest who was used as a ‘fixer’ to settle down parishes that had just lost their pastor, because the pastor was a pedophile, a fact which no one in the parish — with the exception of the abused child and possibly his/her parents — knew.

[To skip the introductory section of the program -- of which this story is just one of four, separate, 15 minute topics -- click on "Stream Episode" to the right of the picture on the opening page, and move the player's bar to 2 minutes and 34 seconds.]

The interviewed former priest, Patrick Wall, speaks of how he was used by his order to assist bishops in ‘cleaning up,’ after a pedophile priest was discovered at a parish — and moved to another parish — by the local bishop.

Father Wall, as he went about his work with parishes and the bishops, discovered a system of off-the-record ‘archives’ — established in the penal code of Canon Law — in which were kept information about events and reports the Church did not want exposed to the public. Wall notes that this Canon goes back ‘centuries.’

This story is devastating. It goes to the heart of what the Catholic Church — as an institution run by the hierarchy — is, from the very beginning of written Canon Law.

I’m not expressing concern about the faith, Jesus, or God; only the institution. I was raised a Roman Catholic and, for two years, studied to be a priest.

Please listen with an open mind. This interview, in light of what is occurring in Rome, the U.S., Europe, and God knows where else, is extremely difficult to bear. But the story should be heard and reflected upon.

[Five years ago Patrick Wall co-authored a book about the facts and history of the pedophile scandal in the U.S.]

Gay Official Once Blasted for His ‘Amble Across Potomac’

January 3rd, 2010

Striking a blow on behalf of ignorance and adding fuel to ever-present homophobia, the Arlington Sun-Gazette last month got it terribly wrong by rhetorically ‘rapping the knuckles’ of Arlington (Va.) County Board Vice Chairman Jay Fisette for testifying in favor of gay marriage before a committee of the District of Columbia Council.

The paper’s “Arlington Highs and Lows” stated, “For an elected official in Virginia to wade into this issue in another jurisdiction is more than a little dicey.”

Hmm. When have we heard that type of remark in the past? Outside agitator, maybe? SelmaBirminghamNeshoba County, Miss.

When a human right is denied, no matter the jurisdiction, we are each obliged to ‘speak out’ on behalf of those who suffer from legal and social discrimination. Those who stood against oppression in the past were castigated as ‘outside agitators’ for working to end the voting, public eating, and housing laws established against African-Americans.

Are we not equally bound to stand with our brothers and sisters of all races now?

Denial of marriage to two committed individuals, regardless of their gender, is as abhorrent as denial of that right to two opposite-sex individuals with different skin colors — a legal prohibition in Virginia until June 12, 1967 (Loving vs. Virginia) — and has contributed to the atmosphere of homophobic hate that too often has led to death.

For what is marriage but the public exchanging of vows in which two human beings profess mutual, lifelong fidelity to one another? What can be more honorable or more loving?

And now — because of the ‘agitation’ or ‘wading in’ of thousands and millions from so many other jurisdictions — on December 18, 2009, Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty signed into law Bill number B18-0482, “Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009,” which, after a 30-day period of review by Congress, will allow men and women of the same gender, at last, to marry one another and live as a wedded couple in the District of Columbia of the United States of America.

Every agitator — from all jurisdictions — who worked to achieve this long-sought goal deserves our thanks for making a once far-off dream come true.

NAACP’s Origin: 1908 Race Riot in Lincoln’s Home Town

October 21st, 2009

Illinois Mobs Kill and Burn

Foiled in Attempt to Lynch Two Negroes, Angry Whites Start Destructive Raid

Troops Bring Gatling Gun

Mob Sets Fire to Negro District and Refuses to Allow Fire Department to Work

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. Aug. 15 — Race riots are raging here as the result of an attempt to lynch two negro prisoners in the county jail. [ New York Times enter 'Illinois Mob Kills and Burns' at 'All Results Since 1851']

Those are the headlines and opening sentence of a New York Times account published on August 15, 1908, of a race riot in the home town of Abraham Lincoln, the sainted president who practiced law in an office that overlooked the Old Statehouse. It was at that same building, 100 years later, where Lincoln’s would-be successor, a young Barack Obama, announced his campaign for the presidency. But, in 1908 that very area had been full of a seething white mob.

Who could have imagined it? A ‘race riot’ in Lincoln’s home town? — [The Sangamon Valley Collection, Lincoln Library, Springfield, Illinois]

This was no Watts or Detroit. No, this was a white man’s riot. At one point, according to the New York Times’ account, “the sky over the east end of Springfield was aglow.”

I know that ‘east end’ of Springfield — the ‘end’ Springfield residents now call the East Side — because I was born and raised in Springfield. For as long as I can remember, the East Side was ‘the black side’ of Springfield, the ‘other side of the tracks’ just beyond Ninth Street. And it was in that part of town, the Times reporter wrote 101 years ago, where a mob roamed, killing blacks and destroying their homes and businesses.

How did this all begin?

On the hot summer evening of August 13, 1908, a white woman, Mabel Hallam, who lived on Springfield’s north side, claimed she’d been raped by a black man. Subsequently an African-American construction worker, George Richardson, was identified by Hallam, whom she told “I believe that you are the man and that you will have to prove that you are not.” [ Something So Horrible, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, 2008 ]

Richardson said, “Before God, I am innocent of this crime. I can explain her identification of me only by the theory that all coons look alike to her.”

According to the Lincoln Presidential Library account, “Richardson was a handsome, dark-skinned man, the well-spoken grandson one of Springfield’s most prominent Blacks, William Florville, who had been Abraham Lincoln’s barber.”

Richardson was taken to the county jail, where another black prisoner, arrested a month earlier in a different case, resided.

The next morning the city opened its newspaper, The Illinois State Journal, to find this screaming headline: “DRAGGED FROM HER BED AND OUTRAGED BY NEGRO.” [ Sangamon Valley Collection ]

Aflame with the alleged ‘violation of a white woman by a black man’ — the ruse concocted to lynch untold numbers of black men over the history of this nation — an angry mob formed at the jail, demanding the sheriff to release his two black prisoners, so the mob could lynch them both.

Instead the sheriff spirited the two out of town for their protection, and the riot began in full force.

One of those killed in the furious mayhem was a black barber named Scott Burton, who faced the mob in his shop doorway. Someone shot and killed Burton “and his body was paraded from his porch to a place several blocks away where it was hanged from a tree outside a saloon. Burton’s corpse became the symbol of the mob’s hatred of blacks and was riddled by bullets.” [ Sangamon Valley Collection ]

And how did State Journal, Springfield’s leading newspaper, headline its day-after, post-riot account? Well, it tells you a lot about what Springfield was in 1908, and what, eerily, still lurks there today: “Frenzied Mob Sweeps City, Wreaking Bloody Vengeance For Negro’s Heinous Crime.”

A ‘crime’ that had never occurred.

“Two weeks after the riot, Mabel Hallam would confess to the grand jury that her story of rape by a Black man was a lie. … But that Friday morning, August 14, her cry set the mob in motion and evoked death, destruction and untold hardship for which Hallam was never held accountable.” [ Lincoln Presidential Library ]

Something positive did come of this horrific event: the NAACP was founded less than six months later in New York on the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, February 12, 1909. Last year at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, the Association commemorated its link to that terrible summer of 1908, and included a copy of William English Walling’s chilling, on-the-scene account. [ The Independent - 1908 ]

And what of Springfield today, 100 years after the founding of the NAACP, 101 years after the riot itself?

The State Journal-Register (successor to the State Journal) produced a special edition to commemorate the riot’s 100th anniversary on August 14, 2008. But below the online story in the ‘comments’ section, the ugliness of 1908 raised its head in the form of two anonymous comments:

‘tweetybird’ wrote:

“this is a total waste 0f time why keep bringing up the bad stuff? Nobody living now was involved in that. Its past. Leave it there. The article states its not forgotten. Well its not forgotten because this paper keeps shoving it down our throats. I’m tired of hearing about it. drop the subject and leave it in the past where it belongs.”

Following tweety’s comment, ‘Iremember’ wrote:

I am in my 70’s. I was born and raised in a small town outside of Springfield. When the riot was still fresh on the minds of many, I recall folks stating that one of main reasons for the riot was the black’s ‘push day.’ On one day of the week (I think it was Thursday, but am not sure), groups of blacks would literally walk down the sidewalk in mass pushing everybody — in this instance, whites — out of their way. That tactic and the supposed rape I guess set the white folks off. Whether ‘push day’ is true or not, and I am of the belief it occurred, it is part of local lore, and I am disappointed the JR didn’t do a better job of researching and reporting the complete story of the riot.”
[ 100 Years Ago Today, State Journal-Register ]

Has the election of Barack Obama changed the thinking of these two? You have to wonder. Springfield remains a racially tense town.

Just a little more than two months ago in Springfield, a noose was hung in the work area used by a black employee of the city’s power and light utility. [ State Journal-Register ]

The apparent target of the noose hanging, Mike Williams, an African-American, pleaded to the Springfield City Council,

“So, I beg of you, as this ground starts to shake and the rumble is coming, to please don’t just ignore this, don’t sweep this under the rug,” Williams said. “Adopt a no-tolerance policy immediately that says if you are caught or if you admit jokingly, unintentionally or whatever it may be that you committed such acts, that you will be terminated immediately.”

After Williams spoke, Archie Lawrence, president of the Springfield Branch of the NAACP, said that hanging a noose is “the ultimate insult.”

“The only thing that’s worse than hanging a noose is hanging itself,” he said, adding that he finds it impossible “to believe that anyone would hang a noose did not have the intent to send a message that black people are not welcome in this town, that black people did not deserve to perform their job without any type of threat or intimidation.”

Following a ‘review’ of the incident by the Mayor of Springfield and the Sangamon County State’s Attorney, the names of those who placed the noose were made public: one was the brother of the mayor’s former wife, and the other a nephew of the city human resource director, himself a well-known former high school coach. [ State Journal-Register ]

The punishment – meted two months later – for the heinous act committed by these well-connected city employees in Abraham Lincoln’s home town: 60-day unpaid suspensions in scheduled five-day increments. This unusual method of discipline was taken, according to the city utility’s spokesperson, “in order to not adversely affect the operations of those departments and avoid overtime.” [ State Journal-Register ]

At an October 7 secret meeting, the city’s civil service commission declined to intervene, yet one member questioned the suspensions as a “a new level of discipline … that basically keeps people from being terminated.” [ State Journal-Register ]

And so it goes in the Land of Lincoln.