Dec 19 2010
Crossposted from Fire on the Mountain.
Even though the official Obama administration review of Afghanistan shows just how shaky the occupation there is, Wikileaks continues to be the big news story two weeks on (thanks in no small part to the US decision to try and take down Julian Assange via a sex scandal–the media loves them some sex scandals, especially ones involving slender, pale blonds).
There’s one document in the first thousand released that I want to highlight here, in part in observance this weekend and Friday of the monthly War Moratorium. The story takes place at the corner of Afghanistan and Wikileaks. Though it also features non-consensual sex, it has received little play in the US media. (No blonds, perhaps?) And behind the sex lies an even more shocking story.
The cable (as they are called) from Kabul to Washington reports a desperate plea by Afghan Minister of the Interior Hanif Atmar to US embassy officials. He needs help covering up a story he fears will break soon.
Sep 13 2010
(AP) ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – Authorities blew up a stuffed pony – determined to be a “suspicious device” – after it was found outside a central Florida school. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office reported that the toy was found near the Waterbridge Elementary School Tuesday morning.
No one was allowed in or out of the building while bomb disposal experts destroyed the stuffed animal. It was ultimately deemed “non-threatening.”
No injuries were reported.
Jul 08 2010
In thinking about the recent United States Social Forum (about which I am quite positive, incidentally, as this piece I wrote on it reflects), I was reminded that I have intended to write this point up for a good long time. That’s because left groups have been making and publicizing bullshit smiley-face summations of their demonstrations, forums, conferences, campaigns, etc. for a good long time.
So here’s a quick translation of the two lines I most dread seeing in any sum-up.
1. “It was small but spirited.” Translation: It was small.
2. “It was good that we did it.” Translation: Boy, that sure burned a lot of resources for not much return.
Don’t even get me started on inflated crowd counts.
Yes, sometimes things are small and have good spirit. Yes, sometimes it’s worth having put a lot of energy into something with little evident payoff. But it is never good to lie to ourselves and to the people we work with.
I will close with a quote from Amilcar Cabral, the great Guinean revolutionary and agronomist, but not before urging you, dear reader, to chip in your thoughts and pet peeves in this department.
Tell No Lies…Claim No Easy Victories.
UPDATE (from the comment thread on the original post at Fire on the Mountain):
You also never want to hear a weather report in the context of a demonstration or meeting:
“Despite the threat of rain, a small but spirited crowd…”
“Even though it was a beautiful day outside, the room was nearly packed to hear….”
Jun 05 2010
The economic cyclone that started over two years ago continues its devastating path across the country, with public services increasingly in the path or already sucked up into the funnel itself. I just got a letter written by an old compa of mine, revolutionary poet Joe Navarro, explaining why he feels he has to take an early retirement offer from his teaching job in the Hollister, California, public schools.
I hope those who have never met Joe will get a sense from his letter just how serious a loss this is for the students of Hollister. He is a concerned and gifted educator whose ability to teach has been all but destroyed by the crisis-fueled policies being imposed on the system.
May 29 2010
In an earlier May ’70 post, I described how, the day after the Kent State massacre, NYU students seized a government-funded computer and demanded the school put up bail for one of the Panther 21, political prisoners eventually exonerated.
The Courant Institute wasn’t the only NYU Downtown turf occupied by rebel forces during the student strike. This piece is about the basement of Kimball Hall, a dormitory there. This was an occupation that I played a small role in and that my old ‘rade Lee, with whom I consulted before writing this, was central to.
May 27 2010
[My friend M sent me the following thoughts which I crosspost here from Fire on the Mountain with permission.]
Our son-in-law, Lee, earns his living as a fisherman in Key West. Has done so for 30 years. Today is his 52nd birthday and he is now, effectively, jobless for the rest of his life. Being a small fisherman has always been an iffy proposition, because you’re dependent so much on the weather, and for the last few years, the weather has become totally unpredictable. Also for the past five years NOAA has been imposing increasingly severe restrictions on what fishers can catch — how much and when and where — all in the name of preserving fish populations.
May 25 2010
The May 15, 1970 issue of Life Magazine, a weekly noted for its photojournalism, shocked millions with its unsparing photographs of students killed and wounded at Kent State on May 4. One particular copy was to have an impact that has lasted to this day.
Rock musician David Crosby brought that issue of Life to a studio session for the supergroup he was part of. Originally Crosby, Stills and Nash, it had been joined by Stephen Stills’ old bandmate from the Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young.
All four members of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were seen as political artists. Graham Nash who had been in the British Invasion band, The Hollies, had released in 1969 a solo cut “Chicago (We Can Change The World)”, which starts with a reference to another frame-up trial of Black Panther Party leader Bobby Seale. (Those who have read earlier “May ’70” installments may recollect that the call for a national student strike went out on May Day from a Free Bobby rally in New Haven).
It was Neil Young, though, who took the magazine and disappeared for a couple of hours, returning with the 10 lines that are burned into the consciousness of that generation.
May 23 2010
Though the national student strike was three weeks old on May 21, 1970, it was not yet over. While this is a day late for the 40th anniversary, I am going to highlight the day in two separate posts.
Ohio State University saw one of the biggest clashes of the whole May upsurge with hours of mobile combat as students and townspeople from Columbus took on the Ohio National Guard, even though they were the force that had gunned down four students at Kent State University on May 4.
Actually Governor Rhodes had initially mobilized the Guard at the end of April, because OSU had already blown wide open, even before the Cambodia invasion and the start of the national student strike. As at other campuses, the issue of racism was an initial trigger, with two Black students brought up on charges after a March 13 protest.
On April 20, 100 students in the School of Social Work had walked out, demanding more student voice in decisions, followed a day later by protests targeting recruiters for corporations from the military-industrial complex at a campus jobs fair. Various activist groups united and issued a joint call for a student strike to begin on the April 29, a call quickly endorsed by the student government.
The strike started successfully with picket lines closing classes and a 2000 strong rally on the Oval. By evening it had evolved into a blockade at the campus gates to keep out the Ohio Highway Patrol, called in by the administration. After a night of fighting and 300 busts, student heading for the Oval on the 30th found their campus occupied by the Ohio National Guard.
The Guard teargassed a rally of 4000 students that day. Following days saw more fighting and more gas. On the May 4, the administration finally started making concessions, even as the Guard occupation and the strike continued. Once the news from Kent State hit, it was too little, too late. The protests stepped up!
Two days later the administration announced the suspension of classes. OSU was closed effective May 7 at Governor Rhodes’ urging. They tried to reopen it on the May 19. Mistake. Two days later, renewed clashes erupted on the campus and spilled into adjacent Columbus. Scores were arrested. The strike was still on!
May 23 2010
40 years ago this Thursday just past, around 100,000 people marched down Broadway in Manhattan. With thousands of safety helmet-wearing members of various construction unions in the lead and American flags everywhere, it was perhaps the largest single demonstration in support of the war during the whole Vietnam era. As the march traversed the Wall Street area, it was greeted by cheers from crowds on the sidewalks and showered, from the upper floor offices of bankers, stockbrokers and lawyers, with spirals of tape from stock tickers.
Naturally the media gave the march intense play, contrasting it with the campus protests, by that point near the end of the third week of the national strike. And this hooray-for-war rally was in fact a direct outgrowth of the campus explosion. Specifically, it was the culmination of two weeks of orchestrated actions in NYC aimed at pushing the idea that the working class of the US supported the war and hated the protesters, starting with the intensely violent “Hard Hat riot” attacks on peaceful protesters which I wrote about on May 8, forty years after the event.
May 16 2010
When a unit of the Ohio National Guard wheeled and aimed at Kent State students on May 4, 1970, they fired an estimated 61-67 shots.
Fast forward ten days.
At five minutes after midnight on May 15, local police and state highway cops ordered out by Governor John Bell Williams opened a barrage of at least 460 rounds, mainly from shotguns, at Black students gathered in front of a women’s dorm at Jackson State College in Mississippi.
May 16 2010
Two weeks after Nixon’s 1970 invasion of Cambodia triggered the first and only national student strike this country had ever seen, battles continued to rage on campuses the length and breadth of the country.
Take the University of Maryland at College Park. Striking students and faculty had pretty much shut the place down during the early days of May. In fact, as the fourth installment of this series pointed out, thousands of them also invaded and shut down US Route 1, then the main artery between Baltimore and Washington.
Day after day, students poured onto Route 1, blocking it and the state cops mobilized to clear it. Day after day, the pigs attacked the campus, arresting scores, teargassing dorms and frats to the point where they were uninhabitable. and administering savage beatdowns as the students fled. This repression on top of rage at the Kent State murders swelled the ranks of protesters and keep the struggle hot.
The university was shut down by the strike but the administration hadn’t opted for the cancel-finals-and-pass-everybody trick being used at other schools, so the clashes continued. They peaked on May 14, 40 years ago tonight.
One grad who returned to campus to build the strike recalls http://www.route-one.org/facul…
There was a lot of teargas the night of May 14. I didn’t quite understand the campus politics, but a faculty vote had gone badly and several thousand students headed for Route One in protest.
Governor Mandel had mobilized the National Guard who moved on to campus after students were driven off of Route One. It was ironic, because we all knew that the reason many people joined the Guard was because they didn’t want to fight in the unpopular Viet Nam War. I was sorry to see them. They were probably even sorrier being there.
The exchanges of teargas bombs and rocks were the fiercest I had ever seen. People were determined to hold on to their piece of liberated Maryland even in the face of a military occupation. National Guard Commander Warfield’s helicopter flew overhead and added a further surreal menace to the whole scene.
We grouped on the hill in front of the Chapel. It was dark and hard to see how many people were holding out, but it seemed like thousands. The crowd ebbed and flowed depending on how many teargas bombs were fired by the National Guard and police from the base of the hill near Route 1.
That night, amid extensive trashing and the U of M Administration building very nearly went up in flames. The country’s campuses were still on fire with struggle!
May 14 2010
Forty years ago today, Senators Frank Church (D, Idaho) and John Sherman Cooper (R, Kentucky) put before the United States Senate an amendment to the Foreign Military Sales Act of 1970 which, if passed, would ban the use of any US funds for combat in or bombing of Cambodia. Debate continued until the amended bill passed on June 30, the date on which Nixon had promised to end the invasion of Cambodia.
The Cooper-Church Amendment was a clear sign that dissatisfaction with the prolonged and catastrophic war in Southeast Asia was finally moving Congress to act. But the more immediate impetus for the bill was the great turmoil which had erupted on the country’s campuses, and the panic it had awakened in the hearts of America’s rulers.