All posts by lillianmcgray

Trump’s Wall in Scotland and Scottish Protests

Donald Trump once built a barrier round David Milne’s home – and sent him the bill.
Now Mr Milne, a neighbour of the tycoon’s Scottish golf course, is marking Trump’s inauguration by raising the Mexican flag in protest at the
new president’s ‘intimidation, bigotry and bullshit’.  (Independent)

    

David Milne is marking Donald Trump’s inauguration by flying the Mexican flag alongside the Scottish Saltire in protest at the new president’s ‘intimidation, bigotry and bullshit’ – Getty  – What will life be like under Donald Trump?

This Scottish man (above) already knows exactly how it feels” (Independent)
  
By Heather Gray
October 14, 2017

Justice Initiative International

 

As I started researching the abusive scenario relative to Donald Trump’s Scottish golf course development, my thoughts were also of Trump as president of the U.S., of course, and knowing how this “abuse of the other” by Trump is evidently a fairly predictable behavioral model.

I learned more details about this Trump performance from friends of mine in Atlanta who go to Scotland every year for at least five months. When they came home a few months ago they said to me, “Heather, everyone in Scotland is talking about this outrageous Trump behavior. And about the harassment of those families who have chosen not to sell their property to Trump for the golf course. And of Trump building walls of soil and sand around these houses so they can no longer see the coastline and then sending them the bills for building these walls!”

Sending the bills to the victims? This is also typical Trump. He never pays for anything if he can help it. He always makes someone else foot the bill. For more on this about Trump read Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston’s, “The Making of Donald Trump“.

For close to a decade now, the Trump developers are not only negatively impacting this environmentally sensitive and special wildlife in the coastline area near Aberdeen, they have essentially made the area into a police state where the residents are consistently harassed by the police and Trump security; they have been cutting off water and electricity to some of these home owners without informing them of the disruption and then slowly correcting the problem if at all. (See the film, “You’ve Been Trumped“.) To say this is abuse is an understatement.And Trump, in his news events regarding the golf course, touts his Scottish ancestry, as, he says, his mother was born in Scotland.

Well, I have Scottish ancestry as well. My maiden name is McEwen and my grandmother, on my father’s side, was a MacLeod.  You can hardly get more Scottish than that! And while I have no proof of this fact, my grandmother told me repeatedly that we were related to Mary, Queen of Scots. Further, my name is Heather! As in the “heather” flower invariably invoked as growing and flowing freely on the Scottish highlands. And my “McEwen/MacLeod” grandmother would also consistently share before our meals the Scottish gaelic blessing by the renowned Scottish poet Robert Burns. It is now being passed on to the next generation in our family. My grandmother’s version is as follows:

“Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some nae eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
So let the Lord be thankit. Amen”
So I will tout my Scottish ancestry as well. And Scottish pride? I am so proud of the many Scots who have consistently and profoundly supported David and Moira Milne, Michael Forbes and his mother, Susan Munro and her husband, and others who have refused to give in to Trump and his harassment.
Michael Forbes at his property in 2012. (Jeff J. Mitchell-Getty)

Trump said repeatedly that Michael Forbes lives like a pig and that he was not someone Scotland should be proud of. Well, the Scottish people in response to Trump’s accusations made Michael Forbes the “Scotsman of the Year!” Regarding pride, again, I am so proud that my Scottish distant kinfolk took this action!

And the harassed Scots are also expressing their solidarity with Mexicans. Regarding Trump’s threats of a wall and of making Mexicans pay for it, some Scots, who have been victimized by that very same model, thanks to Trump, are flying Mexican flags. Good for them!!!

Below, I am including short videos about Trump’s inhumane actions in Scotland, followed by the November 2016 New York Times article “In Scotland, Trump Built a Wall – Then He Sent Residents the Bill“.

Note:  For a more excellent and detailed account of Trump and the Scottish golf course watch director Anthony Baxter’s documentary film entitled “You’ve Been Trumped” that came out in 2011. The documentary film “You’ve Been Trumped”  can be rented and watched on Amazon for $2.99. It can also be purchased, of course. In this “David and Goliath story for the 21st century, a group of proud Scottish homeowners take on celebrity tycoon Donald Trump as he buys up one of Scotland’s last wilderness areas to build a golf resort.”  (Amazon)

 

Scotsman of the year

 

Trump’s Scotland Wall

 

The Original Trump Haters

 

In Scotland, Trump Built a Wall.
Then He Sent Residents the Bill.
By KATRIN BENNHOLD

NOVEMBER 25, 2016

BALMEDIE, Scotland – President-elect Donald J. Trump has already built a wall – not on the border with Mexico, but on the border of his exclusive golf course in northeastern Scotland, blocking the sea view of local residents who refused to sell their homes.

And then he sent them the bill.

David and Moira Milne had already been threatened with legal action by Mr. Trump’s lawyers, who claimed that a corner of their garage belonged to him, when they came home from work one day to find his staff building a fence around their garden. Two rows of grown trees went up next, blocking the view. Their water and electricity lines were temporarily cut. And then a bill for about $3,500 arrived in the mail, which, Mr. Milne said, went straight into the trash.

“You watch, Mexico won’t pay either,” said Mr. Milne, a health and safety consultant and part-time novelist, referring to Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to build a “beautiful, impenetrable wall” along the border and force the Mexicans to pay for it.

The Milnes now fly a Mexican flag from their hilltop house, a former coast guard station that overlooks the clubhouse of Trump International Golf Links, whenever Mr. Trump visits.

So do Susan and John Munro, who also refused to sell and now face an almost 15-foot-high earthen wall built by Mr. Trump’s people on two sides of their property.

Michael Forbes, a quarry worker whose home sits on the opposite side of the Trump property, added a second flag – “Hillary for President” – perhaps because Mr. Trump publicly accused him of living “like a pig” and called him a “disgrace” for not selling his “disgusting” and “slumlike” home.

As many Americans are trying to figure out what kind of president they have just elected, the people of Balmedie, a small village outside the once oil-rich city of Aberdeen, say they have a pretty good idea. In the 10 years since Mr. Trump first visited, vowing to build “the world’s greatest golf course” on an environmentally protected site featuring 4,000-year-old sand dunes, they have seen him lash out at anyone standing in his way. They say they watched him win public support for his golf course with grand promises, then watched him break them one by one.

A promised $1.25 billion investment has shrunk to what his opponents say is at most $50 million. Six thousand jobs have dwindled to 95. Two golf courses to one. An eight-story, 450-room luxury hotel never materialized, nor did 950 time-share apartments. Instead, an existing manor house was converted into a 16-room boutique hotel. Trump International Golf Links, which opened in 2012, lost $1.36 million last year, according to public accounts.

From their kitchen window, John and Susan Munro used to have a view of the Scottish coastline, until it was blocked by an earthen berm built by Mr. Trump’s people.
JEREMY SUTTON-HIBBERT FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

“If America wants to know what is coming, it should study what happened here. It’s predictive,” said Martin Ford, a local government representative. “I have just seen him do in America, on a grander scale, precisely what he did here. He suckered the people and he suckered the politicians until he got what he wanted, and then he went back on pretty much everything he promised.”

Alex Salmond, a former first minister of Scotland whose government granted Mr. Trump planning permission in 2008, overruling local officials, now concedes the point, saying, “Balmedie got 10 cents on the dollar.”

Sarah Malone, who came to Mr. Trump’s attention after being chosen as the “Face of Aberdeen” for a regional marketing campaign and is now a vice president of Trump International, disputed some of the figures publicly discussed about the project, saying that Mr. Trump invested about $125 million and that the golf course now employed 150 people.

“While other golf and leisure projects were shelved due to lack of funds,” she said, “Mr. Trump continued to forge ahead with his plans and has put the region on the global tourism map, and this resort plays a vital role in the economic prosperity of northeast Scotland.”

Mr. Salmond said that Mr. Trump’s impact on business in Scotland might actually be a net negative because his xenophobic comments have appalled the Scottish establishment so much that the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, known simply as the R&A, is unlikely to award his other Scottish golf course, the world-renowned Trump Turnberry, another prestigious golf tournament like the Open anytime soon.

“I don’t see the R&A going back to Turnberry, which is a tragedy in itself,” Mr. Salmond said. “But it’s also a huge economic blow: Several hundred million pounds lost – or, in Trump terms, billions.”

Mr. Trump, whose mother emigrated from Scotland to New York in 1930, never showed any great interest in her place of birth. But in 2008, the same year he applied for planning permission in Balmedie, he visited the pebble-dashed cottage on the Isle of Lewis in Western Scotland where she grew up.After emerging from his private jet and handing out copies of his book “How to Get Rich,” he reportedly told locals how Scottish he felt. “I feel very comfortable here,” Mr. Trump said before spending less than two minutes with his cousins in his mother’s homestead, The Guardian reported at the time. Within about three hours his jet had taken off.

Mr. Trump with bagpipers during a ceremony in 2010 at the site of his proposed golf course in northeastern Scotland. DAVID MOIR _ REUTERS

The visit clearly did not impress Mr. Ford, then the chairman of the planning committee at Aberdeenshire Council, which refused Mr. Trump permission for his golf course on environmental grounds. The ancient dunes, the committee concluded, were a “site of special scientific interest,” or as Mr. Ford put it, “Scotland’s equivalent of the Amazonian rain forest.”In the end, it was Mr. Salmond, a self-described golf fanatic whose constituency includes Balmedie, who came to Mr. Trump’s defense, granting permission to proceed in the “national economic interest.”

“Six thousand jobs across Scotland, 1,400 local and permanent jobs in the northeast of Scotland,” Mr. Salmond said at the time. “That outweighs the environmental concerns.”

Eight years later he contends that Mr. Trump took him in: “If, knowing what I know now, I had the ability to go back, I would rewrite that page,” Mr. Salmond said in an interview. “Most developments balance economic against environmental issues. The problem, and it’s a big problem, is that Donald Trump didn’t do what he promised.”

Mr. Trump later fell out badly with Mr. Salmond (whom he now calls “mad Alex” and a “has-been”), first because he refused to evict residents by eminent domain and then over his plans to install offshore wind turbines a couple of miles from Mr. Trump’s golf course.

“If Scotland doesn’t stop insane policy of obsolete, bird-killing wind turbines, country will be destroyed,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter in 2014.

At a parliamentary inquiry about renewable energy in 2012, Mr. Trump warned that Scotland would get into “serious trouble” if it continued to build wind turbines. Asked what evidence he had, he said, “I am the evidence.”

He then made a formal complaint about a Green Party politician who had made fun of the statement with a still from the Monty Python film “The Life of Brian,” accusing him of blasphemy and threatening to take him to court.

Michael Forbes, a quarry worker whose home sits on the opposite side of the Trump property. Mr. Forbes, whom Mr. Trump called a, disgrace, for refusing to sell his home, flies a “Hillary for President” flag near the property line.
JEREMY SUTTON-HIBBERT FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

The wind turbines, whose foundations are expected to be laid next year, still seem to rankle Mr. Trump. In a meeting right after his election victory, Mr. Trump urged Nigel Farage, the leader of the populist U.K. Independence Party – which has failed to win a single seat in Scotland – to fight offshore wind farms in Scotland on his behalf.

“To actually believe that having a conversation with Nigel Farage and his henchmen about wind energy is going to change Scottish government policy is on the outer limits of possibility,” Mr. Salmond said.

As a presidential candidate who was caught on a hot microphone bragging about sexually assaulting women, Mr. Trump found little sympathy among Scotland’s political leaders, most of whom happen to be women.

Nicola Sturgeon, Mr. Salmond’s successor, has called Mr. Trump’s comments “deeply abhorrent” and stripped Mr. Trump of his membership in the Global Scot business network. Kezia Dugdale, who runs the Scottish Labour Party, commented after Mr. Trump’s election that a “misogynist” would move into the White House, while Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, described him as a “clay-brained guts, a knotty-pated fool.

And in Aberdeen, where 10 years ago public opinion was overwhelmingly in favor of Mr. Trump and his golf course, Robert Gordon University annulled Mr. Trump’s honorary degree after his comments about barring Muslims from entering the United States.

Some local residents remain fiercely loyal to him. Stewart Spence, owner of the exclusive Marcliffe hotel, has a photo of Mr. Trump and himself on display in the lobby as well as his own honorary membership of the Balmedie golf course.

“How many tourists have the dunes brought in? Zero,” he said. “What he has done is build a beautiful golf course and made the northeast of Scotland an amazing destination.”

As for the American election campaign, Mr. Spence said, “He has done a fantastic selling job to the American people.”

Until six years ago, the Munros could look out their kitchen window and see 10 miles across open land all the way to the Girdleness lighthouse on the other side of Aberdeen. Now they look out onto the nearly 15-foot-high earthen berm built by Mr. Trump’s people.

“He has a thing about walls, that Mr. Trump,” Ms. Munro said. “I hope America has a better experience than Balmedie.”


Correction: 
January 4, 2017
An article on Nov. 27 about homeowners who refused to sell their property to the Trump International Golf Links in Balmedie, Scotland – and lost their sea view when Mr. Trump’s workers built a wall – referred incorrectly to a contest won by Sarah Malone, a vice president of the golf course. It was a regional marketing campaign, not a beauty pageant. (Ms. Malone sent an email pointing out the error shortly after publication; this correction was delayed because editors did not follow through on the complaint.)
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Historically, Most Soldiers are Non-Killers in Battle: Vietnam as the first Pharmaceutical War and about the male ego on sex and combat

By Heather Gray
Followed by a Review of “On Killing” by Dr. James Leiberman, M.D. 

October 13, 2017

Justice Initiative International 
“Secretly, quietly…these soldiers found themselves to be
conscientious objectors who were unable to kill their fellow man.”
The secrets were well kept, in “a tangled web of individual and cultural
forgetfulness, deception and lies tightly woven over thousands of years….
the male ego has always justified selective memory, self-deception,
and lying [about] two institutions, sex and combat.” (Marshall)


We are fortunate that Ken Burns and Lynn Novick have produced the documentary about the Vietnam War on PBS as it provides an opportunity to analyze so much about this tragic period in our history. There is also no way Burns and Novick could have depicted everything, yet one of the important aspects left out of the film regarding the United States and the Vietnam War was how military training had changed since WWII to make the American military recruits into reliable killers. That statement might be surprising to some, yet it is also encouraging, in that historically, whether we are Americans or not, the vast majority of humans don’t want to kill. In fact, historically only 15% to 20% of us have been willing to do so. With the changed US military training, however, by the Vietnam War approximately 90 to 95% were willing to kill. However, psychologist Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman in his 1995 book “
On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society” notes, importantly, that to make sure the soldiers killed, Vietnam became the first pharmaceutical war.

In December 2003, after the US invaded Iraq, I wrote an article for Common Dreams entitled “Most Soldiers are Non-Killers in Battle: The Aftermath of State Sanctioned Violence and Who It Targets” based on the analysis of Dr. Grossman’s book. Below are a few paragraphs from that article, followed by a fascinating 2009 review of Dr. Grossman’s book by E. James Lieberman, M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Emeritus of George Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Leiberman adds considerably to the analysis with more comparative information on the psychological impact of imposing  demands on individuals what is not normal behavior for the majority of us, such as killing other human beings.

From my 2003 article on Grossman’s book “On Killing”:

 

Perhaps one of the most compelling arguments against sending our young women and men to war is that most of us don’t want to kill at all. In spite of being taught how glorious the battles might be, most of us don’t comply with the request to kill. In his fascinating book On Killing, psychologist Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman devotes a whole chapter to the “Nonfirers Throughout History.” Research has found that throughout history, in any war, only 15% to 20% of the soldiers are willing to kill. This low percentage is universal and applies to soldiers from every country throughout recorded history. Interestingly, even distance from the enemy does not necessarily encourage killing. Grossman offers the fascinating finding that “Even with this advantage, only 1 percent of the U.S. fighter pilots accounted for 40% of all enemy pilots shot down during WWII; the majority didn’t shoot anyone down or even try to.”

The U.S. obviously didn’t appreciate this low percentage of killers, so it began changing the way it trained its military. Americans began using a combination of the “operant conditioning” of I.P. Pavlov and B.F. Skinner in their training, which desensitized our soldiers through repetition. One marine told me that in basic training not only do you “practice” killing incessantly but you are required to say the word “kill” in response to virtually every order. “Basically the soldier has rehearsed the process so many times,” said Grossman, “that when he does kill in combat he is able to, at one level, deny to himself that he is actually killing another human being.” By the Korean War 55% of U.S. soldiers were able to kill and by Vietnam an astounding 95% were able to do so.

Grossman also states that Vietnam is now known as being the first pharmaceutical war in which the U.S. military fed our soldiers enormous amounts of drugs to dull their senses while they engaged in violent behavior and they are likely doing the same in Iraq.

Addressing the question of the low percentage of killers in battle, Grossman says that “As I have examined this question and studied the process of killing in combat from the standpoint of a historian, a psychologist and a soldier, I began to realize that there was one major factor missing from the common understanding of killing in combat, a factor that answers this question and more. That missing factor is the simple and demonstrable fact that there is within most men an intense resistance to killing their fellow man. A resistance so strong that, in many circumstances, soldiers on the battlefield will die before they can overcome it.”

The fact that we don’t want to kill is a thankful affirmation of our humanity. Do we really want to behaviorally modify our young men and women into professional, skilled killers? Do we really want to modify our youth’s behavior in this way? Do we really want our youth desensitized to their own humanity and that of others? Isn’t it time we addressed the real evils in the world, the real axis of evil being racism, poverty and war? Do we really want our tax dollars used to kill the poor of the world, destroy their countries and make us all more violent in the process? Surely we can better than this! (Gray)    

 ____ 

Review – On Killing

The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Societyby Dave GrossmanReview by E. James Lieberman, M.D.
Nov 17th 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 47)
“There are no atheists in foxholes,” the saying goes, but according to this important book there are many conscientious objectors. In World War II and before, only 15 to 20 percent of soldiers fired their weapons at enemy soldiers in view, even if their own lives were endangered. Lt. Col. (Ret.) Grossman, a military historian, psychologist and teacher at West Point, builds upon the findings of Gen. S. L. A. Marshall in Men Against Fire (1978) and confirmatory evidence from Napoleonic, Civil and other wars. “Throughout history the majority of men on the battlefield would not attempt to kill the enemy, even to save their own lives.” (p. 4) This refusal is profound, surprising, and well-hidden. To Grossman this is welcome proof of our humanity. Not a pacifist, he trains soldiers to kill, but wants them to regain the inhibitions needed to function peacefully in society.The compunction against killing occurs in close combat situations, including aerial dogfights where pilots can see each other. It does not prevail with killing at a distance by artillery or bombing from airplanes. Machine gun teams also boost the firing rate because individuals cannot simply pretend to fire or intentionally mis-aim. In aerial combat one percent of pilots made over thirty percent of kills; the majority of fighter pilots never shot down a plane, perhaps never tried to.Grossman spent years researching the innate resistance to killing and efforts to overcome it by armies throughout history–previously a taboo topic. He tells of desensitization, operant conditioning, and psychotropic drugs that raised to 90 percent the proportion of U.S. troops who shot to kill in Vietnam. The high incidence of PTSD among our three million Vietnam veterans follows disinhibition compounded by unprecedented unit instability and rapid return home from the front. He also points to loss of support at home for the war.“In a way, the study of killing in combat is very much like the study of sex. Killing is a private, intimate occurrence of tremendous intensity, in which the destructive act becomes psychologically very much like the procreative act.”  Hollywood battle scenes are to war as pornography is to sex; they provide spectacle and mechanics but no sense of intimacy. For centuries there were wars aplenty and lots of babies were born, so killing and sex were accepted while battlefield and bedroom behavior was a domain of ignorance and myth. Media today perpetuate the falsehood that killing, like sex, comes easily to normal men. Grossman takes heart for humanity from the normality of nonviolence.In the U.S. Civil War, well-trained soldiers fired over the enemy’s heads, or only pretended to fire. Of 27,000 muzzle-loading muskets recovered at Gettysburg, 90 percent were loaded, almost half with multiple loads! That could not be inadvertent. Further evidence was the low kill rate in face-to-face battles. Like Marshall’s assertion about World War II, “Secretly, quietly…these soldiers found themselves to be conscientious objectors who were unable to kill their fellow man.” (p. 25)  The secrets were well kept, in “a tangled web of individual and cultural forgetfulness, deception and lies tightly woven over thousands of years….the male ego has always justified selective memory, self-deception, and lying [about] two institutions, sex and combat.” (p. 31)A long section deals with psychiatric casualties. Despite the exclusion of 800,000 men on psychiatric grounds (4-F) in World War II, over half a million U.S. fighters suffered mental collapse. After two months of continuous combat, 98 percent of surviving troops suffered some psychopathology. The two percent who endured such combat with impunity appear to  be “aggressive psychopaths.” (p. 50). Fear of injury and death, surprisingly, does not cause the mental stress that killing does: sailors at great risk aboard ship did not crack because they were not involved in personal killing. Trying to intimidate civilians by bombing cities only backfired in England and Germany: survivors were enraged and hardened rather than demoralized.  Psychiatric casualties come from exhaustion, hate, and the burden of  killing, not from fear.

Killing face-to-face is much harder than killing from behind: fatalities are high among fleeing troops. Killing at close range (bayonet, knife, hand-to-hand) is harder than from long distance. Chapters on atrocities analyze their causes and consequences in grisly detail. Stanley Milgram’s experiments on submission to authority are relevant, as are principles of group solidarity, accountability and absolution. Anti-social actions need justification and support. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) reflects a failure to accept and rationalize acts of killing.

The high rate of firing in Vietnam followed training with desensitization and operant conditioning.  Human silhouettes replaced bull’s eye targets in shooting drills. A reflexive “quick shoot” response was cultivated. Regarding the enemy as less than human overcomes inhibition. Yet soldiers are responsible to military authority, which both enables shooting and restricts it. Unauthorized or errant shooting is severely punished. This control factor is missing in civilian society where, Grossman alleges, young people are pulled toward violence by media/video game conditioning and desensitization proven effective in boot camp.

Veterans of the Vietnam War have no higher rates of violent crimes than nonveterans, he notes, but they have very high rates of PTSD. Vietnam was the first time that soldiers joined and left units in the field as individuals; they had not trained and bonded together. Psychiatric casualties were low, in part due to use of psychotropic and other drugs, but unit cohesion was lost. The cooling-off period, as on troop ships with group support disappeared with evacuation by plane. The war was unpopular, and soldiers got no heroes’ welcome at home.

About two percent of soldiers lack the killing inhibition; they score high on measures of “aggressive psychopath.” Another one percent in this diagnostic category cannot endure military discipline. Grossman says the adaptable two percent serve well, return to civilian life and function as good citizens.

Evaluation

Grossman, a dogged and effective voice of reform, is a loving critic of the military. His narrative is a mixture of inspiration and horror that brings to mind the saying “Military intelligence is an oxymoron.” Soldiers live and work in an undemocratic organization: they don’t elect their leaders and they are not free to refuse orders. Most come to it young and inexperienced. This book might prove to be a touchstone document for  informed consent for military service. When recruits sign up they should have the vivid understanding of benefits and risks presented here. Parents, teachers and politicians should know these things too.

There are studies galore connecting increased aggression with exposure to violent TV and videogames. Grossman doesn’t favor censorship; he believes that deglamorization and condemnation of violence will prevail. I am less optimistic. In two other areas he seems to exaggerate sources of harm. He cites high incarceration rates as correlates of increasing domestic violence, but the dramatic rise of our prison population is due largely to nonviolent drug offenders caught by discriminatory laws. And among factors contributing to PTSD after Vietnam, he rails against alleged–but unproven-hostile torrents against returning veterans by peace activists–spitting, and epithets like “baby killer.”

Missing from the discussion and bibliography are No Victory Parades (1971) by Murray Polner and The Spitting Image (1998) by Jerry Lembcke. Reviews of the latter at Amazon.com are instructive. Loss of public support for the war was important, of course. For the perspective of a psychotherapist who worked with veterans extensively, see War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation’s Veterans from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (2005) by Edward Tick.

The National Academy of Sciences publication Opportunities in Neuroscience for Future Army Applications  seems to validate a chilling point made by Grossman:  Armed forces here and abroad are looking for a chemical that would result in “armies of sociopaths.” (p. 49) Powerful forces in society strive to undermine the benign, nonviolent default position in intraspecies conflict. They have succeeded to a considerable degree in war, police work, news reports and entertainment that is pervasive and perverse. The richest and most powerful nation has become an anxious, muscle-bound warrior state riddled with internal problems.

It is easier to kill millions at a distance than one face-to-face. Dave Grossman confronts this conundrum with intelligence and passion. Other animals do not suffer intra-species killing. We have engineered killing to a fare-thee-well and have to restore the dominion of good nature over homicidal ideology. Our fabulous habitat–that paradise between animals and angels–is not too big to fail.

E. James Lieberman, M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Emeritus,

George Washington University School of Medicine

Grow Your Own – The Importance of Urban Agriculture

By Heather Gray & K. Rashid Nuri
October 9, 2017
Justice Initiative International

 

We’ve seen corporate America reap the benefits of its own disgrace with our tax dollars and, therefore, at the expense of all of us. Corporate America along with government support just keeps hitting us over the head. It’s too much! One sector that’s not been the focus of attention lately is corporate agribusiness that should be intensely scrutinized. But we’re beginning to see some changes locally that are encouraging. The interest in urban agriculture, in fact, and more attention to food issues in America is a case in point and a counterpoint to corporate agribusiness.

Understanding the history of agriculture in America and the advent of industrialized corporate agribusiness is important to help all of us understand where we are now and what needs to be done. We will touch upon it here, but only briefly. Nevertheless, how corporate agribusiness weaves into our lives at virtually all levels has been insidious. It’s time to turn this around.


The United States is an urban country. Recent demographics reveal that 81% of the U.S. population lives in cities or suburbs of cities. One of the realities of this, however, is that many of the folks living in urban areas are former farmers or families of farmers who have been forced off the land in the 20th century – particularly since post-Second World War. This has been the result of an industrialized and increasingly globalized agriculture in America.
 

Corporate involvement in agriculture has also largely been intensified since post-Second World War. Some refer to it inappropriately as the “green revolution” – it should instead be called the “corporate chemical revolution”. It has led to the industrialization even of the basics of the food system and that being seeds. 

Whoever controls the seeds controls agriculture and farmers have historically been the caretakers of this most important and invaluable resource. Corporate America, the likes of Monsanto and others, have patented and genetically modified many of these precious seeds and by doing so have taken farmers, as much as possible, out of competition and away from being the caretakers of our food system. 

When making the above statement about seeds, however, it’s important to mention also that many farmers and community groups throughout the world have taken action to counter this trend by saving seeds and therefore protecting our heritage seeds as much as possible. Organic farmers will access this important resource or save the seeds themselves for the next year’s crop as farmers have always done historically and that corporate agribusiness has been trying to prevent. 

Sadly, the American public has not been vigilant in protecting itself or others throughout the world from corporate agribusiness much less from corporate supported genetically modified seeds. This has been coupled with an increased reliance on chemicals in our food system – even in some of the seeds themselves. Europe, for example, is wisely banning GMO seeds and has for some time. 

European researchers are now indicating that kidney and liver problems can result from GMO corn from seeds produced by the Monsanto. This will be debated for some time as Monsanto will do whatever it wants to do in twisting the facts to benefit itself – the company has generally had the free ride in America. 

The point is, however, the Europeans use the “precautionary” principle for their population. They don’t let products possibly considered unsafe into the food system – they will take the necessary precautionary steps before allowing potentially unsafe foods into their countries. Why don’t we in America apply the same principle? Why should we let Monsanto experiment on us and others throughout the world? 

Americans have essentially handed over their food and well being to corporate agribusiness. We’re all vulnerable because of that. We’ve seen our communities become more obese, with more high blood pressure, cancers and a whole host of problems we are now trying to contend with. “Food Rules” writer Michael Pollan wisely makes the point that when going to the grocery stores people should only buy what’s on the periphery of the store because that’s were all the fresh and healthy foods are generally located. That’s what we need to eat, he says, and not all the junk food from corporate America that have all kinds of additives and sodium and chemicals that have been partly responsible for destroying our health. How can we change this? 

The hopeful sign in America is that in the last agriculture census in 2007 we have seen an increase in the number of small farmers in America and an increase in women farmers. We are also seeing an increase in farmers markets and direct marketing (farmer-to-consumer) generally across the country. These are positive signs. This is somewhat countered by the loss of middle range farmers and more consolidation of huge corporate farms as indicated in the 2007 census.Nevertheless, we are witnessing some positive changes in the agriculture landscape in America.

We are also seeing an increase in urban agriculture in America. With it jobs are being created along with healthy, fresh affordable produce all of which are now beginning to become available in communities throughout the country. Even Tom Vilsack, Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture, has created an urban garden right on the property of the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington DC. The First Lady Michelle Obama has also initiated a garden on the White House grounds. The trend is a positive one. 

Why urban agriculture? Because, we as Americans need to re-claim our food sovereignty. It’s as simple as that and as profound as that. Plus, most of us are now living in cities. If that’s where we are, we need to be growing our own food and feeding our own families and communities. Existing farmers in rural areas should be doing the same. Most are generally growing for corporate America with their major commodity production such as corn, soy, cotton or cattle. Some are engaged in diverse and healthy vegetable production but we need more of them. Rural farmers too need to be growing food for their families and communities as most have generally done historically. So farmers, whether in rural or in urban America, can be growing organic and healthy foods and all of us can be part of that solution by supporting them and encouraging this and/or in growing produce ourselves. 

In addition to the above, and to summarize, urban agriculture can play a critical role in reversing many of the negative aspects of industrial agriculture. Urban farming enhances the health of metropolitan residents, creates “green” jobs, produces affordable locally grown organic fruits and vegetables; teaches people to grow their own foods; re-connects people to their food and the land; and strengthens the environment through reduced fossil fuel dependence. 

It seems that turning away from relying on corporate America to generate wealth and well-being is perhaps one of the most valid positions we can take right now. We can do this by strengthening our locally owned and controlled economies, keeping wealth in our own communities and even and especially by growing our own food. 

Heather Gray is the producer of “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

 
K. Rashid Nuri is an organic urban farmer and agricultural educator in Atlanta, Georgia. He brings forty years of experience to this work. Rashid has lived and worked in over 30 countries around the world. He has managed public, private and community-based food and agriculture businesses. Rashid served four years as a Senior USDA Executive in the Clinton administration. He is a graduate of Harvard College, where he studied Political Science, and has a M.S. in Plant and Soil Science from the University of Massachusetts. He can be reached at admin@trulylivingwell.com


This now edited article first appeared on
Counterpunch.

 

Home Grown Axis of Evil – Corporate Agribusiness, the Occupation of Iraq and the Dred Scott Decision

Note: In 2005, I posted this article on Counterpunch.org. The article took on a life of its own all over the world, including some bodies at the United Nations in research initiatives. This is likely because of the article’s reference to war, food, profit and exploitation that prevails in the midst of violent confrontations and when the stage is set for corporate agribusiness to arrogantly intrude in war torn and militarized zones. In that we have recently experienced some exceptionally dangerous and violent hurricanes of late, and, as mentioned, that corporate entities generally use this as an opportunity to destroy and take over locally controlled enterprises, I thought I would share again this perspective on the devastating impact of corporate agribusiness anywhere in the world. Author Naomi Klein appropriately refers to these corporate takeovers after disasters as, in the title of her book, “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism“.

Much of the agriculture in Puerto Rico and in the Virgin Islands has been destroyed because of the recent hurricanes. All of us need to assist the small farmers in each of the countries and do what we can to prevent corporate agribusiness from invading and taking advantage of this disaster. Believe me – America’s corporate agribusiness is drooling over this opportunity!!!

I wrote this article in consultation with the late Al Krebs who was a mentor of mine and the author of The Corporate Reapers: the Book of Agribusiness“. 

 
Home Grown Axis of Evil
Corporate Agribusiness, the Occupation of Iraq
and the Dred Scott Decision
The Agriculture Ministry in March installed a solar-powered irrigation pump in Karbala province in a bid to encourage the use of renewable energy technologies. Above, Iraqi farmers sort through a pile of date fruit during a harvest at a palm grove some 10 kilometres east of Karbala. [Mohammed Sawaf/AFP]


by HEATHER GRAY
Counterpunch.org

Justice Initiative International
October 8, 2017
In 2005, I attended the National Media Reform Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. While there I visited the historic St. Louis courthouse and the huge Gateway Arch by the Mississippi River that symbolizes St. Louis as the gateway to the west. It was here that US corporate agribusiness, the US occupation of Iraq and the Dred Scott decision intersected in reality as well as symbolically.
The St. Louis courthouse is famous for the deliberations of Dred Scott in the mid-1800’s and displays in the courthouse feature the historic documents of this renowned court case. Scott was a slave and sued for his freedom, which was denied by the Missouri Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision in 1857. The court ruled that Scott was not a citizen and therefore could not bring a case to a federal court. In the same case, the court also ruled that the Missouri Compromise that forbade slavery in new territories was unconstitutional as it denied the rights of slave property owners. The decision had sweeping consequences, not the least of which being yet another catalyst for the initiation of the Civil War. Interestingly, two months after Supreme Court decision, Scott’s present owner freed him anyway.
Standing under the Gateway Arch, and looking west, one sees the old St. Louis courthouse, and to the east, the Mississippi River. As I looked across the river there was, to my amazement, a warehouse-like building with a huge rather crass sign reading “Cargill”. It was obviously a decadent marketing ploy by the agribusiness giant, the Cargill Corporation, that is the largest grain trader in the world. The Cargill sign was, therefore, in a direct path, underneath the arch, to the courthouse. I mentioned this disturbing image across the river to one of the park stewards. She said, “Yes, there are times I would like to bomb East St. Louis.” I thought that was a rather interesting comment.
As is now well known, oil is but one of the major interests the US has in Iraq. Because wars are invariably a pretext for economic expansion and opportunities for corporate greed, I knew that US corporate agribusiness was not about to be left out of the picture. My concerns were realized when, in April of 2003, Bush’s Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman appointed Daniel Amstutz, formerly an executive of the Cargill Corporation, to oversee the “rehabilitation” of agriculture in Iraq. With Cargill having the reputation of being one the worst violators of the rights and independence of family farmers throughout the world, I knew Iraqi farmers were doomed.
Cargill is massive. This corporate agribusiness grain trader has 800 locations in 60 countries and more than 15 lines of business. It is the largest private company in the US and the 11th largest public or private company in terms of sales.
Cargill is renowned for receiving huge subsidies from the US government to then dump vast amounts of grains in poorer countries where Cargill is trading. This process, in effect, undermines small farmers, helps to destroy the local food production systems and forces dependence of small farmers and local rural economies on corporate agribusiness.
Amstutz, however, brought additional corporate and international trade qualifications to the table. He was undersecretary for international affairs and commodity programs from 1983 to 1987 for the Reagan administration; ambassador and chief negotiator for agriculture during the Uruguay Round General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) talks 1987-1989; and past president of the North American Grain Export Association. None of these qualifications were encouraging for the well being of the small family farmers in Iraq.
Oxfam’s policy director Kevin Watkins said “Putting Dan Amstutz in charge of agriculture reconstruction in Iraq is like putting Saddam Hussein in the chair of a human rights commission. This guy is uniquely well placed to advance the commercial interests of American grain companies and bust open the Iraqi market, but singularly ill equipped to lead a reconstruction effort in a developing country.”
I also knew that, as the US was poised to invade Iraq, US corporate agribusiness companies engaged in producing and promoting genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) throughout the world would be salivating.
Iraqi Irrigation. Published: 13 Jan 2011
Short URL: http://farmlandgrab.org/18001

 

Why would corporate agribusiness be salivating??? Some history here. It is thought that agriculture started 13,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent in the area now called Iraq – where the Tigress and the Euphrates rivers intersect. The Iraqi ancestral farmers and this fertile land brought us major crops such as wheat, barley, dates and pulses (see Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies”). The area is hugely important in world history. Given they are considered the initiators, for thousands of years the contributions of the Iraqi farmers to the world’s agriculture production system have been unquestionably profound.

It is also likely that women were the initiators of agriculture. Women were the gatherers in hunting and gathering pre-agricultural societies. As women were the ones gathering nuts and roots for their communities, they would have been the observers of seeds and their growth patterns. This is likely why the majority of the African farmers today are women and throughout our human history the world’s farmers have largely been women.

Now comes the corporate connection. Food is something everyone needs. There is no question about this and no need for a survey – the market is a given. Huge profits are in the offing.
Controlling all aspects of food – ­ its production, packaging, distribution and commodity markets – is the dream world of corporate agribusiness.
The major impediment to corporate agribusiness controlling all aspects of food and then reaping all of the profits, however, is competition from the independent family farmer in the US and throughout the world.
Throughout our history, the family farmer’s controlling interest has been protected by two of the most important components of agriculture – ­ the two “s'” ­ – soil and seeds.
Soil is not monolithic. It is amazingly and thankfully diverse. It’s components and minerals differ everywhere and farmers historically have always adjusted to this through crop rotations that will add or remove certain nutrients to the soil, and/or farmers will let the soil rest and lay fallow for a specified time. Traditional farmers will also use natural nutrients like compost and manure to replenish the soil. In this way, the soil remains “alive” with organic nutrients, earthworms and the like. Seeds and plants are also selected for the type of soil and farmers themselves have performed, and still perform, this selection since the beginning of agriculture.
Seeds are also not monolithic, of course, even within the same plant family. They are amazingly diverse and the diversity of seeds is our lifeblood. Like humans, plants are vulnerable to disease. The more diverse our plants, the safer we humans are. The more diverse our plants, the less vulnerable they will be to an all-encompassing disease that could and has wiped out some crops within days or less. Without diversity there is virtually no resistance to disease. The great Irish potato famine in 1845, for example, resulted from a uniform potato production that had no resistance to the potato blight.
How have farmers maintained this diversity and therefore protected our food supply? As mentioned, they have always adjusted seeds to the type of soil in their area by selecting and saving the seeds of successful plants. This is a very “local” process. By doing so, for thousands of years, farmers have thankfully maintained the diversity of our food chain. As Martin Teitel and Kimberly Wilson note in their excellent book “Genetically Engineered Food: Changing the Nature of Nature” (1999):
“Appreciation of the importance of biodiversity dates back a hundred centuries to the beginning of the agriculture process.Farmers remained powerless, however, when it came to the interaction between crops and their environments. No one could predict whether a season would be wet or dry. Consequently, farmers quickly learned the importance of diversity: maintenance of various crops that thrived under a variety of conditions to avoid entire crop failures and starvation.”
 
Also, farmers have always historically saved seeds for next year’s crop. Most farmers in the world don’t go to the store and supply warehouse to buy seeds. The seeds are their on their farm and their grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great grandparents likely grew versions of the same seed stock.
The mission of farmers historically and around the world has always been to grow food for family and community sustenance, and not competition against each other – a mission that is much to the ire of western capitalists. Invariably, farmers will also share their seeds with their neighboring farmers. This collective and cooperative spirit of the farming community is legendary.
Vandana Shiva refers to the importance of local agriculture production in a sustainable environment and the threat of removing it from local control in her book “Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development ” (1989) where she writes:
“The existence of the feminine principle is linked with diversity and sharing. Its destruction through homogenization and privatization leads to the destruction of diversity and the commons. The sustenance economy is based on a creative and organic nature, on local knowledge, on locally recycled inputs that maintain the integrity of nature, on local consumption for local needs, and on marketing of surplus beyond the imperatives of equity and ecology..”
It is well known and documented that small farmers everywhere are the best stewards and sustainers of the land. They are closer to it – they know what it takes to feed it and care for it. I’ve seen farmers lift soil in their hands and know exactly what is needed in the soil. In this sense, small family farmers are also the most efficient farmers in terms of crop yields, as virtually every foot on that farm is known to them. To be sure, millions of farm families – ­ women, men and children – throughout the world from the Philippines to the US are sophisticated homegrown agronomists who work the fields.
I can easily be accused of romanticizing the farming profession, but I’ve seen farmers with a glow in their eye when talking about being involved in one of the most sacred of all professions ­ the practice of nurturing and witnessing the flowering of crops from small seeds and, consequently, sustaining all of us through the production of food.
The world’s family farmers now and historically are our unsung heroes!
So what has corporate agribusiness done to disrupt the powerful soil-seed mantra and erode the independence of family farmers? Chemicals were employed that neutralize and invariably have polluted and poisoned our soil, which destroys its diversity. Seed patents have been intensified, coupled with the development of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). Corporations have attempted to make farmers dependent on all of these interventions.
After WWII there were vast amounts of nitrogen left over from making bombs. Dow, Shell and Dupont decided they could sell the nitrogen to farmers for profit and thus began the now infamous “green revolution” leading to huge amounts of chemical poisons in agriculture. The complicity of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the green revolution is also a major factor. The result has been a devastating farmer dependency on chemical poisons along with the destruction of our soil and leading to us humans ingesting more chemicals (read Al Krebs’ excellent “The Corporate Reapers: the Book of Agribusiness” – 1992). The chemical and poison additives in soil make it easier for seed business’ to disregard the diversity of our fertile soil which then paves the way for less diverse and genetically altered seed stocks.
Farmers who have used these poisons, and are now attempting to veer away from this dependency, describe their soil as “dead”. It can become alive again, but it takes a few years.
GMO’s are seeds composed of DNA from an altogether different species. Historically, when we have bred our plants we have done so with the same plant family. The long-term health consequences of the GMO produced crops that we now ingest are unknown at this point, yet we do know that this science leads to an irreversible erosion of genetics and encourages monoculture. As Teitel and Wilson explain:
“The genetic engineering of our food is the most radical transformation in our diet since the invention of agriculture (thousands of years ago). Genetic engineering has allowed scientists to splice fish genes into tomatoes, to put virus genes in squash, bacterium genes in corn, and human genes in tobacco (to”grow” pharmaceuticals). Normally the boundaries between species are set by nature. Until recently, those biological barriers have never been crossed. Genetic engineering allows these limits to be exceeded ­ with results that no one can predict.”
Companies will then patent the GMO seeds and encourage farmers to grow them. Once seeds are purchased farmers are required to sign contracts specifying they what cannot do with these seeds, such as save them or share them. To further complicate matters, companies, citing legal priorities due to patent rights, will prosecute farmers who save seeds rather than purchase the seeds from the seed company the next year. The major GMO crops grown since GMO soy was first commercialized in 1996 are corn, soy, cotton and canola. According to the Center for Food Safety, the Monsanto corporation, headquartered in St. Louis, “provides the seed technology for 90 percent of the world’s genetically engineered crops.”
There’s a vicious war against family farmers right now that is relentless. Companies will even sue if farmer’s non-GMO crops have been polluted by GMO pollen and are planted without permission (see the 2005 report by the Center for Food Safety entitled “Monsanto vs. U.S. Farmers”).
What corporate agribusiness is attempting to do to independent family farmers is not quite slavery but becoming close. It is attempting to take away the independence of farmers through basically contract farming. This harkens back to the oppressive sharecropping or tenant farmer relationships set up by southern plantation owners for freed slaves and poor white farmers in the South.
Plantation owners wanted to keep freed slaves under their yoke and make use of their labor. So they set up a sharecropping and tenant systems of farming with various types of contractual arrangements that invariably benefited the plantation owners rather than the aspiring freed slaves. So, too, it’s the consolidated corporate agribusiness companies that benefit in today’s scenario rather than the farmers.
Throughout southeast Asia, destabilization of traditional farming practices from corporate agribusiness intervention has been rampant. In the late 1980s, for example, I spent time with rice farmers in the Philippines. They told me that they were encouraged to grow a new higher yielding rice plant developed by the International Rice Institute, and it’s affiliated corporate agribusiness companies. They were excited about growing and potentially exporting more rice. It made no sense to them that they could not set the seed aside for next year’s crop, as Filipino farmers have done for hundreds of years. It also made no sense that the only way the crop would be fertile was through use of fertilizers supplied by agribusiness companies. Such chemical use was also an unknown practice for these farmers.
The next year, hundreds of the small rice farmers went out of business because they couldn’t afford to purchase the seed or fertilizer. I asked them why they didn’t go back to planting their old rice crops. They told me they couldn’t because they didn’t have the seeds anymore as the seed had always been set aside for the next year’s crop. As a result they were dependent on agribusiness for their seeds ­ there was no option. Most of the traditional Filipino rice seeds are now in U.S. seed banks.
In the late 1990s there were reports of some 4,000 Filipino rice farmers who died due to pesticide (chemical poison) use. The speculation, I was told by Food First in California, was that the higher yielding rice plant attracted a pest the farmers had never before encountered and they were then told to use chemical poisons that they also had never used. It’s thought that either they didn’t know how to use the poisons or they used it to commit suicide.
Most of the world has resisted, in some way, the wholesale invasion of GMO crops. No country in their right mind would turn over their food sovereignty to US corporate agribusiness. Not to be defeated, corporate agribusiness has sought loopholes in vulnerable areas in the world. They seek regions where the implementation of their insidious schemes is virtually a given and from which they can force the world to accept their devastating and destabilizing agricultural model. Currently, the US military occupied Iraq is a prime area and the continent of Africa is another.
Corporate agribusiness is enormously dangerous and the increased, sometimes forced, dependency of the world’s farmers on corporate agribusiness is a threat of major proportions. Think of it! ­ Virtually all of our ancestors were farmers and for 13,000 years we humans have fed ourselves quite well without the likes of Cargill and Monsanto that evolved just decades ago. We don’t need them! To further exacerbate the problem, they make us all vulnerable for their short-term corporate greed. As Jim Hightower, the populist and former Agriculture Commissioner of Texas, once said, “We need to place our nation’s growth not on the Rockefellers but on the little fellers because is we do it will be based on genius and not greed.” This should be the message for every nation!
Of necessity, most agriculture advocates would agree that agriculture should remain primarily local and not global. This is the essence of food security – locally controlled and produced food.
The symbolism, much less the reality, of making Iraq’s fertile crescent into one of the major areas for GMO production would be altogether too tantalizing for corporate agribusiness companies like Cargill and Monsanto. Dan Amstutz obviously had input into the disastrous “transfer of sovereignty” policies developed by the former Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) administrator L. Paul Bremer III in Iraq. Of the 100 orders left by Bremer, one is Order 81 on “Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety”. Most are saying that this order, if implemented, is a declaration of war against the Iraqi farmers.
“For generations, small farmers in Iraq operated in an essentially unregulated, informal seed supply system.This is now history. The CPA has made it illegal for Iraqi farmers to re-use seeds harvested from new varieties registered under the law. Iraqis may continue to use and save from their traditional seed stocks or what’s left of them after the years of war and drought, but that is not the agenda for reconstruction embedded in the ruling. The purpose of the law is to facilitate the establishment of a new seed market in Iraq, modified or not, which farmers would have to purchase afresh every single cropping season. Eliminating competition from farmers is a prerequisite for these companies (i.e. major international corporate seed traders such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow Chemical). The new patent law also explicitly promotes the commercialization of genetically modified seeds in Iraq.”
Upon reflection, I decided this lineup of US corporate agribusiness and the Dred Scott decision is appropriate. It is appropriate that they face each other as they are obviously in league. To combine this with the US military occupation of Iraq and the attempts at corporate agribusiness abuse and control of Iraqi agriculture is mind-boggling. All three represent a combination of greed, unjust ownership (humans, seeds etc.) and violations of immense dimensions that impact the integrity and safety of the planet and its inhabitants.
We managed to legally end slavery in the United States but it took a war to do so. Today, the world’s independent farmers also need to be freed from the oppressive yoke of corporate agribusiness and the on-going efforts to intensify and expand this control.
Regarding our food system overall, it is too important to be handed over to unfettered capitalists and food should not be treated like any other commodity. Agriculture and small farmers are just too important to us. Let the corporate capitalists perhaps make shoes or combs or computers, although they are probably making a mess of that as well by destroying competition. But by all means we need to keep their slimy hands off the substance of life – the world’s agriculture production system.
HEATHER GRAY produces “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news. She has been a part of the food security movement for 25 years in Africa, Asia and the United States. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia and can be reached at hmcgray@earthlink.net.
   

Part Two: Atlanta and the Klan 1982 – interview with James Venable

In “Part One: Atlanta and the Klan “, I shared some of the history of the Ku Klux Klan in DeKalb County, Georgia and specifically about the Venable family that owned Stone Mountain and were associated with the resurgence of the Klan in 1915 and 1963. As a result, DeKalb County, unfortunately, played a significant role in national Klan history.

About the James Venable interview and history

 

“Part Two: Atlanta and the Klan” is an interview with James Venable (1901-1993) by James Mackay that was conducted in 1982. James Venable was the Imperial Wizard of the National Knights of the Klan from 1963 to 1987, “which he organized as one of several rival Klan factions nationally” (NY Times). Venable had but continued the family tradition. As a 13 year old, he attended the 1915 Klan resurgence and rally on top of Stone Mountain.  He was with his uncle, Sam Venable, who, as one of the owners of Stone Mountain, also became the secretary of the Klan.

This one-hour long interview is the first in-depth conversation I have found of a mid-to-late 20th century Klan leader in Georgia and offers a sense of his philosophical orientation on culture, society and politics. With the current rise of white supremacist actions and contention in America, understanding some of this thinking is likely essential to, if desired,  adequately critique it all.

In the interview, Venable, of course, makes reference to Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first Imperial Wizard of the Klan – created in Tennessee in 1865. Also, Venable knew Forrest’s son who lived in Atlanta and was the Georgia Klan’s Grand Dragon.  He also states that he went to school with Nathan Bedford Forrest III.

And while Venable’s biases are definitely reflected in the interview, still many will be surprised that as an attorney he successfully defended some Black clients, as well as, Black Muslims in Louisiana. Nevertheless, his white supremacist views prevail and, he said, the $25,000 he earned from the Muslim case were used to promote the Klan.

In the interview with James Venable there are references to some of the leading figures in Atlanta who Venable either knew or was exposed to, as well as reference to the infamous 1915 lynching of Leo Frank in Georgia.

As summary comments are not provided about these individuals in the interview, below is brief information about some of those referred to by Venable, as well as about the Leo Frank case:

* Asa G. Candler (1851-1929)  – Candler was a neighbor of the Venable family. “Asa Griggs Candler, founder of the Coca-Cola Company, was also a banker and real estate developer and was noted for his philanthropy. Born in Carroll County in 1851, Candler was one of eleven children of a prosperous merchant and planter. Brought up with a firm work ethic and strong religious beliefs, he learned the trade of “prescriptionist” and went into the pharmacy business in Atlanta”. (New Georgia)  

* Tom Watson (1856-1922)-  “The public life of Thomas E. Watson is perhaps one of the more perplexing and controversial among Georgia politicians. In his early years he was characterized as a liberal, especially for his time. In later years he emerged as a force for white supremacy and anti-Catholic rhetoric”. (New Georgia)

* Eugene Talmadge (1884-1946) – “A controversial and colorful politician, Eugene Talmadge played a leading role in the state’s politics from 1926 to 1946. During his three terms as state commissioner of agriculture and three terms as governor, his personality and actions polarized voters into Talmadge and anti-Talmadge factions in the state’s one-party politics of that era. He was elected to a fourth term as the state’s chief executive in 1946 but died before taking office”. (New Georgia)

* The Leo Frank Case (1915) – “The Leo Frank case is one of the most notorious and highly publicized cases in the legal annals of Georgia. A Jewish man in Atlanta was placed on trial and convicted of raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old girl who worked for the National Pencil Company, which he managed. Before the lynching of Frank two years later, the case became known throughout the nation. The degree of anti-Semitism involved in Frank’s conviction and subsequent lynching is difficult to assess but it was enough of a factor to have inspired Jews, and others, throughout the country to protest the conviction of an innocent man”. (New Georgia)    

   

James Mackay
The interview is archived in the “DeKalb History Center” in DeKalb County, Georgia.


About James Mackay

James Mackay (1919-2004), who interviewed James Venable, had a fascinating history himself. His efforts, however, largely focused on working for justice. He was a former Congressman from Georgia and state legislator who also served as the president of the DeKalb Historical Society (1984-1986). It was Mackay who wisely “developed the idea to create an oral history collection to document the history of DeKalb County, Georgia. His plan called for interviewing public officials, teachers, shopkeepers and other longtime residents of DeKalb who had different experiences and memories to share”.  (DeKalb History


Mackay’s progressive stance and work was impressive. I need to say that he also graduated in 1936 from my high school “Druid Hills” in DeKalb County, Georgia, as did at least one of the Venable family members decades later who I also knew and was a year ahead of me in school. Mackay was also active in the Glenn Memorial Methodist Church on the Emory University Campus, where I was raised as well. Here is a sampling of Mackay’s impressive achievements in his advocacy for justice:


He organized Georgian Veterans for Majority Rule and began to work toward the elimination of the County unit system, which was one of the Jim Crow-Era laws that disenfranchised black voters, as well as voters in populous areas. After many years, these efforts resulted in firmly establishing the rule of One Person-One Vote. Mr. Mackay served with distinction in the Georgia Legislature for six terms. Active in the struggle for civil rights, he worked to keep the public schools of Georgia open during the heated debates over desegregation, and was one of thirty legislators who voted not to change the state flag to incorporate the segregationist-inspired Confederate battle emblem in 1956. Also during his term, he worked toward the acquisition of Stone Mountain as a State Park. In 1964, Mackay was elected to the U.S. Congress from Georgia’s 4th District. During his term, he helped to pass the Voting Rights Act and secured the health care of senior citizens by voting for Medicare.
  (Legacy.com)
 

About Chuck Burris

While Mackay doesn’t dig into the trenches of Klan beliefs and activities with James Venable, still, without doubt, this account of the Atlanta Klan leader is important for a better understanding of the complexities of it all.

Complexities? The interview of Venable by Mackay was in 1982, years later however, in 1997, Chuck Burris becomes the first Black mayor of Stone Mountain until 2001. He was a Morehouse student who, in the 1960s. attended some Saturday Morehouse classes under the instruction of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Chuck Burris – first Black Mayor of Stone Mountain in 1997

Burris was also on the Stone Mountain City Council from 1991 to 1996 before running for mayor. However, when Burris ran for the city council in 1991“he attracted an unlikely supporter… James Venable, the former Imperial Wizard of the National Knights of the Klan, allowed Mr. Burris to put a placard in his yard and said he’d vote for the political neophyte.”  (Legacy)

Venable died in 1993, and Burris, in fact, ended up buying the Venable house in Stone Mountain. As noted in the New York Times in 1997, when Burris became mayor:

Now Stone Mountain has elected a black mayor. What is more, it has elected a black mayor who happens to live in the same house where Mr. Venable, himself the mayor in the 1940’s, lived for most of his life.

 

”Tell me,” said Chuck E. Burris, the Mayor-elect, ”that God doesn’t have a sense of humor.”

”There’s a new Klan in Stone Mountain,” Mr. Burris said in an interview, ”only it’s spelled with a C: c-l-a-n, citizens living as neighbors. And I guess I’m the black dragon.” (NY Times)

 

“I Remember Hour”
James Venable 

August 28, 1982
The DeKalb History Center

James Mackay, Interviewer: Today is August the 28th, 1982, and we are videotaping a very well-known and outstanding lawyer in our county for the records of the DeKalb Historical Society. Mr. Howard Worley, who is making this tape for us. Now, we have one hour, and I’m going to present to you here Mr. Jimmy Venable, and I want him to range over his whole life and times here in the county, and I think a good beginning point is that since this county is just 160 years old and everybody except the native Indians have come into this county tell me something about the background of your family, Mr. Venable, and how they happened to come to DeKalb County and where you were born and that sort of thing.

James Venable: Well, my ancestors settled in Richmond, Virginia, in 1683. Captain John Venable and Abram Venable played a very prominent part in the revolution, the war between England and the colonies. I had a great-great uncle who was a professor who taught Greek in the University of Virginia, and during the Revolutionary War my ancestors conscripted the ox teams and the neighbors there to aid the colonies during the bloody conflict, and after the revolution had ceased the war, they were sued, and Patrick Henry defended them in the lawsuit and won it.

A few years thereafter, five of them settled over in Jefferson, Georgia. In 1842 James Venable, whom I’m named after, was the first man in the world to submit himself as a guinea pig for Dr. Crawford Long to administer ether there in Jefferson, Georgia. In 1942 Jim Farley, Postmaster General, dedicated a postage stamp to Dr. Crawford Long, and I represented the Venable family, and Dr. Frank K. Boling represented the medical profession; he’s now dead.

My grandfather settled in Atlanta when it was Marthasville. He was clerk of the court during the War Between the States. And Venable Street out there near Georgia Tech, he owned that property lived there and died in 1879. My family played a very prominent part in Atlanta there when it was Marthasville. My grandfather and the Venable family, there were five sons and three daughters there. My father was named Clarence Venable and many years ago moved to Lithonia. He lived in Fulton County but moved down to Lithonia there. The Venables owned Pine Mountain and Arabia Mountain at Lithonia, and they purchased from the Southern Granite Company Stone Mountain about 1874 for $40,000, trading Big Ledge, now known as Davidson Granite Company, as a part payment for Stone Mountain. You’ve heard it said that Stone Mountain sold for a shotgun and a mule because the Venable brothers paid $40,000 over a period of years, and now that Stone Mountain was in the granite business from about 1874 right up to 1928. They built the Cuban capital–was built out of Stone Mountain granite, the Brooklyn Bridge. All over the world and all over this country, granite from Lithonia and Pine Mountain-curbing, the granite curbing. They used to pave streets in Atlanta with Belgian blocks long before the days of asphalt and concrete all over the country. They’d name each city [skip in recording?] its curbing–Cincinnati curbing, Cleveland curbing, Atlanta curbing-its granite curbing.

I would like to say this, that I was born in DeKalb County at Lithonia Georgia. Lithonia Georgia was named after a Greek word that means lithos, meaning rock. My mother was a Reagin. She was born there in Lithonia as well as myself there. My grandfather on her side with four other brothers participated in the War Between the States. Three of them was killed, and two of them survived. My great-great uncle was a sheriff of DeKalb County here. He used to live over here on the Courthouse Square where the C&S Bank building is. The county jail was there when I was a young boy. I remember the old courthouse, the wooden courthouse there. On Saturday morning I used to witness to wagons and buggies there with farmers with their produce who sold it to the natives and people lived in and around Decatur, Georgia there. My uncle was the sheriff there for many years. I remember one thing about him, that he was a great horseman. They had a fine stallion horse that used to race at Lakewood there, won many medals and honors there, named Gold Core. No one could handle that horse or look after him except a black man they had named, I think–I’ve forgotten his name there. He wouldn’t let anybody pet him, wouldn’t let anybody else fool with him. He was a very dangerous horse, I remember that real well.

Mr. Mackay: Where is the house that you were born in? Is it still standing?

Mr. Venable: No, the house that I was born in is out near Pine Mountain on what you would now call Rockbridge Road, set back some a thousand feet east going towards Pine Mountain.

Mr. Mackay: Did you go to school down there?

Mr. Venable: I went to Lithonia High School, and I went to a private school with Ms. Annie Mooney, who taught music. I was her pet student there. I was about seventh or eighth grade; the rest of them were first on through the fifth and sixth grade. They had about forty students. I used to go to school over the drugstore on Main Street. In the building there–a rock building–just west of the city, along the main street, she had a school there, a private school. I left Lithonia in bout 1921, started going to school in Atlanta, Georgia, at an old tech high school in portable buildings. I finished there, and then I went to Georgia Tech and studied civil engineering and finished that, and then I was with the city as an engineer. I laid out Candler Field there when it was only one hangar. Beetle Blevins and Doug Davis said that now it’s one of the fastest-growing airports in the world. Then I made the geodetic survey for the city. The government loaned the city the instruments in which to make this survey. I spent many a night out on Stone Mountain, [and] the Candler Building. We were at 90 points some ten, fifteen, twenty miles outside the city, ninety-foot towers plumb [inaudible] over a monument planted in concrete. We turned it at angles; we’d point a lamp–a high-powered lamp– from the top of Stone Mountain to the Candler Building and these other points. All lamps we’d turn angles at night time between these various points to get the minutes, degrees, and seconds.

After that survey was finished, and I set the sea-level elevation on every manhole in Atlanta, taking the size of the pipe and the size of the pipe going in and out and the sea- level elevation, and I set a monument of sea-level elevation over here in front of the

DeKalb County Courthouse there at the end of the steps there on a brass tablet. It gives a height: Atlanta ranges from about 1,060, top of Stone Mountain, about 1,665 feet above sea level; Atlanta’s about 1,050. Up around Davison-Paxon-Stokes-used to be Davison- Paxon-Stokes–there is a marker there. I set markers all over the city. In case of a war or in case of fire destroying the city or any part of it, we could relocate it by these everlasting monuments there.

Mr. Mackay: Well, when did you get interested in law?

Mr. Venable: Well, I started studying law when it was the city at night time. I finished law school June the fifth, I got admitted June the fifth, 1930, on the diploma. You didn’t have to stand examinations then.

Mr. Mackay: And you have been a working lawyer since 1930?

Mr. Venable: Yeah, I been practicing law, never had a vacation, been in forty-four states, learned something every case. A lawyer never lived that knows everything about law. I learned something in every case.

Mr. Mackay: Do you like the practice? You must like it.

Mr. Venable: Yeah, I do. I’ve never sent a client a bill–don’t have time, never had the sense enough to charge much, like most lawyers [laughs].

Mr. Mackay: So how did you happen to practice in so many states?

Mr. Venable: Well, I represented a lot of criminal cases when I first started there. I been in forty-four states, some civil and criminal cases, and all of the states are practically the same in their procedure except the state of Louisiana–it’s Napoleonic or French law. I went down there and defended the Black Muslims and then taken that $25,000 and promoted the Klan. [chuckles]

Mr. Mackay: Well, now that you get into that, you mentioned a while ago that you had belonged to all of those secret societies, and I realize that they are secret, but you might tell us something about them and how strong they are and what their function is.

Mr. Venable: Well, I belonged to the Masonic, I’ve been a Mason. I’ve been an Odd Fellow, Junior Order Red Men, Elks, and Moose, and I’ve been in the Klan since 1924. When the Klan dominated politically the United States we had governor-Clifford Walker, while he was governor of Georgia was on the Imperial Board of the Klan. We had six governors of Georgia, six mayors of Atlanta, several presidents, senators, and congressmen, mayors all over the United States. In Fulton County Sheriff James R. Larry [spelling?], who was sheriff for fifty-two years, was on the Imperial Board; Judge Paul Ethridge, one of our judges and county commissioner, represented the Klan–he was on the Imperial Board while Governor Walker was on the Imperial Board. But the world doesn’t record these facts; it don’t tell you that we had presidents, senators, and congressmen.

Mr. Mackay: What about your church connection?

Mr. Venable: I’m a Presbyterian, North Avenue Presbyterian, that’s my membership is there. My family gave that granite that built that church, the Venables did, there at North Avenue and Peachtree.

Mr. Mackay: Tell me about a little more about Stone Mountain and Gutzon Borglum. How did he come here? Did you work with those people?

On Stone Mountain three Confederate figures during the Civil War: Jefferson Davis,
Robert E. Lee
and  Stonewall Jackson.

Mr. Venable: Yeah, I knew Gutzon Borglum. He’s a sculptor, sculptor, he–while he was here in Atlanta, he stayed at the Venables’ home on Oakdale and Ponce de Leon, I knew his wife and his son, young Borglum. He started the carving. First this mountain was given to the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Then World War I come on, and they couldn’t get it off the ground, and eventually they created the Stone Mountain Association. The first people to head it was Randolph–I forget–he was a brother-in-law of Ruben Arnold–Randolph Smith, Randolph something–I’ve forgotten his name. He was the first president of it. I remember when Roger Winters, a publicity agent; his wife was connected. They had an office in the Hurt Building for a good many of years there. When they eventually got the monument–the coin, the fifty-cent coin, was minted by the United States Congress. It said it couldn’t be done because the South was traitors to our country; therefore, it would be impossible to ever get a coin minted. The Klan was so powerful politically at the time, we were successful in getting the coin–the fifty-cent coin– minted, through Congress, and a million and a half of them were minted; and very few of them was ever spent to carve that mountain. It was squandered otherwise through the Association.

Mr. Mackay: Well, you know, I know the circumstances got Gutzon Borglum in trouble. I know Julius McCurdy said that he was arrested. Why was he arrested

Mr. Venable: He was arrested because he got mad with the Association, and he destroyed his models down there, and they taken that for destruction of those monuments and taken out a warrant for him, and he fled into the state of North Carolina and was arrested there. And at that time Borglum was closely connected and a member at that time of the Klan; and we were so powerful, and my uncle, Samuel Halkner, an old bachelor, my father’s brother, was Treasurer of the Klan of the United States, and we were so powerfully and politically connected, the Klan was, that we were successful in getting him released without extradition.

Mr. Mackay: So in other words, he was never tried?

Mr. Venable: He never was tried.

Mr. Mackay: Tell me your earliest recollections about the mountain itself. We’ve heard stories that there was a hotel down on top of it once. Another was that there was an Indian fort up there. Do you know any of those to be true?

Mr. Venable: Well, I’ve heard it myself, of course. Cloud Street, in front–Aaron Cloud, ‘way before the war. had a tower called Cloud’s Tower on top of that mountain there, and a dance hall under it, because that was the early history, the early–anything known about the mountain, that’s–I’ve heard about the Indians, and I think the Indians long before they were sent West did occupy a portion in and around that mountain. The Venables accumulated [sic] the mountain in the earlier–1870s–from the Southern Granite Company. They traded a quarry, a rock quarry at Lithonia, known as Big Ledge now. Davidson Granite Company or Southern Granite Company, I believe, owns it now. And paid $40,000 in the trade over a period of years. That’s how the mountain came into their possession.

Mr. Mackay: How do you feel about what they’ve done with it? Are you reasonably well satisfied?

Mr. Venable: Well, I’m not satisfied with the monument, Borglum is the only person that could have finished that mountain. It’s a disgrace, but the public don’t know it. It’s a Roman horse. He’s cut his legs off at his knees–it’s not Traveler [Robert E. Lee’s horse]. Borglum’s monument was real Traveler, the horse was. It is a disgrace to our society, but the public don’t understand it. It thinks it’s a great monument there. Borglum’s monument would have been an everlasting attraction for the world. He’s now mounted on his horse; he had a real Traveler horse there. Borglum’s monument and his sketches, it would have been a thing that would have attracted the world in art had he been left alone and allowed to finish the monument there.

Mr. Mackay: How about telling us some of the most famous crimes or criminal trials you can recall, not necessarily just in DeKalb, but let’s start in DeKalb.

Mr. Venable: In DeKalb County, probably the famous trial, I mean there are several of them. One of them was the boy that kidnapped and buried this Mackle girl there, Gary Krist, I defended him. And I defended a black man that killed Mr. Henry Heinz, the gentleman that married Mr. Asa G. Candler’s daughter, Mrs. Owens, that lived at Briarcliff and Ponce de Leon, there. [Mr. Heinz’s home was actually located at Ponce de Leon Avenue at Lullwater Road.] Laylock went in there late on Sunday night to rob and to kill and to steal, and killed Mr. Heinz. He was arrested shortly thereafter and signed a confession and tried him over here [inaudible]. They had to sleep the jurors in the courthouse; we couldn’t get facilities for them. I tried that. It was a hard case, tried it about a week, and was successful in saving his life.

Then I defended the Black Muslims in Louisiana. They had trouble with the police; the police interfered and invaded their church or temple. That was a terrible and a bad case. That was one of the hardest cases.

Mr. Mackay: A lawyer that had hired you, Jimmy, said that you did not have any bias in the courthouse, that you would defend anybody that you felt had a cause of action or a right.

Mr. Venable: I have, I’ve defended–and half of my clients are black people there. I defended the Communist Homer Chase in Atlanta when it was unpopular. When Judge Duke was prosecuting him, I was successful in keeping him out of trouble. I defended Indians, I’ve defended Communists, black people, people of all nationalities; I hold no ill will against any race, color, or creed.

Mr. Mackay: What do you think about our court system? Do you think it works pretty well?

Mr. Venable: Well, our system works pretty good, but we’ll never be able to get justice in our country unless we–and I’ve been advocating to–educate our jurors. I have requested that we make it mandatory, pass a law that every juror that sits on a case have four hours per month, twelve months, go through all types of mock trials and let him or her understand and ask questions where they can fully know how to protect life, liberty, and the property rights of human beings. Until we do that, I’ve got very little faith in our jury system in this great country.

Mr. Mackay: Is that because you have seen juries coming in with verdicts that were well- intentioned but wrong?

Mr. Venable: Yes, sir, that’s one reason. The jurors–and it’s no walk of society that you don’t have to have experience, secretaries, typists, brick masons, carpenter–people of all white– life–have to have some experience in, some teaching, and some education in the field in which they are called on to administer justice, and I say it’s mandatory that we do that so we give people their rights and their day in court.

Mr. Mackay: You mentioned another famous matter that you knew about, and that was that Temple bombing, back there. What connection did you have to that trial?

Mr. Venable: I defended those boys when they was indicted there, placed George Bright on trial there, and had a mistrial in that case, seven-to-five acquittal. That was perhaps one of the hardest cases because the Jewish people spent many thousands of dollars, and the news media tried them weeks after weeks after that thing. It was very a hard case, and I was very successful in getting my mistrial.

Mr. Mackay: They didn’t prosecute it beyond that point, did they?

Mr. Venable: Yeah, they prosecuted. We tried it a second time; but in the meantime, Rube Garland went down and solicited the case and got disbarred in the trial of the case, and the third day of the case he tried to get me to participate back in with him, and I failed and refused to do so.

Mr. Mackay: Tell me, how old are you now?

Mr. Venable: I am seventy-seven years old; I’ll be seventy-eight January the fifteenth. It’s coincident that my birthday is the same as [Martin] Luther King, and I’m probably in the opposite direction of his thinking.

Mr. Mackay: Now here I’d like for you to comment here, at your age, what do see happening, what trends do you see happening that you think are good, and what trends do you think are bad?

Mr. Venable: Well, our county–I hate to say it, and I hate to see it–our country is in bad shape because the morals of our country have failed, and the religious field has failed us, and when those things fail then the nation usually falls. The United Nations, I say–and I’m against it–I think we should get out of the United Nations, and the United Nations should get out of this country. It’s an incubator for socialism, communism, and it’s advocating one world government, it is on the trend of that, and we’ve adopted three steps in the direction of one world movement. We’ve adopted the metric system, we’ve adopted the liter system, and I was raised on pints, quarts, and gallons. The metric system-being an engineer, I know something about the metric system, but the average person don’t know anything of that nature of the measurements, and I’m against those things.

Mr. Mackay: Well, it’s not making much headway, as a matter of fact.

Mr. Venable: Well, no, it hasn’t made too much headway, there. Although the one thing that the United Nations has sponsored, eighty-three countries have adopted [the] genocide treaty convent, which prohibits me, if I live in Canada or eighty-two of the other countries, of saying anything detrimental against any race, color, or creed by print or mouth, and I’m against that. I think freedom of speech should always prevail. I make a lot of mistakes in criticism sometimes. It makes all of us correct obviously.

Mr. Mackay: Back on the subject of the Klan, I know that much of the Benson jurisdictional fights and so forth and people disputing who is the leader of the Klan. Do you think it’s well-defined now?

Mr. Venable: Well, the Klan today–there are about four major groups and about forty- two smaller groups in the United States. I’ve been in the Klan since 1924, when we had presidents, governors, mayors, senators–people of all walks of life. We reached the stage of approximately nine million; we dominated this country politically. During the Alfred Smith and Herbert Hoover race, the Klan was so powerful we were successful in electing the Republican president, Herbert Hoover, because Catholics had always fought the Klan. In order to be Klansman or a Klanslady, you had to be native-born white of the Christian faith and owe no allegiance to any foreign country or subject here. I have had the opportunity to be a Mason, an Odd Fellow, and other secret fraternities; and there is no organization that I know in America today that the degree work is more deeper and more in the religious field.

We’ve got one degree, the Knights of the Flaming Sword. It takes twenty-three and a half hours to confer it there. These people running over the country say they know anything about the Klan, a Klansman; the key you know about a two-hour initiation, but really you never become a Klansman till you complete the third degree, the Knights of the Great Forrest, named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was the first Imperial Wizard, and his son was a Grand Dragon of Georgia, lived out there on Forrest Avenue, and black people have been successful in changing that name of that street after Ralph McGill there. He lived the third house, right at Glen Iris, on Forrest Avenue. I went to school with Nathan III. He finished military college at West Point. He died in 1946. I was acquainted with his father, who was the Grand Dragon of Georgia and the son of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, perhaps the bravest general, he and Stonewall Jackson. He had twenty-nine horses shot from under him, Nathan Bedford Forest. History doesn’t recall these facts.

Mr. Mackay: Well, now, I want to talk to you about some of the most vivid personalities you have known; and while we’re on this topic, Tom Watson is probably the most colorful politician that has lived in this century. What do you think about —

Mr. Venable: I would say–I would say I would classify him as perhaps the greatest during our century.

Mr. Mackay: And you got to hear him speak in DeKalb County?

Mr. Venable: Yeah, I remember when I was a young boy, Thomas Watson. He published The Watsonian paper that people would knock you down to get one of them. All what we call the salt of the earth was subscribed as his paper.

Mr. Mackay: Of course, you were too young to have been around during the Leo Frank case, weren’t you?

Mr. Venable: Yep, I was too young I remember and read a great deal about it and have used the decision now sometime in court.

Mr. Mackay: Now, tell us about some other vivid personalities that you associate with DeKalb County in particular. Talk about Asa G. Candler-you knew him.

Venable House in Atlanta at the corner of Ponce de Leon Ave. and Oakdale Rd. –
it is now St. John’s Lutheran Church
Mr. Venable: Well, I lived for many years next door to Mr. Asa G. Candler. They lived in a Candler home they built there. The Venable home was next door. I knew him real good. He lived there alone for many years except his chauffeur; then his daughter, Mrs. Owens, who married an Owens, she lived with him after she separated from her husband, and then she married Henry Heinz. He was killed by a Negro that I defended over here in DeKalb County Courthouse during World War II, where we had to sleep the jury in the courthouse because of lack of facilities.

Mr. Mackay: Can you describe his personality?

Mr. Venable: Well, Mr. Candler, I knew–I used to go over close the fence and talked to him as a young boy there. I can see him today–he wore, always dressed up, immaculate. He had a chauffeur named Bill. I can hear him now hollering [in falsetto], “Come here, Bill!” [chuckles]

Mr. Mackay: What about Rebecca Felton? She was before your time, wasn’t she

Mr. Venable: Well, I knew her, that’s all; but I was a young boy there. I didn’t know too much about her.

Mr. Mackay: I’d like to go back. You mentioned the failure of the religious field. What do you think has happened? How has the church changed since, say, you were a boy?

Mr. Venable: Well, I’d like to say this in reference I know we’ve got some good ministers, but our society has brought it about. A minister is almost prohibited–he’d lose his job or be kicked out if his church if he teaches from the holy writ there. Very few of them teach from the holy writ. I have recognized and I have used the Bible a great deal, some quotations, during the trial of cases there. It is the law of all laws, the book of all books. Today I am ashamed of it from all over our country that have long-bearded and long-haired white people. Holy writ it condemns a man with long hair; it commends a woman. It condemns a woman wearing any part of a man’s wearing apparel. And then further over in the holy writ it condemns these gays as if we have so much trouble in this country today over our society is faced with. In the twentieth chapter of Leviticus, I think, it condemns man lying with a man there. But the ministers don’t seem to teach from the holy writ as it is written, and that reading-that’s fallen down [inaudible–falling down?]. Then another thing, our young society our government is brought around our change, of the old what we call the old “Uncle Toms,” the black people refer to these old folks that won’t accept the civil rights law as it is written because our government has brought it around by taxing us to death and a man’s wife is forced to go out into the field and seek employment and the children are left at home and not properly supervised over, that’s what we’re facing in this country.

Then another bad element that is hid in all of our societies is this drug–I have never seen as many cases of drug all over the nation. I had a first case in 1934 a boy named Howard Curtis in Fulton County-married, had a family, and got to smoking cigarettes called “mugglers.” They come from New Orleans, twenty-five cents a cigarette, nothing but marijuana. He got hopped up on those things, got jealous of that girl, caught her out at a café out there on Bankhead Highway, shot her heart out, and tried to kill himself. I used Dr. Owenby [spelling?] to get on–to be one of the–he went to school with Will Rogers. Dr. Owenby lived at a Georgian Terrace, had this big sanitarium in Stone Mountain. He said he first come into contact with marijuana in [World] War I. He told the effect of this drug on this boy; said he had the mentality of an eleven- or twelve-year-old child and was able–three trials led to one with the chair. Last time they tried him, they stayed out–the jury did-twenty-three hours and gave [him] life. That was the first case on eleven states in the United States to have a statute in Georgia and ten others. Shortly thereafter some famous aviator killed a multi-millionaire hopped up on it in Miami, and then and all of the states.

This drug is in every school; it’s in your army. The government turns loose thousands upon thousands of young Vietnam soldiers, black and white, [inaudible], ruined their life, no institution. It’s the worst thing that’s hit our country, and the Russians brag about taking this country without firing a shot. They’ve got us drugged to death in this country and society must do something to prohibit it. It’s in all of our classes, in all of our schools, in all branches of our government, some of our people addicted on drugs. It’s a terrible thing, and we’ve got to do something about it.

Mr. Mackay: You mention the decline in morals that you were concerned about, you touched on some of it there, but you might elaborate on that? Do you think we ‘re getting too greedy, or what?

Mr. Venable: Well, I am from the old school; I’m probably as narrow-minded. My grandmother wore her dresses down to her shoe top. I never–and if we’d ever seen a woman with paint and powder or smoking a cigarette, she would have been classified as a prostitute during my days there. It hurts me to see our white ladies and even black ones and black men and white men running along the streets with their shorts on, almost–if it happened at forty years, forty, fifty years ago, they’d have been taken down for public indecency. It is a disgrace to see our society as it is now dressed on many of our streets all over this country there, I’m against it. We’ve got to do something about it.

Mr. Mackay: How do you feel about gambling in our society?

Mr. Venable: Well, gambling is a bad field. I’m against it. I’ve never gambled in my life, I’ve never touched a drop of liquor in my life–beer or wine, I’ve never smoked a cigarette. I am not a fanatic. Reason I never smoked a cigarette, country people said cigarettes would give you consumption–that was TB. I never heard it called TB until I was twelve, fifteen years old. They called it consumption. There’s no cure for it. That scared me to death, the reason I never touched one. And I saw whiskey–my whole family, relatives, and friends–make a fool out of them, so I never touched a drop of it, wine, or beer in my life.

Mr. Mackay: Will you talk to us about some of the judges that you dealt with when you first started practicing law here in DeKalb County?

Mr. Venable: Well, Judge John B. Hutchison was one of the first judges I remember trying a case. He’s from Jonesboro, Georgia. He couldn’t drive an automobile; he used to ride the train up to Atlanta, and some of the lawyers would go up and pick him up in a T- Model Ford there. Then Judge James C. Davis was one of our judges here for a long time there. And a lot of our-E. D. Thomas, Judge Pomeroy [spelling?] out in Fulton County, I knew all of them. Judge Verlyn Moore there, I tried in there.

Mr. Mackay: Give us your recollections of Roy Leathers. He was Solicitor General when I hung out my shingle.

Mr. Venable: Roy Leathers was prosecutor here. He was a lawyer– believe Leathers & Verner or Verner & Leathers. John Verner and Roy started practicing law, and then he was elected solicitor. He made a good solicitor. Roy fought hard. He went to night school and studied law. I think he was–first he told me he used to drive a milk truck, and he saw–went on Washington Street in Atlanta, knocked at the door there to collect the bill, and the lawyer come and ordered him out and told him to come around the back, and that turned him, and he decided to be a lawyer, and he made a good solicitor.

Mr. Mackay: What about any recollections about William Schley Howard, Sr.?

Mr. Venable: Mr. Howard was, perhaps one of the finest criminal lawyers that ever lived in Georgia there. I watched him when I was a young boy, he used to come down to Stone Mountain to fish in the Venable lake. I knew him all my life. I don’t think there’s ever been a man equal to him since. He was the old time; he was a great orator, he knew how to handle people. He could talk in simple, everyday language to a jury; and he was very successful in his law practice.

Mr. Mackay: What about Gene Talmadge? Did you know him well?

Mr. Venable: Yeah, I knew Mr. Talmadge real good. I’ve been to his home, when he built his new home there, knew his son Herman. I been associated with him in several cases when he was a young lawyer. He was great orator and he was a great statesman.

Mr. Mackay: Did you ever know any real native Indians in this county? Mr. Venable: No, I never did know any native Indians in this county. Mr. Mackay: Have you represented Indians?

Mr. Venable: I represent the Creek Indians east of the Mississippi. They got a reservation in Cairo, Georgia. Neil McCormick and Peggy McCormick–they play gospel music, the most beautiful gospel music I’ve ever heard–they played in Nashville, Tennessee, for fourteen years and all over the country there.

Mr. Mackay: Thinking back about how the Europeans came in here and dealt with the Indians, in retrospect, do you have any opinion about that?

Mr. Venable: Well, I think it was a sad thing that we had to take the country and push the Indians west. They’ve been mistreated, and I am very sympathetic with them, knowing that it was their country, and we come over here and pushed them west out there and just taken all of their land and pushed them. And many of them died during that bloody struggle, that war between the natives and the colonies, here.

Mr. Mackay: Now I’d like you to describe the DeKalb County of your boyhood. What– it certainly wasn’t anything like it is today.

Mr. Venable: No, it was thinly populated when I was born; I was born at Lithonia, Georgia there. I used to–you used to–we didn’t have but one paved road. I remember when they made a million dollar bond issue to put Ponce de Leon from Decatur to Stone Mountain. They had some money left over there, that road, Ponce de Leon Avenue when they paved that. I remember Mr. L. T. Y. Nash; he lived over on Rock Chapel Road in Lithonia, a country fellow. I used to ride in a buggy and horse with him when I was a child from out near–over to Lithonia there; I knew him. Our county–I remember when Covington Road was just a dirt road. You’d get stuck if you had a T-Model, down about Snapfinger Creek. You couldn’t travel a lot; we didn’t have any paved roads. Thinly populated. I remember when this old court house burned down as a young boy there. The building there burnt; they built a new one over there.

Mr. Mackay: You know, the news reports say they believe that that was burned by the crowd that got beat on that particular election day.

Mr. Venable: Well, I heard it, and I believe that it was burned deliberately, burnt by some people during this–political factions. There was two of them there, defeated one faction.

Mr. Mackay: Did you ever go up to Camp Gordon during World War I?

Mr. Venable: Yeah, I went up there as young boy out of high school trying to get a job.

Mr. Mackay: Describe it.

Mr. Venable: To carry water where they had hundreds of carpenters up there, was paying water boys to carry water round in a tin bucket there for seven dollars a day. I tried to get one, but I failed and didn’t get it.

Mr. Mackay: Describe what was actually up there.

Mr. Venable: Well, they was building wooden buildings up there for army barracks and everything up there. It was a big movement there they had hundreds of people working there. Some worked day and night to get the thing where we could get our army off the ground and trained.

Mr. Mackay: You know, our Historical Society reckons to say Sergeant York trained there.

Mr. Venable: Yeah, I’ve heard it that York did train up there. I remember when they gave him all the publicity many years ago.

Mr. Mackay: Now I want you to talk a little bit about state government. You’ve seen that change a great deal.


Mr. Venable:
Yeah, I’ve seen our state government change.

Mr. Mackay: You feel it’s gotten too big, too?

Mr. Venable: It’s gotten too big. Our whole government system, all over our country is overcrowded, even the educational field. I remember when they ran this county with a superintendent and two women–Mr. Rainey, I guess you remember him. Now they got two big office buildings, a hundred-we’re overloaded with worthless employees all over our government–state, county, and cities, and we’ve got to do something about it. It’s got too big for its, and we got to do–and our government, our United States government, that’s the thing where every walk of society must bring some pressure on the Congress and Senate of the United States to do something about our indebtedness. Likewise in DeKalb County, as you know it, probably seventy-five percent of our taxes go for our educational field, to [inaudible-sounds like “retired moms”?] for the educational field; about twenty-five percent is used for the public use. I have to commend the Catholics, they have their own schools, they pay taxes toward the common schools; and if we’d do that, we’d be growling about it; I have to commend them. Unless we do something to curb our powers in our government, our public officials, President of the United States by executive order can give away a million–ten million dollars. We are doing too much for the other world. We today owe trillions and trillions of dollars. We give to foreign countries in the last ten years that figures almost impossible to write. We owe trillions and trillions of dollars; and we more money. our government does, and we’re printing useless certificates every day that you and I–I’m trying to get to figure to see what our government owes in interest and principal. And I’ll venture to say and take the population and see by the population of what we owe in interest and debts today that each child two days old or two hours old owes ten to fifteen or twenty million dollars. How’re we going to live and exist in that situation in this country? The Congress has gone crazy; the government has gone crazy there, squandering money. I remember when you could buy three pounds of ground coffee for a quarter, five pounds of sugar, two pounds of round steak for a quarter, a nickel loaf of bread, and look what you pay for it today. I work for three people–taxes, insurance companies, and grocers; and I’m sick and tired of it. Taxes is my main take-away in this country.

Mr. Mackay: Do you have any views about the high interest rates we pay now? Younger person can’t really get going in business anymore.

Mr. Venable: We can-no country–society can live under ten percent. Here you got fifteen to twenty-one percent. A young couple can’t pay six or seven hundred dollars for a house and a car note. They can’t buy one.

Mr. Mackay: The bankers say that they are charging such high prices because they are fighting inflation. Do you believe that?

Mr. Venable: No, I don’t believe that. The world bankers, the international–every president–you’ll have to commend the Jewish people; they’re dominating and in control of world money there. Every president elected he has full power on the cabinet because they are in position to loan money to our nation there.

Mr. Mackay: You know, when I was in the legislature, there was a legal ceiling on interest.

Mr. Venable: Yes, I remember that.

Mr. Mackay: Don’t you think there ought to be a cap put on interest, by law?

Mr. Venable: I certainly agree with you. They ought to put it, and it ought to stay there. A poor person–all of us have to borrow money sometime. And interest, it ought to stay from nine cents [percent?] on down. I’m in favor of putting a cap on it.

Mr. Mackay: Now, you have a reputation for being generous with your legal services. I want to ask you to assess our legal system now in terms of the poor person. Do you feel a poor person can get justice in this legal system?

Mr. Venable: I don’t feel that our poor people can get legal services or legal justice in our system as it now exists.

Mr. Mackay: What can we do about that?

Mr. Venable: As I said before, the first problem that we face in this country is the jury- the system of selecting jurors that are not qualified. As I said, they ought to have that training and education. And I know we got legal help for these unfortunate people, but most of them, as I watch it, are young lawyers, inexperienced, they appoint; and most of them lead the defendant up in front of the court for a trade, and trade them off there. I watch them a great deal, and many of these poor devils are innocent and many of them are guilty. I don’t think they take the time to give him or her that day in court.

Mr. Mackay: Would you be willing to give up that jury system to the extent they have in England in which the judge is passing on tax as well as law?

Mr. Venable: Well, I would myself, yes.

Mr. Mackay: You think we’d get better results?

Mr. Venable: I think we’d get better results, yes.

Mr. Mackay: All right, let’s talk about the selection of judges. I’ve been disappointed to see the newspapers criticize the result in the Supreme Court race in which Richard Bell and Jack Dorsey came out on top. They talk like the voters don’t know how to pick candidates. I don’t know of any other scheme that I would favor, and I want to know if you would be in willing to getting away from the election of judges.

Mr. Venable: Well, I think all public officials should be elected by the ballot box, and what hurts me, that our white people of this nation of our state and our country, the Negroes have learned, the black people have learned, two things. They have learned the ballot box and the boycott. I looked out my window in front of the courthouse for forty- two years in Atlanta. In 1959, the national election, around Fulton County courthouse, there’s four or five thousand black people four blocks around that court house, forty lines, and 150 whites. I knew we’s gone. Our white people won’t register to vote. Black people have learned to register to vote, and we’ve got to exercise that, or else our country is going to be dominated by the inferior race of black people.

Mr. Mackay: I want to thank you for this interview. You’ve got two minutes, and you’re talking to young people maybe twenty years from now who will be looking a this tape, Jimmy. Have you got any final advice or comment you would like to make to the young people who are moving out into the world?

Mr. Venable: I would like to say this to the young people of the world today that you better do something to help your government, you better advocate and you better use the ballot box as I have aforementioned because that is your own salvation. The people of our nation and the people that are qualified won’t get into to politics. The public of our nation will not select at the ballot box a person that is qualified. They’re usually the one that’s more popular, one that can speak the most beautiful English, or one that has the most money, one that occupies the biggest political job, he or she is elected instead of someone qualified. And my advice is for all young people to use the ballot box to vote and register, from dog catcher on up. Else you’re going to lose your way of life in our great country.

Mr. Mackay: Well, I certainly do thank you, and thank you, Howard Worley, for this tape.

This Is How We Once Changed Gun Laws: Look at the steps taken by Lyndon B. Johnson. 

Note: After the recent tragic killings in Las Vegas, I know there’s much reflection in the United States regarding the questions and issues surrounding gun ownership overall. Guns? When I was a young child in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada I recall one day when the door bell rang at our house on 83rd Avenue. I opened the door and here in front of me were two members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They asked for my father and then said to my father that he was on their list as being a registered gun owner. The purpose of the visit was to affirm both the existence of the gun and to see it. My father had obtained the gun during WWII, had kept it, and had complied to the law by having it registered. I must admit that it wasn’t until then that I was informed that my Dad was, in fact, a gun owner. Without hesitation, my father took them to where he kept his gun, they picked it up and asked him whether he had used it and he hadn’t.

I can still see these men at the door and have subsequently wondered why there can’t be some similar vigilance in the United States – except for the fact that the United States is altogether too racist to be equitable on this score. The issue regarding violence, however, resides not with people of color or Muslims etc. as Trump is inclined to state, but largely with “white” males that absolutely needs to addressed, the impact of which we have just witnessed in Las Vegas. Should Trump include on his banning list and priorities the deportation of American white domestic terrorist males who are more of a threat than any other group of males in the country? Now there’s a unique idea, except for the fact that nobody would want them!

Below is some brief information about Canadian gun laws that also includes information about the Canadian required “Firearms Safety Course and Test program”. This is followed by the Esquire article on what Lyndon Johnson advocated for and managed to have passed in Congress after the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy in 1968.

The Canadian Firearms Registry is the gun registry managed by the Canadian Firearms Program of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) as part of the RCMP’s responsibilities under the Firearms Act, 1995. It requires the registration of all restricted and prohibited firearms in Canada. The registry was introduced by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in 1993 and implemented by successive Justice Ministers Allan Rock and Anne McLellan. The net annual operating cost of the program was originally estimated to be $2 million.

 

….fully automatic firearms have been prohibited (with grandfathering exemptions to existing, licensed collectors of full-automatic weapons and theatrical users) since 1977.
….A Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC) was required to purchase any firearm since its implementation in 1977, although additional restrictions applied for handguns (restricted – 1934) and fully automatic firearms (prohibited −1977). To obtain an FAC, no training was required until the Canadian Firearms Safety Course and Test program (non-restricted, restricted, or combined courses/tests) was created as a prerequisite in Bill C-17 in 1991. This formal training, once common in families and even schools, has been credited with the marked reduction of accidents involving the improper handling of firearms. (Wikipedia)
This Is How We Once Changed Gun Laws

Look at the steps taken by Lyndon B. Johnson. 

 

Photo credit: Getty

By October 22, 1968, President Lyndon Baines Johnson was as lame a duck as ever sat in the White House. Reviled by more than half of his own party, he’d dropped out of a race for re-election in March of that year. His party’s convention had been a bloodbath. Its nominee, Hubert Humphrey, was hated almost as much as Johnson was by most of the same people. The Republicans were gearing up to put Richard Nixon, of all people, into the White House. In Miami, while accepting his party’s nomination, Nixon had said:

For a few moments, let us look at America, let us listen to America to find the answer to that question. As we look at America, we see cities enveloped in smoke and flame. We hear sirens in the night. We see Americans dying on distant battlefields abroad. We see Americans hating each other; fighting each other; killing each other at home. And as we see and hear these things, millions of Americans cry out in anguish. Did we come all this way for this? Did American boys die in Normandy, and Korea, and in Valley Forge for this?
 
Listen to the answer to those questions. It is another voice. It is the quiet voice in the tumult and the shouting. It is the voice of the great majority of Americans, the forgotten Americans-the non-shouters; the non-demonstrators. They are not racists or sick; they are not guilty of the crime that plagues the land. They are black and they are white-they’re native born and foreign born-they’re young and they’re old. They work in America’s factories. They run America’s businesses. They serve in government. They provide most of the soldiers who died to keep us free. They give drive to the spirit of America. They give lift to the American Dream. They give steel to the backbone of America. They are good people, they are decent people; they work, and they save, and they pay their taxes, and they care.
 

So, in addition to LBJ’s other problems, the howling of backlash and reaction was growing, and Nixon was just the right vehicle for it. But shortly after LBJ had dropped out, Martin Luther King had been shot to death in Memphis and Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles. Enough, thought Lyndon Johnson, and he put together a gun control bill and forced its passage even though he was at the nadir of his career in terms of political power. He did not get everything he wanted, but what he got was remarkable enough and, when he signed the bill, this is what he said:

Some of you may be interested in knowing-really-what this bill does:

–It stops murder by mail order. It bars the interstate sale of all guns and the bullets that load them.
 

–It stops the sale of lethal weapons to those too young to bear their terrible responsibility.

 

–It puts up a big “off-limits” sign, to stop gunrunners from dumping cheap foreign “$10 specials” on the shores of our country.
 
Congress adopted most of our recommendations. But this bill–as big as this bill is–still falls short, because we just could not get the Congress to carry out the requests we made of them. I asked for the national registration of all guns and the licensing of those who carry those guns. For the fact of life is that there are over 160 million guns in this country–more firearms than families. If guns are to be kept out of the hands of the criminal, out of the hands of the insane, and out of the hands of the irresponsible, then we just must have licensing. If the criminal with a gun is to be tracked down quickly, then we must have registration in this country.
 

The voices that blocked these safeguards were not the voices of an aroused nation. They were the voices of a powerful lobby, a gun lobby, that has prevailed for the moment in an election year. But the key to effective crime control remains, in my judgment, effective gun control. And those of us who are really concerned about crime just must–somehow, someday–make our voices felt. We must continue to work for the day when Americans can get the full protection that every American citizen is entitled to and deserves-the kind of protection that most civilized nations have long ago adopted. We have been through a great deal of anguish these last few months and these last few years-too much anguish to forget so quickly.

In case you’d forgotten, that’s what presidential leadership-even from the lamest duck ever to hold the office-looks like.

This has been a public service announcement on behalf of how things are supposed to work.

Should America be Deporting Domestic Violent White Males? Now there’s a good idea but nobody would want them!

Heather Gray 
October 3, 2017

Violent “white” American males are the problem in America as they have killed far more Americans than any other male group. Yet, just imagine the press and comments from Donald Trump if Las Vegas killer Stephen Paddock had been a black male or a Mexican male or a Middle Eastern male or a Muslim male. Under those circumstances, I can just hear Trump saying, “See, I told you so! We need to control them or get rid of them!” So the question remains, when is the press, and especially Donald Trump and his supporters, going to acknowledge that this was a violent crime by a “white” male and that it is “white” American males who are far more dangerous than any other male group in the United States. Is it not time for white males in America who are concerned about the violence by other white males to begin addressing this issue?  I think it is way past time for some action by white males themselves and the white community overall.

Yet, Paddock had all these guns and used an “automatic” weapon to kill 59 people and injure more than 500 now suffering individuals. And Paddock’s use of an “automatic” weapon for this killing spree was the first ever in an American massacre! And no authorities knew he had a sizable compilation of weapons? And/or there was no surveillance of him? That, in itself, is a tragedy.

Should Trump include on his banning list and priorities the deportation of American white domestic terrorist males? Now, there’s a unique idea, except for the fact that nobody would want them! But where would he send them? Whites in British prisons, both convicts and debtors overall, were, for example, sent to the Britain’s American, Australian and other colonies in the 18th and 19th centuries with Georgia being a debtors colony. But I can’t imagine any country in today’s world wanting to increase their violent American white male population. Can you?­

The other problem is that the American white males and those in police departments invariably are inappropriately acquitted of the most outrageous and heinous crimes, primarily against people of color, and are not placed in jail as they should be for the safety of all of us. But, nevertheless, most can be identified. This is, in fact, a major issue. Too many white males are acquitted for acts of violence that virtually any other male of color, or those not belonging to a main-stream American religion, would be penalized. In addition to the acts of violence, these inequities in the court system, or the so-called justice system, have to end.

I know that deportation of violent white males is not realistic but we do need to explore ways to better control guns and address the violent tendencies of white males in America.  White males need to become accountable. Finally, American whites overall need to end this insane white supremacist mindset and, with compassion, acknowledge the beauty, profound cultures and humanity of all  human beings on the face of the earth.

Should America be Deporting Domestic Violent White Males? Now there’s a good idea but nobody would want them!

Heather Gray 
October 3, 2017
Violent “white” American males are the problem in America as they have killed far more Americans than any other male group. Yet, just imagine the press and comments from Donald Trump if Las Vegas killer Stephen Paddock had been a black male or a Mexican male or a Middle Eastern male or a Muslim male. Under those circumstances, I can just hear Trump saying, “See, I told you so! We need to control them or get rid of them!” So the question remains, when is the press, and especially Donald Trump and his supporters, going to acknowledge that this was a violent crime by a “white” male and that it is “white” American males who are far more dangerous than any other male group in the United States. Is it not time for white males in America who are concerned about the violence by other white males to begin addressing this issue?  I think it is way past time for some action by white males themselves and the white community overall.

Yet, Paddock had all these guns and used an “automatic” weapon to kill 59 people and injure more than 500 now suffering individuals. And Paddock’s use of an “automatic” weapon for this killing spree was the first ever in an American massacre! And no authorities knew he had a sizable compilation of weapons? And/or there was no surveillance of him? That, in itself, is a tragedy.

Should Trump include on his banning list and priorities the deportation of American white domestic terrorist males? Now, there’s a unique idea, except for the fact that nobody would want them! But where would he send them? Whites in British prisons, both convicts and debtors overall, were, for example, sent to the Britain’s American, Australian and other colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries with Georgia being a debtors colony. But I can’t imagine any country in today’s world wanting to increase their violent American white male population. Can you?­

The other problem is that the American white males and those in police departments invariably are inappropriately acquitted of the most outrageous and heinous crimes and are not placed in jail as they should be for the safety of all of us. But, nevertheless, most can be identified. This is, in fact, a major issue. Too many white males are acquitted for acts of violence that virtually any other male of color, or those not belonging to a main-stream American religion, would be penalized. In addition to the acts of violence, these inequities in the court system, or the so-called justice system, have to end.

I know that deportation of violent white males is not realistic but we do need to explore ways to better control guns and address the violent tendencies of white males in America.  White males need to become accountable. Finally, American whites overall need to end this insane white supremacist mindset and, with compassion, acknowledge the beauty, profound cultures and humanity of all living human beings on the face of the earth. Whites are not special – everyone is special.

Learning from Atlanta’s Rashid Nuri about Africa and the impact of chattel slavery

Note: For a number of years, I have been interviewing Rashid Nuri on my WRFG-Atlanta radio show “Just Peace”. The interviews with him are always instructive and informative in so many ways,  about agriculture certainly,  but also about his vast experience while living throughout the world – in the United States, Africa and Asia. In a recent interview with him we discussed his impressions of African history and culture as well as the impact of chattel slavery in the United States. The interview was recently placed on YouTube and and I wanted to share it widely. Please see the YouTube link below as well as a biography of Rashid Nuri.

As an undergraduate at Harvard University, Rashid studied Political Science with an emphasis on African history which is reflected in his informed narrative. When he came back to the United States from Africa and settling in Atlanta,  he founded the Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture and has subsequently become a leading figure, in Atlanta, the South and the country, teaching about and advocating for the importance of urban organic production and the importance of all of us needing to control our own food system.

Heather Gray
Justice Initiative International
October 1, 2017

Learning from Atlanta’s Rashid Nuri about Africa

and the impact of chattel slavery


K. Rashid Nuri brings more than forty years of global food growing experience to TLW. Rashid observed local food economies around the world while managing public, private and community based food and agriculture businesses in over 35 countries, including Southeast Asia and West Africa. He now lends his experience to urban areas, promoting good nutrition, health and economic development.

Rashid was born in Boston, Massachusetts, but as the son of a military officer, he really does not call any place home. Rashid attended 14 schools before his family settled in San Diego, California, where he attended high school. A stellar student and community leader, Rashid went on to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Harvard and a Master’s Degree in Plant and Soil Science from the University of Massachusetts. During his college years, Rashid helped to install some of the first organic community gardens in San Diego.

Following graduation, Rashid journeyed to Georgia, where he managed 13,000 acres of farm land for the Nation of Islam. Crops included cotton, corn, peanuts, soy beans and greens, in addition to cows and chicken. Later, he managed operations in Asia and Africa for the Cargill Corporation, a global agribusiness conglomerate. Following nearly a decade with Cargill, Rashid returned to the U.S. to become a Senior Executive in the Clinton Administration, serving as Deputy Administrator in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Senior Advisor in the Department of Commerce. In his capacity as Deputy Administrator, Rashid had responsibilities for budgeting, finance, facilities, information technology and 2,200 employees.

Rashid is a Board Member of Georgia Organics, the Atlanta Local Food Initiative and the Urban Food Abundance Movement. He is the father of seven children.

We are truly living well. Are you?

Sometimes your life’s mission is revealed in youth and you spend your life dancing in the passion of that vision. Rashid Nuri learned early that, “whoever controls your food controls you.” Rashid discovered his life’s passion in agriculture as a foundation for economic and political development. He has dedicated his career to agricultural development and food education around the world. Today, as Founder and CEO of Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture (TLW), Rashid is creating jobs, streamlining health care and building community, one vegetable at a time. TLW’s work of growing fresh, nutritious food in the inner city helps to mitigate chronic disease by teaching the health benefits of locally grown food, making healthier foods more accessible, and inspiring people to eat better.
Rashid Nuri embodies the attributes of both the transformational and servant leader. His mission to bring nutritious, fresh-picked produce to local residents through community supported agriculture makes him a pioneer in the U.S. urban agriculture movement. TLW has five farm sites in Metro Atlanta, where they produce certified naturally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs, employ 35 people, and support the growth of local business. The headquarters in East Point and Wheat Street Garden site, across the street from the King Memorial Center and Ebenezer Baptist Church in downtown Atlanta, receive hundreds of visitors each year at weekly open air markets, educational programs in natural farming, gardening and nutrition, and summer camps for children.

Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture

Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture is a leader in demonstrating urban agriculture as a sustainable solution for helping people to eat and live better. TLW shows that urban farms help grow better communities by connecting people with their food and the land, providing education and training, and modeling economic success in urban agriculture. TLW’s continuing partnerships and collaborations with area colleges and universities, the Atlanta Public School System, corporations and other organizations, provide opportunities for urban dwellers to be one with the land while improving the economy and increasing employment.


Progressive Taxation: Some Hidden Truths

 

Note: Below is more detailed information about taxation from George Lakoff and Bruce Bunder and how taxes are beneficial for all Americans including, of course, the wealthiest Americans whether they believe it or not. Betty Devos as Trump’s Secretary of Education is wanting to privatize much of our important public school system and yet here is some of what is written below regarding the likes of Bill Gates’ Microsoft:

The legal system protected Microsoft’s intellectual property and contracts. The tax-supported financial infrastructure enabled him to access capital markets and trade his stock in a market in which investors have confidence. He built his company with many employees educated in public schools and universities.

And further, also from below:

The wealthy have made greater use of the common good-they have been empowered by it in creating their wealth-and thus they have a greater moral obligation to sustain it. They are merely paying their debt to society in arrears and investing in future empowerment.

This is the fundamental truth that motivates progressive taxation.

Heather Gray
Justice Initiative International
September 29, 2017

Progressive Taxation: Some Hidden Truths

At this time of year it seems there are only two things certain in life, taxes an

anxiety about taxes. Instead of the perennial talk of a simplified tax form, how about a simplified understanding of the progressive values that underlie our tradition of progressive taxation?

Such an understanding won’t move the tax deadline. But it might eliminate some of the anxiety. Understanding the hidden truths behind progressive taxation might also lead to more coherent-and more just-tax policies.

Progressive taxation-taxing the wealthy at higher rates than the poor-is a moral issue. Like many moral issues, it sparks heated debate. The debate is borne of conflicting worldviews, values, and understandings of values. But as we at the Rockridge Institute have written, when progressives understand the values and ideas that underlie their positions on issues, they can articulate arguments authentically and with greater persuasive force. These arguments will appeal to those whom we call biconceptuals-the great majority of Americans whose worldviews borrow in various ways from both progressive and conservative values.

America’s government has at least two fundamental functions, protection and empowerment. Protection includes the police, firefighters, emergency services, public health, the military, and so on. Empowerment includes the infrastructure needed for business and everyday life: roads, communications systems, water supplies, public education, the banking system for loans and economic stability, the SEC for the stock market, the courts for enforcing contracts, air traffic control, support for basic science, our national parks and public buildings, and more. We are usually aware of protection. But the empowerment infrastructure, provided by taxes, is usually taken for granted, hidden, or ignored. Yet it is absolutely crucial, a fundamental truth about America and why America provides opportunity.

This is a basic truth. That is what framing should be about: revealing truths and allowing us to reason using them.

Taxes are part of our common wealth, what we all share. Protection and empowerment serve the common good. Because of our common wealth, we are all protected and America’s empowering infrastructure is available to all. That is a fundamental America value: the common wealth should serve the common good. It benefits everyone.

Citizens are financially responsible to maintain this common wealth. If we shirked this responsibility, we could not maintain our roads, fund our schools, protect ourselves from military threats, enforce our laws, and so on. Equally importantly, we could not create prosperity for ourselves, because we would have no protection of our intellectual property, no oversight of our markets, no means to enforce our contracts, no way to educate most of our children.

Several main progressive values support the idea of progressive taxation. One is the belief that the common wealth should be used for the common good. Another is responsibility, the responsibility that citizens have to pay for the benefits we receive from our common wealth. And still another is fairness. These values intertwine on the question of progressive taxation.

Few people dispute this responsibility at some level. Disagreements generally arise over the amount and the relative apportionment of the responsibility. Differing concepts of fairness drive this debate. While many progressives say it is only fair that those who earn more pay a higher percentage of their earnings as taxes compared to those who have difficulty making ends meet, conservatives respond by asserting that it is unfair to “punish” the financially successful by making them pay more.

An important point often lost in this debate is an appreciation that the common wealth, which our taxes create and sustain, empowers the wealthy in myriad ways to create their wealth. We call this compound empowerment – the compounded use of the common wealth by corporations, their investors, and other wealthy individuals.

Consider Bill Gates. He started Microsoft as a college dropout and has become the world’s richest person. Though he has undoubtedly benefited from his unusual intelligence and business acumen, he could not have created or sustained his personal wealth without the common wealth. The legal system protected Microsoft’s intellectual property and contracts. The tax-supported financial infrastructure enabled him to access capital markets and trade his stock in a market in which investors have confidence. He built his company with many employees educated in public schools and universities. Tax-funded research helped develop computer science and the internet. Trade laws negotiated and enforced by the government protect his ability to sell his products abroad. These are but a few of the ways in which Mr. Gates’ accumulation of wealth was empowered by the common wealth and by taxation.

As Warren Buffet famously observed, he likely couldn’t have achieved his financial success had he been born in Bangladesh instead of the United States, because Bangladesh had no banking system and no stock market.

Ordinary people just drive on the highways; corporations send fleets of trucks. Ordinary people may get a bank loan for their mortgage; corporations borrow money to buy whole companies. Ordinary people rarely use the courts; most of the courts are used for corporate law and contract disputes. Corporations and their investors – those who have accumulated enough money beyond basic needs so they can invest – make much more use, compound use, of the empowering infrastructure provided by everybody’s tax money.

The wealthy have made greater use of the common good-they have been empowered by it in creating their wealth-and thus they have a greater moral obligation to sustain it. They are merely paying their debt to society in arrears and investing in future empowerment.

This is the fundamental truth that motivates progressive taxation.

It is a truth that undercuts conservative arguments about taxation. Taxes provide and maintain the protecting and empowering infrastructure that makes our income possible.

Our tax forms hide this truth. They do not indicate the extent to which taxes have created and sustained the common wealth so you could earn what you have. They make it look like the empowering infrastructure was just put there by magic and that the government is taking money out of your pocket. The most likely truth is that, through the common wealth, America put more money in your pocket than it took out – by far.

But this situation is threatened by conservative tax policy. Through unfair cuts in taxes paid by the wealthy, through payment for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and through borrowing abroad to pay for the tax cuts and Iraq, the common wealth is being drained and the infrastructure allowed to fall apart. We need to return to a fair tax policy that recognizes financial responsibility incurred by the compound use of America’s empowering infrastructure.