Gayle Tart: "you wanna say no, I can't do it, I just can't, not anything else, not another problem, not another person."
You can also go over to my flickr page to check out some of my photos from the trip.
Gayle Tart: "you wanna say no, I can't do it, I just can't, not anything else, not another problem, not another person."
You can also go over to my flickr page to check out some of my photos from the trip.
Gulfport, MS was in the news over the weekend with a jaw-dropping story. Saturday's US News & World Report told of a class action suit against the city, concerning what amounted to a debtors' prison before Hurricane Katrina:
Last July, a homeless man named Hubert Lindsey was stopped by police officers in Gulfport, Miss., for riding his bicycle without a light. The police soon discovered that Lindsey was a wanted man. Gulfport records showed he owed $4,780 in old fines. So, off to jail he went. Legal activists now suing the city in federal court say it was pretty obvious that Lindsey couldn't pay the fines. According to their complaint, he lived in a tent, was unemployed, and appeared permanently disabled by an unseeing eye and a mangled arm. But without a lawyer to plead his case, the question of whether Lindsey was a scofflaw or just plain poor never came up. Nor did the question of whether the fines were really owed, or if it was constitutional to jail him for debts he couldn't pay. Nobody, the activists say, even bothered to mention alternatives like community service. The judge ordered Lindsey to "sit out" the fine in jail. That took nearly two months.
[U]p until Hurricane Katrina hit, [Gulfport police were] beating the pavement looking for those who owed fines for things like public profanity--at $222 a pop. The result of Gulfport's fine-reclamation project was that while it collected modest sums of money, it also packed the county jail with hundreds of people who couldn't pay. The Southern Center for Human Rights filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Gulfport last July. Attorney Sarah Geraghty says that before bringing the case against the city, she witnessed hundreds of court adjudications involving Gulfport's poor in which no defense attorney was present or even offered. Many defendants, Geraghty said, were obviously indigent, mentally ill, or physically disabled, like Hubert Lindsey; some had been jailed for fines they had already paid. One mentally ill woman attempted suicide by jumping from an elevated cell in the county jail after she was picked up for having failed to pay several city fines; the lawsuit alleges that police then grabbed her again on the same charge a few months later, causing her to miss the surgery scheduled to fix the broken bones in her feet.
As we attempt to understand the observable disparities in who gets relief and what gets rebuilt, it is important to keep in mind the city's demonstrated attitude towards its poor. It is also important to keep in mind what strips of pavement the city was beating and whom it tended to be looking for. The Amended Complaint from the lawsuit, which attorney Sarah Geraghty has sent me, describes
a special force of police officers charged with patrolling the streets of Gulfport to arrest citizens who have failed to pay fines assessed by the Gulfport Municipal Court. These officers conduct periodic sweeps, during which they search the streets for people who look as though they might the City old fines. During these sweeps, the officers go into predominantly African-American neighborhoods and stop people in the streets without any independent reason or suspicion, but for the sole purpose of checking to see if they owe the City old fines. Those who owe fines are taken to jail.
The state of Mississippi has the highest percentage of Black Americans in the country [PDF]. Second is Louisiana. Mississippi and Louisiana are pretty much tied for the highest poverty rates in the US, both hovering just below 20% statewide. We cannot discuss the effects of Katrina and the issues around reconstruction without serious, ongoing considerations of race and poverty.
(Cross posted on the d&s blog.)
This town has stood up in the face of things
Lots worse than a ninety mile wind
It's not bad storms I'm afraid of today
But the greed that our leaders walk in.
I'll walk along the Boardwalk rail
And feel and hear this ninety mile gale
I can hear the ocean mourn and groan
And I wonder about ships lost out in this storm.
So come on wind and blow out your brains
Blow like a Cyclone across the flat plains
This is just an echo of our world wide storm
That's ripping away our balls and our chains.
--Woody Guthrie, "Ninety Mile Wind" (1944)
This summer, I joined the Editorial Collective of Dollars & Sense, a national popular economics magazine, which has presented progressive analysis of current economic issues and trends for over thirty years. Since September I have been guest editing the March/April issue of the magazine, which we are devoting to economic issues in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
While New Orleans caught one edge of Hurricane Katrina, the storm hit the Gulf Coast of Mississippi head on, causing unfathomable destruction. Nonetheless news coverage of New Orleans has overshadowed, Mississippi. When the mainstream news media does report on Mississippi, we may hear about places like Waveland, Pass Christian, Gulfport, Bay St. Louis, and Biloxi, but we don't hear about the African Americans who live there. There are few images of Black Mississippians from the Gulf Coast and no discussion of their communities. Except for Waveland, all of these cities have African American populations that are larger than the national average of 12.3%. As of Census 2000, Pass Christian is 28.2% African American. Gulfport is 33.5% African American. In Bay St. Louis and Biloxi, the numbers are 16.6% and 19%, respectively.
As I have pursued writers who are local activists and survivors from the Gulf Coast region, I have been moved by the experiences of African American activists in Gulfport and Biloxi, whom I have had the opportunity to talk to. In Mississippi, as in New Orleans, the slow responses of FEMA and the Red Cross have harmed storm victims of many ethnicities and economic backgrounds. In both places, however, government inaction has especially harmed African Americans. At this writing, as recovery gets underway, white neighborhoods in Biloxi have been substantially cleaned up; on the other side of town, the African American neighborhood still looks like a bombed out war zone.
One of our writers for the March/April issue is an African American attorney, named Gayle. Gayle is in Gulfport, doing legal advocacy for Katrina survivors facing unfair, opportunistic evictions and other housing problems. She is also a hurricane survivor whose brother and two-year-old nephew died in the storm. Speaking with her on the phone has been overwhelming. In a number of our conversations, Gayle has connected me with other survivors who have lost loved ones or property or both and have first-hand experience of the unavailability of government disaster relief. They tell of FEMA trailers sitting unused in storage lots while survivors live in tents in winter weather; the outsourcing of jobs to corporate contractors; and price gouging on building materials.
The first time we spoke, Gayle expressed considerable gratitude that I cared enough to seek her out. There just hadn't been outside attention to the plights of people in her community, though it had been months since the storm hit. She was eager to write an article for Dollars & Sense, but she also said, urgently, "you have to come here... you just can't understand unless you see it... please come." When they heard about my conversations with Gayle and others from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, the Dollars & Sense Collective agreed that in addition to publishing Gayle, we need to respond to her request.
Dollars & Sense is sending me to Gulfport and Biloxi, and to New Orleans, for eight days, from January 22 - 29. I will document my trip with still images, audio recordings, and video clips. While I am on the Gulf Coast, I will be posting to the Dollars & Sense blog, which we have just added to the Dollars & Sense website. To the extent that time and internet connections allow, I will provide regular updates and photos from my trip. In addition to the photos that you will find in Dollars & Sense blog posts, I will post a larger selection of my photos on my flckr account.
After I return from the South, I will write a report of what I saw there for the March/April issue of Dollars & Sense, and possibly for other publications. I will also get the word out about survivors' experiences in the Gulf by presenting my audio, photographs and video through the Dollars & Sense website and live presentations. As with the March/April issue as a whole, we hope the information I gather on this trip will be useful for activists. The communities I visit will be allowed full access to the audio recordings, photos, and video that I make of them. I will also make a list of the local organizations we have been working with, and of others I may learn about on my trip, that directly address the needs of Katrina survivors; Dollars & Sense will publish the list in the March/April issue and on our website, and I will distribute it at presentations about my trip.
Dollars & Sense is a small non-profit organization on a shoe string budget. This may be the first time that Dollars & Sense has sent someone to do investigative work. If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to help us pay for the trip, you can make donations in $25 increments through our website, or send a check for any amount, with "Katrina Project" in the memo line, to Dollars & Sense, 29 Winter Street, Boston, MA 02108.
(Cross posted on the Dollars & Sense blog.)
Jeanne D'arc posted on the Martin Luther King Day march in San Antonio, TX, slated to have military jets fly over the marchers. She juxtaposed the news with an appropriate quote from MLK, calling out the insanity of trying to connect the war effort with King's legacy. Below is a press release from the local activists, opposing the military fly over of the march.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT
Tommy Calvert, Jr.
Cell (617) 480-8385
Coalition Blast Fighter Jets At San Antonio Martin Luther King March
Group Thwarted From Rescinding Vote for Jets which Coalition Calls Inappropriate
(SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS) The highly criticized move to include fighter jets in the nation's largest Martin Luther King March has awakened a broad coalition consisting of the original creators of the San Antonio Martin Luther King March, civil and human rights groups, labor unions, peace organizations, neighborhood associations, media leaders, environmental groups, religious leaders, historians, teachers, elected officials and business leaders. The coalition has organized plans to protest the inclusion of a fighter jet by displaying signs with quotes from Dr. King against militarization and war, wearing black and gold arm bands, and releasing doves after the fighter jets pass over.
On Saturday afternoon, 150 community leaders met at Martin Luther King Academy to organize plans at the march and participate in a lecture with Joanne Bland of Selma, Alabama who marched with Dr. King for the Voting Rights Act. The group voted unanimously to provide the new Chair of the MLK Commission, the March committee chair, and Councilwoman Shelia McNeil a book about the essential writings and speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. because of their roles in allowing the flyover to occur and their inability to provide evidence that Dr. King, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, would support the militarization of a celebration in his honor.
In addition to misquoting and speaking with half-truths about Rev. King's principles, the new group of MLK Commission leaders have used a red-herring to justify their inclusion of the fighter jets; claiming that they wanted the march to be inclusive of the armed forces.
"Members of the military have always been welcome to the march, in fact, that's part of the brotherhood that people feel as participants" exclaimed Tommy Calvert, Jr. whose father was one of the 50 original marchers from 1978 and who has participated in the march since 1981. "However, Dr. King believed that violence and its tools were futile, useless, and called on people to lay down their arms before they came to the table of brotherhood. A fighter jet is an arm, not a soldier, and its inclusion is as ludicrous in the march as a pacifist being invited by the Army to sit before a tank at a military parade."
Kathy Clay-Little, publisher of African-American Reflections newspaper said "We are entrusted with telling the truth about our history and anytime it is misrepresented, twisted to fit an ulterior agenda, or manipulated we cannot remain silent."
The colors of the black and gold arm bands of protestors bear significance. Black represents mourning the fact that the MLK Commission is killing Dr. King's legacy. The yellow portion of the band represents hope for the return to the world and MLK Commission of King's message against violence and militarization and for his work to promote peace, love, and justice.
Esperanza Peace & Justice center director, Graciela Sanchez, affirmed the desire of the group to reclaim the original integrity and history of the march. "It's clear some people live life like King and others are new to his philosophy. And if the day is about honoring his legacy and doing the work he did, then we have to hold our own communities accountable to that legacy and do things consistent with his life."
I started to post Pete Seeger's rendition of Malvina Reynolds' "Mrs. Clara Sullivan's Letter," as a tribute to the twelve miners who died after the explosion that trapped them in the Sago Mine on Monday. But I stopped myself because I thought that it might be a stretch to apply the words of the song to this particular situation. This disaster was in West Viriginia; the Reynolds song is about Perry County, KY. This disaster is about safety violations and bad oversight; the Reynolds song is about other labor problems, like "goons on the picket line" who intimidate striking workers.
Turns out there was no reason to hesitate. In one of yesterday's Portside mailings, Jack Radey wrote:
If you really like Dramamine, the NPR reporting on the Sago Disaster was truly charming. They prattled on and on about how the news media got the story wrong, how did this happen? How were the wrong headlines printed?How were people put on this emotional roller coaster?
Then they interviewed a local pastor about the importance of accepting all this and not getting angry. They, like the rest of the media, mentioned in passing that a fight broke out where the families were waiting when the news of the dead was announced. But why were people fighting? There was even mention in one broadcast that the local SWAT team was deployed around the corner from where the families waited, in case disorder broke out. Oh, mine safety violations? Why would that be news? No doubt the families were so angry at the misleading news. Maybe about the fact that 12 of their men were killed in a mine with triple the normal (bad enough) rate of safety violations?
That the local goon squad is there to protect the mine owner and his property from the wrath of the families of the men murdered for his greed?
Oh come now, would anyone suggest that would be news? Remember why our flag (not the one on the courthouse, where no doubt those $25 fine were handed out), our flag, is the color it is?
And then it turns out the Sago Mine is owned by an Ashland, Kentucky company, known as Horizon Natural Resources (HNR). HNR had been facing bankruptcy since 2002 and was bought out in 2004 by the International Coal Group (ICG), led by New York billionaire Wilbur Ross. Ross' m.o. isn't pretty:
After the sale, six union operations previously owned by Horizon were shut down. The nonunion mines remained open.
Under the bankruptcy and reorganization plan, U.S. Federal Bankruptcy Judge William Howard in August agreed that Horizon should not be responsible for $800 million in health insurance contractual obligations to more than 3,000 active and retired United Mine Workers of America union members.
The judge threw out the contract and voided the collective bargaining agreement to make the sale of the mines more appealing to Ross and his partners.
As John Bennett, whose father James was killed in the Sago Mine, said to Matt Lauer on the Today Show (via American Rights At Work):
It’s not just the men that go down there every day that know the mines is [sic] unsafe…we have no protection for our workers. We need to get the United Mine Workers back in these coal mines, to protect [against] these safety violations, to protect these workers.
It's the same old story:
Lauer then asked Bennett “You feel as if the miners speak out they are at risk of losing their jobs?” “Yeah” Bennett answered.
Lest we forget where the rest of the responsibility for these deaths resides, David Corn explained the big picture three and a half years ago (via Jodan Barab), after another mine disaster, in Green Tree, Pa., which, fortunately, was not fatal:
That spirit, though, was not present earlier this year when the Bush administration proposed cutting the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) by $7 million. The administration defended the 6-percent reduction by noting the number of coal mines has been decreasing. Yet coal mining fatalities have gone up for three years in a row. There were 42 mining fatalities in 2001, 29 in 1998. In March, Senator Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, maintained the funding cut would cause a 25 percent reduction in the government's mine-safety inspection workforce. As of March, 612 federal mine inspectors were responsible for enforcing safety regulations in 25 states, and there were signs the system has not been functioning well.
Thus Jordan Barab concludes:
And finally, let's take one more step back and take a look at the even bigger picture. This administration has been obsessed with one thing since it took office: tax cuts and favor for its friends. What that translates into is "Shrinking government..." -- at least the part that provides protections for workers -- "to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub" as Bush Administration ideolouge Grover Norquist says.
Well "government" isn't some abstract thing. Shrinking government means that agencies like OSHA and MSHA have less power to enforce the law and maintain safe working conditions. So, while drowning government in a bathtub, we're also asphyxiating workers in a coal mine.
So, then, here's Pete, in memory of the twelve men and in solidarity with the one survivor and with all of the affected families and friends. You can read the lyrics here.
This article should clarify further why to worry about the Patriot Act and other post-9/11 policies and practices. As I will elaborate soon, with another source, the FBI has always had as one of its root purposes the surveillance and suppression of Black radicalism.
Former Black Panthers considered terrorists under Patriot Act
Afro America News
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Group wants torture used against American citizens to cease
Undaunted by what they call "unconstitutional" methods used under the guise of the Patriot Act, three former Black Panthers are touring the country to bring awareness to their recent interrogation by anti-terrorist law enforcement.
Former Black Panthers members John Bowman, Hank Jones and Ray Boudreaux held a forum, Dec. 8, at the Washington, D.C. office of Trans-Africa. They have in common the suffering they endured in 1971 under interrogation concerning a police shooting in San Francisco.
They were indicted by a grand jury, but the court rendered a decision stating the methods used to obtain information were unlawful and the Panthers members were freed from jail.
Thirty-four years later Bowman, Jones and Boudreaux along with many Black Panthers members once again faced their interrogators from the '70s who are now serving as agents with the Anti-Terrorist Task Force, a special division formed under the Homeland Security agency to apprehend suspected terrorists.
"I was quite surprised when I opened the door to see the same two detectives involved in beating me [34 years earlier] standing there. It brought back memories that I will never forget," said Bowman, the former Panther organizer. "This is very difficult for me to discuss in public."
According to Bowman, in 1973 he was stripped naked and beaten with blunt objects, wrapped with blankets soaked in boiling hot water, shocked with electric probes in his "anus and other private parts," punched, kicked and slammed into walls by investigators. The process lasted until investigators got the murder confessions they wanted....
The detectives, Frank McCoy and Edward Erdelatz, retired members of the San Francisco Police Department, now special agents with the Federal Prosecutor's Office, Anti-Terrorist Task Force have repeatedly interrupted the lives of many former Panthers to gain notoriety with the Bush administration by targeting individuals labeled as "terrorists" who were never convicted of wrongdoing.
"Once upon a time, they called me a terrorist, too," explained Boudreaux. "To expedite something in the system, they put a 'terror' tag on it and it gets done. Terror means money. These people [government] have a budget and they are working it."...
Trans Africa President Bill Fletcher expressed the forum's concerned about the erosion of civil rights. "It is ironic that instead of having a press conference in which apologies are being offered to the individuals who were tortured and the many other victims of COINTELPRO, instead we are to call attention to the prosecution of people who were freedom fighters and continue to be."...
"We condemn the persecution transpiring against these individuals. We wish to bring it to light when the word "terrorism" is in the air," said Ron Daniels, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. ... Daniels adds that "Before former Attorney General Ashcroft left, he issued a broad ranging edict that all the cases that involved any incident where a police officer had been killed and the case had been closed be re-opened...And if these men and women can be indicted or harassed, it sends a chilling effect," said, Daniels.
(Part I is here.)
UPDATE: The SF Bay View has an article about the grand jury investigation of Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Hank Jones, and Harold Taylor and an article by John Bowman, "How the US destroyed the Black Panther Party and continues to persecute its veterans."
This is good stuff for non-Jews (as well as Jews) to read. Aron states precisely why I, too, would much rather people just come out and say "Merry Christmas," instead of the supposedly ecumenical "Happy Holidays." The so-called war on Christmas is an utterly stupid concept, except for what it reveals about the right wingers' imagination of Jews. Feh to O'Reilly and a Merry Christmas to all my Christian friends.
Personally, I too am annoyed by the PCness of the "happy holidays" greeting. Growing up as an Orthodox Jewish kid with Eastern European parents and grandparents, Christmas had a rather ominous feel to it. That was a result of the memories passed down to me of Christmas as one of the Polish pogrom seasons, where my grandparents had to live in fear of rape and murder. Despite New York's reputation, rape and murder by rampaging goyim is not a real concern for the Jews of this great city. But the site of Christmas trees nonetheless evoked a quesy feeling in me when I was a child.
That feeling along with a sense of inferiority as a minority, induced American Jews to pump up the rather minor holiday of Hanukka into something far more important than it is. A Holy Day in the Jewish calendar - a hag - is a pilgrimage specifically to the site of the Temple in Jerusalem (in an ecumenical spirit, I remind my readers that the Muslim haj is really the same word, except the pilgramage is to Mecca). Hanukka is not a pilgrimage holiday ordained in the Bible but a holiday instituted by the Hasmonean kings, whom the Rabbis despised.
Hannuka barely gets mentioned at all in the Talmud. The source of our knowledge about the holiday is the Book of the Maccabees. Unlike the Book of Esther and its associated holiday of Purim, Maccabees was left out of the official Biblical canon - the Rabbis of the Talmud no doubt would have preferred it never got written in the first place. The Rabbis' antagonism was rooted in the fact that the descendants of Judah the Maccabee, the Hasmonean dynasty that ruled Israel until the Romans crushed the Jewish rebellion in 70 CE, were in fact blood thirsty tyrants of the worst sort, who, ironically, advocated close ties to Rome and were intimately associated with the wealthy elite Sadducee establishment.
Side note: Rabbinical Judaism in its roots was an anti-establishment working class movement. Jesus probably was a leader of one of the more radical fringe groups within the overall revolutionary rabbinical movement. It was the wealthy Sadducee toadies who betrayed Jesus to their Roman masters.
Fast forward to modern day US of A, where assimilationist toadies emulating their Sadducee forbears in wanting to please their capitalist masters, had to find an equivalent Jewish shopping holiday to Christmas. Hannuka is the perfect fit in more ways than one. And they even one-upped the goyish capitalists by instituting eight days of gifts.
Considering the abysmal record of the Hasmoneans and the Sadducees, it is even more ironic that Hannuka and the Maccabees were seen as models by Zionists as a fore-runner to modern day Jewish nationalism. Hannuka is hardly as important in Israel as it is in the US, but it still is accorded far more importance than it should be....
So if you wish me a happy holiday it would take me a few minutes to even know what you are talking. The main Jewish holiday season is not December but September and October. We Jews have plenty (probably too many) holidays of our own and I for one am quite happy to concede this time of year exclusively to my Christian friends. So to all of you, Merry Christmas.
P.S. ... right-wing politics in America has long been associated with xenophobia and hatred of Jews. Intellectuals, liberals, gays, New Yorkers, Hollywood and the like, all of whom the right-wing hate so much, are used by them as code words for Jews. The neo-cons, Likudnicks and other Jews, who ally themselves with these right-wing creeps, are like their Sadducee counter-parts, stupidly aligning themselves with their true enemy. As for Bill O'Reilly, no happy holiday greetings from me to him. My fervent holiday wish for Mr. O'Reilly is that he get trapped in a store playing Christmas jingles non-stop for a full year. The horror, the horror!
I was reading Aron's blog before I even got into blogs and blogging. I rarely write about Israel/Palestine stuff here, but if you want to know where I'm at with those issues, I usually agree with Aron.
If Rokhl (or even I) piqued your interest about secular Jewish American culture, you may want to check out her blogging from Klezkamp, which is this week from Dec. 25-30. Her freylikhe Klezkamp blog is called Mit der kapelye- I'm with the Band; usually you can find her here. If Klezkamp sounds like klezmer to you, that's because klezmer classes and performances and jam sessions are a big part of what will be going on there. Interested yet? Go check it out...
(Readers who have been around for a while may remember this post, where I mention the influence of Klezcamp on my family, via my mother.)
Edward Sebesta has a new blog, Anti-Neo-Confederate. Who are the Neo-Confederates and why should you care? Back in August, Max Blumenthal had an article in the Nation about powerful lobbyists in Washington, who are also part of an extremist takeover of Neo-Confederate groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The article closed with this telling scenario:
On Memorial Day, 2001, George W. Bush resurrected a tradition his father discontinued during his presidency: laying a wreath at the base of the Confederate monument at the Arlington National Cemetery. The White House has claimed that the practice continued from the Bush Sr. Administration through the Clinton years, yet according to Hurley, "not a single person in the Confederate community ever saw the wreath back at the Confederate memorial until Geoge W. Bush came into office." Hurley says Bush merely changed the day of the wreath's delivery, from Confederate Memorial Day--Jefferson Davis's birthday--to the US Memorial Day. Last Confederate Memorial Day, Hurley witnessed [Richard T.] Hines at the memorial leading a gathering of Washington-based conservatives, including members of the Jefferson Davis Camp 305 that met at the Mary Surratt site. Now Bush Administration officials joined the commemoration, most prominently Robert Wilkie, the former foreign policy adviser to Senator Lott who was appointed last October by Condoleezza Rice as the National Security Council's senior legislative director. Attired in all-white plantation garb and white top hat, Hines fired an artillery cannon he had carted along for the occasion. Then he and the ceremony's attendees solemnly saluted the Confederate flag.
Here is some background from Blumenthal, on Richard T. Hines:
In 1996, standing beside members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Jefferson Davis Camp 305, Hines unfurled a Confederate battle flag in downtown Richmond, Virginia, to protest the dedication of a monument to black tennis great Arthur Ashe. He called the Ashe statue "a sharp stick in the eye of those who honor the Confederate heritage."
Hines's protest reflected the brand of resentment found on the pages of America's major neo-secessionist publication, Southern Partisan, of which Hines was managing editor for nearly two decades. Southern Partisan served partly as a forum for historical revisionism that cast Lincoln as a villain; in 1984 Hines himself penned a paean to Preston Brooks, the secessionist South Carolina congressman who caned Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts on the Senate floor in 1854 for his speeches against slavery. The magazine also acted as Hines's instrument for connecting sympathetic political movers and shakers to the neo-Confederate base. Hines arranged a 1993 Partisan interview with Washington Times senior editor Wes Pruden, whose father, Wes Pruden Sr., as the chaplain of the Little Rock White Citizens Council, led resistance to the integration of Central High School in 1957 with the cry: "That's what we've gotta fight, niggers, Communists and cops." In 1997 Hines interviewed Senator Trent Lott, who as a young congressman convinced Reagan to initiate his 1980 presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where Klansmen had murdered three young civil rights workers in 1964. In 1998 Hines chatted with Senator John Ashcroft of Missouri, who praised Hines and the Partisan for "setting the record straight," a comment that nearly doomed his nomination as Attorney General when it was dredged up during his confirmation hearings in 2001. In the year before Bush's election, Southern Partisan advertised the sale of T-shirts emblazoned with a Confederate flag shaped like a Republican Party elephant beside the phrase "Lincoln's Worst Nightmare!"
By 2000 Hines was positioned to help rescue George W. Bush's flagging presidential candidacy from the jaws of defeat with an inspired dirty-tricks campaign. When Bush arrived in South Carolina in May, he was licking his wounds from a stunning defeat in New Hampshire to John McCain. For Bush, who needed to win the South to gain the nomination, the South Carolina primary was do or die.
Hines's link to the Bush campaign was Bush's South Carolina spokesman Tucker Eskew, a local protégé of the legendary dirty-tricks master from the Palmetto State, Lee Atwater. Eskew was in constant contact with another former Atwater protégé, Karl Rove. Hines turned an unregistered political action committee called "Keep It Flying," which he created to fight the NAACP's attempts to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse, into a vehicle for the Bush cause. He sent out 250,000 fliers that he signed with his own name accusing McCain of "changing his tune" on the Confederate flag and describing Bush as "the [only] major candidate who refused to call the Confederate flag a racist symbol." In fact, in a January appearance on Meet the Press, McCain had called the flag "a symbol of heritage" and an issue "to be settled without interference from presidential candidates." Regardless, the tactic succeeded brilliantly. In the wake of the mailing Bush surged ahead of McCain and defeated him in the primary. Bush finally returned his debt of gratitude late last year, when he appointed Hines's wife, Patricia, to the National Committee on Libraries and Information Science.
Hines's direct-mail campaign might not have been so timely were it not for the political atmospherics that his close allies in South Carolina had generated. In January 2000, immediately after the NAACP announced a tourist boycott of South Carolina, Hines's college buddy Roger McCredie marshaled groups including the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the white-supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens at the state Capitol in Columbia to rally around the flag. Six thousand people showed up, many waving Confederate battle flags and dressed in Civil War-era battle uniforms. Compared with the 50,000 who marched through Columbia earlier that month for the flag's removal, it was a paltry turnout. Yet the rally demonstrated a residual level of vitriol toward Confederate flag opponents. State Senator Arthur Ravenel drew gales of applause when he blasted the NAACP as "the National Association of Retarded People."
Lurking in the shadow of the grandstand throughout the rally was a scraggly man oddly wearing a top hat--one of Hines's most important political allies. Kirk Lyons earned far-right celebrity status in 1988 for successfully defending white supremacist Louis Beam against a sedition charge of plotting to overthrow the government by force in order to set up an all-white nation in the Pacific Northwest. Lyons's ubiquity as a legal counsel to white supremacists and a speaker at neo-Nazi events prompted the Southern Poverty Law Center to identify him in 1991 as one of the top ten "Leaders in Today's White Supremacy Movement." Lyons dreamed of resurrecting the white supremacist movement as a more sophisticated incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan. "I have great respect for the Klan historically, but, sadly the Klan today is ineffective and sometimes even destructive," Lyons told a German neo-Nazi magazine in 1992. "It would be good if the Klan followed the advice of former Klansman Robert Miles: 'Become invisible. Hang the robes and hoods in the cupboard and become an underground organization.'" When Lyons discovered the Sons of Confederate Veterans, he realized he didn't have to go underground after all.
If you want to know more about this part of the right, Anti-Neo-Confederate is a good resource. The blog savvy will be frustrated that there are no permalinks or rss feeds; but it's valuable content from an authority on the subject. One of Edward's recent posts offers a who's who among the Neo-Confederate groups. Another one describes the rise of anti-Semitism in the Neo-Confederate movement—a trend in far right groups across the board, it seems. There's much, much more there, as well as links to Edward's other web pages. Of particular interest is Edward's page for tracking how political candidates do and don't align themselves with the Neo-Confederates.
UPDATE: added link to Max Blumenthal's article.
UPDATE 12/19: Edward Sebesta has moved his blog over to blogger in order to improve our access to his contnet. The new url is: http://newtknight.blogspot.com. Links have been modified, above. Some of the Anti-Neo-Confederate content mentioned, above, is still only available at Edward's old blog, which is therefore still worth visiting.
Rokhl Kafrissen recently published an awesome statement on contemporary Jewish American identity (via Mark Rubin). This is the sort of thing that I wish I'd written, because it comes so close to my own views. Here's points 3 and 4, out of 6, central to the manifesto:
3. Jewish religion cannot be divorced from Jewish culture.
To do so yields the current demographic and spiritual crisis now facing the American Jewish community.
Jewish philanthropists like Michael Steinhardt want to revive the non-Orthodox Jewish community by replacing “victimhood” with “joy.” (See his Jerusalem Post opinion piece in February of this year.) I think we all know that you can read “Europe” for victimhood and “Israel” for joy. Didn’t that attitude get us in this mess? Turn a shul into a temple, a khazn into a cantor and Jewish music into Debbie Friedman — well, you better lock the doors cuz the inmates will be breaking out. Witness our so-called youth crisis. American Jewish culture has turned Camembert into CheezWhiz: It is boring and every young Jew knows it.
Real Jewish Culture is the product of hundreds, thousands of years of joy and pain; it’s the expression of the realities of halokhe [Jewish law] lived in a hostile world. It’s the result of every Jew’s struggle between tradition and modernity. Most importantly, Real Jewish Culture is our connection to those who came before us, and without access to it, well, that bagel in your hand is not a symbol of anything, just a bunch of empty calories masquerading as breakfast.
4. I am not an Israeli.
About two thousand American Jews make aliyah [emmigrate to Israel] every year. Out of a total Jewish population of 5,200,000, this comes out to about .04% of American Jews each year who will choose to live in Israel. I am an American and, like 99.96 percent of my fellow American Jews, I will never become an Israeli. I care deeply about the State of Israel, most of all because my fate is linked to that of every other Jew. But where does the spirit of klal yisroel end and the unquestioning acceptance of Zionism begin?
Open a magazine like Moment and you’d think every Jew in America had already put down a security deposit on an apartment in Jerusalem. Moment bills itself as “Jewish culture, politics, and religion.” Three of four cover stories in a recent issue were Israel-related, with more inside — and this was the music issue! Now, I would understand if this were a newspaper for a small Jewish community somewhere in the world. I doubt that the Jewish community of Honduras has enough news to fill twelve issues of a monthly magazine. But we don’t live in Honduras. We live in the other Jewish state, a country with a Jewish population roughly equal to that of the Jewish state. And let me tell you, we’ve got enough news here to fill up every single Jewish newspaper, magazine, newsletter, leaflet and ’zine.
Mark Rubin, who alerted me to Rokhl's manifesto, doesn't think non-Jews need read it, that it's more for us Jews to talk about amongst ourselves. While the subject matter is an internal conversation, I encourage everyone to read the whole thing. My own experience is that most non-Jews don't know much about American Jewish cultural issues and experiences, beyond the stereotypes and the canned, Jewish institutional PR.
I would just add to Rokhl's assertions about secular and religious Jewish culture(s), that a secular Jewish world-view can also include not just knowledge but practice of Judaism. While Jewish law excludes those who profess belief in Christian or polytheistic religions from Jewish religious participation, there is no requirement that one demonstrate a positive belief in God. It's been my experience that many practicing Jews have changeable ideas and beliefs about theology while remaining consistent participants in the religious community. I don't know how many would go as far as I do to say their world view is closest to secular and agnostic while maintaining a somewhat traditional Jewish religious practice—though I know my mother would as would my great-uncle, my maternal grandfather's brother, who, at age 95, is the minyan facilitator for the daily services at his synagogue in Florida. You have not heard leyning (chanting) from the Torah until you've heard him.
The summer of 2002, my first cousin, who is an Orthodox Jew, invited me to lead the davenning (praying) for his auf ruf, an east European Jewish celebration at morning prayer services in the week before one's wedding. This was a particularly special occasion because my cousin decided to have the auf ruf in my maternal grandfather's synagogue, Young Israel on East Broadway, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.* The Young Israel on East Broadway is a very traditional, Orthodox synagogue, which my grandparents were members of from around time it was founded, until they died six weeks apart, in November and December 2002, respectively, both at age ninety-nine.
I was a little nervous to accept the honor, since I don't regularly attend services in such Orthodox congregations, where the ritual life is very tightly choreographed and fast paced, without a lot of time spent explaining and instructing. Still, there was no way to say no, especially knowing my grandfather would be there (my grandmother was not well enough to attend).
At one point, during the breakfast that followed services (bagels, lox, herring, fruit, etc.), my uncle, whose son was getting married, pulled me aside to report that during services my grandfather turned to him and said, "who would have thought that Paul Greenberg's son could daven like this."
My father, a founder of New Jewish Agenda, who identified not as a Zionist but as a Jewish nationalist supporter of Jewish and Palestinian self-determination in the middle east, was a secular radical in the Jewish socialist tradition, for the first half of his life. As he reached his 40s, he started to become increasingly religious in his outlook, though he never learned to read Hebrew or the ritual skills he and my mother decided I should learn in my eight years of Jewish parochial school.
*If you click on the Young Israel link, above, you can also see an arial shot of the apartment buildings where my grandparents lived through all the years that I was alive to know them. They lived at 383 Grand Street, in what are known as the Seward Park Cooperatives. In the area marked "Seward Park," between Essex and Clinton, there are two buildings. 383 Grand Street is the one closer to Essex and to Grand.
Folks I've got them hungry blues
And nothin' in this to lose
People tellin' me to choose
Between dyin' and lyin' and keep
Tired of them hungry blues
Listen ain't you heard the news
There's another thing to choose
A brand new world clean and fine
Where nobody's hungry
And there's no color line
A thing like that's worth
I ain't got a thing to lose
But them doggone hungry blues