Member since: Sun Aug 17, 2003, 11:39 PM
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Member since: Sun Aug 17, 2003, 11:39 PM
Number of posts: 53,086
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(This is a re-post of mine from earlier years . . . hope it's not too familiar. I crave posting it this time of year - like a drug)
I remember Easter as a child. Mom would take us to Charleston, West Virginia every year to visit my grandfather for the Spring holiday.
Granddad lived in a huge two story house off of Main Street, and there, he rented out the upstairs to a few folks that I never really saw much, and a room off of his kitchen where a dapper garbage man slept. Granddad was a short, strong man, dark as night, with a hearing aid for his deafness that happened when he worked in the glass factory after WWI. He'd turn it down when my mom would lecture him about something or another, and whenever he fell asleep in his red reclining chair with the red duct tape covering the cracks, while he watched the baseball game turned up way loud. He'd wake up every now and then to spit his tobacco in his brown ceramic spittoon and record the score on his TV guide.
Bobo, his faithful mixed border collie who would bark whenever the phone rang or the door chimed, laid and slept by his side as he slept. Bobo would never fail to bite me almost every visit, sending me three times to the doctor for stitches, the last time after taking the other half of a cookie I gave him from my hand. Besides that, nothing much at all happened in that town for us young ones. The biggest thing was when the huge car carrier pulled up on the other side of the street. My sister and I would run outside on the porch and sit on that rough painted metal rocking chair and bench and watch as the man unloaded the new cars one by one until the very last.
Charleston was like a large retirement community to me, with a Dairy Queen where I sometimes got to go to by myself to get mom her butter almond, and an sweltering, all night laundromat where we sometimes went after dark to wash our clothes and beg Mom for one of the prizes in the bubble gum machine; or, maybe a handful of stale peanuts for a nickle from the other dispenser.
There were a bevy of old relatives who Mom would take us to visit - walking for endless miles through town, in the heat, in our new spring wear. There was a lady with who had been stuck in bed for years (I never saw her get up) who was always in her nightgown and robe. Mom said she tried to get up one morning and found she couldn't walk. She was a kind woman with several pictures of Jesus on the wall. There was a lady who took care of her who had a huge goiter on her neck. The bedridden lady always gave my sister and I some change before we left.
Then, there was Mrs. Gilmore (a recognized civil rights leader) who lived in a huge brownstone with a funeral parlor in the basement that her husband had left her. Everyone in town brought her their business when someone passed away. She had a wide painted smile with her hair pulled back so tight that it seemed stuck on. She had long fingers with the longest nails I had ever seen and she would gesture when she spoke with the extra long cigarette holder she had delicately wedged between two of them. Mom would take us to visit and I'd fiddle with a crystal ball she had brought back from a visit to Russia to try and conjure up the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz in the translucent glass. Years after she died the National Park Service made her spooky home a landmark because of her work as an activist in Charleston and elsewhere.
There was Annie Joe, my mom's best friend who would do her hair with the hot combs heated on the kitchen stove, and her mom, Cousin Gussy and Uncle Moore who lived across the Kanawha bridge in one of a suite of plaster houses with sunken floors. They had two trees with white washed trunks and red mites that crawled up and down. We'd salt the slugs on the walkway for fun and climb the trees to wait for them to shrivel. The railroad tracks were just a few feet from the house and the train would barrel by occasionally. We'd leave pennies on the track and collect them flattened when the train rolled over them. Gussy would cook up a Sunday meal that I'll never forget with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and greens that would melt in your mouth while Mr. Moore watched the ball game.
Bobo, in Granddad's living room
Easter Sunday was a great pain for a small kid like me. Mom was a terror as she got us ready for church. She'd scrub me, brush my hair raw, and dress me in this powder blue, Lord Fauntleroy suit with shorts and a beanie cap. She'd hustle us outside as Granddad carefully backed his gold Oldsmobile out of the garage with the shed on the side which had a ton of pipe parts, motor parts, nuts and bolts and everything wonderful. There was a shack in the back and a couple of run-down homes surrounding his three floor boarding house where poor folks improbably survived on next to nothing.
I smoked my first cigarette in that shed one Sunday before church, one of Granddad's Pall Malls without a filter . . .
Granddad would stop and open the wide gate he had built at the end of the long driveway (with pipe parts) which had a pulley and a rope with a brick tied on that slowly shut the gate by itself until it clicked surely into its handmade latch. The front gate also closed by itself, but with an entirely different pulley and weight arrangement he had designed. I'd always look back out of the window of the Olds to see whether that would be the day that it failed to close. It always clicked shut, though.
We'd arrive early at the First Baptist Church and sit in the pew as the parishioners would stream in. First Baptist was a huge church with a wall of stained glass windows on both sides and a pulpit that towered above us all with room for its large choir. The church on Easter Sunday was always packed full and humming from the rich, sickly perfume of the women there. The smell was unbelievable. And the hats . . . wide brimmed monstrosities with feathers and such, atop processes and wigs.
There was this one large lady who owned and lived in a dubious consignment shop along Main Street with a few dust-covered ceramic figurines and plastic flowers on the window shelf who would always arrive at the last minute. She'd saunter down the aisle with her silver tipped cane, and her hat was always the largest, most outlandish one there, with fake birds, fruits or something amazing on top. She'd make her way down to her reserved seat in the front row. She was the only holy roller I think that was allowed in First Baptist. I understood that she had been informed that she'd have to tone down her shouts of praise to the Lord which, nonetheless, still echoed through the hall at several key points in the service.
Granddad always left us to take his place up front. He was a longtime deacon who would fully memorize the passage he would get to read before the congregation. I'd be stuck on that hard bench for the full 3 hours that the service ran on Easter Sunday. Mom would do her best to keep me still and quiet throughout the service with gum, or some starlight mints and butterscotch candies. A few of the stained glass windows swung open to let in whatever breeze could be had, but it was always sweltering hot. Almost everyone (but me) had a hand fan with a wooden handle and a picture of Jesus and a lamb on the front and a picture of the church on back. You could hear the fwap, fwap of the parishioners waving them back and forth in vain attempts to ward off the heat. I always fell asleep several times throughout, taking advantage of Mom's arm, probably the only time that she didn't terrify me.
The First Baptist Church was led by the Reverend Moses Newsome, a towering, light-skinned black man with a deep baritone and kind eyes. He would lead the congregation through prayers, through acknowledgments and death and sick mentions. He would stop in between and sit as the choir belted out some rollicking gospel tune, rocking, bobbing, and clapping their hands in unison as they rocked the house. They had an unbelievable sound. And folks would rock along with them. There was nothing subtle about the choir. They were loud and righteous. Whew! The one holy-roller up front would be on her feet, shouting out, " Praise glory!" she would cry. "Thank you Jesus!"
Then came the sermon. One hour long. An eternity. I'd have a sore butt by then and the candy just wouldn't cut it anymore. Reverend Newsome would speak in a low, measured tone as he counseled the congregation on the vestiges of evil and the virtues of good. His long arms reached out from under his flowing robe and he firmly grasped the lectern on both ends as he glared down on the flock. Sweat poured off of his freckled brow while he cautioned us about the Devil and warned us to look everywhere for Christ's coming.
Somewhere near the end, you would get a whiff of the food cooking in the church kitchen for after the service. The smell of fried chicken and gravy, beans, cornbread, and greens wafted uncontrolled into the great hall. Folks got restless, but they were mostly patient and still until, at once, the Reverend's voice would rise to a fevered timbre as he brought on the end of his sermon. Folks would shift in their seats and sit upright again as the Reverend boomed out his ending.
Then came the benediction, that wonderful benediction that signaled the end of the service. And then it was over. There were Easter baskets full of jellybeans and chocolate waiting at home, and the sun was shining full outside as we filed past Reverend Newsome and he grasped my small hand with his giant, coffee-colored, soft ones.
"You be good now, you hear?" the Reverend would say. "I'll be good sir." I'd answer, as I pushed out into the Spring air to soak up another Easter in Charleston.
Posted by bigtree | Sat Mar 30, 2013, 09:10 AM (18 replies)
tweeted by, Rach & Jen @rachnyctalk 1h
This just happened!!! #marriageequality #DOMA pic.twitter.com/73aDOUkhZu
Retweeted by Josh Marshall
Posted by bigtree | Tue Mar 26, 2013, 11:37 PM (32 replies)
I can't tell you how angry and frustrated I am that republicans are being allowed to wreck our nation's economy with their dithering and meddling; almost ALL of it to try and inflict some sort of political blow to President Obama. This has been going on since the beginning of his first term and it has had real-world effects on my prospects for hours and pay.
Now, with the almost certain possibility of local layoffs and forced, arbitrary cutbacks in our federal workforce, I'm certain that our business and others in the region will feel the impact of already shell-shocked consumers pulling back their purchases to cover their loss of income.
This couldn't happen at a worse time. We're just starting to see business creep back and hours have been tentative, but mostly holding steady. I can see a future where our area businesses (and the nation's) are struggling to overcome this republican, self-induced economic downturn. Taking this much money out of our economy at once is economic homicide.
It's a deliberate attack on the most vulnerable in our country; holding vital services hostage, while standing in the way of any attempt to reduce their own wealthy share of government benefit that would affect their tax shelters and their beneficiaries' corporate welfare.
Yet, the government services that republicans are looking to rob to support their wealthy tax schemes have already been shrinking; even before this President took office.
from the WSJ: Government Payrolls Shrinking Even Before the Sequester
Standing firm against ANY sacrifice from the wealthy, republicans are just, outright, stealing from average-to-low income and poor Americans with these sequestration cuts. I've goddamn HAD it with these rich fucks - millionaire legislators - dismantling government services to advantage their own bank accounts.
Wake up, America! There's a mob of fat cats loading up their limousines with our furniture; our clothes; our food; our medicine; the very planks of our homes. They're just standing there; daring us to arrest them; daring us to stop them; taunting us to give them even more than they've robbed so far. They're destroying our jobs and our livelihoods to keep us in a perpetual state of depression and dependence.
They're daring us to step outside of these arranged deals and slick budget schemes and put them in their place. Negotiating with them just enables them even further. What they need is a good measure of obstinacy to match their own deliberate obstruction. We're truly screwed if our party doesn't respond to this attack on the majority of Americans with force and resolve.
We don't need to wonder anymore if republicans would actually allow our country to suffer for their petty politics. This is the largest economic assault on average-income to poor Americans that any political party of legislators has ever engaged in. Defeating them politically, somehow, just seems wholly inadequate in the face of this attack. It's the least we can and should do.
Posted by bigtree | Sat Mar 2, 2013, 11:41 AM (7 replies)
This year, African American History Month celebrates two landmark anniversaries in American history, with the theme, “At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.”
One of the most important things that I take from the history of Abraham Lincoln's 'emancipation' efforts for blacks in America is the reality of his own ambivalence toward black independence and even their ability to coexist with whites in this country. In a debate with Stephen Douglas in 1858, Lincoln was clear about his antipathy toward giving blacks rights regularly afforded to the white majority:
“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races—that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.”
His subsequent embrace of the 13th Amendment reflects the way America, as a whole, was compelled to relinquish their prejudices and accept the emergence of rights for blacks in the newly United States.
I remember a story I read of the integration of a particular school in the South where ALL of the white students were pulled out of classes by their parents when a handful of black youth were admitted. Those black youth attended classes in a virtually empty school that year. The next year, however, the majority of the white students had been allowed to return - and time and history marched on.
It really is remarkable how our insistence on progressive change has the potential to move mountains of resistance, in the end. History tells us this.
Posted by bigtree | Thu Feb 28, 2013, 12:39 PM (4 replies)
This year, African American History Month (which ends today) celebrated two landmark anniversaries in American history, with the theme, “At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.” The volume of remarkable and celebrated subjects who advantaged their own lives from the accomplishments of Lincoln and King is vast and wide. There is an endless resource of African Americans in our nation's history whose accomplishments aren't as widely known and recognized.
I'm fortunate to have a long line of outstanding family members and friends of the family to recall with great pride in the recounting of their lives and the review of their accomplishments. In many ways, their stories are as heroic and inspiring as the ones we've heard of their more notable counterparts. Their life struggles and triumphs provide valuable insights into how a people so oppressed and under siege from institutionalized and personalized racism and bigotry were, nonetheless, able to persevere and excel.
Upon close examination of their lives we find a class of Americans who strove and struggled to stake a meaningful claim to their citizenship; not to merely prosper, but to make a determined and selfless contribution to the welfare and progress of their neighbors.
That's the beauty and the tragedy of the entire fight for equal rights, equal access, and for the acceptance among us which can't be legislated into being. It can make you cry to realize that the heart of what most black folks really wanted for themselves in the midst of the oppression they were subject to was to be an integral part of America; to stand, work, worship, fight, bleed, heal, build, repair, grow right alongside their non-black counterparts.
It can also floor you to see just how confident, capable, and determined many black folks were in that dark period in our history as they kept their heads well above the water; making leaps and bounds in their personal and professional lives, then, turning right around and giving it all back to their communities in the gift of their expertise and labor.
One outstanding African American woman who is associated with my family deserves to have her story highlighted a bit in this period where we're striving to elevate and establish the history of blacks in America to an appropriate level of focus.
Elizabeth Harden Gilmore went to school with my mother, living and growing up in the same working-class black community of Charleston, West Virginia. Mrs, Gilmore had the distinction of being the first female black funeral director in the state. She was the owner and funeral director of Harden and Harden Funeral Home.
Before she was widely recognized as a civil rights leader, we used to visit her spooky, classical, revival style mansion in the center of Charleston (now a historical landmark) which had the funeral parlor in the basement. Mrs. Gilmore lived in that house from 1947 until her death.
Recognized today as a civil rights leader in her state and community, Mrs. Gilmore co-founded the local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in 1958 (the first in West Virginia), leading CORE in a successful 1 1/2 year-long sit-in campaign at a local department store called The Diamond. She also served on the Kanawha Valley Council of Human Relations which advanced measures related to housing, transportation, access to other public accommodations.
Mrs. Gilmore also earned a place on the all-white Board of Regents after a successful fight to amend the 1961 state civil rights law. She was also a charter member and Executive Secretary of the Council of Racial Equality.
She was always warm, gracious, and unfailingly generous. Mrs. Gilmore had a gentle, light cadence. She had unusually long fingernails which she would use to gesture toward you as she spoke. Mrs. Gilmore was well-traveled and would talk with my mother for hours about her experiences abroad and in the community while I fiddled with the expensive crystal she had brought back from Russia and squirmed in my seat.
I came upon a few old articles in my family scrapbooks featuring Mrs. Gilmore in the period of her ambitious work and efforts to serve and elevate her town and its residents. I've transcribed them for a remembrance, and for this year's celebration of black history. I hope you enjoy her enlightened and remarkable perspective on her life and work.
First, an article from 1960 highlighting Mrs. Gilmore's impressions of the struggle for civil rights, six years after the Supreme Court ruled on school segregation:
Negro Says Action The Way To Get Integration
Mrs. Gilmore remembers the first time she decided to actively demonstrate against segregation.
"It must have been 25 years ago," she said. "Lady Baden-Powell, whose husband started the Boy Scouts, was in Charleston and a program was arranged for her at old Garnet High School."
"My Girl Scouts were invited to take part. We found that they had been placed off stage, hidden in the corner, and were supposed to sing spirituals."
"Now I have nothing against spirituals. They're a part of American music, but the whole idea upset me so much, the hurt of those passed-over little girls, that I decided to do something about it."
"I implied that unless new arrangements were made, I would take my little brown-skinned girls and march out right in the middle of the program. Well, something was done about it. They sat on the stage and they held up their heads."
" I guess I've always been something of a protester. My daughter calls me 'Mrs. Ant'iony and Carrie Nation. But my grand mother taught us not to be ashamed because we were Negroes. She said to look people in the eye when we talked to them. She told us we were as good as anybody else, no better, but as good."
Mrs. Gilmore's protest against racial segregation resulted in her helping to organize a Charleston chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality, the first and only CORE chapter in West Virginia at the time.
CORE, a national organization, is pledged to direct non-violent action against segregation. Such action has included sitting in restaurants and refusing to leave until receiving service (sit-ins), picket-lines, and boycotting.
Activity of the Charleston group, so far, has been limited to lunch counters of variety stores. Eventually, each of the targets changed from a segregated to an integrated policy.
There were 14 active members of CORE there, and about 400 associate ones. Active members pledge to take part in demonstrations when they are asked.
"I am convinced of the efficiency of direct action," Mrs. Gilmore said. "If our people had used it a generation or two ago, we wouldn't be witnessing the things today that shock and sadden people of all races."
"Many people feel as I do. That's why we're opposed to the idea that if we keep our places ans wait patiently these things will come to us. We've been waiting for almost a hundred years and whatever we've got, we've had to fight for. It wasn't given to us. That's why we believe in direct action."
"Segregation, making a person an inferior citizen, is a bad thing, an evil thing. I think the majority of white people would gladly see the end of it if it could be done in a way that would not involve them personally. I think the majority would welcome, if put to a popular vote, an ordinance that would say "we will have no more of this.'"
"I think people would welcome a way of life where man could walk with dignity and live his life to the extent of his potentialities, as a Christian, as a human, as a brother in a free society."
Mrs. Gilmore, as many other observers, thinks that Charleston residents are tolerant toward minority groups. But she adds, tolerance or sympathy is not enough; specific improvements are the things needed.
Restaurants and hotels, she thinks, will end their policy of refusing service to Negroes in the near future; not because they felt it was the proper thing to do, but because pressure was brought against them.
"There are other things when you talk about how tolerant Charleston is," she said, "employment for one. We desperately need some semblance of fair employment. It is the most important thing of all."
"The greater portion of our ills can be laid to the lack of employment opportunities. If we had good jobs, we could have better educations, decent homes, better medical care, all the things that money can buy to enhance a good life."
"If that were so, you wouldn't need to live six to eight to a room and pay $60 a month for a hovel. You could buy good decent clothes for your children; you could buy good books; you could have music in your home. How can you do that on $45 every two weeks? You can't do it! And yet, people criticize these people. They say we don't open our doors to Negroes because we're afraid that type of person will come in."
Mrs. Gilmore thinks that critics of CORE, those who do not believe in protest action, do not understand what it is to be a Negro."
" They can't realize the slights, the rebuffs, the humiliation," she said. "They don't see the tears in their children's eyes. They don't know the sadness, the frustration."
"And it's all so silly. I remember one day I heard one white girl ask another where she had gotten her beautiful tan, and the girl said she had spent two weeks in Florida. I couldn't help thinking that on her it was a beautiful tan; to me, it was a stigma."
"We want what everyone wants: a decent home, records perhaps, the chance to go to a museum or to a theater or to an art galley. We're no different in our hopes and aspirations than anyone else."
"Yet, we're not getting those things, most of us, because of a sociological condition rather than an intrinsic failing. It isn't fair, and our young people, particularly students, are struck by the unfairness it represents."
"My people came over the Appalachians from Virginia before the Civil War because they wanted to find a better place to live," she said.
She said the demonstrations which she helped plan and execute are, to her, the best way to dramatize both the inequality that Negroes face and the inequities of segregation.
"This isn't a go-it-alone battle that we're in," she said. "People of good faith here and throughout the world sympathize with our aims."
"I've been fortunate enough to meet a few of them. I think the greatest thing to happen to Charleston was the Haseldens. (Rev. Haselden was the pastor of the Baptist Temple; his wife was a leader of the Kanawha County Council on Human Relations.)"
"Elizabeth Haselden, with her beauty, grace and dignity, brought to the women of Charleston a graphic story. Albert Schweitzer said, "Example is not the greatest thing; it is the only thing.'"
" She showed them that this battle for human rights was not a brawl of just a rabble's action but it was something that could be done without loss of the things that culture and education bring."
"These women in Charleston have taken their cues from Elizabeth Haselden. They can in good faith, without destroying any of the things that makes a lady, fight this battle and maintain these things -- not only maintain them, but enhance them to make this a better world."
Elizabeth Harden Gilmore, I daresay, provided many, many of the cues for the women of Charleston, and everywhere this great lady's influence was felt and experienced.
One more article featuring Mrs. Gilmore from 1969:
"I'm very honored and pleased," says Mrs. Virgil Gilmore of her appointment to the new state board of regents.
The sole Negro and only woman member on the board, which will supervise eight state colleges and two universities, was asked how she would feel as the lone female in an all-male group. "That doesn't bother me," she says. "I'm an old woman and I've been married twice. I'm not afraid of men or in awe of them."
She's used to the situation anyway, because she's also the sole woman member of the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce. As a member of the chamber's education task force, she works with the tutorial program in the Board of education's 'Keep a Child in School' project.
A graduate of West Virginia State College and a licensed funeral director, Mrs. Gilmore has one daughter who is an aerodynamics programmer with General Electric in Cincinnati.
"That's the brains in my family," she says of her daughter. "She received a BS degree in chemistry and math from WV State. I always said nobody could accuse me of pulling her along, because in subjects like that, I could only pull her down."
To her new post as board member, Mrs, Gilmore will take the philosophy: "Our salvation lies in education." She believes most of our ills can be attributed to a lack of knowledge of ourselves, of how to live with others, of how to get the most out of our lives and all the beautiful things that exist . . . There is an adventure about living,: she adds. "It's all here. We're just so sophisticated, or hardened, I guess, that we fail to find the things that make life good."
That personal concept, she says, has paid off. Although she has only one daughter, Mrs. Gilmore says she has "lots of children," including the Girl Scouts, some she has had from the time they were ten years-old on through college.
"And I don't have a single child who can't walk freely and with dignity with kings and princesses," she explains. "They know how to support themselves, they know how to be gentle and kind and decent -- those are the only things you really need."
She says, "those Girl Scouts are more than just Scouts to me. They're my children. I taught them to eat and sleep and walk and talk and I can safely say that two-thirds of them are now business women and degreed women. I've got librarians and school teachers and beauticians -- all kinds of young'uns."
Her Scout were the first Negro girls to attend Camp Anne Bailey and she recalls the bitter struggle involved in actually getting them admitted and the sales they held to finance the trip. "You don't reach into the average Negro's pocket, at least not then, and pull out things like health cards and swimsuits," she explained.
Mrs, Gilmore was a pioneer of the civil rights movement in West Virginia. Of the progress in integration, she tells her youngsters that "the doors are open now. If you don't go through, it's nobody's fault but your own. I remind them we have the government on our side now. If you have a grievance, you don't have top fight it out on you own anymore."
Of her own involvement in the cause of the Negro, she says, "I'm a persistent cuss -- and a mother. My daughter would look up at me with her big brown eyes and ask to have a tall soda at Scott's Drug Store. I would tell her she couldn't and she would say, 'Well, why, mother, why can't I?" That's all it took to get me started.
Mrs. Gilmore refers to herself as a Negro, not black. "I'm old-fashioned," she explains, "My maternal grandmother was from England and my maternal grandfather was from Spain, so, I figure I'm just as much as anything as I am black."
"My great-grandmother came over the mountains to the Kanawha Valley four generations ago looking for a better life. She had six children and only the supplies her master had given her. I tell youngsters today that if one woman could face that alone, that's all the more reason today to seek successful lives for themselves."
Posted by bigtree | Thu Feb 28, 2013, 09:29 AM (6 replies)
What if the President didn't need to go to Congress to get approval to wage war? What if the POTUS could wage war from his Oval Office without a massive deployment of troops or weaponry that would need continuous funding from a reluctant Congress? That's the future, and I think Americans are buying it.
There is a disconnect from the horrors of war that our country folk have become comfortable with as those who promote and prosecute the violence within and without our government separate us, more and more, from an accounting of the bloody realities of the mindless destructive power of our weaponry and the dangerous contradictions that undermine the premise of our military interventions. Apart from the dehumanizing of the targets of our aggression with the taunts, the name-calling, and the pistol-packing cowboy 'dead or alive' rhetoric thrown out like red meat to the cowed masses, our government and military has been content to brush past the humanity of the inhabitants of whatever lands they choose as the whipping post for their military misadventures.
In the countries they've chosen to invade and occupy in the last decade, Iraq and Afghanistan, they have dismissed expressions of nationalism by the citizens of these sovereign nations in defense of basic prerogatives of liberty and self-determination as threats to our consolidation of power. Yanked from our peaceful, post cold war slumber by the suffering of one day of attacks by a rogue band of meglomaniacs and their hapless martyrs, our nation has endured the consequences of a paranoid slap-attack at the rest of the world with eyes closed that began with then-President Bush's fearful flight around the country that day in Air Force One to "keep out of harms way".
His frightened tantrum ended with an opportunistic grab to usurp the power from a vanquished nation of innocents; a suffering class of people who were already devastated by the bombing of the first war, and by the economic sanctions imposed by the U.N. at the insistence of the U.S., which served to enrich Saddam Hussein and steadily impoverish and starve everyone else.
Bush's administration pulled the nation's defenders into invading Iraq to compensate for, and to draw attention from, their failure to apprehend the ringleader of the attack on the World Trade Center. Bush made the appeal to the nation in a manner which exploited our deepest fears as he stepped down from the pile of rubble and human remains with his bullhorn still in hand and warned the nation about the potential for a future Iraqi assault on our country, or on our allies, of a magnitude that would far exceed the devastation of the horrendous suicide attack in New York.
Bush's strategy of preemption became his license to release our aggressor nation from its responsibility to pursue - to the rejection of their last reasonable admonition - a peaceful resolution to Saddam's obstinacy. And, with a deft flex of military and political muscle, the presumption of innocence, even in the face of a clear absence of proof became a conquered victim of the tainted consensus of his cabal of purchased allies.
Lincoln once remarked: "A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"
"(They're) either with us or against us," Bush told America.
That's what satisfied most of our country folk to allow Bush to war on Iraq and Afghanistan - his careful stoking of the sparks of fear that flashed from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, his demagogic appeals to patriotism and to our nationalism. That's what allowed him to indiscriminately bomb and strafe innocents who happen to be in the line of sight of his target, or standing in the way of his many different stated ambitions in that region.
That is what allows President Obama, today, to avoid scorn from the citizens of our own nation for the collateral killings and maiming of innocents by our men and women in the military, from the air and on the ground, as they pursue their aggression against anyone in the way of his own 'anti-terror' campaign. The nation grieved for the victims of 9-11, as we should have, but we did so in an understandable bubble of grief and apprehension about who in the world we should regard as our enemy. Bush exploited those doubts and convinced a majority of Americans, along with the Pentagon/administration driven media, that we were now at war with a world of enemies, all aligned somehow with the perpetrators of the 9-11 attacks.
"For a generation leading up to September 11, 2001, terrorists and their radical allies attacked innocent people in the Middle East and beyond, without facing a sustained and serious response." Bush told the nation as he twisted Congress for $87 billion to continue his 'war on terror'. "Since America put out the fires of September 11, mourned our dead, and went to war," he warned "history has taken a different turn. We have carried the fight to the enemy. We are rolling back the terrorist threat to civilization, not on the fringes of its influence, but at the heart of its power."
Congress rolled over in the face of their own fear of being labeled weak and unpatriotic. Congress is supposed to be the body that decides whether we're at war. Through allocation of money and through the power inherent in that body to hold the president accountable to the law, Congress is supposed to be setting the limits on this 'war on terror' and any other military adventure the White House might dream up. Not many in the Capitol could successfully argue against giving Bush authority to use the military against "those responsible for the (9-11) attacks launched against the United States" at the time that the authority was given.
But, I wonder just how many senators and representatives actually want to take on the responsibility for our security? For that cowardice, and other derelictions of leadership, they are willing to cede the very war-making authority that makes them relevant at all in the deployment of our nation's military.
There is no greater evidence of the dangers of corruption of the power and influence of our nations military than in the prosecution of the 'war on terror' by Bush. Congress seemed to bend to any and all requests for money for Bush to do whatever he wanted, overtly or covertly, with our military, its agents, and its weaponry as well. He was saturated with a new national security bureaucracy - content to use the strength of our nation, our soldiers and our citizens in their vulnerability to attack, as a battering ram to force his rhetorical version of democracy wherever his ambition for greed and conquest motivated him.
Congress can come together, if they had the will, and pull the plug on whatever military meddling and malfeasance they disagree with. One vote to modify Public Law 107-40 , Authorization for Use of Military Force, would put an end to any politician, legislator, or general's insistence that the authorization to use our military against the group of thugs who orchestrated the 9-11 attacks is an open-ended license to evade the law and launch a jingoistic campaign of suspicion and snooping against anyone they deem related to this paranoid 'war' and it's opportunistic military aggressions abroad.
That's the dirty little secret behind presidents' croc tears about Congress 'tying their hands'. They would rather not have to come before the nation and ask for the money to sustain the endless progression of hapless men and women to the roulette of death in their theaters of war.
Bush's defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. actually formed his own private army and intelligence branch with its own funding.
from the Washington Post, Jan. 2005 (Secret Unit Expands Rumsfeld's Domain
New Espionage Branch Delving Into CIA Territory):
The Pentagon, expanding into the CIA's historic bailiwick, has created a new espionage arm and is reinterpreting U.S. law to give Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld broad authority over clandestine operations abroad, according to interviews with participants and documents obtained by The Washington Post.
The money came from within the defense budget, easy to approve a lot of it hidden under the guise of national security. Rumsfeld wanted forces that are easily deployed, don't need big, public allocations (or a fanfare of pre-approval) from Congress, and are able to carry on several covert or clandestine missions at once. This meshed with Bush's shuffle of the Pentagon succession line to elevate the new intelligence office over the traditional branches of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The new intelligence office was headed by Rumsfeld's neocon buddy, Stephen Cambone. No need to trouble us while they raped the treasury to wage their wars for greed and conquest.
Most disturbing in the prosecution of these undercover wars was the increased reliance on 'predator' drones to launch missile attacks on hideouts and vehicles where 'intelligence' claims there is a target of terror. The Bush-era Air Force codified into their regular military arsenal, the MQ-1 Predator, long-range, medium-altitude, remotely piloted aircraft as a 'Joint Forces Air Component Commander-owned theater asset for reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition in support of the Joint Forces commander'.
The drones were equipped with two laser-guided Hellfire anti-tank missiles; originally intended for use in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The change in designation from an intelligence tool to an offensive one occurred in 2002 with the addition of the armed reconnaissance role. Bush's CIA's Tenet approved the use of the armed drones right after the 9-11 attacks. In fact, targeting of bin-Laden by the CIA using the drones was approved by President Clinton.
However, even Tenet resisted the call to use the drones to carry out attacks. He thought the authority to wage armed aggression was the job of the military, not the CIA. Nonetheless, security insiders supported the militarization of the drone -- like our erstwhile hero, Richard Clarke, who wrote in a memo to Rice criticizing Tenet for impeding the deployment of unmanned Predator drones to hunt for bin Laden. According to the Washington Post, the memo urged “officials to imagine a day when hundreds of Americans lay dead from a terrorist attack and ask themselves what more they could have done.”
Who wouldn't get behind the prospect of striking down the nation's #1 enemy with a precision-guided tool operated from a safe distance, without the mess of dead U.S. servicefolks to muck up the approval of a shellshocked public? And what of those innocents who happen to be in the way of our missiles? Well, 'they're with us, or against us'.
Air Force officials in March 2005 announced plans to expand their force of Predators to 15 squadrons from the existing three, while at the same time developing a “hunter-killer” version of the aircraft. The Air Force proposed spending about $825 million to purchase 74 Predators over the next six years, augmenting the 68 then in service.
“Unmanned systems allow us to maintain our technological advantage and engage in high threat, non-permissive environments, while honoring the value of life we hold so dear,” Glenn Lamartin, the Pentagon’s director of defense systems, told lawmakers. He means American lives, of course. All others be damned, 'with us, or against us'.
So now, with the advancement of these offensive weapons, operated like video games from the safety of some stateside base, agents of our government, under the cover of blanket authorizations to fight terrorists which stretch back to the Clinton administration -- they are now being exploited by the Obama administration in their efforts to put a finer point on Bush's cynical war.
In their ideal, there need not be rows of caskets draped with American flags anymore containing brave soldiers and airmen who are sacrificed in the name of whatever meddling ambition the president embarks on. Most Americans won't see the hasty graves of the victims abroad of the assaults of our predator drones, graves dug out of the hard ground which inhabitants endeavor to call their own. And, as they turn against us because of our aggression and support those in their own region who stand against the imposition of our false authority, they become the enemies our government and military will likely point at to justify the continuation of this perpetual 'terror' war.
We all share the blame for our military's aggression. Even those of us who fought against war and violence carry some responsibility for the killings and maiming done in our country's name. That's why we fight to speak truth to power and work to counter the warmongerers and their enablers.
Yet, the more our citizens, public officials, defense leaders, and politicians become detached from the instruments of our military aggression, the more we become desensitized to the destruction they cause. They just give us the illusion of clean hands. We are the merchants of their misdeeds. The employment of these air assaults, manned and unmanned, insulate the U.S. from the sacrifices of American life and limb that might otherwise restrain our citizen's support for using our military to further dubious political ambitions abroad.
What if the president could just wage war from the Oval Office . . . ?
Posted by bigtree | Thu Feb 21, 2013, 10:47 AM (8 replies)
The New York Times @nytimes
Boy Scouts Say Leak Undermined Plan on Gay Ban http://nyti.ms/WWOH7A
I get it. Once the word was out that a change in policy was coming, the knuckledraggers mobilized and vented their practiced outrage to organizers and Scout leadership. Thing is, those folks will NEVER accept ANY change that undoes the ban.
Scout administrators must know full well that they can't undo the ban with any qualifications which undermine the basic rights of individuals who may be gay. There's no use in trying to carve out some special place for them. Just afford gay individuals the same rights as every other scout leader. It's that simple.
BSA will have to make up their mind whether they want to step into the present world, or remain a throwback organization which has the look and feel of a youth Klan club. Once they set the policy, these ignorant rabble-rousers and their hypocritical following will recede into the muck and scouting will hike on into a bright and inclusive future.
Most of these youth who would be scouts already possess the values needed to accept and celebrate their differences, as they endeavor to find common ground with their peers. It's past time for the organization to step up and do what they obviously know is right. All this delay does is cater to those who will never accept gays in their leadership. It's time that BSA just let them move on and move forward with the changes we all know are inevitable now.
Posted by bigtree | Sat Feb 9, 2013, 08:51 AM (3 replies)
from Think Progress: http://thinkprogress.org/security/2013/02/06/1547631/national-security-brief-republicans-desperate-hagel/
Foreign Policy magazine reported on Tuesday that Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee are looking for ways to hold up the committee’s vote on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be the next Secretary of Defense. Committee member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said they want more information on the contents of Hagel’s private speeches he gave in recent years and who paid for them. The committee Republicans also seem to think they see an issue regarding an alleged sexual harassment incident between two former Hagel staffers during his time in the Senate. A former top Hagel staffer said the matter was handled internally and was not brought to the senator’s attention but Sessions says he wants to know more. “It should be analyzed and we should find out what happened,” Sessions said. “I know the staff is looking at it. Pretty soon we’ll get a final report on what the facts are.”
If you read the FP report, you can see the desperation of republicans like Sessions and Graham who are hoping to fish through whatever speeches they can get Hagel to cough up so they can troll through them and whip up some sort of scandal.
Interesting, to me, is the ferocity and zeal behind the opposition to Hagel. I don't think Hagel is their polar opposite, but, I do expect they know he's about to do the President's bidding on Defense matters.
I'm not a fan of republicans in Democratic cabinets - and certainly not in the Pentagon - but this nomination is in line with most of the other recent ones, in that the President's prerogative on policy looks to be the order for the next term.
I think that's what's eating at these republican senators; they know the President is going to get his way on Defense -- and Hagel's cool and measured way that he's responded to their taunts and attacks tells them they're not likely to get theirs anytime in the near future.
Posted by bigtree | Wed Feb 6, 2013, 09:51 AM (9 replies)
from Joan Walsh at Salon: http://www.salon.com/2013/01/28/that_obama_clinton_chemistry/
That Obama-Clinton Chemistry
It wasn't about 2016. It was about two hard-working "gluttons for punishment" enjoying their unlikely friendship
. . . I’m not entirely sure why the joint interview, which was hyped for so many days, whose hype I resisted, wound up being so affecting. But let me throw out a few thoughts about it.
I’m sure most of it was the bitter battle between the two of them. It was nice to see that Obama giving Clinton a tough and high-profile job wasn’t merely placating or co-opting a rival. And maybe the glow was just what happens when two charismatic figures with adorable chemistry appear together. We’ve seen them together only briefly on stage. We’ve seen them, sadly, at the homecoming for dead heroes like Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens and the other Americans killed in Benghazi.
There may simply be a remarkable charge when these two amazing firsts – first African American president, first 18-million-cracks-in-the-glass-ceiling female candidate — come together. And when they don’t fight, like those firsts are supposed to do, and once did, but they glory in one another’s radiance, and they support one another.
. . . So set aside 2016. I’m not sure why the president wanted to do the joint interview – Steve Kroft said it was his idea, which is interesting, but who really knows? But I’m glad they did. In this era of ugly near mortal political combat, it’s reassuring when two formal rivals come together. Their obvious physical comfort and warmth was strangely moving.
Seeing two of the world’s most powerful people, who happen to be a black man and a white woman, leaning in against one another and laughing and sighing, sharing their enjoyment of one another’s company and their relief at the hard times they’ve seen the country through — well, now I’m not sure why I was acting like it was hard to explain its delight. It was delightful.
Posted by bigtree | Mon Jan 28, 2013, 07:46 AM (32 replies)
(originally) posted Fri Nov-20-09 by bigtree
I may be eternally cynical of our government, but I still expect a Renaissance in this presidency.
This isn't a jaded and weak old man we've elected, and he's no fool. I'm also not buying the arguments of some that he or his presidency is institutionally and intractably corrupted by industry or the establishment (not yet). So I have a good feeling about the future of this man, Barack Obama, in realizing the power of his office to effect lasting and meaningful good.
I've always understood that this President isn't an operating progressive. He's a pragmatic politician who's made a few proposals and actions contrary to our liberal creed; none of which should cause any Democrat to abandon their comity and start running around with their hair on fire. On balance, this President has held the line on our Democratic agenda; as much as Congress has accommodated his defense of those principles.
He's not going to be satisfied with just fighting and posturing, though; which is basically the heart of much of the earnest criticism from the left; as if the (often necessary) bluster and snark were all it took to manage the balance of power and motivation in the national legislature.
Despite the fact that all of the problems he inherited haven't been brought to some favorable conclusion, or that some seem to be getting worse (some by his own hand), he has made much meaningful progress and has had some historic accomplishments for his young presidency. I like the prospects for our party's agenda in this precarious majority that we've crafted together with our votes, and I'm optimistic about the prospects for the realization of our own (as expressed here at DU) as well.
Something significant is indeed happening here; a bit of a clusterfuck, but, it's definitely happening. Democrats are accustomed to operating against an entrenched opposition party, but it looks like our Democratic Senate leadership is ready to flex their partisan power in a way that no party has had the audacity to in decades.
I'm convinced that the cynicism and frustration often expressed here by war-weary progressives - ready to tear the whole thing down and start afresh - is ultimately going to be the wind underneath this presidency as Barack Obama exercises and demonstrates the historical efficacy of incremental change and dramatically moves our Democratic agenda steadily forward.
I don't see 'capitulations', as some critics have expressed in their opposition. I do see many compromises that have made sense, given the political limitations and the consequence of doing absolutely nothing (as republicans are determined to do in office). I have seen this President act independently when he's convinced there's no legislative remedy available. I've seen him stand firm and win the day. I think we'll see more of that backbone and sense of our Democratic majority..
I think that there were unrealistic expectations and demands that folks are now looking to hold the President accountable for. The only surprising thing to me about his conduct in the past term is how little he's strayed from what he told us he'd do. I do acknowledge that most of us here are fully invested in our views to the point where it feels like betrayal when these politicians do something contrary. Most of our disagreements have been on strategy and degree, rather than substance. Yet, I think we need to continue to accept this presidency for what we always assumed it was: a centrist presidency which has pledged to 'reach across the aisle'. We were never going to realize the entirety of our progressive agenda behind his leadership. I think most folks have accepted that. Stepping away from this presidency right now over these issues just seems a waste.
Our party has always been a coalition of liberal and moderately conservative views. We didn't elect a progressive president (or nominee), we didn't elect a progressive majority in our legislature, and yet, some are still hell-bent on making this pragmatic presidency the bane of that failure. Fair enough, I suppose, to hold him accountable, but he's just one element of any political strategy for advancing our initiatives or concerns into action or law. We shouldn't behave as if there's nothing left that republicans will be compelled to vote for. We shouldn't be whipped back and forth in our steadfastness by this White House by political posturing.
The President is fighting for most of the issues and concerns we care about, even though some may well disagree on his strategy for achieving the same. We want jobs, but we don't agree on how to spur employment. We need revenue, but we're fixated on tax cuts because of the faltering economy and the fragility of the incomes of millions of Americans that would be affected by the expiration of the breaks they have right now. We want to win elections, but we're not certain how to deal with the conservative states and districts. Those are just a few of the needles politicians have to thread.
The President's committed himself to finding a workable balance. He's no more naive about that prospect than anyone else, but he has adhered to that bipartisan rhetoric as part of his strategy. That's certainly a flaw for some, but it's not indefensible; and it's certainly not so far outside of Democratic politics to be characterized as 'capitulation' or betrayal. The President has made what he believes are reasonable compromises where he feels doing nothing isn't the responsible option. That's not always in line with our own expectations, but I don't think he's moved so far from a Democratic agenda to deserve the type of ire we used to reserve for the republican opposition -- the type of tone many critics took before we rallied behind Pres. Obama to defeat republicans in the last election.
There's a little thing called political momentum . . . and our Democratic party has it today!
Can't have watched the President and our Democrats at the Health bill signing and not feel the winds of change; both societal and political. It was gladdening to see our Democratic party on the right side of history (again).
Can't look at this new republican Congress' inability to pass their own bills; and their repeatedly giving up ground on their 'Hastert Rule' obstinacy; and not sense a burgeoning revival of our liberal majority.
Barack Obama is the first fellow to reach the presidency in my lifetime who is so thoroughly connected to the people - from his beginnings as a community organizer to local office and to the Senate. His life experiences and interests give him a unique perspective from the elite, connected pols of (my) past who made their way to the top. He's even more grounded in all of that than Bill Clinton was as a well-connected governor.
I do wonder about his conservative appointments . . . I conclude, however, that his choices reflect the great deal of confidence he has in the strength and character of his own idealism, yet regard enough for the rest of America to check those ideals of his against these establishment catalysts.
I too would like to see him make more progressive acts (as in military and finance matters) which are in line with those aspirations he so eloquently expressed and sold to those who voted for him. But I don't, for a minute, believe that the political balance of this narrow majority in the present legislature he's expected to parry his initiatives and ideas with has been (collectively) any more inclined to effect those bold changes than he's managed in the level and scope of his public support for them. If Congress actually enacted the bulk of his initiatives and proposals, we'd be looking at a national renaissance to match his very determined and pragmatic progressiveness.
I predict a transformation (in the not too distant future) of his presidency from the deference he's given to those in the establishment he's, so far, considered responsible enough serve his interests; to a desire to exercise his own impatience and earnest desire for change. He certainly has enough allies and friends out there who provided the support which enabled him to advance to the WH who represent the best of our citizenry. I fully expect him to advantage his presidency of those when he's finally lost faith in the establishment figures and their recalcitrance to provide the lift he desires for his stepping-stone administration.
I may be eternally cynical of our government, but I still expect a Renaissance in this presidency. I can only hope Mr. Obama's sense of time and place infects our Democratic legislators as well.
Posted by bigtree | Tue Jan 22, 2013, 10:56 PM (1 replies)