November 23, 2014

Infrequently asked questions

Occupy Democrats

Study: Solitary confinement is torture

Avery Journal - A recent study released by the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law claims that solitary confinement in prisons in North Carolina is a form of torture.

As social creatures, separation from other people has been shown to cause or exacerbate mental health problems. The report claims that up to 10 percent of North Carolina’s prison population is in long-term solitary confinement at any given time, which is a number higher than most states. The report also found that at least 21 percent of prisoners placed in solitary confinement require mental health treatment.

The issue has been given a higher profile with instances of inmate deaths due to neglect in solitary confinement, even dying of thirst.

The study also claims that solitary confinement is not only torture, but statistically ineffective in curbing violence and is costly to the state.

“The conclusion reached is stark and straightforward: solitary confinement is ineffective at decreasing violence within prisons; it is ineffective at preserving public safety; it is ineffective at managing scarce monetary resources; and it violates the boundaries of human dignity and justice. Present efforts to redress this injustice have been, thus far, largely ineffective. Laws and the courts that interpret them must evolve according to the growing body of research that demonstrates that solitary confinement violates basic constitutional and human rights,” the study concludes.

Instead of solitary confinement, the study suggests alternative forms of incarceration that involve more exercise and mental health treatment.

The study calls for the complete end of the practice, both as a prison sentence and a punishment within prison. It is particularly damning of the higher-than-average number of prisoners in solitary in North Carolina.

Obama backing CIA's efforts to hide torture evidence

NY Times - In a tense confrontation with President Obama’s closest adviser, a group of Senate Democrats accused the White House of trying to censor significant details in a voluminous report on the use of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency.

During a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill with Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff, the senators said that the White House was siding with the C.I.A. and trying to thwart negotiations over the report’s release. The negotiations have dragged on for months because of a dispute over the C.I.A.'s demand that pseudonyms of agency officers be deleted from the report.

he C.I.A., supported by the White House, has argued that even without using the real names of the officers, their identities could still be revealed.

According to several people in attendance, the meeting was civil, but neither side gave ground, and it ended without resolution. The Senate Intelligence Committee spent five years working on the 6,000-page report, which is said to provide grim details about the torture of detainees in C.I.A. prisons during the Bush administration, and describe a persistent effort by C.I.A. officials to mislead the White House and Congress about the efficacy of its interrogation techniques. The committee voted this year to declassify the report’s executive summary, numbering several hundred pages, but the fight over redactions has delayed the release.

Obama extends the Afghan war again

Anti-War - A new report coming out of the New York Times  reveals that President Obama has signed a secret order dramatically expanding the scope of US military operations in Afghanistan in 2015.

Despite claims that the war is “ending” at the end of 2014, the new order will ensure that US ground troops will continue to carry out direct combat operations throughout 2015, and potentially beyond.

Obama had announced back in May that there would no combat role at all in 2015, and that the remaining troops, about 10,000 of them, would be limited to training Afghan forces.

There was said to have been a “heated debate” within the administration about this decision, which led to the secret order changing the policy back toward US troops in direct combat.

The Pentagon was said to have been the driving force behind the decision, with civilian leaders seeking to keep the war limited to “al-Qaeda remnants,” while the Pentagon wanted to get back to direct fighting against the Taliban.

As usual, the debate on US war policy was kept totally out of the public eye, and Americans were led to believe that the end of direct combat was indeed finalized, even though it was not the case.

Where Obama lags behind other presidents

Americans Against the Tea Party

History links

Recovered history


Minutes of the Wannsee Conference
Things Irish Protestants should know about their homeland
Joan Baez' first radio appearance
A brief history of bucking the system
Why Nader didn't cause Gore's loss
Gene McCarthy
Making cities black & poor
Pilgrims' folly
Washington on fire in 1968
Unsolved mysteries World Trade Center Crash of TWA 800
History News Network

Pocket paradigms

I stumbled upon the outlines of a new American political fault line. It was so new that it lacked a name, stereotypes, cliches, experts and prophets. In many ways it seemed more a refugee camp than a voluntary assembly, yet, as I thought about it, the more its logic seemed only concealed rather than lacking. On one side were libertarians, blacks, greens, populists, free thinkers, the alienated apathetic, the rural abandoned, the apolitical young, as well as others convinced America was losing its democracy, its sovereignty and its decency. On the other side was a technocratic, media, legal, business and cultural elite centered in New York and Washington. At times it felt as if all of America outside of these two centers had turned into a gigantic, chaotic salon des refus├ęs. - Sam Smith, 1990s


The way you herd cattle is you lead them from behind. You find the most able and smartest cattle and have them lead the way. You empower them.' That's a good lesson for all of us. You basically have to kind of share the wealth. You have to find people who can execute your vision and ideas. I think that's relevant not only in politics, but again even within families. - Nelson Mandela

Our bipolar media

Our bipolar media goes wild over

- How the president handles unapproved immigrants but could care less about what he does about law-breaking banks and investment firms.

- Rape charges against Bill Cosby but has long buried rape charges against Bill Clinton. 


Passings: Marion Barry

Sam Smith, 2006 - Marion Barry and I split back in the 1980s. I can't remember the exact issue, but it was one time too many that Marion had promised one thing and then done another.

I first met Marion in 1966. We were both in our 20s and he was looking for a white guy who would handle the press. He had just organized the largest local protest movement in the city's history - a bus boycott - and I had participated and written about it. The typical twenty something doesn't get over 100,000 people to stop doing something for a day. I gladly took on the assignment.

We hit it off and remained allies even after the day Stokley Carmichael walked into SNCC headquarters and said that we whites were no longer welcomed in the civil rights movement. Barry would later describe me as one of the first whites who would have anything to do with him. I backed him when he ran for school board and in his first two mayoral bids. And in those days, I have to say, he got pretty good press.

But even by the time of the second run for mayor I was feeling queasy. A couple of friends and I held a fundraiser for Marion but our wives would have nothing to do with it. I introduced him by listing the reasons why people might be ambivalent about Barry and then added, "On the other hand. . ." Marion pointedly wiped his brow.

I was already becoming aware of Marion's addiction to that most dangerous, if legal, drug called power. Later, I would be listening to a talk show discussing a book about cocaine in the executive suite and suddenly realize how similar the two addictions were and how I could no longer tell which was affecting Barry more.

I saw less and less of him. We had lunch one day but I told him some things he didn't want to hear and he later told a reporter, "Sam's a cynical cat." In 1986 I told the Philadelphia Inquirer, "He's basically done to ethnicity what Ronald Reagan has done to patriotism. He's turned it into a personal preserve." About the same time Marion told a reporter doing a feature on me that "Sam and I go back a long way, and over the years he's become more radical, and I've become more conservative."

But I still saw that it was a complex story. At one point, Charles Peters, editor of the Washington Monthly, asked me to do a piece on him. I told him that I would be glad to but that I wasn't going to trash Barry. And I suggested a headline, "Failing the Faith." A few days later, Peters cancelled the lunch at which we were to discuss the article and never got back to me. The next thing I knew, the Washington Monthly ran an article by Juan Williams trashing Marion Barry and using a variety of the headline I had suggested. Williams was on his way.

When Barry ran for mayoral reelection the last time, I took the position that I was all in favor of redemption; I just didn't see why you had to do it in the mayor's office. I broke up one talk show host by suggesting that Barry follow the example of a recently disgraced Irish bishop and go help the Indians of Guatemala.

On another talk show, Barry said that the press was always blaming him for all the city's problems. I said that wasn't fair; I only blamed him for 26.7% of the city's problems. "I'll buy that," Marion replied. . . Later a white Washington suit actually asked me, "How did you derive that number?"

Yet I also knew that Barry - like other urban ethnic politicians - had far more to blame than himself. Whatever his faults - he knew he had been granted dispensation because - like a feudal lord - he provided significant favors in return. Barry had lived in Memphis and I often suspected he had learned his politics from Boss Trump. For he understood the quid pro quo of traditional urban corruption that had helped the Irish, Italians, Jews, and Poles break down the worst corruption of all - that of an elite unwilling to share its power with others. [Later I would call him the last of the great white mayors because his approach had more similarity with that of a Daley, Curly or La Guardia than that of more recent city officials]

It was far from a perfect deal but in the interim before "reformers" seized office again on behalf of their developer and other business buddies, more people would get closer to power than they ever had or would again.

And now the reformers are back. The young gentrifiers who think the greatest two moments in the city's history is when Barry went to jail and when they arrived in town. And their politicians, who don't feel it necessary to even tithe to the people.

Some years back,  Marion, at a public dinner, ran into my wife and asked, "Where's that sonofabitch?" But when he saw me we hugged because despite all our differences we both know we are still kin in a too tough world. I'd just lucked out better. -

Sam Smith, 2005 - Now that Marion Barry's back in office, it may be useful to get a few facts straight. Over the years, Barry's personal problems and those of his friends have been conflated with his record as a mayor. They are strikingly different. Further, Barry served as a closet for prejudice as his name became national slang for "black," helping to speed a major decline in black political power.

DRUGS - Barry had a serious drug problem, probably developed in the 1980s. In this regard he had even more famous peers including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. At one point , Clinton' stepbrother was caught on a police tape saying that he has to get some cocaine for his brother who has "a nose like a vacuum cleaner." Bush was a serious alcoholic and appears to remain what is known as a "dry drunk." But neither of these politicians got the media attention for their habits and bad consequences as Barry did. This can be largely attributed to ethnic bias. It is also true, however, that Barry's drug problems continued to plague him longer than either Bush or Clinton and Barry has yet to apologize to the people of DC for the harm and scorn his behavior caused them.

CORRUPTION - Barry ranks about average compared to past and present mayoral peers around the country. A number of the most publicized convictions involved misappropriation of funds to feed drug habits - hardly in the class of grand urban corruption. In fact, the single most corrupt individual in modern Washington was probably the head of the Teacher's Union rather than anyone in the Barry machine. Barbara A. Bullock not only had over $5 million disappear from the union treasury, she had a $100,000 chauffeur and a wardrobe, artwork and jewelry that would have impressed Imelda Marcos. Bullock's executive assistant was co-chair of the reelection campaign not of Barry but of Anthony Williams.

Barry's capos never came close to such standards and Barry himself, in the little noted tradition of corrupt mayors, took relatively little for himself using power as his payoff.

It is fair to say that under Barry one could buy favors. Today one can buy large chunks of the city only it's not called corruption, it's called economic development. But the principle is the same: a tiny number of politically connected figures getting grossly more than they deserve out of city hall.

BUDGET - The city's financial problems, contrary to the current impression, have run a familiar course whether or not Barry was in office and whether or not the city had home rule. In fact, Barry took office with a large deficit which he reduced in the 1980s. His drug problems not withstanding,  he left office with a hefty balance. With the election of the far less competent Sharon Pratt Kelly and with a national economic deterioration, this improvement was dramatically reversed and the balance was wiped out. Further, about two thirds of the DC's financial problems were on the revenue side which continue regardless of who is in office.

SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC CONDITIONS improved under Barry, most notably for women, blacks and gays. Washington became known as "Chocolate City," an affectionate term used by blacks to describe perhaps the friendly large town in the country.

CRIME - Halfway through Barry's first tenure, the murder rate started to soar in DC as in other larger cities. The evidence points to Reagan's war on drugs which created much of the same sort of economic and criminal chaos as Prohibition had earlier. DC was more vulnerable because of its lack of organized mobs with clearly defined territory. Many of the murders were part of a turf war in the city's largely anarchistic drug trade. An analysis of the murders in the late 1980s found that if you weren't buying or selling drugs, your chances of being killed in DC were about the same as in Copenhagen.

BARRY'S REAL SIN - Barry's real sins other than his personal recklessness was that he served as an agent of largely suburban white business interests in making policy in a black city. Thus vast sums were spent on "economic development" with no new jobs for local DC residents and only a marginal increase in sales tax revenue. Like many other black mayors he was the symbolic head of the city while white businessmen ran the place.

THINGS LOST SINCE BARRY - Loss of our public hospital, drastic deterioration of our  public schools, the disappearance of reasonably priced housing, and a systemic degradation of every service for which the less fortunate have greater need than the wealthy. Meanwhile, far more than under Barry, those who circumvent the political system through money and influence operate with impunity. Also: the ability of poor folk to stay in the city, the treatment of demonstrators by the police, and the administration of the Fire Department.

In sum, Barry was never as bad a mayor - even during his worst personal crises - as many like to say. Perhaps the fairest way to describe Barry is to say that he was better at getting the things done he wanted to get done than were his successors. The problem was that what he wanted to do was not always right or enough, he took too much off the top, and too much time off for the wrong things.

Entering office with a biracial liberal coalition, he converted his base into one that relied heavily on black votes and white corporate money. The former he attracted by rhetoric, the latter with the real estate at his disposal. The most integrated meetings in town were when the Barry team sat down with its campaign contributors.

Barry was not the only black mayor to do so, and the end it turned out to be a fool's paradise of black power because within a decade and a half, upper income whites were taking back the cities and the constituents of the black mayors were being evicted in what amounted to socio-economic urban cleansing.

But for awhile, it looked like Washington really was Chocolate City. And, in fact, the Barry administration did much to improve the social, economic and political climate of local blacks, so much so that even Jesse Jackson moved here for a while to take advantage of it. But in the end, Marion was like those Mahalia Jackson warned us against, when she sang that "you can't go to church and shout all day Sunday, come home and get drunk and raise hell on a Monday."

That, metaphorically and literally, is what Marion did and in the process he helped mightily to destroy the city's dreams of self government and of a city with both soul and integrity. Further, he has yet to apologize to us for it.

Perhaps worst of all, he gave the enemies of a fair and decent city just what they needed to hide their own avarice behind a mantle of reform and for the creation of the narcissistic, greedy, gated town that is now Washington.

Sam Smith  - Almost from the start I recognized something familiar about Bill Clinton. The soft southern voice so unwavering in its glib assurance, the excuse for everything, the absence of inquiry, the cynical charm, a cause well used a quarter century ago and then forgotten, the adulterated intelligence, the inconsistency, the willingness to use anything or anyone, the undisciplined egocentrism, the populist rhetoric playing bumper tag with corporatist policies, the drugs, the women, and the whiff of the underworld. It was not new; I had, after all, known Marion Barry for over 25 years.

There were, to be sure, differences. Barry retreated into an ethnic cocoon; Clinton's ambitions became national. Clinton was white and Barry was black. There was another difference. When Barry was caught with women or drugs, the Washington Post played the story with glee; when Gennifer Flowers and stories of Clinton drug use came up, the Post spiked or subordinated them. Two and half weeks after the Monica Lewinsky story broke, including logs showing three dozen visits to the White House, the Post called the relationship "ambivalent." None of Barry's activities had been reported as "ambivalent." In the end a whole city would have to pay for Barry's faults. Not even Clinton has had to pay for his.

When Barry ran for reelection I appeared on a TV show with Barry. I pointed out to him that he had never apologized to the people of the city for the pain he had caused them. Barry went into his redemption speech; he ended by saying that he hoped some day "Sam would consider me redeemed, too."

That was the end of the show and we walked out together and sat down in the lounge next to the studio. "Marion," I said, "I wasn't talking about your redemption. There are a lot of people in this town who were embarrassed and hurt by what you did and I don't see any sign that you even recognize it." Barry didn't seem to understand what I was talking about and so I said, "Look, isn't one of the twelve steps that you're meant to make amends to those you have harmed along the way?"

For a moment, he connected: "You mean I should tell them that I'm sorry.?"

"It might help."

Barry nodded and excused himself, but he hadn't really heard. As I looked into his well-trained eyes I realized I had sought something beyond his vision. For him there were no others.

I thought of that evening the other day when Bill Clinton was asked what message he might send to Monica Lewinsky. He made a joke of the question and when another reporter asked if he might resign, he said, "Never." I looked into Clinton's well-trained eyes and knew the reporters had asked something beyond his vision. For him there were no others.

Sam Smith - The notorious DC Transit wanted to raise its fares and the local chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee had organized to stop it. They urged citizens with cars to drive bus passengers during a one-day boycott.

I joined the volunteers. On the morning of January 24, 1966, 1 hauled myself out of bed, swallowed a cup of coffee, warmed up my '54 Chrysler, and made my way to Sixth and H Streets Northeast, one of the assembly points for volunteer jitneys. A boycott organizer filled my car with three high school girls and a middle- aged and rather fat woman.

A bus drove by and it was empty. "They're all empty," the woman said, It was the first bus I had seen that morning and I wondered if she was right.

If both the fat lady and her husband worked, the five cent fare increase Chalk was seeking would cost them two week's worth of groceries over the course of a year.

I let my passengers off and headed back to Sixth and H. At Florida and New York, I counted five empty or near-empty buses. It wasn't even nine o'clock in the morning and the boycott was working,

"It's beautiful," the man in the slightly frayed brown overcoat said after he told me he was headed for Seventeenth Street. "It's working and it's beautiful. Hey, you see those two there. Let's try and get them."

I pulled over to the right lane by a stop where two men stood.

"Hey man, why spend thirty cents? Get in," my rider called to the pair.

"You headed downtown?"

"Yeah, get in."

"Great. It's working, huh? Great!"

At the delicatessen at Twenty-fourth and Benning, one of the assembly points, a young black who worked with SNCC greeted me: "Been waiting all morning for a car to work from here; said they were going to have one, but they didn't send it. Want a cup of coffee?"


"I'm tired, man. Been up all night down at the office. We got some threats. One bunch said they were going to bomb us, but they didn't."

We got into my car and continued east on Benning. Lots of empty buses.

"We've got to live together, man. You're white and you can't help it. I'm Negro and I can't help it. But we still can get along. That's the way I feel about it." I agreed. "You ever worked with SNCC before?" "Nope," I said.

'Well, I'11 tell you man, you hear a lot of things. But they're a good group. They stick together. You know, like if you get in trouble, you know they're going to be in there with you. If you get threatened they'll have people around you all the time. They stick together. That's good, man."

Later, I picked up a man at a downtown bus stop. The woman in the back seat asked him, "You weren't waiting for a bus, were you?"

"No. I just figured someone would come along and pick me up."

"That's good, 'cause if you were waiting for a bus I was going to bop you upside your head."

We all laughed and the man reassured her again.

"You know," the woman in back continued, "there were some of the girls at work who said they were going to ride the bus and they really made me mad. I thought I'd go get a big stick and stand at the bus stop and bop 'em one if they got on Mr. Chalk's buses. Some people just don't know how to cooperate. And you know, you don't have nothing in this world until you get people together. Hey, lookit over there, let's see if that guy's going out northeast."

People stuck together that Monday, I carried seventy-one people, only five of them white. SNCC estimated that DC Transit lost 130,000 to 150,000 fares during the boycott. Two days later, the transit commission, in a unanimous but only temporary decision, denied DC Transit the fare hike. The commission's executive director dryly told reporters that the boycott played no part in the decision. He was probably right. The commission worried about such things as cash dividends, investor's equity, rate of return, depreciated value, and company base. The boycotters worried about a nickel more a ride. And in the end, the commission was to approve the fare hike and then more; a few years later the fare was up to forty cents.

But the boycott was important, anyway. Never had so many Washingtonians done anything so irregular and contrary to official wishes. The assumption that DC residents would passively accept the injustices of their city was shattered. SNCC and the Free DC Movement had laid the groundwork for future action.

After the bus boycott, I wrote a letter to its leader congratulating him and offering to help in the future. Not long after the leader, Marion S. Barry, and his colleague, L. D. Pratt, were sitting in my living room talking about how I could help in SNCC's public relations. I readily agreed; for the first time in my life I had joined a movement.

Three years earlier Barry had quit his $5,500 a-year post teaching chemistry at Knoxville College in Tennessee and joined the SNCC. He soon showed up in Washington to head the local office. Barry early formed an improbable and ultimately nearly explosive partnership with an erstwhile farm im-plements manufacturer, salesman, self-styled nutrition expert, and economic theoretician named L. D. Pratt. Barry was lean, black, soft-spoken, self-contained, and given to wearing a straw plantation style hat; Pratt was husky, white, excitable, demonstrative, and covered his baldness with a felt fedora that made him appear a character out of a one-column cut in a forties edition of Time magazine.

Together they designed the boycott and a drive to win self-government for the colony of Washington. Although the life of the Free DC Movement would be measured in months, it seemed like years, so much was crammed into its short existence. Barry and Pratt both worked themselves to the marrow and it was during those months that Barry first gained a long-lingering reputation for always being late for ap-pointments, news conferences, and actions. "I work on CPT-- colored people's time," explained Barry. Part of my job was to stand on the street-corner and convince the press that Marion really would show up if they just waited a bit longer. The reporters would bitch, but since Barry was shaking up the city, they mostly waited anyhow.

Barry's subsequent moves in his drive for passage of right-to-vote legislation in Congress included an effort to get businessmen in downtown stores and along H Street (a black shopping area second only to downtown in commercial importance) to support the movement by displaying its sticker in their windows. Hun-dreds of orange and black stickers with the slogan "Free DC" below a shattered chain went up in store windows; but the threat of a business boycott led other merchants to cry blackmail, and some of the more traditional civil rights and home rule leaders began to back away from Barry's tough tactics.

In the coming months, Barry and his organization would disrupt the calm of the city with increasing fre-quency. A number of Free DC supporters were arrested at the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. By the following fall, Barry would have been arrested three times, for failing to "move on," for disorderly conduct, and for holding a Free DC block party without official sanction.

Barry used his arrests to make points. After being arrested for failing to move on at a policeman's order, Barry said, "It is a bad law that gives policemen the sole discretion in such matters. Especially in Washington where the cops are so uneducated and awful. They use the law as a harassing device against Negroes." And he warned, less than two years before the 1968 riot, that the attitude of police might lead to an outbreak of racial violence.

While Barry was on the streets, on the tube, in court, and in jail, his associate, L. D. Pratt, was developing a reputation as the mystery man behind the operation dis-turbing the tranquility of the colonial capital.

Marion was leading a movement, but it had some of the intensity, closeness and spirit of a rebellion. Barry enlisted into the cause anyone he could find. You would be talking on the phone and a special operator would break in with an "emergency call" and it would be Barry or Pratt or someone else with the latest crisis or plan. There were black cops who had been spiritually seconded to the movement and ministers who served as a link between the radical Barry and the more moderate civil rights movement and friendly reporters who still believed there was an objective difference between justice and injustice,. And through it all was movement, excitement and hope, not even dampened by the thirtieth chorus of "We Shall Overcome" sung in a church hall while waiting for Marion finally to show up.

Barry and Pratt not only upset policemen and government officials; they perturbed the established civil rights and home rule leadership in the city. While a few such leaders, Walter Fauntroy prime among them, were careful not to undercut Barry and provided as much help as they felt they could, others were plainly annoyed by the upstarts.

Tensions grew when the Free DC Movement decided to take on the White House Conference on Civil Rights that had been scheduled for May 1966. Barry planned to raise the issue of home rule at the conference and, in an-nouncing the plans, chastised the moderate Coalition for Conscience for "wavering" in its support of tile plan. Two days later the Washington Post reported, "Washing-ton civil rights leaders yesterday pondered the future of the campaign for home rule in light of the growing independence on the part of Free D.C. Movement leader Marion Barry Jr. One leader said it appears that the movement was at 'the end of its relationship with the Coalition of Conscience,' the city's loosely knit confedera-tion of ministers and civil rights groups."

But it was not just the Free DC's militancy and independence that upset the old leaders. They also were profoundly disturbed by the rise of the black power idea; Coalition co-chairman Channing Phillips stated, "The black nationalist stand of SNCC is inconsistent with the Coalition's philosophy."

Still, while Barry was an anathema to the white business leaders and considered a rogue by the local civil rights establishment, as early as 1966 a poll found him ranked fifth by black residents as the person who had done the most for blacks in DC.

In SNCC and elsewhere, the spirit of black nationalism was indeed awakening. Black power had its roots in the deep frustration of the civil rights movement with the progress towards some sustainable form of equality. In 1963, Howard Zinn, then a professor at Spellman College, told a SNCC conference that the ballot box would not give blacks much power. Zinn said SNCC should build up "centers of power outside the official political mechanism."

This was a time when the official symbol of the Alabama Democratic Party included a banner reading "White Supremacy -- For the Right." The SNCC-organized Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party had attempted to be seated at the national Democratic convention and was rebuffed, offered only two non-voting at-large seats to represent not Mississippi but American blacks in general. SNCC communications director Julian Bond twice won election to the Georgia legislature, and twice that body refused to seat him. Jerry Demuth, writing in The Idler in October 1966 asked: "After Julian Bond, Atlantic City and the Alabama Democratic Party with its proclamation of white supremacy, what is there except a Black Panther Party?"

The voices of black power of the time were varied. Two months after being replaced as SNCC chair by the more militant Stokely Carmichael, John Lewis explained:

"I support the concept of black power and I have tried repeatedly to articulate it to people in terms they can understand, so that they will know it is for civil rights, not against whites."

The National Committee of Negro Churchmen of the National Council of Churches tried to combine black power and integration in an August 1965 newspaper ad:
A more equal sharing of power is precisely what is required as the precondition of authentic human interaction. We understand the growing demand of Negro and white youth for a more honest kind of integration: one which increases rather than decreases the capacity of the disinherited to participate with power in all the structures of our common life. Without this capacity to participate with power -- i.e. to have some organized political and economic strength to really influence people with whom one interacts -- integration is not meaningful. For the issue is not one of racial balance but of honest racial interaction.
But this was a hope far from current reality and many more blacks listened to the view of Carmichael: "Integration is an insidious subterfuge for white supremacy." He told a crowd in Greenwood, MS, "We been saying 'freedom' for six years and we ain't got nothing. What we're gonna start saying now is 'Black Power.'"

The most important white at SNCC, L. D. Pratt, con-tinued to play a major role for some time, but his ability to work with Barry declined sharply and, and after receiving physical threats dropped out of the local scene.

Before that, however, the Free DC Movement was to play a major part in bringing the issue of self-determination further in Congress than it had been in almost a hun-dred years, The militancy of the Free DC Movement, so disliked by both congressmen and civil rights moderates alike, provided the counter-pressure necessary to scare more than a few legislators into thinking that maybe it was about time for a little self-government in DC. In 1967 President Johnson reorganized the local government with an appointed chief executive and city council. He told them to act as though they had been elected. . In 1968 the city got an elected school board.

Wayne Taylor  - So it's the summer of 1981 and this fool comes up to me with a wad of cash and some stuff in a bag. He said to me "yo do you want to work for me and sell the stuff" I'm like no man I got a job! He said oh you ain't making no money! I said well I got a summer job! I walk away and he is calling me a punk! My eyes never off of him! Anyway, A few weeks later this fool was dead and I was still going to my Summer Job for the DC Youth Conservation Corps! Not only was I working I worked with environmental scientist in Rockcreek Park! Marion Barry's summer work programs saved a lot of us in the city! Rest In Power Mr. Mayor!

 Mark Thompson & Sam Smith interview Marion Barry, last June 

Why journalism isn't a profession

Feom 50 years of our overstocked archives

Sam Smith, 1970s - It was nice to learn the other day that the National Labor Relations Board agrees with me that journalists are not "professionals ." The ruling came in a labor dispute over which union reporters and other newspaper workers should join. The NLRB probably didn't mean to, but it nonetheless struck a small blow for freedom of the press -- and the rest of the country as well. One of the most serious of the infinite misapprehensions suffered by reporters is that they are somehow akin to lawyers, doctors and engineers. They long for initial letters after their name.

As late as the 1950s more than half of all reporters lacked a college degree. Since that time there has been increasing emphasis on professionalism in journalism; witness the growth of journalism schools, the proliferation of turgid articles on the subject, and the preoccupation with "objectivity" and other "ethical issues." There has also been an interesting parallel growth in monopolization of the press.

Among the common characteristics of professions is that they are closed shops and have strong monopolistic tendencies. The more training required to enter a field, the more you can weed out socially, politically, and philosophically unsuitable candidates; and armed with a set of rules politely known as canons or codes of ethics but also operating as an agreement for the restraint of trade, one can eliminate much of the competition.

The professional aspirations of such formerly unpretentious occupations as journalism, teaching and politics is one of the most dangerous of the numerous anti-democratic currents of the day. Professionals hoard knowledge and use it as a form of monopolistic capital. For example, one of the most constructive ways to improve health in the country is through preventive action and personal habits, which depend upon widespread information and education. Yet it has been largely through governmental intervention (the FDA, EPA, etc.), renegade doctors so few they are household words, investigating legislators, health nuts, and consumer groups that the country began to understand that health is not something that you buy from a doctor. The medical profession regarded this as a trade secret.

Lawyers have been more successful in withstanding the democratic spirit. The fact that there are ways of dealing with civil disputes and community justice other than in the traditional legal adversary system is still not widely known. Through semantic obfuscation, a stranglehold over our courts and legislatures, and an arcane collection of self-serving contradictions known as law, attorneys have managed to turn human disputation from a mere cottage industry into a significant factor in the gross national product.

The First Amendment says nothing about objectivity, professional standards, national news councils, blind quotes, deep backgrounders, or how much publicity to give a trial. Its authors understood far better than many contemporary editors and journalistic commentators that the pursuit of truth can not be codified and that circumscribing the nature of the search will limit the potential of its success. Nor can there be an institutionalization of the search for the truth; it always comes back to the will and ability of individuals.

Check a reporter's bookshelf and you'll find a dictionary, Bartlett's, a thesaurus and, perhaps, Strunk & White and lots of junk reading. No stacks of maroon or blue texts with thin gold titles like "Compton on Trial Coverage." Doctors need such tomes and lawyers have made it necessary to themselves to have them. But journalism does not depend upon the retrieval of institutionalized stores of knowledge, and won't -- until we presume to know as much, as definitively, about the working of human society as a doctor must know about the workings of the stomach.

Journalism has always been a craft - in rare moments- an art - but never a profession. It depends too much on the perception, skill, empathy and honesty of the practitioner rather than on the acquisition of technical knowledge and skills.

The techniques of reporting can be much more easily taught than such human qualities and they can be best learned in an apprentice-like situation rather than in a classroom. Too many reporters have nothing but technique. Trained not to take sides, to be "balanced," they lose the human passion that makes up the better part of the world about which they write. They are taught to surrender values such as commitment, anger and delight that make the world go round and thus become peculiarly unqualified to describe the rotation. Disengaged, their writing is not fair but just vacuously neutral on the surface while culturally biased underneath.

That's why the this journal has welcomed non-professional writers -- writers who knew something other than journalism, who cared about something else. On the average they make the better writers. They have something to say.

All memory of the newspaper trade short of printing could be wiped out and in a matter of days someone would start publishing a newspaper again, and probably a good one. Someone would want to tell a story.

The institution of journalism functions like all large institutions; it is greedy, self-promoting, and driven towards the acquisition of power. The thing that has saved it has been the integrity and craft of individual journalists. Preserving that integrity and that craft is not only important to reporters but to everyone, for when reporters become merely agents of an overly powerful profession, democracy loses one of its most important allies, free journalists practicing their craft.

November 22, 2014


Bill Murray - A few decades ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs. Please don't let Kevin Bacon die.

How to have a union made Thanksgiving dinner

AFL-CIO - Here are some of the best union-made Thanksgiving eats and cookware from the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM); Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers (GMP); Machinists (IAM); United Steelworkers (USW); and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).

 Kraft/Nabisco crackers—BCTGM

Nabisco (Mondelez) crackers—BCTGM

Keebler (Kellogg) crackers—BCTGM


Boar's Head—UFCW


Foster Farms—UFCW


Side Dishes

Ocean Spray whole berry cranberry sauce—IAM

Birds Eye vegetables—UFCW


Pillsbury crescent rolls, frozen and ready to bake rolls/breads—BCTGM

Pillsbury pie crusts—BCTGM

Stroehmann bakery products (for stuffing)—BCTGM


Sara Lee pumpkin, apple pie—BCTGM

Mother’s Kitchen cheesecakes—BCTGM

Nabisco (Mondelez) cookies—BCTGM

Rich Products pies and cakes—BCTGM


Cutco knives—USW

All-Clad cookware—USW




Anchor Hocking—GMP


Via Debra Haaland

What's happening: Saturday

A new controlled diet study has found that increasing the levels of saturated fat in the diet does not lead to increased levels of saturated fat in the blood. However, increasing the amount of carbohydrates in the diet was found to raise the levels of a fatty acid associated with diabetes and heart disease.

50% of patients don't follow prescription guidelines

You'll learn more about how Washington works reading this article than watching CNN or MSNBC for a whole month: "President Obama called Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, to broach a particularly delicate subject. It was during last year’s government shutdown and standoff with Republicans, but Mr. Obama’s frustration focused on one of their own. The president said he suspected David Krone, Mr. Reid’s intensely loyal and influential top aide, of leaking to the news media, and requested that he stay away from future meetings. It did not take much time for the president’s comments to reach Mr. Reid’s right-hand man. To Mr. Obama’s surprise, Mr. Krone was listening in on the call. Suddenly, the aide piped up and made it clear to the president that he did not appreciate the accusation."

Investigators measured airborne bacteria levels and found higher amounts of germs around air dryers than around towel dispensers. Jet-air dryers were the worst, the study found. Bacteria levels in the air around jet-air dryers were 4.5 times higher than around warm air dryers and 27 times higher than around paper towel dispensers, said a team led by Mark Wilcox of the University of Leeds.

Whre the plutocrats live

A new report finds that wages of manufacturing workers have fallen 4.4% in the past decade- "almost three times faster than for workers as a whole."

While it's cold in the US, climate change is warm elsewhere

Health notes

A new controlled diet study has found that increasing the levels of saturated fat in the diet does not lead to increased levels of saturated fat in the blood. However, increasing the amount of carbohydrates in the diet was found to raise the levels of a fatty acid associated with diabetes and heart disease.

50% of patients don't follow prescription guidelines

Investigators measured airborne bacteria levels and found higher amounts of germs around air dryers than around towel dispensers. Jet-air dryers were the worst, the study found. Bacteria levels in the air around jet-air dryers were 4.5 times higher than around warm air dryers and 27 times higher than around paper towel dispensers, said a team led by Mark Wilcox of the University of Leeds. 

California beset by water thieves

Aljazeera America - California thieves are cutting pipes and taking water from fire hydrants, storage tanks, creeks and rivers to get their hands on several hundred gallons of the precious commodity.

They drive in the thick of night with a 1,000-gallon tank on the back of a pickup and go after the liquid gold wherever they can find it. Some have hit the same target twice in one night, filling up their tank, unloading it into storage and returning for a second fill-up.

Counties, mostly in the more rural northern parts of California, are reporting a surge in thefts and illegal diversions of water from wells and streams. The prime suspects are illegal marijuana farmers desperate for water before the fall harvest, which would explain the surge in water thievery over the summer.

“A lot of the wells have gone dry, and the marijuana growers have run out of water and have been illegally taking the water out of the creeks,” said Hank Weston, supervisor in Nevada County, an old mining area in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in California’s northeast.

“They have broken into a school district holding tank and in the fire department’s holding tank,” Weston said. “Some of the water trucks are pulling up near rivers and dropping water hoses in and suctioning it out.”

God undecided on 2016 GOP pick

Paul Waldman, American Prospect - Had you asked me which of the 20 or so potential Republican presidential candidates would be first to claim that his candidacy was endorsed by God himself, I would have said Ben Carson, who has the necessary combination of deep religious faith and self-aggrandizing nuttiness. And today we learn that while the creator of the universe is still mulling his options, he's not exactly giving Carson a no:
    In an interview on Thursday with Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, Carson said he felt the hand of the Lord pushing him toward the White House.

    "Has He grabbed you by the collar yet?" host David Brody asked.

    "I feel fingers," Carson said. "But, um, you know... It's mostly me."
I still bet that eventually Carson will announce that he's received a signal from above that the campaign is a go. If and when he does, he'll surely have some competition, that is if 2016 is anything like 2012. In case you don't recall, God was awfully busy last time. Here are some highlights:
    Michele Bachmann, when asked if she was being called to run, said, "Well, every decision that I make, I pray about, as does my husband, and I can tell you, yes, I've had that calling and that tugging on my heart that this is the right thing to do." She also noted that God had called her to run for Congress in 2006.

    In July of 2011, Rick Perry said his impending campaign was a God-sanctioned religious mission: "I'm getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what I've been called to do. This is what America needs."

    While Rick Santorum didn't say God had instructed him to run, his wife Karen did say that she put aside her initial reluctance about a campaign after concluding that it was what God wanted.

    My personal favorite is Herman Cain's story of how one day when he was tired from going out and meeting potential voters his granddaughter sent him a text telling him she loved him. The sweet act of a loving child? Heavens, no. "Do you know that had to be God?" Cain said. "I know that God was speaking to me through my granddaughter, that this is something that I have got to at least explore."

    And here's a little bonus from four years prior, when past and future candidate Mike Huckabee, who may or may not have been called to run, explained a fleeting rise in his poll numbers by saying, "There's only one explanation for it, and it's not a human one. It's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of five thousand people. That’s the only way that our campaign can be doing what it's doing. And I'm not being facetious nor am I trying to be trite." Apparently, God was only teasing, because Huckabee did not in fact become president.

New free computer tool to find if the government's spying on you

Huffington Post - A new, free tool called Detekt can scan your computer to find government spyware. Announced on Thursday, Detekt was created by security researcher Claudio Guarnieri in conjunction with Amnesty International; the Electronic Frontier Foundation; Digitale Gesellschaft, a German association dedicated to protecting people from Internet surveillance; and Privacy International, a charity that investigates government surveillance.

"What we really want to do is open up this whole discussion about this kind of malware and the companies who sell it and the governments who use it," Eva Galperin, global policy analyst for the EFF, told The Huffington Post in a phone call on Thursday. Galperin did a significant chunk of the research on surveillance that the software is meant to detect.

Detekt is not for the average Internet user, but rather it's "specifically about the threat that governments pose to activists and journalists, often in authoritarian regimes," Galperin said. These people can face significant risks if their web activities or files fall into the wrong hands.

Liberals picke Warren over Clinton by double digits

CNN - Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren -- not Hillary Clinton -- is the top progressive choice for president in 2016, according to a new poll.

In fact, Clinton doesn't even make second place. Forty two percent of respondents favor Warren, and Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders also edges out Clinton with 24% compared to her 23%, according to results from the 2016 Presidential Pulse Poll commissioned by progressive grassroots organization Democracy for America.

Why Buffalo got so much snow

Vox -  Even though this is a particularly huge storm, [Buffalo] locals are fairly used to sudden, intense bouts of snowfall. That's because the city is directly east of Lake Erie, putting it directly in the path of a meteorological phenomenon called lake effect snow.

During the early part of winter, the Great Lakes are often warmer than the surrounding air, because water holds residual autumn warmth more effectively than air. The difference is generally greatest during cold snaps in the early winter.

When a particularly cold air mass travels over a lake, the water slightly warms up the bottom layer of it. Because warm air can hold more moisture than cool air, the moving air mass then begins evaporating water off the lake, forming clouds. Eventually, these clouds rise to the top of the air mass, because warmer air is less dense.

Then, as the air finishes crossing the lake and passes back over land, it drops slightly in temperature again, because the land is cooler. In some places, it might also get pushed upward in elevation a bit by a higher landmass. Both lower temperature and increased altitude mean that the clouds are less capable of holding in moisture — so they often release tons of it, in the form of fresh snowfall.

More (including graphics)

And now some really bad news

Chuck Todd - I feel like the collective IQ of Congress goes down every two years because smart people look at it and say, ‘Why do I want to do this?’

Washington Post - Come January, nearly half of Congress (48.8 percent) will have been in office for four years or less -- i.e. elected in 2010 or later. That includes 49.7 percent of the House and 45 percent of the Senate -- assuming GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy defeats Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in the Louisiana runoff Dec. 6.

Going back a little further (based on numbers crunched from Fair Vote data), 63 percent of the new Congress will have been elected in 2006 or later. That 63 percent figure is equal to where new membership stood after the GOP wave of 1994. After the 2012 election, the same figure was just 54 percent.

Health links

Health & science news
Health plans
Single payer
Physicians For Nat Health Plan
Worst Pills
Health electronic databases
Page for big people
Health plan stats
How much your doctor has taken from Big Pharma
How physicians want to die
How your county ranks in health
Health facts by state
The American way of death

The dollars behind Obama's immigration plan

Christian Science Monitor - The executive order would prevent the deportation of about 4 million parents and guardians who lack the same legal status as their children. By gaining work permits, they will likely command higher wages, move more easily between jobs and boost government tax revenues, according to multiple economic analyses.

"This is focused on people who are already in the economy today, who are contributing mightily but are basically operating in the shadows," said Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. "Their economic potential is being held back."
Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

The new order could boost labor income by $6.8 billion, helping to generate 160,000 new jobs and $2.5 billion in additional tax revenues, according to estimates by Hinojosa-Ojeda. The findings dovetail with separate research showing that a 1986 amnesty measure raised incomes for illegal workers in the years that followed.

Still, any gains from the executive action would be modest in the $17 trillion U.S. economy.

White House officials estimate that the executive order would expand gross domestic product less than 0.1 percent a year over the next decades.

The pipeline: Just the facts

While a State Department report estimates that the XL pipeline will produce 35 new jobs, other estimates find that solar energy has already produced over 100,000 jobs.

Politifact - There’s plenty of debate over how many jobs the project would create during construction. The State Department report puts the total at 42,100 jobs, though the definition of a job in this sense is a position filled for one year. Much of the construction work would come in four- or or eight-month stretches. About 10,400 seasonal workers would be recruited for construction, the State Department said. When looked at as "an average annual job," it works out to about 3,900 jobs over one year of construction or 1,950 jobs each year for two years.

There’s no doubting that most of the economic activity comes during construction.

"There’s very few jobs operating pipelines," said Ian Goodman, president of the Goodman Group Ltd., an energy and economic consulting firm in Berkeley, Calif. "That’s one of the reasons why pipelines are attractive to the oil industry. They’re relatively inexpensive to build and operate."

The report says the project would provide jobs for about 35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors.

Natural Resources Defense Couhcil

Britain's new poo bus

Take Part - The ‘Poo Bus’ can travel more than 186 miles on five years’ worth of one human’s waste.

No, it doesn’t smell bad.

The makers of the Bio-Bus, the first bus powered by human feces and food waste in the U.K., made sure of that before the 40-seater debuted this week.

The aptly nicknamed “poo bus” runs on sewage and food scraps that go through treatment, which removes odor-causing impurities and carbon dioxide. Propane is added in the process, and the resulting biomethane gas goes in dome-shaped tanks on the roof. The bus emits about 30 percent less carbon dioxide than a typical diesel vehicle, according to the BBC.

PR firm thinks editors not only can be bribed, but just for practically nothing

Jim Romanesko - Dan Evans, editor of the Los Angeles Times-owned Times Community News, writes: “This is really weird. Not sure how common this is, but it would hurt my soul that ‘A lot of editors use this as a sort of fund-raiser for their publications.’change I mean, for what? A soda? A slice of pizza? I mean, my ink-stained heart maybe isn’t worth that much, but isn’t it worth more than $3 for a 200-word PR piece? I mean, c’mon. At least a fiver.”

Hello Dan,

My name is Ashley Mitchell, and I am a Media Relations Specialist for NewsUSA, a media placement firm with 25 years experience placing quality articles for our clients with newspapers around the country.

I would like to interest you in our Cash for Clips program, where we will reward you a one-time $25.00 reward, just for publishing our articles! After this you will receive a payment for each time you publish them (you may use as many as you want and be paid for them individually!) A lot of editors use this as a sort of fund-raiser for their publications. You would be amazed at how much money you can make from our special promo!

We offer a wide range of life-style-type categories (everything from home and garden, business and finance, health and wellness, travel and family and so much more in between) that are quality-written in Associated Press (AP) style.

The Cash for Clips payments are as follows:

· Snippets $.50 cents (76 words or less)

· 1-Column $1.00 (76-200 words)

· 2-Column $3.00 (Consists of 201 words or more).

Just confirm the articles have been published by sending us a PDF of the tear sheet; showing the date to:

To get started, you must first go to our website to register. There you will see a complete menu of articles you may select from. Feel free to read through them. All are quality-written, in standard AP style. But, before you can select any to publish, you must first get registered. Click on the blue tab that says “Register for our Print or Email Edition”. Fill-out and submit the registration form, then go back and choose whatever articles you want. That’s it! The only thing you have to do after this is to send PDF’s of your tear sheets showing the articles published and the date! Very simple!

Thank you, again, for allowing NewsUSA to provide you with additional quality content, for your already outstanding publication!

Take care, and please don’t hesitate to contact me at our media relations department at, should you have any questions or concerns.


Ashley Mitchell
Media Relations Specialist
NewsUSA, Inc.

Great moments in the law

Overlawyered - New Jersey: Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Dennis O’Brien has granted summary judgment to the defendant law firm of Wolff, Helies, Duggan Spaeth and Lucas and dismissed Thomas Hickey’s suit over his injuries in falling off a reclining chair in its office during a deposition. Hickey’s lawyers had argued that the law firm as owner and maintainer of the chair was negligent not to check its settings for safety before each use. The court found that whatever hazards might inhere in the chair’s low-tension setting, Hickey had been sitting in it for 90 minutes which was “sufficient time for him to learn the chair was designed to tilt and to appreciate its tension setting.”

Pocket paradigms

We've got too many people in this country employed trying to prevent other people from being bad and not enough people employed helping other people to be good. - Sam Smith


Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent. Selected from the rest of mankind, their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed in the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions. - Thomas Paine

A short history of the economic American

Sam Smith, Shadows of Hope, 1994 - Encomiums to the wonders of market forces fill speeches and media reports. One National Public Radio reporter even went so far as to describe a form of government called market democracy, apparently a blend of the Bill of Rights and the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

In fact, most free workers in this country were self- employed well into the 19th century. They were thus economic as well as political citizens.

Further, until the last decades of the 19th century, Americans believed in a degree of fair distribution of wealth that would shock many today. James L. Huston writes in the American Historical Review:

"Americans believed that if property were concentrated in the hands of a few in a republic, those few would use their wealth to control other citizens, seize political power, and warp the republic into an oligarchy. Thus to avoid descent into despotism or oligarchy, republics had to possess an equitable distribution of wealth."

Such a distribution, in theory at least, came from enjoying the "fruits of one's labor" but no more. Businesses that sprung up didn't flourish on competition because there generally wasn't any and, besides, cooperation worked better. You didn't need two banks or two drug stores in the average town. Prices and business ethics were not regulated by the marketplace but by a complicated cultural code and the fact that the banker went to church with his depositors.

Although the practice was centuries old, the term capitalism -- and thus the religion -- didn't even exist until the middle of the 19th century.

Americans were intensely commercial, but this spirit was propelled not by Reaganesque fantasies about competition but by the freedom that engaging in business provided from the hierarchical social and economic system of the monarchy. Business, including the exchange as well as the making of goods, was seen as a natural state allowing a community and individuals to get ahead and to prosper without the blessing of nobility.

In the beginning, if you wanted to form a corporation you needed a state charter and had to prove it was in the public interest, convenience and necessity. During the entire colonial period only about a half-dozen business corporations were chartered; between the end of the Revolution and 1795 this rose to about a 150. Jefferson to the end opposed liberal grants of corporate charters and argued that states should be allowed to intervene in corporate matters or take back a charter if necessary.10 With the pressure for more commerce and indications that corporate grants were becoming a form of patronage, states began passing free incorporation laws and before long Massachusetts had thirty times as many corporations as there were in all of Europe.

Still it wasn't until after the Civil War that economic conditions turned sharply in favor of the large corporation.

These corporations, says Huston:

"killed the republican theory of the distribution of wealth and probably ended whatever was left of the political theory of republicanism as well. . . .[The] corporation brought about a new form of dependency. Instead of industry, frugality, and initiatives producing fruits, underlings in the corporate hierarchy had to be aware of style, manners, office politics, and choice of patrons -- very reminiscent of the Old Whig corruption in England at the time of the revolution -- what is today called 'corporate culture.'"

Concludes Huston:

"The rise of Big Business generated the most important transformation of American life that North America has ever experienced."

By the end of the last century the Supreme Court had declared corporations to be persons under the 14th Amendment, entitled to the same protections as human beings. As Morton Mintz pointed out in the National Law Journal, this 1888 case ignored the fact that "the only 'person' Congress had in mind when it adopted the 14th Amendment in 1866 was the newly freed slave." Justice Black observed in the 1930s that in the first fifty years following the adoption of the 14th Amendment, "less than one-half of 1 percent [of Supreme Court cases] invoked it in protection of the Negro race, and more than 50 percent asked that its benefits be extended to corporations." During this period the courts moved to limit democratic power in other ways as well. For example, the Supreme Court restricted the common law right of juries to nullify a wrongful law; other courts erected barriers against third parties such as banning fusion slates.

It was during this same time that the myth of competitive virtue sprouted, helping to justify one of the great rapacious periods of American business. It was a time when J.P. Morgan would come to own half the railroad mileage in the country -- the same J. P. Morgan who got his start during the Civil War by buying defective rifles for $3.50 each from an army arsenal and then selling them to a general in the field for $22 apiece. The founding principles of what we now proudly call the "American free market system" flowered in an era of enormous bribes, massive legislative corruption, and the creation of great anti- competitive cartels. It was a time when the government, in a precursor to industrial policy, gave two railroad companies 21 million acres of free land.

And it was also the time that American workers, who had once used commerce to free themselves from the economic and social straitjacket of the monarchy, found themselves servants of a new rigid hierarchy, that of the modern corporation.

The political movement of populism, which Jonathan Rowe calls the "last spasm of economic freedom in an American context," did battle with the new corporations but lost, as did the eurocentric socialists who followed. Save during the depression, generations of Americans would come to accept the myth of the free markets and free enterprise.
 How states once
controlled corporations

The purposes for which every such corporation shall be established shall be distinctly and definitely specified in the articles of association, and it shall not be lawful for said corporation to appropriate its funds to any other purpose. -- State of Wisconsin, 1864

The charter or acts of association of every corporation hereafter created may be amendable or repealed at the will of the general assembly. -- State of Rhode Island, 1857
[Legislators shall] alter, revoke or annul any charter of a corporate hereafter conferred . . . whenever in their opinion it may be injurious to citizens of the community. -- State of Pennsylvania, constitutional amendment, 1857.

November 21, 2014

Govrnment links

Project on Government Oversight
Government Accountability Project
Thomas Drake
Bill Binney
Chelsea Manning
Project on Gov Oversight
Edward Snowden

Another reason to like whistleblowers

Guardian, UK - A new study tracking the economic effects of whistleblowers has found that people who come forward to report wrongdoing helped the US government secure $21.27bn more in fines over 35 years.

The study, conducted by researchers from Arizona State University, American University, Texas A&M University and University of Iowa, set out to discover if the costs of promoting and maintaining programs set up for financial whistleblowers were worth it. It found that in cases where whistleblowers were involved:

    Firm penalties were $90.16m to $90.88m greater.
    Penalties imposed on executives and employees averaged $50.22m to $56.50m more than if no whistleblower was involved.
    The prison sentences for those involved were on average 21.86 to 27 months longer.

The $21.27bn collected thanks to involvement of whistleblowers accounts for 30% of the $70.13bn collected from 1978 to 2012.

Starting in 2011, thanks to the Dodd-Frank reform bill, the Securities and Exchange Commission began rewarding corporate whistleblowers with up to 30% of any settlement it recovered. The largest award yet was issued earlier this year and amounted to $30m.

For most whistleblowers, money is not the driving factor, said Louis Clark, president of the Government Accountability Project. Whistleblowers are usually hardworking people with high standards who believe in the institution they work for.

“Cynical people tend not to whistleblow,” he said.

Money can, however, make things easier.

Reminder to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge: We won the revolution

Daily Mail, UK - American journalists have been given a dressing down about how they dress up ahead of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's royal visit next month.

The Duke and Duchess will visit New York City and Washington, DC, for three days, their first official visit to the US in three years.

Reporters have been given a strict dress code, reminding them that covering Royal events requires a certain sartorial standard.

'Journalists wishing to cover royal engagements, whether in the United Kingdom or abroad, should comply with the dress code on formal occasions out of respect for the guests of the queen, or any other member of the royal family.'

'Smart attire for men includes the wearing of a jacket and tie, and for women a trouser or skirt suit.

'Those wearing jeans or trainers will not be admitted and casually dressed members of the media will be turned away. This also applies to technicians,' the rules state.

Reporters on Capitol Hill have also been reminded of general etiquette rules when covering Congress.

These include 'not taking pictures in the wrong places, not walking backwards and not being so absorbed in a phone as to run into people,' according to Politico.


The problem with doing nothing is not knowing when you're finished. - Ben Franklin

Pocket paradigms

We tend to discount the importance of unplanned moments because of our fealty to the business school paradigm in which change properly occurs because of a careful strategic plan, an organized vision, procedures, and process. During the past quarter century when such ideas have been in ascendancy, however, America has demonstratively deteriorated as a political, economic, and moral force. In reality, many of the best things happen by accident and indirection. While it may be true, as the Roman said, that "fortune smiles on the well prepared" part of that preparation is to be in the right place at the right time. In other words, it is necessary to create an ecology of change rather than a precise and often illusory process. - Sam Smith


From 50 years of our overstocked archives

Sam Smith, 1990 - This spring, when homeless activist Mitch Snyder announced he was going to retreat to a monastery for awhile for reflection and renewal, I felt pulled to drop him a note thanking him for his witness, for the good it had done, for the wisdom and encouragmeent it had given others. In the note I quoted Emerson.

"The voyage of the best ship" said Emerson, "is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency."

I can not comprehend Mitch's last tack that ended in suicide. But the average tendency of his life has been as inspiring as any I have known. At times humbling, at times guilt-provoking, at times incredibly catalytic and at times -- yes -- aggravating, this one scruffy amalgem of love and anger, intensity and gentleness led us to care far more about what it was easier to ignore -- the homeless refugees of the puerile, avaricious American dream of the 80s.

Lately we've been falling back to easier ways. The DC city council has just ordered a cruel retreat from the decency towards the homeless we overwhelmingly supported in Inititiative 17. In San Francisco, on the very day Mitch died, Mayor Agnos ordered the arrest of homeless people sleeping in public places.

What effect this had on Mitch I don't know. I do know that in his last days he was organizing a massive drive for a referendum on the council action. As he met in the shelter to discuss the referendum last week, he patiently explained to a man reciting some of the new cyncism towards the homeless that no one in that 1400-bed shelter wanted to be there. Not even Mitch Snyder.

And I do know that we talked on the phone on Monday. He told me enthusiastically of the law suit being filed against the council and of the lawyers who were working on the case and would I be one of the plaintiffs. I said, sure, and he said -- as he did so often to so many people he had pulled to the cause in that soft gentle voice -- he said: "Thank you, my friend."

But I also know that Mitch lived a life in painful proximity to modern society's cruelest results and carried a terrible trusteeship for its victims. In recent months, there were voices -- most sadly among those in power and in the media -- indicating that we no longer needed to care.

For me, Mitch -- controversial, blunt and irrascible as he was on occasion -- fit the best definition of a saint, which is to say that Mitch Snyder was a sinner who kept trying. I suspect the only eulogy he would want is a commitment to nothing more than the simple decency he espoused. Oh yes, and perhaps his own soft, gentle benediction: "Thank you, my friend."
--WAMU, Washington, July 6, 1990

November 20, 2014

When was the last time a Mexican cut your pension?

Sam Smith, 2006 - Those wishing to test the extent of the immigrant problem might want to conduct this quick test:

1. Has a Mexican ever fired or laid you off?

2. Has the plant you worked for until it was sent overseas been bought by Mexicans or is it still owned by the same people you used to work for?

3. Has a Mexican ever cut your pension or health benefits? Outsourced your job to India?

4. How much does Latin America contribute to global warming and its results - such as bigger hurricanes and more tornadoes - compared with the United States?

5. Was Enron run by Mexicans?

6. Are Mexicans responsible for NSA's spying you?

7. Do you think Mexicans or the pharmaceutical corporations are more responsible for high drug costs?

8. How much of the corruption in Washington has been instigated by the Mexicans?

9. Did the Mexicans' make us invade Iraq?

10. Are the Mexicans responsible for George Bush being so dumb?

Chances are most your answers will be in the negative which is a clue to stop spending so much time worrying about immigration and turn your attention to something else.

Who's an American citizen?

1600s Most of various tribes scattered throughout the continent didn't know whether they were Americans as there was no one to tell them

1774 Continental Congress leaves it to each state to decide who shall be a voting citizen

1776 Full citizenship to white male property owners, with six states granting it to all white males whether they had property or not. Some states had higher property qualifications than others and some even required membership in a specified religion.

1790 Naturalization of foreign 'free white persons' permitted. Women carried the legal status of their husbands.

1795 Naturalization denied free whites unwilling to give up foreign titles of nobility

1812-21 Six western states join the union with full white male suffrage. Four of the original states abolish property requirements

1830 Indian Removal Act passes Congress, calling for relocation of eastern Indians to a territory west of the Mississippi River. Cherokees contest it in court, and in 1832, the Supreme Court decides in their favor, but Andrew Jackson ignores the decision. From 1831-39, the Five Civilized tribes of the Southeast are relocated to the Indian Territory. The Cherokee "Trail of Tears" takes place in 1838-39.

1853-56 United States acquires 174 million acres of Indian lands through 52 treaties, all of which it will subsequently break.

1856 North Carolina becomes the last state to abolish the property requirement. Previously barred Catholics and non-Christians are enfranchised and in a few states even immigrants not yet naturalized are allowed to vote.

1857 Under Dred Scott decision, no black person can be a U.S. citizen.

1858 Stephen Douglas debates Abraham Lincoln, arguing that "I believe the government was made on the white basis. I believe it was made by white men for the benefit of white men and their posterity for ever, and I am in favor of confining citizenship to white men. . . instead of conferring it upon Negroes, Indians, and other inferior races." Lincoln disagrees.

1866 Civil Rights Act declares all persons born in the U.S. - except Indians - to be natural citizens

1869 Territory of Wyoming grants women suffrage in state elections

1870 15th Amendment is passed: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." South deals with the amendment by instituting polls taxes, literacy tests and grandfather clauses that limit the vote to the offspring of the formerly enfranchised. Naturalization of black immigrants (but not Asians) is permitted.

1871 Residents of the District of Columbia lose the right to vote for mayor and city council as a territorial form of government with appointed governor is installed

1874 Supreme Court rules that it is not unconstitutional to deny women the right to vote.

1875 Page Law bars entry of Chinese, Japanese, and "Mongolian" prostitutes, felons, and contract laborers

1878 Chinese are ruled not eligible for naturalized citizenship

1882 Chinese Exclusion Law suspends immigration of laborers for ten years. Late 19th century exclusion from naturalization includes prostitutes, convicted felons, lunatics, polygamists and persons likely to be a 'public charge' Early 20th century exclusion from naturalization includes anarchists, communists, and the illiterate.

1902 Chinese exclusion is extended for another ten years.

1904 Chinese exclusion is made indefinite

1915 Eleven states have given women the right to vote

1918 Servicemen of Asian ancestry who served in World War I receive right of naturalization

1919 American Indian soldiers and sailors receive citizenship.

1920 The 20th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, is ratified

1923 Asian Indians ruled not eligible for naturalized citizenship.

1924 Congress gives the right to vote to original Americans, the Indians.

1940 Congress passes Nationalities Act granting citizenship to all Native Americans without diluting tribal authority.

1941 After declaring war on Japan, 10,000 Japanese-Americans along Pacific Coast states and Hawaii are rounded up and interned in Department of Justice camps.

1943 The Chinese Exclusion Act is repealed. The annual immigration quota for Chinese is set at 105.

1945 The War Brides Act permits immigration of Asian spouses and children of American servicemen in the war.

1946 Luce-Celler bill grants right of naturalization and small immigration quotas to Asian Indians and Filipinos

1949 5000 highly educated Chinese in the U.S. granted refugee status after China institutes a Communist government.

1952 One clause of the McCarran-Walter Act grants the right of naturalization and a small immigration quota to Japanese.

1957 Utah becomes the last state to permit Indians to vote

1965 Immigration Law abolishes "national origins" as basis for allocating immigration quotas to various countries - Asian countries now on equal footing.

1974 Residents of the District of Columbia regain the right to vote for mayor and city council lost over a century earlier but still lack voting representation in Congress or real power over their budget and criminal justice system.