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Good News From Arizona!

You’ve got to hand it to the white supremacists running Arizona. As May 1 demonstrations are upon us coast to coast, with immigrants’ rights as a central demand, they’ve provided a crystal-clear example of what we are up against. They are also showing just why May Day, the international working class holiday, has taken on new layers of meaning here and deepened its roots in sections of the US working class since El Levantamiento, the huge immigrant uprising of 2006.

The issue is, of course, the new mandatory racial profiling bill just passed by both houses of the legislature and signed by Governor Jan Brewer. It will likely be declared unconstitutional by the courts, but is meanwhile serving to promote anti-immigrant sentiment and police state practices in Arizona and elsewhere.

While there has been heartening coverage of high school walk-outs and other protest inside Arizona itself, there are other aspects to the resistance which merit some attention. Thus, the first-hand report and the hip hop video I am posting here.

I asked a long-time ‘rade of mine, a Brooklyn boy who has been working as an educator in the Phoenix suburbs for the last several years (poor fish) what he’s been seeing and hearing. His comments, slightly edited, follow:

The general mood out here is outrage. Those supporting the bill are silent. You just don’t hear folks defend this in public. Even local rightwing radio is questioning the bill, an unheard-of development.

The Dems are split along political/ethnic lines. Some are calling for military at the border (“If we could stop them at the border that would solve the problem”), others, like Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva, are calling for a boycott of their own state and repeal of the law.

The anger among Chicana/os is palpable. This issue has really woken people up. I’ve never seen these folks react this way. This was a REALLY stupid move on the part of the Republicans. It has the potential to mobilize folks for May 1, and for the upcoming elections, including young Chicana/os.

Chicana/os out here are organizationally weak. Remember, this is a “right to work” state, so unions are not really a factor. I’m curious to see how the community is going to organize, but I don’t see this issue going away. Folks I know, generally apolitical, are discussing and debating this. There’s a lot of passion.

Now here’s another cut on things in AZ. Let’s start with Black rapper, Swindoe. A couple of years back he released a new cut called “Phony People” with a dramatic video. Based in his native Arizona, it features Swindoe and his posse helping undocumented immigrants deal with the deadly desert and the Border Patrol and it’s moving as hell…

Okay, his persona is straight-up gangsta, his syzzurp-flavored, chopped and screwed chorus is druggy by definition, and he thinks rather highly of himself. Get past it, people. His production company is called BLK Boyz, standing for Black-Latino Konnection. The whole package is, to my way of thinking, a real-world example of the kind of Black/Brown alliance that revolutionary-minded folks have been advocating for years as the answer to ruling class efforts to pit the Black Nation and immigrants against each other.

And so is this comment, which is from the interesting and contentious Youtube comment thread when Swindoe’s “Phony People” video was retitled to mention SB 1070 ,the Arizona police state law:

i think its funny how yall argue over youtube.. lol Flash Virus is a fuckin dumbass.. I’m from eastside tuc town an we down wit grips_ of latinos. All me an my niggas date are latina girls.. it aint shit to us! we speak spanish! a REAL tuc town nigga who whats good wit tha 520 and tha black/latino connection.. if he wanna start shit, let him. cuz he’z dumb. bring his ass to irvington n park an let dem niggas get at him.. bet he wont eva diss a latino eva again!! Haha

Let’s see what the May Day marches this Saturday and the coming months bring. All this makes me optimistic.

And in that spirit, I think I’ll close with Tom Russell’s magnificent tune, “Who’s Gonna Build Your Wall?” which raises the musical question:

Now the government wants to build a barrier

Like ol’ Berlin, 8 feet tall,

But if Uncle Sam sends the illegals home,

Who’s gonna build the wall?

Who’s gonna build your wall, boys,

Who’s gonna mow your lawn,

Who’s gonna cook your Mexican food

When your Mexican maid is gone,

Who’s gonna wax the floors tonight

Down at the local mall,

Who’s gonna wash your baby’s face,

Who’s gonna build your wall?

Thoughts on John Brown and Women

“After my father had selected his place, he found out, like men usually do, whenever they attempt to do anything, that he would be obliged to have some woman to help him…”

Anne Brown, remembering the preparations for the 1859 Harpers Ferry raid.

Yes, the 150th anniversary of Harpers Ferry is behind us, but I am pleased to see that it has stirred up a growing interest in Old Osawatomie. (Anyone who expected Fire on the Mountain, my home blog where this is crossposted, to lessen coverage of Brown’s contributions to the struggle post-2009 simply hasn’t been paying attention there).

I recently went with John Kaye to a Brown exhibit at the New-York Historical Society featuring a feast of contemporary material, mainly documents, on Brown. Those in the environs or visiting NYC before March 25 are urged to check it out.

Thoughts on John Brown and Women

“After my father had selected his place, he found out, like men usually do, whenever they attempt to do anything, that he would be obliged to have some woman to help him…”

Anne Brown, remembering the preparations for the 1859 Harpers Ferry raid.

Yes, the 150th anniversary of Harpers Ferry is behind us, but I am pleased to see that it has stirred up a growing interest in Old Osawatomie. (Anyone who expected Fire on the Mountain, my home blog where this is crossposted, to lessen coverage of Brown’s contributions to the struggle post-2009 simply hasn’t been paying attention there).

I recently went with John Kaye to a Brown exhibit at the New-York Historical Society featuring a feast of contemporary material, mainly documents, on Brown. Those in the environs or visiting NYC before March 25 are urged to check it out.

Two documents in particular got me thinking about Brown and women. John Brown is, in legend and appearance, so much the Old Testament patriarch that it is easy to think of him as your standard-issue, unenlightened, pre-women’s-movement radical.

I was struck therefore by the document Brown prepared in 1858 at Frederick Douglass’s Rochester home and later had printed, The Provisional Constitution And Ordinances For The People Of The United States. This document, which was to serve for the territories liberated from slavery by the planned uprising, starts its very first article, “Qualifications For Membership,” with the words “All persons of mature age…” NOT, you will note, “All men….” And the same language is used to describe the qualifications for holding elected office.

This was 10 years before the Wyoming Territory granted women the right to vote and a full 61 years before the US managed to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment.

John Brown’s advanced stand was clear at a policy level. Another facet appears in the quote cited at the beginning of the article. Brown’s daughter Anne, 15 at the time and known as Annie, went with Oliver Brown’s wife Martha, 16, in response to a request from John Brown to join the band at the Kennedy Farm in Maryland where the raid was being staged.

The women were not needed to cook and clean, as the cynical might think. The sentence in Anne’s moving letter of reminiscence, written in 1887, reads in full:

After my father had selected his place, he found out, like men usually do, whenever they attempt to do anything, that he would be obliged to have some woman to help him, to stand between him and the curiosity of outsiders, a sort of “outside guard” to conceal his movements, and ward off suspicion.

Still, the start of Anne’s statement shows that she was aware that her father shared the tendency of his male contemporaries (and our own) to give short shrift to the role and contributions of women. Just as his advanced thinking for the time should be recognized, so too should his shortcomings remind us that the work we have to do in the long struggle to end oppression and exploitation will go better if we keep trying to root out some of that old bullshit in our thinking.

The People Won One Yesterday (Dja Miss It?)

Friday marked a major victory in a six-year-long struggle by small farmers in the US. I’m betting, dear reader, that you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about.

The Department of Agriculture announced yesterday its decision to drop NAIS (the National Animal Identification System). This was a voluntary program to identify and track meat and dairy animals wherever they went in the country.

NAIS was started in 2004 by the Bush Administration after a cow with mad cow disease was discovered in Washington State. To non-farmers, this may seem like a sensible measure, but remind yourself, you don’t know a lot of detail about how the meat you buy winds up in that plastic-wrapped Styrofoam container at the supermarket–or on the shish-kebab stick on that whole wheat pita at the Arab takeout place.

Greensboro Again: A Little-Noted Lesson

This week marks 50 years since the Greensboro, NC, sit-ins, the historic protest which launched the Black Freedom Struggle in this country onto a new trajectory. We are seeing a lot of celebration of the courage of the four students who first sat down at the Woolworth’s lunch counter and of the chain reaction it set off.

I posted such a tribute here my own self two days back. In the course of refreshing my fading memory, via Google, to complete that piece, I found another facet of the Greensboro story. It’s one I had never come across, and one that will, I think, resonate with anyone who has spent much time in the activist trenches.

Many of us know the story of how four students on February 1 became dozens and, by February 4, hundreds, as students across North Carolina and the South girded to emulate them and launch the wave of struggles that finally killed Jim Crow.

The other side of the story has to do with the five months it took to crack the management at Woolworth’s and S.H. Kress and the rest of the Greensboro power structure.

The multiplication of protesters in that first week is now at the heart of the legend. But that level of activity was hard to sustain, especially as the students’ demands remained unmet and white hostility grew more intense.

Franklin McCain and Joseph McNeil remained part of the organizing core from Day One. McCain recalls:

What people won’t talk (about), what people don’t like to remember is that the success of that movement in Greensboro is probably attributed to no more than eight or 10 people. I can say this: when the television cameras stopped rolling and we didn’t have eight or 10 reporters left, the folk left. I mean, there were just a very faithful few. McNeil and I can’t count the nights and evenings that we literally cried because we couldn’t get people to help us staff a picket line.

I don’t know about you, but I can recall lulls in more than one campaign for justice when fatigue, frustration, setbacks and doubt had me in tears. When it happens again, and it will, I hope I remember to draw on this part of the lesson of Greensboro, not the audacity and the courage of the students, but the dogged persistence of the core they built.

Crossposted from Fire on the Mountain.

The ’60s, Our ’60s, Began Fifty Years Ago Yesterday

Nothing to do with rock & roll. Nothing to do with JFK.

It has to do with what happened in Greensboro, NC, the day before, February 1, 1960. Four young men–Ezell A. Blair Jr., David Richmond, Joseph McNeil and Franklin McCain–went to the lunch counter at the Woolworth’s department store near the school where they were underclassmen, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

The four sat down and awaited service. They ignored Woolworth’s policy of serving food only to African-Americans who remained standing or took it elsewhere. They defied North Carolina law and the Jim Crow culture which pervaded, indeed defined, the South of the United States. The four sat, unserved, from 4:30 in the afternoon until management closed the store, early, at 5:00.

You can find much written that dates the decade of upsurge, promise and change we call the Sixties from that day.

I’ll argue for the next day, February 2, 1960, 50 years ago yesterday.

That’s the day that really counts, because that morning David Richmond, Joseph McNeil, Ezell A. Blair Jr., and Franklin McCain went back to the lunch counter at the Greensboro Woolworth’s and sat down again. So did 21 other young men and four young women from traditionally Black schools in the area.

The next day, February 3, 63 of the 65 seats at the Woolworth’s counter were occupied and on February 4 a sit-in began at S.H. Kress, another department store, and the protesters had been joined by three white students from Woman’s College. At the same time racist whites in increasing numbers gathered to heckle and harass the disciplined and determined protesters.

On February 7, Black students in Winston-Salem and Durham, NC held sit-ins at lunch counters. On February 8, Charlotte, NC. On February 9, Raleigh, NC.

It took five long months before the Greensboro establishment caved in and ended segregation in dining facilities. Once the original burst of enthusiasm and defiance passed, it was a long hard slog for the ones who started it and the small core that had formed in the struggle. McCain recalls:

McNeil and I can’t count the nights and evenings that we literally cried because we couldn’t get people to help us staff a picket line.

But even as they undertook the long painful battle to bring the victory home, their example had spread the tactic of sit-ins to hundreds of localities, including solidarity protests at chain stores in the North and West. Even more important, their action in sitting down at that counter, and returning the next day had spread the determination to smash Jim Crow and fight for justice to the hearts of millions.

And the Sixties, our Sixties, were underway.

A version of this was posted here last year, and it is crossposted from Fire on the Mountain.

Your Opinions Requested: Should The Iraq Moratorium Change Its Name?

Many of you are familiar with the Iraq Moratorium. Some of the discussion that led to its formation took place here and at Daily Kos in early 2007 and its launch on September 15, 2007 was well recorded here. Diaries since have covered it, and blogosphere luminaries like Meteor Blades and One Pissed Off Liberal have repeatedly given it play.

The idea is simple, and captured in our pledge:

I hereby commit that, on the Third Friday and/or Third Weekend of every month, I will take some action by myself or with others to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Early last year, the tiny all-volunteer committee that helps coordinate this effort made two changes reflected in the wording above. We added the Third Weekend at the request of some of the many longstanding anti-war vigils that take place on Saturdays and Sundays, and we added the war in Afghanistan.

At that time we decided to keep the name Iraq Moratorium because of its name recognition and because we feared that Iraq was falling off the media’s radar and out of public consciousness entirely.

Looking back, we feel that this was a mistake. Iraq has in fact faded in this country’s awareness, despite the 120,000 troops still stationed there, not to mention the similar number of “private contractors” our tax dollars are paying for. Meanwhile, the administration is in the early stages of its second escalation in Afghanistan in less than a year, and the death toll there is rising inexorably–troops, insurgents and Afghani civilians alike–which has placed the occupation there center stage.

The Moratorium committee’s feeling is that the name should be changed to the War Moratorium, but we ask your input because, as mentioned above, the shoestring operation that keeps the Moratorium going consists of a handful of us. Your views will be a welcome contribution to our decision-making.

This is not the place for a summation of the 2,500 plus events that have taken place in observance of the Moratorium so far, nor for a plea for volunteers to help us build it, especially on the Internet and in older forms of media. Both of those will be forthcoming in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, please check out the website and remember the Moratorium slogan:

It’s Got To Stop! We’ve Got To Stop It!

Obama’s Million Dollar Gift To Anti-War Organizing

A million dollars a year!

That’s what it costs to put one–that’s right, one–soldier or Marine on the ground in Afghanistan and to house and supply him or her there. This figure comes directly from the White House and was widely quoted in in the flurry of PR around President Obama’s West Point speech announcing his 30,000+ escalation of the occupying force in Afghanistan.

A million bucks a year. That’s a nice round figure. A more useful tool for those of us working to revive the anti-war movement is hard to imagine.

This struck me yesterday when the Transit Authority here in NYC, faced with a severe budget crunch, decided to eliminate passes for kids going to and from school, to close whole subway lines and bus routes, to cut services and crowd trains more, and to limit the Access-A-Ride program for seniors and the disabled. All of this, one report said, would save $139 million in the first year.

The math is easy–simply don’t send 139 troops to Afghanistan next year. That would cover the cost of averting brutal cuts to a public transit system used by more than 5 million people every day.

You get the idea. Call it what you want–a “troop year” perhaps. Anytime some government agency grappling with revenue collapse caused by the economic meltdown announces an increase in fees or a cutback in services, just figure how many troops not being shipped into harm’s way in Helmand Province it would take to make that budget good.

Then spread the word! Use the fact in conversations, letters to the editor, emails to friends and family, leaflets, faxes to Congresscritters who are about to vote to appropriate more money for the war.

People in this country may not like thinking about the war, but they sure can’t help thinking about the economy. This is a nice clear way to help them make the connection.

You know those college students in California who are in the middle of a fierce battle to block an unbelievable 32% tuition increase? That’s right, just bring 505 troops who are already in Afghanistan home in 2010. Some of them might even want to enroll, too.

Health Care Reform and the Moment We Are In

[An old friend of mine, Nick Unger, has been working on the AFL-CIO’s campaign to win National Health Care. He gave me permission to post this talk that…but let him tell it:

I was asked to confront the lack of energy and even negativity at the annual meeting of the Illinois Campaign For Better Health Care. Packed room — ~150+. Very diverse. Here is the result. They taped and transcribed it. I cleaned it up a bit.

This is a pep talk. Nick always gives great pep talk, and this one is brilliant. My own work in recent years has mainly been in the anti-war movement, so I can certainly relate to lack of energy and battle fatigue. But I am not posting it because of that. I am posting it because it makes the most passionate argument I’ve seen that “the Obama moment” was not a mirage or a con-job, nor was it a window that is now already closed. I’m not sure I buy it, but I think it’s an argument worth considering.]

Edited transcript of remarks at the November 19, 2009 Annual Meeting of the Illinois Campaign for Better Health Care by Nick Unger, AFL-CIO Health Care Campaign Training Director

Every once in a while, a country gets to have a conversation about what kind of people we are, who we are as a country. Sometimes it’s in an election, most of the time it isn’t. An election might start the conversation but Election Day usually ends it and you haven’t quite finished.

And most elections don’t even start the conversation, they just keep business as usual going. The 2008 election began a conversation as to what kind of country we are, but I don’t believe it finished it. I think it just opened it up, and that conversation continues.

There are those out there who act like they want a recount on the 2008 election, that Obama is not their president and you–we–can’t have “their country.” And they say it with vigor and with passion, and with earned and unearned media, in that they own TV stations and TV networks. Their view of earned media is that they get to say what they want, whatever they want, and echo it over and over, and control the national conversation from above.

But they don’t control the national conversation from below. The 2008 election showed that. People were wrestling with who we are. Actually it was mainly about who we’re not. That election seemed more of a rejection of what was wrong than a climbing onto what was right. That means we didn’t finish the conversation.

We did say that the country is going wrong. And there was a deep sense of it, of pain and suffering. The presence of my brother Rev. Sal Alvarez being here the faith community reminds me that the word compassion means shared suffering. It doesn’t mean feeling for somebody else, it means suffering with somebody else.

So last year people got a sense that the country ain’t doing it right, and we can’t go down that road anymore. But we haven’t picked the road that we’re going to be on yet. We haven’t turned the corner yet.

But I would offer to you that we are at the corner. And when you’re at a corner, you best turn, because we don’t know when the next one comes up. From a political analytical point of view, the last time America turned the corner was 1980, and we sure turned wrong.  And we are living with the price of it now.  We are at a corner now. If we miss this one, I don’t know if I will ever get a shot at another one.

The battle to turn that corner is on health care.  Health care doesn’t “deserve” to be the battle. It’s not that health care is more important than any other issue. It could have been fought over jobs. It could have been fought over education because education’s real important. I’m not going to say health care’s more important than education. It turned out that the two armies have met on the battlefield of health care. It could have happened some other way, but this is what it is.

My wife and I went to Gettysburg this past summer–anybody here been to Gettysburg? To a New Yorker, Gettysburg is a one stoplight town. In 1863, when they had the battle there it was a one-horse town.

They weren’t fighting for Gettysburg. The battle was not about Gettysburg. They were fighting for what kind of country America was going to be. Two armies met in one little town in Pennsylvania, and right there, in Gettysburg, America decided what kind of country it was going to be. At the end of the battle, one army was beaten and one army was marching ahead, and America found its soul, on Little Round Top in Gettysburg, PA.

If you go to Gettysburg the ghosts of that battle speak to you. The field is empty, but you can hear the battle. One monument stands out, the Pennsylvania Monument. t lists the names of all the Pennsylvanians who fought and died there.  A hundred years before the Vietnam Wall, they just listed the names, and every one of those names talks to you.

We are in a battle for the soul of America today, right now. It is being fought over health care. Six weeks, tops eight weeks from now, one army marches ahead and the other one is on the side of the road with their banner in the dust.

On one side you have Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, the insurance companies, the Chamber of Commerce, Goldman Sachs all saying, “If health care reform fails, that’s good for us and our team.” All of them lined up on that side saying to us, “You are not going to decide the future of America your way and we will take you down over health care.”

So where are we today? There are a thousand things wrong with that bill and the process of getting to it was a pain in the ass. Each day you say: “We lost this, we gave up this, we conceded this, what about this, this isn’t in it, they don’t have enough here.”..I mean, no part of it is quite right.

And yet today, November 19, we are closer to defining the soul of America properly than we have been in decades, in your lifetime for most of you. The metaphor I would use is we are falling uphill. We keep falling down. But turn around. You will see we are so much further ahead. Each time we fall and get up we are getting closer to where we’ve got to be.

We have pushed this process so far that America can say eight weeks from now, maybe six weeks from now, we are going to establish a new public good with government and the public in it, a public health care structure, and we’re going to say that everybody in America should have health care. This is the first time America will say it, and it comes after two generations of attacks on these kinds of ideas.

And we’re going to tax the rich to pay for a public good after two generations of saying taxes are bad and the rich can have all the money–all of my money and all of your money. Man, that is heavy!

And we are going to say to the insurance industry, you can’t write all the rules. You can write some of them, but not all the rules, and this is after thirty years of telling corporations, do whatever you want cause that’s the way the world should work.

We are six weeks from doing that as a people. We are six weeks from setting America in a direction where We the People act like we, instead of every man for himself. We are six weeks from turning the corner, making history, and somehow here today we don’t feel the energy of it.

And so when Reverend Sal Alvarez says it’s a moral issue and when Dr. Jonathan Arend says it’s a medical issue, and when the woman who said she can make $60,000 but can’t afford health care says it’s an economic issue, they are all right.

And each of you is the center of a universe of people to talk to  You are not just the Illinois Campaign For Better Health Care. You are much more than that. If the only people you talk to are in this room, I have some advice for you: You should get out more.

You come from churches and neighborhoods and groups and mosques and all sorts of things, and you have to talk to your friends about the history that is being made right now, and what kind of country we are going to be, so that 75 years from now, they read your names the way I read the names on the Pennsylvania memorial:  These are the people who made the country that I live in be the way I wanted it to be.

And 75 years from now, people will look at the fall of 2009 the way I look at the summer of 1863. They’ll say, “America had a chance to become who we should be, and we took it. And these individuals fought to make that happen.” That’s where we are today.

For many of us, this is the first time in our lifetime that we have had this chance. Some of us were around in the Civil Rights Movement. This moment feels like that was for those of us who were around then. This is the moment that you get to turn around the entire future, and it’s over health care. And if you didn’t stand up strong over it…you will always regret it.

There are better organizers than me who throughout their whole life were getting kicked in the face, fighting a defensive battle, getting smacked around, and they were better–they worked harder, they were more straightforward, they cursed less…and they never once had a chance to be on the offensive to make the world the way it should be because it was their dumb luck to start their work when the world was going wrong and retire before it got right.

And you should think about the people whose shoulders you stand on today, because we’ve got six or eight weeks to decide what kind of country we are, to decide which army wins.  This is our opportunity, and if you get lost in the weeds of that bill, then some friend of yours better stand you up and say, “We are making history and I am writing my name down on the memorial that people are going to visit 75 years from now and if you miss it, shame on you!”

There should be anger and energy and elation and glee…because we get a chance to make this country right.

In 1964, in Alabama, an old civil rights worker said to a young reverend–the old civil rights worker was my age, and the young reverend was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr–and he said to him, “How long, how long do we have to wait for justice?”  And Dr. King replied, “The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice.”

But he knew it doesn’t bend by itself–you bend it. You reach up, you grab it and you bend it. And when enough of us grab the moral arc of the universe, it bends towards justice, and in 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed.

So the person who just asked “How long do we have to wait for health care justice?” is repeating the history of our movement. That’s the same question they asked Dr King in 1963. And the answer: when enough of us put our hands on the arc, it bends towards justice.

Right in front of our eyes, the moral arc of the universe is about to decide which way it bends, in six weeks. You can’t ask for anything better than that. You are blessed with this opportunity. How long? You decide.

Thank you.

Crossposted from Fire on the Mountain.

“Hollywood Mayor” Looks To Move Up – And Out of Newark

courtesy Rahim on the Docks

Newark mayor Cory Booker couldn’t wait a week. NJ Governor Jon Corzine was just voted out in an widely-reported odd-year race that was more about suburban control of the state than about taxes, Wall Street, corruption, or any of the issues that Republican challenger “Krispy Kreme” Christy pushed.

The media-hungry mayor hastened to disassociate himself from the fellow Democrat that he had supposedly been supporting–and also to throw his own hat into the ring for the next gubernatorial race. This is pretty clear evidence that he’s going to spend the next four years running instead of governing.

Cory “Hollywood” Booker has a lot of incentive to run for state-wide office. Not least is the fact that he’s reduced nearly all his bridges in Newark to smoking wrecks. He lies–repeatedly and blatantly–at every public appearance.

At this year’s Labor Day March in Newark, he represented himself as a “friend of labor” at the rally to the very unions he’s attempted to bust (while trying to upstage US Congressman Donald Payne–an actual “friend of labor”–who was the parade’s Grand Marshall). His most repeated claim is to be pro-education as he destroys city public schools in favor of charter schools owned by political contributors. He professes to support citizens against greedy and corrupt businesses, while turning off tenants’ water because their landlords had unpaid water-bills and taxes (see The Community Fights “Hollywood” Booker Over Right to Water… Newark Wins!).

And all the while, Cory Booker maintains that, as mayor, he has reduced street-crime.

This is, perhaps, the biggest lie of them all. Anyone who actually lives in Newark has witnessed the ever-increasing levels of street-violence. Booker has allowed his Giuliani-esque police force to run amok in the neighborhoods. The sharpest single example of the anti-community policies carried out by Police Director Gary McCarthy, an NYC transplant, is the police murder this past May of Bashire Farrell. Farrell was beaten to death by Newark police while in handcuffs.

Defenders of McCarthy’s police policies insist that neighborhood residents who’d witnessed the beat-down “had to be lying” because they claimed that the cops used tasers. “Stun guns are not standard issue in Newark.” As though they are not for sale to anyone with a badge at cop shops down on Williams Street or anywhere in the state.

Last Saturday saw a rain-soaked march to the 5th Precinct on Bigelow Street, called by Mr. Farrell’s aunt, Sharonda Smalls. It was far broader than simply a demand for justice for her nephew. Ms. Smalls reached out to families of other victims of police brutality, as well as the People’s Organization for Progress (of which she is a member) and other community-based groups.

“We’re all family,” Ms. Smalls said. “The moment you hear the horrifying news about a loved one, you become a member of my family.” She went on to talk about the many neighborhood residents who’ve suffered at the hand of the local police. But Smalls also broadened the issue beyond the precinct and even Newark, when she expanded the battle by talking about Amar McLean who was handcuffed and then “shot in the back, execution-style” by deputies of the Essex County Sheriff’s Department.

“The 5th Precinct has a reputation for arrested suspects never making it to the station house,” Lawrence Hamm, POP’s chairman said. “This has got to stop! This is Newark, 2009 — not Montgomery in the 1950s.”

“We need to hold elected officials accountable for what happens on their watch,” New Black Panther Party spokesman Zayid Muhammad said. “And if Cory Booker can be reelected after this, the shame is on us!”

The broader lesson is very clear. Cory “Hollywood” Booker is interested in Newark as a stepping-stone to state-wide or even national office, and that’s all. His “tough love” policies are designed to polish his image at the expense of Newark residents. Because he’s young, photogenic and well-spoken, folks like Oprah Winfrey have taken to him and are promoting him as a kind of “America’s Mayor,” Rudy Giulani-style.

And we can’t forget the other thing besides name recognition that campaign for high office in this country requires. Money. Lots of money. And Cory Booker has the closest thing you can get to a public money-laundering scheme without winding up in jail. Here’s how it works: well-meaning out-of-towners, following Oprah’s example, donate money to help provide better schools for Newark. Booker takes their money and directs it to privately-owned, for-profit charter schools owned by campaign contributors. These folks turn around and make fat contributions to Booker’s electoral war-chest.

It is our responsibility in Newark to stop Cory “Hollywood” Booker’s climb to power–on our backs–right here and now. We have to expose his money-laundering schemes and the policies he promotes because they look good to well-meaning NJ suburbanites. And we have to fight for our own needs and interests, because he sure won’t be doing it.

Crossposted from Fire on the Mountain, where there are some nifty pix of POP in action.

Rising Star Quits Foreign Service–Over Afghanistan

I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan. I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end.

That’s Matthew Hoh, an Iraq combat veteran who spent most of this year as this country’s senior civilian in chaotic Zabul Province. He just quit the State Department, despite pleas and offers from his superiors, in the full realization that he is putting himself in the hot seat.

Most of the Afghanistan discussion here and in the broader left-liberal blogosphere focuses these days on the administration’s “policy review” and the known unknowns of Cabinet and Pentagon debates. Unfortunately, the “sides” in these debates seem to ignore the people of this country who in increasing numbers tell pollsters they want the war over with, most ricky-tick (to say nothing of the wishes of the people of Afghanistan).

There are those of us who have been arguing, some with restraint and patience, some hollering like our hair is on fire, that the job of progressives is not to speculate on those debates, nor to defer to officials who are said to know more than we, nor yet to mute our criticism of the President lest his enemies take comfort from our words.

Now Matthew Hoh, fresh from the battlefield, says he quit because he knows what must happen if this quagmire is not to claim more thousands of lives, more billions of dollars:

I want people in Iowa, people in Arkansas, people in Arizona, to call their congressman and say, “Listen, I don’t think this is right.”

As we say in the Iraq Moratorium: It’s Got To Stop. We’ve Got To Stop It.

Crossposted from DKos.

Black Newark Fights “Hollywood Mayor” For Water

Crossposted from Fire on the Mountain, where there are some cool grafix I had trouble crossposting…

Wednesday evening, October 21, hundreds of concerned citizens gathered to picket outside the Newark, NJ City Hall and moved the protest into the Council Chambers when the weekly City Council meeting began. Residents were indignant about illegal water terminations that had been going on for months in the city. The massive protest had been organized by a coalition of the People’s Organization for Progress,  the Newark United Tenants Association, the Newark Water Group, the New Black Panther Party, as well as other concerned community organizations and residents.

These water shut-offs were most surprising to tenants who rely on their landlords to pay the water bill. In a substantial number of cases, residents were up to date in rent (which, according to their lease agreements, includes heat and water) and didn’t event know that the landlord hadn’t paid the water bill. Likewise, many residents receiving Section-8 housing subsidies have no way of even knowing if their payments are up-to-date. Their caseworkers send paperwork that result in vouchers to landlords who then get money that the welfare recipient never sees. These transactions take place without any “client” involvement, supposedly protecting the money from being misspent. When these tenants have their water turned off, they are clearly blameless.

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