The man who's just been put in charge
Of knowing all will now assure us
That he knew nothing--nada, zip--
When he was stationed in Honduras.
Ex-Nation intern Chris Kromm and the Institute for Southern Studies--a "think tank/act tank" founded by civil rights veterans, which publishes the award-winning Southern Exposure magazine--have launched a new blog, Facing South.
The Institute has been at the forefront of campaigns for economic justice, campaign finance reform, environmental sanity and most recently the defense of voting rights and the reigning in of war profiteers (over 40 percent of military contracts go to corporations operating in the South).
Why Facing South? Because the South is far from a lost cause for social change. Progressives in the region are getting energized, laying infrastructure and finding openings that draw on the region's populist streak and unbroken history of movements for justice and dignity.
Norman Mailer had the best take on Hunter Thompson's passing.
"He had more to say about what was wrong with America than George W. Bush can ever tell us about what is right," mused Mailer upon learning of Thompson's suicide.
Anyone who read Thompson knew that the so-called "gonzo journalist" was about a lot more than sex, drugs and rock-and-roll -- although it is Thompson who gets credit for introducing all three of those precious commodities to the mainstream of American journalism. The gun-toting, mescaline-downing wildman that showed up in Doonesbury as "Uncle Duke" was merely the cartoon version of an often serious, and always important, political commentator who once said that his beat was the death of the American dream. Thompson was to the political class of the United States in the latter part of the 20th century what William Hazlitt was to the English poets of the early 19th century: a critic who was so astute, so engaged and so unyielding in his idealism that he ultimately added more to the historical canon than did many of his subjects.
During the week of President's Day, Senators and Representatives go home on recess. 20/20 Vision and the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) are taking advantage of this break to arrange meetings between representatives and their constituents to talk about ending the war in Iraq. And it's not too late to sign up.
As David Corn recently reported in The Nation, Congressional Dems have already begun the fight to end the occupation. Rep. Lynn Wolsey introduced a bill demanding immediate withdrawal from Iraq, and Rep. Marty Meehan is asking for a specific timetable for withdrawal over the next 18 months. However, no real progress can be made on these issues until Democrats and Republicans in both houses start hearing the voices and seeing the faces of the 56 percent of Americans who are now dissatisfied with the way President Bush has handled the war in Iraq, according to a recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.
As 20/20 Vision reports in its newsletter, "legislators routinely speak about how much more effective it is the hear from constituents in their home districtsâ€¦meeting three people at home has more impact that 50 meetings here in DC." So click here to sign up for 20/20 Vision and FCNL's Interfaith Lobby Days for Iraq, click here for advice about how to best conduct the lobbying, and click here to learn more about the FCNL's lobbying strategy.
In secretly taped conversations in 1998 and 1999, President Bush admitted to deliberately "stoned-walling" the press about his past drug use during the 2000 election.
Quote: "I wouldn't answer the marijuana questions. You know why? Because I don't want some little kid doing what I tried." Instead Bush used "code words" about his "wild past" to appeal to the Christian Right as a sinner who had been saved.
If George Bush is the Cheech Marin of turning past vices into present virtues, then John Negroponte is Tommy Chong. While ambassador to Honduras, Negroponte was involved in Iran/Contra, misled Congress about Honduras' human rights record, and denied the existence of CIA-trained death squads which, in fact, were then hunting down, torturing, and killing suspected subversives.
America has become a profoundly--and tragically--ahistoric country. As such, the 273rd anniversary of the birth of George Washington will pass this Tuesday with little note. Washington's legacy has been so disregarded by its heirs that his birthday has been stirred into the generic swill of "President's Day," an empty gesture that blunts the memories of both the first chief executive and the sixteenth, Abraham Lincoln, in order to avoid cluttering February with too many holidays or too much history.
The memory of Washington has become an inconvenience for men who occupy the high stations he and his fellow founders occupied. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Negroponte and their ilk certainly do not want the work of remaking America in their own image--as a greedy, self-absorbed and frequently brutal empire--interrupted by reflections upon the nobler nation that Washington and his compatriots imagined.
Considering the ugly state to which the American experiment has degenerated, however, it would make sense for the rest of us to renew our affiliation with the first GW. Indeed, patriots need to call General Washington back into the service of his country--not merely as a clarification of national memory but as a blunt challenge to those who have usurped America's promise with their illegal invasions and reckless misadventures.
George Hunsinger gives the lie to the Right's caricature of progressives as anti-religious zealots. As a minister, the McCord professor of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, and coordinator of Church Folks for a Better America (CBFA), Hunsinger is working hard to reframe the "moral values" debate by raising tough questions about how torture, pre-emption, unjust war, and poverty can be tolerated by people of moral and religious conviction.
Hunsinger has tapped into a rich tradition of religious progressive activism--from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Father Robert Drinan to Rev. William Sloane Coffin. He shared his thoughts on Iraq, torture, and the challenges facing progressive religious leaders in a recent email interview.
On February 10, a jury in New York City convicted longtime activist attorney Lynne Stewart of conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists, defrauding the government and making false statements.
But, as David Cole comments in the latest issue of The Nation, rather than making us safer, this conviction "illustrates how out of hand things have gotten in the 'war on terrorism'...To inflate its successes in ferreting out terrorism," Cole adds, "the Justice Department turned an administrative infraction into a terrorism conviction that, unless reversed, will likely send Stewart to prison for the rest of her life."
Stewart's transgression--violating an administrative agreement to not convey any communication between her client and the outside world, is--as Cole says, simply not a crime. "In an ordinary case, the lawyer might receive a warning. In an unusual case, the lawyer might be barred from continuing to visit her client. In an extraordinary case, the lawyer might be brought up on disciplinary charges before the bar."