Sunday, February 22, 2015

Truest statement of the week

The fact that the U.S. President could launch military attacks in Syria, supposedly a sovereign state and member of the United Nations, for six months without any legal justification and not face fierce criticism in the U.S. and internationally demonstrates the embrace of lawlessness that characterizes the current epoch of Western imperialist domination.
And the acquiescence of much of the left in the U.S. and Europe on the issue of Syria and the U.S. supported coup in Ukraine reveals the moderating and accommodating forces within the faux left that attempts to bully and intimidate anti-imperialist critics.

-- Ajamu Baraka, "Obama's Legacy: Permanent War and Liberal/Radical Accomodation?" (Dissident Voice).

Truest statement of the week II

Barack Obama destroyed Libya.

What he did to Libya is as bad as what Bush did to Iraq and Afghanistan. He doesn't deserve a historical pass.

--  Ted Rall, "Obama Destroyed Libya" (Information Clearing House).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another Sunday.  First, we thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

What did we come up with?

A first for Ajamu Baraka.
Ted Rall's had a truest before but it's been awhile.
It really is amazing how many are ignoring the AUMF.
Ava and C.I. take on TFIT.  
Neil Patrick Harris really bombed as an Oscar host.
Who is the US taxpayer paying to do improvements to Barack's helicopter?
Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a bully.

Short feature!
What we listened to.
About Hillary's staff . . . 
Great Britian's Socialist Worker repost. 
PVA press release. 
Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it. 

And that's what we came up with.


-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: The AUMF silence

This week, Law and Disorder Radio finally breaks Pacifica Radio's long silence on Barack Obama's AUMF request to Congress (so that Congress will convey legality on Barack's current wars on Iraq and Syria).

Host Michael Ratner observes, among other things, that, "When liberals want to vote for something bad but feel better about it, they say, 'Oh, let's put a sunset clause in it'." That is the only reason for the sunset clause -- such a clause never really has real world meaning.

Make no mistake, the illegal Iraq War was a rainmaker for Pacifica Radio.

While it would have been great to see the topic discussed as a topic and not an update (and the topic is certainly worthy of a full hour of exploration by the program), we will give the radio show and hosts Michael Ratner and Heidi Boghosian credit for breaking the silence.

Ajamu Baraka (Dissident Voice) pointed out last week:

The announcement by the Obama administration that it will seek congressional authorization to expand the war on ISIS in Syria and possibly send more heavy weapons to its client government in Ukraine did not generate the kind of muscular opposition and sense of urgency that one would expect from the anti-interventionist liberals and significant sectors of what use to be the anti-imperialist and anti-war left.
Outside of a few articles written by some of us confined to the marginalized and shrinking left, the reports that the administration was considering both of these courses of action were met with passing indifference. It is as if the capitalist oligarchy’s strategy of permanent war has been accepted as a fait-accompli by the general public and even significant numbers of the left.

He didn't name her, but he could have been referring to Rosa Brooks as one of the "significant numbers of the left."

No, she's not famous for much of anything other than being the daughter of crazy Babs.  But Brooks is a Socialist who worked in the administration of Barack Obama, during his first term, and provided cover for The Drone War and other events.  And this month, she also penned a worthless column for Foreign Policy -- a column wrongly praised by The Guardian newspaper because, as C.I. notes:

But Rosa, still the foot soldier for Barack, wanted everyone to know, the AUMF doesn't matter.  So just ignore it.
She felt it was great that it had spawned a 'discussion.'
If you're wondering what discussion, you're not alone.
She doesn't mean Congressional discussion because she slaps down Republicans and chides Democrats.
So what discussion?
There's been no discussion.

And she doesn't want one.  Rose Brooks wants everyone to go along with the AUMF which, in her mind, doesn't really matter.

She's far from alone in distracting from the AUMF,

Repeating, the Iraq War was a moneymaker for Pacifica.

Donations reached an all time high from 2003 through 2006 that hadn't been seen since the Vietnam era.

Yet only Brian Edwards-Tierkert could be found advocating that Pacifica develop an Iraq program (failing that, he suggested they start airing War News Radio).

They didn't go for it then.

All these years later, they continue to ignore the Iraq War.

TV: Off the rails

TV audiences are punished more and more these days as crazy becomes the factory setting for various programs.


Take the soap opera about the fixer who has, in the last episodes come undone.  Scandal rose to fame by presenting a strong Olivia Pope.  Now all the taunts that she was just a pretty face appear to come true, her homicidal father's prediction that when she turned her back on him she would be nothing without his protection appears true.

If there's anything worse than being so inept that even a third-string criminal can see her 'tell' and figure out what she's up to, maybe it's having the first African-American character to be the focus of an hour long show also become the first one to be sold into modern day slavery?

Or maybe it's having her spin from whiny to ungrateful bitch in 5 . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . .

To keep her from being killed, President Fitzpatrick starts a war with Angola, as the ones who planned the kidnapping originally wanted (then Olivia got farmed out two a second team and then a third team).  And Olivia's response to that when she is free and face-to-face with Fitz?

To scream and yell at him.

To say he has betrayed all the work she did to get him into the White House.

Oh how she howled.

Oh how stupid she looked.

Does Kerry Washington read these (bad) scripts?

Here's reality, when she was first kidnapped and the vice president of the US was using her to start the war, she confessed to her cell mate (who turned out to be in on the kidnapping) that she was going to be fine and he would too because the president of the United States loved her and would not let any harm come to her.

Later, when she had to tape a video proving she was alive, she begged Fitz, on the video, not to start the war.

But she already knew he would and, again, had boasted -- prior to knowing what the terms would be -- that the president would meet the terms.

Which he did.

(And even his wife, Mellie, told him he had to do that.)

So for Oliva to throw her little tantrum was further disgrace in a plot line that has been the worst thing Shonda Rhimes has ever oversaw.

And the ratings reflect that.

They really, really reflect that.

Scandal is dangerously close to falling back to its first season ratings.

It wasn't a hit then.

ABC stayed with the show and, in season two, it became a hit.

Despite claims that Shonda Rhimes knows drama, the proof she clearly does not as she runs off the audience.

And not just with one show.

The hit of the fall season was How To Get Away With Murder.

The show's no longer a hit, it's a bit of an embarrassment and some of the praise its earned is equally embarrassing.

Cicely Tyson showed up last Thursday to play a role that appeared, as Betty noted, based on Mother Jefferson (Zara Cully) on the sitcom The Jeffersons.  It was so far beneath Tyson that Shonda and company owed acting an apology.

But some people praised the scene of Cicely combing out Viola Davis' hair.

It's never been on network TV before.

It's break through!

Earlier, Viola had removed her makeup.

It's break through!

We've long mocked the Rolling Stone magazine music 'critic' who saw, in the eighties, all this break through when Madonna, after singing "Live To Tell' in a concert, stood up.  It was break through, he insisted, it told the story of AIDS, it . . .

It was Madonna moving from a ballad to a fast song.

That's all it was.

Viola getting her hair combed out or taking off her make up?

No, it's not break through, it's not legendary, it's not earth shattering.

But that's what low expectations -- and whores who traffic in them -- seize upon.

There's nothing break through about How To Get Away With Murder.

It had a chance to be but it ended it with the winter finale when instead of allowing Annalise (Viola's alleged lead character) to kill her cheating and abusive husband who had killed the young college student he got pregnant, it farmed out the task of that to her students.

It was as though Ryan O'Neal showed up at the start of the classic TV movie The Burning Bed and killed the abusive husband freeing Farrah Fawcett's Francine Hughes (the film is based on a true story) to do needle point for the rest of the film.

Or as though, at the end of Thelma & Louise, Geena Davis had told Susan Sarandon, "Hey, girl, we had our fun, let's turn ourselves in."  And Susan had nodded and the two women had stepped out of the convertible and walked towards the police with their hands in the air.

Annalise is a successful defense attorney known for her ability to allow her clients to get away with murder.  She teaches a college class on the topic and isn't concerned with guilt or innocence, only with how to destroy people on the witness stand and make them look liars even if they aren't.

It's really amazing that the families of various murder victims haven't demanded the university refuse to allow this unscrupulous and predatory person to teach.

But having created this character, the show refused to follow through on the natural storyline -- which was Annalise killing her husband.

As bad as that was, what followed has been even more pathetic.

As the ratings demonstrate, by the way.

Before the winter break, over ten million and over nine million viewers an episode was the norm.

The return of a new episode at the end of January saw a normal viewership.

But what the viewers saw in that episode ensured that every one that followed hasn't been able to crack nine million.

'Strong' Annalise is currently a victim of the Victorian era's "rest cure" as she remains confined to her bed, so distraught over the murder of her awful husband and all that followed.

Yes, the "rest cure."

In 1892, Charlotte Perkins Gilman's classic The Yellow Wallpaper was first published -- a novel that decries the rest cure.

Yet two centuries later, you've got a Shonda Rhimes show promoting it.

Shonda might claim, "This is good drama."

The audience is running, Shonda, they don't think it's good drama.

More importantly, Shonda's rightfully been praised for putting strong African-American women on TV.  And yet for two hours Thursday nights in 2014, all she's done is weaken them, turn them into victims and, yes, turn on the very reasons American viewers embraced Olivia Pope and Annalise Keating.

He put it all out there but . . .

Neil Patrick Harris is a treat at the Tonys.

But despite stripping down and sporting pointy nipples at today's Academy Awards ceremony, he didn't quite make it as a host.

Some saw racism in a bit where he assigned Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer a chore -- to watch the locked box containing a bag containing an envelope with his Academy Award predictions.  The bit never ended.

And when all but Best Picture had been handed out, Neil came on stage to milk the bit one more time.

Earth to Neil Patrick Harris, over three hours into the ceremony, with one award left to give out, no one wants to hear your crappy list.

And it was a crappy list.

There were a few mild and polite chuckles from the audience -- a few.

If you're going to do one last bit, you need to kill.

It's whatever's going to remember, your last jokes.

If they aren't funny, that's what people will probably remember your entire hosting duties as.

Then again, he stripped to his underwear.

Maybe people will focus on that instead?

He does look a little like an Oscar, doesn't he?

If you slapped a pair of briefs on the nude statue.

It ought to be a scandal

Marine One is the helicopter used to transport the President of the United States (Marine Two does the same for the Vice President).

The US taxpayer foots the bill for all that transportation, not whomever occupies the Oval Office.

So the very least -- the very least -- Barack Obama could do is ensure that the jobs involved in Marine One go to Americans.

Instead . . . The Times of India reported this week, "US President Barack Obama will soon fly in a new helicopter whose cabin has been made in India."

The first week of February saw the latest jobs report release from the Labor Department.  The editorial board of Investors Business Daily observed:

Think about it this way. Obama likes to brag that there have now been 51 months of uninterrupted monthly job gains, which have resulted in 10.3 million new jobs.
Sounds impressive, doesn't it?
But over that same period, the working-age population increased by 11.2 million. By that measure, the country has actually lost ground over the past four-plus years.
That's why the labor force participation rate is just 62.9%, even with jobs "raining" down last month, which is much lower than the 65.7% rate at the start of the Obama recovery, and even down from where it was early last year.

At Gallup, Jim Clifton notes:

Right now, we're hearing much celebrating from the media, the White House and Wall Street about how unemployment is "down" to 5.6%. The cheerleading for this number is deafening. The media loves a comeback story, the White House wants to score political points and Wall Street would like you to stay in the market.
None of them will tell you this: If you, a family member or anyone is unemployed and has subsequently given up on finding a job -- if you are so hopelessly out of work that you've stopped looking over the past four weeks -- the Department of Labor doesn't count you as unemployed. That's right. While you are as unemployed as one can possibly be, and tragically may never find work again, you are not counted in the figure we see relentlessly in the news -- currently 5.6%. Right now, as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. Trust me, the vast majority of them aren't throwing parties to toast "falling" unemployment.
There's another reason why the official rate is misleading. Say you're an out-of-work engineer or healthcare worker or construction worker or retail manager: If you perform a minimum of one hour of work in a week and are paid at least $20 -- maybe someone pays you to mow their lawn -- you're not officially counted as unemployed in the much-reported 5.6%. Few Americans know this.
Yet another figure of importance that doesn't get much press: those working part time but wanting full-time work. If you have a degree in chemistry or math and are working 10 hours part time because it is all you can find -- in other words, you are severely underemployed -- the government doesn't count you in the 5.6%. Few Americans know this.

There's no other way to say this. The official unemployment rate, which cruelly overlooks the suffering of the long-term and often permanently unemployed as well as the depressingly underemployed, amounts to a Big Lie.

And in this environment, Barack's sending jobs to India?

The Congress should be outraged, the American people should be outraged.

Does the White House plan to outsource the Secret Service duties next?

Dirty Debbie plays dirty

dirty debbie

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, above from  Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Dirty Debbie," has been one disaster after another.

Last week, things got even worse for the greasy haired head of the Democratic National Committee and, for a change, it didn't involve her attempting to charge her wardrobe bills to the Democratic Party.  Patricia Mazzei (Miami Herald) explains:

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston denied a Politico story that her office had offered to drop her opposition to a medical-pot ballot initiative if Orlando lawyer John Morgan stopped bashing the congresswoman in the press as an obstructionist. Morgan then produced text messages and emails, also reported by Politico, indicating that a Wasserman Schultz staffer had discussed a deal of some sort with a go-between political consultant.

Despite the e-mail evidence, Debbie told Ken Thomas (AP), "It's outrageous to suggest that I would ever cut a deal."

While Debbie issued her unbelievable denials, John Morgan had his own response to the attempts to silence him, "We don't negotiate with prohibitionists.  Or bullies."

Is Debbie a bully?

Many would say yes.

Many would point out how she's always willing to slash and burn.

And some would point to what conservative Ben Shapiro's zoomed in on at Truth Revolt:

A report issued by Politico Friday stated that Democratic National Chairman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) had plans in 2013 to accuse President Obama of being anti-Semitic and anti-woman when she felt her position as chairwoman was coming into question.
Associates of Wasserman Schultz revealed that she had lined up supporters to back her claims against Obama after she sensed the president might replace her. The report goes on to say that when she wasn't replaced, she took that as a sign of "renewed strength" from Obama.

Dirty Debbie needs to get her house in order.  And also wash that greasy hair.

It's all about that grip

US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel debate best jerk off grips in a February meet-up.

This edition's playlist

In Your Dreams

1) Stevie Nicks' In Your Dreams.

2) Fleetwood Mac's Tusk.

3)  David Saw's Broken Down Figure.

4) Stevie Nicks' 24 Karat Gold.

5) Stevie Nicks' Wild Heart.

6) Aretha Franklin's Aretha Franklin Sings The Great Diva Classics.

7) Fleetwood Mac's Mirage.

8) Ann Wilson's Hope & Glory.

9) Stevie Wonder's Talking Book.

10) Ben Harper's Both Sides of the Gun.

Here comes Hillary


From September 30, 2007, that's Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Bloody War Hawks"

And Bloody War Hawk Hillary is back in the news cycle having picked up John Podesta for her campaign staff.  Francis A. Boyle is an attorney and a professor of international law.  He's also the author of many books including, most recently, United Ireland, Human Rights and International Law.  

Dori Smith: Who do you think might be the most effective person to introduce this bill {of impeachment against Bush Jr} and what is in the works in that regard?

Francis A. Boyle: We just need one person to introduce the bill with courage, integrity, principles, and of course a safe seat. In Gulf War I, I worked with the late great Congressman Henry B. Gonzales on his bill of impeachment against Bush Sr. We put that one in. I did the first draft the day after the war started. So in my opinion there is no excuse for these bills not to have been put in already. In fact, I think I mentioned to you before, on 11 March 2003 Congressman John Conyers convened a meeting of 40 to 50 of his top advisors, most of whom were lawyers, to debate putting in immediate bills of impeachment against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft, to head off the war. And there were draft bills sitting on the table that had been prepared by me and Ramsey Clark. And the Congressman invited Ramsey and me to come in and state the case for impeachment. It was a two hour debate, very vigorous debate, obviously all of these lawyers there. And most of the lawyers there didn’t disagree with us on the merits of impeachment. It was more as they saw it a question of practical politics, namely, John Podesta was there, Clinton’s former White House chief of staff; said he was appearing on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and they were against putting in immediate bills of impeachment because it might hurt whoever their presidential candidate was going to be in 2004. Well at that time no one even knew who their presidential candidate was going to be in 2004.
I didn’t argue the point, I’m a political independent, my position, and it was not for me to tell Democrats how to elect their candidates. I just continued arguing the merits of impeachment. But Ramsey is a lifelong Democrat and he argued that he felt that putting in these bills of impeachment might help the Democrats and it certainly wasn’t going to hurt them in 2004.
Well the Democrats did lose in 2004 but as Ramsey and I were walking out after a two hour debate adjourned and I had offered to stay as long as it took to polish up my bills of impeachment and get them put in right away, because the war started, it was going to start in four days. I turned to Ramsey and I said Ramsey I just don’t understand it, their arguments make no sense, why did they not take me up on my offer to stay and polish up those bills of impeachment and put them in right away to head off a war. And sadly, Ramsey said, “I think most of the people there want a war.” That was 11 March 2003.
It’s very clear that the high officials in the Democratic Party, certainly on the DNC, have been complicit with the Bush Administration in this war against Iraq from the get go. The Democratic national committee still vigorously opposes putting in any bills of impeachment against Bush and Cheney. Podesta made that very clear to us on 11 March 2003.
On Tuesday 11 March 2003, with the Bush Jr.
administration's war of aggression against Iraq staring the American
People, Congress and Republic in their face, Congressman John Conyers of
Michigan, the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee (which has
jurisdiction over Bills of Impeachment), convened an emergency meeting
of forty or more of his top advisors, most of whom were lawyers. The
purpose of the meeting was to discuss and debate immediately putting
into the U.S. House of Representatives Bills of Impeachment against
President Bush Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld, and then Attorney General John Ashcroft in order to
head off the impending war. Congressman Conyers kindly requested that
Ramsey Clark and I come to the meeting in order to argue the case for
This impeachment debate lasted for two hours. It was presided over by
Congressman Conyers, who quite correctly did not tip his hand one way or
the other on the merits of impeachment. He simply moderated the debate
between Clark and I, on the one side, favoring immediately filing Bills
of Impeachment against Bush Jr. et al. to stop the threatened war, and
almost everyone else there who were against impeachment for partisan
political reasons. Obviously no point would be served here by
attempting to digest a two-hour-long vigorous debate among a group of
well-trained lawyers on such a controversial matter at this critical
moment in American history. But at the time I was struck by the fact
that this momentous debate was conducted at a private office right down
the street from the White House on the eve of war.
Suffice it to say that most of the "experts" there opposed impeachment
not on the basis of enforcing the Constitution and the Rule of Law,
whether international or domestic, but on the political grounds that it
might hurt the Democratic Party effort to get their presidential
candidate elected in the year 2004. As a political independent, I did
not argue that point. Rather, I argued the merits of impeaching Bush
Jr., Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft under the United States
Constitution, U.S. federal laws, U.S. treaties and other international
agreements to which the United States is a party, etc. Article VI of
the U.S. Constitution provides that treaties "shall be the supreme Law
of the Land." This so-called Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution
also applies to international executive agreements concluded under the
auspices of the U.S. President such as the 1945 Nuremberg Charter.
Congressman Conyers was so kind as to allow me the closing argument in
the debate. Briefly put, the concluding point I chose to make was
historical: The Athenians lost their democracy. The Romans lost their
Republic. And if we Americans did not act now we could lose our
Republic! The United States of America is not immune to the laws of
After two hours of most vigorous debate among those in attendance, the
meeting adjourned with second revised draft Bills of Impeachment sitting
on the table.
Certainly, if the U.S. House of Representatives can impeach President
Clinton for sex and lying about sex, then a fortiori the House can,
should, and must impeach President Bush Jr. for war, lying about war,
and threatening more wars. All that is needed is for one Member of
Congress with courage, integrity, principles and a safe seat to file
these currently amended draft Bills of Impeachment against Bush Jr.,
Cheney, Rumsfeld, and now Attorney General Albert Gonzales, who bears
personal criminal responsibility for the Bush Jr. administration torture
scandal. Failing this, the alternative is likely to be an American
Empire abroad, a U.S. police state at home, and continuing wars of
aggression to sustain both-along the lines of George Orwell's classic
novel 1984. Despite all of the serious flaws demonstrated by successive
United States governments that this author has amply documented
elsewhere during the past quarter century as a Professor of Law, the
truth of the matter is that America is still the oldest Republic in the
world today. "We the People of the United States" must fight to keep it
that way! Podesta did not!
[Francis A. Boyle is a Professor of International Law and a human rights
attorney. He is the author of "Destroying World Order" (2004, Clarity

When we invited Malcolm X to Smethwick

Repost from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

When we invited Malcolm X to Smethwick

Avtar Singh Jouhl invited Malcolm X to Smethwick days before his assassination fifty years ago. He spoke to Ken Olende about the visit’s impact on the fight against racism

Published Tue 17 Feb 2015
Issue No. 2441

Malcolm X on Marshall Street during his visit to Smethwick
Malcolm X on Marshall Street 

Nine days before his assassination black leader Malcolm X made a solidarity visit to Smethwick in the West Midlands. 

Smethwick had become notorious in 1964 for a vicious and racist general election campaign. Malcolm X represented a different sort of politics, demanding active resistance to racism. 

In February 1965 he was in Britain to speak at the London School of Economics. The Indian Workers Association (IWA) decided to invite him to speak at Birmingham university and visit Smethwick.
He told the media, “I am disturbed by reports coloured people are being treated badly. I have heard they are being treated as Jews were under Hitler.”

The local paper called him “an unexpected and largely unwelcome guest”. The BBC sent a camera crew to follow him around but the footage was never broadcast. During the election campaign supporters of Tory candidate Peter Griffiths chanted, “If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour.” Griffiths refused to distance himself from the slogan. 

Labour won the general election. But in Smethwick sitting Labour MP Patrick Gordon Walker lost, throwing the party into a panic over immigration. At the count Tory supporters jeered at the defeated Labour candidate, “Where are your niggers now?” 

The racist onslaught continued as Marshall Street became the front line. The Tory council supported a demand from white racists to buy any house that was put up for sale to stop non-whites moving in. This continued until eventually the Ministry of Housing banned it long after Malcolm’s visit.
Malcolm’s visit was the only time he mixed with working class black people in Britain. He said, “I was in Birmingham, Alabama, the other day. This will give me a chance to see if Birmingham, England, is any different.”


Avtar Singh Jouhl, then secretary of the IWA, said, “Malcolm came on 12 February. His visit was a game changer.”

Rather than stand up to racism, Gordon Walker had put out a leaflet saying that most immigration had happened under the Tories. “The IWA wanted to confront Griffiths during the 1964 election,” Avtar said. “But Gordon Walker would not allow it. 

“We campaigned for him but he insisted on sweeping the racism issue under the carpet. That resulted in his defeat.”

The issue of “colour bars” remained, where pubs, workplaces or landlords would exclude non-whites, or give them a worse service.
“There was even a colour bar in the Labour club,” Avtar said. “Gordon Walker had his office there when he was MP. We asked him to move it because of the bar but he wouldn’t—it was still there after the 1964 election.”

Avtar walked round Smethwick with Malcolm, “But Malcolm wanted to walk on Marshall Street alone. He told us he was disgusted by what he had seen. He said it was worse than some parts of the US.”

Avtar said that it was fascinating to talk to him after he had visited Africa.

“He had been with the Nation of Islam, but he was moving from that towards Marxist ideology. He said he was travelling to get more information and more education on the structure of how imperialism works. There was a big revolution going on inside himself. 

“He was challenging all racism. He was not just interested in African Caribbean people. If that was true, he wouldn’t have come to Smethwick, where the focus was almost all on Asians.”

After looking at Marshall Street the IWA took Malcolm to see the colour bar in local pubs. Avtar said, “He told us he was shocked that an open colour bar existed in Britain. By that time it was not legal in the US.”

Avtar talked about the experience of living in such a divided society, “I had air rifle shots fired through my window at home.


“A white gang beat up my brother by the canal and threw him in. Only one barber in Smethwick would cut our hair. He was an Italian. It was packed with all the Indians, Pakistanis and West Indians on a Saturday morning.

“Most people worked in the foundry. The better paid jobs were whites only.

“The IWA was in the forefront of organising in the trade unions. Most of the factories weren’t unionised. I started work as a moulder’s mate. It was heavy, dirty work. I did 85 percent of the work, while the moulder did 15 percent. But he got paid twice as much.”

The IWA set out to unionise. “At first no whites would join. But the union became a force in factory after factory. We won benefits. Eventually people joined.”

Malcolm’s visit helped change the atmosphere for people resisting racism around Smethwick. It was people gaining the confidence to fight back that started to shift things nationally. The Labour government passed the first Race Relations Act in 1965—which outlawed discrimination in public places such as pubs. 

“But a lot of the racism remained,” Avtar said. “So landlords wouldn’t openly refuse to serve you, but they’d say there was a private party on.

“We challenged it by going round with white students. They would go in and get served. Then we’d follow and be told there was a private party. We exposed what they were doing.”

By the 1966 election, anti-racist work on the ground affected the Labour Party. Labour candidate Andrew Faulds confronted Griffiths over racism and he won the seat back. 

It was only nine days after Malcolm’s visit to Smethwick that they heard he had been assassinated in New York City.

“We were in shock. I still get emotional when I think about it,” Avtar said. Malcolm’s policy to confront racism remains an inspiration.

Avtar said, “He reminded us that without struggle change can’t come.”

Black Power leader came to see capitalism as the problem

Malcolm X at a press conference in 1964
Malcolm X at a press conference in 1964 (Pic: Herman Hiller, World Telegram staff photographer - Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection.)

Malcolm X is the leader most associated with the birth of the Black Power movement in the US. 
He became famous for saying black people had to fight racism “by any means necessary” and criticising the passive moderation of the Civil Rights movement.

He was born as Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska. He grew up in a state where black people were supposedly equal before the law, but still faced massive discrimination. 

Frustrated by the racist barriers in his way Malcolm drifted into petty crime and was imprisoned.

Here he joined the Nation of Islam, also known as the Black Muslims. This religious sect—unconnected with mainstream Islam—fostered a fierce black pride. 

It also argued that whites were the problem and could not be part of a solution to racism.

Malcolm liked its confrontational style and the way it called on all black people to unite and take on racism. He changed his name to Malcolm X—the “x” representing his lost African name.

He soon became a national political figure. But it annoyed him that for all the Nation’s radical talk it rarely engaged in anti-racist struggle with the wider movement. 

Malcolm broke with the Nation of Islam in March 1964 and was assassinated a year later on 21 February 1965.

His ideas developed drastically in the year between. In the US he attempted to build two new organisations, first the Muslim Mosque Incorporated then the non-religious Organisation of Afro-American Unity. 

Half of the year was spent travelling. For him the most important trip was to Mecca where he converted to Sunni Islam.

He saw that Islam was not racially exclusive. He visited world leaders ranging from radicals like Julius Nyerere in newly independent Tanzania to Prince Faisal in Saudi Arabia.

He came to see capitalism and imperialism as the main problems in the world.

He added, “You can’t operate a capitalistic system unless you are vulturistic—you have to suck someone else’s blood to be a capitalist.”

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Paralyzed Veterans of America Responds to VA Secretary McDonald's Meet the Press Debut

Paralyzed Veterans of America issued the following last week:

Paralyzed Veterans of America Responds to VA Secretary McDonald's Meet the Press Debut

VA Secretary Bob McDonald on Meet the Press
Image courtesy of NBC News
Paralyzed Veterans of America released the following statement from Deputy Executive Director Sherman Gillums, Jr. in response to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald’s interview on the February 15, 2015, edition of Meet the Press.

“Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald told Meet the Press host Chuck Todd that he believes he can run the VA like a business. Given McDonald's experience as the former CEO of Proctor and Gamble, he undoubtedly knows how to run a business. The question is whether a government agency with high costs and an extremely complex social mission can cure itself of the moral hazard and institutional inefficiencies that would've run any other business into extinction a long time ago. The answer: it had better.

Businesses rise and fall on their bottom line. For VA, that bottom line is not how much money it makes, although fiscal efficiency is a solid measure of performance. The value proposition that will sustain VA is the manner in which it delivers quality healthcare and administers full benefits in a timely manner. In the past, perceptions of whether VA was achieving that value were based on how well employees and managers saw their own performance and stuck to the rules. Now it's about how well VA pleases its number one customers — the veterans who give VA its reason for being.

Increasingly, veterans and their advocates are being asked to make a choice between VA and the private sector in terms of healthcare. To VA's credit, the incentive is increasingly less about bonuses or promotions that fly in the face of the Peter Principle. Now it's job security. According to McDonald, 900+ VA employees no longer enjoy the security that government employment offers. But provoking real change may take firing 9,000 employees, particularly the hardliners who believe "this too shall pass" in response to calls for sweeping changes and greater accountability in VA.

Fortunately, Secretary McDonald appears willing to engage stakeholders and stare reality in its unforgiving face, which may explain the reason he's been able to make incremental changes. Following the implementation of his MyVA initiative, McDonald's VA has reduced the VA claims backlog, tackled veteran homelessness in the hardest hit areas like Los Angeles, and improved access to healthcare for veterans who once languished on waiting lists. More importantly, he sees his challenge as a business proposition and agrees with Paralyzed Veterans of America that VA must compete on its merits to win back the trust of the public.

President Herbert Hoover said, "Competition is not only the basis of protection to the consumer but is the incentive to progress." Progress in VA will hinge on whether the system and those who run it finally see the extraordinary task of taking care of veterans as an endeavor where exceeding customer expectations is the metric that matters above all else.”
Learn more about Paralyzed Veterans of America


This piece is written by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Ann of Ann's Mega Dub, Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

"Iraqi forces attack journalists for the second day..." -- most requested highlight of the week by readers of this site.

"Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "No Friend To S..." -- Isaiah takes on Haider al-Abadi.

"scandal - how 1 show can suck so bad," "The Slap,"  "Stalker," "How To Get Away With Murder -- insulting," "ABC's How To Get Away With Boring," "Ronan Farrow and White entitlement," "do we still call it 'scandal'?," "Joy Reid actually had talent," "Arrow (best episode of the season)," "That trashy Williams family ," "The Originals," "The Slap," "Ratings," "Sexist critics," "The Mindy Project," "State of Affairs' season finale," "state of affairs - nick is alive!," and "The Originals" -- Rebecca, Trina, Mike, Ruth, Betty, Stan, Kat, Elaine, Ann and Marcia cover TV.

 "Show Holder the door already" -- Mike calls it.

"Well Sally Field did go on to win two Best Actress Oscars so . . ." and "THIS JUST IN! HE NEEDS TO SEE A DOCTOR!" -- Barack One and Barack Two.

"Will a union sell out workers yet again?." -- Trina asks the important question.

"Tom Hayden Democrats" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.

"50 shades of bad" and "Neighbors" -- Stan and Marcia go to the movies.

"The Mamas and the Papas' Deliver" -- Elaine spins some music.

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