INTERESTING PIECE on the Palace Hotel in Sunday's Ukiah Journal by reporter Justine Frederickson. As most Mendo people know, the Palace has been closed for years, a relic of pre-war Mendocino County when every little town of any size had one classy place to eat, drink and go upstairs with the nice lady you met at the bar who was usually your wife. The present owner of the Palace is a Marin woman named Eladia Laines who may or may not have the money — no one seems to know — to bring the Palace back to life. In fact, title to the property, owned by a series of cocaine-fueled criminals circa the middle 70s, says she's making rehab headway and title to the place is just about entirely in her name. The Ukiah City Council is skeptical, but the present options are two: Encourage Ms. Laines to continue or re-take the property and bulldoze it. Given the magnitude of the project whatever option is exercised, we think Ms. Laines is the likelier choice. The stately old structure is 122 years old, a relic of American civic life before the US went collectively blind and our beautiful land was covered with architectural excresences from sea to shining sea. The Marin realtor has indeed made some headway in the way of interior clean-up, and her overall plan of condos, restaurants and shops, if realized, would be a boon to central Ukiah and a major aesthetic step forward for Mendocino County. Hands off Eladia!
FROM THE SITUATION ROOM: “In order to appease Wall Street, the most corrupt institution in human history, and to prevent Wall Street-financed takeovers of their corporations, executives destroyed the American consumer market by offshoring American incomes in order to enhance profits by substituting cheap foreign labor for US labor. In my opinion, the US economy is not salvageable in its present form. The economy is running out of water resources. The supply that remains is being decimated by fracking. The soil is depleted by glysophate, a requirement of GMO agriculture. The external costs of production are rising (the costs that the corporations impose on the environment and third parties) and possibly exceed the value of the increase in corporate output. Economists are incapable of independent thought, and elected representatives are dependent on the private interests that finance their campaigns. It is difficult to imagine a more discouraging situation. At this time, collapse seems the most likely forecast. Perhaps out of the ruins, a new, intelligent beginning might occur. If there are any leaders.” — Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan
ONLINE STATEMENT OF THE DAY: “If we had implemented a single-payer plan, which would cut OUT the profits of the insurance companies, everyone would have still lower rates — but the Republicans didn't want that, so we get higher rates. The principal goal of ACA (Obamacare), which it addresses well, is to get insurance coverage for those who were uninsured, and to make health care available to everyone and to prohibit insurers from banning those with ‘pre-existing conditions.’ Insurers were motivated most to cover those who least needed insurance, and to ban those who most needed it. Now that is prohibited. We are making steps in the right direction. To lower rates still more, we need to go to single-payer. Talk to your Republican congressman, because these are the folks in the way of eventually going to single-payer health care.”
THE CITY OF UKIAH will hold a special all-mail election to fill the Council seat left vacant when Mari Rodin resigned to take a job with the Monterey County LAFCO (Local Area Formation COmmission). The Council voted 3-1 to go with an election instead of an appointment. Mary Anne Landis, who argued that an appointment by the four remaining councilmembers was “just as democratic” as an election, held out for an appointment. The election could have been held with the regularly scheduled election coming up November 4, which would have resulted in a cost savings of $10-15,000, if Rodin had resigned once she knew she had landed the job. But Rodin delayed her resignation to make sure she did not have to pay her own health insurance for one month. She also failed to attend the Council meetings during that last month because she was too busy moving to Monterey. Rodin's final civic contribution is a several month delay in filling her vacant seat and an expensive hit to the taxpayers.
UKIAH HAS REACHED AGREEMENT with its employees for a 5% pay cut. The city had been negotiating for a year in an effort to win a 10% pay cut which the City Council said was necessary to fix the ongoing structural deficit Ukiah has experienced since the economic collapse hit in 2008. City Manager Jane Chambers said the 5% pay cut will mean a $470,000 annual savings to the General Fund. Chambers said the savings for the current fiscal year, already underway, will be $330,000 reducing the deficit to about $650,000 for this fiscal year. Chambers bragged, “That's the smallest since I walked in the door in May of 2008.” With only half the salary savings they planned for, Ukiah is projected to have major deficits for the next several years.
CHAMBERS CLAIMS Ukiah has the lowest number of employees since 1995, which may be true since she has eliminated the fire department and ambulance service and several veteran police officers have recently bailed out for greener pastures. But the drop in employees seems to have been accompanied by an increase in highly paid administrative staff. Until a couple of years ago, Ukiah was milking the redevelopment fund for $1 million to pay administrative salaries on the pretense that the City Manager, Assistant City Manager, and so on were really devoting 50-100% of there time to running the Redevelopment Agency. Redevelopment was intended to build infrastructure and clean up “blighted” conditions in poor and underdeveloped neighborhoods, but the only blight Ukiah cured was lining the pockets of their highly paid administrators. When the state pulled the plug on redevelopment, you might think Ukiah would scale back the admin salaries — maybe even lay somebody off. But instead, the City Manager axed the ambulance and the fire department and recommended laying off police and shutting down the museum.
THE 5% PAY CUT for everyone else resulted in a 5% pay raise for City Manager Chambers. After it was revealed recently that the City Council had gifted the highly paid Chambers with questionable add-ons for “executive pay” (isn't that what she was hired to do?), “merit pay” (for running up deficits five years in a row?), and other giveaways that drove her total compensation to nearly a quarter of a million dollars, the Council was forced to impose a largely symbolic 10% pay cut. For instance, Chambers’ base pay stayed intact at $150,000 per year, the executive pay was converted to something called “flex dollars” and the Council agreed to restore the “merit pay” anytime they decide Chambers is doing a good job. But as soon as the Council reached agreement with the employees for a 5% cut, they immediately raised Chambers pay by 5%, saying it was only fair, as if she was in the same category of the rank file. Except none of the rank and file get executive pay, merit pay, car allowance, flex dollars, etc.
NOW THAT UKIAH is getting out of the fire business, the Ukiah Valley Fire Department (UVFD) is in negotiations to provide the service. The two departments are currently operating as a combined department under UVFD Chief John Bartlett. The City budgeted $2.46 million for “fire administration” in fiscal year 2013-14, including $350,000 to Cal-Fire for dispatch services. The UVFD is proposing to provide a full service fire department to Ukiah for $2.1 million, but according to a recent Ukiah Daily Journal article, Bartlett said Chambers is only offering $1.6 million, claiming Ukiah will still need $800,000 “for other expenses” — including building rent, vehicle insurance and the dispatch fees. Now that the merger is functionally complete, it looks like Chambers wants to keep milking the fire department budget to subsidize city administration. In hindsight, before the UVFD agreed to take over the fire service for the city, they should have first reached agreement on the financial details. The UVFD and the City have each appointed an ad hoc committee to try and reach an agreement.
MOST RESIDENTS OF UKIAH are probably unaware that since the merger with the UVFD took effect there are no fire fighters on duty in the Ukiah city limits because the fire station at City Hall is no longer staffed. Instead, all the fire fighters for the city and the greater Ukiah Valley are now stationed at the UVFD North (N. State St. and Hensley Creek Rd.) and South (S. State and Laws Ave.) fire stations. Despite there being no firefighters in the firehouse, Chambers wants to keep charging “rent” for the building. And, of course, “administrative overhead” for managing the elimination of the department.
A RECENT COLUMN by Chambers in the Ukiah Daily Journal began by saying, “Ukiah is known and loved for its beautiful trees…” only to be followed days later by the news that the City planned to cut down three stately old redwood trees that grow right in front of the Daily Journal offices. Chambers recently complained to the Council that the City was not getting its message out and that she would be investing in social media to correct the problem. Chambers previously entertained the Council with an unintelligible explanation of the infamous “process enneagram” which she was proposing to use as a strategic planning tool. The problem for the city is not so much getting the message out, the problem is the message itself. And the unintended message seems to be that the city is run by a bunch of loons who are hopelessly out of touch with everyday reality.
UKIAH CITY COUNCILMEMBER MARY ANNE LANDIS, as reported by Justine Frederiksen in the Ukiah Daily Journal, updated the City Council on the food waste composting pilot program operated by C&S Waste Solutions, Ukiah's garbage hauler. The pilot program, started in March, is only available to commercial customers like restaurants and grocery stores. Landis reported that only six out of 80 eligible businesses are participating. Landis said C&S wants to do a survey “to find out who would use a food waste program” and also plans to hold a workshop “to inform the public of the options for, and the costs of, a food waste program.” Meanwhile, residents of the unincorporated area outside of Ukiah have been putting their food waste in the green waste bin for the last several years at no additional cost. The green waste, with the food waste included, is then trucked to Cold Creek Compost in Potter Valley for composting.
COLD CREEK COMPOST has a standing offer to accept all of the Ukiah food waste. Since C&S is already obligated to take the curbside green waste collected in Ukiah to Cold Creek, it should be an easy thing to simply add the Ukiah food waste to the green waste bin. Except C&S views Cold Creek as a competitor and is willing to go to great lengths to keep the Ukiah food waste stream from going to Cold Creek, including spending a bunch of money on a 40 foot long “in vessel” composter that rotates. The expensive 40 foot long rotating tube would not be needed if C&S simply took the food waste to Cold Creek Compost. But because C&S wants to undercut Cold Creek, and because the supine City Council lets them get away with it, there will be no food waste composting for Ukiah. Or if there is, it will come at a premium cost. The supreme irony is that the City Council has gone on record with a resolution in support of “Zero Waste” but insists that its garbage ratepayers continue to pay inflated rates to truck food waste to be landfilled outahere instead of composting it a few miles away in Potter Valley.
CONGRESSMAN SPIKE HUFFMAN refused to answer the first time the Chron asked him if he was cashing his fat paychecks while government is shut down. Apparently the word went out from Democrat Central that it was time to fess up, and Spike said this: “I said nobody should lose pay due to this Republican government shutdown — except the Tea Party extremists who are causing it, and I meant what I said. That includes members of Congress who are fighting to end this partisan charade, and the thousands of federal employees in my district who are being hurt by it. That's why I'm working on a bill to ensure that all federal employees receive the pay they deserve, and of course I'll keep working day and night to get our government reopened — hopefully long before congressional paychecks arrive four weeks from now.”
OF COURSE this isn't what Spike said when he was first asked about getting paid during the shutdown. He said nothing. The belated statement isn't bad, though, at least by the mechanically phony prose standards of government. I especially enjoyed Spike's claim that he's “working day and night” to get the great, gray machine up and humming again.
O YEA, O YEA. We will fight them in the limos! We will fight them at the free lunch banquets! We will fight them over wine and cheese! We will fight to keep our cash contributions off the books!
MANIFESTO: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry
Love the quick profit, the annual raise, vacation with pay. Want more of everything ready-made. Be afraid to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head. Not even your future will be a mystery any more. Your mind will be punched in a card and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something they will call you. When they want you to die for profit they will let you know. So, friends, every day do something that won't compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Take all that you have and be poor. Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace the flag. Hope to live in that free republic for which it stands. Give your approval to all you cannot understand. Praise ignorance, for what man has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias. Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested when they have rotted into the mold. Call that profit. Prophesy such returns. Put your faith in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear close, and hear the faint chattering of the songs that are to come. Expect the end of the world. Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts. So long as women do not go cheap for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy a woman satisfied to bear a child? Will this disturb the sleep of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields. Lie down in the shade. Rest your head in her lap. Swear allegiance to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos can predict the motions of your mind, lose it. Leave it as a sign to mark the false trail, the way you didn't go.
Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction. Practice resurrection.
“YOU KNOW WHAT? Last year when everything collapsed, all it meant was the nerds lost out once again and the jocks won. Same as always. What about all those nerd billionaires in the trades? Window dressing. The tech sector tanks, a few companies survive, awesome. But a lot more didn't, and the biggest winners were men blessed with that ol' Wall Street stupidity, which in the end is unbeatable. C'mon, everybody on Wall Street can't be stupid. Some of the quants are smart, but quants come, quants go, they're just nerds for hire with a different fashion sense. The jocks may not know a stochastic crossover if it bites them on the ass, but they have that drive to thrive, they're synced in to them deep market rhythms, and that'll always beat nerditude no matter how smart it gets.”
— Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge
COUNTY COUNSEL TOM PARKER issued his official “opinion” concerning the district attorney's use of asset forfeiture money on Monday, September 23, 2013, about three months after it was requested. Follow the bouncing ball:
“This is somewhat complex. I apologize. I will try to get to the crux as much as possible. Regarding the first question, which is, is the district attorney's office correct in seeking reimbursement from asset forfeiture funds or several categories of items listed in the June 24, 2013 email? I will not go through all the line items but I will note as a general rule the categories cited are eligible as a generic matter for reimbursement from asset forfeiture funds with the caveats: line item 861010, extra help costs, and line item 861013, overtime, of which roughly $106,000 was requested for reimbursement, extra help and overtime and generally salaries and benefits for law enforcement personnel are limited in terms of asset forfeiture expenditure to first-year employees or extra help and overtime is only allowed for law enforcement personnel involved in specific law enforcement oriented operations that require them to do extra time. My office does not have specific information sufficient to tell as of now to what extent the approximately $106,000 in overtime and extra help is or is not consistent with the federal guidelines so I will be deferring to the expertise of the Auditor-Controller and all of the supporting documents that she has or may ask for to verify the correctness of paying on those two line items. The other question and one that I had, if the board will remember, I said I had some concerns about, not only overtime and extra help, but the question of replacement or supplementation. The federal guidelines say but they do not specifically define the terms, but they say in general you cannot supplement or replace non-asset forfeiture, normal budget, normal law enforcement agency revenues with asset forfeiture money. What is unclear to my office, and I am not able to reach a satisfactory conclusion such that I can give anyone at this point is whether or not the requested use of the asset forfeiture funds to make up the budget difference that occurred over time in the DA's office budget as it worked through the fiscal year 12-13 constitutes replacement or supplementation. To explain what I mean by that let me give you a scenario here. There was a certain amount of non-asset forfeiture money that was budgeted as revenue line items for the 12-13 year for the District Attorney's Office when this board in the fall of 2012 did its final budget approval of that office. That amount was in the amount of $854,000 plus which was expected and accepted by this board as expected non-asset forfeiture revenue. Roughly $302,000 of asset forfeiture was placed in the DA's budget as expected revenue to help make up the expenditures for all, the revenue fall, for all the expenditures that were in the budget. As June 2013 came, the amount of what I'm calling non-asset revenue came to only $465,803.53 instead of close to the $854,000 and change. So he had a deficit of $389,000 give or take when he made that request for the asset forfeiture money. It's unclear to me as a legal matter whether his requesting the $300,000-$400,000 in asset forfeiture money at that point in time constitutes replacement or supplementation. I am not privy to the prior history of the District Attorney's budgets whether it's Meredith Lintott or Norman Vroman or Mr. Eyster to what extent asset forfeiture money has been sought as at the same rate during the fiscal year if their revenues do not come up to what they anticipated at the start of their fiscal year. So because of this lack of clarity and the lack of definition in the federal guidelines as to what is replacement or supplementation, for instance in Prop 172, as this board knows, there is also a provision, you are not supposed to use Prop 172 money to supplement or replace money you would normally give within the MOE amount to a law enforcement agency, a public safety agency. But that is a use of asset — of 172 money as you are building the budget at the start of the fiscal year. This is a technically or factually different scenario, so I cannot state with certainty whether or not there is supplementation or replacement. In light of that I am recommending that subject to review of the overtime and extra help expenditures requested, that generally the DA's request for asset forfeiture money be honored. I've tried to explain to you so you understand what I was looking at in reaching that determination.”
THE BOARD patiently listened to this convoluted opinion to “honor” (not “approve”) the DA’s request, but didn’t take any action, choosing instead to put the long-delayed “opinion” on the January Board agenda for the first quarter budget revision. Presumably the District Attorney will happy that his budget request has at least been honored.
DIRT OUT, COURTHOUSE IN?
To the Editor
The Friday, October 4th edition of the UDJ headlines a most deceptive article about cleanup of the site being considered for the new Mendocino County Court House. The casual reader will assume that with this lead: “Courthouse Site Work Begins” we are finally building a replacement courthouse after years of merely thinking about it. Nothing could be further from the truth.
All that is going on is a local dirt mover is trucking contaminated soils from the Railroad Depot on Perkins Street to a disposal site in Suisun over a period of less than two weeks. This is hardly a big deal — even though Guy Mills of the City Manager's staff says “it is good for all concerned to get the land back into production.”
Things must surely be slow at City Hall.
What the UDJ story fails to mention are three major stumbling blocks:
First: No City money has been allocated to continue this work after throwing away $400k on earlier preliminary testing before their cash cow — the (RDA) Redevelopment Act — was shutdown by the State of California more than a year ago. The defunct North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) that owns the land is paying for this little excavation, but that's all.
Second: The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) has placed this new and very expensive new courthouse project on hold due to an extremely tight budget in Sacramento and a less than urgent need for grand new courtrooms locally.
Third: Even should the AOC decide to proceed with the $121 million Taj Mahal courthouse, the rail depot is not the site preferred by the AOC. They want it in the parking lot behind the library.
So what is Guy Mills spouting about with this talk of a “shot in the arm for the community” and cleaning up a “gateway into Ukiah” that the courts will purchase?
As the Editor of the only daily newspaper in town, we rely upon the Daily Journal to smell the hyperbole, ferret out the half truths, and expose the wishful thinking that so often pass for clear headed planning at City Hall.
Sincerely, James Houle, Redwood Valley
WHITEY'S LAST STAND
by Robert Parry, Consortium News
American pundits are missing the bigger point about the Republican shutdown of the US government and the GOP¹s threatened default on America¹s credit. The real question is not what policy concessions the Tea Partiers may extract, but rather can a determined right-wing white minority ensure continuation of white supremacy in the United States?
For years, political scientists have been talking about how the demographic changes in the United States are inexorably leading to a Democratic majority, with Hispanics and Asian-Americans joining African-Americans and liberal urban whites to erode the political domains of white conservatives and white racists.
But those predictions have always assumed a consistent commitment to the democratic principle of one person, one vote — and a readiness of Republicans to operate within the traditional standards of democratic governance. But what should now be crystal clear is that those assumptions are faulty.
Instead of accepting the emergence of this more diverse and multi-cultural America, the Right through the Tea Party-controlled Republicans has decided to alter the constitutional framework of the United States to guarantee the perpetuation of white supremacy and the acceptance of right-wing policies.
In effect, we are seeing the implementation of a principle enunciated by conservative thinker William F. Buckley in 1957: “The white community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically.” Except now the Buckley rule is being applied nationally.
This reality is hard to deny even though much of the US political elite remains in denial. But the truth is apparent in a host of anti-democratic moves that have emanated from the lily-white Tea Party and that have been implemented by the predominantly white Republican Party at both the state and federal levels.
It’s there in the nationwide campaign to impose “ballot security” by requiring photo IDs for voting to cure the virtually non-existent problem of in-person voting fraud. The well-documented result of requiring photo IDs will be to reduce the number of urban minority voters who are less likely to have driver¹s licenses and other approved identification.
It’s there in the reduction of voting hours, which — when combined with disproportionately fewer (and less efficient) voting booths in poor and minority areas — guarantees long lines and further skews the political power to wealthier white areas. In the pivotal election of 2000, we saw how this combination of factors in Florida suppressed the vote for Al Gore and handed the White House to the national vote loser George W. Bush.
It’s there in the sophisticated gerrymandering that Republican statehouses have applied to congressional districts around the country by lumping minorities and other Democratic voters together in one deformed district so other districts have comfortable Republican majorities.
This gerrymandering — now aided by computer models to remove any guesswork — played an important role in maintaining the current Republican “majority” in the House of Representatives even though congressional Republicans lost the national popular vote in 2012 by about 11.2 million votes.
The Right¹s anti-democratic strategy is there, too, in the endless use of Republican filibusters in the US Senate. Because of compromises made at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, some of this anti-democratic bias was built into the system (from a deal to assure the small states that they would not be overwhelmed by the large states under the Constitution, which concentrated power in the federal government).
Except for that long-ago compromise, there is no logical reason why the 240,000 registered voters in Wyoming should have the same number of senators as the 18 million registered voters in California. (Or why the 400,000 registered voters in the District of Columbia should have none.)
However, this violation of democracy’s one-person, one-vote principle is exacerbated in the US Senate when Republicans filibuster even minor bills and demand that Democrats muster 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate to proceed. That means that a handful of lightly populated states can block legislative action favored by large majorities of the American people, such as requiring background checks on gun-show purchasers.
Republicans also have found endless excuses to deny congressional voting rights to Washington DC residents. You can probably guess what color skin many DC citizens have and what political party they favor.
If you step back and take a look at this ugly landscape, what you will see is something akin to a new Jim Crow system, a sickening reprise of what happened the last time white supremacists saw their political and cultural dominance threatened in the years after the Civil War.
In the late 1860s and 1870s, the two parties were on the opposite sides of the racial-equality issue. Then, the Republicans pressed for a reconstruction of the South to assure civil rights for blacks. However, the Democrats, the old party of slavery, acted to frustrate, sabotage and ultimately defeat those efforts.
What the United States then got was nearly a century of racial segregation across large swaths of the country although most egregious in the South. It was not until the 1960s when the Democratic Party of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson broke with the old traditions of collaborating with the Old Confederacy. These new Democrats instead supported civil rights legislation pushed by Martin Luther King Jr. and other advocates for racial equality.
However, opportunistic Republicans, such as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, saw an opening to flip the electoral map by snaking away the South¹s resentful white racists from the Democrats and locking them into the Republican Party. The maneuver — cloaked in coded messages about states’ rights and hostility toward the federal government — proved astoundingly successful.
Still, the white supremacists faced a politically existential problem. They were demographically fading from their historic dominance, steadily replaced in numbers by Hispanics, Asian-Americans and blacks as well as by younger whites who viewed racial bigotry as a disgusting residue from the age-old crimes of slavery and segregation.
So what to do? Right-wing billionaires helped by pouring in vast sums to create a powerful right-wing propaganda machine, an ideological media unparalleled in American history. The loud voices and angry words from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Rupert Murdoch whipped up white grievances, but — as the election and reelection of African-American Barack Obama showed — more was needed.
The votes of non-whites and the young needed to be suppressed via manipulated election rules; the use of scientific gerrymandering had to be expanded to further devalue Democratic votes; obstructionism in Congress had to become the rule, not the exception.
Finally, it became clear that a de facto transformation of the constitutional system was needed to prevent the rule of this emerging — and “undeserving” — majority. Thus, government by extortion became the ultimate solution. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “America¹s Government by Extortion. <http://consortiumnews.com/2013/10/03/americas-government-by-extortion/> “]
By using the Republican House and its gerrymandered “majority” to prevent votes on straightforward bills to pay for the government and raise the debt ceiling, the Tea Party is now testing whether the majority of the nation can be coerced into accepting the demands of a right-wing minority through threats of economic calamity.
Even some Republicans seem confused about their short-term goals. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Indiana, declared, “we’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”
But the message that the Tea Party Republicans are delivering to the nation is that if the American people insist on electing Democratic presidents or enacting federal legislation to “promote the general Welfare,” the Tea Party will respond by making the economy scream. The economic dislocations from a credit default alone could be so severe that millions of people will be thrown out of work and out of their homes.
The implicit warning is that you will suffer that fate — you may be driven into poverty — if you don¹t let whites continue to rule. Or as the urbane William Buckley put it, you must let whites “prevail, politically and culturally.”
For those Americans who recoil at this scenario — and think it must be unthinkable in the Twenty-First Century — they should remember their history. In the 1870s, racist whites — especially in the South but also in many parts of the North — refused to accept post-Civil War amendments that guaranteed equal rights and voting rights for blacks.
Through connivance and violence, the racist whites prevailed and it took nearly a century — and much more bloodshed — to reverse their victories. What America is witnessing today is the next phase of that war for white supremacy. Well-meaning people should not be too cavalier about the outcome.
The Tea Party-induced government shutdown and the upcoming extortion demands over the debt ceiling may indeed turn out to be the white man’s last tantrum — but this extremist strategy of mayhem and extortion could also be the inauguration of a grim new era of Jim Crow.
HERE COMES THE 2013 NOBEL PEACE PRIZE, DRAGGING A BROKEN MORAL COMPASS
By Norman Solomon
The announcement of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, set for October 11, is sure to make big news. The prize remains the most prestigious in the world. But the award has fallen into an evasive pattern, ignoring the USA’s continuous “war on terror” and even giving it tacit support.
In his 1895 will, the dynamite inventor and ammunition magnate Alfred Nobel specified that Norway’s parliament should elect a five-member committee for awarding the prize to “champions of peace.” Yet the list of recent Nobel peace laureates is notably short on such champions. Instead, the erstwhile politicians on the Norwegian Nobel Committee have largely bypassed the original purpose of the prize.
Despite all its claims of independence, the Oslo-based Nobel Committee is enmeshed in Norwegian politics. The global prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize has obscured the reality that its selection committee is chosen by leaders of Norway’s main political parties — and, as a member of NATO, Norway is deeply entangled in the military alliance.
When the Nobel Peace Prize went to President Obama in 2009, he was in the midst of drastically escalating the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan, in tandem with the rest of NATO. The same prize went to the European Union in 2012, a year after many of its member states intervened with military force in Libya. On both occasions, in effect, the Nobel Committee bestowed a “good war-making seal of approval.”
Since 2001, the Nobel Peace Prize has been on a prolonged detour around the U.S. government’s far-flung warfare, declining to honor anyone who had challenged any of it anywhere in the world. But the Nobel Committee has done more than just ignore peace activism seeking to stop U.S.-led war efforts. By giving the Peace Prize to Obama and the E.U., the committee has implicitly endorsed those military efforts as part of a rhetorical process that conflates war-making with peace-making. Orwell’s 1984 specter of “War Is Peace” looms uncomfortably large.
At times, the Peace Prize has earned goodwill in NGO circles by honoring humanitarian work that is laudable but not directly related to peace. And so far in this century, when the Nobel Committee has focused the prize on human rights, it has danced around Uncle Sam’s global shadow. The Peace Prize has gone only to dissidents in countries where governments are in conflict with Washington — such as Shirin Ebadi of Iran in 2003 and Liu Xiaobo of China in 2010 — while failing to honor any of the profuse activism against severe abuses by US-backed governments.
It was not always this way. During previous decades, the annual announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize might alternately please or enrage the top leaders in the capital of a world power. In 1983, the awarding of the prize to Poland’s Solidarity leader Lech Walesa infuriated the Kremlin. When the 1992 prize went to Rigoberta Menchu, an indigenous foe of US-supported tyrants killing Guatemalan civilians in large numbers, it was a much-needed rebuke to Washington.
Yes, some Peace Prize choices were dubious or worse. After an Orwellian one, the caustic songwriter Tom Lehrer commented: “Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.” In an exercise of absurd equivalency, the Nobel Committee had given the 1973 prize to Kissinger and North Vietnam’s negotiator Le Duc Tho.
The 1980s brought the Peace Prize to brave activists like Adolfo Perez Esquivel of Argentina and Desmond Tutu of South Africa, as well as International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. In 1996, longtime opponents of Indonesia’s US-backed genocidal occupation of East Timor had reason to cheer when the Nobel Peace Prize went to East Timorese heroes Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and Jose Ramos-Horta. The next year also brought good news when the prize went to Jody Williams and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.
But in the “war on terror” world of this century, the Nobel Committee — far from an independent, evenhanded course — has steered the Peace Prize away from terrain where the US government and its allies might appear to be anything other than noble peace-seekers. Relying on such a broken moral compass, the mission to assist “champions of peace” with the Nobel Peace Prize has lost its way.
(Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information about the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.)