Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hillary Hates You.

David Mizner, Huffington Post

She thinks you're weak. She has no respect for you, and her lack of respect amounts to loathing--the kind of loathing that the powerful feel for the powerless. She's confident that progressives are too impotent, divided, and disorganized to deny her the nomination.

How else to explain her vote for the Lieberman-Kyl Amendment, which designates "Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization"? Do the math, people: the Revolution Guards are terrorists + Bush launched a global war on terror = _____. Jim Webb called the bill "Cheney's fondest pipe dream." Recall that "real men want to go to Tehran." Her vote tells you that she's cocikly crusing toward the nomination that the press has already awarded her. Her chief advisor, Mark "union buster" Penn has crunched the numbers and told her that she can defy the core beliefs of the party's core with impunity. She can prepare for the general election and focus on money and do AIPAC's bidding and still win the nomination.

John Edwards is betting she's wrong. Edwards is running a more progressive and populist campaign than Hillary, but the Clinton Machine, ever savvy, has convinced the MSM and even a few progressive bloggers that the differences between the two candidates are negligible. But Hillary's prowar vote on Thursday opened the door for Edwards and that night, at the debate in New Hampshire, he surged through.

"I voted for this war in Iraq, and I was wrong to vote for this war. And I accept responsibility for that. Senator Clinton also voted for this war.

"We learned a very different lesson from that. I have no intention of giving George Bush the authority to take the first step on a road to war with Iran.

"And I think that vote today, which Senator Biden and Senator Dodd voted against, and they were correct to vote against it, is a clear indication of the approach that all of us would take with the situation in Iran because what I learned in my vote on Iraq was you cannot give this president the authority and you can't even give him the first step in that authority because he cannot be trusted."

In a better, more logical world--one in which the war in Iraq had transformed the politics of national security--Edwards would have said that the lesson he learned from his vote on Iraq is not just that you can't trust George Bush but also that warmongering leads to war, which leads to occupation, which leads to disaster, or that change must come from within countries, that it cannot be imposed.

Nonetheless, the point was made. Edwards articulated an important difference between him and Clinton, and it's a difference that all Democrats, not just progressives, will grasp. With his commanding debate performance and that answer in particular, Edwards solidified his status as Clinton's main challenger.

We can argue till the troops come home about who, Obama or Edwards, is the superior progressive--indeed, in a subsequent post, I'll make the case for Edwards--but one thing is clear: only Edwards has been willing to challenge Clinton on ideological grounds. He has blasted her relentless corporatism and now, with this statement, her militarism as well.

This is not the first instance in the race that Edwards has carved out an important difference on national security. Unlike Clinton, he opposes the very concept of a global war against terrorism. And unlike Clinton, he backed the Webb Amendment, which would have made it a crime for Bush to attack Iran without Congressional authorization--a position that won Edwards no friends at AIPAC, which killed a similar measure in the House. And unlike Clinton, who would give Bush the 92,000 new troops he wants, Edwards isn't committed to making our monstrous military more monstrous. Huge issues, real differences.

Hillary thinks you won't pay attention to the differences, just as she thinks she can get away with casting a prowar vote in the middle of the race for the Democratic nominaton. John Edwards hope she's wrong.

So do I.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Is Jena America?

Published on Wednesday, September 26, 2007 by

by Laura Flanders

“Jena is America,” says Alan Bean, speaking of the Louisiana town where six black students are looking at decades in jail for a schoolyard brawl while white kids are facing nothing for hanging up nooses. Jena is America in the sense that the unequal justice there is not unique. There are “Jena Sixes” behind bars in every state. But it isn’t America in the sense that the country as a whole has had no trouble at all ignoring Jena.

Bean is a Baptist minister from Texas who formed Friends of Justice in response to the now infamous Tulia drug sting of 1999 in which over half of Tulia’s black males were convicted on the uncorroborated word of a corrupt and racist undercover cop. He was instrumental in getting that story out. In January he got busy in Jena. By that time, a young white man had already been beaten up and six young black students had been indicted, originally on attempted murder charges. One of the six, Mychal Bell, was legally still a juvenile when he was convicted of attempted second-degree murder with a deadly shoe. While five of the six were have been bailed out, Bell’s been incarcerated ever since.

“If the media wasn’t watching what was going on then every last one of those kids would be in jail,” one of the Jena mothers, Tina Jones, told the Nation’s Gary Younge.

Jones is generous. The truth is, “the media” haven’t been watching. Black radio has been listening, and the black blogosphere’s been buzzing, but the white “mainstream” and the white liberal media woke up to this story about a minute ago.

August 2006: that’s when the story began, when a black high school student requested permission to sit under a whites-only schoolyard tree. The next day, three nooses showed up hanging there. The following week, black students staged a protest and Jena district attorney Reed Walters, warned them at a school assembly: “I can make your lives disappear with a stroke of my pen.” That was after that same DA and school officials dismissed the noose incident as a “prank.” The December schoolyard fight took place after months of incidents in which the whites involved were charged with misdemeanors or not at all while the blacks drew various felony charges.

Bean says he started feeding stories to the Chicago Tribune, the BBC and the blogosphere back in April. “Some stories ran in May, but they didn’t catch. No magazines picked up. No nightly news. The New York Times studiously ignored it,” he says. With the notable exception of Jordan Flaherty at Left Turn Magazine, lawyer Bill Quigley and a few others the so-called “progressive” white press was just as AWOL as the “mainstream.” No turning point came until protests swelled in July. Democracy Now and ran special reports after Bell was convicted (a conviction that has since been overturned although he remains in jail.) The Nation first mentioned Jena in its pages in the October 8 issue, which hit the stands after a 20,000 strong national protest march. (A couple of mentions appeared online in September.)

By every account I’ve heard, the people who had sufficient fire in their belly to wake up before dawn and bus their way into Jena September 20 were African American — around 90 percent. Probably close to that same percentage had a story to tell about a family member or neighbor who’s been touched by the criminal injustice system. “White liberals care, but they just don’t feel it in anything like the same way,” says Bean. “There’s a massive experience gap.”
James Rucker of the action-alert network, Color of Change, sent out an email alert July 17 after hearing about the story from Bean and his online subscribers. On the media front, he thinks there’s good news and bad: “We’ve seen the power of black radio and the black netroots who really came into their own on this story, but it hasn’t captured the imagination of the left media in the way that I would have hoped.” (Subscribe to

We are, after all, talking about Louisiana. On August, 31, when the two hangman’s nooses were found hanging in the tree, journalists were all over the Gulf Coast marking the one-year anniversary of Katrina. In the following weeks, when residents started holding lonely rallies, regional papers in Alexandria, Shreveport and Baton Rouge carried word, as did Jena’s own Jena Times.

Is it too much to expect that following the burst of attention to institutional racism that accompanied the broken levee disaster and Katrina, white America’s sensors might have been unusually attuned to the sort of injustice revealed at Jena? Or even, to expect that journalists might have been on the look out?

The thing is, media, and the movement pressure it could have built, could have made a difference. If Jena High School and the Jena DA had felt pushed to take on the noose-hangers a year ago, one white student, Justin Barker, might never have been beaten by anyone and six young black men (and one boy) might be heading to college today, not to courtrooms. The whole Jena story could have been different if one District Attorney, not to mention the US justice Department had felt the push to do what would have been right — and kick Jim Crow out of the 21st Century.

It’s late but it’s not too late, for all of America to act. In fact, truly massive public attention is needed right now as a white backlash builds in Louisiana. While Air America and National Public Radio move on, David Duke on his radio listeners are all over the Jena story. Last week, the former Ku Klux Klan leader announced his support for Jena’s white residents (who voted overwhelmingly for him when he ran for Louisiana governor in 1991.) Since the civil rights demonstrators left, Jena familes are alone against the white supremacists who have started appearing. Over the weekend, a neo-Nazi Web site posted the names, addresses and phone numbers of some of the six black teenagers and their families and urged followers to find them and “drag them out of the house.” A white driver was arrested in a nearby town, driving a pick up with nooses tied to the back fender. White extremist web sites and blogs are exploding and it’s not just Klansmen and neo-Nazis posting hateful things.

It’s late but it’s not too late to answer: Is Jena America?

Laura Flanders is the host of RadioNation and the author of Blue Grit: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians, out now from The Penguin Press.

HUD Demolitions Draw Noose Tighter Around New Orleans

Published on Wednesday, September 26, 2007 by

by Bill Quigley

Odessa Lewis is 62 years old. When I saw her last week, she was crying because she is being evicted. A long-time resident of the Lafitte public housing apartments, since Katrina she has been locked out of her apartment and forced to live in a 240 square foot FEMA trailer. Ms. Lewis has asked repeatedly to be allowed to return to her apartment to clean and fix it up so she can move back in. She even offered to do all the work herself and with friends at no cost. The government continually refused to allow her to return. Now she is being evicted from her trailer and fears she will become homeless because there is no place for working people, especially African American working and poor people, to live in New Orleans. Ms. Lewis is a strong woman who has worked her whole life. But the stress of being locked out of her apartment, living in a FEMA trailer and the possibility of being homeless brought out the tears. Thousands of other mothers andgrandmothers are in the same situation.

Renting is so hard in part because there is a noose closing around the housing opportunities of New Orleans African American renters displaced by Katrina. They have been openly and directly targeted by public and private actions designed to keep them away. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) just added their weight to the attack by approving the demolition of 2966 apartments in New Orleans.

Despite telling a federal judge for the last year and a half that approvals of public housing demolition applications take about 100 working days to evaluate, HUD approved the plan to demolish nearly 3000 apartments one day after the complete application was filed. HUD says the 3000 apartments are scheduled to be replaced in a few years with up to 744 public housing eligible apartments and a few hundred subsidized apartments.

Unfortunately, HUD’s actions are consistent with other governmental attacks on African American renters.

After Katrina, St. Bernard Parish, a 93% white adjoining suburb, enacted a law prohibiting home owners from renting their property to anyone who is not a blood relative. Jefferson Parish, another majority white adjoining suburb, unanimously passed an ordinance prohibiting the construction of any subsidized housing. The sponsoring legislator condemned poor people as “lazy,” “ignorant” and “leeches on society” - specifically hoping to guard against former residents of New Orleans public housing. Across Lake Ponchartrain from New Orleans, the chief law enforcement officer of St. Tammany Parish, Sheriff Jack Strain, complained openly about the post-Katrina presence of “thugs and trash from New Orleans” and announced that people with dreadlocks or “chee wee hairstyles” could “expect to be getting a visit from a sheriff’s deputy.”

HUD’s actions are also bolstered by pervasive racial discrimination in the private market as well. The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center has documented widespread racial discrimination in the metro New Orleans rental market and in the states surrounding the gulf coast.

HUD told a federal judge a few days “the average time [for the process of reviewing applications for demolition] is 100 days.” They did suggest that the process could be expedited in the case of New Orleans. So it was. Instead of reviewing the details of demolishing 3000 apartments and considering the law and facts and the administrative record for 100 days, HUD expedited the process to one day.

HUD and the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO, which HUD has been running for years) argued passionately that residents displaced from public housing (referred to once in their argument as ‘refugees’) are financially “better off” than they were before. This echoes the Barbara Bush comment of September 5, 2005 when she said, viewing the overwhelmingly African American crowd of thousands of people living on cots in the Astrodome, “And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this - (she chuckles slightly) this is working very well for them.”

HUD announced approval of demolition of 2966 units of public housing in New Orleans - 896 apartments at Lafitte, 521 at C.J. Peete, 1158 at B.W. Cooper, and 1391 at St. Bernard. A few buildings on each site will be retained for historical preservation purposes.

New Orleans had a severe affordable housing crisis before Katrina when HANO housed over 5000 families. There was a waiting list of 8000 families trying to get in. HUD and HANO together did such a poor job of administering the agency that there were about 2000 more empty apartments that had been scheduled for major repairs for years.

The continuing deceptions by HUD and HANO have been shameless. Since Katrina, HUD has continued to act out both sides of a charade that the local housing authority is making decisions and HUD is waiting on local actions. Yet, the decision to demolish was announced by the Secretary of HUD in DC over a year ago. But in the year since then, HUD has continued to tell a federal judge that any legal challenge to demolitions was premature because HANO had not even submitted an application to HUD for their careful 100 day evaluation. This is while a HUD employee runs the agency, commuting back and forth to DC each week. HANO even announced they would have 2000 apartments ready for people in August of 2006 - a deadline not met even in September 2007. HANO later announced to the public that they had a list of 250 apartments ready for people to return only to admit in writing weeks later that no such list existed - nor were the phantom apartments ready.The list of untruths goes on.

HUD would not agree to delay the demolition of the 3000 apartments until Congress finished reviewing legislation that would give residents the right to return and participate in the process of determining what kind of affordable housing should be in place in New Orleans.
And so HUD’s actions help further restrict the opportunities for African American renters in New Orleans. Adjoining white suburbs do not want African American renters back. HUD does not want them back. The local federal judge has refused to stop the demolitions.

But the mothers and grandmothers and their families and friends are still determined to return and resist demolition. One sign at a recent public housing rally summed it up. “We will not allow the community we built to be rebuilt without us.”

Odessa Lewis, despite her tears, said she is not giving up. She and other public housing residents promise “we did not come this far to be turned back now. We will do whatever is necessary to protect our homes.” Thousands of African American mothers and grandmothers are the ones directly targeted by HUD’s actions.

Forty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr., said “We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society…When profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” We can add sexism to the list, particularly in the fight for the right of public housing residents to return.

The fight of Ms. Lewis and others on the gulf coast shows how much we need a radical revolution of values.

Bill is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Leaders Should Intervene To Bring Justice (and Security) To The Jena 6

Tuesday, September 25, 2007, The Chicago Sun-Times

by Jesse Jackson

Last week, thousands of peaceful demonstrators came from across the country to protest the criminal injustice done to young African-American men in Jena, La. The protesters spanned the generations and the country’s geography. They came because of the chilling injustice in Jena, where a series of fights began after white students draped three nooses over the “white tree” in the schoolyard. The white students involved got slaps on the wrist; six African Americans were charged with attempted murder.

They came because Jena isn’t simply in Louisiana; similar injustices take place in our criminal justice system routinely. Mothers and fathers came knowing their children could be the next ones accused.
The demonstration shamed those with a conscience and roused those with hatred in their hearts. Neo-Nazi Web pages have burned with vile denunciations of the Jena 6 and the demonstrators. Last week, — an expression of an extremist group that calls itself the American National Socialist Workers Party — chillingly published the names, addresses and telephone numbers of some of the families of the Jena 6. “Get in touch,” the Web page threatened, “and let them know justice is coming.”
“If these n—–s are released or acquitted, we will find out where they live and make sure that white activists and white citizens in Louisiana know it,” ANSWP Commander Bill White stated. “We’ll mail directions to their homes to every white man in Louisiana if we have to in order to find someone willing to deliver justice.” Another white posting on the matter flatly threatened: “Lynch the Jena 6.”

“The best crowd control for such a situation would be a squad of men armed with full automatics and preferably a machine gun as well,” added another posting on the neo-Nazi Vanguard News Network, a white supremacist Web forum.

Threats by neo-Nazi white-supremacy groups need to be taken seriously. These groups are heavily armed and dangerous.

The governor and attorney general of Louisiana are silent. The local prosecutor remains belligerent. This is a time for federal intervention. The federal government intervened in Little Rock and Selma. Local authorities refuse to discharge their duty. The government must act now. I urge President Bush to intervene.

The presidential candidates in both parties should also exercise leadership here, speaking clearly about the need for reconciliation and justice. Republican candidates particularly should demonstrate that they can rise above racial divides to demand fairness and justice in America. Thus far, Republicans have been campaigning as if all America were a white suburb. They cited “scheduling conflicts” to avoid a debate sponsored by a historically black college. Other than John McCain, they ducked the Univision Latino debate. This disdain for reaching out caused former Republican vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp to complain, “What are we going to do — meet in a country club in the suburbs one day?”

But the Democratic nominees should not assume that they can inherit minority votes. They have to earn them. Standing up for justice and against this kind of hatred is an essential measure of leadership.

These threats are serious. The FBI should be investigating; the Justice Department intervening. The civil rights laws were passed to empower the federal government to act. It is time for George W. Bush to stand up.

Jesse Jackson can be reached by email.
© 2007 The Chicago Sun Times

Anti War event

Monday, September 24, 2007

Two sides of Barack Obama

The Progressive Alliance is tabling for Edwards, Obama, and Kucinich.

In These Times, September 17, 2007

Obama’s in the Eye of the Beholder

Can the junior senator from Illinois be both a stalwart progressive and a post-ideological unifier?
By David Moberg (Tama, Iowa)

Every August for 46 years, until she retired two years ago, Duffy Lyon carved the butter cow sculpture that has occupied a place of honor at the Iowa State Fair. But newly inspired, this summer she crafted 17 pounds of butter into the campaign logo of Democratic presidential aspirant Barack Obama, proudly displaying her creation at an Obama forum on rural issues here.

“He’s the kind of person who will represent us the best, better than Hillary,” she says. “He’s for people who haven’t got things.” Prominent dairy farmer Joe Lyon, like his wife an active 78-year-old independent who Bush turned into an ardent Democrat, adds, “We’ve got to have a change in Washington. I think it’s been a calamity—war, giveaways to the well-connected. I don’t think we’ve seen anything like it in history. And we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg. I don’t know how long it will take to straighten out.”

Many Democrats—and a surprising swath of Republicans and independents—think that first-term senator Barack Obama represents the best hope (his constant theme) to turn the country in a new direction. Whether attracted by his inspirational speeches, his fresh face, or his early opposition to the war in Iraq, people respond to Obama’s personal story and what they think he represents for America, as much as to the policies he advocates.

But there are two Obamas running for president—or at least two political personas that voters see. One is the politically progressive Obama, leading in the national polls over rivals such as former Sen. John Edwards to be the left alternative to front-runner Hillary Clinton’s centrist, establishment politics. The other is the post-partisan Obama, who will bring people together and transcend the morass of Washington politics that he is running against.

Both reflect Obama’s political history, but the big question—for both his campaign and his potential presidency—is: How compatible are these two personas? To what extent does striving for post-partisanship conflict with—or complement—progressive political goals?
One Obama, two Obama

Progressives often see Obama’s career as evidence that he is a champion of grassroots democracy, and issues like ethics reform and national health insurance. “People have choices to make in life, and choices give you some insight into what they believe and what their values are,” says Henry Bayer, director of AFSCME District Council 31 in Illinois. “Here’s a guy who had his pick of what he could do, the world was open to him, and he became a community organizer, then went to law school, did civil rights and voter registration work,” before becoming a reliably liberal state senator.

That personal history counts with voters. After an Iowa Federation of Labor candidate forum in Waterloo, Amalgamated Transit Workers Union local political director Lon Kammeyer—a bold “Live Union, Die Union” tattoo on his massive forearm—praised Obama for his candor about his experiences growing up and for his willingness more recently to campaign against Wal-Mart. “I like Barack,” he says. “To me, he’s just worked his way up, working with people who didn’t have anything.”

But many admirers—especially young people, people turned off to politics, and less partisan voters spanning the ideological spectrum—do not view Obama as a progressive or even a champion of the downtrodden. They see him as a plain-speaking, uncorrupted, new force for change who wants to solve common problems and unite the country.

Pat Nelson—a politically independent, middle-aged, elementary school teacher—volunteered to help at an Obama rally held in August on the Cass County Fairgrounds in the small town of Atlantic, Iowa. Not a close follower of politics in past elections, she says she’s paying more attention this time. “Whenever I listen to Obama, I get the feeling he’s not a Republican, not a Democrat, but asking what can we do as a group to solve problems, and that intrigues me,” she says. “We need to get over what Democrats and Republicans are for and think of what’s important for the country.”

Jim Lynam, 65, and his daughter, Emily, 20, both liked Obama’s stand on the war in Iraq and the environment, but it is his charisma and novelty that excite them. “To me, he represents fresh air, change,” Jim says. “I would support Hillary if she’s nominated, but I wouldn’t be happy because she brings old ideas. You know what she’s going to say. She’s not inventive. It’s politics as usual. She speaks to please the audience. But he’s not as corrupted by the system as people who’ve been swimming in it for years.”

Even highly partisan, liberal Democrats, like 77-year-old retired union house painter Herbert Abraham and his 53-year-old wife, Nancy, a home care worker, admire Obama’s post-partisanship for a practical reason. “Of all the candidates, I can’t think of one that can get crossover votes besides Obama,” Herbert said at the Atlantic rally. “He can win, and we want the Democrats to win.”

Indeed, in an intriguing University of Iowa Poll in early August, Obama received more support from Republican voters—6.7 percent—than all of the other Republican contenders except for Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. And Obama argues that he can expand the politically viable territory for Democrats more than other candidates by both inspiring Southern blacks to vote and attracting more rural, religious voters.
All together now

In his stump speeches, like the one he gave at the Atlantic fairgrounds, Obama pits the “generosity of spirit and decency of the American people” against the corruption of politics, adroitly making himself the vehicle of his listeners’ most noble impulses. Large crowds turn out for his campaign, he says, not because of what he’s doing but “because Americans all across the country are desperate for change. They want something new. They want to take this country in a new direction. Part of it is a response to the last six years and the sense that the challenges and difficulties you face here in Atlantic and people are facing all across the country have not been dealt with. We’ve got a lot of petty politics and a lot of negative advertising but when it comes to the challenges of this country, Washington hasn’t done the job.”

In an engaging and authoritative manner, he ticks off Bush’s policy failures—healthcare, education, energy, global warming, economic inequality, official contempt for the law, corruption, and a “war that never should have been authorized.” But he often warns that simply changing parties in power is not enough to change the politics in Washington.

“Our government has to reflect our deepest values, and our deepest values involve not just thinking about ourselves but thinking about other people,” he says. “If there are poor people in Cass County, it impoverishes us all. That idea that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper, that we’re looking after our seniors, our children, our disabled, the vulnerable—that notion has to be reflected not just in our religious institutions, not just in church. It has to express itself through our government. We’re all in this together. We rise and fall together. We’re not just on our own.”

With almost identical language during the same week in Iowa, Edwards and Clinton talked about “shared prosperity” and the need to recognize “we’re in this together” instead of thinking that “you’re on your own”—political framing terms promoted by the progressive think tank, the Economic Policy Institute.

Bold is better

Yet much as the candidates have converged in rhetoric and some policies, they have staked out differences. Clinton, who hews to an establishment foreign policy view to make herself appear tough, tries to paint Obama’s modest but laudable candor and openness on foreign policy as naive. Obama counters that judgment is more important than experience. “Nobody has a longer resume than Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld,” he says, “and that hasn’t worked out so well.”

Both Obama and Clinton have talked about bringing all interested parties to the table to create universal health insurance. But Obama, who like Edwards distinguishes himself from Clinton by refusing contributions from political action committees and Washington lobbyists, also says, “I don’t mind insurance and drug companies having a seat at the table. I just don’t want them buying all the chairs.”

And Edwards, in a pointed critique of Obama, Clinton and “corporate Democrats,” argues that it’s necessary “to take the power away” from “entrenched powers,” not invite them to make a deal on health care, energy or other major problems. At a UAW hall in Ottumwa, Iowa, Edwards said, “The idea that you can cooperate and negotiate with these people and give them a seat at the table is a fantasy.” Instead, he said he’d announce his health care plans from the White House lawn, then warn Americans how corporations would attack his proposals. “We can’t be cute about this,” he said. “We’ve got to take these people head on.”

That criticism strikes at the fault line between the progressive Obama, willing as he often suggests to mobilize popular pressure to bring change, and the post-partisan Obama, intent on bringing everyone together to resolve issues without political conflict.

After years of enduring Bush and the Republican right, “most Democrats are not in any bipartisan unity mindset,” says one veteran Iowa political strategist, who is advising another campaign. “They need some red meat.”

Progressive Democrats in particular want a presidential candidate who will take advantage of the recent leftward shift in public opinion. Obama appeals to the party’s left: He edged out Edwards in a straw poll of participants in a June conference organized by Campaign for America’s Future (CAF), a D.C.-based group that mobilizes progressives within Democratic politics, and he and Edwards were virtually tied in an early summer survey of supporters of Democracy for America, a national group that grew out of Howard Dean’s campaign four years ago.

But Robert Borosage, co-director of CAF, says Obama has “run a very cautious campaign and chosen to make himself the voice of responsible centrism.” With his timidity on issues such as health care, energy and trade, Borosage says, “he’s almost Hillaryesque in his caution on positions he’s taken. You have to take a lot on faith that he’s carrying a progressive banner, but he hasn’t been around long enough to know where he’ll come down. He’s stirred a lot of excitement among young people and people not much engaged in politics, but other progressives have increasing questions about where he is: Is he the new triangulator or one of us?”

William McNary, president of USAction, a national network of statewide progressive citizen groups, personally—but not organizationally—supports Obama as a “genuine progressive” who will “expand the boundaries of American democracy,” and heal the rupture with the rest of the world Bush caused with the war in Iraq. But even McNary, who has long known and worked with Obama, says, “If I had to offer any criticism, he’s a bit cautious for my taste. People have to see someone who is putting forth bold proposals, not weak, timid programs. Bolder can be better.”

In Iowa, where Edwards remains the frontrunner, some polls show Obama gaining strength. State Senator Joe Bolkcom, a lead organizer for the Working Families Win mobilization project of Americans for Democratic Action, sees Obama as inspiring young people much like Howard Dean did four years ago. “One of his main messages is the corruption of special interest money in politics and how that distorts what the country needs now,” Bolkcom says. “That’s a message that’s strong here, and that was one of Gov. Dean’s messages.”

And John Norris, the field organizer for Sen. John Kerry’s upset victory in the 2004 Iowa caucus, contends that older, more experienced Democrats are now joining young Obama supporters, and that Obama has more of an opportunity to grow his support than the more established candidates. “Is he progressive?” Norris says. “In my mind, yes. Ideology is important to me. I don’t know there’s a great deal of distinction among top candidates, though I think Obama is more progressive than Hillary, who’s moved to the right.” But Norris also supports Obama because he has the “capacity, insight and approach to re-establish our ties with the world community” and the “enormous capacity to excite a new generation about public service.”

“He fundamentally understands that we have to change the way we do politics in Washington,” says Norris. “I think everyone else is cynical that we can make a fundamental change. I think you have to start with that fundamental belief or you can’t get anything done. He’s lived that as a community organizer, working for change from the democratic roots. If you’re going to change Washington, it has to start in the countryside.”

Can Obama resolve the tension between his post-partisan and progressive personas, and the differing camps of voters they attract? Unless he does, he may not have the opportunity to win the presidency, much less fundamentally change American politics.

David Moberg, a senior editor of In These Times, has been on the staff of the magazine since it began publishing. Before joining In These Times, he completed his work for a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Chicago and worked for Newsweek. Recently he has received fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Nation Institute for research on the new global economy.
By the way. This byline. Tama, Iowa. Tama is a large Native American reservation in Iowa.

Steal the state initiative

Signature gatherers are collecting signatures on the Sac State campus on the Republican initiative to change the way California distributes the state’s electoral votes.
This is anti Democrat initiative. It will give electoral votes to the Republicans and could well determine the 2008 presidential election.
The California Democratic Party has been fast out of the box and is calling the initiative the "Steal the State" Initiative. That name communicates instantly what the initiative is about. As the CDP is already out there branding the initiative, it would be great if our campaign would add that name and pound it in, along with the more centrist opposition.

Those gathering signatures are deliberately misrepresenting the initiative as sponsored by the Democratic Party. When I confronted one operative, he seemed confused. He really did not understand the initiative, he was just earning money.
Today, signature gatherers were describing it as reforming the electoral college.
Duane Campbell,
Electoral Committee Chair. P.a.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Thank you

thank you for setting up the blog Paul. good move.
There is more on the Jena 6, and a good essay by Julian Bond on

Also, all are invited to our Forum: Crisis in Democracy, on Oct. 4, at CSU-Sacramento.
Details at

Duane Campbell

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Thousands Descend on Town to Support 'Jena Six'

The case of black teenagers hit with heavy charges after beating a white classmate has attracted national attention.

Los Angeles Times, September 21, 2007

By Jenny Jarvie and Richard Fausset, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

JENA, LA. — -- In a scene reminiscent of civil rights protests of decades past, thousands of protesters descended on this small Southern town Thursday to peacefully decry what they said was the unfair treatment of six black teenagers charged with beating a white schoolmate.

The case of the Jena Six, as the defendants have come to be known, attracted a cast of famous black leaders, but many said the crowd was called by fresh chorus of voices -- among them bloggers, black radio personalities and Web-networked college students.

Organizers said the crowd swelled to 50,000; state police said it was too spread out to count. As the visitors began pouring into this mostly white central Louisiana community of 3,000 at daybreak, they encountered a ghost town: The courthouse, the high school and almost all the businesses -- from the barber to the bail bondsman -- were closed.

It was not long, though, before the protesters, many of them African American and many wearing black T-shirts, filled the two-lane highway through downtown and residential streets, chanting and holding placards that read "Free the Jena Six" and "Enough Is Enough."

On the steps of the LaSalle Parish Courthouse, speakers described the case as an example of an American justice system that continued to treat African Americans unfairly, despite the progress made since the days of Jim Crow."

In the 20th century, we had to fight for where we sit on the bus," said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who arrived at the courthouse with members of the defendants' families. "Now we have to fight on how we sit in the courtroom."

Added the Rev. Jesse Jackson: "There is a Jena in every town, a Jena in every state."

That kind of talk was met with disdain by residents of Jena (pronounced JEE-nuh), many of whom stayed indoors for the day. Some who ventured outside said their town had been unfairly singled out, by both protesters and media, as a backwoods redoubt of racial animosity."

They have cast us a bunch of ignorant, racist bumpkins," said Ray Hodges, an automotive technology teacher at Jena High School. "It's about as far from the truth as you can get. There is racism in Jena, but it's not only in Jena, it's not only in Louisiana, it's not only in the South. It's an American thing."

"I actually heard a girl shout 'Shame on Jena,' " said Pam Sharp, 43, who sat in a plastic chair as the procession filed past her house. "I shouted back, 'No, shame on you!'

" How can they include the whole town? That's the shame."For Sharp, the victim in the case was Justin Barker, the 17-year-old white student who was kicked in the head and knocked unconscious."

Protesters don't want to talk about him," she said.

At a White House news conference Thursday morning, President Bush said the events in Jena had "saddened" him."

I understand the emotions," Bush said. "The Justice Department and the FBI are monitoring the situation down there, and all of us in America want there to be fairness when it comes to justice."

Sharpton told the Associated Press that he and other black leaders were trying to persuade the House Judiciary Committee to call Jena's district attorney, Reed Walters, to Capitol Hill to explain his actions.

Walters, in a news conference Wednesday, said the case was not about race but about "finding justice for an innocent victim, and holding people accountable for their actions."To some black observers, however, the Jena story -- studded with explosive symbols from an age of more widespread and blatant racism -- was too volatile to be ignored.

The trouble started last September when three white students hung nooses from a tree where whites traditionally congregated at the local high school. The students responsible were suspended. Later, part of the school mysteriously burned down.

Racial tensions reportedly flared on campus, and in December, the six black students allegedly beat up Barker. He was taken to the hospital and treated for injuries to his ears, face and eye; later that night, he attended a ring ceremony at school.

The black students were arrested and kicked out of school, and five of them were charged with attempted second-degree murder. (The sixth was charged as a juvenile and was recently allowed to return to classes.) The charges were later reduced. One of the defendants, Mychal Bell, was tried and found guilty of aggravated battery. His conviction was thrown out this month, though, because he was tried as an adult rather than a juvenile. He remains in custody while prosecutors decided whether to file new charges against him. The other defendants are awaiting trial dates and face up to 22 years in prison.

To Jasmyne Cannick -- a blogger and black activist from Los Angeles -- such details convinced her that something was clearly amiss in Jena. In recent days, she said, she has devoted much of her blogging to the case, and encouraged supporters to go to Thursday's protest or wear black in their hometowns.

Cannick and other bloggers linked to an online petition that had more than 380,000 signatures by Thursday afternoon. Addressed to the U.S. Justice Department's civil rights division, the petition called the treatment of the young men a "gross miscarriage of justice" and demanded a federal investigation. Some of the signatories left searing comments

"This case is so racist, it's not even funny," wrote Omonike Ayorinde of Illinois. "As a black woman, a noose hanging from a tree is NOT just some 'silly little prank.' My heart and prayers are with these boys and their families."

Members of the social networking website Facebook formed "Free the Jena 6" groups. On the video site YouTube, users posted snippets of news broadcasts and footage from local rallies in support of the defendants. Some delivered homemade protest raps."

Jena Six Louisiana, it's so clear -- racism still alive and kickin' down there," rhymed a man who called himself ConsciousL.

In the radio industry, Thursday's protest was seen as a sign of the growing influence of black talk show hosts. Their popularity has been growing in recent years in concert with the general rise of the talk radio phenomenon, according to Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers, an industry magazine.

That power has been evident in Atlanta, where radio station WAMJ-FM (102.5) delivers hours of black-oriented talk radio programming. Derek Harper, the station's program director, said that in the last month, most of the station's syndicated talkers -- including Steve Harvey, Al Sharpton, Michael Baisden and Warren Ballentine -- had picked up on the story and made it a major issue.

Ballentine was among a number of radio personalities broadcasting live from Jena on Thursday. He said he had been rallying black people around the issue since learning about it in June.

On his show, he recalled, "I said, 'I'm calling out attorneys, ballplayers, rappers -- you got to step to the plate! . . . Where are you at when our kids need you?'

"That sense of urgency and outrage is not shared by all African Americans, however.

Joe Hicks, the former head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Los Angeles chapter, accused some black leaders of rushing to judgment. He said the prosecutor must have had a good reason to assume the victim's life was in jeopardy. He also noted that the final verdicts had not been reached."

I'm troubled by what appears to be a great deal of racial opportunism on the part of some of the orthodox civil rights leadership," said Hicks, who has criticized such leaders from the right in recent years. "They are rushing to condemn what's going on in Jena, and yet some of these guys were clamoring for the conviction of the guys involved in the Duke rape case."

They're picking up a lot of rocks, and lifted up Jena and decided, 'This is a representation of what black people are facing in America,' " he added. "I don't think that's the state of American race relations at all."

Such sentiments were rare Thursday on the streets of Jena. Instead, protesters listened to rapper Mos Def and a reading from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. Another man played African drums. Nearby, Bob Marley tunes blasted from a red truck.

Closer to the school, some protesters held hands in a circle. Others prayed. But most spent their time holding cellphones, digital cameras and camcorders -- recording themselves and their friends in front of the paths the Jena Six walked, the classrooms where the Jena Six sat, the football field where some of the Jena Six played.

The tree at the center of the controversy was cut down over the summer, but that did not stop protesters like A.J. Walker, who photographed her daughter at the patch of dirt where it once stood."

I want my children to be part of history," said Walker, a black police officer from Houston. "I want to show them they have to stand for something."

Jarvie reported from Jena, La.; Fausset from Atlanta.