Saturday, August 6, marks the fortieth anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's signing into law of the Voting Rights Act, considered by many to be the most comprehensive civil rights law ever passed. The act provides protection for voters against actions taken by states to limit participation in the electoral process, actions most often targeted toward black, Hispanic, and low-income citizens. The law banned literacy tests and the other barriers that southern states had erected since blacks won the vote in 1870. And in the three years after it passed, more than a million new nonwhite voters cast ballots in southern states.
As The Nation's unsigned editorial said this week, "By tearing down the barriers to equal opportunity at the ballot box, the act removed the essential political mechanisms that maintained segregation and white supremacy." Several key provisions of the act expire in 2007, however, and Rev. Jackson, the NAACP and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition are taking the lead in campaigning for their renewal.
These days, with each of the last two presidential elections marred by accounts of black voters being intentionally disenfranchised, the renewal--and strengthening--of the Voting Rights Act is more critical than ever. So let's honor the proud anniversary of this act by extending its promise forty years later.
NAACP Convention SpeechRev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.July 12, 2005
To Chairman Julian Bond, a legendary force in the last half of the 20th century, whose work, vision and sacrifice, and whose call to conscience lifted a generation - we thank you. Of our generation of activists who survived the bullets and the lynchings, there is no brighter light, no keener mind, than Julian Bond.
To Bruce Gordon who now assumes the awesome responsibility to guide our civil rights mother ship - we share with you in your daunting task. You have the integrity, the intelligence and the strength of reasoning to take us another rung up freedom's ladder. Be assured that the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition stands with you. The entire civil rights community will be served well to rally, close ranks and join with you in partnership.
To my lifelong friend Nelson Rivers, a giant of a man who continues to grow and serve selflessly - we are all in your debt and your mother's debt for your unswerving faith and commitment to shared justice and security for all.
To Hillary Shelton, you are our 101st Senator and, even at a young age, in the best tradition of Clarence Mitchell - you serve us well.
To the Board of Directors - your strength, no matter the weather, keeps the ship afloat.
We meet today in the face of unusually chilly winds, when 20 US Senators wrapped in faith symbols and moral values - wearing Jesus clothes - cannot show contrition by voting to apologize for the Senate's historic failure to oppose lynching - acts of state sponsored terror - for fear their constituents would reject them. And when there is such a cold silence from the White House when this "failure to act" occurred - chilly winds.
It is a chilly wind when the head of another country - Vicente Fox - can make a demeaning statement about Americans, and then seek to justify demeaning racial stereotypes and caricatures in the postage stamp. Even as we pay taxes at home and shed blood on foreign battlefields, the silence of the White House and Secretary of State on this is chilling.
Our Voting Rights are under attack, coupled with a growing lack of government enforcement. The silence of the Attorney General and the closed-door policy of the Department of Justice are chilling.
There is this urban chill of first-class jails for profit and second-class schools, marked by a jail drug culture that is destroying families and taking away voters. We must look anew at this international drug war in which our cities play the most minor role and pay the most major price. When I talked with New York and Chicago police chiefs, both acknowledged that the purchases are mainly suburban. The gun shops are mainly suburban, propped up by NRA policies. The coke comes from Columbia and South America; the heroin comes from Afghanistan under US occupation, brought in to the ports by ships and by trucks at known border points. The drug-gun industry attacks our cities like insurgents. We offer little defense. As we dump billions into Iraq to stop terror, the drug and gun terrorists are ravaging us at home.
It is in the face of these chilly winds that I greet you today.
I want to thank you for my upbringing and my liberated consciousness, for removing the veil from my eyes as a child. Unsung heroes like Rev. I.D. Quincy Newman in South Carolina, and a little known auto mechanic named AJ Whittenberg, and Rev. James Hall of Springfield Baptist Church, who led a demonstration on the Greenville airport because Jackie Robinson could not get off of the plane to use the toilet. These men kept talking about this "freedom thing."
On July 17, 1960, along with seven students, I was arrested trying to use a public library, as a member of the NAACP youth chapter. We were directed to jail, and then bailed out, by the NAACP... but we helped change the course of South Carolina in very fundamental ways.
On July 17, 1984, 24 years to the day, I gave my speech at the Democratic Convention in San Francisco as a presidential candidate, having defeated US Senator and former South Carolina Governor Ernest Hollings, Senator Glenn, and others, in the primary process.
With your help I saw the light and joined the freedom train. During that season, we changed America's direction, but not irreversibly. We defeated Goliath, but his sons and daughters have come roaring back.
So this Sunday in Greenville we will celebrate 45 years since being jailed in Greenville, and 21 since the historic run for the presidency in 1984.
Just this past year, Rainbow and NAACP - in coalition - were able to gain recognition of the King holiday in Greenville for the first time, against fierce opposition from Bob Jones University and the right wing. They sought to discredit Dr. King beyond the grave, and yet we prevailed. The struggle continues.
In this the year of our Lord 2005 the civil rights movement must declare this to be the Martin Luther King-Lyndon Johnson year. Under their leadership 40 years ago, promises made in 1865 were honored in some measure. Under their leadership 40 years ago, 346 years of voter denial ended. Under their leadership, and the tremendous legal work of the NAACP and Thurgood Marshall, the laws of Jim Crow - a creature of the Supreme Court in 1896 - came tumbling down. Under their leadership, America was transformed in fundamental ways.
But the gains achieved during that period are now under attack. The vision of state's righters and Confederates is again challenging the Union. Their vision is not merely of racial and gender inequality, and worker exploitation; it's a fundamental conflict of North v. South not unlike a century ago. Two competing views of the American Dream.
The glorious vision of the war on poverty has shifted to a war of choice in Iraq and a war on the poor. The war in Iraq is costing lives, money ($345 billion so far, and $5 billion a month) and honor. We are shooting ourselves into global isolation, built upon lies and deception. A war without moral foundation can have no good outcome. Yet our sons and daughters, for whom we have such love and such high regard, are caught up in this madness.
The ethic of Jesus the Christ is lifting up the poor, healing the broken hearted, feeding the hungry, providing adequate housing for every American. That gospel of liberation is giving way to a gospel of prosperity - a gospel of the rich young ruler. There now is a driving force for a "Mansion-Down" view where the rich are enhanced with tax cuts and privileges, rather than a "Manger-UP" for the poor to break the shackles of their deprivation and denied rights.
Wolves dressed up and appearing to be sheep, dressed up in Jesus' clothes. They are deceptive as they turned the tenets of our faith on its head. Christianity at its best is a revolutionary gospel for inclusion, for the poor, for the downtrodden.
Today we call to stop this trend. Both parties seem to have more in common on critical matters with each other, than with our needs. We must reassess the need for a course of independence and action - I refer to it as the third rail.
In Chicago, in the elevated train system, there are two tracks for the wheels, but the third rail has the electricity, the power to propel the train forward or backwards. If that rail is not on and alive, the other two rails settle to the status quo - they stay as they are. When we are acting, litigating, legislating, demonstrating for a moral cause, we shake up and energize the whole system for the good of all. That's how change comes about.
Civil rights struggle is not synonymous with Democrats or Republicans, and they are not synonymous with the civil rights struggle. We turn up the voltage of the third rail; we move both, but we must not be captive of either.
Historically, both parties found common ground in the status quo. We always needed the third rail of sacrifice and action.
In the time of slavery, conservatives said "treat them as you want, they are your property." The Supreme Court of that era blessed this trend of thought.
Liberals said, "Be generous and patient toward them."
The abolitionists said, "End the whole system." The third rail.
It was John Brown and Frederick Douglas and Dred Scott, and the runaway slaves. It was neither party, nor the compliant ones who adjusted to the system that created the dynamic for change.
In resisting Jim Crow and faith-based lynchings - I say faith-based because most lynchings were not abductions at night with men hiding their faces behind sheets and hoods. They were rituals after church on Sunday. We were lynched in the name of God. Out of your theology - your view of God - comes your view of people, your view of politics, of laws, of economics, of culture. This theology that chose race supremacy over love, and distorted the very essence and message of Jesus, has been a rat in the well of our quest to make this a more perfect union.
In resisting Jim Crow and lynching laws, and a perverse cultural theology, the NAACP, in its formation, had to build a course of action outside of the political norm. The third rail.
In the quest for women's right to vote, men on both sides of the aisle railed against women's rights. The women's suffrage movement was independent of the parties - third rail.
In the 1930, labor fought for the right to organize. Both parties supported right to work laws and too often they still do. Labor faced struggles at the plant gates. Workers were martyred. It was a third rail struggle. Out of it came a middle class. The 8-hour day. The NLRB. Dignity for workers.
The struggle to de-segregate the military took place over the objection of both parties. The struggle that led to the 1954 decision was independent. It came from Thurgood Marshall and Houston and the NAACP "to" the Supreme Court.
The struggle for the 1964 and 1965 civil rights acts came from Emmit Till, Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Goodman, Schwerner and Cheney -- the marching feet in Selma and Montgomery, not from Pennsylvania Avenue nor Capitol Hill. They were independent, Third Rail struggles.
The fight to recognize the United Farm Workers Union came from Cesar Chavez's Leadership, from the blood, sweat and toil of workers in the fields of California and Texas, not from the halls of Congress.
The third rail can relate to both parties, but must maintain its own identity and not be captive of either. We must be the voice of conscience; we must march to the beat of a different drummer. Elected officials too often represent the cultural norms, we must be the creative minority with a majority vision, and like a powerful tugboat we must pull the ship of state toward the safe landing of peace and justice.
We are not happy with the Democratic Party; we are not afraid of Republicans. 40 years after Dr. King and Lyndon Johnson, and the martyrs of our modern day struggle, we will pledge to not let them down. We cannot let Washington or Wall Street co-opt our identity - our electric rail for change - and wear down our will for equality. They are both central to the problem.
The Senate filibuster compromise was a cave in, a collapse. It protected the rights of minorities IN the Senate, but did not protect the right of minorities, women or labor OUTSIDE of the Senate. It was a charmed move for the club, but had no real value for civil rights, workers rights and social justice. It opened the door to the rightwing to take over our courts.
So the battle for the soul of the Supreme Court today - with the retirement of Justice O'Connor and the expected resignation of Justice Rehnquist, and possibly Justice Ginsburg - defines this era of civil rights struggle. Will the Court follow the tradition of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Court and strike down racial segregation and inequality and uphold civil rights? Or will it turn its back? That's why we must do everything in our power to fight for an independent, fair Supreme Court that upholds the constitution, and prevent Bush from stacking our Courts with rightwing ideologues who would define the laws of our lands for the next 40 years.
The alliance of both parties against class action lawsuits, denying workers and consumers a voice, the bankruptcy laws, lack of concerted action on predatory exploitation, the will to write off the South by the Democrats in the last election - the largest region with the most needs - make it clear that we must form a third rail independent labor-civil rights action agenda.
And negotiate with whoever chooses to appreciate the legitimacy of our interests and needs.
We have the power to change the course of our nation - by the margin of our unregistered Black voters in the South:
North Carolina: 483,000
South Carolina: 210,000
We have not earned the right to do less than our best. We are losing too many battles by the margin of cynicism and feigned effort. We must go home with a burning desire to target registration for the 2006 campaigns.
We need New Constitutional Rights and New Vehicles.
In this quest we must build in new Constitutional rights and pick up where the 13, 14th and 15th amendments - which passed by only two votes - left off. We must fight for new rights and new vehicles to achieve these rights, to move from civil rights, to universal human and constitutional rights. We cannot just fight for grants and programs, and new faces in high places. We need new protections:
50 million Americans are now without health care insurance, a deepening crisis in a land of plenty that threatens our security. The health care system is broken, treated like a privilege, and leaving more and more families in the gap.
So we need a Constitutional Amendment for equal, high quality health care for all Americans. Constitutional rights are a vision for a more perfect union, not a program or a grant.
Public education in America continues to leave too many of our children behind. Schools suffer from unequal funding, with schools in poor and urban areas receiving inadequate resources relative to their suburban counterparts. Teachers are not properly compensated. This administration has not provided the required funding for its "No Child Left Behind Act." Flawed policy. It's flawed because it raises the ceiling without evening the floor.
I spoke at Little Rock Central High School last week, only to be reminded of the funding gap today between urban schools and suburban schools - which is greater today than in 1957. Chicago inner city schools spend around $5500 per child. Suburbs ten miles away spend over $17,000 per child. Educational inequality and segregation has moved from "race based" to tax based, but the results are the same.
So we must support the NEA lawsuit challenging the under-funding of No Child Left Behind, and work together to achieve a Constitutional Right to equal, high quality education for all Americans.
We are exporting capital and jobs, and importing cheap labor and products. Wages are down, unemployment is up. Right to work means right to exploit.
Hotel workers in New York earn $17 per hour, with health benefits and retirement plans. Hotel workers in Louisiana or Atlanta make $7 per hour with no benefits or retirement plan. Bally's workers in Las Vegas make $40,000; yet in Tunica, MS, just $20,000. That's the difference between right to work v. right to organize and be protected and represented by unions.
So we must support the Employee Choice Act, and a constitutional right for workers to organize.
We have won the vote in the last two elections; but we lost the count. We still have 50 separate and unequal elections; voter suppression and fraud taint our system.
So we support the Conyers-Dodd comprehensive voter reform bill, the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, and a constitutional amendment affirming the individual, federally protected right to vote.
The Congressional Black Caucus met with president Bush a few months ago. Congressman Jackson asked President Bush if he would support voting rights act extension with Section 203 and Section 5. He said he didn't know anything about it.
That's an incredible response when you consider that Texas was under Voting Rights Act supervision. He knew very well what the question of voting rights enforcement was about. His constituency resists Section 203 and Section 5. They want to use tricky language, like "make it national and permanent" - they know full well the Voting Rights Act is narrowly tailored and would not survive strict scrutiny and would be declared unconstitutional. Another wolves in sheep's clothing maneuver.
Already we see the ugly heads of voter restriction being raised. A lawsuit in Indiana. The Schwarzenegger redistricting plan in California. Tom DeLay in Texas. Perdue in Georgia. Georgia passed voter identification legislation, which requires you to have a state-issued ID to validate your registration and vote. So if you go to Georgia Tech or University of Georgia, you can use your student ID - they are "state" schools. But if you go to Morehouse, Spelman or Emory, your student ID is not valid - they are "private" schools. 100 counties in Georgia do not offer state ID's, making it more difficult to register and vote. But to vote by absentee ballot no ID is required.
This voter restriction bill in Georgia revives a de facto poll tax, and Attorney General Gonzales must enforce the Voting Rights Act and prevent it from being implemented. But just as Ashcroft would not act on Tom DeLay's manipulation of congressional districts in Texas, Attorney General Gonzales will not respond to our request to meet on Perdue's voter manipulation and disenfranchising plan in Georgia. We need this administration to enforce - not ignore - the Voting Rights Act NOW.
I urge us this August 6, on the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, to have a massive march in Atlanta, Georgia. A pro-Democracy rally. A rally for Voting Rights Act reauthorization. For workers' right to organize. For the end to the Iraq war. For a fair, independent and impartial Supreme Court.
40 years later we must focus anew on the threats to our gains over the last 40 years. Likewise we must continue looking at the 4th stage of our struggle - beyond slavery and segregation and the right to vote - to access to capital, industry and technology - our next phase.
What does it means when the government spends millions on bankruptcy proceedings but we are locked out? What does it mean when United Airlines spends millions on bankruptcy proceedings, but we are locked out. In effect, United Airlines boycotted our talented financial services firms.
We must intensify our presence at shareholders meetings, demanding greater accountability in the use of pension funds. For too long, we have spent our energy knocking to open up closed doors. We must look at new alliances and rather than just knocking on closed doors, we must build our own doors and build bridges with new partners.
I want to make a bold proposal today, to look anew at a strategic alliance between African Americans and Latinos. We cannot allow even the racial tensions within Mexico, the erroneous insulting statement of President Fox and the Memin Penguin stamp, to divert our attention away from the ultimate alliance between struggling workers of Mexico and of the US, and the African factor within the Mexican cultural experience.
African Americans and Latinos combined make up more than a majority of the populations in this country's 100 largest cities. When we work together we can finish the unfinished business of our movement: the constitutional right to vote; the constitutional rights to health care and education, the right to organize and breathe free.
African Americans and Mexican Americans share the lowest paying jobs.
We share the schools that have the least investment and resources. We have the highest infant mortality rates and the shortest life expectancies.
We face the most predatory exploitation, whether it be the auto, insurance or financial services industries. We share the most jail cells. Dr. King in his last staff meeting convened Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, Jews, and labor to focus on a coalition - a working poor people's campaign to lift all boats at the bottom and leave no one behind. That insight was brilliant
Yet we share our blood disproportionately for our country in times of war. We are the most likely to be profiled and suspected. We face the same racial inequities on a daily basis. Our profile is that we work harder and get paid less, we pay more for less, live under stress and don't live as long. We must reassess our relationship and have a summit to build on our common goals and needs, and to work on a shared destiny.
The victory of Villaraigosa, like the victory of Tom Bradley that preceded him, is a manifestation of our coalition. The victory of Harold Washington in Chicago, Brown in Houston, Webb or Pena in Denver, Dave Dinkins in New York, were all examples of what happens when our coalition finds common ground. We must unite our coalition around these 10 points:
1. Teach our children to be bilingual.2. Teach our children nonviolence and to avoid gang warfare.3. We must conduct trade missions.4. We must conduct cultural exchanges.5. We must have a conference with our religious leaders.6. We must merge our quest to join corporate boards and upper levels of management.7. Our labor and consumer patterns drive the companies; we are denied the road to inclusion.8. We must fight for affirmative actions laws and strong enforcement by the EEOC and OFCCP.9. We must fight for comprehensive immigration reform.10. We must connect with Africans and Mexicans whom we share common history and challenges. They are our family in the diaspora.
Mexico is next door, not back door. Mexico is older than the United States. We must view Mexico as a hemispheric partner in progress. It is the largest trading partner in this hemisphere, and second in the world. The U.S. does more trade with Mexico than Japan, Germany, France, Italy and the UK combined.
Two-thirds of our neighbors speak Spanish. We have the more telephone traffic than anywhere in the world. One million people come back and forth across the border each day. 1000 people are deported. Africans in Mexico were the first freed in this hemisphere, before the Untied States, Cuba or Brazil. We must build upon that tradition.
We must work for comprehensive immigration reform, and the McCain-Kennedy bill, and actively work together to expand the road to opportunity in our nations, and peace between our nations.
It occurred to me in 1984 - the reason why we named ourselves the "Rainbow" - is that I observed there were more people OUTSIDE of the convention, than IN the convention. African Americans were having a rally. Latinos were having a rally. Women were having a rally. Asian Americans were having a rally. Peace activists were having a rally. Environmentalists were having a rally.
So I said why don't we pull all of that together and form a third force. And it was that action that elected new mayors and city council members from New York to Chicago, Cleveland to Los Angeles. It was that action that increased the most Black and Latino and Asian elected officials in history. It was that action of voter registration that led to US Senate victories in the South. It was the Rainbow base that enabled Bill Clinton to win. And even in 2000 and 2004 we won the vote, but lost the count - which remains even another challenge.
But be encouraged. Don't let this foul wind of rightwing zealotry break your spirit. We have more capacity to fight back and make this a more perfect union than ever before. We have strategic partners. We have valued skills. We have a will to work. If we have a made up mind and will to fight. we will prevail. This is not dusk moving toward midnight; it is dawn moving toward daylight. They have thrown their hardest blows, and yet we stand.
It is this faith that will carry us to a more perfect union.
It is this faith that will build more schools and fewer jails. It is with this faith that we will live longer and be stronger. It is with this faith that we will end the madness of the war in Iraq, and stop the genocide in Darfur.
It is with this faith that we will move beyond diversity toward real equity and parity. We have the most diverse Supreme Court in history, but it is devoid of the content of social justice and historical context. And now its fundamental direction lies in the balance.
It is with this faith that 2006 will be a year with a great surge in political empowerment and growth. It is with this faith that we will become healers of nations and builders of a more perfect union.
It is with this faith that we will march in Atlanta on August 6. It is with this faith that we will win the battle to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act.
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then God will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal our land.
Thank you very much. Keep Hope Alive.
In an age in which corporate malfeasance abounds, too much of the mainstream media has been unaccountably lax in covering the abuses of big business. Luckily for us--and unluckily for would-be white-collar criminals--one indispensable journal has kept a watchful eye on corporations for the last quarter century.
In 1980, Multinational Monitor was founded by Ralph Nader and a rag-tag band of socially conscious reporters who felt that corporate power was "undergoing a transformation, mutating into something more fundamentally global in scope and profoundly more dangerous." Published nine times a year, the Monitor is not glamorous or immediately recognizable outside of activist and political media circles. But its hard-hitting stories on corporate environmental abuse, health and safety violations, and exploitation of developing nations have long held the feet of executives to the fire.
The Monitor's most widely publicized feature in recent years has been its annual list of the "Top Ten Worst Corporations," compiled by Robert Weissman (who also serves as editor) and Russell Mokhiber of Corporate Crime Reporter. This past year, Coca-Cola, Merck, and--you guessed it--Wal-Mart all made the list, which spread through the blogosphere like wildfire and caused migraines for corporate PR firms.
We're also big fans of the Monitor's bi-monthly Lawrence Summers Memorial Award--named after the loose-lipped Harvard president and former Treasury Secretary, who once suggested that polluting developing nations was a fiscally responsible strategy (among other ridiculous things). A recent recipient was SeaCode: a company, according to the Monitor, "which plans on locating a cruise ship in international waters, just off of the California coast, and out of reach of US labor, employment and immigration law, to house a software development company."
It's no wonder that hundreds of advocacy groups rely on the Monitor's consistently bold investigative reporting. "I think they are the only reliable source of information on global corporations," says John Cavanaugh, director of the Institute for Policy Studies. "It's amazing to me that they're the only magazine that is explicitly devoted to the issue of the excess of corporate power--which is probably the greatest challenge to democracy in the world."
Happy 25th Multinational Monitor. Keep giving ‘em hell.
We also want to hear from you. Please let us know if you have a sweet victory you think we should cover by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker and blogger (www.boldprint.net) living in Brooklyn.
Vice President Dick Cheney, who predicted on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, that Americans would be "greeted as liberators," has in recent weeks been peddling a new line of spin.
If Cheney was not in charge of U.S. foreign policy, he could be dismissed as a ranting lunatic. But, because of his title, and because the former Secretary of Defense is the dominant player in the Bush administration when it comes to military policy, Cheney has to be taken seriously -- as seriously, that is, as his bizarro worldview permits.
Unfortunately, the primary reason to take Cheney seriously is the fact that Americans and Iraqis are dying because of the policies he has promoted. And, of course, because those same policies are emptying the U.S. Treasury into the quagmire that is Iraq.
So it is appropriate to try and hold Cheney accountable.
And it is not difficult to do so.
Here is what Cheney said during a June 20, 2005, interview on CNN's Larry King Live:
Hailing what he described as "major progress" in Iraq, Cheney said, "I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."
Here is what the Associated Press reported from Iraq on August 3, 2005, less than two months after Cheney asserted that the insurgency was fading away:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Fourteen U.S. Marines and a civilianinterpreter were killed Wednesday in western Iraq, theU.S. command said.
The Marines, assigned to Regimental Combat Team 2, 2ndMarine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force(Forward), were killed in action early Wednesday whentheir vehicle was hit by an improvised explosivedevice, the military said. One Marine was also woundedin the attack.
The Associated Press report goes on to note that:
The latest losses come on the heels of the deaths ofseven U.S. Marines in combat two days ago in thevolatile Euphrates Valley of western Iraq. TheAmerican deaths come as the Bush administration istalking about handing more security responsibility tothe Iraqis and drawing down forces next year.
At least 39 American service members have been killedin Iraq since July 24 - all but two in combat. Inaddition, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said that sincethe beginning of April, more than 2,700 Iraqis - abouthalf of them civilians - had been killed ininsurgency-related incidents.
It looks as if the last throes that Cheney was discussing with Larry King have turned out to be death throes for the young American men and women who are serving in Iraq, as well as for the Iraqi people.
Any attempt to address Cheney's rhetorical excesses brings to mind the words of a young veteran from another misguided and unnecessary war.
"How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam?" young John Kerry asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971. "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
Cheney has come up with a contemporary answer for that question.How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Iraq? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?
For Cheney, that's simple: Just keep telling the young men and women who are marching to their deaths that they will be greeted as liberators and that the enemy is so weak that it is in its "last throes."
In other words, just keep spinning a slurry of fantasy and lies into U.S. policy.
John Nichols' book on Cheney, Dick: The Man Who Is President, was published by The New Press. Former White House counsel John Dean, the author of Worse Than Watergate, says, "This page-turner closes the case: Cheney is our de facto president." Arianna Huffington, the author of Fanatics and Fools, calls Dick, "The first full portrait of The Most Powerful Number Two in History, a scary and appalling picture. Cheney is revealed as the poster child for crony capitalism (think Halliburton's no bid, cost-plus Iraq contracts) and crony democracy (think Scalia and duck-hunting)."
Dick: The Man Who Is President is available from independent bookstores nationwide and at www.amazon.com*****************************************************************
Days after Bill Frist, the White House's choice for Senate majority leader, turned his back on religious conservatives to support federal funding for stem cell research, President Bush threw his evangelical base a bone. He came out in support of public school science classes giving equal standing to "intelligent design," the belief that life forms are so complex that their creation can't be explained by Darwinian evolutionary theory alone, but rather points to intentional creation, presumably divine.
Was this sequence of events random? Or the design of a higher intelligence, say The Boy Genius, perhaps? Unless special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald investigates, we'll never know.
But what we do know is that when it comes to intelligence and the designing of it, the Bush Administration is not to be trusted. Its "slam dunk" evidence on Iraqi WMD was a concoction of deliberate lies and false hopes. Its democratic designs on the Middle East are bleeding to death in the sands of the Sunni Triangle. And its theory that we fight the terrorists "over there" so they won't attack us "over here" is small comfort to the victims in Madrid and London.
We don't need more God in science. We need more intelligence in the White House. Because the majority of Americans have lost faith in this president.
"Two months ago, the special election race in the 2nd Congressional District, which stretches across seven southern Ohio counties, was expected to be a low-key affair, a near-automatic win for whichever republican candidate emerged from the June 14 GOP primary," the local newspaper, the Cincinnati Enquirer, noted on Tuesday. "After all, the previous congressman, Republican Rob Portman, routinely won the district with more than 70 percent of the vote."
In fact, Portman, who was plucked from the southern-Ohio district by President Bush to serve as the US Trade Representative, won all of his seven campaigns for the seat with more than 72 percent of the vote. The district had been so radically gerrymandered by Republican governors and legislators that it was all-but-unimaginable that a Democrat could ever be competitive there.
But, in Tuesday night, Democrat Paul Hackett almost did just that. Hackett's near-win came after a remarkable campaign in which he blunted Republican efforts to exploit national security issues and provided food for thought for Democrats as they prepare for 2006 Congressional races nationwide.
Republican Jean Schmidt, a feverish foe of reproductive rights who used her links to religious right activists to beat more mainstream Republicans and secure the party's nomination for the open seat, was leading Hackett, a smart, telegenic Iraq War veteran who criticized the Bush administration for leading the country into the war and then mishandling it, by an unexpectedly thin margin of just 3,573 votes. Unofficial returns gave Schmidt 59,095 votes (51.7 percent) to 55,091 votes (48.3 percent) for Hackett.
Remarkably, in a district that favored George W. Bush over John Kerry by almost a 2-1 margin in 2004, Hackett won four of seven counties and only narrowly lost the most populous county, Hamilton. Only an overwhelming vote for Schmidt from her home county, Clermont, secured the district for the Republican.
Hackett might well have pulled the ultimate upset had he not been "swiftboated" by Republican operatives and right-wing talk radio hosts in the final days of the campaign. Even nationally-syndicated hosts such as Rush Limbaugh devoted time to attacking Hackett's military record, patriotism and sincerity.
Despite the battering from right-wing media, and despite being overwhelmingly outspent, Hackett achieved the best Democratic showing in the region since the Watergate election of 1974. Indeed, on Wednesday morning, the Enquirer referred to the Democrat's showing as "nothing short of astounding."
This was not a simple Democratic surge. Hackett, a lawyer and former local elected official who entered the race at the last minute, proved to be a masterful candidate. But that does not mean that there are no lessons to be learned from this near upset.For one thing, Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean's "50 state strategy" -- which argues that Democrats should compete hard in contests that had previously been ceded to the Democrats -- makes a lot of sense when the opposition party can find smart, edgy candidates who are willing to break political rules.Hackett was just such a candidate.
The Marine Reserve major who volunteered to serve in Iraq did not hesitate to trumpet his military, but he was also blunt about his feelings regarding the commander-in-chief. Calling the president the greatest threat to the safety and security of Americans, Hackett said of Bush during the campaign: "I've said that I don't like the son-of-a-bitch that lives in the White House but I'd put my life on the line for him."
In a sense, that's exactly what Hackett did, re-enlisting in the Marines in 2004 and then serving in the high-profile fight for the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah.In a pre-election interview with USA Today shortly before the election, Hackett rebuked Bush for his swaggering 2003 declaration regarding the Iraqi insurgents that: "There are some who feel like that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring them on."
"That's the most incredibly stupid comment I've ever heard a president of the United States make," Hackett told the interviewer. "He cheered on the enemy."Hackett also referred to Republican supporters of the war who had not served in the military as "chickenhawks."
Serious Democratic candidates have rarely been so blunt regarding the president's shoot-from-the-lip management style. But Hackett's willingness to take Bush on, as well as his own compelling story, played well in the special-election contest.No, not well enough to win.
But certainly well enough to position Hackett for a run against Schmidt in 2006 -- and certainly enough to encourage other Democratic contenders to take the gloves off. It is true that not every challenger will have the military credentials that Hackett brought to the Ohio contest. It should be noted, however, that a number of veterans are expected to run for the House in 2006 as Democrats, including another Marine, David Ashe, who came close to winning an open Virginia seat in 2004.
Readers of The Nation online are used to hearing about Wal-Mart. In fact, it tends to be one of those subjects that we can't do enough on. We've been strongly supportive of efforts to pressure the world's wealthiest company to raise wages and alter business practices that are significantly increasing low-wage dead-end, benefit-less jobs. We've organized a public debate, shown on CSPAN and streamed on the web, against The Economist magazine about Wal-Mart. We've even started a regular Nation web feature called Wal-Mart Nation by Liza Featherstone.
So we're very excited about the potential of Robert Greenwald's new documentary, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, to pump up the volume on what's wrong with the retail giant and why.
The film looks to be a powerful, emotional and entertaining way to help trigger change in the way the company conducts business in the US and across the globe. The only way the film can have an impact, though, is if lots of people help spread the word. The best way is by hosting your own screening of the movie. Click here if you're interested in learning more about the possibilities of staging an event yourself. (Just pick a day that is likely to be most convenient. You won't be bound to it! Don't worry about the details yet--Greenwald's office will be in touch with you as November draws closer.) And click here to check out the film trailer.
There are three other ways you can help:
Not sure you want to host an event? No problem. But reserve your spot at a screening, and make sure you're given first priority at getting into one near you this November. Click here to RSVP.
Always wanted to get into showbiz? Here's your chance! Sign up to be a Field Producer for the Wal-Mart movie. FP's do a variety of things. Click here for info.
The last way to help is simply by emailing this post to your friends, family, co-workers...anyone who you know who might want to be part of this exciting grassroots network dedicated to exposing the truth about Wal-Mart's causes and effects.
With your support, we can help give the movie a citizens' premiere that will blow the lid off traditional film distribution, and fuel the national debate raging about the high cost of Wal-Mart's "low prices."
Bonus Link: Another new anti-Wal-Mart action is being launched by American Rights at Work. The group's new website spotlights the retail giant's unfair practices in the workplace while also providing a platform for activists to communicate and coordinate their opposition to the company's anti-union behavior. There's also a nationwide petition to which you can add your name.
Finally, click here to peruse a comprehensive collection of "Wal-Mart Watchdogs and Activists."
When the United States sought to be a true world leader, as opposed to a petulant global bully, this country's seat at the United Nations was occupied by great men and women. Consider just some of the amazing figures who have served as U.S. ambassadors to the international body: former Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., two-time presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, former Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton, former civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman Andrew Young, academics and public intellectuals Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Jean Kirkpatrick, Madeine Albright and Richard Holbrooke, former State Department aide and New Mexico Congressman Bill Richardson, former Missouri Senator John Danforth.
These ambassdors came from different parties and from different ideological backgrounds, they had different styles and different goals, but they had one thing in common: They served with the broad support of official Washington and the American people. When they spoke, they spoke for America. And they did so in a tradition of U.S. regard for the mission of the UN, which was perhaps best expressed by an American who served for three decades as a key player in the world council, Ralph Bunche. "The United Nations," said Bunche, "is our one great hope for a peaceful and free world."
To make that hope real, U.S. ambassadors had to be both strong and pragmatic advocates for the best interests of their own country and visionaries who recognized that all United Nations member states merited at least a measure of diplomatic regard. As Adlai Stevenson, who capped a brilliant career in American politics by representing his country at the UN during some of the hottest years of the Cold War, explained, "The whole basis of the United Nations is the right of all nations--great or small--to have weight, to have a vote, to be attended to, to be a part of the twentieth century."
Needless to say, John Bolton has never expressed any sentiment regarding international affairs or the United Nations so well or wisely as Stevenson. Bolton is a hack politician, a career retainer of the Bush family who is famous for nothing so much as his disrespect for the diplomacy and international cooperation in general, and for the United Nations in particular.
So creepy has been Bolton's partisanship -- he was a prime player in moves to shut down the recount of Florida votes following the disputed 2000 presidential election -- and so crude has been his behavior that thoughtful Republicans such as Ohio Senator George Voinovich determined that the nominee would not be an appropriate representative of the United States.But President Bush has forced Bolton on the U.S. and the UN, making a recess appointment that places his controversial nominee in the same position once occupied by Lodge, Stevenson and Moynihan.
Bolton will serve differently than his predecessors. For one thing, he is neither the intellectual nor the emotional equal of those who came before him. For another, he will be seen as a representative only of the Bush White House -- not of the United States or its people.
At a time when the United States should be a full and active participant in the United Nations, it will instead be marginalized force -- an embarrassed land represented by one its most embarrassing sons.
U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat who as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been a leading advocate for bipartisan approaches to foreign policy, spoke well for America -- and for this country's shattered tradition of respect for the UN -- when he said on the day of the recess appointment: "Mr. Bolton is fundamentally unsuited for the job, and his record reveals a truly disturbing intolerance of dissent. Mr. Bolton did not win the support of a majority of members of the Foreign Relations Committee, and the Senate refused to make a final decision on this nomination pending review of documents that the Administration declined to provide in blatant disregard for the Senate's constitutional rights and responsibilities. But despite all of the warning signs and all of the red flags, the President has taken this extraordinary step to send a polarizing figure with tattered credibility to represent us at the United Nations. At a time when we need to be doing our very best to mend frayed relationships, encourage real burden-sharing, and nurture a rock-solid international coalition to fight terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the American people deserve better than John Bolton."
John Nichols's new book is Against the Beast: A Documentary History of American Opposition to Empire (Nation Books). Howard Zinn says, "At exactly the when we need it most, John Nichols gives us a special gift--a collection of writings, speeches, poems and songs from thoughout American history--that reminds us that our revulsion to war and empire has a long and noble tradition in this country." Frances Moore Lappe calls Against the Beast, "Brilliant! A perfect book for an empire in denial." Against the Beast can be found at independent bookstores nationwide and can be obtained online by tapping the above reference or at www.amazon.com
Even his supporters acknowledged that former U.S. Rep. Christopher Cox was a controversial nominee to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission. A former corporate lawyer who had collected millions of dollars from business interests, wealthy CEOS and some of the country's most prominent stock-market manipulators during eight campaigns for the House, Cox arrived with precisely the wrong resume for the head of an agency that is supposed to regulate the corporate sector and Wall Street. As such, his nomination represented a presidential poke in the eye to workers seeking protection of their pensions, small investors worried about being defrauded and consumers.
Of course, conservative Republicans in the Senate were enthused about Cox's nomination. After all, the California Republican was a key player on the supply-side economic team, someone who had in the House sponsored legislation designed to make it harder for shareholders to sue corporations that engage in scandalous practices. He has, as well, been one of the Congress's most ardent defenders of "creative bookkeeping" by the nation's top corporations -- supporting schemes such as the one that allowed corporations that pay employees with stock options to avoid reporting those payments as expenses against their bottom lines.
But how could responsible Republican, Democratic and independent members of the Senate ever approve an SEC nominee who, when he was a securities lawyer in the 1980s, worked for First Pension Corp., a company that was accused by the government of bilking investors, that was sued by the SEC for fraudulent activity and that saw its founder plead guilty to charges of felony wrongdoing? How could any member of the Senate who was not completely in the pocket of the securities industry vote for a nominee who the watchdog group Public Citizen described as "a defender of corporate interests whose legislative record indicates he would not protect investors if he were confirmed"?
The answer to that question is: without so much a blink of the eye.
The Cox nomination sailed through the Senate Banking Committee in late July after the nominee promised to be "vigilant."
Then, as the Senate raced to finish business before the August recess, Cox was approved by a voice vote to take charge of what is supposed to one of the nation's premier regulatory agencies.
No one, not one Democrat, not one maverick Republican, not one honest conservative who cared enough about capitalism to stand up for small investors, bothered to ask for the recorded vote that might have at least told the fox he was being watched as he entered the henhouse.
If the United States had a Senate that actually took its advice and consent duties seriously, or if, and of course this is a very big "if," the country actually had an opposition party, a serious debate over the Cox nomination would have provided a golden opportunity to discuss the influence of money on not just politics but policy.
In the 70-year history of the SEC, Cox is the first member of Congress to be nominated to head the regulatory agency.As such, he is the first SEC chair who will find himself in the position of regulating companies that donated substantial amounts of money to his campaigns.
In 2004, Cox easily defeated a Democratic challenger, John L. Graham, who raised a sum total of $40 dollars for his campaign.Cox raised $1,120,427 and spent $1,038,914. The Republican collected $461,968 from business-linked political action committees for the campaign. Donors from the financial-services and insurance industries were the most generous to Cox, writing checks for a hefty $180,025. Lawyers and lobbyists, many of them tied to the financial-services industry, chipped in another $79,094.
That's a lot of money to take from folks who Cox now promises to vigilantly monitor and regulate. But the 2004 reports only give a small indication of the extent to which Cox relied on industries that are regulated by the SEC to finance his campaigns. During the course of his Congressional career, the new SEC chair collected $1,256,891 from the financial services and insurance industries -- with $632,289 coming from political action committees and $624,602 from individual donors. Cox got another $439,350 from lawyers and lobbyists.
The donors got what they paid for. According to Public Citizen, "On major legislation of interest to investors in recent years – the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and retirement investment protection matters – Cox cast only one vote out of 22 – 4.5 percent (of all votes cast) – in support of investors."
That should have caused the Senate pause.
Instead, Cox was approved without debate and without a recorded vote.
In a statement opposing the Cox nomination, Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook said, "The United States cannot afford to have an SEC chairman who doesn't put investors first. Given the recent corporate crime wave and the enormous financial losses that so many Americans have sustained because of corporate misdeeds, it is essential that the SEC be headed by someone who will look out for the average investor."
Claybrook was, of course, correct. But the way in which the Cox nomination was so casually approved points to an even more important observation: The United States cannot afford to have a Senate that doesn't put investors first. Given the recent corporate crime wave and the enormous financial losses that so many Americans have sustained because of corporate misdeeds, it is essential that the Senate be made up of members who will look out for the average investor.
At this point, the Senate is suffering from a severe, make that complete, shortage of such members.
This was supposed to be a Sweet Victory post. That's the weekly feature Sam Graham-Felsen and I started last fall. In those grim days after the election, we believed that one antidote to the political darkness was to shed some light on progressive wins--from legislative and electoral victories to successful organizing efforts, protests and boycotts, to the launching of promising new organizations or initiatives. We hoped these stories would serve not only as a source of information but as inspiration.
We plan to continue tracking these victories. And we hope you Nation readers will continue to send us tips about what you think we should be covering. (Click here to send suggestions.) But I have to confess that it was really tough to come up with a sweet victory in this last week of July 2005.
As a friend from DC wrote me late last night: "So this is the week from hell: the AFL-CIO splits, the DLC unveils Hillary as head of its American Dream new ideas committee (god forbid), to be followed by confirmation of Christopher Cox to head the SEC without a fight, passage of a big oil energy bill with massive giveaways to industry, including Halliburton, passage of CAFTA, with 15 Dems on board. Bush declares triumph; hailed as effective. Country takes it in ear. No wonder breathing the air here in DC is officially bad for your health....And as Congress heads to recess, both parties show what they are. Rs are disciplined and utterly corrupt, willing to hijack democracy for their own agenda, and wrongheaded. And Ds still in disarray, divided with too little fight in them."
Infuriating, depressing, yes. But though it's probably healthy to mourn a bit, it's also more important then ever to keep organizing and agitating in the days and weeks ahead. In that spirit, we'll keep highlighting big and small--but always sweet--victories worth celebrating.