Thursday, April 29, 2010

Can Democrats Succeed in South Carolina?

"Party seeks to redefine itself" was the headline about the state of the South Carolina Democratic Party. The recent article by Gina Smith in The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina was an introspective piece that featured opinions by some leading SC Democrats like former SC Democratic chair Dick Harpootlian. Harpootlian was chair in 1998 when Jim Hodges was the last Democrat elected Governor. In 1998 Democrats held four of the nine statewide offices after holding all nine in 1986. Besides being more aggressive toward the GOP, Harpootlian asserted that to win again "you’ve got to raise money 24 hours a day". He said the Party raised and spent $2 million dollars to get the vote out in 1998. The article failed to mention that much of the money spent to elect Hodges came from the video poker industry. Hodges' subsequent failure to support video poker ended their financial support of him which contributed to his becoming a one term Governor.

In recent years Republicans have successfully appealed to a historic tradition of South Carolinians to rally around a message of racial division, religious fundamentalism, and aggressive militarism. Big money for politics has responded to this message and it’s tough to win against big money. The media and the campaign industry turn political races into money raising horse races. The media makes money running political ads and political consultants line their pockets as well. I ran for several state wide offices against the big money on reform issues, including the 1998 general election when I was the Democratic nominee for Attorney General. The races were close, but I wasn’t elected because I made an issue of how things could be if money did not control every aspect of our daily lives.

Most big moneyed interests do not prioritize or even favor our government providing a good education for all our children, promoting jobs and a living wage for poor and unemployed people, or conserving our natural resources.
They want to make as much money as they can as fast as they can, with every tax break they can get. Democrats will not be saved by selling out to large corporate interests, who only want government to help them maximize profits. The Republican Party has been the tried and true champion of corporate America for a hundred years and the enemy of organized labor and better pay for working people. They have been very effective in utilizing divisive issues like race and class.

Rep. Gilda Cobb Hunter, a powerful African-American Democrat in the SC House, told The State that working class whites wrongly view Democrats as the exclusive party of African Americans and liberals. She said this has been the legacy of the Republican Southern Strategy which was a planned effort to label Democrats as “tax-and-spend liberals, to say we had no family values, to define us as the party of color “, and to spread the word that “...the Democratic Party was not a party that understood or shared white people's values.” Democrats should be advocates for racial justice. The political power of African Americans was evidenced by Barack Obama’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the SC Democratic Presidential Primary and the overwhelming vote in black precincts for Steve Benjamin, the African-American Mayor-elect of Columbia. African Americans can decide elections in SC and will turn out to vote when they are inspired to do so by good candidates. To the detriment of the Democratic Party, there are no black Democratic candidates running statewide this year.

Phil Noble, head of the SC New Democrats said that education should top the list of political priorities. Not a bad idea, but the SC New Democrats was founded by and has been affiliated with the conservative Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). The DLC supported welfare reform and NAFTA and opposed single payer, universal health care. The DLC contended that the Democratic Party should move to the right on national defense and was a strong supporter of the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, calling critics of the invasion the “loony left”. Will Marshall, co-founder of the DLC, says Democrats should distance themselves “from the anti-American fringe”.

For Democrats to succeed they don’t need to raise all the money they can from whomever they can, or shy away from a strong stand on racial justice, or become more conservative on such crucial issues as economic justice and militarism. Democrats should define themselves by working for significant campaign spending limits and by reaching out to everyday people of all races and religions and seeking peace, justice and prosperity for everyone.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


My Mother died a little over 3 years ago. Jeff wrote a piece about her and gave me permission to post it here.  

 You're never too old......

 Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Popmommy's Funeral
My last remaining grandparent, Popmommy, died last week at the age of 93 and we went to the funeral this past weekend.

Popmommy's eyesight and general health had declined in the past few years, but her mind had not. Everyone saw the end coming and all family and friends had been to visit her in the weeks before she died. Because everyone had already said their goodbyes and knew that Popmommy was ready to leave us, the entire weekend became a celebration of her life.

Here is Popmommy's obituary.

NEWNAN, Ga. — Elizabeth Cherry Davis, of Peachtree City/Newnan, passed away Wednesday, October 18, 2006, at home surrounded by family, three days after her 93rd birthday. Mrs. Davis, known to her many friends and family as “Lib” or “GG” or “Pop Mommy” was a Renaissance woman. She was born and raised in Estill Springs, Tenn., lived a large part of 
her life with her husband, Jack, in Birmingham, Ala., and spent her post-retirement years in the Peachtree City/Newnan area. She was a prolific reader who collected, over her lifetime, a wide spectrum of books that numbered in the many thousands. She was an exceptional bridge player for decades, having earned various masters points. Her reputation as a linguist, a crossword aficionado and a Scrabble player was well known. It was claimed by Scrabble opponents that she knew every word in the English dictionary. She could discuss at great length subjects as diverse as politics, sports, music, religion, classical and modern literature, history or the latest computer game. She was a successful businesswoman who held a number of management positions in the Birmingham area. In addition, she was the president of several service clubs and charities. She was a member of New Hope Baptist Church South in Senoia. However, her greatest joy came in seeing her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow and prosper. She was the matriarch of a large family that lives throughout the southern states. She is survived by son, Jim (Evelyn) Davis, of Newnan; daughter, Judy (Tom) Turnipseed of Columbia, S.C.; grandchildren, Dodd Davis of Greenville, S.C., Paige Mathis of Chattanooga, Tenn., Jeff Turnipseed of Columbia, S.C., Jeny Mathis of Atlanta, Matt West of Sharpsburg, and Melisse Fetherston of Sharpsburg; beloved niece, Libby (Tommy) Blair of Chattanooga, Tenn.; nephew, Mike Powers of Savannah; sister-in-law and brother-in law, Dorothy and Earl Brooks, of Hilton Head Island, S.C.; and 15 great-grandchildren, Haley, Zack, McCay, Zack, Jackson, Sarah, Madeline, Davis, Brooks, Elliot, Sam, Lauryn, Gunner, Tate and Philip.  

Friday, Cyndy and I drove 3 and 1/2 hours
to Peachtree City, an Atlanta 
Suburb for the Visitation. During the visitation, I asked my cousins if they remembered the scary puppet that had been at Popmommy's house when we used to visit in Birmingham growing up. The puppet was green with a black cape and top hat and one giant tooth. My cousin Paige replied, "Oh Mr. Sweet Tooth" and told me that she has Mr. Sweet Tooth now at her home in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Friday night we drove 45 minutes to my sister's house in Atlanta and spent the night.

Saturday morning we drove 45 minutes back to Peachtree City for the funeral. All 4 grandchildren were asked to speak about Popmommy.

I talked about how I had named Popmommy as a small child (She lived with my grandfather, "Pop", so the name seemed logical).

I talked about how fun it was to travel to Birmingham as a child because TV shows came on an hour earlier there and I described Mr. Sweet Tooth.

Popmommy loved to tell stories and she loved to tell me about some little frog toy that creeped me out as a child. Apparently the frog felt wierd and toddler Jeff would shiver when he touched it. Popmommy loved to tell me how they used to make me touch the frog, repeatedly, and laugh at me when I shivered. Popmommy told me the story, again, the last time I talked to her and she, again, laughed at the memory of creeping out her grandson and watching him shiver.

When I finished speaking and was walking back to my seat, my Uncle Jim, announced,

"I will give $1,000 for Mr. Sweet Tooth!"

My cousin Paige's husband, Michael, raised his hand and shouted "Sold!"

The funeral ended at noon and we had 4 hours to make it to the interment at the cemetary in Birmingham, AL, where my grandfather, Pop, is buried.

Cyndy and I rode with my sister Jeny and her husband, Gil. Gil and I were pallbearers. There was much discussion about where to eat on the way to Birmingham and how much time we had. Gil was craving fried Okra and insisted that we had time to eat at Cracker Barrel and that Popmommy would have wanted us to cut it close on the time and have an adventure.

After stuffing myself with country fried steak and fried okra, I fell asleep in the car.

When I woke, the adventure was in progress, as we had just reached Birmingham and had about 15 minutes to make it to the cemetary. We made it with 5 minutes to spare.

When it was all over, someone said that they had heard that Bear Bryant was buried in the same cemetary. I walked up to the three guys in the truck that was parked in the distance waiting for us to leave so that they could bury Popmommy. They confirmed that Bear Bryant was indeed buried in block 30, but we never went to look.

We drove 3 hours back to Atlanta and then 3 1/2 hours back to Columbia, arriving just before midnight.

Popmommy always told me "You are never too old/big to love your grandmother."

These were my last words to her.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Spring is here and the garden is underway.  It is not so easy as it was. Tom has a hip replacement which doesn't seem to slow him down any; I have degenerative arthritis in my back, which slows me down plenty and hurts like h--- when I bend over.  We both do a lot more of the work crawling along on hands and knees than we used to, but, oh well.....

Last week we planted over 65 heirloom tomatoes.  It went like this.  Tom prepares the garden plot which he has created over the years in a large corner of our small back yard.  It consists of a base of clay, which is the natural soil; several thin layers of compost, bought at great expense over the years; three or four years of homemade compost, supplemented of late with big ol' red compost-producing wriggler worms.  All this is tilled several times with the tiller-which-will-not-start.  Tom and Jeff own the tiller together.  Sometimes Tom can start it; more often Jeff can.  Most times Dukes Equipment does and they each have it for a weekend to till their garden.

Then Tom buys all the plants.  I usually go with him, but not this year.  He goes to the Farmers' Market, Lowes, Home Depot and the little locally owned shop on the corner of St. Andrews Road, where he buys a mixture of flowers to plant in our pots on the front porch and back deck, the herbs we cook with, and the vegetables we plant in the garden.  This year it is going to be four rows of tomatoes, two rows of field peas of several varieties (at my special request), three rows of okra, and a row of peppers--banana and jalapeno.

Next  Tom prepares the ground.  He scoops out a little hole for each tomato plant about 6 inches apart and fills it with a dab of compost.  Then it is time for me to come help.  Down each row and back up the next.  I, with my watering can, fill the hole; Tom rips the plant out of its plastic container with soil ball intact, carefully places it into the hole and pats the soil around it.  I sprinkle a bit more water on the delicate plant and we go to the next.  Up and down we go. Up and down.  It is hot. I worry about getting sunburned because I forget to put on sunblock.  My back hurts and I drop to my knees. I am pretty sure I am going to have to call it quits before we finish.  I grit my teeth and keep going because I am tough. I close my eyes and pretend I am a slave in a cotton field and will get beaten by the overseer if I quit before we are through.  Pretty dramatic, huh?  Finally, we finish the last row of tomatoes and quit for the day.

Next day are the field peas, planted from dried peas.  Tom has gone to three places, including the one all the way out in South Congaree, trying to find the kind we especially like.  Since he doesn't know the name, he can only go by the picture on the seed packet, and the way they look in the bin.  The ones we like are little and dark orange/brownish and aren't mealy when they are cooked.  You know the kind!   So he plants them and this time I do not help.  I take a nap instead.  I feel only slightly guilty.

Finally are the peppers and the okra.  The okra are planted from seed this year.  They are especially hard to get started. If we get impatient and plant too early, the warm weather turns cold one more time, the temperature goes below 50 and the plants all die.  We start all over again. We have done this. Our country cousin from Tennessee who grows a vast garden and orchard has given us advice about how to be successful planting okra--making the seed germinate faster and better.  Some folk freeze them he tells us; some soak them in hot water for a time; some soak them in cold water overnight; some soak them in water with a small amount of Clorox added. (I think it was Clorox.  It may have been vinegar or ammonia or hydrogen peroxide--oh dear!!)  So the year we talked to Farmer Tommy,  Tom divided his seed into five sets and tried all four methods, plus the control set,  which we planted without doing anything to.  We could tell no difference.  Except the set we soaked in Clorox (or whatever) died. This year Tom does not experiment.  He just plants.  I do not help with the okra.  I take a nap instead.  I feel only slightly guilty.

And so the planting is done.  Let the growing begin.

Is Politics a Joke?

Politics is a joke, but the problem with political jokes is that too many get elected. It is ironically funny but politicians and diapers have one thing in common; they should both be changed regularly and for the same reason. -- old political proverb

Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber. -- Plato

Many politicians are jokes, but political involvement is a social necessity according to Plato. Politics in the US is increasingly distrusted by voters, according to a new Pew poll that found only 22% of US voters trust the federal government, while 43 % thinks its impact is negative. In 1997 Pew found that 50% felt the government had a positive effect on their lives with 31% negative.

Politics is a social necessity because we are social creatures. Newly born children cannot live alone. They must socialize to survive, first with their nuclear families, then with friends and neighbors and others in their culture. Politicians make the rules of socialization for the 6,800,000,000 humans who populate our earth. Whether they
be dictators or monarchs, fascists or socialists, oligarchs or democrats, liberals or conservatives, politicians make the rules for 6.8 billion people to follow. People either live by the rules or become lawbreakers. Those apprehended for lawbreaking might be fined, imprisoned, tortured, or killed. So, whether we like it or not, we ignore politics at our peril. Why not pursue the politics of being friends and neighbors with everyone?

We should translate friends and neighbors into every language and culture and promote politics that encourages every human being to view everyone else as members of the human family and friends and neighbors. Why not focus politics on a cooperative relationship for all people, everywhere?

Humorist Will Rogers said, “There’s no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you. I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” Rogers would have loved to joke about the joke of a President, George W. Bush. A joke was commander-in-chief of the US military, a military as big as all other nations’ militaries combined! Bushisms were as hilarious as Bush was dangerous.

Here’s a Bushisim revealing a Freudian mixture of paranoia and sadism: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we".

The democratic process is a messy, but necessary means to try to make our world a better place. As a young man I became a political coordinator and then executive director of the national campaign of Governor George Wallace of Alabama. I was a racist in denial who followed my family heritage but changed almost 40 years ago, becoming an activist for racial justice, a life member of the NAACP and was co-counsel in a successful case against the Klan for burning a black church in South Carolina. My change was motivated by friends who had turned away from their Southern heritage of racism and I began to empathize with people I was taught to fear. I was elected to the South Carolina State Senate in 1976. I ran for state wide office a few times against the big money on reform issues, had close races but wasn’t elected. The media makes it a money raising horse race and make money running the ads. I made an issue of how things could be if money didn’t control every aspect of our daily lives.

I have been a political activist for peace, civil rights, consumer rights, environmental justice, have hosted radio shows, and enjoy writing about political issues. I have a close up and personal experience with politics and my long time observation of the system confirms that we have the best government money can buy.Mega corporations, big banksters and fellow Wall Street bandits love the two party system, since it’s easier to buy off two parties than more than two with their lobbyists and their campaign contributions. Goldman Sachs announced $3.46 billion in earnings (Isn’t that an oxymoron!) after finally being accused of fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It is now revealed that SEC employees were watching sex on their computers rather than watching out for Goldman’s swindles. Goldman’s former President, was Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration, and a leader in repealing the Glass-Steagal Act along with Republican Senator Phil Gramm. That Act prohibited commercial banks from collaborating with brokerage firms or engaging in investment banking. Its repeal allowed the creation of credit derivatives such as credit default swaps, a money shuffling, get-rich-quick financial house of cards that precipitated the latest recession.

As Congress debates a bill to regulate financial firms like Goldman, President Obama-who has many appointees and contributors from Goldman and Wall Street-now says he wants them to “join us instead of fighting us”, and that they will profit by doing so. He says he also wants more consumer financial protections, limits on the size of banks and the risks they can take, reforms on executive compensation, to create more consumer financial protections, to give investors more in company management, and greater transparency for credit derivatives.

Politicians are a joke when they are purchased to put profits over people.

Monday, April 19, 2010


You're never too old to play with your kids

  Edisto Beach 2005

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Racism: Alive and Well in South Carolina.

NAACP's Randolph loses consumer seat

State NAACP president Lonnie Randolph was removed from the state Consumer Affairs Commission Wednesday, and some think it had nothing to do with his effectiveness as a consumer advocate.

Randolph, the commission chairman, had served on the commission since 1979, but could not muster enough votes in the General Assembly to retain the seat.

"It's a tragedy," declared Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, who had supported Randolph.

While some celebrated a narrow victory that kept an African-American on USC's board of trustees, the state's long-running battle over the Confederate flag claimed another victim.

"The boycott led to his removal, there's no question about that," Courson said, "And I don't support the boycott. But I do support Lonnie Randolph - he's my friend."

The NAACP declared an economic boycott against South Carolina in 2000, after lawmakers lowered the Confederate flag from atop the State House dome in 1999,

The banners also were removed from the House and Senate chambers.

As part of that agreement, the Confederate flag was raised at the Confederate Soldier's Monument on the State House grounds.

Both the legislative compromise that brought about those changes and the declaration of a boycott against the state by a civil rights organization have been the source of controversy and discontent ever since.

"We have had our disagreements over Southern heritage history," Courson acknowledged, but he and others said Randolph had never missed a commission meeting in his 31 years until recently, when Randolph suffered an illness after a car accident.

"I was devastated when I heard this," said Barbara League, the commission vice chairman, who has served on the commission for 19 years, but did not seek re-election this year.

- Roddie Burris

Legislature wrong to oust Randolph

Shame on the Legislature for removing Lonnie Randolph from the Consumer Affairs Commission because of his activism as president of the S.C. NAACP and his leadership of the NAACP's economic boycott to remove the Confederate flag from in front of our State House. I know several members who served with Randolph during his 31 years on the commission who say he was an excellent member and chairperson.

I was a racist in denial who followed my family heritage as a young man and worshipped the Confederacy, named my only son Jefferson Davis Turnipseed and was the executive director of George Wallace's presidential campaign. Almost 40 years ago, I

finally realized what a racist I had been and that apologies were not enough, so I became an advocate for racial justice and a life

member of the NAACP, was co-counsel in the successful suit against the Klan for burning a black church in Clarendon County

and have participated in every protest against the rebel flag at the State House since the mid-'90s.

I am glad Leah Moody was re-elected to the USC Board of Trustees, but shame on legislators for what they did to my good friend Lonnie Randolph.



Saturday, April 17, 2010


When I got the letter I couldn't believe it. Not already! Has it been that long? 

I started the diet but failed again; began a tough exercise regimen but got distracted; planned a new wardrobe but ran out of cash; contemplated botox, liposuction, a little nip and tuck, perhaps an extreme makeover. Nope, no way I will face that needle or knife, even for a chance to dazzle the gang. So, for me, I approached the reunion mostly as a come-as-you-are party and just had to trust they would still love me anyway.

Guess what?  I had a blast.  I can't wait for the next one.

I've got to start on that diet. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Coal Miners Catastrophe

A Coal Miners Catastrophe: Big Coal Big Lies

The worship of money is the will of God according to Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy Company that owns and operates the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia where 29 miners were killed on April 5 in a mining explosion. Blankenship is a member of the US Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and a rabid, right-wing Republican. Blankenship calls public officials concerned about climate change "greeniacs", says “greeniacs are taking over the world,” and that Al Gore, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are “crazy”. He accuses his critics of communism and atheism and believes capitalism is the will of God.

Gov. Joe Manchin has ordered the immediate inspection of all underground coal mines in West Virginia. He also asked for the state's more than 200 underground coal mines to cease production to mourn the victims of the nation's worst coal mining disaster in 40 years. The executive order tells state regulators to start checking mines that have repeatedly had combustion risks over the last year. Such risks or other health or safety violations will result in having them partially evacuated or closed.

In the past 18 months the Upper Big Branch mine was cited for over 600 safety violations, with 124 this year. Several citations were for the two chief causes of mine explosions, inadequate ventilation of explosive methane gas and illegal concentrations of coal, according to Federal records. They reveal that up to 2 million cubic feet of methane gas enter the Upper Big Branch mine every 24 hours. The ventilation system circulates less than half the volume of air needed to keep levels of combustible coal dust and methane within a safe range.

Pat McGinley, a professor at West Virginia University law school and coal industry expert, said, "When a mine's ventilation system isn't working properly or there is an unacceptable accumulation of coal dust even for an hour, miners' lives are put at risk." It appears the giant explosion was caused by a buildup of methane gas, with high levels of coal dust. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) ordered the mine to temporarily cease operations at least 60 times in the last 16 months. The mine was cited for 458 violations in 2008 and 50 were "unwarrantable failures to comply."

An MSHA official said the mine had more than 11 times the national rate for the most serious type of safety violation. However MSHA has not cited the Upper Branch Mine for a "pattern of violations" under the Miners Act of 2006, which allows closing the mine.

The New York Times reported that six months after the passage of the Act, the safety agency announced that the Upper Big Branch mine and 19 others had heeded the warning of possible closure for violations and had all instituted plans to fix their problems. Consequently they had received fewer violations. Thus they all escaped the added oversight. However, after their violations decreased for that one year, they more than doubled the following year.

In Blankenship’s weird world: School children can inhale coal dust while playing at school because Massey Coal "already pays millions of dollars in taxes each year." Government regulation means "we all better learn to speak Chinese." It’s ok to pay $3 million to elect Brent Benjamin to the West Virginia Supreme Court just ahead of a hearing of his appeal to overturn a large damage award for driving competitor Harman Mining Corporation into bankruptcy. It’s fine to hate unions and spend millions to keep them out of Massey’s workforce even if he gets sued and loses. Virtually all of the major accidents in the coal industry took place in non-union mines, and Massey is one of the worst companies for their safety record.

On the Rachel Maddow show, Jeff Biggers, author of Reckoning at Eagle Creek, The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland, said that virtually all the major accidents and disasters have taken place in non-union mines. He said, “Massey Energy is infamous not only for…violations both with underground and also surface mining, but…that they really were part and parcel of being aggressive about breaking up the unions in the 1980s and the 1990s.”

“In a union mine, you had union fire bosses who came in, who pointed out the violations. And it was a brotherhood to really make sure that those violations were corrected and you have a safer mine, because those were members of the union that were in there.” Now less than 20 percent of coal miners belong to a union.

In seven of the last 10 years, Massey’s nonfatal injury rate has been worse than the national average for similar operations.

Massey told employees that if they missed work to attend the funerals of fellow workers they would be fired. A Massey worker, who did not give his name because he is afraid of losing his job, said that his coworkers were outraged that they were not given time off to mourn their friends and brothers. He said it was all about Massey's profits. "Is a lump of coal that valuable to you that you can't even give miners a day off to mourn their friends?"

How about a few days in jail for Blankenship who committed criminal negligence that caused the deaths of 29 coal miners?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I can't sing at all.   Tom is always trying to tell me I can and that I should sing in the choir with him.  But then he loves me.  Nobody else tells me I should sing in the choir.  People edge away from me in church when I sing. Sometimes if I notice, they smile and stop moving, but I can see them cringe.

I do love to sing though.  You see, I didn't say I don't sing, just that I can't sing.  They are different things.

Mostly I love to listen to music.  Tom loves that I love to listen. Cause he loves to sing.  And he can sing.  And does.  A lot.

When we first met at Chapel Hill, we drove home to Moravian Falls every weekend.  Home was his home.  Mine was Birmingham and was too far away.  He would sing to me all the way home.  I would sing along if I knew the words.  I learned hundreds of songs that I didn't already know, especially awesome country ones.

My favorite was this heartbreaker Tom often sang to me as we drove home down Highway 64.
Wreck on the Highway
by Roy Acuff

Who did you say it was brother?
Who was it fell by the way?
When whiskey and blood run together
Did you hear anyone pray?

I didn't hear nobody pray, dear brother
I didn't hear nobody pray
I heard the crash on the highway
But, I didn't hear nobody pray.

When I heard the crash on the highway
I knew what it was from the start
I went to the scene of destruction
And a picture was stamped on my heart.

There was whiskey and blood all together
Mixed with glass where they lay
Death played her hand in destruction
But I didn't hear nobody pray.

I wish I could change this sad story
That I am now telling you
But there is no way I can change it
For somebody's life is now through.

Their soul has been called by the Master
They died in a crash on the way
And I heard the groans of the dying
But, I didn't hear nobody pray.

Sing it to me, Tom.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The perplexed puppet

The perplexed puppet jerks on his strings: Karzai calls US troops invaders

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a former consultant for UNOCAL oil company was installed by the US as the President of Afghanistan after our invasion and occupation of that country. Now he complains that US and NATO troops are invaders of Afghanistan and this is drawing a furious reaction from the Obama administration and the mainstream media. His outburst deserves a closer look at what led up to this furor in Afghanistan as Karzai turns on his US puppeteer.

Karzai denounced those in the Washington and the media who have criticized the corruption and incompetence of his regime with what could be a very true complaint, “They wanted to have a puppet government. They wanted a servant government.”

The Afghan parliament voted to strip Karzai of his power he had asserted to appoint the members of the country’s election commission, which will be in charge of parliamentary elections in the fall. The parliament’s action was pressured by the US ambassador.

Karzai said, “In this situation there is a thin curtain between invasion and cooperation‑assistance.” He predicted that if the people of Afghanistan thought that the Afghan government were mercenaries for the Western powers, the Taliban‑led insurgency “could become a national resistance.” Karzai was quoted as saying “I might join the Taliban”.

What Karzai warns of as a possible outcome for the US‑led war in Afghanistan has already largely come to pass, as a report in Sunday’s New York Times makes clear. NY Times correspondent Richard A. Oppel, Jr., in a front‑page article from Marja, Afghanistan, wrote that after their much publicized offensive that had been described as successful, the US marines have no control in the region outside their own bases. Oppel also said the Taliban is resurgent, the collaborators with the US occupation are isolated and targeted for retaliation, and that much of the US‑funded reconstruction work has been shut down.

Oppel concluded: “In Marja, the Taliban are hardly a distinct militant group, and the Marines have collided with a Taliban identity so dominant that the movement appears more akin to the only political organization... with an influence that touches everyone. Even the Marines admit to being somewhat flummoxed.”

“We’ve got to re‑evaluate our definition of the word ‘enemy,’” Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commander of the Marine expeditionary brigade in Helmand Province, told the Times. “Most people here identify themselves as Taliban.”

Is Karzai revealing the underlying reason for the nine year old US war in Afghanistan, that we were told was in a response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks? Are we fighting to prop up a puppet regime that will serve US corporate interests in Central Asia—one of the largest suppliers of oil and gas to the world market.

Karzai, the amiable former business consultant and CIA "asset", was installed by Washington as Afghanistan's president. Remember when he was the honored guest at President Bush’s State of the Union message to Congress, smiling and waving from the balcony in his regal Afghani robe? As the U.S. gets bogged down in a quagmire in Afghanistan, are we scape-goating the puppet for our problems?

Is the underlying reason for all the railing and blaming of Karzai in actuality a refrain of "Bad puppet! Bad puppet!"

The U.S. Congressional Research service just revealed it costs a staggering $1.3 million per annum to keep an American soldier in Afghanistan. This huge expense can't go on forever.

When the head of a government kept in place by US arms and dollars issues a public rebuke to his master it requires a closer look at why. Could it be the increasing animosity of the Afghan people to the occupation, with thousands of innocent people being killed by American bombs, rockets, commando raids and massacres, along with despair of Karzai, who feels increasingly marginalized as the nominal head of Afghanistan. Also Karzai has an agenda different from the US. Just like the policy of the U.S., Pakistan, the Taliban, as well as Karzai and every other interest involved, all realize that sometime, perhaps sooner than later, the US will have to leave-- due to the costs in lives and money and its effect on US public opinion.

Karzai’s speech to election officials was just four days after the visit by Obama who had a confrontational meeting with Karzai. Published reports said that Obama berated Karzai over the corruption in his regime and the vote‑rigging in last year’s presidential election. Perhaps Karzai’s overtures to Iran and China were also raised.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called Karzai’s comments “troubling” and “cause for real and genuine concern.” Karzai’s remarks were also called “preposterous” by a State Department official.

The rebuke from our puppet has the US media in a dither. A New York Daily News editorial was headlined “Cuckoo Karzai.” Have 1,000 US soldiers and tens of thousands of Afghans died to keep a madman in power?

The New York Times, termed Karzai’s criticism “delusional” and warned that his statement could have political repercussions in the United States, because “it undermines the fragile public support for President Obama’s strategy” of pouring 30,000 more US troops into the Afghanistan war.

“Mr. Karzai is encouraging those who want the United States out of Afghanistan,” the editorial concluded. “He risks boiling down a more complicated policy debate to the notion that American lives are being sacrificed simply to keep him in power. It’s hard to think of a better way to doom Afghanistan’s future, as well as his own.” This has a sinister sound because almost 50 years ago another US puppet had a fatal problem with the US in 1963 when President Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam was overthrown and murdered in a US‑backed military coup that set the stage for even deeper US military intervention in Southeast Asia. Diem faced similar criticism for corruption, incompetence and vote‑rigging.

Should Karzai as a successor US puppet to Diem, be concerned about Diem's fate since he also jerked on the strings of his US puppeteer?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Remember that great book by Robert Fulghum, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?" If you have never read it, do. It is on my top 20 list, which I will talk more about in later posts. But I digress.

The reason I brought it up is because I could write a book like that called "All I Really Need to Know I Learned From Jeny." Jeny is my daughter who lives in Atlanta with Gil and Davis and Elliot and Junie and Martin. Davis and Elliot are her girls. Junie and Martin are her dogs. Gil is her husband.

Jeny often says things with great conviction.  She analyzes situations; declares her stand on things firmly and has strong logic for her position.  For instance, she said she was never going to have dogs because they shed on the furniture; they aggravated, perhaps even caused allergies; they were dirty and I don't know what all else.

This year she changed her mind.  The family rescued Junie.  They liked her. Jeny gushed, like all new parents do. 

She placed pictures of Junie all over her facebook.  She sent pictures of Junie to the grandparents--almost as many as of Davis and Elliot.  Junie had a birthday party with all the neighborhood doggies as guests.  No, really.  There are pictures.

Junie needed a little friend and they have now rescued Martin.  He is as cute as Junie is.  He looks at least as much like a bunny as he does a dog.

I believe that they will live happily ever after.

The lesson I learned from Jeny here is that, truth be told, Ralph Waldo Emerson was right when he said  "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."  I love it when something I taught tenth graders in GREAT ESSAYS springs to life like that.

Jeny, you are so busted!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Beyond Vietnam to Iraq & Afghanistan

Beyond Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan; Martin Luther King, Jr., a passionate protagonist for peace and Barack Obama, a pragmatic political warrior

MLK: A Call to Conscience, produced and hosted by Tavis Smiley on PBS on March 31, explored Martin Luther King Jr’s plea for peace in 1967, a year before his assassination in 1968. The program looked at the relevance of King's anti-war position to the current U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the significance of the Nobel Peace Prize, an honor bestowed upon both King and President Barack Obama. Dr. King gave his carefully scripted and controversial "Beyond Vietnam" speech calling for peace in Southeast Asia at Riverside Church in NYC. While King had led the cause of peaceful, non-violent action to accomplish racial and economic justice, his uncompromising eloquence for peace at Riverside was too much even for many of those who supported his work to help poor people and blacks to overcome injustice. A Call to Conscience examines the forgotten agenda of King’s passionate plea for peace which led to an abrupt loss of his popularity in the last year of his life and probably furnished another motive for his martyrdom. Obama, our “post-racial” President has picked up popularity among war hawks by touting the US’s role in “peace making” wars in his Nobel Peace prize acceptance speech and by dispatching 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan.

The image of King as a Santa Claus figure who dreams and goes with the flow is flawed, since he was a protagonist for peace who seemed courageously aware of his impending martyrdom for the cause of peace and social justice. In his call for peace in 1967 he said “When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.”

Obama is the self-professed possessor of the audacity of hope and change you can believe in who would put racial injustice and war crimes behind us as our first ever post-racial, military commander-in-chief who now presides over two nation-building wars at once.

Among those interviewed by Smiley were Dr. Vincent Harding who drafted King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech, Cornel West, the outspoken proponent for racial justice, Marian Wright Edelman, who was an organizer along with King in the poor people’s campaign, and Taylor Branch, a Pulitzer Prize winning King historian and others closely associated with King. King's closest advisors discussed the divisions within the civil rights movement over King's opposition to the war in Vietnam and the political and public fallout from his criticism of American foreign policy. Harding said King's inner circle worried about the ramifications of the speech, before and after he gave it. Harding said, ”We were concerned, he was concerned, but he had really come to the point, as the speech is trying to say, where if he was to be a man of conscience, a man of compassion, he had to speak,"

Harding added, "But it was precisely one year to the day after this speech that that bullet which had been chasing him for a long time finally caught up with him. And I am convinced that that bullet had something to do with that”.

When he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, King spoke of the "creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice" and that he was "mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi, young people seeking to secure the right to vote were brutalized and murdered." The civil rights movement was a deployment unlike any other. King's mindfulness of the long journey ahead toward peace is one that Obama decided to mimic in his several references to King in his acceptance speech of the Nobel Prize.

Americans hearing our president talk about "just wars" should remember that King never mentioned the idea of "just racism." Obama referred to King's commitment to nonviolence as something he, as a world leader, doesn't have the luxury of pursuing. Yet all too often we forget that King had a dream beyond desegregation. He also believed that we can overcome war itself, as he hinted at in Oslo in 1964.

In Oslo Obama said,

We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: ‘Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.’… But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by examples (of King and Gandhi) alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

I raise this point, I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world's sole military superpower.

Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest -- because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.

Interestingly, Obama never mentioned Vietnam in bragging about bringing people peace and prosperity, democracy and global security in all our wars from WWII to the present.

Speaking on morality and rules of war, Obama said,

And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions.

But Obama failed to mention the disregard for rule of law shown by the previous administration, as well as his own administration's failure to correct such disregard. Obama’s critics, including David Swanson, who correctly concluded that torture was illegal internationally and in the U.S. code of law before Obama became president. Obama publicly instructed the attorney general of the United States not to enforce those laws. He claimed the power to "rendition" people to other nations where they might be tortured. His CIA director and a top presidential advisor have claimed the president has the power to torture if he chooses to. And President Obama has claimed the power to either prohibit torture, or not, which flies in the face of the idea of the rule of law. The prison at Guantanamo is still open, and moving those prisoners to Afghanistan, or other U.S. prisons, will not bring the US into compliance with the Geneva Conventions. Swanson wrote that Obama whitewashed US military history. Swanson also noted that though the president insisted that "America has never fought a war against a democracy," we sure have overthrown more than our fair share of countries with democratically elected officials.

On her blog Meg White contended that Obama reflected the cynicism of today rather than what King called his "audacious faith in the future of mankind." Obama insisted war is a natural human state. The concept of a "just war" emerged, suggesting that war is justified only when it meets certain preconditions: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense.

In his 1967 speech King said:

Another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission -- to work harder than I had ever worked before for ‘the brotherhood of man.’ This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances.

In that same speech, when he talks about the war's effect on the people of Vietnam, he could just as easily be talking about those in Afghanistan and Pakistan

He continued:

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy -- and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us -- not their fellow Vietnamese --the real enemy.

Now there is little left to build on -- save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these? Could we blame them for such thoughts?

And of the enemy King said this:

Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them -- the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?

And of our troops:

For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.

The striking parallels to our current conflicts aside, King finished this speech with a call to a "true revolution," one which would invalidate the spirit of American militarism.

A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.

Meg White concluded, “Though he (King) was a few years late with these words, I would venture to say that is the way you accept a Nobel Peace Prize.”

King’s cause of racial justice does not appear to substantiate any semblance of “post racialism” with white Americans now experiencing 8.8 percent unemployment rate and African-Americans 16.5 %. .

On the whole, the economic news is mixed, but for African Americans, it is particularly troubling. The unemployment rate for whites holds steady at 8.8 percent compared to February and went down for Asians from 8.4 percent to 7.5 percent. But it rose to 16.5 percent for blacks from 15.8 percent. Hispanics show a slight increase as well, from 12.4 percent to 12.6 percent.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Peter Edelman, a former Clinton administration official who directs the Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy at the Georgetown University.

While there have long been disparities in white and minority employment, Edelman said, the latest unemployment numbers from the Labor Department show that while “some white people got jobs, some black people and Latinos actually fell behind more.”

Men with less than 12 years of education are more than twice as likely to die of chronic diseases (e.g., heart disease), more than three times as likely to die as a result of injury, and nearly twice as likely to die of communicable diseases, compared to those with 13 or more years of education. Women with family incomes below $10,000 are more than three times as likely to die of heart disease and nearly three times as likely to die of diabetes, compared to those with family incomes above $25,000. African Americans are more likely than whites to die of heart disease; stroke; lung, colon, prostate, and breast cancer, as well as all cancers combined; liver disease; diabetes; AIDS; accidental injury; and homicide. In all, the lower you are in a social hierarchy, the worse your health and the shorter your life is likely to be.

In a 1996 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, University of Michigan researchers found that African-American females living to age 15 in Harlem had a 65% chance of surviving to age 65, about the same as women in India. Meanwhile, Harlem's African-American males had only a 37% chance of surviving to age 65, about the same as men in Angola or the Democratic Republic of Congo. Among both African-American men and women, infectious diseases and diseases of the circulatory system were the prime causes of high mortality.

While comprising substantially less than one-half the US population, blacks and Hispanics account for 70 percent of the 2 million people imprisoned in the US, which has the highest incarceration rate of any major industrial country. More young black men are currently imprisoned in the US than attend colleges or universities.

King’s cause of economic justice to uplift the quality of life for poor people also needs to be addressed by our pragmatic warrior president. The gap between rich and poor in the United States has widened exponentially over the past three decades. The Congressional Budget Office reports that since 1979, the average income for the bottom half of American households has grown by 6 percent. In contrast, the top 1 percent of earners have seen their incomes shoot up by a 229 percent during that same period. The average income of top wage earners (those above the 95 percentile range) has increased from $324,427 in 2001 to $385,805 in 2006. Only one other year has seen a comparable income gap: 1928, the year before the Great Depression.

Should our pragmatic political warrior President heed the advice of MLK, JR, the passionate protagonist for peace and move us beyond our imperialistic adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan?


Thursday, April 1, 2010


I usually don't pay attention to e-mails of lists sent by a list fanatic to everybody the person knows, with an exhortation to send it on to everybody you know, but this is actually funny.....

Men Are Just Happier People-- What do you expect from such simple creatures? Your last name stays put. The garage is all yours. Wedding plans take care of themselves. Chocolate is just another snack.

You can be President. You can never be pregnant. You can wear a white T-shirt to a water park. You can wear NO shirt to a water park. Car mechanics tell you the truth.

The world is your urinal. You never have to drive to another gas station restroom because this one is just too icky. You don't have to stop and think of which way to turn a nut on a bolt. Same work, more pay. Wrinkles add character. Wedding dress $5000. Tux rental-$100. People never stare at your chest when you're talking to them.

The occasional well-rendered belch is practically expected. New shoes don't cut, blister, or mangle your feet. One mood all the time. Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat. You know stuff about tanks. A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase. You can open all your own jars. You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness. If someone forgets to invite you, he or she can still be your friend.

Your underwear is $8.95 for a three-pack. Three pairs of shoes are more than enough. You almost never have strap problems in public. You are unable to see wrinkles in your clothes. Everything on your face stays its original color. The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades. You only have to shave your face and neck.

You can play with toys all your life. Your belly usually hides your big hips. One wallet and one pair of shoes one color for all seasons. You can wear shorts no matter how your legs look. You can "do" your nails with a pocket knife. You have freedom of choice concerning growing a mustache.

You can do Christmas shopping for 25 relatives on December 24 in 25 minutes.

No wonder men are happier!

Drill baby , drill (change you can believe in?)

In a 2008 press conference in Florida, candidate Obama rejected calls to open new areas of the coastline to drilling. He said, “It would have long-term consequences for our coastlines but no short-term benefits, since it would take at least 10 years to get any oil.”

“Offshore drilling would not lower gas prices today, it would not lower gas prices tomorrow, it would not lower gas prices this year, it would not lower gas prices five years from now.”

“When I'm president, I intend to keep in place the moratorium here in Florida and around the country that prevents oil companies from drilling off Florida’s coasts.” This was one reason I voted for Obama.

Reversing his campaign rhetoric, Obama now calls for off-shore drilling saying, " we transition to cleaner energy sources, we've still got to make some tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development.."

Remember the "Drill Baby, Drill" chant at the Republican National Convention led by their chief cheerleader, Sarah Palin" Now Mr. "change you can believe in" Obama has flip-flopped once again and wants to "Drill Baby Drill".

The US keeps the "two party system" in perpetuity because it is easier for the big money boys, like the big oil companies, to buy off two parties than more than 2. The big corporate interests hire the lobbyists and finance the campaign industry to keep this incestuous relationship continuing on and on and on. Finally, everyday citizens keep getting drilled by the corporate interests who really run our country.