We May Not Know What The Future Will Look Like,   But It Doesn’t Have To Be Bleak

            
By David Gespass
July 20, 2017
Justice Initiative International

Grace Lee Boggs and Immanuel Wallerstein held a “conversation” at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit in 2010. One of the things they agreed upon was that, while we could not predict what political and economic system we would have in 2050, we could be sure it would not be capitalism. Years later, I recall that and think it is an important caveat for Marxist theory.

I believe that Marx’s and Engels’s understanding of the nature of the capitalism that existed when they were writing was accurate and perspicacious. They observed and analyzed the then-existing economic relations and explained them. Lenin’s elaboration of Marxist theory as imperialism, once the world had been divided among the capitalist powers, demonstrated his ability to observe and analyze. And one could say the same for Kwame Nkrumah when he described neo-colonialism. Indeed, Nkrumah advanced the theory by injecting an African perspective into what had previously been Eurocentric. But however brilliantly these and others analyzed existing systems, no such analysis could possibly predict the future. The confident predictions that capitalism would be replaced inevitably by socialism and communism, while appealing, could not possibly be as certain. In short, it is easier to describe how things are than to say how they will be.

How could anyone in the 19th or early 20th century have predicted the decentralization of production, where anyone with a computer could know what is going on in factories anywhere in the world? How could they see the decline of the industrial proletariat as more and more could be produced with fewer and fewer workers? Even people like Robert Heinlein, who published “Stranger in a Strange Land” in 1961, predicted something like fax machines would be publicly available, not in every office, but on street corners like telephone booths. Speaking of which, who would have thought as little as fifty years ago that telephone booths would be extinct everywhere but in Dr. Who? And Heinlein did not foresee email, which has made fax machines relics.

All of this is to say we should spend less time defining the system that will replace capitalism, or what capitalism will evolve into, and more time considering the principles that should govern any such system. Consider the absurdities of capitalism today. Those people who can least afford it are charged the highest interest. People with low balances in their checking accounts are charged to maintain them, and charged absurd amounts for overdrafts, while people who maintain high minimum balances may even be paid a little bit of interest on them. “Subprime” mortgages enrich lenders and further impoverish the already poor.

This makes perfect sense for the financial system. Of course, if there is a higher risk that someone will not repay a debt, the lender wants the incentive of a greater return to justify the risk. It does not, however, make any sense for human relations. It insures increasing economic disparity and that means more hunger, homelessness and hopelessness for the impoverished. Beyond that, when they default on their loans, or miss a rent payment, they are bullied by the well-heeled and their lawyers, while people like Donald Trump can refuse to pay their bills with impunity because their creditors cannot afford to litigate to collect.

But perhaps the most scathing indictment of capitalism today is that every advance in productive capacity results in suffering. Automobiles manufactured today are far better, safer and last longer than those that were made in the 1950’s and 60’s and they are made with a fraction of the work force that populated auto plants back then. Consequently, workers are paid proportionately less and, because of automation, the great majority of jobs in auto plants no longer exist. The same is true for coal mines — Donald Trump’s empty promises notwithstanding. Even if coal were to regain its former economic position and mines were opened across Appalachia, not all that many miners would find jobs. Indeed, across the board, we are producing more and better products with fewer and fewer workers.
A system where all these technological improvements does not improve the lot of so many, but forces them into unemployment of low-paying and temporary jobs, is simply irrational. Rather than lay off half the work force, why not cut the work day in half and pay workers twice as much per hour? That would be rational. It would give workers more leisure because they are more productive. Instead, in the present system, they are forced to seek gig work, or minimum wage jobs while losing their cars, homes and self-respect.

There does exist a framework that can guide us to a better, more rational society, a framework that is clear, universally recognized and dynamic. In 1948, the United Nations member countries signed onto the International Declaration of Human Rights. Subsequently, almost every country in the world has ratified various human rights conventions, giving the force of law to what was previously a declaration (the United States has failed to ratify several of these conventions). Certainly, the ratification of these conventions did not create some human rights utopia and no country has fully achieved the commitments embodied in them. They remain aspirational, but they are a guide to where we should go as a world-wide human family.

Human rights are seriously misunderstood or limited, particularly in this country. The US media constantly talks of human rights violations in other countries, without ever explaining what they mean or which particular rights are being violated. The reporting tends to devolve into something about suppression of speech or arrest and prosecution without due process. Those are certainly two human rights but affording them in no way meets the needs of society today. Nor does it mean that a country is human-rights compliant, much less a “leader.” In the US, for example, we presumably have due process rights and even the right to have a lawyer appointed to defend us if we cannot afford to hire one. Yet innocent defendants who cannot make bail often have the choice of pleading guilty or remaining in jail for months, if not years, waiting for a trial in hopes of being exonerated. This does not even address who is arrested and charged and why. As Anatole France famously said, the law in its majestic equality makes it just as much a crime for the rich as the poor to beg in the streets, sleep under bridges and steal bread.

The fact is that the right to speak, the right to vote, the right to run for office is pretty hollow if you are homeless. There are economic rights – to repeat, universally acknowledged – that are essential to the genuine exercise of those political and civil rights. These include the rights to a decent job, housing, food, education, social security if one cannot work, and health care. As implied above, we have reached a stage of economic development where we should be able to meet everyone’s basic needs. It is only – and here Marxist theory still resonates – because there is private appropriation of what we produce collectively that we do not meet those needs.Thus, the bankers and the CEO’s and the big shareholders take far more than they need or deserve while so many are one pay check or one injury or one illness away from destitution.

So what does the future hold? Dystopian novels, old and new, are all the rage now and that is one not inconceivable future in store for succeeding generations. But a world-wide commitment to the basic premise that everyone who is born a human being – that is, in fact, what human rights means – is entitled to the full panoply of rights that have been recognized and society, writ large, must do all it can to achieve that goal. It will not be easy. Rights are not Platonic abstractions existing in some nebulous ideal and idyllic world. They exist, yet must be fought for on earth. They will often come into conflict. They are economic, social, cultural, civil, political and environmental. As society evolves, additional human rights will be recognized. Struggles will also be waged over how these rights are defined and by whom.

Which brings me to my last point. The fight to build a society based upon human rights cannot be waged in academia. The proliferation of human rights institutes on campuses around the country is all to the good, but cannot be the center of the battle. Nor can the center be the diplomats in the United Nations, though they have a role to play as well. Rather, the center of the battle must be those whose human rights are being denied. They must be made conscious and recognize the need to demand what is theirs. They must understand they can transform the consensus about what human rights should be into a society that actually affords them to all. What form that society takes, we cannot say. Undoubtedly, it will vary from one place to another. After all, there is a human right to one’s own culture. But it must be revolutionary. It must turn things upside down, where those with the least are given the advantages (low interest rates, for example) that are now enjoyed by those with the most. In short, we must replace the irrationality of our current economic system with one that, while ensuring continuing progress, is based on meeting the needs of those whose needs are not being met now.

Making the poor, dispossessed and disenfranchised conscious will not be easy in a world where thoughts do not delve beyond Facebook memes and 140 characters. The issues we face and the transformations we need require grappling with complex issues through serious discussion and serious thought. It will be difficult and will certainly not be one steady climb to that shining city on the hill. But the game is more than worth the candle.

Here, again, Marx’s words resonate. There is, indeed, a world to win.

 _____

David Gespass practices law in Birmingham, Alabama. He is a past president of the National Lawyers Guild and a member of the editorial board of the NLG Review, the Guild’s theoretical journal. Most recently, he co-authored two articles for its Winter 2016 edition, “Successes and Failures: Assessing the ICTY After Prosecutor v. Karadzic” and “Putting Scalia in Perspective.” He has been a member of the planning committee for the past several Southern Human Rights Organizers Conferences, held biennially, most recently in Jackson, MS last December, and is the current board chair of the Alabama chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Response: Trump and Christian History Western Christian Abuses and Terrorism

Note: On July 8, 2017, I posted my article entitledTrump and Christian History: Western Christian Abuses and Terrorism“. Not long after, I received the profound response from “Harvey S. of Atlanta” that I am posting below.

Among others, Harvey wisely refers to Eli Wiesel in his commentary and I wanted to share some of Wiesel’s quotes that are definitely relative to today’s activism and approach to our political world and/or dilemma. 
 
Quotes from Eli Wiesel
 
We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
 
The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
 

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. (Brainy Quotes)

Heather Gray
July 20, 2017
Justice Initiative International
_________
Dear Heather,

I have re-read your article about your personal experience with Christianity.  You are absolutely correct about the disastrous effect Christianity has had on “civilization” these past two thousand years.

Unlike you, I was raised not as a Christian, but as a Jew.  I am only one of the many “thems” that the Christian religion has harmed in its history.  My religion is in principle a good one, but there is much lacking in its practice.  My original problem with my religion was a religious one – the undying faith in a single just, fair and loving but vindictive God.  As I grew up, I questioned “His” existence.  I left my Orthodox faith early, my Conservative compromise later, and I completely bypassed the Reform faith altogether to become an atheist.  The Jewish religion (as Christianity) has the underpinning of doing good to and for our fellow men, but what the hell does God have to do with that?  I missed the Jewish traditions which I loved and still do, but couldn’t reconcile my unbelief in God.

Then I had an epiphany.  Forced to attend a high holiday service by family, the rabbi pointed up toward Heaven and said, “There is no God up there, God is in your heart!”  At last, I could return to the tradition I loved without being a hypocrite!  And thus have I led my life all these years.  Besides, I couldn’t undo being a Jew even if I wanted to as we have all learned from the Holocaust.

As a scientist, I know the world is much more than 6000 years old. I know the meisa (fable) of the creation is man-made.  But it doesn’t matter.  I can practice humanism anyway.  Being an atheist, I cannot not say with absolute certainty that there is no creator – but I truly believe there is none. The essential part of many atheists’ creed is embodied in perhaps six or seven of the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. But atheists cannot be lumped under one umbrella – there are many disparit reasons for their beliefs.

In the history of mankind going back well over 6000 years, the over-reaching continuation throughout recorded time is one of greed and of an us-vs-them paradigm.  Since we homo sapiens evolved from hunter-gatherers into agrarian communities, we have always had the haves and the have-nots. We have ours and they want what we have, so we must protect what we have.  And while we’re at it, we could use more so we’ll take it anyway.

There are only isolated cases in history that this condition has not been in effect.  Go back as far as you wish, the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Mongols, the Greeks, the Romans, the Muslims and yes, even the Hebrews – have all practiced inhumanity to others.  Even Native Americans, Africans and Hindus have done the same, but to a lesser extent.

In the last 2000 years, unspeakable acts were said to have been committed in the name of true religion, but were actually committed in the name of us-vs-them.

The Christians have had the greatest influence in recent millennia, and they are today still the most influential abusers, but they have not been alone.

I erroneously believed that Jews were better citizens than other ethnic groups, but that was because I only associated with those kinds of Jews.  Once my eyes were opened, I discovered to my dismay that Jews contributed as much evil as other ethnicities.  For every Albert Einstein, Elie Wiesel and Dr. Benjamin Spock, there is a Bernie Madoff, Jack Abramoff and others.

An interesting side remark – I once visited Taos, New Mexico with my wife.  The local Taos we met were extremely hostile to us and referred to us as Spaniards, because they equated all white people to the brutal Spaniards of their experience and memory.

So, what are we to do?  The election of Donald Trump has reversed whatever social progress has been made in the U.S.A in the last hundred or so years. As immigrants, you and I, the America that we have learned to love, however flawed it always has been, is returning to the hateful days of the past.  I cannot say that only Christians are responsible, but we also have abettors from many other religions and interests.

These abettors are greedy homo sapiens with no sense of decency for the rest of us.  I actually felt badly for Max Boot the other day – he was so shaken by what his beloved party has become and was in visible despair.  Even Jennifer Rubin, who I have always had issues with, sounds quite sensible to me now.

To have Donald Trump as our leader, the epitome of the worst characteristics of decency, as our Nation’s face, makes me ashamed.   But he is just the in-your-face problem.

Enablers like the GOP leadership and most of the entire GOP establishment are the real crisis of this country.  Will we survive?

May “God”, if he exists, have mercy on our souls.

Harvey S. of Atlanta

Amazon is buying Whole Foods – a threat to our healthy organic food community

Note: As Dr. Mercola states below, the potential take over of Whole Foods by Amazon will further industrialize the world of organic foods which is the last thing we need. If anything, what we need in America is to further “localize” our food production and get to know our local organic farmers and/or to grow our own food ourselves.This is what organic farmer Rashid Nuri in Atlanta has been saying forever – but more than talking about it, through his organization, the Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture, he is teaching adults and children how to grow healthy organic foods. There are many throughout the United States and the world doing the same as Rashid Nuri and we need to support and get involved in these life-sustaining initiatives.

While Whole Foods has not been perfect, still when Whole Foods was first expanding nationally in the 1980s I was thrilled that finally American business was waking up to the huge demands for healthy, non-toxic organic food. But invariably corporate greed raises its ugly head which is what we are witnessing now with the threat of Amazon taking over Whole Foods.

As Mercola says, all the more, under the circumstances, we need to focus more stringently and systematically on growing food locally and supporting local growers and local markets.

Mercola also makes reference to the Victory Gardens in America during WWII and notes that we need to go back to that model when we locally grew 40% of our own produce. In the WWII the battle was largely against the Germans, now our battle, as ever, is against corporate America and corporate agribusiness. It’s a battle we can ill afford to lose for our personal health, and the health and sustainability of our natural world and climate. Regarding growing our own food, Mercola states:

By turning Whole Foods into an Amazon entity, we stand to lose quite a bit of ground. We don’t need more organic processed foods, which is what will work best in Amazon’s business model. We need farmers to grow more fresh foods. We also need to get closer to the source of our food, not further away from it, which is exactly what online shopping will accomplish. Lastly, we need to go beyond organic certification, as USDA certification is becoming increasingly watered down by industrial interests.

Ideally, grow some of your own food. There’s no better way to ensure quality and freshness, since you have full control from planting to harvest. Gardening also has well-recognized physical, emotional and even spiritual benefits. During World War II, the government called on Americans to plant “victory gardens” to supply their own fruits and vegetables. Nearly 20 million Americans planted produce in every nook and cranny they could find, from rooftops and empty lots to their own backyards.

In all, they grew 40 percent of the produce in the U.S. during that time. The way things are going, you’d be wise to start a victory garden of your own. If you’ve never tended a garden before, start small. Sprouts are an excellent place to begin, as they’re easy and inexpensive to grow, and deliver superior nutrition.

Please read the article below by Dr. Mercola!!!

Heather Gray
July 16, 2017
Justice Initiative International 

Amazon Takes Over Whole Foods Market

Story at-a-glance 
  • Amazon recently announced its intention to acquire Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion
  • Just as Amazon changed the book industry by forcing the entire supply chain to cut costs, the organic food industry may now face the same challenges, thereby ensuring the deterioration of organic food quality
  • The convenience of online shopping has led to a major cardboard and packing waste problem. The main recycling plant in San Francisco alone collects 100 tons of cardboard per day
By Dr. Mercola
July 04, 2017

Amazon recently announced its intention to acquire Whole Foods Market, a $13.7 billion deal that has food manufacturers quaking in their boots. As noted by Fortune,1 “grocery stocks took a nosedive” following the announcement.

Also noted by Fortune, just as Amazon changed the way books are printed and sold “by forcing publishers, authors and everybody else along the book supply chain to cut their costs,” the food industry may now face the same disruptions and challenges – challenges bound to likely severely deteriorate, compromise and dilute organic foods and standards even further.

After all, Amazon’s stated goal is to “be Earth’s most customer centric company … a place where people can … find … anything they might want to buy …”2 In other words, Amazon’s ultimate aim is to get a piece of every single economic pie there is. Ingeniously, by buying Whole Foods, Amazon is not buying a retailer. Rather, it’s buying a customer for its advanced commerce and logistics, with an eye on replacing Instacart and United Natural Foods.3

“The overlooked asset Amazon gets in the deal is Whole Foods’ 365 house brand – one of the most coveted in the organic and natural space, private label and otherwise,” Forbes adds. “A Piper Jaffray survey last spring found that 365 is customers’ favorite organic-food brand, ahead of premium names like Kellogg’s-owned Kashi and General Mills’ Annie’s.

The 365 brand is virtually unavailable online, but that will change if Amazon is smart about it. ‘The opportunity to use the 365 brand as a mainstay of their online offering is really profound,’ says Bernstein analyst Alexia Howard. ‘It puts a huge amount of pressure on branded food sales.'”

 

Speed and Convenience Versus Quality and Sustainability

The allure of instant gratification and convenience is ever present in today’s world. Unfortunately, when it comes to food, speed and convenience is anathema to quality and sustainability. Sure, many will probably greet the news of Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods as a good thing. Now you can order organic foods with a single click and have it delivered right to your doorstep. In reality, however, this mentality presents a number of problems.

Ironically, while we think home delivery is a fabulous outgrowth of modern technology, 100 years ago grocery home-delivery was commonplace. The milk man would drop off milk bottles and pick up the empties, for example. The major problem today is that virtually no one, and certainly not Amazon, is picking up the discarded packaging, so we’ve actually taken a step backward.

You may not realize it but Instacart4 is also doing home deliveries from grocers all over the U.S., including Whole Foods, so Amazon is hardly revolutionizing the food delivery concept. A major drawback of this potential acquisition is that while slightly better processed foods will be more conveniently available – which may be beneficial if you live in an area where good grocers are scarce or nonexistent – foods in general nearly always decline in quality when industrialization enters the picture.

Online shopping for organic foods also creates an enormous barrier between consumers and farmers. One of the best ways to ensure you’re getting high-quality food is to get to know the grower. Establishing and nurturing such relationships, and really getting to understand where your food comes from and how it’s grown, puts “soul” back into the food, nourishes the spirit and strengthens community bonds.

Industrialization Inevitably Leads to Decline in Quality and Compromises Sustainability
When a food system becomes highly automated, quality invariably declines. We’ve already seen this with the popularization of organic foods sold through grocery stores. These foods are rarely locally grown. Instead, the majority is imported, and there’s no telling what you’re getting, really. As reported by The Washington Post,5 millions of pounds of soybeans and corn imported from Turkey, bearing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “USDA Organic” seal, were recently found to be non-organic.

Turkey is one of the primary exporters of organic goods to the U.S., and the shipments in question represented about 7 percent of the total annual organic corn imports to the U.S. and 4 percent of the organic soybean imports. The Washington Post adds:

“After the story appeared, one of the nation’s largest organic inspection agencies, CCOF, issued a notice to its clients indicating that it ‘lacks confidence in the organic status of foreign grain.’ The agency instituted rules requiring that organic grain shipments be traceable back to growers.”

 

Unfortunately, food fraud is commonplace, and virtually impossible to keep up with. Once one loophole is closed, another springs open. The organic industry is now putting together an anti-fraud taskforce, organized by the Organic Trade Association, but many American farmers growing organics have few hopes it will protect them from cheap, fraudulent imports, which have plagued the organic industry for well over a decade. As noted in a 2005 article by the Organic Consumers Association:6

“Advocates tout organic food as a salvation for small U.S. farms. But more and more, organic food isn’t American at all … Companies are cutting costs by importing not only bananas and coffee but also all-American commodities like soybeans, fruits and vegetables … A major U.S. organic grain supplier, Clarkson Grain Co. … has lost 25 percent of its soybean business during the past year because of surging imports from China and South America …

 

One of the most popular brands of organic soy milk, Silk, is now made in part with imported soybeans. Organic Valley, a Wisconsin-based farmer cooperative, imports some of its beef from Australia. Cascadian Farm, a major name in organic frozen produce that started out buying commodities in the Pacific Northwest, now buys many of its fruits and vegetables from overseas.”  

It’s the Green Revolution All Over Again
Little has changed over the years. If you find organic tomatoes in January, they’re probably from Mexico,7 a country where explosive growth of organic tomato cultivation has left locals struggling with dwindling water supplies. In some areas, wells have dried up completely. This is yet another hidden price of cheap commodities, organic or not. Basically, what we’re seeing now is an extension and tragic repeat of the “Green Revolution” that took place in the 1930s.

A little more than a century ago, all food was organic. Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers were not used. Aside from traditional culturing and fermenting, there were no processed foods to speak of. All of that changed with the advent of synthetic fertilizers, chemical pesticides and herbicides and the industrialization of agriculture, which consolidated dozens of small farms into mega-entities.

This demanded dramatic changes to the infrastructure of the food industry as a whole, and what we ended up with was a food system where food is produced in larger quantities by fewer farms, and is then processed and distributed all over the world. Such a system not only demands that shortcuts be taken to keep costs under control, but also requires most of the food to be processed for extended shelf life.

Today, the vast majority of the money spent on food is spent on processed foods, and the health ramifications are clearly seen in rising obesity and disease statistics. We’re now seeing the same process occurring in the certified organic food industry. The initial intent to bring back real food, grown by contentious farmers focused on quality and environmental sustainability, is quickly morphing into just another processed food niche. While the ingredients may contain fewer chemicals and toxic additives, the end result is the same.

Large multinational corporations are gobbling up small organic brands, forcing them back into the corporate agriculture system where everything is big, power is concentrated, shortcuts are the status quo, quality is questionable and the intentions to build strong food-secure communities, improved food safety and environmental regeneration all fall by the wayside.

Many Organic Milk Brands Provide None of the Organic Benefits

Efficiency and cost savings rule the day in any industrialized food system, and when these criteria are predominate, quality automatically gets downgraded. You simply cannot grow the best foods at the quickest and lowest price. A perfect example of this is the dairy industry, where industrialized organic milk has diluted the value of the entire organic dairy industry.

True organic grass fed milk has been repeatedly shown to be higher in many nutrients, including vitamin E, beta-carotene and beneficial conjugated linoleic acid, but an investigative report by The Washington Post reveals some organic dairies are merely concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in disguise, selling milk for higher prices while not actually giving you anything that is substantially different from non-organic milk.8,9,10

 

Ironically, Whole Foods’ 365 brand organic milk, popular as it may be, is indistinguishable from conventional milk. According to Whole Foods Market online:

“365 Organic Everyday Value Milk is produced by the nation’s leading cooperative of organic family farmers who promote regional farm diversity and economic stability. During their entire lives, the cows producing our organic milk will receive only 100 [percent] certified organic feed and are never fed antibiotics or artificial growth hormones. The co-op’s farmers are dedicated to practices such as pasturing and allowing animals to express their natural behaviors.”11

While that sounds all good and well, The Washington Post’s tests revealed the 365 Everyday Value Milk ranked “at the bottom for the fats associated with grass feeding and at the top for the fat associated with conventional feeding.”

Conscious Capitalism Makes a U-Turn

The idea that Whole Foods, with Amazon at its helm, will be able to retain its focus on sustainability and organic quality is questionable at best. This is unfortunate indeed. Whole Foods may not have done everything right all the time, but there’s no doubt it helped popularize healthier, more natural and responsibly-grown foods.
As noted by Slate Magazine:12

“[Whole Foods] sold organic foods long before any major supermarket chain thought it was worthwhile, and it’s thrived in part by defying the grocery industry’s insistence on centralized distribution and standardization. Now the organic supermarket pioneer will be owned by one of the most brutally efficient and standardized retailers in the world, a company with a relentless focus on selling things cheaper and faster …

 

[I]t signals the end of a dream for … the entire organic food business. With more than 400 locations, Whole Foods has long ruled the organic marketplace. But unlike any other national retailer, it claims to be rooted in environmentalism … [W]ith its sale to Amazon, a company with a poor environmental track record, questionable labor practices and limited experience selling organic food, Whole Foods has lost any credible link to its countercultural roots.

 

Whatever Whole Foods will be able to say about itself now, it will be much harder for it to maintain its do-gooder image … With its relentless efficiency standards, Amazon is poised to radically transform not only the pioneering organic chain but the entire brick-and-mortar grocery business.”

 

Online Giant Vies to Cash in on Taxpayer Subsidies

An even bigger play by Amazon that has retailers bracing for impact is the fact that the online giant will soon be accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. As noted by Politico:13

“… SNAP recipients can’t currently use their benefits to buy groceries online, but it appears increasingly likely that they’ll be able to in the not-too-distant future. The Department of Agriculture is preparing to roll out 10 pilots that will allow some SNAP customers to use their electronic benefit transfer, or EBT, cards with online retailers – a trial called for in the 2014 farm bill that some view as the stepping stone to bringing SNAP fully online and into the 21st century.

 

In January, Amazon was selected as one of the companies to conduct one of the pilots across three states – New York, New Jersey and Maryland – but what the company is now doing outside of that effort is raising eyebrows in Washington … Amazon recently rolled out a special 45 percent discount on Amazon Prime membership for anyone in the U.S. who has an EBT card …

 

Retailers … see the move as a shrewd way for Amazon to build business with SNAP-eligible customers to capitalize if – or, rather, when – EBT becomes redeemable online. But Amazon’s play also raises all sort of questions about the future of SNAP retailing.”

 

When Will Amazon Face Its Enormous Cardboard Waste Problem?

Convenience has yet another dark side: Cardboard and packing refuse is turning into a major problem as more and more people rely on online purchases for every minor want and need. The main recycling plant in San Francisco alone collects 100 tons of cardboard per day. As noted in a New York Times article published last year:14

“A handful of scientists and policy makers are … grappling with the long-term environmental effect of an economy that runs increasingly on gotta-have-it-now gratification … Overall, the $350 billion e-commerce industry has doubled in the last five years, with Amazon setting the pace.

 

Its Prime membership service has grown to more than 50 million subscribers, by one estimate. (And … Prime Now, can ‘get customers pretty much anything in minutes,’ its website says). ‘There’s a whole fleet of trucks circulating through neighborhoods nonstop,’ said Dan Sperling, the founding director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, and the transportation expert on the California Air Resources Board.

 

He also is overseeing a new statewide task force of trucking companies and government officials trying to reduce overall emissions from freight deliveries, including for e-commerce … ‘From a sustainability perspective, we’re heading in the wrong direction,’ he said.”

 

Star Tribune15 has also highlighted the issue of mounting cardboard waste. Amazon claims it uses a special software to select an appropriately-sized box for any given item, and Amazon boxes can be used to ship donations to Goodwill free of charge – a feature under its “Give Back Box” program – but such strategies hardly make a dent in the overall deluge of cardboard being generated by online sales. For all its logistics savvy, Amazon has yet to invent a better system where repeat customers can return boxes for reuse.

These strategies also do nothing to address the growing traffic generated by delivery cars and trucks. As noted by Ardeshir Faghri, professor of civil engineering at the University of Delaware, online shopping is a primary culprit in the increase in emissions. “Online shopping has not helped the environment. It has made it worse,” he told The New York Times.16

‘Competition Is for Losers’

Competition protects consumers from a number of troublesome consequences. Unfortunately, monopolization is the name of today’s game. “Competition is for losers,” said Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal,17 expressing what appears to be a general sentiment among many multinational corporations. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, a mere 10 percent of public companies generate 80 percent of all profits worldwide.

Between 1997 and 2013, the number of listed companies in the U.S. dropped by half, from 6,797 to 3,485. Of these, internet- and cellular-based corporations rule the roost. Amazon, not surprisingly, is among them. In a special report on the downsides of corporate consolidations, “Why Giants Thrive,” The Economist writes:18

“Regulation inevitably imposes a disproportionate burden on smaller companies because compliance has a high fixed cost. Nicole and Mark Crain, of Lafayette College, calculate that the cost per employee of federal regulatory compliance is $10,585 for businesses with 19 or fewer employees but only $7,755 for companies with 500 or more.

 

Younger companies also suffer more from regulation because they have less experience of dealing with it. Sarbanes-Oxley imposed a particularly heavy burden on smaller public companies … The JOBS act of 2012 exempted small businesses from some of the more onerous requirements of the legislation, but the number of startups and IPOs in America remains at disappointingly low levels.”

 

Where Are We Going? And Do We Really Want to End Up There?

Many organic enthusiasts believe Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is an overall bad idea – not for Amazon, clearly, but for Americans in general, our environment and our food system. We’ve fought long and hard to change the status quo, and Americans have awoken to the fact that health and food are inseparable. You cannot eat junk and expect to be well. Unfortunately, the allure of convenience is ever-present.

By turning Whole Foods into an Amazon entity, we stand to lose quite a bit of ground. We don’t need more organic processed foods, which is what will work best in Amazon’s business model. We need farmers to grow more fresh foods. We also need to get closer to the source of our food, not further away from it, which is exactly what online shopping will accomplish. Lastly, we need to go beyond organic certification, as USDA certification is becoming increasingly watered down by industrial interests.

Ideally, grow some of your own food. There’s no better way to ensure quality and freshness, since you have full control from planting to harvest. Gardening also has well-recognized physical, emotional and even spiritual benefits. During World War II, the government called on Americans to plant “victory gardens” to supply their own fruits and vegetables. Nearly 20 million Americans planted produce in every nook and cranny they could find, from rooftops and empty lots to their own backyards.

In all, they grew 40 percent of the produce in the U.S. during that time. The way things are going, you’d be wise to start a victory garden of your own. If you’ve never tended a garden before, start small. Sprouts are an excellent place to begin, as they’re easy and inexpensive to grow, and deliver superior nutrition.

Your next best option is to get to know your local farmers and buy from them directly. Farmers markets are an excellent place to shop as well. If you live in the U.S., the organizations listed below can help you locate farm-fresh foods.

Ideally, look for foods certified by the American Grassfed Association (AGA) and the Demeter Association. The former certifies grass fed animal products; the latter offers biodynamic certification. The path forward seems inevitable – organic quality is being sacrificed for the sake of convenience and profitability. Biodynamic certification and grass fed certification are superior certifications that ensure not only healthy food but superior environmental protections as well.

____

The goal of the American Grassfed Association is to promote the grass fed industry through government relations, research, concept marketing and public education.
Their website also allows you to search for AGA approved producers certified according to strict standards that include being raised on a diet of 100 percent forage; raised on pasture and never confined to a feedlot; never treated with antibiotics or hormones; born and raised on American family farms.
EatWild.com provides lists of farmers known to produce raw dairy products as well as grass fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass fed products.
Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass fed meats across the U.S.
This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass fed meats and many other goodies.
A national listing of farmers markets.
The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, hotels and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
The FoodRoutes “Find Good Food” map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs and markets near you.
The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO “organic” production from authentic organic practices.
If you’re still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund19 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.20 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.

Part Four – The Coup: FDR vs Trump: Understanding Fascism from Henry Wallace

Part Four – The Coup: FDR vs Trump
Understanding Fascism from Henry Wallace

(the 33rd Vice President of the United States)

Heather Gray
July 12, 2017
Justice Initiative International


Henry Wallace and Franklin Roosevelt

Below is an article written by Henry Wallace in 1944 for the New York Times entitled “The Danger of American Fascism“. Much of what Wallace wrote in 1944 about fascism sadly echoes of today’s government under Donald Trump. Below is a brief excerpt from Wallace’s article. Wallace says essentially that while attempting to give the impression that they were against the 1930’s fascist movements in Germany and Italy, American fascists were doing the following in their own country: 

The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity… They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism. (Wallace)

Wallace was, at the time, Vice President under President Franklin Roosevelt. In the 1930’s when the coup attempt was revealed, however, Wallace had been Roosevelt’s Secretary of Agriculture. As mentioned in previous articles in the “Coup: FDR vs Trump” series (see links below), in the 1930’s there had been revealed a coup attempt that was being planned against Roosevelt. According to General Smedley Butler, who was told about the coup by the operative Gerald P. MacGuire of the American Legion, the reason for a coup, according to MacGuire, was because:

America…was in great danger from a “communist menace,” and needed a complete change of government. Then MacGuire made his pitch. A “militantly patriotic” veterans’ organization, like the fascist Croix de Feu operating in France, was the only kind of organization that could force a change in Washington; he suggested Butler lead such an organization in “a march on Washington.” “We have three million dollars to start with on the line,” he told Butler, “and we can get three million more if we need it.” (Colby

 

When Butler reported to some in Congress about the coup attempt, many tried to undermine him and essentially state the conspiracy was bogus, likely to protect themselves.  Perhaps not ironically Gerald MacGuire died mysteriously at the age of 37:

When the fascist plan began to unravel, thanks to General Butler’s efforts to expose it, MacGuire became the plotters’ expendable fall-guy. MacGuire’s paymasters did not cover for him when the Senate committee began probing into his suspicious expense accounts. MacGuire might have eventually spilled the beans, revealing more details about his financial backers and their plot. However, in March 1935, one month after the Committee’s final report, MacGuire died of natural causes, at the ripe old age of 37. (Colby

Nevertheless, I also want to share the letter that was written by

William Dodd,  the US Ambassador to Germany, to President Roosevelt in 1936:

A clique of U.S. industrialists is hell-bent to bring a fascist state to supplant our democratic government and is working closely with the fascist regime in Germany and Italy. I have had plenty of opportunity in my post in Berlin to witness how close some of our American ruling families are to the Nazi regime. … A prominent executive of one of the largest corporations, told me point blank that he would be ready to take definite action to bring fascism into America if President Roosevelt continued his progressive policies. Certain American industrialists had a great deal to do with bringing fascist regimes into being in both Germany and Italy. They extended aid to help Fascism occupy the seat of power, and they are helping to keep it there. Propagandists for fascist groups try to dismiss the fascist scare. We should be aware of the symptoms. When industrialists ignore laws designed for social and economic progress they will seek recourse to a fascist state when the institutions of our government compel them to comply with the provisions…. (Wikipedia)

 

 
The Danger of American Fascism
by Henry A. Wallace
An article in the New York Times, April 9, 1944.
From Henry A. Wallace, Democracy Reborn (New York, 1944),
edited by Russell Lord, p. 259.
On returning from my trip to the West in February, I received a request from The New York Times to write a piece answering the following questions:
  1. What is a fascist?
  2. How many fascists have we?
  3. How dangerous are they?
A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party.

The perfect type of fascist throughout recent centuries has been the Prussian Junker, who developed such hatred for other races and such allegiance to a military clique as to make him willing at all times to engage in any degree of deceit and violence necessary to place his culture and race astride the world. In every big nation of the world are at least a few people who have the fascist temperament. Every Jew-baiter, every Catholic hater, is a fascist at heart. The hoodlums who have been desecrating churches, cathedrals and synagogues in some of our larger cities are ripe material for fascist leadership.

The obvious types of American fascists are dealt with on the air and in the press. These demagogues and stooges are fronts for others. Dangerous as these people may be, they are not so significant as thousands of other people who have never been mentioned. The really dangerous American fascists are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.

If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. Most American fascists are enthusiastically supporting the war effort.

They are doing this even in those cases where they hope to have profitable connections with German chemical firms after the war ends. They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.

American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery.

The European brand of fascism will probably present its most serious postwar threat to us via Latin America. The effect of the war has been to raise the cost of living in most Latin American countries much faster than the wages of labor. The fascists in most Latin American countries tell the people that the reason their wages will not buy as much in the way of goods is because of Yankee imperialism. The fascists in Latin America learn to speak and act like natives. Our chemical and other manufacturing concerns are all too often ready to let the Germans have Latin American markets, provided the American companies can work out an arrangement which will enable them to charge high prices to the consumer inside the United States. Following this war, technology will have reached such a point that it will be possible for Germans, using South America as a base, to cause us much more difficulty in World War III than they did in World War II. The military and landowning cliques in many South American countries will find it attractive financially to work with German fascist concerns as well as expedient from the standpoint of temporary power politics.

Fascism is a worldwide disease. Its greatest threat to the United States will come after the war, either via Latin America or within the United States itself.

Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after “the present unpleasantness” ceases:

The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination against other religious, racial or economic groups. Likewise, many people whose patriotism is their proudest boast play Hitler’s game by retailing distrust of our Allies and by giving currency to snide suspicions without foundation in fact.

The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism.

They cultivate hate and distrust of both Britain and Russia. They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.

Several leaders of industry in this country who have gained a new vision of the meaning of opportunity through co-operation with government have warned the public openly that there are some selfish groups in industry who are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage. We all know the part that the cartels played in bringing Hitler to power, and the rule the giant German trusts have played in Nazi conquests. Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.

It has been claimed at times that our modern age of technology facilitates dictatorship. What we must understand is that the industries, processes, and inventions created by modern science can be used either to subjugate or liberate. The choice is up to us. The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. It was Mussolini’s vaunted claim that he “made the trains run on time.” In the end, however, he brought to the Italian people impoverishment and defeat. It was Hitler’s claim that he eliminated all unemployment in Germany. Neither is there unemployment in a prison camp.

Democracy to crush fascism internally must demonstrate its capacity to “make the trains run on time.” It must develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels. As long as scientific research and inventive ingenuity outran our ability to devise social mechanisms to raise the living standards of the people, we may expect the liberal potential of the United States to increase. If this liberal potential is properly channeled, we may expect the area of freedom of the United States to increase. The problem is to spend up our rate of social invention in the service of the welfare of all the people.

The worldwide, age-long struggle between fascism and democracy will not stop when the fighting ends in Germany and Japan. Democracy can win the peace only if it does two things:

(1) Speeds up the rate of political and economic inventions so that both production and, especially, distribution can match in their power and practical effect on the daily life of the common man the immense and growing volume of scientific research, mechanical invention and management technique.

(2) Vivifies with the greatest intensity the spiritual processes which are both the foundation and the very essence of democracy.

The moral and spiritual aspects of both personal and international relationships have a practical bearing which so-called practical men deny. This dullness of vision regarding the importance of the general welfare to the individual is the measure of the failure of our schools and churches to teach the spiritual significance of genuine democracy. Until democracy in effective enthusiastic action fills the vacuum created by the power of modern inventions, we may expect the fascists to increase in power after the war both in the United States and in the world.

Fascism in the postwar inevitably will push steadily for Anglo-Saxon imperialism and eventually for war with Russia. Already American fascists are talking and writing about this conflict and using it as an excuse for their internal hatreds and intolerances toward certain races, creeds and classes.

It should also be evident that exhibitions of the native brand of fascism are not confined to any single section, class or religion. Happily, it can be said that as yet fascism has not captured a predominant place in the outlook of any American section, class or religion. It may be encountered in Wall Street, Main Street or Tobacco Road. Some even suspect that they can detect incipient traces of it along the Potomac. It is an infectious disease, and we must all be on our guard against intolerance, bigotry and the pretension of invidious distinction. But if we put our trust in the common sense of common men and “with malice toward none and charity for all” go forward on the great adventure of making political, economic and social democracy a practical reality, we shall not fail.

Trump and Christian History: Western Christian Abuses and Terrorism


By Heather Gray
July 8, 2017

On July 6, 2017, Donald Trump spoke before the Polish people – here is an excerpt.

 

….This continent no longer confronts the specter of communism. But today we’re in the West, and we have to say there are dire threats to our security and to our way of life. You see what’s happening out there. They are threats. We will confront them. We will win. But they are threats.

We are confronted by another oppressive ideology – one that seeks to export terrorism and extremism all around the globe. America and Europe have suffered one terror attack after another. We’re going to get it to stop.

 

During a historic gathering in Saudi Arabia, I called on the leaders of more than 50 Muslim nations to join together to drive out this menace which threatens all of humanity. We must stand united against these shared enemies to strip them of their territory and their funding, and their networks, and any form of ideological support that they may have. While we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people, our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism of any kind.

We are fighting hard against radical Islamic terrorism, and we will prevail. We cannot accept those who reject our values and who use hatred to justify violence against the innocent. (NBC)

Trump thinks western Christian philosophy is superior and/or more “civilized”? He thinks the west and the United States do not attack the innocent? Trump says there are those that “Export terrorism and extremism all around the globe”. He thinks countries guided by American and European Christians have not been engaged in terrorism and extremism all over the globe? He thinks that America itself has not been filled with its own so-called Christian terrorists, such as the Ku Klux Klan and others? To say his comments were hypocritical is an understatement.

Does Trump know any of the history of Christianity and his own country’s behavior? Obviously not!

In his speech in Poland, Trump also said the following:

We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere, and its support for hostile regimes – including Syria and Iran – and to instead join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself. (NBC)

Civilized? Trump refers to Syria and Iran “in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself.” Is he serious? What civilization is he referring to? In the 1950s the United States overturned the only ever elected head of the Iranian government – Mohammad Mosaddegh – and installed the dictator, the Shah of Iran, to serve the US interests so that Britain, in particular,  and the west overall, could access to the Iranian oil at the expense of the Iranian people. Is that civilized behavior? Then in the 2000s, by inappropriately invading Iraq, the United States starts this latest conflict in the region along with excessive violence that led to massive resistance. Is that civilized?  Those in the Middle East – Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, etc. – are supposed to sit there and not protect their land, their people or resist this U.S. and western violence? What would the United States do if their land and people were being ravaged, invaded and drones being used sometimes inadvertently to kill innocent civilians? Yes, the United States would resist, as I am sure you are thinking.

What I’ve mentioned above but touches the surface of the huge amount of U.S. intervention in the 20th and now 21rst centuries all over the world. All of this is coupled with the vast increase of the military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about as he left the presidency and, unfortunately,  the U.S. has not taken heed to his ominous and important message.

But in this article I am focusing on the devastating and often violent impact of Christians and Christian doctrine in world history.

My Journey with Christianity

When George W. Bush was president (2001-2009) I kept hearing all this rhetoric about faith based this and faith based that. There were plans and implementation in the Bush administration to further erode the separation of church and state. As a result, the dangers of organized religion became more acute to say the least. In fact, I thought that if Bush, and now Trump, was so concerned about those who support terrorism then he probably needed to scrutinize how right-wing Christians here in the United States have supported terrorists here and throughout the world.

Below is some of my personal journey with Christianity – a religion in which I was raised. It takes one to know one!!!

Christians have much to atone for in their long and egregious history. This is particularly so in the European and United States international context that I want to address here. Have they done some good as well? Probably, but you’ve got to look at what the Christians have done with some skepticism before affirming that statement. This community is divergent at best.

Interpretation of Jesus

There are a lot of interpretations of Jesus. I have mine as well. To me, Jesus was a revolutionary and should be considered the one of first of the liberation theologians. He grew up in the Middle East, during a time of the stressful occupation of Rome. As a devout Jew, he was obviously concerned about the corruption of his faith and of the Jewish leaders by the “pagan” Romans and their culture.

The Romans invaded the Holy Land in 63BCE. They were skilled European occupiers and doing what military occupiers do best – oppress and control the people socially and economically, grab whatever resources are available in the occupied land, and identify the elite in the occupied population as puppets who would serve Roman interests. There are parallels here, of course, to the U.S. and European present day oppressive military incursions in the Middle East and since the fall of Ottoman Empire in 1918.

The Romans, after all, selected the chief priest of the Temple in Jerusalem and other civic leaders, such as the infamous King Herod; the Romans were taking all the good farmland in the area; and they were constantly killing or oppressing Jews who opposed their rule.

No doubt the Romans, like any good occupier and likely with the complicity of the Jewish elite, were consistently using and abusing the poor as Jesus routinely made reference to the less fortunate. Not surprisingly, uprisings, or, as the U.S. refers to them in Iraq, insurrections against Roman rule were frequent. (Read The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception; Holy Blood, Holy Grail; or The Messianic Legacy by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh for more details on the historical Jesus.)

Most scholars concur that Jesus had no intention of starting a new religion. To do so would have been blasphemous against the Jewish faith. The historical task of creating Christianity was left to Paul whose credentials are mixed at best. Paul was named Saul before his conversion on the road to Damascus after the Romans had murdered Jesus. He was a Roman citizen, also Jewish and had never met Jesus. He had been persecuting his fellow Jews who opposed the occupation.

It is understandable, then, that the inner circle of Jesus’ followers, such as James, did not trust Paul. Nevertheless, James, who is often referred to as the brother of Jesus, and others rather cautiously taught Paul Jesus’ philosophy and then sent him to Turkey where he wrote letters back to Jerusalem about his work. Some contend that sending Paul to Turkey was an indication that he was not trusted, otherwise they would have kept him in Jerusalem to work in the heart of movement there. Paul was recalled, however, once it was understood what he was doing. There were also plans to assassinate him as described by Baigent and Leigh. (Read The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception for more details on Paul).

So what was Paul doing in Turkey? Well, he was creating a new religion, which was common practice at the time. The prerequisite conditions of a new religion required a virgin birth, resurrection and, importantly, there had to be a direct link to God before anyone would believe you had a religion worthy of merit. For some strange reason, we humans seem to want miracles then as now, and what’s even more strange is that we are inclined to believe these miracles as fact. Paul obviously knew what he was doing. Anyway, the rest is history, as they say.

To summarize, if you look at the historical Jesus he seemed to be concerned about the poor, about corrupt power, about loving your neighbors and about maintaining Jewish traditions and faith void of Roman influence – my simplistic summary. This, to me, was his revolutionary posture. It appears he chose not to side with those who cozied up to Roman power. He was not a sellout. Obviously, the Roman occupiers and the Jewish elite didn’t like this.

While there have been all kinds of books about the wonders and glory of Christianity (the music is nice after all), when it’s organized it can also be dangerous, extremely violent and oppressive. This is born out in history and impossible to recount all of it here, but look at Holy War: The Crusades and their Impact on Today’s World and Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism by Karen Armstrong or Terror and Civilization: Christianity, Politics and the Western Psyche by Shadia Drury for an excellent account of Christian abuses and analysis; and, for more contemporary corruption by U. S. Christian conservatives look at Spiritual Warfare by Sara Diamond.

But, I have my own personal journey with Christianity apart from the documented historians and philosophers.

Learning at University about the World’s Religions

Michelangelo’s Adam and God on the Sistine Chapel

As a student at Emory University in Atlanta, I was required to take a religion class. It was my introduction to the politics of religion. A church committee, I was taught, selected the books of the New Testament in 100 AD. Think about it – the committee was the scholarly elite in Europe at the time. They had a vested interest, likely in portraying Rome in a positive light, and selected books accordingly. Some books, like that of Thomas, were left out that disputed Paul’s version of the resurrection, virgin birth, etc. (read Elaine Pagel’s Beyond Belief: The Secret Book of Thomas and The Gnostic Gospels). And so the Bible is supposed to be the word of God? Well, it certainly appears to have its mortal and political twist.

In 325, the Roman Emperor Constantine even called for a gathering of church leaders to meet in Turkey – known as the first Synod of Nicea – where the decision was to be made by these “mere mortals” whether Jesus was the son of God or not. So a committee made this decision? Well, yes, and they decided, in their rather dubious infinite wisdom three hundred years after Jesus died, that Jesus was, in fact, the Son of God. Then, at this meeting, they developed the Nicene Creed that goes like this “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things, both visible and invisible; and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God etc. etc.” and is recited by Christians today all over the world. This provided some clarity and unity, as the Emperor obviously wanted, for Christian leaders to conveniently sweep in and control the masses.

Then there’s the “Christian” Michelangelo. It’s a sad twist of history that he depicted God, Adam and Jesus, for his painting on the Sistine Chapel, as white males. By doing so, he created an unfortunate legacy of people throughout the world who think of God, Adam and Jesus as white males. This is the ultimate of white supremacy and insult. It’s true that Michelangelo was of European descent so that if there was to be a depiction of God, Adam and Jesus, as the Pope likely wanted, they would be of the European stock as that was their background and audience irregardless of the consequences that they might or might not have foreseen. Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbles would likely appreciate the effort of epitomizing whites in this manner.

Yet, historically, Jesus was, after all, described as dark skinned and woolly haired. He was essentially from north Africa after all. Let’s have some honesty here. And God as human? I don’t think so.

While Christ the Lord transcends skin color and racial divisions, white Jesus has real consequences. In all likelihood, if you close your eyes and picture Jesus, you’ll imagine a white man. Without conscious intention or awareness, many of us have become disciples of a white Jesus. Not only is white Jesus inaccurate, he also can inhibit our ability to honor the image of God in people who aren’t white. (Israelite)

Jesus of Nazareth likely had a darker complexion than we imagine, not unlike the olive skin common among Middle Easterners today. Princeton biblical scholar James Charlesworth goes so far as to say Jesus was “most likely dark brown and sun-tanned.” The earliest depictions of an adult Jesus showed him with an “Oriental cast” and a brown complexion. But by the sixth century, some Byzantine artists started picturing Jesus with white skin, a beard, and hair parted down the middle. This image became the standard. (Christianity Today)

Contrary to Christianity, Islam generally and wisely does not allow depictions of God or Muhammad.

Here is my poem about Jesus who I honor for his revolutionary work and legacy against injustice:

About Jesus Christ

From Someone White
(Heather Gray – 1996)

 
Wooly haired, brown skinned, brown eyed African brother in the struggle
Building coalition
Talking justice.
A freedom fighter against the timeless decadence of colonialism.
It was Rome then
It’s facsimile today.

A luta continua.

 

The Europe and America and the “Doctrine of Discovery” 

Burial of the dead after the massacre of Wounded Knee, 1891.

 

Then I studied Latin American history where there is an abundance of historical accounts of European Catholic priests on board ships who would bless and Christianize the land before embarking from their ships. They were, then, “shocked” and “appalled” to find that the indigenous peoples of this new land were not Christians, even after having been blessed by the priests from afar, no less. This could and probably should be considered a ploy – a justification for massacring, enslaving or condescendingly oppressing the native population that the Europeans and their U.S. descendants have always done, without abandon, in their occupied foreign lands.

In fact, the massacres by so-called European Christians both in North and South America were immense thanks largely to the Papal Bull from 1493 known as the “Doctrine of Discovery”.

The Bull stated that any land not inhabited by Christians was available to be “discovered,” claimed, and exploited by Christian rulers and declared that “the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself.” This “Doctrine of Discovery” became the basis of all European claims in the Americas as well as the foundation for the United States’ western expansion. (Gilder Lehrman)

And further:

US history, as well as inherited Indigenous trauma, cannot be understood without dealing with the genocide that the United States committed against Indigenous peoples. From the colonial period through the founding of the United States and continuing in the twentieth century, this has entailed torture, terror, sexual abuse, massacres, systematic military occupations, removals of Indigenous peoples from their ancestral territories, forced removal of Native American children to military-like boarding schools, allotment, and a policy of termination. (Truthout)

 

Vietnam

In the 1970’s I lived in Singapore. In early 1973 I joined other international journalists for a tour of Vietnam during the war. In Singapore I had lost a baby after 7 months of an excruciating pregnancy where I was in bed or in the hospital most of the time. I wanted to explore adopting a Vietnamese child and visited three orphanages in Saigon. The children in the first two were relatively well cared for and the institutions were clean, even in spite of what were probably relatively limited resources. Christians did not head these orphanages.

Then I visited the third orphanage administered by a French Catholic priest. I was utterly appalled. The children were filthy and groveling and crawling on dirty floors. Some of them were strapped in chairs outside. One child, the mixture of a Vietnamese and Black American, was blind and screaming. My colleague told me this Catholic priest was notorious throughout Saigon. His attitude was that it didn’t matter what happened here on earth because the rewards were to be found in heaven. This was, apparently, the priest’s justification for the abysmal treatment of these children. Not that all Christian orphanages are likely to be problematic or abusive, of course, but I’ve wondered since how often Christians utilize this rationale. Here’s some prose honoring the young child in Saigon:

In a Saigon Orphanage 1973
A Tribute to an American/Vietnamese
Abandoned Child of War    
(by Heather Gray – 1996)
 

I remember your black skin

Your slanted sightless piercing eyes that saw through me and beyond.

I remember your rich black curly hair
Your ravaged little body that cried relentlessly.

I remember you sitting in the sun while strapped in your chair
Your shrieking cry that rightfully enveloped the universe.
I remember holding your tiny hand
and the cessation of tears.

I remember your dignity
Your beautiful sculpted dark face.

I’ll remember you always.

 

Anti-apartheid Movement

Later, I was involved in the anti-apartheid movement. Recall that in 1975, Mozambique and Angola had finally wrenched themselves from Portuguese colonial rule. As was usually the case, the United States sided with the colonizers, the Portuguese in this case, rather than supporting the Mozambican freedom fighters. The church was also complicit, of course. The Catholic Church in Mozambique sided with the Portuguese against the freedom movement. So for some time after 1975 the Mozambicans wisely placed restraints upon the Catholic Church, much to the chagrin of American Christians.

To undermine the newly formed government in Mozambique, the European apartheid “terrorists” in the former Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) were instrumental in creating, arming and funding the brutal Renamo to fight against the Mozambican Frelimo government. The Mozambican government was primarily socialist and you know what Christians would think about that! Rightwing U.S. Christians and anti-communists became associated with the support of Renamo.

The tactics of Renamo were notorious. They would often recruit their forces by kidnapping children from villages. To control these youth, Renamo leaders would, on occasion, force them back to their own villages to kill their parents and/or siblings. Occasionally these youth would escape the camps. Some say the soul is reflected in the eyes. Friends of mine spending time with these children told me the eyes of these kids were void of anything distinctly alive or emotive. This is what American right-wing Christians were supporting in Mozambique. There were parallels in Angola with the Christian-right, including Pat Robertson, of course, and anti-communist support of Jonas Savimbi, the infamous Angolan UNITA thug and terrorist who viciously fought against the freedom movement there.

 

Philippines

Mother in camp in Negros, Philippines – Photo: Heather Gray

In the late 1980’s I spent some time in the Philippines. The Philippines is another victim of a long history of European and United States colonial and military occupation and oppression. For 400 years the Philippines was occupied by Spain. Of course, the Spanish occupiers used their Christian ambassadors, Catholic priests, to control and “civilize” the masses. Priests fanned out throughout the Philippine islands. These early priests are legendary, in the Philippines, for their arrogant attitudes, pillaging and raping of the women.

The Filipino resistance to Spanish colonial rule was finally becoming productive in the late 1800’s. At this time Spain was devoting its resources to the Spanish-American war that was won by the Americans. As the United States forces landed in Manila Bay in 1898, the Filipinos erroneously thought the Americans were there to help them fight the Spanish. Not so! The Americans wanted the former Spanish colony for themselves. From 1898 to 1902 the Filipinos valiantly fought the American forces.

The human cost of the war was immense. Some scholars estimate one million Filipinos ultimately died in Philippine-American war. The US President William McKinley justified this brutality, however, saying that after praying to “Almighty God”, a message came to him that Americans were in the Philippines to “uplift and civilize and christianize” Filipinos. He was obviously not aware that the Filipinos had been “christianized” for 400 years by Spain. While many Filipinos became devout Catholics, I’m sure that many would have rather done without this violent Christian so-called “civilization”.

After 1902 the United States occupied the Philippines until after WWII and thus began the first major imperial venture of the United States outside its region. The U.S. military bases in the Philippines were retained, however.

In the mid 1980’s retired U.S. General John Singlaub, president of the World Anti-Communist League, led an aggressive and violent anti-communist campaign in the Philippines to counter the growing anti-US bases movement in the country. Countless leaders, including Christian pastors, working for the poor in the rural areas were labeled as communists and subject to harassment or summary execution. Like the Spanish use of Catholic priests, the U.S. evangelicals flooded the Philippines to bolster the U.S. image and likely to dilute the movement against the U.S. bases. So the Filipinos not only had to struggle with endless human rights abuses from the government and the U.S. supported Philippine paramilitary but also the arrogant, flagrant and well funded Christian evangelicals.

In 1989, I visited a refugee camp in Negros – the poorest island in the Philippines. The camp was filled with people who had been evacuated from the hinterlands by the Philippine government to root out the members of the New People’s Army. The NPA was engaged in armed struggle against the Philippine government and was a strong proponent of the Philippines ending the military bases agreement with the United States. This camp was the largest refugee community in the Philippines since WWII. Thousands of families lost everything. Children and the elderly were dying. I talked with a mother who angrily told me that American Christians were there selling Bibles. She said, “I don’t have enough money to feed my children, much less to purchase a Bible.”

In Negros, a German colleague and I had joined an international group in the dire task of exhuming the graves of suspected resisters (adults and children), that had been assassinated by the Philippine paramilitary, so an investigation could be pursued regarding this atrocity. Shortly after, we happened upon a church in Dumaguete in Negros. An American evangelical was preaching. He warned the people that the rapture could come at any time. If, for example, you were on a plane and not “born again” and the pilot was, you would be left to suffer a dubious fate as the pilot would immediately be swept from the plane and sent to heaven. We left in disgust. U.S. evangelicals were creating all kinds of characteristic havoc in the Philippines. Was this meant to dull the senses from the anti-communist violence that saturated the countryside?

Conclusion

 

The above are some of my personal experiences internationally that I know can be echoed by other witnesses throughout the world. Our domestic Christian community also needs serious scrutiny. The history of Christianity, organized or not, is fraught with tragedy yet, in some instances, kindness and compassion. Where’s the balance? I’m not sure. It is also true that in virtually all the instances mentioned above, regarding European Christian atrocities, the mindset of oppression engendered by the “Doctrine of Discovery” from 1493 likely played a preeminent role.

There are people who call themselves Christians who do courageous work for the poor and who fight for justice and liberation. The United Church of Christ in the Philippines, for example, has routinely been in the forefront of the freedom movement. Countless liberation Catholic priests were doing incredible work for the poor, advocating for land reform and an end to oppressive policies generally in Asia and Latin America. Christians played an instrumental role in the movement for abolition of slavery in the United States. The South African Council of Churches took profound and courageous stands against the apartheid state. In the 1900’s, a Spanish Catholic priest was the founder of Mondragon in the Basque area, which is the most profound and successful cooperative movement in the world. The Catholic Maryknolls in the United States and elsewhere have done profound work for the poor and liberation efforts all over the world. The role of many of the U.S. Black churches and leaders in the freedom movement in the United States are legendary. These are just a few of the many examples. To me, these are the real Christians and the list goes on and on.

While thousands of Christians are likely doing good work, I still say proceed with caution. History has shown that many Christians are inclined to easily side with the powerful elite against the people and to wreak havoc on indigenous beliefs and traditions that are often enforced by military and economic muscle. Greed and power are invariably at the core of it all. Can these folks be trusted? I’m not sure. I also ask, does the good and compassionate work of some Christians outweigh the historic and contemporary tragedy, death and destruction from other Christian behavior? I’d say the jury’s out on that one as well.

Christians seem to wear many hats. Perhaps without the compassionate Christians, briefly described above, there would be no check on the dark side of this religion.

Finally, however painful it is to recite this snippet of the European abusive Christian history, there is likely no way we can move forward without learning our past, accounting for it, as well as hopefully apologizing and making amends – as in reparations – and dialogue with each other in whatever way possible rather than this on-going violence and uncalled for arrogance.

_____

Here is the link to an “Open Letter to the Pope” by Atlanta’s Joe Beasley calling for the repudiation of the 1493 Papal Bull the “Doctrine of Discovery”.

 

HEATHER GRAY has produced “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia and can be reached at hmcgray@earthlink.net. This article was adapted from one she wrote in 2004 on Counterpunch. It has been edited and updated.

Frederick Douglas: “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” 

 

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PBS

During the 1850s, Frederick Douglass typically spent about six months of the year travelling extensively, giving lectures. During one winter — the winter of 1855-1856 — he gave about 70 lectures during a tour that covered four to five thousand miles. And his speaking engagements did not halt at the end of a tour. From his home in Rochester, New York, he took part in local abolition-related events.

On July 5, 1852, Douglass gave a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall. It was biting oratory, in which the speaker told his audience, “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” And he asked them, “Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day?”

Within the now-famous address is what historian Philip S. Foner has called “probably the most moving passage in all of Douglass’ speeches.”

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

“The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro”

Frederick Douglas
July 5, 1852

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory….

…Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation’s sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation’s jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the “lame man leap as an hart.”

But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.”

Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave’s point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America.is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery the great sin and shame of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse”; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.

But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, “It is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, an denounce less; would you persuade more, and rebuke less; your cause would be much more likely to succeed.” But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia which, if committed by a black man (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgment that the slave is a moral, intellectual, and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, then will I argue with you that the slave is a man!

For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and ciphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian’s God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Americans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively and positively, negatively and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding. There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.

What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employment for my time and strength than such arguments would imply.

What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is passed.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival….

…Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from “the Declaration of Independence,” the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city.

Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. — Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are distinctly heard on the other.

The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, “Let there be Light,” has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. ‘Ethiopia, shall, stretch. out her hand unto God.” In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:

God speed the year of jubilee

The wide world o’er!
When from their galling chains set free,
Th’ oppress’d shall vilely bend the knee,
And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom’s reign,
To man his plundered rights again

Restore.

God speed the day when human blood

Shall cease to flow!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to end,
And change into a faithful friend

Each foe.

God speed the hour, the glorious hour,

When none on earth
Shall exercise a lordly power,
Nor in a tyrant’s presence cower;
But to all manhood’s stature tower,
By equal birth!
That hour will come, to each, to all,
And from his Prison-house, to thrall

Go forth.

Until that year, day, hour, arrive,

With head, and heart, and hand I’ll strive,
To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
The spoiler of his prey deprive —
So witness Heaven!
And never from my chosen post,
Whate’er the peril or the cost,

Be driven.

The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Volume II

Pre-Civil War Decade 1850-1860
Philip S. Foner
International Publishers Co., Inc., New York, 1950

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Sorry, But It’s Entirely the Right’s Fault

Note: This article below by Ken Levy, from Bill Moyers site, resonates with me because I have also noticed around the country that the responses to the right-wing in Congress or from the White House regarding stripping government programs that have benefited the poor, the elderly, the immigrants, religious diversity, etc. have been met with outrage and a desire for more compassion. It has been met also with a desire for caring for the other; for being respectful of diversity; for wanting to learn about different cultures. I have also noticed routinely that protestors acknowledge the role of government as not one to benefit the rich, but to protect the masses from the abuse of the wealthy. All of the work for more civil and human rights in America since the 1960s, at least, has resonated with millions of Americans. The right-wing is obviously aware of that so there are steps being taken at virtually ever level to unravel this tremendous progress we have made in health care, in the arts, in climate change and environmental protection, in civil liberties, in voting rights, in public education, in food stamps, medicaid, medicare and social security, etc. But I am also convinced that in the long run the right wing will not prevail. These sentiments in America are too strong. All of this was expressed, for one, in the Atlanta airport demonstrations on January 29, 2017 and in demonstrations and reactions around the country since the onset of the Trump administration. On the left is a sampling of these messages from the demonstration in Atlanta. Here is also the Atlanta video if you have not seen it already. I particularly appreciate, for one, the poster featured here “Rednecks against xenophobia!”

Heather Gray
July 1, 2017
Justice Initiative International

Sorry, But It’s Entirely the Right’s Fault

Many commentators are suggesting that both right and left are equally to blame for all the polarization between them. They’re wrong.

BY KEN LEVY

 JUNE 23, 2017

Moyers & Company

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich introduces then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a rally at the Sharonville Convention Center in Cincinnati, Ohio on July 6, 2016.
(Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
This post originally appeared at Counterpunch.

Many commentators are suggesting that both right and left are equally to blame for all the polarization between them. They’re wrong. The reason for all the bitterness between left and right is entirely the right’s fault. Right-wingers who suggest otherwise are self-deluded – and usually projecting.

Exhibit A: Newt Gingrich. On June 18, Gingrich capped off a week in which he once again blamed the left for a mass shooting by suggesting on ABC’s This Week that the Russiagate investigation is “baloney” because there is no evidence that Trump colluded with the Russians. When anchor Martha Raddatz suggested that an investigation is needed to reach this conclusion in the first place, Gingrich responded with the non-sequitur that Bill Clinton, John Podesta’s brother and the “Iranian deal” should be investigated.
When Raddatz suggested that the investigation is not just about Trump, Gingrich responded with another non-sequitur: Trump did not commit obstruction of justice by firing Comey.

And when Raddatz questioned Gingrich’s false statement earlier in the week that the president cannot in principle commit obstruction and reminded him that he himself tried impeaching President Clinton for this crime, Gingrich dodged with the same non-sequitur: “[T]here’s no evidence” that Trump committed obstruction.
What Gingrich exhibited in just this one interview is a problem that is rampant throughout not only the Trump administration but also the modern Republican Party: bad reasoning. Like the rest of them, Gingrich is marvelously inept at persuading. His points don’t even qualify as sophistry because sophistry at least has the form and appearance of valid, cogent argumentation.

In 2008, Susan Jacoby wrote in her book The Age of American Unreason that the American right has “been so effective at turning the once honorable word [“intellectual”] into a political pejorative. The right wing has been able to get away with this disingenuous logic – and with putting it in the mouths of genuinely anti-intellectual right-wing politicians – because nonreading Americans know less and less about their nation’s political and intellectual history.” Similarly, five years later, then-Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal urged his fellow Republicans to “stop being the stupid party.”

Unfortunately, the GOP never heeded Gov. Jindal’s uncharacteristically sage advice. Instead, they continued in precisely the reverse direction and chose Trump to be their standard-bearer.

Despite his boasts, Trump is hardly a trendsetter. He is merely following the lead of the right’s most prominent propagandists on Fox News and hate/outrage/grievance radio: Newt, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, the formerly influential Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, etc. None of them can reason well. When challenged, they don’t act like good thinkers would – by listening carefully and then responding with careful, effective, fact-based arguments. Instead, they interrupt and shout down their opponents, belittle them with some pejorative term (“feminazi,” “libtard,” “snowflake,” “elitist”), attack their character or motives, and then avoid further challenge of their vapid rants by escaping to advertisements.

Reactionary demagogues have effectively programmed millions in their audiences to argue in this willfully – indeed, proudly – ignorant manner. Hence the demonic, furious, malicious, sneering comments that routinely populate right-wing blogs and comments sections, not to mention social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Based on their language, often incoherent and always full of rage and indignation, one would think that President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi march into their homes every day, steal their money and food, and then – on the way out – ridicule them for all their adversity.

Needless to say, such baseless, inflammatory comments do not measure up to the kind of rational political dialogue envisioned by our Founding Fathers and encouraged by academic institutions. Just the opposite, they are the odious residue of minds poisoned by exposure to thousands of hours of manipulative, deceptive, McCarthyist filth. This kind of cynical indoctrination and the divisions it has caused not only among citizens but also among family members are vividly captured in Jen Senko’s brilliant but tragic movie, The Brainwashing of My Dad.

All of this toxic irrationality is very frustrating for the left, who, unlike the right, don’t have it all figured out. Quite the contrary, they always want to learn more, to make intellectual and moral progress, to pursue difficult questions and try to solve difficult problems. They are not afraid of different perspectives, which is why only they, not the right, value multiculturalism, immigration, diversity and scientific exploration.

Of course, the right will deny this self-proclaimed open-mindedness and point to students’ suppression of free speech at some colleges and universities. But while intolerance is generally wrong, one big exception to this rule is intolerance of intolerance (bigotry) itself. All that people like Ann Coulter, Milo Yiannopoulos and Richard Spencer have to offer is demonization – demonization of non-whites, of Muslims and of the left.

In a recent New York Times column, David Brooks stated that “the desire for cooperation is the primary human evolutionary advantage we have over the other animals.” Brooks is a very smart man, but he got this one wrong; many nonhuman animals desire cooperation as well. Instead, humans’ distinct evolutionary advantage is their degree of cognitive intelligence. It is this superior capacity that lies at the root of all civilization, including language, entertainment, art, architecture, medicine and technology.

As Henry Drummond eloquently proclaims in Inherit the Wind, “Yes – the individual human mind. In a child’s power to master the multiplication table, there is more sanctity than in all your shouted ‘Amens’ and ‘Holy holies’ and ‘Hosannas’! An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral, and the advance of man’s knowledge is a greater miracle than all the sticks turned to snakes or the parting of the waters.” Similarly, the core tenet of Hannah Arendt’s philosophy was that thinking for oneself is essential to both morality and humanity.

Unfortunately, this singular, sublime capacity is entirely squandered by the right. Instead of exercising it – whether by reading books, pursuing higher education, seeking job retraining, figuring out ways to help needy communities or just trying to discover more about the vast, mysterious universe we inhabit – they prefer to immerse themselves in a mindlessly repetitive echo chamber; pompously regurgitate its vacuous, often false, talking points whenever the opportunity arises; and eagerly create such opportunities when they don’t arise.

This unenlightened, know-it-all mindset, completely impervious to conflicting facts and theories, is just not the stuff of rationality, progress and constitutional democracy. It is, rather, the stuff of superstition, cults and fascism. Fortunately, the brainwashed right constitute a minority – only 35 to 40 percent – of the American population. This is why Republicans have to cheat to win local, state and national elections. Because they can’t be honest about their self-serving, oligarchical motives, they have to resort instead to the most ruthless, unscrupulous, anti-democratic tactics: voter suppression (including voter purges), unconstitutional gerrymandering and dissemination of fake news.

The right would argue that an article like this is “divisive.” Indeed, for eight years, they accused President Obama of dividing America. But they’ve got it entirely backward. The election of the first black president alienated the right, but the fault for this alienation lies entirely with the latter. The same is true today, in Trump’s America; the right, not the left, are the real haters.

To borrow from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (April 16, 1963), we on the left are “not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”

Keep EPA Protections For Us All & Keep Sturgeon on a Path to Full Recovery

Note: The Atlantic Sturgeon you might ask? “Yes – absolutely” is my answer!

The government has served as a way to protect us, that includes “us” the masses and the environment, from corporate pollution and abuse. Now Trump is wanting to take that protection away from us and it’s time to fight back on this and also understand the significant advances made by, for one, the EPA and water protections. These programs must continue. On NPR’s June 28, 2017 program “All Things Considered” I was entranced with the information about the importance of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in helping to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. The EPA has been effective in helping to rid the Bay of “Dead Zones” to then allow it’s natural state to flourish once again. But it was, in particular, the comment from one of the environmentalists that enthralled me when he said the following:

“When I first heard that spawning sturgeon were back in the bay, my reaction was, ‘Yes! We can get this done,'” says Will Baker, the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s president. “It’s really exciting. You give nature half a chance and she will produce every single time.”

Below, please find information about the Atlantic Sturgeon in the James River; a portion of the interview on NPR and history of the Atlantic Sturgeon from the Chesapeake Bay Program.

Heather Gray
June 30, 2017
Justice Initiative International

Keep Sturgeon on a Path to Full Recovery

| Aug 31, 2016 | Advocacy, James Riverkeeper, News

(The James River is 35 miles upstream from the Chesapeake Bay where the Atlantic Sturgeon is also being revived thanks to the  EPA, environmental regulations and water regulations.)

Atlantic sturgeon have survived for 200 million years, but today these ancient goliaths are on the brink of extinction. Human activities have caused Atlantic sturgeon numbers to decline by way of overfishing, loss of spawning habitat, and poor water quality.
In 2012 Atlantic sturgeon were listed as a federally Endangered Species, and renewed efforts began to aid the recovery of this important species. The National Marine Fisheries Service is moving forward with the next step to protect Atlantic sturgeon by designating critical habitat, or areas that are essential to the conservation of the species. Designating these areas is vital in order to rescue Atlantic sturgeon populations.
In the James River we are fortunate to still see signs of Atlantic sturgeon spawning migrations. James River Association and our partners have worked to restore habitat through creation of spawning reefs, to promote awareness, and to educate the public about this fascinating species. Formalizing critical habitat is necessary to keep sturgeon on a path to full recovery.

 

Chesapeake Bay Dead Zones Are Fading,  
 But Proposed EPA Cuts Threaten Success

June 28, 20175:22 PM ET

Drive east from Washington and eventually you run smack into the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, the massive estuary that stretches from the mouth of the Susquehanna River at Maryland’s northern tip and empties into the Atlantic 200 miles away near Norfolk, Va.
The Chesapeake is home to oysters, clams, and famous Maryland blue crab.
It’s the largest estuary in the United States.
And for a long time, it was one of the most polluted.
Decades of runoff from grassy suburban yards and farm fields as far north as New York state, plus sewage and other waste dumped by the hundreds of gallons, made the Chesapeake so dirty that by 1983, the crab population had plummeted to just 2 percent of what Capt. John Smith saw when he explored the bay in the 1600s.
For years, people tried to clean it up. States and the federal government spent millions of dollars. The first effort began in 1983 – officially launched by President Ronald Reagan in his 1984 State of the Union Address.

And each time, the cleanup efforts failed. The bay’s health wasn’t getting much better.

By 2009, when the Chesapeake Bay Foundation sued the Environmental Protection Agency in an attempt to get the EPA to do more to clean up the bay, the Chesapeake’s dead zone was so big it often covered a cubic mile in the summer.

Dead zones form when the water becomes too concentrated with nitrogen and phosphorus – allowing algal blooms to grow and block out sunlight from reaching beneath the water and causing populations of fish and crabs to plummet.

Then, last summer, scientists recorded no dead zone in the Chesapeake Bay. And wildlife was returning, too. The EPA’s new plan seemed to be working.

“When I first heard that spawning sturgeon were back in the bay, my reaction was, ‘Yes! We can get this done,'” says Will Baker, the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s president. “It’s really exciting. You give nature half a chance and she will produce every single time.”
Scientists and advocates for the bay say that success is fragile. And it may be even more so now. The Trump administration’s budget proposal calls for eliminating the program’s $73 million in funding.
“I think if we saw the federal government withdraw, you would see the Chesapeake Bay revert to a national disgrace right as it’s becoming a great national source of pride,” Baker says. “Things are going in the right direction, but nature can turn on a dime and I don’t think it’s a scare tactic to say within the next eight years, we could see the last 35 years of effort go down the tubes and start to change direction.”

And that could have implications not only for the future of the bay cleanup, but for any other states hoping to clean up some of the country’s other most polluted waters – from Lake Erie to the Gulf of Mexico.

(Click here to read the entire interview on NPR!)

Atlantic Sturgeon
Atlantic Sturgeon
Atlantic Sturgeon

Acipenser oxyrhynchus

 

 

The Atlantic sturgeon is a bony, ancient-looking fish that visits the Chesapeake Bay in spring to spawn in Virginia’s James and York rivers. It was once found throughout the Bay and its freshwater rivers, but is now endangered.

Appearance:

The Atlantic sturgeon has a brown, tan or bluish-black body and a whitish belly. It has no scales, but five rows of bony plates, called scutes, cover its head and body: one along the back, one on either side and two along the belly. It grows slowly, eventually reaching 5 to 6 feet in length. Males weigh up to 90 pounds and females weigh up to 160 pounds. Its long, hard snout has an upturned tip, with four sensory barbels on the underside of its snout. Its mouth is soft and toothless.

Habitat:

Lives at the bottom of freshwater rivers during its time in the Chesapeake Bay region. Spends most of its life in the ocean and tends to travel alone, rather than in schools.

Range:

Travel through the Bay in April to May on their way to freshwater spawning areas in the James and York rivers, and again in autumn when they leave the Bay for coastal ocean waters. All of the Bay’s large rivers likely once had spawning populations of Atlantic sturgeon.

Feeding:

These fish prey upon benthic creatures including clams and other mollusks, crustaceans, worms and insects. As bottom-feeders, they use their snout to root through the mud and find their prey, then suck it into their mouth like a vacuum.

Predators:

Because of the bony plates covering its body, the Atlantic sturgeon has few natural predators. Human activities such as pollution, historic overfishing and damming of rivers threaten sturgeon.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Sturgeon are anadromous, meaning they live in the ocean and spawn in freshwater rivers. Spawning occurs from April to June in the freshwater river they were born in, with sturgeon typically only returning to spawn every 3 to 5 years. Females can lay up to 2 million eggs, which are large and black and stick to the bottom of the river. After laying their eggs, females leave their spawning areas, while males remain there until autumn. Once hatched, juveniles stay in their natal river for as long as six years before moving into the Bay’s open waters and eventually the ocean. Males do not reach sexual maturity until they are at least 10 years old, and females take nearly 20 years to mature. Atlantic sturgeon can live for more than 60 years.

Other Facts:

  • Sturgeons are prehistoric fish that have existed for more than 120 million years. They were around during the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
  • Part of the Atlantic sturgeon’s scientific name, oxyrhynchus, means “sharp snout.”
  • Sturgeons are the largest fish native to the Chesapeake Bay.
  • The largest Atlantic sturgeon ever recorded was caught in Canada. It measured 14 feet long and weighed 811 pounds.
  • Sturgeons were abundant when English settlers arrived in the Bay region in the 1600s. They were a reliable source of food for the settlers most of the year.
  • Sturgeons supported an important fishing industry from colonial times to the early 20thcentury. In particular, caviar from sturgeon eggs was considered a delicacy in Europe.
  • Sturgeons are very sensitive to low oxygen, pollution and other poor water conditions. This, combined with their slow rate of maturity, damming of their spawning rivers and historic commercial fishing pressure, has caused the species to become very rare.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officially declared the Atlantic sturgeon an endangered species in 2012. It is illegal to fish for, catch or harvest Atlantic sturgeon or their eggs.
  • Fishes of Chesapeake Bay by Edward O. Murdy, Ray S. Birdsong and John A. Musick
  • Life in the Chesapeake Bay by Alice Jane Lippson and Robert L. Lippson
  • Maryland Fish Facts: Atlantic Sturgeon – Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • Atlantic Sturgeon – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Field Office

Does History Make a Difference?

By Dr. William Small
June 26,2017
Justice Initiative International

The American political landscape currently seems to be in a state of disarray. The confusion that now seems to abound serves to create the impression, in the minds of some, that the Nation is experiencing some transition in its national values. It is true that we have a President who often lacks presidential composure and frequently fails to display a common acceptable standard of coherent adult behavior. However, it is the public unravelling of an American President that is being displayed center stage for the entire world to see, that some find so upsetting. America and particularly African Americans must not be overly influenced by those distractions.   We must not fail to see that the policies and practices which the current President espouses are in fact consistent with what has become the standard United States policy play book. The breakdown in sophistication and competence displayed by the President has resulted in the removal of the mask, and the entire world is now looking at the naked heart of the nation’s political institutions; and they are frightened by what they see. This is the unsettling fact, as we wait to see who will emerge as the adult in the room?

It is for some a special concern that the names mentioned most as potentially helpful stable adults, and as persons who understand national and international government, are names that are most often drawn from a cadre of leaders who ”are” military Generals. These Generals have quietly exchanged their uniforms for business suits. My special concern is reinforced in the old adage “that if the only tool you have or the tool that you are most comfortable with is a hammer- then every problem looks like a nail”. I do not think it is a political coincidence that America has “just discovered” how antiquated and unprepared the United State military establishment has reportedly become. It is not, for me, a coincidence that the President of North Korea has selectively emerged as the newest and largest threat to the United States and to United State global interests: “Remember the Maine”, remember the Gulf of Tonkin, remember “The Weapons of Mass Destruction,” remember Muammar Gaddafi. Most of all remember how the nature of war has changed over the last century. Remember that war today is almost entirely an enterprise orchestrated by proxy nations and supported by a non-draft based United State Military machine. A machine that has been consistently engaged in the enterprise of war for the last half century and has not produced a significant victory since WWII. The economic cost of war and the lingering negative impacts on survivors, civilian non-combatants, infrastructure, antiquities and other natural and valuable human and physical resources, could easily provide for peace-if peace was the desired outcome.

President Trump was praised by nearly all for acting Presidential when he fired 80 or so missiles into Syria, at the reported cost of 93 million dollars and a superb chocolate cake. This, of course, was in retaliation for their alleged use of poison gas by Syria. The President and UN Ambassador Niki Haley railed over the horrible sight of dead children who were presumed to have been poisoned by the gas incident.

However, when any person dies unnecessarily and in-humanely, death is a horror. We must remember that the United States and its Allies have flown thousands of sorties on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, killing untold numbers of civilians and children in the process. Drone strikes have been invoked by the United States that have killed the 16 year old son of Anwar al Awlaki who was a United States citizen. Later the 8 year old daughter of al Awlaki was reported to have also been killed in a United States supported air strike. I heard no apologies recited, I heard no sympathies expressed. One child killed under the Obama administration, one child killed under the Trump administration. America must ask whether all lives do matter or whether the pronouncement is just more “fake news”.

Sadly, perhaps the real differences between both of America’s major political parties have been absorbed by the dominant values they share. Values like race and class privilege, power and an unholy respect for capital. Perhaps the “Citizens United” case has reduced establishment politics in America to a frenetic scramble for money, advantage and personal insulation from accountability. The Trump administration is actively stripping the veneer of specialness off of the American Democratic System.

As America watches the irrationality, “the voters become increasingly confused and upset” and the politicians try desperately to ignore or exploit the inconsistencies and the aberrations. Solutions seem to become further and further removed from the grasp and consciousness of our elected officials.  Try as it may, this presidential administration, comports itself in a way which unmistakably says that wealth and white privilege continues to “Trump” the values of democracy in America and in the jurisdictions which America controls.

I ask the reader to reflect back to the election of President Obama. The Republican establishment was “as clear as a bell” that they were not going to accept Black political leadership. They vowed to work to insure President Obama’s marginalization and hopefully his failure. There was no serious recital of any ideological differences to support their position. None was necessary. It was not a difference in party objectives that put their bigotry on the national record. It was the resurrection of America’s historical nemesis “Racial Bigotry and the fear of losing ‘White Control'”. It could not have been said more plainly by the Republican establishment if they had posted a sign saying “Blacks Need Not Apply”. Like the Harlem Hell Fighters of WWI, President Obama, because of American racism, was more highly regarded abroad than he was in the halls of government in the country where he had been elected President.

The official Republican racist reaction to the election of an African American President was never specifically defined or adequately challenged by elected Democrats or by Black leadership. The Republican response to the election of Barack Hussein as the President of the United States, patently and quickly removed any doubt as to whether or not the spirit of the COINTELPRO was alive and well in America. Remember it was once announced under that program that Dr. Martin Luther King was “the most dangerous Negro in America”.

The question for Black political activists, strategists and leaders of all stripes and persuasions as the world and nation wrestle with the Trump approach to governing simply is:

“What have we, as Black people, learned from history and how will that learning be manifested?”
********************************************************************************
Dr. William Small, Jr. is a retired educator, and a former Board Chairman and Trustee at South Carolina State University. He can be reached at williamsmalljr@gmail.com

Republican “Mortician Beneficiary Bill” (MBB)

 

By Heather Gray
June 24, 2017
Justice Initiative International

The “Mortician Beneficiary Bill”? I am of the opinion that the Republican “so-called” repeal health bill should instead be called the “Mortician Beneficiary Bill” (MBB) because there are estimates of excessive deaths that will be caused by the lack of coverage for Americans with this bill. So not only will the wealthiest Americans (the infamous 1%) get tax breaks, but morticians will also earn considerably more profits thanks to this bill. This is obviously the Republican Senate’s effort to help the mortician businesses in America but most certainly not the masses of the poor, the elderly, the under-payed and the unemployed.
 

In a June 22, 2017 review the Republican repeal health bill, the Center for American Progress reports on the estimates of the likely rise in deaths due to the lack of health coverage thanks to Trump’s initiatives along with 13 Republican Senate conspirators.

(13 Senators from Think Progress)

Here’s the list of the 13 white male Senate “secretive” planners, from the Washington Examiner:  
   
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
  • Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas,
  • Senate Republican Conference Chair John Thune, R-S.D.
  • Senate Republican Policy Committee Chair John Barrasso, R-Wyo.
  • Senate Steering Committee Chair Mike Lee, R-Utah
  • Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
  • Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chair Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
  • Senate Budget Committee Chair Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.
  • Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio (Finance Health Subcommittee Chair)
  • Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. (Finance)
  • Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Col. (Budget)
  • Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas
  • Sen. Tom Cotton, R, Ark
   

Projected Mortality Rates

Trump notes that this Senate bill is an improvement of the House bill. So could that be interpreted that he and/or the Senate likely means a higher mortality rate is a good thing?

Below is an excerpt from a Center for American Progress article published on June 22, 2017 entitled Coverage Losses Under the Senate Health Care Bill Could Result in 18,100 to 27,700 Additional Deaths in 2026″. The article is written by Ann Crawford-Roberts, Ann Crawford-Roberts, Nichole Roxas, Ichiro Kawachi, Sam Berger, and  Emily Gee. 

 
The article reports on detailed estimated mortality rates per state from the lack of health coverage of what, again, I am referring to as the Republican “Mortician Beneficiary Bill” – or as a friend noted when I shared this thought regarding the Senate repeal bill “From my vantage point, “MBB”, it shall be. Thanks Heather!!!”

 

*****

The effects of the repeal bill on mortality

Drawing on the Massachusetts experience, we estimate that there would be one excess death for every 830 people who lose coverage as a result of the AHCA. The CBO projections of coverage reductions under the House version of the AHCA would equate to 217,000 additional deaths over the next decade, including 27,700 additional deaths in 2026. (see Table 1) To put this in perspective, that is approximately the number of people in the United States who died from opioid overdoses in 2014 and about twice the number of deaths by homicide that same year.

The effects of the repeal bill on mortality

We also estimate the additional deaths in 2026 resulting from coverage losses from the Senate bill under three scenarios: one assuming coverage losses equivalent to the House bill and two scenarios that show modest reductions in coverage losses. If the Senate bill results in coverage losses of 19 million that would result in 22,900 additional deaths in 2026. If the Senate bill results in coverage losses of 15 million that would result in 18,100 additional deaths in 2026.

In addition, drawing on the Center for American Progress’ estimate of state-level coverage reductions in 2026 under the House version of the AHCA, we estimate additional deaths by state in 2026 as a result of coverage losses from the Senate bill under the three scenarios. Under the scenario assuming coverage losses of 23 million, annual additional deaths would range from 36 in North Dakota to 3,111 in California in 2026. Under the scenario assuming coverage losses of 19 million, annual additional deaths in 2026 would range from 30 in North Dakota to 2,570 in California. Finally, under the scenario assuming coverage losses of 15 million, annual additional deaths in 2026 would range from 24 in North Dakota to 2,029 in California.

Conclusion

Given the overwhelming weight of evidence, there should be no debate: Health care coverage has an impact on whether Americans live or die. Our data estimates show that under any of the scenarios we analyzed, a significant number of American lives are at stake in this debate. Legislators considering whether to support this bill should keep in mind and soberly consider the catastrophic effect the AHCA would have on so many Americans and their families