Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Saturday, May 09, 2009

GEORGE MCGOVERN WORTH LISTENING TO


More at The Real News

I've always loved George McGovern. He was my first presidential choice when I turned old enough to vote. By that time I had out grown my misbegotten Nixon days. I was in the Air Force, stationed at Travis AFB in California, and volunteered for the McGovern campaign in the evenings going door-to-door. What I found was a real lesson in power politics - the local Democratic party in the Fairfield-Vacaville area of Northern California did not much like McGovern and made little effort on his behalf and he lost resoundingly to Nixon. This was before the Watergate scandal really surfaced in a big way that ultimately forced Nixon out of office.

McGovern became a Senator from South Dakota (another reason I felt such affinity for him was because I love South Dakota) after serving in WW II and returning home to go to college on the GI Bill. He actually built the Democratic Party in that state travelling from one end of the state to the other, meeting people, doing it the hard way. A real organizer if you will.

I've not necessarily agreed with McGovern on every issue over the years, I've become more "radical" than him - but I've always seen him as a decent man, an honest man, who was not a political hack like so many in politics today.

You will see in this video of McGovern talking about Obama and Afghanistan - he is trying to warn our new president that he is stumbling into a huge historical blunder. Obama would be smart to listen to McGovern though it appears he won't.

Friday, May 08, 2009

ASKING THE ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS

This painting, of the Earth renewed, was sent to me this morning by a woman in Arkansas who just saw our space video, Arsenal of Hypocrisy, on Free Speech TV. They keep running it from time to time and I always hear from some folks who saw it. The video, made in 2003, still holds up well and has turned out to be the greatest educational tool we ever came up with.

I am in a bit of a surly mood this morning. The signs of corporate domination are all around us. I just read an email by Ted Glick who is on his 19th day of fasting around the climate change issue. He told the story about a Congressman who said we have "41 years" to deal with global warming so not to worry......Ted ran right up to the guys office in Washington and asked to see him...."he's not here" Ted was told so he said he would just sit and wait for him.....eventually the guy showed up and they had a "spirited" discussion.....but in the end the politician wants to make sure we give sufficient "incentives" to the corporations to cover their costs in making changes......once again the rich come out on top of the heap.

And then there was the Senate hearing on Health Care the other day in Washington where Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) chaired the meeting with a panel of more than a dozen insurance company executives testifying and no one giving the single-payer position. For the first 6 1/2 minutes of the hearing eight people (some of whom were doctors) stood up and spoke out loudly from the audience in favor of single-payer and they were hauled off by the cops. Good on them.

One of my sisters called yesterday, I have five of them, and she told me a funny story about how she had just called the White House and asked to speak to President Bush. "I'm sorry madam but Bush is no longer our president, Mr. Obama is now the president" she was told. Well, my sister told the man on the other end of the phone, "You'd never know it by the expanding war and corporate bank giveaways that Obama is now doing. This isn't what he promised during the campaign." My sister told me she just wanted me to know that she is reading my blog. Good on you younger sister. I am proud of you. She told me that folks are angry out there in Central Florida.

I think she is right and they are mad here in Maine and all across the country and all around the world too about the corporate domination of all of our governments. I hear the same kind of stories and rage daily coming from South Korea, Japan, Australia, England, and beyond.

The question is how do we get out from under this corporate drowning of our democracy? How do we get the people to make a historic move to take back our governments before they completely turn us once again into serfs and slaves? These are the questions we need to be talking about in our local communities.

A great Italian organizer, trying to get the people of Sicily to stand up against the domination by the Mafia, realized he had to start from the beginning. The people had lost their sense of their own humanity. So he gathered them and asked them this one simple question: "What is the difference between you and a tick?"

What is the job of a human being today? What is our role on this Mother Earth?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

TRIGGER FOR WW III NOW BEING LOADED


More at The Real News

This is an excellent overview video about the crisis (and I mean severe crisis) now underway in Georgia.

The US has for some time now been undertaking a strategy to break Russia up into three separate countries so that corporate globalization can better get their hands on Russia's natural gas (the worlds largest supply) and their significant stocks of oil.

Imagine how the US would react if Russia was saying that the US should be broken to pieces. We'd be freaking out!

If there is to be a WW III it very well could begin here as the US prods and pokes its way into the region trying to get Georgia into another war with Russia and to expand US military bases right on Russia's southern border.

Watch this video and learn what is really going on.

See Part One of this Georgia series here

See Part Three of the Georgia series here.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

BIBLE THUMPERS IN AFGHANISTAN-PAKISTAN



Here are the US version of the rabid fundamentalists in Afghanistan - the American Taliban if you will.

This will surely alarm the people in the Middle East even more as they see the Christian "Holy Rollers" breathing down their necks. Jesus (and the Army cavalry-Calvary) have come to save you!

And the House of Representatives (read the Democrats in charge) have decided to give Obama $94.2 billion for Afghanistan-Pakistan wars instead of the $83 billion he requested.

You do remember that Obama and the Democrats were put in charge because they said they were going to end Bush's crazy and expensive wars.....right? Just checking.

Beware what you buy from a politician dressed as a donkey......

News Flash: US airstrikes in Afghanistan yesterday killed a huge number of people. Reuters news service reports, "Ghulan Farooq, a member of parliament from the province, said he had been told by family members in the Bala Boluk district where the fighting took place that as many as 150 people had died. He said U.S. air strikes had destroyed 17 houses. Those figures could not be independently confirmed."

Last year more than 7,000 people, including 2,000 civilians, died in insurgency-related violence in Afghanistan, the United Nations and aid agencies say.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

THE OTHER MISSILE DEFENSE




While in Korea for our Global Network annual conference we were taken to Pyeongtaek where the US is dramatically expanding a military base. There we were shown nearly a dozen mobile PAC-3 (Patriot Advanced Capability) launchers parked just beyond the razor-wired fence.

Lockheed Martin describes their PAC-3 system as "the world’s most advanced, capable and powerful terminal air defense missile. It defeats the entire threat: tactical ballistic missiles carrying weapons of mass destruction, cruise missiles and aircraft. The PAC-3 Missile is a high velocity interceptor that defeats incoming targets by direct, body-to-body [kinetic] impact."

In addition the Raytheon Company, based in Tewksbury, MA., plays a key role in building PAC-3.

The PAC-3 program has been coordinated for the Pentagon at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.

Currently the US is deploying the PAC-3 in South Korea, Japan, Iraq, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Kuwait, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Taiwan, and Israel. The Pentagon has also recently signed a deal to deploy PAC-3 in Poland.

Turkey has also recently shown interest in acquiring a similar system but has been talking with competitors of the US weapons industry about buying the technology from them. However, Washington has been pressuring Ankara to consider potential "NATO interoperability problems" that could occur should Turkey opt for a non-Western solution. Subtle arm twisting you might say.

The PAC-3 system, along with THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system, are the new "layered look" for the Pentagon's missile defense program. The mobile THAAD, designed to shoot down short-and medium-range ballistic missiles, are also being heavily deployed in Japan and South Korea along with PAC-3 in order to serve as key elements of US first-strike strategy aimed at China.

Add the Navy's Aegis destroyer, also outfitted with missile defense interceptors and being deployed in the Asian-Pacific region, into the scheme and you get the full picture of this theater-wide program to take out "the enemy" retaliatory missiles after a US first-strike.

Monday, May 04, 2009

ARMY DEN OF DESTRUCTION IN PHILLY




There was a protest Saturday in Philadelphia at the Army Experience Center that sits inside the Franklin Mills Mall. Over 200 folks marched one mile from a local church and entered the mall for a protest. After some time the police ordered them to leave and all but seven did who were then arrested.

Philadelphia Veterans for Peace member John Grant wrote about the place, "The Army Experience Center sees patriotism in stirring up the primal, hormonal emotions of our vulnerable teenagers to recruit them to hunt down and kill other, equally duped kids in far flung and strange cultures like Afghanistan. Now, it is doing this recruiting in a dismal economic downturn."

If there was any doubt that America is a killing culture this is it. It is morally reprehensible that in a public space our kids are exposed, and invited, to enter this cult-like center where murder and violence are glorified. The fact that the society-at-large is not beyond themselves with outrage over this just goes to show how far as a nation we have sunk into the dark side.

As I have said so many times this is our future under corporate globalization, or at least it is the future the oligarchy plans for us. We won't have jobs for our children in the traditional sense. Our "job" under corporate globalization will be "security export" - making weapons and sending our kids off the kill those who are not submitting to the dictates of the corporate powers in the Middle East, Central Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Our tax dollars will increasingly be wasted on these types of "fun and entertainment centers" to corrupt the future generations values so that they become killers without a blink of an eye.

Just below is an NBC-TV report on this center in Philadelphia. Note the near total lack of outrage in the story. We should all be sick to our stomachs. More power to those who protested at this den of destruction last Saturday. Next time there should be 20 times as many people there. There must be protests over and over again at this place. Forget holding national protests in DC. It is places like this that need the massive national demos. This is where the action is for the peace movement. Take it to the heartland and create debate in our communities about what kind of nation we have become!


Sunday, May 03, 2009

BLACK AGENDA REPORT GRADES OBAMA'S FIRST 100 DAYS - FAILING GRADE


By Black Agenda Report Managing Editor Bruce A. Dixon


Why a Report Card At All?


The hundred day report card is an enduring tradition in American journalism for a very good reason. It's journalism's job to help citizens make sense of the world, to seek the truth and tell it without fear or favor no matter where it leads. Three months and a week into a new administration, everybody knows where the mens and ladies rooms are, most of the key hires are in place, and the bus has definitely cleared the station. There's plenty of evidence by now to assess where it's going, and whether it's anyplace we really ought to be headed.

Should We Grade President Obama on What He Promised, or on What People Need?


The answer to this should be easy. It all depends on whether we imagine government derives its authority from the blessedness of anointed men and women in office, or whether legitimacy comes from the informed consent of the governed. Most of us who were not home schooled learned it the latter way: governments are legit only insofar as they serve the people. Limiting the scope of a report card to what politicians promise confers upon them the power to lock down our collective imagination and deny our hunger and thirst for justice before we can even express it.

Why These Categories?


Because these are the issues that matter to our people. As the journal of African American political thought and action, they are what our authors write about every week.

1. Health Care Reform (9 points)
2. Creating New Jobs and Preserving Old Ones (5 points)
3. Fully Funding and Preserving Public Education (6 points)
4. War & Peace (9 points)
5. Transportation (5 points)
6. Caribbean and Latin America (4 points)
7. Obama's Africa Policy; Our Brotherman and the Motherland (5 points)
8. Wall Street Bailout (6 points)
9. Debt and Foreclosure Crises (6 points)
10. Investigating Bush-era Crimes (5 points)
11. Criminalizing Immigration, Militarizing the Border (5 points)
12. Broadband For Everyone and a Just and Fair Media (5 points)
13. Environment (5 points)
14. Agricultural Policy, and Policy Toward Black Farmers (5 points)
15. Mass imprisonment (5 points)
16. Employee Free Choice Act (5 points)
17. Urban Policy (5 points)
18. Privatization of Government Agencies and Services (5 points)

****************************************
1. Health Care Reform


President Obama himself declared that we should judge his first term on whether we get a national health care plan. While the exact specs of the Obama campaign have not been formally introduced, it's been no secret for a couple years now that Barack Obama and his advisors abhor any form of Medicare-For-All or single payer health care. When the president's people ordered their activists to convene a wave of health care house meetings in December, the demand most often voiced was for single payer, everybody-in and nobody out. Despite this, and despite polling data that shows a majority of physicians and a majority of the American people favor single payer health care, the Obama administration buried the results of those house meetings. Obama's series of regional health care "summits," although billed as the chance to get input from all the relevant have pointedly excluded any voices for single payer health care.
Currently, private insurance companies consume a third of every health care dollar for advertising, lawyering, salaries and bonuses, bad investments and the vast bureaucratic machinery they have created to deny coverage to the sick. We are the only nation where half the bankruptcies are caused by illness. The Obama health care plan, modeled on the failed "individual mandate" health insurance experiments of Massachusetts, Tennessee and other states will make health insurance like car insurance.
Everyone will have to buy a policy from a private company or face tax and other penalties, with no guarantee the policy will be either affordable or comprehensive. The myriad shortcomings of this plan are detailed in a report from Physicians for a National Health Care Plan, and in several previous BAR articles. When asked during the campaign whether he thought health care was a human right, Barack Obama said he thought it was. His health care plan does preserve the profits of insurance companies.
Five points for admitting health care is a human right, minus one for suppressing discussion of single payer. Four out of nine.

2. Creating New Jobs and Preserving Old Ones

When Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933, the nation had been in the Depression almost four years. The new president created some 800,000 jobs in the space of a few months. To be fair, this Depression hasn't been in effect nearly as long, and there are no insistent mass movements waging extralegal campaigns of strikes and civil disobedience going into the spring of 2009. So it's more complicated than measuring the hundreds of thousands of new jobs Roosevelt created against the hundreds of thousands Obama hasn't.
What we see is a failure of imagination on the part of the Obama administration. Not only does the First Black President declare it's the job of the private sector, never government, to create jobs, a stand closer to Herbert Hoover than to Franklin Roosevelt --- his "stimulus packages" have refused to fully fund the operations of local and state governments. Full funding for local governments would preserve the jobs of teachers, water department workers, librarians, coaches and park district workers, public safety employees and others who are being sent home in the tens of thousands. It's a piece of low hanging job and vital service preserving fruit the Obama administration refuses to harvest.
One point out of five for the Obama rhetoric on green jobs, and the $10 billion directed toward high speed rail..


3. Fully Funding and Preserving Public Education


There is no good news here. While Obama's Secretary of Education has not called teachers unions "terrorists" as his Bush-era counterpart did, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is as committed to de-funding and privatizing public education as his predecessors. Obama's pick for Secretary of Education is an underqualified stooge whose longest lasting job was as a pro basketball player, and who has not a single hour of classroom teaching experience. Duncan's innovations as Chicago Public Schools CEO, detailed in a December BAR interview with longtime Chicago teachers union activist George Schmidt, include the closing and privatizations of dozens of schools in African American communities and the summary firing of their mostly black teachers and principals, and the handing over of several inner-city Chicago middle and high schools to the Army, Navy and Marine Corps.
No Child Left Behind, the bipartisan corporate Bush era "education reform," which allows schools and entire districts to be threatened with closure and privatization, seems destined to remain intact for the forseeable future under an Obama administration.
Zero points here of a possible six.

4. War and Peace


From 2003 onward, Barack Obama staked his political career on conveying to voters the impression that he opposed the war in Iraq, while vigorously signalling to the bipartisan freign policy establishment that he was really one of them. By early 2008 Obama closed the circle, openly endorsing the Bush "surge" and war aims in Iraq, confirming that thirty or fifty or seventy thousand troops, depending, could remain in Iraq throughout his first term. Unlike John McCain, who said the US should increase troop levels in Afghanistan because "we" are "winning," Obama wanted to boost the number of American boots on the ground there because "we" are losing. Halfway though his first week in office, Obama was launching missiles from drones at Pakistani mountain villages.
While the US spends more on things military than the rest of the world combined, the Obama military budget is higher than Bush's. Though the laughable "war on terror" is gone from our government propaganda, all or most of its machinery remains in motion under the new administration.
Barack Obama has kept Robert Gates, a bloodstained Reagan-era war criminal as chief of the Pentagon, and designated the bloodthirsty Susan Rice as UN Ambassador. Susan Rice is an enthusiastic advocate of genocidal military intervention practically everywhere on the African continent under the monstrously hypocritical cover of "stopping genocide."
The president says he will talk to Iran, which is worth a point, but continues the Bush policy of threatening Russia with NATO expansion right up to its borders, which takes away the single point.
Zero out of nine points.

5. Transportation


After more than a half century of disinvestment, the US passenger rail network is the laughing stock of the developed world. Passenger railcars have not been manufactured in the US for decades, and no high speed rail exists at all outside a single line in the northeast. Investment in high speed intercity rail was one of the first promises broken by the Clinton administration.
The initial investment of $10 billion, apparently pushed at the president's personal initiative is a modest start, with the potential to create tens of thousands of new jobs, though not right away. Obama probably knows that $100 billion over his first term would be a minimally reasonable down payment on a world class passenger rail network, which will be cheaper and more sustainable than America's dependence on highways and air travel. Assuming he does have the vision, the question are whether he has the political will, and whether, after allowing Wall Street to pillage and loot the US Treasury under the guise of a "bailout," whether we have the money, and how much of it can be executed before the price of fuel makes air and highway travel prohibitive.
Also, existing urban mass transit is in tatters, thanks to management that believes transit is a profit center rather than an economic right. Those awaiting an Obama commitment to the future of urban mass transit on the scale of his pledges to intercity rail may have a long wait. After all, urban mass transit is identified, in the minds of many, with African Americans, a political identification the First Black President determined to avoid wherever possible.
Four points out of five.

6. Caribbean and Latin America


Given that one black person in ten in the US has a spouse, sibling or parent born abroad, most often from Africa or the Caribbean, administration policies toward these regions have a special resonance in the African American community. Obama deserves a half point for shaking hands with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, and another half point for not striking the usual full frontal crudity pose toward Cuba at the inter-American summit earlier this month. But massive taxpayer subsidies of US agribusiness to dump millions of tons of genetically modified corn, soybeans and other products on Jamaica, Haiti, Mexico, Central and South America continue to crush local agriculture, deepening food dependency in and driving immigration from these countries. There is no sign that an Obama administration is reconsidering any of these policies.
The brutal occupation of Haiti by a US financed proxy force of so-called peacekeepers, also continues unmentioned by the US press, and unremarked upon by the Obama administration.
Lots of room for improvement here. One and a half points out of four.

7. Obama's Africa Policy: Our Brotherman and the Motherland


In recent years the US has provided arms transfers, military training and military assistance to more than 50 out of Africa's 54 nations. Hence Africa is the most war-torn region on earth, containing millions of square miles in which hospitals, schools, agriculture, industry and civil society have collapsed into vast law-free zones, such as the eastern Congo, where 5 million souls have perished since the mid 1990s. These law-free zones have proven an ideal business-friendly environment for the extraction of Congo's timber and mineral wealth, including 90% of the world's coltan, an essential strategic mineral found in every cell phone, computer, aircraft and modern electronic device. Resources extracted from law free zones in the Congo and elsewhere in Africa invariably find their way into "legitimate" markets of Western Europe and the US.
While the death toll in neighboring Darfur is bad the death toll is a twentieth or a hundredth that of the Congo, according to Mahmood Mandani and others who are in a position to know, but the Obama Administration, just like the Bush Administration before it, calls Darfur a "genocide," and not the Congo. The difference, say many, is that the Sudanese oil is being pumped out by the Chinese, while the profits from 5 million Congolese dead end up here. The "genocide" label is about as truthful as Saddam's WMD, another excuse for military intervention.
Barack Obama has been to Somalia, but his administration continues the twenty year low-intensity war against that unhappy country. Somalia hasn't had a central government in two decades not because its people don't want one, but because successive US Republican and Democratic administrations brand as "terrorist Al Qeada sympathizers" any Somali government that won't grant the US the exclusive rights to the untapped lake of oil beneath the country.
The Bush administratin established AFRICOM, the US imperial command on the continent, a move so unpopular that only one African government in 54 will dare openly accept it, fearing the wrath of their own constituents. Although it is a military command headed by a black US general AFRICOM is seconded by a civilian from the State Department, and liberally sprinkled with representatives of every US civilian governmental, and some ostensible non-governmental entity which does business in Africa. Thus AFRICOM deliberately blurs the line between US civilian and military involvement on the African continent, and even more thoroughly militarizes US policy toward Africa.
Nobody who thinks half a minute about it imagines that the militarization of Africa, and of US policy toward Africa is a good thing. It has been US policy for more than two decades. Among the bipartisan designers of this policy are Obama's top foreign policy advisors including Madeline Albright and Susan Rice. You can look awfully hard for some good news in Obama's policy toward Africa so far, and find no reason for optimism.
We'll give him one point out of five anyway, for no good reason. Call it hope.

8. Bailing Out Wall Street


The extent to which Wall Street and the Obama administration are in bed with each other is deeply disappointing to most Americans, according to a recent NBC News Gallup poll.
Not a single economist, regulator, or financial analyst who predicted the bursting of the bubble economy, and there were many, has been hired by Obama's financial gurus, and every financial policy seems aimed at rescuing speculators rather than the American people. Rather than recognize the systemic crisis of capital for what it is, the end of business as usual, all the Obama 'stimulus" paackages are offered in the folorn hope that that lending can be re-started, another bubble re-inflated, and business can be resumed as usual.
Zero points out of six.

9. Debt and Foreclosure Crises


For ordinary people, the financial crisis has become a debt crisis. Mortgage, consumer and credit card debt have mounted to unpayable levels, as the parasitic masters of capital attempt to extract an interest payment out of every transaction. Acquiring a college education, for example, has become virtually impossible for most Americans without incurring a five figure debt at usurious interest rates. The Obamas, despite their much higher than average income, were unable to pay off their college loans till a couple years ago, when they received royalties from his best-selling book.

Until there is a commitment on the part of the Obama administration to lower interest rates on current and new consumer, mortgage, and student loans, to restricting interest rates in future lending, and a restoration of bankruptcy laws that enable individuals to liquidate their debt and start anew, we cannot give Barack Obama any more than a single hopeful point out of six.

10. Investigatng the Bush Era Crimes


Unlike the nation's political elite, a substantial majority of the American people want the Bush crimes against humanity and the Constitution at least investigated. But the Obama administration on every front seems to affirm a bipartisan elite consensus that government officials are above the law. The Obama vision of reconciliation without truth incentivizes further violations of law on the part of government. If there were negative points, we would award them here.
Zero out of five.


11. Criminalizing Immigration and Militarizing the Border


Despite some promising campaign rhetoric in which Obama declined to adopt the racist and scapegoating language of Republican and many Democratic politicians toward immigrants, the Obama administration designated Janet Napalitano, the evil twin sister of Phoenix sheriff Joe Arpaio to head the Department of Homeland Security. In our opinion, this is an executive agency which should never have been formed, and ought to now be dissolved. Under the Obama administration, construction of the border wall continues.
Obama gets one point for rhetoric, and another point for not deploying troops to the border. Two out of five.

12. Broadband For Everyone, Low Power Radio, and a Just and Fair Media


One of the administration's professed goals is the extension of broadband availability to underserved rural and urban areas. The designation of $7 billion for this purpose, and the nomination of former FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein to supervise its dispensation is a promising start. But the failure thus far to neutralize corporate forces who want to keep any broadband mapping data concealed from the public is a loathsome concession to cable companies and telcos. Obama's new FCC chief has not yet been confirmed, and so cannot be judged. The administration says it is for network neutrality, and has not opposed low power FM radio as far as we know. Its position on media consolidation and the future of music remain unknown.
Two points awarded here for substance, and one for hope. Three out of five.

13. Environment


The so-called "Cap And Trade" scheme favored by the Obama adminstration enacts the reprehensible suggestion of Obama advisor Larry Summers' that African and other less developed countries are "underpolluted" by establishing a corporate "right" to pollute, along with a financial market to buy, sell, trade and speculate on the value of these imaginary pollution "rights." It doesn't appear to have reduced carbon emissions in Europe, according to Dartmouth's Dr. Michael Dorsey, but it has made a lot of traders and speculators rich, and is a product of the same market-as-solution-to-everything exhibited during the Bush years. A tax on carbon emission s would be more straightforward. No points there, and none for "clean coal" either.
The Obama adminstration gets a single point for talking up fuel economy standards and green jobs, with another thrown in for hope. One point out of five.

14. Agricultural Policy, and Policy Toward Black Farmers


The broad Obama policy toward agribusiness is unlikely to be good news. Obama is committed, for instance, to ethanol, which often takes more energy to produce than it does when burned. On the other hand, one of the first acts of Obama's new Secretary of Agriculture was to meet with black farmers of the Southern Federation of Rural Cooperatives. After decades of malign neglect toward African American farmers, a single meeting isn't much, but it's hopeful, worth two points of a possible five.

15. Mass Black Imprisonment


Some things are too hot for a First Black President with no real allegiance to African Americans as a community to touch, but too important to the lives of millions in that community to ignore. Not long ago, Obama declared that despite an incarceration rate seven to nine times that of white America, blacks were "90% of the way to equality." If the First Black President cannot grow a pair on this issue, and come out for restorative justice, elimination of disparate penalties, banning of incarceration of juveniles with adults or an end to indeterminate sentencing, he deserves no points. It's tough, it's a high standard, but a fair one.
Zero out of five.

16. The Employee Free Choice Act


The EFCA would better enable workers to form unions across the country. It would give them some of the same vital tools for raising their own living standards that workers in other countries like Canada have --- the ability to exercise democracy on the job and assert their economic rights to security and survival. On the campaign trail President Obama endorsed the EFCA, but gererally, only when asked or when appearing at union halls and labor functions. Since assuming office he has rarely mentioned it. The Chamber of Commerce and other employers including Wal-Kart and Home Depot are spending tens or hundreds of millions on deceitful PR campaigns to misrepresent and distort the issue. They are not being countered by the Obama administration. Some Democrats have declared against EFCA, and others appear ready to trade off pieces of it for goodness knows what. This is a time when presidential leadership can enable tens of millions to lift up their own living standards.
We are waiting for President Obama to show this leadership. Still waiting.... Two points of a possible five, and slipping.

17. Urban Policy


Despite the elevation of tens of thousands of African Americans to public office in cities and states and counties across the land, the creation of thousands of black millionaires, along with an educated and empowered black middle class, the only model of urban economic development any of us have seen consists of moving poorer people out of urban neighborhoods and richer ones in. The black misleadership class seems not to know how to create jobs or low income housing, or how to develop, to value, to stabilize communities where they are. They just know how to get paid, and they do that by playing the development game as their white counterparts have handed it to them. Sadly, Barack Obama's administration brings little to the table on this score. We award the Obama administration two points for establishing an office of Urban Policy, and take away one of those for appointing a New York pol with ties to real estate developers to the post.
One out of five.

18. Privatization of Government Agencies and Services Including the Military


A hallmark of the Bush, and before that, the Clinton administration has been the conversion of public wealth, public property, even public services and the military, to centers of private profit. In principle, most Americans know that privatization of public resources is a bad idea. Publicly transparent processes become proprietary information. Public services are cut back to wring profits from every transaction, and needed services that don't turn big enough profits are cut back. Vast portions of the nation's intelligence, prisons and military establishments, for example, have been privatized. This is an issue never mentioned by candidate Obama or President Obama, but one vital to the future of any sort of democracy.
Zero points out of five.

A hundred days is far too early for anyone to score a hundred points on a list of concerns like these. 55 would have been passing, and 45 a sign of hopes being actually redeemed on some fronts. But at under 25 out of a possible 100 our First Black President is at best a chronic underacheiver, as far as the real needs of African Americans go.

MAINE GREENS MAKE A GOOD TURN

I spent the day yesterday in Augusta at two Maine Green Party events.

First was a planning meeting for the campaign of Lynne Williams who is running for governor in 2010 as a Green. Lynne is a well-known attorney in the state who has over the years represented communities fighting on environmental issues, represented people in the peace movement arrested for civil disobedience, helped Native Americans in the state, and a whole lot more. People all over Maine have benefited from her legal expertise and she has a solid base of support to build a campaign around. She is a highly respected activist and for the past year, before declaring her candidacy, was president of the Maine Green Independent Party (MGIP).

It was a good meeting where we spent some time reviewing key campaign issues and discussing the nuts and bolts of building a solid statewide campaign. She has already been going from one end of this big state to the other to meet with local people about her candidacy.

Following the campaign meeting there was a dinner to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the MGIP, which was the first state Green Party in the US that was created - in fact it was founded even before the national party was formed. Former Bowdoin College professor and activist John Rensenbrink is credited with the founding and last night he made a fine speech where he outlined the need for any successful party to come from the grassroots movements of our day. Just to make the point he asked all those who were peace activists to stand up, then environmental activists, those working on health care, those working on this or that issue, etc..... He well illustrated the point.

Closing the dinner Lynne Williams made an excellent speech about the need for corporate capitalism, and its ravenous and deadly growth ethic, to die a timely death. In its place Lynne suggested we need to see growth in organic farming, the use of alternative forms of energy creation, local control of our schools and our natural resources (water for one). The state, Lynne said, should help the citizens in our local communities, not dominate them with edicts and laws that are designed to benefit multi-national corporations like Nestle and others.

During the giving of awards I was quite surprised to get an award they called "Maine Green of the Year". I think much of the reason for the award was my work leading the committee in our state in support of Cynthia McKinney's presidential bid during the last election.

I've not always been impressed by the Green Party in Maine's organizing expertise. It appears though that the candidacy of Lynne Williams is bringing needed life into the party and last night's dinner celebration was the best event I'd witnessed since I joined the party after arriving in Maine six years ago.

One friend excitedly told me on my way out the door, "Lynne is the best candidate for governor we've had yet." From what I can see I think he may be right.