Oct. 1, 2010, Issue #162
HUDSON VALLEY ACTIVIST NEWSLETTER
email@example.com, P.O. Box 662, New Paltz, NY 12561
From the Editor:
1. The Activist Newsletter, our action group Peace and Social Progress Now, and co-sponsors are organizing two free public meetings at the State University of New York in New Paltz in October and November and we invite our readers to attend. Both events start at 7 p.m. in the Coykendall Science Bldg. auditorium.
The Oct. 27 meeting is titled "The Perfect Storm — Climate Change, Endless Wars and Global Poverty." The meeting is largely focused on the extreme danger of climate change in the next decades, made worse by Washington's fixation on wars and military spending, compounded by the inability of the UN and world nations to alleviate growing poverty. All three in combination spell disaster.
The Nov. 10 meeting focuses on the Palestinian people and explains the history of their struggle and their objectives, and various other aspects of Israel-Palestine relations. Our co-sponsors are the Middle East Crisis Response and the campus Muslim Students Association. (The date is probable but we're waiting for room confirmation.)
The Activist Calendar for Hudson Valley readers will have full details soon.
2. One of America's best progressive topical singer-musicians, David Rovics, has outdone himself with his new song, "All Aboard the Mavi Marmara." It's about the Israeli attack on the unarmed ship headed toward Gaza with humanitarian supplies, resulting in the killing of nine passengers. We recommend you view/listen to this six and a half minute music video, and send the web address to your list. It is at:
1. DEMOCRATS FACE TOUGH ELECTION — The labor movement and a new coalition are considered important to limit Democratic losses in the Nov. 2 midterm election.
2. POVERTY RATE: WORSE THAN IT APPEARS — Outdated methodology undercounts Americans living in poverty.
3. WHAT CLASSLESS SOCIETY? — The so-called growing rich-poor gap in "classless" America is a euphemism for the existence of an accelerated class struggle against American workers and the poor by a relatively small minority that possesses or has access to great wealth and power.
4. TIME FOR A REAL CHANGE —Jessie Jackson, suggests a few steps to alleviate poverty in America.
5. AMERICANS WANT A THIRD PARTY — By golly it's true.
6. OBAMA MOCKS LIBERAL CONCERNS — Stop complaining.
7. OBAMA AND AMERICAN GLOBAL LEADERSHIP — New poll indicates Americans would just as soon the U.S. stopped playing top cop and king of our earthly hill, but the Obama Administration differs.
8. BOLIVIA: MORALES FACES NEW CHALLENGES — Signs of big problems.
9.100 ARRESTED PROTESTING MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL — 2,000 turn out in Washington to defend Appalachia.
10. HOW CORPORATIONS OWN CONGRESS — Here's how it's done.
11. CLIMATE CHANGE DOESN'T MOVE CONGRESS — Hmmm, what do human beings have to do with it?
12. ARCTIC WARMS, SEA ICE SHRINKS — And wildlife dies.
13. THE MEANING OF AHMADINEJAD'S SPEECH: He didn't say the U.S. government planned 9/11 attacks, no matter what the news reports alleged.
14. A PEACE MOVEMENT COURT VICTORY — "Fourteen antiwar activists may have made history today in Las Vegas," writes John Dear.
15. REV. LUCIUS WALKER, JR., PRESENTE! — One of our best has died at 80. A real loss.
1. DEMOCRATS FACE TOUGH ELECTION
By the Activist Newsletter
"Hello Wisconsin!.... Keep believing change is possible!.... You’ve got to stick with me, you can’t lose heart," implored the celebrated orator, appearing in shirtsleeves without a tie. "Change is going to come for this generation if we work for it, if we believe it."
And an estimated 17,000 largely youthful people attending a rally at the University of Wisconsin in liberal Madison shouted and applauded President Barack Obama during his 45-minute address Sept. 28. Thousands more were nearby, unable to get in.
Obama's back on the campaign trail, and he sounds as he did leading up to his and the Democratic Party's electoral triumph two years ago — promising an undefined form of social "change" that his audience was asked to "believe" in.
But it wasn't just like the old days of 2008, though to many in the enthusiastic Madison crowd it seemed so. Important portions of the constituency that voted Democratic in 2008 may not turn up to vote in the crucial midterm Congressional elections on Nov. 2, partly out of dissatisfaction.
By contrast, the Republican base appears fired up, largely because its right/far right Tea Party sharks sense Democratic blood in the water. This new political phenomenon of the last year and a half represents about 20% of the Republican constituency, but its self-confidence, in-your-face activism and radical right demands have inspired much of the GOP faithful.
It's an interesting development, with ultra-conservatives elbowing aside the neo-conservatives of the Bush era and sharply contesting for dominant power with the conservative establishment that rules the party. The long run significance of this internal rebellion is unknown, though an even further shift to the right may be unfolding. What it probably means for this election is that more Republicans than usual will show up at the polls. A Gallup Poll in August indicated only 28% of Democratic voters were "very enthusiastic" about voting, compared to 44% of Republicans, but that was several weeks ago and things change.
Historically, many fewer voters participate in midterm elections, and the party in power usually loses Congressional seats. But Democratic leaders fear fewer than usual independents, young voters and liberals will show up to support party candidates, leading to a GOP takeover of the House, less so the Senate. The Obama Administration dreads a replay of the 1994 election when the Democrats lost control of both chambers two years after President Bill Clinton and a Democratic Congress were swept into power. Here's why they worry:
• Independent voters who expected the quick-fix "change" they voted for are dispirited by business-as-usual in Washington. They are further disturbed by the Obama Administration's bailout to the bankers and Wall St. and by its inability to put a greater dent into the recession and unemployment.
• Many of the young, mostly first-time voters who turned out in large number to choose Obama two years ago may stay away form the polls. It is not unusual for young presidential voters to bypass the midterms, but they played a significant role in electing Democrats and the party needs them back. Within their ranks as well there is a certain disappointment — over the absence of "change," the lack of jobs, and the ever-widening wars they thought would end.
• Many liberal voters are dissatisfied that with big majorities in Congress and an impressive Democrat in the White House, there has been little to show for it. They view the Obama Administration's touted healthcare and financial regulation victories as half-way measures. Liberals complain that their party compromises too much with the crudely obstructive Republicans in Congress. They would rather fight and lose than not fight and in effect lose. Others deplore what is viewed as Obama's reckless expansion of his predecessor's fruitless Afghan war.
President Obama has made it clear several times in recent weeks that he disagrees with complaints from liberal Democrats. In an interview published in Rolling Stone dated Oct. 15 he said: "I've been here two years, guys. And... we have accomplished 70% of what we committed to in the campaign, historic legislation, and we've got 30% of it undone — well, that's what the next two years is for, or maybe the next six." Seventy percent? Given that the campaign rarely defined its concrete objectives, maybe so.
Worrying aloud, as Democratic leaders are doing, that the dreaded Republicans will take over Congress, is in part a tactic to whip the party base into the voting booths a month from now. The liberals, however, are loyal despite their lack of power within the party and are not willing to buck the leadership the way the Tea Party's doing in the GOP.
But there is dissatisfaction in much of the Democratic base that needs urgent attention before Nov. 2, particularly with Obama's popularity hovering just below 50% (his handling the economy is approved by 40%), and voters evidence great disapproval of both parties in Congress, favoring the Democrats slightly more.
There is clear discontent among working people about how the Obama Administration is responding to the Great Recession. It is supposed to have ended already but The Economist magazine predicts that the U.S. won't actually recover from the downturn until 2014 at the earliest. This means years more hardship for the working class, middle class and lower class. The upper class is doing very well.
Many working people do not think the Democrats are doing enough to counter continuing unemployment, which remains just under 10% officially but over 17% in reality when "discouraged" workers and part-timers who need full time jobs are counted. Mounting economic insecurity, outrageously high foreclosures, and a perception of growing inequality between "haves" and "have nots," make the situation worse.
According to a Pew Research Center poll released Sept. 24, 55% of Americans said the recession "brought [them] a mix of hardships, usually in combination: a spell of unemployment, missed mortgage or rent payments, shrinking paychecks and shattered household budgets." More Democrats than Republicans are in this group.
A recent New York Times opinion poll found that "57% of respondents believed the president did not have a clear plan for fixing the nation's broken economy." What's obviously needed is a broad, convincing program emanating from the Obama Administration that focuses primarily on alleviating the problems afflicting the masses of people who are suffering not only from the continuing effects of the recession but from decades of stagnant wages and increasing debts. Such a comprehensive plan for the people is simply not under consideration.
In addition to Obama taking to the road and more activity at the base level, there are two other important efforts afoot to get out the Democratic vote. One is a major campaign led by the labor movement to attract union members to the polls. The other is the formation of a mass coalition of key constituencies to activate Democratic voters called One Nation Working Together.
Both the AFL-CIO and Change To Win labor federations are going all-out this year to elect Democrats in terms of financial contributions, volunteer help and union votes. They are not going to get much in return from the Obama Administration (they wanted a stronger healthcare plan and more regulation of financial institutions and Wall St.) but they will get far less from a Republican Congress.
Labor's main legislation — the Employee Free Choice Act, making it easier for workers to obtain union representation — wasn't even introduced because defecting Senate Blue Dog conservative Democrats would have joined with Republicans in opposing the measure. The false consciousness of the American people regarding the union movement is astonishing. An August Gallup Poll show that only 52% of Americans even "approved" of unions. Though they have experienced significant membership losses in recent decades unions still account for 15.3 million workers, and they remain a very powerful force in elections. According to exit polls 60% of union workers voted for Obama in 2008 versus 37% for Sen. John McCain.
In a speech to the AFL-CIO's executive council in Washington Aug. 4, Obama told the union leaders that the Republicans "want to go backward; we want to move America forward. That's the choice in this upcoming election. All your members need to understand that choice."
When AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka pointedly asked about the Free Choice Act, Obama told his audience, "Look, it's going to be tough with the Senate we have but we are going to keep fighting." Passage remains very doubtful.
Throughout several days of meetings in early August it was evident the union leaders considered the upcoming election to be of substantial importance. Trumka called it the "the most crucial election in 75 years." They worked out an ambitious plan to substantially increase the proportion of union votes by launching a campaign to energize their membership base at the local level, particularly in key "battleground" states. "Union power is people power," the AFL-CIO president told the delegates. "It's about boots on the ground. Your union members are the power."
Trumka's speech was largely a defense of the Obama Administration's first two years, and a call for understanding of its shortcomings. He gave this advice to delegates about energizing the rank and file: "We need to tell our union brothers and sisters: We know you're angry. We know you're frustrated. We know we haven't achieved everything we worked for. But we've made progress — and we have to keep it going. Remind them we have to save our anger for the corporate lapdogs who made this mess and the Republicans in the Senate who are determined to keep us in it."
The AFL-CIO itself is pledging $50 million to the Democratic campaign, focused on 26 key states where the unions already have 1,500 full-time campaign workers. Many unions in both federations will also funnel funds and people power to the Democrats. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) will donate over $50 million in this election, for instance. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has offered $44 million.
Writing in The New York Times Sept. 17 labor reporter Steven Greenhouse noted that "The Democrats will depend on labor unions — the shock troops of their political campaigns — to offset two new developments this election cycle: Tea Party enthusiasm and corporations’ ability to spend unlimited amounts thanks to a Supreme Court ruling."
Greenhouse quoted one union leader, Patricia Elizondo, president of the 2,000-member Milwaukee local of the International Association of Machinists, who seemed pessimistic about some workers: "People are disappointed. People have been unemployed for two years, and they’re unhappy that the healthcare bill was not as good as they expected. Two years ago, I had many members going door-to-door to campaign. Now they’re saying, 'Why should I? We supported that candidate, but he didn’t follow through.'"
The other prong of the get out the vote effort is the newly formed One Nation Working Together coalition of labor, African American, liberal Democratic and other organizations. Some 400 groups are said to be involved. One purpose is to rally and expand the Democratic Party base, energizing union workers, liberals, and youth in particular to volunteer and go to the polls to support the Democratic Congressional candidates. Another purpose seems to be to pressure the Democrats to live up to their own program. The rallying cry is "Demand the Changes We Voted For."
The coalition's political program is essentially that of the Obama Administration. It calls for these measures: Put America back to work; Union rights; Higher minimum wage and living family wage; End discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or ability; Rebuild the U.S. economy for the 21st Century; Justice and equal opportunity for all; End discriminatory practices within the criminal justice system; Immigrant rights; Strengthen the [social] safety net; Quality public education for all.
The October 2 mass rally and march in Washington, which will draw a huge crowd, was organized by One Nation Working Together to provide a public manifestation of political power that will exceed anything the Republicans and their Tea Party vanguard could pull off. This is an important demonstration for the left because of its labor union, African American and liberal/progressive aspects.
The One Nation coalition formed an adjunct oddly titled "The Peace Table — the peace and antiwar voice of One Nation Working Together" to attract the disaffected antiwar movement to the nation's capital to increase the size of the event and to get peace voters back into the fold. The large United for Peace and Justice coalition, which supports the Democrats and greatly decreased its antiwar activities after Obama took office, now seems to have been selected as the leading force directing the "Table," though many groups are active in its workings.
Some of the many liberal peace groups that have essentially dropped out of activism since the 2008 election may attend. The left wing of the peace movement, which has continued the antiwar struggle without interruption, and other left political groups, are expected to be out in force Oct. 2 in order to show solidarity with the labor movement and to put forward a strong antiwar perspective in the march, which is calling for "Peace, Jobs & Justice Now." One of the march demands is "Immediate withdrawal of all troops, contractors, and bases from Iraq and Afghanistan."
Various antiwar and left groups will take part in an 11 a.m. mass march along Constitution Ave. from 15th St. NW to the Lincoln Memorial, where the rally begins at 12 noon. There are also two feeder marches to the rally that we know about: Immigrant rights: 10 a.m. on the West side of the Capitol Building. Youth and students: 11 a.m. at Freedom Plaza (14th St. and Pennsylvania Ave. NW).
While antiwar and anti-imperialist forces will be a noticeable presence in the antiwar march, we suspect this will not be the case at the speaker's platform.
2. POVERTY RATE: WORSE THAN IT APPEARS
[Editor's Note: Economic inequality in the United States increased substantially in 2009, according to a new Census Bureau report Sept. 14. The report, however, does not tell the entire story by a long shot, as this AlterNet article by David DeGraw makes abundantly clear. An article about a second Census Bureau report two weeks later on the widening rich-poor gap follows this story.]
By David DeGraw
While the shocking new poverty statistics from the Census Bureau indicating that a record 43.6 million Americans lived in poverty in 2009 emphatically demonstrates the severity of the economic crisis, the Census is drastically undercounting this demographic. Apparently the government's poverty statistics are as accurate as its unemployment statistics.
I have read many reports that simply restate what the government has said without questioning the fact that the metrics it uses to calculate poverty are extremely outdated.
News reports say that in 2009 the poverty rate “skyrocketed” to 43.6 million — up from 39.8 million in 2008, which is the largest year-to-year increase, and the highest number since statistics have been recorded — putting the poverty rate for 2009 at 14.3%. This is obviously a tragedy and horrific news. However, this is also the result of lazy reporting.
Let’s revisit the 2008 Census total stating that 39.8 million Americans lived in poverty. It turns out that the National Academy of Science did its own study and found that 47.4 million Americans actually lived in poverty in 2008. The Census missed 7.6 million Americans living in poverty that year.
How did that happen? The Census Bureau uses a long outdated method to calculate the poverty rate. The Census is measuring poverty based on costs of living metrics established back in 1955 — 55 years ago! They ignore many key factors, such as the increased costs of medical care, child care, education, transportation, and many other basic costs of living. They also don’t factor geographically based costs of living. For example, try finding a place to live in New York that costs the same as a place in Florida.
So the Census poverty rate increase of 3.8 million people will put the 2009 National Academy of Science (NAS) number at a minimum of 51.2 million Americans. And if the margin of discrepancy is equivalent to the 7.6 million of 2008, we are looking at a NAS number of at least 52 million people for 2009.
Let’s also consider the fact that more than 20 million people were on unemployment benefits last year. A Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis concluded that unemployment insurance temporarily kept 3.3 million people out of poverty. Food stamp assistance kept another 2.3 million people out of poverty. If we were to include all of these people, we'd be looking at almost 60 million Americans living in poverty. Which means the government number doesn't account for over 14.1 million Americans in poverty.
Now let’s look at the poverty line these numbers are based on: $22,050 for a family of four. Let me repeat that: $22,050 for a family of four. That breaks down to $5,513 per person, per year. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine living in the United States on $459 per month. That amount will barely get you a good health insurance policy, never mind food, clothes and a roof over your head. No wonder why a record 50.7 million Americans do not have health insurance. (Beware: 50.7 million Americans without health insurance is a government-based number. If you had health insurance for only one day last year, you are not counted in this total.)
Clearly, the Census is setting the income level for its poverty measurement extremely low. If we were to increase that measure by just a small increment, to $25,000 for a family of four, I estimate that the National Academy of Science would come up with a number of nearly 100 million Americans in poverty.
Let’s also consider the staggering amount of Americans — 52 million, roughly 17% of the population — who are currently enrolled in “anti-poverty” programs. Over 50 million are on Medicaid, 41 million on food stamps, 10 million on unemployment, 4.4 million receive welfare. Not counted in this “anti-poverty” total are 30 million children enrolled in the National School Lunch Program. Another metric: if it wasn’t for Social Security — note to deficit hawks — 20 million more would be added to the poverty total.
The effect of people moving in with family members instead of living on their own has further masked the severity of the poverty crisis. Foreclosures, unemployment, increased cost of education and health insurance have led the average household to grow in size. As Patrick Martin reports:
"The number of multifamily households increased by 11.6% from 2008 to 2010, and the proportion of adults 25-34 living with their parents rose from 12.7% in 2008 to 13.4% in 2010. The poverty rate for these young adults was 8.5% when they were considered part of their parents’ household, but would have been 43% if they had been living on their own."
This trend is currently increasing. Although it is terribly under-reported, foreclosure rates continue to rise. We just experienced the worst month of foreclosures in history; the generation just graduating from college is carrying record levels of student-loan debt, and they are being forced into much lower income levels than anticipated, if they can even find employment.
Another glaring factor clouding our view of poverty in America is that the Census does not calculate a person’s assets and liabilities. Considering the massive debts most Americans are carrying, this would make the poverty rate explode. Stephen Crawford and Shawn Fremstad from Reuters concisely summed up this point:
"As Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, along with economist Jean-Paul Fitoussi, write in their new book Mismeasuring Our Lives, 'Income and consumption are crucial for assessing living standards, but in the end they can only be gauged in conjunction with information on wealth.' This point is just as relevant to poverty measurement as it is to other measures of living standards.
"To understand why this is the case, consider two families: one had an income that puts them a few thousand dollars below the poverty line, which was $22,050 for a family of four in 2009; the other has an income a few thousand dollars above the line. Looking only at income, the first family is worse off than the second.
"Now add what the family owns and owes into the mix. Let’s say the first family has substantial net equity in its home and moderate liquid savings for a "rainy day," while the latter has no liquid savings or, as is becoming too common these days, has liabilities that dwarf their assets such as an "underwater" mortgage. Using this more comprehensive method, the latter family, despite a modestly higher income, is actually the poorer one."
In my analysis, a key metric to judge the overall economic security and hardship level of a country is the percentage of the population living paycheck to paycheck. Anyone who lives paycheck to paycheck can tell you about the stress and psychological impact it has on you when you know your family is one sickness, injury or downsizing away from economic ruin. The employment company CareerBuilder, in partnership with Harris Interactive, conducts an annual survey to determine the percentage of Americans currently living paycheck to paycheck. In 2007, 43% fell into this category. In 2008, the number increased to 49%. In 2009, the number skyrocketed up to 61%.
In their most recent survey, this number exploded to a mind-shattering 77%. Yes, 77% of Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck. This means in our nation of 310 million citizens, 239 million Americans are one setback away from economic ruin....
3. WHAT CLASSLESS SOCIETY?
By Jack A. Smith, Activist Newsletter
The so-called growing rich-poor gap in "classless" America is a euphemism for the existence of an accelerated class struggle against American workers and the poor by a relatively small minority that possesses or has access to great wealth and power.
The Census Bureau reported Sept. 24, that the income differential between rich and poor Americans was greater in 2009 than any time since such records were kept.
Another Census report two weeks earlier revealed that America's largest year-to-year increase in poverty took place in 2009, although its estimate of 43.6 million people living in poverty is considered a serious undercount based on outmoded measurement criteria. (See article above.) Young workers and children are fast falling to the bottom of the heap. The biggest poverty jump last year was among 18 to 24 year old "less-skilled" adults, and 20% of our children live in poverty.
The Associated Press reported Sept. 28 that "The top-earning 20% of Americans — those making more than $100,000 each year — received 49.4% of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4% earned by those below the poverty line, according to newly released Census figures. That ratio of 14.5-to-1 was an increase from 13.6 in 2008 and nearly double a low of 7.69 in 1968.
"A different measure, the international Gini index, found U.S. income inequality at its highest level since the Census Bureau began tracking household income in 1967. The U.S. also has the greatest disparity among Western industrialized nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development."
Following are some recent statistics and statements that show how wide is the chasm between the upper class and the rest of American society, from the poorest of the poor through the working class and middle class.
(Note in coming paragraphs the difference between "income," meaning what you earn each year, and "wealth," meaning income plus assets — assets being everything you own, from your house, car and furnishings to all your property, savings, stocks and bonds, yachts, airplanes, jewelry, companies, etc.)
According to the Wall St. Journal, a 2008 study of wealth in the United States found that the richest .01% (that's one-hundredth of one percent, or 14,000 American families) possess 22.2% of the nation's wealth. The bottom 90%, or over 133 million families, control just 4% of the nation's wealth. The remaining top 9.99% made ends meet with what's left, 73.8%.
David DeGraw also has written that "a recent study done by Capgemini and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management found that a mere 1% of Americans are hoarding $13 trillion in investable wealth...and that doesn’t even factor in all the money they have hidden in offshore accounts."
A recent report by Ray B. Williams points out that "The U.S. Census Bureau and the World Wealth Report 2010 both report increases for the top 5% of households even during the current recession. Based on Internal Revenue Service figures, the richest 1% have tripled their cut of America's income pie in one generation. In 1980 the richest 1% of America took 1 of every 15 income dollars. Now they take 3 of every 15 income dollars.... Income inequality has been rising since the late 1970s, and now rests at a level not seen since the Gilded Age (1870 to 1900), a period in U.S. history defined by the contrast between the excesses of the super-rich and the squalor of the poor."
According to Paul Buchheit of DePaul University "In 1965, the average salary for a CEO of a major U.S. company was 25 times the salary of the average worker. Today, the average CEO's pay is more than 250 times the average worker's." The New York Times reported March 31, 2010, that "Top hedge fund managers rode the 2009 stock market rally to record gains, with the highest-paid 25 earning a collective $25.3 billion, according to the survey, beating the old 2007 high by a wide margin." The annual GDP of nearly 90 UN member nations is lower than what these people took home last year. The highest paid manager on the list was David Tepper of Appaloosa Management, who made $4 billion last year."
Year 2009 may have been an economic disaster for a record number of Americans, but the U.S. billionaire caste — and millionaires as well, of course — had an excellent year. According to Forbes magazine, 2009 "was a billionaire bonanza," with Bill Gates profiting by $13 billion (enlarging his wealth to $53 billion), and Warren Buffett getting $10 billion richer (increasing his fortune to $47 billion).
There are 1,011 billionaires in the world (40% are Americans) with an average net worth of $3.6 billion — a relative trifle more than the "wealth" possessed by the bottom half of the entire world population.
Throughout their lives, average Americans are taught by their school, church and corporate mass media that theirs is a classless society, and that the notion of classes, class struggle or class war is just left wing propaganda.
Differences in income are acknowledged — but it is claimed that since upward mobility and attainment of the American Dream are available to everyone if they work hard enough, there is only one class despite gradations in wealth. It's called the middle class, presumably with statistical subsections for the very rich and very poor. But the "Dream" and upward mobility have never been available to everyone, and over the last three decades have been substantially reduced for many new generations of working families.
How often do you hear the politicians of the two ruling parties or the government they administer referring to the working class, lower middle class, the lower class or the upper class and the ruling class?
In America, virtually everyone seems to be lumped into the middle class if they are earning between $25,000 and $250,000 a year, which is a preposterous parody of real class relations. Representatives of these two income variants have little to nothing in common except the class to which they appear to have been assigned.
The millions living in poverty are called "the poor" and are in the public mind often blamed for their own plight (lazy, shiftless, ignorant). The very rich are called the "top 1%," and the simply rich are termed the "top 10%," and are often admired and thanked because they create the jobs that prevent the inhabitants of the middle class from falling into the ranks of the poor.
For the past three or four decades the upper class and its agents have been accelerating a campaign against the wages and living standards of the working class/lower middle class and more recently the middle class as well, pushing more and more people into the lower classes. One example of this is that wages no longer correlate to productivity increases, as they did in the first three decades after World War II; another is the erosion of progressive taxation.
In addition, the influence of wealth on the White House and Congress has seen to it that hardly any significant social service legislation has come out of Washington for 40 years. President Obama promotes his healthcare legislation as a major progressive achievement, but this apex of the current administration's social contribution is to the right of Democrat President Harry Truman's proposals in 1948 and Republican President Richard Nixon's program of 1972. Truman and Nixon failed, and there has been such political regress over these decades that Democratic Party programs now emanate from the center/center-right.
The problem isn't just the disproportion of money in the hands of a small minority while the standards of most American families are eroding, but it is what's done with all that money. It elects Presidents, governors and mayors in most of the major cities. It elects members of the House and Senate and state legislatures. If you have millions to spend without batting an eye, you have political clout in America, often decisive clout, and it's principally deployed to further the interests of the "haves," as opposed to the "have nots."
This is what is meant by class war, and it seems to be waged these days only by the top 10% (the upper class) that controls 96% of the wealth against the 90% (working class to middle class and lower class) which controls 4%. The bottom 50% by the way accounts for a pathetic 1% of America's wealth.
Isn't it time for the "bottom" 90% to stand up, fight back, and claim their share?
4. TIME FOR A REAL CHANGE
[Editor's note: Since it is evident that the multi-millions of low-wage and poor Americans do not have advocates in the White House and only a few in Congress, demands for legislation and programs to alleviate mounting poverty fall upon deaf ears. Can this be denied? Yet such demands are absolutely necessary, unless progressives are simply supposed to surrender to a political "reality" that amounts to little more than an excuse for cruel indifference.
[On Sept. 17, just after the new poverty report was released, Rev. Jesse Jackson issued "An Open Letter to Our Nation's Leaders." Jackson, at least, goes half way, which is a lot further than many liberals. Here is an excerpt.]
By Jesse Jackson
As people of conscience, as elected leaders of the greatest democracy in the world, we ask ourselves, is there not a need for a new War on Poverty or a Great Society plan similar to that enacted by President Lyndon B. Johnson? Dr. King’s cry for a Poor People’s Campaign has come full circle.
There must be a sense of urgency to address this moral and economic crisis. In [the Obama Administration's] Stimulus I, we have watered the leaves. We need Stimulus II to water the roots.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, we had a plan for security, stability, investment, reconstruction, and rebuilding infrastructure. Our people, our cities, our nation deserve nothing less.
The Poverty Report is a call to Congress to create a FY 2011 budget that expands funding to “war on poverty” programs supporting employment, education, and basic human needs. Focus on the least of these, and extend the TANF Emergency Fund — not the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans — to expand subsidized jobs programs. Extend the reforms to the earned income tax credit, or EITC, and the child tax credit, or CTC. Focus on extending programs that support the least of these, not those with the most.
Expand the weatherization program — and enact a modern-day urban homesteading program where the urban unemployed can reclaim lost homes, learn carpentry, plumbing and green job skills to rebuild America. We can begin to work our way out.
Congressional leaders, take the bold step of committing to reducing poverty by 50% over the next 10 years— half in 10!
America, give us a listening ear. The people are restless and rising up. America, please hear our plea. There is not time to waste. It’s time for a change.
5. AMERICANS WANT A THIRD PARTY
By the Activist Newsletter
A majority of the American people seem to favor the existence of a third major political party, according to the USA Today/Gallup Poll released Sept. 17.
Asked "Do the Republican and Democratic Parties do an adequate job of representing the American people, or do they do such a poor job that a third major party is needed?," 35% of those polled said they did an adequate job, but 58% believed a third party was necessary.
According to USA Today/Gallup, "The desire for a third party is fairly similar across ideological groups, with 61% of liberals, 60% of moderates, and 54% of conservatives believing a third major party is needed. That is a narrower gap than Gallup has found in the past; conservatives have typically been far less likely than liberals and moderates to support the creation of a third party."
Among supporters of the right wing Tea Party movement, said to constitute perhaps 20% of the Republican Party, 61% thought a third party was necessary.
In terms of party affiliation, as opposed to how one identifies ideologically, a third party is desired by 47% of Republicans polled, 45% of Democrats, and a whopping 74% of independents. The margin of sampling error is plus/minus 4%.
Logically, though not mentioned in the poll, a third party sought by liberals would be a party of the center left since the existing Democratic Party now represents the center/center right. For the conservatives who seek a third party, it is likely the preference is for a far right party, since conservatives of various stripes decades ago walked away from moderate right, leaving it to the Democrats. We won't guess which way the majority of independents would swing.
Although a majority desires a third party, it's not going to happen anytime soon. Our winner-take-all political arrangement is designed to isolate and neutralize breakaway parties from the two party system, a practice that has eliminated the left from political power in the United States. The powers that be — those entities that possess or serve enormous wealth with their corporations, big banks, stock market casinos, etc. — prefer a safe and profitable center-to-right political configuration confined to two dependable parties.
Center left and left Democrats fear a split from their party will strengthen the right wing. Far right Republicans fear their defection will strengthen the "socialist" Democrats. Both are hooked into lesser evil politics. Perhaps the only way this condition will change is if there were approximately equal split-offs from the Republican and Democratic Parties.
Such a four party lineup would benefit the left more than the right. It would give voice at least to the moderate left, which has no voice at all within the Democratic Party. Our last speculation is that such a development in time might pave the way for a true left mass party, which is what's really needed.
6. OBAMA MOCKS LIBERAL CONCERNS
By the Activist Newsletter
President Barack Obama has offered no direct comment since White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs sharply criticized what he called the "professional left" a few weeks ago, but the president evidently shares his spokesman's critique.
Without mentioning the term "professional left" — by which Gibbs meant Democratic Party liberals disappointed by the administration's refusal to fight harder for progressive legislation — Obama mocked his loyal critics during an exclusive $30,000-per-person fundraising dinner at the lavish Connecticut estate of a millionaire housing developer aptly named Rich Richman.
According to Huffington Post reporter Jason Linkins Sept. 18 Obama told 50 wealthy guests:
"[A]fter being in this job for two years, I have never been more optimistic about America. I am optimistic partly because we did some really tough things that aren't always popular but were the right things to do. [Some] Democrats, just congenitally, tend to get — to see the glass as half empty. (Laughter)
"If we get an historic health care bill passed — oh, well, the public option wasn't there. If you get the financial reform bill passed — then, well, I don't know about this particularly derivatives rule, I'm not sure that I'm satisfied with that. And gosh, we haven't yet brought about world peace and — (laughter) I thought that was going to happen quicker. (Laughter) You know who you are. (Laughter)"
7. OBAMA AND AMERICAN GLOBAL LEADERSHIP
By the Activist Newsletter
In the history of U.S. foreign policy, the insistence upon "American global leadership" has been articulated and defended by every occupant of the White House since the end of World War II in 1945.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are enthusiastic advocates of Washington's supreme global power, its Top Cop role and penchant for manipulating and controlling world affairs by any means necessary.
For a few decades, most Americans supported this "leading" role for the U.S., particularly during the 45-year Cold War against the Soviet Union and the socialist world. But times have changed during the last two decades since the implosion of the USSR — and so has public opinion, though the news hasn't reached Washington.
According to an extremely important new opinion poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, released Sept. 16, Americans favor a smaller global role for the United States. A statement accompanying release of the poll declared this the central finding in this survey of 2,600 Americans:
"The American people want to play an active part in world affairs but their internationalism is increasingly constrained by economic troubles at home and diminished influence overseas. In light of these constraints, Americans are reassessing their foreign policy priorities, scaling back their ambitions, and becoming more selective in how they want to engage with the world — by lightening America’s footprint overseas and directing scarce resources to tackling critical threats, such as international terrorism and nuclear proliferation."
The poll further showed:
• "Nine out of 10 Americans today think it is more important for the future of the United States to fix pressing problems at home than to address challenges to the United States from abroad.... Only one-quarter of Americans think the United States plays a more important and powerful role as a world leader today compared to ten years ago, a sharp drop from 2002....
• "More than two-thirds of Americans think that as rising countries like Turkey and Brazil become more independent from the United States in the conduct of their foreign policy, it is mostly good because they will be less reliant on the United States....
• "A majority of Americans think that if Israel were to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, Iran were to retaliate against Israel, and the two were to go to war, the United States should not bring its military forces into the war on the side of Israel and against Iran."
In actual practice, Washington's global leadership has invariably meant domination — soft and occasionally rewarding domination toward America's allies, hard and often violent domination toward its numerous "enemies" of the day.
The Obama administration's foreign policy is firmly based on unilateral American global leadership, though festooned with empty gestures toward a distant possible multipolarity. It was one of the reasons the U.S. foreign policy establishment favored the election of Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. The reckless warmaking and imperial pretensions of the preceding neoconservative Bush Administration had weakened the structure of American hegemony, domination and world leadership.
As a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Obama assiduously courted the Council on Foreign Relations and the rest of the foreign policy elite that has guided various administrations for several decades. In a major article appearing in Foreign Affairs (July/August 2007) Obama emphasized American global leadership 22 times.
In a speech at the State Department days after he took office in January 2009, the new president declared: "Let there be no doubt about America's commitment to lead. We can no longer afford drift, and we can no longer afford delay, nor can we cede ground to those who seek destruction. A new era of American leadership is at hand, and the hard work has just begun."
Secretary of State Clinton is likewise preoccupied with the task of retaining U.S. global supremacy despite America's declining political and economic fortunes and the growth to international prominence of such countries as China, India, Brazil, Russia, and the European Union. In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington Sept. 8, Clinton mentioned American leadership 15 times, declaring:
"I know that these are difficult days for many Americans. But difficulties and adversities have never defeated or deflated this country. Throughout our history, through hot wars and cold, through economic struggles and the long march to a more perfect union, Americans have always risen to the challenges we have faced....
"And now, after years of war and uncertainty, people are wondering what the future holds at home and abroad. So let me say it clearly: the United States can, must and will lead in this new century. Indeed, the complexities and connections of today's world have yielded a new American moment, a moment when our global leadership is essential, even if we must often lead in new ways, a moment... that must be seized through hard work and bold decisions, to lay the foundations for lasting American leadership for decades to come.... For the United States, global leadership is both a responsibility and an unparalleled opportunity."
By rights the "new American moment" cannot last long because the days of unipolar leadership are ending. A number of countries are waiting in the wings to share multipolar leadership as equals with the U.S. in order to build a more equitable and hopefully more peaceful world.
There is only one way for that American moment of continued world dominion to last a couple of decades longer. That is through the threat or actual use of Washington's overwhelmingly dominant military power. It’s a possibility but our guess is that Washington would settle for being first among equals, and that given U.S. military power such an arrangement would be acceptable for a couple of decades more, until all parties were equally equal.
— Inter Press Service's Jim Lobe has written a fine article going into detail on the Chicago Council survey. It is available at http://ipsnorthamerica.net/news.php?idnews=3287.
8. BOLIVIA: MORALES FACES NEW CHALLENGES
By Eduardo Paz Rada
Following the political and social transformations undertaken over the past five years by the Evo Morales government with the huge, active support of Bolivia’s popular sectors that have mobilized around their demands since 2000, the political map has radically changed.
This has generated a new correlation of political forces battling over control of national and regional decision-making bodies and the state apparatus.
The new term of the president and his party, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), began in January. It kicked off with the great advantage of Morales’ electoral triumph with almost 64% of the vote in the presidential poll, and MAS winning majority control over the legislative assembly. The conservative and neoliberal parties and organizations suffered a definitive defeat.
Yet, there are new elements emerging in a panorama that is beginning to show signs of big problems. These include pressure applied on the government through new forms of social and political action, the lack of a national strategy and government errors — together with the growth of demands from diverse regions and sectors.
Some of the problems have been provoked by sectors close to the government. Opposition has formed into two large blocs:
• The right-wing governors of Santa Cruz, Tarija and Beni, the mayors of six of the nine capitals and conservative senators and deputies. These represent oligarchic sectors and have a program of radical confrontation against the government, which they deem totalitarian, while promoting representative democracy and economic freedom.
• Some social and Indigenous movements, communitarian organizations, trade unions, neighborhood federations, ex-allies such as the Movement of Those Without Fear (MSM), MAS dissidents and groups that demanded attention to their particular demands and who believe the government no longer represents them.
Since 2000, the popular forces have mobilized against neoliberal policies and the traditional parties, producing in 2003 the largest popular uprising (known as the “Gas War”). Morales emerged as a leader with a program of nationalization of Bolivia’s gas reserves, allowing a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution and fighting corruption.
The nationalization of gas and oil reserves in 2006 was converted into a renegotiation of terms of contracts with the multinational corporations.
Rent from gas exports has allowed the government to implement social benefits and carry out actions to support vulnerable sectors of Bolivian society, while industrialization projects have been left behind.
Meanwhile, the constituent assembly produced a new constitution that included departmental, regional, indigenous and municipal autonomy. This generated an exaggerated expectation throughout the country for changes beyond the government’s capacity to provide.
The recognition of 36 fictitious “Indigenous nations," promoted by NGOs and European foundations that advised the assembly, have not only amplified these expectations but also created the danger of national disintegration.
This tendency, rather than promoting a rapprochement and common strengthening among the peoples, tends to strengthen divisive forces that fragment the nation under the slogan of administrating “free territories.”
Morales has actively taken part in the anti-imperialist bloc Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA — established by Cuba and Venezuela) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) — involving all South American nations) with firm anti-imperialist speeches.
Regional Latin American alliances and defense of the coca leaf, an important agricultural product, in the face of interventionist policies of the United States, have radicalized government positions. This led to a diplomatic crisis and the expulsion of U.S. ambassador Philip Goldberg in 2008, which has still not been resolved.
Nevertheless, finance capital, bankers and agro-industrialists, along with oil and mining transnationals, remain in Bolivia and are reaping important profits exploiting natural resources, exporting them as primary materials, monopolizing land and controlling the earnings and economic resources of the country.
Various questions have arisen regarding the government’s policies and strategy, the characterization of the process and its economic, social and political priorities. This has opened up controversies, despite Morales’ silence on these issues.
Tendencies within and outside the government have generated an ideological debate on the nature of the process. It involves those who say the process remains in a framework of a liberal economic and political project through to those who say that we are dealing with a process that is “communitarian.”
Some propose a form of “21st century socialism," while others put forward state capitalism as a necessary phase to consolidate national unity. As part of the nation-building perspective, there has been the creation of a new entity entrusted with carrying out big regional projects under the direct control of the president.
“Nationalism," “populism," “Latin Americanism," and “indigenism” are among the labels used to define the Morales government, which combines Morales’ strong leadership with the support of social sectors such as the cocaleros [coca leaf growers], colonizers, peasants, women and neighborhood councils.
Despite this popular support, the most important decisions are made within his cabinet and team of close collaborators.
Another debate has opened up between pro-industrialists who believe it is essential to increase production through the industrialization of natural resources, especially oil, mining and forestry, and integrating all the regions via roadways; and the conservationists, who say ecological reserves should be maintained under the administration of indigenous communities.
This has led to a confrontation with NGOs and international groups that question government policies in relation to environmentally damaging industrialization, such as occurred in at the World Summit of the Peoples in Defense of Mother Earth in Cochabamba in April.
The government faces important challenges in a situation where its popular support has fallen and its weaknesses become apparent with the concessions it makes to foreign capital, delays in national projects and the absence of an integral vision.
The government enjoys support among indigenous and peasant sectors, but policies of agricultural development, self-sufficiency and food sovereignty are missing. Meanwhile, the government has halted its agrarian reform program that redistributes the land of large landowners.
Industrialization projects for important gas, lithium, iron and other mineral reserves continue to be delayed. This means multinationals continue operating within the framework of the traditional model of exporting primary materials.
There are important changes and reforms in the social, cultural and judicial structures, but those relating to the economy are absent. This is slowly becoming Morales’ Achilles heel.
— This article was published Sept. 5 by Australia's Green Left Weekly. Author Eduardo Paz Rada is editor of the Bolivia-based magazine Patria Grande. It was translated by Federico Fuentes.
9. 100 ARRESTED PROTESTING MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL
From Lacy McCauley, and news agencies
WASHINGTON— Some 2,000 people marched and more than 100 were arrested Sept. 27 during "Appalachia Rising," the largest national protest to end mountaintop removal coal mining.
The protesters were arrested after refusing orders from U.S. Park Police to leave the sidewalk on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. As police escorted them one-by-one, supporters shouted encouragement from behind the police lines.
Most of those arrested went along peacefully, but a few resisted, leading Park Police to drag them to a police truck. They were charged with disobeying a lawful order. The resisters were accused of crossing a police line. Four people also were arrested during a sit-in at PNC Bank for protesting the bank’s role as the lead U.S. financier of mountaintop removal schemes.
Those arrested were mainly Appalachian residents, retired coal miners, faith leaders and renowned climate scientist, James Hansen, who declared: “The science is clear, mountaintop removal destroys historic mountain ranges, poisons water supplies and pollutes the air with coal and rock dust. Mountaintop removal, providing only a small fraction of our energy, can and should be abolished. The time for half measures and caving in to polluting industries must end.”
The mostly youthful demonstrators started the Monday protest at Freedom Plaza, then marched several blocks to the White House. They carried signs like "Blowing Up Mountains for Coal Poisons People" and "Mountain ecosystems won't grow back." Some carried small white crosses adorned with messages such as "water pollution" and "corporate greed."
The AP reported that "Despite on-and-off showers, the protest had a festive air to it, with horns, drums, chanting and singing accompanying the roughly two hours of arrests, with people even dancing as they waited for police to take them into custody. The last eight standing did a little chorus line move. One man wore stilts that made him tower over everyone else, along with a hat adorned like a U.S. flag and a long nose."
Appalachia Rising is being led by residents of West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee — Appalachian states directly impacted by mountaintop removal. They are calling for the Obama Administration to immediately abolish the practice of blowing up mountains and dumping the debris into nearby streams and valleys to reach seams of coal.
“I have talked, begged, debated, written letters to officials, published op-ed pieces in newspapers and lobbied on the state and federal level to end mountaintop removal,” said Mickey McCoy, former mayor and lifelong resident of Inez, Ky., who was also arrested today. “Being arrested? That’s such a small price to pay for being heard. My home and people are paying the real price for mountaintop removal. They are dying.”
The tide has been turning on mountaintop removal with Appalachian residents, scientists, congressional representatives and environmentalists decrying the practice as coming at too high a cost to public health, land, water and taxpayers. Last April, in response to resounding opposition to mountaintop removal, the EPA announced new guidelines for permitting mountaintop removal valley fills.
However, the impacts of mountaintop removal mining are so destructive that Appalachia Rising is calling on the Obama Administration to end the practice altogether by halting active mines and creating a permanent moratorium on new permits.
Groups have called on the EPA to immediately veto the Spruce No. 1 Mine project, which would be one of the largest strip-mining operations in Appalachia. The EPA is set to make a decision in the coming weeks on whether to reverse the Corps of Engineers’ 2007 approval for the mine. With mountaintop removal becoming increasingly controversial, the EPA’s decision on the 2,278-acre Spruce project is being closely watched as a sign of the mining practice’s future.
“We know, and the Obama Administration has said, that mountaintop removal mining is bad for human health and the environment,” says Jane Branham of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards in Virginia. “The issue here is whether President Obama will follow the science and do something about it now!”
A dozen leading scientists published a paper in the journal Science in January 2009, concluding that mountaintop removal is so destructive that the government should stop giving out new permits altogether. “The science is so overwhelming that the only conclusion that one can reach is that mountaintop mining needs to be stopped,” said Margaret Palmer, a professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences and the study’s lead author.
Mountaintop removal is a radical form of coal mining in which up to 800 feet, sometimes more, of densely forested mountaintops are literally blown up to reach thin coal seams. The resulting millions of tons of rock are dumped into surrounding valleys and rivers, polluting the headwaters that provide drinking water to millions of Americans. Already, 500 mountains and 2,000 miles of streams have been lost due to this devastating mining practice. A 2009 report estimated that coal mining costs Appalachia five times more in premature deaths than it provides the region in jobs, taxes and other economic benefits.
— Lacy McCauley writes for Appalachia Rising. The organization's website is at http://appalachiarising.org/
10. HOW CORPORATIONS OWN CONGRESS
By Shamus Cooke
With the November elections quickly approaching, the majority of Americans will be thinking one thing: "Who cares?” This apathy isn't due to ignorance, as some accuse. Rather, working people's disinterest in the two party system implies intelligence: millions of people understand that both the Democrats and Republicans will not represent their interests in Congress.
This begs the question: Whom does the two party system work for? The answer was recently given by the mainstream The New York Times, who gave the nation an insiders peek on how corporations "lobby" (buy) congressmen. The article explains how giant corporations — from Wal-Mart to weapons manufacturers — are planning on shifting their hiring practices for lobbyists, from Democratic to Republican ex-congressmen in preparation for the Republicans gaining seats in the upcoming November elections:
"Lobbyists, political consultants and recruiters all say that the going rate for Republicans — particularly current and former House staff members — has risen significantly in just the last few weeks, with salaries beginning at $300,000 and going as high as $1 million for private sector [corporate lobbyist] positions." (NYT, Sept. 9, 2010)
Congressmen who have recently retired make the perfect lobbyists: they still have good friends in Congress, with many of these friends owing them political favors; they have connections to foreign presidents and kings; and they also have celebrity status that gives good PR to the corporations.
Often, these congressmen have done favors for the corporation that is now hiring them, meaning that the corporations are rewarding the congressmen for services rendered while in office, offering them million dollar lobbyist jobs (or seats on the corporate board of directors) that require little to no work.
The same New York Times article revealed that the pay for 13,000 lobbyists [!] currently bribing Congress is a combined $3.5 billion. It was also explained how some lobbying firms keep an equal amount of Democrats and Republicans on hand, so they can be prepared for any eventuality in the elections.
This phenomenon is more than a little un-democratic: when millions of people vote for a candidate, the outcomes are quickly manipulated and controlled before the election even happens.
Interestingly, the corporate-directed Wall Street Journal wrote a similar article in 2008, as the Democrats had begun to dominate politics in Washington:
"Washington's $3 billion lobbying industry has begun shedding Republican staffers [politicians], snapping up Democratic operatives [politicians] and entire firms, a shift that started even before Tuesday's ballots were counted and Democrat Barack Obama captured the presidency." (WSJ, Nov. 5, 2008)
This article was appropriately titled “Lobbyists Put Democrats Out Front as Winds Shift.”
The corporate money flows from party to party, so that the same goals are achieved: higher profits for corporations. The sums thrown at these politicians are mind boggling: the Associated Press reported that the corporate-orientated Chamber of Commerce spent "... nearly $190 million since Barack Obama became president in January 2009." (August 21, 2010)
These numbers explain the "deeper" differences between Democrats and Republicans — money. Each party is a machine that vies for power because this power carries with it vast sums of corporate money. The longer a party is in office and the more connections it makes, the more its net worth to corporations, the more that these rewards can be spread to the different layers of the party. There is indeed a real-life, nasty fight between the Republican and Democratic Parties to dominate this corporate money.
One "interest group" that ex-Congressmen don't work for is labor unions. Unions spend millions of dollars to help get Democrats elected, and millions more is spent trying to get their ear while they're in office.
But unions cannot out-spend the banks; and they can't offer millionaire retirement packages to retired Senators. The corporate retirement plans of Congressmen prove where their minds are while in office, and whose interests are being looked after. Unions cannot continue to pretend that the Democrats are their "friends.” Labor has very little to show for this dysfunctional, decades-long friendship: union membership continues to shrivel as do jobs, wages and benefits for workers – a losing strategy if ever there was one.
A “lesser of two evils” approach to politics equals evil politicians for labor, no matter who wins. In fact, the lesser-evil Democrats have become increasingly evil over the years, to the point where the party as a whole is more Conservative than the Nixon-era Republicans.
The point has been reached where — in various states — Democratic governors are being endorsed by unions after promising to attack the wages and benefits of public workers!
To get out of this vicious, dead-end cycle, unions could unite their strength to form coalitions that promote independent labor candidates: 100% funded by labor to govern 100% in the interest of working people. All other roads lead back to the corporate lobbyists.
— Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action. This article appeared on ZNet's space page Sept. 19, 2010.
CLIMATE CHANGE DOESN'T MOVE CONGRESS
By Juliet Eilperin
The evidence for climate change grows: The first eight months of 2010 put this year on track to tie 1998 as the hottest year on record, global bleaching is devastating coral reefs and Arctic summer sea ice is reaching new lows.
But for all the visible signs of global warming, weakened political support for curbing emissions means the United States is unlikely to impose national limits on greenhouse gases before 2013, at the earliest. Several leading GOP candidates this fall are questioning whether these emissions even cause warming, while some key Democratic Senate candidates are disavowing the cap-and-trade bill the House passed in 2009.
"I don't see a comprehensive bill going anywhere in the next two years," Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told a Washington policymakers conference sponsored by Reuters Sept. 21.
This disconnect has left environmentalists and many climate scientists pessimistic. For years, activists argued that it was hard to limit greenhouse gases because, unlike other forms of pollution, they are impossible to see, smell or touch. Climate effects are increasingly plain to see but no easier to address.
Rafe Pomerance, a senior fellow with the group Clean Air-Cool Planet, said he and other experts are stunned to see so many examples of global warming materializing at once. "It is breathtaking to watch several indicators demonstrate simultaneously climate impacts from the poles to the equator," he said.
However, these developments, along with events such as massive wildfires in Russia and floods in China and Pakistan this summer, have done nothing to revive prospects for a climate policy that President Obama has championed since taking office. In at least eight contested House races and six competitive Senate races — all of which could represent GOP pickups — the Republican candidates reject the idea that human activities are linked to global warming.
"While I think the Earth is warming, I don't think that man-made causes are the primary factor for global warming," Ken Buck, a Colorado district attorney who is challenging Sen. Michael Bennet (D), said in a televised interview this year.
Even some Democratic Senate candidates are playing down the prospect of a federal cap on carbon emissions. Bennet, during a debate with Buck this month, said he opposes the House-passed climate bill, and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal — who backed Senate climate legislation in 2009 — recently told one voter that "cap-and-trade is dead."
Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), who voted for the House climate bill last year, told a group of scientists at the University of California at Davis last weekend that researchers and politicians need to do more to get the American public to grasp the urgency of climate change. "It's not enough to have the science. We need to be able to convince the people," he said. "We have to be able to convince them how serious these issues are."
When asked about the prospects for climate legislation in the next few years, Obama energy and climate-change adviser Carol Browner provided a statement emphasizing the "aggressive steps" the president had taken to improve fuel efficiency, home weatherization and electricity transmission."....
—From the Sept. 25 Washington Post
ARCTIC WARMS, SEA ICE SHRINKS
By Environment News Service
SAN FRANCISCO - From foxes to whales to walruses to plankton, Arctic species are being pushed toward extinction by rapid climate change, finds a new report by two conservation groups.
In a report released Sept. 13, the Center for Biological Diversity and Care for the Wild International document the situations of 17 Arctic animals trying to survive the effects of climate change and ocean acidification.
"The polar bear is the best-known victim of rapid melting in the Arctic, but if we don't slash greenhouse pollution, many more creatures will follow it down the path to extinction," said Shaye Wolf, the Center's climate science director and lead author of the report, "Extinction: It's Not Just for Polar Bears."
Most of the 17 imperiled species are mammals — the Arctic fox, polar bear, caribou or reindeer, musk ox, and Pacific walrus, as well as four whales — gray, beluga, bowhead and narwhal. Four ice seals are also at risk - the ringed, bearded, harp and ribbon seals. The report names three seabirds in jeopardy — the Kittlitz's murrelet, spectacled eider and ivory gull; and also finds the sea butterfly, a species of plankton, to be at risk of extinction.
The minimum extent of Arctic sea ice is smaller than ever, satellite data shows.
Arctic sea ice generally reaches its annual minimum extent in mid-September. On Sept. 3, ice extent dropped below the seasonal minimum for 2009 to become the third lowest in the satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
This August, ice extent for the month was the second lowest in the satellite record, after 2007.
According to NASA scientists in the Cryospheric Sciences Branch, a satellite-based data record starting in late 1978 shows that indeed rapid changes have been occurring in the Arctic, where the perennial ice cover has been declining at the rate of about 13 percent per decade and the ice cover as a whole has been declining at the lesser rate of about five percent per decade.
This year, the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route are largely free of ice, allowing the potential for a first circumnavigation of the Arctic Ocean now being attempted by two expeditions — one from Norway and one from Russia.
The conservation groups say this rapid disappearance and thinning of the sea ice is having devastating effects on the many species that depend on it for rearing young, hunting, resting and avoiding predators.
Arctic whales are at risk from increasing offshore oil drilling and shipping activity as areas become ice-free, which heightens threats from oil spills, ship strikes and noise.
Some Arctic species have already experienced widespread die-offs and population declines after losing key habitats and food sources, the groups report. Others face extreme weather events or suffer new pressure from predators and pathogens moving northward.
Sea ice loss is forcing Pacific walrus mothers and calves to come to shore, where young can be trampled to death in stampedes.
Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey's Alaska Science Center, who have been tracking walrus movements using satellite radio tags, report that up to 20,000 walruses are now gathering in herds on the Alaskan side of the Chukchi Sea.
"For the third time in the last four years, thousands of Pacific walruses are hauling out onto the northwest shores of Alaska to rest in the absence of sea ice over the continental shelf of the Chukchi Sea," the USGS research team said August 30.
In February 2008 the Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal scientific petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requesting protection of the Pacific walrus under the Endangered Species Act. Under a lawsuit settlement, the Service must make a decision as to whether the species should be protected by January 31, 2011.
Early sea-ice breakup prematurely separates ringed and harp seal mothers from their pups before the pups are big enough to survive, the conservation groups report.
Meanwhile, the warming Arctic is still putting polar bears at risk. Eight of the world's 19 polar bear populations are declining as they struggle to raise young and hunt for food on shrinking ice sheets.
On land, tundra habitat is moving northward, thawing permafrost threatens to drain wetlands, and extreme winter weather events are causing die-offs of Arctic grazers like muskoxen that are prevented from reaching their food.
The Arctic fox is disappearing from the southern edge of the tundra as larger, more dominant red foxes move northward and lemming prey grow less abundant as temperatures warm.
Seabirds that forage near glaciers and sea ice are losing their feeding grounds and resting places, while thawing permafrost threatens to drain their wetland breeding habitat.
Tundra dwellers like the caribou and muskox are being affected by warmer spring temperatures that alter food abundance, as well as extreme winter weather events leaving dense snow and ice crusts that obstruct their access to food, the groups report.
Lives of the Arctic's smallest creatures as well as the largest are being disrupted by climate warming.
The oceans have absorbed more than a quarter of all of human carbon dioxide emissions - generated by burning coal, oil and natural gas. The addition of this vast quantity of CO2 is changing the chemistry of ocean water, turning it more acidic, scientists around the world have documented.
The Arctic Ocean is becoming corrosive to shell-building creatures like plankton and clams more quickly than temperate waters. "It could become lethal to the most sensitive shell-builders by 2050, threatening the marine ecosystem with collapse," the groups state in their report.
"The plight of Arctic species is effectively acting as an early warning system. We need our governments to act now to protect the Arctic ecosystem from collapse," said Mark Jones, programs director for Care for the Wild International. "If we don't, the impacts will be devastating, not just for the Arctic, but for the whole planet."
The report concludes that science-based actions are urgently needed to protect Arctic wildlife.
Atmospheric CO2 must be reduced from its current level of 390 parts per million to, at most, 325 to 350 ppm to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change and ocean acidification, and to restore Arctic sea ice to the size it was 25 years ago, the conservationists advise.
To protect Arctic species, the groups urge the curbing of powerful, short-lived greenhouse pollutants like black carbon and methane, the prevention of new oil and gas development in the Arctic, and the reduction of threats to Arctic wildlife from over-hunting and contaminants.
THE MEANING OF AHMADINEJAD'S SPEECH
By the Activist Newsletter
A large portion of the American people, on the basis of media reports, probably thinks that during his UN speech Sept. 23 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared that the U.S. government secretly arranged for the 9/11 attacks. He did not say that, however.
In its Sept. 24 article about the speech The New York Times headline read: "Iran Leader Says U.S. Planned 9/11 Attacks." The first paragraph declared: "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran made a series of incendiary remarks in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, notably the claim that the United States orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks to rescue its declining economy, to reassert its weakening grip on the Middle East and to save Israel."
On the basis of his remarks the U.S. led 33 nations in a theatrical walk out from the General Assembly while he was talking. And the next day, in an interview with the BBC's Persian service, President Barack Obama said Ahmadinejad's 9/11 remarks were "offensive. It was hateful. And particularly for him to make the statement here in Manhattan, just a little north of Ground Zero, where families lost their loved ones, people of all faiths, all ethnicities who see this as the seminal tragedy of this generation, for him to make a statement like that was inexcusable.”
On Sept. 25, the Times published a correction: "A headline on Friday with an article about an incendiary speech in the United Nations General Assembly by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran summarized his remarks about the Sept. 11 terror attacks incorrectly. In his speech, Mr. Ahmadinejad asserted various theories about the origin of the attacks, including the possibility that they had been planned by the United States. He did not say that the United States had planned the attacks."
The Times was one of many U.S. newspapers, TV and radio news reports that suggested Ahmadinejad accused the U.S. government of secretly instigating the attack — a conspiracy theory believed by some Americans and others. Following are the few paragraphs pertaining to this matter from the Iranian leader's text:
"It was said that some three thousands people were killed on the 11 September for which we are all very saddened. Yet, up until now, in Afghanistan and Iraq hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, millions wounded and displaced and the conflict is still going on and expanding.
"In identifying those responsible for the attack, there were three viewpoints.
"1- That a very powerful and complex terrorist group, able to successfully cross all layers of the American intelligence and security, carried out the attack. This is the main viewpoint advocated by American statesmen.
"2- That some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime. The majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians agree with this view.
"3- It was carried out by a terrorist group but the American government supported and took advantage of the situation. Apparently, this viewpoint has fewer proponents. The main evidence linking the incident was a few passports found in the huge volume of rubble and a video of an individual whose place of domicile was unknown but it was announced that he had been involved in oil deals with some American officials. It was also covered up and said that due to the explosion and fire no trace of the suicide attackers was found."
Ahmadinejad did not suggest these were his views. He was incorrect to claim that a majority of Americans subscribe to a well known conspiracy theory that is strongly held by a minority in the United States.
In a 2009 poll conducted by Public Policy Polling, 14% of the American people believe "President Bush intentionally allowed the 9/11 attacks to take place because he wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East.” Many of the people who hold this view are war opponents, but it is not the perspective of the large majority of the U.S. peace movement.
In 2006, a Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll reported that "more than a third of the American public suspects that federal officials assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East."
In a 2008 poll conducted in 17 countries by WorldPublicOpinion.org, majorities in nine countries blamed al-Qaeda. In all countries there were minorities which blamed the U.S. The percentage of many who blamed Washington was in single digits or teens but in Germany, for instance, it was 23%, South Korea 17%, Mexico, 30%, and Turkey 36%. The average of all countries as to the responsible party was al-Qaeda 46%, U.S. 15%, Israel 7%, Other 7% and Don't Know 25%.
So while not putting forward such arguments himself, Ahmadinejad exaggerated or misspoke regarding the proportion of those who think that the Bush Administration was involved in a 9/11 conspiracy that is evidently being covered up by the Obama Administration. If it was true, how could Obama not know? Many Americans, accustomed to Washington's long demonization campaign against Ahmadinejad and Iran, now believe the Iranian leader grotesquely accused the U.S. of conspiring to murder thousands of its own people to create a pretext for launching wars.
We have never believed the conspiracy theory, despite unexplained occurrences and technical details that have caused many understandable suspicions. We have two main reasons:
• Washington hardly needs an excuse of such magnitude to launch a war against small and basically defenseless nations. U.S. governments frequently attack such countries, and the usual excuses of "spreading democracy" or "humanitarian intervention" suffice to deceive the majority of Americans time and again.
• If Washington sought to stage a pretext for invading bedraggled Afghanistan, one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, it didn't have to engage in an extraordinarily complex and dangerous conspiracy. It would take a great many government and private operatives to plan and execute the attacks on the Pentagon, World Trade Center and the failed attempt on the White House. And if just one conspirator talked, out of all the people involved, or it there was one slip up, the blowback would have destroyed the Bush Administration, the Republican Party, and completely discombobulate the entire country for decades. It's unnecessary and illogical to take such a colossal risk when far simpler and proven methods are available.
At the same time there should be a serious high level and independent inquiry into the arguments put forward by those who point to inconsistencies and unexplained circumstances surrounding the attacks.
But there was a "conspiracy," of course. It was a state conspiracy to dominate the entire oil-rich Middle East, overthrowing regimes in Iraq, Iran and possibly Syria in the process, and also extend U.S. hegemony into Central Asia to compete geopolitically with China and Russia. This conspiracy is known as U.S. foreign and military policy, and most of the details are available in a great many public government and media reports, assuming one has enough knowledge to read between the lines when necessary.
It is a fact the Bush Administration used 9/11 as an immediate rationale for gaining a foothold in Central Asia, and partially used 9/11 to replace the Ba'athist regime in Iraq with a government responsive to Washington's diktat in preparation for regime change in Iran. But the U.S. had been active in Afghanistan since 1979, and could have found any number of pretexts to take out the Taliban. And the planning to overthrow the Baghdad government began during the Clinton Administration in the 1990s, and would have taken place with or without 9/11, especially after Iraq was so weakened by U.S./British/UN sanctions that it was a military pushover, until the unexpected guerrilla insurgency forced a stalemate.
From time to time President Ahmadinejad is his own worst enemy because of his incautious remarks. In judging him it's more important to watch what he does than what he sometimes says. He has taken no aggressive foreign action and there is no proof Iran is building nuclear weapons. His government's military strategy is entirely defensive.
While the Obama Administration continues to complain about Ahmadinejad's 9/11 remarks, little is said about his simultaneous call for early negotiations about swapping enriched uranium. And his agreement with Brazil and Turkey earlier this year to achieve the uranium swap Obama was demanding encountered derision from Washington when it was announced, followed by the increased sanctions the U.S. and Israel considered more important than a settlement.
For different reasons, the U.S. even more so must be judged by its performance, not its words. While Washington talks peace, it is fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, vastly increasing its drone attacks, and is now deploying Special Operations forces in 75 countries, 15 more than last year. And while Obama usually speaks softly, he constantly waves — directly in Ahmadinejad's face — the big stick of a potential crushing attack by the U.S. and Israel.
A PEACE MOVEMENT COURT VICTORY
By John Dear
"Fourteen antiwar activists may have made history today in a Las Vegas courtroom when they turned a misdemeanor trespassing trial into a possible referendum on America's newfound taste for remote-controlled warfare." That's how one Las Vegas newspaper summed up our stunning day in court on Sept. 14, when 14 of us stood trial for walking on to Creech Air Force Base last year on April 9, 2009, to protest the U.S. drones.
We went in hoping for the best and prepared for the worst. As soon as we started, the judge announced that he would not allow any testimony on international law, the necessity defense or the drones, only what pertained to the charge of "criminal trespassing."
With that, the prosecutors called forth a base commander and a local police chief to testify that we had entered the base, that they had given us warnings to leave, and that they arrested us. They testified that they remembered each one of us. Then they rested their case.
We called three expert witnesses, what the newspaper called "some of the biggest names in the modern antiwar movement:" Ramsey Clark, former U.S. attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson; Ann Wright, a retired U.S. Army colonel and one of three former U.S. State Department officials who resigned on the eve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq; and Bill Quigley, legal director for the New York City-based Center for Constitutional Rights. We presumed they would not be allowed to speak.
All 14 of us acted as our own lawyers, and were not allowed any legal assistance, so members of our group took turns questioning our witnesses, and trying not to draw the judge's wrath. Lo and behold, the judge let them speak, and they spoke for hours.
They were brilliant. They spoke about the meaning of "trespassing," and the so-called necessity defense and international law, which allows citizens to break minor laws in adherence to a higher law. Ramsey Clark, looking like Atticus Finch [from "To Kill a Mockingbird"] on the stand, said it was a duty.
They cited the classic example of someone driving down a street, seeing a house on fire, noticing a child in the third floor window, hearing the screams, breaking through the front door, violating the no trespass law, and entering the house to save the child.
"[People] are allowed to trespass if it's for the greater good -- and there are certainly exceptions [to the law] when there is an emerging, urgent need," said Quigley.
He cited the history of protesters who broke petty laws, from our nation's founders to the Suffragists to the civil rights activists who illegally sat in at lunch counters. In the long run, we honor them for obeying a higher law, for helping to bring us toward justice, he said. Unfortunately, there is a gap between "the law" and "justice," and so, he explained, the struggle today is to narrow that gap. The best test is through "a hundred year vision," he explained. That is, how will this law and ruling be seen one hundred years from now?
The prosecutors challenged each witness, but their questions only enabled the witnesses to speak further on our behalf. When they were asked if they actually knew us, the prosecutors and judges were stunned to hear that they were our friends, in some cases, lifelong friends. When the prosecutors presented our experts' articles from the internet in order to discredit them (such as Bill Quigley's superb Common Dreams piece, "Time for a U.S. Revolution -- Ten Reasons "), that only added fuel to their fire. Bill launched into an eloquent plea for citizens to stand up and work for nonviolent change.
Through carefully crafted questions, the defendants were able to extract several key points from their witnesses:
•Intentional killing is a war crime, as embodied in U.S. constitutional law.
•Drone strikes by U.S. and coalition forces kill a disproportionate number of civilians.
•People have the right, even the duty, to stop war crimes.
•According to the Nuremberg principles, individuals are required to disobey domestic orders that cause crimes against humanity.
After our experts testified, co-defendant Brian Terrell told the judge we would now call five of us to take the stand. The judge said he would not recommend that. So our group huddled together for a minute.
"He's sending us a signal," co-defendant Kathy Kelly said. "He's telling us not to call any more witnesses, that if one of us testifies that we crossed the line under cross examination, he will have no choice but to find us guilty. Let's rest our case." So, despite days of preparation, we did.
With that, Brian Terrell stood up and delivered a short, spontaneous closing statement. It was one of the most moving speeches I have ever heard....
[When he finished] Judge Jansen stunned us by announcing that he needed three months to "think about all of this" before he could render a verdict. He marked 25 years on the bench just the day before, he said, and this was his first trespassing case and he wanted to make the best decision he could. There is more at stake here than the usual meaning of trespassing, he noted. The prosecutors were clearly frustrated and disappointed. With that, we were assigned a court date of Jan. 27, 2011, to hear the verdict. As he left, he thanked the 14 of us and the audience, and then seemed to give a benediction: "Go in peace!" Everyone applauded.
"By all accounts," the local paper said, "the Creech 14 trial is the first time in history an American judge has allowed a trial to touch on possible motivations of anti-drone protesters."
While I wish he had immediately found us Not Guilty and sent a signal to the U.S. military that these weapons are illegal, it was astonishing to watch this judge begin with his hostile directives and then slowly listen to the testimony of our friendly experts, and then conclude that he needed more time to seriously consider their argument....
I hope and pray the judge will "think" about the drones, and issue a verdict on our behalf, on behalf of all the victims of our drones, on behalf of the world's children, that we might reject the drones, learn nonviolent ways to resolve international conflict, and let everyone live in peace.
— John Dear is a Jesuit priest, activist, and author of 25 books on peace and nonviolence. His latest book is "Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings." He writes a weekly column for the National Catholic Reporter at www.ncronline.org. For further information, see: www.johndear.org. Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org.
REV. LUCIUS WALKER, JR., PRESENTE!
By Richard Becker
Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr., a lifelong fighter for justice, died in his sleep on Sept. 7, 2010, at the age of 80. The cause of death was a heart attack. His funeral on Sept. 17 was attended by hundreds at Convent Baptist Church in Harlem.
Until the very end, Rev. Walker was vigorously involved in the struggle as director of the Inter-religious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) and Pastors for Peace. In July, he led the 21st U.S.-Cuba Friendshipment Caravan, an IFCO project challenging the U.S. blockade of Cuba.
His determined effort to end the blockade made Walker a highly respected and admired figure in Cuba. In an article announcing his death, Cuba’s Granma newspaper said Cubans “don’t want to even think of a world without Lucius Walker.”
Ricardo Alarcón, President of Cuba’s National Assembly, said: “We Cubans are eternally grateful to Lucius Walker, to IFCO and to Pastors for Peace for their constant struggle against the cruel blockade against our people, and for the liberation of our five compatriots [the Cuban Five] who have been unjustly imprisoned [in the U.S.] for 12 years for having tried to avoid terrorist actions.… Lucius will always be with us; he will be reborn in the struggle until victory.”
Pastors for Peace was founded in 1988, following an attack by U.S.-armed counter-revolutionaries in Nicaragua on an unarmed fact-finding delegation. Two people were killed in the assault and 49 were wounded, including Walker. The group organized several caravans from the U.S. bringing aid to Central America.
The first caravan to Cuba took place in October 1992, at an extremely difficult moment in the history of the Revolution. The recent counter-revolutions in the Soviet Union and the eastern European countries had deprived Cuba of 85% of its foreign trade and caused an economic contraction of 35%, a more severe downturn than during the worst period of the 1930s Great Depression in the United States.
The U.S. was conducting menacing large-scale military maneuvers in the Caribbean with Cuba as the obvious target. As the November election neared, Republican President George Bush Sr. and his Democratic challenger Bill Clinton united in support of the Torricelli bill designed to tighten the U.S. blockade and intensify the suffering of the Cuban people.
After making stops in cities across the country, the first Caravan was at first halted by the Border Patrol as it attempted to cross into Mexico at Laredo, Texas, but due to the determination of the “caravanistas” it eventually made it through. As was to be repeated 20 more times in the future, the group’s medical and other humanitarian aid was then driven to the port of Tampico, Mexico, and loaded on a freighter on its way to Havana.
The halting of part of the second caravan in July 1993 led to a 23-day hunger strike in Laredo, where the temperatures reached at least 107 degrees Fahrenheit every day. The hunger strike led by Walker, combined with support activities around the country, significantly raised awareness of the blockade and its impact on the Cuban people.
After enduring more than three weeks without food in an asphalt Customs lot, the hunger strikers achieved victory. All the supplies, including the iconic yellow school bus in which the hunger strikers lived through their ordeal, went on to Cuba.
In 1998, Walker joined the Iraq Sanctions Challenge, traveling to Iraq with Ramsey Clark and many others to deliver millions of dollars of medical aid in defiance of the U.S. government’s blockade of that country.
In September 2001, Pastors for Peace was one of the first organizations to join the steering committee of the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) which held the first demonstrations opposing the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq two weeks after the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington.
While Lucius Walker has been best-known in recent years in relation to the Cuba caravans, he was also an important leader in the Black liberation struggle. He rose to prominence in the movement as the director of the Northcott Neighborhood House in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from 1963 to 1967.
In 1967, he became the founding director of IFCO, which pressured the religious establishment — Catholic, Protestant and Jewish — to live up to their teachings regarding help for the poor and oppressed. A major part of IFCO’s mission was securing resources for organizations in the African American, Latino, Native American and other communities.
Dr. Gwendolyn Patton, an activist in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, described Walker as an “abiding friend of SNCC during our transition/transformation from simplistic social integration and dismantling of Jim Crow laws to a fundamental strategy to achieve cultural, political and economic collective inclusion in a society that purported to be pluralist and democratic.”
In 1969, Walker told the New York Times, “It’s a travesty how much churches have said about social justice and how little they have done.”
In 1973, at a time of strong progressive movements in many of the mainline churches, he was named Associate General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, a position he held for five years until being fired by the NCC’s General Secretary. His firing was met with angry protests from inside and outside religious organizations. Following his ouster, he returned to lead IFCO.
Walker was one of the founders of the National Black United Fund in 1972 and the National Anti-Klan Network in the early 1980s.
He is survived by his daughter Gail, also a well-known activist, and by two other daughters, Donna and Edith; two sons, Lucius III and Richard; a brother, William; a sister, Lottie Bethea; and three grandchildren.
— This article was written for Liberation newspaper Sept. 18. Richard Becker is the West Coast leader of the ANSWER Coalition. He has been part of the U.S.–Cuba Friendshipment Caravan project since its founding in 1992.